|home||daily journal||info||the school||the kids||original site|
Monday, May 01, 2006
Saw the strangest thing today. Yea, just strange. I was walking down the hall and passed the special use room. Itís a big room like a mini-gym and we have whole school meetings in there occasionally as well as recitals and such. It was dark, but I saw three kids on the floor. It looked like they were about to do something cool. One boy was on his stomach and the other two were behind him as if they were going to push him or something. As I entered the room I noticed they were pushing, but not him.
They were trying to see how far they could stick their hands up his butt. They would take turns at first pushing down and then putting all their weight into it. Then they both went at it. I thought they were bullying him until he turned and said ďmore more moreĒ. Yea that was..uhÖjustÖbizarre.
This week I was reminded why I donít like the group that governs Fukushima JETs, at least the high school JETs and the schools. They are called Ken chou. Ken means prefecture which is like a state or province and chou means leader or leading group. When I was a Fukushima JET they constantly did stuff that made no sense and annoyed not only me, but most of the Japanese teachers. I donít know of anyone that has anything nice to say about them. They would move us from school to school, but not tell us so we never had a chance to connect with the students or say goodbye. Last week they decided to move a really nice office lady to another school, in the middle of the year. Everyone here thought that was just dumb. She knew all the kids and now she is at some other school and has to start over. Plus she lives around here and the person who replaced lives near her new school. A teacher said it sounded like some moron at kenchou was trying to look like they were busy by moving people around randomly.
There is a fable that if you had an infinite number of monkeys and an infinite number of typewriters and an infinite amount of time, they would eventually write all the classics just by randomly hitting keys. I think if you had one monkey, and one typewriter he could make better choices than a certain governing place. You could even dress the monkey up in a skirt and say mean things to him and he would still make better choices. I am so glad to be done with them, althoughÖ.
My principal sat me down and told me Kenchou wants me to lead some stupid meeting in June about teaching other ALTs how to do something. Apparently I am the expert since I was a JET for 3 years in a high school and now I teach as a full teacher in an elementary and junior high school. So I have no choice in this and will be representing the school and Koriyama BoE so I have to be on my best behavior and not act like an ass basically.
Thereís a really funny thing about Japan, not just one but I will limit my rant to this one. They claim they are unique because they have 4 seasons. Thatís about as dumb as Canada saying they are unique because it rains there. This is dumb for two major reasons. Reason 1: Several countries have 4 seasons. Pretty much any country not with Artic in the title or on the equator, has 4 seasons. Reason 2: Actually NO, Japan has two seasons and two buffer times. Itís either so hot you are drenched the second you open your apartment door, or so frigid your breath freezes in your own mouth. Spring should be usually not hot and not cold for longer than a week. Fall should be the same way. It goes from hot for 5-6 months to freezing for 5-6 months with maybe two weeks in between. 4 distinct seasons would mean about 4 quarters of different weather, which is NOT Japan. But Japan loves to claim how unique things are. They think their language is uniquely difficult to learn and nearly throw a parade when a foreigner says some small word. They have been the victim for hundreds of years and have never instigated a conflict (one of my favorites). Many people also think things like 7/11, McDonalds, Microsoft, the airplane, and Jesus are all originally from Japan. Seriously, you might be able to swing 7/11, but Jesus, come on.
I hate the way teachers have no power here. In class we have some, but as people we are at the mercy of people calling and even the students. Someone just called for one of the vice principals and he was in his car leaving. Now a few things could have happened, but if we put on our Japanese logic caps we can easily choose the right one.
1) The person answering the phone could have asked if it was urgent.
2) The person answering could have said ďhe is already gone can I leave a messageĒ and then called him on his mobile phone if it was urgent.
3) The person answering could have said ďhe is already gone can I leave a messageĒ and then just written a note if it wasnít urgent.
4) The person answering could have told all the teachers the VP must be stopped before leaving the parking lot causing all of us to run out the door (after changing shoes) in a hysterical panic waving and screaming at him as he pulls out of the parking lot. Then he quickly parks his van and runs at break neck speed back into the school (after changing his shoes) to answer the phone from a salesperson asking when he could come by and sell crap to the teachers.
Had another absurd language goof, these are getting annoying. I was trying to say ďitís a good cameraĒ, but instead I said ďitís an intestinal gastroenterological cameraĒ. The kind that goes into the backdoor and well you get it. I only got a wide eyed look from this and then she realized what I meant. So I didnít stretch the iiiii long enough, la-di-da.
OH SNAP. I just got some great news. Well it was bad at first, but became very much good yes. I called someone about clarifying some car issues, like the recent $1,500 car tax / inspection. I asked what I should do about my power steering it is more or less dead. Then the conversation moved to how I haven't paid for the inspection and I was told "oh they are really cool about money, you can even pay over three months or so". I nearly wet my pants I was so happy. I've been eating as cheaply as possible since the $1,500 was more than half my paycheck and I had to send $600 back for bills in the US. Paying over three months would be wicked fat. Then it was mentioned, there was a mentioning, that when he bought his car he paid over 4 or 5 months. Wowzers. This car is ok for the most part, but I have wanted a different style car for a while and if I could get a slightly newer car that only needed shaken every two years, biggity booya.
So the next few major purchases I plan to make are, vis-ŗ-vis, the following:
A bike of sorts to ride
around and get in shape.
The new computer would be via the bank of Kowalski. He would put it on his sky miles visa and I would pay him back. The interest would be the miles he gets and I would take him to dinner one night. A say nice things about him to other people.
Ok, I've calmed down.
Ha ha, that reminds me of when I worked at the world's worst employer, some internet company that has changed names a dozen times. Anyway, I was in the pit, aka tech support, and someone was yelling at me on the phone. It was totally our fault, but I couldn't say that. I could only try to get him to stop yelling. I told him:
Sir, please remain clam.
That caused him to laugh and did start to calm down. Actually I remember now, he was talking about how his site was running slow and he makes $5,000 a day off it. I wanted to say "look jerky, if you are making that much per day, why don't you upgrade from our lowest Wanker-Plan and upgrade to something more stable". But as it turns out my statement worked out better. Please remain clam. You see I was reading from our "you are a moron because you took a job in tech support and therefore we must tell you exactly what to say" chart.
That got me thinking about that old job. As much as I wanted to gouge my eyes out with a plastic spoon, I do miss it sometimes. At one point we had a cool group in the dedicated hosting department. We would handle the big name clients who spent several thousand dollars a month. That was fun for a while, until the morons broke up the department and later realized that was a huge mistake. But one thing that was fun about it was a game we would play. It was called Prairie Dog. We all sat in cubicles all around the entire floor. Someone would yell "Prairie Dog", but would slur it in a way no one could really understand. Then you look up to see how many heads pop up above the cubicles like prairie dogs. Good times.
Tuesday, May 02, 2006
I just got some fatty-mad bonus points and I didnít even mean to. Apparently the principal had some meeting with someone important. As he was bringing the lady out of his office into the teacherís room, I quickly stood up and bowed very respectfully. All the other teachers saw me and jumped up as well. Later the principal thanked me for being so attentive.
But I had no idea what was going on. I had been sitting on my leg a bit funny and it was asleep and my lower back hurt from leaning forward to type on the computer. So at some random point I decided to stand up and stretch my back. I did so by leaning forward with my hands clasped (fun word) behind my back, which is coincidentally the way you bow. I also went really far forward, which is the respectful way. I also stayed there for a few seconds. I didnít have the heart to tell them I was just stretching.
That reminded me of my first year as a Fukushima JET. I rode my sissy bike to school everyday. There was an area of the sidewalk where a limb hung down and I had to duck to get under it. This appeared, to the old man sitting just past the tree, as if I was bowing to him every morning. By some bizarre universal coincidence he was related to someone at Fukushima Higashi high school and came to visit one day. When he saw me he commented on how polite I was to respect the elders and I got more bonus points. Good times.
We just had a mock intruder drill. It was pretty cool. First the elementary school VP dressed in normal clothes and (what is the past tense of sneak?) entered the ES 1st graders room. As they ran out of the room the teacher pressed the intruder button and this funny sounding alarm went off. The alarm part was pretty standard like a air raid or something, but the guy talking sounded like a TV reporter or salesman. It was very clear and annunciated, which it should be, but it just sounded stupid. He said, in a voice like he was making fun of something, ďwarning, a strange man has entered the building, please go to the 1st grade class room to assist with this matterĒ. Yea it should be clear and concise, but it just sounded so matter of fact.
Anyway, we all get down to the room and the VP was doing a nice rendition of being a crazy man. Then all the male teachers attacked him with this thing that pins people against the wall. It looks like a pitchfork with no middle ďiron maidenĒ type prong. So they had him pinned and kids were being hustled by the room and in a semi-panic since they didnít entirely know what was going on. The VP was still swinging this bamboo stick, but not really trying to hit anyone. Finally it was over and the fire chief talked to the teachers. Then all the students went into the special use room, as mentioned previously regarding the butt probing, and we all had a talk about being safe. A lady showed everyone how to escape from various situations like being grabbed or pulled. Then we all practiced screaming ďhelp meĒ in Japanese of course.
Around 5pm a guy came to look at my car since the power steering is shot. Luckily he had to take it away to work on it. I was afraid he would press some button and it would magically work, which would be convenient, but I would be the big idiot. He was so apologetic that he couldnít fix it on the spot, but I didnít care. He left me a loaner so no big deal, but it is the Japanese way to over apologize.
This week, being Golden Week, I have Wed through Friday off and then of course Sat and Sun. I plan to chill around the house and practice Japanese calligraphy until I turn blue in the face. I am stuck on this one stroke and just canít get it. I know how to do it, but my wrist just wonít turn like it should. I used ďstrokeĒ and ďwristĒ in the same paragraph. So I will practice and maybe go into town once or twice. I also need to work on my friendís new music school website.
Wednesday, May 3rd, 2006
I went into Koriyama today and spent some of the money for the car inspection, not much just a little. I am banking on the theory that I can pay in installments. Plus I wanted to drive the loaner car around. And that leads me to my story of the how much of a moron I am.
I get to this discount shopping center. It has a Sports Authority, some Wal-Mart like store, a discount computer store, a $1 store, and other stuff. It has a big lot and is always packed on weekends. This week is a 3 day holiday so I wasn't sure how bad it would be. It was average I'd say. So I park the car and head to the Wal-Mart like store. I buy some general crap and then move to the computer store. I am going to get a loan from the Bank of Kowalski this weekend for a computer and pay him back over 3 months. Plus he will get sky miles for the purchase. Then I hit the $1 store beside it. I bought some much needed supplies that I had just resigned to not get until later.
Then I had back to the car. Hmmm, I have no idea where I parked. To make things worse, I have no idea what the car looks like. I mean why would I? I was delivered to my door. When I left it was the only car there so I didn't really examine it. Plus it's white and absolutely plain. Crap where is it. I had to walk around looking in cars for anything familiar, but even then it was a loaner so I didn't have anything in it that would identify it. Oh wait, I have a button on my key ring that unlocks the door and flashes the lights. I click it and hear nothing, so I walk around clicking it and still I hear nothing. Finally I can hear it but not see it. Then I see a man waving at me. Great is this some teacher or someone I forgot? He waves me over and asks if this was my car. He had seen me looking lost and clicking the key chain and the lights and locks constantly going crazy. I thanked him and explained I was an idiot.
I ended up buying a lot of crap for school. I bought some speakers for the English room. It's honestly easier to buy them myself than to request the school buy them. That would require, and I am not exaggerating, the following:
A) A proposal, in
Japanese, explaining how they would be used
Or I could just spend $20 on some cheap computer speakers with a small woofer and install them myself. It's just not worth the hassle. At the $1 store, though actually called the 100 yen store, I bought some English books for kids and some cable protectors for the floor, again for the English room. See above list. Then I ate sushi, but only 6 plates since I had Starbucks around 3 and wasn't hungry.
For the computer there are a few options. I think I am going to go for a slightly not top of the line machine, but then upgrade to the 19" monitor. I could get a nicer machine and a 17", but I watch so much on the computer, it would just be really cool to have the 19" screen, plus I can upgrade the machine as needed. I might add more RAM on the spot though. I would really like a fatty gig of RAM.
So tomorrow I think I will chill around the apartment and maybe go to school to install said speakers and flooring things. I can clean more and make another pinata. So far I have made almost two. I have made two, but they aren't finished. One is a donkey or a horse, the other is a 4 pointed star. One is going to be a plain tennis ball or soccer ball, and I might even make a snake or a snowman. I need to make 4 to show the 1-4 grades about Cinco de Mayo, which is Friday, but I will just show them later. Then I will make three more, one for one class in each grade of the JHS. I will use it for the term final party for the class that gets the most points. Most classes are nearly tied, but the 1st years (7th graders) are way off. One class has 500+ the other has around 280. The slower class even has the more strict teacher. The stricter teacher. Hmmm, spell check didn't mind stricter, but it sounds wrong. Sounds like strychnine.
It's belly was reinforced and is drying.
The 4 pointed star, of sorts.
Friday, May 5th, 2006
I decided to go on a day trip. I went to Utsunomiya and explored a deep underground mine that was used as an airplane factory during the war. World War 2 that is. There are some old relief carvings on the wall of a mountain near it and a 22m tall statue of a Kannon, which is a female god more or less.
Then I took a bus, a train, walked, another train, a bus, and something else to get to the Tobu World Square. It's a park with 100+ miniature World Heritage Sites all at 1/25th scale. It was pretty cool. Here are the photos:
I thought I could do it all cheaper than I did, but I only spent 1.7man or less than $170. That included everything though so it wasn't bad. I even had famous Utsunomiya gyoza afterwards. I'm glad I went. I have been thinking about that place for a while. Pretty much since I found out there is a mountain in Fukushima with a hidden factory as well, but the entrance is all blocked up......or is it?
Today I am about to go to the school to see if anyone is there. I have two projects I would like to do when not many teachers are there. Then I will get lunch somewhere. Then I am going to practice this one brush stroke I can't seem to get in Japanese calligraphy. I plan to practice it 100 sheets. Not 100 times, but 100 sheets each with about 10 strokes. Maybe I will make it part of the way.
Nope, no one was there. I know I heard someone say the school would be open occasionally. Well anyway, I made gyoza for lunch and I am getting better. This was my best batch yet and they were almost sellable. I'm not going to sell them, but they were almost that high quality. My next batch will be perfect. Sheer perfection. I'll write out the recipe now. Here it is, my easy gyoza recipe.
Tuesday, May 9th, 2006
Almost back tom normal. Got the new computer and am transferring programs to it, but it's not so easy. Bigger update soon when I get it all squared away.
When someone says, hypothetically, ďplease come to the teacherís roomĒ, what does that mean to you? Does it mean:
I would guess B. Come to the teacherís room now if possible or as soon as possible. I was in the far bathroom today during 2nd period. The students were out practicing for the big school exercise day this Sunday ( that of course starts at 6am, why would it start at any other time ) and I was closing my eyes for a few minutes in the counselorís room. Then I went to the far bathroom for some business. After a few minutes I hear an announcement for me to come to the teacherís room. Well my ďmeetingĒ isnít quite over so I will go when I can. No kidding, about 1 minute later they make another announcement for me. Then I decide to table the meeting for another time. As I am finishing, Iíd say 30 seconds from the second announcement, there is a 3rd announcement for me with the addendum that it is urgent. I know it will not be urgent, but I hurry up anyway. Itís going to be something non-urgent like my car is ready or someone has something stupid to say on the phone. I run to the teacherís room, as is the Japanese way, and when I get there a teacher asks if my next class can be moved until 6th period. I say sure without even checking. And that was the end of it. Resistance is futile.
There is this teacher who came in on crutches last week. Then she started using a wheel chair. I kinda think she is faking a bit. I mean Iím sure she is hurt, but the wheelchair thing seems a bit much. Plus she always manages to do some kind of helpless movement requiring people to help her. Like she will roll to the phone with papers in one hand and feebly pushing with the other. She will bump into desks and people until someone helps. I want to scream ďtry putting the papers IN YOUR LAPĒ. Maybe she is really in pain, but I just get a strange vibe about the whole thing.
There is something completely broken with the entire way Japanese students are taught English. I have no answers, but I know something isnít working. I gave my kids a simple assignment. Just learn these simple 9 words over the course of two weeks. They were like catch, pitch, jump, bounce, and so on. Just 9 and there were nice clip art pictures to go with them. So today I gave them a test and they just couldnít do it. They had no idea what the answers were, and yet I know they practiced writing the words at least 10 times each. It just baffles me. They just donít get it here. Even when I took Spanish in High School and didnít want to learn it, I would learn faster than they do here. Granted English to Spanish is less of a jump as Japanese to English, but they should be able to recall some words. But few do. Ironically the only students that remember some things are those that have some foreign connection. A half Japanese half Brazilian girl in this last class was the top scorer. Students who have been abroad seem to know how to remember things better than kids who have stayed here. I truly donít know why itís like that. Another bit of proof on this is when people graduate college these days. They have take 3 years of English in JHS, 3 years in high school and 4 in college. Itís a required course. SERIOUSLY, ten years of any language and you should be able to have a conversation at least. I think I could learn Arabic via Chinese in ten years. TEN YEARS man that is crazy. Anyone fresh out of college, minus English majors, will say ďI caníto speaku EngrishĒ. Well then you just slapped the education system in the face.
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
Everyone was outside in the hot bright sun practicing for the big exercise day this Sunday. I was in the teacherís room, alone, working on things. The phone rings, but itís from an outside like so I donít answer it. It rings over 60 times. Honestly sixty #%$*%&# times. HANG UP THE PHONE. After about 10-15 times no one is going to answer. Then a teacher started coming so I had to act like I was going to answer it. Instead I hit the line button twice which hung up on them. Sixty times. Dear GOD what is going through your head? Well itís been 50 times, Iím sure someone is in the room, maybe they just donít hear it. If I just stay here in suspended animation someone will answer. So they called right back, of course, and I answered and quickly said ďsorry for waiting, this is Konan ES-JHS, please wait a momentĒ, all in uber-polite Japanese. As soon as I said please wait, he starts talking. I am speaking very clear Japanese and it is correct, but I will say it again. ďPlease wait a momentĒ. Then he starts talking again and I just put him on hold. He wasnít saying ďokĒ or anything like that, he was telling me who he was. I had given him a variable that he could not deal with. When people use the phone, someone answers, the caller then explains the reason for the call. However, I had answered and immediately said wait, and that was different.
Japan is a very strange society sometimes. I truly want to understand it and I am making progress, but itís really hard. I have narrowed it down to about three words: group, process, and rank. They are very group based and make decisions that benefit a group more so than an individual and common sense may have no part of that decision. There is a process for everything. Things are done a certain way and are not changed, nor are the people internationalized. There is a rank to everything and everyone. It is the basis for the society. Ranks are constantly reminded with ceremonies and acknowledgment. Upper ranking people are even called by their rank and there names. I donít know the names of the upper ranked people at the board of education, just their ranks. Thatís all I ever say to them or about them. I think Japanese society would have fallen apart after WWII if the US had required the Emperor to be put on trial or executed for war crimes. The honorable Japanese thing to do when you are defeated is kill yourself with a blade to the gut, but he didnít want to do that nor did we require him to. It was also one of the only conditions of the surrender. Iíll think on this more and find more examples, but I already have several in mind.
Thursday, May 11, 2006
This morning I got to school and went straight to this one room to clean it a bit for my Selective Class. It only has 3 students and I wanted the room to be a bit nicer than it was. So I get here and as soon as I start to leave my desk I am called to sit in on some meeting that I have nothing to do with. Fine it will be over by 8am and then I can clean and miss the 8:15 morning meeting if needed. Wrong. It goes until 8:15 and then we start the morning meeting. Fine this should be over quick and then I can clean it. Wrong. This goes until past 8:40 which is when first period starts. The whole time I really have to go to the bathroom and I still wanted to clean the room. During the last five minutes I think they were just trying to annoy me because the meeting was the dumbest ever. Seriously, someone from Guinness World Records even called and said the meeting could be entered.
A teacher had us all look at the bus schedule. He pointed out that until this Friday a certain morning bus usually stops at A,B,C and D, but starting next week it will only stop at C on Tuesdays and Thursdays and will not stop at D on holidays and will occasionally stop at B2. Then we had to review it. Then teachers asked questions in a Monty Python fashion, it was like how dumb of a question can I ask? Finally it was over. I thought I was just being Mr. Know-it-All bitter guy, but an English teacher later commented the meeting was odd.
So I have the class and we talk about what we will do. I think the three students will stay in the class since we talked about the plan and then played some card games. I made them into English games. We played Go Fish which has some good English patterns in it and a Japanese card game, but in English. Another thing about the class is hopefully students from my class or the counterpart writing class will be in the skit or speech contest. But of course the skit contest is being done in true Japanese form. We have to submit a video within one month to the Koriyama BoE and they decide who will go to the prefectural contest. What bugs me most is the way things are chosen in Japan. I have been a judge for speech contests in the past and would always grade based on how they actually did, but the other two Japanese judges would vote on things like
I would sit in the discussion and say my scores and listen to the rambling babble from the other judges. We would sometimes pick a worthy candidate, but rarely the best, and usually some random person that confused everyone. The point is, we have to bust our butt by June 15th and then we might not even get picked based on bizarre Japanese criteria. I have a good skit idea, but I wonít mention it until we have submitted it in case other people reading this also have skit contest candidates.
I know why I canít save money in Japan, not because I canít budget, I can do that even with all my spending, itís because I get this stupid charges all the time. I had my spring and summer budget all set and then I get this bill for $400 due by the end of March. I bring it to school and ask a teacher. Itís some person or citizen tax. Hmmm, I am pretty sure this is already being paid for me. So I contact the people who I believe are paying this and they say itís different. I ask what this is then and they say itís a resident tax. I ask what they pay for me and they say they pay the resident tax. I ask what this is a resident tax. So I say Oh there are two? No just one and we pay it. So you will pay this tax. No thatís different. HOW IS IT DIFFERENT? Well it has different Kanji characters, so that makes it different. So basically just because it has a different name makes it a different tax and therefore not the same tax that is paid for and yet it is still a resident tax and the resident taxes are paid for me. The whole time I hear the Borg implant in my head telling me Resistance is Futile. I give up and will just pay the stupid tax.
Still having trouble getting the new computer as I want it, only because it has a Japanese OS and I canít read half the things it says. Though one the I do like about Microsoft is that they make all windows look the same, just in different languages so I can more or less figure out where things are. Sometimes I will Google something and then just match the screens, but that gets old. One problem I have come across is I bought MS Office years ago and have no idea where the CD or serial numbers are. Wait, no it came with the computer as did the OS when I bought it back in 2002. So now I am trying to transfer everything to my new computer, but I canít since I donít have the original CDs. So I canít install a legal copy of Office on my new computer. So after a lot of headaches I gave up on Office and moved to the free version of StarOffice. To be honest they are nearly the same. It looks like an upgraded version of MS Office and even reads my older MS Office files. It has a presentation program, writing program, database and spreadsheet, as well as a fancy drawing program. So as far as Office goes, as of now I am not looking back. I am still trying to get an English version of the OS which should be fine since I have legal serial numbers for the previous versions I have bought, just no installation CDs. Once I get everything transferred and running and to my taste, I will bring my older computer to school so I can do things in English. I might even check into a USB Network and connect them, though that would require me to use the limited internet access if I used the internet on the old machine. I would probably just create things in English and then transfer them or something.
Iím checking student diaries now. Two girls in the same 7th grade class are in a battle to out write each other. Good for the class since they are the main bread winners, bad for the other class though. Anyway, they are writing a lot of random vocabulary since they get one point per line and donít know grammar yet. Here are some words they wrote, see if one pops out:
Paint. Brass Band. Chorus. Kendo. Teacherís Room. Nurseís orifice. Bathroom. Hallway.
Yea, I got a kick out of that. They occasionally make mistakes that end up being funny. Like when they were writing about I have and I am and of course they always mess up L & R and b & d. So someone writes I am a dike instead of I have a bike. Good times.
In my classes that I plan, they are called Hyougen which means on display or something like real conversation, I had a great idea for the 3rd year students. I bought this book for learning English at the $1 store and It has little conversations about 8 lines long for two people. The one I used today was At the Restaurant. The Japanese is above the English and then the pronunciation of the English is there too so they have no reason to not do it. In the past an 8 line skit like this would take the whole class so that is all I planned for. As soon as I passed out the sheets, no kidding, two groups came to the front. There is no way they could have memorized this thing in that little time, but sure enough they did and it was right. So the whole class, which is only 20, managed to do this in 15 minutes. Well crap. So then I said ďnow reverse the partsĒ. Ha, thatís what I planned the whole time so they wonít know I under planned. Nope, they finished that in 15 minutes also, so there is another 15 to kill. I had them write as many of the new words as possible. That luckily lasted the rest of the time and they didnít know how badly I planned.
I was printing some $50 bills (thatís fun to say) as play money rewards for the kids that are really going above and beyond the call of whatís required for the weekly journal. For example two girls write about 100 lines per night. WOW. Hardcore. So I was printing these fake $50 bills on nice paper and the VP walks over and looks at them. I assumed he was going to comment on me using the nice photo like paper so I quickly told him ďdonít worry, Iím using my own hair for thisĒ. When I got the big eyed look I played it back in my head and then said ďOR, Iím using my own paper for thisĒ. We both shared a hearty laugh.
I am going to make a list of things that I just love. I mean really love. Like when you are washing dishes and you have the water oh so hot to make them even cleaner. Of course you have gloves on and you reach over to pull Mr. Spoon out Mr. Drain and all of a sudden the glove bends in a way so that the broiling water fills up your glove. Woo Hoo. One of my favorites. So I am going to make a list and start adding things since I am always thinking about these things. These treasures of mine. Here's the list, I will add things and then repost the link each time. Things I Really Love.
If you even have the urge to question my manhood or think I might be scared to do something, then just think of this:
Saturday, May 13th, 2006
It has rained all day so I am assuming the sports day will be cancelled tomorrow, or postponed until next week. That's a shame, but what can you do. Actually all of today has been a bummer. I went into Koriyama to get some stuff done, and managed to get most of it done, but there were so many little things in the way. I wanted to rent a movie to show a class this week, but I forgot my card. Then there was bad traffic and I couldn't get to a certain store, then it was that annoying drizzle all day. But I did manage to get to the computer store to get a mouse pad and a network hub, the cheapest one they had. So now I can transfer files and connect to the internet via both machines.
Oh this is amusing. I took some photos with my camera phone since they were just too juicy to pass on. Well the last one is juicy, and the others are interesting. The first one is a front face for a computer.
It is more than meets the eye, especially price wise. Then I went to the counter, or as they say, the'
The INFRMATION Counter. Seriously people, just ask any random foreigner if something is correct before you make a sign. But the last one was the best. As I mentioned I was going to rent a movie. So I am looking around for movies for me to watch after I picked up Chicken Little in English with Japanese subtitles. Then I see a butt on a cover. Hey that's an attention getter, I'll take a glance at this. It was mixed in with all the other videos, as is the Japanese way. Hmmm, it is a video about an anus, yes I wrote anus, that goes crazy and terrorizes a city. You think I am kidding, but I took a picture. It's small, but you will see I am not lying. The best part is the name of the movie is Rectuma. I can't even imagine having a casting call for that movie, though I would go and try to be in it. Rectuma.
Rectuma. I wanted to rent it, but I didn't want Rectuma on my rental history. Though I might have to go back and get it. Just look at the cover. The yellow sticker in the upper left corner says "still hot". That's a good ending note.
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
Why canít carrots or spinach taste like chocolate? I bought some chocolate at the Smile Mart to give kids today, but I forgot in one class. So when I pulled them out of my pocket I had this craving for some and I hate a bite. Then another. Then I forced myself to stop, but I was craving it like mad. If some healthy veggies tasted like chocolate, we would be a fit society.
In my first period class I showed Chicken Little. Mainly since it is a good movie and only 80 minutes long and I have this class both today and tomorrow. They heard English but read Japanese. There is just no way they can enjoy a movie all in English, plus the focus of the class is listening and you do pick up things when you hear them and can read them.
After that I had a regular English class with the 7th graders or JHS 1st graders as we call them. Technically we say chuugakkou ichinensei, but I doubt people not in Japan would understand that. They are still learning the alphabet and phonics. Today we sang the ABC song. Have you heard it? Nope, you havenít unless you teach in Japan, because as with most everything Japan takes something and changes it and claims it as its own. The ABC song is along the same lines. Even though Japanís language is Japanese, somehow they invented the English ABC song, and WE changed it from their version which is the original. A true Japanese classic. Their song is similar but doesnít require the rhyming as our songs do. So the Japanese version, erÖuhÖoriginal version if you will, goes something like this. (dashes are where we would put a slight pause).
Then they say something like ďI am singing ABCsĒ, but I canít remember it since I canít sing this version. I seriously couldnít sing along because it had no feeling and was just different. By different I mean just wrong. I explained how we sing it and they laughed at how strange our ďversionĒ is.
This past weekend was our annual sports day. Overall it was fun, but the Japanese way of doing things a Japanese way was annoying. We had to be here at 6:30am only to find out it doesnít start until 8:50 and since it doesnít start until then, thatís when we get credit for being here. So I had to stay until 5 even though I was exhausted and nasty stinky and there was a party in Koriyama at 6:30. So at 8:50am what did we do? We had an absurdly too long opening ceremony. Honestly it had like 10 parts. We opened the opening ceremony, we did various other things, and then we closed the opening ceremony. Finally, to officially mark the opening of the sports day, someone shot a special gun or firecracker thing in the air that made three loud bangs. Then and only then could we begin.
The sporting events were fun. Things like a relay race, and then a wheelbarrow challenge where two kids had to push a wheelbarrow around a cone with two basketballs inside. Inside the wheelbarrow that is, not the cone. Then there was some relay where they had two poles with a box balance on it, almost like an old fashion way of carrying a king around or something. There were two huge balls as shown above and several other events. Finally it was over and we had the party.
It was at some Chinese restaurant downtown. It was good, but not enough food. Well there was plenty of food, but itís rude to take more than your share, even if the other people arenít eating. I usually eat before I go to these because they are never enough. I always want a buffet style place. But this place did have black beer which was good. I found out one of my crushes, a lady who is apparently married and works in the lunch-making department (forgetting English), is actually 50 years old with a college aged child. Seriously, I thought she was maybe 35 tops with an elementary school age kid. I was blown away when I heard she was 50. Wow. Japanese women donít age much from like 13 to 30 and then slowly after that. I actually have some kids that look like they are in their 20s and some are in the 6th grade. I thought one 6th grader was someoneís mother last year. Oops.
I stayed in Koriyama so I could drink at the party and because I needed to do some shopping the next day. The party was on a Sunday and we had Monday off. Man, Monday morning in Koriyama during the regular work weekÖ.there was no one there. I almost thought something was wrong for a while, but there was just no one there. I would hate to have to work at some department store and get paid on commission since there were like zero customers. Zero. Anyway, I bought some special underwear. Ha, wow that sounds bad. I should really backspace over this and yet Iím not. Itís special because it is the type with short legs, like it goes down my leg a bit. Wow I wrote ďgoes down my legĒ in the same paragraph that is about my underwear.
Anyway, then I rented Chicken Little and look around a bit more. I had sushi for lunch and returned afternoon. I need to buy a new blender sometime so I can make smoothies. The one I have clogs up too fast and is small. I need one that I can open while it is running and stick my hand in. No drop things in slowly like ice and blueberries and so on. The one I have now, which was like $20, seals on the end that has the blades and is made for margaritas or other cocktails.
Peopleís heads are shaped weird. I was staring at this one kidís head and it was completely square. From the side, he had a really square head. Others have round heads or pointy heads. Mine is just average, but this kidís was really square. They were reciting something, as mentioned above I think, and I was listening. After about 10 kids performing it I had it memorized and would stare and daydream. Then I noticed this dudeís head and I was fixated on it. Totally square. How can I get a photo without looking like an idiot? When I went to the supermarket last week they started playing Europe Ė The Final Countdown while I was in the bathroom so I pulled out my video recording phone to capture the sound and someone walks in. Suddenly I am the strange guy taking a video in the bathroom. The kind you read about in the newspaper.
I had the perfect skit lined up for the skit contest. Whoís on First by Abbott and Costello. Itís fast and fun and would be great, but the rules say it must be original so that would get marked off. Well poo. Plus I found out the JHS skit is only two minutes long. I swear it was three last year. Seriously, two is like start-say a few words-oh itís over. And yet, itís very Japanese. At least it is not during summer vacation this year or at least not in the middle of it. Itís in late July sometime.
I tried to cut my nails last night, but I couldnít find the clippers. The funny part is I remember putting them somewhere and saying ďI will keep them here since this is such an obviously smart place for them.Ē And now I have no idea where that was. But I can guarantee as soon as I buy more I will find them.
Some device in the teacherís room just starts talking occasionally and everyone ignores it. I canít figure out what it is and it really bugs me. Luckily last year I figured out what some random spinning noise was. It was something in the JHS VPís computer, but this ladyís voice is annoying. I can see where it is coming from, but there is nothing there that should be making this voice. I am going to snap one day and start tearing things apart and people will think I am insane. What would make me look even more insane is to explain, while tearing things apart, that I am trying to find some ladyís voice in my head.
A girl hurt her ankle playing basketball and had to go home. It was either a bad sprain or something got pulled. I doubt it was broken. She was whimpering and semi-crying, but I think it would be much worse were it broken. Ok, so her mom comes and takes her to the hospital (which will probably be a clinic since they use one word for both). Then a teacher passes around a form saying the PTA and Teacherís Club should make a donation to the family since she has to go to the hospital from something at school. Still nothing really odd about this, until I read the memo and see we are supposed to give 140 yen. Thatís less then $1.40. Seriously what good will that do multiplied by 30 something teachers? What is that, like, $42 or so? What good will that do? Pay for their gas? How about 500 yen or even 1,000 yen? That would be $150 or $300. That would be better. Or even just 200 yen.
Tomorrow I have a full load with 5 classes. Donít get me wrong I prefer more classes. Just sitting here constantly preparing and/or looking busy (by typing this) gets old after a while. Plus I didnít move to Japan to sit in a teacherís room. I did enough of that for the three previous years. I added up all my classes recently and found I have taught more in 6 months here in Konan than I did in three years as a Fukushima JET at Higashi high school. Letís hear it for the wasteful JET Program.
I have really got to bring some exercise clothes at some point to work out or run or something when I have spare time. I have been feeling fat lately. Thatís probably due to the fact that I found some spaghetti thatís easy to make and cheap and I have been eating that for dinner. Like three times a week or so. Yea not such a good idea. Plus all the kids constantly poke me in the stomach and point out how I am a fat greasy slab of hog meat. Well I should plan those classes tomorrow which was the whole point of the above paragraph.
Sadly I confirmed a suspicion on mine. I didn't drink coffee yesterday on the way to school and I was draggin bad after lunch. So bad I had to lie down in the gym on a mat for a while. So this morning I got my coffee on the way and felt fine all day. Argh. I don't want to be addicted to coffee.
Thursday, May 18, 2006
I think I would rather have shown up to my own high school naked one day than to under prepare a class. I created this really cool slide show thing where there is a picture of something we have studied, but it is covered with squares. Then each one is taken away as the points go down. It took me about 2 hours to make and I was so hyped. I figured we do that for 30 minutes and then review something, plus there would be the setting up time and so on.
Nope, I grossly under-planned it. Partially my fault and partially because the kids are advanced. It took about 10 minutes and then I was stuck with around 30 of doing nothing. Sadly in the last 5 minutes I found pictures of my Thai trip and show them, but then there wasnít enough time. As much as I hate those days, they remind me to over plan and assume things will run shorter than planned. That is part of the reason I donít plan out each lesson with times and such. In my experience things rarely stick to the time plan and I have to adjust anyway. Itís like when pilots say ďwe will be landing at 4:32pmĒ. Seriously, why would you say an exact time? Granted 4:30 is technically an exact time, but it just sounds better. ďWe will be landing around 4:30Ē would be a better estimate. I have never been on a flight where we landed even 10 minutes close to the projected exact time.
Friday, May 19, 2006
Iíve mentioned the vertical ranking system in Japan before and I donít mean to imply itís a bad thing. It has its ups and downs like all things. One up thing was done today. Some kids went to a city wide track and field meet and did well. When they came back the first thing they do is just sit on the bus and wait until someone notifies the highest ranking person in the school. Then that person comes out to greet them. Then they get off the bus and immediately line up, by rank of course. They greet the person by various shouts in unison. Then the person makes a few remarks about how well they did, even if they were awful. Then the students enter the teacherís room and line up again and repeat the whole process to all the teachers.
The same thing happens on a smaller scale after, or during, practices. When the tennis team is finished practicing they send a representative to summon the coach. Then he goes outside or in the hall. They line up and the highest ranking member addresses the coach. Then he says a few remarks and they thank him again. All the clubs do that. When I enter the gym and the volleyball girls are practicing they stop and turn and bow, deeply, and greet me in some manner. Before and after class students stand and bow. I mean if you are even slightly up the vertical system itís great, but if you are at the bottom itís not so fun.
The kid with the square head came into the room earlier and I was staring at him. Oh, big news. By big news I mean not really big news at all. Yesterday I ate at Jintei. Ok, wow I should really backspace over this, and yet Iím not. Jintei is this great place in Koriyama that has a wonderful katsudon dish. I canít really explain what that is now, but it is tasty. I had to wait a bit for a seat, but it was worth it. I also bought some more wires for the English room when I returned the video. Tonight I have no major plans, but tomorrow I will go to Fukushima city and have dinner and see Da Vinci Code with some friends. I read the book and it was great so I want to see what the movie will be like. I donít even know who is in it. I think it has been out for a while, but we always get movies late here.
Itís 5pm now on Friday, hence the clever caption above this entry, and I am pretty much all finished. But I am going to hang around doing something since that is how you get bonus points in Japan. You donít need to look busy, just be at work. So I will stay here since I will just watch DVDs or something at home. I might rewire the English room or something. I just posted the new words and 2-week-natural-English phrase that pays. Itís not really called the phrase that pays, but that seemed to fit. The phrase for the next two weeks is: ďhow was it?Ē since I find myself saying that a lot in Japanese. I figured I should teach them that. The hottie lunchroom lady just walked in. I still canít believe she is 50. Seriously, if I saw her at a bar I would talk to her. Or try to talk to her in my bizarre Japanese. No new mistakes to report luckily. Those get annoying after a while. Then they cause me to worry and try not to make more mistakes, which of course gets the opposite result.
What do I want for dinner tonight? I must have Indian at some point this weekend since I will be going to Fukushima and I can have sushi at the station there and maybe even gyoza. So tonight, hmmm, I donít know. WOO. I just saw a notice on the board about a meeting for the PTA at 7. ShwoooÖI donít have to go. I am hungry and it only 6pm now. I think I will leave in a soon like manner.
Just before I left a teacher, the spy, told me I should put all the important memos on my desk into a folder. I had them sitting in different piles and she thought it would be a good to have them all together. As it turns out, not only is it better to have them all together, it's much easier for me to show you how absurd we are with paper.
You must understand, these papers are just from April and May for this new school year.
We love that paper. I actually felt bad about printing multiple copies of things at one time, but not now. I copy whatever I need to and don't look back. This notebook will be for first term which is until late July. You can see the remaining space. Wow.
I added something to Things I Really Love.
Monday, May 22, 2006
Why would you think I want to sit in the teacherís room rather than be in the classroom? I didnít come to Japan to sit in different types of teacherís rooms. I know I canít have classes all the time, but why wouldnít a teacher at least let me be in the classroom rather than sitting? And then act like they are doing me a favor by letting me sit and do nothing. There is one teacher here, who is a really good teacher, but he just doesnít use me much. Ironically, I am supposed to be in all his classes since he is new to teaching JHS. Last year when he was the 4th grade teacher I went to his class once the whole time, and that was for my introduction. This year he teaches ES 5th grade and I am scheduled to go there once a month regardless of what he wants. But when I went there last week he nearly ruined my game.
We were playing a Jeopardy style game. I put up categories and values. Then the students, in groups, pick a category and value, just like the Alex Trebek Jeopardy game on TV. So far so good. Then I would ask a simple question such as (under the Japan category) two fat man. The answer is sumo, but they have to understand two / fat / man. It works great with my other classes and would have worked great with this, but he would step in and repeat the questions in a way that the kids would all instantly understand. He would speak much slower, repeat it several times, have them all repeat, use far more gestures and, best of all, sometimes he would have them respond in English and then Japanese. Well if you ask Japanese kids a question in Japanese, hmmm, chances are they are going to be able to answer, especially if the word happens to be the same in English and Japanese like tomato or potato. I would ask something like (under animals category) long neck, yellow. They would think about it and then respond. But when he stepped in I would say long yellow neck, and he would have them repeat long while saying nagai which is long in Japanese, then yellow and the Japanese, then neck and point to the neck. So then the whole class would shoot up their hands.
Itís like the foolish Japanese belief that teaching Japanese IN Japanese is more effective. I guarantee it is not. I once sat that a 30 minute explanation of the word mainichi. After 30 minutes no one knew what it meant so I said ďmai means every, nichi means dayĒ. A big 6 seconds and people not only understood the word, but now knew that mai + a time word means every~. Yet the teacher was mad that my 7 second way was more effective than her 30 minute way. Then this summer in Sapporo I sat through 4 hours, yes 240 minutes of a difficult grammar point that was never explained in Japanese. Then one student said ďoh it means it was done and then left that wayĒ. There we go, the good old 7 second explanation. Again mad teacher because we used English in a Japanese class, even though it was one million times better.
Their reasons are if you hear a word and see something being done, your brain puts them together. Eh, no. That works only if I am already fluent and know things like the context, the Japanese grammar Japanese used to explain the grammar point, and basically what we are talking about. I could take a class of people and just grunt or use a made up language while waving my arms to stand up or opening a book or holding up a pencil. The students would mimic my actions but have no idea what I am saying, just as they do when they understand nothing a Japanese teacher is saying while waving her arms to stand up, or well you know.
I think beginners should be taught in primarily English and then gradually move into Japanese. I say this from experience. Another interesting point is, if speaking nothing but the target language is so effective, why donít English teachers do that in Japan? Just speak English only? Because they know that people donít actually learn that way. There is no way I could speak all English to a class at my school. Maybe at Higashi High School, but not here. Sure I could wave my arms and they would stand up, but not because of the English. If I were to open my book, they would too, but not because of my English. I hate when I am taught a language IN that language. It doesnít make any sense. You canít explain things early on to people using the language, for the simple fact that I am learning the language. You would have to teach students the word for verb, past participle, simple progressive, and so on. It doesnít make any sense to me and usually to the classes I have been in. The only people that donít complain about it are the more advanced people in the class. Itís now a prerequisite of me going to a language school. If they choose the less effective total immersion then I donít go. Donít get me wrong, there is a point in which total immersion is more effective, but not for beginners or intermediate. I think teaching in total immersion to beginners results in people who can speak ok, but donít really understand the grammar and reasons.
Anyway, back to today. I go to my second period class and the teacher says ďoh I donít need you today, they are working on a printout, you can take a restĒ. Oh thanks, I love sitting. Mondays are slow for me and I look forward to being in the class as much as I can, at least I have two more classes. I canít understand the rationale behind having a native English speaker in the school full time whose sole job is to teach English and saying not only that we donít need you for something, but we donít even need to be in the classroom. Granted this job is 100x more gooder (ha ha) than my last sitting job at Fukushima Higashi High School, but they could use me a lot more than they do. Iím not complaining about not having enough to do here, just that I canít understand not putting me in the class more. I really would prefer to be in a class with nothing to do than in the teacherís room.
Wait I just got it. I said ďI canít understand the rationaleÖĒ Ah yes. I forgot the way of understanding how things will work in Japan. Figure out the logical rational way of doing something, that would be having a native speaker work for one school and using him/her all the time. Then think of the opposite. Having a native English speaker and not using him/her. Yes, it is making more sense now. I keep forgetting the algorithm of figuring out how to understand the Japanese Way. Maybe I will make an online quiz about figuring out the Japanese Way.
Along those lines, I met someone this weekend who is Japanese and lives in Tokyo. He said he was just given a job offer for a good government job and they need someone to fill the position immediately. I asked when he would start and he said next April. Because thatís the only time people are hired for government jobs. Not that it is a year later, I know clearance takes a while, but April. Thatís the soonest he can start because thatís when they hire people in Japan, even though they desperately need someone to fill the position now. He is sitting around doing nothing. The job is open and needs to be filled. Ah, applying the algorithm nowÖ.. yes I understandÖ.. we must wait for almost one year.
This weekend was fun. I went back up to Fukushima City and had dinner and a movie with some friends. We went to this nice, and dirt cheap, yakiniku place. Thatís where you get plates of meat and vegetables and cook them on small grill built into the table. We had about 8 big plates of all kinds of meat for one table of 4 people. There was beef, lamb, pork, thick steak, more lamb, something else, and more plates. Then there were veggies. Man it was good and I ate so much. Then we went top Baskin Robbins and had some ice cream, though I had Sherbet or Sorbet whichever has no milk. Finally we saw the Da Vinci code which was good. It was close to the book and entertaining. I have heard it is allegedly fiction, though many of the things were true Iím sure. I can see why there are protests, and yet if it is just fiction, whatís the problem?
Then Sunday I went to this nice okanomiyaki place with Dave and then to a computer store. I bought some dual layer DVD-Rs which fit an obscene 8.5 Gigs per disk. I can total see the 4 layer DVDs coming out soon and holding 15+ gigs. Oh I think I am going to start a company. We are going to mass produce 3.5 and 5.25 floppy disks. I really think those will make a comeback. I mean putting 8.5 gigs on one disc is nice for some people, but I think there is a market for having 5,030 floppy disks and think of the revenue stream from selling 5,030 disks to one person. Wow. On the side we will manufacture the big bulky CRT monitors. I mean who really likes this flat screen thing? Our 12Ē CRTs would sell out. Yea, the point of all this is I saw some floppies for sale at the computer place and they were marked down to almost free. Do companies still produce these? I havenít physically touched a floppy in over 2 years I think. Actually a teacher handed me one last year and I laughed since there were no floppy drives in the school. It makes more sense to get a 16mb flash drive rather than 1.44 mb floppies. Even for small files. I really canít imagine where technology is headed in 5 or 10 years. Itís like we are still doubling technology every 18 months or so. I have a dual processor machine with 1gig of RAM. In 5 years this will be absurd. I will have a quad processor with minimum 10gigs RAM and a Terabyte of disk space. Probably a fiber connection and completely wireless. I can remember my Commodore 64 and my dadís TRS-80. I had no HD and 64K Ė that was a K as in Kilobytes Ė of RAM with a tape drive and a huge floppy drive. I still have that machine, I wonder if it will boot or what I would do if it did.
Well I am somewhat back to feeling like the auto-inspection fee is scam like. If that was my only expense per year I would feel less scam like, but it included some weight tax of like $300 and then I get this separate tax due next week for $400. So adding those together puts it back into the scam category. I felt better about it after reviewing the bill and seeing all the inspections it included, but even then there was about $500 of tax and nonsense fees. So that plus this $400 fee is back to me hating the whole car thing. I had to pay the $400 fee today for some reason. Probably because they suspected I wouldn't pay it otherwise.
Itís a warm spring day and this morning I thought of wearing a short sleeve shirt. Then I remembered the formula to determine if that would be alright. Hmmm, warm day means I would be hot so it would make sense to wear a short sleeve shirt. Applying the algorithm means I canít wear a short sleeve shirt. Also adding in the fact that there is a process for everything, and to this process logic plays no part. When can I start wearing short sleeves? The Japanese way is from June 1st. Regardless of the weather before or after, from that date it is acceptable to wear them. ARGH.
Oh yea, I figured out how to bake things in my microwave / oven / range thing. I have been cooking healthy chicken since Sunday. Ok, that's twice, but still it's good. On Sunday I found some chicken I had marinated in Italian dressing and forgotten about for a few days. Mmmm it was good.
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
I havenít been sleeping well and I think it is bed related. The BoE was kind enough to have bought a bed for the apartment, but in all honesty I wish they hadnít. I donít mind sleeping on a futon now, especially a nice one like I have, but it never seemed right to sleep on the futon while having this bed here. So last night I pulled it out and set it up. There is a floor pad which is about 3 inches thick, then a mattress of sorts also about 2-3 inches thick, then some sheets and towels and layers. Finally I found the bog cover I have been sleeping under was actually supposed to go inside some fitted sheet, of which I have 2 extras. So I assume I was the sheet thing when I get it dirty, not the big futon. Oops. Well now I know. For the most part I slept very well Iíd say. Iíll take pictures and show all the layers. I wonder if I could feel a pea under one layer, probably not.
Two classes today, which would be more than expected since 5th and 6th period are canceled due to some event that I canít read. Even when I translate it I canít understand it. Thatís because the schedule doesnít use proper Japanese, just native abbreviations. Like we might put Mon to mean Monday and if someone was translating that they wouldnít know necessarily. Iím not having trouble with the date Japanese, but there are other abbreviations like that and I canít find their actual meaning in the dictionary. So anyway, two scheduled classes, but then I was granted another favor of not having to endure the torture of a class and was allowed to sit in the teacherís room. Which is really good actually. I found out that I am generating thermal electricity by sitting and that is providing power and food for poor children in Botswana. So with that in mind I donít mind sitting. Iím not helping poor children by being in the classroom, what a waste that would be, but if I am sitting here in the teacherís room, I am making a difference in the world.
I still havenít paid for my massive car inspection scam. I have the money out and ready, but the last three times I asked to pay, they said I should wait. Thatís fine, I guess, but I would prefer to just pay it and get it over with. I paid Dave a little for the computer and will pay him off (buy his silence) over the next two paychecks. So both benefit from that deal. I also have to pay the embassy accountant for doing my taxes. I love that one. I have to pay $150 a year to have someone fill out an elaborate form that basically says ďyea so once again, heís not in the country and doesnít have to pay taxesĒ. On top of that I still havenít sent much money to my sponsored child at Baan Dada, the Thai orphanage. They changed the process for sending money internationally and it made things much more difficult for me. I now have to go to one specific post office during business hours and pay extra money. ARGH.
I just went to the bathroom and when I finished I was washing my hands. Then principal walked in and saw me said in English ďoh yes you should wash your hands often everyday because you are always touching children. You really like to touch childrenĒ. I smiled and said, ďyes I doĒ. I mean really, where else in the world can I have that conversation with a principal and have it actually mean I always give the kids high fives. Point of clarification, thatís the only touching I do. But really, it just sounded so funny to hear him say point blank and matter of factly ďyou really like to touch childrenĒ.
You know when I have recently mentioned there is something cultural about why Japanese kids just donít retain English? It has something to do with them just not being able to retain anything, which could be the reason why they are always told to write something over and over, like hundreds of times, before they learn it. A prime example that keeps frustrating me is having kids turn in their diaries. I have a basket beside my desk. In big letters it says, in Japanese, ďturn your diaries in hereĒ. Plus I put up a memo in each class explaining where to put their diaries, plus I told all the kids while pointing to the memo. And yetÖ.kids still ask me what they should do with their journals. They donít ask that in the hallway or after school. They ask when they are standing over the basket with the clear directions written. At first it was no issue, I figured the students who were asking me hadnít asked before and eventually word would get around as to where to put them. But no, the same kids still ask me and still I point to the basket. There is something going on culturally since it is most all the students at all the schools I have been to. All the schools to which I have been.
Apparently there is some teacherís meeting at a different school and all the teachers are going. Except for me of course. I foolishly sat through a 2 hour meeting yesterday and it nearly killed me. I kept dozing off and nodding, it was terrible. I guess I will just sit here and work on various things while they go to their meeting.
Oh here is something so Japanese. The meeting is in Koriyama. Most of the teachers live in Koriyama. Even though the meeting goes past 5 which is when we all allegedly get off work, the teachers are expected to drive all the way back for the sole reason of sliding their IN / OUT / BUSINESS marker back to IN and then to OUT. That is SOOOOOOO Japanese. The location of the meeting is about 5 minutes from several teachers' houses, but they are supposed to drive an hour back here, slide this little thing, and then drive right back to where they were. The English teacher said he isnít going to do it and has to take one hour of vacation time, even though it is after he is off work. THAT MAKES ZERO SENSE. Itís not culturally different, itís flat out stupid. Yet it fits my Japanese Logic Algorithm perfectly. Think of whatís logical, then the opposite and there you have it.
Today was the first day I had nothing to do and left right at 5. All the JHS students left at 1:30 and the teachers left at 2:30 so it was just myself and a few ES teachers and the nurse. I worked on my lessons for tomorrow, but since there was no one else in the room I finished right away. I didnít have to wait for copies or paper or people talking or anything. So I finished around 4 and then goofed off with the remaining ES kids. Some were playing sports, others were painting, and some were waiting on the bus. All that more or less finished around 4:30, which is roughly now, and I am just waiting for 5 to roll around. I think I am going to have chicken again tonight since it was so good and easy to make. Iíll drive back to the store and get two more breasts, you can never have enough breasts, and then some broccoli and other veggies to steam.
I had a lesson with the JHS 1st graders, which is the 7th grade, and it was semi-spur of the moment. I didnít have a good lesson so I had them make Pep Rally type signs for some sporting even we have next week. Apparently the whole school will go watch something somewhere so now we will have some signs. When it is over I will put them up around the school for people to see and be cheered by. The kids thought it was great and they were writing English things like Fight Fight Konan and so on. Some teachers thought it was a clever lesson, but it was really just a last minute filler.
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
I have been asked some of the dumbest questions in Japan, and possibly worse, have heard some of the dumbest statements. Some of which I canít even respond to non-sarcastically. Like the other afternoon I was walking back home and stopped at the Smile Mart. I had my camera around my neck as I bought dinner. When I finished the nice owner lady said ďyou have a cameraĒ. Whatís the response to that? ďYes. I doĒ. Well thatís what I said. On countless occasions I am told ďyou can use chopsticksĒ, at least when someone asks me I can respond with the ever so appropriate, ďyes I can use chopsticksĒ, but when itís just a statement, I just nod and say something like ďuhÖyeaĒ.
I can be sneaky when needed. I just had a class with the 4th grade kids, my favorite class in the whole school, and as part of my English encouragement plan I gave them a sticker book and two cool stickers each. Then I told them if they want more they have to tell their teacher to ask me about having class. Then on the way back I stopped by the 3rd and 2nd classrooms and noticed the teachers werenít there so I showed the kids in those classes the stickers and said I would give them during my English class and if they wanted the stickers they had to ask their teachers for me to come to class. What could be more persuasive than a class of kids asking to study English? If I donít get some class offers soon I am going to show the kids the stickers again and then like everyday.
There is this strange ďIím surprisedĒ thing in Japan. Itís like itís extra funny if you are surprised. I donít mean the universal things like when two people are walking down a hall or sidewalk and look around acting like they donít see the other until the last minute. I mean I will be out on the grounds talking to kids and then walk towards the tennis courts. I can see some girls talking to each other and they are at an angle that they can easily see me out of their peripheral vision, but they donít actually look at me. Then when I get right up to them they turn and act shocked. Other times in the morning I will be walking behind some students on the way here. There is a part of the way thatís about 3-400 meters long between some rice fields. I walk faster than the kids so I always catch up. Sometimes, even though I know they can hear me walking, they act shocked when I pass them. Teachers do it as well, itís a cultural thing. Itís strange.
Friday, May 26, 2006
There is a strange thing about having a baby in Japan. You must get its name approved. There is a division of the government in charge of approving names and some are flat out not allowed. If you want to be different and use something slightly new, forget it. There is a list of approved characters and if your name idea is not on that list or if it is a strange combination or different reading, denied. Remember, variables are bad. My sister had a girl and named her Skylar. The Japanese equivalent of that would be denied. Itís not common, not the usual.
The not-able-to-leave-a-message thing is really annoying. Yesterday I knew a certain someone was going to call the school. Luckily the call came when I was in the Elementary School gym, which is a fair ways away from the office. I heard the message and chose to hide in the shower stall of the changing room that we never use. A minute later, there was another message stressing the urgency of me being in the teacherís room at extremely now. A minute later another one, then another. There were 5 total, about one each minute. I forced them to do things my way. I made them say the worst thing in the world to the caller ďIím sorry, he is away from his desk, can I take a messageĒ. Oh how could I? I caused the destruction of a billion acres of tropical forests and incurred total devastation on poor African villagers. Or no, the world didnít come to an end.
Iíve mentioned her before, but there is this girl in the 4th grade that I just adore. She is so cute and like a puppy dog to me. As in she is always glad to see me. She is such an inspiration because she wonít give up. When she was learning the stilts she would fall all the time, but then jump up and laugh it off. Once she got hurt bad sledding with me and said ďI promise I wonít cryĒ. Now she is learning the unicycle and sadly I donít think she will be able to do it. It takes split second balance and she seems to be slightly slow at some things. Just slightly though. Yesterday I had a class in the English room. About 10 minutes into it the kids were called to get a hearing check. It would make sense, to me, for us to have one period where all the kids go and get checked so as not to disrupt classes, but if you take the opposite of logic, you get the way we did it. So I was sitting in the English room and all the kids had left. It was the last period so all the ES kids were out on the grounds riding unicycles or playing some sport. I could see this girl, alone, trying to ride the unicycle. All her friends had mastered it, but she was still holding on to the fence and then pushing off. She would go about 2 feet and then fall, every time. But she always jumped back up and tried again. She must have tried 50 times. I was just sitting on the bookcase under the open window watching her never give up. It was truly inspiring.
Later I went and chatted with the tennis team as they played. I felt like an idiot looking through the fence at them, but if I were to enter the court they would stop and greet me and I always think that is disruptive. So Iím watching the 1st year JHS students run around collecting the balls for the upper class-people. Not upper class as in rich, but upperclassmen sounded strange. Then I see one girl get smacked in the face with a tennis ball. Granted they use softer balls similar to handball balls, but still I bet it stung. It was amusing to see, but I felt bad for her. She was just minding her own business, probably daydreaming, and whack.
Then I was just so tired all day and I don't know why. I had my morning coffee, I slept so-so normal, I didn't do anything out of the ordinary. But I was so tired. I fell asleep during an afternoon meeting and I couldn't snooze in the counselor's office since it was Friday and he was here.
During one of my classes I showed a DVD of Hansel and Gretel that I bought at the $1 store. It was actually $3 and counted as 3 items, but it was in English and Japanese with both subtitles so I figured it would be good. I played it once in English and once in Japanese. Both times it made me want to gouge my eyes out. The animation was awful and the whole thing was stupid. There would be completely inappropriate music during some scene. Like when the with popped out from behind the house, the music sounded like an infomercial or something from a Tony Robbins tape. The animation would be off from what was happening like 30 seconds or so. It was really bad, but sadly I will probably buy more.
Sunday, May 28th, 2006
I had the strangest weekend as far as sleep patterns go. Today especially. I woke up around 9 or so and fixed a breakfast lunch. Then I got really sleepy and took a nap from 11-1. Hmm, ok. Then I did some computer related things and then fixed more Gyoza, just to make sure I know how to make them in case we have a Gyoza party. Then I got mage sleepy and sat on the bed for a minute only to wake up 2 hours later with that oversleeping strange head feeling. Now it is midnight and I am obviously not tired. Tomorrow is a no planning day and possibly a no class day since I am scheduled with the teacher that likes to do things his way, which doesn't include me. I plan to work on my book in the vacant periods. Then Tuesday and Wednesday we are going on some sports trip or something. Not really sure what it is, but I will take my camera.
Monday, May 29, 2006
Yea I am pretty much addicted to coffee. I drink two small cans every morning when I get to school to keep me awake during the day. At first it was just for that caffeine shock to give me a boost of hyper energy, then it was to stay awake all day. It has nothing to do with me not having classes or having classes, itís a me thing. I always get sleepy during the day, especially after lunch. That goes back as far as I can remember really. So now at school I drink coffee as mentioned, but on weekends I donít. This weekend my sleeping schedule was all mixed up because I didnít have any coffee, but today I feel fine since I just drank my poison. This really stinks since I have always tried to avoid being the coffee drinking type.
Do you find it strange that you donít actually have to speak English to teach English in Japan? I have had a number of teachers who couldnít really speak English and yet were teaching it, and sometimes correcting my English. We have a new student teacher, a nice girl named Watanabe something, and I just spoke to her. She canít really speak English. I mean she could understand me and we chatted for a minute, but her response grammar was wrong. I could understand her, and her English was equal to several teachers I have taught with, but still I find the whole thing odd. I canít imagine trying to teach Spanish in the US and not really being fluent in the language. Or even teaching Japanese. You could teach into to Japanese and not be fluent, but still I doubt a school would hire you. Here thatís not an issue. As long as you can pass a written test, and possibly an interview by another Japanese person who may not speak English either, then you are in. English is taught in a way to allow people to pass tests, not actually communicate. I think the NT position, which is my job, is designed to encourage communication.
As predicted no class with the first years because ďtoday is test, you can stay here and catch upĒ. On what exactly? Catch up on sitting? There are several poor villages that still need electricity caused by the thermal reaction of my butt and this chair, so I will ďcatch upĒ on that.
We have a student teacher as mentioned above. I assumed that meant she would observe classes and then either assist in a few or teach some on her own. If it were me and/ if I had anything to do with it, I would have her watch as many classes as possible. But this is Japan. Things are done the Japanese way. I think she observes two classes per week and then teaches one on the final Friday. Logical-opposite-Japanese Way.
I just found out I am supposed to come to school tomorrow and Wednesday and not go see the kids play. It was something about me staying because I am so busy and it would be inconvenient for me to go. Exactly what will I be doing tomorrow to cause me to be so busy? This is really frustrating. I am going to learn how to say ďunder no circumstances should you ever assume, believe, or otherwise feel that I want to sit in the teacherís room rather than being out somewhere with the kids. If you are giving a test I will walk around the classroom. If you are doing some self study printout, I will walk around the classroom and help the kids. If the kids are going on a field trip I will go and help supervise as well as talk with the kids. However, never ever think that I want to be sitting in the teacherís room or that I have so much to do that I would rather be here than with the kids. I did not come all the way to Japan to sit in teacherís rooms. If you want to give me 6 classes a day, I would prefer that to sittingĒ.
Granted I should water it down a bit, or write it down, but I need to make that point since they arenít getting it. This job is 150% better than before, but this sitting assumption just bugs me to death. So if they end up saying I do have to stay here, even after I made all these signs for the first years to use, I will just take a vacation day. I have some things to do and more importantly I will not be sitting here. If I have to come in for some reason, I am going to watch movies in the English Room Theater that I have built. Also in the afternoon I am meeting a girl applying for the NT position. We are going to have dinner after her interview and she can tell me how it went. She lives in Gunma which is a good 4 hour drive. I think she has a chance at getting the job.
So I donít know what to do about tomorrow. Everyone who had something to do with making a decision left. On the way out they said ďoh the VP will call the Principal about thisĒ, uhÖand tell me when? Should I just show up tomorrow at 6am and plan to go with the kids? I guess thatís what I have to do. If they say I am not going then I will go home or stay here or something. Everything was fine until the 11th hour and then ďoh by the way, hereís a memo about tomorrowĒ. I translate it as usual and it says ďif it rains these teachers will have a class. If it doesnít rain these teachers will stay at the school. Uh, what the #%&$ is this, and at the last minute no less. Iíll just show up I guess. Better to show up and be sent away than not show up and be expected to be here. If I donít go I could work a half day and then take vacation time. Ha ha, by work I mean sit and do nothing.
Ok, I found out I can go.
Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Yesterday and today we are participating in sports day, but itís city wide. Yesterday I got up at 5:30am and came to school by 6 for a 6:20 departure to the event locations. The strangeness and lack of logic started at 6:20 when we departed. I get to school and see two huge buses for the kids. Just as I thought, we would be taking nice highway buses into the city. Cool. So I look around to see which bus I am on and I see I am with the cheering group. Thatís cool too since that is where I wanted to be. Oh here comes our bus and itís not a highway bus.
Itís not only a regular local bus, itís the smaller model of said local bus. Hmmm, two big nice buses with extra room and then this small bus with less than enough room. There were about 30 seats and 40 people plus equipment. It was truly awful. Not only did I have to stand, but I had to do so leaning over a big drum. Two big nice buses and a small undersized local bus. Though once I applied the algorithm it all made sense.
First I get to the volleyball match. Each event was at a different school. There were about 8 schools participating in the volleyball match, at least at this location, there might have been others. We arrived around 7:30 and the girls started warming up. At around 8 I asked when it would start. ďWell the matches will start at 9, but we had to get here early for the ceremoniesĒ. Of course, Japan loves their ceremonies. So they started around 8:30 and then the matches around 9.
The volleyball girls are the powerful, aggressive, outgoing, girls of the school. The tennis club is made up of the more quiet and passive girls. The soccer club has the girls who think they are boys. I can always pick out which 6th grade girls will join which club. By always I mean this one time I chose them correctly. Anyway, the V-ball girls won their first game rather matter of factly, and their second game by a closer margin. Then they lost two games, then they won their last two. They go back today for round two. The tennis club also won their games/matches. They won two and tied one. They go back as well. The baseball team one won and lost the other. The second game was a little sad. They fumbled around a lot and made stupid mistakes. I keep forgetting they are only 12 and 13 years old. With that in mind they played rather well. But there is no excuse for not catching a slow pop fly in the outfield that drops right into your glove. Once the other team scored a run because a guy just walked around the bases. He walked to first. Then the pitcher tried to pick him off and threw a wild ball to the 1st baseman and he missed so he ran to second. Then that happened again and he ran to third. Finally the pitcher threw a bad pitch and the guy stole home. But then they would make up for these things by making some amazing sliding catch. By the mistakes they made cost more than the amazing stunts they pulled off. Finally there was the soccer team.
There are a few really skilled players, but in general it was painful to watch. When the ball came near them they would more or less watch it. If it came to them they would try to do something, but if it was just near them they would wait until it stopped bouncing. Which means the other team, who did not subscribe to the wait-watch theory, would grab the ball. When the other team had the ball our team would get near them and again watch. They wouldnít try to aggressively steal the ball. The most annoying thing, and I canít figure out why they did this was they would always kick the ball back toward their own goal. I was guessing it was to get it to the other players, but it consistently resulted in the other team stealing it. We spent the entire game on our side of the field. The other team scored 6 goals, but should have scored three more if it werenít for the goal pole which blocked them. When the ball came near the goal, the goalie would stick to the team plan of ďof it probably wonít go in the goal, itís too high or too far left, I donít need to run over there or jump. Oops I was wrongĒ.
Granted they play pretty much exactly like I did when I was that age, but at least I know that it is the wrong way. Itís not the coaches fault, he is on the National Japan soccer team or is a coach or has something to do with it. I think part of it has to do with the way practices are run in Japan. I am pretty sure all clubs practice the same way. I was thinking at a past baseball game, ďhey this is their weak point, we should grill them on that next weekĒ, but nope it was practice as usual. Things donít change in Japan. Process, Group, Rank are all that are important. The process here is to practice a certain way over and over. Luckily everyone does it so everyone is equal in that sense. What sets teams apart is having good members. We have a few, but not enough to win a championship.
© Ryan McDonald 2005, for information about using images or text please click here.