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Sunday, August 13th, 2006

I am back from the US. Two weeks of eating Mexican food, Burger King, Taco Bell, and everything else considered not super healthy. I'll make a bigger update later, maybe tonight or tomorrow. I am waiting for my bags to get here with my new English keyboard rather than this Japanese keyboard set to English characters. More on all that later.

Monday, August 14th, 2006

My bags came earlier than expected. I said from 6-8pm on Sunday and that usually means 7:59pm, but this time it was right at 6. So I have my new English keyboard with some cool buttons across the top. I can press a button and it pops up my mail program or web browser or starts/stops Winamp as well as some other things. So far it's great, though I am having a bit of trouble using the keys since I was  used a Japanese format keyboard. They are different because some characters like ' " : ; & $ aren't used much and are located in different places. So anyway, my bags are here and I am ready to go.

I took about 4,000 pictures so it will take some time to make updates and picture pages. Argh, I'm singing that song again. I need to find an mp3 of it and embed it here so you can here it.

Here's a run down of what I did.

I made it back on July 24th, immediately ate Zaxby's Chicken Fingers, then went to bed around 10pm only to wake up at 1am, 2am, 3am, 4am, and finally getting out of bed around 6am. The next few days I went shopping with my mom, had breakfasts with my dad, hung out with Larry and his new Community School of Music in Kennesaw, Georgia. We ate Mexican food and chatted about the old times. Another time I went up to Athens, Georgia to visit Steve, Ben, and Liz. Steve and Ben are old college buddies and I know Liz from my three years in Fukushima city. Then more shopping and stocking up and American sized products and clothes. I did manage to get to the World's Largest Aquarium which is in Atlanta. I took a lot of photos there and will upload those shortly.

I also spent some time with my two nieces. One is almost two years old and the other is about 6 months old. The older one is talking much earlier than most kids. She's actually making near perfect sentences and saying correct things at the correct time. I gave her a little hat I bought in Taiwan, a traditional style hat. She put it on and said "oh too big". The other niece seems much quieter than the older one, granted she is 6 months old, but still. The older one not only talks a lot, but walks and runs around a lot. My mom watches them some and I know it drives her crazy how the 2 year old will run around touching everything. She never said anything or will say anything, but I know it bugs her. But kids are kids. She is going to be in trouble when the younger one starts talking and walking. At that point the most common word my sister will be saying is probably "NO".

I visited my mom's school a few times. I saw some of the other teachers she works with and I think I will be having my kids wrote them letters at some point. It would be my junior high school kids writing to kindergarten kids, but it's still the same English level. Maybe it will be fun for them. I guess it would be fun for me to write letters to young Japanese kids. Well actually I do that now. Granted I am far less mature than most people, but I just love the innocence of kids. They aren't worried about taxes or looking cool or stuff like that. Just having fun. There should be a pill you can take that makes you act like a kid. Well I guess that have that, it's probably Heroin or Ecstasy. But I meant a legal pill you know.

Then I came back to Tokyo on the 9th, just missing all the over reacting carry-on stuff. As I was resting in a capsule hotel Thursday night (take off on the 9th land on the 10th) I was watching CNN seeing all the delays from making people pour out dangerous shampoo. Then Friday I went back to Asakusa (Ah sah coo sah) and took more pictures with my newer camera, which I will upload shortly. Later I had lunch with an ex-student from three years ago. She was cute when I knew her, but when she showed up this time I didn't even recognize her. She looked 25 and like a real lady. I couldn't believe it. After that I wasted time at an electronics store and finally checked back into another capsule hotel in Shinjuku. The first one I stayed in was in Asakusa and takes women as well, on a different floor. I checked in around 4, rested until 5, went to have sushi until about 5:30, walked around the area getting hassled by Nigerians who can't understand the English word for "NO" who are trying to get me to go to their shop and get a dance by a girl and pay $500 for it, then I saw Mission Impossible 3. I really didn't have the money for it, but I needed to do something that kept me out and awake until after 9. This worked and I made it back by 10. Then I took a sleeping pill and went to sleep.

I woke up at 1am, 2am, and then rolled over hoping to wake up no earlier than 3am. I was woken up by the GET OUT alarm/announcement at 8am. That was great. Then I goofed off until 9 which is when they really kick you out. I went to Starbucks to get some coffee and waste time. I saw a beautiful girl practicing English so I spoke to her briefly. Then it got really crowded and I had to leave without getting her name or number. Such is life. Finally I met Daisuke for lunch and then Luke (an ex-FuJET) for a later lunch. Finally I caught the 3:08 shink back to Koriyama.

At Tokyo station it was crowded beyond belief. I stood in the wrong line for 30 minutes. Then moved over to the correct line. About 15 minutes  of standing there made me realize I was in line for the smoking car. Smoking is so nasty, I wonder why smokers never realize how bad they smell. Apart from it being offensive ( in the sense of someone forcing others to deal with something ) it just smells really bad. Some cigarettes are tolerable, but most smell like the smoker smeared feces all over their clothes. Plus no one looks like Humphrey Bogart anymore. So I am in line for the smoker's car, but the non-smoker's car is right behind it. I decided to stay in line, since I was 5th or 6th, and then jump through the connection to the non-smell like feces car. It worked exactly as I planned and I managed to slip in front of a slow mother with a stroller. I made it to the lower level and got the first seat by the window. Later some guy sat beside me. Much later people were standing in the aisles. I've done that before and it's no fun and today I was not in the mood to stand the whole way.

Then I made it back to Koriyama station and updated my bank book at the ATM (just before the ATM closed). For some reason to which I will not inquire further, I have an extra $240 + $40 in the account. It could be from doing English camp, but what is the $40. That could be from the Baboon Monkey Clown Circus (Kenchou) having me do that lecture about being a Native Teacher. Why bother giving someone $40? Well whatever, it came in handy now.

Then I drove back here on Saturday and unpacked a bit. I had some odd sleeping pattern that night. Sunday I did a lot of nothing really. Today I woke up at 6am and have watched some videos and then typed this. I need to get back in my schedule. I go to work on Thursday for about 2 hours, though I have to be there all day. I have the rest of the week off. I might go to some FuJET meeting in Fukushima tomorrow. Then there is a big party on Wednesday that I wanted to go to, but I have to work on Thursday so I don't know how that would work. Friday I had off to prepare for the beach party which is Saturday. Then next week the same old grind starts back up.

You know I really don't like going back to Atlanta from here. I don't want that to sound mean or anything, but when I go back to my native time zone and culture I start thinking about all the things in Japan that I really don't like. When I am here I don't mind them, but when I am in an environment where things just make sense and I can understand everything I start thinking about things. I do want to go back there at some point, but not now. I still want to live in Thailand a bit. Ok, I am going to take a break and clean a bit.

[later]

Hopefully this will work. I am trying to embed a video I took of the shinkansen (bullet train) speeding up. It's not even to half speed, so maybe you can see somewhat how fast it goes. It's much smoother than it seems, I was moving the camera all around.

Shinkansen Half Speed Video

[update: I had to change it to pop up style since it would no stop autostarting]

It's not supposed to auto start, as in just start playing when you come to the page. I have it set, in several places, to NOT Autostart. So if it keeps autostarting them I will put future videos on a separate page and link to them, on in a pop up, which is technically a separate page.

Oh, here's something stupid. As I was making the updates to the Asakusa, Capsule Hotels, Zen Gardens, and Pagoda pages I happened to find an old mp3 of Herbie Hancock's Rock it. I added it to Winamp and forgot about it. Then it came on as I was updating the pages and I started doing the robot. Then I started making the noises like in the song. Then I looked out the window and saw some students watching me. So I roboted over to the window and acted like I didn't care. Which has made me decide to definitely get something to block the windows. I'll take a before photo now and add it.

This is the view I have from my computer desk. You can see the "advanced" system of drying clothes used in Japan. The base of my window is about 6 feet in the air, but if you are standing across the way by the house you can see right in. *It's really freaky looking out my window and then back at the screen and seeing the same shot. I mean identical. So I am going to get sushi and then buy (preferably from the $1 store) some rods to go across the window so I can put small curtains about half way up. I really prefer to have the windows open and walk around scantily clad, but I can't under the current situation.

Man I have so many links to things I should really have a central site that lists them all. I'll start working on that soon.

Oh, here is the heart shaped collage of all the kids that went to a certain elementary school. The Irish girl that taught them for several years left this summer and I made this for her. It didn't work as well as I had hoped, but it still came out nice.

I have been taking pictures of rice as it is planted and then slowly growing. Here is the current link, but I have a few more photos to upload (as of today) and since I have come back from the US it has grown even more. Watching Rice Grow.

Here is the new view with the cheap curtains. I will probably lower them a bit and glue the curtains or something, but for now it's much better.

Tuesday, August 15th, 2006

The festival last night was ok. I have been to that type before, but this was fun since it was all my kids. Basically there was a stage thing in the center with string lantern lights hanging from it. People did this strange dance around it over and over. When there are a lot of people actually doing the dance it's much better, but last night it was some people doing the dance half assed and others just milling around. Here is a link to more shots of the festival and hopefully a pop up video of people dancing / milling around. I learned how to say "milling around" in Japanese.

I do like the Japanese way of having festivals, though I think they are declining somewhat. I could imagine how cool it would be to live in a village before TVs, Airplanes, Cars, Radios, and so on. People would look forward to these festivals all year and then dress up in their finest traditional wear and show up early. But now it's just an old thing that some people do half assed. There are several places in Japan where these festivals are still popular, but at one time they would be popular all over the place. A festival like this would never work in the US now, there would be too many silly logistical problems and over cautious safety procedures.

I don't know what the ratio is between things I love about Japan and things I hate. Maybe it's 50-50, but I don't know. One day I love it, the next I hate it. Whenever I have major decisions to make, like renewing, I have to stretch them out over a few months and take the average of how I feel. I need to start saving serious money so I at least have options. Now I have more debts than money so I can't really leave.

Tonight there is a meeting with the new FuJET people. You may recall I was the chairman of the local Fukushima group two years ago. I would plan trips and social events and so on. Since then Corey took over and now Chris Mortimer who is doing a great job. So did Corey, I mean all who followed are doing great. They are getting more involved with sports events, which I never had the interest or ability to do, but the local JETs are really into. Anyway, tonight Chris is having a meeting about the plans for the year and he wants the advice of people who have done it in the past. It will give me a chance to get back to Fukushima city. That's at 7 so I guess I will leave around 5 or so and grab something to eat when I get there. I  could take a bus or shink, but that would limit my return options, though having a car means I have to pay to park or find somewhere cheap or free. Argh.

Wednesday, August 16th, 2006

I drove up to Fukushima city last night for the meeting. The new FuJET crew has so much going on they make us look like slackers. Don't get me wrong I am glad. They are even doing some things I thought about doing, but was never able. One thing is Fukushima Clean the River. We'd get a bunch of foreigners to walk down the river picking up trash. Then at the end have a demo on sorting trash. Then there would be a party. But I was going to have some friends leak it to the local news since foreigners cleaning Japan would be a big bonus for our image.

They are doing some things I had never even thought of. One is going to this National soccer tournament in Nagano and another is doing this canyoning trip nearby.  That's not even a word yet. It's where you wear a wet suit and life jacket and jump off cliffs and such and then float down a river.

I got there around 6:15 and had sushi and a beer at the station. Then I took the #2 bus to Toyota machi, the stop I would use for getting off at my old high school two years ago. Then I went to Katies's apartment for the meeting. After the meeting some people went out for a beer and I really wanted to go, but I knew I didn't fit. When I was driving home, to the middle of nowhere, I was thinking about the Fukushima Orientations which start today. They were such fun and so high paced. I remember all the energy related to them. I participated in two and loved them both. Part of me wanted to be back there and then go to the welcome party, but I knew it just wasn't right. I was definitely not stepping foot in the orientation building and being the 34 year old ex-JET who can't let go. I would have gone to the party to meet the new people, but I have to work Thursday and I couldn't organize the logistics in my head.

By work I mean I have to come to school with no students and sit for 8 hours.

So then I drove back in a somber mood, not really sleepy just somber. I must have been in deep thought since I don't remember half the trip. When I got home I took a Melatonin to help me sleep since I have been waking up at odd hours. It did in fact help me sleep, but it gave me a weird dream. I mean so weird I can barely piece it back together now that I am awake. I'll see if all my Melatonin dreams are weird, but as long as I can sleep then I don't care.

Today I have nothing planned. I hope to go to Jintei in Koriyama tonight with some of the new people. I'll have to call Justin and see if it's still on. The Koriyama JETs always have spur of the moment get-togethers, but I never get a call. It gets lonely sometimes. So maybe we can do that tonight.

Thursday, August 17th, 2006

I woke up this morning and tried to turn my mobile phone alarm off. It wasn't going off, but it was about to. I couldn't find it on the night stand. Argh, it must have fallen. I searched around the table, but couldn't find it so I reached over for the power strip so I could trace it back from the cord. But there was no plug or cord. I was dead certain I had plugged it in last night. Dead certain.

Then I sat up in bed and thought about it. I faintly started to remember some vague dream where the phone was going to attack me and I took care of the matter. Where and how did I take care of it? I searched around the apartment and couldn't find it. Finally I found it in the bathroom near the tub as further thoughts of a plan to drown my phone attacker came back.

The moral of this story is I think I am going to have to stop taking Melatonin. I have heard a few people say never take more than one pill since it causes weird things, but I have only been taking one pill. Well poo.

So anyway, it's 6am and I am waking up since I have to go into work today and sit. Though actually I have things to do, but the school is only concerned with me physically being there. I think two students are coming in for me to help them on their speeches. But the point is I woke up so early to go walking around the rice fields.

Here I go...

Well I briskly walked for about 25 minutes. I went as far out as I thought I could, but if it was only 25 minutes then I need to go a bit further. For the last 5 minutes I was walking slowly to cool down so if I were to walk faster it would have been less than 25 minutes. I'm taking my new shoes to school so I can have an afternoon exercise in the gym. I bought these indoor running shoes for less than $20 at Wal-Mart in Atlanta. They had some for $10, but were sold out of my size. Seriously, ten dollar shoes. Granted that's about how much they all cost the companies and then they mark them up to $100, but still.

So now it's about 6:45am on Thursday and I am going to goof off a bit to cool down and then shower and head off to school. I have a ton of things to take that I either bought in the US or got for free from my mom's school. People were throwing away a lot of stuff and I just loaded up. I'll rearrange my desk, sort through all the new things, help the students, goof off on the computer, and maybe some more exercise while I am there. I secretly don't mind going in today since it will change things up and I need to drop some stuff off.

[later]

This is exactly what I have been complaining about. Every time I try to save money, I magically get some expense that is the same amount as what I was going to save. I had planned on sending back an extra $300 this paycheck to either go toward some bills or just in savings. Then as I get to school today there is a sheet that shows the fee for those of us who live in the teacherís housing. Itís a total of $810 and there are three people so we each owe $270. Well isnít that perfect timing. I knew we had to pay this in March and I was prepared to start saving for it, but $300 twice a year seems a bit much. I will be in serious trouble if all the teachers move out of this place. Thereís no way I could afford $800 alone twice a year. I need to think about getting a different cheaper car, I think thatís a big expense since it sucks gas like [generic gas guzzling comment].

So the other fun news is all the teachers who came in today, all 5 of them, are dressed super casual, as in t-shirts and shorts. But not me, nope, I am wearing nice pants and a button up short sleeve shirt. See if I would have gone with the casual look, everyone else would have been dressed up. So itís better to default to the upper way and just look like I donít know whatís going on rather than dress down and look stupid.

When I got here, after the money thing, the vice principal told me there was a new futon for me in the office. We went in there and sure enough there is a huge package about the size of a bale of hay. I really donít need another futon, nor do I have anywhere to put it, but I am taking it since there is really no other option and to not take it would be insulting. Though just giving me this big bulky thing without asking if I need/want it is perfectly fine.

Look how big that is. I had to stuff it in my car and then haul it up into my apartment. Is till haven't opened it. I think two or three people could fit in it.

I had planned on rearranging my desk today, but I donít really feel like it. Maybe I will get around to it since itís only 8:45am and I have 7 more to go. Subtract one or two for the speech contest students and half an hour for lunch and half for running in the gym (I forgot my shorts) and itís not terrible. Plus I should be able to do some programming from this computer. Hopefully. Possibly.

Here is something I actually like about Japan. There are two guys here from some private computer company. They are hardcore upgrading the elementary school computers in the lab. I mean they are all getting flat screens and there are about 5 new mega printers a few new color things, a new projector and so on. Iíd guess the school/BoE spent over $25,000 (in Yen of course) on all the stuff. Anyway, the crew is from a private company and is installing them today and tomorrow. The two guys just came into the teacherís room and asked the vice principal if it was alright if they took a brief lunch. They arenít working for our VP and in the US the workers would just leave. Maybe possibly they would let the VP know they are leaving, but these guys actually asked him if it was alright.

Thatís one thing I really missed while in the US over summer break, the ultra-polite service in Japan. Once I was at a gas station near Atlanta. There was one guy working at the counter and about 10 people in line. The guy called someone from the back to help get the line down. A few minutes later a girl strolled out, very casually, sipping a drink. She looked at the crowd, turned her back to us, sipped a bit more, put the drink down and turned to help us with a look on her face like a teenager gives their mom when being told to clean their room. It was truly a hassle for her to help us. Whereas in Japan, someone would have RUN out to help us apologizing the whole time that we had to wait and that would happen even if there were only two people in line.

Bees, bugs, and birds fly around outside. What happens when you are inside with ALL the windows and doors open? The barrier between inside and outside gets blurred. Bees, bugs, and birds donít respect the barrier and fly right in. Itís a bit strange and yet perfect normal in Japan.

Sunday, August 20th, 2006

I woke up at 5:30am all gritty and sandy. Last night was the beach party and it was even bigger and better than last year. This year they had two guys jumping motorcycles. They had this ramp and this big hill to land on. The grand finale was both of them doing back flips. It was amazing. Other than that I drank a little and chatted with all the new people. I met the guy who replaced the girl who replaced me at Fukushima Higashi High School. He has it pretty much like me, they don't use him and don't plan to. He said he wants to stay the full three years so that should make it easier. Higashi wasn't a bad school, they just don't use native English teachers to teach English. I mean why would they? What do we know or have to offer about English?

One that that really sucks about his case is - when I moved out of the nice and convenient apartment I had, the girl after me didn't need it since she was married and was going to live with her husband in the bigger apartment. So that cool apartment was lost and this new guy didn't have a place. The JET program doesn't really consider basic important things like how close an apartment is to a school or the station. His apartment is a 30 minute bike ride. It's so far from the school and even further from the station. Plus when he got here they picked him up in Koriyama and then just dropped him off at the apartment and said "see you at work tomorrow". That is so Japan. If I was in charge of a program where foreigners:

A) gave up their life in their home country
B) traveled around 8,000 miles around the globe
C) chose to live in a culture nearly opposite their own just to share their culture with people

I would try my darnedest to get them at least 1 day or maybe a week off so they could, oh I don't know, acclimate themselves to the new culture and area. But that is the farthest thing in the world from what happens in most cases here. It is so crucially important for us to be at work as soon as possible, even though there is absolutely nothing to do. Logic has no part in this. They must start forcing us to be Japanese as soon as possible.

The situation I am in now almost seems like it's not Japan. When new JETs get to Koriyama they have the summer off to get used to the area. Our board of education is really cool about us having breaks off as long as we do something productive. They know that us sitting in the teacher's room all day is counterproductive. Most of the reason our BoE is so cool is we have a British guy who has been here 15 years and acts as a liaison to the BoE. He told them some basic things about foreigners that would make us work better. It works. When I have to sit in a teacher's room all summer doing absolutely nothing, I feel like my time is not important to anyone. But now that I get most of the breaks off, I really avoid missing classes during the year. It's really smart, but most BoEs just don't do it. That would involve thinking outside of the box.

Well that was my daily rant I guess. Let's see, I also met a new Yabuki JET and drove her down as well as Paula, the new Native Teacher, who I helped get a job. They both seemed to enjoy the party. I always hate the morning after, the waking up gritty and sandy and feeling like death. I managed to drink enough water so that I didn't feel like physical death, but we were all sandy and gritty. Then we drove back and went around the station and a few other places before I dropped them both off. I got back here around 3 something and accidentally took a 4-5 hour nap, but I have a half day off tomorrow so I can spend half my paycheck. I have to send several hundred back, and then pay the car place $740 for the second half of my absurd yearly car tax, then the $300 teacher's housing fee, then pay $300 in utilities and then live skimpily one more month. Next month will surely be my Thailand ticket, so no savings there. Argh.

Tomorrow I will make those payments, but the new JETs and NT have a meeting at the BoE. Then Tuesday I will go to work and semi-prepare some things although I don't really need that much time to prepare anymore. I can find plenty of things to do on Tuesday. Then Wednesday I have a meeting around 3pm at the BoE, oh I should get some teacher to translate my little speech to the BoE chief for the meeting on Wednesday. That night we are supposed to go to Jintei, my favorite restaurant in Koriyama, but I foresee someone backing out or something coming up. I can eat there alone, as I have many times, if that happens.

Monday, August 21st, 2006

Payday, and sadly I am still broke. I had to send $600 back for bills, pay the second half of the scam car tax which was $750, pay the teacherís housing fee which was $300, pay Juneís school fee which was $100, and now I have less than $1,000 in the bank. That seems like a lot, but I have about $350 in bills each month and then around $400 in food if I eat at home and pay as little as possible. Thatís another $750-800 which leaves really nothing for anything fun. Iím not really whining just stating that I will be broke again. Luckily I have a lot of indoor free things to be working on.

The only thing I am bummed about is every time I make a budget that includes savings or something I get some unexpected fee. They have been teacherís housing fees, a car tax, a citizenís fee, some school expense, and much more. I have determined I could send back $1100 for bills and savings and mix eating less as well as not going out much or buying big things. After Christmas break starting in January, I am going to send back at least $1100 and just learn to deal with it. Though I need to start saving for the next car inspection fee and teacherís housing fee.

I had planned to walk / run this morning, but I accidentally slept late. I think that was because I took an allergy pill, which is called Benadryl or something and that put me in a coma. When I woke up around 9am, I had this idea to make an omelet by putting the ham, cheese, and eggs in a blender. I made one that was too much and it came out like a scrambled omelet, but the second one was just right. Normally the cheese and ham are just sitting on half of the omelet, but this way they were all mixed in to the whole thing. It worked out ok. Iíll work to perfect it. Tomorrow I WILL run/jog/walk briskly and then make a smoothie.

Today I have already helped one of the two speech contest students. For some reason I just donít care if they win. I think itís the way the system works. Our skit for the skit contest was rejected. Mainly because the skit judges always say, make it funny and not about your dreams. So we did that and it was rejected because it was too funny and not about the kidsí dreams. Also there were some other kids who were interested in doing the speech contest, but these two were just chosen rather than there being tryouts or auditions. I like the kids, but I am tired of the way things work sometimes.

I hear some teacherís talking about me. Iím going to keep typing and see if I can tell what they are saying. Oh here is something new. When I was coming back from the beach party I drove a while with my tank on E, then with it below E for a bit. When I filled up it was $40 rather than the usual $30 something. So maybe I have been thinking it was empty when it wasnít. I wish I could drive around with a can of gas and see exactly how far I can go until it runs out. I bet it would be around $50, which further adds to me not wanting a car.

Stupid Japanese mis-conversation of the day:

Between myself and the office lady.

Me: Do you have the grapes for money?
Her:
What grapes?
Me:
For money.
Her:
Grapes for money? Are you selling grapes?
Me:
No, I thought they would be in this cabinet.
Her:
There is no fruit in there. Sometimes there is some here on the table.
Me:
No this is what I want, a grape.
Her:
Thatís an envelope.
Me:
Ah. Well they do sound similar.

Grape is budoo. Envelope is futoo. In my head they are similar and I mess them up.

Tuesday, August 22nd, 2006

I had really planned to wake up at 6am and walk briskly for 30 min, but I almost always feel bad when I am woken up that early. Sure enough this morning I heard the alarm at 6:10 and got up, but couldnít function until 6:40 and then I loitered around until 7 and then it was too late. I will try again tomorrow. I canít go to bed any earlier since I just donít get tired before 11-12. I could take a sleeping pill, but for me to go to bed early and wake up early on a regular basis would require an addiction to sleeping pills.

I know I am going to jinx it, but I was so productive today. I found an online web based FTP program so I can work on my websites at school. If you didnít understand that sentence it means I found a program that allows me to create web pages while at school. Usually programs that let you connect to a web server are blocked. Well technically, at school any website that is remotely useful is blocked, and especially anything that lets you connect directly to a server. If they allowed access to useful sites it would be hard to enforce the ďjust sit here doing nothingĒ policy. Overall my new job isnít as wasteful as it was working for the Prefectural Government of Fukushima. They were the kingpins of wasting my time, but it is part of Japanese culture for people stay at work late and come in during holidays, even if there is nothing to do.

I donít feel like I am cheating or doing anything bad since the site I am working on is for this school. I am making an online quiz program and it is wicked complicated. I am learning so much. One bad thing about it is I get addicted to programming since I love creating things like that. I will finish a project and then think of some minor update that would be really cool. Then I finish it again and think of another update that involves making several other updates, but adds so many features. Then it keeps getting bigger and bigger and thatís all I can think about. Then I start thinking of other projects I can work on. Luckily I have a job where I am paid to sit around and do nothing so I can fill in the gaps with all these other projects.

[later]

I did manage to walk really fast for 30 minutes around 6pm. I walked all around the rice fields. I guess I will walk a bit further next time. I wanted to go a different way, but it was getting dark and I had to walk right by the woods. They were really dark and I was certain a bobcat was going to jump out. Which would then cause me to run as fast as possible for about 1 kilometer. Oh and having my leg mauled would be a bad thing as well. But the exercise was good.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Today someone from the Koriyama board of education is coming all the way out here to pick up my old bedding. As seen above my new bedding was delivered recently and I took it home. Since she is coming all the way out here just for me I am trying to memorize this ultra polite phrase that means ďI am terribly sorry to have caused you such troubleĒ. The way I do it is break it down into smaller parts and then say each part a gazillion times. Ha ha spell check didnít react to gazillion. So the first part is:

Taihen otesu o kake shimashite (tie hen oh the sue oh kah kay) which means terrible (that) trouble was caused. Then the next part is easy since I say it all the time for various reasons: moushiwake gozaimasen (mow she wah kay go zai mah sin). Itís an very polite way of saying ďthere is simply no excuseĒ. I say it all the time since itís the Japanese way to over apologize for small things. ďOh you just called and it rang more than once before I picked up and for that there is simply no excuseĒ.

Anyway, I have been practicing this phrase over and over and I have probably said it about 1,000 times. So then she doesn't even come so I didn't get to use it. But I guess it's best. I will say it next time I see her and by then I will have said it over one trillion-billion-zillion times and it will roll off my tongue like [generic fast reference].

When I got home I went for a longer walk though I still can't go for more than 30 minutes. I went really far this time, but it was only about 25 minutes and that included a little chat with the local private school English teacher. Next time I will have to see if I can go further or farther. I hope no students ask me the difference in those words. But the bad news is.....

I am officially iPodless. It has been messing up off and on for over a year and recently the spin wheel just stopped working. Today I took it for a spin as I walked around. I was really into the music and keeping up with the fast beat when it stopped. Then I managed to restart it and walked more. Then it started skipping and I couldn't get it to do anything. It was just skipping this half second part of some song. I got so mad I smashed it into the ground in a violent fit of rage. But the bright side of this is we can now explore inside my iPod.

broken iPod

On the left is the back case top side up. In the middle we have the super thin hard drive and on the right is the battery and other parts of it.

Here we have the front with the smashed screen. I really don't feel bad about breaking it, it was really broken already and just annoying me. It would rarely play and even then the spin wheel wouldn't work so I had to put all the songs in the first play list and then fast forward through them all. I really need to get something new anyway, but now it's going to suck driving into Koriyama with no radio. ARGH.

Friday, August 25, 2006

I just did something stupid and funny by accident. I was talking to a student outside the teacherís room about how we are going to try to interrupt the two speech contestants during their next practice in order to prepare them for disturbances during the contest. There are always some idiots who leave their mobile phone on and then do the ULTRA annoying thing of staring at the phone while it is ringing so they can figure out who is calling. Anyway, as an example I crumpled up a piece of paper. She smiled and thought it will be fun. So then we separated and I came back in the room still holding the paper. I was going to drop it in a teacherís rubbish bin (trying to sound British), but it was full so I decided to drop it in the next one down the line. All of this was just a series of half thoughts as I was watching the computer guy do something to the server. Then I pass the next row and see a trash can out of the corner of my eye, so I drop the paper in it and continue walking. Then I hear the special gasp Japanese people do when they are surprised. Itís ďehhĒ, but with a long drawn out up tone. I turned back to look and found that I had dropped the trash in a teacherís bag rather than the trash. I explained my mistake and we all had a hearty laugh.

For some reason, I am in the paper. I mean I know why, itís for the presentation of our contracts from the superintendent of the schools. But I donít know why they chose my photo. Other people looked much better I thought, but itís my photo. Iíll scan it and put it below.

I was helping the two speech contest students while the other teachers were having a meeting. It was one of those long ones we have at the start and end of a term. When I finished with the students I tried to mill around a bit and waste time to avoid going into the meeting, but I just couldnít. So I went back in. When I did I heard my name a lot and I saw my name written on the screen. I just nodded when they mentioned me and looked at me and later asked the other English teacher what they had said. He said the principal told them to make sure there are more classes with me especially in the elementary school. Thatís really good news since first term I only had about 8 classes TOTAL in the ES. Ideally I would like two classes per month with each class. That would really let me develop a curriculum and follow it. Whereas now I canít do that since Iím not with the kids that much. 12 classes a month times 4 months, wow, that would be great. I have two classes next week with the 5th and 6th graders and then the speech class on Thursday. I think I am going to make the JHS students do another memorization thing since so few of them wrote in their journals as was required. My classes arenít really taken seriously and I donít give official grades. I usually give comments on students, but they always have to be good in some way.


On the way to school I took some more photos of
watching rice grow. I added the dates as well so you can follow the process of how rice is grown.

Monday, August 28, 2006 (Technically Tuesday)

I just did something stupid (again). For dinner I made spaghetti. So far ok. Then I bought this strange vitamin drink that is like a jelly almost. Maybe they have them in the US too, but I have only seen them here. So I drank it then worked on tomorrow's lesson and then on some other computer stuff. Then it was 1am and I wasn't tired. Then 2. Now 3am and I have to be up in 4 hours, or 3 if I plan to jog. I am not even slightly tired. I just watched a full James Bond movie and I am still bouncing off the wall.

Oh here's some BIG news. My big fat greasy slab of hog meat self broke a second chair. My nice newish chair. It just leans back way too far now since it can't support my horrendous obesity. Man I really liked that one too. So now I have to use my spinning and not reclining kitchen table chair. ARGH.

I typed a long entry today and apparently saved it to my school hard drive, but not my flash drive so I will update it tomorrow (unless I come hope and go straight to bed).

Here is what I typed earlier and forgot. For the record, I did come straight home and sleep for 12 hours Tuesday.

There are tests all day today so I have no classes, but plenty of things to do. One of the tests is the English test and of course there will be a listening part. Insomuch as this school does use me far more than JET did, they still have it in their minds that CDs are best for listening tests. Itís not really annoying anymore as much as amusing. The rationale, or lack there of, in using a CD when you have a native speaker sitting playing this really addictive tank game. I have several journals to read/grade and a number of classes to plan for this week so I donít mind the downtime.

This weekend was semi-eventful, but really an age of discovery. I learned some inside things about the NT program and the other AETs, but most of all, and I hope this is untrue, I learned there is a chance the Koriyama NT program will soon be managed by the Prefectural Board of Education. I usually refer to them as the Baboon Monkey Clown Circus because they treated us like children and pretty much had no common sense as far as running the high school JET program went. That will be a serious issue if itís true, but I suspect it may not be since the Koriyama BoE and the BMCC always bump heads about things. I canít see them working together, even though this current mayor doesnít want to pump much money into teaching English.

Something else I learned was when teachers are considered staff, which is a level of employment, they donít have to worry about their contract. In one sense it is like having tenure, but the big thing is when they leave after 3 years of employment, they get a huge bonus for working. Like a big farewell gift or something. Then I remembered we are given one year contracts. I just thought thatís how it was done until I heard this. We also donít get the bonus, but are still expected to work normal teacherís hours and participate in school functions, but when bonus time comes we are suddenly special situations again. There are benefits to both sides, but no benefits to constantly flipping between the two when itís convenient for them. They really want us to be Japanese and act Japanese, which somewhat negates our job of internationalization.

So that was all Saturday. We had an informal dinner for the NTs so we can get together and chat about things. There are two new girls, and one school is completely new to the NT program, so she is having to team teach until March. That really sucks for her since she has taught on her own for about 10 years here and even had a teacherís license from back home, which may be Canada.

Then on Sunday a few people came out to the lake for a swim/barbeque which was good fun. I showed up with some meat and most importantly, the grill. They want to go back and do something more this weekend. I should be up for it. There was/is something in Aizu planned, but the logistics of that are just too much for me. Plus it was a bit too crowded this past time I went, though it was good to meet the new people. Weíll see.

Iíve been in this strange lazy mode recently. I used to set my alarm for 6:45am and get up and then mill around until I left around 7:50, but recently I have been trying to get up around 6:15 and then go walk/jog, get back around 7, take a shower and such and then go to school. But when I wake up at 6:15 I feel so heavy. I can barely move and can only think of sleeping more. There have been a few times I was able to get up that early and walk, but not recently. Today I stayed in bed until 7:45 them jumped up and got ready and left right at 8. I showered last night after the barbeque.

Iíve set some goals and so far I have just let them sit on paper. If I actually completed all the goals I set for one year, I would be in perfect shape, debt free, a published author, married, rich, a super hero, and ok I am getting away from myself. I need to make a list and post them on the door so I have to see them every day.

My trip back to the orphanage is looking good. So far there are 3 confirmed people going, including myself, and it looks like 3-5 more are going to commit soon. I will set a deadline of mid September which will give me plenty of time to organize everything. This year will be much better since I really understand what needs to be done on our part and will have things planned out. Last year I had far more planned out, but not enough. This year we will have our act together. Iím already looking forward to Thailand and those $5 massages, 50 cents for a full meal, 7 hour $1 bus rides, $10 day tours, constant 70į weather, $10 hotel rooms. I canít wait to live there after Japan. I can feel my blood pressure going down already. I hope we get to do something constructive this year at Baan Dada. One year we built an office on the house and now it is enclosed with computers. This year I think they are working on building a community center using mud bricks. Sounds strange but they have some existing mud brick places that really stand up to the weather. The group members this year, those few that have signed on, mentioned they wanted to get their hands dirty.

So far today I worked on a website a little, Iíve written this, I played the addictive tank game, and I spent over an hour updating and rebuilding my points spreadsheet. I made several updates and revisions last term, but I decided to go ahead and spend some extra time doing it all right.

Gentlemen, I can rebuild it. I have the technology. I have the capability to build the world's first bionic points log. My spreadsheet will be that points log. Better than it was before. Better, stronger, faster.

Sorry about that, for some reason I started thinking about the 6 million dollar man intro. I think that was it, more or less and minus references to my spreadsheet. I should Google that and see. I miss that show, but I bet if I saw it today I would think it is stupid.

Now that I am thinking about 70ís shows I am singing the A-Team theme song. Da da da, da da da. Dada da da, da da-dada-da. Well that really didnít work, but if you know the theme you can hum along. OH NO, now I am humming the theme I hate, I didnít even write the phrase ďpicture pagesĒ, but I am singing it uncontrollably. WHY would I do this? My brain must have secretly known how much I didnít want to sing it. ARGH. Hulk no like.

I was sucked into another computer time warp, just like dog years. I have been working and not really paying attention to much else. I assumed it would be about 9:30, maybe 10 at the latest, but the lunch bell just rang. Man did I spend that long on the bionic spreadsheet? Wow. Oh I feel the green teaís caffeine kicking in.

Hereís an example of how fun Japanese is to learn. This is the dictionary meaning of one word. The word is sugoi (sue goy).

Sugoi: terrible; dreadful; terrific; amazing; great; wonderful; to a great extent

Is it terrible and dreadful or amazing and great? Those are pretty opposite and yet this word means both.

There are some visitors here for some reason. I like when visitors come because itís a cultural thing to bring some gifts for who you are ďimposing onĒ. Itís always some little candy or cookie. This time it was some weird medicine like candy and then three little peanut butter cookies. When the people come around lunch it always becomes a nice little after lunch snack. Itís annoying when I have to do it, well I should say it is expensive, but I try to do it.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Man I am hurting, as in really tired. Whenever I stop moving around and just sit like I am now, I start to mildly hallucinate. Luckily I have several classes today. I actually just kinda zoned out and happened to notice I had typed about 8 pages of Lís. Maybe running this morning wasnít the best idea. I felt great up until now-ish. I am definitely catching some Zís during lunch.

Something is really wrong in a weird Twilight Zone way. It started a few weeks ago when I wanted to refer to an email, but I couldnít find it. No big deal, maybe it was a different email account or I accidentally deleted it. Then it happened a few times and once I made a point to move it to a certain folder and make sure it was there. Then later when I went back, it was gone. The big thing that got me today was I made a slide show last night with photos from the US and taught about it in class. I also made a script to go along with it so I was sure to say certain things at certain times. Then later, when I wasnít sleeping at all, I remembered I needed to save the file in a different format so I could print it out at work. So I did that. Then this morning I checked and double checked that both files as well as the slide show were on the flash drive. When I got to school I could only find the one file I couldnít open. WHY? I am dead certain I saved both files on the drive and double checked them, but when it comes time to print. I just dozed off again and typed a bunch of Oís. I felt fine in class, I guess cuz I was walking around talking.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

I was watching the world news today as I woke up at 5am. One segment was from the BBC, in English, about how some patients were losing weight in the hospital because of malnutrition. But the show kept saying "When these people go to hospital, blah blah blah". Apparently in British English, you don't say THE hospital. It sounded so wrong I was going crazy.

But yea I slept about 12 hours last night, I feel so much better. I am about to leave the house at 7:20 to drive to the 7-11 or 7 & iHoldings (dumbest name for a convenient store) and get money since tomorrow we leave early for the speech contest. Of course we will have some curbside opening departure ceremony. Ok, I'm heading out. More later.

[later]

We just had the fire safety class outside, but it was raining so it was hard to follow everything. Now I am all wet and have nothing much to do for a while. At least itís not cold in here.

Someone online mentioned they removed their CAPS lock key since they would always accidentally hit it and then have to retype something. Someone else mentioned they did the same to their insert/overwrite key. Thatís something I would never have thought of, but it is a good idea. I hit the caps lock on this keyboard about 5 times every time I write and when I hit the key sequence for insert/overwrite, I have to restart MS Word to fix it.

My favorite 4th grader is out there trying to ride the unicycle. I donít think she will be able to because it takes lightning fast reflexes and although she is not necessarily slow, she probably wonít be able to get it. I helped her with the stilts for the longest time. She is the one that would fall and then just laugh, brush herself off, and then try again. It was truly inspirational. I hope she can get it, but it usually takes kids far less time, though she still tries every day. All her friends are doing it already so I hope she can as well. She is in the grade that I want to see become JHS students before I leave.

I just had a Japanese moment. A moment in which I gave in to the culture. We moved some old furniture from some room to a back storage room. By old I mean maybe 5 years old. One couch was long and low and perfect for me and my apartment. I asked if it would be trashed and they said yes so then I asked if it would be alright if I took it. They hem-hawed around (mumbled something) and then said it was too dirty. I said I will clean it. They said it was too old. I said it is free and would be perfect. They said it would be hard to get to my apartment, I said I would take care of it all. Then they said they had better ask the secretary. When we passed her in the hall the VP asked her and she said oh itís much too dirty. I said I would clean it. She said it was too old. I said it is free and would be perfect. She said it would be hard to get to my apartment, I said I would take care of it all. Then she said it would take so long to clean and it probably has some dust inside it andÖÖand I said ok I get it. It was the Japanese roundabout way of saying no. They were probably saying no because the Japanese almost always have brand new stuff. Each year they will buy the newest ski clothes, the newest camping equipment, and so on. So me taking this older-than-one-year couch must have been unheard of, but it would have been free and perfect.

I have really been getting mad about not getting the bonus. Mainly because we are told as Native Teachers, we should pretty much do everything the regular teachers do. I come in early, leave late (later than many teachers sometimes), I go on school trips, I come in at #%&$-ing 6am on various Sundays to clean the school for 30 minutes, I come in during the summer to help students with sporting events. Thereís not much I donít do that regular teachers do. Itís just the way they have their cake and eat it too. If they would make us officially special situations and just give us all the breaks off then I would be fine, but they only say they give us the breaks off. We have to write a proposal and then follow up report about what we did during the break. From now on I am going to try to have my whole time as this special leave, even if I have to stretch the truth a bit. That "cake and eat it too" is the basis of my problem. The JET program was much worse at it, and I am grateful at the differences here, but still just pick one and make me either one. I will mention that when I leave, which should be two more years.

Me: That shirt is sexy.
Her: What?
Me: That shirt is sexy.
Her: Really thatís strange.
Me: Why?
Her: Iím ten. You think I am sexy?
Me: Ah. No. That shirt is colorful.
Her: Thatís better.

The word for colorful is karafuru which is a phonetic word. There is a grammatical structure where you add -ppoi to an adjective to make it -ful or -ish. So I added -ppoi (poy) to the word for color, iro (e-row) and I said iroppoi, which should mean colorful, but seems to mean sexy.

[later]


I am getting so sick of this thing called Ryan Syndrome. People think it's made up, but it's what I call situations that seem to happen for no reason and usually only to me. My current thing is I am programming a big quiz program for my kids. I will be able to type in hundreds of questions and it will randomly give them to the students (when they log in to take a test, not just randomly grow legs and pass out tests in the hall). There is one specific functionality I need for it. It's called session variables. That allows me to pass certain things between pages and keep them in memory. I signed up with GoDaddy.com because they have a strong and cheap plan for the language I program in. I made the quiz program and it's nearly finished. I just have to add in the session variables. For some reason that I don't know, they simply don't work. So I contacted other people who use GD too and they have no problems. I showed them my script and it all looks fine. We tried a few things, but for some reason only the server I am on has a problem. I don't know what the deal is.

So then I decide to up and change to a different web host. I transfer all the files and start testing them. They seem to be working fine. Then I get to one and it doesn't work, even though it is the exact same as GD and works fine there. I look at the file and it is all Chinese. WHAT? Seriously WHAT? So then I find a clean file and transfer it over. It's Chinese again. COME ON WHAT!!! I mean what is going on. It's not even Japanese which might make some sense, me being in Japan. It's Chinese. Just this one file. The others are fine. So this happens in each folder. Just one random file. Then I get that fixed and now something else is going wrong. Something stupid. Part of the script is not working for no apparent reason. It's supposed to present the answers in random order. It worked fine on GD, but now it makes all the answers in the same place, like they will all be C or A or something. Even I can pick up on that after two choices.

I get so mad because I simply don't know what is causing it and I can't ask someone because I will sound stupid. ďWhen I transfer one file it turns to Chinese.Ē ďOh you are in Japan, it must be something on your computer.Ē ďYea that's it. I have this special virus that changes ONE file to Chinese only when I upload it to ONE particular web host, just one, not any of the 3 others I haveĒ. ARGH.

Then when I was eating dinner I put the glass of juice down halfway on the table and spilled it all. Of course that was the last bit of juice and I really wanted it. I drank so much water today I was really into the juice. Just not my day. Now as I am typing this my head keeps itching and I feel like ants are all over me. Of course, sure why not. Who cares.

Thursday, August 31st, 2006

Wow. My bad kharma lasted overnight. I overslept. I slept until about 9:30am. I was supposed to be at school before 8am to ride with the kids to the speech contest, but I wasnít there. Luckily they assumed I drove on my own and it wasnít a big deal, but nope I was snoozing. I woke up and freaked that it was 9:30 and called the school immediately. I said the formal standard apology about 50 times and then checked my alarm. It was still set for 6:15am. I have this energy I emit that makes alarm clocks just not go off even if they are set. It has happened all my life and I canít understand it. If the clock was turned off I would say oh I forgot to set it or I woke up disoriented and turned it off. But nope, itís always set to go off, exactly like every other day. In the end it was alright because I have never been late before so it was obviously a one time thing, but still it bugged me.

Then I made it to the speech contest with the principal. I truly hate these things. Not because we have to sit through 8 hours of choppy incorrect emotions and gestured English, but more so because of the way they are judged. I was a judge about 6 times during my first 3 years and I hated it. I seriously almost walked out a few times. It would be things like ďthis school won last year so they shouldnít win this yearĒ. It was me stupid primitive opinion of the ďbest speaker should winĒ against their whacked theories of making sure every school eventually wins, to appease the group. One time, actually my last time, we had three categories, as always, and then they made this extra category for bonus points. When they tallied the scores, there was a problem three times and we had to rescore them. Finally I heard them say ďok this time [school] wins so letís leave itĒ. That was it, I was tired of it. I told them I was too busy every time they called after that. These kids put out such effort and it was more or less predetermined.

Iím not saying this one was predetermined, just that the scoring probably means nothing. Most of the people around me were outraged at the results, but not me. I knew that if the scoring made no sense, it actually made perfect sense. I would have been surprised if the scoring made sense. Iím not saying that because we didnít win, oh no, my students did good, but didnít deserve to win. Others were better. Not the people that won necessarily, but others. Actually I have never agreed with the scoring even when I won my first year of Fukushima Higashi. She did great, but truly didnít deserve to win first place. She got her butt kicked at the regional finals too. At that time I was sure another girl would have won, but she didnít even place. Iím glad I had a chance to be in on the judging so I know that they donít really matter. Here is what I propose:

Students participating should wear a white shirt and black/blue pants.
No school markings or uniforms can be worn.
Studentís names as well as school names should not be given. They would use numbers.
Students cannot read their speech or take paper to the front. If they do they cannot be in the top 8.
One judge cannot see them. He/she must only listen and not judge by gestures or appearance.
The majority of the judges would be native English speakers.*

* The definition of native English speaker is a person whose first language was English. Not a person who lived in an English speaking country for 3-5 years. Not even someone who shared two languages or doesnít consider English to be there primary language.

This wouldnít resolve the matter completely, but it would help knock out the stupid system of caring about where they go. There were two girls from a private catholic school who were clearly above most others, but because that school has won in the past, they didnít place that high. I get so mad because the kids put out such effort and may or may not have an actual chance.

 

September

 

 

 

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