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Wow Starting My 8th Year.
Monday, August 3, 2009

        It's been a productive time since my last update. Some big news I guess. Not really big news unless you are following my ongoing commentary. Anyway, first I fixed the fiber issue. I bought a 1000 Mbps card and came back and that didn't do anything. Then I started turning off programs to see if something was slowing it down. When I turned off the 3rd party firewall it flew up to 20Mbps. WOO HOO. That's fast. Well it's not near the 100Mbps line limit, but it's 5x faster than what I had. Then I managed to changeover the fiber to the new company even though that had nothing to do with the speed. I figured it out the day the changeover took place. LOL. Then I called and canceled my old ADSL connection and have to send back the modem tomorrow.

        I also installed a Firewire card so I can start capturing video from my digital camera. I also got another piece of software working that was previously not. Then I rearranged the 'office' and bought a small cheap rug to make it more livable.  I also bought a reclining chair, chair table, and coffee table. I should have waited until payday, but I was tired of having no where to sit in the living room except for the couch. Then I packaged up some stuff and got some other trivial errands done.

         But the big news is.....I applied for a Mac loan to get a new MacBook and I think it was approved. It's not super easy to get a loan period, but it's even more difficult for foreigners in Japan. In one sense I find it to be racist, but in another sense I understand it. I could easily get a loan for a computer and other stuff and simply leave the country. So I called Apple Japan's English hotline and picked out the computer I wanted which isn't top of the line, but more like upper lower level. It's the lowest MacBook series with some upgrades. Then I told her I wanted to apply for Apple Loan which is actually through the same company with whom I have my car loan. They sent me a link to a Japanese page and I struggle through it and hit submit. The next day someone called and asked if I applied for a loan and then said they needed my foreigner card faxed. I did so with a note that said "I have been here for 7 years and should be here another 2-3" and then a little set phrase in Japanese that means basically "pretty please". The loan is for 6 months so I figured that would help. Then someone else called to confirm on Friday. Finally I get an email from Apple that was all in Japanese, but I could make out "now the process begins....we will start configuring your computer....delivery around August 8th" so I am assuming that means I got it. WOO HOO.

        Before all that happened we went to the Koriyama Beer Festival in the park that is literally 300 feet from my apartment. It was raining off and on and somewhat messed up the show and our fun, but we did manage to meet the Bavarian guys that were performing.

Koriyama, Fukushima's 15th Annual Beer Festival

There was a stage and several non-German nor beer related bands. You can't have too much
culture in Japan or people will get bored. There must be more Japanese performers.

Bavarians at the Koriyama Beer Festival

Here we have the Bavarians with Paula, Dan, and Kumiko.

We told them we would organize a 2nd party since they didn't want to go back to the hotel
at 9pm and just go to sleep. We met them in the lobby of the hotel and they said they
needed to change from their Lederhosen. We told them to wear them since they looked cool.

We had the party at the closest thing to a beer hall we have. It's called Kuwa and it was close
to their hotel. They drank up and we all had a merry time.

This little dance seemed to make sense at the time.

It looks like he is about to step on a spider.

Bavarians at Kuwa Beer Hall in Koriyama

A closer shot of their bond of brotherhood and Lederhosen.

Funny thing is they aren't an international traveling band. They all work at a local instrument
factory. When the regular band backed out Koriyama called Bavaria, Bavaria called the factory
and asked if they could pull something together. Since they all played instruments they made a
band on the spot. Some of the guys didn't even know the other guys, but here they seemed like
life long friends. They played well together and seemed to get along great.

The Bavarians with Paula after the Koriyama Beer Fest

After the 2nd we walked them back to their hotel, but Paula and I didn't go home....

 

Koriyama's Monk's Bar

We went to a bar called Monk's. I like this place, but will probably never go back. The guy that
owned the bar, Mr. Monk was killed in March by a drunk driver outside the bar. That's only part
of it though. The other part is the $20 cover charge per person, on top of the $6 drinks. Three of
us had one drink each and paid $79 total. Seriously, that's almost amusing.

 

       Today I went to Ohse to help two students with their speeches for the Koriyama Speech Contest on August 31st. This will be the first time I have two schools in the competition. The girl doing the "origination" speech at Ohse should do well. I thought it was going to be too long, but when she read it today it was just with the 5 minute limit. Her pronunciation is nice too so it should be nice to hear. Tomorrow I will go back to the doctor to see how my blood sugar is doing. It should be better since I was exercising for a while and am taking magnesium which is supposed to help stabilize it. I'm pretty sure it is since once I had a Starbucks coffee and didn't take my medicine for a while and never went into a coma like usual. After that I will do some computer stuff I guess.

2005-200

Deprived of Human Dignity?
Friday, August 7, 2009

        I woke up on Thursday at 8:15ish and many stations were broadcasting a memorial from Hiroshima since it was an anniversary of the atomic bomb on Aug 6th at 8:15am. It was spooky in the sense that the weather was likely the same and people were just carrying on with their daily business and then boom, life has changed completely.  There was a speech by two 6th graders about how tragic it was and how we should get rid of all nuclear bombs.

             All this was the usual stuff about the bomb and how Japan was the victim of a tragic thing. It annoys me slightly because no one ever mentions that Japan and the US were friends until Japan bombed Pearl Harbor without warning in an attempt to disable our Pacific fleet. Then, thanks to their inflexible culture and Bushido, they refused to surrender even when they had clearly lost.

            As I was listening with my usual demeanor about the whole thing, part of the speech (which was being live translated into English) mentioned some of the effects of the bomb itself and how people were scarred and burned and left to die. Then they said a line that made me laugh at the irony of it coming from the Japanese. "People were burning in the streets and deprived of all human dignity." Yea, whoa whoa stop right there. Are you forgetting how you went to Nanking and raped children and chopped off their heads in front of their families? How you took fathers and shot them in the head while their children watched? What about all the women and young girls who were made to work in whore houses? Then all the stuff in Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia. Not to mention how you took over Korea, made all their shrines and sacred temples into petting zoos or just burned them down and then took their women (and children) and made them whores. Yea, let's refrain from complaining about depriving people of their human dignity."

 

Arrived.
Sunday, August 9, 2009

        My MacBook arrived yesterday and I have already set it up and got nearly everything ready on it. I went ahead and bought a slightly advanced movie making program and included it in the 6 month Apple Loan that I did receive. I figure I got the loan because it was a low end model beefed up a bit and a good economy stimulating loan. Had I gone for the top end model over 1-2 years, that would have been tough, but a 6 month loan isn't much. Anyway, I have been playing around with the movie making program and plan to make some little things soon. I want to use them in class to teach grammar points.

         Other news is that I am in day 3 of a juice fast. I'm only drinking carrot/spinach/tomato juice. It seems crazy, but after the 2nd skipped meal your body adjusts and you no longer get hungry. Apart from only spending $6 a day on food, I'm not hungry and I have energy and feel great. A friend is doing the honey-cayenne pepper-lemon juice diet which is way too hardcore for me. I tried that once and it tasted like feet wrapped in leathery burnt bacon. There is no way I could drink that for more than a day.  I can make my juice drinks actually taste good. Plus I am getting all the nutrients and vitamins I need from the carrots-spinach-and-tomatoes. I'll probably do this about 2-3 more days for a good detox and break my addiction to carbs.

         When I have more time I will come back and upload photos from the Uneme Festival last night. This was around eki-mae (in front of the station) and people did that little dance while walking around. There were some floats and of course all the mandatory identical festival booths.

[later]

         Looks like I am going to break the fasting tomorrow. I'm not hungry and there's no problem, but I'm bored all the time. Going out to lunch and dinner is so much fun as is eating a variety of flavors. Drinking semi-tasty carrot juice all day is just boring. It's not about craving food itself as much as the idea of food. Though I have saved some money. I'd like to incorporate a juice drink once a day or more to give me some good vegetable servings rather than do a week long juice fast. Plus I really wanted some beer and festival food at the Uneme festival last night. Oh I still need to upload those photos.

Really Amazing.
Monday, August 10, 2009

        I went out to the school today to listen to the girls do the speech contest and one more time with the skit contest. The Tohoku skit contest semi-finals (that's like the whole Southeast of the US) will be a week from Tuesday. They ran through it again and it's as good as it's ever been. They feasibly could place in the top three. Then I listened to the girl doing the  original speech again and she is getting better, but the speech and her performance is just so-so. It will be good experience for her, but I don't expect her to win. However, the zookeeper from the skit contest is doing a recitation speech about Tom Sawyer and she is perfect. I haven't coached her on anything and she was amazing. She memorized it all, added perfect gestures, and even has great intonation. I would truly be surprised if she didn't at least get top 8. There's a great chance she will get first or close to it.

Last Day of Summer.
Monday, August 24, 2009

        I just got paid on Friday and I am already broke. Partially because I was so broke the last two weeks that I just wanted to buy things and go out to eat and not worry about money. The other part was that I had so many things to pay or buy that now I am in the same boat as before, but worse this time. I now have another $250 a month payment on the MacBook.  Now I have to revert back to being thrifty, but probably moreso than before.

         Last Monday, or Tuesday rather, I went to Sendai with a teacher and the principal to see the three girls compete in the regional skit contest. They didn't when or place which is annoying because the teams that did win or place were somewhat fishy. One team used the standard insta-laugh tactic of having a boy dress up as a school girl. That gets the students laughing every time and simply NEVER gets old. It didn't matter the skit was not great, the crowd laughed so that must be a winner. The second thing was one team had a native speaker. Native speakers should be banned from any contest related to English. Just as a Japanese speaker should be banned from any Japanese speech contests. I was open to having other teams win, but I was disappointed in the teams that won. One of the teams was simply unimpressive. I've never understood the way skits and speeches are judged in Japan and I was even a judge a few times.

       Then I came back and we had English camp during last week. I was there under some bizarre situation in that one AET couldn't attend for a few days because she was quarantined from traveling, even though there were other people who had also traveled and were not quarantined. I stayed over 2 nights and had to leave the third. I didn't like being there for some of it and then leaving, that was not cool for me. Swapping leaders half way through wasn't good I think. Next time I don't think I will stay over. I'll just go during the day and casually hang out like some others do. I'm getting too old to put up with the Japanese way of doing things at the camp such as only being able to access the shower/onsen from 10pm to 10:20pm. I like showers in the morning. Also there is a mandatory wake up call at 6am, which we all try to sleep through and then wake up at 6:55 in time for breakfast. Why do we need to get up an hour early if we can't take a bath? Then we have to thoroughly clean our own rooms, take our trash home, clean the showers after each use, clean each room before we leave.....and much more. There are five people working in the office and we don't know what they do since we had to do everything.

        Saturday night we had an NT party and our boss came. After the party 3 of us went down town to find somewhere to go for a second party. We ran into some JETs who were going to this place called Billy's Bar. We headed there and I talked to several of the first and second year JETs that I knew from Facebook, but had never met. I talked to the guy that is at the high school I was at as a JET. He cleared up a misunderstanding that caused me to not communicate with the FuJET people and that was nice. Then another guy bought me a drink since my getting a driver's license in Fukushima page really helped him out. They left at some point and went to a hip hop club and we followed, but I probably shouldn't have gone since it was expensive and I stayed out much longer than I had planned.

        This week, I get my contract renewed tomorrow, go to one of my new schools on Wednesday, go to Konan for the opening ceremony and then right back for some workshop on how to use a fire extinguisher, then back to Konan on Friday for no classes. Then the next Monday will be the speech contest. So today is my last day of summer. I got some things done that I wanted, but not all. I didn't go camping or barbecuing or exercising (much), but I did relax and recharge. I was really getting burned out toward the end of the first term with all the sitting and time wasting at Konan. At least now I will be busy more and only sitting wasting time twice a week.

New School, New Plan.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009

        We had our ji-rei-shiki today. That's where we get our new contracts for the year. It was a huge event, or so we were told. I thought it was just the BoE chief giving us our contracts, but everyone (that worked at the BoE) kept saying it was a huge formal thing. Some newspapers were there to photograph us and afterwards we met the mayor briefly. That was even more of a formal (oh you should be so honored) ceremony. I guess I was honored, but not being Japanese made meeting the mayor somewhat of a usual event for me.

          Tomorrow I have a new school visit. I am looking forward to having new schools, but it is such an ordeal the first few visits. This one is already starting out to be odd. They sent me a schedule and it has two games I am suppose to prepare, but have no idea how they go. Plus, even if I did I don't have access to my materials which are at Konan. The big thing is, for the first classes I go to it seems pretty important for me to do a self introduction. They want me to show up and act like I have been there for years and start going at it. There's just no way that is going to happen. I am going to do at least a small self intro and then possibly get to their activities later. Many teachers follow the SUGGESTED curriculum set forth by the BoE, but since critical thinking is not so big here, very few of them deviate from it. I'll update how that goes tomorrow.

Mondai Nai (no problem).
Wednesday, August 26, 2009

        It worked out fine. I didn't know that elementary school AETs usually don't do full class introductions, but I did 3 anyway. Next week when I go back and teach the 1-4th grades I will do ten minute intros and then jump into the regular classes. The teachers were great and the students were awesome. Some kids go to private English schools after class and they spoke amazingly well. I memorized all the names of the 5th and 6th graders and one girl was quizzing me and asked "who is she?". Wow, my JHS kids can't even say that correctly and this was a 5th grader. Looking forward to going back to that school every week.

           Until last week I kept getting 3-5 flyers per day from various spammers in my door. I thought about putting up a sign that said "Don't stuff Japanese in my door since I can't read it and will throw it away", but instead I found the correct Japanese phrase and here it is if you are in the same boat.

Japanese for Do not put flyers in my door.

The way you read it is:   chirashi · kanyuu insatsu mono (2nd line) mudan toukan issai o kotowari.  If you want to print it out just right click and save it. So far I have received a total of 1 flyer which seemed to be some local newspaper or something that didn't fall into the category.

          Tomorrow I have this massive earthquake prevention day in the park. I thought we were practicing putting out fires, but they are simulating an earthquake and there will be helicopters and ambulances and all sorts of stuff. We each get our own interpreter and are supposed to act panicked. I'm looking forward to it.

Feeling Good.
Friday, August 28, 2009

            I got up at 5:30 and went jogging (yes actual jogging) at 6ish. I started using Nike+iPod and I can’t recommend that enough. It is the best thing for me as far as running goes. Before I would jog a bit and say “eh…that’s enough”, but now there are markers and goals and reminders and most of all a sexy female voice in my ear. When I think “eh…that’s enough” she chimes in and says “only 3 more minutes to go” and I think “eh…I can keep going for 3 more minutes”. Then, something I never knew before, I reach a point in which my body seems to say “ok we are running apparently, I’ll stop resisting and compensate.” So then I am still slow and tired and panting like a dog, BUT I’m not feeling like death. So I can go a little further than before. Nike+ also keeps records so I can see what my last run was like and try to one up myself. It will sync with iTunes and I can keep better records.

            Then when I finish running I come back and make breakfast which was juiced carrots, celery, spinach, and tomatoes. It has a nice tomato flavor, but not like V8 (which I suspect is very salty). Then I shower and come to school. When I run in the mornings or exercise at all I feel great all day. Plus I drink some green tea at home and then at school instead of coffee. I love the taste of coffee, but I need literally 1 cup of sugar to make taste like I want it.

            Plus on top of all that things are going well now. I am continuing my positive thinking and really appreciating the things that are going well. People think I am negative, but the truth is I look at most things optimistically. However, I am willing to actually say negative things when something annoys me. Many people think simply not saying negative things makes you a positive person, but I think it’s more than that. Blind optimism is not really being positive, it’s simply ignoring bad things.

            Yesterday I attended a massive rescue drill in the park in town. It was nearly prefecture wide and there were thousands of people there. We each had interpreters and went around doing emergency related things. We saw where the evacuation center is and had a fake health check, then we walked through a smoky room, finally we experienced an earthquake in a portable earthquake truck. We only did a 6, but others went up to 7. The Japanese scale is different from the Richter scale so a 7 would be like an American 9 maybe or more. The truck could only go up to 7 and that was pretty violent. A 10 would flip the truck over.

ganbaru-mu

A box that 2 people would stay in if there were an emergency and we evacuated to the gym.

Earthquake simulator truck in Japan

The earthquake truck.

One of the destroyed buildings they set up.

A house that fell over.

The military helicopter. This one came down fast like it was going to crash.

The police helicopter came down slowly.

They had military and emergency vehicles all over the area around city hall. It looked like
aliens had landed and everything was being secured. The mood was tense until we had all
the mandatory ceremonies and bowing. I wonder if we would do that in a real emergency.

 

            Tonight I should be going to gyoza in Koriyama with some people and the yoga teacher. I think I am being set up with her which is ok, but I usually resist being set up. Especially when I am treated like a child. She would definitely be a good asset in my life since she likes Thailand, is Japanese, and is a YOGA teacher. She actually speaks some English, but she’s shy about it. She’s attractive and my age. I seem to have an issue with her being my teacher and that she is in perfect shape and I am blobbling around the room. I’ll see how it goes tonight.

            Next week on Monday is the speech contest. One of my 4 students has a great chance of winning or placing, whereas the others are just average. I don’t care if they don’t win since it’s good experience for them to participate and would actually be a bit of a hassle if they won. They would move on to the next round and miss school, but it would be worth it. The girl that might win was also in the skit contest. I didn’t give her any gesture or pronunciation advice for either the speech or the skit contests. She made it all up and it’s all perfect. Hopefully it will be a good day.

Gyoza, eh, but....
Saturday, August 29, 2009

            The gyoza place was ok, but not like the places in Fukushima city where you get 20-30 on a plate. They are mouth-watering good. But on the way to find this place I stumbled across a Mexican restaurant, owned and run by a real Mexican guy. NOT some Japanese guy who has been to Mexico. We finished early at the gyoza place and went to the Mexican place for some drinks and food and it was BOOYA good. He made anything we thought of and it was real food, not some set course from a menu, but actual Mexican food he would make for himself in Mexico. It's in an odd place and not too close to my apartment, but that's good since I don't need to eat there every night.

          Today I rode to the station to look at electronics, eat at McDonald's for breakfast, and get some Starbucks coffee. It's a routine I look forward on Saturdays. It started when I had few friends in Koriyama and had nothing to do on weekends and just wanted to get away from the Konan apartment. After that I rode over to Xebio the sports store and looked at some things I can't afford to buy now. I need a basket for my bike since it is apparently illegal to carry bags from the handle bars. Then I met Matt for lunch at sushi. We both have nothing to do today.

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