Writer, photographer, "rapper" and general technophobe takes on the internet in what could be a very, very messy fight. But it's alright: she's harder than she looks, and she's wearing every single ring she could get her hands on.


Thursday, 15 July 2010


Sometimes the little things we learn make a big difference.

"Where are you going?" my colleague asked today as I walked out of the school with an extremely gung-ho attitude. I was walking towards a green square of plants, just as I had been told to do.
"You told me to go to the rice field," I announced. "I`m going to the rice field."
"That is not a rice field."
"The rice field is there."
He pointed in the opposite direction.
"Oh. What's that, then?"
"Oh. Will these shoes be okay for weeding? Why are you laughing?"
"You`ll see soon. And you might want to roll your trousers up," he added.
"Why?" I asked, and he laughed again.

A rice field, apparently, is filled with water and wet, light grey clay. Which explained why all my students were in their t-shirts and shorts, and didn`t explain why I had been sent out in all of my work clothes.

"Right," I said when I had waded into the middle and stood, in my suit trousers, knee deep in clay. "We`re pulling up the weeds, right?"
"Yes," one of my students replied.
I bent down and grabbed a handful of grass and pulled at it.
"It's quite tough, isn't it," I pointed out when it wouldn't come out.
"Holly Sensai," my student told me calmly. "That`s the rice."
I pointed at the grass.
"This is the rice?"
"But -" and I leant down a little closer. "Where is the rice?"
"Is it underground?"
"Like potatoes?"
"Where, then?"
"This rice is too small. It's there." And she pointed to the next field, filled with what I thought was corn.
"That`s the rice?"
"On the grass?"
"Hanging from the grass? Like grass seeds?"
"It`s not grass. It's rice."

There were quite a few lessons to be learnt, in fact. I discovered that a frog is called a kaeru in Japanese, and that it will sit quite still in your hand while you stroke it on the head. I discovered that if I say a frog is cute, I will immediately get offered twenty five of them as gifts. I discovered that I can pick up a caterpillar without feeling squeamish. I discovered that my shoulders get extremely burnt in 2 hours of weeding, and I discovered - too late, unfortunately - that my top was too loose and I had shown most of the 9th grade what teachers aren't supposed to show the 9th grade. And then, when I was bright red and covered in clay and frog juice and little spiders, I discovered that I'm allergic to rice plants and that the school nurse wasn't very happy with whoever had sent me into a rice field without sun protection and in a suit.

Some little things make a big difference. I've been eating rice every day for a year now and now I finally know where those little things come from.

And the answer is: not underground.