Daily Journal of an Assistant Language Teacher / Automatic Language Tape Recorder (ALT) in the JET Programme living  and learning in Fukushima Prefecture, Japan. More information on the JET Programme here and here. A real life Fukushima JET.

Thursday April 1st

Today my world flipped upside down. For better or for worse has yet to be decided. I met the new vice principal. He seemed quiet and slower than the last one. I don't know if that is good or bad yet, but he had some good reviews from some other teachers (like they would say something bad this early). Then I found out I have a new supervisor. I know the new one very well so it should be a seamless transaction. The thing I am worried about is my old supervisor had an "understanding" with the old vice principal and they allowed me to come in late and leave early when there were no classes. I'll try to do the same this year until they say something. Maybe they will let me just take time off without using vacation time like all my other friends, but who knows. Who knows what is good or bad?

[later]

I still have not received my IRS Tax Refund from 2002. As of today it's only 7 months late. UNREAL. Oh but it gets better. I've been getting these stupid letters saying "Your check has been processed and released, you should receive it within two weeks". So after 4 weeks I still have no check. I called them a few minutes ago and the guy said if I still don't have it by now then I need to fill out form 3911R and mail that back to them and then wait another 60 days at which time they will do the logical and smart thing and ISSUE ANOTHER CHECK.

ARGH. Just direct deposit it morons. I requested that anyway in the first place. Obviously something is not working with mailing me a check. Oh I shouldn't call them morons maybe they will keep my check. And that would be different how?

Saturday April 3rd, 2004

I finally got my 2002 Tax Refund. The IRS mailed the check with a bunch of other mail to the Tokyo Embassy and then it was mailed from there. I'm glad I didn't mail them the 3911-Where the %#$& is my check- form, because that would have delayed it even more. I now have to sign it and mail it to the US and wait for it to clear. Sadly, most of it will go to pay down my credit cards which is actually the wise thing to do for once. I could use it to go to Hong Kong with some others, but I need to get rid of this nasty debt.  It was only 7 months late. It only took the IRS 90 days to look at a blank form and one with numbers and figure out which one is real.

Sunday, April 4th 2004

Japan. One of the most technologically advanced countries in the world and they can't figure out how to keep grocery stores open longer than 10-8. They've had camera mobile phones for years, but ATMs close at 5. Drink machines on every corner, but no trash cans for miles. English is taught in almost all schools starting in elementary school, but students at my high academic school can't understand "who is winning the basketball game?".

I was up all night for some aggravating reason which I can't figure out. I have just been not sleepy at all recently. I don't know what is causing it. I really wanted something to eat, specifically French Toast (or maybe it's called Freedom Toast). Unfortunately there is no place open at 4am that sells eggs or bread. I do miss things being open 24 hours. If I had a car I could drive around and look for a place, but there are really no grocery stores open late here. Everyone shops during the day so there is no reason. This is the most conveniently inconvenient country in the world.

[later]

I had to go to three different stores to get the ingredients for French Toast. I wasn't making a special type of FT, just eggs, bread, and syrup. THREE STORES. One for the syrup since that is a specialty product here and I had to go to a foreign food store. Then to buy eggs, which were not refrigerated, then to buy bread. The egg place technically sold bread, but they sold normal Japanese bread and I wanted a special type of bread. Normal Japanese bread is about an inch thick, whereas I wanted this strange type of bread that was less than 1/2 inch thick. Nothing else really special about it, just not one full inch thick. Have you ever made a sandwich out of inch thick bread? It's nearly impossible to eat.

Someone said 2 years is not enough, but 3 years is too much for the JET Programme. I didn't agree with them when they said it, but now I see. The little things are starting to bother me. I still plan on staying a 4th year if possible, but it's really getting annoying. I might go private in Koriyama because they have some better benefits than JETs. Little things like not having to come into work when there is no work to do. How strange that is.

Monday April 5th

Happy Birthday Jon Robbins.

Tuesday April 6th

Just had a welcome party. I swore I would not go to the second party, but somehow I got suckered in. Technically there were 3 parties, but I only paid at one. That's usually the case being the token foreigner. The first party was great. I talked to everyone and learned many new names. A bunch of people came over and poured my drink and we chatted about all sorts of stuff. A few teachers still don't get the fact that I don't understand full speed Japanese. I might have agree to hand over my first born or to do their taxes for the next 15 years because all I would do is nod and say "yes yes" when they would continue to speak full speed.

After the party I was heading out the door and the PTA leader guy grabbed me and pulled me to the second party. The cute married PTA chick didn't join us this time so it was just he and I, but that was ok. We went to a new bar that replaced an older bar that I didn't like. I'll try to go to the new bar with some people again. Then we went to this sign-less sushi place. There was no sign or marking of any type, just a staircase. We walked up the stairs and there was this quaint little sushi place. I had some of the best sushi I ever had, but it was expensive. Luckily the PTA guy paid for it all. There was tuna, scallops, and some cooked fish which was so tasty. Then the guy showed me a cool magic trick that I must practice so I can show other people, specifically cutie chicks. It has to do with a rubber band and a coin with a hole in it. Luckily our 5 yen and 50 yen coins have holes in them. It's hard to explain, so I won't bother.

[later]

Found this online somewhere. It pretty much sums up my last job before coming to Japan. It was an internet company. Which is better, work or prison?

IN PRISON ... you spend the majority of your time in an 8X10 cell
AT WORK ... you spend the majority of your time in a 6X8 cubicle.

IN PRISON ... you get three meals a day
AT WORK ... you only get a break for one meal and you have to pay for it.

IN PRISON ... you get time off for good behavior
AT WORK... you get rewarded for good behavior with more work.
 
IN PRISON ... the guard locks and unlocks all the doors for you
AT WORK ... you must carry around a security card and open all the doors for yourself.

IN PRISON ... you can watch TV and play games
AT WORK ... you get fired for watching TV and playing games.
 
IN PRISON ... you get your own toilet
AT WORK ... you have to share with some idiot who pees on the seat.

IN PRISON ... they allow your family and friends to visit
AT WORK ... you can't even speak to your family.

IN PRISON ... all expenses are paid by the taxpayers with no work required
AT WORK ... you get to pay all the expenses to go to work and then they deduct taxes from your salary to pay for prisoners.

IN PRISON ... you spend most of your life looking through bars from inside wanting to get out.
AT WORK ... you spend most of your time wanting to get out and go inside bars.

IN PRISON ... you must deal with sadistic wardens
AT WORK... they are called managers.

Those of you who work in corporate environments can understand it. On a different note I am working on a page dedicated to the beautiful Cherry Blossoms in Japan. I've take some pictures and will post them here shortly. The word here will become a link when the page is finished.

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Is it obvious I was bored at school today? This is a decent attempt at a panoramic view of the sports field behind our school. The school in the picture is a private all girls school not on our property. The pictures actually line up ok, after some trimming and stretching. But you can see the overall idea of it. Every sport is played on this field, and often at the same time.

Sunday April 11th

I went to the top of Hanami-yama to see the cherry blossoms blooming. Rather than tell you about it I'll show you. I also add more pictures to various parts of the site. Here they are in no particular order.

Sakura Cherry BlossomsJapanese Zen Gardens, Japanese Stock Photography and free wallpaper, Around the school

Tonight I might go see more cherry trees bloom at night. They have special lights set up under the trees and it highlights them very well.

[later]

I'm about to go exercise for the first time in a long time. I get a little, and by little I mean none, when I walk or ride my bike to school, but other than that not too much. I'm going to go out, on my bike this time, and find some hills. Then I might come back and practice Japanese calligraphy. If I get exercise done then that will be enough for today.

I really hope my electric bill is next to nothing this month. I haven't used the A/C - Heater for several days and that would be my major expense. There's nothing else that really draws energy. All cooking equipment is gas powered. I think Spring and Fall are the two times when my bill is dirt cheap so it balances out. In Summer and Winter I have to use it all the time. I leave it on and set the temperature to something so it stays livable. When I am here I adjust it to a comfortable level. I guess that's a common thing though. Point being, it should be lower for a while.

[later]

The exercise kinda fell through. I went bike riding, but it amounted to nothing more than me casually riding around. Of course I didn't practice calligraphy, I have some mental block about doing that. I can never remember and I actually want to learn. I did go eat 600 grams of Curry with Liz and then we went to the base of Mt. Shinobu to look at the cherry blossoms. Here are some pictures though none really came out since it was so dark.

There were dozens of these typical Japanese festival booths.

It almost looks black and white, but it's actually slightly pink and quite nice. Last year we sat under the
trees and had a little sake and some cheese, but this year we didn't plan it in time so we just walked around.

In case you've never seen lights under trees.

You can barely see the fountain with nice lights. It was much better looking than the picture shows.

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So that's about it. It was fun, but I wouldn't want to go every year like Japanese people do. Then again it was a pleasant little break. I'm sure I'll go next year. I heard there is a famous Sakura tree in a town called Miharu which is pretty close to my town, or at least an hour train ride. I'll check that out next year maybe.

This week is life as usual. I plan to start my usage spreadsheet again in case the school tries to make me sit in the teacher's room with no classes. I'm not going to do that again. When they say the next few weeks will be no classes, I am just showing up late. Gotta start planning the Mt Fuji hike soon. I should actually do some hiking before that happens so I am semi-prepared for it. It's one of those things you gotta do once, and for this, probably only once.

Wednesday April 14th, 2004

This week has been pretty busy, hence no update. It was the first actual week of class and they are really using me so far. Monday I spent all day working on a bulletin board that I asked for last year. I realized it is more difficult than I thought. The good news is after school on Monday all the students applied for their clubs. There will only be about 5 girls in the English club, but that's a good number. I have a lot of games and activities planned. It would be nice to have about 10 people, but smaller numbers mean more attention.

Our first meeting is tomorrow after school. For the last two years we met during lunch on Mondays, but we could only meet for 20 minutes and there was no time to do anything. Tomorrow I will bring brownies and snacks and then we will play a game. The game I am thinking of came from my grandmother (on my mother's side) years ago. She would put clues all around her house and then give me the first clue that led to the second clue. I can't remember what was at the end, probably something small like $1, but the mere challenge of it was a blast. It is the perfect English club game since it involves reading and listening and running around the school.

This week I've been doing self introductions. I always enjoy these because I can always make the kids laugh. That's pretty cool, being able to make kids laugh in a foreign language. Maybe I will try to get on Japanese TV, but that would require fluency and I am a long way from that. I've had to change my intro a bit since a few things have changed like our dog passed away and my sister is pregnant. They always get a kick about me saying my mother's age is top secret.

Once in class I finished early and tried to show them a magic trick. The trick involves making a coin with a hole in the center move up a rubber band. I had to stretch the rubber band to do part of the trick and I accidentally released it and it shot across the room and hit the window. That scared me, but was a little funny. I played it off as me being stupid.

Oh guess what? I get my IRS tax refund and I quickly mail it back to my parents to deposit in my account. That was a week ago on Monday. I sent it express which should be less than a week since regular mail is a week. It's still not there. I've had so much bad kharma with this check, I would not be surprised in the least if it is lost in the mail. Then I will have to request another check from the IRS which has a 60 day waiting period, at which time they will then send another one which will take an entire month to get here since they bulk mail it to the embassy. Then I will have to sign it and mail it back to the US again. At which time it will get lost again, not matter how I mail it. There is something bad luck-ish about that check and the universe is trying to signal me, but right now I just don't care because I made plans for that money back in November and I'm still trying to pay them off.

I'm actually considering going to Cambodia next winter vacation to volunteer at an orphanage. Though there is a boy's home in Thailand I like better. The Cambodian place seems to commercial some how. They can only take 4 people and they charge $40 a night to stay on the grounds while you volunteer. I'm sure the money goes to help the place, but having a set price seems odd to me. The Thai Boy's Home just accepts anything and anyone and any amount is appreciated. They even have a sponsorship program and I am checking into that. I might try to take some people over in an organized trip, but I'm afraid people would just want to go to sightsee. Maybe there is a way to combine them both, I'll check into it.

I've got no immediate travel plans for a while. I'm really focusing on paying down my debts. I might try to get down to Osaka for our Golden Week holidays in May. About 4 National Holidays line up so we can take off 1-3 days and get about 11 days off. Some friends are going to Hong Kong, which I'd really like to go to, but I just don't have the money. The hotel and airfare is $1,100 which is a good price, but that doesn't include getting to and from Tokyo Airport and then spending money. It's going to be a two grand trip and I really just need to save that.

The cherry blossoms are about finished around here. I wish they would stop quicker since I suffer from hay fever. It hasn't been that bad this year, knock on wood, but there's still time. I've been spending most of my time at home working on various things which should be wrapping up soon. I've got two small booklets for our prefecture to sell at Tokyo Orientations and started working on upgrading the website I am working for AJET. It's hard to explain and irrelevant so I won't elaborate. I actually plan to sell the script when I finish because it's a pretty fancy membership directory. I guess that's about it for now.

Friday April 16th, 2004

Just got back from Chuo High, the night school. There are 40 new first years and so far they are shy. But there is this one guy who is 30 and wears a suit. Quite strange since everyone else is abut 15 and either really quiet or a punk. He quit high school years ago and now can't advance any further at his company without a degree. He asked some good questions.

But the real kicker was after class a girl came up and said "So Ryan, your Japanese is very good. This class sounds like it will be fun. I'm really looking forward to it". That's not the translation, she spoke in near perfect English. I asked why she spoke so well and she said she had been to several countries, pretty much all that speak English. Wow, I plan to talk with her in class quite a bit.

After that we all ate dinner in the cafeteria. The food was good and it's always so cheap, it comes out to be about $3 a meal and they always cook enough for all the students but some stay home so we get extra food. After that I went to the 2nd year class which was the first year class last year. It was about the same. There are some nice girls, but there are some loud girls too. Luckily they like me and will be quiet when I remind them. After that I watched some students play badminton. I think I might join them next week.

Tuesday I will go to Adachi and have more self introductions. I'm really getting tired of doing them, but I am going to request 4-5 classes on Tuesday so I can get them all out of the way. Liz goes to Motomiya on Tuesdays so we can ride the train together in the morning and maybe in the afternoon on the way back. I'm getting more classes at Higashi, but I still have a lot of wasted time sitting around. Someone once said 2 years is not enough, but 3 years is too much. At the time I disagreed, but now I see what they mean. The little things are really bugging me. I might stay more than 3 years, but it will have to be in a different role. I would prefer to be based at Adachi or any other school really. My friend Colette has a good deal at her school. I happened to see their weight room today and it was state of the art. I'm at the wrong school.

Actually I think I am in the wrong prefecture. So many of my friends in other prefectures tell me how active their JETs are, but mine is so lazy. It's like pulling teeth getting people to do stuff. Unless there is an immediate reward, most people are "too busy". But when we plan a free ski day, people come out of the wood work. There are some people in each city that are active, but overall not too many. If it weren't for the horrid cold and barren plains I would like to be in Hokkaido. They are very active and have people that actually get in line to be involved. In Fukushima, it's really just me and Michelle planning stuff. She does the newsletter and I try to plan trips. Maybe next year we can get more people involved. I think it would be great if everyone got together and really got to know each other.

I have nothing to do tonight, or this weekend for that matter. I'm running low on money, but that will change soon. The light at the end of the tunnel is actually visible now. My IRS tax refund check finally made it to the US and my mom deposited it so I can send the bulk of it to credit card debt. Then whenever the state tax refund comes in I plan to send that directly to credit cards as well. That means only 3-4 other payments and I will be CC debt free. Then I will focus on my two private loans, one for MCSE school which I never got, and the other for studying in Tokyo in 1998.

I can get those down by the first part of 2005. Then I can focus on the Federal College Loan, which I really didn't even need. I was so sick of being broke and applied for financial aid. Somehow I was eligible for $16,000 and they even back paid me for 2 quarters. When you are broke all through college and eat $1 ramen all the time, it's hard to turn down all this money. I really should have invested it or refused it, but I was greedy and now I am paying the price. I'm not entirely mad though, it was a nice slap in the face from reality. I know now at no point will I ever be in that much debt again. Some people end up owing far more than I do so I can't complain. I'm going to try to be thrifty for a while and get some money in the bank. That way I can retire to Fiji when I am 40 and open my burger stand on the beach.

Sunday April 18th

This weekend was one of those times when I wish I had a remote control where I could just fast forward. I had nothing to do and even worse no money. So I couldn't go anywhere or see a movie or do much of anything that involved money. If I had such a remote I would have fast forwarded until now or tomorrow. I really did nothing worth while. I watched some shows on video and then some on the computer. I rode around town for a bit and ran into an Adachi teacher. Then I came back and did nothing again. Later I went to the store to buy some cheap $1 food until payday on Wednesday.

Wednesday night I have a welcome party for the English department. Remind me to eat before I go since they are never even remotely filling. The goodbye party was at a cool new place which I plan to go back to, but it wasn't even barely filling. This week I go back to Adachi and then again to the night school which is kinda iffy these days. I loved it before, but this year there are 40 new 1st years and that's a bit too many. Plus the teacher is new and he is adjusting slowly. I like the teacher, I've met him before when he taught at the North school where my friend Edith works. I still like the 2nd years and above, but the 1st years are new and quiet. I think it's so strange that the old guy in the school has to actually go through all 4 years rather than just take some test like we have in the US. I couldn't imagine going to school with kids half my age and taking 9th grade history and such at this age, but he is and good for him.

Next week I think I am going to play badminton with the 3rd years since they were my 2nd years last year. I miss them, they were a great group. At least I still have the 2nd years who were 1st years last year. Apart from 3 loud girls the class is cool. There are a few new students too. I hope the Adachi students are nice, and only 8 more self introductions to go and I will be done until April, or August if I get transferred somewhere stupid. I'd really like to just stay at the night school and Adachi until I leave here. I've found a groove and it's nice. Even though the night school screws up my weekend plans quite often, I still like going.

Monday April 19th, 2004

I had a class with a teacher today. That was a pathetic sentence. Anyway, on the way to class she told me she had no plan and I would be the teacher and she would be the assistant. Then she said we had to cover the first 4 warm up lessons in the book. I love the new book, but I hate the warm up exercises. They are confusing and don't really do much I think. But there is one exercise that is great, it has a list of about 20 emotions and their translations. I had the students stand up and then I would ask them how they are doing. I told them they cannot answer in the standard Japanese way "I'm fine thanks and you". When people say that to me I answer the same way and it creates a loop. Finally the students realize what I am doing and they stop it.

So they were all standing and I asked the group "How are you" finally one student said he was nervous and I said he could sit down. Before he did I asked which middle school he went to. Then I told anyone else who went to that school they could sit down also. After that hands flew up pretty quick. The last few people cheated, but I was tired of playing so I didn't care. Well maybe they didn't cheat, but chances are they did. I asked a boy his favorite color and he said purple and then everyone else said their favorite color was purple and they all sat down.

Other than that the class was not so good. I planned ahead, but misread some things in the book. I said "Listen to their introductions and circle the correct answer" so then I couldn't find their introductions, because they were on some CD that I didn't have. So there was a point in which I just stopped and activity in the middle because it wasn't working. But after that I moved into the emotions game above and everything started rolling again.

Tomorrow I go to Adachi and the cute teacher I really like there, who happens to speak English, wrote me and said she is excited I am coming tomorrow. Sadly this means she likes teaching with me, but I will keep pursuing her. She lives with her parents because they are old and sick and they live a bit out of the city so she can't come into town often and hang out with us. All I can do is keep trying.

Wednesday April 21st, 2004

My mouth is on fire. Apparently I bit my tongue twice, my upper lip and my cheek while I slept one night and now all three places have turned into canker sores. That's not unusual, whenever I bite my lip it turns into a canker sore. That has been my gift since I was young. I don't know why I was chewing on my mouth while I slept, but I did a number on my tongue. When I wake up or eat something my mouth starts to burn all over. I'm trying to avoid salty foods, but this is Japan and everything either has fish or is salty, and usually both.

I'm about to try Spirulina as a dietary supplement. I have taken it before, but not for a long time. I read if you take some before eating it acts as an appetite suppressant and I definitely need that. It's also almost the perfect food. It has all sorts of natural proteins and vitamins. I'll have to order it from Australia since I doubt I can find it here. I'm sure it's somewhere, everything is somewhere, but it might not be worth the effort of getting it in Japan.

Today is payday. I am so happy. I can breathe (and eat) again. I am going to be thrifty though and not go crazy right off the bat since I was thinking about a trip to Osaka during our Spring vacation time called Golden Week. There are about 4 holidays that line up so we get about a week off. I don't know if I can actually afford to go, but I might try. It would be a shame to lose that much free time and do nothing.

I calculated the cheapest (and most painful) ways to get to Osaka. I can ride an overnight bus that costs about $120 each way. I can take a ferry from Sendai to Nagoya and check out the Nagoya castle and then take a bus or local train to Osaka. The ferry takes about 21 hours, but only costs about $80. I also wanted to get down to Hiroshima and Miyajima, but that might not be possible. Fukushima to Osaka will be about $300 round trip and Osaka to Hiroshima might be another $100, and that doesn't include a place to stay. I don't know if anyone else wants to go or not, but I wouldn't mind going alone. That could be quite peaceful and I could do what I wanted when I wanted.

I've never minded doing things alone. I go see movies or go to restaurants alone with no problems. I don't think I've ever taken a trip alone, but it sounds like fun. Though I really don't know if I can afford this because while I was in Osaka I would also like to dip over to Nara and Kyoto, but that would just add expense. The good news is my Federal tax refund finally came and I sent %100 of it to bills. I sent the credit cards a good $900 chunk which will really help. I'm going to miss my July deadline I think, but it should be the end of summer at the latest. Then I plan to take a month or two break and then start knocking down my two private loans.

I can't decide if I should focus on one while making minimal payments on the other or just split the difference and pay them both down faster. If I focus on one then I would have a sense of completion earlier, but I would be making payments longer. Actually I guess it would be the same time. I'll have to think about that. One is about $800 less than the other, but they are all around $3,000.  I just got a stupid letter from the Georgia IRS saying they need copies of all sorts of stupid stuff which means an even longer delay. I had both returns professionally done to avoid all this mess, and look where it got me.

Sunday April 25th, 2004

I went to Koriyama with Michelle today. She bought a car from someone and was riding the train down there. She asked if I wanted to tag along and since I had nothing else to do I went. We had Starbucks coffee first, even though I don't really drink coffee. I always get the Caramel Frappucino and a chocolate chip scone. After that we went to the Gap and then I got bored and wandered around. Finally we went over to Sports Authority, which is where the trouble began.

I just wanted to look at general sports related things like snowboards and bikes. Then I thought about getting a folding cot for the beach party so we looked in that section. Then we saw the big nice tents. Japanese people go all out when it comes to camping. Even though camping usually implies roughing it, Japanese people buy all the accessories before they go. The place had some huge tents for about $500, which we could never see paying. Then we found this one that looked about like this:

It was bigger than this one actually. It showed 4 people, but 6 or more people could fit in there semi-comfortably. Then it had this screen porch that was about 8x8 and a good 7 feet tall. It was $200 which was a fair price. It would be better if that included the screen room attachment. They had it set up nice with a portable table and 4 folding chairs. We were sitting in the chairs talking about how nice it would be to have that set up at the beach parties in the summer.

Then I got bored and started reading the carrying case for the tent. I had to re-read it a few times, but I eventually figured out it said that the price included the big tent, the screen room, and the table/chair set. $200 for all that was a great deal. We bought it and it's in my tiny apartment. We might have the prefectural association buy it, but even if we don't it's still a great deal. If we use it at the next three beach parties and go camping just once it's more than paid for. Plus it can easily hold 6 people so others can get a use out it as well. The only downfall is it's heavy as $%&#. But we won't take the whole thing hiking so that should be ok.

Monday April 26th, 2004

I just had another "Ryan Syndrome" moment. I really needed to print something out and express mail it by noon. I prepared everything at home the night before so there would be no delays. I bought one of those small USB memory sticks since I don't have a floppy drive on my computer and that way I could save everything to it and then take that stick over to the printer and print things out.

I printed out the book to be reviewed by AJET and then the Japanese Department of Education so we can sell it at Tokyo Orientation. Next I had to print out the cover. One single page. I wanted to make it simple and to the point to get attention. I wrote Kanji Survival Guide across it and then a tagline and a small description. I didn't want it to be that plain looking so I wrote out a bunch of kanji and enlarged them and then grayed them out so they could be a subtle background. It looks fine on my computer and I print out a sample at home, but on a larger paper than I wanted. No problems.

The book printed out fine. The cover would not print out the kanji background. First I had it as a watermark and that didn't work so I changed it to an image that was behind the text. Nothing worked. Yet there are images embedded in the book part which printed just fine. So why won't it print. I went back and forth between my computer and any number of school computers. None would show this graphic. They would all show the graphics in the book part, created the same way from the same computer, but not this particular graphic. I tried dozens of alterations and it would only print the text. I really needed to get it to the post office before the noon pickup so it would make it out fast and could get approved on time.

It finally printed. The first one I tried that simply wouldn't work for any reason. It finally printed. Do you care to bet your life savings on what time it printed? 12:15. At which time I packaged it and raced to the post office, only to see the noon pickup guy leaving.

When things like that happen once, you chalk it up to something being strange. When there is a documented pattern you start to wonder what's going on.

Luckily this week is more or less a three day week since I have Thursday off and Friday is the night school. I think I will do some casual sightseeing around Tokyo during the break. Osaka is going to be too expensive, even going as cheap as humanly possible.

Today after lunch and the post office fiasco, I ate lunch with my English club. I asked them some Japanese trivia I was curious about, but I did so in English to make it worth while. Some they knew and some was just too difficult. Here's a picture of them:

The next time we would meet is Thursday, but that is a holiday and then the next Monday is another holiday so the next time would be a week from Thursday, but that day is Michelle's Mexican Night so I will go to that in Kawamata which is an hour away by bus. Ha, that was a run-on sentence, but I think it had a nice flow so I didn't stop. Basically we won't meet again for about two weeks, but that's good, I need a break to think of some more ideas for them. It's hard to do some team based activities I have with so few. For instance when we met last Thursday there were only three girls there. Asuna, Hiroe, and Yukiko who is not here.

Asuna is the number one student in the 2nd year students (11th grade). She has the top score on the first test of the year they took, she was 3 points away from perfect in the English section. She's always quiet so I never really thought she was good, but she does understand me pretty quick. Natsumi is the "leader" of the club and she will pass it along to someone else, probably Hiroe whenever she gets too busy next year. Hopefully we can visit Colette's school on some Friday and watch a movie with her club. I'm sure there will be "too much paperwork" like there always is with Japanese people.

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