Daily Journal of an Assistant Language Teacher / Automatic Language Tape Recorder (ALT) in the JET Programme living  and learning in Fukushima Prefecture, Japan. More information on the JET Programme here and here.

Monday November 3rd, 2003

Been a long week, hence no update for a while. First I had the FuJET Halloween party to plan, and then I had to receive, stuff, and glue (and soon mail) 1,400 Tatami Timeshare issues. That's the publication I am now in charge of for AJET. It has a listing of many JETs in Japan and when we travel we can stay with them for free. So this year just over 1,400 people signed up, which means I had to lay it out and then have it printed and finally stuff and mail it. Mailing will be fun.

Man Tuesday was my last update. What's happened since then. Wednesday I most likely did nothing. Thursday Liz and I went to this local Japanese class and sat in. They couldn't tell which class to put us in so they dumped us in beginner. When you have a relatively decent conversation with the guy asking what level you are, that might be a clue we are not beginners. So we felt like asses in the beginner class since they were doing basic "beginner" stuff and we knew everything they were discussing already. So we endured two hours of that and said we will come back later, which in fact I won't. Liz might since her teacher from her base school teachers there and she still has a problem saying no to people, but I won't. The truth is I don't learn good when I am learning a foreign language and the whole class is in that language. I'd rather them say "let's learn about verbs....." and then break into the language. Plus she was talking full speed so I would catch one word and then miss the rest and then conjugate it in my head and then miss what she said while I was conjugating it. So I know of a private tutor and I will ask how much it will cost for two people at once. That could sound dirty. We are at nearly the same level so a private tutor would be alright. We usually study together because of our level.

That was Thursday, then Friday I spent all day waiting for the shipment of Tatami Timeshare, which ironically came at exactly the time they said it would. I moved that to the side of the apartment then raced to buy some candy for the party and then went to the night school where I had one class. All we did was talk about Halloween, then I let them do a word search and Halloween maze I found online. Then they said I could leave early and I raced home and then to prepare for the party. I told them a few weeks ago I might need the night off and the supervisor there made a strange deal about it. She said it was no problem, I just needed to call someone at Kenchou and explain to them and fill out some papers. They wonder why JETs just call in sick rather than put up with all this red tape. So we worked out a deal where I can just come in and leave when the last class is over.

I get home and change and race to the club and start setting up. I told people it starts at 8:30 and people get there fashionably late around 9-9:30. So I change into my construction worker outfit, being one of the Village People. The other people of the village show up later and we never really hang out together so not many people figured it out. Around midnight I played "She's a Lady" and then "YMCA" and we came busting out dancing and singing. During the intro I announced it like a game show announcer. It was alright but would have been better if there were more people on the dance floor. There was a weird issue with certain people thinking they had a discount on admission when in fact they didn't. People who joined FuJET, by paying 2,000 yen (about $20 USD) got 500 yen off this party, but a few people who weren't on the list and I had no knowledge of paying complained. Since I was in charge I just said it was ok and sorted it out later. I will make it perfectly clear next time.

Other than that the party was pretty good. Most everyone said they really enjoyed it. I had a decent time, but since I had planned it I couldn't just relax and mingle. People kept asking me to change the music, but you can never please everyone. So I played a decent mix of music. Brad, a local DJ, played some too and people kept complaining, but I liked what he played. So he got frustrated and asked me to play more, so I did. I'll let others plan the next few parties.

We had a costume contest and the winner was a jellyfish. A girl from Scotland had an umbrella with tissue or something hanging down and two big eyes on top. When she first told me, granted I had been drinking, but I just smiled and said "sounds nice", when in fact I thought it sounded strange. But when she got there I was really impressed. It was in fact the most creative costume and I was happy she won. There were some great costumes and some lame ones. One guy came dressed as BJ. He wore a B for Boston hat, knee high shorts, and said a lot of things BJ always does. It was funny. A girl came as some grapes, with a brown stem on her head. Everyone asked her why she had a phallic symbol  on her head and she got mad. I honestly thought that's what it was. Elise came as Sherlock Holmes. There were a lot of Angels, Cats, and Witches as well. There was no reason to capitalize those words.

Saturday I felt nasty and I really, honestly, didn't drink all that much. I'd say I had 5 glasses of beer and a half shot of vodka that Elise, a Koriyama babe, forced me to drink. Keep in mind that is 5 glasses of beer from 8pm to 2am, less than one per hour. I'm going to test and see if it is the liquor I am reacting to or alcohol in general. I'd like to keep drinking, and I plan to drink in Thailand, but if I get these hell-hangovers much more off less than sloppy drunk alcohol then I might need to start listening to my liver.

So around noon Liz called after having to go to the Blind School's Festival. I told her don't go, just say you did, they won't know. She punched me for that one. Well deserved. So we ate at McDonald's and then came back to my place and started stuffing envelopes. We got a long ways and completed about 300. Then she had to go to some Halloween party at City Hall. She used my cowboy short (from the construction worker) and Nicola's hat (from the cowboy). She called me at 9 when it got out and I said I was stuffing more and she said she was tired so we agreed to call it a night and resume the stuffing Sunday.

Oh yea, after we stuffed and before she left for the party, I told her I could buy her dinner for helping me. Actually AJET paid, it's part of the deal. We think about getting pizza, but it was too far and we couldn't order by phone. It's available, we just couldn't do it. So we agree on Gyoza, our addiction. We go to this small place by the station and it's full so we decide to go back to the place that confused 6 plates with one plate of 6. We get there and we are determined to get 60 pieces of Gyoza. I go in and say "how many pieces are on each plate of Gyoza", the guy says there are six per plate. I hold out my hands, palms out, fingers spread and say in perfect Japanese "I want ten plates of Gyoza". So he says one plate has 6, one plate right? NO TEN PLATES. Then I say 60 pieces total, ten plates, TEN. Finally he looks surprised and laughs and we knew he got it. Sure enough we broke him, he gave us five plates of 12. Good things come to those who wait, and complain enough.

OH OH OH OH OH Speaking of  complaining enough? What do I always complain about? OK, one thing, has to do with ATMs? TOHO Bank, my bank, has now put 24 hour ATMs in all 7/11. Hallelujah !!!! I heard it might be a trial period, but I am not sure. I hope it is the changing of an era. I hope people actually use it. There is a 105 yen fee, but BIG WHOOP I'd pay twice that. Especially since today was a holiday and all the ATMs were closed, except the ones in 7/11. Oh I love it. The moral of this story is complain enough and things are bound to change.

Sunday we finished stuffing after about 5 hours. I sold out all the 100 yen shops in town of this one size envelope. I was running them through the printer with an MS Word Mail Merge and it was auto-addressing them for me. That was quite convenient, lengthy and time consuming, but much more convenient that sticking a TO address and FROM address label on each of the 1,400+ envelopes. They are currently all stuffed and sitting in boxes in my apartment. Getting them to the post office is actually going to be a little tricky. I'll keep you updated.

Today we decided to get up early, at our separate houses, (if I ever fail to mention that you will think something's up eh?) and go to Sendai to explore the culture. I thought there was far more interesting things to do than what we found. There is a bus that goes around the city to all the hotspots for 600 yen. You pay it and can get off at any of the stops and check them out and then get on another bus later. There were about 8 stops and we decided only 2, maybe 3 were worth stopping at. The first one was somewhat interesting. It was the Mausoleum of the Date clan (dah tay), the people who founded the Sendai castle and city. I'll upload some pictures in a minute and put a link here. Then we got back on the bus and went to the remains of the Sendai Castle.

LAME-O. We knew there was no longer a castle, but the flyer showed a reconstruction of a guard house which would have been picture worthy. We couldn't find it. It was some kids day and there were some cute kids in their little kimonos, but other than that it was kinda wasteful. So we get back on the bus and head back to the station. Of course we had to stand for the 45 minute trip. On the way back we see a few outdoor festival things, but we were too tired and hungry to get off the bus. At the station we ate kimchee, a Korean dish, and then caught a shink back to Fukushima. At some point we went by the bookstore and I bought a book on Thailand and she bought some Japanese book, a novel about Japan or something. It fell into the Not Interested category for me.

Oh In remembered what I did Tuesday. I saw Kill Bill by Tarintino. I had a friend who said she loved it so I gave it a shot. I would say, honestly, it was in the top ten worst movies I'd ever seen. It was a two hour silly non-realistic fight scene that just didn't have a point and I still think was a semi-rip off of Charlie's Angels. I wanted to leave 3 times, but I was sitting in the middle seat. Then I decided to stay just to see how it ended. I will not be seeing part two, unless I am held at gun point and even then I might let them just shoot me. Different strokes for different folks.

Tuesday November 4th

As of 7pm, Tuesday November 4th, I have been wide awake 36 straight hours. I didn't sleep a wink last night. I would like to blame this squarely on Liz, but it was really my idea to go to Starbucks in Sendai. Though she made me drink some crap drink I didn't want to, thereby forcing me to finish early and purchase the drink I did in fact want to begin with. The result being I drank two venti sized Caramel drinks. One a Macchiato, the second a Frappuccino. So I had enough caffeine in me to keep a herd of buffalo awake for a week. When I tried to get some sleep at midnight, I couldn't even close my eyes.

So then I had to go to Adachi today, which means I had to be awake at 6:30, so really why bother even trying at 5am. I stayed busy at Adachi and the teacher asked during class "Ryan sensei do you have any interesting news to tell the class?". Uh.....yea.... So I talked about coffee for a while and how it comes from the devil. Ha. Then the day was over and I was ready to race home and sleep. But a teacher asked if I could stay after school and interview a student who had an interview next week. Of course I can. So I helped her and finally left at 5 something and walked back to the station. A long walk. On the train I was dozing a few times and hallucinating. I wasn't seeing things, but I was just disoriented and things that normally wouldn't make sense, started to. I can't explain it now that I am rested, but if you want a good high stay awake for 36-48 hours.

Wednesday, November 5th 2003

Finally I get home and take care of some things and then crash at 7:30 and wake up this morning at 7:30 feeling much better. I emailed the school and told them I would be in around noon since my only class is at 6th period and I need to take some of these Tatami Timeshares to the Post Office. I can really only do it in spurts because:

A) I have to carry each box on my bike
B) There are 1,400 total and I don't want to drop that many on them at once
C) I guess that was it.

I will tell them how many there are and they can expect it. They might still hate me, but far less than if I just showed up, on a Friday at closing time, with 1,400 big packages.

Oh I just figured out how to make my A/C unit blow hot air. I was able to eliminate all the other buttons and the two I couldn't read seemed logical. So I pressed one and waited and 5 minutes later it started blowing warm air. I'm already too hot so that's great. My little apartment will be toasty. Liz made some comment about how much bigger her apartment is than mine. She won't have any comments this winter when it's -1 and she takes a hot shower and then has to walk out into her freezing huge apartment. Maybe I'll let her take a shower here and then walk out into my nice and toasty apartment. That would be mean. Speaking of mean, I have to play a joke on her today. I'll explain later.

[later]

HA. My joke on Liz worked great, until I caved in and fessed up. I wrote her a fake letter in Engrish, which is poorly written English, and had some fake name stamps and put it in her door today. The letter told her she had to give a speech in front of 250 people tomorrow on Team Teaching. She called me in a panic. almost in tears, and who wouldn't be, especially someone who doesn't like to speak in front of large groups of people. She kept saying "can they do this" and I was not super helpful. I kept saying it will be fine it's only 250 people, don't worry. Then I really started to feel bad and she said "how can this be?" so I said "It could be a joke I am playing on you". She was mad in a thankful way. If I had more time I could have included more accomplices and moved it up a level. Right now I classify it as a Level 4 Prank, including her teacher and the girl that works at the regional place, the two people she would have immediately contacted, would have raised it a full level. She said she'll get me back, but it will be tough, I can usually see a prank coming a mile a way, but I like the suspense.

This morning I took two big and heavy boxes to the Post Office for them to mail. I felt bad dropping 400 envelopes on them, but they seemed ok with it. I told them I would return tomorrow with another 200 or so and then Friday or Saturday with more. That wasn't super fun, but I gotta get these things outta my apartment. They take up too much space. Off to eat Gyoza. Oh I bought a juicer today. After I get the Gyoza kick out of my system I plan to start juicing more meals. That might help me slim down a bit for Thailand.

Sunday November 9th, 2003

Been busy since Thursday. We had our Mid Year ALT conference where we learn the newest and greatest Team Teaching techniques. I learned a few things, but overall it was boring. At least I wasn't sitting in the teachers room though. The best part was getting to see all the JETs in Fukushima prefecture in one place. We took full advantage of this by having a Matrix party. BJ organized it and bought all the tickets. About 40 people went and about half of those dressed up in some way. Most people just wore black. A few people came as agents and looked really good. One guy was Agent Elvis and a few others were Neo. We ate at the Indian food place and it was a good buffet. Before we ate, we had self intros and then we drank and ate.

After that we strolled over to the theater. The guy dressed as Neo ran in first and then the agents followed him and they acted like they were fighting. The people in the theater didn't know what to do when agents came barreling through. Then we watched the movie and were either impressed or disappointed as I was. I was hoping for a more philosophical movie, but I thought it was just a big fight scene. It wasn't bad, and I plan to see it again, but I had such high hopes for it that were too high I guess.

Friday night some people left and a few stayed around. A guy from Aizu, Liz, myself, and two other local people ate obscene amounts of Gyoza at our special Gyoza place. Then we agreed to meet later and go out with the others that stayed around. So I went home and decided to take an hour nap or so. I woke up 12 hours later. Oops.

Saturday I woke up and ran some errands and then got ready for the Sukagawa fire festival. I finally got out of here around 1:30 and met Michelle in Koriyama at 2ish. We ate and ran into some people from Iwaki who were on their way to the festival as well. Then we headed out to Sukagawa and found our way to the festival. After the train there was a free shuttle to the festival area. On the shuttle was a troop of scouts. In Japan they are boy and girl scouts together. The girls were so cute. I took a video of them singing A-B-C-D-Chimpanzee. I don't know why they sing it like that, but they did. Then we get off the bus, say goodbye to the scouts and find the parade.

The parade was a little boring. Just about 500 people dressed as samurais and other warrior type people. Some were young kids and others were old men who really took this serious. I was hoping there was more to it than this, and in fact there was. Later we found the Festival stalls and Taiko area. Watching the Taiko was fun since I like big drums and the pulsating rhythms. After an era of waiting they finally allowed us on the big hill with the tall pillars. Apparently people walked through the town earlier with the huge pillars  and then propped them up here. Some ALTs had joined the festival and I took some video of them, but no pictures.

Eventually they started lighting the pillars which were between 25 and 75 feet tall and maybe 8 feet in diameter. I think they were full of rice related stuff, and wrapped in what appeared to be burlap. They burned pretty quick and were bright and warm. It was a little rainy, but still pretty cool. I put a link to the pictures and here is another link to the Sukagawa Fire Festival. Overall it was pretty cool, I felt it could have easily been a little cooler if they lit them all at once and they were arranged differently, but then they never asked me and I wasn't around 400 years ago when the festival started.

After the festival I went back to the station and caught the local train to Koriyama and the Shinkansen to Tokyo and then the Chuo line to Shinjuku where I stayed in the Capsule Hotel yet again. I really love that place. I always sleep so good in it, even though it was a little warm this time. I added a picture to the page. I woke up this morning and met the AJET crew and we had a meeting. It was productive and I feel like we made some progress. I had to give a presentation on what I had been doing and it seemed to go over well. After that they all went back to their hotel to get ready for a bigger meeting tomorrow with CLAIR, the organization that has something to do with JET, but I really don't know what. Then I hoped on the shink and came back.

[later]

I bought a juicer a few days ago, well the same day I rode out to Liz's for the prank. Since then I have been on a big juicing kick. It's great really. I can make all sorts of juice that taste great and I know it's 100 percent healthy. Currently I use three carrots, two tomatoes, half a lemon, a small green pepper, and a handful of spinach and man it's good. I try to ration it over a few days, but I end up making too much and just chugging it. I can't stop drinking it. It's as if my body knows this is what it needs and wants more. It can get expensive, but I would pay more if I knew I was doing good for the body. I plan to start a full blown hardcore diet at the first of the year.

Why not now? Well I am going to Thailand and then there is new year's eve and I'm not going to fool myself, I am going to drink. I'll most likely drink and then call my friends and say "Hey how's the US? I'm in Thailand, it's 80 degrees here, we rode elephants yesterday, what did you do?". Good times.

Monday, November 10th 2003

Had 3 out of 4 classes today. Took a nap in the library while reading some strange short stories by Arthur C. Clarke. I shouldn't really say I had 3 classes since I went into the class and talked for a minute, read the dialogue, let them repeat it and then left. So 15 minutes or so, but at least they are using me, somewhat. After that I came back here and made another wicked juiced drink. I am really loving these and hope I can drink more. This one had carrots, tomatoes, lemon, garlic, and a green pepper. I sipped it and then just chugged it. I couldn't stop, I wish I had more, but I am saving some for breakfast tomorrow.

After that I went to volleyball which I sometimes go to on Monday nights. It was fun as usual. Certain people are still ball hogs. I chatted with Tracie Donald most of the time and caused us to lose one time. All in good fun, but I think the organizer got mad since she takes it really serious. On the way there I saw another example of Japanese confusion.

A bus was pulling in the bus area and there were two cars blocking the way. Though technically it could have made it around them, he couldn't tell from inside the bus. So the bus pulls up and honks, but there is no one in the cars. So he looks around and honks again. Still no one in the cars. I can see him waving his arms around and looking. Apparently in the bus driver manual it only offered one option of honking the horn, because he was incapable of doing anything else. He just sat there and waited a few minutes and then honked again. Still no one in the cars. Cars are pulling around the bus, but it's just sitting there honking and waiting.

Maybe get out and look in the cars, or back up and try again. Anything other than this one thing that is clearly not working, but yet you are still repeating it over and over. I can't stand this. It's not working, stop doing it. Try something else. But he can't because that would require independent and individual thought ability which Japanese people are not trained to do. That's not mean of me to say, they are never taught to make their own decisions, everything is group based and their culture admits that. I'm so opposite, I over think for myself sometimes. I actually wish I could just accept things without questioning them sometimes, but I can't.

Now I am sitting here at 10:15 pm Monday night typing this and desperately trying not to fix more vegetable juice until tomorrow. Maybe I will cut them up to make it easier in the morning. Liz has to come to the station as well, but she lives 30 minutes away by bike. I plan to taunt her in the winter when it's freezing and she has to walk in the snow. I'll still have a 4 minute walk. Tomorrow we have a Japanese lesson lined up. Since we are about the same level we will take the thing together. Actually I speak more than her, but she remembers kanji and stuff better. I'll keep you updated on that.

My Japanese is really slacking off and it would be a shame to live in Japan for X number of years and not get close to fluent. Next year I plan to take the level 2 Japanese test which is BOOYA hard. I mean I would need to know 1000 kanji (each with two or more readings and a meaning) and tons of grammar and vocabulary and fast reading skills and listening out the wazoo. Level 2 is considered the standard for getting jobs in Japan, but if I set my mind to it in January and set a schedule week to week it should be feasible. I'll need a tutor for that definitely. Over and out.

November 11, 2003

Side note, it's the 11th day of the 11th month and 11:11 am here. At some point in that sentence it was 11:11:11.

Today I went to Adachi which is really my favorite school now. Maybe because I don't go there 3 days a week, and maybe because the students aren't cramming for college and are a little more carefree. The students in 3-3 (year 3 class 3) begged the teacher to let me come in since I had no first period class. I popped my head in during the middle of the class and they all cheered and clapped. Man that is really strange, in a great way. Do people cheer when you walk in a room? It's a strange celebrity like feeling that I will truly miss. Mainly because they are genuinely sincere about seeing me. It's a fun class. I tell jokes and act stupid and speak English / Japanese.

Then I had a few other classes that were ok, more or less better than Higashi classes because they weren't so concerned with getting through the textbook. After school I was supposed to help a girl practice for a entrance interview at a Catholic all girls school, but 6 girls and a guy showed up. So I spent over an hour helping them, asking them the silly prefab questions and listening to their generic responses. I finally left around 5:30. On the way out a teacher said he was returning to Fukushima and would give me a ride. He has a nice Cadillac. He drove and I was typing phone message to Liz about why I wasn't at the station when I said I would be. Then all of a sudden I realized I was getting really carsick. He had taken a back road which was mega-curvy and he was hauling butt. Plus I had an empty stomach and was looking down at the phone. I didn't hurl, but I started feeling really bad.

Finally we get to the station and I walked over to my side and called her and she came to meet me. She dropped off her stuff and we go directions to the Japanese tutor's place and started riding. It was about a 10 minute ride. It started out great and then we were on a road with side rails and no sidewalk. It was aptly named Death-Road, though we survived. The Japanese lesson was great. We decided to focus on prepping for the Japanese Language Test in December for the next three lessons. Then starting a rigorous course for the level 2 test which is a monster. I/we will take that next December, and it will require a full year of hardcore dedicated study to pass it. Basically for this test we need to know X number of vocab words, grammar, and almost 200 Kanji (each with 2 or more readings and a meaning, as I've mentioned). For level 2 (1 being the toughest), you need twice as much vocab and grammar and 900 kanji. So you can see there is a sizable difference. Level 1, difficult for Japanese people, has all 1,945 kanji, pure college level grammar, and basically every word that has ever existed in Japanese. Liz wants to study for that, but realistically it's impossible for us to pass that in one year, unless we spoke Japanese only all day.

Anyway, getting to the good stuff. After the lesson she asked if we had eaten and we said no, so then we agreed to order pizza. It was Pizza Hut pizza and boy was it good. Forget any diet I was on, this kicked butt. We had two smalls and a large and I chomped them down. I was stuffed and there was still one left that we all collectively forced down Liz. They said they wanted to go eat Gyoza with us at our special place. It's like two couples going although Liz and I aren't dating. We do everything that couples do, but we aren't intimate. It's like Meg last year, we are just close friends. I don't think I've ever touched Liz either. Oddly, Meg and Liz are exact opposites though, well not exact, but pretty opposite in many ways. Different time and place for that though. Point is, the pizza was damn good. You don't know how good it tastes until you can't have it for 18 months.

Tomorrow is another day at Higashi with my one big class. I'll take something to do and most likely take another nap in the library. I actually want to keep reading that book by Arthur C Clarke, even though it's just a summary in 1,400 word vocabulary English. There are other books I plan to read / use as an excuse to nap in the library. I actually enjoy reading them, but sadly reading puts me to sleep pretty quick. Especially if I am slightly tired. Ok, I need to clean or something.

Monday November 17th, 2003

Sorry for the lack of update, I have been swamped busy and then there was a problem with the server and I couldn't connect. Actually I am typing this at school and saving it to my hard drive and then I will FTP it up at home, since everything is blocked at school. Wednesday and Thursday not too much to report really. Well Thursday there was a music contest at my school and Liz came and we watched it. Some of the acts were really good. I don't know who won, we had an appointment with the Gyoza place. We ate a lot of Gyoza that night. Mmmm, Gyoza.

Then Friday I went and talked to the travel agent about the Sapporo Yuki Matsuri, or snow festival, and she said someone booked almost all the seats on the ferry up there on Friday night. So now I gotta figure out another way to get up there, and fast. I think we can take a shinkansen to Aomori and then a ferry on up to Sapporo. Hopefully, we still gotta find a place to stay.

On a brighter note, my friend in Thailand has already started making some reservations and bookings for us. She has arranged a few friends to show us around and what not. That should make our trip a little easier, although sometimes there is fun in getting lost and figuring things out on your own. But maybe not so much in Thailand. We are going to hit all the popular spots pretty quick and not really waste much time. Maybe a few days at first in Pattaya. Just over a month away.

So then Friday night there was a party at Wara Wara for Michelle's birthday. BJ, Jessi, Lisa, Liz, and I pitched in for a printer for Michelle and she loved it. The party was ok, but there were 17 people at two tables. One was round and a few people had their backs to us at the other table and we really felt excluded. So I waited until she opened my present and then left with Lisa and Jessi (two girls that work for Amity). We went our separate ways.

Saturday I cleaned the apartment and then Liz came over in the afternoon and we bought all the fixins for Gyoza and prepared it ourselves. We figured out how they make a profit on Gyoza, since we spent 2,200 yen and made over 110 and still had some ingredients left over. The Gyoza place charges 1,500 for 30 so they are making some fat change. I need to open a Gyoza place, but I really hated stuffing and folding the Gyoza, so maybe I'll pass.

She left around 10:30 after we made a half-ass attempt to study for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test in early December. We agreed to get together Sunday afternoon at her place and study more, for real this time. Sunday came and we rode to Hard Off (the thrift store) and looked for coats, snowboards, and backpacks. None of which they had in either cost or size we wanted. So we went to eat at the Kaiten Sushi place (where it comes out on a conveyor belt), but there was a 45 minute wait (an empty tables for some reason), so we journeyed over to McDonald's at SATY. Finally we get back and finish writing the readings and meanings on the kanji flashcards.

Then we split the stack in two and I learned half and she learned half. We learn about 75 each in a very short time. Later we quizzed ourselves and made it into a drinking game, but we knew all the answers and never drank. Then we took the practice test and it was painful. Though once we learn all the kanji it will be slightly less painful. We are still scared of the listening part, since I know it's going to be full speed. But we can do poorly on one part and great on another, and we are hoping to do good on the kanji part and maybe vocab, though mine is better than hers.

Then I left around 9 or so and came back to work on getting the rest of the AJET applications into the database and then I made some kanji flashcards. Now I just need to find some stiff paper to attached them to and we'll be set. We've already devised some kanji games, but they are too difficult to explain here. Hopefully the games will help us remember the kanji's readings, since we've already learned all the meanings.

Today I should have 4 classes, but I only had two. Not even two full classes, two partial classes where I go in and read and they repeat and then I leave. Tomorrow I go to Adachi which is still my favorite school, and then Wednesday I have the fireman's school and this time I will get some dad-gum pictures. Dad-gum really looks stupid when you write it, but I say it all the time, it's polite for dang or damn if you didn't know, but I guess it is more spoken English than written. Then Thursday I bet I will have no classes since they are saying it's midterms and yadda yadda yadda. The point is I will get some pictures and video even. I should pay Meg for the video camera sometime, but not now. I wanted to take it to Thailand, but I think it might not be worth it. I'll take it to Tokyo and let Daisuke keep it so I can video our Tokyo and Kyoto trip. We might even get to Osaka and Nara while we are down there. It would be a shame to be in Kyoto and not jump over to Osaka which is just a stone's throw away.

Thursday November 20, 2003

Sorry for the delay in updates, there have been server issues and I couldn't connect. I'll write more tonight.

[later]

Zero classes yet again. Let me pause for a second and update my usage chart. [pausing]. That was fun. My base school is at %42 percent this month, but the monthly average since April is around %10. Well as I said there were server problems and I couldn't update the site. Not a whole lot has happened, mainly I have been studying Japanese for the big language test in 3 weeks. I hired a tutor and she is really helping.

Yesterday I went to the fireman's school with Scott and Nicola, and took video, but no pictures. I will take some pictures next time I go which is in two weeks. We go back for 2 days. This time was pretty fun, we taught them body parts and then assigned them each a body part. It felt like Reservoir Dogs, the Tarintino movie, where each character was named a color. Our students were named Mr. Chin, Ms Face, and so on. One guy was named Mr. Backside, but he didn't mind.

I was supposed to get the first of two shots for Hepatitis-A for Thailand today but the doctor had to go to "doctor congress" whatever that is. I rescheduled for next Thursday. Tomorrow is Chuo High at 4pm to 8pm. I think I go to the 3rd and 4th year tomorrow. There are only about 120 students in the entire school and I am starting to like it since the students are opening up a little more to me. Even the tough guys in class wave and bust their butts on my little assignments. Mostly everyone is quiet, but there are a few loud girls. Most of them are loud in an active way, but a few are just loud. They are accepting me more and more, and it helps that I occasionally bring them chocolate as a little treat. It's strange really, they could easily buy it themselves, but when I give it to them they get all excited like they are prisoners and I brought them something special. Maybe it's because it is a school environment and no one shows affection there.

There are these trucks that drive around selling some potato type thing. Nothing unusual there. But they play this trippy music when they ride buy. So I will be riding my bike and hear what sounds like the Japanese version of Gregorian chants in the distance. I love the song they play, it sounds like I am in a movie doing something noble. I asked a teacher what they were saying on Tuesday since a truck drove right past Adachi. She said it was something like "Who wants these potato treats? They are so tasty. Can you smell them? Come get some". If it weren't for the fact that the lyrics are silly, I would have wanted that song played at my funeral. I will try to get it on tape sometime.

I lost my fingernail clippers and haven't remembered to get more when I was out and about. So my nails are a bit on the long side. You know how they collect dirt and there is that dirt stripe under them? I hate that so I took a paper clip and cleaned them out. That was 30 minutes ago and now they are dirty again. What have I done to warrant more dirt? Am I a badger digging holes in my sleep? Where did this come from? I am going to pursue this matter.

This weekend is a three day weekend and I have nothing of real importance to do. I need to save about $400 for the ticket and maybe another $300 for spending money. We think we are going to take about the equivalent of $500 USD to Thailand, although I have heard you can get by on $20-40 a day including all food, transportation and hotel. But I'd rather not run out of money there and we are going to travel around Tokyo and Kyoto/Osaka when we return. I think we can see all the major sites in Kyoto and Osaka and maybe Nara in a few days. Plus it would be cheaper to get to from Tokyo than Fukushima.

As I have mentioned I have been juicing at least a meal a day and having good results. I actually feel a little better, although I cancel out the juiced breakfast with some not so healthy meal later usually, but at least I am getting a healthy dose of carrots, tomatoes, lemons, and various greens. I will try to juice more meals in the future, but for now I am way too busy. It takes at least 20 minutes to chop everything up and shove it in the juicer and then mix the juice together since it usually separates itself. I think it is really doing a number on my liver because when I drink now I feel strange if I have more than a few. Like you feel when you have a hangover, same feeling. I'd stop drinking if I actually saw some results, but otherwise I enjoy the feeling. I tried to quit before, but there is really nothing else to do sometimes. When everyone else is having fun you always feel like an ass if you are sober. Things aren't as funny and people just look stupid, unless you are in on it.

Man I just sneezed three times and they were hardcore. I mean they rocked me, I felt a little numb after them. It was a good numb, but still a little numb. I've been a little sick-ish recently for some reason. Just a bit of a chest cold and sore throat. I think the throat is related to the humidity or lack thereof. When I came to Tokyo in 1998 to study I clicked dehumidify on the remote control A/C and I was quickly feeling sick. Man it's great to run that A/C during the summer it really cools the place off fast, and it heats it up as well. The remote control is nice, except when you misplace it and can't turn it on or off. There are no controls except on the remote. Wow, this paragraph has been a major tangent. I'm going to watch CSI and then Without a Trace on a video tape my parents sent me.

Friday, November 21st 2003

Man it was HOT today. I don't mean hot for November, late November even, I mean HOT. It was like 70 degrees for a while. It's still about 60 out there. Last week it was freezing and some snow feel on the top of the local mountains, and now it's swimming weather. Insane. Plus Japan has this strange heating policy where they won't turn on the heater or A/C for a while. The Heater Day this year is some time in December. Any governmental institution like a school or the state capital can't turn on the heaters until that day. People will have on their big coats or blankets and they can't even have personal heaters. That concept would last about 45 seconds in the US and then there would be lawsuits left and right. People just do what they are told here. They even have days where they cut the electricity after a certain time, like 6pm or so. They just cut it off to save money. They spend money on silly things in other areas, but not on precious electricity.

It's hard living in a "shut up and do what you are told or you will be knocked down" society when you come from a "me me me, I have rights, look at me, listen to my opinion" society. It's difficult to understand and more so to fit in. But I try, and I do for the most part. Sometimes I don't on purpose and use my directness to my advantage, other times it gets in the way.

Just got back from the night school where I was in the 3rd and 4th year classes today. Most schools have only 3 grades, but this one has more since most students didn't complete middle school. The 3rd and 4th years have decent English so I did a self introduction and then told them about Thanksgiving. I tried not to get into the "white man slaughtering the Indians" part too much, but just said we talk about what we are thankful for with our family.

There's a party at As Soon As and for some reason I am not going. I just don't feel up to it. I just feel like staying in and doing nothing or nothing much at least. maybe I will watch more TV or some episodes of Babylon 5 that Liz got me hooked on and now I am addicted to. I am about 4 episodes away from the end of the 5 year show and then I will have to find another sci-fi addiction. She suggested Firefly and I watched it but it was a strange space-western. She also suggested Farscape, and I think she has a few episodes, so maybe I will watch that for a bit. Alright I am going to study kanji.

Saturday, November 22nd,  2003

[2am] Well I didn't go to the party that was tonight. I just needed some down time and I felt like being alone for a bit. I get like that occasionally. Where I just want to be alone and not run away from myself. Let all my thoughts catch up with me and work themselves out. It feels good to do that every so often. These days I've been so busy with AJET and our local stuff and then studying for the big test coming up, it's nice to set my own schedule, even if it's only for one night. I don't really have plans tomorrow, though Liz and I debated a few things. I might just get on a train and ride somewhere, do some traveling alone. No where far, just a day trip somewhere. But I really don't know where. I've always wanted to just get on a train and get off some where random and see what happens. I don't really know where'd I go, but that's the point. I could flip a coin to see which direction. The more I plan it, the less I want to do it now.

[evening]

Well I must have over planned since I didn't do it. I just worked on the computer all day. I feel good about it since I worked on the second book for a while. After that I went to eat sushi at the nicer place on the other side of the station, near where I lived last year. Then I bought some fingernail clippers since I can't find mine and I bought more carrots and tomatoes. I found a great recipe and it must be really healthy. It's three carrots, one big tomato, and a clove of garlic. I mean like one small wedge of a round thing of garlic, I call that the clove, but maybe the whole thing is. Anyway it has the carrots for the liver, the garlic for the heart and tomatoes just make it taste better to me. I need to find some drink that is green based since I get enough carrots and tomatoes, but not much green stuff. I will buy a butt load and just experiment one day.

At 7:30 tonight I am meeting Megumi, Emiko, most likely a few other babes for dinner and drinks. I think it is the hot girls with boyfriends and Ryan group as usual. Emiko is moving to South Korea in December. I might visit her at some point. A friend of mine from Fukushima just went and said it was really cool. She said she couldn't make it to the DMZ, but it's supposed to be really awesome. There is a building that is on the line of North and South Korea and there is a room that has a table where they sit for negotiations, so each group is still in there country. That would be cool to go to and say, he I was in North Korea for a while. I'll be sure to plan that right when NK and the US are about to attack each other, I'm good at timing things like that.

Thailand is still going strong. My Thai connection (read: friend from college) said she has made all sorts of plans for us and will show us around everywhere. We are going to be able to see and do a lot in the 11 days we are there. I'd like to go back and spend more time around the southern islands, like where they filmed "The Beach", but this time we are strapped for time so we will hit the major spots. I heard Thai Boxing is really brutal, and you get your picture made with the winner afterwards if you pay extra for the front row $20 seats as opposed to the regular $1 seats. I love crappy economies.

[later]

I just checked my mail and there was spam for a remote control boat. The boat had a special feature of a 6way remote control. How on earth does a boat have a 6-way remote control? I can think of left, right, forward, maybe reverse and that's it. Honestly what other two ways are there to control a boat?

Anyway, the Megumi party was ok as usual. We went to Glam Slam which I think is supposed to be called Grand Slam, but they messed up. It's an average bar and we drank and ate the set course meal. I only had beer so I will see how I feel later. I need to drink water before I go to sleep to make sure. If I feel like crap tomorrow then I will possibly stop drinking, because I only had maybe 5 glasses of beer and they were rather small. In the past I have drank or have drunk far more than this so there is no reason for me to be hungover. I am rather close to sober now because the set course meal was rather filling. We'll see. I am not going to drink carrot juice tonight since last time I did that after drinking I was violently ill.

Sunday November 23, 2003

I think the reason I feel like crap after / while I drink is A) my liver is being cleansed each time I drink the carrot juice breakfast and B) carrot juice is a diuretic and so far it has been doing it's job. Which means I pee a lot and don't have much body water on tap so to speak. Since beer dehydrates you and that's all a hang over really is, I get dehydrated early and feel like I am hung over. So I need to either drink more water before I drink or drink less. Obviously option B is the best choice, though not nearly as fun.

Today I got tired of sitting around doing nothing so I went to Koriyama on the shinkansen. I had a few things I wanted to buy, which I could have bought here, but I really wanted to get away. Actually I tried to buy one thing here and they were sold out and I didn't want to postpone it like I always doing. So I jumped on a shink and booked on down to Koriyama. It's a 15 minute trip and about a $16 dollar ride, but oh is it convenient. The shinkansen is one thing I will miss when/if I go back to the states.

I bought another, the final, under-bed-rolling-drawer which is really deep and holds a butt load of stuff. It will make up for when I get rid of the big nasty dresser in my room. I'm about to assemble it. Then I bought some 700 MB CDs to get some crap off my computer, and a nice case to hold them in. I also bought a webcam and microphone so I can hopefully set up a webchat with my parents. That will save a ton of money and we'll be able to see and hear each other. We both have high speed connections, but I wonder how good it will work over 7,000 miles. The speed of light is pretty fast, so we'll see. Finally I bought a water pitcher where you pour water in and it magically disappears. Not really. Actually it cleans the water. I just tried it out and it seems to work rather well. The water had no taste which is better than the pipe-ish taste it has had in the past.

On the way back I realized something odd. When I put all the bags in my left hand I had to lean way over to balance, BUT when I put them in my right hand I could walk straight and not lean or balance. I can't figure out why, I guess I am stronger on my right side since I usually carry things on that side. So anyway, back to reality. While I was there I managed to eat at Yoshinoya, my favorite little cheap meat and rice place. I loved it in Tokyo last year when I was tired and broke and wanted a quick hot meal at 4am. They are always open and everywhere in Tokyo. I'm sure we'll eat there this winter when we go exploring Tokyo after Thailand. I hope they don't back out on me, but even if they do, I plan to do a few things on my own anyway. I might even go to Kyoto and Osaka by myself if I have to. I really want to go and I am tired of being lazy and not doing things because I was a little tired that day. I have a feeling they might say that as well and I will say ok see you later. Go back and sit on your couch and do nothing for the next two weeks, I'm going to Kyoto.

[later]

I just did a massive clean up of the apartment. I threw a bunch of stuff away and sorted some other stuff and I feel really good now. I like cleaning and the feeling of a clean apartment. I took several bags down to the garbage pickup area and there is already more room in here. For some reason I always seem to have the perfect trash on the perfect trash day. There are only certain days when you can throw away bottles or cardboard boxes and what not. So today I had a few big cardboard boxes and took them down there and low-and-behold ( I have never typed that before) there were other cardboard boxes. Which is good since I was leaving them there anyway.

I've still got a lot of cluttery junk and I need to start mailing it back to the states. Most of it is stuff I am just keeping for old time sake. Like letters and pictures and stuff. I am a pack rat and occasionally get overwhelmed and just throw everything out and then eventually get more crap that I "must have" and start the cycle over again. Once I finish with some AJET stuff I'll lose a good 10 cubic feet of crap. I also need to figure something out with the TV stand since now I am using a big dresser and I really don't need it either.

Now I am sneezing since I kicked up some dust. Oh, I remember why I sat down to type now. One thing that I have noticed about juicing several meals is it has cut out / down my craving for sweets. I still get tired occasionally when I eat a normal lunch or dinner, but I imagine at least a juiced breakfast is doing some good. Maybe I will try to do a juiced breakfast and lunch soon and then a sensible dinner. That would require a lot of vegetables and a variety, but right now I can juice a good breakfast for under 200 yen ($2). It would be nice to have a different recipe for lunch even though now one of my favorite things to do during the day at Higashi is LEAVE and walk down the street to the supermarket for lunch. I wouldn't want to take that away, although I could still leave and just not get something to eat necessarily. As it is now I go to the Library for an hour or two and read a book and then doze off and then wake up and read some more.

I'm about to start reading Ender's Game. I have heard about it for years and just never gotten around to reading it. Finally I mentioned it to Liz and she had brought it with her, although I don't really know why. She said she read it as a child in school and she didn't think she would like it if she were to read it for the first time now. So then why did you bring it to Japan? Actually I have seen or talked to her since Thursday when we studied / ate Gyoza. I guess I will see her tomorrow since we might have the Japanese class. Strange, we were together or emailing each other almost everyday for several weeks and then we just stopped. Maybe we had enough of each other. Who knows.

Monday November 24, 2003

Now I am in trouble. All three nights of this three day weekend I have gone to sleep at midnight or later, last night was around 3am after calling my mother in Atlanta for an hour. Then each morning I have been waking up at 10am or later, today was 12:30. Tomorrow is my early day where I have to be up at 7am or before. So I hope I can get to sleep before 3am. If I was going to be awake all night I should have had some coffee at Starbucks in Koriyama. I need to get out of the apartment and run a few errands later and I am not sure if my Japanese lesson is tonight or tomorrow. I need to call the teacher and Liz and ask, though Liz will go along with it either way I'm sure.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

My birthday came and went. No big parties and no presents. I never really liked getting a lot of presents on my birthday, I don't know why. I like planning surprise parties, but I hate getting them. A few teachers knew it was my birthday at Higashi and said Happy B-day, and only one knew yesterday at Adachi. But some students asked me how old I was and in Japanese I said, Today I am 32. So they all chattered about it being my b-day and then a few girls sang a rough b-day song for me in English.

Tuesdays are my day to make fun of Liz since she works at Hobara on that day and lives a good 30 minute bike ride from the station. She has to catch the 7:34 train as I did, which means she has to leave by 6:45 since she wants to have about 15 minutes leeway before the train leaves. That means she has to get up around 6:00. Whereas I also catch a 7:34 train, but I get up around 7 or 7:10 and make it with time to spare. Yesterday was cold, rainy, and windy so she had to ride her bike 30 minutes in the cold windy rain, whereas I walked about 4 minutes. I was sure to send her a few emails about how late I got up and how quickly I got to the station. I might let her crash here occasionally since I have extra futons and floor space.

I subscribed to an English newspaper here and it comes early in the morning, before I leave for school. I've been taking it and reading it when I have time to kill, which is always. On Tuesdays and Thursdays there is a Language Connection where they talk about Japanese stuff and it's quite helpful. The other parts are just about world news and rather boring. But it's cheap and good to stay on top of major stories.

There's this weird thing with the Japanese in the winter. They turn on the heat and yet leave windows open. In the bathroom at Adachi the windows are all open and I am freezing, but when I sit on the only Western Style toilet, it's all good. They have heated toilet seats everywhere and let me tell you, this is really a great feature. For some reason all the nerve endings in the posterior area control the body heat for the rest of the body. I sat down and the fear of my gluteus buttius touching the cold seat began to build, but then when I made contact with the warm seat it was all good. I felt great actually and not the least bit cold. I really didn't want to leave I felt so good.

I had two classes lined up at Adachi though I only went to one. The teacher hadn't prepared anything and it was a writing class anyway. I said nothing and just watched them copy stuff from the board and translate it. I told him there was no need for me to come to the second class so I didn't go. I walked around and then surfed the web. In the class I was so bored I sat and started reading one of the other English books. There was a story about how the Japanese youth were expressing themselves by dying their hair brown or lighter. Then the story went on how this outraged the elders in the community. Keep in mind we are not saying blue, white, or red, just a little lighter than jet black. The story said that many companies wouldn't give a 1st interview to anyone applying with brown hair. "We couldn't imagine sending salespeople out to see clients with anything other than black hair, they would laugh us out of business". I can't even imagine this mentality, but it backs the idea of how Japanese are taught to conform and not stand out. Do as you're told, do not ask questions, comply.

I had a free lunch at Adachi for the 2nd week in a row. This week they made Pizza. well they called it pizza, but it was less than a single serving size in the US. Honestly we made two per group and each one was about 7 inches in diameter and very thin. We split this among 4 students and myself. I helped them cook it and then clean the dishes and I walked around supervising and joking with the other students. When we finished the others in my group said they were full and I could have the last piece and some of the extra soup as well. They ate less than a child sized portion in the US, whereas I could have eaten 5 or 7 of the little pizzas. It was good, but not filling. I ate sushi as soon as I got to the station and then caught a bus to Liz's place for our Japanese lesson.

Today I had to big zero classes and I was so exhausted from just sitting there making note cards. Last night the lesson went great and we feel so much better about taking the test than had we not signed up with her for at least 3 lessons. Thanks to our teacher, we will pass the kanji and vocabulary sections at least, and maybe the grammar and listening. If not I am at least prepared for the big test next year which will be about five times as difficult, maybe more.

So all I did today was make note cards and then study them and lie around the place and I read a summary of Edgar Allan Poe in the library, heaven forbid I read the actual book of The Fall of the House of Usher. I am not going in tomorrow. I can't stand these come in and do nothing days. They know I have a doctor's appointment tomorrow, though they don't know it's for my Thailand shots, so I will call in tomorrow and say I feel bad and am going to the doctor. It's all true. I do feel bad in the morning and I am going to the doctor. The truth is relative. I have no idea what I will do, but I won't have to endure sitting there doing nothing. Though I passed Michael Churchman ("Churchy") on the way back and he said there was an old coin and book shop right near my school, so now I want to check that out. I can do that Monday when I still have nothing to do. I'm going to stop now and update my "How much I am underused at Higashi" excel file.

Thursday November 27th

As promised, I didn't go to school today. I just don't feel like sitting there doing nothing from 8:15 to 4:15. If I am going to sit and do nothing I might as well be at home on the computer. Either way it's a waste of time and money for both people, but with me at home at least it's not a waste of my time. So in that sense, it's better overall.

So far I have done nothing I feel ok, but when I breathe in I can smell a strange smell. I can't describe it, but I think it has something to do with me being slightly congested. Is that how you spell congested? I wrote conjested the first time, but spellcheck didn't like it. Ha spellcheck doesn't like the word "spellcheck" either. The irony. Anyway, I have learned to blow my nose whenever possible. As a kid I would always snort it back in and that always led to a sinus infection. Now I get it out of my system as much as possible. I think dairy makes me more mucusy, but I can't seem to avoid dairy completely. It appears to be in almost everything I eat, but I don't eat eggs or drink milk straight.

I've been taunting Liz since she claims to be a geek, like me, but hasn't seen Tron, which is almost a prerequisite for being a geek. Another is playing D&D or Dungeons and Dragons, which we both had a bad experience with and never played it again. I never read books like Ender's Game, Lord or the Rings, or other Sci-Fi books as a kid, but then she is old enough to have ever used a TRS-80 or owned a Commodore-64 with a TAPE DRIVE. I actually had to load some programs off a cassette tape, which took 30+ minutes. I think I still have the C-64 with the tape drive and the programs that were on tapes. I'll get it out one day and boot it up, it will even come on.

It's almost noon so I think I am going to walk over to the Veggie shop right near my apartment and get some carrots and tomatoes to make a nice breakfast lunch. At 4 I have an actual doctor's appointment with Liz, and then we will study Kanji and Vocabulary and probably eat Gyoza. She wants to do the listening part of the test tonight, but I am avoiding that like the plague. I know I need to practice, but I also know they are going to speak full speed (since we ARE fluent in Japanese) and it's going to be stupid. Why would you speak full speed on a test for people with acknowledged intermediate skills? Well that's how fast we speak, so you need practice. But I can never learn to listen that fast because all the practice tests and study guides speak full speed.

Remember, when I listen I have to hear each word and instantly do the following:

1) Identify it as a word.
2) Search if I know it.
3) Replace it with the English word or meaning.
4) Insert it back into the context of the sentence.
5) Do this for each word in the sentence.
6) Reverse the sentence into an English structure.
7) Find the meaning and understand it.

All this must happen multiple times per second. If there are any words I am unsure of I have they have to get a little more time. When someone speaks full speed all I can hope to do is pick out the key words and tenses and positive or negative markers and then hope to guess. I am going to record and sell some slow conversations to make it easier for people to learn to listen. The current concept of learning Japanese is flawed I think. I was taught poorly and I bet others are as well. It's another example of the man trying to keep us down.

[later]

I just figured it out. It's a mustard smell. I remember smelling it all the time when I was young and my family went to Disneyland or world whichever is in Florida. I had this weird sinus thing then and I constantly smelled mustard. How strange is that? Anyway, that's the odd smell and there is no reason for me to be smelling it otherwise, as there wasn't when I was young and at Disneyplace. OK, off to the Veggie shop.

[later]

Got the Hep-A shot from the doctor. That was an interesting experience, though not totally different from those in the States. The waiting room part was much the same. Then after an hour and a half of sitting there they call us back together. We sit in the doctor's "office", his actual office and talk for a bit. He spoke decent English so we chatted although our guide friend was there. She's the hot dentist's wife who my friend David teaches English to occasionally. I figured she'd know some English speaking doctor's in the area, which she did. So anyway, it was myself, Liz, Ryoko (hot dentist's wife), the doctor and a nurse. He asked about allergies and I said Seldane which is no longer on the market and then he explained what will happen. We have to go back in two weeks for the other shot. He also gave us some Malaria pills since we are going to North Thailand and there are nasty mosquitoes there. Easy enough.

Then he said let's go into the other room and get the shot. I said together or separately or together since Liz had a long sleeve shirt and might have to take it off (together? oh shucks I won't peek). But she managed to roll it up enough. So as of now I have Hepatitis-A in my system, albeit probably the dead version of it. I told him my liver sucks and he said it should be no problem. If the journals suddenly stop next week, it was a problem. I have never had a problem with shots in the arm and I didn't this time. I just don't have a lot of nerve endings in the arm (apparently I have a lot in the butt though) so it never hurts. It didn't hurt this time although she (the nurse) was sure it would and kept reassuring me it wouldn't.

We finished and paid and it was cheaper than we had expected so we decided to take the remaining money and go to eat Gyoza. I found a new place in a book and told her about it. I'm actually thinking of starting a webpage dedicated to Fukushima Gyoza. That's how much of a Geek I am. We found it, it's called River Bird, in Japanese of course, and they had better deals than other places. They had 20 pieces for $9 instead of $10. They also had a big room for many people in which we might use at some other time. I need to check and see if they have a party course or Tabehoudai set (tah bay hoe die - all you can eat). Then Liz came back here and I showed her some funny stuff on my computer. Here's the link to it. It's so funny. Some guy took old GI Joe cartoons and put a whacky overdub to it. But it's almost real sounding, I laugh whenever I hear it.

Friday November 28th, 2003

I am having such good results from juicing my meals. Right now I only juice breakfast, but sometimes lunch as well on days when I am here. I'll get a big thermos somewhere and start juicing lunch and then taking it to school. Today I go to the night school so my breakfast/lunch was 3 huge carrots, 3 small tomatoes, a bunch of watercress, three wedges of garlic, and three small bell peppers. The main taste was a garlic-y V8 taste and it was great. I chugged it after sipping it to make sure it tastes ok.

So far I have noticed little changes like no longer addicted to food. At one time I would use food when I was bored, sad, happy, whatever. Now I don't think about eating as much. Secondly, I no longer crave sweets or fast food. A few weeks ago I ate McDonald's almost daily and I really got excited thinking about eating it the next time, all that salt. Now I don't really want to eat there. I also don't get as tired after eating other meals. In the past I would go into a near coma after eating lunch, especially if there were any sugars. The doctor said I was near diabetic, but juicing my meals has lowered that apparently. I need to start walking to school for some exercise. Man I don't really want to do that, but I did lose 30ish pounds last year walking to school in the winter when my bike was broken. The bike that Lisa now owns or uses and seems to like it. I need to weigh myself soon and see if I have dipped below the 100 Kilo mark, that would put me below 220. I'd like to be below 200 and see how I look, I don't want to be like I was when I hit puberty and shot up a foot and was just all lanky and awkward, but that would be better than looking like a pregnant woman.

The only bad thing about drinking all these healthy vegetables is they seem to have a cleansing effect. That sounds good right? Well it means that bad things must leave the body. I'll say no more, but you get the idea. Tonight Liz and I have a big geek night planned. We are going to eat Gyoza, study Japanese, then watch Tron. She claims to be a geek, but has never seen it. We might even make learning Japanese into a drinking game somehow.

Sunday, November 30, 2003

The Tron night was fun. Saturday I went to Yabuki for a Thanksgiving dinner. The food was great, but the event was a little far. It was potluck and I took deviled eggs. They were really tasty and it was a nice mix to the other foods. I had pumpkin pie for the first time and loved it. I always thought it would taste like pumpkins, but it was a cinnamon / clove taste. We drank red wine and had a few beers and ate until we were stuffed. A few of us left early to catch the last train back to the Fukushima area. There was a turkey or two, dressing, gravy, actual cornbread, potato salad, and other stuff. I really ate way too much.

The one thing I didn't like, well two things, was first it started at 7pm and went til 9:30 and then there was a party after wards until 3 or so in the morning. I'd have preferred it start around 5 or so, so that some people could leave without rushing. The second thing is they said the dinner starts at 7pm. So what time would you plan on being there? I would plan on getting there around 6:45 or so? We made it there about 7:05 coincidentally. The coincidental part was we walked and walked and couldn't find it. It was pouring down rain and we were about to walk further down this street when BJ wanted to walk over to the light of a vending machine and check the map again. So he's reading it and we look around and can't find it and we are sure it should be around here. Then I see a sign that says "Rueben's Bar" on the wall. But the lights are off and door was closed. So I call some people and ask what the deal is they everyone says it is supposed to start on that night at 7pm and we should be at the right place. We stand in the pouring rain for about 10 minutes and then at about 7:15 they show up and said "oh you are early, we haven't set up yet". Then don't say the dinner starts at 7pm. That was put on my list of things that are uncool. If something starts at 7 get there at 6:30 AT THE LATEST to set up. Just my idea of common sense.

Overall the night was good, at least after that. BJ got a free trip since his station has no ticket guy at night and neither did Yabuki. So he saved $11. I took the shink for $16 and then a local train for $4.80. So $20 each way. Then $30 for the food and all you can drink, though I only had a few glasses of wine and a beer. I ate until I would put food in my mouth and not want to swallow it.

Today I just got back from Liz's place where we studied more for the big Japanese Language Proficiency Test on Sunday. We are going up Saturday and getting two hotel rooms since the test starts at 8:30am and we don't feel like being rushed. We would have failed the test miserably, but we hired a tutor and she has helped us so much. She gave us a list of all the vocab and all the kanji and all the grammar. We took the listening part of the test today and didn't do as bad as we expected. There were 13 questions and we missed maybe 3, but they were odd and we don't understand what they were saying or why the answers are what they should be. So we will take the CD to the tutor's place tomorrow and have her explain it. I guess I'd better create a page for December. man time flies when you are having fun.

I forgot to mention earlier, I rode a Bus out to Liz's place, but misread the schedule on the way back and there was actually no 10pm bus as I thought. So I had no choice but to walk. If it were a weekend I could probably crash on one of her spare futons, but it's a Sunday night and I'd have to get up before 6am and catch a bus back and then get ready here. So I walked back. It was a good 45 minute walk. Ironically, I rather enjoyed it. Recently it has been unusually warm and it was quite an enjoyable walk. I might actually consider doing it more often, but then again it should be cold soon. Today it was in the upper 60's (Fahrenheit) which was crazy. At about 4 I felt like walking around in shorts. Right now I have the door open and the screen closed and there's a cool breeze blowing through. I am worried the winter will be really warm, which I guess would be great. As long as it snows on the mountain tops and up in Hokkaido for the winter festival.

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