Life as a Fukushima JET

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2005

This is going to start out as a venting session.

This morning it snowed about 5 inches before I woke, but I didn't care. I have my new super warm hooded jacket and my knee high snow boots. Apart from my legs being cold as well as the area between my gloves and sleeve, I was ready for the weather. I made it to the station early so I could catch the 8:15, even though I knew I would be late due to the snow. So I get there and I am at the end of a massive line for the #2 bus. Finally one pulls up and 5 people get on and then it leaves. WHY did no one else get on it? Especially when there are about 10 of my students in line (ahead of me). Whatever, I forgot I was on the Planet Absurdia for a while.

Finally another bus comes to the #3 stop. Any bus in the #2 stop goes by my school, but only a few buses from #3 will stop there. The one that pulled said it goes to "Kakeda" which is far, but my school is on the way. Since many of the students go to schools around mine, they all converged on the bus. Then a minute later they started getting back off. The driver made an announcement on the bus intercom, which had a speaker outside of the bus. "This bus does NOT stop at Toyoda Machi", of course it was all in Japanese. He actually repeated it twice. Then a few older people got on the bus, and then got right back off. Then he repeated "This bus does NOT stop at Toyoda Machi", still in Japanese, in Japan, and I assumed all these people were Japanese, this being Japan. Then he waited a minute and started to close the doors. A man jumped through the crowd, though he was standing in line, and beat on the door. The driver opened it and he stuck his head in and asked something. Guess what he asked? The driver got back on the intercom and said, still in Japanese "This bus does NOT stop at Toyoda Machi".

Come on people, pay attention. I am a foreigner who barely speaks Japanese and I understood him every time. Why is that? Maybe because I exist in the real world and I listen and pay attention?

Finally our bus comes and, honestly, about 60 people pack into the bus. Then some older women come to door and try to get on but there is no room, we are all packed like sardines. One of them yells, in Japanese, "Move up a little so we can get on". Problem was there was no more room. So we all shuffle a bit and no one really moves. Why? Because there was no more room. So then she yells it again. We shuffle again, but that doesn't magically make any more actual room. Then she yells it again and about 10 people, of all ages, say "THERE IS NO MORE ROOM". Or something along those lines. She walks to the front of the bus and beats on the door and tells the driver to ask everyone to move up since they can't get on. The driver, not nearly as sarcastically as I would have preferred, told her there was no more room. She walks back to the back door (which is the entrance on Japanese buses) and yells for us to move up a little. Everyone must have picked up my sarcastic emissions, because everyone actually moved back a little so there was even less room. I guess the driver sensed her absurdity because as she approached the front door, he just shut the doors and took off.

It's like she had it in her mind that:

A) She must get on this bus
B) There was more room on the bus
C) The young kids weren't moving forward

Nothing else was going into her brain, just those three concepts, because she probably would have stayed there and kept telling us to move forward until we all died of old age.

Then I get to school, at nearly 9am, but other teachers were late as well. Slight tangent:

I made it all the way through January with having the exact total sum of:

2.5 classes

Woo hoo. I gave up my life in the US to come to Japan to sit in a teacher's room and do nothing for %97.5 of the time. I was supposed to have nearly 50 classes in that time. I had half a class at my base school where I talked about Thailand and then I was dismiss back to the teacher's room. I went to Matsukou (the devil school) once and had two classes. On Tuesday of this week I went to Kawamata (my favorite school) and had more classes there than I have had in the previous month.

Ok, returning from the tangent. I was at school and I had/have my computer and was watching Star Trek The Next Generation full screen. Then I was hungry and wanted to get lunch. So I leave and remember half way there I need money. I stop at the ATM, which is an outdoor one enclosed in a 10 foot by 10 foot little room. There was a person inside, and here's the kicker, two people waiting outside. By this time it was snowing hard and the wind was blowing. There was plenty of room inside the room, but these people had been taught to wait outside. Rain, snow, typhoon doesn't matter. Although there is plenty of room inside, and that would make logical sense to wait inside, these people were taught to wait outside and that's what they do. When the person in front of me goes in, I do to. I stand off in the corner and she goes to the ATM. She looks over at me and then at her money. I can tell she is confused, hopefully she can tell I am freezing cold and not interested in silly cultural differences. Finally she finishes, I get my money, my food, and then return for more sitting.

Some of you might have noticed I exceeded my bandwidth recently. I thought I had unlimited bandwidth, but apparently it's just unlimited space. The really odd thing is they will upgrade bandwidth for free. So if it's no problem then why not just do it automatically when I exceed it? Who knows. It should be taken care of now. If you are reading this I guess it is ok.

My odd foot pain is going away. It was only when I wore shoes and walked around town. When I was at home there was no pain. For some reason when I wore my sport shoes, I felt no pain. By wearing them for a day in Sendai my foot seemed to heal. It's really bizarre. Friday I go back to the devil school, which is where I first noticed the pain two weeks ago, so maybe it will start again. I might go ahead and get my new phone from the Vodafone office there as well.

I've been waking up early for some reason recently. Maybe I am turning into my dad. I do get sleepy around 9 or 10 so I hope that's not it. He's a good man, but I don't feel like turning into a 60 year old man right now. If this keeps going as it is, I might actually become a Republican. Ouch.

Have you ever looked at a clock to see what time it was and thought for a moment that the clock had stopped. Then what seemed like longer than one second later the clock starts to move again. I can't do it on demand, but occasionally I will glance at a clock, digital or with hands, and I would swear the second hand or digits just freeze for at least 5 seconds. I guess I caught it at the beginning of the second, but it still seems like much longer than that. Maybe it's just something from Ryan's World.

Saturday, February 5th, 2005

I went to the devil school again yesterday. I had two classes, one 1st period and the other 5th period. There are only two things I like at that school, one I can leave as soon as classes are over, and two, the electrical engineering teacher always talks to me in stupid English. I've already been over that so I won't repeat it. Anyway, the first class went pretty good. I talked about my winter vacation and showed them the pictures. The turning point was when the loud punk was actually interested in Angkor Wat. When he heard me say that, he shut up and listened and shushed other people. Ha, "shushed" is a word, at least according to spell check. So that class went fine and I started to think I was over reacting about it being a devil school. Ah, but they were mere 1st years. They had not taken the "how to be a loud obnoxious ass" classes yet.

After that I was sitting in the way-too-hot teacher's room reading my Al Franken political book. I was sitting on the leather (or pseudo) couch. I was leaning over so my left arm was on the arm of the couch. I was doing this to hide the illusion of me actually sleeping a little. Though the huge red mark on my left cheek would have been a big clue. I didn't care. So I am leaning there and I adjust for a minute, no a second. The action of my arm and the leather made a noise. It was the perfect sounding noise. The sound of me passing gas, to be as discreet as possible.

I noticed a few teachers turn their heads. So the only logical thing I could do was make the noise again, a few more times in a way that says "see it's the couch not me". Unfortunately, for some reason, I could only make more gas passing noises. The more I tried I could only make sounds that resembled that action. So I got nervous because this action caused more teachers to casually turn to watch the flatulent assistant English teacher. By this time I was just rubbing my arms on the couch in a panic. Of course the only sounds that came were the bad sounds. Now I was the can't-stop-passing-gas-and-freaking-out foreigner in the corner on the couch. Finally I heard one teacher say "it's the couch" (I think) and they laughed a bit.

Finally I had my 5th period class which was in fact a devil class. We tried to do an activity where I had a worksheet with 20 abbreviations or acronyms and they had to guess what something "stands for". That was the point of the lesson. So I had a list, well I'll just post the list to show you my genuine intentions.

What Does.….Stand For

TV       __________________________________________________________

ASAP __________________________________________________________

Mr.      __________________________________________________________

VCR    __________________________________________________________

USA    __________________________________________________________

CEO    __________________________________________________________

JR        __________________________________________________________

RAM   __________________________________________________________

PC       __________________________________________________________

RLM    __________________________________________________________

APT     __________________________________________________________

BLDG __________________________________________________________

Ms.      __________________________________________________________

SHS     __________________________________________________________

Dept.    __________________________________________________________

FBI      __________________________________________________________

CNN   __________________________________________________________

NHK   __________________________________________________________ 

P.I.N.   __________________________________________________________

ATM    __________________________________________________________

 

So this is the exact workshop, though it looked better in MS Word and took up the whole page. The students started out good, they all got TV and USA and maybe PC. A few of them knew others. The fun started about 30 minutes into the lesson. I didn't even suspect it.

One student was guessing at ASAP, then he said "A stupid Asian Person". I laughed and said not right. Then there was "U Stupid American", well maybe that will be alright. Others included

Fat Big Igloos
Pretty Cats
Cats Need Noses
Carrots Eat Onions
Right Arm Machine

Others were too inappropriate to be listed here. Remember it's acceptable to talk dirty in class for the most part. That statement doesn't apply to every school in Japan, just the vast majority of public schools. There are some private schools in town where the students are far more diligent. One example is the all girls Catholic school. I'm sure the students, who are religious and paying to be there, are quite good students. If I were teaching there I would probably end 15 minutes early since I always build in 15 minutes of telling them to shut up. Chances are the girls would be quiet at that school and listen to the teachers. That would be weird.

Today I am about to go skiing (I think) with a teacher from the night school and Liz. I say I think because it snowed a lot last night. It's still amazing, in a non-amazing way, that it snows so much here. It snowed more last night than it has snowed in Georgia in my entire life. They never cancel school here unless it's really bad. When I say really bad I mean like waist deep and windy. For some reason it only snows about 6-9 inches at a time. There are areas in the southeastern part of the prefecture that get a lot more snow, but not here. I guess I do live in a bigger warmer city. There was a ton of snow in Kawamata when I went on Tuesday.

Next Tuesday I go to Idai-Bunko the hospital school. I really love that school and I will try to take more pictures. The kids are cool. Actually the elementary school kids get all excited and jump around when they see me walking down the hall.

Let me tell you, that is a good feeling. One I know to treasure.

Oh the snowed kicked up again. I guess I will get ready for skiing even though I don't think we can make it. Oh I went ahead and bought that new phone last night. I've spent much of the night and this morning trying to figure out how to use it. It has some features that are better than my old phone such as video calls (which sadly requires two people), global access (I can use it abroad in most any country), a nice online feature called Vodafone Live!! (their exclamations), and I can connect it to my PC (my computer not my pretty cat) and update/download/upload things. I might have a few other features I can't figure out yet. It made me record the audio name of a few people as I saved their info, so maybe I have voice dial. Maybe not. The other feature that looks cool, but I am pretty sure I don't have is when I connect the phone to the computer it offers the optional option of creating an internet connection. Maybe I can use the phone as a wireless internet connection occasionally. I doubt it, and even so it would cost an arm and a leg, and part of my thigh, but it would be convenient.

So the ski guy just called and said he can't make it today, maybe tomorrow. I assumed as much so no let down. It actually gives me more time to get ready. I think I have goggles and nice gloves that I bought my first year and didn't use at all last year. I wonder what happens if I Google "goggles".

Eh, nothing of interest. I'm babbling now. I think this is because I think there is something else to write about and now I can't remember. So here is my phone, I stole this picture hence the watermark.

I actually have that color too. I was going to get black, but the lady said something like it was out and I would have to reserve it a week in advance. Man it's not some transparent color or mirrored special thing, it's gray or black. I went with gray. It has a little bigger photo capacity than my old phone, but not as big as the next model up. I thought about getting that, but I opted not too. This one was only $10 since I have used Vodafone my entire time here. I guess I had points or something. The next model had a 2.0 Mega pixel camera, as well as Bluetooth and Infrared. Those would be Jim dandy great, but I can't afford them now. Bluetooth would be cool, having a wireless earphone so that I don't even have to touch the phone to answer, but I can live without it now.

Someone replied in my guestbook about Yoshinoya using pork now rather than beef. I think I knew that and forgot it. Well at one time they used beef, and they cut the pork so thin it looks like pork. But it's overall the mixture more so than it being beef. I still like it and wish there was one closer to the station like in most all other cities. I also wish I had a friend with the video phone option, I am dying to use that. So it's snowing pretty good again. I will have to leave later and get food. Wait.....it's coming......ah yes...

OH OH OH. I remember what I was going to compl....write about. I was doing nothing at school on Friday and a teacher asked if I would help a student. Hmmm, sit and stare at the door, or help a student interested in English? She was about to take an entrance exam and wanted me to explain last year's exam to her. It had a big reading comprehension section. I read the first paragraph and told her I didn't understand it.

Honest to all that is sacred and pure........it is the most complicated thing I have ever read.

Even when I was trying to get into an American University in Georgia, where we all speak native English, I didn't have anything like this. I took a picture, but I will have to re-type part of it. I am not exaggerating in any way, shape, or form.  You can barely see it from the picture, but believe me this is what it says.

Some claim that the combination of greater transfers if powers to supranational and subnational bodies with the emergence of regions as key economic actors in a globalized world has contributed to a 'hollowing-out' of the state. From this perspective, the state has been starved of more and more of its powers by the twin challenges of the subnational and supranational force and the main areas of economic management and policy making are no longer in the hands of the state, but in those of Brussels and of the regions. The supranational and subnational levels of government seem to be pushing towards the demise of the nation state as we know it. The presence of an EU regional development policy has forced even governments with a centralized system of government to think regional terms.

 

ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

This is the entrance test for a college near Tokyo. Honestly this is native level US graduate school reading. I have to read each sentence and pick it apart and try to explain it to her. This is absolutely absurd, either I am just dumb, or this is way too hard. None of the English teachers could do it so they asked me (as a last resort apparently). It's about 6 times as long as that above part. I don't mind doing it for the girl, I mind that it has to be done at all. I'm going to write a letter to the editor of a National Japan English newspaper about how absurd this is.

Speaking of absurd, I actually made a cartoon for the . It's a cartoon, which has nothing to do with certain ridiculous aspects of a certain culture. It's about popular 12th century agrarian farm techniques. I'll post them when I get a few more episodes done. The drawing is awful, but it's gets my point across (about farm techniques).

So I just took a break and was testing various fonts for the logo above. After a few minutes of staring at the words I started to truly believe that the word "planet" was spelled wrong. I would spell it out in my head, but it just felt wrong. It was so strange. I've done that with smaller words such as "is, was, do, but" and more. It's really bizarre, like the staring at a clock for a while and thinking it's not moving.

Well I am hungry and it's snowing like [generic reference implying a large amount]. As you know that's a lot. I should go get something to eat or do something.

[later]

An avid reader, and soon to be Fukushima-ite or Fukushiman responded to the above "planet" comment with a note about it being psychological of some sorts. That makes sense. I would look that up, but I wouldn't know how to search for it. Something else I read that was psychological was that when you experience Deja Vu, it could be because one side of your brain computed the input a micro-nano second before the other side, and that's why you feel like you've experienced it before. I'm sure it's because I had a previous life, but there's no way to prove that.

So I went out and got some food even though the weather is:

Dear Alex (the guy coming to Fukushima soon), I hope you like cold weather and lots of snow. Either way, you might want to invest in a jacket like:

Because it gets cold and snows a lot. I hate cold weather so please find a way to bring Fiji bottled up for me. I want to retire there. I want to open a hamburger stand on the beach in Fiji. Or maybe a chocolate chip cookie hut. I could call it Aunt Fanny's Olde Tyme Cookie Hut. I would constantly say that Aunt Fanny was out traveling the world, and I was stuck there manning the booth. I could post pictures of different places (that I had been) and say that that crazy Aunt Fanny took them and mailed them. That would be festive and amuse me.

Speaking of amusing myself, sometimes I talk as if I were a judge. Someone might say "let's go eat at so-and-so", and rather than me saying OK, I will say "I will allow this". I just started doing it for some reason and it stuck. So I do that in class sometimes when the teachers say something that I agree with. I said it at the devil school when the teacherS said they wanted to talk about the upcoming test. They didn't get it and just went ahead. I did in fact mean to emphasize the S in the word above, there are two Japanese Teachers of English JTEs in the room with me there. So there are three people. Sometimes I will say things like "Counselors approach the bench" and they just stare at me. It's really fun.

So here is a picture taken with my new phone. It's 3x better than my old camera. Actually I will put them side by side to demonstrate. The camera I thought about getting took 2.0 Mega pixel photos, but I couldn't justify the need for that.

   

So as you can see, the new camera is not great, but considerably better than the old one. I can also take video with sound, but I can't upload it to this website. I can work around that if needed, if I happen to catch anything that warrants a video.

I'm going to go see a movie and then come back and fold thousands of sheets of our FuJET newsletter.

Oh, this is the wallpaper I have on my phone. It's very relaxing.

Sunday, February 6th, 2005

So far I think we are going skiing today, though I don't really feel like it. I was going to go out and have a drink with some foreigners last night, but I didn't feel so good, plus the weather sucked so I canceled. I could have gone, but I was on the edge about how I felt and the uncertainty prevailed. There will be other times to go out with them I'm sure.

I woke up0 around 6am again, but this time from a bad dream. I can't remember what led up to it, but I remember being in a public pool and seeing a puppy dog walking toward me. Then a friend jumped out of the pool and chased the dog to a fence. As the dog was squeezing through the fence my "friend" pulled him through, and then threw the dog as hard as he could.  I really don't know why I dreamt that, but I woke up in an angered state. My fists were clenched and I was nearly sweating. It was bizarre. Finally I got back to sleep.

I don't even know what to wear today. I have an old jacket that's semi waterproof and maybe some nice gym type pants that are waterproof. Then I guess just layers of socks and shirts. It's much nicer today than it was yesterday. The sun is out and there is no snow or harsh wind.

I'm really just babbling now. I am bored and leaving in another hour so I am just killing time. I guess I could actually get ready first and then waste time. I'll do that.

[later]

Went skiing with a teacher from the night school. We left around 10am and went to the sports store and Liz bought some stuff. Liz teaches with him now so we all three know each other. Then we headed to cold Yamagata prefecture, which was 40 minutes away. We went through a tunnel that was 2376 meters long, which is about a mile I think maybe a little more than a mile. The snow was thick around the ski area. I don't mean like a foot thick, let me explain visually:

It was by far the most snow I had ever seen. Even more than in Sapporo last year. That far van was from an overnight stay at the hotel. Insane. For a while the weather was great, as shown here and below:

but soon it became horribly nasty and windy. The picture above is their "BOOYA" slope. It's much steeper than this picture makes it look. They have a few other slopes, one on the back of this hill that ended where the bunny slope was. Which really negates the purpose of a bunny slope since people were flying past us. There's another one off to the right that is a medium course. Once the weather turned really bad, Liz and I sat in the lodge for a while and then our teacher friend, Nao, came in and said we can leave early.

After that we went to his house and played with his two ultra-cute kids. He has two daughters aged 7 and 9. The 7 year old was too cute. her name is Noko, which is a rare name. She was always laughing. Sadly I could understand her Japanese nearly perfect and we knew about the same amount of kanji. We played cards, Jenga, and the Japanese version of The Game of Life. It was in US dollars and completely disproportionate. It would say things like "You were attacked by wild monkeys, pay $47,000 in medical bills". We had to finish early so we could eat. The game took too long, because 5 people were playing. It was fun. I want to see his kids again.

Here are some random pictures I didn't fit in earlier.

Liz getting ready to fall...er..uh...ski. Nao sensei loaned her the clothes and skis.

These are religious dolls that Japanese people have in their homes. They usually have
rooms or areas for home shrines. Nao sensei had a bigger collection than most.

My niece on the left, and her playmate on the right. Her name is Skylar and I think she
looks more like my brother in law than my sister. Granted I've only seen pictures, but
that's the general vibe I get when I see pictures of her. They say she always laughs.

Monday, February 7th, 2005

I spent all day today correcting English for students. It's fun usually, except when I have to correct something like that article above. After school I was walking down the main road in front of the school which leads to the bus stop. I don't like walking home when there is snow and ice on the ground. Taking baby steps that far hurts my back. So as I am walking I hear a cop car announcing something to a car. In Japan cop cars have their lights on all the time and announce when someone should pull over.

So the cop is announcing "pull over", and the first thing that comes to my mind is "no it's a Cardigan, but thanks for noticing", from Dumb and Dumber. But the cop is talking to a woman in a car. So the woman drives a bit and then realizes the cop is announcing to her, so she takes action.

Now what would be the logical thing to do here? I would take a wild guess and say "to pull over". Nope, not on the Planet Absurdia. See if you can guess what she did:

A) She pulled over
B) She drove off wildly
C) She just stopped in the middle of her lane
D) She pulled into a parking lot

Keep in mind this is Japan, where logic doesn't play into things, and where people aren't know for critical thinking. A and D would require logical critical thought. B would require creativity and the desire to be different. Ergo, we are left with C. She stopped dead in the middle of her lane. The cop car pulled over behind her and got out. After a minute of cars honking and trying to pull around, the cop motioned her off to the side of the road, to where there was plenty of space.

And this is yet another reason why I don't drive in Japan.

Wednesday, February 9th, 2005

Oh I have been so stressed lately. I have about a dozen things going on, all of which finish this week sometime, so now is the peak. I am still printing and planning and confirming things for the big Sapporo trip this weekend. That's the main thing. Then I have to finish printing, folding, stuffing, addressing, and sending the FuJET newsletter by tonight. Also by tonight I have to organize and confirm a list of nearly 150 people for a $5 ski day FuJET is organizing for late February. All this stress has caused me to wake up early or not sleep well at all. I was up at 2am and then 4am and finally 6am last night. I am looking forward to it being over.

Actually I am about ready for it all to be over. I am just mentally finished with FuJET. From this point out I am going to do nearly nothing and wait for elections and changeover. I guess the timing is perfect since I just printed a newsletter at my school and managed to severely break a copy machine. I think it was because there was a picture that was really dark and used a lot of ink and caused something to stick to something internally and then overheat. I always say no pictures, especially big dark ones, but I am also always ignored. So the bad news, financially at least, is I can no longer print the newsletters for free at my school. I am sad that it ended, but relieved in a way because it's a lot of work. FuJET has grown over the past few years and the newsletter is much bigger and has more readers so it's hard for me to haul all the paper in, print 80 pages at 120 copies, and then haul it home and collate them, stuff them, and mail them.

My time with AJET is also nearly over, which is also a relief. Though this year I crapped out a lot. I was just sick too much in the Fall which was the peak time for my position. Now I just send out labels to the printer for our magazine to be printed. I wish I could get rid of this laser printer in my apartment. It was nice for a while, but it really takes up too much space.

So in conclusion, after this weekend's trip, I am going to take things easy and worry less. Maybe I will focus on my health since it has declined recently. I found a cheap gym near my house and I should be able to go on a regular basis. That should make a big difference.

Monday, February 14th - Valentines Day

I returned from Sapporo, and I do feel refreshed. That was a huge burden on my shoulders. I didn't mind planning it, but it was a lot of work. Plus when I plan something I try to make it as seamless as possible for the people, but that translates to a lot more work and stress for me. Now I can focus on getting in shape and sleeping better. Oh I guess you might like to hear about my trip. Here is what I have so far. Sapporo Snow Festival 2005.

I will write more soon. I am bit tired.

Wednesday, February 16th, 2005

It's snowing pretty heavily, and it has been all morning. There is already about 8 inches on the ground. I don't really mind since I have the jacket and knee high boots, but I do hope the snows stops soon. Stops as in not today, but this season. It seems I have the ability to make it snow. Every time I saw I am going to the gym on a certain day, it will snow an absurd amount. Just enough to make it a hassle for me to go.

My foot still hurts a bit for some reason. I don't want to go to the doctor because it's so vague and I would have to go to some special foot doctor who doesn't speak English and I really don't know what he would do. For some reason it doesn't hurt when I wear my tennis/running shoes. Just when I wear my Guam slip in shoes.

I talked to the guy in charge of the job I want to do next year. There were some good and bad points. I really want the elementary school position, and he said it was available, but coming from High School that might be a big leap. He was suggesting a job called NT, which means Native Teacher. Apparently an NT would be almost like a Japanese English teacher. There would be only one school, and the NT has a big say so in what goes on in the classroom. There might even be times it would just be the NT in the room. There are perks like more money, a discounted apartment, and ample vacation time. The thing I don't really like is that it is in a Junior High School. There is a noticeable difference in behavior between Elementary School and JHS. Plus the activities are considerably different. I really like the energy and curiosity  that comes from ES, so I will have to think about the two positions a lot. He seemed to suggest that there was a better chance at the NT position. I plan to talk to the people doing it now and get some real insight.

I do want to stay in Japan for a bit longer, and I do enjoy teaching English. At least when people want to learn. That's one issue for JHS, sometimes students don't want to learn. That's the age when they are going through puberty and their hormones are going crazy. Plus Japanese society doesn't really do much to tame them at this time. Discipline is not a big cultural thing, lack there of is however. I don't lack students cutting up in class. I would cut up a little, but I definitely knew exactly when to shut up. Most Japanese kids don't and it's never taught. I might be seen as an ultra strict teacher, whereas in ES I would be seen as a fun teacher. I love games and acting stupid with young kids. I know I would do well.

I'm starting to read a new book. It's called Life of Pi. It's about a boy trapped on a lifeboat with a zebra, a tiger, a hyena, and an orangutan. It's supposed to be philosophical and with a summary like that, I can't see how it wouldn't be. I'm just starting it and should be able to finish soon since I am paid to read books and watch videos. I have heard the new job does not pay people to read books, I think they pay them to do something called "Teach". It's something that is new to me.

I guess I will work on finishing the Sapporo trip pages.

Did you know there are no words in the English language that rhyme with: Orange, Silver, Purple, and Month.

[later]

Ok, I made all the updates I think. The pages are here:

Main Snow Sculptures

Sapporo Asahi Beer Garden

Ice Sculptures

Night Ice Sculptures

Sapporo Snow Festival Engrish

Japanese Ferry

Nagoya Snow Castle

All Around Sapporo Station

 

No classes this week, and I don't go to the devil school on Friday. I think I go to both next week, barring there is no snow cancellation. Sadly they will not cancel Higashi which is what I want cancelled the most. Though it has been snowing heavily all day and maybe it is still snowing. If that is the case and it snows all night at the same rate, there will be a significant amount on the ground in the morning. Though probably not enough. The only way they cancel school is when the trains can't move. Actually I haven't heard a train in sometime now. Let me check the snow status.....

Well it's not snowing and a train just went by. Argh. No worries. I can finish watching some DVDs at school. It's pretty clear I won't have any more classes this term. That would be 3 solid months with no classes at my base school. Unreal. Absolutely unreal.

Thursday, February 17th, 2005

Woo hoo! I was just asked to be a Best Man in a wedding. Not just a random wedding, my old friend Jon Jon. We go back to at least the 5th grade, maybe sooner. We both went to the same Elementary School. He had Ms Pezanko and I had Ms Johns for the 5th grade. After that he went on to play percussion in middle school and high school and I didn't. So his wedding will be on a beach in September, which should be really cool. I am excited for a few reasons: A) I've never been asked to be in a wedding for an important part,  2) It will be great to see him and as much of the gang that shows up, D) this gives me a reason to really bust my butt and lose weight.

I just called and asked to speak to the manager of the store that he is the manager of. I shouldn't have ended that sentence with "of", but I did. Anyway, someone answered and I asked for him and she asked who was calling and I panicked and said "Thomas?". The question mark indicates the up tone I put on the name as if she would verify I was in fact someone named Thomas. Had I expected someone to ask my name I would have said something like "This is Voltron - Master and Commander of the Universe, actually it's Mike Evans from the main office". Something to throw them off. I will do that when I call back.

I've got to start checking into Best Man functions. I know I do something with the ring, like keep up with it, and I stand somewhere specific in the service. Oh I get to throw the bachelor party. But I think the service will be on Tybee Island near Savannah, so there is probably not many "Bachelor Party Venues" of sorts in the area. Maybe we can fly to Atlanta for a night and then fly back. Maybe that would be excessive. I will start checking on that. Of course we could always have a quiet night at the hotel playing Yatzee and eating potato crisps. Jon could also shiv me in the back as a way of saying "this is boring".

You might have noticed in paragraph one of this monologue, I listed several items in a list that is....well....wrong. That is a reference to something. I wonder if anyone can get it. It's one of my favorite references and I implement it quite often when verbally making a list. Speaking of lists, I should start thinking of things to say about Jon and his Bride to be, Salina. I will list them on a list on my wrist, or have someone with a lisp make the list, while making a fist. Someone kick me.

So far today I have watched a video on Iraq and why we are there. It's somewhat baffling. I though Afghanistan was the country semi-responsible for 9/11, but we were in and out of there. Why exactly are we in Iraq so long? And why did Saddam say he has no weapons and no plans to make them (which proved true), but we still attacked him. Though North Korea has said "we have weapons and we plan to use them", though we seem to be ignoring them. This is an oily situation we are in. Quite slippery.

Other than that I nearly finished the Grammar Book from the TEFL course I am taking and I watched a cool Discovery Channel video on the Ninja. It was appropriate since I am in Japan and Ninjas are part of the culture. Later I will watch part 2 of the LSD documentary. Can you believe that was discovered by accident and then used on mentally ill patients? Apparently it made them semi-aware or something for a while. Strange-a-roni.

I need to actually start sticking to some goals. I could keep it simple like losing X lbs or X KGs, getting to a certain competency in Japanese, learning more card tricks, and some other things. Maybe saving X amount of money. Though Liz and I are considering going to China for Golden Week in May and that would take a lot of my non-existent savings. Golden Week is a period of time in which we get holidays on a Friday and Tuesday-Thursday. So by taking two vacation days one could have 10 days off. But it is ridiculously expensive to fly during that time so we would take off the 4 days before and then maybe the Monday. The trip goes around Bejing, Xian, and Shanghai and lasts 9 days. It's only $730, so the flight there is the deciding factor. If the flight is around $500 maybe as much as $700, it is possible, anything above that is too much. We have to add $200 to get to/from the main Tokyo Airport so that adds up. Then there is food. But I think everything is cheap in China.

OK, I am going to go to the local store and make copies of my pictures from the Sapporo Yuki Matsuri (Snow Festival) and enlarge them to Letter sized paper on the color copier. Then I will make a bulletin board of the trip and put up some simple English. My bulletin boards look stupid, but they get the point across. Kids can see the pictures and read my simple English. It all makes a difference. Then I will get my usual lunch, which is some egg covered pork thing on rice, wannabe potato and macaroni salad, and a tall bottle of carrot juice. I should start juicing more veggies and taking my liver supplements and exercising, and stop drinking, and stop fantasizing.

Saturday, February 19th, 2005

The teacher who took me skiing a few weeks ago sent me pictures from the event. Some are of me and Liz and the rest are of us playing with his daughters. His kids are in Elementary school and so cute. The youngest is 7 and she is always laughing. They are such a happy family, it was very nice. The two girls could easily be adversaries, but they get along great.

My stupid ski wear.

Playing JENGA. It was tough on that table. I would say "earthquake" and shake the table.
Nana is in the blue, age 9. Noko is in the yellow, age 7. Nana is Japanese for "7".

More JENGA.

See Noko laughing like mad? She laughed at everything and I am good at making kids laugh.
Look at all the beers Nana chugged. Not really, I think they were mine and the teacher's.

 

Today I have nothing much planned. I have done laundry and cleaned the dishes.  Of course my favorite thing in the whole world happened again. I was washing dishes with the hottest water imaginable and I reached over to get a fork that fell in the drain and my glove filled up with water. If there were an Olympic event for pulling off a glove, I would win the gold every year. Here I will show you.

This gives you an idea how easy it is. See the big fold in my glove that says
"Hey water, come on in, it's great, WOO let's have a party".

 

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2005

I went to Kawamata today and it was the last day this term. There's no telling if I will go back in April since the Prefectural Board of Education, also known as Clown Monkey Circus, doesn't tell us where we will be. It was quite sad for me. A few classes gave me "farewell letters" at the end of each class. It was basic English, and usually wrong, but they really put out effort and it was touching. Though the girls, and oddly some boys, don't understand the meaning of "I love you". I got that on several things. But I really liked things like "you made learning English farn". Farn being fun I think.

At some point during the day I had a bad headache and went to the school nurse. Here was our conversation:

Me: Do you have smart medicine?
Her: What?
Me: For my head. Smart medicine.
Her: What?
Me: Do you have smart medicine, for my head, smart medicine?
Her: (laughing now) No, sorry.
Me: Then what do you have?
Her: Simple medicines, for aches and pains, but nothing to make you smart.
Me: Oh I get it. I meant to say "headache".
Her: (hysterical laughter, along with another teacher that was in there as well).

The way to say smart is "atama ga ii". The way to say headache is "atama ga itai". I had been saying smart all day to students doing an activity. It was just stuck in my head.

When I got home I was determined to go to the gym. I found one right near my house. So I actually came home and changed and went straight there. I found my way and checked in and went up there. They were quite surprised to see me since it's not an advertised gym. It's public, but not many people know about it since it's a governmental thing. It's supposed to be $6 a visit, but I bought some tickets for half price from a teacher friend. The guy who took me skiing and then to dinner at his house. So eventually I will have to pay $6 a visit, which is a decent price in Japan actually.

I did a basic work out since I wasn't really prepared. I rode a bike for a while, after I figured out what the buttons did. Then I worked out my overall body. Then I walked on the treadmill some. I will do a regimented routine starting next time. I just wanted to tell my body there were going to be changes on the way.

Actually I felt great while I was there and when I left. I don't know why I resist working out so much. It always feels good. When I overeat I feel like crap during and afterwards, and yet I always do it. It's all mental. I don't know why I can't get over that. Maybe working out will cause me to avoid sweets and what not. I am resisting a CC Lemon now. I need to get the juicer I talked about for a while. That would make all the difference.

Well it looks pretty good as far as me working in Koriyama next year. I was not interested in the job at first, but after talking to several people I am actually excited. I would have a modified teacher's license and have a few classes where I would do everything. The one thing I am concerned about is I might need a car. I would have to take the driver's test pretty soon and save for a car. Then there are other expenses I would rather not have, even though I would be getting a raise. One expense, also known as a scam, is called Shaken, pronounced Shah-Ken, though you feel shaken after it. Every few years you have to pay about $2,000 to have your car inspected. If there is something wrong, you have to pay for that as well, it's extra. I think it's a deterrent to keep people from driving, like an auto tax. It would be convenient, but I was really hoping to not have a car. We'll see. I am going to check into the juicer again, be back later.

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2005

I am really getting sick of the phone game we play in the teacher's room. When the phone rings certain people who may be sitting right beside it act like they don't hear it. Believe me they do, it's a business phone set on its highest level. It's not a new phone that makes some fluttery bleep. It's a loud standard ring. I was actually talking to a student about his English practice test and this phone nearly across the room rand and rang. Honestly it rang at least ten times. I looked over there and saw 3 teachers in spitting distance from the phone just acting like they ignored it.

Finally I ran over too it and loudly said "phone" in Japanese. Then I picked it up and the person asked for a teacher sitting near the phone. Not the nearest person, but still semi close. Much closer than I was. So I answered and quickly said "Konno sensei? Sorry not here goodbye" and hung up. Then he turned and looked at me and came over and said "was that for me?". I said " you could hear me, but not the phone?". He had this look of almost being able to compute an answer. It was the look of a cartoon robot before exploding. He was no doubt thinking "The GAME man, why won't you play the game? I was acting like I didn't hear it. Man you shoulda given it to me, it's all a game we play, Do over!!".

Next time I am going to play the game as well. I wish I could be standing right by the phone when it rang so I could play the game at an advanced level. That would be awesome. I think the master level of the game would be to pick up the ringing phone and start dialing a number. Then I could act like I didn't hear it while I was holding it. Man I would be a hero, a rock star.

I actually did some work, no classes, but work. I gave a mock verbal test to some students and helped another with his English writing assignment. It's pretty clear I will go Jan-March without doing anything class related at work. This is ruining me for my next job. If I were to go back to the US I would have a lot of problems in my first three months. I might go to work and try to watch movies all day, but they would actually expect me to do stuff. Oh the nerve of American companies, expecting employees to w-o-r-k for their money. Well, I never.....

I went back to the gym and really busted my butt on the treadmill. I retract my previous statement about feeling great while I am working out. I had to fight my lazy demon the whole time. It would whisper "stop now, lower the speed, you can quit, you've done so much". I managed to run and fast walk on the treadmill for 20+ minutes. That was really tough, but I can improve it each time I think. Then I worked my chest muscles really hard. My elbows and triceps are really hurting now. It is open Tues, Wed, and Fri so I will probably go back on Friday and work legs. I need to make a routine, though the treadmill part was really enough for a while.

I remember in college when I would work out I would work out my chest and arms on the same day, usually really intensively. THen when I got home and took a shower I couldn't lift my arms to wash my hair. They were jelly. It was a little annoying having to spin my body and hope my paralyzed arms would flap around high enough to catch my hair. I've learned to not do that anymore. Nowadays, I will work out either the bicep or the tricep, but not both at the same time. Hopefully, I can maintain this routine and get in better shape. The exercise is probably helping me sleep though I wouldn't know because more stress is causing me to wake up all night. I'm going to put an end to the stress very shortly.

Sunday, February 27th, 2005

We had FuJET $5 ski day yesterday. It was overall a success, even though about 50 people cancelled without letting us know. That's not uncommon. People always reserve a spot, just to get their foot in the door and then decide later if they will actually go or not. It's something I have learned to deal with. It's just sad when we have to pay for their selfishness. Oh well, won't be my problem soon and maybe the new FuJET council can devise a way to stop that from happening.

Just like last year there was a problem with people getting there. This was caused by two things. 1) There are 5 ski slopes near each other call "Inawashiro Ski Resort", and oddly none of them seem to know about the others. 2) People don't actually read emails that include directions.

I actually went to the wrong one first because Eriko was driving and she had been to a ski resort called Inawashiro Ski Resort in the past and knew where it was. It was the wrong one. Since I rarely pay attention, I wasn't sure we were going the wrong way, but I was pretty sure so I kept gently suggesting it might be the wrong way. She knew the way to the place that she thought was correct, so she dismissed my suggestions, which was ok since I wasn't completely sure. When we got to the wrong place, the fun began.

I'll write more after dinner. Or tomorrow.

So we get to this place and I know it's the wrong place right away. I had a clear mental image in my head of the entrance and this was clearly not it. So Eriko asks the guy if there is some special deal today. I just sit there and politely say "this is the wrong place" a few times. So the man knows nothing and runs inside and comes back out and says it's not, then they talk about something else and then he goes back inside and brings out another guy. They try to read the directions to Inawashiro Ski Resort Snow Paradise. I keep pointing to the Snow Paradise part since I know that is the key. They read it and read it and more people come out and go back inside. By now it is 8am, and I needed to be at the correct place at 7:30. No telling where we actually are.

Then the guy says he has never heard of another place called Inawashiro Ski Resort. I personally know of at least 3 places. I keep saying Snow Paradise, over and over. Then Eriko translates that to Japanese, which is really just su-no pa-ra-die-su. The guy says he has never heard of it. How can you work for a ski resort in a managerial position and have never heard of your competition?

Then Eriko asks if this place has a plan where 150 people are coming and paying only $5. The guy says they might be able knock $5 off the $40 lift price. Then he goes inside to check if this is an option. He comes back 5 minutes later and says they will have to call some people and ask. At this point I snap. I just say "Sorry we are at the wrong place, I'm sorry, it's the wrong place, wrong place". The guy is trying to go inside to see if they can accommodate us. I tell her to go, just go leave now, go we have to go, I am terribly late. She is trying to explain something and I no longer care. About 150 people might be waiting on me at the correct location, the place where I made a big point of telling people to not be late. I just keep saying go leave goodbye, go leave now go leave go. Just non-stop regardless of how it sounds.

Finally we back track and turn where I said to turn to begin with. It was correct and I see the place. I jump out and there is Michelle waiting. Luckily no one had gotten there yet. But the fun still wasn't over.

We had to tell the place how many people were coming. We sent emails to people weeks in advance and gave a clear deadline. When the totals were made it was about 150 so I rounded up to 160 assuming people would try to add after the deadline. About 30 people tried to and the ski place ended up saying that we could only get tickets for our original 160. So I had to send emails apologizing, even though it was to people who were after the deadline. So I got it down to 150 since a number of people cancelled. That's pretty much the way things are done in JET, at least in Fukushima. When something is planned you immediate RSVP, regardless of whether or not you actually plan to attend. Then when it's time for the event, either you cancel at the last minute or just don't show up. So I had 150 confirmations of people coming to the ski day.

At the end of the day we gave tickets to 106 people. 44 people just didn't show up. You really gotta love it. I was taught better than that and I always assume people will act like adults, but they rarely do. When I plan events I don't build in choices for people because the people will choose random things and then make up new choices, and I have to pick up the pieces. So FuJET gets screwed as usual, but most people who came had fun.

After that I had to catch a bus to the local station and then a rapid train to Koriyama station. From Koriyama I could take the local train or bus, but I took the shink because I had to be somewhere in an hour and I needed time to go home and change. I barely made it before rushing out the door to the party for a Japanese friend who is leaving the area to move to Tokyo since his company closed the local factory.

As soon as I got to the party the people there, my friends, said "Oh you look like you've gotten fatter". Well thanks. Culturally that is different from the US. I would never say that in the US, really even to friends that I joke around with, but here it was ok apparently. So we drank and ate and left. Most of them went on to another party, but I was exhausted and went straight home.

Jump to Monday at school. I came with my computer and have watched several TV shows while everyone practiced the graduation ceremony tomorrow. In the past I would go to the gym and watch them practice the most mundane things, but this time I decided to wait until someone told me it was time to go. Luckily a few teachers didn't go to the gym and stayed in the teacher's room so I could sit here and...well..just not be in the freezing gym watching them practice the ceremony. I'll see it tomorrow.

At some point I tried to fax a transcript request to my college in the US. I need that for the job I am applying for in August. Apparently there are no fax machines in Japan that will dial to the US. We tried every combination of prefixes to get it to work, but nothing did. It's usually just country code + number, but we were trying 010, 0033, 0033010, 0100033, and others. Those prefixes are for some dialing company or some nonsense that didn't even work. Sadly I had a fax machine at my apartment until recently. I got rid of it since I never use it. The fax must have my signature on it so I can't use one of the online fax services. I don't have a scanner anyway.

While I was in the office one of the nice polite office ladies pointed out that I had gotten fatter. Then she made a pregnant woman curve with her hand and pointed at my enormous greasy slab of hog meat belly. I was actually feeling better about myself since I have been diligently working out recently. I need to start drinking veggie juice for two meals a day and drinking a few glasses of water before I eat so I end up eating less. I am always either hungry or feeling bloated, probably from eating too much.

So Wednesday is going to be hectic. I come to school all day, then at 4 I go to this other school and record myself speaking for the high school entrance exam for new students for the whole area. About 20 high schools will use this recording. This is the same thing I did two years ago with Meg where she kept getting me to laugh. There was also the part about her and I not saying the word "else" correctly, even though we are native speakers. Immediately after that I go to the graduation of the night school and then to a party for the teachers. I am not going to my base school graduation party because I am tired of that place. Still no classes for two solid months.