Japanese Schools and High School Students

As a part of Rakuten's IT School Program, I went across 4 schools in different parts of Japan to teach high school students of about age 15-16 to teach them about Cross Border Trading, in English!


How the schools looked like

In general the school structures are the same across the country,
There are huge playgrounds in the compound and dedicated play areas for different games - football fields, tennis and badminton courts being pretty popular. Once you enter the main building, it is totally silent. It is hard to imagine you're standing in a school.

There's the main office where we would generally collect a visitor's badge. Just beside, there's a shoe-rack. You put your own shoes in there and wear dedicated slippers inside the building, strictly.
The walls of the schools are covered in posters, advertisements, artworks, manga characters throughout the building. Once you enter the classroom, you change your slippers again. The students wear only socks inside, while teachers and guests keep their pair of previous slippers inside a rack and wear another fresh pair inside. Beside each rack there are several utilities to clean the rooms. Mops, floor washes, brooms etc.

Inside Classrooms

The classrooms are fully equipped! For a stationery craver like me, it was heaven! All kinds of colors, pens, sketch pens and the list is endless. They have a good supply of computers, digital pens, drawing boards, tablets for each student! Its a fantastic environment to be in!

Since all schools are Japanese medium, all routines were conducted in Japanese. Before the class begins, the monitor instructs everyone to stand up, shout out a loud greeting yoroshiku onegaishimasu (literally means "Please help us") and bow down.

During class

This was especially challenging and difficult for me, since my lecture was in English but all schools were conducted in Japanese. I was afraid that communication would be a problem and they wouldn't understand what I speak. But thankfully, I managed by using simple words, reiterating important/difficult ideas and using Japanese words in between to keep it bound together.
Classrooms are very liberal in a way, the teacher doesn't shout or wake up a kid if he is sleeping. But the students in general were very fascinated, for some of them were being taught by a foreigner the first time and for others, they were meeting an Indian the first time!



My class in Okinawa was particularly comfortable since the students were far more accustomed to English than the others. They even asked questions without hesitation and some of them even tweeted about me at the end of the lecture!




I also took two classes in 2 schools of Aichi prefecture, which is about 2-3 hours from Tokyo, where students were more shy. They however didn't hesitate to ask me about Indian culture and latest trends in India! I somehow could feel the difference of students from Okinawa and from Aichi in terms of how shy they were, how mischievous or friendly they got and mostly the kind of questions they chose to ask me!
A few girls told me about the trending app to take pictures from and then tweeted this picture with me:



My final lecture was in Nagoya. You could tell the kids had a mix of rural humility combined with modern thinking. They seemed far more ambitious and skilled than the other kids. Although they lacked English skills, they were tremendously good at presenting and making funny sales pitches.

Some of the feedback I received at the end of the classes:




About students

I would say, the teachers like to imagine that their kids are shy, but given the comfort and ease, they very quickly jump to asking questions and try to talk in English. One more thing to notice was how much they cared about latest trends and fashion. I guess it is cool to be a high school student listening to popular music and wearing fancy clothes or using the coolest apps.

In general, the kids are highly skilled at drawing and sketching. Brilliant anime characters, ease of use of Photoshop and the comfort with which they used their pens and colours was very exciting for me. Even in their pranks with other kids, they'd make funny faces of their pictures and set them as desktop wallpapers. In all, they are full of creative design skills and posses a good sense of expressing their thoughts across.

How I feel about it!

It was a tremendous experience! To have walked into schools, met students, given them a foreigner's perspective on web design, teach them a thing or two about Japan's economy and share my piece of thoughts! Most important take away for me, was to be able to communicate clearly in English with non-native speakers! I have thoroughly enjoyed the special attention I received at all schools! Cheers!


Noisy flights and sleepless nights

They are talking about the randomest shit possible the moment you spot them. They are already engrossed into their deep conversation about the fragrance in the air and how its Chinese version available in the streets of Borivali for so cheap. 
I'm speaking of - a small section of the Indian community - Gujaratis.

I've taken numerous flights and encountered plenty of them, and never ever do they fail to meet my expectations of a sleepless flight. Because when God blesses us with a mouth and high shrilled voice, we ought to speak our lungs out, right? 

Believe me, Gujaratis can go on chit chatting non stop for hours. About nothing significant. Their pitched voice runs like a chant in your head. You don't want to listen it, but you are. In fact, now you know everything super personal about them. And if you happen to have your seat besides a Gujarati family, you are doomed. By the end of it, you'll know what the mother cooked for breakfast, how many theplas the kid ate, how many she packed for the flight owing to her insecurities about the flight food, how she was perfectly right about it and numerous other things you could have lived well without knowing at all. 

But I'll give one thing to them - their fathers are perhaps the best fathers in the world.  Allow me to give you some background - 
as a kid, I was so curious. About so many things. I was constantly nagging my mom and dad with questions. If it was a public place, mum either whispered the answer in my ear or she simply asked me to wAit for her explanation until we got home. But my dad, he always ignored my silly questions. He'd mostly sit with me on Sundays to talk about science stuff and teach me a thing or two. No surprises, my past questions always popped up amongst them. But at the moment, he'd ignore me. He'd pretend to have unheard anything and just continue reading the newspaper or some tax-related book. 

But, but, our Gujarati fathers. They will always entertain any question asked by their kid. Any. They are ready with 50 lines of explanation, which starts at the very basic presumptions a kid 4 years younger than their kid would have. They'll take 10 lines to reach the question, 20 to answer the question, 10 to conclude and by the next 10 lines they are talking about something else altogether. Wow. Tremendous patience and will to educate their child with their own knowledge. 

Reminds of how jobless the men in Hindi TV serials are..
Anyway, 

You just cannot sleep even if the lights in the airplane have dimmed down. Because you're busy listening to the explanation of what the lady serving food in the air craft is called followed by how the dad once saw a horse in the middle of the street in Ahmedabad. 

The Gujarati family is determined to not let you or anyone near you sleep.

And you know what gets worse? Put a bunch of Gujaratis with another bunch of Chinese in one bus. 

This happened to me on my flight from Shanghai to Delhi. We had to take a shuttle to board the flight. And unlike those short trips, this was reaaaally long. The entire shuttle, as you can imagine was full of Indians and Chinese. Since I cannot comprehend the language, all the Chinese jibber jabber went on like a "chi chi chi chu cha chau" in my head. Constant noise in the back of my mind. Like a background score for all my thoughts. But, I had no thoughts. What remained of my brain's concentration memory block was completely occupied by 6 Gujarati men discussing about the politics in Gujarat. Since I understand Gujarati, their conversation was my mainstream thought. Shit. 20 mins in pure mess.

The nonstop banter of these six gentlemen gave me a serious headache as unfortunately my seat was next to them in the adjacent aisle. They bought alcohol and Gujarati food with them and talked as they ate. After the entire plane finished dinner and the lights were turned off, they opened 3 dakes of cards. To play. They did not play in silence. I closed my eyes, tried hard to sleep. But I just couldn't. At every step I knew which uncle was betting how much  and what the outcome was at the end of the hand. 

While I was wondering, is it only me? My young tomodachi (Japanese for friend) next to me asked why Indians were so talkative. I just shrugged. We both tried to sleep for the next 45 mins until I remember we were no longer checking up on each other. 

We even tried, to politely ask them to play a little more quietly. It worked, for a minute or two. And just when we thought we succeeded, Bhavesh uncle had already declared his winning hand, ready for some loud fun. 

I realise as I say this, no doubt the Gujaratis are the ones who have the maximum fun in their definition. They care about nothing, no one and will do what they are doing with super confidence as if it's the right thing to do. But it doesn't hurt to shut up for a while or whisper for a little talk in order to be considerate to fellow passengers. 

I made a horrendous mistake of forgetting my earphones In the recent trip, but now I'm  all equipped And ready for my flight from Delhi to Shanghai. I will sleep. 


Overlay



What do you see when you look out the glass window of a moving bus?
A faint portrait of yourself,
Staring in the eye
Feeling your pain in the waters floating at the brink?

Or do you see,
The tim-tim lights
Brightening up the entire vicinity
Burning itself out to illuminate the rest
Choosing to be source of happiness rather than wallow in self pity?

Today I looked out the glass window again,
And I wondered, what do I want to be?
Frozen in time or set life free
I instantly knew what I had to focus my eyesight on

My love is unconditional,
It isn't any less than it was when I was delusional
But then, now as much I want to be with you
I just don't want you anymore. 

Waiting on shore

You have nothing.

You have a pile of secrets and lies,
and you are calling it love.

In the meantime,
you are letting your whole life pass by,
while,
they celebrate anniversaries
and grow old together.

You are frozen in time.
Holding your breath,

You are a statue,
waiting for something,
which is never going to happen.

You are living,
stolen moments in
hotel hallways and coat closets.

You keep telling yourself,
they all add up to something real
Because,
in your mind they have to,
but they don't.

They won't.
They never will.

Stolen moments are not a life.
So you have nothing.
You have no one.

End it now.

"Waiting on shore" in Rosses Point, Ireland

Aroma lingers

Tired, exhausted,
Stressed, sick,
She turns the keys,
Switches on the lights.

Looks back,
something is missing

Checks her phone,
Zero missed calls,
Shuns it away,
I don't care.

Checks back,
something is missing

Sinks into the bathtub,
Plays with water,
Sings Adele,
Tries to rest.

Thinks back,
something is missing

Stomach growls,
Head aches,
Kitchen is calling,
Lights the stove.

Extinguishes back,
something is missing

Straightens the bedsheets,
Dims the room,
Smells his hair,
Only finds a pillow

Hugs back,
something is missing


Trade-offs for an innocent soul

Premchand, he's the Shakespeare of Hindi Literature. As a kid, I read many of his short stories and long essays to improve my vocabulary in the language. One of my favorites is still a mystery in many ways as I encounter the same story again and again, every time I try to advise my innocent friend.

So,
Premchand's story lead works at a government office in rural India. He talks about this very irreproachable peon in his office. The peon is as innocent as a cow - keeps away from office politics, never gives/accepts bribes and is a very hardworking man. He makes very little money but stays happy with his hard-earned pennies and caters a small family in a small house in the village. He never fancies big cars and pompous things because he knows, he cannot afford it. He believes "It is better to suffer the wrong rather than inflict the wrong". He is genuinely happy with the little materialistic world he spawns around him until he meets the author's lead. 
The lead feels sorry (or pity should I say) for the poor peon. He knows everyone in office accepts bribes are so rich! They don't care about their job and just want to stack cash in the shortest possible time. He calls the peon to his office, and tells him, "You are such an idiot, you are so susceptible to bullying. You let opportunities pass by you." and he teaches the peon how to make more money in less time. The lead of the story thinks he is just helping the peon become a better person by equipping him with daily tricks to living a more comfortable life.
Now the lead goes to business trip for a few months and when he comes back, he is left speechless. The peon who would not utter a word when his salary was never raised, now is the head of all peons. He is suddenly no more that passive hard-working man but an arrogant, rude, fat-tummied bastard. He's crazy rich with his wealth multiplying as every hour passes. Heck of all things, people salute him! And the lead is left wondering... "Did I do the right thing?"

I have a friend, with whom I am open enough to point out his mistakes. I have a younger brother, who is such a cow himself. My dad, he must have never bitten an inch more than what he could chew. All these three men, in their own little worlds are so so innocent. So much more than me. They don't have any grudges in their hearts. They believe in hard work and nothing else. For them, to some extent, even getting favors due to being social is wrong. They have their diaries clean and don't have the "basic common sense" that I, as a smart cunning woman would call it.

To cite some crude examples, they say things like "I cannot afford it" to colleagues when they go shopping for a meager amount. Instantly, the thought runs in my head - I wouldn't buy that myself. Its not worth the price. But would I say that so honestly to a colleague? He would judge me so hard that I am buying cheaper milk. I would rather say, I don't like that brand or make up something like that.
So many such instances, when I want to hold their hand, and tell them - shut up! Don't be so innocent! Be foxy! 

But then I fear, do I want to transform them into people they were not meant to be? Am I asking them to give up their niceness, their very quality of being so simple that I adore? Would it be worth the price? Sure as hell they would be hailed more social than before, but why should I ask them to adorn that mask? These are the very people who make me expose my real side to them. I don't fear telling them things shamelessly as they are. And then all the other times, I make up shit. But them, they are always so to-the-point. They have their priorities set, they don't give a fuck in the truest sense. And I am asking them to start doing pointless things. I won't deny these very pointless things are what bring me some good favors here and there but its such a huge trade-off. Selling my real self and thoughts for a thing or two? What kind of help is that? What kind of advice is that?

A dilemma that I will always have, 
because that very cunning nature is instilled in me already. I don't mean any bad to anyone but I can just get away with anything.. But should I really suggest my dear ones the same? Will I be making a mistake as Premchand's lead did?

What do you think?


Silence

There are Romeos and Juliets
Where death doesn't bound love
And there are Commonoes and Commonets
Where room partitions timeless souls
While we tell the world to look beyond their smartphones
We sit corners with our ears plugged earphones
The day starts fresh like the garden mint leaves
But dies down lonely filling up emptiness
Even the urge to infuse is subdued with gallons of egos
A gesture or two to make the presence known
But subtle and quiet to arise guilt
Because fear is also splitting us
Sudden jerks of freeze where the world stills down
The thought in its lighting gaze speed
Fancies how you can be the first one to extend a hand
And spawns the conversations further
A laughter or two sprinkled here and there
A tear flows down the left eye
But as she refuses to budge from the cozy bed
She continues typing into her screen
All the words left unsaid..


Image: https://www.artdoxa.com/thorstendittrich/large?page=70

Reflection

It was no longer tamed
By the wrath of the of the hot star
The beach had died down
Setting all chains apart
Adorned a silver tiara
Let the agility to a cease

The streets were quiet
The dogs fast asleep
'twas me and only me
In the serene company of a glowing light
Bathing in the metallic sea

Rustling breeze in my hair
I couldn't be less carefree

We walked a thousand miles
Atleast what it seemed like
Amidst the settled chatter
Of the men of the sea

Unaware of a material world
Bored by the boundaries of the earth
Lunatics, in search of peace
Who stopped only when they saw
What their souls had been searching for
There it was,
In pitch darkness

Only our legs could sense it,
The patterns of the Tatami
Only our eyes could hear it,
The patterns of the diamond designs
Only our ears could see it,
Rustling stories of the waves

Only our souls could now rest
As our bodies sank into the rough land

It was me and my reflection
The flame and the fire
Burning beautifully in the strongest winds
Seeking the shape of the breeze
To strengthen its own

Two of a kind
Began on a journey
To each of their own
My reflection and me

My reflection and me..

Picture: https://www.flickr.com/photos/vlumi/19608875846/in/album-72157650630382969/

Being the nature, shaken and broken, yet..

The burden was just pulled off
Sudden freedom, not what I was expecting
Just like how your lungs will breathe
If given pure oxygen
I stood still
Spiralling deep into the void with my naked eyes
My brain spinning thoughts faster than time
Faster than the speed of light
The grey carpet on the floor became
A canvas for the hungry whore
Processing how would I return
More than 2800 entries in SQL query
Oh my god, did I spill a secret?
Oh wait, I think I am smelling the next round again
Damn, no its only the mint flavored regular
Anyway, where were we?
There are so many threads running
My heart was racing
Yet I painted pictures
Of the glory I will wear
I didn't want to move
Because I didn't know
If my body could balance itself
In the presence of zero gravity
Left to its will
Next moment courage rushed in
Illusion, he said..
I went into an art illusion
Tripping my thoughts
On an orange blog
Oh no, there I go faster than my fingers again
So courage rushed in,
Heavy metal played
I decided to sway my head to the right
I felt as if I am falling
But I decided to take the leap of faith
So free I felt
Free-er than the white pigeon
I wonder
If it makes you barge all closed gates
Like a greedy big black dog
Hounding for its prey
Why is called being stoned?

P.S: being the nature, shaken, broken yet only being not complaining like a stone.


Chinese Temple Tour - Longshan Temple Taipei!

A kind Taiwanese man, approached me to explain the rituals at a Chinese temple in Taipei, Taiwan called Longshan Temple when he saw the curiosity on my face.

Needless to say, it was an amazing experience where he told me in detail, what to do, how to do, and why to do so. I have tried to explain this in the following presentation:



Leave your comments below on the virtual tour!