The grass is always greener…

“The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.”

This is a saying that means we often are dissatisfied with what we have, and we want what other people have. I think the Japanese saying is almost the same (the grammar is a little different). Can you imagine what it is without using your dictionary or googling it?

This short video is about how many women in Ghana go to great lengths to whiten their skin, sometimes at great personal risk.

I think more people are concerned about protecting their skin from UV rays these days, but it’s true that many fair-skinned people wish they had tanned skin.

Discussion/writing/research questions:

  • Is there anything about yourself that you’d like to change?
  • Why do you think the Japanese saying uses 青 instead of 緑? How would you explain to an English speaker why 青 is both blue and green (think 青信号, too …)?
  • Make some example sentences from your own life or books/movies/currents events you know about, in which “the grass is greener.”
  • Why do you think many people (women only?) in Japan and other parts of Asia think that fairer skin is more beautiful? OTOH, tanning salons exist in Japan, too. What kind of people do you think use them?
  • Do you think tanning salons are safe? What about skin whiteners or self tanners? Hair bleach or hair dye? If you’re interested, do a little research and find out.
  • What famous people can you think of who use some methods to lighten or darken their hair or skin color?
  • One news story this week focused on Princess Aiko’s entrance into high school, but some of the media has focused more on her tan than anything else. Apparently, she went skiing.  Here’s a short article about her from the Japan Times. Try summarizing it and noticing some language.

Put some color in your life

This is a reminder about what school (and work) often becomes … and what it can be if we encourage more creativity.

It also reminds me a lot of the movie “Pleasantville”. The metaphor is different, but there are similarities in the use of color.  If you haven’t seen this movie, you really should. The Japanese title is 「カラー・オブ・ハート」and it stars Tobey Maguire, a few years before he was Spiderman. Here’s the trailer. Fans of the “Fast and Furious” series (Japanese title: 「ワイルド・スピード」may recognize Paul Walker, too.

Doing it his way

No, this is not about the US president’s choice of songs for his inaugural ball (or Sinatra’s daughter’s reaction to it).

It’s about a 10-year-old boy in Japan who decided he didn’t want to be “the nail that sticks out and is pounded in” by following societal norms that made him miserable. He decided to do things his own way.

“Japan’s 10-Year-Old Philosopher, Published Author, and Grade School Dropout” (from Tofugu)

Reading this, I sometimes thought he was just being a self-centered pre-teen, and sometimes that he was a lot more self-aware than many adults I know. It’s complicated.

One great debate topic:

“I think schools should be places you can go if you want to. People who like schools can go to school, like my sister. It means school is a good fit for them. So, I’ve never thought about changing the environment in schools. I didn’t “fit” school, so I chose not to go. It’s that simple. What needs to change is “yourself,” not schools or other people.”

I also was not aware of the Rocket Project for Talented Children. It’s great to see programs like this in Japan.

Fail better

This is a bit too black and white — I think we all have a little “Jay” in us, even if we try to be “Ann” as much as we can. But it’s a good reminder to try to see difficulties as challenges and learn to “fail better”.