Pears, I tell you

nashi

Conversation starter right here

There are days when I cannot believe that my job is teaching English and it’s for good reasons, and then there are days like today. Days where I have dropped my son off at childcare despite him getting over bronchitis (again!) and believing he would be better off at home, but I shouldn’t take yet another day off for this company and cancel on these students yet again. Days where I spent 30 minutes trying to find my keys and had to do all sorts of mad dashing to get to work at all. Days where I’ve lugged my laptop in despite the fact it will be raining and I have a fair bit of walking outside to do, primarily so I can play the listening task. Days where I’ve prepared for their lessons the previous night and in the aftermath of the previous week’s lesson despite never being paid for that time. Days where I remember all the little details, like who doesn’t work well together, who sits where, who can’t see the whiteboard well.

It felt like it had taken me a good bit of effort to front up at all for class, and I started the lesson by reminding them brightly that we were practicing the past tense today, talking about what we did over the summer. They knew this in advance, because I also work out what we’re doing when and let them know, and they nodded agreeably as I said it. Then the student with the biggest ego in the group kicked things off and declared that during the summer, he eat pears. “I eat pears last summer.” He said it twice. His English is actually pretty good and I wondered, not for the first time, if he’s really just trolling me with these random exhibitions of shitty grammar.

And then the rest of them were off, talking about pears and slipping in as much Japanese as they possibly could. Because pears. There are a number of different types of Japanese pears and not only do they know what they are but what’s supposedly different about them and which region of Japan each is grown in. They still can’t remember that kuri is chestnut and marron isn’t English and we’ve had this conversation every autumn for the last five plus years. Apparently, even expecting them to remember that ate is the past tense of eat is a bit much. But hey. Those pears.

I know there are worse things I could be doing than teaching English to (elderly) adults who want to stay on the same language plateau forever after. It’s decent money and most of the time, I like these students as people. It’s just that after the effort it had taken just to successfully be there at all, to have the students want to spend the lesson discussing pear breeds in Japanese was a bit… dumbfounding, I guess.

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TONVEGE Lunch Set

Miso chicken sukiyaki don, salad, soup, tsukune and pickles, and a vanilla pudding in the center.

TONVEGE is actually a shabu shabu restaurant, but it offers these lunch sets as well and this one was seriously good. The restaurant is in Lumine EST, somewhere in the vicinity of Shinjuku station’s east exit. I think so, anyway – I’ve been to that train station so many times now over the years and I’m armed with Google maps these days, and I still manage to come off second best navigation-wise.

Okuizome, the “first meal” ceremony

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Yesterday, we did okuizome, a “first meal” ceremony held for Japanese babies when they reach either 100 or 120 days old (depending on the region). My mother-in-law brought over the elaborate food shown above and laid it out on the special dishes above. The dishes have been in the family for 40 years, so I guess that was kind of neat.

Mr. K didn’t actually eat of the food; even if babies were encouraged to be weaned that young, the food would have been far too rich for him.From what I can gather, it’s meant to be a time for families to gather and most families pretend to feed the baby and then carry on feasting. Link link here! My mother-in-law basically orchestrated the whole thing without consulting or inviting anyone else, and R pretended to share some of his lunch with Mr. K, a takeout bento that is definitely not pictured above. After setting out all the dishes, my mother-in-law took some photos of the food (I’m not 100% sure she included Mr. K in the photos at all; I was holding him and there was certainly no attempt to make us pose?) and packed everything away again.I spent most of my time trying to keep an increasingly grumpy baby in check and waiting for instructions that never came.

Why yes, my relationship with my mother-in-law is a difficult one!

Anyway, I don’t want to detract from what could be a nice ceremony with my husband’s family’s bizarre behaviour. I think, in different circumstances, it’s quite a cute thing to do, it’s certainly very pretty looking and given I identify as agnostic these days, I think it could be a good alternative to a Christening.

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Intriguing indeed!

Valentine’s Day 2016

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“ARGH I didn’t get a photo of them.” “Well, I’ve only eaten one so far.”

Valentine’s Day in Japan is… well, a bit different. Here, women are expected to give the men in their lives chocolates. For the men we’re not especially close to – coworkers, friends, classmates – there is cheaper giri-choco, known as obligation chocolate. For those we’re especially close to – romantic partners, brothers, fathers, close friends –  more elaborate preparations are needed, for these chocolates should be expensive, homemade, or both.

Recently, in a nice twist, girls and women have been giving their female friends chocolates as well.

Men aren’t required to reciprocate on Valentine’s Day. Instead, there is another event in one month, on March 14th, called White Day. That is when men are supposed to return a gift worth three times the value of whatever the woman gave him. Since White Day doesn’t exactly receive the same level of marketing, this is one of those things that sounds very nice in theory.

Being still sort of on maternity leave, I got to forego the giri-choco altogether this year, though I will give some chocolates to the sole student who has resumed English lessons so far (more will in March).

That left R. He tends to pick and choose if he’s going to celebrate Valentine’s Day the “foreign” way (i.e. the way in which most people reading this are familiar) or the Japanese way. I don’t need to be a mindreader or even particularly cynical to know that his decision is based on 1) whether he remembers the day and 2) whether or not he can be bothered shopping in February.

I usually only find out on the day… aaaaaaaaaaaand it seems we’re doing things the Japanese way this year. Yay?

Anyhow, I still made him the above-pictured chocolates and, this year, I managed to pull off the winning combination of them being easy to make, delicious and fairly well-presented. As a reminder to myself next year as well as a note to anyone else who is vaguely interested, this is how I did it.

Ingredients

  • Two bars of regular dark chocolate (~ 50 grams each)
  • One bar of regular milk chocolate (~50 grams each)
  • Cream (~ 1 tablespoon, give or take)
  • Unsalted mixed nuts

 

Equipment

  • One bowl, medium-large
  • One smaller bowl
  • Boiled water
  • Mixing spoon
  • Teaspoon
  • Small cups/molds for the chocolate
  • One suitable pretty gift box

* The latter two are readily and cheaply available here at this time of year.

 

Directions

  1. Break up all the chocolate bars into pieces and put them into the smaller bowl.
  2. Put smaller bowl into larger bowl and pour boiling water into the larger bowl, around the smaller bowl. This is to melt the chocolate.
  3. Wait. Feed the angry baby. Feed the angry cat. About 15 minutes? If the chocolate still hasn’t melted, replace the water with more boiling water.
  4. Mix the melted chocolate and add in the cream.
  5. Use the teaspoon to spoon the chocolate into the cups/molds.
  6. Put the molds into the fridge to cool.
  7. When the chocolate has just started to set, press one of the mixed nuts into the top of each. You want the chocolate to still be malleable enough that the nut sets in, but not so fluid that the nut sinks into chocolatey oblivion.
  8. Leave the chocolates to finish setting (at least one hour, more to be on the safe side).
  9. Extract from fridge shortly before gifting and arrange in box!

 

 

Cafes in Japan – Doutor, January 2016


This is a standard afternoon cake set at Doutor, made up of a chestnut milk crepe cake and my standard black coffee.

I took this photo about a week and a half ago, and that is indeed a small person across the table keeping his beady little eyes on things (and his toy lion). It was his second time at a café and he actually behaved quite well.

We were doing something of a trial run to see if he might be able to sit through me conducting an English lesson in a café. There’s a couple of students I would a) like to resume teaching when I can, both for financial reasons and emotional/mental ones, and b) like me enough (I hope?) or are keen enough to tolerate the risk of disruptions.

Work matters aside, though? I like going to cafés to read and/or write. If he is happy to chill there too, just for 45 or even 60 minutes once a week? There’s something kind of liberating about that. Hell, it would even help abett some tension R and I have been experiencing regarding who gets free time when.

I wish I could type the above paragraph without feeling guilty and finding myself with the urge to state how much I love Mr K, just to make sure nobody misunderstands me.

Cafes in Japan – Saint Marc, Winter 2016

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Saint Marc Cafe is known for one thing above all of their other offerings and that is their delicious chocolate croissants. Here is my “blend coffee” – i.e. standard black coffee that I order nearly everywhere – and a special white chocolate croissant, part of their winter menu. Apologies for only the wrapper being visible!

Cafes in Japan – Doutor, Holiday Menu 2015

 

My own image

Doutor has a selection of special items on their Holiday menu and I ordered two of them today. On the left is their “Roof Chocolate” cake, a sort of houseish-looking chocolate cake dusted with almonds. On the right is their “Cafe Chocolat Frambois”. It’s basically a cafe mocha with a festive topping of cream, strawberry syrup and a dusting of green tea powder. Mine didn’t quite have the crosshatch pattern used in the promotional posters, but it was still nice!