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

Friday, July 1st, 2005 - 28 days left in my contract

Well perhaps when they said "you will hear something about the new job by midweek", perhaps that included Friday. One of the other guys is calling today, which is fine. It makes him the one who calls and bugs them and me the one who patiently waits. But either way it makes both of us the ones without a job. It would be totally different if there were 6 people applying for 4 jobs. But there are 4 applying for 4. For 4, that was fun.

I go back to the firefighter's school today, in about 3 hours. Then nothing to do tonight. I will take a camera and get more shots since it is the final time I will ever go there, but here are some shots from a previous visit. Well poo. I know I uploaded some at one time, but I can't find them now. Let me try again. The pics are here. Ah yes, I just filed them differently. I will try to get a few more today.

Not much going on this weekend. A friend in Aizu is having a campout cookout and I want to go to that, just not sure of the logistics of getting to and from that though. I was supposed to meet a friend in Sendai for lunch, but I don't know if that will happen. I really need to know something about the job soon so I can get a driver's license and endure that hell for a few days. The hell of the Japanese DMV, but I guess driving won't be fun here either. I've seen the way they drive here.

Well the Fuji trip is coming along nicely. Looks like I will be either climbing it on July 16-17th or at least at the mountain, but wussing out at the bottom because I am too out of shape to climb it.

It really doesn't look that bad, but I have heard it just keeps going up as get to it. And when you are climbing it, it just looks like you have about 100 feet to go, but then at that peak there is another slope and it never stops. I think we are climbing the left side which is not as steep as as the other. Also it takes 2 hours to walk around the crater at the top, that should show how big it is. I just hope the weather is ok.

I also found out when we have the farewell party sponsored by the prefecture, we get to complain directly to the governor and the ministry of education. This is good. Also I am a group leader, which is slightly not good, but I do get to make sure certain things are said to them. We will have a personal translator. She works for Kenchou, but is very nice and rather attractive, and sadly married. But her English is natural. I don't slow things down for her at all. But for this I will be giving her a list of things in advance so she can translate easier.


Didn't take any pictures at the fireman's school, but it was a blast as always. I just wish I could go there more often. We have an hour class where we played a bag and stick game. Basically they make a big circle and pass a bag around one way and a stick around the other. Then we stop the music and the bag person has to ask the stick person a question. Then during the second class we gave them a test and said goodbye.

Then we got back and I ate sushi, talked to someone about the fuji trip, then came back here. I also emailed the liaison about the Koriyama job since I STILL haven't heard anything. Basically he told me we have the job and they are working on getting everything together. They aren't deciding on us anymore, but the Japanese style is to present a finished product. So that's a relief, but it would still be nice to see the definite OK offer.

Now I am working on a project for Kenchou. At our farewell party I, along with a few others have to present some compliments and criticisms to the Governor and the ministry of education. I send an email asking for high school JETs, thoughts and I have had a great response. I need to start compiling that and send it off to the translator as soon as possible.

Sunday, July 3rd

I ended up going to Sendai yesterday anyway with Liz and we had Starbucks. Then we lingered in the bookstore that has a good selection of English books. I had to buy two books because I am addicted to buying Japanese language books. I only spent $25 on the books and then $8 on several postcards. I'm going to write them out in advance and mail them from the top of Mt Fuji. Then we went to the Mexican food place. It was pretty good. Definitely not as good as Tokyo, but considerably better than Chuckwagon. Though I did hear from the Indian restaurant guy there is an actual Mexican food place in Fukushima city.

Other than that I did nothing much Saturday night. Well I worked on my book, which is based on my journal and my time here. It has some things I didn't put in the journal. It should be entertaining because it even makes me laugh, and I had to live through the stuff. I guess when I look back objectively I can see the humor in the situations. That should be finished and for sale in the fall sometime. I am waiting until I have to deal with the Japanese DMV, because that must have some funny situations involved with it. Japanese inefficiency at its finest.

I have been telling a lot of people about my potential job. So now people keep asking me and I keep saying "still haven't heard yet". Even Japanese people think three weeks without telling us is absurd. I'm to the point that I'm just going to stop waiting and act like I got it. I'll just show up one day. One thing that is worrying me is people's response to me telling them where. I tell them Koriyama, which is the biggest and most central city in Fukushima prefecture. Then they say how nice the big city is, so I tell them technically I will be on the city limits in a town called Konan. Most haven't heard of it so I explain Ko means lake, and Nan means South. So the small town is south of the lake. Then they remember and all say the same thing:

"Oh, Konan, lots of snow. I hope you like snow, they get so much snow there".

Yea, actually I'm not in the snow fan club. I prefer Okinawan beach schools, but I can't go there. I really don't particularly have anything against snow other than the fact that it's associated with cold weather. Of which I hate. I don't like peak summer where I am dripping with sweat, but being frigidly cold goes straight to my bones. I hate that feeling. Oddly I enjoy shoveling snow though. I like the exercise and the feeling of cleaning. It's strange. I guess I will be in good with my neighbors if I shovel their snow all the time. That sounds like  prison talk. "Get over here and shovel my snow".

I guess I will buy a snowboard since I will be so close and have a car with snow tires. That would be good exercise to go snowboarding every weekend. Many people did that this year, but I couldn't afford it nor was it convenient for me to go. Since I will be in a small town right by the base of a few slopes, it will be convenient and I will have time and money. I just gotta find a board wide enough for my feet.


I have a friend from Georgia Southern Univ named Alex. Technically he is my little brother in Phi Mu Alpha Music Fraternity. He now lives in Atlanta, but is about to move to Slovenia where his wife and daughter live. He is not Slovenian, but she is. I don't remember how they met, but anyway, they point is I might go visit him sometime. Because really, why would I ever go to Slovenia?

I would like to visit Italy and Austria while I am there. I mean how random is that? Slovenia. He said he might live in or near Piran, which is fine with me. I would love to visit a little beach side villa in the Gulf of Venice. I could rent a place there and another place in Fiji and bounce in between the two. I have access to a beach house in Thailand. Man I am becoming quite the worldly traveler. I need to set up one of those "places I've been" maps. Maybe later, I need to eat. It's 2pm on Sunday.

Oh something I thought of, if/when I get the new job, I will continue this journal, but I will make it on a different site. Sorda like closing this one out and starting fresh. Anyway, something I will do is make a bulletin board for the kids. I am going to try to make them as lame as possible and then post pictures on the site. I might even start a sub site called MyLameBulletinBoards.com or something.

Oh one good thing about having a bathroom with a drain in the middle of the floor is you can spray cleaner all over the place and then just spray it all down with broiling hot water. I just did that and now my bathroom is really clean. It's going to be easy to clean when I move out. Can't do that with the kitchen though.


I just went to go see the new Tom Cruise movie, War of the Worlds. It was so so. It really had nothing to do with what I remember, but then again that was Orson Welles Broadcast. Maybe HG Wells' story was about this. I know it had to do with Mars being close and some astronomer thinking he saw channels or canals on Mars, but I don't remember if HG's book was a joke like the Orson thing or not. Anyway, the movie was so so. It would have been better as a $1 movie or watching the DVD at a friend's house. There were too many typical dramatic movie parts. Things that just wouldn't happen outside a movie. I found myself nearly screaming "why would you do that" in my seat. I hate when movies have to defy all logic for the plot. But it killed two hours.

My chest is hurting because my stupid A/C has been dehumidifying the room. I developed a throat thing, then a bad cough. It's going away now, but my chest hurts and my voice is deeper. I don't think I have any classes tomorrow so maybe it won't be a big deal. I need to print some certificates at school for an awards thing we are doing this Friday after the Kenchou farewell banquet.

Monday, July 4th

Just had an odd cultural difference thing with the phone. What I am used to is answering the phone by saying something and then listening while the person talks. In Japan apparently you answer and then constantly grunt or say something to remind the speaker you didn't just put the phone down and run away. I don't know why they need this constant reinforcement, but they do. I answered the phone with "hello teacher's room" in Japanese, and the lady acted surprised and the Japanese version of hello. So I said hello back. Then she started talking and I started listening. Then she made a surprised sound and said hello again and I returned the hello. Then she repeated the first part again and then stopped and said hello again. I said "I am listening please continue". So she did and then minutes later she stopped again and said hello. So I said hello, then she said hello, then I said hello, then she said hello. Then I hung up. When she called back another teacher answered and made grunting sounds like a gorilla giving birth while she was talking. It was a little odd and a definite cultural difference.

One cultural aspect I really hate in Japan is the acceptance of people hitting each other. Kids hit other kids on the head, parents hit kids on the head, sometimes teachers hit kids on the head hard. Some of my friends hit me on the head hard being playful, but I hate it. Once I saw a mother and daughter eating sushi at the station. The had a playful relationship which I admired, but they were constantly hitting each other like apes. I don't mean to make a racial reference or anything derogatory, but they really looked like a family of apes. They would make grunting noises and hit each other. The mother would take a plate and the child would reach for it. Then the mother would grunt and hit her and she would hit back. It was just annoying because they looked so primitive.

I came to school today even though I have a slight fever. My throat still hurts and I am getting over a bad cough. I know it's from my A/C unit dehumidifying the room since it started with a dry throat and progressed into this. I think I should be alright tonight. I felt bad last night and then I took a broiling shower and went to sleep. This morning I wanted to sleep more, but I got up and came to school. I can leave a bit early since they are just giving back the tests today. I found out I work until the 28th of July and I have the 26th off, for some reason. I plan to take my driver's test on the 26th and maybe do the driving school on the 23rd a Saturday. that way if I fail it I can go back on the 29 or Aug 1st.

No one can understand the school I should be working at is an elementary and middle school together. There are only about 10 of these in Japan, but no matter how many times I say it and explain it, they still just tune me out. Here is a conversation I just had with an English teacher and the vice principal. The term shouchuugakkou means elementary (shou) and middle (chuu) gakkou (school) put together. It was all in Japanese.

VP: Do you know about your new job yet?
Me: Not yet, it's been three weeks. I don't know what the problem is.
VP: Ah, I see.
ET: He needs to fill out a form and give it to kenchou.
Me: I thought I would know by now, it's really strange.
VP: Will you be working for Koriyama BoE?
Me: Yes, I will be in Konan town, just below the lake.
ET: At an elementary school?
Me: It will be a shouchuugakkou.
ET: Oh so a chuugakkou?
Me: Actually it's both, a shouchuugakkou. It's a special school.
ET: So it's an elementary school, but you will visit a middle school?
Me: No, the school has both shougakkou and chuugakkou in one building. It's a special school. The only one in Fukushima prefecture.
ET: Which school will you be based at?
Me: It's one school, both a shougakkou and a chuugakkou. Together. One school I will be at the one school.

Then she turns to the VP and explains I will work for a shougakkou and visit a chuugakkou.

Me: No, it's both. It's together. It's one school. Both shouchuugakkou together. One school.

They are both looking at me and nodding and thinking I am wrong. So now I need to bring the flyer I found about the school. Maybe I will look it up online and print something out.


I found something online in Japanese that explains there were two schools and they were combined in April of 2005. when she read it she instantly knew the school I was talking about. But when I said the city name and shouchuugakkou, they were completely lost. Why? Because Japanese people are taught foreigners can never truly speak Japanese. Sometimes it comes out, like this.

Later in the day I started feeling really bad. I stayed the whole day and didn't go to the doctor.

Tuesday, July 5th

I woke up feeling nasty. Like a high fever and a bad cough. So I took some secret medicine I shouldn't have here (because it is effective). The first part of the name is the term for times when it is light outside, the second part is like what people wrote with hundreds of years ago, starts with a Q. The second part does. So I drank some of that and felt great until noon when my fever came back and I felt like crap again. I even went to the nurse who wasn't there and then lied down in the student lounge where there are couches. Finally I left early and went straight to the doctor. He said my fever was around 101-102F and I had a bad chest cough. So he gave me some good medicine, and more importantly a doctor's note, which cost extra, but was well worth it. I felt my worst at home after the doctor, but Liz went to Adachi that day so I convinced her to stop by and bring me some food. I ate the food and took the meds and felt better after an hour or so. Then I went to sleep around 8pm, even though people kept calling me about nonsense. I woke up around 6:30am (now) on Wednesday. I need to get some breakfast since I feel the fever coming back a bit. But the cough is breaking up, which is good.

So maybe no update for a few days. I really need to rest in my fever-sweat soaked bed for a while. Gotta love the smell of a fever-sweat in a room. I'll get a shower later.

Still no update on the job. There's not even a word for the absurdity of the situation. Why can't they just say yes or no and then say the paperwork will take a while. It wouldn't be Japan if they did that. Monday July 11th, will be the one month marker. Even my school thinks this is absurd and needs to know something ASAP. It is fun to see Japanese people get frustrated at their own system though.

Friday, July 8th

I got the job. Geez. Nearly one month without knowing.

Today has been a wild ride. For all the days I have nothing to do, this day made up for it. First I took off Weds and Thurs because my fever and cough were really bad. So I stayed home and flipped between fever sweats and coughing fits. Good times. Then today we had our farewell party for Kenchou. Or Kenchou's farewell party for us rather. It was done in true Japanese style.

They said some of us have to make a speech to the governor about suggestions for improving English Education in Fukushima. That was a surprise as I had planned to just go and have fun. So now I have to make a speech. Whatever. So then they tell the 16 of us involved in the speeches to get there at noon for a lunch they have planned for us.

The word for was what did it. It really implies they will pay for us. I'm still in Japan aren't I? Of course. So I ate, got up, and left. Later someone tracks me down and tells my I had to pay for the lunch. Ok. I pay. Then we go to check in for the conference. The schedule says Kenchou is having a farewell party for us. Oh that will be fun, just like when we came. But wait, we also have to pay. We had to pay for our own farewell party. So Japan.

Ok, I'm all paid up. We go in and talk about nonsense and then break into small groups. We are discussing ideas and suggestions for making Fukushima better. I had asked for thoughts in advance and had something already written so we just discussed it. I had also given it to the translator early so she could get it all correctly. Our group had a lot of complaints and most got axed. I had a list of nearly spewing hate and we had to change it to be more productive. Well it's a DOC file, so I can upload it. Or just make a page from here. Here's the link.

As you can see some are good, others are rough. Some were cut, others altered. Some even watered down. But we made several really good points and the governor and education department seemed to appreciate them. But I truly expect them to find reasons not to implement them. Maybe they will, the governor is a cool guy.

So I made my speech, others made theirs, we had questions and answers. Then we changed rooms for another meeting with the governor. Then we came back and had the dinner that we paid for. Actually, it wasn't really worth what we paid. Well I guess if you add in the free alcohol, which I didn't drink it would be worth it. Then it's over, I come back and rest and check my email to find this email:

Hello.  This is Hotta at Koriyama BOE.

I'm very sorry I couldn't give you any information about the contract until today. Because there was the City Assembly until July 4, it took long time to make the final decision of the AETs/NTs employment.  We'll have 23 foreigners for AET and NT.

Then yesterday, I got the Hanko of superintendent for the final decision. That's the forty-second hanko.

I'm happy I can inform you a good news.  You'll be a new NT for Koriyama.  We are very happy we can work with you from this summer.
I'll send you the documents of the contract tomorrow.  And I'll call to Kyoto sensei of your school and tell about your contract today.

Thank you for your time.



So as you can guess, I was pleased. Very pleased. I had a high pleasaibility rating. Spell check doesn't like that. Well I think I made the word up. So anyway, I find the email and am pleased. Then I go to the farewell party at the Big Apple. I'll upload some pics later. It was fun, but I felt bad. Literally felt bad. The smoke was killing my thorax. No my throat really, I just wanted to write thorax, because when am I ever going to work that into a sentence. I don't even know what it is. Sorry, anyway, Michelle and I worked on the FuJET awards for a long time and presented them at the club. My throat was/is about to fall out, but we got the awards out and most everyone seemed to enjoy it. It ended right about the time people were losing interest.

[throat too dry and scratchy - must have CC Lemon - back in 3 minutes]

What I really enjoyed about the party was talking to really drunk people. When people are really drunk, and I recall this from my getting drunk days (these days my liver politely says no to too much alcohol) they get really truthful. One person told me they never liked me, but tonight realized I was ok. A few people opened up and told me some very kind things. It was touching.

I didn't say there was touching, but some things that were said were touching. The other thing is I had some good talks with non-drunk people. Some people really encouraged me to consider writing as a career. That's something I never would have thought of before Japan. But I love writing this and I am almost finished with a book about this journal and my time here so maybe it will happen. I've also got a few others on the back burner. Is that one word? Backburner? Well spell check said ok, so I guess it is. I have a few other projects on the backburner and I plan to get them done soon. I won't have tons of free time at the new job, but I will have some times when I am isolated and writing would be an outlet. I've never had a creative outlet, writing would be nice.

Playing the trumpet or jazz guitar would be nicer, as would being an artist, or sculptor. But writing would be fine too. Why do people write books for children, but not the elderly? I guess they do make large scale print. I'm going to go blind one day for making that comment.

Finally to cap things off I had some major news from within the family. That sounded like some mob family, which I am not in, (or am I? I am doing that gesture where you press your nose to one side and I don't even know what it means) but I meant my US family. I don't want to announce it hear because I don't know if certain people from a certain place read this or not. That was vague.

I've also decided to set up an online charity for Dada's Boys Home. I wouldn't take any money, just explain how to send money and other things to donate. I'll have pictures of the boys and info about them and talk about what they need. Now they are working on something that requires sewing machines for the ladies in the town. They just started a goat farm thanks to a letter that our group wrote while visiting in December.

So now I need to focus on getting my driver's license and buying the car from Renea. I'd rather not have a car, but I hear I need one so I will get a decent one so maybe I can go snowboarding since I live near many slopes. The driver's license venture will flat out not be fun.

Monday, July 11th

Today started out on a good foot. I get to school and Kumiko sensei says I have 11 more vacation days. So instead of having zero before the trip back to Atlanta, now I have 11 extra, which is about how many I thought. There was some counting error somewhere. The good news is I don't have to sit and stare at the wall for 6 days at the end of July. I will use this time to get my driver's license since I know I will need multiple days. With the driver's place being as picky as they are and discriminating against foreigners like they do, I doubt I can be one of the few to get it in the first try. But at least I have the time off. If I get the license, I can rent a car and start moving early. That should be a relief.

The other nice that, well it started out nice, was Hiraki sensei said she is going to try to get me in the class room as much as possible this week. That was exciting, until Kumiko brought me my schedule and today was empty and Wed-Thurs are sports days so no classes. Tuesday and Friday are my last days at my traveling schools so I have a full load there and farewell speeches in the morning. On Thursday night I have a farewell party here, just the English teachers. That will be fun. I will take money in case I have to pay for my own farewell party again, but I don't think I will.

There was something else and I forgot it.

I've been working on my farewell speech for Higashi. It's going to be about a full page all in Japanese. I'll put the English translation up here once I give the speech. It's all about saying goodbye, doing your best, and me moving on. I'm glad it will be in Japanese, because reading the English makes me teary eyed. I'm sure on the stage I would be much worse. I cry, I'm not above that.

I'm going to add up how many classes I have had since January of this year.

Well this should sum up my bitterness at the wasteful JET Programme. Since April of 2004, to the present. I have had 99 classes at Higashi. Seems like a lot, except that most people have 20-25 classes a week. So most people have more classes in one month than I have in 16 months. I should have had, conservatively, 300 maybe 400 since then, but I have had less than 99. It's so sad and pathetic, having a native speaker here and wasting me so much. But that is the Japanese way. It's more important to have the appearance of internationalization, than to actually do it. It's more important for people to see this school has a foreigner, than for me to actually be used. People would be fired if a resource like this was wasted like this in any other country. Luckily my new job will be nothing like this. I will have, at most, one free period a day, rather than at most one class a day.


I had one class before lunch. It was fun as usual. Then during lunch I sat with the English club while they ate. It might have been the last time. Since then I have been working on my budget for next year. I should actually be able to save an obscene amount, maybe between $1,000 and $1,500 a month. The best part is they charge an extra $100 for rent. I think normally my part after the subsidy is $200, so they charge $300, but the extra $100 is a refundable deposit that I get back at the end of the year or the end of my time. So on top of the money I have from saving money, and the money I will get back from the pension fund, each year I stay I will get back an additional $1,200. Man that's wicked fat. I will be able to pay off 2 of my 3 remaining loans and severely pay down the other one. It would be really insane if I didn't have to get a car, but I guess that will be alright. It will be far more convenient, but costly and a hassle to get.

They won't let me drink because I am a miner.

No seriously, it's for climbing mount Fuji. Though it would help to lose this annoying cough. I borrowed it from a teacher at school. Technically he just loaned it to me, I asked where I could buy one and he had one handy. Being the hiking club coach I guess that makes sense. Man I have a fat head. I need to exercise more. When I say more, I mean some or any.

I got my offer letter and contract from the new job, luckily it starts the day this job quits so I will be seamlessly employed and my medical coverage should overlap. Plus I get a raise. Technically every job I have taken has been more money, which is good, many of my friends are underemployed. The sad thing is, I am excited about more money and more vacation time, but most of all about actually having classes.

I've been working on my farewell speeches to the teachers at my schools. It's pretty basic and I am going to reuse it at all three. Hiraki translated it so she will know the truth at Higashi, but the others will think my Japanese is natural. Which means they will start speaking to me naturally. But at least I will be able to make a nice speech, from memory basically.

I just say thanks for the fun times, I have a lot of good memories. This summer I will go to Sapporo for a language school. After that I will move to an elementary and junior high school in a small neighboring town. Then I thank them again. It's pretty easy and to the point, I just need to keep practicing it. I give it for the first time tomorrow. Then at Nishi on Friday, then at Higashi on Tuesday. Then I give my long speech to the students later that day, but I will be reading that. So no worries mate.

Tuesday, July 12th

My last day at Matsukou, the devil school. WOO HOO.

Actually it was a little sad. The punks were just coming around to accept me and the good class of 10 students was really opening up. I started to feel sad because I knew I would never be there again. I don't want to go there, I only like the teachers, but knowing you will never be somewhere again is a bit sad. I had three classes. One with the cool small class. We played some games, then they gave me letters they wrote. The letters were all basically the same so I assume the teacher gave them hints, otherwise they wouldn't write anything. In the other classes it was a waste. One class we played airplane crash, where I tell them they were in an airplane crash (hence the name) and they have to pick 5 out of 10 things on the board. Some are useful some are stupid.

Then in the other class there was not enough time to play that so we did hangman. We did it four times and the students really liked it. Once the word was NONSENSE and they had all but the Ns. I told them it's just one letter so they started naming random letters. A group insisted it was D so I said dodsedse? Then they picked M, I tried to suggest N, but they insisted on M. So I wrote Momsemse and they all laughed. Then one student blindsided me with K. I was thinking, it's wrong I'll just write it and show them it's wrong. So I write KOK SEKSE on the board and unsuspectingly say it. Cock Sex.

As soon as I said it I knew it was all over. They started saying Sex over and over. Then other words related to sex. Luckily time was up so the bell rang and I left. Then as I was leaving the school, the cute (but married) teacher gave me a bouquet of flowers. That's normal here to give flowers as a going away present and even to men. I was both flattered and flustered. But they are really nice.

As you can see they are really nice. I should put them in water or something now. Just a moment.

Ok, I'm back. Man they wrapped the base of the stems to last a while. It took a good ten minutes to get them free. They are really nice and I just decided to have some flowers in my new apartment. There's something about live flowers that just makes an apartment more alive. Maybe I will get a gold fish too. Eh, that's pushing it a bit.

I just returned from having dinner with a friend who is translating my farewell speech. Some people are giving theirs in English since we are English teachers, but I want the kids to really hear me so I will do it in Japanese. It's a nice speech and even she said so. She is translating it into really nice Japanese also. I'll post it all here when I finish it. I will be reading from the Roman version of Japanese called Romaji, but I will also have a formal Japanese version that I will show people and make them think I read from that. That was the translator's idea, which means more work for her, so I don't mind. It's a practical joke right up my alley.

I still have this annoying cough and I am planning on doing Fuji this weekend. The cough will either bother me or go away on Fuji. I bought a knee brace and poncho tonight. It usually rains all the way up and is freezing cold. I have the headlamp above and some warm clothing so I should be alright. I just need to lose this belly fat and get in shape really quick and I will be all set.

Wednesday, July 13th

I went in two hours late and left two hours early. It was sports day today and tomorrow so there is really nothing for me to do. I cleaned out my desk a bit and then watched the students play their sports. They were gung-ho die hard about it. Japanese people can be fiercely competitive, especially when they are in a group. They must protect the group. I took some pictures, but they aren't super interesting:

You can see all the different classes in different colored outfits all around the field.

This class had a drawing and the Japanese for "don't fall down" on their shirts. Also they apparently had matching ugly knee socks.

This is the huge generator needed to run the A/C at the school. Ridiculous.


Tomorrow I have my English department farewell party. I have to pay $50 for my own party. I don't know why I expected anything different. Paying for your own farewell party / present. That cracks me up. Japanese people can be so funny about money sometimes.

Thursday, July 14th

I took today off since I have things I need to do like pack and get my license translated and get some other dumb form for getting my Japanese driver's license. Actually I'm going to set up a different page and update it specifically for the driver's license. It's going to be a long process and require constant updates. It will probably get it's own chapter in my book.

Getting a Driver's License in Fukushima

Well I have completed two parts, even though it's only 10% of the whole process and the two easiest parts. The next part, the driving school, will be fine, and the final part, the actual test, will be a nightmare like hell.

I really hate having a lot of things to do, but then again I do love getting things done. I got a few things done in a small amount of time and it feels good. On my way home I picked up two big boxes from the grocery store. I'll start packing up my kitchen stuff and bathroom supplies. Most everything else is already in a box. This really sucks for the JET two after me. If the person following me lived in my apartment I would leave all sorts of things for her, but she's living in an already furnished place so I'll just keep half the stuff. I mean I did pay for it, but I was just going to let it be passed down. I got screwed out of my deposit because Kenchou (aka baboon circus monkey clown drunken donkeys) didn't tell me who was replacing me until early July so I couldn't give the apartment people two months like they wanted. Ergo I lose my deposit. Oh well.

I'm going to do more packing today. Tomorrow I have my "farewell greeting" in the morning and then four classes. They are classes I have been to before so I won't have to do an introduction / goodbye like some classes.


My farewell party was fun. Well sorda fun. Apart from having to pay $50 for it, and all the teachers talking in Japanese the whole time, and three teachers not even coming, I still managed to think of it as being fun. They pitched in and bought me a nice shirt. It has a Hawaiian beach summer feel to it, with a hint of 70s, but I like it and will wear it. It's a 4L, which will fit me, but I bet they had to go to a special shop to get it.

Oh I forgot to mention, last night I went to Corey's to get something. On the way I stopped at the Ramen shop. I ordered my usual and told the Japanese waiter in Japanese, I wanted a total of 2 eggs in the boil. They do this thing where they semi hard boil an egg, maybe that is called soft boiled. So I told him I wanted two eggs total in the bowl. He asked how many halves so I said 4 halves, two eggs total.

Can you guess how many eggs were in the bowl?

A) 4
B) 5
C) 6
D) Not 4.

The answer is both C and D. Answer B would have been ok since it comes with one half already, and maybe he assumed I wanted two more. Even though I said "total" a few times. Still the judges would have allowed that. But there is no justifiable way to get six halves. I love the taste after they sit in the sauce for a while so I don't complain, but still people I am speaking Japanese to Japanese people. I'm not telling a Cambodian farmer about current advances in China sewing techniques. I am telling a Japanese waiter at a Japanese Ramen shop something about his product IN JAPANESE. And yet, it's still not right.

Getting a Driver's License in Fukushima

Friday July 15th

Two things happened today that are worth mentioning. I went to Nishi (west) today and it was my last day. I gave my farewell speech in the morning and then had 4 classes. We played games and I said goodbye and it was a little sad. They wrote me farewell letters and I got teary eyed a few times.

So in one class, a garbage truck always drives by the first floor window. Every time, the passenger sees me and gasps as though I were naked or had two heads. The first time, maybe, but like every week? Come on dude, it's getting old. So today I saw the truck in the distance and explained my plan to the class. Then I acted like I was talking and as soon as the passenger gasped again we engaged my plan. He turned and saw me and stared and tapped the driver and then pointed at me. On my mark, the whole class turned and gasped and pointed back at him. He looked completely and thoroughly confused. We all had a good laugh and bonded a little, even though it was my last time there. But they will think of me when the trash truck goes by next time.

Then in my little un-air conditioned teacher's room we always have the windows open. There is a courtyard and a small man-made pond in the middle. There are some wild ducks that come by occasionally. When I have extra lunch I usually throw some out the window. Like bread crumbs or something. There is only one duck from the group that will come near the window to get the food. I named him Lester the Duck. After I feed him, he always quacks twice and I pretend that is duck for "thank you". This time he came over and I threw some pieces of bread out as usual. When he finished I said "I'm leaving. Goodbye. I'm leaving", over and over again. I get that from my mom, talking to things that clearly can't understand me.

So Lester the duck just stared at me and then I thought he bowed. Then he turned and walked away. Just before he rejoined the group he looked back and quacked twice. This time I thought maybe goodbye. Then he joined the group and participated in various duck like things. Quacking and splashing and whatever else they do.

Then as they were all leaving, which I didn't notice, Lester the duck came over to the window and quacked twice. It actually scared me a bit since his head was just there at the window. I stood up and looked at him and said goodbye. He quacked again then waddled off. Just before he took off he looked back and I knew he understood. Then he flew away.

Although I am glad to be out of the JET Programme, it is sad to say good bye to friends even if they are high school students or ducks. The one thing that keeps me going is the fact I will be going to a small country school where I can learn everyone's name and even know everyone in the town. Although that's going to be hard to leave whenever I decide to.

Tuesday, July 19th - Last day at Higashi High School

I'll write about Fuji soon. For now, think of the worst day of your life and multiply it times 3.5. That was Fuji for me.

Amazingly, even though I have been waiting to change schools for a long time, I didn't want to today. When you know that you are doing something for the last time it's an odd feeling. Even though I want a change and am really looking forward to the new job, everything was sad today.

Riding my bike there I was thinking, this is the last time I will be doing this. Then I get to school and things are normal. I had one class because they specifically requested me. We played a game called Taboo. They loved it. Then when it was over I told them that was my last class at Higashi ever. They were quiet for a moment and I got teary eyed.

Then it was lunch and I had McDonald's at the grocery store near the school. I wanted to tell the staff, "you'll never see me again, I'm just going to disappear. I know we had a little bond since I came in here a lot, but I'm moving on, so goodbye". But I didn't say that. I just ate and returned to the school. Around 1:30 I went into the gym for my ceremony. First I gave a speech in Japanese. Some people did it in English, but I really wanted the students to understand me. Here is the English version of my speech.


Principal, Vice Principal, teachers, and students,

Thank you for 3 years of fun and interesting times. I am truly glad I was able to come here and experience life in a Japanese High School. Before coming to Japan, I worked in a boring computer job in the dark for 12 hours a day. It was boring and lonely. Fukushima Higashi has never been boring or lonely. The students are great and the teachers are very nice and you have made me feel welcome. I know you will do the same for the new ALT, Erin.

 Three days ago I climbed Mt Fuji. It was very difficult and I wanted to quit many times, but I didnft. Why did I climb it? Because it was there. It was a challenge. At the fifth station the mountain said to me gclimb me if you can, Ifm not moving. Ifve seen people like you quit many times. I grow stronger when I hear yamemasuh (I quit).

 In Japan, you have a proverb gderu kui wa utareruh (the nail who sticks out will be hammered down). But my advice is you should ignore this. When I read it, it sounds like you should not try hard, but I think you should always do your best.

 Have you heard of these people who stick out?

 Mukai Chiaki (a Japanese astronaut)

Koizumi Sori ( the prime minister)

Ichiro - (famous baseball player)

Ayumi (pop star)

Haiko no basho (famous poet)

 No one hammered them down. Looking out at you I donft see students, I see an astronaut, a doctor, a famous baseball player, an artist, a musician, and many other things.

 I hope you donft forget me or some things Ifve taught you. As a way of remembering me forever, maybe you can name part of the school after me. Later I will ask the principal to name this gym the Ryan gym, but maybe he will say gimpossibleh.

 I remember being your age, wondering what my life would be like. I never thought I would be living in Japan teaching English. I didnft like taking English class in my high school, and I never thought I would be teaching it. I remember a friend learning Japanese in college and I said gwhy would you want to learn Japanese?h and here I am giving a speech in Japanese to 1,000 high school students. The point is, you never know where you will go in life, so you can only prepare by always doing your best.

 I think high school is like Mt Fuji. 3rd year students, you are at the 9th station, just a little more to go. When you get to the peak and take your college entrance exams, then you can say gI did ith. Just donft say gyamemasuh
(I quit), then the mountain will grow stronger.

My time here is coming to an end and so has my farewell speech. Although I am leaving Fukushima city, I will still be close. I will be in Koriyama at Konan Shouchuugakkou (elementary-junior high). Maybe I will visit or send you letters. But for now, one last time, everyone repeat after me:

gSee yah.

So that was my speech, all in Japanese. Thank GOD it was in Japanese because I can't read it without getting teary eyed. At least in Japanese I was focused on reading and pronouncing it correctly. I made a few mistakes, but that's to be expected. I had a Japanese version also, in Japanese characters and I showed some teachers and students. After I gave the speech several teachers, and some I really didn't know, came up and said it was beautiful and they cried a bit. That was touching. Many students also said they loved it. I just don't think it would have the same effect in English.

Then some students presented me with flowers. Then I sat down and tried not to doze off during the rest of the speeches and awards. Later in the teacher's room the English club came by and gave me a great little book they made. It had pictures of them all and little messages. It was really nice and I almost burst into tears, but instead I acted like I was reading it and looked away while thinking about something not sad. It's really cute and I will keep it forever.

I'm going to take pictures starting day one at the new place, and make some kind of book for students when they leave. I don't know what, but I'm going to plan early. I want to stay at least three years at the new place, but we will have to see. Three years will be enough time for me to get closer to fluent and save money. But it will also be enough time for me to really get to know all the kids and that will make it really hard to leave.

Ok Fuji. Well let me go eat first since I need to build a picture page. Actually I am going to create a story page and then a climbing advice page. More on that later. I'm going to eat now. I'm going to have Indian food and a big Indian beer.



Tuesday is the day the Indian food place is closed.


I wandered around trying to figure out what to do and I finally went to the station and had sushi again. It was good, but I was looking forward to Indian food all day. While at the station I checked the bus times for tomorrow since I am going to the driving school at 10am. I think I will take the 8:50 bus since I am not sure how long it takes and there might be paperwork or something. Plus I hate being rushed and flustered for things like that.

Ok, working on the Fuji page now.

ok, I finished it. Here it is: Climbing Mt Fuji.

As always, feel free to link to any part of my site or you repost anything I write or copy any pictures I take. I mean really, it took me 3 seconds and the flick of a finger to take these I'm not going to freak out about people copying them. I create these pages to share and teach so please use anything on here. I hate sites with big copyright warnings like;


Come on get a life, share and take. If you set up a site to set professional photography that's different, this site is to share information about Japan and how different the culture can be at times. Even though I complain, I still hope to generate interest in Japan and allow people to travel vicariously through me.

Let's see. This week, well tomorrow, I go to the driver's school for two hours to learn how to play the driver's license game and pass the test. Then Thursday I wanted to take the test for the first time, but I have to go to Koriyama to fill out more papers and see my new school and apartment. Then Friday I have to go back to Koriyama for a demonstration on teaching Elementary school using something I don't know about yet. We'll see. Then nothing much Saturday and Sunday. Maybe I can find a friend to help me take one load down there in a big car. Maybe I can ask Ayako, she has a big car. I was hoping to have my license by early next week, but it looks like I will have to go on Monday and then back again a few more days since foreigners rarely pass the first time, but that's not discrimination.

Getting a Driver's License in Fukushima

Wednesday, July 20th

I went to the driving school today and that was a huge help. There is no way I could have made it 20 feet at the test without going to the school first. I am going back on Friday since there is so much for me to practice. I made good headway this time, but I had a lot of problems. Most are because the driving test here is not about safe driving, but about performing a little script. My natural instincts and 15+ years of driving would make me do one thing, that wasn't in the script. the other thing is I kept turning on the wipers because the blinker is on the other side. It's hard to remember to look in all these directions when you know you are alone on a driving course, but that's what I had to do. I also did this thing when I would turn I would grip the steering wheel from the bottom and she would constantly point that out. Maybe I will quit that for the test if I can remember.

When the driving school was over, they graciously took me to the license center since it was noon and people could walk around the course during lunch break. I walked around it a lot and followed the preset path and took several pictures. I don't know if pictures are allowed, I would guess not, but I did anyway. I posted them on Dave's Helpful Driving Course page. Here is a picture of the course and the DMV in the background:

As you can see, for some reason there is an air traffic control tower in the course. Maybe we will be certified to drive around airports. Notice the curbs are inverted, so they can easily tell when your tire drops off of one. This odd figure 8 part is for motorcycles. Here are the two parts most foreigners have trouble with, the Crank and the S-Curve:

So tomorrow I go to Koriyama for paperwork, my new visa, and meeting the teachers and principal at the school as well as seeing my new apartment. I'll most definitely take pictures of that. Then Friday I go back to Koriyama for an elementary school class lesson thing. Then Friday afternoon I will go back to the driving school for more time on the track. Saturday I have nothing much planned, but Sunday I want to go to the Soma Horse Samurai festival in Soma. Monday I will begin the grueling series of going to the driving center to take and most likely retake the test.

Friday, July 22nd

Got up really early and went to Koriyama to attend a workshop on using a new book several Koriyama foreign teachers made for teaching elementary school.

It was educational and informative. After that we ate at MOS burger (Mountain Ocean Sun) and then I caught a train home. I immediately went to the driving school for two more needed hours of lessons. This time was much better than last time since I was relaxed and had two previous hours of experience. I also had an older driver, who was a previous license tester. For the first entire hour, I just looped around doing the two pictures above, the Crank and the S-curve. I am pretty solid on both of them. The second hour he mapped out an entire course and I went through it over and over. It got to the point that I was really having fun. It is like a challenging amusement park. Drive the car through the maze. I was driving a standard taxi style car, but they also offer bus lessons.

It would seriously be cool to go and practice driving a bus for an hour. It would cost about $50. I wouldn't want to take the test, but seriously when am I ever going to drive a bus? We'll see. One good thing was there was other traffic on the course so I actually had to pay attention. The last few times I took the test course he graded me and I passed. I only made small stupid mistakes that I should be able to remember not to do. He also taught me a lot of little secrets that would really help. There is no way I could pass the test without taking this course. Zero.

Oh I should back track some. Yesterday I went to Koriyama to fill out some paperwork and then meet my new school and see my new apartment. The school was great and the teachers and few students I met seemed really cool. I think I am going to love it. The town is small and I should be able to save a ton of money. Part of the reason is my apartment is so cheap, and yet so nice. It's actually a bit bigger and nicer than what I have now. But it's about 1/3 the rent, and the other utilities will be dirt cheap. I'll almost certainly have to get a satellite dish since there won't be much else to do out there. But all that will still be cheap. Here, I will set up a page about my new apartment since I took so many pictures.

Said page is located not here so much, but here.

Here's a better picture of me where my head isn't so fat. I even took it while walking.

While I am at it, here are some pictures of the shinkansen I rode back. If you like bullet trains this might be of interest.

Saturday, July 23rd, 2005

Did nothing much today. Bought some non-Japanese learning books with my leftover book gift certificates. Checked out a different type of mobile phone. I'm going to switch to Docomo, which is the mobile phone branch of NTT, Japan's monopoly telephone company. They don't have good English service, but they have the better network. They tied it in to their land lines more or less. Then I bought some stuff at the international food place at the station, had sushi, picked up some used boxes at the grocery store, and came back. I packed a bit more as well as cleaned my kitchen completely. I also cleaned the porch. I have a bunch of crap to take down to the garbage area later.

Then I went and ate dinner with Liz and her friend visiting from the US. We had Gyoza one last time at the place near my apartment. Since then I have been packing and just doing nothing much. Here is an odd photo I found. It's a British constable giving directions to a lady, but it looks like he is about to slap the $%&# out of her.

Backhand her technically I guess. I talked to Eriko, the girl I might be dating, and she can't see me until Saturday or Sunday. She said she might drive to my new place in Konan, but it's a long way and she has to work Monday so she could only stay a little while and then she'd have to leave. Depending on when I get the license I need to start moving things right away. I have so much to move, well not too much since the school it taking the big stuff away, but a lot of boxes.

Monday I go to the driver's license center to take the written and driving test. See my progress here: Getting a Driver's License in Fukushima. I am actually excited about the test, just because I have taken 4 hours at the driving school and really feel confident about it. I expect to fail once or twice, that's just how it is with foreigners, though Michelle did pass on her first try. She is a good driver for the record.

Monday, July 25th, 2005

That's Japanese for:



Which is romanized Japanese for:


I DID IT !!!!!

I passed the driver's test first time. WOO HOO. It was tough and a lot of waiting, but I did it. I got there at 8:30 and handed in my paperwork. Then there was a problem with my name because the stupid passport people wrote it as MC  DONALD. But it's just McDonald. One word. No space. So all my paperwork has various different ways of writing my last name. It was almost game over, but I just dismissed it as nothing and the guy said ok. After that it was semi-smooth. First I filled out more paperwork. Then I took an eye test and a written test with easy questions like "True or False, it's ok to drink a little beer while driving?". Then I waited more. Finally it was lunch and I walked the course one more time. Then it was 1pm and the driving tests started. Foreigners go last of course, so I went with three other foreigners around 2:30. The girl before me was a really weak driver and I am surprised she passed. That made me look much more confident. When I finished the guy said "good feeling. safe driver. few mistakes, but good feeling". Of course he made an actual sentence since it was Japanese and he spoke it since birth, but that's what I picked out. Then we went back to the 3rd floor, the foreigner floor, and waited. He called two people and said "zannen" which means too bad. Then he immediately called me and the weak driver and as we approached the window he said "omedetou ne" which means congratulations. I was really surprised since I made a few mistakes and the tester was writing things down. But the mistakes were small.

Then I got home and went to Indian one last time with Liz and her friend visiting from the US. I ate so much and had a victory beer. Then I said goodbye to Liz for ever or at least a year or more. It was a bit sad. Then I met someone from Higashi for a farewell meal at the Okinawan place. He kept ordering food and I was so stuffed. On top of that he kept pouring this Japanese scotch type stuff in my glass. It really tasted like feet, but I had to keep drinking, because this place will store a bottle of fine somethinganother for someone. He kept saying it was an honor I was drinking his private collection.

Well I need to update this page Getting a Driver's License in Fukushima and then work on something else related to the driving license so other people have an easy time like me.

Wednesday, July 27th, 2005

Wow. Busy busy day. But the good news is my plans are all falling into place. I woke up around 6am, then 9am. Then I got on a shink and went to Koriyama. I went by City Hall and found out where the JETs in Koriyama live because that's where the car was that I bought. The car I had only seen once. Then I waited for the guy with the key. Finally he came and I put Elise's satellite in the trunk and got ready.

I checked the driver's controls then said I'm ready. Then I checked them again and adjusted the seat. Then I checked them once more. Then I quit stalling and started driving. It was strange for about 20 minutes, then my brain compensated and my 15 years of driving kicked in. It was no problem after that. I drove back to Fukushima via the toll expressway since it was easier. By the time I was in Fukushima city I was comfortable and driving all around the place running errands that were tough with no car. Then I drove to the apartment, loaded the car, and went exploring. I was looking for my new apartment. I had bought a map, so I knew the area, but I wasn't sure what it would be like getting there. Well it was exactly like the map and easy as pie. It takes about an hour and a half to get from Fukushima to my door step in Konan and the drive is really pretty. It would take a tad less if I used the toll road which would cost about $20.

Then I unloaded everything and drove straight back. Had to stop and get gas, $30 to fill the tank. Ouch. When I got back I called Corey and he was eating ice cream with Michelle. We all got together at the pool hall and talked about FuJET stuff, since he took it over. At about 11pm we all left. I am home now and will start cleaning since my teachers are coming over tomorrow (technically today) at 9:30am to move the big stuff out. The big stuff belongs to the school so they are doing something with it.

So I will probably make another journal entry tomorrow, but Friday my phone gets cut. Plus tomorrow is the last day of my contract so maybe that will be the symbolic end to this site. I will start anew from August with another site. We'll see. There's a big welcome farewell party planned on Friday. I'll upload pictures of the car soon.


Currently in Sapporo at a language course, but I have managed to work on the new site. It's not on it's own domain yet, but for now it's here.