Fukushima JET, JET, Fukushima, Being an ALT in Fukushima
Fukushima JET

Tuesday, March 1st, 2005

Graduation day. It actually went by much faster than usual. I guess because I knew exactly what to expect and I was filming most of it. I filmed all the basic parts, but not in their entirety just the parts that would give an overall idea of what goes on. So when I look up at the clock it's already almost time to go, just 15 more minutes. Then I go to the teacher's room and read a book. Oh first I helped some people lean up the gym. In the teacher's room a few students, ones that I rarely dealt with, came up and asked me to sign their yearbook. First of all I didn't even know they had year books, secondly, I didn't have anything in mind to write, thirdly, I didn't know these girl's names and had to act like I was reading the other entries to find their name.

So I signed something stupid. Not stupid like "I was the first person to sign your crack", but just general unprepared banter. Something about good luck and do well and study English. I should have written R.H.T.S., Raise Hell This Summer. Though I would have had to imply Spring since they graduate in early March. I don't really get sad to the point of crying at these things, but some of the students were bawling. At mine I was indifferent. It was just another function. It was more of a release than a reason to be sad. But the school system here is different and that could cause the sadness. They stay in the same class group all through high school. So for three years they don't change classes. There are good points and bad points to that, but the main thing is they grow really close to each other over the years and that could be a major part of why most get really sad at graduation. Even some of the tough boys were bawling like babies. I got it all on film.

A few times I was a little teary eyed. I never cried though water was running out of the far corner of my eye. I think it was dust related actually. I'm not above crying, but this wasn't sad enough for me to. Though there were times when someone would walk by and bow to all the teachers, and then turn to me and give me a deep bow which meant he/she really appreciated my hard work. That special acknowledgement got me the closest to crying, though I never left the pre-cry stage. Later in the day I walked down the hall to the bathroom and students were grabbing me and wanting to be in pictures with me. That was touching also. I didn't say THERE was touching also, I said them pulling me was touching (to my heart). Then a few more had me sign their books. It's one thing to bump into someone awkwardly and then ask them to sign it, but these girl sought me out like a heat seeking missile. That makes you feel good. Then there are the letters from the students at the other schools when the teacher tells them there are no more classes with the funny foreigner. Those are touching too.

That's going to be the hardest part of leaving this job. Not this particular job at this school, because I would have to have actual classes, but I mean the role of foreign English teacher. At my last job no one missed me when I left, except for a few close friends. No department ever cheered when I came in the room nor did they ever listen attentively when I spoke about something. It's going to be difficult going from this to the regular world. But then again, who saves I have to. Not in any hurry to get back to the US now.

[later]

I rushed home and went to the gym for a little bit. I'm sure I look like a wanker showing up for 45 minutes then leaving. I put on this big skit at the front desk asking what time it was then acting surprised and rushing out. I had to go to gyoza with some of my friends. I could have missed it or been late, but I love gyoza and I don't get to see that group too often. We ate an obscene amount, but I didn't drink anything alcoholic. I didn't want to completely cancel out my workout, even though the gyoza did a fair job of it. We chatted and ate for 2 hours. Then we learned that the gyoza place would be closed for a week around the 20th to the 28th of March because of some gyoza festival in Tokyo. Well I will be in Tokyo around that time so I guess I will show Renee, the person who is coming to visit me, why I love gyoza so much.

I've already got some good things planned. It's going to be busy and action packed, but she will get to see the highlights of Japan in a short time. We are going all over Osaka, Kyoto, Tokyo, Nikko, Kamakura, and much much more.

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2005

I am wearing my Thailand suit today. Which is actually a bit nice than the khakis and blue jacket I wore yesterday. The teacher's here are wondering why I am dressed nicer the day after graduation. The reason is I am going to the night school's graduation tonight, immediately after I record that test for the prefecture. I hope things run quickly so I can get to the night school on time. It's only a 20 minute walk, or a 5 minute taxi ride, so I should be ok.

I'll take a picture of me in my new suit and add it below. It was rather cheap and best of all custom fit for me. From scratch, or measurements at least. They let me test try on parts of it so I know it was built from nothing. I would try on the pants with just one leg or the jacket with just one side or no pockets and lapels. I could even specify where and what angle the pockets would be. I told them I wanted an inside pocket and two big pockets on the side. By blue jacket has two fake pockets and I am always in a situation where I have papers or things to go in pockets, but alas they are just for show.

I brought my computer today, expecting to watch something, but I have realized I have several things that need to be done today. I have to mail something to the US, something to a friend in Fukuoka (a different prefecture - far away and warm), mail the TEFL grammar module answers, and finish the online TEFL course, as well as read more in my addictive book and work on the New York Times crossword puzzle. I end up google-ing about half the answers since it is designed for intelligence beyond me. Liz can usually do it and only need one or two answers, which I have sometimes because they are before her time. It always makes me feel good to give the final answer to the Computer Science major. Though she is nice enough to probably leave out the one she knows I can answer.

Ok, I need to go work on the TEFL thing online. Back later.

[later]

Whew, or however you spell that. I just finished the grammar book module and the online lesson plan I had to submit. That was stressing. Well that's what I get for procrastinating. It's due today so the online thing should be ok. Hopefully I can have the thing I have to snail mail post marked and that will be fine, I hope. I'm sure they can stretch the rules a bit. I organized 20 people for the online course and that was a nice chunk of change. I also have to mail my transcript request since there are no faxes in Japan that will fax to the US. Unreal.

So now my shoulders hurt from actually having to do something like work at school. It's actually lunch time so I can go get something and bring it back. I need to prepare something for my last time at the devil school on Friday and then plan out some things for the kids festival on Sunday. It's times like this that I am actually glad I have no classes. Though I am still not happy about 2 months (going on 3) with no classes at my base school. I guess the reason no one picks up on it is I am always restless and moving around. So maybe people see me entering or leaving and think I have class. If I could find the right place I could go and sleep for an hour or so, not that I am really tired these days. Other ALTs have told me they have sleeping spots where they can get a good hour or two of shut eye. I don't think there are enough places at my school for that.

I just received a fax from the cute teacher at the devil school. It's my schedule for Friday. I have a 2nd period class and one 5th period. That means I can take the 8:05 train rather than the 7:34 and I can leave at 2pm rather than 4:15. She also sent a lesson plan that she wants me to prepare. One class will be an introduction, even though it's my last time there, then there will be a simple quiz that the teacher will prepare. The other class starts out with this:

We will play BINGO! Do you know this game? We play it different than normal.
Please explain how to play to the students. (I don't know how they play it or how differently one can play BINGO).
Please give the students a quiz. (uh....on what topic?)
Please give hints in English about the BINGO words, but don't use Japanese.

Here are the words:

Ocean, Crane (the bird), airport, flooding, language, windmill, electricity, power, destroy, border, job, nature, signpost, flour, produce (to make), China.

So what hints can I give for things like flooding, nature, flour, and produce?  I mean this is really low level, what other simple English words can I use? the one thing you learn by being an ALT is being spontaneous. I have been told to do all sorts of things on the way to class and managed to pull it off. Sometimes it's frustrating, but it is expected. Once you teach for a while you get a repertoire (one my my favorite words) of things and you can usually pull from them. At first it's a bit difficult though.

So I will work on that some. I guess now I will start working on the signage for the Kids Festival on Sunday. I like to have signs with country names in English and Japanese around the booth for the kids to have something to look at. It would be great to have colorful things with flags and maps, but usually it's just my plain white signs. Better than nothing. I'll go work on that now.

Thursday, March 3rd, 2005

I had a funny conversation with some students today. It really demonstrates the excelled ability of critical thought and high listening skills. For some reason students who just graduated still come to school. Not all of them, just some. These were three recently graduated 3rd seniors. We were standing at the bus stop waiting for two separate buses, even though we were going to the same place.

Boys: Ryan. What's Up? (What's Up and See Ya are the two things I stressed the most).
Me: Hello. Where are you going?
Boys: To school.
Me: But you already graduated?
Boys: We have extra classes.
Me: Ok. Strange. In America we usually don't return to school for a while after graduation.
Boys: Amazing. I can't believe it. Wow.

Boys: Now that we are graduates we can call you Ryan and not Ryan Sensei.
Me: I always told you that you could call me either Ryan or Ryan Sensei.
Boys: But now that we are graduates, we don't have to say sensei.
Me: I told you in my introduction to you as first years that you could just call me Ryan, since that is my name.
Boys: But now that we are graduates, we don't have to say sensei.
Me: You never had to, you could always just say Ryan. Like we do in America.
Boys:  But now that we are graduates, we don't have to say sensei.

And so I let it go for a minute or so. They were repeating the same sentence over and over. It was stuck in their heads and my response did not compute with what they expected. After about 5 times, I just said oh ok you are right and they all laughed as if they had stolen my lunch money and then walked away.

The graduation ceremony at the night school was nice. It was an hour and a half, even though they told me it would be 50 minutes. I was sitting with the honored guests and had to stand up when introduced. I just wanted to be in the audience watching, but this was nice. The only thing I didn't like was that everyone, and by everyone I mean everyone, had on a nice black formal suit. My suit was formal, but it was a dark brownish color as you will see in the pictures, soon to come. So I pretty much stood out, even apart from being the tall foreigner. I even have a formal black suit, but I wanted to wear my new Thai custom made suit. Oh well.

After the ceremony we went to a nice sushi place for the party. As usual, the more you pay, the less food you get. The sushi was great as well as the rest of the food, but there just wasn't much of it. I was hungry at the end of the meal and hoping more food would come. It did not. Liz felt the same way. So after all the English speaking teachers got tired of having simple conversations with us, Liz and I just chatted for a while. I'm sure teacher's think we are dating since we are almost always together at functions like this, but we aren't. We just get along very easily and don't irritate each other. Finally we left and went to the station and went straight to McDonald's to get something to actually eat. Then she took a taxi home and I walked.

Friday, March 4th, 2005

So far, since around 11pm, we have had more snow in one snowing than all year. It's over 1 foot right now. It was thick this morning, but when I came back home it was much deeper since it snowed heavily all day. I usually clean the parking spot of a sexy married lady near my apartment. I met her somewhere through a friend and she speaks great English. Her husband is a heart surgeon in another part of the prefecture, meaning he doesn't live with her, so she hangs out with English speakers a lot. I didn't have a shovel so I had to just drag my feet around, but it was almost all the way to the top my snow boots and they are almost knee high. That was about 2pm, and now it is 5pm and it is still snowing heavy. If it keeps snowing like this it will be thick tomorrow. Usually it starts around midnight and gets thick by morning and then melts off during the day, but so far it's been cold and heavy all day.

Most teachers were surprised and upset at the snow. It's already March and supposedly Spring, plus it has been warmer recently and all the snow melted from the ground. But then last night the temperature dropped and it began snowing like a madman.

Oh let's see, I have to redo a part of the TEFL thing I am doing. I don't really like it because they aren't teaching much, just quizzing. It's like:

The cat will run from a dog.        The verb is run. Please try this quiz:

Recently, old men in times of desperate need have been known to say "what would have happened if had been...".    
Mark the past participle and circle the present continuous progressive structure.

@

WHAT?

Some of  the things are vague and they make me redo them and I am just tired of working on it. I just want it to be over. I am just inches away from being certified so I'm not going to give up, but I am so tired of doing this.

More interesting news. Looks like I will be going back to the devil school, and then to Nishi (West) High School. The devil school isn't so devilish anymore so I don't hate it as much as I did. Plus there is the cute teacher and I get to leave early and come in late, depending on when I have classes. Plus again, I will really only have to go there starting in late April, and then a few times in May, though we have a big week long holiday in May called Golden Week so I will miss two days then. Then I will have to go in June, but most likely not in July.

Nishi SHS, is going to be interesting. They have never had an ALT because they always felt like their English teachers were more than capable of teaching English. Which is a good point. Who really needs the help of a native speaker to teach a language? As long as you study English for 4 years in college, you can teach it just fine. It doesn't matter if you actually can't speak English, or if the people you teach never actually learn English. That's a very Japanese attitude. So either they decided they want an ALT, or the baboon monkey clown circus know as Kenchou decided they MUST have one. So there is a possibility that I will show up and they won't want me there. That's going to make for fun times. At least it's close to the apartment. I am so tired of Kenchou. I think I am going to spearhead a letter being written to Kenchou and send it as some of us leave. Many of my SHS ALT friends are sick of them as well.

I just booked a ticket back to Atlanta in early June. It's not the most convenient time for me, but if I am going to the wedding in September I won't be able to spend much time at the parent's house so I need to go before that. Last time I was there I spent the whole week watching TV on the couch. Definitely not going 7,000 miles to do that again so I have to time it when my Mom is going to be home. I'll need to get my license renewed since it expired and eat some good old American fatty food. Still no plans for the summer vacation. India came up, but it might be to hot and rainy season. I might need to save money anyway to go back in September. Man my sky miles are going to go through the roof. I have 7,500 already for Continental, then I will get 15,000 more for June, and another 15,000 for September. Which means I can either get a business class upgrade or a free flight. I don't know what I want.

So I just uploaded the pictures from Higashi and Chuo graduation ceremonies. I had something else to say, but Michelle emailed me and said her flight to Kyushu might be cancelled because it is still snowing so heavy. Whatever I was going to say started with "I" because that's what was on the screen when I turned back around. Hmm. Who knows.

Monday, March 7th, 2005

There was some kind of major mix up at the bus station today. It was bigger than I had seen before. Not sure what caused it, but part of it was due to lack of individual thought ability. It blocked things for about 5 minutes, which is a  long time in bus time. Finally one driver got out and directed people, even to the point of hitting a few buses like cattle to make them move. It was strange.

So far I am just sitting at school doing nothing more than watching television shows on my computer. A teacher brought me a yearbook earlier. I had wanted one last week and she said they were $180 each. After laughing for a minute I said I couldn't afford one since in the US they were usually around $30-50 as best I could remember. So then today she said they are only $30. Hmmm, that's cool. It's a great book with pictures of all the kids and good shots of the school, even from an airplane. It even has a few pictures of me in it. That should be good for memories.

Yesterday we had a very successful kid's festival at the Big Palette in Koriyama. I'll upload the pictures shortly. There were so many cute kids. This year we had the usual Quiz Challenge, where kids have to "guess" three countries foreign English teachers come from. But the answers are on the wall right behind us and we act like we don't know. Then we had this cheap Toys-R-Us ball game where they throw a small ball at a wall and it knocks out certain pieces. Usually they win a small prize, but this year since it was pretty much all me planning it, the candy prize got axed. Then we had the big hit of the day, face painting. Kids were lined up the whole time for that. Luckily we had a few people who were really interested in doing it.

So far at the past few kids festival things I have noticed the strangest thing. About an hour before it's over, my left eye - always my left eye, starts to feel strange. You know how when you wake up really fast and there is some film over your eye and you have to blink it off a few times? It's like that. It also went out of focus a bit. Then I feel a little dizzy. So I usually go outside and get some fresh air. It's just bizarre that it happens only at kid's festivals and only to my left eye. I can't imagine what would cause that, maybe something in the air or dealing with so many kids. It just doesn't make sense. I even have a picture of myself during the peak of my little problem and my left eye is a little different. Look at the Big Palette pictures and scroll down to the one on the left of my holding the sign that says something like "Stop the Terror Trade". My left eye is a little shut or something. There is something going on with it or maybe the whole left side of my face.

This week I don't have any big plans during the day or at night or on the weekend. There is a party in Aizu I want to go to, but that's only if I can get a ride there with someone. Thursday night we are all getting together for Pizza night, which doesn't sound like much, but it is. Because pizza is at least twice what it costs in the US so we can only get it on the special discount days which are the 8th, 9th, and 10th. No idea why, but that's when it's closest to US prices. Last month we ordered it over the phone and for 5 pizzas it was nearly $170. As best I recall when my family of four would eat pizza it would be no more than $25 and that was really expensive. In college it seems like it was always less than $15, otherwise we couldn't afford it.

This week and next week I am trying to save money because I have the one week sightseeing tour starting the 20th. I already have $500 saved for it and I really don't want to dip into that before the trip. There is a small chance I will be able to finagle (ha ha that is a word) a way for me to save some money on transportation. I will expand on that more in the future once it happens or doesn't. People living in Japan can figure out what I am talking about. I don't want to Jinx it.

Oh here's the big news of the weekend I guess. I broke part of my tooth. It doesn't hurt, but it is clearly broken. I was eating strips of dried mango on Friday, really soft and chewy so I didn't expect anything. Then I felt a crunchy feeling and thought there was something crunchy in the fruit. Then there was more crunchy stuff. Later I thought it might be a filling that fell out so I checked my back left upper teeth. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary except they were a little more yellow than I wanted. Then a few hours later my left lower jaw felt like the skin was swollen and rubbing against my teeth, or like something was there. So I reached back to feel was was lodged in my teeth and felt something sharp. Then I felt a hole. So I looked in the mirror and noticed part of my tooth was just missing. I guess I will most like have to go to a dentist at some point and I should go when I have no classes and before my trip. We'll see if I actually go. The sharp part looks like it could snap off. I'm not sure what they can do, but I doubt it will survive until I go back in June.

I plan to stock up and some things in June when I go back. Mainly at the Gap, Old Navy, Wal-Mart, and other places that don't exist in Japan. Well the Gap exists but they don't allow large people to shop there. I suppose they allow us, but they peacefully protest our existence by not having clothes that fit. I need a few more casual pants and shirts.

This summer Liz and I had planned a trip to Moscow via Siberia and Mongolia, but it looks like that won't work since it will cost me over $5,000. Now I am checking into a summer Intensive Japanese course, but I can't find many that fit my schedule which is late July to Mid August. I can make some fit, but it will cost more. Perhaps I can live with my Tokyo friend and save money, but I don't know if he wants me to live there for a few weeks. Though I do love the view from his patio. When I fall asleep with the drapes open looking out into the lit night view. It makes me feel special inside.

Ok that was cheesy. I apologize. I am going to work on the pictures from the Big Palette Festival. Over and Out.

Monday, March 14th

It's been a while since my last confessional. I've been meaning to make an update, but I haven't had time when I wasn't too tired. Well this time next week I will be in Tokyo showing my friend Renee around. I'll post our schedule later maybe.

Today I plan to finish watching the Sopranos and maybe some Carnivale, as well as some House M.D.. When I got here today a teacher came over who has been asking me about the entrance exam for the new kids coming to this school. I recorded the listening part a few weeks ago and now she wants me to make a final check of the written part. Let's look at two examples. See if you can figure out which one is natural English and which one is a group of Japanese teachers who think they know natural English and decided the one that is actually natural doesn't really sound natural. It will be tough, these are people who teach English and therefore that must mean they are fluent. Let's go:

@

Random Example A:

Hello Kenji, How is your Judo going? I found a place to do Judo here. Judo is fun. I hope we can do Judo together when I visit Japan again. I'll never forget the words: "You can beat a bigger person with small power." Let's try hard, Kenji.

Take Care,
Tom

@

Random Example B:

Hello Kenji, how is judo? I found a place to practice here. It's really fun. I hope we can do it when I visit Japan again. I'll never forget the words "where there is a will there is a way". That means you can beat a bigger person with not much power, if you really want it. Keep practicing hard.

Take care,
Tom

@

So one of them was given to me and asked how natural it sounded. I said "not very" and made some small changes keeping in mind they haven't heard that many natural English expressions. So I made some changes as listed in another example, but today the teacher came back and said her test committee (dear god everything is done by committees here)  felt that my changes didn't make any sense so they were going with what they KNEW was correct English. So one is clearly correct natural English, and one is not. Can you pick which one? Be sure to put you Japanese thinking caps on.

So the answer is A. A is perfect natural flowing English, at least in the minds of the test committee. Then the teacher asked me to review the rest of the test to see what else might need changing. I was in a bad mood for some reason (couldn't be from having no classes for 3 months) and flipped through the test really fast and said it's fine. She asked if I had enough time to check it and I said "It doesn't matter. If I find anything wrong you will propose it to the committee and they will say it's not natural English, even though no one on the committee can actually speak natural English. It's a bit insulting really". Her reply? "Maybe you need more time to check it". Ok fine. So I flipped through each page looking at it making obviously fake noises of interest and saying "oh" or "yes yes" I even quoted Wayne's World at one point "yes, I like what you've done here". Then I gave it back and said it was fine English, very much natural (on purpose).

She said great and took it back. That's what she wanted the whole time. She didn't actually want suggestions, just a foreigner to look it over and say it was perfect. Anything else would have been confrontational and Japanese don't do that. HEAVEN FORBID she had to go back to the group and tell some non-native English speaking Japanese person that their non-native English wasn't perfect. That would have been humiliating.

I'm working on another crossword puzzle in the English daily newspaper here that I cannot do, because I am a dumb moron. About once a week I can get at least %75 of them and then Google the rest. Usually, like today I can get about 5 and have to wait for the answers in tomorrow's paper. Argh.

Last week I was riding a bus and a car pulled in front of us. I know it's hard to believe there would be a bad Japanese driver, but it happened. The bus driver honked and swerved to miss the car. Well it's over, we are all safe. Nope. The driver was all about revenge just like I am (was when I drove). The driver pulls up beside the car, now back in the other lane, and starts honking. Then he jerks the bus over a few times to scare the car. This is a bus full of people. There are old people and some special ed students and this driver was using this several ton bus to make a point to the bad driver. Oh man, it was great. I would do that in my small car or little truck, but a bus full of people? That takes moxy. That takes a pair of big gumbas. I was impressed.

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday were vacation days for all the students, well at least the 2nd and 1st years since the 3rd years are already gone. Tuesday and Wednesday were tests and interviews for potential new students. Thursday was a thinking day or something, and Friday they met all day to discuss the results and make decisions. Man I am glad I didn't have to be there. Japanese culture involves getting everyone's opinion and Japanese people use that to get their opinion in. It would have been the biggest circular discussion known to man.

I, of course, had to be here. It was crucial that I was here. Sitting. Alone in the teacher's room. So I came and watched stuff on my computer and read some from the book The Life of Pi. On Friday when they were having the meeting, the only teachers who were not in the meeting were the sports teachers and a few part time teachers, occasionally in the room with me, but usually I was alone. At some point I went on the balcony and watched the soccer coach clean the playing field with a car dragging a metal plow type thing. It would just rough up the top layer of dirt. There is no grass on the field, just dirt.

About half way through I realized he was doing it in the absolute most inefficient way possible. I couldn't figure it out. It was like cutting grass in a sense, because he was pulling around the perimeter and then gradually inward so it was getting smaller and smaller. But he was making turns and angles and backtracking and it was just horribly inefficient.

Then I realized, if you have nothing to do it's in your best interest to stretch the things you do have to do. Then it made sense. He was trying to make this take as long as possible while still working. I watched him for about an hour and with my new theory in place, it made perfect sense. I would predict where he would turn next. I would play a game where I would pick the logical next turn and then where he would go. I was right most of the time. It killed about an hour and was oddly mesmerizing.

This past weekend I went to Aizu to go to a party a friend was having. It was fun, but I realized I am quickly growing out of the party stage. I didn't drink much, I didn't entirely fit in since I wanted to say "been there done that" to most of the conversations. Then I wanted to go to sleep early. The one thing I really hate about anything, is there is a clear end point for me. At a clear and definite point, the party was over. Everyone should have gone to bed, but someone was playing a video game and about 5 of us just sat there watching it for a while. I couldn't go to bed because I was sleeping in the main room. There was a back room that has held 5-6 people in the past, but for some reason someone went in there and put a futon down right in the middle of the room so only 2 people could fit. That made a few more people come out into the main room. Finally the game was over for the 3rd time and I stood up and said, "well it's about time for bed". That somewhat got everyone moving. But then they spent 30 minutes getting bedding and what not. It really only took 5-10 minutes, but people kept walking around talking and winding down. I just all lights and that got everyone quiet. The people who were talking finally quit and came back into a darkened room. I had fun, but I shouldn't have gone. I spent way too much and that was even with me being conservative.

So next week I will be traveling Japan, seeing some new places and revisiting some old ones. I might be able to go to Hiroshima for a day trip, but that remains to be seen. That depends on whether or not I can get a certain thing from some certain people regarding the matter of the first part herein and hereto. Sorry I don't want to jinx it in advance so I won't talk about said matter until ex post facto.

We are going to Nikko, Kamakura, Himeji, Osaka, Kyoto, maybe Hiroshima, and Tokyo. Only a few places will be new for me, Osaka and Kyoto. I stayed a night in Osaka, but I got there late and left early in the morning. I mean something like my flight from Osaka was at 8am. So I saw nothing really. We will stay in Osaka for 4 days and travel to Kyoto from there. I don't mind going back to the other places, it's really fun to see them again and show people around. I have been to Kamakura probably 6 times, but I can't get enough of the daibutsu. It's just amazing. I wanted to show her some more traditional Japanese places like a Ryokan, which is a traditional Japanese hotel, but they are typically $2-300 per person per night. That would slightly affect the budget. She'll be here for a week and be able to tell people she has seen most of Japan.

Here's my tangent for the hour. If you haven't seen this site, you must go there at this absolute now. http://www.badgerbadgerbadger.com . It is wicked funny and addictive. You will need Flash player and sound.

I can't decide what I will do for the summer. I am thinking of either India for a few weeks or a Japanese Intensive Language Course for about two weeks. India would be ideal in December, but I am thinking of going to New Zealand with a NZ friend. Then I could jump over to Fiji and never return. Well at least scope out the place and see if my Fijian dream is feasible. Tahiti would be nice as well. Maybe the plane will go down and I will be added to the cast of LOST. Maybe not.

Well time to finish the Sopranos.

Tuesday, March 15th

Two English Club girls came by Monday around lunch for me to have lunch with them. For some reason I can never remember about that.  We also meet on Thursdays after school and have some activity. At least when I plan something or can remember it. I have been feeling bad about it recently because I never really do much with them since it's hard to play a game or something with only 2 people. I work up this elaborate story in my head of them both looking forward to it all week and then finally on Thursday they eagerly wait all day and come to my desk all ready for time with the foreigner. Usually I am either not at my desk or I say sorry I didn't plan anything and they leave. I can see them walking back to their class all disappointed and then hoping next week will be different. All they want is to speak English with the guy that came all the way from the US to work at their school. The guy that is too busy to talk to them.

Maybe that's not how it is at all, but that's how I have it built up in my head. Maybe they don't like it but some teacher told them they had to ask me every week. When I say I am too busy they are relieved. It could be either way, I don't know. That's one of my problems, I am too empathetic. I think that's the word. Like in Cambodia the obnoxious kids selling stuff could sense it and would swarm me. They knew I was an easy mark and knew exactly what to say. Things like "please mister, it's only $3 and that will let me eat for the week". Things like that hit my dead on and I make the mistake of either buying one or asking how much something costs. At that point it's over. Others in the group would just walk past them and not acknowledge the kids. I couldn't do that. It just felt mean to me. The kids would even start to cry and ask why we were so mean. They are smart little kids. They knew I was the type of person they were trained to get.

So anyway, I will plan some type of fun activity for the English Club this Thursday. I don't know what quite yet, maybe I will buy a cake or something. Perhaps we can go to the station and get those small little print club pictures. I would like to do something that involves English, but I don't have many games that only allow two people, and I don't have any fun card games or board games.

Yet another crossword puzzle I can't do. Today I did about 5 out of what 30-40? There are about ten more I could Google, but I can't finish. One day I finished pretty quick, maybe Thursday is dumb day.

I read something in the paper about China and Taiwan. Man I hope Taiwan doesn't get stupid and try to Wonder Twin Powers deactivate from China. Even more stupid would be the US backing little Taiwan. China will crush them and severely damage any US help and then any future relations will go straight down hill. There's no oil in Taiwan so I don't know what our interest would be. I wouldn't even care if I wasn't lodged in between China and Taiwan. Not worried enough to go back to the US, but still concerned.

A teacher gave me two big art books that are nearly 30 years old. They are old prints of Japan done in the traditional style. I will take a picture and upload it later. They are very nice and heavy, not sure how I get them home, but they are nice keepers. It would be nice to have some of the prints as wall art. One book is about the Edo period, which is really shots of old Tokyo since that was the pre-Tokyo name, Edo. Actually Tokyo is correctly spelled Toukyou, but that just looks silly and no one would do it. The pronunciation is also a bit longer with each "o" being longer. Toooo Kyoooo or so, but again no one ever says that. We just say Toe Kyo here and back in the US I people say To key yo. No biggie. Oh the other book, the point of this ramble, is called 36 Views of Fuji. It's also art done in the traditional style, but guess what....each work has Fuji in it somehow.

When I get back from the Friend-Visiting-Japan tour, as we call it, I'm going to have a massive update of pictures. It's going to be insane. Might even kill my bandwidth again. I'll take more Himeji castle shots, some in Osaka (we plan to stop by the Love Hotel district - only to take pictures, she is happily married, but cool enough to go in one with me), and some new ones in Kyoto. If we have more time in Kamakura then I will take pics at the other shrines rather than just Daibutsu.

I am listening to the worst version of Bob Marley's No Woman No Cry. I love that song and it makes a great Karaoke song, but this version is insulting. It's like the Chipmunks are doing it or someone making fun of Bob. I have to skip the song hold on ......ok now I have Cream's Crossroads. Much better. Well it's noon and I am going to lunch and then work on something and then read more of The Life of Pi. Over and Out.

Thursday March 17th

The English Club girls came by and I told them I needed a few more minutes to prepare. I actually remembered this time, but had forgotten what time they met so I hadn't prepared in time.  I quickly printed out a list of about 20 verbs and made up a dumb game where they would draw a verb out of a hat (or my hand) and then they would have to make 5 sentences using the verb in the different tenses. I thought it would seem like a stupid lesson, but they enjoyed it. Then I suggested we do the print club thing some time and they got excited. They both live in Fukushima city so going to the station would be out of the way for them. Then I gave them some chocolate and we ate it for a minute and talked about my schedule next week.

I've already listed, mentioned, discussed, mapped out, charted, and whatever else about the trip so I won't go into detail about it. Starting around Saturday I will not make an update for a week and a few days. When I come back on Monday the 28th, it should be a huge update though. I've got to pay rent and send money back before I go so I know how much money I can spend on the trip. I really need to save a little since I am going back to the US in June for a week. I had a Continental flight booked, but I cancelled it and changed over to Delta. It's a direct flight and costs the same. I don't really mind the layover in Houston, but I really want to take some sleeping pills and just zonk out on the plane waking up a little before landing. Last time I was on a plane for that long I took some new sleeping pills and it didn't even make me drowsy. I think I took it with food. I will take some stuff I bought in Thailand that is like a horse tranquilizer. It will put me out for a good 7 hours in a bed, so hopefully at least 5 on the plane. If I don't sleep at all it's like a toxic snakebite when I land.

Friday, March 18th

Today was a short day. I went in as usual and some teacher said the closing ceremony was about to start. I went to that and watched everyone talk and then it was over in a hour. After that was a short homeroom, lunch and then more tests. Japanese kids are tested so much, it's probably like 10-20 percent of the time they are in class they are being tested. Someone suggested I could leave early and since early is relative, I bolted around 1:30.

I had sushi at the station and then came home. For some reason I went into one of those sugar comas for about 2 hours, though I hadn't had any sugar. I woke up feeling strange and without thinking I started walking to this store that was about to close. When I got there I couldn't remember getting out of bed and walking that far. I must have been barely awake. The store was pretty worthless at this point. 2 floors were closed, the two I wanted to be on. Only the 2nd floor was open and that was all women's clothes, and I have passed that point in my life. The main floor is mainly restaurants and a grocery store. There is a big theater on the 5th floor, which should remain open.

Then I came back and did pretty much nothing. Eriko is coming over later after her end of the year school party. I think I am not going to Tokyo until Sunday morning to save the cost of staying there somewhere Saturday night.

I fear I may not be able to fully learn Japanese due to the way my mind works. When I think of a word sometimes my mind uses another one. Today I was talking to some students since they were moving up a grade and moving into their new classrooms. They were telling me a story and I told them to tell me in English. They all giggled and tried. Then they reverted to Japanese and I tried to say the very easy phrase of "I don't understand Japanese". One of the most basic things you learn. Instead I kept saying "I don't understand dolls". They kept looking at me funny and giggling more, which I took as me saying I don't understand Japanese IN Japanese, but their giggling was a bit excessive. I kept repeating "I don't understand dolls" and they would laugh more and more. I was just staring at them totally confused until one said "Ningyou?" which is doll. "Nihongo" which is remotely similar is the word for Japanese.  So the sounds are Neen-Gyo for doll and Knee-Hone-Go for Japanese. Not really too close, but in Ryan's Brain they are apparently. I can only imagine what troubles I will get into as I learn more vocab words.

Tuesday, March 29th, 2005

Just returned from a week long exciting and stressful sightseeing trip with my college friend from the US. I took hundreds of pictures and will upload them shortly. It will take a while to make the pages and then upload them. I will start working on it today while I am sitting at school doing nothing. I don't know how my school survived for a week without me sitting there staring at the wall. It must be chaos there, not having a person who came all the way across the world to sit in the teacher's room. So I will be back there soon to maintain the balance and provide my sitting services.

I think the new teachers will be at school soon. Probably after April 1st. It's odd the way the leaving teachers have to be there until the last day and then the next day have to start their new job at their new school. It seems like there should be a slight vacation. Pretty much the way we figure things out here is to think of the one way that would make the least sense and 9 times out of 10, that's the Japanese way. We saw a prime example of that when Renee and I went to the 2005 World Expo in Aichi Japan. Man I will get into that later. For now just saying I am back and will start the update soon.

Wednesday, March 30th, 2005

Well I kinda feel bad today. I came in a bit late, later than I usually do because there are no classes or students and I am so tired of being here with nothing to do. Plus a teacher hinted that I could come in late and leave early during the break so I take full advantage of that. But I feel bad because there was a going away ceremony for the teachers and many students came. I don't really care much about saying by to the teachers since I won't see any of them after July, but a teacher said several of the graduated students were looking for me. They wanted to tell me about what they will be doing from April, thanks partly to my help. I feel bad for missing them especially since I wasn't doing anything worth while.

I'll ask about tomorrow, but I know Friday the new teachers come in so I will be here before the first meeting at 10. I will leave early since there are still no classes and no students, though the new 1st years did come in yesterday to take the entrance test that I recorded recently. I'm going to ask them about the test when I do my intro and tell them it was my voice.

Started working on yet another crossword puzzle, aka look how stupid you are puzzle. I usually get about half or less, though a few days I managed to get them all. Sometimes I work with a nice ALT on the coast named Wendy who is British and somehow knows more about popular American culture than I do. She always seems to get more than me. I think she's just smarter all around.

A teacher just came by and gave me a small gift from a student. It's a Winnie the Pooh pack of little half inch wide stick'em notes. I feel bad that I wasn't here to talk to her, but oh well. Ha ha, the teacher just came back and told me he made a mistake. He took the notes back and gave me a bigger pack with a nice Japanese card that moves when you open it. Actually it's really cool the more I play with it. I will take a picture of it later.

Well at some point today or tomorrow I will start making pages of the trip. Some are just additions to previous visits like Himeji Castle, but others are totally new like Kyoto. I'll post the links here shortly. Now I am going to watch a video or work on the puzzle more.

Thursday, March 31st, 2005

As much as I don't like headaches, I do love the feeling about an hour after I take medicine for it. When the pain starts to tingle away. It's not so great that I want to get a headache just to feel it go away, but I have a headache now and I took medicine an hour ago.

I think the reason I have a headache now is that I am going to be severely broke until the next paycheck and I am being ultra conservative with money already. So far I have spent less than $20 total since Monday. On food and everything. I am walking to school and buy carrots to make juice for breakfast, and the cheap little $1 soup noodle packs. So no Gyoza or Indian Food for a while, unless I can trick others into paying for it. So the summary is, I had the headache because I wasn't eating enough. I'll buy some veggies tonight and steam them.