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Is it a tie?
Monday, June 2, 2008

            We can officially wear short sleeves and no tie starting June 1st so I took them up on this offer and wore long sleeves with no tie and the shirt unbuttoned at the top. I get to school and no one else is wearing anything less than the usual long sleeves and a tie. ARGH. I asked the English teacher and he said it was perfectly ok, but I still feel like an idiot. Luckily they expect me to not understand the complicated rules.

            When I got to school I had planned to jog with the kids in the morning, but there was a teacherís meeting at 8:15 to present the three new student teachers. One is English, the other two are other subjects. They spend most of their time getting instructions from the incumbent teachers rather than watching our classes. I would assume they wouldnít watch mine since Iím in a different situation, but it seems like they would watch the English teacherís classes.

            I am really sick of this cold weather. I remember maybe two or three sunny days, that were cool, during May. In June itís usually warm and starting to get hot. Then when it rains constantly itís uncomfortably muggy. Last year I remember two or three days where I was so hot because I was wearing my green pullover thing that hides the fact Iím not wearing a tie. I know there is going to come a time when I kick myself for begging for warmer weather, but for now I am sick of constantly being cold. I still sleep under my thick comforter and wear a hoodie with warm pants. A few days Iíve had to turn on my heater. I canít leave my windows open at night yet.

            Iím ready for the warm breeze in Thailand. Iím ready for the light food that makes me lose weight even if I donít exercise (which I plan to do anyway if possible). Iím getting ready for the intense 8 hour a day English teaching I will observe/do. Although I get back on the 18th of August and go right into the summer English Camp on the 19th. Itíll be fun Iím not worried, plus the way we have it planned is that another two people and I are the hosts, per se, and then everyone else runs their own little activity. We should have it all planned by the time we leave in July.

            Hmmm, on Saturday I had planned to run into town for a few hours and workout and then have lunch with Paula and then do some speaking/listening practice with a friend, but as it turned out I was there until 8at night and running all over the place. I met Stephanie and Megan (and Zinnia) at a coffee shop and gave Steph a CD of some photos of Thailand and Baan Dada. Then when I didnít hear from my listening partner I asked Matt if he wanted to go to Jintei. He did and we went and had some good food. We chatted about various books weíve read since we like similar authors. I got home around 9 and slept 10-11 hours.

            Then on Sunday Stephanie planned a little ďchill at the lakeĒ day so she came out with a few friends and we sat by the lake talking and snacking. It was fun even though the weather was a bit cool. It was too bright to sit in the sun, but then too cool to sit in the shade. We talked about trying to go camping a few more times before Stephanie leaves. We should be able to even though I have to save wicked money from the next paycheck for Thailand. I still have to pay for the hotel which is around $450 as well as have some food money. I canít remember how much it costs to eat in Thailand, but I know if I find some local restaurants I can literally eat for pennies. I think the places in the hotel will be slightly pricey. Unfortunately the monthly rental doesnít come with a breakfast, but I should be able to buy something cheap.

            After 2nd period I walked home and drove to the post office to pay my $72 car tax. Last year it was $400 since I had a big car, now itís much cheaper since I have a small yellow plate car. First I went to the 7-11 last week since I asked several teachers if I could pay there. When I tried to pay the clerk said ďyes, absolutely, you can definitely pay hereĒ. But as it turned out I couldnít since I needed form 3A-5, but I had 3A-4 or something like that. So then today I went to the post office after arguing about where I could really pay it. When I got there I asked ďcan I pay this hereĒ. ďYes, absolutely, you can definitely pay hereĒ. ďBut itís for a small yellow plate car, are you positive I can pay here?Ē ďYes, absolutely, you can definitely pay hereĒ. But as it turned out I couldnít pay there either. So I asked where else could I pay. They said a bank would be best, but there are no banks in Konan. So the next option was the farm center which is some special bank thing for farmers. I went there and sure enough I could actually pay there, so I did, and now Iím back.

            Today for lunch I am doing ďThe Ryan ShowĒ. The kids that do the Monday announcements have asked me since April and I kept forgetting, but today we are listening to ďHere comes the sunĒ, by the Beatles. The challenge is to count how many times they say the word ďsunĒ, and the answer is 25. The reason itís so high is thereís a part near the end where they keep saying ďsun, sun, sun here it comesĒ. They repeat that 5 times. I think starting in September Iím going to do a secret agent thing where I play the mission impossible music and say ďyour mission, if you choose to accept isĒ and then something like count the number of times blah blah. Iíll need to record that in advance to make it sound better though.

Rain Delay.
Tuesday, June 3, 2008

            Today and tomorrow were supposed to be the city wide sports challenge thing for kids. Itís called Chuu-Tai-Ren which is short for Chuugakkou-Taiiku-Renmei which means JHS Sports League, though itís more of a city wide all sports contest. Since about Sunday I noticed a hurricane was heading this way and it would probably rain today, which it did. They decided to cancel it for the day and postpone it until tomorrow. I donít know what will happen if it rains again. The funny thing is the second they cancelled it, the rain started to slow down. Iím supposed to have 2 classes on Thursday, but thereís a chance there will be minimal students if they win tomorrow.

            Iíve been thinking heavily about pursuing a Masters in Education. Iím pretty sure Iím going to be involved in some form of education from here on out since it seems to be what I am good at and something I enjoy. Iíve narrowed it down to a few options, but I just donít know. One is an MAEd in eLearning, one in TEFL, two in Linguistics, and another just a MAEd. They all fall into the price range I am willing to pay which is less than $15,000. I have an aversion to paying more than 15K for an online program. That price is about what I would expect for brick and mortar education, but something delivered over the web has far less expenses and seems to be pure profit. The one in eLearning is 15K, but there is a graduate certificate option for 5K that can be continued into the full MAEd. The TEFL one, as well as one of the Linguistic MAs, is also 15K payable over 2 years so it comes out to be around $500 a month. The other Linguistics MA is 12K or less from Australia with no final dissertation. Iím going to see how the CELTA goes in Thailand. I might be sick of learning English Pedagogies and not want to pursue it at all.

            The worst part about the rain delay today is that the kids were all hyped up to go out and compete, but now they are stuck in the classroom doing print outs all day. Boring standard print outs all day. I mean itís not even like they have regular classes, itís from one extreme to the other. Itís a usual day for me having minimal classes and I have plenty to do, but for them it sucks.

Legal Again.
Wednesday, June 4, 2008

            My passport came today. The new ones are pretty cool. It has security features out the wahzoo which is a good thing Iím sure. I imagine American passports are pretty high on the counterfeit list, maybe next to the $100 bill. Now the fun part begins. Dealing with the American embassy was easy as one would expect, but now I have to transfer my visa and re-entry permit over to the new one. Itís not going to be fun. Well actually since Japan is a contradiction, itís either going to be simple or the end of the world. Thereís never an in between here, itís one or the other. Heís either going to say ďfill out this form and wait 30 minutes (and pay $100)Ē or itís going to be like I was the first person to ever ask this in history.

            I think Iím going to take the rest of the day off today and start the long process. I guess Iíll have to contact the BoE about renewing the visa since they have to sponsor that, but I should be able to do the re-entry permit which is the most pressing now. No, I guess my visa is pressing too since it expires in July as well. Immigration would say ďyour re-entry permit is fine, but why are you entering the country?Ē Argh.

Hmmm.
Thursday, June 5, 2008

            I had a conversation session with that older lady who likes to speak English. I donít charge her because A) I donít know how much to charge, B) I feel stupid asking for money, and C) if there is no money itís an easy going casual thing. Yesterday it almost got weird, but I might have diverted it. First her husband sits in when we talk and he speaks ZERO English so much of the time is me listening to him talk about fishing. Thatís not too bad, but yesterday she said two people were going to join us. I knew the two people and was surprised that they speak English. She said they donít and they want me to teach them. Ah, now that gets into a whole different thing. To teach people who speak zero English involves me preparing a lot of stuff, which I donít really have time to do. I do have free time, but there are a dozen things I need to be working on and choose not to and I donít really want to do English teaching after school. I told her I probably couldnít teach them if they donít speak any at all. I feel bad since they are nice, but itís just not something I want to do now. Iíll sit and talk to her casually once a week though.

            As expected the passport thing was one extreme, the extreme of being extremely easy. I started this spiel in Japanese about how it expired and I need toÖ.and he interrupted in English and said ďyou want us to transfer it over to the new one rightĒ. It took 5 minutes and it was free. While I was waiting I chatted with some Mongolian exchange student in the waiting area who was attending high school somewhere. He was nice, but he said he loves America no less than 10 times in the 5 minute conversation. Next week I have to spend a day renewing my teaching license which seems to be the other extreme. I need a dozen papers some copies others official stamps and then a health check at which I have to pay $95 for a health certificate, which is money I donít really have now, but I will find it. It is a small price to pay for a 3 year teaching license.

            Today was a crazy day since the Chuu-Tai-Ren was rained out on Tuesday. That caused the Tennis event to be yesterday and today. Today there are three English classes and I covered them for the tennis coach / English teacher. The third one was actually cut because the students were cleaning the pool. The teacher said ďwhat class is next, youíd better hurry and not be late.Ē ďItís English.Ē ďOh then you can be late, take your time.Ē By ďbe lateĒ that means cut the class entirely. So I donít know what we are going to do. I have a class 5th period which is when they expected to change it.

[later]

            Then, as if that werenít enough, around 1pm a group of 30 elementary school teachers showed up to tour the school. Where do they have their initial meeting, in the English room of course. So we couldnít get in there until 5 minutes after class started. That would be ok, but I was going to set up my computer in there for the student teacher and then go teach my class. I ended up being really late, but I had a casual game so it was all good.

            There was this one funny thing that happened and is only funny because I stopped maturing around age 12. When I was teaching one of the classes for the tennis coach /English teacher we showed a video. Usually the mouse disappears when the DVD starts, but occasionally it doesn't and the teacher has to move it off the screen since it's annoying. Well today it disappeared and then reappeared right on a character's boob. Then students started giggling and I didn't catch on since the video itself is giggle-worthy. I usually see things like that, but I was so stressed about teaching his lesson I missed it. Then I saw the mouse and moved it only because it was on the screen. Then it reappeared a bit lower than the boob in another popular area of the female anatomy. That's when I noticed it and the giggling. I moved it but it reappeared later in a character's nose. It got to be that we were waiting for the mouse to reappear and see where it would be. Yea, I'm still 12.

Busy Day.
Monday, June 9, 2008

            During first period the students had ďmoralsĒ class. Here they get into groups and discuss various things about life. Six of the seniors practiced for the skit contest instead. I helped them and they did rather well. They arenít going to memorized the parts until we either get accepted or rejected by the BoE. Koriyama can only send a few groups to the big prefectural event in Fukushima city. Konan sent a group when I first got here in 2005 and I assumed it was something we could do every year. This year was supposed to be the year that Koriyama had a semi-finals so the students could see who won rather than who the BoE just chose for some reason. That didnít happen which is what I expected. Change comes slow in Japan.

            Then second period I was the 3rd wheel since the student teacher was going to lead the class and the JTE (Japanese Teacher of English) was going to assist. I stood in the back and watched. About 3 minutes into the class I heard a strange noise and saw some people squirming around a bit. I didnít know what was going on. Then I saw a girl leaning against the wall and something on the wallÖand on her clothesÖ.ohÖshe just hurled didnít she. So I quickly escort her out of the room and to the nurseís office. Then I cleaned up the mess rather than directing someone from the support staff to do so. That seems so uppity to do that.

            The girl was sitting in the one seat that made it so she didnít hit anyone else. Had she turned left or faced forward it would have gone all over three or more other kids. Had she been sitting in any other seat not near the back wall, it would have gone over more. I think she turned to get up, but didnít make it since it was projected a long ways toward the door. Apparently whatever she ate wanted to get out fast.

            I always have a few second warning before I spew. Usually I have longer than that I think, but itís always at least a few seconds. I donít know if I am special or if other people ignore the signs, but Iíve never (knock on wood) spewed in a direction I couldnít help. For me, my mouth waters a bit and I have a funny feeling inside and then I usually cough-gag a few times. Iíve never just suddenly hurled without warning. Iím sure I will now that Iíve jinxed it.

            During a free period I worked on translating some greeting cards Iíve received recently. Teachers send out cards in May giving thanks to colleagues from their previous job. The cards are virtually identical since there are so many fixed phrases in Japanese, but they do vary slightly. I translated them for an upcoming project I am working on as well as for my own use.

            After school I jumped between helping the two groups who are working on skits for the English skit contest. I also listened to a meeting about the 1st years school trip tomorrow. The meeting went as they all do. We were told when to meet, how long the departure ceremony would take, the rules for riding the bus, the order of events of the day, and finally there was as section where the three other adults in the group could decide on something so we could all feel like we had a part to play in the planning. I just said ďwhateverĒ and let the other two teachers ďdecideĒ on the plan that the leader suggested we decide on.

           I had all these plans, but now thereís no time. Itís already 5 and I am about to leave to go work out. I know I wonít feel like working out tomorrow so Iím going to go tonight. Then Wednesday I will have that whole medical check up for my teaching license renewal and I donít know what time that lets out. If there is time I might go on Wednesday, but I doubt it since it is proper for me to come back to school as soon as it is finished.

School Trip.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008

            The trip was fun and I took a lot of photos. Iíll build a page later and link to it. The trip was to Aizu, which is a very traditional part of Fukushima. There were samurais and a castle and some good battles. We went to a few places I had never been so it was fun for me.

            Everyone knows Japan is a group based society, but they take that concept to new levels. Our class group broke into smaller hans (hahns Ė the word honcho means group leader in Japanese and is actually spelled han Ė cho means leader). The smaller groups still made sense in that the teacher would ask the group hanchos if all were present and the hanchos planned and monitored various parts of the trip. What I thought was a bit weird was each han chose their own agenda. We arrived at one site and two groups stayed on the bus, with no teacher, and just went on their own to another site. This would never happen in a billion years in the US. Having 7th graders go off on their own on a school trip in a different town, especially a mixed group with no teachers.

            It lasted all day and we all met up in the end to go to a museum. Iím a fan of museums, but usually only when there is some special exhibition. There wasnít anything special at this one so I zipped through it fast. This was the end of the day and we had already walked about 5 miles at various other sites in the sun so being indoors made everyone nearly pass out. The fact that it was semi boring helped a bit as well.

 Video.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008

            The two groups of three students filmed their skits for the audition today. I thought this year was going to be different and the groups would perform the skits in front of the other kids who were submitting auditions, but nope it was the same as usual. The idea of the skit contest is great, but the execution is somewhat strained. Two minutes is just not enough time to have a logical conversation that includes an intro, a conflict, and the resolution. Plus three people have to participate so the conversation is unnatural and rushed. But itís in English and thatís good practice for the kids so whatever.

            A foreign friend who works out at the gym and I were watching a cute girl on the treadmill Monday. The difference between he and I is that I imagine talking to her and he goes up and says hello. Hmmm, I wonder why I am still singleÖ He has some kind of swim date with her (and a friend) tonight so letís see how that goes. Thereís still another girl I am mentally dating at the gym, but I wonít tell anyone who in case they do something stupid like go up and talk to her. Or worse ďHey Ryan likes you. He likes you likes you. He wants to kiss you. Smoochy smoochyÖ.Ē That would be awesome. Awesome as in humiliating.

            Iím still debating starting a masterís degree in the fall. Iíve narrowed it down to either Applied Linguistics or Japanese Language and Society. They would both be by distance learning and they cost about what I am willing to pay. I am interested in linguistics and how languages work and I think that type of degree/knowledge would be marketable in many areas. Then again, I have already put in hundreds of hours toward learning Japanese and having a rigid structure learning pathway would be great for acquiring a solid knowledge level. Now I know scattered advanced things, but not some simple things. I donít know if I want to work directly for a Japanese company after this, but having a degree in Japanese would show commitment and look good. Many companies/fields have a need for communicating with the Japanese. Iím also interested in some online certificates, but those arenít as involved as a masterís degree.

            Tonight I am meeting Paula and Stephanie for dinner. Paula is leaving the Koriyama Native Teacher job to work for a university. Sheís been wanting to teach adults for a while and I totally understand that. Working in a public school with kids who rarely want to learn English makes teaching difficult. I wonder what it would be like to teach adults who want to learn. Perhaps Iíll find a job (with my masterís degree) at a Thai University. Oh that would be nice, even though Iíd only be making $1,500 USD a month.

            Today Iíve spent a bit of the morning checking every tiny little nuance of the skit the kids recorded yesterday. The skit has to be exactly precisely perfect to the atom. Itís typical of anything in Japan, but itís completely pointless and annoying. Weíre going to have to redo the videos because the kids didnít say one small word during the intro. One tiny pointless useless word that has nothing to do with anything causes us to completely redo it.

            That reminds me of when I was getting the postal money order for the passport renewal and I had to write my address twice. The guy said they have to be exactly precise. Then he made me lengthen a few letters and dot a few iís so they were exactly precisely the same. The degree to which they demand uniformity is truly unreal. It makes for highly advanced machinery, but also makes for annoyingly complicated processes in daily life.

TGIF.
Friday, June 13, 2008

            Iím sitting at my desk listening to the elementary vice principal explain how to spell his name even though itís rather common. In Japanese there are multiple characters and readings for words so he has to give examples of each character. Then he had to resort to telling the other person on the phone how many strokes were in each character. Itís such an efficient languageÖ.I do like how it is phonetically consistent though. Once you learn the 46+ sounds you never have to ask how to say something. In English letters have a name and then several ways of pronouncing them. I find it nearly impossible to teach phonics to Japanese kids because there are so many rules and equally as many exceptions. The final kick is how the kids always revert to the Japanese phonetic system and can never truly pronounce English correctly. If someone ever develops a Common World language, there needs to be as few exceptions as possible.

            This week I had a school trip, an office day / license renewal/ health check, a busy day of classes, and a day of two standardized tests. I'm glad it is Friday. I would have a beer if I werenít really broke and watching every yen. I sat through the English test which always makes me think of how lousy the Japanese tests are. This English test is great. They speak clearly and repeat things twice. The directions are in Japanese since why would the kids know English test taking directions. Finally the words and grammar are on the same level as the kids. Whereas the Japanese test is completely in Japanese (even the very beginner level), they only play the listening once, the guy speaking sounds like a drunk samurai with a busted jaw, and they test us on archaic grammar that makes my teachers laugh (or confuses them). I guess without such a silly test they couldnít say ďJapanese is so difficult to learnĒ.

            Hereís an example of the listening for the English test. Remember to emphasize each word and read it clearly and slowly in a clean voice.

A: John, what are you going to do tomorrow?
B: Iím going to go to Tokyo to buy a book.
A: Will you buy me a CD?
B:  1) ______________

      A)  Yes I will.
B) Birds are pretty.
C) Can you ski?
D) Meka Leka Hi Meka Hiney Ho.

 

            That seems pretty clear and easy to understand? They repeat the dialogue twice and the answers are written in the booklet. Now letís see the Japanese test (written in English). Remember one speaker has a busted jaw and might be drunk and they are speaking faster than natural speed.

A: What is your favorite color?
B: Itís green, though it was blue when I was young. I also like red, but not yellow.
A: So you say you donít like blue, and you like yellow?
B: No, I said I didnít like yellow, but I like red a little.
A: Arenít traffic lights called blue in Japan? Do you feel blue now?
B: Iím going to clean my blue car that blew away. Iím scared and feel yellow.
A: Buildings are called green if they are environmentally non-intrusive. I am not as old as my sister. She is younger than someone else. I am younger than an old person. I like old movies and blue young green tomatoes that are red and green.

1)      When did the person like blue?

              WHAT? Thatís way too much nonsense to hold in abeyance while I am trying to listen for the answer. They constantly try to trick the listener, but the English tests NEVER pick on the common problems of Japanese students. Itís such a conspiracy and I hate the J-tests.

Saturday, but is it?
Saturday, June 14, 2008

            I woke up around 6:30 and decided to sleep late. I got out of bed at 7:30. How sad is that? Around 8:45 there was a small earthquake. Then around 11 I went into town to work out and do some other things. While at the gym I saw the small earthquake wasn't so small. In Fukushima and further north there was a lot of damage. Bridges fell, roads on mountains slid away, there were mud slides everywhere. Wow, I guess the mountains really cancel out the shockwaves in my area because it simply wasn't that bad. When I went to pick up my camping chair Stephanie said it was really bad in her 4th floor apartment.

            Then after the gym I ate some ramen and ran an errand. I meant to go by the bookstore coffee shop to study some, but I just forgot until I was half way home. On the way I decided to study by the lake since I had my books and chair, but it was too cold and too windy. I stayed for about 2 minutes and came back.

            While I was out I noticed the day didn't feel right. Saturdays have a feeling. Mondays and Fridays have a feeling and other days do as well. There's that "I'm not supposed to be here" feeling when you miss work/school for a doctor's appointment. There's that happy feeling when you are going to do something fun later in the day and you are preparing now. There's that calm feeling after a storm or lots of rain. Today had a strange feeling and I couldn't place it. Now it's 9pm on Saturday and it feels like 9pm on Saturday. I had dinner at the 7-11 because I still have a Quo Card which is a gift card I got for doing an online survey. Now I'm just typing this and thinking about doing laundry.

            I'm still debating what kind of past time I want to take on next year. I'm definitely going to crack down and get better at Japanese. I would be embarrassed to live here for 6+ years and not be closer to fluent. My problem now is that I can communicate most any idea I need to and I always speak English. I'm leaning heavily toward the master of applied linguistics since I am interested in language and it seems to be broad enough to have many applications after this. It will help if I continue teaching ESL. It will help if I go back to the US. It will help if I try to get a job at a university or community college. I'm probably going to pursue a graduate certificate in eLearning rather than a whole degree. I was thinking about getting a master's in Japanese, but I'll probably just study hard and pass the Japanese Language test level 2 rather than go for a $12,000 Master's degree.

            I've been thinking about completely redesigning my online games I made for the kids. I'm going to make the English test practice part more like the English test they take. First there are 15 questions, then some sentence order questions, then some reading questions, and maybe some listening. I'm also going to redo the games site and have a section for each grade of the elementary school to use. Sometimes after school there are 1st graders in the computer room playing with stupid paint programs so I want to make some things where they can have fun with English letters in games that have no real challenge. Maybe something simple just to give them exposure to the alphabet. I always have an order in mind and then I keep adding games to it and the order gets all messed up.

 

Ehh.
Monday, June 16, 2008

            Itís been an average day. I had one class with the 7th graders and I made a little phonics board game. I think it worked like I planned. I saw some of the upper level kids helping the lower level ones. The kids always find little loopholes in my activities that I have to go back and fix, but eventually the games get to be pretty good. Before and after that I have been sending faxes to the BoE about the upcoming English camp as well as my summer plans in Thailand and renewing my teaching visa. Today there is some visiting dignitary professor giving demonstrations about how to teach social studies. Since rank is so important, all the teachers are scurrying around writing down every little thing he says.

            During lunch I did ďThe Ryan ShowĒ where I played 8 Days a Week by the Beatles and had the kids count how many times they heard ďLoveĒ. The answer is 21. Later I will do a listening game where the key word is only said once or twice. After lunch I printed out an activity and then poured coffee all over it and let it soak in the sun. That gave it an old antique look which is what I was going for. That was the effect for which I was going. Anyway, it looks nice. This Friday I have a meeting about the summer English camp and then I have to get more forms from the BoE and the immigration office about renewing my visa. Then I should be all set.

            Iím leaning heavily toward the Masters in Applied Linguistics since it seems to have the most opportunities for jobs I would like after this. I found a link for some Linguistics Society and it had a list of jobs for people with an MAAL and there were many that interested me. I will start checking into that around September. Iím also going to try to work on a graduate certificate in distance learning as well. Iíll just study Japanese on my own time rather than trying for a masters in that.

            Something odd has happened about 10 times today. It actually happens fairly regularly, but itís odd every time. Iíll see some kid and go up and say something and I am completely ignored. Iíll say it again and tap on his/her shoulder, but Iím just completely ignored. Then Iíll say it again a few times and still Iím ignored. So I either walk away confused or I make sure I get his/her attention. It happens occasionally and I never know if I did something to offend them or if itís just another example of all the walls of separation in Japan.

 

Those Pesky ThoughtsÖ
Tuesday, June 17, 2008

            I had a class with one of the English teachers. I stood there most of the time as he would say things and have the class repeat it. Occasionally he would remember me standing there and have me repeat it. Overall I am grossly underused. Iím not mad at anyone since thatís how things are in Japan. Iíve only had a few teachers that were eager for help. Most feel they can do it on their own and having a native speaker there is embarrassing and unnecessary. I really like him as a teacher and we usually have great classes, but he is Japanese and that is part of the culture so occasionally I am forgotten.

            So I started having those thoughts about moving on and finding another job where I am needed more and used more. There are several reasons I want to stay such as great benefits, great salary, and I just comfortable with my life here. Even with all my cultural annoyances I have a great life and a really (too) relaxed job. Iím paid far more than I deserve to be and I donít want to voluntarily give that up. Thereís also the few elementary school kids who ask if I will be around forever since they really like me as a teacher. Then I start to think of the things that annoy me such as being under worked, living in a small country town away from everything, everything being so expensive, and the alien abductions with probings.

            Iím definitely going to stay one more year and I am considering a second. If I start a Masterís degree (do I capitalize that?) then staying would be better. Iíd love to leave Japan debt free which is possible in two years. At one time I thought of staying for 3-5 more years to see y current 6th graders graduate JHS, but that seems highly unlikely, especially since we donít get raises or any bonus. There are jobs that pay more and work you more and jobs that pay less and work you more. Some of the lower paying jobs are in climates that would rock such as Thailand. One job that pays considerably more is Dubai, but I think that is a bit too close to other areas of the world that donít like Americans.

            I had a class with the 5th graders. Moments before the class the teacher told me they had to eat lunch early since they are leaving early today so it would be great if I cut the class 15 minutes short. Sure no problem, I havenít planned anything for the class. Well not much. Well not TOO much. Well, ok I can drop this whole activity I spent hours on. It made me realize I am starting to see a pattern with my classes. On Monday I had a class with the 7th graders and I always have their class on Friday. I realized that there was a special guest teacher at the school and by giving me a class with them all the other teachers were free to watch the special class. Iíve also noticed my classes are scheduled when there are eye exams or health checks.

Stop itÖwith the pen already
Thursday, June 19, 2008

            I have several annoying habits and I am aware of them all. Sometimes I can catch myself doing them and quit, but I usually start right back up again moments later. I never realized how annoying they were until one of the new teachers revealed his annoying habit. He clicks a pen on and off about 5,000 times a minute. He has one pen that he clicks slower, but itís louder and is equally annoying. The pen he is using now is quieter so to compensate for less annoyingness he clicks it at light speed. Sometimes itís dominating the teacherís room, but people are so polite here they wonít say anything about it. Iím going to do research to see if anyone else has noticed it.

            Yesterday I went to the site of the August English camp and walked around to draw a map for one outdoor activity we have planned. I ended up finding a few things I didnít know were there. One was a ropes course on the small mountain and another was a cave that someone had bricked up. It seemed really small like Iíd have to squat to move around in it so I imagine it would be dangerous. A more famous cave in the side of the mountain is in Fukushima city where the big mountain in the middle of town has an old airplane factory inside of it. Another such place, one that you can actually visit and go inside, is near Utsunomiya in a town called Oya.

Back to Square One.
Monday, June 23, 2008

            Thursday was a day that made me want to leave this job that day. I had a bad class and then another pretty crappy class. They were bad because there is no consequence for your actions if you are a JHS student. I had a class that could have been planned better Iíll admit, but then a few of the students just acted like idiots. They would yell out any answer that was not even remotely close. ďWhat is the verb here?....7Ö.No thatís a numberĒ. Then they reverted to chatting. There is nothing I can do and itís annoying. If I had to decide my future on Thursday I would have decided to leave that day.

            Then today, Monday, I had a class with the elementary 3rd graders. It went great and they were really into it. I first played a review game like Jeopardy using that lockout buzzer I bought recently. That part was a little rough and I donít think Iím going to keep using it much in class. It always ends up being more of a novelty than a useful item. Students see how fast they can smack the buttons and buzz in just to see their teamís light shine. But after all that I played a game where kids run around asking ďwhatís your nameĒ and then they answer ďIím ___Ē. That went over well as did the questioning part of the Jeopardy game itself.

            Iím going to keep a running tab of how I feel each day, as in whether or not I want to renew. That will help me decide about staying an additional year after this one. Iím getting tired of the way things never improve (like my salary), but on the flip side itís a great job and there are a lot of perks.

            Friday we had a meeting for all the Koriyama JETs and elementary school teachers. It was good to get some new lesson ideas and talk about the August English Camp that I am overseeing with two other people. It was not fun to have none of the other teachers who are volunteering offer to lead one activity. People are always eager to participate (could it be because we get paid a little extra), but not so eager to plan or help plan things. There are three of us in charge of it and we are going to be doing a lot, but the other three people havenít shown much interest yet. Maybe they will soon, but I am leaving in three weeks and I arrive back the day before the camp.

Productive.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008

            Man I was productive yesterday. I got so much done even though half of it was me writing emails to send later. I made some stuff for the English Camp in August and wrote several emails and sent them when I got home. I did some limited internet research since anything remotely useful is blocked by the filtered proxy. Even Japanese websites for teaching English are blocked. Remember the theory for surviving in Japan, think of what makes sense and seems logical and then think of the opposite. Thatís what will happen. It has caused me to predict how things would run in about 80% of the cases.

            Hereís a humorous conversation I had with a student that sums up the general Japanese belief system I think.

Him: Ryan sensei, how do you say my name in English?
Me: Itís the same as in Japanese. You donít change your name in English.
Him: So in English my name would be pronounced the same?
Me: Yup, thereís no change.

Him: Wow thatís amazing.
Me: Just like in Japan, your name would be pronounced Tanaka (not real name).
Him: So in English your name is Lian?
Me: No, foreigners have to change their names since Japanese canít pronounce foreign names.
Him: My name wouldnít change at all?
Me: Well we might not say it exactly as you say it, but you wouldnít have to change it.
Him: (Turning to his friends) Thatís funny, they donít pronounce our names like we do. (Back to me) You know our names are very important to us. Maybe you should try to pronounce them correctly.
Me: Thatís funny.
Him: Why?
Me: You say names are important and should be pronounced correctly, but you completely change my name. You canít even remotely pronounce my name correctly.
Him: Your name is Lian.
Me: Nope. My name is Ryan. R-R-R-R. You canít say that, but I donít make fun of you or say ďyou should try hardĒ.
Him: Well thatís different, you should try hard to pronounce Japanese names since they are important to us.
Me: Ha ha. Perhaps one day I will learn to understand the beautiful Japanese culture. I am merely a lowly peasant now.
Him: Hang in there. See ya.
 

            The only working theory that ďworksĒ is that they see Japan as higher than the rest of the world. There are countless other examples of this such as old men that make fun of Americans for bending over a bowl to eat soup like a dog, or sleeping in a bed like a dog. Also, examples like you always call Japanese people by their name + -san in Japan or around the world. You never treat them like the local culture, it has to be their higher culture.

            Oh, sorry for the vent. There are little things that happen occasionally and sometimes they hit when Iím not in a mood to laugh them off. Itís a constant barrage usually and you do overflow and have to vent. Then the next day something really great happens and it balances it out. I donít have a really great example now, but they always balance out.

Parking - Games.
Wednesday, June 25, 2008

            I had a class with the 3rd graders in the elementary school. It was the second this week since we havenít had any classes since school started. On Monday I taught ďwhatís your nameĒ and today I briefly reviewed and then taught ďhowís the weatherĒ. They are pretty slick at both structures now. For todayís game I chose to make snakes and ladders thinking this would be simple and great for repetition. I made a board with about 60 spaces and put pics of the 5 weather examples I was teaching. I drew some ladders and some snakes as well as arrows showing exactly where to go. I drew diagrams showing a stick figure climb the ladders and then sliding down the snakes. It was rock solid. Then when we played the kids they moved randomly around the board seeking out ladders and avoiding the snakes (since they are scary). They still managed to say the structure several times, but it was amazing how they slaughtered the idea.

            Yesterday at the gym I noticed two interesting cultural points. By ďinterestingĒ I really mean annoying. The first was when I was on the treadmill. I can either stare at the wall or look out the window and watch people park their cars. That can be amazingly interesting when you are on a treadmill. The thing about parking in Japan is you always back into spaces. No matter where you are, you back into spaces. Thatís what they are taught in driving school and thatís what they do. This is fine 99.98% of the time, but this parking lot has one space that fits into that .02 percentile. The reason is that the lot is small and there is not enough space. Hereís a diagram.

            As you can see, the spots on the back wall are perfect for backing into as well as all but spot 1. That spot makes zero sense to back into. It would be alright to back in if the exit were directly beside it. You have to spend 10 minutes trying to move your car around to get out if you backed in when you pull out. If they were to just pull in and turn so you are in straight, you could fly right out of the exit when they leave. But they donít and they wonít. The amazing thing was that I willed someone to move his car after he pulled in. I was staring at him and thinking deeply ďwhy did you park like that? You should turn the car around so it would be easier to leave. Change it now.Ē As he walked away from the car he stopped and looked at his car and walked back to change it. I did that with my amazing mind.

            Then as I was leaving I saw another ďinterestingĒ cultural thing that I can only explain by saying it must be rude to wait in Asia. That is my working theory for so many things and I canít find any other rational (ha ha ha) explanation. There was someone who was doing the same thing as mentioned before. He backed into the space right by the exit (of a different lot) and was moving all around to get out. As he was doing so a car started to pull into the parking lot from the street, then another behind that one. But he couldnít wait, that would be ride. If he were to have stopped for, no kidding, 30 seconds maybe even 10 seconds. The car could have passed him and pulled into the lot. But he couldnít wait and I know he wasnít in a hurry because he sat in his car for about 5 minutes before leaving. He kept moving around trying to get out and then he tried to squeeze by the incoming car which was impossible. In the end the incoming car (and the one behind it blocking the road) had to actually back out of the lot and completely stop traffic going both ways so this guy could get out. That has happened so many times I canít even count. If people would just stop and not move for 10-30 seconds the issue would be resolved, but they cannot wait.

            In Thailand and Cambodia drivers would pass anyone who was going slightly slower than them. On numerous occasions I told drivers I was in no hurry and they could drive casually, but never once did that happen. Once we pulled into the other lane into oncoming traffic and the worst thing I remember was pulling onto the curb to pass someone. The bus to the orphanage drives like a demon from hell and passes cars ON HILLS AROUND TURNS. The only reason I donít freak out is because we are in the bigger vehicle and they do this all the time so they must know something I donít.

            Some smaller examples include when paying at a register, the second you get your change you are shoved out of the way and the next person moves up. When teachers are anywhere in the school and someone calls or comes by that teacher runs like an Olympic runner to get to the office. There is even a polite phrase in Japanese that means ďIím sorry I made you waitĒ and it is said for anything and any reason.

3 Classes.
Monday, June 30, 2008

            I have 3 classes this week, well 3 that require planning. I just go to the others and donít plan or prepare anything. Nor do I even really participate, which makes sense because they are only teaching English and what do I know about that subject. I had one of the 3 today which was with the 7th graders (or 1st year JHS). We reviewed what is the subject of a sentence and what is the Be-verb versus the regular verb. I tried to use some verbs they havenít officially learned yet which was a mistake. They compartmentalize their thinking so the concept of ďself discoveryĒ or ďfiguring something out on your ownĒ doesnít happen that much. I gave them a sentence with ďI play soccerĒ which they have learned and they did fine. They marked the subject and verb. Then I wrote ďI eat sushiĒ. They know ďIĒ and they can read ďsushiĒ, but they were all blank and had no idea what to do. They kept saying they couldnít read ďeatĒ and had no idea what it was even in context. It was frustrating and made me put a mark in the category of wanting to teach somewhere else.

            The two other classes I have this week are Thursday, which is the day of the farewell party for the BoE. That should be pretty fun since it will be the last time I see many of the AETs. I leave the next week and Iím sure I will be too busy to get into town much. I plan to drink and stay the night with someone rather than get a hotel room. I think this year itís actually at a place where we donít have to sit on the floor. The BoE always prefers a floor place and justifies it with things like ďwell itís your last party in Japan so letís do it Japanese style one more timeĒ even though they know 90% of all foreigners hate it. The other 9% act like they like it so they can feel more Japanese. Theyíll also say things like ďoh I love nattouĒ and ďI prefer to read things in Japanese, itís just more natural to meĒ. Then about 1% actually do prefer sitting on the floor. I never sit on the floor unless I am playing with a child or a dog.

            This weekend I didnít do much. I bought some protein which was $40, but I am hoping that will curb my appetite and I should be able to eat less. I went to the gym both days and had good work outs. I really felt my triceps burn on Sunday. Sadly today is the last day I can go until September since I signed up for the discounted rate of $10 a month rather than $70 since I wonít be there. It goes by calendar months so I canít go during July or August. Itís only a problem this week since I wouldnít go next week. Iíll be busy from the 18th of August to the 24th and then Iíll be restarting school from the 25th to the 29th so that will be alright. Then in September I plan to set some major goals like paying down one loan to 10K, beefing up my Japanese, and making some muscular goals.

 

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