2008, New Beginnings.
Tuesday, January 8th, 2008
I am back from two weeks in the US visiting family. I ate way too much
and watched a ton of English TV and then sat on the couch a lot as
well. I also got a ton of stuff done, saw some extended family, and
recharged my batteries. Well I literally did that, but here I meant I
took a break from life in Japan and relaxed. My checked bag was
exactly 51 pounds on the way back, which should have cost me $50, but
luckily the guy at the check-in was nice. What wasnít nice was how the
Chicago-Tokyo flight was 6 hours delayed. The airline should have done
something for all the passengers, even if it was nothing more than a
sky-miles bonus. Iíll rant on that later.
A general summary would beÖI took a bus from Koriyama to the airport
and had my bags picked up two days before. I had so much luggage it
was insane, but I used the chance to carry back a Ďshedloadí of
clothes I no longer wear and other stuff. I lucked out going to the US
and got a bulkhead seat with leg-room. I took a sleep-aid and managed
to sleep around 6 hours. The 12 hour flight was great and seemed like
only 3 hours. The bad thing was that jet lag kicked my butt when I
landed and I think it was because I slept on the plane.
My flight was slightly delayed from Chicago to Atlanta which caused my
landing to be around 11pm and us to get home around 1am which was
about 4 hours past my parentís bed time, but they didnít complain. I
never really slept well while there. Well I would sleep great for
about 3 hours and then wake up completely at something like 4am. Also,
I found I was going to the bathroom a billion times. I mean that
almost literally. I would drink a glass of water and then go to the
bathroom. One morning I woke up and had 6 glasses of liquid and I was
still dry mouthed. It was really odd. I was either dry mouthed or
peeing every hour. I donít know what that was all about, but it seemed
to have straightened out now that I am back.
My presents were better than previous years, I mean those that I gave.
I had some money this year and was able to get real gifts rather than
cheap Asian things. I gave my brother in law a steak branding iron
with his initials, my sister something that I forgot now, my mother a
digital picture frame, my father some random small gifts, and some
toys for my nieces. I got a lot of clothes which were all badly
needed. Oh I think I gave my sister a gift certificate maybe.
It was great to see my nieces even though the 3year old is a handful.
Sheís constantly running around touching everything and talking or
asking about stuff. Sheís really bright and I was talking to her like
an adult. The 2 year old isnít talking yet, but she is adorable. She
smiles a lot and says some small words and seems to understand a lot.
I managed to see a movie, Charlie Wilsonís War, which was pretty good
and packed with stars. I restocked on so many necessities that I can
either not get here or they have some odd Japanese element to them.
One of my favorite things is my new coat that my great aunt got me.
Itís really warm, as was the last one, but this is classy and fits me.
I also spearheaded a few trips of old stuff to Goodwill which really
cleaned out the closets. Then we went to our lake house in Alabama and
that was ultra-relaxing. The water was really low, but I raked a bit
of straw and lounged a lot. We exchanged gifts with my cousin and
aunt/uncle. I got some warm slippers from them as well as a long
sleeve shirt that I didnít seem to take off for days. I also bought a
lot of underwear and socks and undershirts and the like.
Then it was time to leave and we left for the airport at 5am to arrive
by 6am for an 8am flight. I checked in, gave them the overweight bag
and went on. I think the reason I got by was the couple in front of my
had no sense of weight and packed each bag to about 60 pounds. Then
when the guy told them that each of the three bags would be $50
overage charge, they started arguing and complaining and what not.
When I got up there and saw my bag was 1/10th over the cut
off limit I said ďoh dear, how much do I oweĒ rather than complaining
about a clearly marked rule. The guy let it slide and I was on my way.
Then I passed through the screening part and they confiscated some
toothpaste and shaving gel. No major loss, apart from the fact that
the airline safety board is getting completely out of hand with rules
and regulations. I had to nearly strip down completely to pass through
the gate. ARGH.
Fine. The plane takes off and arrives in Chicago at 9am. When I land I
check the gate for my 11am flight to Tokyo. A 2 hour layover isnít bad
at all. Iíll get breakfast and chill and then board. Except that the
flight seems to be delayed until 2:30pm. Argh, thatís 5 and a half
hours. Then it becomes 3:00. Then 3:30. Finally at 4:00pm we are
moving toward the runway. I would have like something for the huge
hassle it was. I was really trapped at the airport for hours with
nothing to do. Something like some bonus sky miles would be fine.
You know the airports arenít really set up for people to wait that
long. They could make money if they had day rooms, or even some
recliners. I would have paid something fat to chill in a recliner for
a few hours and somewhere to keep my carry on luggage, but I had no
options other than sit in the intentionally uncomfortable chairs the
whole time. Iíve learned my lesson and will pay the extra bit for a
direct flight when possible. On a plus for American Airlines, apart
from the delay most everything was really smooth and pleasant. The
meals on the plane were rather large and the drinks were hefty. I
would have chalked it up as a great flight both ways apart from the
Ok, I am back in Tokyo and itís 9:30pm-ish. We stand in a long line to
get photographed and fingerprinted which is a new law in Japan for
foreigners. Most of the people I know complain about it, but we are
foreigners here and are simply lucky to be allowed to live here. Iím
photographed when I go to Thailand and foreigners are photographed
when they enter the US so I donít complain about it. Some of the
arguments are nonsense things like ďnow you are in the system, they
can do whatever they want with the infoĒ. Ah yes, great argument since
of course there would be no other way to frame me if they didnít have my
photograph or fingerprints. My photograph is already all over the
place since I am a civil servant and have a driverís license and how
hard is it to get someoneís fingerprints?
Ok, I am through the airport so I go to have my bag sent to my house
directly. The company I wanted to use was closed so I went with some
no name, but it was actually cheaper. The only bad thing was they took
2 days so I got the bag last night, which was ok in the end. Then I
catch a cheap train (Keisei Skyliner) to Ueno and the Ginza line to
Asakusa and stay at the capsule hotel that I always go to.
slept ok, but woke up around 5am and then slept a bit more. It was good
to take a thorough shower and scrub myself several times. I had some
Starbucks the next morning and then bought a ticket to Koriyama on the
bullet train, aka the Shink. I put my bags in a locker and walked
around Ueno park for a bit. At one point I noticed a cat was just
sitting in the middle of the passage. Nothing spectacular, but for
some reason this was the most amazing cat to everyone who walked by.
They would get near and gasp and say "oh look, a cat" then someone
would go over and touch it and other people would gasp and say "oh
wow, look at that person touching that cat". It was the most menial
thing I had ever seen and yet such a big deal to everyone. It was a
While in the US my mother had to have her license renewed. For kicks I
checked the expiration date on my Japanese license and realized it was
Christmas Day, which had passed, and I wouldnít be back until the 4th
and not in Fukushima until the 7th. When I got back I drove
home and then woke up the next morning (Monday the 7th) and
drove to the local license renewal place. When I got there I explained
the situation and they said no worries since I have a month after my
birthday to renew it. Then she realized it was already a week after a
month after my birthday. So I had to spend the whole day at the
license place because the process is moronic. If someone knows the
reason behind the moronic process, please let me know since I didnít
find much of anything that was rational or logical about it.
I get there around 9 since I assumed they would be open around then.
They had opened at 8:30 and were open until 9:30am. Hmmm, sounds like
a bank. I explained the situation and she said I would have to do the
whole process all over again including the driverís test, AND since my
license had already expired I could NOT drive anymore until all that
was done. Wow, my stomached dropped as I realized how huge of a hassle
that would be. Then she said ďunless you have a legitimate reason for
not renewing it.Ē I showed her my passport and said ďI was out of the
country from the 22nd to the 4th and it expired
on the 25thĒ. Then she said well in that case I just had to
fill out some paperwork and listen to a lecture. Whew. So then I asked
what I needed to do now.
First I had to submit all sorts of documents, which I had brought
assuming this would happen. Then
I had to ďcome backĒ and turn them in at 1, it was now 9:30. I
couldnít drive so I decided to sit for a while and then walk 30
minutes to the convenience store. I walked there and then caught a
taxi into town and had sushi and did some banking. Then I walked
another 2-3 miles and caught a taxi back to the place. When I got back
I remembered how packed the lot was when I got there in the morning
and how they had directed me to park in the middle of the driving
course, the same course they might be using in the afternoon. Then I
noticed all the lots were empty so most likely my car was sitting
there in the middle of this course. Which it was, so I moved it to the
was now noon so I started to get my things in order. I had to pay
around $55 and realized I probably wouldnít pay at the counter since
the Japanese bureaucracy loves to have people buy special stamps
rather than pay a fee. So I went to the special store in the building
and asked if they had a pen. When I did someone else was paying for
some special stamps and I asked if I pay my fees here as well. She
said I did so I paid and she gave me some forms with special stamps. I
filled them out and then asked if they were ok and she checked them
for me. The forms were all the exact same and I wrote all the info (in
Japanese) about 5 times. During this whole time all the lights in the
building were cut off. I have no idea what the employees were doing,
but from 9:30 to 12:55 everything was shut down. We were allowed to
sit in the waiting room.
So then at 1 I go back to the counter and submit all the forms to the
nice lady who was helping me. She gave me a card and said come back
here at 2:05, which I did only to receive another card that said ďgo
to the first time driverís course on the 2nd floorĒ, which
I did. Here I sat with 21 other people about my age and we listened to
a lecture about basic driving techniques. It was the most useless
thing I had ever sat through. It was 2 hours of some old guy talking
about things like ďwhen you come to a traffic light, even if it is
blue (green), you should slow and look each wayĒ. My license expired,
I didnít run over anyoneÖbut I sat there and listened. Then we watched
a 20 minute movie from the 80ís about blind spots. The absurd thing
was in all cases there were several stupid people doing illegal stupid
things and yet it was the driverís fault. First there was a truck just
stopped in the middle of the road unloading something, which was fine
since his hazard lights were on. The driver pulled around the truck as
some guy in a black suit walked out from a dark alley and was hit.
Itís always the driverís fault in Japan.
Then the teacher went around the room asking each of the 22 of us
questions about basic driving. We all had numbers and assigned seats
and I was 21 of 22. I was next to a cute, but slightly whorish looking
girl who couldnít have been sitting any further from me. For my
question, and I donít know if it was dumbed down for me or not (I
donít think it was), he stated that the license previously called
ďregularĒ, was now called ďmiddle classĒ. Then he asked me what the
license previously called ďregularĒ, was now called. I said ďmiddle
classĒ and he made some clapping noise and said something like ďyea
thatís rightĒ. He sounded like a seal at Sea World. He asked one girl what red means on a traffic light. If
I had felt like causing a scene, I would have said ďthe first 10
seconds of a red light means speed up and go through the lightĒ which
is exactly what happens. The things he went over were mostly safe
driving and if people followed them then it would be great, but no one
Then after the course was over I went back to the counter and
presented my card and received another card that said come back in ten
minutes, which I did and was then told to get my photo made for the
license. When I was standing there talking to the lady she asked how I
liked the course. I said ďit was interestingĒ and as I did the course
instructor came out from the office and had apparently heard me. He
mentioned he was impressed at how I was attentively listening to his
every word and making notes. I didnít have the courage to tell him I
was daydreaming and making notes about things I have to do this week.
Then he asked what part was my favorite. All I could remember was a
long bit about intersections so I said "the part about intersections" and we both nodded in a
way that meant ďyea that part was really importantĒ.
Finally I sat down for a few minutes and went back up to the desk and
received another card to take to the photo place. I had to take off my
glasses and look down and not smile, so I look like some angry bird in
the photo. Then I had to sit again and wait to be called. Everyone
else in the room got up at once and got their license. Then I waited
and waited. Finally all the lights were cut out and people started
sweeping. A few minutes later the lady came out and handed me my
license and explained something about being on probation for a year
and I had to show a special seal on the back if I was pulled over or
something. It was now 4:30 and I had my license and was allowed to
drive, which I did, like a madman. Not really, but that would have
been the perfect time to get in a wreck.
That pretty much brings me up to now. Well one thing that was good for
me was the bag delivery place knocked around 7 and gave me my bag. I
really felt bad for the guy since the snow was bad around my place and
the bag has already been established as being heavy. But itís a
service I paid for so I donít feel too bad, itís not like I asked some
friend to deliver it. I had planned to unpack that night, but I felt
jet lag kick in so I went to bed around 8pm and woke up at 5am at
which time I was wide awake and unloaded/sorted the contents. I need
to go home and sort a bit more and really go through the whole place.
One thing I was asked by pretty much everyone was how long will I be
here. I donít know for sure since it changes daily. The absolute most
would be 3 more years I think, but that would be pushing it. If my
Japanese were to explode exponentially and I were to get married then
that would change some plans, but for now I am thinking one or two
more years. One goal is to leave Japan debt free, which is possible in
two years, but I would have to live rather stingily (which seems to be
an actual word). With just that one loan out there I plan to pay it
down rather hardcore, but itís pretty big still.
I guess I should have some New Year resolutions. One is definitely to
pay that big loan down by half, but I think what is more realistic is
to pay it down a lot while building up some savings. Another goal is
to eat a little better and watch my health. Iím not setting a weight
goal or anything, just to make a distinct effort at eating better and
getting some exercise. This should be no problem since I have already
started eating better and getting some exercise. I would like to
travel to a few new places as well, but the health and money are at
Thursday, January 10th, 2008
I had my annual medical check yesterday and thought it went great, but
today the principal sat me down with the English teacher and told me
it didnít go great. The two points that were of concern were my blood
sugar and fats in the blood. One was about 10 times the norm and the
other was more than double. So today sometime I am supposed to go to a
hospital with the school nurse, who doesnít speak any English, and get
another test. I donít know how much lower they expect todayís test to
be, but I have to go anyway. The funny thing is I was planning on
joining a gym tonight and start going twice a week to get some
exercise. I guess that gets moved to the ďdefinitely listĒ.
The part that annoyed me was they were saying how this could affect my
job next year. I donít see how since I never go to the doctor with
sickness and there is already another teacher with diabetes which is
where they think this is leading. If I were constantly sick and
missing classes then I could totally see the problem, but I never miss
school. Plus simply having diabetes canít be an issues since there is
another teacher with it and I donít see how it would cause the BoE
So the English teacher and school nurse came over at some point and
said we couldnít go today since the doctor was out, but we will go
first thing tomorrow. So once again tonight I canít take sleeping
pills to get to sleep which means I either wonít get to sleep or I
will wake up at 4am again. I guess I will drink gallons of green tea
which supposedly lowers blood sugar and helps with all my general
issues. Other than that I canít eat after 9pm again tonight and I
shouldnít eat anything fatty which means I donít know what I can eat
tonight. Maybe I will eat sushi when I go into town to join that gym.
Since they are making such a fuss about my future and my health, I
have been looking at other possibilities such as Hong Kong. I have a
friend working there now and I just canít believe how different it is.
He lives in a serviced apartment that looks like something from Vegas
and makes two to three times what I make here and the job is similar,
apart from the fact that they seem to use him a lot more. I need to
clarify with the BoE exactly what would cause me to not be re-employed
and when they would let me know about said decision. Iím pretty sure
this test was skewed because I ate a bunch of carrots for dinner the
night before the test and they have a flushing effect on the liver. So
the liver flushed some fat out and into the blood.
Around the school today the elementary school kids made this dough
treat called Dango. I donít like it since it feels like body fat and
pretty much has no taste. But they made it and then put it up on this
tree in the museum like room. I helped/watched them for a bit and then
left. I remember doing that last year or the year before.
The 2nd year (8th grade) teachers are having a
meeting with the travel representative about the school trip next year
when the 8th graders become seniors. They usually go to
Kyoto for their third year and I have never been allowed to go since
there are some stupid insurance issues for foreigners. This falls into
the category of ďsometimes you are an equal civil servant, but other
times you are a special foreign situationĒ. My position changes based
on whatever benefits anyone who is not me. The only time it benefits
me is when they let us take vacations during school breaks without
using a lot of vacation time, but even then we have to fill out
several forms and write a report about what we did and how it could be
passed along to the students. All the other times I am on the short
end of the stick. Honestly, I would prefer if they picked either one
and stuck to it. If I were an equal teacher I would get the bonus. If
I were a special situation I would get the breaks off. The bonus would
be wicked helpful since they get it twice a year and itís usually a
fair amount, assuming one meets all the criteria for it. Itís usually
around one monthís salary times 4 or 5 or some fraction between that.
The criteria is like no or minimal sick days (which is why teachers
come in when they are deathly sick), as well as taking some refresher
classes and doing other proactive things. Man I would do pretty much
anything for a bonus of my monthly salary time s 5.
Privacy is Important.
Friday, January 11th, 2008
Thatís what they said yesterday when the principal sat me down with
the English teacher to explain my medical test results. He was worried
that I would be upset that he was having the English teacher explain
things to me in English. I wasnít upset since it was important, but I
didnít really want anything broadcast around the teacherís room.
But in Japan, we must keep in mind that you do what you do. If there
is something that is always done, then it will be done without
question. One thing that is done is that any event at school is
written on the big whiteboard in the teacherís room. Since the nurse
and I will go to the hospital today for my second test, that was
written on the board. Several teachers saw it and asked why I was
going back and then one said ďoh health check...bad dataĒ and I said
yes. They werenít being clever by writing just a little on the board,
they were simply doing what they do. School events go on the board.
Two teachers leaving the school is a school event. This must be
written on the board. End task. What that information might reveal is
irrelevant, you simply do what you do.
We are about to leave and I totally expect it to be absurd. Even though
it is a five minute process I expect they will tell me to get naked
and change into that hospital gown. Iím going to resist that as much
as possible, and flat out not take off my long johns or socks because
I am cold. There is absolutely no reason to take off my pants or long
johns for a blood test from the arm.
When we left for the hospital, the school nurse did what one does when
one leaves the school. She announced to the vice principal why and
where she was going. ďI am now taking Ryan to the hospitalĒ. Then some
teachers heard it since they have normal ears and asked what was
wrong. As I left I saw the VP slyly telling them why and where she was
going. I wasnít mad at the school nurse one bit, she was doing what
one does when one leaves the school. Actually, Iím not mad at all Iím
just amused at the whole process.
At the hospital it was a lot of waiting in true Japanese style. We
were given a card and told to wait until the number on the card was
called. When it was called we were then told to wait until a sign on
the wall showed another number. When that number appeared 6 years
later we were escorted into another waiting room and told to wait
until we were called. Then the doctor said basically ďyouíre fat and
on the verge of diabetes so weíll take blood and do an ultra soundĒ.
They took blood and then I waited for a while and was escorted into
another room where they did the ultra sound. One thing I noticed that
was interesting was that the machine was completely in English. Yet
another reason to learn English.
Finally it was all over and they gave me some medicine and said I have
to come back in a month. The medicine is to lower my blood sugar / fat
as well as control my cholesterol. Another funny thing about the day
was that I was told to sit in one area for a while until they called
my name. I leaned over to the school nurse and told her they werenít
going to call my name, they were going to come over and tell me
directly. Thatís always the case when I go somewhere with my foreign
name and foreign self. The final funny thing was everyone at the BoE
and health check place kept saying over and over ďtake your insurance
card and you wonít have to pay anything, nothing, not one yenĒ. By not
pay they meant pay. The tests were about $40 and the drugs were about
$20. I had the money luckily, but it was funny that they made a big
deal about how I wouldnít have to pay and I knew I would.
Then we came back and so far about half the teachers have asked about
how my diabetes tests went. The principal even came over and looked
through all my medicine. Again, Iím not even slightly mad since thatís
how things work in Japan. We are all part of a group and the group
must know everything about all the members, especially the foreign
ones. Iím not mad and not complaining, really just amused as I said.
If I ever had some personal problem I would go to a different
prefecture and change my name or something.
Oh, on the way back we were driving along not really chatting about
much. Then we get near the school and I see a car parked in the road
with the hazard lights on. Behind it and off to the side (slightly)
was someone squatting down. Maybe he/she is changing a tire. Oh no,
wait, whatís that coming out ofÖ.oh lovely. Some old woman stopped on
the side of the road to take a dump. She just squat down for the world
to see and started ďdropping the kids off at the poolĒ, but minus the
pool. That was simply awesome. By awesome I mean ridiculously obscene.
Only in Japan would that happen, only in Japan.
I think I am going to take off early and go home. Since itís
Friday the kids leave after 5th period which would be
around 2:30 and then I have to hang around doing nothing until 5 and I
really donít feel like doing that for another day. Iím really getting
sick of all the down time I have here. I do things to pass the time
and other things that are productive, but the general misuse of me is
getting annoying. I thought I was refreshed during the break, but it
seems I was just reminded of all the annoying things here.
After school the nurse sat down with me and the English teacher. I
said over and over that I understood everything the doctor said, but
she spent all day with me and wrote down so much I figured the least I
could do was play along and listen while she explained things to him
and he explained them back to me. While she was explaining it all I
was adding comments, but that still didnít phase anyone and they kept
on with the explanation. In the end, there was no harm done and
everyone was happy. I have to find some small gift for her since she
was forced to go with me and really just sit there the whole time.
I went into town last night for three reasons and two of which were
completed. One was to eat sushi since it would probably be not too
fatty for my test today. I did that around 6 and havenít had anything
since then. Task one completed. Then I went to check out and probably
join the gym. I was told it was $60 a month, but itís really $75 which
is still ok since they have treadmills and weight machines and free
weights, but no track. I think they have an onsen thing as well. Iíll
probably do that this weekend. Although, now that I think about it,
they might have said Tuesday and Saturday were holidays. That would
make perfect Japanese since in that it makes no sense. Task two
incomplete. Then finally I went to TRIAL the discount store and bought
some wipers for my car. I went for the $4 set rather than the graphite
$10. So my bill was $12 since I needed three. The funny thing is, in
Japan each wiper is different. The driverís wiper was one special
model, the passengerís side was another, the rear wiper was a 3rd
type. By different I mean virtually the same so I got the same model
for all three and they all fit as I expected. I installed them right
there in the parking lot and sadly it was clear the whole way home so
I couldnít use them.
Sunday, January 13th, 2008
In the first paragraph at the top of this page I mentioned how my flight
was delayed and I felt the airline should have done something to say
they were sorry. Well whining about it helped, since I got an email saying I
would get 5,000 sky-miles added to my account since there was such a
layover. That's fine and I am back to being satisfied with American
Airlines. I just wish they flew directly to Atlanta.
Yesterday I went and joined that gym I had been thinking about. I was
misinformed when a friend said it was $60 a month since it is actually
$75, but it seems worth it. There's a jacuzzi and showers and maybe a
sauna which I wouldn't use, but maybe the jacuzzi. There are
treadmills and a decent sized weight machine room. The machines use an
odd air pressure system that I have never seen, but it seems really
convenient. There's a free weight room as well as an aerobics room
where they occasionally have yoga classes. I've been interested in
that for years, but gave up on it when a teacher said only cults teach
I signed up and went ahead and worked out on Saturday. I had planned
to do a general workout, but apparently the fee comes with a trainer
that made a workout for me and led me around a bit. That will be great
the first few times, but eventually I'd rather do my own thing.
Although, clearly my own thing hasn't been working well. But I haven't
really been working out. It's going to be tough getting to the gym
since it is a good 30 minutes away, but it is the closest thing and
most affordable. I can probably get to it on Tuesdays and Thursdays
and then once on weekends. Maybe I can workout and then take a shower
there and then go eat sushi. That could be a nice habit.
Today I've done nothing other than stay inside and clean and then
watch sumo. I am going to see sumo in Tokyo on the 26th of this month,
or whatever day is a Saturday around that time. 4 other Fukushima
people are going so it should be fun. I think the standard national
English test is the Friday before so maybe I won't go down until Sat
morning. I plan to stay in a capsule hotel
again and possibly get more photos.
For dinner I realized I had no food here so I went to one of two local
restaurants. I drove there since there is a nasty blizzard out there.
Actually the winter season is part of what is making me look toward
leaving. I really want to see my current 5th graders become JHS
students, which I will do if I stay one more year. But I would also
like to teach them a bit which would require staying two or more
years, but the thought of more winters here is not appealing. There is
a foot of snow everywhere on the ground. The wind is violently
blowing. It takes about 10 minutes to get the car ready to drive,
sometimes more, which includes a few minutes of trying to get the key
in the door and turning the frozen lock and then de-icing it and then
maneuvering around the deep snowy parking lot. Then there is the
matter of my frozen toes which stay numb most of the season as well as
the poorly insulated apartment which is in a poorly designed building
which dumps the snow from the roof directly in front of the building
making it nearly impossible to get in or out some times. But the
spring, summer, and fall are good and the kids keep me hanging on.
Tuesday, January 15th, 2008
I have had the strangest thing happen and it is driving me crazy.
Sometime last week, I think Friday or Saturday, I went to bed with my
long johns on. Thatís long thermal underwear if you donít know. When I
woke up I didnít have them on and now I canít find them. I have no
idea where they are or what I did with them. When I walk in my sleep,
I usually have some memory of it and even if I canít remember, my
apartment is so small that I couldnít have hid them in too many
places. I am seriously totally confused.
Iím in the process of making an Excel spreadsheet of every single
thing I have eaten since I had the medical tests and started the new
medicine. I will present it to the doctor when I go back on the 8th.
Since I joined the gym on Saturday and I plan to go three times a
week, Iím sure the tests will be better. I think my problem is the fat
in my blood is supposed to go into the muscles to make energy, but
since I donít exercise much (by much I mean never) then it has no
where to go. At least I am hoping thatís what the case is. I really
plan to bust my butt for at least a month until the second test is
over. If the results are good then hopefully my job will be safe and I
will continue to lose weight. It seems my weight and not exercising
are the big factors. So much for my life as a sumo wrestler.
I went to the gym right after school to work out. When I got there the
clerk asked if I had left a pair of long johns in a locker. Wow,
I don't have any idea how I made it all the way home not wearing them
since it is freezing around my town. I simply don't remember not
wearing them, but I am so glad I found them since they are really
The gym was good overall, but I don't like the way he has arranged my
routine. First odd thing, which I can live with, is that I do one
exercise of each type 10 times and then move on to the next. When I
have done that a few times, then I repeat the cycle. Normally one
would do three sets of 10 bench presses and then move on to another
part. It doesn't surprise me in the least that the Japanese way would
be different simply for being different, especially from a country
that is not known for weight lifting. The other thing I might change
occasionally is he had me do all the major body parts on one day and
then the arms and shoulders on another. When you work out your biceps
AND triceps on the same day you find you can operate your arms the
next day. I can barely lift them now and they are more or less
useless. I've always heard and been told that you do chest and triceps
together since they work together and then back/shoulders and biceps
together. I'll do this for a while and then add stuff later. I found
out the yoga class meets Mon at 1pm, Wed at 7pm and Saturday at 7pm.
I'll try for the Saturday since I don't want to drive in T-W-Th-Sa as
I am planning on driving in T-Th-Sa now.
Thursday, January 17th, 2008
I am having actual thoughts about when I might leave Konan and Japan.
I donít mean now nor would I break my contract, I mean when I might
not renew my contract. Or at least ask for it to be renewed. Iím
thinking along the lines of one more year from August so I might leave
in July 2009. I might renew another year so that I stay until 2010,
but I donít know. Itís strange to think about that since my plan was
always to stay longer and probably see my current 5th
graders graduate. I really like that class and want to see them as JHS
kids, but I donít see how I could stay that long.
My main issue is that I am on a treadmill here. I make the same amount
of money that I did the day I started. There are no raises or bonuses.
Itís not about the money since we are paid well and this is no
surprise since thatís just how the job is and they told us up front.
But at some point in your life you want to move up. I have moved up in
each job I have had since graduating college, but I am starting to get
feelings of unrest and desire for change. The only way to control
change is to create it.
I am checking into a variety of options. One is teaching in Hong Kong
where teacherís allegedly make more than we do. Itís also a Native
Teacher position though a little different I think with more of a
focus on reading. Iím also considering Thailand, even though I
wouldnít make any money to send back from there. Iíd make decent money
while there and could live nice, but it would only be around $800 a
month which is less than what I send back now. If I can pay down my
last big loan I could live on that in Thailand, I just wouldnít be
making any profit or building up savings. Iím going to shoot for the
HK job since it sounds like what I like to do. Itís a definite bonus
that HK is always warm. I hate cold weather.
Next week I seem to have 2 classes with the 5th graders and
2 with the 6th graders. Iím sure the 6th grade
classes will be jus the teacher by himself since I havenít been to his
class more then 5 times and that includes the whole 3 years I have
been here. I have no idea what I will do with the 5th
graders, but there is a chance he will lead the class and I will watch
and possibly participate in a small capacity. Iím going to request two
classes a month per class on fixed days next year so I can get in a
habit of teaching.
Tonight I am going into Koriyama to workout and get my new glasses.
Iím worried that the prescription, which was perfect last week, will
be off this week since the medicine causes my vision to change
slightly. Sometimes I notice one eye is out of focus and other times I
canít even use my glasses to see the computer. Now I have them on and
they are fine, but around lunch ,when the medicine really kicks in, I
usually have to take them off to see the screen. I mean I canít even
see through them sometimes. It all started around the time I started
the pre-diabetes medicine.
You know what's really awesome? I mean just the greatest thing in the
world? When you hang some clothes in a doorway and then go to sleep.
Then you wake up in the middle of the night and see the clothes and
think it is a person standing in your apartment waiting to axe you.
You know what is not as awesome, but still really dandy? When you pull
the string on a fluorescent light, but it doesn't come on and you
don't notice. Then in the middle of the night (conveniently after the
axe murderer incident) it pops on and blinds you after waking you up
My new glasses make
everything look like I am in a movie.
Monday, January 21st, 2008
I have two classes planned for each the 5th and 6th
grade this week. So really four classes I should say. I was panicked
since I have never been to any of the 6th grade classes,
even since they were 4th graders when I got here. To be
fair I have maybe been to 5, but a few of those were me sitting and
watching. I have been to several of the current 5th grade
classes, but mostly when they were 4th graders or in the
first term of their 5th grade time. I was panicked because
I didnít want to go to the 6th grade and teach them
something too easy or something too hard because I donít know their
level. Then I remembered, exactly as class was starting, that the
teacher always does the 6th grade on his own so he wouldnít
ask me, which he didnít. That was good too since I had to prepare for
the 3rd grade class 3rd period.
I am going to write out something in English and give it to all the
new elementary teachers in April. Basically it will say ďlook here you
#&%#&-ing slackersĒ, no seriously it will just ask for a fixed
schedule of two classes a month, minus August, on fixed days. That way
I can complete my curriculum and it wonít jump around like now. Iíll
also have more time to prepare since I will know in advance about the
class and it wonít be dropped on me the day before. I think twice a
month is fair.
As some point in the day, around 10am I think, all the teachers went
to the window in the teacherís room and gasped in amazement atÖÖÖI
have no idea. Some kids were skiing since that is our winter P.E., but
they do that every year andÖÖ.itís just kids skiing. The teachers were
all gathered at the window gasping in surprise and saying things like
ďwow look at thatĒ and ďoh, thatís amazingĒ and I kept looking for the
meteor that crash or the UFO that landed. But it was just kids skiing.
I even asked the English teacher and he didnít know why so many
teachers were interested in what seems to happen every year. It
reminded me of the time I took a raw carrot (not a nuclear bomb) to
Higashi High School and was eating it for lunch. It was a raw carrot.
The teachers looked at me as if I had come to school naked. It was
honestly the same reaction. There have been so many of those
experiences where this tiny thing brought on a huge unwarranted
reaction. I really donít know why.
I had a weird experience regarding the 3rd grade class.
Last week the teacher asked if I could teach the shopping lesson this
week. Thatís where kids ask ďmay I help youĒ and then order something
by saying ď___ pleaseĒ. I spent all weekend, well all Sunday (well
some of Sunday), working on a lesson. Then when the class starts he
says ďletís do this Bingo game firstĒ. Thatís fine since my thing
might be a bit boring. But the Bingo game took up the whole class.
They had to draw these animals in these spaces and that took 25
minutes. Then when I called things out that took 10 minutes. Then I
had to sign the sheets of the kids that won and that took 5 minutes,
so we had 5 minutes left. I used that time to explain what we would do
next time which ended up being ok since it is semi-hard. I donít care
if the teacher has a plan, I can be an assistant, but donít ask me to
plan something then give me a whole class lesson.
Greatest Invention EVER.
Thursday, January 24th, 2008
I had a remote control engine starter installed last night. This is
the greatest invention in the history of all things. Well language and
computers rank up there, but this is better. I press a button on my
remote and my car cranks right up. Then I get in the car and insert
the key to on and drive away. If you try to shift without the key it
shuts down, as it also does 10 minutes after being remotely cranked. I
can also unlock the doors, which sounds lazy, but recently the keyhole
has been freezing over and I either could not get the key in or if I
did then I couldnít turn it. Iíve had to enter from the passenger side
twice and once through the back. All this sounds like a luxury, but
this morning there was a foot of snow on my car. I hit the remote and
could hear the car crank from my apartment (which was odd Ė either it
cranks loud or the walls are not insuÖ.oh never mind). Then when I got
to my car it was already nice and toasty.
It took 1.5 hours to install which was no problem. While I was in the
waiting room I noticed they had
a computer off to the side and it had a camera in the installation
room (garage) so I could watch the process, which was as exciting as
watching wheat grow, but still it was interesting. Then I walked
around outside for a bit, even though it was a blizzard. I passed by
McDonaldís and passed it up. This new medicine is great since I am no
longer hungry. I mean I get hungry, but not ravishingly hungry and I
donít overeat. Iím already losing weight, though slowly, when I check
myself at the gym. So far itís like a kilo a week or so. A kilo is 2.2
pounds, so thatís pretty good I think. I really donít know how I could
not lose weight since I no longer eat sweets and work my butt off at
the gym. Seriously, one time it fell off.
Last night I went to the gym and killed my chest. I did bench press,
dumbbell flies, butterfly
chest press, tricep pull downs, and a few more things. I needed a more
intense workout than what they made out for me. I plan to do chest,
triceps, calves, and something else one day, then back and shoulders
and biceps another, then legs and lower back and something else a
third. Iíd rather burnout one muscle group than lightly work several.
I also upped my cardio. I donít get tired anymore like before, but I
do get bored. Oh, when I went to the gym last night I found a parking
space right up front. I backed into it and stopped about 2 1.5 cm from
a concrete embankment. Wow, that was close. I am one finger width away
from hitting this thing. I donít think it is possible for me to be any
As I mentioned before, I had 4 classes with the 5th and 6th
graders this week. Actually, as expected, I
had only 2 with the 5th graders since I have never stepped
foot in the 6th grade classroom with the current 6th
graders. I think I have been to that class 4-5 times in the 2.5 years
I have been here so I didnít expect anything. I see I have two more
next week and I am not even going to ask the teacher about them.
Anyway, the 5th graders did great with all the computer
games I made. They were all about English letters both upper and lower
case. Most games involve doing something in ABC order like chasing the
letters that at moving around randomly. Iím working on some other
Earlier this week, I went to the gym. After the gym I went to the
supermarket to get some food for the week. When I finished I sat in
the parking lot for a minute opening a package of sushi to eat on the
way home. They are small tuna rolls that are easy to eat without
effort. Anyway, I am sitting there and I notice a car pull up, look
around and see there are no spaces, and then just park in a space that
said ďdo not park here, this is for loadingĒ or something. Eh, who
cares, he needed a space and couldnít be bothered, by parking in the
back. Then another car pulled up, looked around, and parked more or
less in the middle of the drive through area, but up against a light
post in an area with stripes on the ground (to mean no parking). Then
the best one was a woman who pulled up and went through the routine
and then said, ďIím not handicapped, but this spot is so close, AND
there are no consequences in Japan so Iíll just park hereĒ. She
parked, got out, and walked into the store.
Monday, January 28th, 2008
I went down to Tokyo on Saturday with some friends and we went to see
the first sumo tournament of the year. I had been before, but I enjoy
going and I wanted to see a friend who was going with another group
from another prefecture. I managed to talk to her a bit so that was
fun. There were only 5 of us from Fukushima and we got tickets with 35
from a nearby prefecture. Overall it was a fun trip and really cheap
since I took the cheap bus down and back and stayed in a capsule
hotel. There was one thing that wasnít too fun thoughÖ
And this has nothing to do with the group we went with since it
happened when I led a FuJET sumo trip in January of 2006. We sat in
the cheap reserved seats this time, and the less cheap reserved seats
last time. We were in the 2nd to the top row which is fine.
The group of 35 had reserved seats around us in the 2nd and
3rd rows from the top. It was a sold out tournament too.
The key words there are ďreserved seatsĒ and ďsold outĒ. Logically
that means everyone has one seat and there are no spare seats. But
just as my group did in 2006, this group decided to sit wherever they
wanted and move around frequently. I canít really understand this
since you must know you are going to be sitting in someone elseís
seat. If it were people sitting randomly within the block of seats
they reserved, that would be no problem, but that would require people
to stop and ask where it was ok to sit. They couldnít have the
carefree attitude of ďIíll just do whatever I want and #&%$ the rulesĒ
as so many foreigners in Japan have.
There were about 6 foreigners sitting in front of us in seats that
belonged to other people, a trivial detail. On top of that, they were
really messy and spilled two cups of beer. Then the people showed up
and said ďI think you are in our seatsĒ and the foreigners were
somewhat shocked and surprised that they would have to move. Then one
of the Japanese women pointed out that a foreigner had spilled a beer,
but he just shrugged and said who cares. So she had to track someone
down to mop it up.
Then 2 people from the Fukushima group showed up a bit late and had no
seats. Iím sure you can guess why. So they had to ask the group leader
of the other group where their seats were, even though they knew, just
so she would ask her friends to move to either their assigned seats
(strange concept) or at least not our assigned seats. While they were
sorting that out they were standing up. Some guy in the top row yelled
ďSIT DOWN, PLEASE SIT DOWN, I have asked you 5 times to please sit
down, SIT DOWNĒ. I mean he was yelling it. Everyone in the area turned
and looked. My initial response was ďsomeone should throw a cup of
beer on himĒ, but then I realized he was absolutely right. People
(foreigners and Japanese) would just stand in the aisle or near their
seats and chit chat. The way the building was shaped put them directly
in peopleís line of sight. I know when my group went people were
standing and chatting and doing everything BUT watching. These things
are always social events where people try to show how cool they are
around their friends.
It was really funny watching this other group because I saw so many
people acting exactly like people I know/knew. I think it would be
interesting to study group dynamics. It seems that whenever a group
forms, there are certain roles that are always filled. Certain people
are always the center of attention, other people are always following
them, etc. I think it would be interesting to learn more about it.
In the end I did have fun, but I should have planned it for the 5 of
us alone. There was no real benefit to going with the other group. I
was thinking that 35 or so would go from Fukushima and they would all
meet up with the other group and become friends and there would be
peace on earth, but that was naÔve. Iím pretty much doing less and
less with group planning and focusing more on one to one
relationships. I had an interesting discussion with Stephanie the
other day about two people doing something together versus three
people. Thereís a different dynamic between 2-3 people and it is
interesting to think about for me.
Hmmm, this week I have the usual number of classes plus 4 with the 5th
and 6th graders again. But really I just mean 2 with the 5th
graders and even then I donít know what I will do. I have made a few
more games so maybe thatís what I will do with them, but they are
getting tired of the games. I need to make some fun game like an
arcade style shooting game or adventure game.
Just to reiterate
from above, the three greatest (winter time) inventions in the history
of all life:
1) the remote control
2) the delay feature on my house heater
3) my electric blanket
Wednesday, January 30th, 2008
The school nurse came over and told me I had to go back to the doctor
for my follow up visit next week, which I knew. I went and told the
powers that be that this time I would really prefer to go to the
hospital alone. Hereís how it went:
would really prefer to go to the hospital alone this time. Last time I
really appreciated the school nurse going, but this time I would like
to go alone.
Him: Thatís no problem, I totally understand.
Me: Great, so I will plan to drive straight there and get there
a little earlier this time.
Him: Well she can leave here about 8:30 like last time.
Me: Ah, but this time I will be going alone as I just
Him: Of course, I understand, that sounds great.
Me: Ok, so I will leave my apartment around 7am and get there
Him: Well I think she can leave school around 8:30.
Me: Thatís fine, but this time I will be going alone, by
myself, one person alone, by myself.
Him: Yes, I understand.
Me: Ok then, I will leave my apartment alone and drive straight
there next week.
Him: I think she can leave here around 8:30.
Itís still the strangest thing to me. Things are done
in Japan the way things are done. People say whatever it takes to move
a conversation along, but in the end things are going to happen the
way they happen and I canít inject variables into them. They are
received, processed, and ignored. Iím getting a bit tired of being
treated like a child sometimes. Most of the time I appreciate the help
and how people look out for me, but when I say I can do something by
myself, such as go to the hospital and sit and wait for 3 hours, then
I donít need another teacher to go with me. It would be different if
she spoke English, but sheís just there to be there. Iím not even
having minor surgery and I really feel bad about making her drive
there and then wait for me.
Just Do It!
Thursday, January 31st, 2008
First period I was an ALT with the 7th graders for English.
The teacher is the 5th grade teacher who doubles as the JHS
1st year (7th grade) English teacher. Today it
was class as usual and I was writing a comment on the board when the
teacher started talking to the class. Then his voice got louder and
everyone was quiet, then he threw down his book and kicked the desk.
Oh, heís mad. I had to do everything I could to not smile or giggle.
There was nothing funny about it and Iím glad he did it, but I always
laugh or smile when I am not supposed. Itís like when someone says
ďdonít think about _____Ē you have to think about it.
He was mad because he was going around the room asking kids to
translate each line of a paragraph and half the kids said they
couldnít do it. They always say that and itís more or less a perfectly
acceptable answer in Japan. Other acceptable phrases are ďI canít
speak EnglishĒ which ironically usually comes out as ďI can-toe
speak-U EngurishuĒ. I tell the kids they should say that, or they
should say ďRyan, you and the English teacher are bad teachersĒ since
they mean the same thing. The problem is the kids just donít try
because they donít have to. If they try they do well and pass and move
on, if they donít try they donít do well but still pass and move onĒ.
Thereís no real concrete reason to do any work since you are going to
pass either way.
Still loving the remote engine starter. I can crank my car from inside
my warm house and when I get there itís already toasty inside.
Furthermore, if the heater is set to defrost, then the window is
already warm which makes it much easier to clean. I might get electric
slippers soon to use at school and I might get a new electric blanket
since this one is weak in some areas. As in physical areas of the
blanket arenít so warm. I should really decide how long Iíd like to
stay so I could then decide what things I want to buy. There was one
kitchen table-appliance thing I wanted, but itís about $150 so I might
pass if I am only staying another year (from August). Honestly, my
decision changes everyday. I have some big changes planned for this
coming year (from April) so I will see how those go and then decide
The big thing pushing me to leave now is how there is no punishment
for not doing work. I have never had more than maybe 5-10% of a class
do an assignment or any work at home. Often in class if itís not fun
they wonít do it either. I canít send loud mouths out of the class
room, nor can I do anything really. Even if you donít do ANY work in
school or if you are rude to a teacher or if you donít even come to
school you can still participate in sports and other activities. Kids
know that and often take advantage of it. I would like to teach
somewhere that kids, or adults, want to be there and want to learn
English. Thatís why I love English Camp so much. They are the bright
kids who want to learn and listen and do things and enjoy itÖand say