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.

@

Wednesday October 1st, 2003

So I came in Monday and Tuesday and had no classes. I just read and walked around and did some computer and AJET stuff I was backed up on. Really getting boring. But I am documenting everything and will make a nice little presentation around renewing time. Anyway, my parents sent a video of various TV things in the US, and one show was Alias. I had seen a few episodes and now I am really hooked. The episode they just sent was insane, I can't possibly imagine how they will continue with this angle, they have killed off some key players. So I am hooked, which I guess is the point.

Then I watched another show which I am starting to like, Threat Matrix, although I think they are going to catch flack about how all the bad people are from the same parts of the world. I don't even want to write them so now searches pick them up and I am listed as a problem person. That was a vague round about way of explaining it without using any catch words. Anyway, it's pretty good, though similar to Alias, just slightly different.

The teacher I usually teach with on Wednesdays and Thursdays just came over and said she didn't need me today or tomorrow. So one full week of sitting at Fukushima Higashi High School with no classes. Nothing to do. Tons of free time. I think I am going to write a book, OH WAIT I already did, because I had tons of free time back in the Spring. Maybe they don't want me to renew. Who knows. If you didn't already know here is the book, http://www.Learn-Japanese-Fast.com it is called Learn Japanese Verbs and Adjectives Fast Using Memory Mnemonics. It has nothing to do with conjugating Japanese Verbs, just how to actually remember them and what they mean.

It's actually pretty creative if I do say so myself. Japanese Verbs are different from other verbs in that they conjugate strangely. Same with Japanese Adjectives. In English we say "It was hot", whereas a Japanese Adjective has a past tense version like hot-was. At least they all fall into a similar pattern with minimal exceptions. Anyway if you are looking for a way to try to remember Japanese Verbs or Japanese Adjectives, check out the site, it's pretty decent. I also have a sponsored link on Google.com, but don't click it just for kicks, because it will cost me money each click. Soon that sponsored link will be showing up all over the place since so many other sites link to the Google links. But for now, until I get a better ranking, it will just be on Google, which is fine, since they get mega-hits there. I think in the last five days there have been a few hundred impressions of the ad. AND the ad only shows up when someone searches, specifically, for Japanese Verbs or Japanese Adjectives. Not that whole phrase with the or, but the two individual phrases. So they are very targeted. That means a few hundred people have at least seen the add and a smaller fraction have clicked on it.

Enough self promotion. I had other things to talk about, but now they slipped my mind. I really need to map out the good and bad points of whether or not I should renew. I've got other options, but I have to weigh how "sweet" they would be compared to this. This deal is average, but many are worse. I think the one I am looking at would be a little better, because it's private and they actually WANT an ALT and go out of their way to keep you. Here's the big catch, if there are no classes, why should you come to school? You shouldn't. That's a great selling point. I gotta see about pay and the apartment and a few other things, but so far I am leaning toward it slightly. There is a slight lean.

[later]

I ate lunch then took a nap. I have been eating as healthy as I can. Today there was a big sale on sushi so I bought a package and a salad. For brunch I had a bottle of green vegetable juice. After eating I was so bored I just sat on the big cushy chair and dozed off. I really hate having nothing to do, but being forced to come and sit here. The really funny thing is they don't understand that. I try to get them to explain the difference in me having no classes and just sitting in the teacher's room and me having no classes and not being here. Well if I am not here, it's crystal clear, they are not getting their money's worth, but if I am here, then it's all ok. No one can comprehend that if I am not teaching classes they are not getting their money's worth regardless of where I am.

My main point is not that I want time off, it's that I actually want classes. When I mention this they say some garbage about this week they only have reading classes and there is no need for me [since I never learned to read English I understand this]. Or maybe there are grammar classes and they don't use ALTs in grammar classes. Good is that grammar because skilled are not I, apparently. This is making my decision to renew all the more easier. But then I get this feeling that I will really miss the school (buildings and such) and the students. However, that is inevitable, even if I stay a third year then it would be my last time, so that really shouldn't be a factor. I'll get to see these students graduate, but then a new group will come in and I will get to know them and want to stay, but I can't.

I've been going to the library and reading when I don't have classes [so I've made it through a few books]. I'll sit in the corner and read, then the next time I will lean over a bit, then I will lay down. Now I stretch out on the couch and read some, snooze a little, and then read more. I can keep this up a while. There are some books I've wanted to read (in English) in the library and I could always use the time to practice  reading Japanese. I've really got to start studying for that test. I mean I study daily, but it's all over the place, I need to write out a list of what I want to really know and start using it. Just randomly saying things to people I know.

I will walk to school. I did walk to school. I can walk to school. I was walking to school. I had walked to school. At the time I walked to school....If I were to walk to school and so on. Just sentence after sentence so I can start learning all the grammatical patterns. I know most of them, but I never use them and that causes me to forget them. I guess I'll work on Book #2 for a while and then read more from my Happy book, and then maybe find something else to do. I'm working on a few pages on my website. One is how to ride a Shinkansen. It's not like.

Get on train. Sit in seat. Ride.

It's like how to buy a ticket and where to stand and making sure your train stops at the right station and stuff like that. There aren't too many pages out there like that and I think it will be helpful. Actually I need to really learn how to do all that stuff since I really just hop on the first train that comes by. Luckily I am usually going to Tokyo or a big city where it will stop, but if I were going somewhere smaller, then I might miss it. I never know which cars are reserve and which are not so I need to learn and document the kanji characters for that. Granted I don't ride the shink all that much due to funding, but I ride it enough, and the web page could be helpful to many people.

Thursday, Oct 2nd 2003

Saw yet another blatant case of Japanese people not looking where they are going. I'm sure all cultures do it, just not as silly as Japanese. At least that I have seen. We were riding our bikes down a two lane street this morning. There were a few hundred people on the street, it's on the way from Kenchou to the station, so all Kenchou employees use it. This woman came riding full speed from a side street, which has stop signs. So she almost plowed into someone there, but she stopped and they stopped and she apologized. THEN she pushed her bike across the street, with hundred of hurrying bikers on her left, and she just kept looking straight ahead. She didn't once look to her left. DO YOU NOT SEE THE BIKERS, TWIST YOUR DAMN NECK. Nope, too much to ask. I watched her the whole time, since her earlier thing caused me to slow to a near stop with the group. So she is walking her bike across the road and some guy is riding his bike right into her. He's not looking at her either. Boom they crash into each other. Then they BOTH apologize profusely and then continue on their way. I see this enough to say it's many people, not just a small few.

I often see people walking and just cross the sidewalk without glancing back, and I have even seen people walk across the road with out looking. I have been in cars with people who changed lanes right in front of us or almost moved into us. I'd be tempted to let them hit me, but somehow it would be the foreigners fault. I've had a few friends get in small accidents that were blatantly the Japanese person's fault, but somehow the cop pinned it on the gaijin. It would even be something like, you should have waited and expect him to run the red light, but it has happened. I personally, would go to the governor and cause the biggest international fuss, IF I was sure it wasn't my fault. If it were simply a cause of me being the outsider, and I didn't cause the accident, I would let everyone know what happened. I can put up with some things, but not everything.

No classes on Thursday. I will teach a total of 2 classes this week, both within a 2 hour period on Friday night. Really sad. Imagine going to work all week, and only doing something for two hours on Friday. I can't take much more of this. I plan to sleep in the library today. I might walk around the track a few times. I need to start bringing jogging clothes so I can just go out and exercise for a while, although it is getting cold. This new apartment should be much better in the winter since it is so small and the A/C Heater unit is actually placed in an efficient spot. I bet I can keep the place pretty warm and keep it warm cheaply and quickly. I plan to buy some new winter clothes this year. I need to start dressing better, last year I was so dead broke I couldn't afford anything decent so I bought some Jacket that was warm, but looked crappy and was too big. I need a nice jacket I am proud of and is warm and maybe some new sweaters and such.

The secretary keeps coming over asking if I have these forms filled out. The forms are asking Kenchou (the state government) if it would possibly be alright, if I may indulge their generosity and beg of them in my most humble way to go to the two traveling schools in which they told me I had to go to every week. Then I have more forms after, asking and begging them for money for the trip there and back. If there is no money like at Chuo High where I bike there, the letter just thanks them for allowing me the pleasure of going, to the school that they said I have to go to every week. I never remember, because I have deemed the process silly, so she always has to come over and remind me. I just copied one form and then write the date on it and stamp it with my stupid hanko (name stamp). It's stupid because anyone could stamp something with it and that would be official. At least in the US we can say, oh so & so signed for it, but here it looks like I did.

It's definitely going on my page of stupid Japanese customs. That along with apologizing for everything, running to the copy machine, backing into all spaces regardless of how easy it is, not looking where you are going, and many more. I can understand many differences in culture and can appreciate the differences, but some are just whacked. If you were to get them to explain them in detail and keep asking why, maybe one day they would realize, this actually makes no sense. I know we have them too, but I don't remember them now.

Last night I went over to Liz, who is also from Georgia, and we studied a little for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test that we have on December 7th, and then we ate Gyoza. We are apparently addicted to Gyoza and eat it way too much. We had 6 plates of it. For some reason we always have trouble explaining that we want so many. In Japanese I say "I want six plates of Gyoza". Seems pretty clear, right? Well so far twice the waitress looks at us and will say, they come in sets of 5 or 10 PIECES. Yes we know, and we want six PLATES of them. Then she gets more confused and says but it's five or ten pieces. Then I point to a plate and say in real kiddy Japanese, me plate 1,2,3 her plate 1,2,3. Then she gets it and acts surprised. I want to ask someone today how to say it in native Japanese, because I doubt they misunderstand Japanese people.

There is one thing that really bugs me (only one thing?), and it also bugs the vast majority of my friends as well. Sometimes we will be explaining or asking something to a Japanese person and they won't understand one word. Let's say "shokudo" or cafeteria. I'll say it three or four times, each perfectly pronounced, and a few times even mis-pronounced so they can hear different sounds. It's pronounced "Show ku dough". Then I will say some synonyms for it and finally the bulb goes off and they say, "Oh you mean Shokudo". Yes I meant that, because that is exactly what I said 10 times. This has also happened enough so that I think something is going on. Like they are trying to say, this is our language, don't think you fully understand it. All part of the conspiracy.

I've got to find a way to take pictures of the Burberry teacher. She has worn something in Burberry every single day since I have been here. I have to find a way to show you. If I plan not to renew, or if I hear she is leaving in April. I will somehow take a picture a day of her "Variations on Burberry". Might be a purse or a collar, or a handbag, but it's something and it's everyday. Today it's a shirt AND the collar on her jacket.

Look what I spent all morning working on, since I have nothing else to do:

The percentage of time I spend in the classroom at Higashi. Based on 3 classes per day and takes into account to days there are no classes for tests or trips or any other reason. During each 0% month there are at least 3 teachable days. Granted we are only two days into October, it still hasn't started off on a good foot. I thought we were going somewhere in September. If you take out your little calculators and do the average, even excluding October, you get a whopping 11% usage rate. I would be laid off at any other company, but not on JET.

Friday October 3rd, 2003

I went to the night school and did nothing really. So for this entire week I spent 7 minutes in the classroom total. Wow. That's amazing. I gave each student at the night school a piece of chocolate so I think I earned some points with them by doing that. Even the quiet ones were thankful and nice that I gave them something. Next week I might give them the penny I wanted to earlier.

So after that I raced home where Liz met me and then she helped me sort the applications into prefectures, a prefecture is British for State or Province. After we spent 45 minutes doing that we left and raced to this tiny little Gyoza place since both of us have developed an addiction to Gyoza. We had a big plate of 30 Gyoza and two beers and then left and went to Shoya for a bit. At Shoya we had more beer and some fries,  a salmon salad, and she had some Yakitori. Then she left and I went to Catfish to see some famous Japanese band. Although I shouldn't say "see" since I never really saw them. The place was packed and I never made it past the door. But I did manage to see this nice lady named...something...I forget now. I had met her before and I remember flirting with her until she said "blah blah blah my husband blah blah blah". So I saw her again and found out her husband is a dentist and she speaks great English. So that's convenient in case I need a dentist.

Later I was at the bar and this random man started talking to me in good English. I remembered his face and asked what he did. He said he was a urologist and I remembered meeting him before because it was so strange that a urologist would speak should natural English. We chatted for a while and I got his number and gave him mine. Chances are I'll never need a urologist in Japan, but his English was so good I figured he'd be a good contact.

Before Liz and I went to Shoya, but after we went to eat Gyoza, we stopped by Big Apple and I reserved the place for Halloween. We are going to have a massive Halloween party there. I mean like 400 people maybe. It's going to be insane. I already have a costume planned but I don't want to spill the beans since local people might read this and that would ruin the surprise factor which is a big part of it. So anyway, this place is really big and set up to be a real nice place. There are couches and "chill out" areas all around the main dance floor. I'm going to get a native Japanese speaker to reserve the place officially this week, but I at least put in an initial request to reserve it. I don't know the details yet, but I know it will be a blast. I'm going to start advertising it as soon as I get an official word on it this week.

Tomorrow is the big Nihonmatsu Lantern Festival. I went to it last year and had a blast. I plan to video tape it this year since pictures don't really turn out all that great. It's so dark that the flash really does nothing. But video will get a much better effect or affect. I never know which one is right. One is a verb the other is an adjective I think. I looked it up. Effect is a noun and a transitive verb. Whatever.

On the way back from the Gyoza place I pointed out to Liz that I think it would be cool to own a bar/restaurant that was too small. The door would be like 4 feet tall and the chairs and tables would be too small and the menus and forks would be child size. It might be a cool novelty. Especially if you stood outside and told people they looked like they grew some before they go in. It might work, at least the novelty aspect would be cool for a while, though a lot of people, like my parents, wouldn't get it and would constantly be saying "why would you want to make a place that isn't comfortable, these chairs are too small". So I'd have to keep it secret from my parents I guess.

Then I thought it might be cool to have a bar named In My Pants. But that would only go over in Japan. In the US it would sound like some porno bar and the cops would constantly raid it, thinking there were prostitutes or something. But I think it would just be funny to have a bar called In My Pants. It couldn't be the too small bar, cause then people would think whatever is in my pants is too small, and we can't have that. They would be too separate bars, completely unrelated. I'd never even visit the bar called In My Pants. I would just collect the money from the door and agree with people that it was a kickin' bar, but a stupid name. I should stop typing now.

Sunday October 5, 2003

Got a big update, but too tired now. If only I had a job where I could go for 8 hours a day and do nothing. Hmmm....... For the record I was in a classroom for a total, let me stress total, of 7 minutes last week. To make things worse I should have had at least 15 classes, but I was in a classroom for 7 minutes and that was to give an oral test. So tomorrow I'll write about all the things I did today.

Monday October 6th, 2003

My theory has been proved once again. I was riding my bike to school this morning and I saw a woman pull blindly out into the road on her bike. I was going too fast to stop or slow down so I kept moving. He front tire hit my bike tire and I heard "oh, oh sumimasen" which means I am sorry in Japanese. I didn't look back, and didn't really care. I hate to keep mentioning this, but it completely blows my mind that such a large number of people, though mostly older, just move around blindly without looking where they are going. I saw a car pull out in front of a truck the other day. I couldn't tell if the driver looked both ways, but I would imagine not since the truck was moving fast and it was big.

Remember how I mentioned my light dropped and scared me one day? Well some guy came and repaired it and then the corner broke again. I was going to let it go, but the landlord called today and wanted to get in my apartment and take a picture of the light in my apartment for insurance reasons. So they saw it and called the school and asked what was up. I'm a smart guy and I know how it sounds to say "My light just dropped from the ceiling for no reason, and then after you fixed it the corner broke again". But that's actually the truth. I really don't know how or why it broke twice.

When she called an English teacher had to translate. She kept coming over and asking the smallest most petty details possible. I was trying so hard not to get mad since she was merely relaying information, but it would have been the landlady I would be mad at. I still have a resentful image of them for the stupid key money thing. They need to take some of that key money and fix the place up. Anyway, she kept asking me things like "how did it break", "when did it break", "what time did it break", "what were you doing when it broke", "did you pull the string". Finally I was about to snap and I said "look, I don't know why she is asking all these little questions, here is what happened: one night it fell while I was sleeping. Later it was repaired. The next day the corner of the cover fell again". So finally she told the landlady all that.

Then a few minutes later she came over and told me what the deal was. I was waiting for her to say I would have to pay something, I was honestly going to laugh and say no. But she said if they turn in a report to the insurance company saying that the company that repaired it did a lousy job it will cause problems, so would it be alright if I just said I broke it somehow. I said whatever, as long as it doesn't come back on me. As long as that's how the Japanese game is played, I'll go along, but if someone pins me in the corner and says we think you are lying I will spill the beans. So the English teacher will write this thing saying I pulled the cord too hard and send it off. Fine with me.

So yesterday was a blast. We left at 10am and drove to some nice Soba noodle place in Inawashiro, which is about 1.5 hours away over the mountain. We ate at what was more or less someone's house and then found some little place that makes these nasty little bean paste treats. Japanese people love this stuff, but I hate it. It's something sweet made out of rice or beans or something. It has the texture of a breast or belly fat and tastes yucky to me. So they stocked up, but I didn't. Then we drove and drove back towards Fukushima City and looked for an onsen. The first 3 we went to were closed to visitors. They were hotels with hot springs in the basement and allow visitors in until 4pm apparently.

Finally we found one in the famous town of Tsuchiya. It was really nice and hot. I could only stay in for a small time since it was so hot. I can't stay in if it's much over 42 Celsius. But I love going to them partially because of the shower you take before. I take a shower everyday, but not like this. First off you wash your self head to toe three or more times before getting in. Secondly you are sitting on this little bucket so you easy access to scrubbing your feet and toes. Thirdly, it's not your water bill so you can run the water as much as you want. After scrubbing thoroughly, you slowly sit in this big pool which is about 2-3 feet deep. When I am completely in, the water comes up to my shoulders, so it comes up the most Japanese people's neck.

You sit and soak in this for a few minutes, then some people go to an ice cold bath, which there is no way I could, then others head outside for the rotenburo, which is an outdoor onsen. Ours had a wide open wall, but it was facing the woods. Plus, who would really want to look at a bunch of old Japanese men. I was curious if the women's had an open wall, as well as how dangerous a hike into the woods would be. I chose not to go exploring that day.

Then we left and came back to Fukushima city and tried to eat Gyoza at a few small and famous places, but they were full or closed since it was Sunday evening. So we walked on to this other location of Moon Garden where Meg and I used to eat all the time. It was nice and they served fancy Gyoza but we ordered some shrimp Gyoza and it took over an hour. It wasn't really all that worth it. After that we went to the other location of Moon Garden and had another beer and I had something called Crème Brule. It's French so I am sure it's spelled differently, but it's pronounced Bru-lay and it was dang good. They scorched the top with a flamethrower thing. Oh it was yummy. Then we left about 10pm, making it a 12 hour day.

Saturday was also really cool. I have tons of pictures to upload later. I even took video, but I can't upload that. I had to miss the last part of the festival because the girl we were going to stay with flaked out at the last minute. It wouldn't be a big deal at all if all along she had said "I have no room". But she kept saying, yea sure fine bring some people it will be great come on no problem. I mean I even re-re-confirmed at the beach party in August. I told her I had about 10 people who wanted to crash on her floor and we'd pay her a little or buy her beer and then breakfast. So at the August beach party she said, again, sure no problem, sounds fun. Then last week or early this week I emailed her and said there would be about 10 people coming and she said "Oh I'm sorry I already invited 5 people and that's going to be too many as it is". Oops, too late to rent a hotel room now so I have to miss the big finale since the last train it at 11:30 and it ends around midnight. Oh well what are you going to do. Though after that incident I started to see a pattern of getting dissed, so I am no longer going to worry about it anymore.

Also one night last week, I might have already mentioned this, I went by and pre-reserved the bar for the Halloween party. I hope it's massive. Once I confirm everything I will start inviting people and finalizing the details. I'm going to make it so you must dress up, although a bunch of non-fun people will come anyway. really, it's a costume party, can't you think of something decent? Oh you came as an English Teacher, you get a point for being creative. Who would have thought of that? Not those other six dorks in the corner.

Other than that, Liz and I are officially addicted to Gyoza. I think we could eat it everyday. It's not super unhealthy, but also not a vitamin either. She ordered Season 3 of Babylon 5 which I am addicted to, and I will order Season 1 of Alias and CSI which we are both addicted to. If I knew how to fix Gyoza at home I could fix it then we could eat it and watch our nerd shows. Isn't it weird how you can say "fix Gyoza" as if it were broken, but meaning to cook. I'm fixin' to fix some Gyoza. That's Georgia for you.

I added up my vacation time for the year and I should have 24 days left, since 4 carried over and I earned 20 more. I earned, ha ha.  So I will use 7 to go to Thailand, because there is a holiday and a few weekends. Then I hope to stay in Tokyo for a few days when we get back and do something there, but after the 31st there are off days at school. Then I will use one or two for the Sapporo Ice Festival and then a few more in May for the big Golden Week trip. Michelle did the math and it seems you can have 11 days off and only spend 3 or 4 vacation days. Then again she isn't high school and might get more time off. That really makes me lean more toward transferring to a private school rather than the JET program. I really can't stand just coming in and sitting for one or two hours just so that I can say I was here. But if I use vacation time I have to spend an entire day. Just let me off when there are no classes so I can travel and explore Japan. I'm not a teacher I will only be here a few years. Of course I live in a separate reality where things make perfect sense to me. I try to see other people's realities, but often I can see nothing logical. This is not logical. I'm sure you'd really like me to stop jabbering about this all the time. I'll try.

Sorry, one more thing on the no class thing. I just found an April schedule and, of course, no classes. There were many non-class days anyway, but there were at least 7 days I had to come to the school, but had no classes. Most likely the "real" teachers had classes, but somehow, the guy they shipped over from the US who speaks native English, isn't needed. So I added April to my chart and it dropped the ratio another point, so now Fukushima Higashi High has an %8 usage rate since August. My other two schools have at least %100, and Adachi has a %117 rate since they actually put me in 4 classes a few days. I am going to see if I can go to one of the traveling schools on these days I have nothing to do. I don't want to get them in trouble, because then they will really not like me and just retaliate with 9 classes, but I also am tired of just sitting here.

Tuesday October 7th, 2003

I do declare Mr. Beauxregard I have a full class load in October and November. I don't know what to do. A teacher, who is acting as my supervisor, came over and said from Oct 14 to November 26, I will have 4 classes on Monday, 1 on Wednesday, and 3 on Thursday. That's more like it. I don't mind having a day with one class, it will give me time to catch up on things. But not having a class at all for two weeks straight was/is killing me. Though I have been working on book number 2 and had an idea for book number 3 & 4.

Last night I went over to Liz's place and we ate Gyoza and watched Babylon 5 Season three. Her machine was mega-slow so we could only watch part of one episode. Then I borrowed them and raced home and watched a few more on this fast 512 MB RAM machine. It was fun, but she lives so far by bike and soon the snow will make it hard to ride out there. I think a bus goes out that way though. She has a sweet apartment, but she won't be digging it too much when it's absolute zero Kelvin and her place is freezing. Whereas mine is so small, it will take 30 seconds to heat.

We talked about how fun it will be to call people around Christmas from Thailand and say "Hey, how's the weather? I'm at the beach.......in Thailand". Yea that will be fun. Good times, good times. The travel agent still hasn't called back so I hope we got the tickets. I'll call her today. I also need to get a Japanese friend to call the place for the big Halloween party, and we need to start working on our costumes, and we need to organize the study group. Geez, I am falling behind.

Wednesday, October 8th, 2003

Why is it really necessary for the ALT to come to school on days where it's a half day for students due to testing? At least give me a half day. My friend that backed out at the last minute about me and a few people staying at her apartment at the recent Lantern Festival is too funny. She asked me if I could bring my Kerosene heater that I am giving away to the festival. This weighs about as much as two cinder blocks. I told her I would have brought it if I rode in a car, but couldn't on the train. She said she was really counting on me to bring it and she was disappointed that I didn't bring it at the last minute. OH THE IRONY. I have not stopped reminding her and making "backing out at the last minute" jokes. She said she changed her ways, but she didn't.

The part of that situation that really bugs me is from when I was in college. I had one friend in particular who would suggest we do something and then completely forget about it. Like a few times he would say let's get up early on Saturday and drive to wherever and play golf. So I would ask him a few times closer to the date and he would always say yea lets do it. So there I am knocking on his door at 7am on Saturday and guess who overslept. If you mention something that's one thing, if I ask you to confirm it a few times and you do then wimp out at the last minute, that ticks me off and it's really sad. But I learned my lesson and I only get burned twice now. The first time I'll assume something happened, the second time it becomes a habit. After that I don't take anything serious from that person and usually don't invite them or assume they will attend planned things. Of course I always point it out with my annoying humor.

Since I am giving her the heater, I'm not going to burden myself over getting it to her. For some people I might burden myself, but those people haven't abused me like others. I loaned my jacket to Noriko at the Lantern Festival, you might remember her as my crush back in October last year. When I left early she wanted to give it back, but I wouldn't let her since she would be cold. I was cold, but there was no way I could ask for it back since she would have been much colder and that's just silly. She works in Fukushima city and called me yesterday and asked if she could return it yesterday after work. I said ok and we met at the station at 6:20pm. She had it all nice and folded in a bag. I don't think it's ever been folded like that before. It's my Fall semi-warm Emory Jacket. It says Emory on the left breast area and people ask if I went to Emory. I say YES. Which is in fact the truth. If they ask for more details I say "Yes I went to Emory, to see my sister graduate". Which is true. If they ask if I attended Emory and received a diploma, I would have to say Negatory.

This winter I am going to buy a nice warm I'm-proud-to-wear-this jacket. Last year I bought a cheap too big $30 jacket, that was warm, but looked a little strange I think. It has a draw string at the bottom, but that falls below my butt and just looks odd. I'll send it back to the US and maybe my brother in law can wear it, since he is bigger than me.

Thursday October 9th, 2003

I really thought about calling in sick today. I'm not sick, a little tired, but I really did not feel like coming here and just sitting for 8 more hours doing nothing. But I remembered I have something to do after school so I came in. Last night I had my coed-onsen friend call the Big Apple Bar where we are going to have the Halloween party. She asked him more details and confirmed I wanted to reserve the club. Everything went well as far as I know. She said the admission would be about $30 a person, but that includes free drinks all night. I think the club holds about 200 or so, which will be perfect. I'll invite all the local JETs and they can invite a few Japanese or foreign friends, then I will invite the local NOVA teachers and that's where they fun part comes in.

NOVA is a private English teaching school, and for some reason all the pretty girls seem to go to NOVA. I guess because they have a lot of foreign male teachers. So whenever NOVA has a party there are tons of pretty girls, and.....aw shucks.....the NOVA teachers can't hit on them. A bunch of pretty girls, who want to speak English, and like foreign guys.....what will I do?

So you might be thinking $30 is ridiculously too high, but it's really normal here. It usually includes 1 or more drinks, or free drinks all night. Since I knew some bartender friends back in the states and they said drinks really cost nothing and are usually a big money ticket. Plus if they only have one or two bartenders they won't be making drinks fast enough to lose money. If 200 people show up, which is possible, that's 200 x 3000 yen = 600,000 or almost $6,000. Not too shabby for one night of doing nothing.

I'll send out the details on that later and hopefully there will be a good turnout. I expect everyone from Fukushima to go, and maybe a few local surrounding towns. The far people probably won't since they have to come right back to Fukushima city the next Thursday for our mid-year seminar. Which basically means we all get together and talk about effective team teaching. Then one of the ALTs who is no more an expert than the others, gets up and does a team teaching demonstration while everyone else thinks to themselves "That's not how WE do it". It's really stupid and I'm not going to be volunteered this year. They've already asked everyone luckily and I didn't get a letter, but if I do I will say NO as politely as possible. They tricked me into the team teaching demo at the orientation and it was horrible. You can't give an English team teaching demo to people who already speak English. There's no energy coming back. I stopped half way through and said forget it let's just talk about teaching High School.

I still can't decide what I am going to do next year. I want to stay in Japan and teach English, and I would like to stay in JET since it is a pretty cushy job overall, but I can't take another year of sitting in the teacher's room doing nothing. I might try to negotiate, I might not. I think I am going to start writing how I feel each day so I can get a wider spectrum of emotions. It would be lousy to make a rash decision because I was mad one day, or happy. luckily there are options for me staying and they are all equivalent to JET, but I like being involved with JET. I like helping out with the Orientations and such, I'll have to decide soon. And I'm sure you hope I'd stop talking about it everyday. Sadly there's not much more to talk about. I feel like I am on hold right now until certain things happen. The certain things may or may not be clear to me, but I can sense they are out there.

Heard some great news on the Thailand trip. I have a college friend who is Thai and hence lives in Thailand. I emailed her and said we were coming and could she find some nice hotels for us somewhere. Sadly we can live like Kings for less than I would pay for a budget hotel in the US. So she asked where I was going and I said Bangkok and Pattaya and maybe Phuket (pucket - you dirty mind). So she said her family owns a beach house in Phuket and we could stay there if we wanted. Sweet. Although that won't save us much money, it's still free and that rocks. No parties, like we would know anyone to have a party with. I have heard you spend nearly nothing in Thailand even if you blow money like a king. Which I have a tendency to do. I have even heard you can get a 2 hour Thai massage for like $5. It's even the legitimate one, no hanky panky. Man if I can get $5 massages for 2 hours, I might never leave. A friend went last year and said they were incredible. She was so relaxed afterwards. That's on the list.

We wanted to dip over into Cambodia to see Ankor Wat, but I have heard from a number of people Cambodia is a little expensive these days and not super American friendly, actually it's unsafe for locals as well. So we might axe that from the list, and substitute riding elephants instead. I'd rather ride the elephants I guess. I'm sure there's some weight limit and I am over it or something. But getting to watch people ride would be ok as well I guess. I just paused and did some research and it looks like we can ride elephants and take some tour around a temple city relatively cheap. We can easily fit that into our 11 day journey.

I just got back from the post office where I had to mail a letter to someone in Tokyo for this AJET thing I am with. So I mailed it last week and then it came back this week. But the address was verbatim from the email that the lady had sent me. So I typed it and spaced it all nice and neat. I took it over to the Yuubinkyoku (post office) and handed it to him all ready to go. He stared at the address and asked me in Japanese, "where is this going". I stared for a minute contemplating my response and surprise, and said without thinking, "are you joking?". Then he said "I can't tell where this is going". I had TYPED the address. It was crystal clear, what can't you read? I reached over with a big swoop of my arm and pointed to the label and said, "hmmm maybe....Tokyo?". Then he said, "oh oh I see ok Tokyo, it wasn't clear". I wanted to ask how he suggests I make it more clear. But I smiled and walked off. I bet that package comes back as well.

Then I went to the library in the school and read a few silly books. I noticed they have condensed versions of many great books so I might start reading those, although starting on Monday or Wednesday, since Monday is a holiday, I will have  8 classes a week. This is going to bump my usage rate up from %8 to a whopping %20 for the month. I was hoping to have no classes for a while to really drive the point home. But if I showed someone I had a %2 usage rate they would think surely I messed something up, which in fact I didn't.

Sunday Oct 12th, 2003

Haven't done much over the weekend, mainly because tomorrow is a holiday so I tend to procrastinate. I am going to clean up my apartment later because Liz will come over and we will study and then plan our Halloween costume, one other person is involved in both but he can't come over, then we will gorge ourselves on Gyoza, and finally watch some of the local festival. I already have a little on film, but I want more of the lantern floats. I went there last night for a bit with David and saw the funniest things. You know those games at the County Fair where you take a gun and shoot something off the wall? Well here if you win you can pick a prize. Maybe it's a little toy, or some candy, or a doll, or a porno movie, or a stuffed bear. Wait a minute did  say porno? Yup, sitting out right there on the top shelf with thousands of kids walking around playing the game. Adult movies. It's amazing really, they have this mentality of "If you don't like it, don't look at it". Whereas we Americans feel compelled to force our beliefs on everyone.

After that we went to As Soon As, the bar, and saw some DJs play. There is honestly someone magical about this place. I always meet someone new, or someone whom I've wanted to meet, or make some connection. This time I ran into Tomoko the ski instructor from long ago. She moved to Canada and we lost touch, and recently she moved back to Fukushima, although a neighboring city this time. So we chatted and exchanged numbers and I told her I owed her dinner from when she gave me some ski tips. She's a great skier and pretty good instructor. Her English is so much more natural now that she lived in Canada for a while. The strange thing is I had been thinking about where she was recently, and the Universe placed her in front on me at As Soon As. Maybe that place is merely a portal to a different dimension.

I've been thinking about my philosophy of life. I plan to write it out later for the world to read. It's more of my analogy of where people fit in their lives. When I write it out it will make more sense. I think now I want some sushi, maybe, or something. I am going to try to be a vegetarian for one week, if possible, but I love meat so much. I think it would help me get healthier since my stomach usually hurts after I eat meat. Since I love BBQs, and cookouts, and meat in general, I chose to ignore the pain. But I think it's time to start listening.

I just loaned Tracie my small tent that I bought from the thrift store for $10. She is going camping on a mountain near here. That would be fun and I'd like to go sometime, but I am too busy with other things. Most of which I have just procrastinated since they are not going to be fun. Maybe I'll spend all day tomorrow catching up. See I just procrastinated there as well. Ha.

Monday Oct 13th, 2003

I was just talking on the phone with my mom back in the states and she said there was a beep, but she was going to ignore it. I told her to check it and when she did she said it was my sister who had locked her keys in the car and needed the spare key from my mother. Good thing she wasn't in down town Atlanta. So my mother hung up with me and ran over there to give her the key. My sister lives about 5 minutes from my parents so no big deal I guess she'll call back in a few minutes. Once I locked my keys in the car while it was running. I remember I had a different car that made you either lift the handle or lock the car from the outside. I hated it at the time, but looking back I never locked the keys in the car. I bet my sister will get a spare somewhere convenient now.

Today was a holiday and I did pretty much nothing. Around 1 Liz and I went and saw Tomb Raider 2, which was just a regular blah shooting movie with a wanna-be Indiana Jones plot mixed in there. Really nothing impressive and I'm sorry I paid $17 bucks to go see it. Movies are a bit expensive here. When/if I go back, I sure won't complain about $8 movies anymore.

I have been working on some different parts of the site which are not finished, but I can go ahead and reveal them. First is my list of really stupid emails I receive. My favorites are the ones about some rich African Prince who can't get his money into the US any other way except through me. I'm sure you get them too, but do you actually read them? They are quite humorous. I always forward them to ABUSE@ their domain.com and sometimes I get them shut down. Another thing I have been working on is my Top 5 list of lists. Just a bunch of little lists I made of my Top 5 different things. If you are applying to JET, read my angry advice page. It's good advice, but I was angry on the day I wrote it. If you are interested in how to use a public bath or onsen, read my work-in-progress guide. If you are into Japanese pictures and such feel free to use any of these I have taken as wallpaper, clip art, posters, whatever. Maybe you are into Japanese Gardens? I have collected some pictures from the many gardens I have visited. I'm working on how to ride a shinkansen as well as some Japanese Grammar tips. I added some nice things to my links page and will add more soon. A really random page is my list of fun words to say. A few pages that are not so random that I want to advertise more would be my Kamakura trip, my Nikko trip, my trip to this and last year's Lantern Festival, pictures of the many Pagoda's I have seen, and my frequent trips to a Capsule Hotel.

Well that is rather thorough. It's almost like a little site map, which I already have but there is really no point in listing it, since it is mainly for the spiders to crawl and then crawl to those pages since some of them don't have a lot of links already. So tomorrow I am officially and really starting to make several changes. Why not today? Because I am a procrastinator. I work on changing that later, seriously. But first I have a list on my door that I can check every morning about things I did or didn't do the previous day. Like not eating meat or drinking alcohol, or spending frivolously, or working out. Each day that I o or don't do certain things I get a check. At the end of the month I'll have a bunch of checks and hopefully I'll feel better about myself. I gotta think of a prize somehow. There are going to be several days when I knowingly violate things on the list like drinking, for example at the Halloween party, I plan to drink heartily, but before then and after then I plan to refrain as much as possible. As much as possible for ME I should say.

I need to get to studying now. Liz and I worked out a study plan for the December 7th Japanese language test and I need to get cracking. She is also from Georgia so we get along well and tend to hang out. For the record we are not dating. She's like Meg #2. I wasn't dating Meg, but we always hung out since we got along well, even though she was from Canada. But there's nothing wrong with Canadians, eh?

Tuesday October 14th, 2003

One of my friends from my old job signed up for Friendster.com and invited me. I have been avoiding this for a few months, but I finally caved in. It's basically a network of people you know and it allows you to meet people with similar interests and such. Well when I signed in I had two friends already, Wells and Steve. So just through them I had a network of 6,644 people. I can really see how the Six Degrees of Separation theory really works. I found a few other friends, mainly through them and had them join my network and it jumped to about 11,000 people. I knew it would be this addictive and I was avoiding it, but I guess I can't any longer. Now I am going to invite all my local friends and grow my network until I can take over the world.

Saturday October 18th, 2003

Man, I can't believe I went this long with no update. I have been busy with computer stuff and didn't feel like typing any more. I will say this though:

You are connected to 115,726 people in your Personal Network, through 10 friends.

The Friendster.com thing is addictive. I want to have one millions friends in my network so we can group together and take over the world. But that's a ways away.  Not much has happened this week worth typing about, but when has that kept me from typing in the past? There was a tragic event on Thursday though, a truly sad day for me. The Burberry lady wasn't wearing obvious Burberry. Perhaps she had it on her underwear, but I wasn't that concerned. Her pants were a darker version of Burberry, but technically not the actual pattern itself. Maybe the tides are turning?

Last night Liz, Nicola, and I went to the Gyoza place and ate up. Then we went to a bar called Jealous Guy and sampled various drinks. Some were good, others were nasty. One tasted like stale sour Listerine, but it was Minty Fresh. Oh something else on interest I have been working on is my cell phone photography page. Just a few random pictures taken from my cell phone, and soon I will have other people send in submissions. Maybe I will turn it into a whole site. But who knows. I have free time at odd hours. I have free time at school, but limited computer access, or internet access I should say. Every so often I get these ideas and if I am in the mood I act on them quickly, other times I let them go. One idea I had years ago, which has still never been developed like I planned, was an online reminder system.

I always forget important dates, like my family's birthdays, anniversaries, and what not. So I was going to develop an online system that would email me a month or so in advance, then 2 weeks, then a week and remind me of the dates. Then it would also suggest some things that people likes and exactly how old they were so I could say "Hey sis, congrats on your 26th birthday this Wednesday" unlike this year which was "I missed your birthday last week sometime I think, was it Monday? What are you now 25 or 25?". Then I was going to allow other people to sign up as well. It would be all automated, and I could do that but I just never did. I wanted to call it LifeMinders.com, but I think someone took that with a similar, but not as thorough idea. Such is life.

I got up around 9am when someone called my cell phone and I have been bored ever since. I should do laundry later I guess since it is getting backed up. In the mean time I was surfing the web for anything that popped into my head, and let me tell you some wild stuff pops into my head when I am bored. So here are some websites I found while I was randomly surfing:


Which Pooh Character are you?

Which Month are you most like?

Which Girl Scout Cookie are you most like?

Political Party Quiz

Which Willy Wonka Character are you most like?

Poke a Sheep?

As you can see I have been quite bored. I think I will go do laundry now.

[later]

As I type, laundry is being done.

[later yet]

As I type "said" laundry has been relocated to the Laundry Protection Program. (Hint: the dryer).

[even later]

I guess it is obvious that I am still bored. The sad thing is there is something I can do, but I just put my laundry in the dryer for 80 minutes. So do I wait, or take it out and lose the money (it is a sunny day), or put in more money and hope I can make it back in time. I'll opt for door number three and put in a few more coins. I am using all three dryers (possibly the only three in Fukushima, dryers are not popular here), so it will take about 3 more coins total, not too bad. Then I'll go look for the ingredients to Mini Pre-Mexican night tonight, OF WHICH will be explained upon my return.

Sunday October 19th, 2003

Mini Pre-Mexican night was interesting to say the least. It was only me, Liz, and Nicola (The girl that works for the "state government" and is from New Zealand). We did manage to cook damn good tacos, refried beans, and make pretty good margaritas. Actually we drank a few too many margaritas and then the rest of the night was a little silly. Well silly until Liz couldn't keep the refried beans in, then it got strange. But I can't go into more details in this forum. In a few minutes I am having a study group for the language test in December. I'm not sure who will be here, but I hope we get some stuff done. I/we've been slacking off recently and the test is creeping up on us quickly.

I spent much of the day cleaning the apartment. I am such a pack rat. I can't comprehend how I can have so much cluttery crap when I am in JAPAN. It's not like I moved two states over, I moved overseas. Where did all this crap come from? I get rid of it in chunks then I manage to get more. I need to find a way to get rid of this big blue suit case I bought from the thrift store before my trip to Tokyo in the summer, but it's so big and I bet the landlord saw it when he/she was in my apartment. So if I try to throw it out they will see it and recognize it. I mean it is big and BLUE, not Navy blue, but BLUE blue. If the stupid plastic handle hadn't broken the first day I bought it I would have kept it, plus I forgot the combination and had to smash it open anyway. Now it's just too big and too much.

Monday October 20, 2003

I called in sick today and I was actually quite sick. Yesterday I started coughing and hardcore sneezing, as if I were sneezing out an organ or something. Then my eyes and nose started running constantly. Last night I could barely sleep and then this morning I really didn't feel like sitting in the teacher's room miserable like this. So I just laid in bed all day. Is it lay in bed or laid in bed? Either way, that's where I was. And I feel better now though I still have the sniffles. The one thing I learned from being sick as a child is Blow your nose. I would always resist and sniffle and what not, and then get sicker. Now I at least try to get it out of my system. I figured out that this illness was from a vitamin I've been taking called Lecithin. I took a drug for my liver a few years ago and had the same symptoms. Strong flu like symptoms comes on all of a sudden, and then goes away when you eliminate the source. It's sad too, since Lecithin seems really good for various different little things I have, but the universe has decided Lecithin is not the cure to my problems.

So I realized I hadn't eaten all day so I walked to the station. For the record I had been to the station yesterday and everything was normal. Today I head over there around 4pm and 3 shops were gone. The physical buildings were still there since they are part of the station, but all I mean ALL the contents were gone. One was a Dry Cleaners, another my ramen/Gyoza shop, and the last was Newdays a convenience store (which closes at 10 and not terribly convenient). So all three are completely vacant, not goods, no seats or tables, no counters. I mean apparently the Japanese National Defense Army came in and tore the places out in a few hours. Wow I thought I entered a time displacement dimension or something. I had to check my clock to make sure I wasn't asleep for 3 days. It was really that much of a difference.

Inside the station I saw a "Coming Soon" sign that showed a big patio area with different shops and what not. That's twice in one day I said what not, but I haven't said that for years before. Strange. Anyway, it seemed strange that they would start working on this now, unless they expect it to take 6 months or more and want it to be finished for Spring.

AH !! This makes sense now. I went to the Ramen/Gyoza place last week and she served me and apologized for no longer being able to serve me. I thought she meant something like they would no longer serve Gyoza or foreigners aren't welcome anymore, but she was saying they were closing for several months I guess. I wasn't really listening since she was talking full natural speed. I juts nodded and said OK. So now I know. I feel bad, we had a little thing. I was almost able to go in and say "the usual" and they would know I wanted Curry Rice and Gyoza. Oh well, maybe they will be there in the Spring.

I spent most of the day in bed as I mentioned and then watched some episodes of Firefly, some Space Western. A friend loaned me the tape of a few episodes. It's an alright show. Then I watched Fantastic Planet which is a strange, but interesting French cartoon about aliens and dominance. It's relaxing for some reason. Now I'm going to work on the second book for a while or one of any of the 15 other projects I've got going on.

Tuesday October 21st, 2003

Spent today home as well. I didn't get much sleep and just didn't feel like getting up at 6:30 and riding a train and then walking almost 2 miles to this school. But I have Friday off from the night school and I should go and sit in the teacher's room at Higashi and do nothing, but I might go to Adachi on Friday to make up for today. I used to like going there on Fridays because I could go to this cool small class and it was nice. Then the English club would meet on Fridays. I can't go now because I have the stupid night school on Fridays. Why would they put me at the night school on a Friday until 9? Luckily they are cool there and let me go at 8 and tell me I don't have to come in until 4. But still I sit there from 4-5:30 doing nothing. I really hate having to sit and do nothing, in general, but mainly here. It's so counter productive.

At 5ish, Liz called me and said she was at the station since she came back from Hobara about 5. So I met her there and we looked for a costume for her. She and I an a few other people are going in a group costume. I have done this costume before and I think it will go over well. I don't want to mention it yet, but you can figure it out. 6 people dressed up.....it's easy. I've been planning and inviting people to the Halloween party as well, it should be big. I plan to get a hotel room right near the bar since I don't want to stumble back to my place at 4 am. I've invited tons of people already and some out of town people are coming in as well. We are going to have a costume contest and other stuff. The cover charge is $30, which is typical, but it includes free drinks all night. Then we will have a second party at my favorite bar, As Soon As, which I still haven't managed to take any pictures of. I guess that's because it's so small, there's no where to get a good angle.

I've emailed Hiromi in Australia and her English is getting better. I can't wait to talk to her when she gets back, if she gets back. Actually I think Australia kicks you out after a year or 6 months. I really miss her, I bet her dumb boyfriend misses her also. Maybe not as much as me and he will dump her. I don't want that (yes I do).

Ok, It's 1am here and I'd better get to bed so I don't miss a third day, although I don't have any classes tomorrow since they 2nd years are on a school trip to Kyoto and Nara. Here's a joke. You put O- in front of certain words to make them more polite, such as water, mizu, more polite is Omizu. You get it. So if you make the city of Nara more polite, it is Onara, but that means Fart.

OH OH OH. Liz and I, official Gyoza addicts, had a study session the other night. After that we went out to get some Gyoza. So we find this place that she had been before and go in. I said in understandable Japanese, "how many pieces are on one plate" the lady said in English actually "zair (there) are 6 on a plate". So I looked at Liz and we agreed so I said "I want six plates". That's really not that many for 2 people, they are small things. Let me explain this further:

The way to say 6 plates is "roku mai" (row coo my). Easy enough. The way to say 6 pieces is "ro ko" (row co). So we have established mai is the counter for plates and ko is the counter for things, actually small things. So I said roku MAI. Six plates. Guess how many plates we got?

@

ONE. We got one plate of six pieces. This always happens, we say roku mai and they look at us funny, but it's perfect Japanese. So we decided next time to say two plates, and get her to confirm, and then say wait how about 3, or 4, maybe 5, ok 6. We want 6 plates, and then we can even say "zenbu de san juu ro ko" which means "in total 36 pieces". I don't know why this confuses people. I guess it is because they come six to a plate and these are not Gyoza shops so people usually only get one or two plates. When we went to the Gyoza shop with Nicola and ordered 80 pieces they didn't flinch, they just brought them out. We had 80 pieces and beer, it was good. Not so good for the diet, but good.

Tomorrow I get to make a few hundred copies of the Fukushima newsletter that Michelle worked on. They keep her jam packed busy at her school and she has no time to make copies. She asked, do you have any free time. I could barely control my laughter. So I'll make copies tomorrow and study Japanese. At least I don't hate my life like I did at the last job I had, Inatrode, as it was called in Office Space. An amazingly accurate movie about corporate life. I guess I should start planning the next Mexican night. You think that sound silly, but there are no Mexican food places around here. We have to get together and fix the stuff ourselves. Which I guess is good, because Mexican food is not very slimming, and back in Georgia I would eat at a variety of Mex places way too much. I think we'll do that in early November. The Halloween party is less than 2 weeks away. OK, bed time.

Wednesday October 22, 2003

My food demon beat me down today. I had been eating vegetarian quite strictly and today for some reason I went to the supermarket and bought to packs of thinly sliced raw meat and my favorite sauce "Goma" which tastes like peanut butter somehow. Then I came home and cooked it up on my little skillet and ate it all. Later I remembered I was trying to eat vegetables. Oh well, I'll keep trying. I also slipped and ate a whole bag of peanut butter and chocolate cookie things. OH MY GOD that is the best combination in the history of all life. I had also been trying to avoid pure sugars like that, but the food demon can be strong sometimes. Peanut butter and chocolate is definitely my weak spot. It's making my mouth water just thinking about it.

People keep confirming for the Halloween party, I mean from all over the place. It's going to be insane. It will be a good mix of all sorts of different types of people. People I haven't seen in a while, or people I rarely hang out with. Plus a lot of locals like NOVA teachers and other English schools. I'll take pictures and video even, not like the video will help you any since I can't upload it.

Michelle gave me the Fukushima Newsletter and I copied it at school today, but now I need to make 70+ copies to mail out somewhere. I need to make the copies somewhere, not mail them somewhere. I know where I am mailing them. Why am I still typing? So maybe I'll do that tomorrow, make the 70 copies. That's going to be heavy and expensive since it's 70 copies and 75 pages, but that's front and back so it's really what 19 sheets of B4 paper. Not too bad, hopefully less than ten cents a copy. Luckily I won't have to pay for that, I might up front, but then I will get reimbursed.

I found out it's wise to get some shots before going to Thailand. I'll need to get Malaria, Tetanus, and Hep-A shots since you can't drink the water there. You drink bottled water, but sometimes there is water mixed in the food or ice and it makes you sick, or it can make you sick. I wonder if they can drink the water just not foreigners? I'll ask when I get there. We've already planned on riding elephants, going to a beach city, seeing all the sights in Bangkok, and then hitting a few islands in the south near Malaysia. Some friends will be over in Malaysia at the same time so maybe we can get together, who knows, maybe there are some anti-border crossing laws there and we'll get quarantined for 6 weeks or something. I plan to not be a moron in Thailand.

Here's a quick Japanese lesson for you: Damare!! That means Shut Up in Japanese. It's pronounced Dah Mah Ray, although the R sound is a mixture of R and D. I need to take the trash out. It's much bigger than allowed so I need to stuff it somewhere and hope they don't figure out the idiot foreigner is the culprit. That's a word I rarely say, culprit. It just came out when I was typing. Culprit. I need to look that up sometime.

Oh I had a nice little goof in class, luckily no one was paying attention. We were reading about Jackie Robinson and how he was the first black person to play major league baseball. A line in the book said "Jackie really had guts to go out there with all the opposition he had". So I was explaining what the phrase "to have guts" meant. I said "when you say, man that really took balls to go out there and do that, it means courage". Then I paused and thought, did I just hear myself say BALLS in class? So I continued and said Guts and hopefully no one figured it out, I doubt they did, but what a slip.

Have you ever noticed how things pop up right after you throw them away? I just deleted the phone number for the shot place in Sendai and then someone tells me I might need shots to go to Thailand. Then I just threw away an old broken printer that was someone else's and they just asked about it. It had been here for months and within days of me tossing it, they asked about it. Strange how that works.

I figured something else out about my sickness and it being related to Lecithin. Lecithin comes from egg white or yolk. I had too much and it caused my mucus to go crazy. That's the same with dairy, when I have too much I get overly mucusy, which is more than you wanted to know. But I just made the connection between why I got sick and why I'm sure it was the Lecithin. As soon as I stopped taking it, I felt better. I wonder if I could take maybe 1/4 of the dosage? I'll try it a few days. Bedtime.

Friday October 24th, 2003

How many times do you let a phone ring before getting the hint they are either not home or simply not answering? Maybe 5 or 7 times for me. So today is Friday and I go to the night school tonight, so I sleep late. Well I sleep until about 10am or so just to catch up a little on lost sleep. At about 8am someone called on my land phone which I never use and don't even know the number to. I would have to call my cell phone just to see the number on Caller ID. So it rang 5, 7, 9 ok ok I am not getting up hang up already, 15, 17, 19. For the love of God 19 times? Get the hint. Nope, 25,26, 27.......HELLO. I pick up the phone and deviate from the Japanese standard hello which is "mushy mushy". The woman on the other end says "mushy mushy" I say "hello" she says mushy mushy again. We go back and forth about 4 times.

At this point I get really frustrated. First I am saying "Hello" over and over and not mushy mushy, so logic should deduce I don't speak Japanese, or at least I am NOT speaking it now. If you have my name in front of you then you can see it's not Japanese, clue #2 I might not be able to speak Japanese. At some point I was expecting her to say, in English or Japanese, ANYTHING other than mushy mushy. We've more than established that saying hello to me in Japanese will not get a Japanese response, so let's try something new. NOPE, that would require the ability to think outside the box or do something a little different, just once. So she kept saying mushy mushy, hoping I would magically turn Japanese and respond so she could follow her routine speech. But I kept answering "hello". This went on about 8 or 9 times, finally I just snapped. She had this tone in her voice like "I can't understand this, I am saying mushy mushy, but he is responding in English, let me try to say it again differently" and I just said " H E L L O !!!!" and slammed the phone down.

I could have spoke Japanese, but she had woken me up and wouldn't say anything other than mushy mushy. Even if she would have said "Can you speak Japanese" in Japanese I would have responded in Japanese. I never answer the phone in Japanese because then whoever is talking might not hear that it was a foreign mushy mushy and might start at me full speed. Sometimes they have a little telemarketing-script type thing and you cannot break them. Even if you manage to break them they nod and continue. This has happened with someone at my door, I mentioned someone in an old post. They kept talking full speed and I kept saying, I don't understand, so they would just nod and say "hai (yes)" and then keep speaking full speaking. Man you think I was rude earlier, wait till I tell someone at my door 5 times I have no idea what they are saying and they keep talking. Then I break in to the samurai tone and use degrading speech (opposite of honor speech) and say things like "STOP! Why are you making noise? Did you hear me say I don't understand? Yes or No, did you hear me say that?". If that fails then I say in degrading Japanese "This is not necessary, you interrupted me, don't come here again". Man that is direct and too the point, but after I said no five times with no response, I don't care.

Well that was fun. Later I have to mail 60 copies of this big Fukushima Newsletter that someone made and I was able to copy for free. Somehow I got suckered into copying, collating, folding, envelope labeling, stuffing, and mailing. Which was quite the pain in the ass. So I'll do that in a minute in hopes that the mail goes out soon and they all get their newsletters on Saturday or Monday, though I have had packages and mail delivered at 9am on Sunday. That's really weird when there is a mail slot on your door and it sounds like someone is twisting the knob or something. You tend to make note of the times in those cases. Luckily now I have a box down in the lobby and never hear the mail, which is good cause there is always some junk mail being dropped in.

Tomorrow might be a royal day of things that suck. The AJET publication I was working on should be due back from the printer, at which time I get to fold, stuff, and label 1,400 envelopes. Though I plan to invite a number of people over and have a little party after which I'll buy them pizza and what not. HA, I said what not again. I think I can get reimbursed for the pizza so no expense on my part really. They just need to be mailed out as soon as possible, yesterday actually.

Sunday October 26th, 2003

The big publication didn't come in as expected so I have a few more days to take care of things and get ready. But when it does I have to rush hardcore since it should have been out two weeks ago. I can't remember what I did Friday night. I actually think I did nothing. I seem to remember just going to bed around 11 or so. Saturday I loitered around the apartment and then rode out to Hard Off (the thrift store) too look for anything for my outfit or any one else in the group costume we are doing. I found a whole lotta nothing so I rode back. On the way back I found exactly what I needed and got the whole costume for under $50. Liz found the last few things for hers and Edith should be close to ready as well. So it's all coming together. Actually BJ found everything because he went to Tokyo for the weekend. He found a super Halloween store and email us asking if we need anything, apparently everyone responded and he stocked up.

After Hard Off (the name still cracks me up) I went to a farewell party for Emiko (the beautiful face girl who helped me move). It was at a place called Camel's Egg which is pretty cool, but I have failed to get a picture of. You sit in little eggs (hence the clever name). We sat outside in the regular room. There were 8 people in our group and I knew all but one. I felt good that they actually considered me part of their circle of friends. They all speak a little English so I had no problems chatting. I spoke enough Japanese to keep it going. It was $25 for all you can drink and a set course meal. A pretty good deal overall. I wonder why there is no all you can drink deal in the US. Maybe there is, I am forgetting about life back there already.

There was this table of about 15 really cute girls near us. Of course I was checking them out. Then the two cutest turned to me and started waving and saying "Herro. Where from?" I chatted back with them a little and then they asked me which girl I thought was the cutest. I said they are all cute. Later I learned the one talking had quit her job today and this was a farewell party for her. When they were leaving I said, I made a mistake she was the most cutest of them all. She smiled and they all giggled and each said goodbye. Then I thought, do I really want to leave Japan? I teach my native language without having any actual skills in teaching or English itself, most everyone treats me like a star, beautiful girls like to meet me and talk to me. Hmmm, yes I want to rush back to Atlanta right away. I really wished I had name cards to pass out. I need to work on that now actually.

Then I went to a party at God Funky Paradise where Brad was playing. There were a lot of people there so I wanted to go and see them. Most of them don't get out much so I figured I could see them all at once. It was a pretty good night, though I've decided to stop drinking liquor. Not stop drinking period, just liquor for a while. I really didn't drink that much, but when I woke up this morning I felt like I had been to Hell and back. Speaking of which I need to update my own personal hell, here is what I have so far, taken from my March Journal:

I would be on a beach and it would be hot and muggy, I'd have to strip naked and someone would pour syrup all over me, then I would roll around in the sand and then put on a wool sweater and wool pants. I'd have to wear this outfit all day. At some point I would have to wait in line for something while people around me were smoking and blowing it in my face and talking to people on cell phones. It's not a big deal that they are talking on cell phones, but they keep saying they are standing "online". The line never moves because someone at the front is arguing about something stupid and trivial. Then I leave and get in the car with a bad driver. The driver is Japanese and constantly speaks to me at full speed even after I say speak to me slower. So we are driving around and the driver is constantly pulling out too far or nearly running into the back of a car or going to slow and people are honking. Then they have the heat on and I'm still wearing the wool outfit. Then they start smoking, and say I can't roll down the window cause they are cold. Then I go to work and sit there doing nothing, because they wouldn't be getting their money's worth if I was at home.

I think I would add that I have a hangover somewhere in there and maybe someone keeps calling me and waking me up by saying nothing but "mushy mushy". I could also add something about an old woman keeps cutting in front of me and some old man has bad breath and talks too close. Then the barber keeps touching the back and sides of my neck. I'll think about that. Once I finish it I'll break it down and explain each thing as well.

As I mentioned I did nothing really today except lay or lie around the place. I never know if I lay down or lie down. Anyway, every time I would stand up I would feel horrible. I was in the bathroom all day for various reasons. Then finally I felt better and went to McDonald's to see if I could hold the food down. I know, that's not the best choice for my condition, but I needed something I could bring back here in case there was a problem. There wasn't or hasn't been yet. I'm supposed to go to Liz's place and study Japanese, but I really don't feel like riding that far. She lives a long way and I have to cross a bunch of streets and I usually catch the red lights so I end up stopping a lot. It's strange, she lives through the mountain and I can clearly see the mountain from here. But when I get on the bike and ride toward it, it never actually gets here. Well eventually, but after what seems like way too long.

In November I am going to participate in NaNoWriMo which means National Novel Writing Month. I think the website is nanowrimo.org the plan is to write a 50,000 word novel (novella) ONLY during November. The stupid part is anyone who does it automatically "wins", but still it would be nice to have a reason to write. I could always submit my November journal, but that defeats the point. I've had some ideas for a novella, but never gotten around to putting anything down. Maybe I will. I also found a different publisher to publish my second book, and it looks like it will be a lot cheaper than the first which means I can do it sooner and much cheaper. It seems to have the same network of sells channels such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and apparently there is a chance it will be in actual bookstores, which would really be a mind blower. I need to finish it before I plan on all that though.

Monday October 27th, 2003

Today was a so so day. Better than most Mondays, but still just so so. I had 4 classes which was good. Then I had a break and walked around the school yard. There were tons of students sitting on the steps and I was dreading walking by them. But I did and they said hello, then the soccer coach kicked the ball to me and I tried to be cool and stop it and then kick it back, but I just fumbled with it for a minute and look stupid. Then I kept walking and passed the baseball people and they looked at me and I knew what was up. They handed me the bat and pitched a few to me.

I was really hoping the Universe would allow me super human strength and just clobber it way over their heads. That would have really given me some major bonus points, stepping up to the plate and just whacking it over their heads first pitch. But nope, I swung as hard as I could and it only bounced around and hit the ground. It would have been an easy out and I wouldn't have bothered running to first if we were playing. So then the dream was still in my head so I said pitch it again, and I swung as hard as I could.

Nothing. Same thing. Just made partial contact and it went out a little and dropped. Nothing fancy. Really would have been perfect timing, but nope not in this lifetime. Maybe in my next life I'll be something.

In class we talked about Jackie Robinson and I had to read more lines like "Jackie finally made a crack in the white man's world". I am getting so tired of these agenda pushing lessons. Yes we were racists, do we need to remind everyone and teach them about hate? LET IT GO. Every book I use there is a hate lesson in it about someone who "cracked through" the hate and yadda yadda. If you are going to teach them about it, please put it in history class. There are exactly 1.56 million other topics to use to teach English, really I counted. Last year I had a lesson about how the white man hated native Americans and a teacher asked me why I hated them so much.

Tuesday October 28th, 2003

Went to Adachi today and I am liking it more than Higashi actually. I always have 3 or 4 classes and the students are so happy to see me. I jumped into a few rooms and shouted "HELLO" and the students were so happy. Like a puppy dog is happy when you come home. Man it's a great feeling. I've had classes clap when I come in. Accounting never clapped when I went to see them. One class wrote me letters. They made me cry. They are all like "We miss you Ryan Sensei, your jokes are stupid, but we laugh, we try to talk to you because you are friendly and kind, please come back to our class". Shipping or accounts payable never wrote me letters begging me to come back.

In two classes I talked about going to Kyoto. I've never been but the students are going next week or next month, so I looked up some facts and told them about them. They are going to a place called Nara park and I told them about how a friend of mine went and was bitten by a tame deer that you can feed. Then he got mad and punched the deer. They all laughed when I said that.

In the other two classes I talked about Kyoto more and then gave them a Pumpkin maze and a Halloween word find. They know nothing of Halloween here so it was interesting. The Halloween word find had about 30 words scattered all over the place, I think we call it word search or word hunt, whatever. So they were working and actually quiet. This one loud guy in the back put his head down after a while. I was sad that he didn't want to participate, but at least he wasn't talking. Then one girl near him said "Yatta (I did it)" and then she said she found "skeleton". He popped his head up and leaned over and looked. He later explained, and the teacher translated that he found all the words except that and got a headache from trying to find it. That was strange, I thought he was too good to do it, but he was actually one of the faster ones I guess. I can make those for various different seasonal things since they went over so well.

Then as I was leaving I heard "lian lian, lian sensei" and saw several students waving vigorously at me from the balconies. They see me as in between a teacher and a student which is where I want to be. The teachers are more professional, but I joke around and goof off with them but then I am serious when needed. Sometimes I mispronounce their names in class. I always tell them if they have difficult kanji characters for their name I can't read it so I can't call on them and they are lucky. There are always a few who I can easily read and they get called on.

The Halloween party is still going well, as is the Matrix party. BJ is planning that, but it seems to be on track. The Halloween party should go alright, though I have already predicted some problems, albeit minor, but problems no less. People from out of town are staying with some local people. So what happens when the local people want to stay out later than the guest? Their places are too far to casually go back to, so they will have to leave early. Oh here's a funny story. There's a hotel in between the Halloween party and the second party. It's a small thing, but I figured it would be cheap. Though I did find it odd to have a hotel in the middle of the bar district.

Liz and I are in the area (verifying the map I made) and I said let's drop in here and check it out. We go up the stairs and there are some rooms, but no check in area. Strange I thought. So then a small window lights up and there is a woman behind it but she's not sliding the curtain out of the way so I can't see her face. Why would she not want to see our faces when we are checking into a.....................yikes.....................it's a Love Hotel. So I mumble some odd Japanese. I probably thanked her for finding my samurai goldfish in her brother's Jell-O or something of equally no sense. Then we left.

I usually don't get flustered, but I really wasn't expecting it to be a Love Hotel. Had I even thought of that, I wouldn't have gone up there with Liz. All I need is to be seen coming out of what everyone knows is a Love Hotel with another teacher. So we move it downstairs and regain our composure. We verified the map on the way out as well. Luckily the place is pretty close to the station so people an walk to it. Well if I need a 2 hour "rest" I know where to go now. Most interesting.