Saturday, February 26, 2011

In Praise of Libraries and Japanese Food

I would just like to take a moment to sing the praises of one of my most treasured valuables: my Kindle. What an amazing electronic! No matter where you are or what time of day, you have access to a library of books. Mind you, the books aren't free but some are, including classics. Long gone are the days when if you wanted to travel abroad with books, half of your luggage space was taken up. I will acknowledge that sometimes it's nice to hold a book in your hands and be able to dog-ear and smell those pages but for convenience's sake, the kindle is a go-to for travelers and anyone who has no access to an English library.

After Mozambique, I really realized how much I took libraries for granted in the states. You get to read or order any book you want...for free! Well, kind of for free since you are paying taxes for the luxury. But in many countries of the world, this system is nonexistent, therefore it's something we should never take for granted. A system like that would never work in Mozambique, for example, because of the sad but true likelihood that the books would be stolen and/or ruined. In Monapo's high school library, students couldn't take the books out and on the occasions in the past when they had, the books were then stolen and sold for a profit. An example of the few ruining it for the majority but out of desperation for money.

So I say that Americans are pretty lucky to have that convenient access to knowledge. There are libraries in Japan of course but I have only ever frequented our island library to read to the kids in English, which I haven't done for a few months. All of the books are in English except for a small section of English children's books. But the library is very quiet and organized and it seems like a great place to bring your children on the island. Often, after school I see the students from the elementary school and junior high stopping at the library on their way home. Half of them are actually going behind the library to run around and tackle each other but the other half actually go in the library and check out books. One of my adult language group members has a son in the first grade and when I visited their house recently I saw that there was a huge bag of library books on the floor. I remember being young and being excited to take out books from the library and even when I returned from the Peace Corps, I made biweekly trips to the library to check out books and movies.

My nostalgia spilleth over for libraries right now just because I think they are amazing. And the closest thing I have to a library now is my kindle, a Christmas present for which I am forever grateful. The Japanese, while the king of the electronics industry, has yet to come out with an equivalent as far as I know for the Japanese people. Every time someone sees my Kindle, they ask if it's a computer. I imagine it won't be too long until they do. Most of my students here enjoy reading Manga, Anime and comic books - books that have colored illustrations.

On a different note, we lost our game last night in the badminton tournament but I had a wonderful time at an enkai afterward. There was some great food and beer. The food included, baby squid in soy sauce dressing, fried chicken, fried what I think were sardines, kimchi (which I actually like more than the stuff I ate in the country that prides itself on its creation of kimchi - sorry Korea!), sashimi (raw fish - see picture below), battered and fried pork and cheese with ketchup, and cabbage with a mayo dressing. Before I came to Japan, so many people commented on how they thought the food in Japan isn't very good but it's delicious! And not always healthy, judging by all the fried foods on that list, but it is yet another reason why I love my island and living in Japan.

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