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Sunday, October 1st, 2006

I had a busy day yesterday. Paula and I hung out all day doing artsy things. We went to the museum, searched for some art stores for her, had lunch, and then Indian food with her boyfriend when he got off work. Then we went to a party in her building for a little bit. I talked to a nice elementary school foreign teacher who is from Taiwan and speaks perfect Japanese. When she has conversations with Japanese people they go smoothly, until the topic of her name or birthplace comes up. From that point on the Japanese people seem to have trouble understanding her. Not before when they thought she was Japanese, only from the point at which they learn she is a foreigner. Then their training that foreigners simply can't speak Japanese kicks in and they start having trouble. It is truly amusing. I have had that happen in a slightly different way. I would be saying some word perfectly clear and people couldn't understand me. I also put the word into context, but no luck. Once I was trying to buy soy sauce at a grocery store. It is called shoyu (show you) and I was saying it perfectly. Then I said “you know sushi and soy sauce, you dip sushi into soy sauce”. Nope, she couldn't understand me. When I finally found it and showed her, she said “oh you should have said shoyu” which is exactly what I was saying.

Then I left the party and drove home and realized I am starting to not like living this far out. I wish I lived in town so I could have a lazy movie afternoon one rainy Sunday. Or I could have a few people over to watch some TV show every week. But no, as always, I seem to be the one distant exception. I wonder why the universe has chosen to force me to become an introvert. Whenever I try to make friends or get out and do things, something seems to be blocking me. I don't know if I am putting it there myself, or what, but there is always something.

Monday, October 2nd, 2006

I can never remember the “advanced Japanese way” of first, as in before anything else, politely greeting the highest ranking person in the school. I tend to come in and stroll down to the elementary school and talk to the kids, but I am supposed to go directly to the VP or principal, do not pass go, and say a polite good morning. I can’t be holding my bag or anything else and I must be focused on the act of saying hello. I am supposed to bow to a 45 degree angle and speak clearly and slowly. I can’t do that since I am not a sergeant in the military. At best, like today, I come into the teacher’s room, put my bag down, and say good morning as I walk past him to get to the board that shows I am here today. Merely seeing me being here doesn’t count, I have to stamp some book and slide some peg.

I am eventually going to get the hang of this and it is going to warp me whenever I get another job after this. I am going to walk straight to the vice president’s office and say I’m here, and he/she is going to say “so?” Then I am going to tell the VP when I leave and return for simple unimportant things and he/she is again going to say “so?” When people come into the office as in a tour group or something I am going to shoot to my feet and start repeating the polite phrase “please treat me kindly” and as a group they are going to look at me and say “weirdo”. Then again, I am hoping I never get another corporate style job, because I will most likely gouge my own eyes out.

A teacher just busted his butt in the teacher’s room. He was coming back from class, put his books on the desk and then sat down, but apparently only hit one butt cheek on the chair. He let out a squeal like a crow and tried to grab his desk and then hit the floor. I stood up with a smirk and tried to act like I cared that he was alright, but I couldn’t keep a serious face. Then all the teachers swarmed and offered to help, but he was just too embarrassed to allow them to help. Sometimes accidents are funny.

I came in this morning and made a list of what I want to get done since I have no classes. One is to print the manuscript so I can send it to my friend who will edit it and check to make sure it doesn’t suck. Then I have to write 4 manuscript pages of something else I am working on. I also have to modify and create some pages for my websites as well as write an article for a travel website about Tokyo. I’ve already done some of it and I just checked the clock since I heard the rattle of the lunch cart. It’s actually lunch time, man I feel like I just got here.

In other news, I sent back around $800 to overpay some US bills. I got one loan down to $550 which means I can pay it off by this year. Then I will…wait I have been over this recently. Hmmm, to summarize I’m going to pay two of three outstanding loans down soon. One by December and the other by, let’s say end of June 2007. I think I can do it. Then I can pay the last, and biggest, loan down just a bit and finally start saving some money. Hopefully I can learn to live on the remainder of sending nearly $1,000 back so then later it will mostly be going to savings. I’d like to have enough in the bank in the US so that I can have my loan payment sent automatically and know there is always enough money in the bank to cover it in case I need to spend some here for a ticket or something.

I am also making (and using) a spreadsheet of daily expenditures. It really helps me see where my money goes. This month was a bad time to start since I had so many big expenses right off the bat, but I will be in the habit of keeping receipts and recording the amounts for months that I have more money to spend. I only spent $85 last week and that was because I had to buy more rice. I bought the economical 5 kg bag for $25, and the rest was spent on needed food. But Saturday I spent a bit too much so this week I have to be overly thrifty. I should be able to make it to payday ok since I have started being thrifty early on.

[later]

#$%&-ing WHY can I do 6 billion practice runs, but when stick the actual fancy paper stenciled design card into the printer the EXACT SAME WAY as all the test runs, why then does the printer change the orientation of the print out, thereby ruining the card? ARGH that makes me so mad. I prepared carefully. I tested the paper. I marked THIS WAY UP, DESIGN SIDE, with an arrow. All the tests were the same, so I stuck in the actual paper and it printed opposite. WHY? Oh I must have made a mistake since things don’t just change on their own. Yea you keep right on believing that.

Tuesday, October 3rd, 2006

I am starting to understand why people can never remember where teacher’s desks are. First a student came into the teacher’s room as he does everyday and, also as he does everyday, asked where the same teacher’s desk is. Then a teacher was placing something on the desk of a teacher who sits directly beside him. Yet he had to ask someone where this teacher’s desk was even though he sees her sitting next to him everyday. I figured it’s part of the group thing. You can’t be an individual in Japan, you must first be part of the group. These students and teachers can’t be individuals who know where people sit, they must show their group respect by asking for advice, no matter how simple it may be.

I think I emit some negative energy that machines pick up on and stop working. I picked up a video camera today to see if a tape had some kids doing the robot. We filmed the skit contest practice back in May or so and in between takes they started doing the robot. I saw them and quickly turned on the camera and caught about ten second or so. I want to play it during the school festival on the 22nd and surprise them since they have long forgotten. So anyway I pick up the camera and it won’t come on. So I pick up the other one and the tape part won’t completely open. I fiddle with it for a few minutes and nothing. I have used video cameras thousands of billions of times, but this time nothing worked. So I asked the teacher if it was broken and he said no and quickly opened the tape slot. I asked him to show me what I wasn’t doing and I was doing it all correctly. When I held the camera it wouldn’t open, when he held the camera it worked fine. He had no explanation for it, nor did I. But it must be some negative energy seeping out.

I was supposed to have at least three classes today, but I didn’t even prepare for one. It was the 5th grade class and I knew the teacher would say he wanted to do it on his own. I prepared for two other classes, one of which I had to use the piece of donkey rectum projector that simply won’t work with my computer anymore. It’s my negative energy I guess. It works fine with the other teachers and worked fine until a few weeks ago. Now it simply won’t accept my computer as an input. I’m going to accidentally push it off the desk a few times.

I think I have the worst placement for a desk based on the fact I am the lowest ranked person here. They put me beside the teacher’s color printer computer so people are always using my desk as part of the computer desk. As I type this there are envelopes on my desk. I can’t really get a photo of it since people would wonder what I am taking a photo of. Plus I would have to use my phone which makes a loud Ka-Click shutter sound. That’s to prevent people from taking up-skirt shots and it can’t be turned off. Last year I thought it was bad since the sun came in through the window and I couldn’t see my screen, but now this might be worse. Especially when teachers use the label maker which goes “Weeeeeeeee-click-click-weeeeee-weeeeee-weeeeeee-click-click-click-weeeeeeeeeee” well you get the idea. I will try to record it sometime to let you hear how bad it is. That too might end up on the floor. But I can’t have a pattern form where machines keep falling when I am around. They already stop working when I touch them.

My fingers are about to fall off. I have spent so much time working on these nice cards for the 4th graders who made me some. I really just wanted to give a few nice ones to the girls that made me many cards and the colorful ones, but thanks to the group syndrome one girl suggested I make them for all the girls who have ever made me one, which is about 10. ARGH.

I just went out to the playground to tell the 4th grader I couldn’t finish the cards today. She said tomorrow was ok. Then I stood there for a minute watching the kids run around with no worries in the world. The girl came back up to me and said “if you aren’t finished, then why are you just standing here?” It was too cute. Friday when I told her I didn’t have them she sat me down and put her arm on my shoulder and said something like “I really need those letters. People are depending on me to provide them so please try to have them soon”. It was like I borrowed money from a loan shark or something.

Reading more delightful journals:

My father is very interesting. My mother is easy with everyone.

Maybe she was going for “easy going”. Or maybe her mother is just easy?

There are some things I really admire about the Japanese school system, not too many, but the family aspect is one. Each class is really close whereas at my JHS and then SHS, we were just all there. There was no unity, well some in the marching band, but none per class. We only had homeroom once a week and it was just by name. So I was with all the K,L,M,Mc,N,O,P kids. Here each class, regardless of how big or small the school is, bonds with each other as well as with their homeroom teacher. I think it would be really tough being a homeroom teacher here since you move schools so much. It would be hard enough just being a teacher and getting to know the kids and then them graduating, but having to completely move schools every 3-5 years would be too much. I don’t think I was this close with my teachers during any of my 12 years. Maybe with the band director, and one English teacher, and my Readiness teacher (that was between kindergarten and 1st grade). For the most part it was business like, whereas here it is truly family like. Kids are still hanging around the school working on things for the school festival and teachers are staying late to help them. I can’t remember ever once staying late (excluding detention).

Wednesday, October 4th, 2006

Another morning meeting with memos being read to us and I have other things to do. I am typing this while watching the principal using my right hand. Rather I am typing this, using only my right hand, while watching the principal. I'm not watching the principal using my right hand. One letter at a time. Ha, I just did this big fake agreement nod with all the teachers. No idea what they were talking about. Maybe someone said I was a bad teacher and should be beaten and killed and I just nodded and made that “ahh, ohh yes” sound.

I just got semi-busted being an idiot. I’ve noticed recently I am dancing around the edges of insanity since I live alone and am more or less alone at school because of the language barrier. So at home I might start talking to myself or dancing and singing and looking generally stupid. To the point if I were being secretly filmed I would surely be taken to a loony bin. Anyway, I was at my desk and noticed all the teachers just disappeared as they seem to do sometimes. I glanced around and saw no one and then noticed the coffee (yea yea) started to kick in. So I grabbed the coffee can like a robot and moved my arm around like a robot. Then I started making robot sounds as I moved, assuming they would make sounds (or drink coffee). Then I drank some in a real exaggerated robot way and did the robot a bit more. Then as I put the can down I saw someone standing in the corner watching me. I paused and in an effort to save some face, I did a robot wave and continued typing.

I am wearing a short sleeve shirt after October 1st. This is a no-no in Japan. I must now wear long sleeves shirts. The weather is irrelevant. It has been decided what people will wear and when. My opinion is irrelevant.

I found out in a roundabout way that it’s somewhat un-cool for me to take my cup of water into the elementary school lunchroom. At first I thought I would go along with it since Japanese lunches usually have some liquidy dish that I could use as a drink. I actually rarely drink the water since something is always moist. So at first I thought “ok, I can stop bringing it and just hope there is always a liquid”. Then the true nature of the conversation came out. It wasn’t that I had the cup of water so much. If I didn’t have the glass of water it would still be un-cool. The only thing that would be truly acceptable would be for me to drink milk like all the kids and to not be a variable. That is near the top of the “Not-Gonna-Happen” list. These kids must never even think there are options in life. DO what you are told and shut up. If I wanted your opinion I would just use my own since no one is allowed to have a different thought anyway. – Being an American from a country that is definitely individual based is a big challenge in Japan. I knew about the group thing, but never had any idea how far it went.

I had a humorous experience in the 4th grade class. I went in to give some girls those nice notes I have been making. It was at the end of the day, or so I thought. Then they abruptly started some lesson and I was semi-trapped across the room. I waited thinking it would be over shortly since it seemed like day ending activities, but it seemed to last a while. The teacher, who I really like, saw me and decided to interrupt the class and talk about how I was going to start quizzing them in the hallway with 4 questions. So then he said we should practice. They all stood up and I asked “how’s the weather”, “what day is today”, “how are you”, and they answered all quickly. Then I got to the last one, “what time is it”. They all looked at the clock and were silent for a second. I paused and asked again. Still silence. They were just staring at the clock like some movie image. I looked at the teacher and then asked again. Seconds later, in unison, they said “it’s three”. I guess they decided to wait rather than try to say “it’s two fifty nine”. It was funny since they just got quiet and seemed to all know what was going on. The hive mind.

Thursday, October 5th, 2006

Dang it’s already Thursday. It was just Monday like three days ago. I actually look forward to having few classes these days. Three long inefficient years on the JET Programme taught me how to fill the gaps between classes. Now I have plenty of things to do. One of which is write a travel guide for a major travel site. I’ll post a link when I write it, but I sent the query letter and they accepted my proposal.

I do this stupid thing the young kids love. When I am walking down the hall and a kid is walking toward me and obviously sees me, I jump behind a column or corner. Usually it’s one that is like an inch or two wide and I am, well I am a bit wider than that. So I stick out about, well a lot. I try to act like I am hiding, and the kids are always like “Oh Ryan I can see you” and I act like I was going to jump out and surprise them. Either they like it or they are laughing at me for being so stupid.

Friday, October 6th, 2006

You know how I mentioned I am supposed to wear a tie? Well that actually falls into my theory that everything in Japan can be traced to four cultural points:

G - Group
R - Rank
A - Appearance
P - Process


This one falls under appearance. It’s not that we have to wear a tie all day, we only have to wear one into the school, then we can change into clothes I wouldn’t even wear lounging around the house. It’s not appearance in the sense of how you look, it’s about how things should look. The world should see us dressed nicely entering the school, but once inside we can do whatever. I might buy some old tie and cut it so it acts as a clip on that I can shove up my neck when I walk in and then pull it out.

There is this one 6th grade girl I like. I don’t like like her, but she is cool. Sometimes she wears Sid & Nancy shirts and actually likes the sex pistols. Other times she dresses in really bizarre gothic clothes. Other times like today she wears really conservative Mr. Rogers style clothing. She has character, that’s what I like. She’s going to be a fun 7th grader next year.

I had a class 1st period with the 6th graders and I was frantic since I hadn’t finished planning. Then I got here and someone said it was moved to 5th period. Now I can plan a better class. They are so hard to plan for since they aren’t really elementary schoolers nor are they JHSers. If I could legally teach them letters then I would be set, but we can’t do that until JHS. ARGH.

This is odd. If a Japanese person goes to the US, he can write his name exactly as it is. He can write the Japanese letters or the Chinese characters. That’s his name and in the US it is legal to sign documents and checks that way, even though most people can’t read Japanese. But in Japan I can’t write my name, I have to accommodate the Japanese. I have to convert the spelling and pronunciation to their system. It’s rude if I mispronounced someone’s name in Japanese, but perfectly ok to force me to alter mine so much I can’t even say it.

Saturday, October 7th, 2006

I have done truly nothing today. I woke up late and goofed off on the computer for a few hours and then went to buy some lunch things at the store. I came back and ate that and then got in bed to watch a video since I was so bored. That was around 2pm. I just woke up at 7pm. Well I woke up off and on a few times and then went quickly back to sleep.

There's not much else to be doing today though. There has been some strange weather recently. It's been typhoon windy. Plus it was raining which makes it extra special. I don't mind single weather elements even to their extremes, but when you mix wind and rain or snow and rain then it's just nasty. I was totally soaked walking home Friday night. I even tried to stay late since I thought the weather was getting better, but it was worse. I helped the kids prepare for their big festival in a week or so. Maybe it's in two weeks.

This weekend is a three day weekend since Monday is some regular holiday. I have to save money as usual so I can't go anywhere or do anything, but I have plenty of things to keep me occupied inside. I think I will go into Koriyama tomorrow or Monday for a few things and then have some sushi or something. I should be able to make it through this month with minimal money. Next month is going to be even tighter since I have some other things to pay as well. But from January I will have one less loan.

Sunday, October 8th, 2006

Today has been a strange day. I have tried to do several things, but they just won't work. I call it Ryan Syndrome when I can't explain why something is happening. Today I first tried to work on one of my websites, but the script simply wouldn't work. I duplicated a functional database, duplicated a functional script, carefully checked every line, but it simply won't work. Then I was recording my voice for some English things for students. I downloaded a simple program and recorded about 10 tracks. Then the program simply wouldn't load again. No idea why. I've had other instances like that all day and I can't explain any of them. It's driving me crazy since I reserved today to get so many things done.

One thing I managed to get partially done without being blocked for some reason was to consolidate my photos to a handy consolidated photo page. Er... maybe I should find a better title. Here is my convenient consolidated photo page, which is still under construction.

Monday, October 9th, 2006

So much for waking up early and going into Koriyama. It's around 11:30 now and I am going to shower and leave soon. That way I can have a little sushi just after the rush. I don't like being there when it's crowded since people stare. Plus if I want to order sushi I am supposed to use this intercom that is way too loud and I can barely understand them.

But for now I will share some interesting links I have found:

Strange Statues from Around the World

Drive a Japanese Train simulator   This is from an actual train I have been on.

Create Your own Fake McDonald's Sign

Other Cool Sign Generators

Free Online Sci-Fi Oldies Streaming

Things to Pass the Time at a Boring Job

I think I am going to change the look of my site. Just slightly. I'm going to try this same font color with a black background for the page and a white background for the inner part. It's more or less a blatant copy of a few other sites I have found, but it looks so nice when they do it. Let's take a look.

 

How is this? Darker text? Even darker? Oh I should put a sub-table in to make the words sit within the white part. Let's try that.
  Ok, how's this? Is the white too bright? I could dull it down a bit.

Ok, I am going to type some random text and copy it several times and then see how that looks from various computers. Here we go. I lika do da cha cha. I do da cha cha like a sissy girl. I lika do da cha cha. I do da cha cha like a sissy girl.I lika do da cha cha. I do da cha cha like a sissy girl.I lika do da cha cha. I do da cha cha like a sissy girl.I lika do da cha cha. I do da cha cha like a sissy girl.I lika do da cha cha. I do da cha cha like a sissy girl.I lika do da cha cha. I do da cha cha like a sissy girl.I lika do da cha cha. I do da cha cha like a sissy girl.I lika do da cha cha. I do da cha cha like a sissy girl.

Paragraph break. And a continuation of said silliness I lika do da cha cha. I do da cha cha like a sissy girl.I lika do da cha cha. I do da cha cha like a sissy girl.I lika do da cha cha. I do da cha cha like a sissy girl.I lika do da cha cha. I do da cha cha like a sissy girl.I lika do da cha cha. I do da cha cha like a sissy girl.I lika do da cha cha. I do da cha cha like a sissy girl.I lika do da cha cha. I do da cha cha like a sissy girl.I lika do da cha cha. I do da cha cha like a sissy girl.I lika do da cha cha. I do da cha cha like a sissy girl.I lika do da cha cha. I do da cha cha like a sissy girl.I lika do da cha cha. I do da cha cha like a sissy girl.I lika do da cha cha. I do da cha cha like a sissy girl.I lika do da cha cha. I do da cha cha like a sissy girl.I lika do da cha cha. I do da cha cha like a sissy girl.

Should I justify the paragraphs or let them hang freely? Let's try them justified just for kicks. I lika do da cha cha. I do da cha cha like a sissy girl.I lika do da cha cha. I do da cha cha like a sissy girl.I lika do da cha cha. I do da cha cha like a sissy girl.I lika do da cha cha. I do da cha cha like a sissy girl.I lika do da cha cha. I do da cha cha like a sissy girl.I lika do da cha cha. I do da cha cha like a sissy girl.I lika do da cha cha. I do da cha cha like a sissy girl.I lika do da cha cha. I do da cha cha like a sissy girl.I lika do da cha cha. I do da cha cha like a sissy girl.I lika do da cha cha. I do da cha cha like a sissy girl.I lika do da cha cha. I do da cha cha like a sissy girl.

     Can you tell a green field from cold steel rail. Do you think you can tell. So, so you think you can tell. Heaven from hell. Blue skies from pain. A smile from a vale. Did they get you to trade, your heroes for ghosts. Did you exchange a walk on part in a war, for a lead role in a cage. So clearly just typing some other random text here, though not so random as much as a great Pink Floyd song, oh lyrics coming back. How I wish, how I wish you were here. We're just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl. Running over the same old ground. Have we found the same old fears? Ok, enough of that.

Should I title my entry and then date it? Like:

I Ate What?
Monday, October, 9th

Hmmm, these are things to be considered.

 

 

Relaxing Photo Day
Monday, October, 9th

     Oh I think I like this style. Anyway, today I managed to go to Koriyama for some sushi and then some minor shopping needs. When I was at sushi I was sitting near this uber-hottie. I knew her from somewhere, but I couldn't place the face. She was dressed sorda trashy with high heels and a short tight skirt. Then I realized she worked at the sushi place, but was just off now. IT was strange since I always pictured her not so trashy, though I only had her uniform to judge her by.

     I also took my camera for some reason and managed to snap a few dozen shots. Some were of local shrines, since I just drove around randomly when I got back to Konan. Some were of Koriyama's Love Hotels which always have a similar look, and others were just random things in Koriyama. Here are a few. Oh, I will try to place them around this document rather than just putting them in the middle as I always do. Let's give it a try.

 

     If you want some adult magazines or DVDs, no need to go to a shop, there are places right on the side of the road. Just pull right up and get your fill. Don't worry that it's on a busy road in a small town and everyone will know it's your car, you pull right up and get what you need.

     I always pass these cool log houses on the side of this hill and never have my camera. So now I did and I was in a picture mood so I snapped one. It's an amazingly decent shot since I was driving and not looking at the camera and they are more or less perfectly centered.

     I'm going to try the font Book Antiqua for a while. Then I drove by the love hotel area of Koriyama and took some photos. Here is one shot. Click on the photo and it will take you to a special place, or a page with more photos of Love Hotels.

 

     As you can see they are always gaudy and don't even try to hide in the slightest. I think they go out of their way to attract attention. You would think, since they are designed to be somewhat secretive, they wouldn't be so flashy.

 

      I finally took some before shots before the massive snow falls. The snow itself isn't massive, it's regular size, it's the amount that is el massivo. So here is the link to the before shots, though they are just before and boring. The real fun starts when there is six million giga-tons of snow in my path. I'm curious what it is going to be like without two other guys living here and shoveling snow as well. I might get blocked in a few times. ARGH.  I really think the teacher's house's roof was poorly planned. I mean it's not like snow in this area is a sudden new thing. They should have tilted it back or to the side or in basically ANY direction than for it to dump right in front of the place. Seriously people.

     It's not a link, just an image of the stupid ATM hours at banks. Don't you people know ATM means Any Time Machines? Luckily 7-11s have ATMs that are actually 24 hours. That is such a strange concept, now I wish gas stations and super markets would stay open 24 hours as well.

 

      Whenever you hear me talking about going into Koriyama for $1 sushi I am most likely going here. Genki Sushi (gain-key (more or less) it means healthy). It's right across from the $1 store, making this a little $1 area (technically it's 100 yen, but that would make it an .88 cent store and that sounds stupid.

 

     So then when I get back to Konan I drive around some and take quick photos of some of the shrines and what not that are scattered around. This one is technically just before Konan, but still cool. I want to follow the path of sacred wonder and purity at some point. You can barely see it. Actually there are two, one goes up the hill and the other goes off into the distance. So I guess I will go ahead and make a page of some Konan area shrines. [10 minutes later] Ok here is the link. Said link I should say. Here is said link. I still think that sounds dumb. Said word sounds dumb.

     Well I think I like this new layout. I think I like Book Antiqua, though I wish I could have a slightly smaller font, maybe 11pt. Let me see if I can do that. This is 11pt. There is no option for 11pt so I had to type it in which means I will probably always forget. Ok, so I am going to leave it like this for a while and see how it looks. Apart from the awkward transition above with all the cha cha and sissy girls, I think it looks better. Over and out. As you were.

Back to school
Tuesday, October, 10th

     This title thing is going to be tough when nothing major happens. Though Relaxing Photo Day wasn't major, at least it was a theme.

Me: You know your class won the diary challenge last semester, but you are losing bad this term.
Student: Yes we are losing very bad.
Me: Actually you aren’t even participating, no one has turned anything in for several weeks.
Student: Oh, well…X-sensei said….uh…oh I don’t know…I have to leave.

     Hmmm. I would guess she was going to say “X-sensei said we don’t have to do it” since X-sensei has always been secretly critical of me and how I actually give points to students. How dare I? Teaching kids that if you make an effort you might get a reward and if you do nothing you won’t. I am such a troublemaker. I should know by now we are still just giving blind positive reinforcement regardless of what they do (or don’t do).

     There is a cleanliness to the air when it gets cool. It will carry the smell of smoke, like burning leaves, but that’s pleasant during the fall. It won’t carry general stink like summer air will. I’m actually looking forward to the weather getting cold, I don’t know why since I don’t like cold weather. It wasn’t even that hot of a summer either. I wonder what it would be like in a country where it never gets cold. I guess I will find out when I move to Thailand at some point in the future.

    Speaking of smoke, I went to the Smile Mart to get coffee since once again I didn’t sleep well. I fell asleep watching TV and when I woke up, briefly, to cut it off, which took maybe 4 seconds, I couldn’t get back to sleep. I don’t know what I have done recently to have brought on this change. So anyway, I get the coffee and there is some old man in the store with the male owner and the wife owner. The men are both puffing away and the smell was truly overwhelming. I so can’t stand the smell of smoke, especially in closed spaces. Outside is fine, smoke away, kill yourself, but in small rooms it’s just obnoxious. Of course he owned this place so there was nothing I could do or say, not that I would in Japan anyway.

     People keep putting crap on my desk. Not actual crap, just things that aren’t mine. I don’t mean memos and crap like that I mean THEIR notebooks and papers as they are using the computer by my desk. Now, at the current moment, there is a huge notebook of el crapo on my desk. Some papers fell out and went into my diary drop box and then the diaries that were standing up fell on them. It was classic. I saw it happen and chose to ignore it. I wiped it from my memory, except for this summary. Then some teachers put papers on my desk about something (could be considered more crap). Then I moved some things around looking for something. Later I noticed I had inadvertently covered the big notebook. THEN I saw the teacher whose notebook it was, looking for SAID notebook on his desk. “Here it is, it’s right here” I thought to myself. He’s still looking, and I’m still not telling him.

     I was in the bathroom doing something that involved sitting. Someone came in and I gave the obligatory “[I’m in the stall]...cough cough cough”. Whomever it was flushed the stand up toilet about 20 times. It was like he couldn’t go unless there was the constant sound masking it or of running water. It was so annoying and wasteful. I have heard it before, but I don’t know who it is.

     I’m really getting frustrated with many things, most of which stem from how we as Native Teachers are supposed to be different and try teaching English in a native different style, but are forced to conform to the never bending system. What bugs me now is there are no real grades in schools and there is no discipline. Overall I have great kids, but the 8th graders are always rowdy. The first years (7th) are still new and scared, the third years (9th) are preparing for tests and graduation, but the second years (8th graders) are rowdy and loud.

      Today I had a prep-class with the class I will teach in the observation class on Friday. I had to say shut up about 10 times. Then I made/let them use my web quiz to practice for the test tomorrow. About 5 of the 22 took it seriously. A few were on computers that didn’t work so they just sat there watching their friends. The last few flat out played games online or surfed other sites, not even trying to hide it. I let it go and made notes. Well the first 7 times I told them to stop at which time they would switch over and then almost immediately switch back. At the end a few of the usually nice girls, but this time they were goofing off, were leaving late and I showed them the list. They were shocked and scared and then apologized. Since then I have told a few that I am sad because they weren’t participating. I could tell their homeroom teacher, but I don’t want to go that far.

     Why should they participate? I mean from a student point of view, if I were their age, I wouldn’t want to do difficult stuff. I would want to goof off as well. The only thing that stopped me in the US was we had actual consequences for our equal and opposite actions, but not in Japan where Newton’s laws don’t apply. They know regular teachers can’t do anything, much less the foreigner who really has no power. All I can do is buck the system and reward the kids that participated in front of those that didn’t. I’ll do it next week so as not to tick them off in front of my lesson Friday.

     Day after day, especially the winter days, I think about Thailand and teaching English there or even just finding some beach and chilling for a whole month. Man I could get some serious writing done at the orphanage even while helping them do various things.

 

     Oh I need more photos if I am going to do this new style. Well here is a photo of some flamingoes from that time Paula and I went to dinner at the weird flamingo place near her house. It has nothing to do with anything really, but it was strange being at this seafood place with a glass cage of flamingoes in the middle. They were always squawking and stuff, but overall it was cool to watch them in their semi-native habitat. By semi-native I mean not native at all.

 

 

 

 

 

Not Feeling so Fresh
Wednesday, October, 11th

     I was in the bathroom again and the phantom flusher came in. That is so annoying. Why would you constantly flush the toilet? I have to find a way to figure out who it is. At least we are on the same bathroom schedule.

     I might take a vacation day today. I just don’t feel good partially because I definitely have some form of insomnia and partially because I am still down about the class yesterday. On top of that I don’t have anything to do today. I was supposed to oversee one of the classes take a test today, but some teacher, who shall remain nameless felt I might not be able to handle it.

Yea. That was a good call.

Not insulting in the least.

I can imagine it would be difficult to

 

SIT IN A ROOM FOR 45 MINUTES AND WATCH KIDS TAKE A TEST

Whew, glad I don’t have to do that. It would have been so difficult I might have panicked.

     I’m just in a foul mood today and need to have a change of pace. I’ll go mail my manuscript to my friend in the US who is going to edit/read through/trash it. Then I will start submitting it to publishers as my memoirs. That is a fun word, memoir. Mem woir. I should start collecting my second book which will be based on my 2nd 3-4 years as a Native Teacher.

     What other acronyms can I make from NT? I mean as a JET I was called an ALT or Assistant Language Teacher, but I was really just an Automatic Language Tape-player. Now I could be No Talent, or Not a Teacher, or Never Teaching, or Naughty Titmouse. Not sure where that one came from.

     Occasionally I get an English question from one of the English speaking teachers. Usually they are legit, but sometimes, I feel they are asking because they feel they should or they were told to. It’s almost like “be sure to ask him to check your English often so he feels needed”. Maybe I am over reacting, but that’s how I feel sometimes.

    I had to give the notebook back. I moved some things around on my desk and accidentally uncovered it and a different teacher at the computer desk beside me saw it and saw whose name it was. I really had no choice but to act surprised and then return it. It was still fine as he said he had been searching for it for a while.

     I have this annoying need to impress people, or rather not offend them. I usually end up talking too much in some feeble effort to make conversation with people and it's most always about things of which I know nothing. It's caused me to say too much or the wrong thing on several occasions. It also causes me to never form my own opinions about things and conform to the other persons in some way. Honestly I think I am doing it now.

[later]

    Yea I took off at 10:30am and went to Koriyama. I was going to eat at my favorite place and I even made a point of getting there early, but it was still packed. ARGH. So I ate at McDonald's because the salty fries would taste good. Then I mailed my manuscript, bought some more little things for making cool notes for the kids, then finally got some medicine for my on going cough. I think I was really too sleepy to be driving, but I made it back ok. I got here around 2pm and took the medicine, which made me sleepy and I didn't sleep much last night. I ended up passing out from 2:30pm to 9:30pm. Now I am awake and fully rested. ARGH.

Out of Order
Thursday, October 12, 2006

     There is an order in which I must greet my superiors and any deviation from that will not be tolerated. I’ve been warned before, as I was warned again today, so further errant behavior will result in punishment.

     One thing I find strange about Japan, one of many, is how people can’t spell something even after they just wrote it. Once when I bought a computer monitor the guy looked at it and just blatantly wrote the wrong name. It was called CRUCE and he wrote cLuce. Come on? Can’t you see it? You are reading it. Today a kid was writing about a joke in his diary and went on a horrible misspelling tangent.

Read and enjoy, this is verbatim:

I was born to love you.

No it’s jork.
I like to jork.
Does Ryan like jek?
Does Ryan always to jerk?
Does Ryan jerk with friends?

     OK we are getting too personal there. Then he came to get his book and asked me about if I will jerk for him. I laughed, but didn’t explain why, only that the word is JOKE.

     Just had a little oopsie with two girls. They were asking me about how to say various things in English. I pulled out my dictionary and told them. The last one was zen zen, which means not at all or never. I knew it, but wanted to show them the text so they read the spelling. So I was looking for it and just reading the words I came to which were close to zen zen. One word was zenra, which happens to mean stark naked. So I read it and the girls looked at me and got quiet. Then I heard it in my head and moved on. That was fun.

Is it ironic that I usually misspell the word misspell?

     All the teachers are in the teacher’s room waiting for a meeting that was supposed to start at 3:45. It’s 4 now and we are still waiting. We are waiting because it’s rude in Japan to say “she is busy can I take a message?”. OH MY GOD I am offended by merely typing it. It’s not rude to interrupt a meeting with pointless phone calls that could easily wait, but it is rude to ask someone to call back later or simply leave a message.

Job Well Done
Friday, October 13, 2006

     Well I just had my observed class and it went smoothly, for the most part. Since I showed them the activities advance they knew how to do them and it ended up taking far less time than I thought. Luckily at the last minute I had added another round in each of the two games which added a few minutes. Then at the end when I realized I was going to end 10 minutes early, I went around the room asking questions based on the structure they were learning. That killed 5 minutes. Then I stretched the final goodbye activity a bit and really just ended about 3 minutes early, which is fine in the end.

     One thing I had to decide on the spot ended up being perfect. There is a special student in the class who never speaks and doesn’t really participate at all. There was one extra student in an activity and there was no way he could have done this activity so I pulled him out and made him my “assistant”. I gave him stupid job duties and truly didn’t need him, but it would have been rude to simply have him not participate, especially with the group system the way it is in Japan. After the class several teachers and even the principal came to me and said I handled it very well. Overall the lesson was great and it was exactly what they wanted to see. I’m sure I’ll get high marks all around.

     I don’t want to sound rude, but I really don’t think this kid should be at this school. He obviously has special needs and we simply aren’t addressing them. I mean he does nothing in class and usually just wanders around the school. He, and the other students like him, should go to a special school where they can actually have one on one attention and learn some functional skills. But parents don’t want to be the family with the different child so they don’t transfer the kids and don’t even think about it. We as teachers have to include them and be careful around them. I have no problem with him and I rather like him since he’s just a cool guy, but he isn’t benefiting from being here. He’s definitely not going to high school, unless he then goes to a special school.

     After the observed lesson we had some meeting where two observers told us about various things. I watched the other two teachers who were observed and they were over acting. Like when someone gave advice, they would make a big "oh..." face and nod and scribble something down. I did the same thing even though they were speaking to me in Japanese and I was following about 5/16ths of it. Who am I kidding it was more like 7/23rds. Then I almost started to giggle. They passed out this full color, of course, PowerPoint printout of something. One of the slides talked about good activities. One example of a good activity was "The Touching Game". Hey that sounds fun. Well not so much with the kids. I'm going to scan it and post it here soon.

Seriously, I can't even imagine what TTG could be about.

Let's English
Saturday, October 14, 2006

     I went to school at 8am to help with the national standardized English test. I didn't mind getting up that early, which at my age actually isn't early at all. I didn't realize how boring proctoring a test is. I mean the tests mentioned above were only 45 minutes, but the reading and writing part of this test was 65 minutes. An hour and five minutes of me sitting there proctoring this test. If I studied how to do that would I be a proctorologist?

     The test was fine. I think it tests usable English, unlike the gibberish we are tested on in Japanese. Why is gibberish spelled with a G and pronounced Jibberish? Oh English, gotta love its lack of standard pronunciation.  That is the one thing easy about Japanese, you always know how to pronounce it.

     After the test I helped the kids prepare for the big school festival next Sunday. My second big box of winter clothes and other things of the like arrived. I emptied it out since it was mostly some stuff for school like posters and easy English books. Then I took the huge, empty, box around and threw it at kids after I acted like I was struggling with it. One kid laughed and then said "I think you stopped maturing at age 15". I looked like I was getting mad and said "NO, it was more like age 12". Then, when the lunch arrived, the other English teacher had me make the announcement over the intercom. It was funny. At first I tried to sound exactly like the vice principal when he tells all the teachers to come in for the morning meeting. Then I got a little silly, still sounding professional. I said "Attention, this message is for the teachers, the ramen that was order has arrived, it is now time for ramen, it's....ramen time. If you ordered ramen, please arrive in the teacher's room shortly". It was funny and the few students there enjoyed it as well. I stayed at school until 2 something on a Saturday. I think I went to my old school maybe once on a Saturday and that was to see the school festival. I don't mind being at work late or on weekends, when I have things to do.

     The more I say that word in my head the more it sounds like some place from Lord of the Rings.

Are you the King of Gondor?

     No, I am Lord of Gibber.

Then what form of being art thou?

    We are Gibbers. We speak Gibberish. All Hail the land of Gibber.

     That reminds me of when I was home visiting my family. The fam. I was at my mother's school (the one at which she works, she doesn't own it) and some teacher friend asked me what I was doing now. Off the top of my head I said:

I design, arrange, and sell shrubbery. I am a shrubber. I am Ryan the shrubber.

     She thought I was serious since I said it without thinking and with that deadpan face. She laughed and managed to keep a straight face and then I told her I was kidding. I should have gone on longer. Oh wait maybe that was at a grocery store. Or somewhere else. Hmmm.

      Oh man, you won't believe this. The other day....oh wait...that wasn't me.

Over and out. As you were. At ease.

Squealing
Monday, October 16th, 2006

     During the morning meeting some teacher stood up, pointed out the window, and yelled “crash car crash car”. Naturally I assumed a car had crashed, but that’s how they refer to old cars. The reason she interrupted the meeting was they were being driven by famous people in some Cannonball Run type race around Japan. I think it’s only between a few prefectures, but they drove directly in front of our school. Eh…it was a little cool seeing these old cars drive by on a cool fall day knowing someone famous was driving them. Though I wouldn’t know someone famous from the garbage men, it was still kinda cool.

     Sunday I went into Koriyama, alone, since my lunch plans flaked out on me. I always seem to have that problem. When someone says “hey this Sunday let’s do lunch” I take that as a verbal contract, a definite plan, a commitment. But I seem to be in the minority. In college someone in particular would say “hey let’s go play golf bright early on Saturday” so I would wake up even brighter and earlier and head over to pick whomever up. Only to learn they were just making small talk and were zonked out asleep.

     Yesterday the plans fell through because someone’s significant other was supposed to work and I was apparently the back up plan. Then when said SO got the day off at the last minute, they decided to take a last minute day trip somewhere. I was told only when I emailed to confirm pickup time. Funny thing is it was really inconvenient for me to go into Koriyama on Sunday, I really needed to go on Saturday and then spend Sunday cleaning and working on things. But I altered my plans, as I always do, and paid the price, as I often do. From now on I’m going to try to think about what I need first. If that works out so that I won’t have to be alone one day, then great, but if not then I have no problem being alone. I have plenty of experience at it.

     When I was out, I found a new sushi place near Aeon Town, which is some big shopping center. The sushi place has always been there, but it is around a corner that I never venture to. I ventured there this time since I was bored and it was a nice day. I tried to waste time rather than rush home and do nothing, alone, in my small town. I also went to the donut place and had a few. While I was there I had three people break in line directly in front of me. I truly don’t understand this. One person might have been in line before me and jumped out to getPimpin' fatty ride with hydraulics in Japan a few more donuts.

    Maybe there is some universal rule where they can get back in line at their original space. The other two people, however, clearly came in behind me. One woman stood in between the two lines and when the woman in front of me finished, the between lady politely gestured and stepped in front of me. Japanese people are always so polite, even when they are cutting in front of you. The last lady was just stupid. She stood at the back of the line and shouted a few stupid questions and then just walked up and cut.

     I have to figure this out. Either there is some hidden cultural reason why it happens or these people are just stupid and rude. It can’t be that obvious. It can’t simply be that they are all stupid and rude. There has to be some reason why it’s ok to cut. I have determined it is rude to wait in Asia. When driving, people won’t wait if you are slow. They will just pass you, even if you are going around a blind turn. If someone is stopped in the road and turning, but waiting for cars to pass, the car behind will do whatever, and I mean whatever, it takes to get around that car. It doesn’t matter that the car could just wait 15 seconds, it’s rude to wait. When you are in line to buy something, the absolute micro-second the person before you is finished they will be shuffled to the side so the next person can hurriedly move up. I understand that a little, but they exaggerate it here. I mean the second you receive your change, it’s over. You have to find some place to put your money away and your wallet since you are now in the way. In Thailand and Cambodia taxis would drive all over the road and even the sidewalk to get around a car in front of them that was moving 1/100th of a mile per hour slower. Just the slightest bit slower and it’s over. I kept telling the Thai drivers I was in no hurry and they didn’t have to drive like a mad man, but it didn’t matter. Even the bus to Sangklaburi, which is way north near Burma, would pass people on curves. The only reason that was tolerable, was the fact that we were on a big bus and most of the other vehicles were cars. It would have been the car’s problem, not ours, if something happened.

     I am so bored right now. I have no classes this week so I have nothing to prepare for. I should be working on the news cast video we are making, but I need a few more people to video their parts. I need a few parts urgently so I can make the intro and exit. I keep wandering around and going in classes where the students are freely working on various preparation things. I might walk home later and get my flash drive and camera so I can work on other things.

     Strangers in the night, exchanging glances, wondering in the night, what were the chances, we could fall in love… and some other words.

     I hung out in the gym for a while as the kids made some elaborate opening ceremony thing that will take about 100 hours to make and we will use for 2 minutes on Sunday. Granted it will probably look cool, but it’s just funny how much effort they are putting in to something with a lifespan of like 2 minutes.

     They are basically painting paper and wrapping the paper around plastic drink bottles. Then they cut out the ends and slide the bottles onto a long string of Christmas lights. The whole process has been inefficient, but the worst part was when they were sliding the bottles down the string of lights. It took like one minute PER bottle per foot since they had to fit the lights through these small openings. I suggested 4 ways of doing it better, but I counted about 284 possible ways of saving time. I was told “well there is a special way of doing this, and maybe you don’t understand”. What I understand is this special way is the most inefficient and you simple don’t want to think about that so you say I don’t understand why you do it this way. I truly don’t understand why they were doing it that way when it was clearly the worst way. I really wanted an actual explanation, even one that I thought was stupid, but all I got was the basic “we can’t explain our advance process to you” speech.

To Do Lists
Tuesday, October 17th, 2006

     I have a stack of papers on my desk in a pile called “To Be Translated”. I discovered one disadvantage to letting that stack build up today. Yesterday during the morning meeting a teacher passed out an envelope that I thought was about donating to charity. I took it and put it off to the side in the above mentioned “To Be Translated” stack. Then later I noticed several cars in the parking lot (car park for the Brits) being inspected. Didn’t think to put the two together. Today I get here and asked a teacher if his car was ok and he said it was great and I asked what was wrong with it yesterday. He said nothing, it was the free inspection they talked about…didn’t I get the envelope about it? ARGH.

     I keep making to do lists. Then I make other lists that prioritize these lists, and ones that prioritize the prioritizing lists. So I trashed them all and made one online list that I can access anywhere in the world. I can even assign priorities and due dates and sort it in various ways. So far it made me realize I am lazy and have a million things to actually do.

     Last night I stayed at school until around 7 and then went home and ate while watching something. I think it was some baseball game. Like Mets and the Cardinals. Obviously I don’t follow baseball or I would have known that was an important game. So then I got a little drowsy at around 8pm and made it until about 9. Then I got dressed in my sleepy wear and jumped in bed in case I went to sleep. I even set my alarm. Then my alarm went off early like 5 minutes later. No wait, it’s sunny outside. It’s actually Tuesday. I slept for 9 hours like a log and other nights I can’t even sleep for 3? I even dreamed about sleeping (and something involving William Shattner that I can’t seem to understand). Well I guess I needed it and I actually don’t have insomnia, just reacting poorly to something I am eating or drinking. ARGH again.

     This week I think I will stay a bit later, or at least to 7 pm. When I left last night there were still people busy at work with various things. Some kids were cutting little tickets for food and such at the school festival. I offered to help by cutting them (the tickets not the kids) in the printing room where we have a paper cutter, but they said no. I couldn’t figure out why and then one girl who always explains things to me, told me a certain amount of time was allotted for each process and making one step more efficient than another would throw a wrench in the whole process. This is the only country where efficiency is frowned upon as long as each member of the group has something to do.

     The secretary just came into the room and announced “I need some help with something for a minute”. The ten teachers in the room, including myself, got up and went to help her. It was to move one box onto one table. One person did it and 9 of us watched. How many Japanese teachers would it take to unscrew a light bulb? What annoyed me was the sheer pointlessness of it all. Here are three options that would have made things go smoother:

A) Clarify you have one box to be moved three feet onto one table.
B) Ask for one or two people to help you with something.
C) Ask one or two people directly to help you.

     But none of these involve appeasing the group, making everyone in the group feel warm and cozy because they were asked to help, and jumped to your side. That is more important than the fact it disturbed everyone. I wonder if I will ever understand Japanese culture.

     I hate having to budget each paycheck and shuffle things around. Most of it is my own fault so I guess this is my punishment for wild spending in college, but really it could have been much worse. I could have run up 100K in bills and had to declare bankruptcy. I guess the silver lining is this has made me semi thrifty now. I know I won’t get in debt that bad again. I have so many friends who have 10-20K in the bank here and don’t even know or care when we get paid. I know the exact date and time of each paycheck and count down from day one. Two things that do annoy me though are those people will 60 million in the bank (not literally) who are uber-stingy. I understand having some fiscal thrift, but there are some things that just annoy me. Like on payday when someone with no expenses and no loans and no bills says “oh I can’t go there it costs $10 to eat and I am broke”. No you are not jackass, you are just a stingy moron. There is stingy and there is thrifty. I also hate people who won’t loan friends small amounts of money when they really need it. That’s from several years ago, but I still hate it. Oh the second thing I hate is why do I always have some expense other people don’t. When I was in Fukushima city I was the one with outrageous rent, and most of the other people had no rent. Plus I was the one that got screwed over by my predecessor, not the others. So my first year here was me throwing $1,500 a month down the drain when other people were putting that into savings or paying off bills. One guy I know sent back $1,500 USD each month and still traveled. But not me, nope for some reason I was the sole exception. So that was three things big deal.

     Last, and completely unrelated, is how things claim to be free and then ask for a credit card. If they are free you don’t need my CC. If you offer a 30 day money back guarantee, that’s also not free. That is the possibility of being free if I am not satisfied. Furthermore, I hate it when they say there is no charge your first month, and then decline your card because it’s full. Yea, if there is no charge, why are you charging me? There will be room when the payment is due.

     The “don’t do drugs” van is parked out front and the kids take turns going through it. I went through with one group. It was supposed to scare the kids away from drugs, and maybe it did, but I thought it was silly. One TV showed someone trying to draw a circle after using drugs. And he couldn’t, it was all squiggly lines. Oh the humanity, how could they even show the kids something that horrific. That reason alone is why I will never do drugs. Actually the reason I won’t do heroin, one reason, is from reading the book “The Damage Done” about Warren Fellows who smuggled heroin in and out of Thailand and then got caught. He was sentenced to a long time at Bangkok’s Bang Kwang and the book is about his time there. Yea it's bad.

     I was back in the gym helping the kids do the strange pet bottle on the string of lights thing, but I had to leave because the annoying inefficiency reached a peak. We have these 200 foot long strings of lights with bottles around them. The bottles have delicate paper glued to them so we have to handle them carefully. Fine. The first I’d say hour was spent with a few teachers slowly lowering and then unraveling the strings from the second floor balcony. Then they added more. Then it was time for us to put them back upstairs. I asked why since it takes so long to get them down and we aren’t using the gym this week. Even if we do use the gym we could just put them off to one side. So the answer was we put the strings back upstairs, because that’s what we do. Logic plays no part. It’s just the way it’s done. My idea was a variable and variables will not be tolerated.

     I had an interesting conversation with a girl I mentioned before. She’s a 6th grader and always wears gothic clothes or real conservative clothes. Today she was wearing something of no interest. I said hello to her and she asked me if I knew that CBGBs had closed. I didn‘t have any idea what she was talking about, because I was sure she had no idea about the famous club in New York named CBGBs. Why would she, she is a 6th grader in rural Japan. But that’s exactly what she was talking about. She likes Sid and Nancy as well as the Ramones. She knew the Ramones played there years ago and seemed to know it was closing. I googled it and sure enough yesterday was its last day. This kid always amazes me.

     Something that is really really really annoying me lately is how things seem to keep disappearing. I will create a spreadsheet or something and then later I can find the spreadsheet, but the stuff inside is different. Sometimes my emails seem to disappear from my inbox or junk mail box. At first I assumed I threw them away, but now it happens so much I know something is going on. If it were only the emails I would assume I deleted them by accident or there is some virus, but it’s several things. I put some papers on my desk, and then later they are gone. I create a spreadsheet and later it’s different. It doesn’t stop.

     If it’s a joke, then kudos to whomever or whatever is doing it. Seriously, I think it would be awesome to break into people’s houses and not steal anything, just rearrange things. Like put some dishes in the sink. Throw some garbage on the floor. Leave some cabinets open. But they would have to be all different times. Of course you could never steal anything, that way the people would just think they are going crazy or blame other people who live there.

Yea sometimes it’s fun to be in my head.

Will I help?
Wednesday, October 18th, 2006

     There are tests for the seniors all day today and the way the schedule is set up they need me to help with the tests. I told several teachers I have nothing to do today and would be happy to proctor a test, so let’s wait and see….YES. 2nd period I sit in the 3-1 class for the math exam. You see, whining does make a difference.

     During the morning meeting another humorous phone thing happened. The phone rang during the morning meeting as usual, and the lady beside me answered it. I would have assumed the secretary would have answered it, but that would have been logical. So the lady answers it and as I have mentioned before Japanese people have no volume control. She starts talking full volume, so the vice principal starts talking even fuller volume, so now she can’t hear and starts talking even more fuller (louder). Finally the VP stops and waits and she says something like “ok, we are in a meeting now and X-sensei is about to speak so I will have him call you shortly”. I was impressed she took a message, but that’s not how we do things in Japan, so….About 4 seconds later the phone rings again. Same lady in the same loud voice says “I’m sorry we are still in a meeting and now X-sensei is speaking, I will have HIM call YOU in a few minutes”.

   Must call X-sensei
   Someone is not following protocol. Will not allow me to speak to X-sensei.
   Variables will not be tolerated.
   Must call back again and again until objective is reached.

       So they hang up and about as long as it takes to redial the phone rings again. I might as well copy and paste the above transaction since it was verbatim. Then for some reason I did something I shouldn’t have but it worked out perfectly. She hung up the phone, the vice principal asked if it was ok and she said sorry it was, then I sat up and stuck my hand in the air counting down from 5. When I reached 1 the phone rang. People laughed and then X-sensei answered it. The entire phone call was about 10 seconds. Most of that was him saying “hello this is Konan-JHS’s X-sensei sorry you had to wait (for 2 rings)”. The other person said something like “my student who is in your class left his textbook in the car and I will bring it during lunch”. Ok then, buh bye. Then we continued the meeting.

     The VP started reading to us again. You know this would be great if I could have people read memos to me when I wanted to study Japanese, but when I need to leave for the bathroom or to prepare a room it’s just annoying. Please look at the full color bus schedule in front of you and follow along. Starting in November, the bus going to Hamaji will now leave the school at 4:21pm rather than 4:19pm. The other leaving times are…(5 minutes to class warning bell)…and the scheduled times for the Akatsu bus are…also if you will note in your printout this year they will be using the newer model bus as shown in the photo marked “new buses used for the xxx line”…(bell to show 1st period has started)…furthermore the students who live in Miyo and usually walk, will have the option of riding a bus during this time. That schedule s well as a photo of the new Miyo buses is located…(teacher cutting in) eh…we have tests that should have already started, can we just read the rest of the memo ourselves and go to class? Oh well...uh…(principal and vice principals discuss this for at least 30 seconds)…ok, that’s fine. (we are now ten minutes into the first testing period. But one good thing came out of this…

     I heard two teachers in the hall complaining about why these memos are read to us. YAY I’m not just a bitter whiner (at least not on this) other people think it’s dumb as well.

     I just finished filming the last bits of the kid’s news cast where they explain our school in English. Luckily someone made school announcements during our breaks so they didn’t interrupt us. The announcements they kept making were for an urgent meeting that had started, but was missing three people. It was unusual for teachers to be late to these. I saw one in the gym and told him about the announcements. He said he knew even though the gym speakers were off, but he didn’t have time for another meeting. They have had so many this week the classes are getting behind with some preparations. Then he said all they do is read memos so what’s the point. Wow that made me feel far less whiny.

     Just had a groovy little language goof. I gave a student a sticker of SpongeBob for writing in her diary since she wrote a lot and requested it. Then when I saw her in the hall she asked if she could choose the sticker next time. I replied “co-ed public bath, co-ed public bath”. Of course that makes no sense and is slightly inappropriate, but a similar word that means “greedy” might make more sense. Co-ed public bathing (which is sadly rare and only old people) is konyoku. Greedy is donyoku. I just said it without thinking and that came out for some reason.

Group not always best
Thursday, October 19th, 2006

     There are times when having a group decide something, and then using ALL the ideas the group came up with, is a bad thing. I think that's the case most of the time, but there are times that stand out more. Here's one, it's an advertisement for something for old people, maybe insurance or whatever. One thing about Japan is that you must always have a cute little mascot. Everything organization has some cute little mascot and they sometimes have mascot challenges on TV. At least when these organizations actually create a full sized suit of the mascot. But this mascot for the old people thing is a little strange. Let's take a look:

 

Too many ideas can spoil the broth, and make a stupid looking mascot.

 

Seriously.

     Is that some sex device? I mean, OMG what is that? I truly think it's a suppository or something naughty. If not, then OMG again, what were you thinking? That's not cute. P-man? Maybe-san? Someone needs to be fired, but I guess that would mean firing the whole group.

     I had to hide my personal laptop at school since the city will come by soon to check our equipment. About half the teachers put their personal devices into their desks. I don’t know if this makes sense or not. It seems like it doesn’t, but I am to the point that I think anything that annoys me doesn’t make sense. I can understand not allowing personal computers on the network or things like that, but merely having them here seems a bit odd. I have mine because it has the same programs and the OS is in English. I can follow the Japanese one most of the time, but when I want to know how to do something in a program I use mine and then remember the steps for the school’s Japanese computer. The bummer thing about this is that I can’t work on the video. I am nearly finished, but I need to work on a few things.

     One reason I could never be a full time Japanese teacher is that you can’t have any life. The teachers, especially those with homerooms and more especially the two homeroom teachers of the seniors, stay at school until about 9:30 every night this week. Then they drive 30-45 minutes home. They come in every single day for at least 8 hours. This Friday there is some mandatory teacher versus student basketball game (not looking forward to it) and then Saturday they will be here ALL DAY doing last minute preparations. Sunday is the school festival and then after that there is a “job well done” party. Other weeks they stay until 7 or 8 and still come in on Saturday.

     The absolute worst would be to be a vice principal. We have two and they both live an hour away. They get here every weekday morning at 7am and leave at 10 (at the earliest). They are here 6 days a week and sometimes on Sunday. The only good thing about being a VP, or being married to one, would be to know that in X number of years you will most likely be a principal and then be quite rich. Our principal is like a ship captain I guess. He knows everything about the school and has meetings and stuff with important people, but the VPs actually run the school.

     The other English teacher here just had a kid and honestly he never gets to really see the baby. At night I’m sure the child is asleep when he gets in and then in the morning he is still asleep. On weekends when the teacher isn’t here he might see the kid a little, but man not much.

     The auditors are here and they are definitely auditors. They are walking around looking at everything and not smiling. I wonder if that is part of the job.

[later]

     Man. Today was the "just like in the movies" day. It was unreal. There were several movie moments, but I will narrow it down to just three. First I was trying to make a fake dummy that I could throw out of a window and film. It had to be dressed in the student's gym clothes. Luckily there was a dummy on the third floor in the student council room. It was breakable so I couldn't use it. I had to take off the clothes. I put it on the table and leaned over it and started taking the pants down. Something like this:

What are you doing to that student.....oh wait.

     Just then the vice principal and two teachers walk past the room and see me and come rushing in. They stared at me and then saw it was a dummy and gasped. Then I realized it and laughed. That's the shirt hanging down, not my bulging gut. I wear shirts loose to mask my bulging gut.

     Later I had a student help me and I was telling him to undress the dummy. In Japanese you don't really use pronouns that much. So I said "take off the pants". Guess who was walking by again? They came in again and this time I heard it in my head as I said it. I explained it as soon as they came in and we all laughed.

     Lastly, I was having the student throw the dummy out of the window and I was filming it along with another teacher. Just as we said "go" the auditors listed above walked around the corner. They saw us filming what appeared to be a student jumping out of the window. They gasped and ran toward it, along with the un-amused vice principal and then realized it was a dummy. Then the teacher explained it and they did not laugh.

     The timing was dead on all day. There were a few other instances where people came in at the perfect moment just to hear the wrong part of the conversation or see the wrong thing out of context.

     Oh, here's something amusing. Look at the clock in the picture and then look outside. It's not dark at 9:30am is it? I was still at school for 30 minutes more after this shot was taken.

 

9:30pm and I am still at work teaching English in Japan

     I have never stayed at school this long. Well maybe once when  we had some PTA meeting, but never at Fukushima Higashi on the JET program. Oh, the guy that's there after me is complaining about the same things I complained about. So it wasn't just me, it's that school. I still like it overall, but from here on out I will visit this new school I probably will never go back to Higashi since there is really nothing there for me. I will go to the night school graduation this year, well technically next March, but that will probably be the last time.  This graduating class will be the kids I really loved when I was there. They were nice and I had class with them every week.

     It's weird how you can bond with one class and not a whole school.  It must be a homeroom teacher thing or something. At my current school, my favorite class is the 4th graders. The other classes are good, but there is something tight and special about this whole class. I know it is because of the teacher, and this is one bad thing I hate about how they will transfer every three or four years. I am pretty sure he will leave this year and won't have the kids again. He has done a lot for them and they show it. I have an observed class with them in late November.

     Here is the semi finished weird thing the kids were working on. It's semi-cool, but there were several mistakes which caused a misspelling. It's supposed to say Evolution 2006, but it actually says 2016. It's not Evolution as in Darwin and Creationism. It means evolving as a person into a better person.

 

Fall Festival
Friday, October 20, 2006

     Today was the first part of our fall festival. Sunday will be the kid’s time and fun time. First we went into the gym and watched some videos and performances. It started out in usual form as we proceeded to do the most inefficient thing, one after another. First they insisted the sound cart be placed right in the middle of the doorway that everyone getting on the stage had to use. Then, rather than put all the groups that will be using the projector and computer back to back, they put dance groups or chorus groups in between each one. So when one would finish, we would take ten minutes moving the projector, screen, computer, and all the cables out of the way. Then we would put it all back and wait for the computer and projector to warm up. Then we had to use a microphone by the computer speakers because the cable from the computer to the sound cart was too short. BUT if we had moved the computer cart just 5 feet like I suggested, it would have been fine. But everything has a place and the computer cart’s place was 5 feet too far. I really didn’t care at that point.

     Then they had some teacher-student basketball challenge. I really didn’t want to participate for several reasons. One was I am not athletic. Not that I don’t like to run, but I am just not a sports person. I feel and look like a complete terd. Secondly I had to wear sports clothes, which don’t flatter me at all. Finally and the worst of it, I had to wear a yellow jersey that was honestly for a 5 year. It was so tight it really drew attention to my figure. I couldn’t remember which goal was ours and just wandering around. The only funny thing I did was not even jump for the jump shot since I was two feet taller than the student against me. Luckily there were too many people so we were supposed to play for a little bit and then change members. The whole game was 5 minutes so I played about 2 minutes and let someone else play. Then they said we had to play again, so I made sure I was near the back of the fill in players. Plus the first group of male teachers were a bunch of hardcore players so only two came out for others to play. YAY I didn’t have to look like a complete motard for a second time.

There is an art to being forgotten about, and I am an artist.

Then it was lunch time and we ate. I went up to the elementary school since I needed a shot of youthful energy. I sat with some quiet kids, which was not what I needed. One is a bit bossy and serious. She was quick to point out how many of my jokes were against the rules. Bossy people are not cool. They are big dumb mean heads. Once I saw this girl get smacked down by a teacher. Not literally, but the teacher was all like “don’t tell everyone what to do all the time, it’s not cool, just play and have fun, sometimes you won’t get your way, that’s life, deal with it”. It was in front of all the other kids too and she was bawling. I loved it, because that day she was being really bratty.

Then we cleaned the school, which is such a contradiction. The parts we clean are wicked shiny, but the parts we don’t are regular and dusty. I mean kids will scrub PART of the hall, or PART of the windows, and they do it well. But parts near it are left untouched. It’s strange. I think it is great for the kids to clean the school, but I wish we would be more thorough.

El Festivale
Sunday, October 22, 2006

     We had the school festival today. What an emotional day it was for the kids. It was emotional for me as well, but that was because everything was done in the most aggravating and inefficient way possible. That's what happens when you have no single person in charge of something. With no one in charge, everyone did whatever they wanted and things constantly overlapped or caused problems. The big thing that drove me nuts to the point I was about to scream involved this really cool video some girls made with the song Time After Time by Cyndi Lauper.

     I suggested before the show/festival that I or someone organize all the cords, set aside one mic for the projectors and a few for the stage, tell everyone to put the mics in a certain place when they were done, and several other logical efficient things. I was told it was all under control. In fact it wasn't. When the show started the mic cables were constantly tangled. When they showed the video the girls made for the song, they kept playing part of it over and over since there was a problem with the sound. A problem I expected and tried to prevent. It really ruined the presentation since we saw the first 15 seconds about 6 times and everyone was then tired of seeing it. ARGH. I swear if I were the hulk I would have smashed the room up. Groupism has benefits in a few places, but quite often it just bottlenecks everything. Next year I am just going to take over and do some things on my own.

     After the show we had a "job well done" party. Everyone congratulated me on the video I made for the elective class of seniors. It was funny, but could have been better. Anyway, these parties are always fun. Teachers relax and tell you more than they should. I had a fair amount to drink since I don't drink much anymore and really needed it.

Day Off
Monday, October 23, 2006

     Because of the school festival being held on a Sunday (so parents could attend) we had today off. I stayed in town, as mentioned above, since A) I didn’t want to go to the party and not drink, B) go to the party, drive back that night, then drive right back the next morning, and C) I had things to do in Koriyama and wanted to get some Starbucks coffee. I stayed in my usual cheap place and got a lot of things done. The big thing was that it is pay day and I had to send away more than half my check right away. I sent away $950 + $400 + $200 plus something else I forget now. But my bills are getting slightly lower which is good. I think I will work on a chart or spreadsheet for paying down my bills now.

One class
Tuesday, October 24, 2006

     Just one lousy class today. I shouldn’t complain, since this would have surely been a week or month of no classes at Fukushima Higashi High School in the past. Tomorrow I have no classes and then Thursday and Friday I should have two each day.

I am an anti…..
Wednesday, October 25, 2006

     That nice little 6th grader who wears gothic or really conservative clothing stopped me in the hall this morning on the way to the teacher’s room. While strumming an air guitar she said:

     “I am an antichrist, I am an anarchist” then she begged me to teach her the rest of the Sex Pistol’s “Anarchy in the UK”. Hmmm, yea that would be some good English to learn, but no way I am teaching a 6th grader things like “I wanna destroy the passer by coz…” and so on.

     Had a little language misunderstanding yesterday, but luckily I was on the receiving end. I sat at the lunch table and as I sat down the young teacher beside me said “jama jama”, which means interruption or disturbing. So I got up and moved. When I started to sit down this time, the same teacher said it to me again so I replied in Japanese “why am I disturbing you?” He stared at me and all the other teachers started laughing, he was saying “jamu jamu” which means “jam, jam (as in jelly)”. He was trying to give me some jam for the bread.

      I just worked out an aggressive loan payoff plan. I Think I can pay off all my debts, which is a lot, within a year and a half, starting from June. That means being broke for another year and a half and skipping a few big trips, but the overall effect of having no outstanding debts or minimal is quite appealing. It would be great to leave Japan debt free. That would open up so many possibilities for me. Now I have to have a job since I have so many bills, but if I paid them off and managed to save a few thousand, I could live in Thailand for a year either doing nothing or volunteering or maybe even teaching English. I’d like to see how Thai students learn English. I think they will learn faster than Japanese students.

[begin tangent]

    We had a party Sunday night as mentioned above. I chatted with some teachers who don’t speak English. In my intoxicated state I bluntly asked a few teachers why they don’t speak English since they took English from JHS through college. They just shrugged. A few said they could read and write some English as well as understand some, but they don’t speak it. I see that as a failure on the system as a whole, not the teachers. I know several teachers who do a great job, but the students just don’t learn. It’s frustrating.

[end tangent]

     So I have three outstanding loans. One is for studying in Japan in 1998, that one will be paid off by Dec. Then I will start on my loan for getting Microsoft certification around 2000, but I never actually got it. They changed my schedule at work so I got off at 6am and the school opened at 11am. If the school had opened at 8 I could have managed to go in the mornings and sleep in the afternoon. That one is fun to pay off. Finally I have the big school loan, which I didn’t even need. I went to the financial aid office once and asked if I was eligible for anything and they said “shoot yea, here’s $16,000”. Really hard to say no to that after being so broke for so long. I CAN pay that down in just over a year if I send more than half my paycheck back. I think I will send a lot back initially and then reduce the amount. Maybe I will keep sending as much as possible back. I really want to get out from under that. I would be much further along if I didn’t have absurd rent for about a year in Fukushima city, and then still high rent for the last two. But that’s the past, in the present and future I am willing to make sacrifices to pay these things down.

     I was in the bathroom around 11am and I was in a stall. In came the phantom flusher freak. Flush flush flush (oh no there was a slight delay between two) flush flush. I quickly hurried and peeked over the top of the stall. AHA it’s someone wearing a dark suit. I washed up and rushed out into the teacher’s room and….crap everyone is wearing a dark suit. Argh.

[later]

     Apparently today all the teacher's left at noon to go observe some other classes at other schools. Then all the kids left so I was alone with the vice principals and the part time teachers and nurse. I took 3 hours of vacation time and came home and sterilized my apartment. I moved everything around, dusted like mad, and vacuumed everything. All the windows were open and I was wearing a mask of sorts. This had better clear up my violent allergies. There are times when I can't breathe and have to take medicine. I don't want to get in the habit of taking the allergy meds just to get to sleep.

     I think I am going to go into Koriyama in a bit and get a few things I forgot on Monday. I will probably eat something as well. I'd like to go to Jintei, that place with the super great fried pork stuffed with cheese over rice, but I don't know if I have time. If I get there right at 5 or so I can get a seat, but otherwise I have to wait an hour or more. I also need to get a haircut. There is a place in my town that I could go to, but they charge something like $50 and a man's haircut, especially my buzz-cut, is simply not worth that much. The place in town charges $10 which is what I have deemed it to be worth. Although the $10 place does throw in a few things like shaving my neck with a straight razor and some other things, I still don't want to pay $50. Plus if I go to this place in my little town once then he would assume I would come back every time.

     Oh here's some big news. I published an article called “Tokyo on a Budget”. It's on a travel website called www.GoNomad.com. Right now (Oct 25th) my article is the newest and is at the top of the main page. Look for the little Jizo statues. I think technically my friend Larry took the photo of the Jizo statues, but he won't mind. Click the link to go to the main page and you should see my article, as well as several other nice articles, about traveling.

 

Eh……
Thursday, October 26, 2006

     That’s pretty much how I feel today. I did go into town last night and got even more stuff done. One big thing I did was buy a rack type thing for the kitchen. I had been using this snap together cheap system for several years and I brought it here to Konan. For some reason I just got totally sick of it recently and had to get something new. I’m still kinda broke, but I really wanted to get something as it was gnawing at me all the time. So I went to Cainz Home (kainz) and bought this $40 thing which seems to be working fine.

    
     Other than that I just bought some knick knacks and got a haircut. I had more sushi at my new found sushi place and then came back. I spent more than I should have, but really bought several things I needed. I did break my cardinal rule of buying something that is less than $10 before checking the $1 store. Sure enough, there it was for a quarter of the price. I had bought a $4 - 70cm cable at the computer store and then found a 300cm (3meter) cable at the $1 store. Well poo.

     Today I had two uneventful classes. I thought about setting up an ESL teaching blog somewhere. Rather than post ideas I have to some list serve where limited people can see it, I might start a blog with ideas I’ve had and worksheets I’ve made. I’ll research that now.

 

I'm working on some postcards for a fundraiser for the poor Thai orphanage I volunteer at sometimes. Here are some photo samples of the home and the boys:



     From top left to right:
     Group photo of us leaving one year - I am leaning in from the far right.
     Some boys posing.
     My sponsor child climbing a tree like a little monkey.
     Kiran showing something they made to sell.

     The boys take part in a cooking class.  (mid left 2)
     Some people have donated old musical instruments and the boys practice.
     Kiran again with a goat from the dairy project.

     Earth day parade.
     Eye care day. The boys frequently help villages with eye issues.
     Some volunteers (me second from right) donate some gifts.
     Some volunteers at the bus station getting ready to leave for Bangkok.

I'm going to make a postcard look something like that and then have some info on the back and a link to the official site (that I host, but didn't design) www.BaanDada.org. Hopefully we can sell them and make a fair profit that I will send to Dada to help with various expenses.

About to explode...
Friday, October 27, 2006

     I was literally about to explode during the morning meeting. I really needed to prepare a few last minute things and we had this long drawn out meeting where more people read more memos to us. I'm not against the meeting itself, I think the teacher's room idea is good, and very Japanese to keep the group together. Still I like the ideas of the morning meeting, but I can't stand having things read to us. Things that could be put on a memo, or if we cared slightly about saving paper, on a bulletin board, or any other thing. I have heard Japanese people like to read while they are hearing or watching and it is true all TV shows have subtitles. I've also heard more than 60% of the time Japanese people are speaking to each other they don't understand what the other is saying. I believe that too since the proper thing to do is repeat what the other person said and then grunt to show you are still listening.

     Well anyway, next week I have a full load. It would be more full if I was acting as an ALT with the classes as well, but I am going to see if this will go until winter vacation. Then I am going to come back from winter vacation and say, "look this is crap, I didn't come all the way over from the US to sit in the teacher's room, USE me". I'll also drop some hints to certain people, like the principal, that I am not being used enough.

     Oh, this is so typical of the way people are oblivious sometimes. We are having a morning meeting. All the teachers are in their seats and staring at the 2 VPs and the principal as they talk. CLEARLY this is a meeting. I mean a blind Swedish zebra would most likely stop at the door and wait. Not only do about 5 students simply not stop, this time they walked in and teachers were waving them out and the students waved back (so cute) and then kept walking and went to the teachers to whom they were seeking. THAT teacher had to say "we are in a meeting get out". You would therefore think that THAT student would wait in the hall for a few minutes, which he/she did, and that THAT student would then warn other students the teachers were in a meeting. Nope, other students came up to the door, looked in, could not compute the variable that we were in a meeting, were not warned by the student sitting 5 feet away watching them, and walked right in repeating the whole process.

     Once I suggested we make a sign in both English and Japanese and put it on the door that says "Do Not Enter - we are having a meeting", but I was told that was not necessary since students can see we are having a meeting. Yup, they can see we are having a meeting, they just can't understand it.

     Then it was 8:45am and we are all 5 minutes late for class and I have 5-10 minutes of prep left. Here comes the ending, here it comes.....

Anything else……anything….anything…..Bueller…..anything…..no?.......nothing……no?....

     That goes on for about 3 minutes, maybe more. Finally it's over and I rush out to get the stuff copied. Of course there were some stupid delays with the copy machine. It wouldn't me a usual day if I didn't have some absurd problem when I was in a massive hurry. Things like "please clean the plate tray" or "please load and then reload the paper for no apparent reason". At that point I was numb and just laughed.

     In my first class I had the 6th graders and we did some things related to letters. They wrote out letters on a Bingo sheet and we played Letter Bingo. That took far longer than I had planned. I told everyone to randomly write letters around the bingo grid. My favorite little sixth grader, Satsuki, started at the top left and wrote:
 

S E X P I
S T O L S
A N

FREE

A R
C H Y I N
T H E U K

     I was quite impressed that she made it fit perfectly and I didn't even care she wrote sex, but I told her she couldn't repeat the letters like that. She had three S's and so on. So she changed them. Then I walked around the room looking as I called out letters. I realized, if you have kids write English letters randomly who don't natively speak English, they are going to accidentally write words. My first word when I was in the pre-1st grade was 'taxi'. Strange. But anyway, one kid wrote the F*** word, a few others wrote other random words. I knew the kid didn't mean to since he wasn't at all interested. If he meant to write it, he would have been trying to show me. Plus this was not the kid in the class that would know that word.

     Later in the hall I saw Satsuki and we talked about the Sex Pistols and she sang more lyrics. Then I saw her pants. I couldn't stop staring at them. Not near her butt, but near her knees. She had some strap that strapped both legs together. She could walk and probably run, but it was still odd. Though it was her. It was some Gothic thing that fit her perfectly. It was so odd, I had to snap a photo with my phone.

     Later I went into the ES library, which is right behind Satsuki. I was messing with some of the 6th graders since I just taught them, "How's it going...Fine thanks". So I was asking them this over and over. Pretty soon they will have it down fast like they do with "take care...you too". I mean they answer that at light speed. After I asked a few I sat down and looked out the window. As I was looking out, my eye caught a book in the elementary school library that I thought was a little out of place.

     The Da'Vinci code is not a book I would imagine to be in an elementary school library.  I can only imagine how fast some parent would complain and have the book kicked out of an ES library in the US.

     Then I was watching the 4th graders play outside. They were on the monkey bars and two people would start at opposite ends. Then they would hand climb toward each other. When they met they would do rock paper scissors with their legs. The loser (winningly challenged) had to get down and the winner would continue as another opponent approached. It was like a race with obstacles or something and was amusing.

     I also felt envious of their innocence. They don't have to worry about bills, cars, apartments, plans for this weekend, the next paycheck, where they will be working next year or in 5 years. We spend our whole childhood waiting to be adults so we can be free, only to learn we were only free as a child. It would be nice to be reincarnated as a child, but have some of the memories of being an adult. Just enough to make you appreciate being a child.

     Then I had a total blast from the past. As I left the library, already in a semi-nostalgic mood from watching the freedom of the kids, I saw a bag on the floor and it was terribly familiar. I stared at it for a while then left and later came back. I couldn't remember where I had seen it or why it was familiar. Then I realized it was a bag made of the same fabric as I had on my very first bed sheets when I changed from a crib to a bed or somewhere around that time. It was really spooky and I remembered reading all the phrases for each block. It is a Charlie Brown Peanuts style and it's very old to say the least.

 

Fast Forward, Please.
Sunday, October 29, 2006

     Today was one of those days that I just wanted to fast forward through. Actually the whole weekend was. I did nothing on Saturday and nothing today. Actually Saturday was kinda cool since I woke up around 10am, goofed off on the computer, fixed lunch, then did some various things on the computer for a while. By 'a while' I mean 8 hours. I didn't mean to spend that much time, it just happened. Really officer, I didn't mean to. I was just watching some movies, checking on some new things, watching some free streaming classic sci-fi movies. Then I looked up and noticed it was like 9pm. Wow.

     But today has been a whole lot of nothing. I don't think I left the house all weekend. Geez. Next weekend, I think, is the Sukagawa Fire Festival.  I'll go to that and take some more photos, but I won't spend much money. I need to be thrifty again until payday. So this weekend I couldn't really do anything. I just wanted to sleep late Saturday and then fast forward through the weekend to get back to school. At least I have something to do there during the day. When I am not preparing I am writing or working on various other projects in some limited way.

     Let's see....this week should be uneventful. Friday will be a holiday and no school. Oh today was some kind of national running day or something. Almost every channel had a triathlon or road race or something similar. Then there was something with the Emperor and Empress watching something related to fish. I couldn't follow it since they were using Imperial Japanese which is like Shakespearian English I suppose. I should say exalted Japanese, but it was very polite and well above my range.

     I guess I will go into town on Wednesday or so to do some shopping and get something different to eat. Me trying to be a vegetarian just doesn't work in Japan since everything is meat based. I'll have to save that one for when I move to Thailand in a few years. Maybe I will spend some time in Cambodia or Laos as well. Then move through Europe

Monday, Boring Monday
Monday, October 30, 2006

The printer broke for no apparent reason this morning. That was the most exciting thing that has happened today. Well that’s not true I guess. I showed the 7th graders that horrifyingly scary trick video from last year. There’s a car driving and then it passes behind some trees and when it comes out you are supposed to barely be able to see a ghost, but instead this horrible zombie thing jumps out and screams. It’s a blood curdling scream by itself, but add it to the fact that this zombie pops out fast and you are looking closely for some accidental ghost captured on the screen, man it’s brutal. I can’t even watch it anymore because it’s so bad. I might upload it and let you download it and trick your friends.

So I guess that was actually the most exciting thing today. Tomorrow I have a class with the elementary third graders. They are my second favorite group since they too are always happy and well tempered. Whatever the opposite of ill tempered is, is what they are. There are a few kids who are going to make really nice adults I can tell already. Some kids are ‘kids’, and others, even at the 2nd and 3rd grade level, are just polite young adults. It’s strange.

I’ve spent part of the morning making the fundraiser postcard for the Thai orphanage. It’s difficult designing them since I want them to look nice, but the main point is to attract people to the cause. I want them to receive the postcard and check out the website. We should be able to make a substantial donation if they all sell out, but I don’t think they will. I think the majority will sell, but I am printing 5,000 to sell in packs of 10. 500 packs is a lot and will raise a lot of money for them. They’d be able to pay off some loans, invest in more rubber trees, feed the kids, build the community activity center, finish their home (40 kids living in one floor – the home should be three stories), and so much more.

I know why I am a pack rat. When I throw things away, I suddenly need them. I’ve tried the “put it aside for 6 months and if you don’t need it, toss it” approach, but the second I toss it, I need it. I just found some old papers from something I told the students to do last quarter. I found them in the bottom of my desk and knew they had been there since before June. So I tossed them. They were still falling into the trash and some senior came and asked for one sheet. Ha ha, here you go. They were filed in my special place.

This “talking full volume when someone else is speaking” thing is really bugging me, mainly because it seems to be culturally acceptable and it’s just so rude. Today, when all the 7th graders were having a meeting about their school trip as seniors, a strict teacher was explaining things and kids were chatting full volume. I had to shush them a few times because I couldn’t hear her (read memos to the kids). I can trace many annoying Japanese culture points back to Bushido and samurai beliefs, but surely a samurai would have had his head chopped off if he was chatting full volume during some pre-fight meeting. Hey look, I’m annoyed at some cultural thing. How rare is that?

Title Goes Here
Tuesday, October 31, 2006 – Halloween

     It seems to be rude to tell or ask someone in particular to do something. I don’t drink milk and have told them 1,000 times they can either send one less milk to the teacher’s room with lunch or just not put one on my plate. But that would mean someone had to say “this is Ryan’s plate” rather than let me choose. Also, I have told the English teacher to leave the “daily phrase” in my shoe locker when he leaves early and I will post it, but that would mean he is telling me to do it.

     To me it’s just logical if someone needs me to do something they should just tell me or even suggest it and I will get the hint. But in Japan it’s not about logic, which is hard for me to grasp. Logically, it would seem that everything should be based on logic, but some other cultures use history rather than logic. It’s very strange to me and I don’t know if I will be able to grasp it or not.

     Well my class with the elementary 3rd graders went well. They are a nice class, definitely my second favorite. I wish I could see some of the kids when they were adults, but that’s just too long for me to stay. I’d have to get married and really enjoy my life here all the time. Which I do for the most part, but the culture keeps annoying me. Anyway, I taught them about Halloween and then showed a chopped up video of Charlie Brown’s The Great Pumpkin. It was chopped up since there is all that nonsense about Snoopy being a WW1 air fighter. I mean it really goes on too long. I cut it from 24 minutes to about 5. Just the stuff about Halloween and trick or treating. Then they drew and cut out pumpkin masks and finally they said “trick or treat” and I gave them candy. It was fun. Yea, I do like that class.

     One 3rd grader is named Rei (Ray or Lay). It’s a common girl’s name, but it also means “courtesy” which is what they say when they bow. So when we bow before class I point at her and say “Rei”. She giggles, but it might be an annoyed giggle. Who knows.

     I woke up at 5:30am this morning because I was sneezing in bed. My mother is sending some allergy medicine which had better take care of this nonsense. I plan to move some stuff around soon to clean more, but I don’t know what I am allergic to. It has to be dust related. I demand it become so.

     It’s also difficult for me to thank someone by saying “that was rude” or “I’m being rude” rather than saying thanks. Usually I say “I am/was being rude” almost randomly for any reason, but still when I am supposed to say it I’m not sure. I end up saying both, which might be alright, but I doubt it.

     I had a class scheduled with the 5th grade and as usual I wasn’t needed. I didn’t even plan anything for that class since I expected it. He’s really subtle about it, at least to other people, but I can easily see through it. I play along with him since I know to pick my battles and there is no way I could win that one. He’s subtle because he doesn’t say he doesn’t need me or things like that, he says “today we are going to use the time to prepare for…” or “they are doing a writing test and you don’t need to come”. Japanese are never direct and I have learned to pick up most things that mean something else.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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