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.

Tuesday, April Fools

I woke up at 8ish and caught the shink down to Tokyo station to meet Larry and Greg around 11. I had hoped to meet earlier since I had a few things planned in the morning, but they had "errands" to run before so we met at 11. They called right around 11 and said they had arrived in the South Exit of Yokohama station. We had agreed on Tokyo station, but Yokohama was actually on the way to where we were going so I didn't mind. This went on for about 3 minutes until they said April fools. Ha ha, big joke on me crazy guy.

We said our hellos and put their luggage in a locker and decided to go to Tsukuji Fish Market for lunch. It was about a 20 minute walk, a 15 minute ride and then another 10 minute walk. We ate at a small tuna and rice place and Ms. Yamazaki paid. It was tasty and now I know where the fish market is. Then we went back to Tokyo station and Ms. Yamazaki left to go back home. Larry, Greg, and I walked over to look at the Imperial Palace for a bit. After that we walked back to the station and caught a train to Kamakura.

I've been there before but it's still very impressive. There is a big statue of a Buddha called Daibutsu:



After that we went to another temple/shrine in the area called Hase Kannon. There were a lot of buildings and there was this small tunnel. So we walked through it and all of a sudden it gets smaller. Like 4 feet tall. So we bend over and continue. Then it gets smaller yet, like 3 feet high. We keep squat walking around looking at the little Buddhas carved in the side of the mountain. It was really impressive.

At some point Greg wanted to look for clothes for his mother. We went into a women's clothes shop and he was thumbing through some fashions. The lady behind the counter said welcome and I said his hobby was wearing women's clothes. She said Oh in a surprised way then I said I was joking. We all had a big laugh. By this time it was already about 3 and we were hungry and tired, so we headed back to the station and bought a ticket. We found a tiny little ramen shop upstairs and ate there. Then caught the small train to Kamakura station, from there we got on the JR train and rode back to Tokyo station.

Then we got their bags and took a subway to Akihabara, the electric city. We didn't buy anything, but it's a great place at night. There is so much Neon and it's all flashy. There are so many stores selling the newest and latest technology. There are stores beside each other selling the same thing. If you have the money and Japanese skill you can negotiate them down a fair bit.

We were there at dark so they were able to see the nice lights. Then we got on an express subway to Shinjuku and searched for the Capsule Hotel. I knew the basic area, and asked a few people. Finally a I found it. There was a sign on the building, but it was a 10 story building and I wasn't looking high enough. We checked in and relaxed a bit and took some pics of our coffin sized "rooms". It was a great deal and ultra-convenient. I plan to stay there again when in Tokyo. I don't even need to take toiletries, since they provide it all included in the price.

That night we found an Irish pub and drank Guinness for a bit. When we left the bar, Greg and I were feeling good. Larry is a lightweight and drank water for a bit. We found a Turkish guy selling gyros for about Y500 on the street (I mean he had a little trailer on a corner). We chatted for a bit and I spoke my limited Turkish and I ate two gyros. They were so good I couldn't help it. Then we crashed in the capsule and woke up the next morning when the intercom announced check out time.

Wednesday April 2nd

We made our way to Asakusa via an express train from Shinjuku. We ate at Yoshinoya, my favorite place since it's so obscenely cheap. A huge bowl of meat and rice is Y480 and I wash it down with water. I always fill up there. The we walked around the Asakusa Shrines and gift shops. I've been there before a few times, but it's a gotta-see place for out of towners. Big shrines and a long row of little trinket shops. The shrine had an interesting symbol on them. They are a Japanese character for shrine, peace, love, but a certain group flipped them around to mean death and hate. When you first see it you usually gasp and then realize it's backwards. Here is the Shrine Symbol. Interesting wasn't it?

Then we managed to find our way to the Tobu station and take an express to Nikko. It was expensive, but convenient. At least until we missed the stop. I knew we should get off because I saw another train that said "Nikko Line", but every said this train goes to Nikko. I asked a few people and they all said this train goes to Nikko. It's even called the Nikko Line. So we got off and got on the other train and went back two stations. Then we got on the Nikko train, actually we ran to it and then sat on it for 15 minutes before it left. I'm sure we looked like morons.

When we arrived in Nikko I called the Youth Hostel and they said they were full. On a side note, later we ran into a few people staying there and they said it was no where near full. Interesting. So we had the information lady at the station call a few places and we found a place for Y3,300 a night. It was an old Ryokan. It was cheap and cozy, but I'll try somewhere else next time. The lady who ran it was super nice. There's nothing wrong with it, I just want to explore new places.

We happened to stroll across a Yakitori shop and went in. There was a nice lady who spoke a little English, but she was so happy all the time. There were thousands of business cards and addresses on the wall of people who had been there since the early 1990s:





After we ate and drank sake for a few hours, other people came in and we chatted with them. There was a nice British couple and they had so many vivid stories to tell. They spoke of when they went to Angkor Wat in Cambodia and a rat came in their room. The man said "but oh, he was such a handsome rat". We laughed a good bit and told some stories of our own. They were good story tellers and even better listeners. Listening is a skill not many people have.





On the way out we learned that place had been written up in a Japan Tour Guide book called Lonely Planet. Then we went back to the Ryokan and took a group bath and hit the sack. The sake, the bath, and all the walking knocked us right out.

Thursday April 3rd

The next morning we woke up and checked out and headed up to the Toshogu shrine. I've heard this is the most photographed place in Japan. I believe it. We probably took over 100, and there were many places we didn't go or couldn't use camera due to signs like "Do Not Take A Photograph". What if I take 2?

We spent a while here then headed to Aizu to see the castle again (4th for me), but it's a great castle and they wanted to see one. We rode the JR line so they could use their passes. It was actually closer and a direct train, with no transfers. Then they got to ride a Shinkansen for the first time from Utsunomiya to Koriyama. They seemed to be impressed, but not as much as later...I'll get in to that on the Friday entry.

At Koriyama we transferred to the Aizu line and that took forever. I thought it was right after Inawashiro, but there were about 10 other little Podunk stops and I was going insane. We needed to get to Aizu quickly so we could make it to Fukushima. They saw the castle and we did leave early and decided to take the bus back. It was direct and took about as long as the train would, maybe faster even. We made it to Fukushima around 7 and walked to my apartment. Then we rested a bit and headed out for the Indian Restaurant. On the way we passed the sliding door restaurant and they were thoroughly impressed. I swear I will get a picture soon.

After Indian food we met Meg, BJ, Paul (BJ's friend), Michelle, and Lisa at Shoya for a drink and some food. I made Larry and Greg eat Basashi, raw horse. They said it was ok, but I love it. Even though the chopsticks turn red after eating it, because it's THAT raw. We tried to go to the Sento (public bath) but for some reason it now closes at 1 rather than 3am. We just went home and slept.

Friday, April 4th

We woke up about 9 and they packed up and checked email. We finally made it out about 11:30 and went to a ramen shop at the station. They put their bags in lockers and then we walked around the station a bit. Around noon-thirty we went to the sento and had a nice group bath. Still a little strange, but it feels so good. After that we sat in the massage chairs and stuck our feet in the foot massager thingy. I was so relaxed. Then we headed up to the Shinkansen tracks and waited on their train. Luckily right before their train pulled in an express ripped through the station. I really wanted them to see this because it really shows how fast they are going. It scared us all and we got it on film, so I can upload it later. Larry brought me about 12 hours of Little House on the Prairie on DVD. That will be great to watch when I get a DVD player. I watched that show all the time when I worked the afternoon shift, because we didn't have cable and I woke up at 8:30. There were two hour long episodes back to back from 9-11. I saw nearly two seasons worth during that time.

After they left I was a little sad because we had been going everywhere fast and non stop, and now I had nothing to do and just went home for a bit. Later I went to eat with Meg and we found a going away party for a girl and then met up with the other gang for a while. I'm starting a hardcore diet soon. Like Monday probably. A lot of fasting and juices. No alcohol or meat for a while, at least 10 days. Might try the lemon juice and maple syrup diet.

Saturday April 5th

I did nothing today. Except for update this journal by saying I did nothing. well I also update the website with tons of pictures. So I should say I did almost nothing, or nothing of importance.

Tonight there is a DJ thing at Neo, but it's cold and rainy and I don't know if I feel like going. I really shouldn't since I am running low on money due to all the travel expenses incurred in the above mentioned trip. I'll decide later.

Sunday April 6th

The wind was blowing so hard today it was literally moving the building. I rode my bike to the station and it actually knocked me off the bike twice and stopped me from moving forward once. No exaggeration.

At 7 tonight I am going to a surprise party for the new AEON Lisa. The girl before her was named Lisa as well so we call her L2 sometimes. It's at a Chinese place near the station. About 15 minutes from here or 2 minutes from my possible new place.

I didn't go to the Neo DJ thing last night. It was too cold and rainy. I rented The Royal Tenebaums instead which was a surprisingly funny movie. For some reason I never wanted to see it, but it was really amusing. Although I didn't like Owen Wilson and Bill Murray in the movie. Owen Wilson's kid character looked like a young Andy Richter, and Bill Murray was more of an actor than his role required. Other than that I watched it twice and enjoyed it.

The surprise party ended up alright, but started out crazy. One girl told us to meet at the 1st floor lobby of the Esta building beside AEON and TOHO bank and the bar with the long nosed goblin. So we waited for 45 minutes and no one showed up. Then finally we called people and they said we were on the wrong side of the station. When we got to the other side, sure enough, there was another Esta building beside an AEON English place and TOHO bank and near the long nosed Goblin. What are the chances of that? Well it ended up being Y4,500 per person, which was far more than I could afford to pay, but instead of whining about it I just paid it and then we left.

Now I'm at home waiting on my Mom to call since I cannot call out for some reason. No telling what it is this time. There is always something wrong with the phone and I never have any idea what it is. I think I am just going to cut it off again soon since I never ever use it to make calls and only use it for Internet. I can find other ways to use the internet or not use it at all to save money. There is a wireless card I can buy for $30 and it costs about $30 a month, which would be a savings even though I have heard it's slow. Or I could dial up which is really a pain, but cheap I bet.

On the way to the party I rode by the two places I am considering now. Actually the newer place which is a little more money, is as close as the other place. It is almost brand new and very close to the station, but it has so much move in money I don't think I can afford it. The smaller place has about Y70,000 move in money, which is almost all a refundable deposit, but this place has about Y130,000 move in money, most of which is money they keep for some reason. But it's newer and nicer and overlooking the trains and almost equally as close. The other place is smaller, and older, but more convenient and much cheaper. I think I have to go with cheap since that's the whole reason I am moving in the first place. I my rent is only Y30,000 (Y50,000 now) and my utilities are cheaper, then I can either send more money back and pay off my bills earlier or save money, and actually have this thing called "savings". OR I could keep it and do this thing called "travel". I could probably rotate between all three, whereas now I have to dig into my savings each month since I spend more than I make. Sadly I live pretty much as thrifty as I can. Even the trip to Tokyo and Nikko I did the budget thing and saved up for months.

I think I'll plan to move in June since I am going back in May and will not have any extra money during that time. I think some of us might go to Okinawa in May because there is this discount thing where on your birthday up to 4 people can pay roughly $100 and fly anywhere in Japan. So that's a great deal since it cost more to fly to the southern tip of Japan than it does to fly back to Atlanta. Meg's birthday is in May and 4 other people can go with her. So I want to get down to Okinawa sometime and that could be the cheap time to go. Especially if we can fly from Sendai where it would only cost another $50 to get there. It costs at least $150 to get to Tokyo to fly out.

I think tomorrow is our opening ceremony so I'd better dress up. But for some reason I also think I have the day off and the ceremony is Tuesday. I just sent Hiraki an email and I hope she writes back soon. Tomorrow, or whenever, I have to get up in front of the school and ask the new students to join the English club. I want to say, in Japanese, that if they join they get to meet a famous singer and each person gets $1000 and something else. Then say I was joking. Maybe it will work. We'll see.

Tuesday April 8th

These little AA battery powered clocks are amazing. I bought a few in early August, right when I got here and popped in a small Double-A battery. They are still running. Granted they don't take much energy, but they do require a constant stream of energy since there is a second hand making it's way around. Wouldn't you think that would gradually wear the battery down. I could set up a webpage that documents when they run out and how long they lasted, but I don't have that much free time. Who am I kidding, yes I do. But that is a little to silly even for me. I will mention it in said journal though.

I never really say "said" in a serious manner. It's always joking. It just doesn't sound right to me. "The defendant to said gun and shot said person". Just say "that" or "this". I said "said" above to be silly. Silly I say.

The new teachers started yesterday, or last week, but I wasn't here so I only know they were here yesterday. I have about 20 new names to learn and I am already doing good. I think I made a faux pas (spelling). I answered the phone and they asked for Saito Yasushi. So I announced it and everyone laughed and Hiraki said maybe I should include "sensei". But I don't think I did it any different than before, did I? I really can't remember now. Maybe they are just not used to me answering the phone, or maybe I did say sensei in the past. No big deal, I'll just say sensei from now on.

We have two new English teachers, one from Adachi, and the other from some school in the south. They both seem nice and I will be working with one of them. I like the 3 teachers I will be with most of this year. I have no idea who I will be with at Adachi since Mr. H is gone. He actually moved to Darwin's school and Darwin is not a big fan of him. HA HA. I could tolerate him, but Darwin cannot. HA again.

I tried to start my vegetable diet yesterday, but a friend walked by the school and offered me 20 little gyoza things. I love gyoza so I couldn't resist. I'm also addicted to food. Seriously. So I ate all 20 (see really addicted) and then ate my all vegetable lunch, for no reason. So for dinner I drank only juice and had carrot slices. Today through Thursday I will do a juice fast, then for a few days I am going to try a water/lemon juice/maple syrup fast. They are all %100 natural so it should be ok. It's supposed to be a master cleanse. I'll report any results to said journal.

If the journal entries stop for good in about 10 days, assume the diet/fast did not go as planned. Otherwise, I'll let you know. I had to ride my bike to school in a suit today. At first I was irritated, because I a pessimistic/negative person (really, I am working on it), but then I started to think "HA, I am riding a bike in suit, in Japan, to work at my Japanese High School, when am I going to be able to say that again". Well actually tomorrow I'll be able to say it, but I mean in like 10 years I will remember this time and have fond memories. Or at the rate my memory is going I won't even know my name or how to wear pants. [pause] That could be a fun thing though.

Yesterday there was a volleyball competition at out school. I thought it was just us practicing so I walked out on the sideline and started chatting it up with the coach. He was yelling at the players and I threw in a yell or two, again thinking it was all our team. I recognized people on both teams so I was sure. Then I didn't recognize the other team's coach and I started to wonder. Then I realized I recognized the other team from Fukuko, Fukushima Boys High School. Then I asked the coach and he said it was an intramurals game. Yowzers. I was yelling at the players and might have walked on the court. I quietly slid out of there.

What is a mural anyway? Isn't it a painting on the wall? Was this a game between two paintings? I have never understood the term intramural. I had a friend in college who was an Intermodal Transportation major. I thought that was like the studying of transportation between teeth. But that would be interMOLAR. They sound close in my defense. Even closer when the conversation happens at a party with loud music. And you are drinking. Heavily.

On a personal note, I've got a small pimple on my ear. I found it when I was scratching my ear. I scratched over it and "BOOYA" pain shot through my head, across my head, and down my spine. What the heck was that? I touched it again, "BAM" same thing. OUCH. I saw it in a mirror and it was tiny, how could it cause that much pain? Who knows. Mental note: Stop touching it.

I brought my digital camera to school yesterday and snapped a few pictures, but most are just wasteful "oh that would be cool" pics. When I got home I found most were "why did I take that" pics. I'll upload them anyway since I think I have unlimited bandwidth and over a gig of space to store things. I might reduce my site to a journal and pictures. It's got too many tangent things now. But then I do like tangents.

A friend of mine has applied for JET and she lives in the Fukushima area already. She teaches English through a number of churches in the area and her term expires soon and she really wants the pampering of JET. The wait to find out is killing her and now me, since everyone else I know who applied has already heard. I really hope she gets it, and I think she will. She applied via Seattle and had to fly there for the interview. We'll have a big party for her if she gets in, even though she doesn't drink.

Speaking of which I have decided not to drink for 1 month. Hopefully not one drop, but if I cave in I'll restrict it to one glass of wine, which is semi-healthy I think. I'm also on a big diet and a juice fast now as mentioned above. I need to weigh myself today and report it here.

Sadly I weigh 100 Kilos, or about 220 pounds. I need to get down to 90 or 86 soon, as that is my goal. I've started my diet and the guy that wants a competition with me saw I was eating lite and started to worry. HA.

My friend mentioned 2 paragraphs above got her JET letter today and was accepted. That's cool. She applied for the area and hopefully she will be around Fukushima or Koriyama since she already knows people in the area. We can throw a party for her now, a welcome party. Although there will already be tons of welcome parties, this can be a special pre-welcome party.

Have you ever pre-ordered something? There's no such thing. If you order it before the normal order date, you still ordered it just earlier than normal. A pre-order would be going into the store and saying "next week I am going to order this". Otherwise, it's an order.

I'm really getting sick of some of the nonsense beauracracy here in Japan. One thing is now that I am trying to move out of the apartment. I can understand the part about them not paying my move in expenses, that's not an issue. They already paid for an apartment so if I want to change then I should be responsible. I don't like it, but I fully understand it. However, part of what they paid on the apartment was a security deposit. So when I move out they will get it back, right? Then couldn't they apply that toward my new apartment security deposit, since they would still get it back? Nope, they will keep it or use it to buy something else.

The place I was really leaning towards has no hole for the Air Conditioner hose to fit through, which means I have to crack a window and run it through there. Then fill in the window with something non-insulated. I really don't get it, and I might ask them to punch a hole for the A/C. If they won't then I might consider the other place although it is not as cheap as this place. The small place will be feasible to move into, because after two months I'll have all moving expenses paid and I will be saving nearly $200 a month on rent and no telling on utilities. But the hassle of moving is unreal.

I think since I pay rent I should be able to move if I want? There are some Jets who don't pay rent, the school pays it, and if didn't pay rent I wouldn't have a complaint. Even if I was far from the school, if I was saving $500 a month on rent, I would get by. ARRRGGGGHHHH. This really bugs me. I hate complaining about this, but right now the rent thing is causing me the most financial grief. When I said yes on the program, I had talked to two friends who said they don't pay rent. I added up my bills and loans that I MUST send money back for and said ok. After it was too late to back out I found I am 1 of about 4 people out of 20+ who pay rent. Two of those four live together and have half rent. I pay $500 + almost $200 in utilities each month, and I have to change. I must. It's killing me. I dip into savings each month and that must stop. Everyone else here saves at least $500 a month and travels whenever and wherever they want. I dip into savings and travel maybe once every 3 months, IF THAT.

When I go back to Atlanta in May, I have to get to Tokyo in the most economical, and uncomfortable, way. Because I can't afford the $150 each way Shink + Narita Express cost. So I will have to ride the stupid slow bus down and back and take the slow train to the airport. Well I was happy about an hour ago, now I am all angry. The other place I like has too much move in money. When I looked at it the guy said "If the only thing keeping you away is money, let's talk". So I am going to have Hiraki tell him I like the place, but can't afford the key money and can't pay more than Y36,000 a month total. Now the rent is Y38,000 plus a Y2,000 elevator/grounds fee. But to move in costs about Y38,000 x 4. Deposit, key money, realtor's fee, first month's rent. I don't mind the deposit and FMR, but the key money AND realtor's fee are a bit much. Maybe 1MR total, rather than 2. He said if it was about money, and it is, so let's talk.

I doubt they will go that low though. Hey that rhymed. Go low though, you know Moe. Sorry. I'll ask and see, and if they can't then I'll have to go with the smaller funky air conditioner place. I've got some dark pictures to upload later. when I do I'll put a link here.

Remember I discussed all the little $1 clocks I have that are still ticking away? Well I just noticed they are all timed, accidentally, to a quarter of a second each. I have 4 in the apartment now and if you are quiet you can hear "tick tick tick tick" all within one second. At one time they were off a little and would double tick or triple tick, but now it's a quarter of a second. It's kind of catchy, but last night I noticed it in bed and couldn't stop listening to it.

I had a dinner date/English conversation practice with Hiromi. She is really cute and loves English. She is improving nicely. We ate at a super nice restaurant on Paseo Street. We chatted in English for about 2 hours. She only makes minor trivial mistakes. She ordered some fried things and stuck them in my face and my food demon stepped on my diet angel. I caved in and ate a few. However, I only drank water and had some salad. So it's not terrible, but still I can't eat solid food much less fried food when I am starting the diet/fast. I'll do better tomorrow. Although there is a buffet thing on Friday I am supposed to go to so I will have to figure out a way to get around that.

I really need to keep practicing Japanese calligraphy. It's so cool and would-be-relaxing if I were better at it. Now I get angry at how sloppy it looks and throw it away. Then I don't want to practice, because I will have to look at my sloppy work. But it would make great gifts. Not the skill, but the actual finished products. I could write all sorts of Japanese/Chinese characters and have them framed for people.

Oh here is a tangent, I have a little stuffed pig named Darwin and whenever I travel I take a picture of him and upload it to a website. Go there and follow his travels as well as his brothers and sisters. I worked with a guy who had Hudson for a while, maybe he still does. His name is Jim. Here's the site, Travel Pig. Be sure you get the .co.uk part otherwise you go to pop-up window hell.

What a big post today. I'm sure I'll do the same tomorrow since there is no classes just another ceremony. OH, I forgot to type about the long series of ceremonies today. I'll do it tomorrow, since it's 11:30 and I am tired.

[later]

It's Wednesday morning and I miscalculated my leaving time so I have an extra 20 minutes to kill. I'll write some on the ceremonie(s) yesterday. The first one was at 10 and it was the opening ceremony. Only the current 2nd and 3rd years were there. The new principal spoke and the new lead teacher who is the soccer coach. I think he is more of a teacher/student rep. Then the PTA people spoke and then it was over. I had to stand for this one.

In the afternoon all the current students left and the new students came. They filed in by class and sat in groups. Their parents were behind them and the teachers were on the right sitting. Once they were each seated, their new homeroom teacher announced each students name, like 350+. Argh. There was one student who was bald. I mean completely bald. In a room where everyone has black hair this really stood out. I could always see him. I nicknamed him the henchman because they wear these military style uniforms and he looked like a henchmen with his bald head. I don't know if it was for medical reasons or he liked it, but it was shiny bald.

While their names were being called the principal was standing at the stage watching them. When they finished he left the stage and they were all seated. No more than 30 seconds later they were told to stand back up and he walked back to the stage to say the official welcome. Why not just stay there? Anyway, the new kids probably stood and sat 20 times. When everyone stands it's a lot slower and less together than when they announce for the students to stand. When they do that it's like "boom stomp" and they are standing all together. When they say everyone you can hear shuffling for about 5 seconds. Half the time I was stretched out and had to jump up quickly. I mean we stand up fast, like less than a second. "BOOM" and I'm up. Half the time I get dizzy because I stood up so fast.

Oh it's 8am now and I will ride my bike to school. I have two more ceremonies today. I know there's going to be something of interest to write about after one ceremony. I've already got it planned, I just hope it goes over as well as it sounds in my head.

Wednesday April 9

I think I am going to try to get out of the ceremonies for a while. The two today were long and boring. The first one was at 9 and it was a welcome ceremony for the current students and an introduction of the new teachers. The second one at 9:30 was a welcome for the new 1st years. After the long welcome, the 2nd and 3rd years had representatives of each club get on the stage and try to convince the 1st years to join their clubs.

Some were creative, some were awkward. The kendo (wooden stick fighting) club did a skit where a couple was walking down the street and then were attacked by thugs. The guy started fighting the thugs with his stick. Then they knocked him out so the girl started fighting. It was real fast fighting which was cool. Then the thug lunged for the girl and she did a cool Matrix lean back move. It was funny.

Another group, the men's volleyball I think, dressed as girls and played a fake game. Then the soccer team kicked the ball around. The underhanded softball team did fast pitches in front of the stage. I went up with the English club and said, all in Japanese, ironically, "If you join the English club you can meet my friend David Beckham", then they all gasped since DB is very popular over here. Then I said "I'm sorry that is a lie, but I am almost as famous". They laughed, though not as much as I had hoped.

After that was all over I drank my vegetable juice lunch and walked to the post office. I mailed my income tax extension request supper express mail, which cost about Y1,200, but will get there in 3 or 4 days. I don't know if they post mark it so I wanted it to make it in time. It took me this long to figure out how to get the extension. I get $80,000 credit from foreign income so this year and most of next year or all will be a credit of some sort. I'll figure it out in August when I file the real one.

So no classes, just sitting around typing and learning Japanese. Actually now I am getting sleepy, but there is no where to snooze. I should try to find a place. The library would be nice, but there are always students in there and they come up and chat with me. I'm going to surf the web for a bit and then find something else to do.

[later]

Woo! The wind is crazy. I've narrowed my weather dislike down to wind. Rain is ok, cold is ok, but either of those AND wind just sucks. I was riding back tonight and a fierce gust caught me and knocked me off my bike. To make things worse, it was a really awkward fall. You know sometimes you fall and bust your butt and at least look cool? You stand up and say oh well and keep going. Other times you slip and catch yourself and then slip again and almost catch and then flop around and slip some more and flop and then fall. It was one of those. Then my jacket and bag were caught on the bike and I couldn't get up for a few minutes. Of course people were watching. Why wouldn't they be?

Same with using chopsticks. I can use them just fine as the website name suggests, but when someone is watching me and I see them I fumble around with them and can't hold them right. I want to say "just wait a minute I can do this", but that won't help.

If you haven't already, please sign the guestbook. But don't write something bad or I will delete it, and it has cuss word block on it already. I can tell from the logs there are about 100-150 people reading the site on average, and I'd love to hear where you are from. Just drop a line, you don't even have to give your name or email address. You can sign the guestbook here. Thanks to those of you who have already signed it or sent me an email. If you are an incoming or potential JET, please email me and I'll answer any question I can.

I'm easing into the fast/diet today. So far I have had only lite veggies and veggie juice. I'm over the hunger pains I think, but I am going to get a lite salad from the convenience store soon. I also haven't had anything to drink other than water or pure vegetable juice this week. I think I'll have only juice and water on Thursday or Friday.

What's really sad is I will lose all this weight and then go back in May and eat like crap for a week and gain it all back. I already know I am going to eat at Zaxby's Chicken Fingers, any Mexican place, Burger King, Wendy's, Domino's Pizza, and Zaxby's again. My mouth is already watering thinking about it.

The wind just blew something over outside. It sounded like a freight train was outside my window. I mean it was loud. I could feel the building shake a little. You know that amazes me. How can wind, AIR, move a building? What makes wind keep blowing? Where does the force come from? I don't get it.

I chugging this bloody Mary tasting veggie juice. It's good. I think it is 100% pure vegetables including tomatoes, carrots, celery, garlic, beets, lettuce, and something else. It has all the pictures on the front. Oh my camera is here I will take a picture now. [pause] Well the veggie juice bottle wouldn't come out. I tried it from all angles with and without a flash, but all I got was this. However, while I was at it I snapped a quickie of myself listening to headphones. Not my best work, but I'm not photogenic. My sister is, she steps in front of a camera and snap, there's a great pic. I can't smile and I push my neck back which makes my head look fat. Anyway, this one isn't the end of the world. For the record, I was listening to Boomish.

Well it's 9 pm Wednesday here and I guess I am going to the convenience store (which is not super convenient) to get a salad or small veggie munchie things. After that I will study more Japanese and/or watch silly Japanese TV.

Thursday April 10th

I just bought lunch and my food reduction plan is coming along nicely. I had a small bowl of Miso soup for breakfast and for lunch all I had was a small bowl of wakame (seaweed) and a bottle of fruit/vegetable juice. I'll sip on the vegetable juice for another hour or so and then have some water. Tomorrow I can probably start the juice fast.

When I was at the super market, I saw so many fried a fattening things I really wanted. They even had a chocolate covered donut display by the door. I almost caved and bought one and some fried vegetables (tempura). Then I had a thought. I realized my body is telling me the types of food it wants and doesn't want by how it reacts to certain foods. I really need to start listening to it. Although that fried food would taste so good for about 30 minutes (2 hours if I eat fast and get the hiccups), in the long run it won't benefit me.

I still see food as pleasure and that is so hard to break. When I am bored or have nothing to do or am upset, I eat. Food is comforting. It feels good while I am doing it and shortly there after. There are many people who can eat as much of whatever they want and see no effects, but not me. I've got to learn to live with that. I know I am actually addicted to food, and it's hard to break. I think it's harder than a smoking addiction, because I have to eat three times a day, whereas you don't have to smoke. But smoking has nicotine and I don't know that effect on the body, since luckily I never smoked.

Well I guess I did actually, one time, in my neighbor Shep's basement. His name is Shep, which now sounds a little odd, but at the time, he was just Shep. He and I and I think another neighbor named David tried smoking when we were maybe 5th or 6th grade. I had one and got all choked up and said forget it, and luckily never started again.

Hiraki's desk is a few rows away from me now and I sit beside the basketball coach, who is never there. I actually think they planned that, so she could get more work done. I'm just kind of sitting here alone doing my thing with no one to talk to or pester. Three seats down is Endo sensei, the guy that tried to get me to speak English to the "lady of the night" after my welcome party in August. He and I are the same age and get along great. I ask him about 10 Gazillion questions a day about how to say various things in Japanese. I probably ask him the same ones over and over again. I should really write them all down in one place.

Before lunch I walked around the track a few times. I don't know how far it is, but it takes about 7-10 minutes to walk all the way around it. I think I'll go again in a few minutes. I plan to walk/light jog when it warms a bit more.

I ran into a friend at the supermarket who is a middle school JET. She said she still has another week an a half of spring break and she's already had a week. Next week she has to go and sit in the office all day. But at least she will be there with 5 other foreigners, unlike me who is more or less alone. There are other teachers here, and some speak English, but none are really my age that I can hang out with. Endo sensei is married as are most of the others.

The weather is beautiful today. It's still a tad cold and windy, but not like last night. There are almost no clouds and the sun is shining bright. In a few weeks it will be great weather until about late June I think. Then it starts to get muggy. I'll be better prepared for it this year though.

Haven't decided if I want to renew for a 3rd year or not. Luckily I still have 9+ months before the deadline, so it's not a pressing deal now. I would like to stay for 3 years, but there are more and more little things that really get on your nerves after a while. Most are just cultural differences, but they are still annoying. I'll see what summer and fall have to say and decide in Feb of 2004. Can't believe it's 2003. I can remember sitting on my skateboard in 1983 wondering what 2000 would be like. I wish I could go back in time and tell myself a few things to be careful of and watch out for. But most likely I would run away if someone came up and said "I am you in 20 years". Or I'd say "man I sure gained weight didn't I". Then I'd get in a fight with myself.

I've got two classes today and most of the class will be introductions. Mine will last about 20-30 minutes and then the students have to do one. That gets old after the 3rd student. "Hello my name is _____ _____. Nice to meet you." But at least I will get the intros out of the way quick. Tomorrow I go to Adachi, but this time there will be no Mr. H. He was transferred. So I think I have a new supervisor there, I know her name, but don't remember her from last year. I hope she's cool.

[later]

I am a sad and weak little man. Pathetic too. Sad, weak, and pathetic. I was at the store buying juice for tonight and tomorrow. The food addiction demon whispered a beard papa pipin' hot cream puff would be good. I tried to slam the door on him, but then he stuck his foot out and blocked me. Gradually he pryed the door open and forced me to eat sushi.

So let me rethink the diet here. Maybe going from eating anything I want to nothing but drinking water for a few days was a bit extreme. How about I cut out fried foods, and beer/sake, and eating too much. That would be a tremendous change I think. So I'll try that for a bit. I am just too much in love with food to let it go like that.

So that settles it. I'll eat less, no fried foods, and no alcohol (for a month). I'll try to keep eating good and less for ever, but after a month I'll have a glass of whatever. Once I reduce my average intake THEN I might try a fast. Yes, that makes sense.

Anyway, I had two classes today and they were fun. I did my introduction which always loosens up the kids because I make fun of myself and make stupid Japanese jokes and such. Tomorrow I go to Adachi and they already faxed my schedule. I have two classes which will most likely be self introductions. It's a new teacher, well she was there last year but since Mr. H hogged me all the time I never even met her.

That's it for now. I'll type more later if I think of something pressing, or even if it's not important. If I get really bored I might just start typing whatever I am thinking about. Which is common with me. Maybe I'll sit and write a book one day called "What I'm thinking about now". Just start typing and see what comes out. Could be interesting. Could be scary.

Monday April 14th

I lost my phone Saturday. You have no idea how dependent we are over here on our cell phones. There are about 10-20 people who I failed to write down their address outside of the phone. It was on my "to do urgently" list. So if I have to cancel and get a new phone I might not be able to transfer the names. I've heard it is possible, bit cost over $150. There is NO WAY I am falling for the Japanese-Scam. I'll endure the Public Television, Key Money, and other Monopoly scams, but not this one.

I already went back and checked where it should be and it wasn't. We ate at a new Shoya and then went 5 feet to the Karaoke place. On the way home I realized I didn't have it, but figured someone got it and I would get it the next day. No one had it and neither did the two places. I checked the sidewalk outside and nothing. No idea where it could be. I reach for it about every 15 minutes. I am going insane.

There is a scam going around now where someone will call your phone and then hang up and you dial it back. Then you are charged about $900 for a long distance call or something. I hope no one did that with my phone, however if they did I simply won't pay it. They can't take it out of my account or my credit card, because they are always empty and full, respectively.

Friday we had a big surprise party for Julie and she expected nothing. It was at my place and lasted until 2am, which is the last time that will happen. My downstairs neighbors asked if I could cut the noise at midnight from now on and I wholeheartedly agreed. People were stomping their feet and squeal-screaming all the time. I kept saying be quiet but they had about 14 second attention spans.

Saturday we had a party for Natalie's parents who came up from Australia. They were too cool. I had the most fun with her dad, Tony. He was really "Australian". He had the khaki bushwhacking clothes on and the accent. He said "piss off" to me one time. That was great. We were talking about heart attacks and he showed me how they felt. I can't remember what I did, but he said it and it was real Australian sounding.

We had a nice talk about Australia and North Korea. He said NK would love to take over Aus. I was blown away, I didn't think they would be in the same ballpark. But apparently NK is friends with Indonesia and Indonesia has about 250 million people, whereas Aus has about 19 million. I never knew that. I was always thinking about size. I never ranked Indonesia- as anywhere near the size of the US, people wise. WOW. He had a lot of other opinions too, all of which were interesting. More so when he drank.

I had some red wine. As far as the diet goes, it was sorda ok. I drank nothing else except red wine, and ate no fried foods. So only a small slip-up. I'll get back on it today and do better. I was just invited to an English drinking party next week so I guess I'll go and either not drink or just have red wine again.

Sunday I did nothing much. I was so disoriented without my phone. I rented "The Pledge" with Jack Nicholson. I absolutely hated it. It had no ending, half the things that happened didn't make any sense. I felt like the movie skipped ahead a few times. I kept saying "why would you do that, why did that happen? Where did they come from?". I love Jack, but hated that movie. Then I rented Zoolander again and laughed a bit. It was an incredibly stupid movie, but had funny parts.

I'll probably go back to the places tonight and ask one more time. Then have the phone cancelled tomorrow. Shucks. As soon as I cancel it, it will be found and there will be some reconnection charge. All I really care about is getting the numbers off the phone. I can do without the phone for a bit, but some of these people are going to think I am ignoring them if I never write to them again. Oh well, such is life.

I think I have no classes on Mondays. Like none at all for this quarter. I'm not entirely sure, but I asked two teachers (of 3) if we had class later and they said no, only OCB classes. Which are conversation classes, more or less. Much less than more though. So later I looked at the schedule and OCB classes are only Wed and Thurs. I'm at different schools on Tuesday and Friday so maybe I have Mondays off. Of course I still have to come to school, but I have nothing to do. I'd rather have something to do. I have feeling underutilized.

It's noon now and I think I have an English club meeting. It's the first so I'd better not miss it. I've got to plan some games and activities for them. But they want to meet during lunch and there's no time to do anything. Lunch is 40 minutes and they spend 20-25 eating, then there is 10-15 minutes. All the other English clubs meet after school. I keep asking them to meet after school, but they always have other more important clubs to attend.

[later]

The nicer of the two finalist apartments accepted my proposal, so I guess they win. they will send over "proposal agreement" papers later. I can still lose the place if someone else looks at it and doesn't negotiate like I did. I somewhat favored the other place, but this is nicer and newer and there will be no air conditioner situation. It's more or less the same distance as the other one. Maybe even a tad bigger. It's right on the tracks so there might be a train noise, but I like trains. Also I don't feel as bad about passing this newer place on to the next guy.

On a side note, I am back down to about 98 Kilos. My first goal is 90 Kilos and then later I'd like to maintain 85-88 K. I think I can do it with my new diet (lifestyle food change) and I'm going to exercise each day, nothing hardcore, but maybe fast walking/jogging. I'm leaning more toward the walking. I really think taking in less will make a difference. Though I'm going to ruin it all when I go back to Atlanta for a week in May. I've already scoped out a few fatty greasy fattening places I'm going to eat. Just because I miss them so much.

I'm going to ask about the phone again and then cancel the service. Man that really hurts. I hope I can get all the addresses back soon. Lesson of the day, back up everything often.

Tuesday April 15

I was riding my bike today and whenever I can I follow students because they know which intersections to stop at and which they have the right of way through. I was about 2 feet behind and to the left of a boy today as we rode down a long straight-away toward Higashi. There are no intersections or any roads in this quarter-mile section. Out of no where and for no apparent reason a woman walking toward us, on the opposite side of the road, felt compelled to dart in front of us to this side of the street.

If I could cuss in Japanese I would have let go on her. We both slammed the brakes and he fell forward onto the handlebars. I shuffled around and almost lost my balance. I quickly moved to get out of the way of the cars, but there were none. Why did she dart in front of us when there were no cars? She didn't even apologize, she just stared at us and walked on. Too bad we were both nice guys.

Doubtful I have any classes today since I normally go to Hobara on Tuesday. Most likely another day of sitting and doing minimal. There is a girl crying near me and I think she said he mother just died. Her mother would have been young maybe 40 or so and she's crying hard so maybe it was sudden. I personally think those are the hardest. Like for my two grandmothers we had a good years notice almost that they were dying. So you have time to prepare, makes it much easier. Not that death is ever easy, but who wouldn't want advance notice. I think the worst is when it's an accident or something and boom they are gone. My mother's father had a heart attack and died hours after we left visiting him in the hospital. At least we had warning he wasn't doing well, but that was still a little sudden.

I'm going to go explore the situation and see if I understood her correctly. She was bawling in Japanese and I could only make out parts of what happened. I'm sure I'll update more later since I am bored-o-rama today.

[later]

Hiraki just took me over to a small kid's park with her class. We walked and it was only about 5 minutes. the park was really cool although she said the rides had closed years ago. There were all sorts of little slides and see saws and other kids things. Then there were some bigger automatic stuff that was closed. Like this roller coaster that was pedal powered that went all the way around the park. There were other rides too. Lots of little trains with small tracks running everywhere. I'll go back and get pictures. The 2nd year students went to look at the Cherry Blossoms blossoming.

Good news and strange news on the apartment. The new principal said he would be the guarantor and signed his name. That's great I was starting to feel a little odd that they weren't going to guarantee me even though they already were. The other good thing is the place said I could pay the move in fees over 3-4 months whereas I had suggested 2. So that will make it about the same rent for a few months then savings start. The strange news is they need me to pay something now which I can't really. I said I would pay about $100 on Monday. Looks like it's official. I really feel like it's the right thing. This place is just too big now.

Hiraki is meeting me at the station tonight at 6:30 to help me look at new phones. I gotta get one, and I'll just get the cheapest one again. I might lose a few contacts which sucks but there is no way I am paying the $150 or $170 fee to transfer the number and address. Negative, nada, nope, el NO. I'll just recreate the address book and write everything down this time. It really bugs me that I cant find the old phone though. It has to be at the Karaoke place unless someone took it. I'll check to see if any calls were made after 2am Saturday night.

That settles it though, I'm not going to drink as much anymore. Even though all I had was red wine, I'm going to limit it to 2 per hour. Had I been in my right mind this wouldn't have happened. Well it's 4 now, I'll hang for a bit then go home and get ready for the phone thing.

Well semi good news on the phone. I do get my same number and email address so people can contact me, but I lose all my addresses. Lesson learned, write it down. I only have to pay Y9300 which will be less than $75. BUT that includes the cost of the new phone and the transfer fee. It was low because I accidentally joined the J-Club when I signed up. I get a cool new phone, basically the same as before but a newer sleeker model. I think I can pick it up tomorrow. I'm going to get international dialing on it so I can axe my local land line. It's so expensive and I never use it. I use it maybe 4 times a month so each call is about $10 or more.

Looks like the roller coaster is coming up from the bottom of the dip now...

Wednesday April 16

Last night at exactly 2:30 am I woke up because I dreamt someone rang my doorbell chime. As I awoke I swore I heard it again. It really confused me as to who would be at my door at 2:30 on a Tuesday night. I might answer it on Friday or Saturday, but Tuesday?

Then today realized I had just seen The Mothman Prophecies. There was a scene where Richard Gere is accused of going to the same house 3 nights in a row at 2:30 am asking to use the phone. I'm quite sure I imagined it all, but man that's a little strange. I gotta stop thinking about it today so I don't dream about it again.

I have 3 classes today and they are more or less all self introductions. There's usually a few little activities at the end of class, but for the most part it's all me. Which is fine, I like doing the self introduction because I completely control it and I can make the students laugh. That's kind of a cool thing really, I can make a classroom of Japanese High School students laugh. I should put that on my resume.

When I move I'm going to get that couch from Beaux-Arts about a month or two after I move in. Only because they allow people to pay for it multiple times on a credit card. Not pay multiple times, but have the price broken down into payments. Certain cards allow up to 24 payments. That's insane. This couch is Y20,000 which is about $170 or so. Plus it folds out into a bed, and it's as long as me, plus 3 inches. I'll pay off the move in fees and then get the couch over a 6 month pay period. That's what 20,000 divided by 6? I'll do that math later. Around 3,000 a month I think.

For lunch I walked across the street to a small vegetable shop. I mean literally like 100 feet away. It's a beautiful day here I wish I would have walked farther, but it's so close and cheap. I bought two carrots and a bunch of bananas for about Y230 total. That's like $1.80 or something. I had so much food, I'll take the bananas home and eat the last 3 for dinner, maybe with noodles or something. This will be ultra thrifty and convenient if I can keep eating there. Plus it's super healthy.

The only odd thing is apparently no one eats raw carrots here. About half the teachers walked by my desk and gasped at amazement. I even cut them up into little slices. I don't understand the big deal, they are carrots, I always eat them raw. At some bar I went to once they served raw carrot and celery slices with mayonnaise and that was too good. Well, the mayonnaise here is not low fat, so that's why it was good.

Thursday April 17

Had a little slip on the diet last night, of which I place full blame on my "so called" friend BJ. Meg and I met so I could copy some numbers from her phone and I ate only fish or vegetable things. I had a mango drink with alcohol in it, but I didn't know. I just wanted the Mango drink. Then we left and were going to ride by my soon to be new apartment. On the way we passed BJ.

We awkwardly tried to fit three people on two bikes and continue down to the new place, but I axed the idea since it wasn't worth the effort of someone having to walk. Then we went up to this nice wine bar to look at it for Meg's birthday party (at the end of May). The one mentioned in a previous post about where the girl was waving at us and we tracked her down and surprised her.

So then BJ said he was hungry and things went down hill. We ate at this izakaya or bar and grill and they ordered all sorts of fried crap. I drank only water and tried to order something non-fried, but my finger slipped and I order bacon wrapped around cheese. So I ate poorly a little. Then we left and BJ caught a train and Meg and I rode down to check out the place.

So I slipped, I'll just purge myself today with pure non-fried foods, maybe all veggies for a bit. Speaking of veggies...I mentioned yesterday I had raw carrots and bananas for lunch. A few teachers are still laughing about that. They think it's strange to eat raw carrots. RAW CARROTS. Carrots. This is the place that east raw horse and they think vegetables are strange? That has got to be the funniest thing I have heard to date.

This morning during the teachers meeting the art teacher stood up and said some art related things, then he sat down. About 30 seconds later his chair popped like it broke, but he only fell about 2 inches. The loud sound made everyone quiet. About 1 second after everyone was quiet, he let out a gasp/sigh that was in a high voice, like when you scare a 4 year old girl. I couldn't stop laughing it was so funny. Eventually I did stop laughing, but not for a few minutes.

I have a new cell phone, I think I mentioned that. It's got some cool new features and it rocks. I am going to keep a hawk's eye on it and make sure I never lose it. I have the same number, but lost the addresses. I think I already typed all this.

I booked my trip back today. I booked it today, I'm not going back today. I'm leaving May 8th, and returning May 15th or 17th. It's going to cost a bit more than hoped, but far less than if I left a week early. That's Golden Week and everyone travels. Gotta start making a list of what to take back and what to get when I am there.

I learned the correct phrase for "I'm only looking" when I go into stores. So up to now I've been saying "I'm capable of seeing". Hopefully they knew what I meant. If not I'll go back into each store and explain the situation.

On a few teacher's sweat suits, they either have the Playboy bunny or that symbol of the two back to back women that is usually on truck tire flaps. It's odd to see people walking around with those symbols. I doubt they would make it very far in the States without someone being "offended". I wonder if I could sue someone because their being offended thereby offended me. Maybe the way lawsuits are in the States.

4 classes today. That's actually a lot, especially when they are back to back. But 3 are self introductions and one is basic speaking class. After the 3rd introduction today I won't have anymore at Higashi. Which is good, because after a while you start to get really tired of it. Even though mine is jam-packed with action and excitement, I still grow tired of doing the same thing over and over. I don't even think about it anymore though, I've probably given the same intro 50+ times and if I stay another 2 years, I will have 100+ more.

Friday April 18

I'm at Adachi today. I have 2 classes with Mr. Sato and one with Mr. Yamaki. The@cherry blossoms are killing my allergies. I've already made a language goof in class, but it was nothing really bad. I wanted to say "in a loud voice", but I said "in a big fish". The word for voice is "koe" and the word for fish is "koi". Koi rolls off the tongue much easier. Got an unintentional laugh.

I think a teacher is giving me a ride home. I'm not sure but I think that's how I understood it. If so I hope we go straight to the station and none of that going to the library to watch a Bruce Lee movie like before stuff. Then being dropped off in the middle of nowhere.

I did get a ride home and I don't even know his name. He lived in the US for a while and graduated from Brigham Young. He's in his 50's and babbled the whole time about whatever. Then I came home and took a deep nap for about 3 hours. There is some kind of flower blooming party tonight, but I don't know when or where. I just installed Frontpage on my so I can start making better updates again. with more pictures and stuff. Since I reformatted the hard drive, it's been a massive pain doing updates, believe it or not.

I'm not sure what I am going to do tonight. I'd better make some calls.....on my new keitai. Woo hoo.

Saturday April 19

I ended up going to the Cherry Blossom festival at the base of Shinobu Mountain (She no boo). I was under the impression it was just a few of us hanging out on top of the mountain drinking and I wasn't really in the mood for that. But when I got there I found it was a festival type atmosphere. They had booths with food and beer and little fair trinkets things. But the really nice part was under almost every cherry blossom tree (they aren't cherry trees), they had a light shining up through it. This really emphasized the pinkish color. It was really nice and I wish I had taken Meg's video camera to film it. But nope.

I borrowed her camera to film stuff for when I go back to the States in May. I've taken pictures, but video shows so much more. You can get a better view of things with a video camera. Plus I want to film simple things like me riding a bus, sights around my apartment, and stuff at the school. I'll probably go back to that cool kid's park and film some stuff one day as well. They had a huge steam locomotive we could play....tour and examine.

So far today I have done not too much. A video came from my parents and I watched that. It was Sunday night TV a week or so ago. It had 2 Simpsons episodes, King of the Hill, Alias, and the new DragNet with Ed O'Neil. I really like him, he's so easy to watch. I liked him on Married with Children, and I liked him in some other things he did as well.

Meg wants me to come over and watch a flick on her Satellite TV, but it's so far to her place. When I move it will be an easy ride, but for now it's all the way to the station, over the bridge, all the way to Route 4, across the old bridge, all the way to her school, then like a mile down this long straight road, then down the road she lives on. It's all downhill on the way there, which means......well you know. Once I move, there's a massive shortcut, but that will be June and she's leaving late July. Maybe the girl after her will be cool too, although the girl before her was a maniac I hear. Like obsessive about things and hermit like. Most other ALTs didn't even know her.

Excluding the minor slip-up last week, which we determined was fully BJ's fault, I've been doing ok. No alcohol, and no fried food. Most everything I eat is really healthy and lite. Even the students and teachers at Adachi were AMAZED that I ate RAW carrots for lunch one day. I can't believe they are amazed at raw carrots when they eat raw horse and beef and fish. They even eat Blowfish, which, if prepared incorrectly, kills you on the spot. But raw carrots are amazing here. I do not comprehend this.

Today I ate the last of the Kimuchee and then drank some Maple Syrup / Water / Lemon Juice. I hear maple syrup has all sorts of nutrients and cleansing benefits. So we'll see. It's all natural at least. Not sure what I am doing the rest of the night. Tomorrow there is something going on I think but I'm not sure. Someone mentioned something at one time and I can't seem to remember what it was. Maybe it was movie night. I'll figure it out tomorrow, but if it involves money, the day before payday is not the best time for me.

Sunday April 20th

It's raining pretty hard now at 9am. Which is really bitter sweet to me, in April at least. Being allergic to pollen and blossoming flowers, I love when it rains because it washes all the pollen out of the trees and off the cars. Plus I can breathe while it's raining. It smells so fresh and clean. But then it also fuels the pollen growing and more will come soon. So for now rain is a good thing.

But the rain cancelled BJ's Easter day activities I think, although I didn't know anything about them since I think they were planned while I was phone less. Meg asked me late last night via phone mail if I was going and I thought she was talking about movie night. He sent an email this morning will all sorts of cool activities, such as a potluck dinner and taiko something-another. But I can't afford to go the day before payday, and I didn't prepare since I didn't know anything about it.

Did a big clean-up on the site yesterday. I condensed a few pages that I hadn't updated as much as I thought I would. I added some captions to different picture pages and some other small things. Oh I made sure more links worked. I still have to check / redo the apartment photos, I have no idea why those don't work. I might just wait and take new ones at the other apartment. It's so much easier to manage a website when you have Frontpage. Although it makes flat sites with little character, sometimes that's ok. Mine is just a medium to relay information really, nothing too fancy. I have an obscene amount of web space and a Gig of traffic I think. Another gig is only $10 a year or something. I average about 500 megs a month right now. I'm sure if I do this for 3 years then it would get quite bigger.

I really hope I can because I use it for a daily record of what I did. Even now I enjoy going back a few months and re-living what happened. The fact that other people read it and enjoy it is just icing on the cake. Oh, a cake would be nice. NO. Diet. I had little homemade rice balls and tuna last night for dinner and will have them for lunch today as well. They cost about $1 to make and that makes like 8 balls. 4 is usually a decent sized meal. Sorry for the tangent. As I was saying, it would be nice to have 3 years worth of daily journal entries to reflect upon in a few years. People suggested I should put it into a book, but I can't imagine it being that interesting. Especially with Mr. H gone now. But new people are coming in July so that will bring new life.

I've been debating breaking the journal down into weeks or days so you don't have to download the entire thing at once. Or maybe you want to. I have the time I could do both. Once I complete a year I will zip up the journal and make it available for download. If anyone wants it. Maybe I'll start with breaking April into daily posts, as well as one big monthly post. The month at a time is obviously easier for me, but for people on slower modems, a smaller 1K page might be better.

There is a truck cruising around the neighborhood with HUGE speakers on top announcing something. I think it's a political campaign. They do this at all hours of the day and night. After payday I'll get a tape for Meg's camera and record them. You can hear them miles away. When they get up close it rocks the house. This would last maybe 1.45 minutes in the US. Especially at the times they broadcast. "Please vote for Takahashi Saito, thank you very much, thank you very much, please treat us kindly, thank you very much, please treat us kindly, thank you very much". It's a good way to learn Japanese, since they repeat the same thing over and over. I listen carefully to make sure they aren't yelling "Keep Japan pure, brutally assault a foreigner".  So far, I'm ok.

[later]

I am thoroughly confused about something. This has happened a few times. My parents occasionally send me video tapes of American TV shows. Usually Sunday night shows. So I get one on Saturday and I put it in, since I had nothing to do, and I watch it all the way through. At the end the tape stops and rewinds itself. So then today I had nothing to do and decided to watch part of it again, so I stick it in and it's playing. I leave it on for background noise and type more on the computer. I hear it get to the stopping point and think it will shortly stop and rewind itself as before.

It doesn't. It keeps playing. There's a whole different show on there called The Beenes or something. It's funny, but a blatant rip off of The Wonder Years. The whole time I'm thinking, I'd better not get too into the show because it's about to stop. It plays all the way through. Then after it another episode of Alias with Jennifer Garner starts. It's a new one I haven't seen and I'm sure there's no point in watching it because it can only be a few minutes. Nope it's an hour show and it plays all the way. Through. How did I miss this before? Where did it come from? Now there is another episode of DragNet, but I'm POSITIVE it can't be the whole show so I don't want to watch it.

This has happened before, they send tapes and I watch them all the way through, then later I stick the tap back in to watch something again and there is a whole series I haven't seen before. How did I miss this? I am so thoroughly confused now. I guess I am going to pull the tape out next time and make sure it's at the end.

It's still all cold and rainy. The kind of Sunday you just want to stay inside and do nothing, or dress up and get to a movie theater maybe, but that requires money. Tomorrow is payday and sadly the money will be spent to the penny the day I get it. I might not even have enough for bills. Luckily I will be gone for a week in May and hopefully my bills will be much lower then. They've got to be lower now since I haven't even used the A/C or heater in over 2 weeks. Right now it's a little colder than I prefer in here, but I can dress up for free. I think I will spend a few hours cleaning and sorting things and getting ready for the move.

Monday April 21st

Payday. But no classes. Yea. Haw. I just spent 30 minutes laying out a description of both apartments, here is the link so you can see why I am moving. I still feel confident about it. It will cost the same for the first few months until I pay off the moving expenses, but then the savings kick in. I plan to shift those savings to paying off bills back home for a while.

I plan for a big update later. Maybe I'll just type about something, who knows. But I have nothing to do and can only study Japanese so much. Oh by the way, there was a full other DragNet episode on that tape. They stuffed 7.5 hours of stuff on there. KUDOS!! I'm going to take back all the other tapes and let them re-use them since I've seen all the shows on there. At least I think I have....

I'VE PAID OFF THE LOAN. Woo hoo. I'm so happy. That's an extra $150 a month I get. Plus, they changed the pension fund that we all must pay into so that an additional $80 a month I get. Plus when I move I will be saving an additional $120 on rent and at least $50 or so on utilities. So in other words, I just got a $400 a month raise, more or less. Yee haw.

The bad news is I don't plan to use that money for anything other than sending money back to pay off more loans. I had wanted to pay a few off by New Years, but that might be pushing it. I'll have to live ultra conservative for a few more months on top of this savings and not make any trips during the fall. If I do that I might be able to pay the big one down and then I could use all of that money toward the other ones. I can't pay the school loans off for about 5 years, just because there is so much. But they aren't that much per month. If I can get these credit cards down I will be set. I think the purpose in me being broke in Japan is to break my spending habit. It's working. I plan to splurge later today since it's payday. I'll rent a movie, buy $20 worth of sushi, and buy some vegetable juice.

I received an email from my cell phone company earlier. I think it was about my application to make long distance and international calls from my cell phone, that way I won't need my land phone at all (an additional $100 raise per month). But I wasn't sure so I printed it out and brought it to school. I asked Endo sensei, an English teacher, what it said. He read it for a while and pointed at it and then said "I don't know".

What do you mean you don't know? You are Japanese, it's written in Japanese. How can you not know? Then I thought maybe he knows and can't explain it, even though his English is great. So I started giving him ideas of what I think it might say. I suggested, application approved, start making calls, application pending, need more info??? He said he didn't know again.

I asked another teacher and she said she thinks it says my application was completed, but couldn't tell if it was approved or if I could start. How can you not read this?

It really makes me feel better though. Since Japanese is hard to understand. I thought I was just slow, but if they can't even tell what it says, then I feel great. The roller coaster is going up the hill now...

[later]

I just ate lunch. I had two bananas, some seaweed salad (really), and some other crabmeat type salad. I'm washing it all down with vegetable juice. I've sent money back and paid rent and the loan, and later I have to pay the new apartment $100 deposit. They said my lease will start on the 15th of the month, ok, that's a little strange I guess, but at least I can move stuff in early.

I started packing and cleaning Sunday. I've got my big suitcase ready to go. It's full of clothes to go back and stay and some Christmas gifts from last year (talk about procrastination). The contents as well as the suitcase will stay since it is so outdated and awkward to use. It's a big thing about 3 feet by 2 feet, and it has wheels on the bottom, but you don't tilt it like the new ones, it's supposed to roll standing up. It never does and when it's full it flops all over the place. So I am going to buy one of the new ones that roll and lean. I don't know that I will be bringing back all that much, but I'm sure I will. I might bring my camera back and start taking nice pics, maybe black and white. I have a little studio in the states, but I'm not going to pack that up and bring it.

I've already got some wedding gifts ready for my cousin Ben and his fiancé Suzannah. I think I spelled her name right. I'm going to bring some Japanese type gifts that I think they will enjoy. No confirmation on the flight date and time yet.

It's 2 something now and I think Hiraki sensei told me to leave a little early to go pay for the apartment deposit. Tonight we are playing volleyball again as we do every other Monday. I'll have sushi for dinner in celebration of payday. Maybe I'll take a picture of my pig Darwin and upload it to Travel Pig.

Tuesday April 22nd

Well I had hoped for rain and wind to blow the pollen away and boy did I get wind. Yesterday it was on the verge of tornado weather. There were times when I was walking that I would stop and hold on to something, and I'm a big guy. I saw the wind physically lift bikes off the ground and blow them around. Then is casually stopped around 8.

I went and played volleyball with some people. They have this rule I HATE where if someone hits it over the net directly, then they grab the ball. You have to hit it at least twice, but no more than three times. On every play. I think it really slowed down the game because in the middle of perfectly good volleys, someone grabs the ball. I don't see the point in it at all. But I played since it is good exercise.

It's almost 7am and I am about to catch the train to Hobara again. I was mad that I got the school again, but I was also mad I got Adachi again and that is turning out to be my favorite school. So I'll keep a positive outlook on it and see what happens. I'm betting I have nothing but self introductions today. I always hate them going in, but love them when I am doing them. Since I have complete control over them I am make people laugh when I want or be amazed when I want. For instance, people ask what my family does and I explain it, and say my sister works in Accounting at the Carter Center in Atlanta. The teachers are usually amazed at that because they have heard of Jimmy Carter.

I'm feeling a bit sick this week, and sadly my symptoms resemble those of that new Virus going around, but they aren't because every year I have the same reaction at the same time in April because I am allergic to pollen. My eyes water, my ears and throat itch, I cough, and occasionally get a fever from the nasal drip. I'm blowing my nose a lot more this year, but still feeling a little bad. I hope it clears up before I go to the airport and the plane freaks out thinking I am really sick.

I've got to find some way to sleep on the plane this year. I can never sleep because I can't really relax in a metal tube 6 miles in the air. Did you know the space station is 240 miles up? Man that seems so much farther than I would have expected. I was thinking maybe 20-50 miles. Guess that's why I'm not an astronaut.

Well gotta go, maybe I'll be able to write some from Hobara. Who knows? really I'm asking, who knows? Tell me. I'm taking plenty of things to study in case I can't. I'm moving right along with my kanji, I should know about 400 before long.

[later]

So I get here and I am with a new supervisor and I think I will actually have different classes, as opposed to the same two everyday. There are some new teachers and a new principal, so things should be different. I'm hoping I stay busy, I really hated just sitting in class listening to Japanese. I would get so sleepy, but I couldn't even doze off.

I had two cups of noodles and a CC Lemon for breakfast. The CC Lemon has a big shot of Vitamin C and I've heard that is good for cold symptoms and general well being. On the way here I ran into Ayumi. You might remember her from the early episodes, back in Sept or Oct. She's really cute and speaks good English. This time she said lets get together soon, whereas in the past I always said it. Her English is very natural, I think she lived overseas for a while.

I don't think I have anything planned for tonight. I might work on my Japan educational site, Learn About Japan. If anyone reading this is a teacher or knows a teacher who would be interested in it, please pass it along. It's a watered down, very clean for young kids, informative site about life in Japan. Soon it will have many more pictures and info about Japan. So if you know a teacher, usually Elementary School, then let them know. They are free to use it at will. I'll add my contact info on there if they have any questions. Oh wait, I am meeting Hiromi tonight.

So far the classes have been cool. I gave three self intros and they all seemed interested. After one class I asked an English teacher if there was some medicine for fever, since I felt like I had a slight on. It's nothing major I always get one around April due to pollen and the like. So she takes me to the nurse station. When we get there she explains about the fever, Then the nurse takes out a thermometer and sticks it in my face. So I stick it in my mouth. She laughs and points to her arm and says it was an underarm thermometer. Well poo.

So I get another one and do it right and find out I don't have a fever, just that fever feeling. I'll get some of the kick butt fever medicine thingies tonight at the pharmacy in the station. When I feel like this it always makes me feel great. I am so tired right now. The room is too hot and I just ate. I really want to go home and sleep for a bit. Tonight I am meeting with Hiromi and we will practice English and then she will teach me about Kanji. I've got some questions for her about kanji, maybe she can help me learn faster.

Man what I wouldn't give to take a 30 minutes nap. Really just close my eyes for a bit. I probably could in here. Actually everyone knows I feel bad. I mean as soon as I sat back down in the seat after meeting the nurse, people were coming up asking if I was ok. I felt fine, just a slight light feeling. I was amazed at how many people knew and how fast they knew. I might can leave a little early since so many people know I feel bad and I started feeling bad so early on. I didn't want to go home on my first day here. Though I've been to the school before there are many new teachers here now.

One of my loyal listeners had a question about cell phones in Japan. Cells phones are the thing now. When I move in June I'm going to disconnect my land phone. I never use it and it's a scam anyway. It's way too expensive and I can only use it at home. My keitai (K tie), or cell phone, is great. It was no problem to get it turned on. The first one I had was free with service, not uncommon in the States. Service cost  JPY3,300 for me a month, plus the calls. I only get about $16 worth of free calls. Luckily everyone uses text messaging. That's only about 3 cents per message. I send more messages than make calls.

There are some phones you can use anywhere in the world. Well most anywhere, I doubt in the middle of Africa, but any populated areas. I didn't go for that option, since it's wicked expensive. There are a few people I know who don't have cell phones and to be honest they get excluded quite often. Not because we are mad, just because it's too hard to get in touch with people who don't have the phones. I suggest getting one the second you arrive. My friend BJ wouldn't get one for the longest time. Finally we went to Tokyo together and he realized if we were separated was in trouble. He didn't know where we were staying or the numbers or my numbers, or how to even use a phone maybe. He really would have been in trouble had we gotten lost. We actually did get lost once and he found us by some freak chance.

You can also get temporary phones which my friend from the US did when he came to visit. It was really cheap and he used it so much. I'm in the process of getting my keitai set up to make long distance and international. Mine takes pictures, some even take video. I can email people from my phone and they can email me. It's really crazy. The name of mine is J-phone, there is also Docomo, AU, Ezweb, and a few others. I've heard all the keitai companies share the same network so they can spend all their money on making the phones modern and up to date. Whereas in the US all the companies compete with towers and have to spend money on them so the phone technology is a bit behind here. If I wanted to spend some big bucks, I could probably get a phone that did my laundry.

Wednesday April 23

I'm kinda getting sick of being interrupted. Not that I am doing anything of major importance usually, but occasionally, especially while I am eating, people will come up and start talking about something. It furthers my belief that there's a show of looking busy and they know this that's why people interrupt. They know you aren't really busy. It's usually not even...

I was just interrupted and had to close the window. I KID YOU NOT. A teacher came over and asked if I could grade some papers by tomorrow, so I said ok I would start in about 10 minutes. Then she asked if I could start now. I said "Didn't you just say by tomorrow?". She said I didn't look busy so why not now. Argh. I'm going to start standing my ground when I am actually busy and say "in a few minutes I am busy".

I was typing a letter earlier to my credit card company, just before the teacher's meeting. I had about 3 minutes and a teacher interrupted me which sparked the comments above. Then all I had to do was save the file, which was a one page Word file and I could move out of the way. So I hit save, to the A: drive. It started saving and the little hour glass popped up. It kept saving. It seemed like an eternity. Still saving. ONE PAGE HERE, what are you doing? Still saving. It took 2.5 minutes. It was well past the point of absurd. It kept making that little "rrrrnnnttt rrrrnnnnttt" A: disk saving sound, just to aggravate me. For the record, I had to open the file later and make another change, at which time it took 10 seconds to save. Why?

I've been drinking a new tea called Goyacha. I can't remember if I mentioned it above or not. I'm going to try to drink 5-8 glasses of green tea and or Goyacha a day since they both have nutritional and antioxidant effects. I've heard Green tea is great on the liver, so I'll chug it. It actually tastes pretty good.

I think I am going to try to find some structured Japanese Lessons. I'd rather not pay for them right now, since I can't but I need some direction. I am just learning random things now and I need someone to guide me for a bit. I've reached a plateau I think. I know of a place that offers lessons for either free or cheap, but it's on Sunday morning at 10am. I could probably make it to that although it's 30 minutes away by bus and I really like to sleep late on Sunday. Since I am not drinking for a while I can get to bed early on Saturday nights. Learning Japanese is one of my goals for being here, drinking on Saturday night is not.

Thursday April 24

Up at 5 am for no reason. I went to sleep at the usual time and popped out of bed at 5am wide awake. I tried to roll around and get an hour or so more sleep, but no luck. Wide awake. I listened to an Elton John CD I rented, but not even remotely sleepy. Now it's about 6am, but I still have 2 hours before I need to leave the house. Argh.

Man I love Japanese medicine. Every year about this time I get bad pollen allergies. It starts with watery eyes, then running nose and sneezing, then cough then fever from the nasal drip. So I get all that again and didn't really want the hassle of going to a hospital to see a doctor here. I buy some allergy medicine at the pharmacy for about $15 and like an hour after I take it I start feeling great. I take 1 pill after each meal. Now my cough is starting to break up which means the whole thing is almost over, and I've only been on the meds 2 days. In the States I always remember getting about 3 medications like a decongestant, antibiotic, and Claritin. So the bill was always up there. $15 in Japan.

I really hope I am all clear before the flight. The symptoms are those of SARS, but I know I don't have it since I always get the exact same problem at the exact same time of the year. If I don't start feeling normal after a week or so then I will of course see a doctor, but for the flight home I really hope I am cough-free.

I found out the cheapo Japanese lessons are only $10 a month. Why bother charging anything if that's all you charge? The only thing is it's kinda far, but I think I can take a bus. I'm going to see if I can just pop in this week. My friend Corrinn (that rhymed) said it's almost a self study with a book, but various Japanese teachers are in the room helping as needed. That's almost like 1 on 1 study, which I can dig. as long as it's a cool book and not all in Japanese. I don't want to read the directions on an activity in Japanese, not at this stage at least.

Oh Meg surprised me by buying me the book version of "Catch Me If You Can", by Frank Abignale Jr. They made a movie about it recently and I mentioned I wanted to read the book version since he wrote it and it would be more truer. I know that's not a word. So I started reading it and so far it's different, but I like it. I can see how they based the movie on the book and why they made certain changes.

Since it was payday Monday I splurged and rented a movie. One movie is my splurging. I rented The Toxic Avenger part IV. My ex-roommate Ben in the states used to love these Troma films, but I've never been a fan. They are intentional low budget films. To me I thought they were trying too had to be low budget in this, some things were just too cheesy. Luckily it was $1 off since I had rented a new release at some time in the past and brought it back the same day.

I had three classes yesterday and they were pretty good. We did an activity where the students have to write about their high school. The 1st year teachers this year are really strict and I like it. They give a Rapid reading test at the start of each class. The students have ten minutes to read a paragraph and then answer 5 questions about it. At the start of each class they get this test. Man that's going to help their reading skills immensely. I need to find some simple Japanese reading drills. At first I thought these tests were called Rabbit Reading, like some silly English book name. Then I saw the sheet and it said Rapid Reading. When the teachers say Rapid it sounds like Rabbit, or Lapid sometimes.

I'm still studying the Kanji. I can recognize the meaning of about 400 now. I'm still learning the different readings though. I meant to take them with me to meet Hiromi and have her explain the primary readings of each one. They all have multiple readings, but most have a dominant reading which I should learn first, and some of the 3rd and 4th readings are rarely used. But now I am learning all the readings and that really slows me down. I've stalled out on learning vocabulary since I seem to know so much know anyway. I have to learn bizarre vocabulary if I want something new, like things found in a scuba shop or deep sea animals.

Well it's only 6:15am now so I guess I will clean the apartment and then video it some since I bought a 90 minute HI-8 tape for Meg's camera. Then I'll study more kanji and work some on the learnaboutjapan.org site. Then it will be still too early. Sadly it's days like this that I mismanage time and end up late for something.

Friday April 25

I just got back from an English welcome party. It was alright. I left early since they were drinking and chatting it up all in Japanese. Sometimes I really feel like I am in the way. As if they have to stop having fun to talk to me. I pick up a little Japanese, but they are talking full blown natural speed and they are drinking so it's way beyond my comprehension.

I went to Adachi today and had a good time. Actually I am going to take a break right now and watch a movie. I'll come back in about 2 hours and finish typing this...

[3 hours later]

I watched Meet Joe Black with Brad Pitt and Anthony Hopkins. It was so so, although it had great acting in it. I felt the plot was slightly lacking. They had to make a decent story into a love story and when you do that it has to end happily. The problem is sometimes that alters the story in a weird way. I didn't like the way Brad Pitt showed up at the end to be with her and didn't remember anything. It was just awkward to me.

Thursday was a busy day I guess. I was at Higashi and had 4 classes. I've finished my self introductions there and now I can get into the lessons. I actually prefer the lessons to the intro. I'm reading that book Meg bought me, Catch Me if You Can and I actually like it more than the movie. That's usually the case I think. I like it because it's more of the real story. It's amazing to read all the insane things this guy did. There's no way they could happen today and it really shows how trusting/gullible people were in the 60's. He flew for Pan Am and wrote bogus checks for 2 years. 2 YEARS. Send a memo or something people. MEMO: Don't cash checks from Frank Williams. He only used a handful of aliases, but mainly Frank Williams.

I was reading it today at Adachi and a teacher came up to me. This is the cute one who's new this year and speaks great English. She said she was talking about me to someone who sat right beside her and he said I loved to cook. This seemed to amaze her. I was right in the chapter where Frank was conning some women about something so I replied with "I sure do, I should cook for you sometime". She agreed and seem pleased and surprised that a guy likes to cook.

The funny thing is I don't really like to cook. Mr. H just stood up in front of the teachers last year and announced I like to cook and they should ask me about cooking. He completely surprised me and gave no warning. Nor had we ever talked about anything even remotely relating to cooking. Just one of the reasons why Mr. H is such a character. Everyone in the entire prefecture has heard of him.

I skipped a bit. Thursday I had these classes and had brought the video camera to school. I filmed a bunch of stuff and then took it with me when I left. I filmed all around town and will edit it later. Then I got home and took a nap. Minutes later Emi, the cutie I met a few weeks ago emailed my phone and asked if I wanted to get together for the night. Not as in all night, just for dinner. So we agreed to meet in front of Shoya and then went to this really cool hidden place that was dark and real abstract inside.

We had some really nice dishes and I drank water the whole time. Then we reached that awkward stagnant point and I suggested we go to As Soon As, my favorite bar. the check came and it was $30, so I suggested we split the bill. I really should have just paid it, but I paid the first time and it was never clear it was a date. She took the bill and my half to the counter and I could see her fishing around for money. I realized she hadn't planned on paying anything and might not have the money. Man I felt like a chump. She came back and we walked out. Then she said she was just going to go home since she didn't have any money because she couldn't go to the bank today. Man that had to be embarrassing, I definitely know that feeling. So I brushed it off and said the next place was all on me.

That made up for it, but I still felt stupid for not offering to pay, but I really can't afford to pay both parts all the time. As the next place she had some nasty red beer and I had a ginger ale. We made small chat for about 30 minutes, then I started yawning uncontrollably. I always do after I eat. It really looked like I was super bored, but I wasn't at all. So we parted ways and agreed to meet again.

I went home and went to sleep. I woke up to the sound of the alarm and I faintly remember hearing it in my dream and slowly gaining consciousness. Normally I wake up before and just loiter in the bed until it goes off. I got dressed and cruised on down to Adachi. On the train I had to stand as usual and started reading CMIYC. I was so enthralled in it the first time I looked up we were at Nihonmastu. It's really a good book, excluding his overuse of the word "save". Instead of saying "except for this" he says "blah blah blah save this". To me it's awkward and odd, just say except for. It sounds better. Or maybe use a variety of things, but he says "save" so much I am starting to count. So far it's like 15 or so.

I bought two sandwiches at the 7/11, yes they have them, and then caught the bus to the school. Just didn't feel like walking. I had three lessons with the same teacher, Ms Otake. Nice lady, speaks good English and really reminds me of people back in the States. She doesn't look or act Japanese. Anyway, all three lessons were the same plan, and I knew exactly how they would go. Not like the plan.

First I was to give an introduction for 10 mins. Errrr. First problem, my intro is about 20 minutes. It's a preset routine I do and if I stop early it's looks as if I stopped early. But that's always negotiable. Rarely do teachers stop me during the course of my introduction to start the boring lesson. Mainly because the students are always attentive and laughing and more importantly, listening. Attentively.

Then the students were to give me a self introduction. Argh. I had to sit through 40 classes x 3 periods of students standing and saying "hellomynameisTakahiroKannoNiceToMeetYou". They always rush it so much so they can sit back down. But the third part of the plan was the worst.

"Next the students will ask you questions", she said. Wrong. Rule 1 with Japanese High School students, they will not speak voluntarily in class. They won't. Unless you hand pick them, even then they might sit and stare. Rarely do they say "I'm not prepared", they just sit and stare. When they do I start quoting Saturday Night Live and the Jeopardy skit. "Just say anything, anything at all. say the word blue. Just say blue. Just make a noise. Any noise". This is exactly what they did. I gave the intro and they painfully introduced themselves and then question time.

Not a peep. Everyone was looking down. I would give it about 1 minute and then get the hint and pick students. But this teacher was determined to have a volunteer. I have taught enough high school in Japan to know the students always win the waiting game. We stared at each other for about 4-5 minutes. The whole time the teacher is saying "anyone, anyone [Bueller Bueller] anyone, any bolunteeahs, anyone?". NO THERE ARE NONE.

Then all my classes were over so I continued reading CMIYC. I read a good 80 pages while at Adachi. It's really hard to put down. Finally it was time to go so I walked back to the station. I caught the 3:59 to Kobota and got off at Fukushima. I had just enough time to come home and nap for 30 minutes before I had to head back to the English Teachers Welcome party.

I got to the place I was sure it was at only to ask and have them say it wasn't. So I called Hiraki and she told me where it was which was no where near what the map said. I even asked the teacher in English when she handed me the map. "One street over from Ekimae, near Sunroute Hotel and the TOHO bank". I think the problem here was she replied with "yes". So I took that as confirmation, but Japanese say yes or ok to mean "I am physically hearing the words come out of your mouth, however, I may or may not understand them so please quiz me afterwards". Which must be what she meant.

I finally find the place and make it just in time. It cost JPY5,000 which is just less than $50. The only good thing about that is you can eat and drink all you want and the price never changes. But I never ever get even remotely filled at one of these things. The plates they bring out would be filling, but then we divide them by 6 or so. I stayed and made idle chit chat with one of my favorite teachers Shimizu sensei. She's really tall and thin. I knew it would be over at 8:30 so I said I had to leave at 8:15. Sometimes I feel like I am in the way at these things. Like they are having a good time and have to stop and speak English with me. Sometimes I don't care, but more often than not I sense it.

They never say this or even imply it, but I pick up these little signs. The signs may actually not even be there. I pick up these signs with women as well. They say something or look a certain way and I think it means they don't like me. I wish I could get over it, and I've tried. But I can't it's part of me. I knew at 8:30 they were going to a second party where they could relax and take of their coats and sing karaoke. I just felt like letting them go and not have to worry about me. I actually might reduce the number of these parties I go to. Since I'm trying to drink less and these are all you can drink, I rarely get my money's worth anymore. I've been to enough so that the teachers really like me and know I am putting out an effort to fit in. Plus I really can't afford to dish out 50-100 each month for these things. I'll go to the big ones, but I might pass on the smaller ones. I'll just say I am busy that night.

The apartment place is kinda being wankers about things. they want me to move in on May15th and start paying then. I have no reason to move in on that day nor pay. The pro-rated rent would be about $120, but that would be on top of May's rent and just wasteful. Then I would have to turn around and pay June rent and deposit money out of the same paycheck. I think I need about 5 days to move. Hiraki agrees and we are going to try to sway the people when we meet next week. If they refuse I might bluff and say I will walk away from the deal and lose the $100 deposit. I think they would cave because of my secret weapon.

The Japanese have about the same number of superstitions as we have. One such one is the number four. It can be pronounced either "yon" or "shi". The latter is the more deadly, literally. The verb for death is "Shinu". Notice a similarity? They usually avoid anything four related. There is no bus stop #4 at the station. Many hotels skip the 4th floor especially room 4, 104, 204, etc. So what's my apartment number? The second most bad luck number, #404. I seriously doubt that unit has been rented in a while. The absolute worst number is #49, because on rare occasions you can pronounce 9 as Nu. So it would be Shi+Nu=death. I think I can point that out and say I am willing to walk away, which I am, I have other prospects. I think they will come down on this matter.

Sorry for the other tangent. Let's see, so I left early and came back. On the way I stopped and rented two movies. I got Meet Joe Black, and Apollo 13. Somehow I have never seen either of them. Which is odd, because I love movies. I'll watch Apollo tomorrow. I plan to pack and clean more. I should move everything into one room so I can really see how much I have. Man it's midnight now. I have nothing else to do and I'm not sleepy, so I'll babble a bit more then maybe surf the web some. Maybe I'll surf now and come back if I think of anything.

Saturday April 26th

I watched Apollo 13 today after and during cleaning my apartment. I mean it was a cleaning frenzy. I pulled everything out of the closet and got rid of some old crap. I moved everything into the living room and I will have plenty of space at the new place. I've got too much space now. It should only take about 2 carloads and one truck/SUV load. The only two big things are the fridge and the washer. I think the A/C unit will be stored at the school and my bed actually folds up pretty good. All in all I'm still pleased with the move. I'm really looking forward to saving a good $120 a month plus some utilities savings.

I think tonight I am going to use a free pass to see a movie. I will probably buy popcorn even though it's well off the diet. This can be my one splurge day. Overall I take in far less than half the calories I did just weeks ago. Even if all I did was cut out fried food and alcohol, that would be a great change. Once that becomes habit I could pick on something else. I've more or less cut sweets out. I did have a pipin' hot Bear Papa cream puff last week, but it was the only sweet thing I've had in a few weeks so I don't mind.

I think in two Saturdays I will be in the US. How strange. I wonder what it will be like when I get there. Will it be like I never left? Will be strange? I'll be sure to let you know. It will feel good to get this big bulky suitcase back home and outta my way. It's packed to the rim with Christmas gifts and clothes I don't need and the like.

Sunday April 27th

I woke up at various times all morning and finally got out of bed around 9am. Then I got ready and went to the station to meet Corrinn for a Japanese class somewhere in town. It was only JPY1,000 which is less than $10, and I found out that is the monthly fee. Wow, two hours each Sunday morning for about $1.25 per hour. What a deal. On top of that it was a great class. I more or less had a private tutor the whole time. Some Japanese people volunteer and help the students. I actually learned a few things and really increased my reading skills. I can see this will be quite beneficial in my goal of being fluent.

In about an hour I am going back to the station to meet the same group and we are having a picnic at a local park. It's a beautiful day. the sun is shining bright and there is almost no temperature. When the wind blows it feels great. I'll get some pictures and maybe even some video.

I moved everything into my one room yesterday and it all fits nicely. I think the new place is longer than this room so I should have plenty of room. I just prefer a little more cozy place than this, especially since I have to pay rent. I think my utilities should plummet since there is only one small room to heat/cool and the A/C unit if actually facing the efficient direction. I think I'll take a small nap now and/or read more from my book.

Monday April 28th

The picnic was a blast yesterday and we plan to do it a few more times throughout the spring, summer, and fall. Hopefully each time more people will come. We had it at a small park by a river in town, very close to the station. Corrinn and her friend Izumi (E zoo me) bought a ton of food and they brought a grill and we spent hours cooking meat, veggies, and then some noodles. It was good eatin' and I was full afterwards. It was relatively healthy food. I had a lot of veggies. I might try to shish-ka-bob next time if I can find the right marinate and skewers.

Most everyone there spoke great English, there were two girls, actually the two on the right above, one in a gray shirt and one in black, they were the girl in Orange's sister and friend, and only 16. Everyone else spoke great, and was quite cute as well. We only spent JPY900 ( less than USD $9) each and it was well worth it.

It looks really trashy and messy, but it was cleaned up spotlessly at the end of the day. We stayed from about 3 to 7. Some people brought chairs. My two chairs that were like the one BJ is sitting in were in my apartment on my bed, because I am a moron and have the memory capacity of a Hippo's left leg. Along with warm clothes when it got cold at night and a blanket to sit on. Next time I will be Mr. Prepared.

After that we went to BJ's apartment for movie night. It's actually getting a big stagnant. At first it was great because we got to talk and meet new people, but now all we do is get together and watch a  movie. If you haven't seen it then you're in luck, but chances are you've seen it. We watched Murder By Numbers and I had not seen it. The few Japanese people there were a little lost, because it was complicated, but we had English subtitles on so that might have helped.

One of the girls at the picnic and at movie night was so beautiful. She had a boyfriend, but I mean she is gorgeous. The kind of beautiful that when you look at her you actually lose your breath. It's a natural beauty and she's not even aware of it. I'm glad she has a boyfriend, because if we were dating, I would end up worshipping her and serving her like a queen. I'd be jello all the time around her. I can't even look at her in the face, it's like looking straight at the sun.

As we left the apartment Meg and Alison said they stole all of BJ's toothbrushes. It doesn't sound funny, but you gotta understand he is obsessive about brushing. If I had to estimate I would say, honestly, he brushes 7 or 10 times a day. No exaggeration. When we were in Tokyo, he would stop in public bathrooms and start brushing. I thought it was a little odd, but I bet he has clean teeth. So then Meg and Alison emailed him pictures of "Little Bobby", as they aptly named the toothbrush. They discussed "Cuspy" for Cuspid, but I think they settled on Little Bobby. I don't have an update on the status. Last I heard they were going to email him pictures of the brush all around town.

Today I woke up early and headed to school. We had a school field trip. The 1st years and I went to a park near Sendai and barbequed, just like yesterday oddly. The 2nd years went to the Salvadore Dali@museum, which I had already been to. The 3rd years went to an amusement park in Sendai, which I considered. But I decided I should bond with the 1st years since I will be with them for 2 or 3 years. It was worth it.

When I made it to school, there were 17 buses lined up out front. Pretty much one class fits on a bus. But there were still 8 more buses around back for the 1st year students, and myself. All the kids had on regular unmatching clothes and I could barely recognize them. First time I've have seen most of them out of uniform.

First we stopped at a waterfall and small temple area. On the way there we stopped at a rest area. I've never been on a bus trip in Japan that went longer than 1.5 hours without stopping at a rest area. The details of the first of the trip can be found by clicking on this link located here.

After leaving the waterfall area, we cruised on along to our picnic area. They had all 300+ students sit down and they explained the details. I was a little over dressed since I didn't know we could wear jeans and t-shirts. But it's alright, I had a golf shirt and khakis on so I looked upper casual.

Once they explained the details and times, everyone wonder twin powers deactivated (separated) and went to their respective quadrant zones. There were about 10 grills per 2 classes and about 8 students gathered around each one. The students were left alone to cook their own stuff. I would have burned the woods down at that age with my own grill.

The girls instinctively went to preparing the vegetables and the guys went to getting the fire ready. It worked out about right, correct number of people and perfect timing. This one guy pictured below kept "almost" getting motion sickness on the bus. He would make hurling sounds and the kids would scatter and he would run to the front of the bus. But it was all false warnings luckily. I got some on video.

After eating we had an hour to waste. I went exploring and found an incredible ropes course, though I was too tired, full, and in general out of shape to attempt it. But I filmed it all. At the very end there was a section where you were to walk across a rope bridge apparently in nothing but your tight little blue underwear.

We returned to the school around 4 so I sent the travel agent the school's fax number and then booked on out since I was beat. Tomorrow is a holiday and I'm not sure what I will be doing. Maybe more organizing and packing. I am heading back to the US next week for a week. I'll make an update from the US about whatever I am doing. I think Endo sensei mentioned I have no classes on Wednesday and Thursday since today was a trip and tomorrow is a holiday, they have to catch up on grammar rather than conversation. No big deal, I have things I can be doing I guess.

Tuesday April 29th

I've pretty much stayed in all day except for going to the station to get a bite to eat and get more hay fever medicine. Oh I bought some kleenex as well, as I am quite out. Other than that I have been inside, avoiding the pollen and trying to get over these allergies. I don't need to be on a plane next week coming from Asia with SARS like symptoms, even though it is because I am allergic to pollen. Can't afford to be quarantined for 10+ days. I wonder if those people are supposed to pay for the hospital time after being quarantined. No way I would, or at least i would die kicking and screaming trying to get out of it.

So for the most part I packed a little more and organized the room a bit. Then I worked on the computer for several hours. If I had a fast computer and a comfy chair I could sit here for hours doing nothing. Computer time is like dog time, every minute you think you spend is seven actual minutes. I sit down for a minute and then look up to see 4 hours has passed.

I've been working on a few websites, I'll divulge the URLs all in good time dear child, all in good time. Until the projects are actually a reality, I don't want to make a fuss. But once they are, then I hope 4.5% of the entire earth comes to the websites. You'll see. Then I did some random surfing and research. The web is great for researching. You can find most anything on most anything.

I have to stay up late tonight because I have to try to make some international calls. One of which is to Victoria Canada and they are like 15-18 hours behind us. I might wake up early to call them. The other is to Alabama, but they are only 14 hours behind Japan, so I can call AL soon. Maybe even 30 minutes.

Side note. I drank some carrot juice which is a natural cleanser / diuretic and I am taking a powerful diuretic for blood pressure. So in a nutshell I should move the computer to the bathroom. I don't see how I had all this liquid inside me. It's amazing. OK, off the icky topics.

I have that stupid meeting with the apartment place tomorrow where they want me to pay for half of May. I'm going to try to get Hiraki sensei to really explain how much that's just crap. I can put up with the key money scam, but this is my limit. I will walk away and lose my $100 deposit before I let them get 15 days of rent out of me. Especially since I'll be in the US for part of that time. I think I am going to be firm and say not before the 25th. All I need is a day or two to move in as long as I have a car. Worst case scenario, I could take a taxi a few times, but I have a few friends with cars so it shouldn't be a big deal.

Wednesday April 30

Got to school on time. There wasa fax waiting for me from the travel agent. So I took the fax to the bank and did the wire transfer. It's so easy to send money around in Japan, it's like Online BillPay, but much faster and you can instantly send it to anyone with a bank account. I could send money to a friend if I wanted. I had Hiraki sensei go with me to watch me and I think I just about have it down. It's all in Kanji, of course, but usually the company gives you the the kanji on the sheet they give you and you systematically match it on the screen. I wanted a person to check my every move since I was transferring a quarter of my paycheck to pay for this ticket back.

After that I came back and made an activity for the English club. I made a simple English Scavenger Hunt. I wrote out six things and scattered them around the first floor and then split the girls into two groups. I gave them each a separate clue and they were on their way. They only had minimal problems and finished quickly. I told them next time I would make it more difficult. They said they enjoyed it and they seemed to like it as they were scurrying around. I really hope they did because it's a fun game and I can use it a lot. My grandmother would do it for me when I was real youung and I remember getting a big kick out of it. Of course I was 10, and they are 17.

No classes as expected. Later today Hiraki sensei and I are going to the apartment place to talk about me moving in. I'm really going to push my point and say I am not going to rent the apartment on the 15th. The only reason they are doing that is they want the money, and the only reason I told them I was interested in the unit so early was to be nice. Had I known all this I would have waited until the last possible minute to let them know. Heck I won't get back from the US until the 19th so there is no way I will rent it before the 21st and preferably not before the 25th. It comes out to be about $12 a day so I can afford from the 25th to the 31st, but beyond that is just silly. Maybe I wouldn't mind if they hadn't already stuck me with stupid key money.

No big plans tonight, might just clean and pack more. Make sure I have everything. I always under pack somehow. I hope to buy a cheapo DVD player in the US when I go back, one of those $40 models. That's all I want, the bare minimum. Then I can buy some US DVDs and take them home when I leave. Whoever comes in after me will have some videos and stuff to watch, maybe even two TVs. I might buy a TV/VCR combo from a girl who left, for pennies on the dollar.

Just got back from the new landlord's place. It's such a riot, there are about five paintings of nude women all over the place. Right in the main area, not even trying to hide them. So they backed down on the 15th move in day, but made up for it by making me paying all the bogus move in fees in two payments as opposed to the 4 they agreed to earlier. They also conveniently forget I negotiated a reduced rent, but we had them change that. So when I get back from the US I will go there and fork over about 8 man, or less than USD $800. I do this for two months then I am paid up and the big savings begin. I'll just live tight for two more months and then once it is paid off I'll start sending the money saved back to the US to pay off the bills earlier. I need to sit down and figure out a payoff date on the things so I can set a goal and reach it.

In a way I am bitter about having all these self inflicted debts. Though some are good and others are just crap. The good loan was to study in Japan for a summer back in '98. The rest are pretty much crap loans such as credit cards, a computer school loan that I was never able to use and then college loans, most of which I really didn't need. But actually I am glad I have them now, because I know I will never be in debt like this again. So once I pay them down I will start building some hardcore savings and investments. -mild earthquake- I think I will add up some stuff and try to set a payoff date on the credit cards soon. I need to get an actual up to date balance and then I can know for sure.

Do you ever get canker sores? I get them all the time. I have a reaction to too much citrus like orange juice or even tomatoes sometime. Since I've been drinking tons of fruit and veg juice they come up more often these days. So I have this big one now right where my upper and lower lips touch. It's a big one, I'd say as big as a 14pt capital O. Yea, that's pretty accurate. Well last night it was killing me so I decided to kill it back. I took a clothes hanger clip thing and pinched it so I could barely feel it. Then I poured some salt right on it. It stung like nothing before. Streaks of pain shot through my body. But afterwards it was worn out and I didn't feel it for hours. I might do it again later, but it was truly painful. My eyes were watering and I had to pinch the clip tight a few times. I hate canker sores.

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