Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Challenge or Torture

Today's blog is about one of my unfavorite topics. "Evaluation." What evaluation am I talking about? It's about the proficiency of English as a foreign language.

I'll tell you the conclusion first. I had two kinds of language certificate examinations in summer and in autumn. It was my New Year resolution. One was the EIKEN Test in Practical English Proficiency and the other was The TOEIC test (Test of English for International Communication). Well the evaluation from the exams were like as follows: I was certified as a holder "pre-1st Grade"(second highest level) from EIKEN and as a holder of 895 scores out of 1,000 from TOEIC. Whew, I did better than I expected. EIKEN is my second and TOEIC my first trial.

These tests are very distinguished ones and performed widely throughout the country. Every year, millions of people mostly students, businessmen and other English learners take either of these tests for getting an admission for a higher education or their own evaluation or better job positions.

In fact, I took my first EIKEN way back when I was a freshman at high school. It was school compulsory. Yap, it's a long time ago! I haven’t had it since then. As for TOEIC. Since it had not been launched yet in my school days, I had never had it before and had not paid too much attention to it. I impudently didn't like the idea. I didn't like taking these kinds of exams and hated that my language ability was judged by scores. I think at that time I was slightly offensive against language proficiency judged by scores. Maybe I was young.

On the other hand, our society gradually had been active in the international world. English language had been required as a communication tool in various fields. With a huge population of studious English learners, these test results became an objective gauge that the learners themselves as well as the third parties could locate one's ability in the whole group. In short, it is that there are too many people with too many levels of English language ability.

That was the reason for my trial. My life for these years became more involved with English language. Being a member of a volunteer interpreter, I had to keep up with my English and to improve it. Sometimes the results of these tests are prerequisite for a requested job. Although I didn't like the score-oriented idea, I knew I was in a situation that I had to know my ability in a huge population of English learners.
I thought studying for the exams basically should be fun to me. Now I think I am quite in it as long as I enjoy studying English. Maybe I'll try out for better results next year.
It's "a challenge" not "a torture." anymore.

Finally some of my friends who are professional and qualified interpreters/translators, tour guides, and language teachers eventually gave me a push to make one step forward. Otherwise, I don't think I accomplished my New Year resolution.

all the images above are from:
TOEIC http://www.toeic.or.jp/toeic_en/index.html
EIKEN http://stepeiken.org/

Friday, December 09, 2011

They are going to make it SOON !

One day this past July, I was on the Net browsing to seek for any chances as a volunteer interpreter. I typed out "volunteer" in a search text box and hit an “Enter.” Well that was when I came across with an amazing “Travel Volunteer Project.” I signed up then and there for a supporter in Aichi.

(for those who missed my previous post about this project, please have a look at here.)

It was really fortunate that the Project team gave me an opportunity to support Katy and Jamie when they got to Aichi as their 20th destination. One thing which impressed me was, well, it must be a very obvious matter for them, but for me, it was their resolution to this project.

I took them to the Toyota Automobile Company on Oct.25, the first day in Aichi. As soon as we were ready to start exploring the exhibition floor, they stopped for the discussion and they quickly walked in the different directions with each camera. Soon they were busy moving around, taking pictures, reading panels and taking notes one after another. Sometimes I lost either of them from my sight. For them this project was not just a lucky pleasure sightseeing but a mission to report for bringing back the tourism after March11 disaster in Tohoku.

The great part of this project is that a selected Travel Volunteer is supposed to appeal to the world every day by way of all kinds of SNS such as a Blog, Facebook and Twitter to introduce what they see. Apparently they came to learn Japan is much bigger than expected from north to south and safe enough to explore the land. Since Jamie is a professional writer and Katy a professional photographer, I see their spirit of the journalists in all over their posts. The posts are very enlightening, informative, well researched. Being sprinkled with his specific way of looking at things, his journals are quite interesting for the Japanese readers as well in terms of learning how the first-time visitors to Japan see our country. And look at Katy’s photos! Always beautiful and stunning! She marvelously sends us her message as well.

I'm sure their Blog will make a very special guide book of Japan!

Last week, they reached to the southernmost destination, Okinawa. Now they’re heading back toward their starting point, Kanazawa. They only have 6 prefectures left as of now. It will be a great moment of the accomplishment for the Project Team not to mention Katy & Jamie. All of the Japanese private/public supporters who participated in this project will surely be overjoyed with this moment, too.

Time flies. Who did ever believe that the “Travel Volunteer” makes a journey to all of the Japanese 47 prefectures in 100 days?

Well, they are going to make it SOON!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

I made it in time

Of all the four seasons, people in Japan get so restless twice----- in spring and in fall. We try not to miss the beauty of the autumn leaves at this time of the year.

There are many good spots to visit to admire the autumn foliage across the nation. People enjoy visiting famous gardens, temples and shrines where they grow old and huge trees like maples trees, gingko, beech and cherry trees. Others prefer making trips to the mountains and forests to put themselves into the grand picture of the colorful trees.

In fact the view is breathtaking. They say the autumn foliage in Japan is most colorful among any other areas in the world. Why? It is said that there are various kinds of deciduous trees in Japan compared with any other spots on earth. Since up-and -down of the temperature in a day is quite remarkable in fall, it makes an astonishing foliage possible.

This year, it is so unlucky for me that I can't make a trip to any other popular spots to see the autumn leaves due to my job schedule. Especially I miss Kyoto where there are lots of temples and shrines of which refined gardens show a beautiful combination with buildings and colorful trees.

Since this morning I've been working for my new class which will start tomorrow regretting why I took this job at this time of the year. (Never do it again for the next year.) Then it rang bells! I took my camera and stepped outside to see how our maple trees in the garden change their colors. There they were! Glad our previous generations left this garden to us. I spent some time to admire the season before I was back to my desk. "How lucky! I made it!" Then-----

I said to myself, "Next year, Kyoto by all means."

Friday, November 11, 2011

Travel Volunteer Project

I was going to talk about them before they visited Aichi but I didn't make it. In fact I wrote halfway and saved it. So let me start from the very beginning.

Travel Volunteer Project! What is all about? What is Travel Volunteers then? Well, I need to start the explanation from the March 11th disaster by a huge earthquake and tsunami and damaged nuclear plants. This news of huge tragedy was so quickly reported all over the world and people in the world were just shocked to see how the nature could be fatal to man and his world. In fact every TV news kept sending the awful scenes how the tsunami attacked the towns and cities in Tohoku and eventually it swallowed up 20 thousand people and still many missing even now.
Due to the world TV news, many people in the world just believed the tsunami swept away all over our land and in fact some overseas TV and newspapers reported as if it were the end of Japan. This brought a confusion among world travelers that Japan was not a safe country to visit anymore. Many trips were canceled one after another even in the area far away from the devastated regions. During the spring which was the high season for sight seeing in Japan, the numbers of the visitors from abroad were dropped sharply. English speaking guides whom I know were shocked to know every request for guiding were all canceled.
The tour industry faced the fatal damage although of all the land, west part of Japan was nothing affected and nothing happened and remained just the same as it was as usual.
In order to prove it and bring many foreign visitors back to Japan, one travel company called Magellan Resorts in the city of Kanazawa launched "Travel Volunteer Project." Please check their project website to know more about it here.

It was in July that I have known of this project and right on the spot, I applied for a volunteer supporter to guide the elected travel volunteer when he/she visited Aichi.
There were 1897 applicants for Travel volunteer from 85 countries and eventually the couple of Katy and Jamie, a photographer and a writer from England won this tremendous opportunity to visit all of 47 prefectures in Japan while updating their blogs and photos outwards telling many parts of Japan aren't changed and the many parts of our country are as beautiful and safe as they are always.

So their journey started on Sept.15. Yes it's almost 2 months have passed since then. Time flies. Now how many prefectures they have visited by now? Here is a map.

Yes, while I stayed away from blogging, Katy and Jamie came to Aichi and I had such a great opportunity to accompany them on Oct. 25.
I'll talk about it next.
At the same time please follow their great blog with fascinating stories and beautiful photos. You'll love it.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Our garden came to life again

They grew too fast during the scorching hot summer. Too fast and too wild for me to control.

Once a year we have the gardeners (we call them friendly "Niwashi-san")come over to trim the trees and clear the bushes. This year too, Niwashi-san did such a beautiful work. Their skills are amazing especially when they work on pine trees. Basically they don't use scissors to trim these. They just pick up excessive tiny pine needles by hands. It's the most delicate work and it is often considered as an ultimate skill for a good gardener. It requires patience and attention to make a whole pine tree into a better shape. They often stay on a tree for hours to pick pine needles in the strong sunlight while others trim trees by scissors and sometimes electric scissors.
So ironically this is often said that a pine tree in a garden is money sucking.

Whatever it is, thanks to Niwashi-san, here comes back our garden of what it is to be. A "real garden" not a jungle anymore. The next thing I am concerned about is how long I can keep our garden this neat and clean after they left. Let's see.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

In spite of the holidays

Well, I have to update my life all after the typhoon.
In Japan we are now in the midst of three-day holidays and it's Sunday today. I brought my laptop in the kitchen enjoying my afternoon being alone in the house, which is once in a while welcoming moment. My husband is still in India, my daughter is visiting Korea and my son is out for business today.

It's indeed a beautiful, quiet and peaceful autumn day. All of a sudden, however, my thought goes to those people in eastern Japan who faced with such a huge loss. In that area the autumn surely arrives much sooner than my place. By now the nature over there must be changing in colors. It must be beautiful and breathtaking. This is the reality. The autumn beauty and the disaster are all due to the same Mother Nature. Soon it will bring snow in that region, which makes more difficult for them to promote all those recovery processes. I'm sure in some places, they have to leave them halfway.

Six months have passed since the March huge earthquake and tsunami. It is said the recovery and reproduction are generally going on as scheduled. From my point of view, however, it's very slow and not organized at all and looks like it is a long way to go. Every thing seems to be so slow. How come 10,000 people still live in the evacuation spots surrounded by piles of boxes without privacy. About 83,000 people including those from the area of the wrecked Fukushima nuclear power plants live far away from their home towns. The central government is too slow making vital decisions for reconstruction. As a result, in many places people as well as volunteers are still struggling with mountains of wrecked houses, debris and contaminated mud all over.

The fall in that area is very short and the winter will stay long in eastern Japan.
We have to appeal to more people away from the devastated area to do something helpful so that they can make a new start.

(Please read more about this picture here)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Typhoon Roke is appoaching

(images from the web)

My work today was canceled.

Due to the approaching typhoon, we had a heavy rainfall yesterday and much sooner than we expected two main rivers running across the city were observed to be in a danger of overflowing.

In fact at the upper streams, the water flowed over to the nearby residential areas and fields. The city claimed an evacuation advisory to almost half of a city population. I don't know how many people had actually left for the evacuation facilities, though.

The main roads downtown were covered with heavy rainfall in a short period of time and some of the underground shopping arcades and the subway stations were flooded. The transportation systems were paralyzed in the midst of the evening rush hours. My son was stuck in a traffic jam on a bridge when he drove back into downtown Nagoya.

My area was safe except the fact the typhoon is getting much closer no later than this noon. The rain and the wind are getting worse as the typhoon is approaching. No evacuation instruction is claimed here at this moment but only an evacuation advisory for people at a certain area of the city.

My husband called me from India to check if I am all right. He convinced me that our place is basically safe from flooding. I glue to the TV anyway. It's raining hard and the wind is threatening. Our little pond in the garden will be flooded soon or later. Gee, it is so relieving my son is off today. We’ll stay safe.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

It's good to learn something you don't know

(click for a larger image)

Hello! I was away from blogging for a while because I was just too busy with this and that. Luckily enough, now we are the midst of the three-day-holidays over the weekend in our country. I've found myself a bit relaxed and I'm enjoying spending time just for what I abandoned for these weeks.

Today, I took a subway and attended the talk meeting.

A researcher from Vietnam studying at University of Nagoya gave a presentation on her country especially from a standpoint of preservation of genetic resources from an unfair trade work. That was so informative. She also introduced us a general history. Every picture she showed us was unfortunately what we already had seen over and over for 30 some years as the sad evidence of the Vietnam War. Despite the fact that the war was over more than 35 years ago, people are suffering from the fatal damages even now genetically over generations.

Vietnam is a very rich country with forests and water. The land is blessed with wild plants. People have been using it as medicine in the form of traditional knowledge. Now they are forced into an unfair reality that they don't get enough benefits from them. This is a global problem of
ABS(Access to genetic resources and Benefit Sharing.)and I'm now really interested in this country not only as a very beautiful travel destination but also as a nation seeking for national development being free from unfair treatment from overseas countries.

It's always good to learn something you don't know.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Errrr, this is not a joke !

Well, I don't have any excuse to make.
I would have been too busy to make any baskets. Look, I did it again !

I'm addicted to making baskets and I'm feeling sick now because I don't have enough eco tapes to complete one anymore. It's not enough. I have to wait until I get new rolls of tapes.

I should discipline myself to put me away from eco crafts. I should get my work started.
My, my, it's already Wednesday here.

So here is a picture!
The front one is the newest.
Thank you for sharing an excitement with me.

Here is one more picture on the process.
(click for a larger image)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Excuse me but AGAIN !

You may be fed up with finding the same kind of baskets in this blog. But my friends, here is my newest cute little basket! (clap! clap! clap!)

"Again? Doesn't she have any other things to tell us in life?"

Sorry about that. I just start to get into making baskets.

I am always admired so many blogger friends who are very talented with hand crafts making. Yes, I'm talking about YOU and YOU and YOU-----every one I know here. Whenever I see their beautiful crafts, art works ---errrr--- everything created with hands, I cannot help admiring them. I wish I could make something with my hands, too. Then some day I will be able to tell a friend of mine proudly on her birthday, "Happy Birthday. I made this for you." Isn't it nice to give something only one in the world? So I put myself into it. Thanks to you all for inspiring me.

Will you be generous enough to share these updating on making baskets for the time being? I'd be happy if I can show you some more for advanced works.

Um, sorry I have to tell you one thing before I leave you tonight. This week will be a busy one for me. So-----my next basket may not appear so soon.(sigh)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Stereotyped or not?

Here are dozens of sliced rolled sushi called "makizushi" in Japanese. You may be quite familiar with sushi with a sliced piece of raw fish sitting on a top of a small piece of vinegar sensed rice as one of the typical Japanese cuisine.
Next to those sushi, this rolled sushi is very popular too. In my childhood, my mother used to make these for lunch box for a school one day trip or school sports day. So do I. It's one of typical cuisine every mother does here. This is a very popular lunch when you have some festive occasions besides school events such as family picnic at a zoo, at a park and at a cherry blossoms viewing in spring.

These rolled sushi in the pictures above were all made by a friend's husband, which is a kind of surprising for us her female friends. Aren't they nice and in fact they were SO good. This is something beyond my imagination that my husband would ever make it. Traditionally speaking, men were considered not to step into their house kitchen where women worked. We set a clear definition in terms of a man's roles and a woman's roles in a house. Along with the changes of our life style, it's not all true anymore. I see many couple especially young ones cook together or taking turns. It depends on each couple and family to share cooking, I presume. A stereo type of a man/husband is changing in many aspects.

Talking of rolled sushi then, there are two videos introducing how to make a roll sushi and an arranged one called "decoration sushi" or "art roll sushi." Be sure that both come along with music.

Enjoy the second video on how to make a carnation shushi roll.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Is our country strange?

I'd like to share this video here in case you haven't had a chance to see this before. This is an English Version. It's really cool and well explained using lots of statistics. Really a good job. It's created by one young Japanese graphic designer. Partly well generalized and partly not. Partly ironic and partly true and not true. Partly hilarious and serious. I like it. This video gives us the Japahttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifnese to think of ourselves, what we have gone through so far and consider what we should do next for the future. I'm pretty sure there's not only Japan in the world that has some aspects which are not welcomed. Each country has both sides. It's worth looking at our own country from another side of the globe. Enjoy!

For some reason, the English version from You Tube is not available anymore.
The video produced by Kenichi Tanaka was introduced in this site here.

Another basket!

I know this is not a good time to post it before I leave for job. I think this could be happened to anybody, though.

When I am really really busy with this and that, I feel I've left something behind me or put something aside. Although I'm so concerned about it, I'm just trying not to think of it. Maybe this is about time I can spend for my own sake. Time that I can easily get myself into it for something creative now in my case, some handicrafts, that is totally nothing to do with my work.

The other day, I felt like making this basket by all means before I get to start my writing. That evening there was no one else at home yet. Such a nice chance to spend time working on this. Just about a couple of hours before I completed. I think I'm getting good at it. Ready to go on to the next step! Yay! All right, I've got to go now.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

one of my favorite time

(Click for larger images)

I'm not a crafty person but sometimes I do love working on a so called "eco craft bag." Isn't it something that I can make "the only one in the world?"

In fact I had made these before but since then I didn't have enough time to put myself into it. But then again, I had another chance to learn this from the same friend that showed me how at the very beginning.

It was really fun especially when a teacher and her three students were all close friends. What a busy class with handcrafting and chatting! Sometimes we need this. You'll feel accomplished in the end----- in many ways!!!

See also here and here for the previous works.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Our desperate effort to save electricity

Five months have passed since the huge earthquake hit the northern part of Japan on March 11. I believe you are quite concerned about the damaged nuclear plants in that area. In spite of the fact that more than 100 people in charge of the power plant are working every night and day for getting stabilized the power situation, we don't see any better results yet.

Of all 54 nuclear power plants in Japan, due to the breakdown of the power plant in Fukushima as well as some other nuclear plants being out of service for annual maintenance, we are now facing the upcoming shortage of electricity.

The government asked every office and manufacturing company to cut the 15% electricity usage from the previous year except hospitals and elderly care facilities in those areas up until the end of September. In many offices where there used to be quite formal dress code, men and women are now free from wearing neckties, long sleeves and jacket since a closed high-rise building temperature often gets over 28 degrees C. In many private and public buildings such as department stores, offices and stations, they now switch off some lights in the buildings.

Not only those public organizations but also everyone at home is now very much aware of how to economize the whole usage of electricity. Approximately 50% of electricity consumption at home during summer is used for air conditioners following a refrigerator, lightning, TV etc. So it is quite evident that the whole nation can save electricity so simply by way of giving up air conditions! Oh but No way! That's not possible. Summer in Japan is very hot and humid. In addition, the recent global warming spurs the summer temperature to over 35 degrees C. The heat is really ferocious. We can't do without air conditioners.

Now we get much information from TV, public ads, newspapers and almost any kinds of medias about how to economize the whole usage of electricity at home.

For example, they advise us we should set the temperature no lower than 28 degree C, clean a filter at least once a week, use a electric fan to circulate air in a warm room, etc. As for a refrigerator, they recommend us we should not pack many items, should use a plastic curtain to prevent warm air from coming inside when we open its door. Boy, there are many "to do" and "not to do". Yet despite these annoying advices, many people are so aware of power shortage and we are making a desperate contribution by sweating.

Friday, July 22, 2011

I'm back!

How I wish I had more than 24 hours a day!  It's not a good excuse.  I am a kind of disorganized person. When I'm getting busy, I'm just not good at making a schedule. I tend to leave behind what I have to finish first. As a result, I run out of time at the end of the day.
What have I been doing since I blogged last?
Well, I think that's what I am going to fill you in one by one for the coming days.
Where shall I start then?

One of the excitements I should tell you is I got one year older in June while I was away from blogging.

Here are some pictures of 100 gerbera daisies I got on my birthday.
Flowers! Where on the earth are any women who don't love to get flowers on their important days? This means so special when your loved one hands out the flowers to you on the day. It is another story. This bunch of colorful flowers, against the odds, was from my female friends. Since we don't meet as often as we used to when we worked together in the office, we just decided to send flowers one another on each birthday. We've been doing this for over 6 years. Isn't this a wonderful routine? It's not a surprise on a birthday, rather we know, say like, "Well, it's about time a delivery should ring the door." Yet, I always love to see those colorful gerbera daisies making my day so happy and cheerful all over in the house.

We're pretty sure the owner of the gerbera farm is very very happy about us.