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Friday, 25 April 2014

Farewell Japan

After more than three years of adventures, it's time to say goodbye to Japan. I'm flying back to Australia tonight and will be settling in Sydney. I'll be stopping in Cairns on the way to talk to the students at St Mary's College about life in Japan, and The Ghostly Grammar Boy.

I have a lot of mixed feelings about finishing this chapter of my life. I'll miss my friends in Japan most of all. But I'll also miss the amazing food and culture. It's going to seem weird when everything is easy again and I don't feel like it's a huge achievement to buy the right groceries or make a phone call.

Thanks for the good times Japan!





Monday, 3 March 2014

Gullible's travels

When I was seven years old, I found a note under my pillow. It said:

Dear Sandra,

Please use this 20 cents to buy something nice for you and your beautiful sister Jennifer. Don’t tell anyone about this note.

Love,
God


I was so excited when I found the note and immediately ran to Jennifer and showed it to her. Jennifer said I’d better make sure I buy something nice for her, and don’t tell anyone about the note. But I couldn’t control myself… I told my little sister, Linda. But she didn’t believe me. Unsatisfied with her response, I told my little cousin Christian, but he also didn’t believe me. I started to feel really frustrated. No one would listen to me! So I told Mum.

As soon as Mum heard the story, she demanded to see the note. I showed it to her and she immediately recognised Jennifer’s handwriting. She asked Jennifer if she wrote the note. I looked at Jennifer expectantly, waiting for her to deny it but her face suddenly clouded over. She snatched the 20 cents out of my hand and said “San-DRA! I told you not to tell anyone!”

Ever since then I’ve vowed to never be taken for a fool again. That’s why the other day in Tokyo I was probably a bit too ready to disbelieve my friend Nana when she gave me something to eat, claiming it was fish sperm sack. I thought she was playing a trick on me and I was determined not to be gullible. So I threw it into my mouth and chomped it down. It didn’t taste fishy at all, it tasted like delicious creamy cottage cheese, so I knew I’d been right. I helped myself to seconds. But even after I finished eating, Nana still swore it was sperm sack. I asked other people and they confirmed it. I was lucky it was cooked—apparently it’s often served raw and has a much stronger flavour.

Beware: fish sperm sac, NOT cottage cheese

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Monday, 10 February 2014

When things don't make sense, it might not be your fault

I used to be a really light sleeper and had to wear ear plugs at night to block out noise. One holidays I was sharing a room with my sister Linda. We talked for a while, then I told Linda I was going to put my ear plugs in, so I wouldn’t be able to hear her if she spoke to me. Linda said good night and rolled over. A few minutes later I heard her muffled voice.

Linda: “Smandra… skljdfkqwejrklwnerflsdlkfaldkj.”
Me: “WHAT? I CAN’T HEAR YOU. I’VE GOT MY EAR PLUGS IN. SPEAK LOUDER.”
Linda: “Smandra… skljdfkqwejrklwnerflsdlkfaldkj.”
Me: “I STILL CAN’T HEAR YOU. SPEAK LOUDER.”
Linda: “Smandra… skljdfkqwejrklwnerflsdlkfaldkj.”
Me: (pulling my ear plugs out). “Argh! What did you say?”
Linda: “I said, Smandra… skljdfkqwejrklwnerflsdlkfaldkj.”

She’d made mumbling sounds to trick me into taking my earplugs out.

I was reminded of this the other day when I was having dinner with a group of Japanese friends. The conversation started out in English but after a few minutes it turned into Japanese. Mostly I can’t understand Japanese, but I can catch a few words and sometimes guess what the conversation is about. To me, Japanese sounds like a phone call that’s cutting in and out: “Please … because… like… thank you… do me the honour… have to…?”

I was busily trying to put the fragments of conversation together when I realised for once it didn’t sound like a phone call breaking up, but like a phone call that had completely cut out. None of the words made sense to me at all! I felt really disappointed. I needed to study harder. I’d been hanging out with too many English speakers and lost all the Japanese I’d learnt. Finally, I gave up trying to understand and asked my friends what they were talking about. They told me they were making baby talk in Japanese—the English equivalent of “goo-goo gaa-gaa, a-coochy-coochy-coo”. It was no wonder I couldn’t understand them. They weren’t using real words.

I've been wasting my time studying Japanese when I could have just made up words.

I think I might try the same thing when I’m talking to people in English. If someone looks like they’re not listening to me, I’ll say “a goobly gooky snoogly snook” and see how they react.

Friday, 3 January 2014

5-star review for The Ghostly Grammar Boy - a great start to the new year!

The new year leapt off to a great start for me with a five-star review of The Ghostly Grammar Boy from Cheryl Schopen of Readers' Favorite website. The Ghostly Grammar Boy ebook is available for free at all major online book retailers except Amazon.


Book review of The Ghostly Grammar by Sandra Thompson - reviewed by Cheryl Schopen for Readers' Favorite

 

"...There can only be one word to describe Sandra Thompson and The Ghostly Grammar Boy: AMAZING. Thompson’s first book in the Dusk Duo series was written incredibly well. The dialogue was realistic, the characters were completely believable, and the plot was entertaining yet surprisingly suspenseful. I literally could not put the book down. I stayed up for hours reading, determined to finish. And when I did, I was so frustrated that I would have to wait for the next book in the series. I rarely feel this way about a book, and since I am a huge bookworm, that says a lot.

This book has it all. There were times where I couldn’t help but laugh out loud, and then there were some touching moments that just made my heart flutter a little. Throughout the entire book, I was on the edge of my seat. It was so unpredictable with just the right amount of twists and unexpected turns. If you like suspense, mystery, humor, heart, a little bit of romance, and a character that will remind you of your high school self, then give this book a chance. You definitely won’t regret it; I sure don’t. I now have a favorite new author. I will be counting down the days until the next book in the series comes out."

For the complete review, check out Readers' Favorite.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

I can see clearly now

Regular readers of this blog may recall my disastrous experience at the optometrist a few months ago. I tried to get my eyes checked at a Japanese-speaking optometrist, but couldn’t understand a thing they said. Daily headaches and eye strain later, I can confirm… yes, thanks to my terrible Japanese, I’d been given the wrong prescription.

I was determined not to make the same mistake again. This time, when I went to get my eyes re-checked, I used an optometrist who, I knew from friends, could speak English. When I walked inside the shop, I greeted the optometrist in Japanese, assuming he’d reply in English as soon as he heard my terrible speaking. Instead, he complimented my Japanese, and said how it was so helpful for him, because he couldn’t speak a word of English. He then proceeded to conduct the eye examination completely in Japanese.

As soon as I realised what was happening, I panicked. I was in the same situation all over again! I opened my mouth to tell him I knew he could speak English and to please talk to me in English, but then it hit me…I’d actually understood everything he’d said so far. I’d been so busy concentrating, I hadn’t noticed he was speaking in extremely slow, short, simple, sentences with lots of hand gestures, and waiting for me to understand each sentence, before he said the next. He was being kind, and helping me practise my Japanese, without sacrificing my ability to understand him. So I closed my mouth and we continued. The examination took twice as long as usual because I was so slow at communicating, but this time we both understood each other. I got new stronger glasses, and I haven’t had another headache since!

My new glasses - the right prescription this time!

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Time flies when you've got writer's block

Staring at a blank computer screen, mind frozen, and spirits plummeting… when I’ve got writer’s block the hours fly past in this state, and I can’t write a word. After a while, I’ll start imagining all the things I’d rather be doing. Going to the dentist or getting my thighs waxed seem like attractive options.

Everyone has different methods for dealing with writer’s block. For me, I find the best thing to do is try to keep two things in mind. The first is ‘A true writer is one who writes every day.’ I tell myself I’m a real writer, because I’m sitting here having writer’s block. This makes me feel like what I’m doing is dramatic and not a waste of time. As soon as I capture this exciting feeling that made me want to write in the first place, the words start to flow more easily.

The second thing I remember is something my Mum used to say when I complained about my English homework. She’d say, ‘Squash the critic and write’. It’s hard to get anything onto the page if I’m judging and criticizing every word. Once I ignore the critical voice in my head, and let myself off the hook about writing well, it’s much easier to get the words out.

After all of that, if the dentist’s chair is still looking attractive, I’ll give up and eat some chocolate. Sometimes you’ve just got to give yourself a break.

When all else fails, it’s time for some chocolate.


Sunday, 17 November 2013

The Ghostly Grammar Boy book launch hits the papers!

News of The Ghostly Grammar Boy book launch in Tokyo hit the newspapers in Australia last month! Sydney based local newspaper, The North Shore Times, reported on the event, which occurred on the night of a big typhoon. Thank you to everyone who turned up to make the event such a success and to my Sydney-based readers for spotting the article!


Newspaper article printed in the North Shore Times