Monthly Archives: October 2014

So today I did this

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One of the awesome things about working here in Japan is that I have to put on things like Halloween parties. It’s all for the cause of showing the children in my English speaking society “real American culture”.

To me this is an excuse to revel in the sweet nostalgic awesomeness of my child hood. Yesterday we all got together and carved pumpkins. Most of the students had never even opened up pumpkins let alone carved them.

Today we had a Halloween party. We gave out goody bags with candy from back home; had a competition for the pumpkins they carved the day before; put together bowls of fame monster parts so they could guess what they really were; and held a haunted house coloring contest. It was really awesome and all very old fashioned now back home. I kind of wish it weren’t.

My big contribution was to draw a picture for the board. I’m proud of how it turned out even though it isn’t super awesome. I sectioned the picture I based it on so that I could section off the blackboard. Below are some pictures of the process. Sorry I didn’t get a picture of just the grid. I got excited and started before I took a picture.

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It’s nice to, for once, have time to do all those crazy over the top things teachers should have time for. Yes I know I’m lucky and that most teachers in Japan don’t have the free time that I have. I know that most teachers in the states don’t, but maybe, just maybe, they should. We want exceptional teachers. Exceptional teachers need time to be exceptional. Just some random thoughts after a day which wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t had the time to plan it.

Since I’m here in japan, I’d love to know some things you’d like me to talk about. I’ll be going to Osaka this weekend. The comment section is below. Go!

Adette Price Undercover Witch Chapter 4: Seriously, a tree?

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That’s right folks. It’s time for the next installment of Adette and Karl. In order to save some poor hapless girl she gets accosted by shrubbery.

“Did you hear that?” Adette panted and pressed her hands to her aching head.

“No, but I think I might know where it’s happening. Come on. I guess the bacon has to wait until later.” Admitting this cost Karl greatly. Adette nodded. The throbbing in her head had abated slightly but she had no way of knowing if it would happen again or not.

Karl rose and trotted out the front door. Adette, still a bit wobbly because of her head, followed after him.

“How do you know where we need to go?” The headache was making Adette more than a little grumpy.

“I can smell the magic. Can’t you?” Sure enough, Karl’s nose was lowered to the ground and he was following a trail of some kind.

“Of course you can smell magic,” Adette muttered.

“What did you expect? I am a magical dog after all.”

“I guess smelling magic would be in your job description then.”

Karl’s nose led them off the main path into the old forest near Adette’s cottage. The trees grew further apart here than in other places. Slowly, the headache lifted and Adette began to suspect that getting closer to whoever screamed was what was making it go away. Beneath the thick canopy, the sun grew more distant and the shade grew cooler.

Karl padded through the soft layer of leaves and pine needles. Adette tried to be as soundless as he was but couldn’t quite manage it. Their path wound through the trees until it began to brighten. Ahead, a thick wall of low bushes crowded around the edge of the forest. Karl stopped and stared straight ahead. Silence hung like a blanket across the forest. Not even the animals moved or made a sound.

With eyes wide, Adette watched Karl’s slow progression. Her eyes darted to the other side of the bushes as a dark form moved. The branches jostled and shook with its motion. At first it looked human, then it looked strangely oblong and tall. Leaves rustled and branches creaked. The bushes themselves seemed to complain.

A head rose above the bushes. It was attached to a long green and brown body. Its outer covering was more bark than skin. From behind, Adette could tell that it was holding something. Slowly, it turned toward the forest where Adette and Karl were waiting.

Karl stared with single-minded doggy determination. His body was stiff and his lips were pulled back from his teeth. A low growl rumbled in his belly. Air whooshed from his lungs in a low woof.

The creature whirled around. A young girl hung limply across its branch-like arms. Her brown hair had fallen across her thin face, but Adette could still tell that she was unconscious. She couldn’t immediately tell where the creature’s eyes were. Then it blinked.

Barky eyelids slid down over two knots sticking out from its forehead. At the center, two shiny, hard clumps of brown sap followed Adette and Karl.

“Put the girl down,” Adette demanded. She smoothed the hairs that had escaped from her bun back from her face and stood taller and straighter. The creature narrowed its knotty eyes but didn’t move. The hair on the back of Karl’s neck stood straight up. He watched silently but didn’t move a muscle.

The creature crackled. Its joints rolled and popped in knobby shoulders. With a heavy thump, the girl landed in an unceremonious heap on the forest floor. Adette eyed her cautiously. She still seemed to be out cold.

The tree creature reared tall. A gaping mouth split its face with a loud crack. Inside was nothing but blackness. Other than the cracking and creaking of its joints and skin, it made no sound. Long legs crackled as they bent and straightened with growing speed.

“Uh, Karl, any ideas here?” Adette threw a glance toward the still unmoving dog. “Karl, a little help here.”

The creature was now bearing down on her. It flew through the bushes in a shower of torn leaves and bits of branches. Wiggling roots reached for the next patch of ground like separate living things.

“Fire!” Karl barked, “It’s not going to be reasoned with.”

“How do I use fire on just that? I can’t catch the whole forest on fire!”

“Think. You’re the magician.” Karl launched himself at the twisting roots of its feet. His teeth sank into the thick bark. The moving tree stopped and considered him. It lifted one long, branch leg and began to shake it violently in an attempt to dislodge the small, but determined, dog.

Adette watched on in horror and begged her sluggish brain to work.

 

Just walking

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Today was one of those perfect days. The sun was shining down in that soft way that doesn’t blind you. It’s warm, just warm. It’s the kind of warm that feels like you’re wrapped in a soft blanket. Only, it’s just the air. You only get those kind of days when the seasons are changing. Right before Fall comes we always used to get those kind of days in Michigan.

I know, you’re all cursing me right now because for you these nice warm days have already passed you by. You’ll have to give me a break. After living in Texas for five years, it’s nice to be getting those telltale days. What’s more I’m not actually too stressed to enjoy them. To go along with this lovely weather I’m having exam week. The kids go home early, I get to have quiet time in my room, and then I get to walk home having already accomplished everything I would have had too little time to do last year. It’s a really nice feeling.

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I talked for a while today to one of my prefectural advisers. She said something that sort of stuck in my head. She called me a clean slate. More and more I’m feeling that I am exactly that. Going somewhere new changes more than just arbitrary things like language and surroundings. Because you are somewhere different, you’re allowed to be someone different. Well, not really someone different. You get to really reexamine yourself. The old habits stay where you were. They don’t have to come with you.

Maybe that’s why some people have difficulty with travel. When all that’s left is you, what are you going to find? I can say that I’ve found a new perspective from the top of the hill, and that from where I’m standing, the sun seems to be shining.

Adette Price Undercover Witch Chapter 3: Karl

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Yes it is indeed that time again. Adette is dealing with a rather unusual companion at the moment. See what happens. Will he get bacon?

“Of course, I’m not sure why I’m surprised. I have a dog familiar whose name is Karl of all the ridiculous things.” Adette turned back to her chair. She was now determined to sit and drink her lemonade at all costs. This was not the way her day should be going at all.

“I can hear you, you know,” Karl pointed out.

“I was counting on your ability to hear things.” Adette looked pointedly over the half drunken glass at his ears.

“No need to make fun. They’re very useful and people who don’t know I can talk seem to think they make me look cute.” Karl finished cleaning his paws and stood. His legs weren’t very long so even though he was standing, he was still rather close to the ground. Without being invited he leapt, rather impressively for a dog his size, into the chair on the other side of the table.

“I don’t remember inviting you into that chair,” Adette remarked. Karl raised one eyebrow, which Adette could now see had three whiskers sticking out of it, and considered her.

“Is this how you treat all of your guests?”

Adette downed the other half of her lemonade and poured herself more. “Do you even like lemonade?”

“No, I can’t stand the stuff. I just wanted to make a point. So they didn’t tell you?”

“What was your first clue?” Adette set the glass down on the table.

“You were supposed to have been told. I’m guessing that means they didn’t tell you about what your placement entailed either, did they?”

Adette drew the folded paper out of her skirt pocket, unfolded it, and set it across from Karl.

“Sorry, you can read right?” Karl shot her a doggy look of disapproval before reading over the short letter.

“I’m seriously hoping that you can fill in the giant holes left by that letter.” Karl’s tongue stuck out. He panted twice before shutting his snout again. “This is without a doubt one of the most useless letters I’ve ever read. If it weren’t for the begrudging post script, you’d be entirely up a creek.”

“That’s exactly what I’ve been thinking since I read it. Do they normally make a big ordeal out of people receiving their placement letters?” Adette was hoping more than she could say that his answer would be yes.

“What do you mean an ordeal?”

Adette sighed and took the look of confusion to mean either they didn’t or he didn’t know.

“I’ll explain some other time. You do know more than this letter says right?”

“I’m afraid I don’t. I am only a dog after all. They told me my placement but nothing else. You’ve either really impressed someone or made them very angry with you.” Karl slowly lowered his chin onto the arm of the chair as he said this.

“Sure, now you’re only a dog.”

Karl didn’t bother replying to this.

“Hungry Karl?”

Karl’s head flew up. His ears perked up and his small stump of a tail began waggling furiously.

“I figured. Come on. I’ll bet I’ve got something for you.” Adette scooped the pitcher and dirty glass off of the table. Together they stomped and clacked their way back into the small cottage. Adette’s shoulders slumped when she realized she still had a mountain of produce to do something with.

“I’m not very picky, but if you have any, I’d really like some bacon.”

“Of course you want bacon. Should I also start smoking some butcher bones for you too?”

“Well, if you’re offering I wouldn’t say no.” Karl blinked. He apparently took the thought very seriously. Adette’s shoulders slumped. Her mouth opened then shut. She was thinking furiously, but the retort she was looking for couldn’t be found.

“Who sent you here anyway? I’ve never heard about anyone receiving familiars.”

“Well, someone sent the call to the home of the familiars. I was chosen, so here I am.”

“Do you have any idea who sent you?”

“That’s not how it works. One of the elders calls and we’re sent. We’re told from pups not to question.”

“Huh…” Adette mused as she began working her way through the pile on the counter.

Karl settled down onto the floor. Even though Adette hadn’t given him a real answer about the food, he still looked expectant. The pile, which looked much bigger than it was, soon was all put away. The last bag of onions got stowed securely in a cupboard. Adette allowed the heavy wood to fall shut and turned to consider Karl where he still lay on the kitchen floor.

“Alright, I suppose I could fry up some bacon. I wouldn’t mind a BLT myself, but we will need to get you some proper dog food afterwards,” Adette sighed. She reached up and lifted a skillet from its hook above the stove. It clanked down onto the stove top.

Karl’s long pink tongue swirled up and around his snout. His brown eyes seemed to grow brighter with the anticipation of bacon. Adette turned to look at him and nearly burst out laughing.

“I guess I know what I need to get if I ever need a special favor from you Karl.” Air whooshed between Karl’s dog lips in a good imitation of a human huff but he didn’t deny anything. Adette smirked and threw the refrigerator door open. Her hand got half way to the bacon before she was interrupted by a truly pathetic sigh of disappointment.

“Don’t bother.” In Karl’s voice, Adette heard disappointment. She got halfway through asking him why but was interrupted by a scream.