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.

Saturday, Feb 1 2003

I've got one of those stay in bed too long boredom headaches. It's not really a headache and it will go away the second I start moving and do something. It's about noon here and I ate some raw cauliflower for breakfast earlier. I guess I could head to the station and return "Blade Runner" and "THX-1138". Can't really afford to rent another one now so maybe I will borrow one from Meg who has cable or satellite records about 5 per day. Maybe in the Spring I can get the satellite equipment from Brandon and see how much that would be a month. Once I finish the loan to the school. No, what am I thinking. I need to put that toward my loans at home so I can pay them off early. This first year will be a suffering year so I can start to have more fun next year. I can do that I think.

Maybe I'll upload this at the e-Cafe as well later. I think it's been a few days since I made an update or at least a substantial one. I'll probably have a few $1 store food days this week just to save up early to prevent a crunch at the end of the fiscal month. The good news is when I get paid I won't have anything to payback, just the usual send money home and rent and the loan. Well I won't owe anyone I should say. I might pay extra on the loan to get it down. I think I can pay it off in two more payments, and then start adding that money to what I send home for loans and bills. Nice.

My Japanese is really improved a lot recently. I was stuck on a plateau for a while, but then I realized my next step was to learn verbs. I have learned about 300 recently and have about 300 more to go. I have no idea how many there are total, but I would say 600 verbs is well into the conversationally fluent range. Not only have I been learning the words, but I have been learning the conjugations so I can say:

I eat. I don't eat. I ate. I didn't eat. Can I eat? Want to eat? Don't want to eat. Cannot eat. Don't have to eat. Eat !! He wants to eat. While eating I..., After I eat, Before I eat, When I eat, Have you ever eaten? You'd better eat and so many more.

I'm feeling much better about speaking Japanese. My little language exchange with Keiko went good. I gave her a small English test and she did better than I expected, then she quizzed me on my verb note cards and conjugations. It was great having someone correct me and I actually did very well. I need to figure out what she is missing. She had a few questions for me. One was the difference between "see, watch, look, and observe". This was tough. I did pretty good, but it's hard to explain a few of them. Then she asked if zero was plural. I laughed, but it actually is. You never have "zero house", you have "zero houseS". Strange, 1 is the only singular number, seems like zero would be singular, but somehow zero is plural.

I've actually thought about writing a book about learning Japanese verbs and adjectives using my stupid memory mnemonics. There are a few great books on learning Kanji using this picture mnemonics, but not many, if any, on learning verbs, adjectives, and vocabulary. Plus my mnemonics are so stupid, they work %40 faster than average household mnemonics. Plus they include a special formula developed by Swedish doctors and were only recently approved by the FDA for use in America and Japan.

[later]

I did in fact walk to the station. On the way there something surreal happened. I was at a busy crossing just near the station. The cross light was red so I had to wait, as the traffic light was changing a car pulled into the middle to turn at the last second before, or as, the light turned red. Then another car zoomed up behind it. The first car lurched a little and then I thought, that second car is going to hit the first car, and sure enough it jumped forward not anticipating the first car to stop. It bumped it.

Then the second car backed up and partially opened it's door. The cross light was green now, but I couldn't move for some reason. Then the first car just sat there shifting between Drive and Park. I could see the reverse lights flash every few seconds. The first car was still in the middle of the road and the cars coming from the other direction were honking at it. I don't know why it just sat there. Then a bullet train sped by in the back ground. Cars were still honking and then an ambulance drove by.

You can't really type something like that and make it sound surreal, but it was. It was just a bunch of different things happening all at once. It didn't enter slow motion mode, but it could have.

Well anyway, after that I went to see a movie at MyCal. I had another free pass so it didn't cost anything. I saw the Bourne Identity with Matt Damon. It was ok I guess, not as good as Minority Report, but something to do on a Saturday, being free didn't hurt. I came back to type this and get the disk and then go to the e-Cafe and upload this and check email. By the time you read this I'll have already done that as you could imagine.

Sunday, Feb 2

I woke up unusually early and came to the e-Cafe since they are open 24/7. It's about 9am here and I have been here an hour or so already. I checked email and uploaded the journal, as you might have seen, then I scanned the web for what's new. Saw another shuttle blew up. That really sucks. Hope it's not the end of the space program and I really hope no one tries to pin this on terrorism.

I heard about some add campaigns where they were first saying if you do drugs you are supporting terrorism. I thought that was pretty weak. It may be true, in some remote way, but it just seems sad to piggyback the current situation with terrorism to fight a different battle. But I can almost understand that. The thing I really think is flat out stupid is how they are saying people who drive SUVs are helping terrorists. SUVs? Why not say specificially people who drive '73 Ford Pintos, the light blue color. If you ever owned one you are helping terrorism? There again, someone trying to push their agenda of anti-SUV by piggybacking terrorism. Luckily this campaign is flat out stupid and makes them look like idiots.

I guess if you want to use automobiles, you have to include any and every vehicle. Why SUVs and not dumptrucks or semis? I saw a report on TV where they showed each gas company and where they buy their gas from. That should be more important that the type of vehicle. I don't have a vehicle period, so I am not helping terrorist. But I rode a bus the other day, what does that mean?

[later]

I think I can get used to going to the e-Cafe every few days and using the internet there. A lot of people don't have internet at home and have to go there so I shouldn't feel bad about not having immediate internet access at home. The e-Cafe is semi-cheap, only $4 for the first hour and $2 for each additional hour, with specials during the night or evenings. Plus it gets me out of the apartment for a while. It's not too far from my place, I'd say about a mile or mile and a half walk, and a nice place. They also have massage chairs with DVD players and VCRs and couches for two people to watch a movie. So I think I will go that angle. This way I can save at least $100 a month, maybe more like $120 including getting internet cut off. Although it was nice to be able to search for anything at anytime.

Lisa just called as I was eating and we chatted. She's leaving today to head back to Boston where she has a job at EMC doing data storage or something like that. When BJ goes back to Boston I'll have two reasons to go to Boston to visit people. Once everyone leaves I'll have reasons to go to Canada, New Jersey, Boston, and Australia. Not too many people from the South here. Maybe some new people will come in July from my area. I'm the only person from Georgia in my whole prefecture. Not too strange I guess, even though we have a decent international community.

While at the e-Cafe I search Amazon.com and found there is in fact, no book about learning Japanese verbs and adjectives using "The McDonald Method" of stupid mnemonics. So I might actually start pursing this. DON'T STEAL MY IDEA. If you do I will be mad. But other than being mad I guess there is nothing I can do about it, so I'd better hurry. Slight tangential note. I am typing on a Japanese style keyboard where the apostrophe is above the 7 key so I have to hit SHIFT - 7 to get '. If you see me type it7s or I7m by accident you can understand why. For some reason i7ts and I7m are in the dictionary so spell check doesn't pick them. I could go through and do a find-replace, but that will take too much time, and my time is oh so valuable. Or I just forget.

We might have movie night tonight, if so I might go. I need to remember to get more note cards from the $1 store to write all the verbs down. Nothing big planned this week, I could use a slow week. I go back to Hobara on Tuesday and then Adachi on Friday. Oh speaking of Hobara, geez, this is a stinker. Hitomi sent me a phone message one day last week and said Monday at 7 would be a good time for her and she is really looking forward to it (our date). Then she asked how many people are coming, she is bringing a friend. Argh!!! Japanese group mentality is killing me. So I wrote back and said I invited a few people, but they haven't said whether or not they can make it. Monday I will write her back and say oh it looks like no one can make it except me, is that still ok?

I guess I can understand doing the group thing when going out with a foreigner since foreigners have different reputations here, but it really is annoying. It's hard to tell if she is interested in me or just hanging out with me and my group of friends. Sachiyo really threw my bearings off by showing up alone for the first date. I'll go and see how it is and hope she brings a girl friend, and not some guy. That won't be awkward. Then maybe invite her to a group gathering sometime, then maybe make it perfectly clear I would like to have dinner with her alone if she is interested.

I had the strangest dream last night. I dreamt my parents and my sister and brother in law came to Japan for a cook-out. That in itself is strange, but the weirdest part is they were in Tokyo and called me and I was going down to visit. Then when I got down there I took my Mom shopping for a while. Now I can't see my parents coming over at all, maybe MAYBE my mom, and if so I would have to be by their/her side the whole time. They would never come over and find their own way around Tokyo. So I woke up all worried about some trivial part of the dream.

Ever noticed how a dream will make sense while you are dreaming and then maybe even after you wake up, but you can never explain it to someone, because certain parts are just too odd? But still make sense to you. I always liked it when my friends would say "one time I had a dream that ........" and then it would be some really fantastic segment about, coincidentally, something that we were doing right then. I would always retort with "one time I had a dream that you were stupid". Then we'd move on.

[later]

Just got back from movie night at BJ's place. It was slow and not many people showed up, just me, Meg, Julie, and the New Lisa. The old Lisa left today. It was a little sad, but not terribly sad since I wasn't super close to her. Anyway, we watched "Final Fantasy" at BJ's. It's a computer generated movie based on a video game from Nintendo or Sega or something. I never played so I don't really know. Then we watched part of a Japanese History tape BJ had and then caught the early train home. I walked home with Julie and Lisa2 and then they kept going. I had something of interest to write and now I have forgotten it. Maybe the fact that I ate tons of junk food and now my stomach hurts. I don't know. I need to be sick after what I ate. A snickers bar, half a roll of Oreo's, some chocolate chip cookies BJ's mom baked, and half a sleeve of a new Pringles flavor.

BJ gave us some calendars with cool designs on them. I might cut them up and make wall prints with them. Tomorrow I get the shodo set from a teacher at school Shodo is Japanese Calligraphy and I might take it up as a hobby. It would be cool and it will teach me Kanji. I could also make nice gifts around Christmas ( and not mail them until March). They look really nice when they are framed properly by an expert framer. Wouldn't it be ironic if someone framed a framer for a crime they didn't commit? Maybe it's just me.

Monday Feb 3rd

The problem with the Japanese group mentality is when you go on a date and bring along a girlfriend, never bring someone who might be competition for you. I wasn't entirely sure how she looked since it's been nearly 3 months since we met, well it was November something. I sent her a message and said I was the foreigner standing in front of a store on the east side of the station. Then I see two girls coming toward me looking shy. I couldn't remember which one was Hitomi. Then she started talking and it was the one I suspected. She introduced her friend as Hiromi. Wow, those are two names I can remember easily. Heck they rhyme.

We decide to go to The Moon Cafe for a nice romantic dinner. I love this place for first dates, or first 3-way dates. Both girls speak really good English because they take weekly classes from Nova, a local private English school. They both seem to really enjoy speaking English as well since they are very good. I took out 7,000 yen, which is just less than $70. That really wasn't in the budget, but I was hoping to not spend anywhere near that, but who wants to borrow money on a first group date. They had two drinks and I had two glasses of red wine, since it's not really a bad drink, it's good for the heart and yadda yadda yadda.

We ordered a decent amount of food and I was getting full. I had a few plates at the dollar sushi place before hand just to fill me up a little on cheap food. We ate and chatted, mostly in English, and had a good time. They asked me a lot of "straight from the textbook" questions, such as "who is your favorite actress or actor", "what do you like to do in your spare time". I wanted to throw them off and say "I like to wrestle pigs and chase clowns while listening to Disco", but I doubted I could keep a straight face long enough to confuse them.

The problem with the evening was, inasmuch as I was attracted to and interested in Hitomi (the original purpose of the date), I was more so attracted to and interested in her friend Hiromi. The really bad part was she seemed to be interested in me as well. What's the protocol on this? I don't know. I don't have anything going on with the 1st, but there was an implication I was interested. But then she called for the group thing, so did she think it was a date or a group get together? Is #2 interested and if so would she go out with me even though I was friends with her friend first?

Then after the date we walked back to the station, where #1 had a train to catch and #2 had a bus to catch. I said my goodbyes, and then we had an awkward moment which I interpreted as they wanted to chat for a minute and wanted me to leave first, so I did. I turned and waved about 4 times to be cute, maybe it was dorky. I have a faulty "cute vs. dorky" meter, so I confuse them often. Then I waited about 15 minutes and sent them each the same "Thanks I had fun let's do it again" letter. About 20 minutes later they each wrote back. #1 wrote "yes, it was fun, good night", BUT #2, the one I am now interested in wrote much more. Enough to show, or make me think at least, that there was an interest. It was more like "Yes I had fun as well, I was surprised at your Japanese, you seem to know so much, let's have a drink again soon".

I think she is interested, but I am 31 and single for a reason. Reason 1 is my "I think she is interested" meter is also broken so I miss many good opportunities. But I think I am going to make an effort to find out with her. I hope I don't do anything bad to hurt #1, but maybe the purpose of her in my life was to introduce me to her friend. So I will invite them both to my next gathering at a restaurant, where I invite about 10 of my native English friends and then 10 of my Japanese speakers who speak good English and happen to all be beautiful women (though some are married (I need to change the invitation requirement)). We sit around at a bar/restaurant and speak English and broken Japanese and eat and drink all night. It's good on several levels and usually expands our social circle, plus everyone enjoys the sociality of it. Is sociality even a word? Spell checker thinks so. I still can't believe zero is plural.

Guess where I go tomorrow? Hobara? Woo. Another day of doing nothing. I'll upload this and then surf the web for something new and then write more note cards. I bought about 400 little tiny flash cards on a ring and I will spend the rest of my days writing every single verb I can find. Maybe I'll be a verb expert. My friends can test me and if I get it right they have to drink and if I miss then I have to drink. So then I would be a really drunk verb dork. I'll change that plan later, but I still think knowing verbs will make me closer to fine (that's a song), I mean closer to fluent. There aren't that many adjectives to learn, but there are boo-coodles (a lot) of verbs to learn. I already know tons of general vocabulary, and quite a lot of useless vocabulary, so verbs it is. I will be a verbologist and learn every single verb out there. I'll even know some small trivial ones that Japanese don't even know. Japanese people will come to me and ask "how do you say .........". Then I will tell them and they will be impressed. Or maybe I will make up something fake and they won't know. HA. Big joke on you.

Tuesday, Feb 4

At Hobara now. So far nothing unusual has happened, then again it never does. My flirty teacher is here today looking very nice. I need to wait until the not so nice teacher beside her leaves so I can go say something cute, or dorky. Guess what my schedule is? the exact same it's always been since I've been here. 2nd and 3rd period. Today we are learning Infinitives, which I don't even know what they are. I have to look it up. Of course the English class will all be in Japanese. Tomorrow I meet with Keiko for our language trade. I'm going to just start talking and have her correct me as I go. I need conversation skills now. Actually the girls last night need conversation partners as well, so maybe I'll work that in somehow.

They both answer the phone at a local hotel, which is good, because sometimes we have a JET convention in town and everyone stays at a different hotel which costs $90 a night and I can never afford to stay since the school won't pay since I live so close. But I actually live just far enough so it's a hassle to walk to the convention place, so I can get a room at their hotel for less than $60, and it's right in the middle of everything. Maybe I can move in there permanently?

We have a big convention in Tokyo in May which I really hope does not interefere with me going back to Atlanta in May. My cousin is getting married in Natchez Mississippi around mid early May and I was going to go see that and see the family, two birds with one stone. So I really hope this big convention, which of course is mandatory, does not conflict with that. We'll see. Maybe I can go to the convention and then secretly leave and not let anyone know?

Wednesday, Feb 5th, 2003

I'm both happy and sad about Tuesday, far more happier than sad though. I am slightly sad because I planned to save tons of money this week and eat $1 store noodles for lunch and maybe dinner. I bought about $15 worth on Sunday and have been eating them only, usualy 1 or 2 per meal. So Monday I spent less than $5 for the whole day on food (excluding the date). Tuesday I continued the pattern for a while. But when I got back to Fukushima, Meg called and said she really needed to talk and she would buy if I would go eat with her and listen to her talk. Who can turn that down. As it turned out I did that and then ended up suggesting we go to another bar and have another drink and I paid for them. So I spent about $15 + $2 for lunch. It balanced out with Monday, but I had such momentum, it was sad to just break it. I'll try again soon.

So I am only slightly sad about that, but there are tons of good things to counteract that. First I went to Hobara, not a happy thing really, and had the same two classes, BUT, my cute flirty teacher was there and she actually flirted back a little. I ended up asking her some good questions and then in the end I asked her some good Japanese questions. She is a Japanese teacher there and speaks only a little English. I managed to ask if she will be at Hobara after April, which is when the school year starts. She said she would until June when the teacher who left for maternity leave comes back, so I asked what will she do after that and she said she didn't know. So then I said I was so sad, but had her keitai email address so we could stay in touch. She seemed to be happy about that.

Later she taught me some interesting things in Japanese, mainly counters. When Japanese count something it has a different ending. So 10 pieces of paper is different from 10 cars and 10 trains and 10 bottles. She taught me some new ones that I had never heard of. Then I said "when I come back in three weeks please quiz me". She said she would be happy to.

That was happy thing #1, #2 is today in about 20 minutes I go to the local International Office and get to be "counseled" by someone about my JET life and offer any compliants I have. I don't really have any of importance, but I will mention how I pay rent and no one else has to, and I have to be AT school on non-school days, but other JETs can stay home. That's a small spirit lifter.

#3 is I emailed the second girl on the Monday date a few times and her emails were re-flirty as well. I mean she would reply to my flirty emails with equally flirty emails. Sorda. But I don't want to exclude her friend, the original point of the date, so I will invite them both out again next time.

As I type this I am sitting near the phone. It has rang (or rung) a few times and I am getting tired of the phone game we all play. When it rings the people around the phone must look at the phone and lurch for it a little as if they want to get it, but then look at the other people around it in a way as to say "I would be happy to get the phone, but if you must". This goes on for about 2 rings then someone actually gets it. I am just tirec of constantly stopping just to do the obligatory lurch. Sometimes I make an over-effort to get to the phone first and they all thank me and apologize for their poor phone efforts. They are still really impressed I answer the phone at all, the guy before me (affectionately known as Looney McJerky) would never answer the phone even when no one else was anywhere near it. So me making a huge over-effort is really a big thing.

The last happy thing is really the biggest for me. I have some credit card debt, I can admit that. I am in a debt management plan and that's part of the reason I send back money each month. The rest is for school loans, a computer school loan, and studying in Japan in 1998 loan. Anyway, one of the creditors in the DMP was mad that I accidentally couldn't send money back for 2 months in August and threatened to default me on that loan. I've sent numerous letters and called a few times and all they would accept is the full amount of the loan, which I could not pay off at once. Then I get this other letter from the collection agency and it says they will allow me to pay %20 off for the next 20 days. Well I still don't have %80 or %100 of the money so I assumed I was going to default.

Well I call them up late last night, since they are in the Midwest and Mountain time I had to call really late from here. They bounce me around and finally say they no longer handle my account, but here's a number that someone can help me. I call the number and it's my original creditor and they said the CCCS place resubmitted a new proposal to them and they accepted it and I could stay in the program and not default. WOO HOO !! No major bad marks on my credit. Now all I need to do is keep making payments or double payments and pay it down fast and my credit will be good in a year or so. For that I am really happy.

I actually thought of setting up a donation site, like that girl did to raise money for her debts. Although I think her case was really cheesy because she ran up 20 Grand in pure credit card debt and wanted the public to help her pay it down so she could go shopping more. I would just set it up to help me travel and see new places. I would even send postcards from everywhere I travelled to the nice people that helped me. But I doubt I will do that because it still seems whiny and greedy, as helpful and kind as it would be, I ran the debt up myself and need to pay it off myself. At least I will never have a major debt problem in the future since I have learned my lesson. Hypothetically, if anyone wanted to make a donation they hypothetically could to my paypal account, TheAmazingRhino@Hotmail.com is the paypal account address. Hypothetically, of course.

Thursday, Feb 6

Yesterday ended up being a very good day. Very productive and very profitable. Where did I leave off earlier? before lunch I guess. Well during lunch ($2) Hiraki sensei told me the Japanese Calligraphy teacher would see me anytime after lunch. I finished eating and went up to his labroom. He was talking to an English teacher about an upcoming marathon they are going to run. I told them I don't run unless I am being chased and even then it's only about half a mile.

He gives me a small demonstration on calligraphy and he makes it look so easy and smooth. I try it and though not terrible, I need work. But it's something I see I will be able to do. Plus it's quiet and relaxing and you make these really cool prints that can be hung on a wall and framed (framed first then hung). Then he shows me all the parts of the set including the brush, ink, mat, paper weight, types of paper, really nice paper with gold embedded, and a few books. Then I practiced more and focused on some basic strokes. Later Hiraki sensei came up and watched me slaughter this art. When I was finished and needed to come back to the teacher's room, he showed me a few nice things he did. One was about 6 feet tall and in a very artistic style. I couldn't even begin to make out some of the charaters that I already knew, it was very abstract.

Then I asked where I could buy the equipment so I could start practicing at home. He said don't worry about it, many students left their equipment from previous years after they graduate. he started pulling out brushes and ink and this special ink tray and a brush holder and the mat and the paper weight. Hiraki sensei was watching saying "oh, wow, that brush is so expensive, wow, that tray is so expensive". Apparently the things they left were very nice quality. I hope they don't get a post-high school bug to re-learn calligraphy. Now I need to practice basic strokes and patterns. There are only about 10-15 basic strokes, and from there I can create any character. It will take a lot or practice, but luckily ink is cheap and I have tons of free time to practice at home while not spending money somewhere.

After school I met with a friend and we did our weekly language exchange. We went to dinner at a nice restaurant, which was surprisingly cheap. I didn't have much money, but I didn't want to go and not eat in front of her while I was clearly hungry. So I spent $10, but the dinner was very nice and included some wine and about 5 courses. They would bring out certain forks and knives and put them in exact places on the table. When the cute waitress wasn't looking I would move one and then act upset it was out of place. She actually jumped across the table to fix it. I apologized for joking with her art. My friend Keiko actually set me up good by saying "he thinks you are cute and is probably flirting". It didn't pan out, but nice set up anyway.

After dinner I told her to tell me about her family in English. She talked for about 15 minutes and made a few mistakes then I corrected them and she understood why. I think all she needs is coversation practice with someone to correct her. Then I talked in Japanese for about 15 minutes and she corrected me. It felt good to be able to more or less fully express myself in Japanese with only a few minor mistakes. I'm not near fluent as I talked pretty slow, but I was able to make descriptive complete sentences. So that's what I need practice in. I am going to try to arrange a few more language exchanges with other people, preferably single attractive girls, but that's secondary to the language thing of course. A close second.

Today I am going to spend much of the day doing some prep work for my actual book that I actually plan to write and independently publish. I really think there is a need out there for people who are learning Japanese. My method teaches you to learn fast and fun, and who doesn't like fast and fun? Today I will list as many verbs as I can think of (or find in my textbook) and put them in an Excel spreadsheet. Then I can sort by different topics and add or subtract columns and see what info should be included. After that I plan to search the web for some kanji I want to learn how to draw. After years of practice hopefully I will be able to neatly draw many characters.

[later]

I'm getting a little tired of this book we use and the lessons in it. There have been real biased ones on how the white man hates Indians and then on the white man being racists to blacks in the 1950s. I'm not saying it's not true, just why are Japanese high school students learning about it in English class? The thing that's bugging me now is the current lesson is about finding a new source of energy for the earth and fossil fuels. Nothing biased in it, but so far I have had to explain things like global warming, the greenhouse effect, and today was radio active waste.

I had to draw and explain global warming and the greenhouse effect yesterday and Monday, and today it's been radio active waste. How do I explain this to Japanese high schoolers? How far back to I go explaining what other things mean as a foundation to my 15 minute story? How much are they getting or are they nodding just to be nice? I mean seriously, global warming? Isn't there about 1 million other topics to use to teach English with? Why global warming?

There were several students falling asleep and others talking in class. I mean really full blown, full volume talking to eachother. I didn't mind the kids sleeping, heck I was getting sleepy and I was the one in front of class talking. But the kids that were just chattering to each other and laughing really bugged me. Luckily it bugged the teacher as well and he ripped into them after I finished. I understood what he was saying and interjected some comments in a joking manner as well. He said "you were just chatting the whole time and didn't hear a word he said", so I said "was I boring". Then he fussed more and then I said "I have become sad". People laughed and the kids just stared at the teacher. Next time, when the lesson is more interesting I will say something myself, like "are you finished now", in real rough Japanese of course.

Sunday, Feb 9, 2003

I've been super busy since the last update. Any chance I had to get on the computer has been used for the purpose of preparing the verb book. It's coming along rather well. I've narrowed it down to about 350 of the most common verbs and so far I only need 20 more mnemonics. Some of the verbs I learned when I was in college and I was taught to learn them the old fashion boring way, just write and re-write until you know them. My way will be much faster.

I think the last update was Thursday or Wednesday, since Friday was hectic as usual. I had 4 classes and they were two and two back to back. All were with Mr. H, he won't share unless he has to. The class learned strange stuff about how some scientist in the 60's hooked a polygraph machine to plants and found they react to� certain things including human thought. It was interesting, but I would have to see it to believe it. After school I had another English / Japanese language exchange with a my friend. I am getting better, but I tend to spend more time speaking English with her. It's my choice so I don't mind.

After that she dropped me off in town and I met some friends. The new Lisa wanted to go see Catfish, the really small dive bar in town. I met her there and a few other people and we had a drink. Then someone suggested we go to Showya, which has a brighter more lively vibe to it. On the way we messaged Meg and told her where we were going. Later Meg shows up pretty tipsy and said she had been to a birthday party at Typhoon, that cool restaurant with the 2nd level and the Easter Island heads. We stayed at Showya for a few hours and then decided to depart. Lisa and Julie went home, and BJ caught a train, so Meg and I went to Catfish for a bit. There were a few people there from the Typhoon party, including Koriyama Jeff� http://www.spicygyoza.com and Brad a local DJ and a few other guys. There was this one guy there we call the Mayor of Munchkin land, but he's really nice. He's got that curly strong man moustache and he's a stout guy. Meg and I chatted with Jeff for a long time about a lot of stuff.

Later I was flirting with this nice lady at the bar only to find out it was the bartender's wife. Oops. We stayed until 3 am some how, which is really late for an old guy like me. But I had nothing to do the next day so I didn't care. I made Meg drink water for a few hours since she was hammered and had to be up at 7am for a French class somewhere. I walked home around 3:30 and went to sleep.

I planned on sleeping all morning Saturday, but Darwin messaged me twice and then woke me up completely by calling my cell phone at 11:30. He wanted to see if I wanted to go with he and his girlfriend to Koriyama for the day since they had borrowed a car from a friend. Or they had a car for some reason. So I said sure and we agreed to meet at the station at 12:15. I had planned on staying in and studying more verbs and then cleaning the apartment, but I made a promise to myself to do and see as much as I can while here. I can study at anytime and the apartment stays messy so what's another day.

We drove down there and it took about an hour. Darwin kept getting lost and according to his girlfriend, he always gets mixed up in Koriyama even though he lived there for almost a year. We finally found where we were going and parked the car. We went to a sports store to look at ski wear and stuff. I just looked, but they bought a few things. I looked at cheap ski wear since I need to buy some pants and a jacket before I go skiing, but that will be after payday, only 11 days away.

Then we went some other places and later Meg called and said she and BJ were just outside Koriyama and could meet us at the station later. Darwin said we could give them a ride back if they wanted. So we met and shopped more and found a Toys-R-Us and a Sports Authority and other cool places. One shopping center had a huge Ferris Wheel in the middle of the parking lot. It moved real slow and took an hour to get around. I heard the one in London is the same way, but they serve drinks. What if you needed to go to the bathroom at the top?

Then we started on the long journey home. Meg, BJ, and I in the back were pretty cramped in, but it was alright. We got bored and started making Mafia names for ourselves. Darwin's is Diamond Darwin, and his girlfriend's is something like 2 Karat Karen. So after a lot of really stupid ones mine might be Lil Kitty, for no reason other than I am not too little, and BJ's will be Fun Bobby. We couldn't think of a decent one for Meg the whole night. We came up with Frenchie, Frenchie Smooth, Frenchie Fly, and a few others. None really stuck out. She speaks French and is French Canadian I think. Then BJ got really hungry and said let's stop at the 2nd restaurant on the left. Ironically there was one right away and not another one for many miles.

We finally agreed to just eat at some Italian place in Minami Fukushima, near Meg's place. We get there and sit down and a cute waitress comes over. She starts with the full speed Japanese right away and then I say we don't speak Japanese well and she slows down. Later I ask if she speaks English and she says yes, she is studying at the local college and she really enjoys speaking English. I was thinking, you could hear us speaking English, why not start speaking with us, rather than waiting until I asked? She also spoke a little Spanish and she and BJ spoke for a while. I said Tu eres muy bonita, which sorda means You are very pretty, but of course she didn't understand. She was really cute and put up with my incessant chatter/flirting. I asked if she lived near the other Angelo's Italian restaurant in town, where we actually go sometimes, and she said no she lived near this one. Well poo. If I ever go there again, what will the chances be I get her as the waitress again, plus it's too far to go alone without a car.

Darwin drops us off at the station and we didn't quite feel like going home. I actually did, but they were persistent. We walk to one of the karaoke places because Michelle told Meg they were there. We find them in room 5 and I thought it looked odd. It was this tiny tiny room and there were three girls stuffed in there singing Juice Newton Let's get Physical. So we sit for a minute, then BJ suggests we get outta there since two other girls showed up and there was too much estrogen in the room. We go to this other Izakaya (drinking bar) he knows about, which is odd since he's not a big drinker. It was alright, but it was one big room and seemed a little lifeless. There were many people there having a good time, but it just didn't fly with me. Although we sat beside 5 cute girls and chatted with them (my Japanese flows when I have a little sake). Later we learned they were all 19 and 20. I don't know what the drinking age is here, but I guess it's 19.

Then we went back to the karaoke bar and hung out for a minute. I told BJ I was just going to head home, I was tired and didn't feel like hanging around. So I left and made it home around 1am. I woke up this morning around noon and worked on the computer all day. I might actually sell the laptop for about 2 or 3 man (under 2 or 3 hundred) and use that money, plus anything I can save and buy a barebones computer over here for about 3 or 4 man (pronounced Mahn ). But then I would need a monitor, but then it would be faster and nicer. I could keep the phone line and internet maybe. Errr, what to do. I'll see the deal when I get paid. I might be able to make it to payday without borrowing money since I eat $1 store noodles almost everyday for lunch, and this week I won't eat out any.

I'm watching Silence of the Lambs, unfortunately all in Japanese, on public TV. It loses a little since it's not Anthony Hopkins' voice. But it's something to watch. Tuesday is a holiday for some reason, so I don't go to Hobara, and then next Tuesday is a holiday as well or at least I don't go to Hobara for some reason. Then I go a week later and that might be the last or second to last time I go there. I hope I don't go back in April, since it's so wasteful, but if I do then I get another vacation day once a week for a year. The same commercial just came on 4 times in a row. Geez, how annoying.

[later]

Strange thing just happened. Mildly strange I guess. I was eating my $1 lunch and when I finished I put the empty (dry) styrofoam bowl in the trash. Hiraki sensei told me not too because the students don't like to put wet things in the dry paper trash bag. I said it's not really wet at all since I drink all the liquid, but I'll put it somewhere else. She told me to put it in certain cans by the sink.

The odd thing is I usually help the students to empty the trash. They go around and pick up all the cans and dump them in a big bag. They also dump these two "wet cans" in the same paper bag. But they won't do it if they are near my desk? What is this all about. Some kind of mixed up logic.

No school tomorrow, it's the July 4th of Japan day. Wednesday and Thursday I have no classes either I think, and they might try to put me in the 2nd year classes. If not I'll just study more and more Japanese until my head explodes.

[later]

I've had what I call the "funkies" since maybe Saturday. I felt a little funky down in Koriyama, but didn't really make anything of it. Then I felt strange yesterday as well, and it was really noticeable today. I only had one class today, and I left at 3 so I could stop by a small art gallery where several of my students had an exhibit. There was a lot of talent and a lot of "is that art?", but overall I was impressed. There were a few that were worthy of someone buying. After that I walked to the station and had some miso ramen and then bought some carrot juice.

My body was aching all over today, but not the general fever ache, more of the odd random area ache. First my head hurt a little, then my right arm, then my calf, then my liver was hurting. It was odd, and much too odd to go to the doctor. I've learned doctors don't do well with random general pain. I had pain over my liver for about 15 years and went to several doctors about it and even went to specific Liver Doctors about and no one had any clue. Then I read on the internet somewhere a list of several symptoms, one being pain in the exact area I had. So I ordered some herb/supplements called Livatone and they really made a difference. They cleared up several little things I never knew about and made me feel better in general. I also lost weight since the liver in in control of over 600 bodily functions, 1 of which being weight management and another being metabolism.

Remember the date where I liked the "bring along friend" a little more than the original date? Geez, that sounds bad as I type it, but it's one of the side effects of the group mentality. Well we've been chatting via email and we agreed, at my suggestion, we should have dinner weekly and do a language exchange. I won't be able to afford dinner anywhere until payday, but shortly after that we can begin. Her English was very good and she was the one asking the most questions. I don't know if that means she was the more interested one or the more chatty one. We'll see I guess.

I have two weeks off from Hobara, and then I think I only go back once or twice. I'm really afraid they will put me back there next year, even though I've made it clear to several people I'd rather go somewhere else. It's not the end of the world if I go back I just hate that wasteful feeling I get there. I need to try to get the cute teacher there out one night for dinner or drinks. Maybe I'll invite her out with my friends, since they like the group thing up front, and hopefully there will be someone who speaks Japanese (as in a Japanese person) in the group with us too. Either this next time or the last time I'll ask her some questions about her life and try to slip in the boyfriend question subtly somehow. Like "Would you like to join us at [wherever] for dinner and drinks, but maybe your boyfriend wouldn't like you hanging out with a handsome foreigner". I've said that before and had people answer perfectly, which is "He won't mind (darn)" or "I have no boyfriend (BOOYA)". But a few times they would say "ok, that sounds fun, no problem". What's no problem, you don't have a BF or he wouldn't mind? Argh, answer it correctly.

There's also a cutie teacher at Higashi, but she seems more refined and less into just hanging out somewhere. She has that quiet confidence which I think means I have a boyfriend, or I'm not interested, or something else. I started that sentence with a comma list and you need three for it, not just two, so I had to trail off at the end there. I apologize. Luckily my Japanese is improving exponentially so I do feel better at talking to people. Not quite independently comfortable yet, but close. I have concluded I simply need conversation practice now to move on to the next step. The next step for me is to increase my speaking speed and listening speed so I can then learn by hearing and understanding new structures within the context of what's being said. I can almost do that now, but I still don't know enough to know it's a knew structure and not a variant of something I already know, which in itself could be a new structure. Wow, that sounded deep. I knew what I meant though.

There's a party in Iwaki, the beach city of Fukushima, and I want to go, but can't really afford it. Meg said she might spot me a little since she really wants to go, but not alone. So I might go, but not sure. I could go down there and stay with one of many JETs for free and the trip would only be about $20 round trip, and the party would be less than $30 in admission and drinks, but I still don't know. I wish they would plan parties a week after payday rather than week before. Might have to say no until next time. They are planning some beach parties in the spring. The one last year in August was a blast. I plan to attend the one this year as well. This year there will be a lot of newbies that just get here in late July. That should be fun. Plus I plan to take a big tent and my inflatable couch and some other stuff.

Well it's 10 now and I am going to study more Japanese. I got home around 4 and then took a long warm nap because I was feeling funky as prefaced in paragraph 1. I ended up taking a 5 hour nap, waking up around 9. Then it took roughly an hour to type this. So I will study a bit and then try to get sleep. Nothing to do tomorrow so if my sleep schedule gets whacked, no big deal.

[later]

I just had some Chinese Tea someone brought to a party recently and there was some left over so I kept it. Somehow it has a negative taste. Not a bad taste, just like no taste. when I drink it I can't get a taste or after taste, like nothing is there. Even water has more after taste than this. It's very strange. I'll keep drinking it since I think it's good for me. Meg just messaged me and said she was downtown at a singles party her school sponsored and there are too many single girls so they asked Meg to invite her guy friends. Of course I am too broke and still feeling the "funkies" to go so I gracefully declined (for some reason). I guess Dollarius the Greek God of Money is teasing me again. He and Toobrokeius are up there fighting. I see who's winning.

I did laundry last night. That's a common Sunday night activity isn't it? So I washed almost all of my clothes and it wasn't until the last batch that I realized, oops I don't have a dryer, so I have to hang them and let them dry in my cold apartment. Luckily tomorrow is a holiday, because today I wore something funky that didn't match. Luckily my heater also de-humidifies so maybe it will suck out some of the moisture and dry them faster.

I forgot about this. I took some mail to work to have Hiraki sensei tell whether it was a receipt or a bill, since they look the same. She couldn't tell on one of them. She asked a few others and they couldn't tell. They had to call the place and ask which it was. Sweet. Now I don't feel like a tool. They can't tell either and they are Japanese. It was a bill by the way. But we have the paperwork to fill out so this bill will shortly come straight out of the account. As I thought it already was. I still need to figure out which are and which aren't currently.

I think I will practice Shodoo tomorrow, my new hobby. Japanese Calligraphy. I need to practice basic strokes for a few weeks and then I can begin to work my magic. Unless I get fed up and quit which I really hope I don't. It's a nice relaxing hobby so far (all of 45 minutes of practice) and I think I can get decent at it. The teacher that helped me was a master at it (hence being a teacher of it), but even many of the first year students were very good. But they see it as just another class, like History or Math, they don't see it as something "really Japanese" as we do. It would be a nice skill to have. That and the ability to speak 15 languages fluently while doing brain surgery.

[much later]

Oops, I spent what I thought was an hour or so on the computer, but it's 2am. I've been writing as many adjectives as I could think of. How many do you think there are in English? I started with about 20 and then added more. I finally ended at just over a hundred and seventy seven. (I spelled the number out so you wouldn't just see it and not think about the question). There were more I saw in the dictionary, but I was getting tired of typing them and finding their meanings. I have heard there are over 600 in Japanese, so there must be the same in English. Wow, who knew.

I might be typing the same things over and over in here. Sometimes when I type something I semi-remember typing it before, and can't remember if I did or just thought about it. There's too much to go back and check through so I might be typing it several times. My memory is very sketchy and sometimes I think about the same thing a few times before I realize I've already finalized an answer. Just apologizing in advance. Unless I apologized earlier.

[later]

It's 3 now, and I can't sleep a wink. I'm starting to fear those three glasses of negative tasting Chinese Tea might include caffeine. I'm not even remotely sleepy. I tried to sleep for a few minutes and just rolled around. Then I had some noodles and now I am typing. Maybe I'll read something long and boring, that always puts me to sleep. Or I could give myself another speech on Global Warming.

[later]

There was clearly enough caffeine in that drink to keep an entire herd of sheep awake for three months. It's after 5am and I am bouncing off the walls. I can't read anything because my mind keeps jumping to anything I think of, and you can clearly tell from the journal I think in tangents. So I can't really do anything that makes me sleepy. I keep yawning, but I'm not sleepy. If I had some wine that might make me a little sleepy. Oh, I could have some wine and then take a hot shower. Hmmm, that might work. The sun will be up any minute now since we are in an obscure time zone so Japan can do business with China. Otherwise the sun would rise at a normal time like 7 or so. I'll go search for wine and then crank up the shower.

Tuesday, Feb 11

Well the wine and shower worked. Shortly after bathing I put in an old tape of Alias and the Practice and then woke up about 1pm this afternoon. All I had was some no name crappy wine that someone brought to the party two weeks ago and we, conveniently, never drank. It was white white, unlike my preferred red wine, but it wasn't the end of the world. Had two small glasses rather fast before the shower, then two during (just kidding), and then two after. I made sure the shower was almost too hot. Then I jumped in the bed and cranked up the heat for a minute.

My heater is really ticking me off recently. When I ran the air conditioner I could set it to a temperature and it would come on only at that temperature and then cool it back down. But the heater comes on hot and then stops after a while, but then comes back on with just non-warm non-cool air. It might stay on for hours like that. Why can't I just set it to ONLY come on when the temp goes below a certain temp like the A/C would? Curses you meddling heater!!! (waving fist in air).

There was a message from BJ on my phone about doing something tonight. I want to but can't really afford anything that costs more than a buck or two (I could afford a 10-10-220 call). I might go to BJ's to upload the journal and check email, since the e-Cafe would cost $4 for that. The round trip to BJ's would cost $4.60 but I can conveniently have no money on the way back and get a small loan from Meg.

I'm going to start working on a small website that Meg and I discussed for the people in our group who leave Japan and want to stay in touch. It will really just be an area on this site, but I'll get a different domain name (after payday). We can post weekly activities and pictures and other stuff, and then the people who left can do the same. Cool.

Wednesday, Feb 12

Good news and bad news. The bad news is my laptop completely crashed and then started running ultra slow so I had to reformat the hard drive. The good news is when I did my internet connection started working. But the bad news is for some reason I can't reinstall several programs, but the good news is the computer runs so much faster now. So I can email people from home and update the site, but can't use Frontpage or MS Office.

No classes today. So I sat and studied Japanese and surfed the web. I was really bored for a while and couldn't find anything to do. You can only study Japanese so much until you crack. Hopefully I'll be able to do more work on the book when I get a certain CD from a certain friend containing a certain thing. Could I be more vague? I found out I am supposed to come in to work every single day during spring break even though there are no students and hardly any teachers, but Hiraki said I could probably not come in a few days and no one would know or care. I think as long as I don't abuse the system like the jack@$$ before me then they will be alright with it.

Meg and I vetoed the Iwaki party this weekend. We only have about $50 each to last us until Friday the 21st, so we can't even remotely justify going down there. Maybe they will have some right after paydays in the future. The saturday after this payday we are going skiing. It's a special deal where the only thing we have to pay is $5 for the lift ticket all day. That's a super deal, and I can ride the train there for less than $10 I think. So that's sweet. Well might update later.

Thursday, Feb 13

I am so unbelieveably bored. I know exactly what you are thinking, "man it would be so nice to have nothing to do, I would never complain". I said and thought the exact same thing when I was working in Atlanta. I had a busy job where they would throw far more at you than one could handle and still expect deadlines to be met. My friends in this program said they had so much free time they would die of boredom. I would say quit whining, I would love to have that "problem".

Well I'm here to say it's not all that. I have to be here at 8:15 am and leave no earlier than 4:15. So my workday is much better than it was, but when there is absolutely nothing to do you do get restless and start to go insane. I can't sleep, and I get so sleepy when I have nothing to do. Sometimes I can use a computer, but not often. Although today I have been surfing all day, and surfing for nothing really just reading about anything.

So early this morning I leave the apartment to walk to school. Every morning that I leave at 7:45ish I see two sets of two girls. The first two live right near me and are probably 5,6,or 7. They walk to school by themselves. When I pass them they giggle and I say hello and they say "Herro" back. This morning I taught them "Good Morning". We'll see if it sticks. The next two girls I see when I walk around the corner. They speak Englis surprisingly well, for some reason. They whisper to each other very loudly and then run over and say "Good morning, where are from? My name is [I forgot], how are you?". One is about 7 one might be 5 or just smaller than her. I suspect they have a parent who speaks English or something other than just school. Ironically I can understand their Japanese quite clearly. She speaks slow and uses small words. I have a 7 year olds language ability. Nice.

Caught the bus again today. It's only $1 and drops me off right near the school, plus it comes within about 100 feet of my apartment. Usually the driver is slow and cautious, but today he was flying and nearly hitting things. Which was really odd because he was on time. He looked like Jar Jar Binks from Star Wars and had no chin. He would do this awkward wave to the other drivers as though he thought they were ignoring him and wanted to make sure they saw his wave. He nearly hit a few cars, but didn't actually touch anything. I was scared.

Cars are allowed, and maybe encouraged, to just stop in the road, as long as they appear to have pulled over to the curb. Most of the time they are blatantly blocking traffic and people have to swerve all around them. I don't understand. Sometimes there are places for them to pull off the road and park, but they just park on the sides. As long as they have their hazards on, it's alright. They do this on small roads, where it nearly blocks the entire road, as well as big four lane roads where cars are flying past them. I've seen people open their doors and step out into traffic and think nothing of it. In front of cars and buses and aircraft carriers. Well buses at least. Yet another thing I do not understand.

I am going to stop typing in a minute and go somewhere. Maybe to the dollar store to get more food, maybe to the bank to get money. Maybe both. I am starting to see why the jerk before me took 3 hour lunches and skipped days altogether. If I were slightly less caring then I might consider it. There's this one teacher, my own age who I joke around with alot. I wrote a little poem and saved it on the desktop as his name and then the word poem. A few days later I forgot and another noisy teacher found it and read it and asked him about it. He didn't make the connection to me for a while, until I smiled about it. Meanwhile he was denying it to the teachers and they were laughing. It said things like "I like pretty flowers, I like to hold them in my hands and smell them. They make me so happy to have pretty flowers. Do you have some to give me?". One teacher brought him a little wildflower and everyone laughed. I think he is plotting his revenge.

If anyone is interested in the Shinkansen, here is the best site I've found so far. I've spent a few hours today looking at it and all the cool pictures. Shinkansen
It's all in English and has some nice colorful pictures and interesting facts about the "shinks".

Saturday Feb, 15

It's Saturday about 9 and I am about to go out with BJ and have a few drinks somewhere. As noted way back when, I said I was going to give up casual drinking. Well that's yet another thing that goes under "Things that did not happen". I don't drink too much, but sometimes it's impossible to hang out with other people who are drinking, and not drink. It's just no fun, and I want to leave early. I tried it before and it doesn't work. So I only have a few. Also, I can't afford it tonight, but BJ is really bored so he said he'll pay tonight and I can pay after payday.

I had a major scare on Thursday coming home from school. I was crossing a street and I was a few feet in front of the cross walk. I saw a car behind me stopped at the red light out of the corner of my eye. As I am in the middle of the street, the car honks twice and I turn to see it's a cop car, the fuzz. The two cops in the front seat are doing something odd, like fighting or reaching over eachother. I didn't really see. Then one cop jumps out and starts walking toward me. Crap, what did I do? Will I get a ticket? I can't talk to him and explain anything. He walks right up to me and starts writing something. I see some of my students on bikes on the other side of the road staring. Great, how embarrassing. Then he looks down at the license plate of a motorcycle parked right beside me and writes it on the paper. I ask in Japanese "about me?", he says no the motorcycle. I sigh and walk away. All my students are staring and laughing. I was so worried.

Friday I didn't go to Adachi, I had a bad headache for some reason. I rarely get headaches anymore, but I had a bad one Friday. It started behind my eyes and rolled all the way around back to my lower neck. I could have gone to Higashi with it, but not Adachi. No way I could put up with Mr. H with that type of pain as well. One of my teachers had given me something to give to one of their teachers, and I'll have to mail it or something now. She emailed me and asked about it and I explained I didn't feel well. I don't really like being used as a messenger service, but I can see their reasons, since I do go between the two schools. One good thing is when I called to say I would not be there, Mr. H said he would not be there next Friday, so I get a acation day and won't have 5 classes of nothing again. I only go there a few more times, and Hobara only twice more.

Friday I did nothing of importance all day. Just chilled in the apartment and watched a video of the end of the superbowl and then Alias. I am really getting addicted to that show Alias, and there was a big twist in the last episode I saw. Friday night I went to BJ's to watch a movie with him and Meg. When I get there I learn about 5 other people are coming and they are all spending the night. I didn't really know why, his place isn't big enough for that many people and he certainly doesn't have enough sleeping stuff. Some had to sleep on the floor or share a blanket. I just didn't understand the point in that. There was a girl there with a car anyway. I left at 11 for the 11:03 train, and it was 7 minutes late. That is very odd in Japan. Today I've done pretty much nothing all day. I walked to the station and had 4 hamburgers at McDonald's for under $2.50 and then both more $1 noodles at the $1 store. They are actually filling, more or less. (Less)

One more money crunch week and then payday on Friday. I should be doing better this month for various reasons. One is I haven't had to borrow 2 or 3 man ($100) from anyone. So when I get paid I will be able to put a little in savings, though I plan to make a big payment on the loan to get rid of that, but I should still be in the black for the whole month. There's that small local ski trip planned for Saturday, but that shouldn't be more than $20-50 for the whole day. It really might be less than $20, my only expense is a 45 minute local train ride and then lunch, since the lift ticket is only $5. Once I pay off a few bills at home I'll be able to send back several hundred to go straight into savings. Sweet. This is all excluding Norht Korea doesn't act stupid and bomb Japan, and then the Embassy sends us back. That's about the only way I would actually leave, if the Embassy said GO! I would be miserable if I had to leave here and go back to the states and get a job. I know I will someday, (might someday), but right now I'm not ready. I really enjoy this life of exploring new cultures and learning a new language.

Sunday, Feb 15 2003

BJ stayed the night after we went to Showya and had some beer. He offered to pay and I will pay next time after payday. We met so many girls last night and I got about 5 emails. Like phone emails so I can (and have) send them messages. One was ultra cute with a so-so looking friend, and luckily, and quite ironically, the ultra cute one, Naomi, was the one without a boyfriend. Then I joked and said your father wouldn't let you date a foriegner, and her friend said oh no he would be so happy. So that was strange. Then they had to leave and we were about to as well, but the manager, our dear friend, sat 4 cuties next to us so we stayed around a bit longer. I went to the bathroom for a minute and when I started to come back two girls across the way waved at me and I went over to chat with them.

They were strange indeed. They worked at a Sake factory in town somewhere. Then mid way through our random conversation they said, we really want to study English, and I bet a foreigner boyfriend would really help. HEY! That's my line. So I agreed and we exchanged emails and then I left. I went back and talked to the new girls by our table. One spoke broken English and the others didn't. One wasn't drinking since she was driving and she was too cute. Then we met a girl from a nearby town who spoke great English, since she had lived in Canada for a year. It was crazy. Guys were calling us over to flirt with their girlfriends, because we spoke English. Wow.

So then we made it home at an unreasonable hour somehow and crashed. The next morning (today) Darwin called and said he and Karen and a friend Natalie were going to a distant onsen and wanted to know if we wanted to go. So we said sure. We met them at the station and drove a while and stopped and had sushi somewhere. I only had a few plates, even though it was $1 sushi. Then we drive some more and finally get to the onsen. It was in a cool little town that looked like Prague to me. I've never been to Prague, but I've seen movies.

We pull up in front of one that Karen and Darwin had been to before. The desk guy runs out and Natalie asks if this is the place pictured on the map. He says yes and sees the special woodblock hanging from the map. Karen and Darwin had the wood thing from some previous trip simple because they thought it was nice. However, the wood block was a special badge that means you are VIPs from somewhere important. So he shuffled us in and directed us to the top floor (roof) Grand Baths. On the way up they realized why we didn't pay and what had happened. We go our separate gender ways (unfortunately) and find our respective baths.

The guy's bath was really cool. It was on the roof and we could see for miles. Technically people could look up and see us, but they don't see nudity as such a big thing so no one really would peek anyway. The water was so hot, but I finally got all the way in. Then I would wait about 5 minutes and sit on the edge, and let the cool air cool me down. It felt great. There was an older man in there for a while, but I'm sure we freaked him out, since he left. The whole building was a hotel and about 10 baths. Then we get dressed, meet up with the girls and leave. It was crazy, we didn't pay. It only would have been $5 each and they weren't inflicted any expenses, so I don't care.

Now it's about 8:30 and we are not having movie night as usual. Just too late and too tired. I'm going to work on the computer for a bit and then hit the sack, that hot onsen really relaxed me and I will sleep well tonight.

Monday, Feb 17

Every single time during February when I type out the main header above, like "Monday, Feb 17", I try to write Jan for some reason. It's far enough into Feb that I should be in the groove now, but for some reason I still think it's Jan. Well for some bizarre reason, I really didn't feel like coming in to school today. I went to sleep early, or on time at least, I woke up in time, I felt ok, but when I started to leave I just did not want to walk to school or even come to school. It was a strong feeling. But I had nothing else to do and no money and I felt fine, so I had no reason not to come in. It was just strange that I had such a strong urge not to be here. It's not Japan-specific, I have had those days back in the states as well. Most days I just come in and not think about it.

Although when I get here today I heard what I was afraid of. "Ryan sensei, this WEEK there will be final exams and that means no classes for you". So tomorrow I'll bring my computer in and work on something. Maybe I'll just type and see what comes out. During the morning meeting one teacher said a man was arrested for taking pictures of some of our female students. Although he didn't go into details about it, it's implied pretty clear that he was taking upskirt photos. I've seen shows on TV about this and they always use their little cellphones. I can't imagine how, because all phones (for this purpose) make a loud shutter click when you snap a photo. It's a distinct two syllable click like "cha-click" and it's loud. I can hear it a ways away when someone snaps a pic. Now the teachers have to search for this particular student and let her know. I think I'd rather not know. "Hey you were violated and you didn't know, how do you feel now?"

When I got to school this morning about 20 teachers were standing by the back gate entrance. I asked an English teacher and he said they were checking uniforms since graduation was coming up. Like a surprise check I guess. Though as I type this maybe I am thinking maybe they were checking uniforms for the girl with the skirt pictures. They said there was a certain backpack caught in the pictures. Who knows. Hiraki said I should know soon which new schools I go to. Most likely not Adachi, but not sure about Hobara. Apparently most ALTs from Higashi go to Hobara, like some partnership. But then most of them haven't requested several times to go somewhere else. If I get stuck there again I won't be super mad, it's a fine school, but I do nothing. Nothing at all. I would rather be used than ignored. Makes the time fly by at the very least.

BJ's talking about going to China for 4 weeks in the summer to study Chinese. It costs like $2000, but I think they provide lot. Like that includes living, food, and some touring around on day trips. Maybe I'll visit him for a few days. I'm not sure if I can tackle Chinese yet, but it could still be a cool program to check into later. Maybe next summer or the last summer. He somehow re-negociated all sorts of cool add-ons when he renewed. I think next year I will be a little more coy about renewing, so I can try to bargain some. Meg would have been in a great bargaining position, but her boyfriend made her come home so she didn't renew. The school was begging her to stay. They said they loved her so much more than the girl before her. The other girl was a know-it-all and busy-body who did everything for everyone. They are hoping they won't get another one like that.

Why is it "feast or famine" with the ladies here. I mean I will go through times when I have now one to hang out with and no girlfriend possibilities, and then all of a sudden I have 5 or 6 at once. Last night after emailing those new girls I met all day, and old friend (3 months old I guess) called me and said we should have dinner soon. WHY? Why did you call out of the blue right when I have 3 other leads. Argh. HULK NO LIKE! So I guess I will try to go out with all of them as friends and see what happens. I usually put all my effort into one, and she ends up being the wrong one, or is engaged or something. Nothing will happen this week since I have $20 to my name for the week for all expenses, but Friday is payday and there is an ATM in Nihonmatsu near Adachi. More later, possibly. Most likely.

[later]

A student just asked me an English question for a test he has to take soon. I had to find what was wrong with a sentence. It was "Just like any other commodity, gold gets it's value from supply and demand". In the back of the book the answer said "any other" was wrong, but didn't say why. It sounds ok to say "just like any other" or "just like any" so I can't figure out why. To him it seems simple and I'm sure he's wondering why I can't explain it. I said I would get back to him. Then he asked another question, which answer was right to a question. He knew the answer was "Geese are tame or wild like ducks", but wanted me to explain why the phrase "are tame or wild" was correct. To me it wasn't to me the correct answer was "Geese are tame, but wild ". So do I say the book is wrong or just say I don't know.

Found a cool picture of a typical onsen. Not the one I went to Sunday, but a typical one. They most all look traditional like this:

[later]

I just returned from a lunch time adventure. I walked to the bank to give them a form to automatically withdraw the water bill from my account, or so I hope. I thought it was already done, but I guess not. While there, Hiraki sensei told me to press a certain button on the ATM and stick my bank book in a slot and it would update it for me with all the transactions since my last update. Which I have never done so it would be all the transactions since I have been here.

I pressed the button and then waited for it to ask for my card. So it would know who I am. But it didn't it just asked for the book, so I opened it to page 1 and stuck it in. Then I was sure it would ask for my card, but no it just started printing. Then there was a paper flipping sound and then a shredder sound, which was not pleasing. Then more printing and folding and shredding sounds. Then a few beeps, and finally it spit my book out. Apparently they have ATMs that are so advanced, it can tell who you are by your bank book and flip the pages automatically and print everything exactly on the line, but they can't figure out how to keep them open after 9 pm.

Just as Hiraki said, it updated every transaction since I was here and printed who was taking money out of my account. So far the power, internet, phone, and gas are coming out. We just did the paper work for water so that should be everything I think. I am only paying about 4,000 yen a month on power, which is great since I run the electric heater all the time. I also found out a big jug of gas was under 800 yen so I can get that soon and use it more. My book showed I was spending about a "man" or 100 Japanese dollars (10,000 yen). That's pretty good since it includes the internet. I guess I can keep the phone and internet for a while.

Then I walked a long way down the street, in the cold wind, to the International Center to return to book I borrowed from the library there. It was closed. The worst part is I knew that, but forgot since it's rare to close on Monday. Argh. Then I walked back and when I walked into the parking lot of the school I saw a line of about 25 nice white cars. Like Lexus or Infinity or the Japanese equivalent. I knew it must mean the Principals are meeting again to decide which teachers go where in the prefecture.

Tuesday, Feb 18

Japanese people have no nerve endings to detect heat in the mouths and anywhere on their skin. I'm convinced of that. I've seen countless people jump into hot tubs and public baths that I thought were nearly scalding. I just saw a teacher pour hot water out of a special water heater and pour it into a cup of tea and then drink it straight. I use the same water for my $1 noodles and it takes me, no kidding, 30 minutes before it's cool enough for me to eat the noodles. Even then I have to blow on them for a while. It takes another 10 minutes for the water to cool enough for me to drink it out. I've seen enough Japanese people do it that I think there is something different about them physically.

I brought my laptop in to do work on the book thing and I am getting a ton done. Not so much NOW because I am typing in the journal, but earlier I whipped through about 20 pages. During one of the verbs Hiraki sensei told me it's time to interview a student. The girl is leaving school and sits in a private room down stairs. She's too ashamed to face the other students because she is quitting school. Something about her family moving and/or the stress is too bad. I was sad, because she seemed so nice. At least she's coming in a few days a week to get test and interview practice. She will go to a correspondence school located a town a way. Technically she will stay at home and correspond with the school, hence the clever name.

The interview consisted of me giving her a sheet and having her read it silently for a minute, then read it out loud. Then I asked her five prewritten questions about the story. It was only 5 sentences long and very simple and clear English. The questions weren't tricky. Overall I enjoyed the interview. She did average on the first one, then I went over her score and the second one she did better. I told her I would help her with "They are, He is, she is, I am" and such tomorrow.

I'm reading a book about the beginning of the JET program and some cultural differences associated with it. It really makes me feel like an ass. Sorry for the language, but many of the points in the book are about how some JETs whine about everything and how the schools try to accomodate them. Although most of my compliants have been geniune and based on what I think would make the program overall a better experience, I still feel bad about saying anything bad now. It has some info on where the money comes from for us and why it's started and so on. The next chapter seems to cover the socio-political psychological cross-referenced attitudes found in the pre-natal stages of the collective reduction. Since I have no idea what that means I plan to skip the chapter. It's called "Importing Diversity", if you are interested in being a JET.

Meg called last night and asked if I would come over tonight and help with another "listening test". I said I would even though I had to walk there and back since I had no bike and could afford a taxi or bus. She said she had enough Kimuchi in the freezer to feed Uganda so I said, ok I'll be there. I'll walk for a good hot free meal of Kimuchi. The listening tests are usually pretty fun. We have to talk in stupid slow textbook conversations like:

Mary: Hello Tom, how was your day today?
Tom: Well Mary, I must say it was quite fun.
Mary: Oh really Tom, why do you say that?
Tom: Because Mary, I saw a movie today.

We usually have to stop about 10 times because it's so funny listening to ourselves talk like that. I usually break into my game show host voice and that cracks her up as well. I think I have more student interviews after school and then I'll walk over there from here. I'm actually very close to her place here at Higashi, but it will be a long cold walk home when we finish.

I have come to realize, my one true personal HELL, the one thing that truly makes me go insane is having to wait for something for no reason. Or having it seem like no reason. Especially anything with computers. I'm working on this book thing and I am using Pagemaker. Apparently the file is now over 30 megs and Pagemaker is running slow. I tried to open a new file and continue from there so it would run fast for a while, but the file is so big I can't even get page maker to open a new file to save it over. I click open or save or new and it sits there forever. I literally walked around the school and goofed off for 30 minutes and it was still saving. Finally I snapped and yanked the power cord out to reboot the laptop since all the RAM was used to save this one file.

Wednesday Feb 19

Meg's place was fun and we got the job done, but it's so far and I had to walk both ways. It's a solid hour walk to her place. I walked from my school so it was only 30 minutes, but at 11 when we finished I walked home. It was cold and far, but it felt good. She fixed Kimuchi or however you spell it, and that really hit the spot. Then we watched Star Trek Voyager on TV and then got started. The conversations were so stupid we kept laughing. We went through about 6 long ones and then had to repeat them all. She was very happy since it was a weeks worth of final exams.

The weather has been really nice today and yesterday. Today it's only slightly cool, like a Spring morning. I walked around outside with no coat on and didn't feel bad. I found 200 yen in my desk so I splurged and had 3 hamburgers and a water at McDonald's. I've concluded the purpose of me always being broke is to break my spending addiction. It's working. I get excited about spending $15 bucks on sushi on payday, as opposed to spending hundreds on anything a few years back. As far as I can see I'm going to be in the same boat for at least 12 more months so that should fully purge me of any spending desires.

I just had a teacher start talking to me who (or whom) I thought hated me. He always walks by my desk and looks down his glasses at me and seems to make a face or act like he hates me. Then I helped a student in his home run speak English and feel better about her ability. Then he started talking to me real eagerly and saying thanks and trying to speak slow Japanese to me. I was quite surprised. That actually happened twice this week, but the first time I never thought the guy hated me, just didn't want to acknowledge my existence. But we were sitting in the "sitting area" together and he started jabbering away. He said something about movies and Red Dragon and other stuff. Then I told him I was studying Japanese and could he speak slower. He didn't but I still managed to understand a little.

That girl who is quitting school wasn't here today so maybe I can help her tomorrow. Hiraki sensei said she is the only girl in the school who wears her skirt full length. All the others roll them way up. I KNEW IT. Some girls are barely wearing a skirt and at certain angles you have to be careful where you glance. I knew the skirts should be longer than that. It's still strange she is quitting and the only long skirted girl, I wonder if there is a connection. They said she was sick today because her heart was hurting, but they use the word for heart that implies spirit or mind rather than physical organ. Honestly I think she was sad that I was so helpful to her and it's too late for her to stay.

The kouchou sensei (principal) came by early and sat down beside me. He's a great old guy. A really smooth and cool looking older Japanese man. He likes English and I often talk with him in English. I showed him some Japanese I was learning and he showed me a few little things. Then he saw a sheet of paper with my name in Kanji and started reading it. The Kanji is only how my name is pronounced, the meaning may or may not make sense. The first set is "coming" for "rai" (Ry) and "safe" for "an". So it means "a safe coming", which almost makes sense. It is the easier set to write. The second set says "thunder" for "rai" and "house" for "an", which is obviously cooler. But then he took the paper and folded it over so it was the "rai" of the first set and the "an" of the second set, and then he said I should say this to young ladies. It translated to "come to my house". Nice. I'm definitely gonna learn that. I'll learn both sets so I can go through the whole routine.

Thursday Feb 20

Didn't do much at all today. Had a few more mock interviews and they were fun. For the most part I just typed on the computer all day. There's really no point in making a note of what I did in the journal, because I did nothing. For that matter there's no point in making a point that there is no point. I'm stopping now.

Friday Feb 21

PAYDAY!!! Oh what a relief. I made it one entire week spending less than $35 USD. That includes everything, even food. I had no food in the apartment so when ever I wanted to eat it had to come out of that $35. It even included the train fare to Adachi on Friday. When I got to Adachi they said Mr H wouldn't be there today, which I already knew. So I had two boring classes. One was with that cool class of flirty girls. They were supposed to study English vocab, but they were just chatting to eachother. I chatted some in English for practice. I taught one kid something funny. Their English book is called "Tomorrow", so I told him when the teacher says please study, he should say "I'll study Tomorrow" and close the book. They went back and forth for a while, but all in English. She would say pull your book out and study, then he would say study what? She would say your book, and he would point to it and say I'll study tomorrow and close it again. She was joking mad with me, but I told her he was speaking English and she agreed.

I had no classes from 2nd period through lunch so in the middle of 4th period I asked if I could walk to the ATM and get money and make an international transfer. I had to make the transfer before 3 or it wouldn't go through until the following Tuesday. I get to the door and am changing my shoes and a teacher asks where I am going. I said to the Toho ATM. Then I commented on how far it was, all the way up the street, all the way over the hill, all the way to the station. He nodded and said "or you could go to that one", and pointed across the street. DOH!!

I make the transfer and get some money and then went to a local supermarket to buy something for lunch. I splurged and spent $8 on noodles and Tempura. Then I had a big bottle of Pocari Sweat, my favorite drink here, which I ended up just finishing minutes ago (Sunday morning 11am). Then I studied more Japanese and surfed the web a little. Later the VP asked if I would double check their English test for Thursday. Apparently, Meg and I get to record a test that every single student in the prefeture will hear. That hundreds of millions of kids. Or it might be about 10,000 kids, but that doesn't sound as cool. That's coming up this Thursday. More details on that later.

Friday night I didn't feel like doing anything, but I ended up going to, guess where......, Showya with the gang and drinking and eating a little. There were two new people there and we were partying on their behalf. One was visiting from New Jersey (which until recently I thought was the 6th borough of New York), and the other was a new NOVA teacher from Wyoming. Wow, Wyoming. She looked like she was from Wyoming, and didn't look like she would want to live in Japan. She explained she needs constant new stimulus in her life, and we agreed, this would do it. This night was a little more crazy than usual. Meg met some really drunk guy and brought him back to the table. It was funny for a while and he was jokingly trying to kiss Meg. Then Meg left the room for a bit and he started talking to me. Then he said "I love you", which they always use improperly to mean I really like you. Then he tried to kiss me. Then he wanted to wrestle. So I too got up and left.

This is where the really odd thing comes in. As I got up and left I walked around the restaurant by the front door. Now understand if it weren't for drunk flirty strange guy, I would still be sitting there at the table. But I wasn't, and just as I turned the corner I saw Sachiyo, the girl I "might" have been dating in December and January. She was walking out and we barely caught eyes. Then she pulled me off to the side and we talked. She said her boyfriend wasn't here and she wasn't with him. I said I missed her and let's get together soon, and she agreed. She said she was happy to see me. In retrospect when I was reviewing the discussion in my head on the walk home, I realized I used the wrong verb and said "let's take up a collection soon". But I think she understoodd what I meant. For the record, the verbs are very close. Later I go back to the table and the drunk guy's friends are there trying to make him leave. I sit beside a cute girl in the group and ask is she was his girlfriend. She said no so I tell her that's too bad because she was cute. She said "really?" as if no one had ever said that too her. She was cute. I got her cell phone email and we've chatted briefly.

I left around 2 am and realized I had to be up in 4 hours for the big ski trip. I went home and packed a little and hit the sack. I woke up easily at 6 and finished packing and was ready to leave by 7. Then I got a message that my ride was running late, no real surprise. They finally make it by 8:30 and we are on our way. They said there was a delay in the French Toast preparation or something. We finally make it to the ski place barely in time to get our highly discounted ticket. Then I go to the rental place and say I need only poles since I have skis and boots already. Then I ask them to fit my boots to my skis and there is a problem. My skis aren't designed for Large American Big Boy and the bindings would take the boots. So I end up renting skis and a pole. Well the morning has already started off bad. Then it took me exactly 30 minutes to get my feet into my boots since they were super tight. Once in they felt fine, but I couldn't get the past the ankle area. Then I put some stuff in the locker and locked it, while holding my shoes, which was the whole point in the locker to begin with. So I reopen it and put everything in, then I can't get change for my $10 and no one has change and they won't make change at the counter and the nearest change machine is in the other building. ARE YOU KIDDING ME. What is going on? Finally they make change and we leave. Then Meg said she had to eat before we go up the hill so she gets a bite. I finally touch the top of the hill at noon.

I was decent on the slopes. This course kicked butt. It had a long gradual slope that weaved through the woods and had no major steep areas. It was at least 3 miles down I'd say, it took 30 minutes to ski down it with out falling. Each time down I would get a little better, but still not great. I really think it's because my skis are so long. They say that adds stability, but for me they always cross at the front or I can't lift one around. I'm going to try smaller skis or amybe snowboarding. There were some people going so fast on snowboards. I think it would be more difficult at first, but later on might be more fun. I was getting tired of skiing, because it was hard and I was complaining to Meg about it. Then a guy with no legs went by on one of those chair things, and that put it all into perspective. I stopped complaining and just skiied.

We get home around 6 and I take a nap and listen to music to recharge. There was a party in town I wanted to go to and I needed to recharge. It was a local DJ playing at my favorite bar, "As Soon As". Strange name but really cool place. I need to get pictures sometime. The show was pretty cool. Lots of new people, and lots of pretty girls. I met a few and got there numbers. One in particular was really cute and worked at BeauxArts, where that great English speaking girl whom I met at the same bar in December is the manager. So we chatted while. She said she had a boyfriend, but he was not kind and treats her bad. I got her email and told her I would come visit her today. I stayed for a while and heard all the DJs play and then left at some point. As I was leaving Meg asked if I wanted to go to Showya. I really wanted to go home, but I was feeling good and had a few coins in my pocket. So we went and had a beer and chatted it up with the people around us. Everyone wants to talk to foreigners here and we can start a conversation about anything with anyone at anytime.

Today BJ planned this big Lord of The Rings II viewing. It just made it here and opened Saturday. We are meeting at the sushi place and then heading over there at 5. This weeked will be my blow the budget weekend then I will be stingy again for another month. Movies are 1700 yen here which is about $15 USD, but popcorn is cheaper. I plan to relax and watch more of Meg's satelite movies all day. Those are movies meg recorded from satelite TV, not movies about satelites. Although that could be interesting.

Tuesday, Feb 25

The weather here is really annoying sometimes. Today it was warm when I woke up then it dropped to freezing and started snowing on the way to Hobara, now at lunch it's warm again. Japan is so thin I guess the weather can turn on a dime. So far Hobara has been the exact same as always. I brought pennies for one class and a little information sheet I made about Penny facts. I passed them out in 2nd period and the students really enjoyed them, I guess.

When I came back to my desk a student came up and was giggling (it was a girl, boys don't speak). She asked if I remembered her and I said of course. I had no idea who she was, but how nice would that have been to say. Then she said she really missed me and gave me a gift. It was a bag with a little box and a note. The note said and I quote verbatim "Dear Ryan, I love you, I want to you, I need to you. relax relax, I am only kidding, BUT how about a movie with me?". Yea that's not strange coming from a 17 year old. So I gave her and her two friends a penny and asked their age and which class they were in, they said 2nd year and age 17. I skirted the "date" issue I think, but wow how odd. I just ate the candy in the box she gave me, and it was tasty.

I've got a conversation date tomorrow with Hiromi. She was the #2 girl on that other date weeks ago. I think it's more of conversation practice for her but we'll see. She was the slightly better looking and slightly better English of the two. Don't worry they won't read this. I also met two girls at the party on saturday night. One is 21 and lives in Koriyama, an hour away. The other is older and lives in fukushima city. Both speak English and have been emailing me on the phone. The 2nd one was more "into me" I think since she kept making conversation and kept asking if i remembered her name, which I'm glad because I kept forgetting it, and her reminding me helped me remember. It's Sayaka. I'm going to call her Whisper, because the verb for that is Sasayaku. It's semi-close at least. Sayaka works at BeauxArts, that cool Pier One type place and I'm going to drop in there on occasion. She has a boyfriend, but kept telling me he is not kind to her.

Not many classes this week. Got that weird thing at Nishi High school on Thursday, not clear on the details really. That cutie teacher at Hobara is cuter than ever today. She's killing me. I think she's going to quiz me later on Japanese-counters. In Japanese you add a special counter to the end of something you are counting. So we say 5 people or 8 cars, they say the number and then a counter, like 5 nin for people and 8 dai for cars, bikes, and a few other things. There are so many counters and they change slightly depending on which number you are on. For rabbits it's ippiki for 1 rabbit, nihiki for 2, sanbiki for three, yonhiki for 4 and on. the calendar days are different than our ordinal numbers, here they have special names that are irregular. About 10 teachers just walked in this little room so I'll type more later.

[later]

Two girls just came in the computer room and wanted to speak english for a little bit. We did using simple English and silly questions. Then I asked why they had a camera and they said they wanted a picture with me. OK, that seemed a little odd, but I guess I might want a picture with the super cute foreign teacher if I was in High School. Then we chatted more English and they asked if I would sign their books. One girl wanted me to sign her English-Japanese Dictionary in the white-out type pen so I did. Then the other girl asked if I would sign her book. I grabbed it and it was her Chemistry book. I asked why and she just giggled. I assumed her friend was interested in English, but didn't want to come in here alone. Girls are quiet alone and giggly talkative in groups. Guys are quiet all the time, though get them in the right group outside of class and they will chat a little.

I think when the girls came in I was dozing at the computer. It's warm outside, but they still have the heaters on and of course I am wearing a sweater and button up shirt and undershirt as well. So I am really hot in here and the mixture of heat and boredom always makes me doze off.

Wednesday, Feb 26

Last night it was so cold and windy. Now it's mid 60's. it feels great outside. I'm really looking for a long cool spring so I can stop using the A/C Heater every second I'm in the apartment and leave the windows open some at night. That was so nice in the late Summer and early Fall. I'm supposed to have classes today, but so far there have been none. There should be some special fun classes for the 2nd years since the year is nearly over. But so far I've been studying on my own. One teacher fixed me some Chinese tea, and it really tasted exactly like potporri. I have no idea how to spell that.

Last night I was helping a few of my friends with English. We get together occasionally and I listen to them talk and offer tips. Last night we were playing the opposite game where I say a word and they give the opposite. The way to say opposite is "hantai" (hahn tie). So we start playing this in a restaurant and then one more person shows up. I explained to her were are playing the opposite game, or "hentai" game. Oops, I put an "e" in there. No big deal. Then why is everyone staring at me? Oh they explain "hentai" means "perverse or naughty". So I said we are playing a perverted game. That makes sense because when I said that, by accident, one of the girls said, in Japanese, "are you playing strip rock paper scissors?". I didn't catch it until they explained what I said. For the record that is actually a game here, though I've never played. I would imagine that would be fast.

Still no details on tomorrow. I'm going to ask for some in a minute. A teacher at Adachi High School invited me to a drinking party in March with her, two teachers from here, and her daughter. Hmmm, wonder what that's all about. I said I would try to make it and I will indeed. Even though I think her daughter is on 19 and the legal drinking age should be 20 here. I get next Monday off because I am coming to an hour long graduation ceremony on Saturday. HEY! Not complaining, glad the illogic is working in my favor. I have to wear a suit, but I guess that's no problem. Strange thing is I will wear nice black shoes to the school, and then change into flip flops. I'll get a picture of me in a nice suit and flip flops. Going to be a sad crying day, not so much for me since I'm only close to a handful of 3rd years (3rd year = senior). It will be sad that I most likely will never see them again, but such is life I suppose. You can quote me on that "such is life". Maybe quote me in French, that would sound better I think.

I need to go to the thrift store "Hard Off" soon and try to get a different bike. Mine is A) broken, B) the Mary Poppins style, and C) hard to ride. They always have decent bikes for around $20-50 and I can afford that for a new bike I think. They also have cool couches there, although that is further down the priority list than a bike. If I had a bike I liked to ride, then I could ride to school and ride around after school and weekends. There are trails and paths by the river and that would be good exercise. BJ's town bought him a super nice mountain bike, but then again he has no bed and lives 20 minutes away so I guess we are even.

I've got a language exchange/date with girl #2 as I mentioned earlier, and tomorrow I am going to go by BeauxArts and see that other girl, Whisper as I call her. I'm excited about the meeting tonight. The girl really enjoys English and that really makes it fun to teach. It's never any fun teaching someone who doesn't want to learn. I'm going to teach her some slang and idioms. Not dirty slang, but just natural sounding English. Then I'm going to get her to describe things in the room, and if she does that ok, then I'm going to say use 2 adjectives per thing. Like "there is a big wooden table". If that is no trouble then I'll make her use locations as well, such as "there is a small silver fork on top of the table". If she still does that will no problem, I'll start talking like Charlie Brown's teachers and tell her it's a secret English sub-language that only native speakers know. Then she won't feel so uppity about knowing everything. I don't know where that came from.

Hiraki sensei just drew me a map to the high school tomorrow. It's not as close as I thought. Someone said it was 20 minutes away from the station on the West Side, so I thought great, I live 10 minutes away, it must be close. Nope. It's 20 minutes away in a different direction so I still have a 20 minute walk. I have no idea what time I should get there and what I will be doing. Welcome to life as an ALT. Then again it's not so bad. At least I'm not stuck on the treadmill of my old life.

Salesmen always come by and drop brochures on my desk, I guess assuming I speak fluent Japanese since I live here in Japan. So usually I glance at them and toss them. Today I was ultra-bored and decided to decipher this mystery. As I picked a random hotel and started reading each section, I realized this sheet had super deals on getting to Tokyo. All of the options included Shinkansen round trip tickets from Fukushima (a 10 minute walk from the apartment) and hotel cost for 1 night. However, most of the options had this deal for less than a regular round trip ticket to Tokyo. A shinkansen trip costs me almost 17,000 yen roun trip which is less than $170, actually close to $140. We usually think of 10,000 yen as $100 in Japanese Units and the exchange rate is always around $85 USD to 10,000 yen. So if I were to just buy a ticket today it would cost me 17,000 yen to go down and back, but these deals which included hotel and maybe a dinner, averaged at about 12,000 yen or about $100. Man, I'll probably do one of these deals in late March, maybe right after payday. I need to start paying attention to these deals more. Woo hoo.

Although I am no stocks and bonds expert, if you have any income you'd like to invest I have something to suggest. First go to Sharebuilder.com and sign up. It's free to sign up and no minimum deposit, a big plus. Then I would suggest investing a little in my old company, Interland (inld). Right now their stock is pretty low and going down a bit, today I think it's at .74 cents, BUT it's not a 74 cent stock, it's just the victim of a crappy economy. I am certain it will rise shortly. It's been around the $2-3 mark for a while, and if you buy at .74 cents or less and it goes up to $3 again, then that's 4 times what you invested. Look at the charts and you will see it was around $3-3.25 for a bit. I bet it goes back up. It's too big of a company to go under, I would bet it gets bought out before that. Warning though, if you lose money, it's not my fault, I'm merely suggesting my opinion.

I just checked the website stats and saw it had 60,292 hits in Feb alone. Wow, that's a lot. Granted some people come in to different areas, like a JET advice area, and a few other none related ones, but still that's a lot. Then I saw how people got there and the serach strings they used on the various search engines. That was a kick, there was anything from Beard Papa to Capsule Hotels to Japanese school girls. heck, here's the entire list:

It's listed by rank, then searches, then percentage of something, then what they were searching for:
1 12 6.94% capsule hotels
2 3 1.73% beautiful av girl's picture of japan
3 3 1.73% engrish pics
4 3 1.73% fam mart
5 3 1.73% tokyo trip journal
6 2 1.16% beard engrish papa
7 2 1.16% duck-billed platypus photos
8 2 1.16% engrish shirts
9 2 1.16% guestbook georgia atlanta
10 2 1.16% japan ww2 pictures
11 2 1.16% japanese jpg censor
12 2 1.16% jet japan dating girlfriend
13 2 1.16% pic waitress train japan
14 2 1.16% beard papa 15 2 1.16% shoe making companies guestbook thailand
16 2 1.16% yabuki snowboarding weather
17 1 0.58% abe pagoda
18 1 0.58% aeon apartments japan


That sure was entertaining.

Thursday Feb 27

Thanks to whoever made the guestbook entry about Adjectives. I did do research and found out there is an order to Adjectives. Oddly, the order makes perfect sense to me, but I don't remember ever learning it. Then again I can't remember any of the state capitals either. The order is something to the effect of: opinion, age, size, shape, color, material, type - noun. It's really bizarre because "small blue cup" sounds great, but "blue small cup" sounds wrong. Mentally I think, "oh there's no such thing as a small cup, but there is a blue cup". Then I realize that makes no sense. So there is an order, and I guess we native speakers naturally know it. I can't remember ever learning it.

Convenience stores in Japan are pretty much opposite of most in the US, at least most around where I am from. Excluding the newer QuikTrips, most convenience stores are almost painful to go into. IF they have a bathroom, it is probably "broken", and if you need some help, good luck finding someone or getting anything out of them. Here, exact opposite. When you come in all the employees stop and welcome you. Then if you have to wait 1 minute, they will open a new register. They jump around sprinting and helping and assisting and offering. It really gets tiring just watching it sometimes. Then when you leave they all stop and thank you. I couldn't work at one simply because I'd have to be talking the entire day. Hello welcome, thank you very much, please come again, Hello welcome.....

Today is the big Nishi (West) High School day. Still not certain what I am doing, but I have caught rumors from people. I think Meg and I are recording the entrance exam for all the incoming Freshman into High Schools across the prefecture. The reason I am confused is Adachi had me review a listening test for them and then said see you on Thursday at Nishi. So I don't see what they have to do with it and such. I think it's only going to be about an hour or so, but no telling. Nothing to do tonight really so no big deal either way.

The lanuage date went pretty well last night. She came by herself and we spent most of the time speaking English. She speaks great, but needs little natural things to help her. I taught her how to understand sarcasm and a few idioms and adjectives (more prepared this time). After a few more sessions she should sound great. I feel bad about not inviting her friend, which was girl #1 from the first date, but oh well. Ironically, today I am going to see the other girl I met at "As Soon As" today at her work. I'll just stop in and say hello and maybe buy some small trinket.

I'm going to borrow Meg's video camera soon and start filming random things. Partially for me to have a video record of everything and maybe somehow I'll try to upload part or all of it so you can see how I live. There are little things I'd like a record of that I normally wouldn't take pictures of and that I might forget over the years. Just little things you see and do every day, but would never think to record. No one else might appreciate them, but I will. When my memory starts to fade about my time in Fukushima, then I can watch the video and say "Geez, did I film this I can't remember anything" or maybe something less drastic.

Yesterday, the calligraphy teacher called me and told me he was drawing something big. So Hiraki sensei and I rushed down there and sure enough he had a 6 foot tall sheet stretched out. He was making a nice banner for the graduation ceremony this Saturday. He was so fluid in his strokes, it looked so easy. I even said that in Japanese, that it looks so easy, but I know it's not. Then he finished and propped it up to dry. He cleaned the brush and handed it to me to show me how it was so easy. Excluding the fact that he's a calligraphy master, he said it was a new brush. He picked up his ink tray and a few of the other things and turned to put them in the closet. I squatted down to examine the work closer, still holding the brush. Hiraki sensei was standing behind me. Then the princial walked up and saw me. Everything slowed down into slow motion again and my sinister-always ready for a good joke-brain went into action. I looked at the principal and down at the paper and at my brush and then I noticed the calligraphy teacher was slightly out of view for about a second more, and in perfect Japanese (actually I didn't mean to say it, I was just thinking it) I said "I drew this". He stopped and for about 3 seconds was debating if that was possible or not. His mouth shot open and he stared at me. He knew I had been studying calligraphy so maybe I was a fast learner. Super fast. Then the calligraphy teacher, still in the closet, started laughing. For the record, he was laughing a little too hard I thought. Then the prinicipal and everyone knew I was joking and we all had a good laugh.

[later]

Last night a friend was driving me somewhere and I saw something quite peculiar on the side of a hill. It was a small to medium sized run down amusement park. It was bigger than say a traveling parking lot fair, but smaller than Six Flags or Disney land of course. I asked someone about it later and I think a rich man owned it for his daughter and then let the public come to it. But later the economy went down and he could no longer afford it so it went to ruin. I've got to get some pictures sometime since it's so cool looking. It takes up part of the side of a mountain. You can see a ferris wheel on top and then a roller coaster and a few other things. It was really sad. I think it would make some great pictures.

[later]

Well the Nishi recording thing was pretty fun. Meg and I had to record a few conversations. As usual the Japanese people felt the need to correct our English. Everytime. Every single time I, as well as many other, NATIVE English speakers have to record something or perform something a native Japanese speaker will correct some super small trivial thing. I take it to mean they want to show exactly how good their English is by pointing out small minute details that might be wrong. I usually nod and say thank you and ignore the fact they missed several key words in the sentence where they asked me to repeat whatever. This time they had Meg repeat the word "else". Say it a few times out loud. Do you pronounce a "t" in it as in "anything eltsss". It's very subtle and sounds perfectly natural, but they wanted it to be pronounced "anything L sss", which in all honestly sounds stupid. But what do I know, I've only been speaking English for 31 years every waking hour. Their 10 years of Second Language study must be correct.

Their main reasoning was they felt the kids wouldn't understand "eltss", since they are used to hearing "L sss". These are the same kids who can't say "please hand me the book please". But non-confrontational Ryan said OK whatever. They had me redo several small things as well and I just nodded and redid them. Inside I wanted to yell "ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?! Are you correcting my English, because you think my Native English doesn't sound Native enough?". But instead I only said, "ok, I'll try to do better next time". It was dripping with sarcasm.

There was another part of the script we didn't have to recite because it was a reading test. We read part of the story and it said "oh look, when you press the button on his neck his legs move". Although the sentence was correct English, it was still funny. Halfway during the recording, when I was repeating some incorrect Native English word over and over, Meg was standing out of view from the people in the recording booth. I was repeating something over about 5 times until they heard one they liked. Meg pushed her neck with her finger and very mechanically kicked her leg out. I burst out laughing uncontrollably. Finally I stopped and apologized. Now that's a big thing fo us, we did it about five times later.

Meg and I have an amazing relationship. I would dare to say we are non-romantic soul mates. We can finish each other's sentences, communicate without words, and know exactly what the other is thinking. We even have little signals. One means "please come over and interfere somehow". Sometimes we simultaneously break into the same thing. Like that episode where the guy was saying campari and we said Kampai. I think I mentioned that. When can just instantly play along with each other and know where the other is going. It's so strange. I've never been able to communicate with someone like this before. She's dating someone and is leaving in July, but oddly it's not romantic at all. Though she us attractive, I can't see myself ever being with her like that. I have no desire to kiss her or be with her romantically, and she feels the same way. It's like a brother-sister relationship, without the sibling rivalry.

I just got back from my English-Japanese language exchange. I also had one last night with a different girl, but that was a mixture of pre-date and language exchange. This was purely language since she is like 45+ and married. Anyway, her English is really top notch, I have to search for small little things to correct. She just needs practice speaking and having someone correct her. She makes a few small mistakes, but she has no trouble communicating. After we spoke English I talked a bit in Japanese. Man I am really getting better and it rocks. There are so many natural things that just come out. I still screw things up, but that's mainly when I over think something or two things are highly similar. For the most part I did great, she corrected a lot, but I'm saying I was talking only Japanese and understanding her Japanese for about an hour. Then we left and I paid this time since she paid before. At the counter the bill was about 1,312 Yen and I was counting out the change in Japanese. The check out girl commented that my Japanese was so skillfull and I said oh no not yet. Then I explained we speak English and Japanese there every so often. I asked if she spoke English and she said no. Usually they say "just a little", but she said a flat out no. Hmmm. Then she said she wants to learn, let's study together. Wow. Picking up and not even trying. I guess it's my duty to go back and teach her. Obviously she was a cutie. Though I'd teach her either way.

Before the Nishi recording thing I stopped into BeauxArts and saw Sayaka. She was still cute with the lights on and me not drinking. I asked about her boyfriend again and she said he was still not nice. Then I left and went to record the thing. Afterwards, Meg wanted to go to that store and I said fine because I could see her again. So we went back and I chatted more. Meg bought two really Japanese looking lamps and I chatted it up with Sayaka. Ironically she reminds me of Sachiyo. Then when Meg was checking out they asked how many times they should run the card. Meg was like "Duh! Once". But they meant how many payments do you want to make. I forgot about that. So this means I can get that couch I wanted and pay for it over 4 or more months. If I can do 6 months that's like $35 a month. SWEET. I wonder what the maximum is. 10 payments of $20? Then we went to Muji and I found a cool bike I really wanted since A) mine sucks, B) it's broken and C) it sucks. Then I calculated the multiple payment thing and realized the bike could be like $20 a month, since it's only 15,000 or less than $150. I really want to get my credit card bill down, but I really NEED a couch and a bike. Much interest there is now.

Friday, Feb 28 2003

Today everything is bustling. It's the day before graduation and right now there is a massive cleaning effort underway. This one is bigger than usual. They are throwing away old books and papers and really scrubbing things top to bottom. The 3rd years (seniors) are putting in that extra effort because after tomorrow they will never have to clean again. Unless they become teachers and then that's different. I passed by the gym earlier and the school symphonic band was warming up. They sound really good. There are chairs set up in the gym and the floor mat is out. I'll get a disposable camera tomorrow and take some pictures since my stupid digital camera seems to be "too tired" to work now.

Regarding the word "else" as mentioned earlier, I need to clear up a few points. First it was Meg who said it so my southern accent wasn't a factor. I do have a thick accent, but I can turn it on or off when needed. When I recite English for a recording or speech, I can annunciate and speak clearly. Since it was Meg who said it, she does have a Canadian accent, but that really shows when she says "out, about, pout" or other words like that. She has a slight, and I mean slight, lisp on certain S's, but that's because she wears a permanent retainer thing in her mouth. She worked for a dentist office years ago and has great teeth. I'm not really a teeth fan, but she has model teeth nearly.

Furthermore, they did not want us to re-say the word "excommunicated", or "discombobulated", or even "transcendentalism". They wanted her to repeat a single syllable word with a super minor trivial change, that we could barely hear, much less Japanese High School students who can't say "I went home today". I really think it would have been alright if they didn't present the request in a way that made them sound like English experts. They said "Could you redo and pronounce the word correctly like L's". It's a little odd having someone who learned English as a second language tell a native speaker how something is pronounced. All they had to do was throw in a simple "I think" or "It might sound better", but they proceeded to tell us how English should be pronounced. I could never imagine correcting a native Japanese speaker on Japanese. Lastly, it's not even right. You don't say "L's" you either say "elss" or "elts", not "anything L's".

On a different note, I welcome comments about my journal, but please email them to me at TheAmazingRhinohotmail.com. I'd rather people not use the guestbook for communication. If the point is to broadcast your ideas to other people who read the guestbook then I can make a different area where people can post ideas or comments. Though I can't imagine there would be a big need for that. It's like responding to the bride and groom by writing in their wedding guest book each time, little odd.

[later]

Graduation was more or less the same as mine in High School. The only difference I noticed, and this was really strange, was when the graduates-to-be walked in at first we clapped while all of them walked in. It took like 20 minutes. Have you ever clapped for 20 minutes straight? I was flipping my hands over clapping backwards. Then I was clapping to the beat of the song (the same graduation song as in the US). Then I started counting how many claps per minute, I must have clapped over 1,000 times thoroughout the ceremony. Then I started clapping like a seal, then slapping my left palm and then my right palm like I was patting dough or something. Then I got really bored.

I'm not good at just sitting still for 2 hours in any situation, Japan or US. I am fidgety and need to move around. Luckily here they had to practice standing and bowing. I learned how to say "you may be seated (chaku seki)". A few times the standing part through me off because they would stand so fast and military like that I would almost lose my balance. Then they had to bow real slow. I might have my hands in my pocket which was a no-no, so I'd have to remember. I'm hoping to get a camera tomorrow and film some of it. I might borrow Meg's camera, video camera, and record me on the way there and then the ceremony. I'll see. Doubt I can upload it since it would be huge, but I'll see.

[much later]

It's about 8pm and I just took a small nap. When I woke up my phone was buzzing and I grabbed it but missed the call. Then I started tinkering with the buttons and found this whole hidden world within the phone. First of all it has little cartoon characters that dance around and such when I get a message or whatever. But I found all sorts of details and life histories about them. The best part is it's written all in Engrish. Here's a sample, and I am quoting this verbatim:

1st character:
Puni Puni Cherry
5 years girl
Youngest Sister
Grig Girl

A good punipuni dancer and a cake addict. She likes a word "punini!" and reading. A Carrot kindergartner in Digitable Planet. She wants to be a punipuni fortuneteller.

2nd character:
Poyo Poyo Fig
8 years boy
Oldest Brother
Tender and Funny

A nap and TV lover. He knows words of animals and flowers. He likes eggdishes and a word "gugu". 2nd grade at Wallnat school in Digitable planet. Often zzzing in a narrow space, ex..into TV.

Where they live
Digitable planet somewhere in the galaxy.
Corn head digitablians live, They look like us but their body is rubber-like soft.


There are more characters though not as funny. And more information comes up as I click on the details. So I guess if I sit around and keep clicking on them I can learn everything. Sadly I have the time.