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.

New Years Day, 2003

This day fell into the category of complete waste of a day. We woke up around noon and I went out for lunch and a walk. I didn't have a hangover, since I didn't drink that much, ate before going to sleep, and drank a few glasses of water as well. I came back and we studied a bit and watched a few movies in English on TV. I think one was Far and Away with Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, and the other was ...I forget. Then BJ really wanted to hang out with some friends from Fukushima city that we see every single Sunday, and I wanted to go to Daisuke's parents house for dinner since they invited us. I figured it would be nice to chat with them for a bit, but BJ really wanted to see Lisa and Julie (maybe in case they had changed since we saw them two Sundays ago). I like hanging out with them, but when there is an option of being with someone you see every Sunday or having dinner and saying thanks to someone who let you stay for Free in their place in the most expensive city in the world, well it's not hard for me to decide on that one. I ended up telling Daisuke's parents no, we had plans, when in fact we didn't.

Then we kept trying to make a plan with L&J but they didn't know where they were staying, but they knew they were near us. Finally we said let's meet at so and so, and they said now they didn't feel like going out. Well poo. For dinner we ate at MOS Burger and it was small, but quite tasty. I had a coke with caffeine which made me stay up late. I was awake at 2am and we had planned on getting up at 6:30 to wait in line to see the emperor. He only opens his palace twice a year and only once a year does he make an appearance and wave to people. So I get to sleep about 3am, and a few seconds later I hear the alarm going off at 6:30.

Thursday, Jan 2, 2003

We got up roughly on time and headed out. Weren't as many people as I thought there would be. Tokyo station was busy, but not super busy. I was a little surprised. Then we start walking toward the Palace and realize a line has formed, but we are still 2 miles away from the Palace entrance. Luckily the line was only about 300 feet long and started just around the corner. We got there at 8:30 and they let the line start moving at 9. We all walked and walked and passed through security and followed different roped off lines. Oh by the way, earlier BJ left to go call his Mom and get food. As soon as he left we started moving, so now we are separated and for some freaky reason he STILL hasn't got a Keitai (cell phone). So basically he was SOL. There were 400,000 people there and no way we are going to find him. So Daisuke and I wait in line and I realize we are right near the front of the line. At 9:30 they open the flood gates and we start walking through the palace grounds. We walk over some famous bridge and past some nice garden. Then we get to the main palace building. Didn't look super Palace like, but still impressive. It was long, I'd say two football fields long, and two story, and pretty wide. It looked like it had a long walkway on the outside, and I guess that was for him to walk outside and still be safe. There was glass covering it. One part had a little balconey for him to wave.

We all lined up in front ot it in a big block. If I had to guess I would say there were 50,000 people there. We stood and stood and talked to a chatty lady from New York visiting friends here. There were tons of foreigners. People came out and checked the microphone and then walked back in. The tension was building. I wondered what the reaction would be since the emperor is merely a figure head. I think he has little power if any and is just seen as Royalty, like the Queen of England. Then people behind me started screaming "Banzai", which in some way means I am happy. I couldn't see why they were screaming and then I noticed the doors sliding open. Then everyone started screaming as if they were begging for their lives. It was blood curdling screams, but they were all happy. They had passed out little Japanese flags earlier and everyone was waving them and screaming and clapping. I took a short video and some pictures but they are small. They are in the Tokyo Trip photo section.

The emperor came out with his wife, his son (the next emperor), his son's wife, his daughter, his younger brother, and two other people I didn't know, but I think were there to balance out the group and have more people on the stage. Then he made a short speech, but started with "Good Morning", in English. He talked for about 3 minutes and everyone was quiet. I imagine he said "Hello, happy new year, thanks for coming, we are happy to serve you, do you like my pretty new pants, work hard this year, yadda yadda yadda". Then they waved for about 5 minutes and people kept screaming and bowing and waving their flags. If I had a dollar for every camera flash that went off, I'd have at least 350 bucks. It was like a strobe light for a while. I bet he was blinded. He was looking pretty old, but I think he is seventy or so. I think Japanese people look older because they all have dark hair and when it goes grey it's a stronger clash than Westerners with light hair.

Then we strolled out and felt like a wave pouring down a hill. Strangely we ran into BJ somehow and then went to go eat. We went to this all you can eat buffet in Ueno for $10. I ate way too much, but it felt good. Then we headed back to the pad, which is ironically called a Mansion. In Japan a Mansion is a condo that you own. It can be a small apartment, but if you own it like a condo then it's a mansion. So we went back and then I realized I had to leave to get back here by 7 to meet Sachiyo, which is the Japanese girl I think I am dating. Again, not sure yet. I left at 2, because someone took 30 minutes to pack.......

BJ stayed in Tokyo for a few more days, because he HAS money and more time off than me. He was going to crash at a friends place one night. We had some last minute logistical troubles trying to get in touch with certain people and then I had to leave and I was the one with the cell phone. So I am hoping he comes back with a cell phone. It was actually somewhat of a pain sometimes to travel with someone with out a cell phone. If we were to get lost, he would really be screwed since he didn't know the way back for a while and I couldn't call him, so I would have to wait around for him to call me. I made sure to watch him all the time which was really unnerving. Next time I'm just going to do what i want and if we get separated then HE will have a problem, not me.

I had that all day free pass thing so I used it to get back home via local trains. This was incredibly painful since it took 6 hours. Half of that time was the train stopping for 10 minutes in the little small podunk towns. THERE IS NO ONE HERE !!! GO. Finally we would go, and stop again five minutes later. Next time I will just save up for a month and buy the $160 RT Shink ticket. It only takes an hour and a half to get from the heart of Tokyo to Fukushima, I think it's worth it. I made it in at 8:30 since we had an hour layover in smallboringsville. I ate some cheap Ramen at another standup booth. I still have two all day passes left. They expire 1-20-2003 so I need to take a day trip soon with someone or an overnight trip alone somewhere. I'll find somewhere to go.

I just received an email from Sachiyo and went to http://babelfish.altavista.com and translated the text. Here's why I don't know if we are dating or not:    

The side ji becoming slow, the "meh" it is do. Now it is the stripe which is wiped? However the inside yaku it is possible to 19 ji among the Ryan, is to be, being strong, it does, the yo?

Friday, Jan 3, 2003

I woke up today around 10 and just laid around the place since I have so much to do and don't want to get around to it. Finally I decide to go to the station and get some money and maybe eat sushi or do something. So I get there and the ATM is closed. It's noon and it's closed. The sign says it will be closed from New Years Day until Jan 3rd. WHY? It's an ATM.

I've decided what to do. I am going to translate this and send actual letters to people at my bank.     "Could someone please explain why ATMs close early and on Holidays? I come from The US and the ATMs are there for the customers convenience. It is very inconvenient for me to be in another city and really need money only to find it's closed. I don't understand why ATMs would close in the safest country in the world. Japan has electronics that are years ahead of the US, but the ATM system is decades behind. Can someone please explain this to me, as it causes me much anguish quite often."     I will actually sign my name too. It really drives me insane, to the point I want to leave just enough money in the bank to pay the bills and withdraw the rest. Since I have a spending problem I won't do that, but I do consider it. I might move the majority into my Post Office account which is far more efficient that the banks.

After that I bought some mayonaise, some curry at the dollar store, and three cheeseburgers from McDonald's and came back home. I played on the computer all day and watched some Friends videos my parents sent over. I might go skiing soon. I bought some cheap gloves, and my boots are in the mail, and I managed to find someone with some old slow cheap skis, so all I need after that is some clothes and I'll be set. But so far I will have spent less on skis and boots than I would spend on two rentals. Good deal.

 

Sunday, Jan 5th, 2003

Just thought of a few things that are worth noting. The verbs in Japanese are crap. There I said it. First they conjugate in all sorts of weird ways. Secondly, some idiot (the idiot in charge of ATM times and making all bathroom stall doors open inward) decided to make completely opposite sounding verbs and adjectives sound similar or the same. Here are a few more that I have already goofed.

First, and this is really sad because I was warned about this years in advance. The verb for sit and the one for fondle are very similar. So if I were to say "May I sit here", it might sound like "May I fondle you". And yes I have said it. The sad part is my friend Barry (lead singer for Mindseye) told me about this a while ago and I was thinking about it in my head. I kept saying to myself "the word for sit is suwatte (sue whah tay), don't confuse it with sawatte (sah whah tay) which means to touch or fondle". I even start thinking "I will get SUED if I sit in the wrong place, SU = sit". So I am practicing it over and over and I go to say the whole sentence and I accidentally start thinking about the sentence rather than the word. The whole sentence is "sumimasen, suwatte mo ii desu ka" (excuse me, is it ok to sit here). Then I start thinking (incorrectly) "I will get SUED if I touch you". So she looks at me funny and I say "ha ha, oops, SUwatte mo ii desu ka". Then she laughs because I am a stupid foreigner who can't tell the difference in these two completely different sounds.

The second thing is worse. I learned a new verb in class. To Insult is nameru (nah may du). It also means something else. So in class I made a joke about something and the teacher make a comment in Japanese about me, I was pretty sure she said something like "real cute, haven't heard that since I was 5". But I wasn't sure. So I whipped out my catchphrase, "are you insulting me?". She stared at me with wide eyes, and I thought she was impressed at my fluency. She paused and said "No, I think you would know if I was licking you". DOH!

A later check in the dictionary revealed yes they are the exact same word and the only difference is a slight inflection on the 3rd syllabary conglomerate of main infunctionary, whatever. So I'll keep writing all these down, I'm sure there's already a list somewhere from some chump who said the wrong the before me.

Don't have much to do today, will go to the station later and grab a bite. Meg's coming in later so we might go eat and I can listen to all her irrelevant stories about China, which will mean nothing since I didn't go and have no point if reference. But like a good friend, I'll be nice and laugh like I care.

[later]

She had some funny stories, I laughed genuinely and fakey sometimes. Then we went to Renata's place for a while since we usually have movie night somewhere on Sunday nights. It has been snowing all day. You know what, I am so over snow. It has snowed more here in the past month than in my entire life back in Georgia. Just today it snowed 4 inches. I measured it. 4 inches. That's a good 4 or 6 Georgia Snow Years.

Meg and I ate at ChuckWagon, which ironically IS a country and western place, but they have decent Mexican food. Then we chucked over to Renatas and she told more stories to them and I listened again. Occasionally I would prompt her in the story when she needed a segue way. "So what did the officer say to that?" and then she would go into this other slightly related story about how she was almost arrested by a communist cop in Beijing for taking a picture of him, but got out of it by crying.

Then I walked home with Lisa and Julie who live rather close to me. It was not snowing so much anymore, but there was at least 5 inches on the ground. Some was so fresh and new I hated to kick through it. A ski friend sent me a phone message and said she will deliver my new (new to me) skis to me tomorrow. I can pay her later on pay day or whenever. I think they are her father's and they are last year's model or the year before and anything not this year is old and crappy, so I get them for $50 and I think they are worth a few hundred. I found a place that sells snowboards for about $20 so I might try one of those as well. Last time I was horrible, but if I own one and can go cheaply often, then that might be different. I already have ski boots in the mail, but snowboard boots are different. Either way I need to get good fast since I already own a complete ski set and outfit apparently.

I think I have tomorrow off as well, I'll explain that more in detail later. I think I go back on Tuesday, but only to Higashi. I don't start my traveling schools for another week. I added up how many more times I go to Hobara and I think it's only 5. There are so many holidays and the new school year starts in April, and the last few weeks of March are Spring break and entrance exams so it's really just Part of Jan, Feb, and a week or two in March. Then it all starts over. New students at Higashi, two new schools hopefully, and a whole new life sorda. We'll see. Maybe I can get a closer school this time. I hope not Hobara since I do nothing there. Great school, nice kids, cute teachers, but yet I do nothing. If I have things to do the day goes by faster. Maybe I will be away from the EC teacher as well at the other school. He makes things interesting, but sometimes I just want a break.

PLUS in late March and early April there are a slue of going away parties and welcome parties, because many teachers transfer (usually involuntarily) between schools. Maybe I won't drink for a month before that because there will be a lot of drinking at these parties, and I need to brush up heavy on my language so I can impress the new teachers.

Bedtime now. More later.

Monday Jan 6, 2003

Today was a mixture of a lazy day and a productive day. More on the lazy side I guess. I really stayed in most of the day doing nothing. Sachiyo came over and I taught her how to tell time in English. She kept saying "3 am O'Clock". She's doing better now. Then I fixed some tuna and rice balls (it's really cheap), and later I fixed Curry Rice for me. Other than that, a package came in from my parents with two video tapes. One was Friends and Survivor and then the news, the other was SNL, Home Time, something else, and then the miner's story. I miss Home Time and other silly shows most people take for granted, like Little House on the Prairie. When I lived in Stone Mountain, for a while we didn't have and I would wake up around 9 each morning in time to see two hour long episodes of LHOTP. I worked 3-12 and would wake up at 9ish every morning. I hope you get the chance to wake up naturally without an alarm clock, it's really a great feeling. I had that schedule for nearly 6 months I think. I was always so relaxed. My evenings were shot, but who cares. I liked getting in at midnight and watching cheesy late night TV and then going to sleep (sometimes on the couch). Then naturally waking up at 9 or so. Sometimes I would walk up Stone Mountain for exercise or play frisbee golf. Then go eat at this Hawaiian place. Good times.

On the more productive note, my ski friend Tomoko brought my skis over today. They are pretty cool. She said they are carving skis. I have no idea what that means, but she acted like it's really good. The total is 5,000 yen which is like $40 so that's a great deal. Just need pants and a jacket and I will be stylin'. Too bad nothing matches. The boots are black with red bindings, the skis are white and yellow, the gloves are grey and yellow, so no telling what color the pants should be. It's 11:30 now and I guess I will go back to bed. I think I have tomorrow off as well. I'll explain why ex post facto (after the fact). Sadly I am getting tired of having days off. I have nothing to do and no money so I just sit around and watch American TV tapes. I could get out and exercise but then I would be cold and outside. There's still snow all over the ground and it's icy cold, so outside is not on my list of favorite places now.

In case you've never seen skis.

 

Wednesday Jan 8, 2003

Today was a super boring day since there were no classes, but at least I wasn't at home doing nothing. I studied Japanese and read a new book for a while. Then I started daydreaming about my childhood. Have you ever noticed when you dream you don't dream in complete structures just little fragments and your brain fills in the rest so you feel like you'd dreamed for hours but really it was only a minute or a few seconds? I start dreaming about my fourth grade teacher, Mrs Caldwell. She was a really great teacher and motivator and friend, even though I was only in the 4th grade. Then I realized I only had a few small memories of my 4th grade year. The main one was being at Jenny Bartel's house (with others and her mom) preparing for a skit we would perform for Mrs. C about something.

But that's it, that's my only memory. Then I went back to the first grade and even Readiness. In Georgia we have a grade in between Kindergarten and 1st Grade, called Readiness. Though now as I say it, it really sounds stupid. Anyway, even with Readiness I only have a few fragmented memories, and yet I have more from readiness than I do from the 4th grade. I think I was 6 or so in Readiness. One memory is crawling under the Christmas tree and smashing someone's clay snowman and the teacher, Ms. Cone, making me take the broken one and whoever got my nice one. Then there was a memory of being punished and having to sit in the bathroom for sometime. The last memory is walking through a creek at the teacher's house. She had a slumber party and the whole class (maybe 10-15) came over and slept on the floor.

I spent a year in each of these grades, why do I only remember less than an hour of time in each one? Wow. had I known this I would have written a journal, excluding Readiness when I couldn't even write. Though once during scribble time I wrote the word Taxi. I actually remember the little scrap paper stapled together with me scribbling random letters and the teacher saying "Hey did you call a Taxi?". So Readiness gets 1 hour and ten minutes of my memory.

Fifth grade gets a lot more time than the others but only because the super strict teacher broker her knee on the second day and from then on we had a different substitute each day. Finally, someone had the bright idea to hire a new teacher. New as in first year no training. We honestly drove her near insanity. She left the room daily crying. She was also going through a divorce that year. Man what a year that was. I was the instigator and would Whisper things in one guy's ear and he would do them or say them, rarely thinking about what he was saying.

After that I have longer fragmented memories, but never a full year's worth or even a few month's worth. High school was a blur and college was long and drawn out. Some parts I'd like to relive others I could forget. There's no point to this paragraph really so I will end it prematurely.

[later]

Well it's been really cold for a few months and I hear it will stay cold until after March. It's strange, when I am standing in my kitchen watching my breath freeze as it comes out or when I am walking to school freezing cold all I can think about is how much I wish it were hot again. But then I faintly remember it being really way too hot and wishing it were cold. Now I think, it can never be too hot, anything is better than the cold, and then I thought the opposite, I'll just bundle up, when it's hot you can only take off so much. The one thing I did like was the Fall. We had a nice long very comfy Fall from about mid-Sept to Mid-November. I have heard we ahve a pleasant Spring as well from April to June. Then July, August, and part of September are hot. Like obscenely too hot. You walk outside and instantly are drenched in sweat.

There is another strange thing with the weather here. Sometimes it will be cold all day and then late at night it gets hotter than it was during the day. It's it supposed to get colder at night when the sun goes down. I don't get it, but it's happened a few times. Enough about the weather.

Today I ate Miso-Ramen for lunch and dinner. For some reason I had to have it both times. I was craving it all day. It's just a big bowl of Ramen noodles with Miso soup added. Then I walked home and ate more at that little Ramen shop on the corner. I'll get a picture of it sometime. The nice woman behind the counter commented on how skillful I was at using chopsticks. The problem is in Japanese you are supposed to deny compliments three times and then finally say something humble. When people comment on my Japanese I usually say "oh I have so much to learn" and then "oh it's so hard" and finally I cave and say thanks.

So she said how skillful I was and without thinking I said "oh no I have so much to learn". Then she stared at me and I stared back and realized that didn't fit. I could have covered and said "Oh there's a new European technique I haven't picked up yet, but......." but really, why bother. Just fold gracefully and hope she forgets.

I'm going to read more of my new James Redfield book and then study Japanese Verbs a bit more and then do something else. Talk to you tomorrow.

[later]

I was bored and cold and decided to lay (or lie) down on the bed under the covers. I dozed off for 30 minutes and then woke up. Now I am awake and cold and not sleepy. Great. When I awoke I started thinking about the opening ceremony we had today where we congratulated the soccer team for winning 3 out of 5 teams in the National Finals. Very prestigious for us, and especially the soccer coach, he is a hero in the area now. Anyway, we entered the gym around 10 am and the brass band was warming up. The strange thing is they were warming up with a minor scale which has a real eerie sound. The minor scale makes me very tense or anxious. I'm sure the Emperor's March in Star Wars was in a Minor scale. So they are playing this slow eerie scale and I walk in and all the students are standing at attention in the gym and on the stage, off to one side was this huge round heater. It was a real industrial type and scary in itself. I'd say it was about 4 feet in diameter and looked like a Jet engine taking off, like a fighter plane. The whole scene was surreal. It looked like we were worshipping some fire god on stage and the music made things worse. It made sense at the time.

Then the principal spoke and then the soccer team left the room and walked back in to more music (not a minor scale). Then each player said something witty in Japanese and people laughed. I felt compelled to laugh even though I really didn't catch anything. Then a TV news crew came in and filmed the soccer team a little. Then we left. Pretty quick and easy.

Then I went back and learned more Japanese verbs. There are so many and so many more conjugations. it's insane. But verbs are the key to the language. Everything builds on some conjugation of some verb, so I keep at it. The more I learn the more I can pick up in sentences. However, one bad thing about learning more is I realize I have been saying a few phrases horribly wrong. Not like in a different meaning, just poor grammar. Of course no one has told me that yet or corrected me, so I can only guess at how many people I slaughtered the language to. Whatever. Gonna read more and hope to get to sleep longer this time.

Thursday Jan 9, 2003

I'm eating McDonald's and it's 10:45 am. It's already been a stressful morning. I'm drinking Fanta grape and it reminds me of summers at our lake house in Alabama. There's a drink I've found only in Alabama called NuGrape, I think, or no wait, Grape-Co or something. I always drink so many when I am there during the summer so this Fanta grape reminds of those lazy hot summer days. Sitting on the porch or the deck with a splinter because I prefer to go barefoot and watching the lake.

Why has my 2 hour morning been so stressful?

It started great. Well when I got to school it was great. I brought my laptop, which is what I am typing this on now, and I was studying Kanji using this program I bought months ago. I whizzed through the first hundred and had already picked up most of the next 50 and was feeling really good. I know how to learn fastest for me and what I do is really work on a portion of the whole, in this case 50 of 200, for a while and then take a break. So I did the flash cards and then the test of both the Japanese sounds and then the English meanings. A few mistakes but I did great for  just 20 minutes of studying. So then I need to take a break. I go to the post office to mail three letters.

One is my Japanese Language test that is part of the monthly correspondence course I take through JET for free. It is due tomorrow. The second was an autographed picture of Aaron Carter I found for that girl I stayed with in August. I stayed with her family, not just her, she's 16. But she spoke great English and really REALLY loved this guy. The picture was her Christmas present. The last and most important were pictures from my Appi ski trip back in early December. I offered to pay for them to be developed for a girl since she and her friend were so kind in planning the trip. Like an idiot I lost them and then found them and then didn't have enough money to get them developed and yadda yadda it took over a month. So I go in and mail these letters and then go to the international ATM in the lobby.

The Post Office has a great International ATM. It has an English button and it's really easy. So I stick my card in and press the English button and the automated voice starts barking instructions. I take out $20 in yen and everything is going smooth. I hear the "frt frt" sound of two bills being spit into the money tray. Then  the screen goes blue and the voice says "A teller will be out to help you in one moment". This has never happened, I don't need help, what's going on?

Something to note here is a teller was out there to help me before the voice stopped telling me someone would be. I mean fast. Great the foreigner screwed something up. So he babbles something at me which I interpret as the machine is out of money and then he sticks in a key and starts pressing secret buttons. This goes on for a minute and then he has to open the bottom part for some reason. He inserts a key turns it waits turns it back. Then inserts a different key turns it, turns the original key, then waits and presses a few buttons. Then he opens a door on the base revealing a safe type contraption. Then he inserts a 3rd key and turns it. Then he yanks the door open. "Weeep weeep weeep" This shrieking alarm goes off and he scurries around pressing more buttons and inserting more keys. Finally it ceases. Another lady comes out and they work on it together. Then they shuffle us into the inside of the post office. A few minutes later they come in and I go back out to finish my transaction.

Oops someone else is in line. So where's my money? I go to take out more and it says denied, since I only had $20 in there before. This is my American ATM. Crap. I guess the person after me grabbed the money thinking it was part of theirs. The teller guy most likely thought the machine screwed up before it spit out the money. In all the confusion I forgot about everything and really expected him to hand me the money. So now I am out $20 somewhere. Oh well, burn me once shame on you, burn me twice, shame on me. I'll stand by the machine next time and wait. I thought about going in to explain the situation, but my Japanese isn't good enough and there is nothing they could do. Most likely someone else took it by accident. There is actually a chance (because this is Japan) that the other person will realize it and return it. I don't know if that would do any good, but there is a chance here.

Then on the way home I went to McDonald's to eat since I was stressed and needed a comfort food. It was comforting. I'm about to start studying more Kanji since that's one of my New Year's Resolutions. Actually I just decided that I really haven't thought about them. Let me think for a minute and I will list them out.

[later]

Well I've decided so far on these, and they are all actually doable and measurable:

1) Learn the meanings and readings of the first 500 kanji by March 7th, 2003 (random date).

2) Learn the meanings and readings of the first 1000 kanji by June 1st, 2003. (6 months or so).

3) Attain and Maintain the weight of 90K by April 1st, 2003. (I type as I eat McDonald's Fries).

4) Pay off all my credit cards within the Fiscal Year. Same as Calendar just wanted to say "Fiscal".

5) Travel to 2 new countries within the year. Preferably Thailand and maybe China or South Korea.

That's 5 and they cover health, money, education, and travel. I guess it's 4 since I broke one in 2 parts. I probably need another one to make it an even 5. Five is not even, but there's something complete about 5 goals. So I'll think of another one and make it 5 whole ones and (1) 2-parter. That's enough for now. Going to start working on NYR #1 again.

[later]

Just had a big earthquake, again. I was walking toward the bathroom and I saw all the teachers stop dead and stare. So I stopped. Then I heard them say "Jishin" (G Sheen) which means Earthquake. I stopped and felt the ground move a bit, and then a bit more and then once more. Then we all continued as if nothing happened. That's the freakiest part of it all, the fact that  we give it no more than 5 seconds worth of attention. In Georgia there would be newscasts and damage reports. Here I doubt they even mention it on the news. I think I have been through a half dozen or so in 6 months.

When you are inside sometimes it freaks me out. I mean the entire ground, the Earth is moving. The ground doesn't move. But it does. The whole building shakes and sways back and forth. I kept thinking about it when I was in Daisuke's 28th floor Mansion (apartment). I'm sure things are built with earthquakes in mind, but still it's an eerie feeling. I wonder how it would feel if there were an earthquake and the brass band was playing that warm up minor scale?

Friday Jan 10, 2003

What did I tell you??? I get to school today, pretty much broke, and the office girl comes up and starts talking to me in full blown Japanese. Now you know I don't speak that well, why are you doing this. I did, however, pick out enough words to understand what she was saying. I heard blah blah blah yesterday blah blah blah ATM blah blah post office blah blah $20 blah blah they have it. So I go back over there and as soon as I walk in the Post Office people come rushing to me apologizing and handing me money. Like everyone in the place stood up to bow and beg my forgiveness. I said thanks for what you've done many times and then left.

Well that was a breathe of fresh air. Then I came back here and ordered more Miso Ramen and then studied more Japanese Verbs during the morning. Then Hiraki told me Shimizu sensei, a really nice teacher, was very sick in the hospital with something. So she had to cover some of her classes. She told me I would be helping her in 4 classes. Jokingly I made that "4 are you kidding, that's way too much" gasping sound and she said "how about 2?". I said I was kidding and 4 would be fine. Later she only put me down for 3. I wonder if I can use that later in life at my job. "Have the report done by Friday? hmmmmmm, how about the following Thursday". Doubt it will work. I'd better appreciate this job while I have it.

Last night on the way home I really had nothing to do and didn't want to sit at home and study Japanese and then re-watch my Friends/Simpsons/HomeTime video. As I turned a corner very near my place, I saw a big backhoe with steel chomping attachment tearing down a 4 story building. Man this was the most amazing thing I'd seen in a while. I don't know why. It was just really cool watching this 50 foot arm reach out and snap think steel and concrete like a robotic hand. Then it would fall and I could tell by the thud it was heavy. Then it would grip more and yank it out. It just didn't care it ripped everything. Sparks were flying and wires were dangling. it was amazing. I watched it for at least an hour.

Then I went back to the apartment and watched the video again and studied more verbs. Then there was another slight earthquake around 9pm. This kinda freaked me out, two in one day. Maybe a big one was about to happen. Later that night there was a 3rd one, this time a bit smaller, but still freaky. None today though. Then I tried to use the internet and it didn't work.

There are a total of 3 reasons why this could be, in order of possibility from least likely to most likely:

3) The 3 earthquakes tore down the internet infrastructure and disabled all communication systems.

2) When I was bored at school yesterday and mad that my computer was running so slow I deleted several files that I deemed "not important". It is possible one of these files was in fact, how do we say in English..... "important".

1) My phone has been cut-off because when they said "from NOW on your bill will be deducted directly from your account" they meant "not really this time, we will bill you but not tell you".

I've been through this before where I tell them to take the money out of my account and they say they will, they really will, and then there is some secret problem I don't know about until it's too late. So I will check and see what the problem is this time.

I am just finishing my lunch now and I have two more classes and then a Soccer party for the school at some nice restaurant. Will write more at a time later than this.


[a time later than that]

I think I will add having $500 in savings by June 30 or 31 (no calendar near). That will really be hard, but I really need a small savings cushion. Now I need to figure out a reward for completing the goals on time.

Saturday January 11, 2003

The soccer party last night was pretty fun. It was very formal and held at a nice wedding center downtown. They do weddings here in one building sometimes and it has a chapel and a reception hall and a few other rooms. The one we went to was huge and had several different types of rooms on each floor. Our room looked like a nice formal banquet / reception hall. The ceiling had a sunken part with colored lights that slowly changed from red to blue to green and so on. There were 6 round tables with 6 chairs at each. When we paid at the door they made us draw a number from a hat and that was our seat.

At m table was to my right, an English teacher, to his right the guy that looks like Chevy Chase and teaches some form of science, to his right was a guy from the front office, then another English teacher whom I had never met and didn't know he spoke English, then to his right and my left was a math teacher, who drank like a fish and then me. In Japan at any function that involves eating and drinking, the lower people in rank keep the glasses full of the higher people. I am and consider my self a lower person so I always walk around and fill people's glasses. They are impressed at my Japanese Culture knowledge, but it's really just me watching and mimicking. So the math teacher beside me would take the whole glass in each drink nearly. I mean I would fill his glass and then look away and look back and it was nearly empty. So I kept pouring and pouring. No real problem, just surprising. I didn't expect him to be the big drinker. Then he poured me a little Sake and everyone was surprised I like sake. To be honest, it's very tasty, especially when served hot like it's supposed to be.

On the tables were big lazy Susans. I think that is the name for a big wheel type thing. The (cute) girl would bring food out and we would spin it around and each person would get some. The food was good, but not super filling. There were 6 portions of everything on each plate. So one for each of us. The food was super tasty, but I was starving and hadn't eaten in several hours. Before and during the dinner people would go to the microphone and make various little speeches about something soccer related I guess. I took the time to look around the room and practice people's names. By the end of the night I learned everyone's name. I was going to walk around and show everyone but then they said the party was over and we had to leave. 

Just as we were leaving we sang the school song. When I say "we" I mean "they", but I sang the three lines I knew. I actually want to learn it now even though it's all in Japanese. It really had some cool parts and I could understand something about a river and mountains and the sky so blue. That can be number 13 on my list of things to do. Then we left and I really wanted to come straight home, but there were about 10 teachers begging me to go to the second party. I really couldn't afford this, but when you have ten teachers (and one cute office girl) begging you to go then it's hard to say no.

The second party was ok. It was at an Italian Restaurant I've been to before. I think I mentioned it when I went to Natalie's birthday party. We sat at a big table right in the middle, there were about 14 of us I think. They said it would be $30 to drink and eat. So I forked it over. I made sure I got my money's worth this time. Not so much in alcohol but in food. The waiter asked what I wanted and I just pointed about 10 different types of pizza. He asked which one and I said "yes". So he brought out all of them and scattered them around the table. I sampled each one and gave a few more attention than others. Did you know pizzas are $30 each for a large here? Not at this place so much, but delivery pizzas (we have a pizza hut) are $30 each. Wow. No more complaining in the states about pizzas.

At some point I was talking to a teacher named Endo sensei. He is also 31 and has a similar personality to mine. He really reminds me of my friend Daisuke in Tokyo. But we get along great. He talks about too much when he drinks.. He told me a few teachers he hates and why and a few other secrets. Then he told me I was very popular at the school. I asked what he meant. He said many of the students comment about me how friendly I am and how I always wave and say hello. He also said all of the teachers like me because I really try to fit in at school and at other functions. The last two ALTs only did the bare minimum and the last guy did even less than that. I am really just being myself, but since they did so bad I look better. The guy before the last did ok, but he had a wife and kid too so he always went straight home. Then Endo sensei told me all the teachers want to talk to me but are scared because some of their English is really bad.

That was a really good feeling. A confirmation that I am fitting in. I really want to learn Japanese and fit in as much as possible at these functions. There is something that really feels right about all these teachers. I can't explain it. But I can say it definitely wasn't at my last job. Well it was at the end I should say. When I was moved into the monitoring department. The boss was great and the people were all great, we all shared the same demeanor more or less. There was something that felt right there, and that's what made leaving feel really bad. It's feeling as if I have known these people for 10 years or maybe in another life. The last time I really felt that way was with the band I lived with before I came here. 

I saw them at a show in Athens Georgia and I was immediately blown away. The music was all great, but the guitarist said something in Japanese and then the bassist sang a song in Turkish. I understood both and it really just fit. I ended up setting up a website for them and doing mailings for them and really trying to generate some interest. They ended up breaking up but only because they had been together for 11 years and it just wasn't the right time. They are all extremely talented and the music they mad was really new and fresh so I can't see them just fading out for good. I think something will come about in a year or two. There has to be some reason why they were all given such musical gifts and then brought together.

Wow, how did I get there. Anyway, I decided to leave the 2nd party at a point that I deemed appropriate. I had eaten and drank my share and chatted with a few. One guy beside Endo sensei had some sake he wanted me to taste. It was nasty. I think it was pure rubbing alcohol. I'm serious, it was horrible. He later said it was 96 degree sake which I think means 96% pure. I kid you not, it was nasty. Then I ate more pizza and then waited for a lull in the conversation and said I had to leave. So I gathered my belongings and said my goodbyes and left. Then I wandered toward the bar district which is somewhat on the way home. Once I made it to the center, I called Meg who said she was at Honino's (also known as Shoya (if you don't know where it is I can Shoya)). I asked who was there and she said everyone so I went there. When I got there the door guy asked how many and I said "gaijin wa" which roughly translates to "are there any other foreigners here". So he took me to a table with a friend of mine, but not the right one, so I said "takusan gaijin" or "many foreigners" so he took me to the right one. There was Meg, Lisa, Julie, Renata, BJ, Michelle and her sister and his boyfriend who flew over from New Jersey recently to visit. I sat and chatted with them for a bit.

At some point later we all dispersed and walked toward my place together. Meg and BJ and Renata went their separate ways but Lisa, Julie, Michelle and family followed. Michelle had parked her little car near my side of the station so I walked with them to see it. It was a small Honda Today. I had never seen a car called Today, but it was. (It's a Honda Today, what will it be Tomorrow). It's a stick with the drivers seat on the right side and the stick in the middle. I'm thinking of buying it since she will sell it for only $200. She plans to sell it in the spring. I need to decide if it is worth it. For $200 it pretty much can't be not worth it as long as it drives. It would be really strange to drive and own a car with the driver's side on the right and using my left hand to shift. I could tint the windows and get mag wheels and pimp it all out. I need to check into how much taxes and fees and other bogus charges would be.

Then I walked back with Lisa and Julie since they live past me. Lisa is leaving in 25 days and her replacement (named Lisa also) will be here soon. She said she was sad to leave but has a life plan and this was one small part of it. Then we parted ways and I came here and went straight to sleep. I awoke at 11am, it's now 1. I want to go eat and then possibly see a movie. I haven't seen a movie in a theater since Darwin's birthday which was ironically days before mine. I might have to go alone today.

I just finished and did spell check. It suggested I change "takusan" to "Toucan Sam". How odd.

[later]

Well I went to the station and had some sushi and then walked over to the theater and looked to see what movies were playing. The only two I wanted to see were Minority Report and then maybe Ghost Ship. I couldn't see MR since it started 3 hours later. So I settled for Ghost Ship. It wasn't terrible, but then wasn't super great either. There were cheesy predictable parts and some cheap "boo" scares. But in the end it was alright and had a weird twist. The main stars were Gabriel Byrne and Julianna Marguliuse, or whatever her name is. Now I'm going to learn 50 new kanji and then chill for the night. I spent for too much on the sushi and movie.

Sunday Jan 12, 2003

Sunday I woke up at 8:30 and met Lisa near my place and we walked to the station. She is leaving Japan in a few weeks and really wanted to go to Aizu and see the castle, but somehow was never able since she'd been here. So she kept asking me and finally I said let's go Sunday. We ate at McDonald's and then caught the 9:37 train to Koriyama where we'd transfer to Aizu-Wakamatsu. It's faster to take the bus, but I still had two free day passes left on my Youth 18 ticket so we rode the long uncomfortable local trains. We made it there near noon and took a taxi to the castle. We spent a good hour looking around. I had already been there, but I found new places to explore that I hadn't gone before.

Then we ate Ramen at a small store on the grounds and then caught a taxi back to the station. We woke the guy up. Apparently they sit at the gate and wait until someone needs a ride, like us. He had been waiting a while and dozed off a bit. The trip each way was about $10, which was ok since the $20 train ride there was free. Then we checked the times for the train back and we had 2 minutes. So we jumped on it and rode away. It was about 2 by now. I was zonked so I dozed off on the train. About 20 minutes later the stupid conductor asked to see our tickets. It wouldn't have bothered had I not been asleep and had he not seen us get on at Aizu-Wakamatsu where you must have a ticket to get on. He was checking because we passed a few stops that didn't have attendants and people buy the tickets on the train.

Then we made it to Koriyama and decided we were still hungry so we found a Yoshinoya and had a quick bowl of Gyuudon or beef on rice. It's dirt cheap and fast. We ate that up and then stolled over to the Planetarium. It's on top of a 24 story building and is officially the "World's Highest Planetarium" at 300 and some odd feet above the ground. A strange and somewhat sad claim to fame, but they are in the book. It has windows about 5 stories tall and in the middle of the room is a huge round ball (as opposed to a square ball). The point it is it's huge and you can see it a long way away and it looks cool.

So first we toured the Learning Floor and saw many experiments and got to drive a remote control Moon Rover and watch someone jump around in a weightless jump room, and some other stuff. Some of the people working there spoke a little English and immediately used it on us. It was interesting. Then we went upstairs and went into the planetarium for the 5pm show.

When it started I began to get drowsy. We were sitting in chairs that leaned way back and there was nice jazz music playing and the room was dark. Then the guide started speaking and  ZONK I was out. It was all in Japanese as I expected, and it was just too much. I woke up about 30 minutes later during the Orion part. I actually think I woke up because I kept hearing my name (Ryan - oRion). Maybe I kept hearing Oh Ryan, ha ha. The Orion part was interesting and I think I can find it in the night sky. Then he showed a few others, then a part about some black hole or something, then more colorful things, then the lights flashed and it was over. It was worth the $4 I think, if only for the nap.

Then we headed back in time for Julie's movie night. We watched Bridget Jones' Diary, which I had never seen (since it's a chick flick). It was alright. I would never have paid to see it, but didn't mind watching it. Then I came home around 11 and went to sleep. I't the next day now around 11am and I am going to get dressed and go find the internet cafe to upload this and check email and surf for a bit.

I've been studying kanji out the wazoo since I have no internet at home temporarily and I'm up to about 200+ now. I know probably 50-100 more than that but they are not on my kanji program on the computer. SO I will get dressed, go upload this, then maybe go eat cheaply, and then come back and study more. Or something.

Tuesday,Jan 14 2003

I ended up going to the public bath at the station with BJ and Meg. No it's not coed. When we got there we met Natalie and Churchman and one of his visiting New Zeland friends. The onsen (sento whatever) was hot, but felt great. We stayed in for about an hour then got in the not so hot aroma rose petal bath. Afterwards, Meg and I sat in the rest area and chatted for an hour or two. She bought us both a beer and told more about her weekend trip to some random place with BJ. It made me start thinking how fun it would be to throw a dart at a map of the area and then just go wherever it lands. That's more or less what they did. They had some cool stories, like one where the guy at the Hostel would say "too many" instead of "a lot". Like "there is a pond over there on that hill, there are always too many swans there".

Now I am at Hobara and there are only two classes as usual. But my main teacher isn't here, so I'm sure I will really do nothing in class since the two teachers I will be with are part time teachers and speak only a little English. I might as well go in and just sit down and start reading my other book. I take a smaller book in with me and hide it in my Grammar book, since I do nothing I might as well read something. It's usually a Japanese related book, like language or culture. My lecture on Effective Team Teaching for the new teachers is actually Thursday and not tomorrow like I thought. Which is fine since I prepared early for it. I think I hear the bell ringing.

[later]

The Hobara day went by smoothly as usual. I flirted with the young Japanese teacher after lunch. My version of flirting with her is asking her a Japanese Language question and then  asking another question like where do you live, did you change your hair, yadda yadda (like none of the other teachers who are Japanese could help). I've never been in a situation to ask if she has a boyfriend, I asked another teacher if she was married. I probably shouldn't even be thinking about this, but I don't know if Sachiyo and I are serious and I only go to Hobara 4 more times and then she will not be "a teacher I work with". We'll see.

Hobara days are strange. Not strange in the Adachi eccentric teacher way, but strange in the sense that I love them because I do nothing all day and can study and surf the web. Then again I feel under-used because I really do nothing. I might speak for 5 minutes in class and then sit down and watch the teacher teach English in Japanese. So sometimes I feel like it is a big waste of time to get up early and go all the way out there and speak English for 5 minutes in two classes and then do nothing. Quite the conundrum.

The teachers are nice and the students are cool so I keep going. Maybe I can affect or effect a few students and help them along. I did already help practice interview three students and due to my interview they were able to pass the admission interview for a prestigious private Catholic junior college. So there's my little bit I guess. But I feel better at Higashi and even at Adachi where I know I am affecting or effecting at least the one class of girls that always flirt. They improve a little each week maybe just to impress me.

Although extremely premature, sometimes I think of things to do after this job ends. I only have three years on this program and then have to either leave or get married and get partial citizenship, or find a different job teaching English, or sometimes a local company will offer you a job if they know you. There are a few options for staying in Japan and then there is teaching in China or Korea or another country even Europe. I know a girl in Thailand and apparently her father either owns a few businesses or he is a high ranking executive, so maybe I could hit him up for a job. But I need to find a country with a good exchange rate. I think the Thai baht is worth less than 2 cents. So I would be rich in Thailand, but couldn't send any money back home.

 Then I started thinking of places in the states I might like to live. I wouldn't mind living in Vegas and finding a job involving Japanese. Last two times I was there (I've been there two times) there were tons of Japanese people and I can't find much on the internet about Japanese tour guides. Or working in a Casino or a Hotel some where. Could be fun and profitable. Another thought was going to LA or Hollywood and trying to be an Extra. Not an aspiring actor, just and extra. I think it might catch on if people ask what your dreams are and you say, just to be an extra in every movie. Go out there and not kiss up to everyone you meet and you might just make it. I think it would actually be cool to just be an extra and a bunch of different movies. It would eventually be cool to move up to speaking or to be listed in the International Movie Database. But that's years away.

Wednesday, Jan 15, 2003

Really no point in making an update, I did nearly nothing. I went to Higashi today and only had three classes. The classes were about racism in the 50's. Why they are teaching this I have no idea. whoever wrote this book is out to get white people since there is a chapter on how whites were racist to blacks and then another chapter on how whites came and killed the Indians. I'm not saying we didn't do this, I'm curious as to why they are learning about it in Japan High School ENGLISH class. Plus the books are written with a big bias, some sentences will say things like "has racism stopped today, No the white man still has feelings of hate". Luckily the students can't understand half of what's going on, but I'd still like to see who wrote the book.

That's about it. I studied a book on sake since I am interested in it, and studied a little more Japanese. Sat around a lot and tried to use the computers some. Pretty much did nothing today. Tomorrow is the big speech on Team Teaching. I have been given contradicting directions to the place so I have to leave early to find the place. Also I have been told it's both a full blown 30 minute speech and an hour and a half debate with other people involved. So I really have no idea what to expect. Then Friday is Adachi where I have no idea what will happen. But I found there is a world famous sake factory right beside the school so maybe they will elt me leave and tour it. Hope they don't offer free samples. 6th and 7th periods might be interesting.

Thursday, Jan 16

The speech was today and it went ok, but they did want me to speak alone in front of the group for 90 minutes. Have you ever sat through anything that was 90 minutes long?  That would be horrible. Luckily when I got there they said someone wanted to speak to the new teachers in Japanese first then I would go on at 11 or so. So 11 comes around and I go on. I introduce myself in formal polite Japanese and then pass out my info packets that I made. Then I went through them step by step. It went well, I think. The new teachers speak good English and seemed to enjoy my information. I elaborated on most topics and gave a few extra examples. I drew stuff on the board and reiterated several areas. Then I finished. 11:30.

Oops. So then I asked for questions and a few had small basic questions and then the guy in charge asked a few basic ones. Then it was 11:45 so I said that's about it and wrapped it up. I bowed, they clapped, I left. Then someone served me some lunch and I ate. While I was eating the guy in charge said he was fascinated with the origin of foreign names. He asked the meaning of "Ryan". I said I wasn't sure but think it means "Little King". I think I heard that somewhere. Then we made trivial chit chat about nothing. Then I finished lunch and said I should leave now.

So I left and rode the train back to Fukushima and went by Higashi because Hiraki sensei said there was a big package for me at the school. I knew it was my ski boots and some other stuff. I took a bus to and from the school since I didn't have a jacket. I got the box and rode the bus back to the station and then walked home. It was quite heavy, but I needed to get it home. Now I'm home and watching a VCR tape they included in the box. It is a Sunday night tape with Simpsons/King of the Hill/Alias/The Practice and then the news. I already have about 30 tapes of English shows and it's really a good relief, but I need to watch and listen to more Japanese since I hear English so much. I'm losing my ability to hear and understand Japanese.

On a different note, I might have been dumped by Sachiyo. Again I don't know what's going on. She said she was sick one day and would try to go to work. Then I didn't hear from her for about 5 or 6 days, and I was emailing her asking if she is ok or still sick. Then she finally wrote back and said her body feels better, but her head hurts because she has so much to think about. What does that mean? Her father was just diagnosed with Parkinson's disease so maybe that's what she means. So I wrote back and said I understand and what was she thinking about....me? And that was Tuesday I think. So no reply since Tuesday (keep in mind it's a day earlier here). So I'm not going to write back for a few more days and see what's going on. I won't be crushed, but we did have fun together. There are a few other girls here, that actually speak English, that I have been pursuing, but put on hold when we were hanging out.

So I'm kind of on hold in life right now I guess. If I keep sending her phone emails I will look stalkerish, but then I really have no idea what's going on. If I assume she is mad or confused about me and wants something else, then the second I go out with someone else I will see her and find out she was upset about her father and really needed me. If I assume she's upset about her father and I just wait then I may waste time I could be spending with someone else. So there you go I am just in limbo with her.

I guess I'll wait until maybe Friday evening and then send her another phone email and then if I get no response or another vague response then I'll probably do nothing since I am a nice guy. But If I don't know something by Sunday I will send her a more direct email in Japanese stating I need to know what's going on SOON. That seems fair I think. At first this language barrier was cute and fun and really improved my skills, but there are times when it gets flat out annoying. Times when I just want to say "Tell me what is going on". But I can't even translate that effectively. It might come out "Say things that are going to places I know". Then she would reply with something and I would look it up and be confused. I'll figure it out.

Journal entries will be about every few days at best for a while since my phone was cut off. I have found it was due to the fact I have it set up to come out of my account, but for some reason it didn't. Now I don't have the money to get it turned back on. I will Tuesday though, but I might not keep it on for long. I never ever use the phone and the only person who does is my Mom and she can call my Cell Phone from now on. Plus the phone bill is about $40 a month and if I make any long distance calls there is an additional $40 charge so I don't see why I should pay nearly $100 a month for something I never use. Then I could cancel my internet and save another $40. Hmmph, sounds good. I'll think about it for a bit (well until Tuesday at least). But I really like having the internet here at home and always on whenever I get the idea to look up some obscure factoid. Did you know the only word in English with three consecutive double letters is bookkeeper? Also did you know Edward Norton spent three years in Japan and speaks fluent Japanese? I mentioned it one night, someone didn't believe me, I quickly looked it up. Booya !!

So I have to consider my convenience versus money. I'm also putting forth a limit on money after this pay check, especially for food. I'm going to try to spend no more than $10 a day Mon-Thurs and then maybe $20 a day on Fri, Sat, and Sun. That includes buying food to fix at home and anything else consumable. It also allows for rollover. If I don't spend much one day that money rolls over to the next day or whatever. That should limit my food expense to $100 a week. Keep in mind though that is actually Japanese Yen so when I say $10 I mean 1,000 yen which is about $8 USD. It's just easier to type $10 than 1,000 yen. So I think $80 a week is fair. I can't remember what I spent in the US, but that seems right. We'll see after a few weeks. Although none of my other friends have a food budget, but then they don't have the loan or rent. Whatever.

[later]

I went to the convenience store and got a small precooked little dinner. They call them bento which is short for something that I forgot. I ate it and now I am rewatching the video of the Simpsons and King of The Hill. I tried to studied some Japanese, but I couldn't concentrate. I tried doing a few other things, but they didn't seem right either. Have you ever wished you could just fast forward time until later? I have absolutely nothing to do now and am bored. If I had money I could go rent a movie or see a movie or do anything, but I don't. I guess I could clean my apartment and then go to bed. It's about 7:30 pm here and not late enough to go to bed. I tried that last night since I was bored also and went to bed at about 10 after a long hot shower and still woke up at like 6 am. Then I tried to stay in bed and got one of those "get out of bed" headaches. If I can scrap up $4 maybe I will go to the internet cafe and check email and upload this.

Sunday January 19

Gotta back track to Friday first. I was nearly broke and came home from work around 6 and decided to stay in and study Japanese and eat some leftovers. So I was sitting on the bed and studying Japanese and then Meg called and said she wanted to go eat and then a few drinks and I said I wanted to but I was broke, so she decided to loan me a little until payday. So we met at the station at 7:30 and then went to the sliding door. It was full and there was a long line, as I expected, which is why I suggested we go elsewhere in the first place. SO then we decided on Indian food and walked to the nicer new one. This was the first strange thing of the evening.

We get there and there are only two people in the place, I later learned they are two of my students. Then the nice Japanese lady behind the counter said something in the back and all the employees came out to stare at us. We were looking at the menu and I glanced up and noticed them and then whispered to Michelle and Meg and then they noticed too. So I said something and the employees and owner laughed and apologized and said I am always so entertaining so they wanted to see me. What does that mean? I have only been here about 5 times maybe less, and don't really remember entertaining them. Strange.

Then we order and the co-owner lady says "and for you McDonald san". When did I tell her my name and how did she remember? Strange. So we eat and it's spicy and then we leave and call some people to meet at Honino's (Showya) at 10. We get there and BJ is already there so we get a big table for about 8 people in the back. It's semi-private but there is another table where another 8 people could sit. When a group of foreigners are at one of the two tables we almost always get to meet the other group since we are strange and different. So I said to the waiter that we request the other table be only young pretty women. He laughed and did not comply with out demands. Later a group of 4 drunk and possibly stupid Japanese men sat there and talked to us all night about nothing. Then they had someone arm wrestle them and then they bought a girl at our table a beer. They asked if the girls were my girlfriends and I said "yes this is Girlfriend #1 and she is #2" Then the drunk stupid guy leader said he wanted to be #3. What does that mean? Get away from us freaky man.

So we get there at 10 and ended up leaving at 4am. I am too old to stay out until 4am. But the beer was flowing and the conversation was smooth so I stayed. There are always groups of single or couples of girls and they always say hello to foreigners. So I did my tour of flirting and then went back to the group. Then we played a number of drinking games, yes in the restaurant, and then the waiter said time to go. So I guess it wasn't as strange as I thought, but it was a little strange.

Then Saturday Meg decided to have a Hawaiian party, so I cleaned my place all day and at about 7 met BJ at the station and we ate sushi (on him) and bought some stuff for the party. He gave me $30 which was a part of my part of the DVD-CDR we had bought together,  but it wouldn't work on my machine. So since I needed money and he was the only one using the thing anyway, I let him buy my part out. So we buy pineapple juice and sour cream and head to the party. When we get there they have the apartment jacked to like 8.5 million degrees and they are cooking Apple Crisps and some onion dip. The onion dip was awesome, I ate so much I nearly got sick. I might explore this tangent later but I'm pretty sure I am addicted to food.

So then the party goes on for a while and somehow someone pops a tape of English shows in the VCR. Then we all suddenly stop and stare and watch. It was a Friends episode and then Frasier and then another show that I have now forgotten. But we couldn't help it we just sat and stared, like we were being brainwashed. Then Meg's back was hurting so she took a pain pill (after drinking Pina Coladas) and zonked out for the night. So an hour later the party went really downhill and we all left.

BJ stayed the night at my apartment on the floor on my old futon (since I now have a bed). We woke up at 11 or so and did each other's hair, braids and curls. No seriously he trimmed the back of my neck and I trimmed his since that's the part neither of us can cut on our own. Although for the record I have cut that part before but it's a real pain involving tricking your brain into moving your arm the opposite way than you think and using several strategically placed mirrors, and sometimes a midget on a tricycle. Not really, he's just there for amusement.

Then we went to McDonald's to eat (since I can get three hamburgers for 235 yen). Then BJ bought a couch from Beaux Arts (their slogan is We Sell a Tasty Life). I flirted with the store manager who speaks good English. Then we went to the dollar store an I bought a toilet seat cover. An actual cloth cover that goes on the actual seat part. Man it's warm in the winter, and I imagine soft and cushy in the summer. Plus it was only was only 100 yen (less than $1).

After all that I came home and wrote out about 100 more note cards of 2 verbs per card, because verbs are the future. Children were the future, but now verbs are the future. At least my future of learning Japanese. Then I took an awkward 4 hour nap from about 4pm to 8pm. It's awkward because I slept for 4 hours right before bed, so now I will be up all night, and because the light was on and I was holding the note cards, and I woke up because I heard myself (while sleeping) weezing from breathing through my dry mouth. That almost snoring sound. Plus I was having a strange dream where I was a drinker and there were several angry people around me about to beat me up because they thought I was part of a group of people that ran around yelling at people while drinking. But it wasn't alcohol, just liquid and all this happened while at the bus station. Some how it made more sense when I was drinking, I mean dreaming.

Then I started studying the note cards that were written in paragraph 9 and realized I have heard tons of contradicting explanations on Japanese. Some Japanese people will say never say this when this happens, and then someone else will say always say that when that happens. So which is it? I mean the people that are saying this are highly educated people so why are they contradicting each other? I have the answer.

There is no preset Japanese language. When a certain number of foreigners start to understand the language and get a good grasp of it, the person in charge, maybe the prime minister, or someone at the Ministry of Confusion, will spin the Super Secret Japanese Decoder Ring and change everything. Then every Japanese person is called and notified and told to spin their Super Secret Japanese Decoder Ring to the new "key" so they will be able to understand each other, but us foreigners will not quite be able to follow. So during the time when some people have been updated, but others have not, this is where the contradictions happen. This is the only pliable solution. Did I use pliable correctly? I don't think I've ever used it in a sentence before.

I'm about to reply to some letters that the kids at Adachi wrote me. One of the teachers had them write, or try to write, me a letter in English. So I have about 200 little letters I need to reply to. I'm trying to reply to each one with something specific so they feel special, but more than half wrote nearly the same thing. "Hello Mr Ryan. I went to Kyoto with my school trip. There were many nice things to see. I like Kyoto." So I write something vague about never having been to Kyoto before and move on. Certain people like English and write more so I reply with more to them to be fair.

I've been thinking about something I could collect. I somewhat collected stamps as a kid, but that only last a while until I realized I was collecting stamps. I was thinking of collecting sake bottles, but they are too big so maybe just sake labels. What I really might do (really might do?) is start collecting little model Shinkansens (bullet trains). There are some that run on tracks and some that are just models. Some look really cool and others are old and nostalgic. I have to see if each one is like $900 or hopefully more like $50 each. There's some movie with Nick Cage where he has a train on tracks on a shelf above his bed and it looks really cool. I think it's called the Family Man. The movie not the train. I'll think on this further, but not now. It's nearly midnight and I need to study a bit before going to bed.

Monday January 20

I forgot to upload the dumb picture of the nice soft warm $1 toilet seat. I will add that later. I also forgot to mention Sachiyo and I'm pretty sure we were dating, but we are definitely not anymore. But I don't know if she ended it of if I did. She wrote me an email one day and said she had a bad cold, so I wrote her back and asked how was she. She didn't write back for several days and then she said her body was ok, but her spirit was in pain, because she had so much to think about. I didn't get that because I had done nothing to initiate a lot of thinking on her part. No wedding proposal, no kids proposal, no "let's be exclusive proposal". So I was bewildered.

Then Friday I wrote her and said "are you no longer interested in me, tell me the truth". Keep in mind all of this has been in Japanese, so I might have asked her the air speed velocity of an unladen swallow. Late Friday she wrote back and said yadda yadda there was another and she was torn. So I wrote her back Saturday afternoon, and said thanks it was fun, think of me often. Don't feel like competition now. There are about 6 more prospects, all of whom actually speak English. I will let you know as this situation develops.

[ later ]

I had three classes today and then studied my note cards. I use memory mnemonics to learn anything new, and I'm rather creative so the mnemonics can get wild. Sometimes I feel stupid when I try to explain them to people, but they help me learn and learn fast. In college Geology I memorized all the geological periods all the way back to the beginning using mnemonics. I'll give you an example.

I forgot the geological periods since I had no interest in that what so ever, but for arguments sake let's say they were, in order, Jurassic - Triassic - Samassic - Tonnissic - Gorbassic. Granted those are stupid examples, but they work. So then I would make a sentence with the first letters of each in order such as "Judy Told Sam To Go". Then I make a visual image of that in my head. Say these periods were during the Puzicalia Era, then I would remember Judy likes Puzzles, but Sam doesn't. It's stupid I know but it works, I made a %100 on the test.

So for Japanese, many words fit perfect where others are a stretch. A big stretch. Sometimes the word reminds me of something or sounds like something and I can easily remember the meaning from it. For others I have to say the word fifty times in different ways and voices and then maybe something remote and distant pops up, or I just say it so much I remember it. So far I've memorized about 100 verbs using "The McDonald Method". Maybe I can sell it like that dude that teaches you to have a photographic memory. So here are a few examples, both easy and really remote:

Gaman Suru - at some point in my education I had a teacher named Mrs. Garman. She was very nice and patient. Gaman Suru means to be patient.

Handan Suru - A judge might hand down a verdict, or han dan a verdict. To Judge.

Osamaru - We all want Osama to quiet down, don't we? Guess what this means. Quiet Down.

Shoomei Suru - If you want proof, you want someone to "Show me" or Prove it.

So there you go, they are stupid but they work. See all you need is a little trigger to remind your brain where it stored this memory. After that you will learn the word by using it and hearing it, but these mnemonics are just little triggers. Though I've come to some that I don't have a clue for. I've been able to learn some just from thinking about them so hard, but others are worse.

So other than that I sat at Higashi. I taught three classes where I had to explain the Rosa Parks story. Though I still wonder why we are teaching about Racism in English Class in Japanese High Schools, I think I did a fair job. I didn't slant the story in anyway, I just told it like it was. I talked slow and used some Japanese at times to keep them listening. They were either listening intently or thinking about something else and wishing I would shut up. I think they were listening.

Then as I was studying in the teachers room I noticed several salesmen standing by the door. It's very strange how they just loiter around waiting on teachers to come in and then they talk to them. Sometimes they go desk by desk and drop their cards or little tissue packs with their logo on them. If I am sitting at mine they ignore me. I want to say "You know I speak fluent Japanese and would have done business with you if you didn't ignore me", in fluent Japanese, just to see their reaction. But I won't because then I'll have to admit I don't actually speak fluently. It's strange watching them almost hide in the corner and then sneak out when teachers come by. It's like they don't want to be noticed. I feel bad watching them troll around trying to catch someone's attention, and then watching the teachers all look down avoiding eye contact.

I'm supposed to go to Hobara tomorrow, but I don't think I am. I will call in sick in the morning. I do feel a little bad, I could go, but I think I will take the day off. There are a ton of things I need to get done, during the week business hours, and it's payday. I don't get paid until 11am and I am supposed to be at Hobara at 8:15, so maybe you can figure out the other reason why I'm not going. Anyway I plan to mail a package back home with Christmas gifts and some gifts for a 2nd grade class learning about Japan. Then I plan to eat a decent meal. Then eat again. It's the end of the month before payday so times are really tight. Really tight.

I've decided I am having the phone turned off and I will sell the line. You have to buy a phone line and pay anywhere from $200 to $800 for the phone line. Like a start up fee I guess, but there is a phone monopoly here and they charge what they want. So anyway, when I came here I bought the line from my predecessor and he charged me $700, and I learned later they aren't worth more than $200 now since everyone is getting a cell phone. I asked Hiraki sensei about it and she said I could do it and told me how, more or less. Once I pay the bill I'll cut it off and save $50 for the phone $50 for any long distance, and then  $40 for internet at home. That's $140 a month I have been spending and I never use the phone. The final decision was when my mom didn't freak out when I told her my plan. The only thing that will change is journal updates will be every other or every three days. Sorry, I liked making daily updates, but I can't afford the luxury. But then again I can go to the internet cafe and update this or check email. I can update this from all my schools, just not check email. Although it does take 8 minutes to upload one update.

Sadly I am in a typing mood and can't think of anything more to type. I'm rearranging my apartment. I'm going to buy more of those cheap snap together shelves and build a book case. I'll take a picture when I do. I'm having a party at my apartment Sunday. It's a going away / welcome party for an old and new AEON teacher respectively. Did that make since? One is leaving and a new one is coming in? I'm going to invite a girl I know and have been emailing. her name is Miki and she is Japanese. Here's a concept, she speaks English. She's a freelance writer and always busy, but I think she can make it Sunday. I'll have to do some serious reorganizing for the party on Sunday, I've got my bed in the living room since the heater is there and all the couches stacked up in the other room. Did I mention yesterday there is a coat I am going to buy tomorrow? It's like a $200 dollar coat, but on sale for $20. BOOYA. It pays to be a big foreigner in Japan. The coat is super warm, but size 4L so no one will buy it. Except for me. I tried it on and it was perfect. $20. Nice.

[ later ]

I was sitting here typing, or babbling, and the door bell rang. Geez, it was 8:30 so I didn't want to answer it thinking it was NHK the public television pirates. So it rang again. Then they knocked. Then they knocked again. Then I realized I hope it was NHK because they cannot knock after 8. So I ran to the door and opened it and said Booya! I didn't mean to say the word out loud, but I was a little hyper-excited and it came out. There was a nice young woman staring at me. She started speaking in Japanese, very fast. I tried to interrupt but I couldn't, so finally when she took a breath I said in Japanese (perhaps my mistake) "I'm sorry, I don't speak Japanese". Then she nodded and kept talking. Then I repeated it. She nodded again and continued. This infuriated me for some reason. I have told her twice I do not speak Japanese (granted it was in Japanese), can she not understand me?

Then I took my Japanese down a polite level and said "STOP. I said I do not understand Japanese. Give Up. I don't understand Japanese." Then she nodded and continued speaking and now she was point at a Japanese brochure. Oh, I can read the 1,945 Japanese characters, but I can't understand it. Then I said "Stop speaking". She looked at me funny and started to talk again. The second she did I made a grunting noise that we use to mean "Don't even". I can't type it, but it's what you say to kids or pets when they are doing something bad. Then she stopped and looked at me and started again so I made the noise again. "Eh !!". So from then on out when she started to speak I would grunt. This actually went on for about a minute. What courage she has. I was impressed and irritated at the same time. Then I got tired and said "I must be rude now" (in Japanese) and shut the door. I was rude the whole time, but come on I said I don't understand Japanese like 4 times. Although I threw her for a loop when I started speaking at the samurai level, but I was serious. I can speak some and understand more, but not at the speed she was speaking. Plus it was 8 O'clock at night.

I probably won 48 million dollars and she was explaining how to collect my winnings.

 

Tuesday Jan 21 PAYDAY

As expected I did not go to Hobara today. I could have gone but did feel a little woozy and decided to hang here. I woke at 8 and called my school and then Hobara and told them I would not be in. Hobara said don't worry we will manage without you. How is that possible? Who else is there qualified to talk in English for 3 minutes then sit down in class? Maybe they can find someone.

After that I went back to sleep, since I felt so bad, and woke back up at 10:30. A convenient time since that's when money is deposited. I went to the ATM and once again heard my favorite sound, and today it was sweeter than ever. It was the "Frt Frt" sound of money being spit out into the ATM tray. Then the door opens and there it is. The only sound I could imagine that would be sweeter is the Hawaiian Tropic girls saying (in unison), "Ryan can you come over here and rub tanning oil on us". But I have yet to hear that so I can only image it sounds better.

Then I went to buy the $20 dollar jacket. By the way that is $20 Japanese dollars or 2,000 yen which means it's $16.50 USD. It is so nice and warm. Then I bought more of the shelving system and a toothbrush and some carrot juice and then a little more of that snap together carpeting system. Finally I came home and set it all up. Then I cleaned a little. In a hour or so I am going to go tutor a friend and then come back. I think on the way home I will stop by the internet cafe and upload all this.

About 3 1/2 feet tall and expandable. This segment cost roughly the same as the jacket less than $17 USD. I will go up another level or two next month. Snap together and rather neat. This is in front of the sink and shower. There is more in front of the kitchen sink.

 

Thursday, Jan 23

It was a cold morning but nothing unusal. I just didn't feel like walking, so I rode the bus. As I passed the trash stacked on the corner I realized I forgot to take mine out and I have a full bag and the next time will be the day after the Sunday night party. Well shucks as we say in the south.

had a bit of an interesting time on the bus this morning. Nothing bad really, good actually. I got on the #3 and asked if it stops at Toyota Machi and he said no, so I get off and go to the #2 which just pulled up. For kicks I look at the bus schedule and map and somehow I completely understand it. It just all made sense. Wow, so now I don't have to keep asking every bus if they stop I can just read the chart. That was nice.

Then I get to school, nothing new. I teach a first period class more about Martin Luther King and his famous speech, which sadly I didn't know past "I have a dream", but now I do. I treated it fairly and they understood. Though it is odd saying the white man this and the white man that and pointing to my skin. Look I'm white....I am in the Klan....we all hate blacks....Hopefully they didn't think that, I was fair and explained that was in the past and not the present.

Now it's snowing pretty hard. A teacher just said the television said we can expect 7 inches I think. Either that or 7 centimeters, but the depth he demonstrated with his hand was about 7 inches. It's small little flakes, but coming down heavily. It would be nice if they cancelled tomorrow. Not the day, cancelling Friday (an extended Thursday then Saturday), I mean cancel me going to Adachi. I thought I went to Fukukoo the nice all boys school, but that's next week.

Well it's about 11 am and I am really hungry. I ordered Miso Ramen today from 1 of the 2 places that delivers here. I usually get from the other place, but the second place is cheaper and get here earlier. I am engaged in the new food budget which entitles me to no more than $10 a day in food. If I each out then maybe 2 $5 meals or if I cook at home then the money I spend must equal the number of days I can eat. I have to do something at least this month. Once I sent money back and paid rent and part of that loan (it's down to $540), and I owe BJ $50 for some food in Tokyo and a loan to get home, and I owe Meg a little as well, when I am all paid up here I will have about $500 for the month for food and any (none) recreation. But next month I will be better off, because I won't borrow any this month so I will be doing good.

You might recall one of my goals and me talking about going to the Hokkaido Ice Festival? Well that falls into the no going to happen category, at least this year. Partially due to money, but mainly due to timing. I talked to a friend here and she said when she booked the ferry up there and the youth hostel it was filling up, so I said can you call and see if there is still room for me? This conversation was last week. She said she could but they called and booked in early October. So there you go, when they mean you gotta book early, they don't mean two weeks in advance. Got it, will learn from my mistake. Yet another reason to stay on another year. Which I was anyway. Going to study more flash cards...

[later]

I would say 7 inches is a fair guess, if not a conservative one. Since writing the above at around 11am, it is now just before 2pm. There is about 4 inches of snow out there. It's at least to my index finger. Wait is that the bird finger? HECK I don't know the names of my fingers in English, but sadly I just learned the names in Japanese. There is the Thumb, the pointer, the bird finger, the useless finger (the one that won't do anything independently) and then the pinky. HA, I don't know their actual names.

Anyway, it's as deep as my bird finger and that's from 3-4 hours snow. It's coming down hard. On a different note, I think I have a slight fever. I feel a little dizzy and that achy sleepy feeling. I took some Japanese medicene, which oddly I find very effective, so maybe I will feel better in a little bit. It would be a shame if I couldn't go to Adachi tomorrow.

[later yet]

I made a slight miscalculation when I said it was up to about seven inches or so, that was from what the teacher said and from measuring the snow on the balcony ledge at Higashi. When I actually walked outside to leave I stepped out into the snow and my foot went down about 10-12 inches. I guess the snow on the ledge wasn't a full sampling as it was partially covered. So then I had to walk to the bus stop in 1 foot snow. I didn't feel like walking home since the snow was so thick.

I get to the bus stop only to learn I am not the "Original Thinker" in the area. There were at least 30 other people there already. Traffic wasn't moving fast, so I waited about 30 minutes. Finally the bus came within 50 feet of the stop and then traffic seemed to halt completely. I waited another 15 minutes just staring at the bus so close and realized I had to walk home. So I started my long cold journey. At least I had my new cheap jacket.

On the way home I "accidentally" passed the small and tasty Ramen shop. The lady there likes me and really talks my head off. At some point in the conversation I think she asked if I was married or had a girlfriend, and then I think she said she would try to set me up. She asked my age and then if I like Japanese women. Who knows, might be effective. Anyway, I had the usual, Miso Ramen, and it was so warm. She threw in an egg and some meat as a bonus. I blew the $10 a day budget already, but it was cold and snowing and I needed warm food like soup since I think I have a fever. I think I mentioned that already. I might need to bump the budget to $12 a day. Maybe I'll do that but also have a few $1 store days. Like at least one a week, that should balance things out.

Then I went to the station and bought a $1 umbrella, it still kills me how they can sell umbrellas for $1, 1 Japan dollar so really 80 cents US. It got me home though. For some reason I decided to cut through the bank which saves me a whooping 3 minutes. I get about halfway through and I realize the snow has not been touched here so it's a full 1 foot deep. I was too far to turn back so I trotted on and broke through the snow. The snow was so soft and fresh I wanted to make a snow angel and then I remembered that involved getting IN the snow and getting your whole body wet. Then I remembered the Simpsons episode where Homer made a snow angel and it came out a devil, even with the pitchfork and horns and tail. I vetoed that idea and kept going. I made it home and tried to take some pictures, but the stupid batteries are dead in my camera. One thing I wanted to get on film is the fact that for some reason I can see for miles, and it's already 6pm here which means it should be pitch black since it's dark at 4:30pm. Maybe I'll take the batteries out of the remote and snap a few. Unless they are dead as well.

Friday January 24

For the record, batteries strong enough to power a VCR or TV remote are not strong enough to take a digital picture, I might have some in the $1 store clocks I bought, but now it's not dark and the snow is starting to melt. The sun is out and shining bright. The trains didn't stop this morning, but I didn't go to Adachi. I felt sick, since I most likely was sick. I am taking that medicine and I feel a little better, but I don't want to be all the way out there and start feeling really bad. It's a 25+ minute train ride, and then a 30 minute walk from the station, plus they think I am at another school today anyway. I'll email them Monday or today from somewhere and let them know the scoop.

I awoke this morning to the sound of a large industrial drill or something right outside my window. I peeped out and it was a backhoe with the hole boring attachment. That's boring as in to dig a hole, not the hole was boring. Though technically the hole was bored. HA. Anyway, they are digging a strange hole, it's directly beside a fence and angled slightly under the fence. Plus it goes down a good 10-15 feet. It's wide enough to fide a body in straight down, so maybe they are tired of the local foreigner and want to dispose of me. If journals suddenly stop I am buried straight up in a hole partially under a fence, by the Jet ski.

Then I saw one guy pointing at the hole and up and down and then around, and I concluded some sort of "pole" type thing will be jutting out from said hole at some point. I hope it's not a "light pole", because it will be directly in my window. The only good thing about this is the wires are currently attached to the old building beside me, so maybe there are plans to tear that down. I don't know why that's good, actually, maybe so they can build some all girl apartments where the old building was.

Well it's 11am here and I've taken the morning dose so I feel pretty good. I need to get food so I'll probably venture out soon. Oh, the public bath would be good to stop a fever. Nothing like sitting in boiling water. I better not, I might pass out, and who wants to pass out nude in a foreign country in a room full of men. Maybe I'll go to the station and get some food, and then rent a movie and come back here and get in bed. If I feel better later on I might venture out to the e-Cafe and upload this. So if you see this uploaded and the date is today then I was at the e-Cafe at some point. They serve food there and I might could stay there a bit and work on my Japanese Verb website. I'm trying to program a website (as opposed to programming an oven mitt) to list and then automatically conjugate all the Japanese verbs on the fly. So I only have to type them in and their meanings and the program makes all the conjugations itself. Then I want a section where it will print flash cards automatically, and then list some memory mnemonics for each one, and then automatically deduct $158 from your bank account. I'll put the last one on hold for a while, but the others are doable. It will help me learn verbs and other people as well. It will help other people learn verbs, not help me learn other people.

I was right, there is already a pole in the hole. However, now they are digging another smaller hole near the pole, so I'm not sure what that's all about. Speaking of "about", when ever I am around Meg or any of my other Canadian friends I always say "not sure what that was all aboot". Although we've established it's the Midwest Americans that say "aboot", Canadians say a weird form of "about", but it's not "aboot". OK, this pole is pretty tall, I would say it's average pole height. I'm really hoping there is no light attachment, but even so it's taller than the building so it might not shine in. I'm now curious as to what the other small hole is for. He's digging it by hand right now, but maybe they are going to use the hole driller once he gets it started. I hear noise, let me go check.

hmmm, now the crane is packed up and the truck is driving away, but the other guy is still digging his little hole. Again it's against a wall and angled slightly under it. Now a crane bucket truck pulled up to, no doubt, attach the super bright 10 million candle light and aim it at my window. The wind is blowing like mad out there. I can see someone's clothes flapping all over the place and I think some fell off the holder. Why anyone puts their clothes out to dry when it's freezing is beyond me, but it confirms my belief in the Intelligence Collective (do what you're told and don't ask questions). Of course it's snowing again. It stopped only during the times the trains stopped so no new snow built up on the tracks. Whatever.

I've got plenty of sick/vacation time. I've only used 4 days counting this. Then I plan to take about a week off in early April late March when my friends Larry and Greg come to visit from Atlanta. Then I will take another week or week and a few days off in May to go back for my cousin's s wedding in Natchez Mississippi, I think. I think that's where it is, I know he is getting married. Then I'll still have about a week left for this year which I might let it roll over, or I might take a week off in June or July and go to Thailand or somewhere. I have a college (girl) buddy who is Thai and lives there and she can show me around it I go alone. I'd almost rather go alone than go with someone who wants to do dumb things or visit stupid places. I really don't want to go to Pattaya and go clubbing all night (hopefully he meant dance clubbing and not clubbing seals). I think it's super cheap to fly there in the off season and eve cheaper to stay there. I think most 4 star hotels are less than $20 USD a night, because their economy is crap. So sadly I can be a king in Thailand, or a pauper in Japan. Did I spell that right? The first time I wrote popper and then knew it was French or French sounding. I'm going to take a long hot shower and then get dressed and go eat something. I need to take my afternoon medicine and I bet taking it with food would be better. I hear a new sound outside and will investigate what it's all aboot.

[later]

I've been thinking about moving again. I am really trying to see the good things about all situations, and there aren't too many with this apartment. It's nice yes, that's one, a weak one, but a positive. Here are the negatives: It's far from everything, it's huge which means I have to heat or air condition all this extra wasted space, it's not very insulated, it's expensive, and that's about it. It's not like I can say, "well I pay a lot, but look how close I am to everything". I pay a lot and it's far.

I've found a few places that are cheaper, but they have they stupid key money thing where I pay 3 or 4 months rent to the landlord as a way of saying thank you for allowing me to rent the apartment. I found one place with no key money, but I think it has no air conditioner. That is a big negative no-no in the summer, since it gets unbearably humid. I could not have slept last summer without my A/C. That really stinks, because it's only $350 a month with no key money. Plus I can say "well it's small, but close to everything and I don't have to heat or cool all that much". But no A/C, going to keep checking around. I found another place that's the same rent, but right near my school. Farther from the station, but closer to the fun area in town, and near my school. But I think they have key money as well. I can't afford key money now, so I might have to wait on moving, or just get over the idea.

Also been thinking about getting a car. I have a friend who is selling one for $200 and the shaken thing (a yearly rip off where we pay $500-1000 to have the car thoroughly inspected) isn't due until December. There are times when a car would be really nice. Like getting groceries or going places where buses or trains aren't accessible. I have to check into the other fees and taxes though. I seem to remember typing this recently. My memory is going, though oddly I am in a real learning mode with Japanese. I have learned nearly 400 verbs in the past few weeks using my note cards and memory trigger system titled "The McDonald Method". I'll explain that later, though I mentioned it briefly above. I'm going to study more then consider going to the e-Cafe.

 

Monday, Jan 27

Sorry for the long span with no update, I've been away from the computer for several days. Saturday I planned on staying in and studying all day, then Meg called and said she was at the station so I went up there and we had lunch. We walked all around and couldn't find anything that was open. Finally we settled for a new place in the station. It was cheap and ok, I had some sort of noodles and tempura. Then we were still hungry so we went to the $1 sushi place and had a few plates. Then we were bored and walked around looking for something to do. Somehow we ended up on my side of the station in BOM looking at movies to rent. I rented "Sum of All Fears" with Ben Afleck and Morgan Freeman, then we walked back to my place and watched it. Halfway through she told me she was not renewing and going back to Canada. Then in a few years she and her boyfriend, probably husband by then, will move to Brazil. That's pretty cool, I can visit there at some point.

Toward the end of the movie BJ messaged us and we agreed to meet at the station at some point later. On the way there we ran into our Brazilian friend and told him about her plan. He agreed to teach her some Portuguese until he leaves in March, then maybe the new girl coming in (new Brazilian girl....) will teach her more in exchange for English lessons. I like Brazilian women, maybe I'll tutor her as well. After that we went to Chuckwagon, a really cheesy Country Music Tex/Mex place that serves the closest thing to Mexican food in the area. Two of the main reasons I go there is A) I love Mexican food, B) I love tall Japanese girls in jeans, cowboy hats, and boots. They seem to have a lot of both. Later BJ and Michelle came and had some food as well. Meg and I were sneaking Chocolate Chip cookies to each other under the table because we bought them earlier and were too stingy to share with them.

At some point in the night we were going to join Corrinn and Lisa and some others for Karaoke. We found them and then learned the reservation was for 11pm, not 9 like we thought. So Renata suggested, on the verge of insisted, we go to her place and watch a movie. She lives obnoxiously close to the middle of everything. We scooted over there and watch something stupid with Ben Stiller and Edward Norton, something about them being a Rabbi and Priest respectively and them both falling for Jenna Elfman. It was a little goofy for me and sappy, but I watched it. Once it was finally over we went back to the restaurant and waited for Karaoke to start. 

I realized then I should have gone to eat with Corrinn and her friends since it was about 10 cute girls and a few guys and then some gaijins I knew. But no, I watched a chick flick. We chatted with them for about 30 minutes, then all the cuties left one by one and about 9 people finally stayed to do karaoke. Not much to tell after that. We sang for about 3 hours and then left.

Sunday I prepared for the party pretty much all day. It was a going away party for Lisa and a welcome party for the new Lisa. I rented George Lucas' first movie, THX 1138. It was strange, but yet entertaining somehow. Robert Duvall was in it and that made it cool. Otherwise it was a futuristic vision of life, which may or may not be accurate. The funny part was Robert Duvall was trying to escape the life and get outside. The people chasing him had to adhere to a strict budget. Once the chase exceeded %5 of the allotted amount they had to stop chasing him. Then he was free.

Finally it was 6 and people started arriving. I invited a girl a met named Miki. She's Japanese and a freelance writer. I am semi interested in her, but she follows the old school ideology of the first few (or dozen) dates being a group thing. Everytime I invite her out for dinner, she replies with either I am too busy now, or I'd be happy to go eat with you............and your friends. So I invited her to see my apartment and my friends. It went fine, she speaks great English and met many new people. Just not sure if we are looking for the same thing.

At one point there were aboot 15 people in my place which I concluded was the limit. They were a little quieter than last time and left earlier so I doubt the downstairs neighbors were mad. We ate little meat balls on small bread cut out buns and had red wine and chips. We watched a few tapes of Friends and Scrubs and something else. Then we played a game where you write something about your self no body knows. Some people wrote "my first kiss was at age five" or "I dated a pro-football player" and other stuff. Mine was I played the Viola in Middle School for a year until everyone teased me and I never got any good at it. There you go, now you know.

Today at school I had no classes, nor do I tomorrow. but of course I have to go, it's imperative I be there in my seat studying Japanese. Luckily there is a teacher I have a crush on. I feel like I am 9 saying that, but she is so fine. I know she's not married, but not sure on the boyfriend thing. Can't really just ask her then it would be obvious. She never really comes to our school parties since she is a part time teacher, so I can't ask her in passing there. She teaches Japanese and speaks minimal English. Obviously a little since she went to college and had to take it in High School and college. I wish I had to take a language course in Middle School like they do here, but then maybe I wouldn't want to learn. BJ even teaches Elementary school kids. I imagine that would be so fun. They are so cute here. They all dress the same and wear little hats and matching bags.

I just studied more Japanese, big surprise, and then watched Memento. I actually did both at once, which was hard because Memento is hard to follow and takes a lot of effort. Now I am typing this at 8pm and am about to upload it at the e-Cafe. I think I am starting a juice fast for a few days today. Partially to save money and partially just to cleanse myself. I need to start eating better after that, but it's so hard since I love food and they have some good food here. I'm listening to Kylie Minogue "Outta My head" as I type this. It has repeated over and over again, about 10 times already. For some reason that song is really cool now. Probably because I haven't heard it in a while and even then it came out as I came over here so I didn't hear it 900 times a day. It's got a good beat and easy to tune out and type to. I rearranged again, big surprise there as well. I really like this layout and might keep it a bit. Still need to lose the crap couches and get a nicer one, but that is way low on the totem pole. Oh, the Super Bowl was on at 8am Monday morning in Japan. Not quite the same mood at 8am on a Monday. Off to upload this and check email.

Tuesday, Jan 28th 2003

I'm really getting tired of the snow now. It hasn't snowed in a few days but there is about 5-10 inches of snow everywhere. Plus yesterday and part of Sunday night, it rained, so everything is now a thick cold mush like a big slurpee was spilled. I missed the bus by 30 seconds so I had to walk. That was a masive pain, because I had to go the 2-3 miles taking little baby steps. Imagine walking that far with your ankles chained together. On top of that you have to take this big exaggerated steps like you are wearing scuba flippers because there is so much snow you have to get a good step. Even then occasionally you slip a little and your legs and back has to tense up to keep you from falling. Then there are spurts of clear areas where you think you can relax and take longer steps, but there is secretly some ice on the ground and you slip even more because you are not prepared for it and then your back hurts even worse because of the sudden tense up.

I know I will whine about the heat in the summer, but now all I want is to be able to wear sandals and no socks (much less two layers) to work. Or to be able to sleep with the window open and a fan blowing on me.

Last night I watched Memento, which I had seen, and then Waking the Dead with Jennifer Connelly and Billy Crudup (Almost Famous). It was slow at first and then had a strange ending. A somewhat chilling drama. I suggest renting it if you can. Then I watched the first half of Finding Forester with Sean Connery and some troubled black teens. So far it's interesting. There's no school today, the middle schoolers are here to interview and take entrance exams. I am going to go into the class rooms and say, in japanese, "Now it is time for the Oral English Examinations". Maybe not.

I've determined, major journal updates will be Monday and Thursday, since those are the days I can get to the e-Cafe. I can occasionally use the computers at school to make small updates, like now, but that can't be relied upon. Plus I can write much more at home and save it to a disk and upload it at the e-Cafe. The computers here are slow and painful to use.

[later]

I just watched "Finding Forrester". I thought it was pretty cool, even though highly predictable. I knew right up front what Sean Connery's role was and what he would do at the end. It was still a decent movie though. I decided I want to write a movie script about anything as long as it has Sean Connery, Jennifer Connelly, Morgan Freeman, and Spielberg involved somehow. Preferably a long kissing scene with Jennifer and I, and the rest can just hang around the set or be in it somehow. The only Bond films I like are the old ones with Connery. Roger Moore was ok, but not Timothy Dalton or Pierce Brosnan. They are fine actors but I like the old Connery type movies. Oh, after thought, I'd also want Spacey, Hackman, and Malkovich in it as well. Oh, Denise Richards as well.

Well I learned more verbs today and then learned some verb ending auxiliaries. Which really means verb endings that require the conjugation of said verbs. The two I focused on today were "you had better not....[verb]." and  "Can I ...[verb]". So I spent the whole day walking around the teacher's room telling teachers "you had better not sit", then when they asked why I would reply with "you had better not speak". Then I would explain what I was learning and we'd all have a big hearty laugh. I still need more practice, but I have a language exchange partner every Thursday. I teach her a little English and she helps me in Japanese.

Wednesday, Jan 29

I am officially sick of the snow. The worst part is I have another 2 months of it. If I had more money and more free time and was better at skiing then I would be in heaven, but now the snow is just a hindrance. It takes nearly 50 minutes to walk to school because it's so hard to walk in the snow and ice and sludge. It's snowing again today and the wind is blowing it sideways and in my face. I can deal with one weather thing, but more than one is irritating. Like if it was just cold I could bundle up, but when it's cold and windy then I have to block the wind somehow, or it will rain or snow and then I need an umbrella. I have to keep one hand out of the warm pocket. I can rotate them, but I am right handed so when I hold the umbrella with my left it just feels strange.

Had two classes today. I'm to the point where I don't prepare for the classes, they just tell me when they are and I go and make up what I need to as I go. Usually I read and they repeat the new words, and I make some notes on the board so it's no big deal. It's very convenient though, for both of us, especially them. I don't feel like they utilize me as much as they could, but then they are %500 better than Hobara, where I speak for 3 minutes and then sit down.

Got a date on Monday. Well, not sure if it is a date, but at least she speaks English. It's like an introductory welcome session I guess. A pre-date. I met her through that girl from way back that came up to me in the bar to speak English. Where the guy said his friend wanted to practice English with me because HE lived in San Francisco for a while, and then the HE was a SHE. Not like she was both male and female, the first guy just messed up he/she. So this girl is named Hitomi, and she works at a local nice hotel answering the phone I think. She brought the other girl into town one time and we talked at a bar for a while, then I got her cell phone email and have been casually emailing her since November or so. I finally flat out said "tell me when you have free time so we can have dinner". She wrote back a few days later and said "busy this week, but how about next Monday". So that sounds promising. If she kept saying always busy I would have hit the delete button on the the cell phone. (There's not actually one button that deletes, it's a series of keystrokes). No idea where we will go, but luckily I have been staying well under the food budget so I can let some rollover to Monday.

I have made a major break through with the buses. Today I was standing in line and the #2 bus was no where to be seen so then the #3 pulled. In a different post I realized that any #2 will go by my school's stop, but only select #3's. So I get on and ask the driver of the #3 if it stops at my stop, and he said no. Then I get off and look at the route it takes on the chart. Then I look at the bus again and back at the chart. Then I realize this bus says Horai which is a small town near here. Then I see the same characters at the end point on the bus route. So this bus must be the blue line on the map. Ah ha! Then a lady looks at the chart and then gets on the bus and yells to the front in Japanese "does this bus stop at Toyota Machi?" which is the stop before mine. I turned to her, without thinking really, and said " No this one goes to Horai". She looked at me and I pointed to the chart and used a series of strategically calculated gestures and pointing techniques to show her this was the blue line which clearly does not go to that stop. I bet she felt like an idiot having a foreigner who barely speaks Japanese explain the bus system to her.

Then a different bus pulls up in the #3 slot when this one leaves. I look at the kanji and see it goes to Oyama Machi, and the end point for Oyama Machi is the green line which stops at my stop. Just for kicks I ask the driver anyway, and of course he says yes. So now I know how to tell which bus stops where. Although all #2's still stop at my stop. There is no #4 bus, only 1,2,3,5,6,7,8,9,10. A superstition here.

I'm still in the juice fast. It's been about three days and I have had no solid food, just 100% pure vegetable juice, carrot juice, tomato juice, and fruit/vegetable juice. The first veggie juice has a hint of pepper in it and tastes like a Bloody Mary (minus the vodka) and I love it. Too much tomato juice or tomatoes give me canker sores (since I was about 4), but I love the juices anyway. I feel great and really don't have any hunger pains. The only time I get them, and even then it's only slight ones, is when people are eating their nice smelling lunches or I see an ad for nice tasty food. Otherwise, I actually don't think about food or eating for once in 31 years. I think I was a kicker in the womb in between feedings. The extra bonus is I have spent about $8 a day on juice, I buy four bottles and drink them throughout the day, I also drink a few glasses of water. Don't think I want to do a water fast yet, but maybe sometime. I need to weigh myself tomorrow. I bought some raw broccoli and cauliflower and okra to ease the descent back to real food. You should eat some raw veggies one day then something soft and easy the next day. Then something really fattening and greasy the last day just to ruin everything. Kidding on that of course.

A really great teacher came back today named Shimizu sensei (she me zoo). She was out for a month with something majorly wrong and was in the hospital. Rather than send useless flowers they send money. I need to get sick for a month in that case. So I walk in and see her across the room talking to Hiraki sensei and I go up and say "I missed you" and "welcome back". In Japanese of course. I get that look from them. Here we go, what did I say this time? Let me guess "I just shaved my body in your kitchen" or maybe "I have a strange fungus growing on me". No telling. Then she says thank you and goes on her way. Hiraki sensei is called over to the VP's desk for a minute. Then a different teacher grabs me and takes me to his desk to do some translation stuff or Engrish correcting. "These girl has a new bicycle". Stuff like that. Then they have the morning meeting and then I go to the first class. At the end of the class as I walked out the door I say "I missed you, yesterday there were too many Jr High students". Then they all looked at me again. I walked back to the teacher's room and asked Hiraki sensei why I was getting looks. She said my translation was correct, it does mean I missed you, but it's the politeness level is something you say to a lover or spouse or girlfriend/boyfriend, not a teacher or a class. Well I did hear it from Sachiyo, so I guess we were at that level. I felt like a horse butt, telling a teacher that and then the class. Whatever.

I want to get a car here as I mentioned before, which means I have to get a license. That's a really strange thing for foreigners in Japan. First you get an International Driver's License at Triple A in the US and all they do is stamp a sheet of paper for $20. With that I can drive for one year here. No test, just the paper. BUT, when I want to get my real license I have to jump through more hoops than JoJo the Indian circus boy. First I have to get my license translated, then if there is no line on the license that says Issue Date I have to request something from the DMV in the states, then I have to take all this and my Alien Card and another official address document to the test place and take an English written test, but I need my own translator for the driving test. There is more that I have forgotten, but there are about 9 things on a list at school. So for one year I can drive like a baboon if I want, but when I want to get my official license I have to have a senator's approval?

I've concluded two things about Higashi. A) it's impossible to sneak out without being seen by everyone B) the weather temperature and conditions on the balcony of the teacher's room is not even remotely close to that of which is around the corner from the school. First, I needed to run back to my place during school because I left a few things at home. I had Hiraki's permission, but still didn't want the Principal and other people seeing me walk out with my backpack. As I walk out there is some kind of administrator meeting in the parking lot in front of the door. So that plan is shot. I explain I will be right back. Before that I go out on the balcony and it's not all that cold or windy so I decide to leave my coat inside so I don't look as bad leaving. I walk out and pass the parking lot meeting and get around the corner and BOOM it's freezing and a blizzard. So I can't walk back or I'll miss the bus and walk past the meeting again. ARGH. I suffer and make it home safely.

I was writing a note earlier today about journal updates, as you can see it's long. When I was writing it on the paper, I would pause a second if I wrote a big word. I couldn't figure out why I was doing this. Then it hit me, I was waiting for spell check to underline the word. On the paper, yes I know. I wrote the word balcony and put an E in it, it looks better as balconey to me, but spell check goes crazy. So when I wrote the note, I sat and waited for a minute and stared at the word, waiting, for some magical fairy to underline the word. I'm an idiot.

 

Thursday, Jan 30

So far it's been insanely cold and windy and still a little snowy. The worst part is the snow from yesterday is the thin fine powdery type so when the wind blows it kicks it up everywhere. I had to ride the bus today, it's just too hard to walk to school in these conditions. I have never experienced anything like this in the US. Back in Georgia if we ever had anything even half as bad as the weather today it would be declared a horrible blizzard. I mean it really is bad wind and cold. The trains even stopped today until about 11am. More than half the students weren't here because they come in from distant towns.

Some students come as far as an hour by car, but they ride the train. I'm saying where they live would take an hour by car or more. I would say half live close like in the town or one town away, and then a quarter live a few towns away or maybe 20-30 minutes by train. Then maybe the last quarter, or a little less, live considerably farther. One teacher lives two hours away and takes the shinkansen everyday TWICE to get here. Twice as in once here and once back. I think she bought a monthly pass where it's a little cheaper. Normally her trip would be about $30 each way, and she does it 5x a week, technically 10x I guess.

Today is a half day for the students and the teachers will spend the afternoon picking 35 of the 250 students that showed up for the entrance exam. The others as well as new students can retake the exam next month. We will take a maximum of 300 new students. I'm supposed to change schools in April, but I heard my predecessor stayed at Hobara both times. I am going to push to get out of that school since it's so wasteful. Again, I like the school and the students and the teachers, especially the cutie I flirt with, but I sit and do nothing productive all day. I use the time to study Japanese, but I do nothing productive for them. I have tried to do more and they just don't need anything more.

Nothing planned for this weekend yet. Although I think I won't be able to afford anything anyway, my water was cut off for some reason. I thought the pipes had frozen last night when they didn't come on and then I brought all my mail in to Hiraki and she said it was cut off. The reason: I haven't paid anything since I got here. So when Japanese say ALL YOUR BILLS ARE BEING TAKEN OUT OF YOUR ACCOUNT AUTOMATICALLY, they actually mean "only the electricity and gas bills really are". I have to go pay $100 to get the water back on, though that's not really bad for 6 month's water service, something less than $20 a month. Then I will pay the phone bill as well, another $50, not in the budget either. Then I will go home and figure out which bills are coming out and which aren't. Then I will come back to school and ask Hiraki to tell me what I need to do to get my phone disconnected and sold to a pawn shop and then have any non-essential utility cut off, such as internet. How foolish of me to think I should have internet at home.

I'm breaking the veggie juice diet today. I already ate some raw broccoli and cauliflower and later I will have miso ramen. I need to convert to the $1 diet soon and that's not veggie juice. Come Feb 21, I will be rolling in the dough, but until then it's scrunch time.

[later]

Took out 15,000 yen and went to pay the water bill. I finally found the water company and walked in a random door which looked like the front. There was no clear Front Desk so I walked up to the first person that looked up at me and showed her my bill. All she had to do was point and to a desk no more than 5 feet behind me, but that's not the Japanese way. She walked around the desk and took me to this other desk and stood there while I gave him the paper. After thanking her about 3 times, she finally left. I handed him the bill and he printed out a variety of forms. Then he showed me the amount due, which was just under 10,000 yen or less than $100 USD. Then I put ten 1000 yen bills in the little money tray. He took it and counted it. 

Japanese have this strange way of counting money. They put the bills in their hand and then flip their pinky finger over the ends and snap through each bill some how. So he counted them. 10 bills great. Then he flips them over an counts them again. Then he puts them back in the tray. He prints out another form and stamps it with his little official stamp. Then he grabs the money and counts it again, then flips them over and counts them a fourth time. Why not just lay them out in two rows of 5 bills and look at it? Then he hands me about 10 stamped forms and then I leave. While I am leaving about 6 people stand and bow and say thank you. They are thanking me for paying to have my water turned back on after not paying for 6 months. How nice. Maybe I will not pay again for 6 months just to get this nice treatment.

Then I paid the phone bill as well and they weren't as nice. They said I owed another 4,500 for January which I will have to pay later, but they turned the phone back on for now. Internet still doesn't work and that's the only reason I had the phone turned on really. I'm pretty sure I am getting the phone disconnected and sold next week or month.

Friday Jan 31, 2003

I was supposed to go to Fukushima High School today, the all boys school, or so I thought. I go there and sit at my desk and then an English teacher said I wasn't supposed to be there. I told them they told me at Higashi to come here today. So they said it was a big screw up, but since I am here they will put me in 3 classes. Later someone calls Higashi and asks what the deal is. Then they fax my schedule to Fuku-high and everyone looks and sees I am supposed to be there. Fine, it's over, let it go, I am here. Nope. Later they make more calls. This time to the state governing place called Kenchou. Then Kenchou and Higashi and Fuku-High are all on a conference call.

By this time I have already taught one class. The students all remembered me. They started yelling Hamburger when I came in the room. When people see my last name they giggle since it is McDonald and McDonald's is popular over here, so I tell them my father is the president of the McDonald's Corporation and that shuts them up for a second. Then I say I am joking and we all have a good laugh.

Later the Vice Principal comes over and apologizes again for something and shows a teacher the schedule. I'm studying Japanese verbs in between classes. They talk about something for about 20 minutes. The English teacher is making all sorts of strange faces at the paper as if it said I was fired or something. This goes on for a good 10 minutes more. Then he leaves and I ask her what that was all about. She said Higashi thought I was coming back there today and they were worried when I never showed up after a reasonable amount of time. Geez, let it go. I am here, I am staying, let's move on.

The whole day it snowed heavily and there was another small earthquake. I'm not even going to mention heavy snow or earthquakes anymore since they happen about every other day. After school I went to the station and ate something cheap and then came home. I was tired for some reason, I mean really tired, and got in bed around 6. I woke up again this morning at 7am. Guess I needed 13 hours sleep for some reason.