My thoughts


Labor Day Weekend
August 30, 2007, 3:55 am
Filed under: Beginner

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Next Monday, September 4th is Labor Day, which is a holiday for us in the U.S. Most companies give their employees the day off, so it is a three day weekend. The holiday is to honor workers. Many people travel over the weekend to other cities, go camping, or hang out with their friends. Many cities have festivals. In Seattle, we have Bumbershoot, which is a music festival.

One reason that it is a big weekend for us is because most public schools and some colleges and universities start right after Labor Day. Most students have had three months off, and Labor Day is the last part of summer.

It is also a big weekend for “back-to-school sales,” many parents have to buy clothes and school supplies for their kids. Over the summer, the schools send out lists of school supplies that the students should have. Often schools do not have much money for supplies, so the parents are asked to buy things for the whole class such as Kleenex tissues, glue, pencils, etc. In many countries, children wear uniforms to school, but not in the U.S., so it is a big shopping weekend. Some families spend a lot of money on clothing, especially if they have teenagers.

I am not sure what my plans are yet, but I will probably get together with my friends and perhaps go to a county fair. Do they have these in your country? Think of the book and movie “Charlotte’s Web.” The purpose is for farms and people in rural areas to compete against each other. The competitions involve animals, fruits and vegetables, baked goods, art, clothing, and other contests. You can see the results of the competitions displayed with the ribbons for 1st, 2nd , and 3rd place. There is also good food and fun exhibits, and rides for the kids. Some fairs also have a rodeo. You can see real cowboys in action!

Whatever your plans are, have a good Labor Day!

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American Food
August 19, 2007, 5:07 am
Filed under: Beginner

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Many people from other countries think that Americans eat at McDonalds everyday. This is certainly not true, sometimes we eat at Taco Bell or Subway! I am joking of course. Many Americans do eat “fast food,” but it is certainly not everyday for most of us. Many of us prefer to get our fast food from coffee shops such as Starbucks and Tully’s. You can get nicer, healthier food, but it is also more expensive.

People who eat at restaurants like McDonalds because it is much cheaper. You can get a lot of food for about $4.00. I do not go to McDonalds because there is little on the menu that is healthy. Even their fruit has something on it which makes it taste funny. If I eat “fast food”, it is usually a sandwich or something from an Asian restaurant, like teriyaki chicken or a Thai dish. These foods are healthier and fill you up more than other fast food. However, I live on the west coast of the U.S., where healthy food is popular. It is not so in other parts of the U.S.

Have you ever heard of the movie “Supersize Me?” In this movie a man goes on a McDonald’s diet and has some health problems as a result. I think that one problem in the U.S. is that the sizes of things is often too big. I was suprised when I went to a Japanese McDonald’s, at how small things were. I think the smaller sizes were good.

However, even in regular restaurants, it can be difficult to eat healthy. Many things have fatty sauces and cheese on them. Salads have salad dressing and cheese with high calories. Although recently, many restaurants have a healthy menu, some restaurants even have menus for certain diet plans like Atkins and Weight Watchers.

Also in restaurants, the size of the meal is very large. I usually eat half and take the rest home and eat it for lunch the next day. We call this “leftovers.” I also used to take my food and give it to a homeless person sometimes. They need it more than me.

We also have some good food too. We have food from all over the world and make it our own. I guess it depends on what you like!



The American Educational System
August 5, 2007, 7:18 am
Filed under: Intermediate

Sometimes the American educational system can be confusing to people from other countries, so I thought that I would explain it. 

Elementary, or Grade School as we sometimes call it, is for children in Kindergarten (about 5 years old) through 5th grade (about 12 years old).  Then the children go to Middle School, which is grades 6-8 (12-14 years old).  After Middle School, the kids go to High School, which is grades 9-12 (15-18 years old).  However, when I was in school, Elementary School was K-8, and instead of Middle School, we had Junior High School for grades 7-8, and then High School.  In High School, we also have names for the grades: Freshaman (9th grade), Sophomore (10th grade), Junior (11th grade), and Senior (12th grade).  Unlike countries like Japan, there is no entrance exam for high school.  However, if students plan to go to college there is.  Students take the SAT(Scholastic Aptitude Test) or the ACT(American College Testing program) in their Junior year, many students take the PSAT(Practice SAT) their Sophomore year.  However, if a student does badly on the SAT, they can retake it again. 

After High School, it gets more tricky.  Some students go onto a Community College or Junior College, which is usually for 2 years, depending on the program.  If the students receive a degree, it is called an Associates Degree.  Some students go trade school where they learn a specialized skill, which is similar to a Community College.  Many students go directly from High School to a college or university, but some go to a Community College for two years, and then transfer to a university.  There are generally two types of degrees you can earn, either a BA (Bachelors of Arts) or a BS (Bachelor of Science).  The main difference is that a Bachelor of Arts requires the study of a language (about 2 years), Bachelor of Science does not.  Students are meant to graduate from a college or university in about 4 years, however that is not always the case.  Many students take about five years, some may take even longer if they drop out and return.  In my case, I got a Bachelor of Arts because I took two years of Japanese (which I promptly forgot after I was out).  I finished in four years, despite changing majors halfway through, but I pushed myself so that I would finish in four years. 

It is quite common on university campuses to find students we call Older Than Average (OTA).  Many people change careers or get side tracked from their studies and return later.  It is never too late to go back to school, and it has become popular for retired people people to audit university classes, which means that they sit in the class and do not receive credit, and their tuition is lower than regular students. 

After getting a Bachelors, some students go onto Graduate School (Grad. School) to get a Masters Degree.  Similar to Graduate School, is Law School, Medical School, etc.  Most programs require the passing of a standardized test, such as the GRE(Graduate Record Exam), the LSAT(Law Scholastic Aptitude Test), and the MCAT(Medical College Admissions Test).  I am currently in Grad School, when I finish I will be getting my Masters In Education.  To get in, I had to take a Praxis I test (which is required by the government prior to starting a teaching program), and after I was in  I had to take the Praxis II, which is required by the federal government before I can start my internship. 

After Grad School, some go on to get their Ph.D. (Doctorate Degree).  To teach in a college or university, you usually need a Ph.D in the subject you are teaching. 

I think that our system is a bit different to those in other countries, and am interested what the other systems are.