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Cut Again.
Tuesday, December 4th, 2007

     Last night I went into town and had Jintei with Stephanie. She had taken the Japanese Language Proficiency Test on Sunday and needed a fix. Jintei is a good fix and I ate a lot. I love the salad most of all there. He told us the recipe last night, but I doubt I can re-create it. Plus getting the salad there is a big part of the whole experience. I might try at some point anyway since the dressing is insanely good.

     Speaking of insanely good, there is some wicked smell in the teacherís room and more specifically in the kitchenette area. Itís like a coffee-cocoa-chocolate smell and I canít find the source. Whatever it is, it is amazing.

     Friday, after the reserved class I did have dinner with Paula and then we went to Lydiaís party. It was fun, but there were too many people at Karaoke. Karaoke is fun, but more than 5-6 people is too much. The ideal karaoke situation is 5 people of the same age (roughly) and same nationality and everyone sings all songs. Sometimes people throw a mic at you and say ďhere itís your song, sing itĒ, but I put in some songs that are just good to sing. I really hate it when there is a good flow of energy going along and someone puts in a stupid slow song and everyone nearly goes to sleep. Or someone plays some obscure Japanese song that no one knows and no one can read. Karaoke, being a Japanese thing, should be about the group, not the individual.

     So this week I was supposed to have a full load plus a double class with the 7th graders. Then a teacher came over and asked if I would mind if some classes were cut. I didnít reply very Japanese-like. I said ďis it really important, or is it something small like you will be giving back tests?Ē She said it was to give back tests and I said I really needed those classes since they have been cut for several weeks. It wasnít Japanese, but I am really tired of having my classes cut all the time. Another teacher went straight to the schedule making teacher and requested one class be cut and it was so now the seniors canít watch the second half of the movie they were watching. Instead they will be doing the all important ďself studyĒ which they couldnít do anytime else, such as at home.

     A friend of mine lives in Hong Kong and teaches English there. The deal seems so much better than here. I really loved living and working here until I talked to him. He lives in a luxury hotel that is cleaned three times a week and includes a gym, pool, and several restaurants and bars. Plus he gets a fat rent allowance so I think he makes a little money off that as well. I pay low rent since some is subsidized, but my utilities are absurdly high. If I use them freely the are about the same, if I donít use them at all to the point of even not being here, they are still about the same. Iím pretty sure there are minimums or something or they are based on an average of everyone in the building. Anyway, his deal is looking really sweet. I had considered staying here 3-4 more years, but I have realized there is zero advancement here. I make the exact same as I did the day I started. Some form of bonus or appreciation for staying on several years would be good. We do get great vacation benefits, but in the long run I need to feel like I am moving up in some way.

     The elementary 1st graders are learning/practicing jump rope in the big hall. Itís funny to watch them since they have no sense of space. One kid will start jumping rope without looking around and his/her rope will smack some kid. That happens about 50 times a session. It doesnít hurt too much since they arenít pulling the rope fast, but still itís funny. A few times some kids came up to me and said ďRyan sensei, please watchĒ and then they would smack me since they were too close. Itís funny and no matter how often I say watch out, they simply do what they were told to do, which is jump rope.

No Clocks.
Thursday, December 6th, 2007

     I got to school early to prepare for two elementary classes. One is with the 1st graders and itís about numbers 1-12. I found a foam clock in the cabinet and told the teacher I would use it for her class. She said the foam numbers would be nice. I told her after I taught the class about the numbers 1-12 (they already know 1-10), then I could ask them what time it was if the foam clock was ďsetĒ to a whole hour with no minutes. I would ask in Japanese and they could answer in English. All they had to say was the hour number like 3 or 8 or 12. When I mentioned this she panicked. She said they donít know time yet. I explained it would just be the number practice and she was still panicking. She pulled out her curriculum schedule and showed me they donít learn time until the 4th grade. She was in a frenzy so I realized, as I have many times, there is no point in arguing in Japan. Things are done how things are done. I said ok and went back to preparing.

[later]

     Ok the classes are over now. The 1st class about numbers went rather well. The difficult parts were dealing with the kids. They are in a state of needing acceptance at every turn so they would either stand up and show me each excruciating detail that they managed to complete, or they would start crying if someone wasnít constantly giving them attention. Plus they have the attention spans of glue, literally. I would say stop talking about 20 times and then start clapping and eventually they would get quieter, but never quiet.

     Then I had the 2nd class with the 4th graders about lowercase letters. I spent 20 minutes preparing the computer room for that class. I started up 21 computers and opened the internet and then went to a particular website and loaded a certain page. Then I turned off the monitors. As I was leaving another class came in. I said I needed 21 computers and I had reserved the room. The teacher said they only needed 5 so I pointed out which ones I had already set up.

     I go to class and teach lowercase and then bring the class to the computer room. About 10 kids from the other class were using my computers. Ok, thatís not the end of the world, when we came in their teacher told them to get off the machines. What do you think Japanese kids are told to do when they are finished using something?

     About 3 kids turned off their machines. I saw this and yelled (in Japanese) ďeveryone stop moving. Donít touch the computers. Clean your things and move back. Donít touch the computers. Move away, but do not touch the computers.Ē But what do you think Japanese kids are told to do when they are finished using something? They all cleared their stuff and then reached over and turned off the computers. Not to defy me, but because thatís what you do. You do what you are told and do not accept any variables. It took me 10 minutes to reset the computers and by then there was no time.

[later]

     I realized I am still using the bag I bought in Taiwan 2 years ago and itís still in good shape. It wasnít too expensive, but I remember seeing and trying to haggle. I asked how much and he said something like $500, but that was $500 Taiwanese dollars so really around $15 USD. Then I said ďhow about $300Ē and he didnít even haggle, he just said no and walked away. It was great even though I ended up paying the full price. Usually there is some whining about how nice the quality is and how much of a steal it was already, but here he just said ďnoĒ and turned around.

Just Another Day.
Friday, December 7th, 2007

     Nothing really of interest to report today. I had three classes this morning where I showed a movie in each class. Then I graded some papers from the 4th grade class. Then I had lunch and now I am typing this. Tonight there is another NT night out, where we get together and chat about life as a Native Teacher and have a few drinks. Iíll probably stay in town since the next morning, which is tomorrow morning, I am going to a Kindergarten Christmas party with Stephanie. She teaches really basic English and I have tagged along before. The kids are too cute and I hope to keep going with her. After that we will have lunch some where and then Iíll do some basic shopping.

     I was just thinking itís about two weeks away from the next payday, and then I realized I am going back to the US. I had nearly forgotten about it. That will be fun to be in my native environment where I can understand everything and more or less know how things will work. I plan to stock up on some basic needs like clothes that fit and personal effects with nothing odd in them. Iím going to send most of my paycheck back so I have money to use while there. I always seem to be broke when I go back, but this year should be better. I still havenít bought presents for most people, oddly just my brother-in-law. I think many of the others will have to be boring gift certificates since I just donít have anything else that pops out in mind. I have a few ideas for the parents, but Iím not sure about them.

     Monday I give a speech about An American Christmas to the whole school. I asked my dad to scan some old photos of me around Christmas so I could show the kids. I wrote a speech in English and the English teacher will translate it later. Itís about our traditions as well as some pranks I pulled on my sister. Once I took one of her books and wrapped it and then gave it to her. She opened it and was forcing herself to be happy. Then she opened the cover and noticed it was already her book so she asked what was up. I told her my favorite part of that book was page 100. She acted strange and then put it down. Later she picked it back up and flipped to page 100 where there was a one hundred dollar bill inserted.

Presentation.
Monday, December 10th, 2007

     I spent about 2 hours on Sunday preparing for my presentation. It was perfect. I had everything in Japanese written out and pictures to go along with them. I even had notes so I could show the picture at the perfect time. So I got to school at 7 this morning to double check everything and prepare the room for the presentation. When I checked the presentation on my computer at home it was all perfect and in order. When I got to school it was all jumbled. I donít mean slides had moved since I was on two different computers, I mean slides were numbered wrong and completely out of place. Slide number one, the file name was actually ď1Ē, was one of the last files in the presentation. I renamed it 13 and then fixed the others. I have no idea what happened. All I can guess is that I am schizoid and I was imagining something before. This is what I call Ryan Syndrome since nothing else makes sense. [photo: my English message board]

     Then I take the computer into the big hall and plug it into the projector controller (since the projector is hanging from the ceiling). When I came back from Thailand last year I showed some photos and there was a good hour worth of problems getting my computer to project, so this time I pre-empted it by taking all the cables I might need. It took about 20 minutes of switching cables and pressing buttons, but I got it to work. Then as it is showing the welcome screen something blinks. It didnít like me pre-empting it with all the cables so it had to throw up another obstacle. This time it decided to project all colors except red.

     Normally that wouldnít be a big deal, but this time it was. What is the main color you think of when you think of Santa and Christmas? So the presentation was a little odd looking, but I wasnít going to get upset about it so I said I donít care and went on with it. The Santa suit was white-ish, the trees were ugly and everything had a green glow to it. Whatever. Thereís always something.

     Friday and Saturday were busy days. Friday night we had an NT party which was a blast. We went to two places. One was an Asian Fusion place and we all flirted with the waitress that spoke great English for some reason. She was attractive in a 40ish sort of way. Then we went to a bar called Radio Bar which is more of a hang out casual bar. They serve Guinness and actually filled it up to the brim, which is really odd for Japan. Then I stopped by the monthly DJ party called PULL (first Friday of every month at Sharp 9 in Koriyama). Then I crashed in a hotel. I woke up early Saturday and met Stephanie so we could go to a Christmas party at the kindergarten she teaches at occasionally. By Christmas party I mean it was in a huge concert hall and there were about 500 people there. The mayor was there and gave a speech. We both thought it would be a small Christmas party. [photo: some drunk guy just passed out at a restaurant]

     Then we had lunch after I tried to find the school at which my volleyball team was having a tournament, but I couldnít and gave up. Lunch was at Milky Way which has cheap meat plates and a great salad bar. Finally we went to the electronics place by the station and I helped her buy a new camera since she is going around to Kyoto, Osaka, and other places like that over the break. We had Starbucks and watched some crazy Japanese band play outside the station. Some really hot girl came up to me and smiled and I realized it was the cute girl from the Konan 7-11 who I had a secret crush on until I realized she was a senior in high school. She looked wicked hot in her regular street clothes, but sheís still in high school. ARGH. Honestly, if I met her in a bar for the first time and she said she was a 30 year old dental hygienist, I would totally believe her.

     Sunday I stayed in mostly preparing for my 5 minute presentation today. Then I watched some movies and Googled some stuff and checked out some stuff on Amazon.com. Iím thinking about going for something called CELTA next summer which stands for Certificate of English Language Teaching to Adults. Or something like that. Anyway, itís in Thailand and lasts 4 weeks and it is intense. Itís around $1,500 USD just for the course and then living would be around $300-700 and food just less. Transportation isnít too bad since itís the low season for Thailand. I am also interested in going to Hong Kong (possibly with Stephanie) during spring break. So I Googled all that stuff and now I am just waiting on a few things.

[later]

     Sometimes the kids can be so aggravating. Today I spent hours preparing copies of the standardized English test for some kids who havenít taken it yet, but really need to before they graduate. I gave copies to several students and most were reluctant, but took it since they could take it at home in private. A few students, one in particular, was just rude about it and I nearly had to force it in her hand. I wouldnít have, but she is really good at English. The kids are so worried about failing and being excluded from the group of people who have passed. Thereís no actual group, but in Japan little groups like that are unofficially formed all the time. Sometimes I just want to say forget it and move on, but I always come around.

Don't worry, it's only a Simuration.

Rank.
Wednesday, December 12th, 2007

     When I left school yesterday around 5:30 I noticed another interesting facet of Japanese culture. Students were getting on the bus to leave. But some students were just standing by the bus in the freezing cold waiting for other people to board first. Oh thatís nice. But now there are no other people boarding and these people are still just standing and waiting. They were waiting for their ďsenpaiĒ to board first. Senpai means upper-class or senior to you. Even though there were tons of extra seats on the bus and they were only waiting on one person, they could not board the bus until that person boarded first. One student said ďwe wouldnít expect you to understandĒ, which translates as ďyou being an inferior lower class being could never possibly understand our advanced superior waysĒ. I replied by saying I understood the Senpai system, I just think it can be stupid at times.

     Then I went to the store to buy dinner. When I got there for some reason I HAD TO HAVE scrambled egg sandwiches. I mean there was no other choice. I think it was my bodyís way of saying it needed some B12 since I have been feeling a bit B12-less recently. I usually take a B-complex supplement, but I recently ran out and I will just wait until I go back to restock. When I donít have enough in the bod I have some numb or ďasleepĒ feelings in my limbs. Sometimes I canít make a fist or hold something tight. I read that B12 is in meat, dairy, and something else and I donít eat a lot of dairy so I figured my body was saying ďegg sandwiches are something we can eat and they are full of B12, so we want itĒ. I do feel better today, especially now that Iíve had my green tea.

     Iíve got no classes to plan today or tomorrow, but there are several classes I could go to as an ALT. During down periods Iíve got several things to work on, one of which is finding addresses for the teachers so I can send Christmas cards again. Thatís a big deal in Japan and of course there is a rigidly strict way of doing it. Iíve already put about 20 through my printer and printed my return address on them, now I have to send them through again and put the to: addresses on the front. I seem to have lost the list from last year, so I have to search again.

     I had a class with the seniors today. They were learning ď____ is a teacher who likes baseballĒ and ďA penguin is an animal which likes cold weatherĒ. I rarely use ďwhichĒ in that case, but they are required to learn both for the tests. Something that annoys me about Japan (youíve never heard me say thatÖ) is that we have to baby them and hold their hand. At no point are they required to really think about solving a problem. We played a bingo game where I would say ďthis is an animal that has a long neckĒ and they would search for the word giraffe on their bingo sheet. But I would say it twice and then it would get translated and then the answer would be given. Some students would immediately find giraffe and circle it, but most would just wait until the translation. I think that is a big reason why many Japanese can read English, but not speak or listen well. Iím all in favor of translation, just not all the time. Give clues and make them figure things out and as a last resort then translate, but definitely donít do it immediately and all the time. It will be interesting to teach in another country and see how they learn.

     There are some Thai people I know who speak much better than Japanese people of the same age or even older. Things are taught differently in Thailand and their language accepts English easier. In Thailand my name is Ryan and a certain soft drink is called Sprite. In Japan my name is Ra-i-a-n and that drink is su-pu-ra-i-to. It must fit into a mold and be converted into Japanese. Many of my students still speak Japanese when they speak English. Whereas in Thailand things keep their sound and people can say it. Iíd like to learn Thai at some point which could be easy if I live there after Japan.

     Sometimes I am amazed at the level of interest Japanese people have at the absolute smallest most insignificant things. Recently I had some students laugh, actually laugh, at the way I erased the chalkboard. Was I bouncing around telling jokes? No, I was going left and right as opposed to the standard up and down. Well to be excruciatingly precise, up TO down only. Once I had a teacher comment that it was repulsive to watch me eat lunch. I was horrified that I ate with my mouth open or something. But no, it was merely that I ate a certain food before another food. There is a strict order to everything and one must not deviate. Shoes must be turned a certain way. Any other variable is unacceptable and rude. Iím writing this now, because a teacher snickered today when I ate something out of order and I remembered the other things.  [photo: guess which car belongs to the "do things his own way" foreigner]

     I wonder where this comes from. If I had to guess I would think it has to do with how they have set ways of doing everything and I am being a variable by doing something different. I mean all cultures have their own way of doing things, but things like erasing a chalk board arenít too interesting and definitely not worth laughing at.

Relief.
Thursday, December 13th, 2007

     I am so happy. I paid off the third of 4 loans. Unfortunately the 4th loan is the biggest and is bigger than the three others combined, but it has the lowest interest and I can start sending all double payments toward it. First I paid off my credit cards which were killing me. That was the summer of my third year here. Then I paid off my Ďstudy in Japaní loan a year later. Finally, I just paid off my stupid annoying Sallie Mae loan which was for Microsoft certification around 6-7 years ago. It was annoying because I didn't even finish the classes. Everything was all going fine until they changed my schedule at work so I was on the night shift. I got off around 7am, made it home around 8am, but the school didnít open until 11 and you had to sign up for various classes. There was some free time, but it was just scattered around and I could only go to the school on Saturdays and they were only open for a few hours in the morning for free computer time. So I couldnít really take anymore classes, but I could wear my Elvis glasses.

     But thatís all water under the bridge and now I plan to send two monthly payments to the last loan (which is a double payment) and while I am doing that I will send about $300-500 to savings. I need to build up a nest egg or at least some savings. Pretty soon I will have enough in my account so that I donít have to send money back immediately each month. Iíll be able to set up auto payments and not worry about it. Maybe around the summer of next year Iíll start sending some serious money to pay down the loan. I think I could get it down to halfway by the end of the year. I couldnít possibly imagine not having to send money back and actually profiting each month. That is not real. I do not believe it.

     Something that is really bugging me about teaching elementary school, well technically itís about NOT teaching, is that there is a curriculum that the teachers go by. Thatís fine and makes total sense. However, sometimes I will not go to a certain class for a month or more. When I finally do go to the class the teacher insists we do what is listed on the curriculum chart for that month. I could almost understand that except for the fact that many of the lessons build on previous ones. For instance, I am supposed to teach ďwhatís thisĒ tomorrow, but since I havenít been to this class very much I have nothing to show them and ask ďwhatís thisĒ. When I teach WT I should have several categories to quiz them on, but now I donít. I want to play a game where they go around asking other kids WT, but now I am limited in what they can ask because for most of the questions the kids donít know what it is. So next year I want to nip this in the bud. Iím going to make sure I nip it. Right in the bud. Iím going to demand two classes per month.

Say "what" again !!


 

     
     

Overwhelming.
Friday, December 14th, 2007

     I didnít throw away any memos I received this week, just to see how many I got. I havenít counted them, but if you look at the paper itís around 2-300. Sometimes itís truly overwhelming getting so much paper. Iím not even really a huge ďsave a treeĒ type person, but we do take the memo thing a bit far. Most memos could easily be saved on the internal server and viewed as a web page. Many are just FYI one time things. Some are notices that a later memo will come and we should be expecting it soon. Today we got a huge packet of info for our 3:10 meeting. All that stuff could have been saved as a web page and viewed from our computers. We actually do that for the big monthly teacherís meeting, but not for everything else. The irony of it all is the student council sends around a newspaper talking about ways to conserve paper and recycle. Iím sure eventually (when our paper contracts expire) more schools will adopt a paperless office, but there are still so many trees left. Whatís the rush really? Timber!

     Tomorrow I am going to do that kindergarten thing with Stephanie, although I donít think sheís going. Itís 30 minutes of simple English. We sing songs and practice the alphabet and do basic stuff and the kids love it. Tomorrow I will give them Ryan Stickers. After that I donít know what I will do, but I will stay in town for lunch. I would love to see a movie, but thereís not much playing and itís $18. Things are always either absurdly cheap or absurdly expensive. Itís either $20 or $90 to get to Tokyo by bus or the Shink. Itís about the same to fly to the US as it is to fly most anywhere domestically in Japan. Sushi costs anywhere from $1 a plate (for two pieces) or $1,000 a meal for fine sushi (more if you eat it off a naked girl which you actually can do). Food is either grossly over priced or really cheap. Cantaloupes can be around $500 for one. Does someone come over and clean your carpet if you buy one? Cars can cost as little as $300 for a decent one, but then you have to pay over $2,000 in taxes per year.

Charity Case
Monday, December 17th, 2007

      I love the way we handle charitable donations at school. First there was that incident last year when I asked about collecting money for the Thai orphanage and I was told we are not allowed to do that at school. The teacher told me this as he was standing near a donation box for another charity. As it turned out one could not collect money for a non-Japanese charity at school. But thatís all water under the bridge.

     So this week and some of last week the kids are out collecting money again. Their official spiel is something like ďif you want to give money please give as much or as little as you canĒ. But in reality they have a list and point out to each person ďoh you havenít donated yet, would you like to now?Ē So ok we have to donate, thatís fine. Then they say the classic line ďgive as much or as little as you want as long as it is at least 200 yen ($2).Ē They canít say mandatory $2 donation, even though that is exactly what it is. Japan is the land of beating around the bush about everything. It takes a while to get used to it and I donít think I am actually used to it.

     For lunch, the ďannouncement clubĒ asked me to do a little something so I made a fun listening quiz. I brought some cool building up intro music that was about 20 seconds. Then I told them to count how many times they hear ďyesterdayĒ in the song cleverly titled ďYesterdayĒ by the Beatles. When the song finishes the first person to tell the teacher the correct answer (9) will win. It went over well for the most part and all but one class had a winner. There was a problem though. Not a Ryan Syndrome problem, but what I consider to be a Japan problem. Thereís always something odd about things in Japan. Everything will be normal and running fine and then there is just one thing that is odd. Maybe I am at the Worldís Fair and there is no one in line, but the people make us walk all the way through the long winding path to by tickets, rather than just jump to the front. Maybe there is a nice cheap overnight bus somewhere, but they have to keep the lights on full brightness all the time. Maybe we have to clean the school one day and it has to be at 6am on a Sunday. This time it was the CD player.

     I have used hundreds of billions of CD players. I have even been a DJ at my college radio station. I know how CD players work, but this one had to be different. I put the CD in and it starts playing. Fine, I hit pause and then Ďbackí so it would rewind. But nope, it wonít rewind. We have to hit stop and pause really quick. Fine whatever. Then we press play and it plays and when it finishes I press pause and say something. Then I press play again and it wonít play. I press next and it starts to play. Then I hit stop and forward, but of course it wonít jump tracks. I have never had a more aggravating time with a CD player than this. CD players are simple and there is no reason for all this nonsense. Next time I am going to record everything at home and just play the CD here. Unreal.

     But overall it was cool. The intro music built up and some teachers said the kids were surprised and got quiet. Then I started talking and they were listening. There was a mistake and it was funny. I said ďhere is the songĒ, but it was the intro again so I did a voice over and said ďplease wait a momentĒ in a department store announcement way. Not really that funny, but they laugh at anything. I want to make it really fat next time, but I have to start thinking of some simple songs. They have to be simple and clean and easy to hear and not about anything bad. Although I have heard songs that offended me at public places like ski grounds before. They love English songs and donít even care what they are saying. Sometimes the songs were so bad I would cringe and I donít get offended. It would be some kind of heavy metal or gangster rap saying stuff like "I'm gonna take my %#&$ and shove it up yo %#&$ until %#&$ comes outta yo %#&$ and squirts on yo %#&$ %#&$".

      The kindergarten thing, without Stephanie, went fine. Well for the most part it did, but time seemed to drag on there. I planned some activities and mapped them out to take 15 minutes. Somehow, in magical timeless Ryan-land, they took 2 minutes. I mean that is not even possible based on how much stuff it was. But I looked at the clock when I got in there and then I went averagely slow and when I finished I looked again and it was two minutes. I ended up doing a few things twice, but tried to make them look like I had planned to repeat them. Then I did some shopping and came home. Then Stephanie called and asked if I wanted to go to Jintei, which I did even though I had to drive all the way back into town. It was great and I ate way too much. Sunday I packed for next week and wrote some Nengajou or Japanese new year's cards. I expect a problem flying back to Atlanta since many airports are closed, such as the ones I am flying to/through.

Should have knownÖ
Tuesday, December 18th, 2007

     I was up most of last night with stomach pains and other stomach related things, but it was all my fault and I should have known better. I had my usual two glasses of green tea in the morning, but then I noticed for some reason things werenít flowing so well in the digestive department of the colon. I decided to move things along by drinking a small can of coffee from the store. That always upsets my stomach and causes the trains to move along. Well this tore my stomach up something fierce for hours, like 12 hours. I was still feeling bad this morning and technically I am still feeling a bit off. I wonder how lunch will be.

     Apparently I downloaded some virus yesterday at 8:15am since the board of education called the school and told them about it. I donít remember what I was doing then, but it might be related to the undelete program I was searching for. I deleted my entire point system for the whole year for some stupid reason. I go through phases of pack-ratting and stock piling and then 6 months later I purge everything, sometimes literally everything. So I deleted that and have been trying to undelete it, but itís been too long so I canít recover it. Oh well, I was thinking about doing something new anyway. I guess I will start something new in the 3rd term and change it again for the new year.

     Iím making my final arrangements for heading back to the US on Saturday. Most everything is in order, the only thing I am worried about is the ice storm in the Northwest part of the US, which is exactly where I am flying into. If I can get to Chicago, then I should be ok getting to Atlanta. I donít really care about coming back late as long as the airline doesnít charge me for anything. Iím sending back most of my paycheck since Iíll only need a weekís worth of money to live on when I get back. A night in Tokyo, the bus or shink back to Koriyama, then food for a week. Iíll need most of my money back in the US for gifts and anything left over can go to savings or the credit card since my other loans are paid off (minus the big federal school loan Ė argh).

     I am really getting sick of certain things in Japan. For one, there are no grades and more importantly students know my "homework/tasks" don't have to be done. I mean when the big 5 subjects don't have grades, why should the extra English class matter. Let me clarify, there are grades. There are As, Bs, and Cs. They all reflect to what degree of great achievement the student accomplished. An A grade means the student was great. B grades mean the student was still great, just to a slightly lesser degree. C grades mean the same, but slightly less. The kids that DON'T EVEN SPEAK graduate beside the kids that bust their butt studying. To get a C you really have to make an effort. Further, when teachers write the reports they can only say good things. If a student is a complete #$%&*%$#@, he still gets good comments on his review. If a girl chooses NOT to come to any classes, something positive is written about her.

     So what am I getting mad at? Well today a first year (7th grader) asked what the class needs for tomorrow's lesson. There is always a subject representative that asks what is needed and then tells the class. She asked which game we would be playing tomorrow and if not a game, which movie. I told her we would watch a short movie if HALF the class did a weekly assignment that no one has been turning in. I've long since given up on getting the whole class to do something, so I shot for half. She put her arms up in the X formation which means "batsu" or no, bad, uh-uh, not gonna happen. She said "that's no good". I started to cave in and she said how about 10 or maybe 5. Then I started to get mad. That's just rude telling a teacher NO we don't want to do this simple assignment. Plus, they would NEVER do something like that seriously to another teacher. Sure, jokingly they might say something, but they are being serious with me. They simply don't want to do anything other than games or movies and they flat out tell me so. I already show them movies as a bribe to get them to do basic assignments and even that rarely works. I almost snapped and said "that's just rude, telling me no like that, it's just rude, how about all 30 kids doing an assignment for once", but I realized I wouldn't be able to explain it as I wanted in Japanese so I just walked off. I have prepared a nasty not fun assignment for tomorrow and I will drop it on them when no one turns in their assignments.

       But even when they are being blatantly disrespectful and rude, in true Japanese style, they are oh-so polite about it all. To the point that I almost wanted to apologize for causing them to be rude.

Slight BackfireÖ
Wednesday, December 19th, 2007

     I told the 7th graders, mentioned above, that we would watch some short movie if at least 15 people turned in their required weekly journal. Of course the usual two turned it in so we did a word search. Normally word searches are about 15 letters wide by 15 letters tall and there are about 20 words to search for. It takes nearly a whole class. Well I made this one 30x30 with 50 words and some were in Japanese so they had to translate them first. It took the whole class and they didnít finish and I even let them work in pairs and then the pairs could share results at the end. They seemed to enjoy it which was a slight backfire since I wanted it to be a punishment of sorts. A few students asked to do these again which was not the point of the lesson. I wanted it to have a review aspect, but I also wanted it to be not fun to an extent.

     I had the idea of making a life sized word search where each letter was printed on a standard A4/8.5x11 page and they were lined up on a grid in the gym or some room. It would take up about 1 foot per letter so that would be at least 15x15, but it would be cool I think. Iíd say about 6 students could be participating at once. Theyíd be pulling string or colored ribbons across the letters to mark words. I can faintly see some logistical problems with it already, but I do think it would be fun. Iíve also been thinking about a huge Indiana Jones style game in the gym with different stations. One station would have small cardboard boxes turned upside down. Under some of them would be small stools so you could step on the box and not go through. On top of the boxes would be various things like lowercase letters with some being incorrect. Maybe you have to walk across the boxes and step only on the actual letters in order. They couldnít be high enough to cause a student to fall, but enough to go through the box if it were wrong. I could also use something like ďstep on only verbs or adjectivesĒ or even ďirregular verbsĒ. I like taking things to absurd levels of realism.

Waiting.
Thursday, December 20th, 2007

     Tomorrow is payday, Saturday I leave for the US, today I have no classes, so Iím really just waiting. Iím in limbo. Iíve made a list of all the last minute things I have to do and I am checking them off little by little. I might take some time off today so I can get my big bag to the baggage delivery place and they will send it to the airport where I can pick it up Saturday before the flight. Itís really convenient and it only cost about $20 which is more than fine for me. If it were around $30 or more it would be questionable, but my time and effort of struggling with the bag all the way down to the airport is worth more than $20. Plus they pick it up right at my door and even fill in the form for me.

     In the US I plan to take it easy and just chill. I donít have anything special planned apart from going to our lake house in Alabama for a few days. Iím going to eat too much American food and shop for some basic supplies I canít get here and then just chill with the family and my two new nieces. Sounds pretty boring, which is exactly what I want.

     Iím getting bored and frustrated sitting here. Itís life threatening important that people physically be AT work regardless of what they are doing or not doing. I have some things I need to do at home, but Iím just sitting here doing nothing. I am most likely going to take vacation time after lunch since I know I will go insane waiting around for 5 when I could be at home packing or cleaning or _____ (fill in the blank with anything other than sitting at school doing nothing).

     I just logged into my online bill pay and deleted the payee for the loan I just paid off. Oh how sweet it feels. Now I only have one loan left as well as a goal of having a little something in savings. I would love to leave Japan debt free though that would take some hardcore sacrifice, but it would be great starting whatever I do next with no loans and no urgent need to wire money back as soon as I get paid. The other thing would be not having to worry and countdown until my next paycheck. I couldnít imagine how that would feel. That and being able to pay for things in full when I wanted to do some big ticket item like a trip somewhere whereas now I have to plan a month or more in advance. There have been some times when I had to just stay home and do nothing since leaving the house would end up costing me something and I was that broke. Sometimes people would take day trips or go camping, but Iíd have to make up some cheap excuse. Same with BBQs by the lake, Iíd have to back out since they always cost a bit getting meat and other stuff. There are some things Iíd like to buy as well as places Iíd like to go, but most are going on the back burner. I have to have some cushion not matter how small and pay down this big loan.

 

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