Friday, August 27, 2010
What a big update I have to make. I'll start typing it out now and get
it up by this weekend.
The first part is
from July which I never uploaded, but it's worth reading, then I
continue into August.
UN F-ing REAL
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
I can sometimes understand the ďgroupĒ mentality and other times,
like this one, I cannot tolerate it at all. So hereís the scoop. We
have been working on this skit for a few months. The students have
it down to an art and the stage props look nice. They did a
presentation in front of the whole school this morning,
becauseÖ..their presentation in the ďstateĒ finals is tomorrow. Itís
in front of about 500 people and they represent Koriyama city. There
will be 13 other cities/town/villages presenting skits as well. So
this is somewhat of a big thing as you can see. They gave the skit
this morning and now we are just waiting until tomorrow.
OR SO I THOUGHT. After lunch some teachers were talking
about it and [dramatic music] everyone had an opinion about how to
make it better. Thatís partially a world thing. I can live with
that, but in Japan when someone in your group suggests something you
really REALLY need to find a way to incorporate that into whatever
it is you are doing. If someone suggests something really stupid, it
usually finds its way into the project. If a higher up suggests
something it always does. So what did the group suggest we change
for the skit?
First there are 3 students. The characters are in a boat
and one guy didnít bring an oar because he was waiting for the other
guy to finish his sentence. He thought the captain was saying ďbring
that orÖÖĒ so he waited, but he said ďbring that OARĒ. From there
they are doing a fast Abbott & Costello style argument about the
oar. So change #1 was that the moron still is Japanese, but one
other guy is European and the third guy is African. This is
completely extraneous to the story. At no point with their heritage
come up and itís completely absurd. So I nodded and said ďhmmm, that
sounds interesting. Good idea.Ē Thatís all I could say since any
disagreement would be rude. It would be me saying ďyour stupid idea
is stupid and we donít need itĒ. So then he started listing some
props they urgently needed. Again, these are completely irrelevant
and serve no purpose, but I said ďwow, that sounds crazyĒ. Already
they attached a butterfly net to the boat minutes before they did
the presentation this morning. I saw it and simply didnít care. Last
year they decided to paint the penguin character blue minutes before
the regional finals (it was amazing that they happen to have blue
So that leads me to the third and final suggestion from
the group that I actually rejected. He said one character was
Japanese and suggested some stupid things he would be carrying. I
said ok even though it sounded really stupid. Then the other guy was
European and would be wearing some European clothing. I donít know
what that means, so I just nodded and said ďhmmm, greatĒ. Then, the
third character was African so we should (yes, I am going there)Ö.
If I knew how to say ďare you F-ing shitting meĒ in
Japanese I would have said that. I laughed to try to make the
situation seem light and said ďactually that would be a little rude
to other foreigners. If there are other foreigners at the
presentation, especially African Americans, I think they would get
really upset at that.Ē The teachers laughed and mumbled something
which I assumed meant ďwell thatís stupid, we think itís funnyĒ.
They simply donít understand racism and discrimination here.
Normally one would think about things and then
gracefully and vaguely steer the conversation away from a certain
idea. Thatís the vague Japanese way, but to paint the kidís face
black to show he is African which has ZERO to do with anythingÖI
gave a firm NO and explained that would be horribly racist and if
there were a black JET at the contest, he would surely be offended
and it would, justifiably, cause a big problem. In the end we didn't
even win because some NATIVE SPEAKER was in the contest. That's so
awesome. While my kids are worrying about acting AND English, this
group was just jumping around the stage with no plot or point. It
was truly and sincerely not worth getting first place. regardless of
having a native speaker, it was simply not that interesting.
Friday, August 27, 2010
I had a nice rest while in the US for 3 weeks. I didnít do much of
interest, but that was the plan. I ate too much, sat on the couch
watching TV too much, and generally recharged the batteries. This
past week I have been moving into my new apartment. According to
Google Maps I moved about 500m. I stayed within the same block area
and zip code. I moved to a smaller apartment so the guy living there
could move to my bigger apartment. It worked out well for both of us
even though most people said I was crazy. I also wanted a more
social area since my previous two places had been total solitude.
Today at Konan we had a long and boring fire drill.
Parts were cool, but we seriously spent more time doing opening and
closing ceremonies than we did doing actual fire extinguishing
related things. Iím not even exaggerating that either, there was a
long opening bit, then explanations, then the drill parts, finally a
20 minute closing part. Several people go up and made long boring
speeches about some nonsense while we were all burning alive in the
heat. I truly felt like I was going to pass out a few times. The
funniest part to me was when they took some townspeople and showed
them how to put out a fire with the hose. They kept saying ďdonít
aim directly at the fire, shoot the water around itĒ. It was truly
the most INEFFECTIVE way of doing it and I would have been screaming
at people if it were my house burning. The another squad showed some
technique and had all sorts of unnecessary walking around before
they pulled out the hose. They would line up and someone would ask
if they are ready and they would each reply. Then they would get
ready and someone would ask again if they were ready. Again, if it
would my house burning I would be furious.
Other news, I bought a Wii and itís pretty cool. I have
it running through my projector so itís a huge screen. So far I have
only been playing the standard games it came with, but I did buy one
extra game. It looks complicated so I havenít tried it yet. I will
once I get better acquainted with the game and Wiimote. I can also
make some Wii games, but I canít make good ones since I donít have
access to the accelerometer. So the games would only use the RL-UD
buttons and then the A and B buttons. Weíll see how that goes.
The final news I suppose, is I am shortly starting my
50lbs in 100 days diet. The time is now and now is the time. I
started losing weight before heading back to the US, but there was
no way to resist all the fatty American food. I ate junk food nearly
every day and over-ate everything. Back to the Paleo diet and
jogging in the morning.
So I am seriously considering leaving Japan this year,
well the end of this year which would be July 2011. There are
several reasons, but I will sum up the main ones now.
There is so much wasted time here.
I often ask for 5-6 classes, but the most I get is 4 and thatís a
good day. I spend more time sitting around literally doing nothing
than teaching. I often have classes scheduled and they get cut for
any reason no matter how silly it seems. Recently I took a day off
and was asked to come in and help the speech contest student at 2. I
get to school at 2 and find that school lets out at 3:20 so I sit
and wait until then. Then when I finish at 3:45 I am told I can
probably leave early. I leave right then since I am using vacation
time and came in as a favor to them.
There is no bonus nor raise.
I make the same amount that native teachers made 20 years ago.
Granted its worth more now with the US economy in the gutter, but in
Japan it is still the same amount. We donít get cost of living
raises nor any form of bonuses, although we are expected to act
exactly like the regular Japanese teachers.
English is so low on the priority list.
I drove out to Konan in July, again on a vacation day, to help a
different student with the speech contest. I said I will be there at
1:30 and only have a little time to practice. When I got there the
student was practicing for some after school activity that had an
upcoming meet in September and couldnít get away from practice to
work on something academic. I stayed for about 30 minutes and then
On any list that shows all the subjects, English and the English
teachers will be listed last. Makes it easy to find my schedule
though. English classes are intentionally planned on days that have
other activities since itís ok to cut them.
No one really cares about learning English.
If students fail a Japanese test the school nearly shuts down and we
review kanji and grammar and whatever is needed to pass. Parents are
called in and conferences are held. If students make a 0 on an
English test then we simply move on to the next chapter. Grades
usually fall into 1 of 3 areas. Area 1 is for the top competitive
students who try to outdo each other and get around 95-100. Area 2
is the students who half paid attention in class and semi-care and
make between a 30 and 60 on a test. This is the largest group. Area
3 is for the students who either donít care at all or simply donít
even speak and score around a 0 or 10 on tests. In the end, everyone
graduates beside each other.
Nothing is connected.
A 6th grade student at a different school recently passed
level 2 of a national English test. Level 5 is for 7th
graders, 4 is 8th graders, 3 (with an oral interview) is
for 9th graders, pre-2 is for 10th-11th
graders, and 2 is for 12th graders and college students.
She was totally Japanese and just loves English and always studies
so she passed level 2 which is amazing. Where is she now? Sitting in
a regular English class in the 7th grader with a teacher
saying Ah-Ah-Apple and she is saying Bu-Bu-Boring. Itís illegal to
hold students back, kick them out of the classroom, or advance them
forward a grade. If Einstein were reincarnated into the body of a
Japanese kid, he would sit through all 12 years of school even if he
started reciting quantum physics in the 1st grade. There
are no Doogie Howsers in college in Japan at the age of 15 or 12.
We donít teach 6th graders anything useful that would
prepare them for their first year of JHS in the 7th
grade. We donít spend time preparing letter sounds and teaching them
to write. Even if we did and they were fluent, the JHS teachers
would re-teach it since nothing is connected.
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Iím at Ohse today since I went to the speech contest yesterday and
that would have been my Ohse day. Today should be Konan, but
whatever. I had three kids in the speech contest yesterday and one
got 6th place. Thatís about as well as I expected for us
since the two original speeches were semi-lame. One girl talked too
softly and the other dropped all her gestures since she didnít like
them. It looked like she was holding two heavy bags with her limp
fish arms. Whatever, Iím over arguing with them about how things
should be. Iím tired of teaching kids one way and having that plan
hijacked at the last minute. An example is listed above in big
Over the weekend there was a big beach party in Iwaki,
but I didnít go. Iím getting too old to get drunk and sleep on a
beach. The thought of being sunburned and sandy made my skin crawl.
Instead I stayed around the apartment and semi-cleaned a storage
room we have. It really needs a big once over, but I couldnít do
more without the authority to throw things out. I managed to
rearrange things enough to fit some stuff in there of mine, but I
need more people and the ability to toss things if needed.
Iím about to have my computer completely redone since I
get the blue screen of death constantly. Iím going to keep the HD as
an OS drive and get a terabyte drive for programs and software. Then
I will replace the Motherboard and go up to 4gigs of RAM with the
ability to easily have 8 shortly thereafter. Iíll also replace and
upgrade the power unit and some other stuff. The CPU will be the
quad core i5, but I will keep the box and DVD drive. Then I will
have to worry about getting stupid Microsoft Professional
I managed to send back 150,000 yen which converted to
over $1,700. I am loving the horrendous exchange rate now. Sorry for
the traders that are losing money, but I am making mad bank. If itís
still at 84 yen to the dollar around the next paycheck I will send
back the same amount and just eat light for the month. Iím trying to
first pay off my two credit cards and then I will start hammering
that stupid school loan I took out in college. If I could send
$1,500 back to that I could get it down fast. Around the first of
the year I will start saving some of the money so I have something
when I leave here, if I leave here, which I am 90% sure I will. The
only reason I wouldnít leave would be if I could change a few
schools, but not all of them. Itís time to move on from Konan and
Ohse has gotten lame since two awesome teachers left.
I forgot how stink nasty hot it can get in Japan. Last
year it was cool all summer and I remember just a handful of days
being slightly warm, but this summer has been broiling every day. I
am dripping sweat as I sit here and type this. I am even wearing my
linen pants, but they are sticking to me like glue. My t-shirt is
soaked and my dress shirt is getting all crumpy and sticky. Ugh. I
really dislike the lack of air conditioners in Japan. If they had
them and didnít use them on windy days that would be fine, but not
having them at all is bad when there is no wind like today. We are
just soaking wet in the classroom. To make things worse, todayís
lunch was a hot lunch so now I can actually feel my temperature
rising and the sweat come out. Iím going to have to bring my own
sweat rag from now on since all they have here is tissue.
So far the diet and new life plan are going well. I had
some light things for breakfast this morning and planned to jog, but
cleaned up the recycleables instead. There were some bottles and
cans around the apartment so I took them to the drop off zone and
then went to the store to get some chocolate soy milk for breakfast.
Last night I had some avocados and almonds for dinner and that was
it. Right now the biggest hold up is that it is just too hot to do
anything really. Even at 6am itís already 80+ degrees.
Hereís another example of time wasting. I had my last
class until 12:30 then lunch until 1. Now itís 2:35 and I have been
wasting time until 4:15. I have nothing to do and (oh a cool breeze
just came through the room)Öand I am wicked bored. I have to find a
way to kill time until 4:15. Luckily I have this computer and can
waste time, but Iíd rather be working or simply not here. If I were
at home Iíd be making prints for tomorrow, but itís more important
for me to be sitting here doing nothing. This is the only job I have
ever had where I have repeatedly asked for more work.