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.

Monday March 3, 2003

I woke up to a horrific dream, which must have happened within about the course of 1 minute. I woke up at 8 to an earthquake. My body must have sensed it while I was in full dream mode, because I instantly started thinking I was in a huge earthquake while at Daisuke's tall Tokyo apartment. I dreamt it fell over and a doctor was trying to wake me in the rubble. Then I slowly gain consciousness only to feel by bed shaking and then I jumped up. It was spooky.

Big update since the last entry. I think the last entry was Friday sometime, let me check. [checking] Yes I see it was about my phone on Friday. I can't remember what I did after that entry. My memory is going down fast. Where am I? Wait.....Oh yea, I remember. I just checked my phone to see the outgoing emails on that day and I remember now. Kamery called and said she would be in town and wanted to hang out. So Meg and I and a few other people went to.....Showya. It was an average night. No drunk guy trying to kiss me, luckily. We just chatted and caught up and such. Kamery brought, as usual, her friend Joy and someone else. We've learned when she says "I'm" doing something it means her and some friends. But they are all cool so no big deal. They had to leave right at 11 to catch the last train and that changed the group dynamic so we all ended up leaving shortly thereafter. Kamery slipped me about $50 for their share and no one saw it. Once they left the others asked if they had paid and I acted like they didn't. I let them rant and rave about various things for a bit and then I said "oops I guess they did pay". How to make people feel stupid.

I left early, as did Meg, because we are High School JETs and had graduation the next day. I woke up at about 8 and started getting ready when I realized I had two major crisises. What's the plural of crisis? I know it's pronounced Cry C's, but I can't spell it. I'll look it up later. Anyway, crisis 1 was I get dressed in my nice formal black suit and put on the belt. Oops, the last time I wore the suit I weighed about 30 pounds more. So the suit fits much better, but the belt needs three more holes. I search everywhere for a hole puncher and can't find one. I decide to wear an old brown belt and take the nice belt to school. Crisis 2 was when I go to leave. What shoes do I wear? I've got nice black shoes, but if I wear them there then I'll have to change out of them at the school. So I end up wearing my big old ugly tennis shoes with my nice black suit. When I get to the school by taxi I change into my adidas flip flops. Nice black suit and flip flops. Ironically most of the male teachers were wearing the exact same thing. I also find something to punch a new hole in my belt. "Crises" averted.

The ceremony was much the same as my in America. We did the 20 minute clapping thing again. I clapped 1,034 times. I counted. They played the same "Pomp and Circumstance". The main difference is they would call each students name and they would yell, yes yell, "HAI !!" and stand. Then when the whole class was standing they would all sit. We all bowed about 50 times. Sometimes the graduates bowed, sometimes the teachers bowed, sometimes we did the group bow thing. Then the students left and we had a few speeches and more bowing. Then all the parents left and went back to the student's homerooms. They all stuffed in while the teacher went over a few things and then certain students talked. I walked up and down the hall a few times to peek in. After one class was finished the teacher asked if I would take a group picture of them. I said sure. When I walked in about 40 students handed me a camera. Have you ever taken 40 pictures of the same thing? Wow, I hope they all came out ok, I imagine that's an important picture for them. I had to stand so far back I ran into the wall. I made a joke where I tried to back up further and smushed myself against the wall. Then I went back to the teacher's room and goofed off a bit. I left around 3 and walked home, or took a bus. Can't remember. The memory thing, you know.

At home I cleaned violently and then took a nap. At 4:45 I started walking back to the station because the graduation party was near the station. I found it and walked into the hotel. It was at the hotel where the two cuties I've been out with work. I saw them and they looked so cute. They both had these huge smiles and were wearing cute little hotel uniforms. They almost looked like stewardesses, or whatever the politically correct term is these days. We chatted a bit then I went up to the banquet hall. I had to pay at the door and randomly pick my seat. I picked #11 which put me next to a English speaker, and the math teacher ( who drinks like a fish ). Finally it started and we had to sit through 30 minutes of speeches and clapping and other stuff. I guess they all loved it since they understood everything. I heard about 1 out of 10 words. But that number is getting better, gradually.

Finally we had the first toast. I was pouring people's drinks around me and they were bringing in food and putting it on the lazy susan. I took ton's of pictures (27) and will upload them in a few days or later today. I chatted with various people and made my rounds. I found out more gossip about me. Another math teacher, an older real quiet guy who I also thought was not found of me, came up (hammered) while I was talking to Endo sensei, the young English teacher my age. The older math teacher said (all in Japanese) that I have a great reputation here because I am so different from my predecessor and I attend these social events and make a real effort to learn names and fit in. It's true, I really do and I'm glad they appreciate it. Later I was talking to a lady I had never seen before and ended up flirting without even meaning to. I asked who she was and she said the mother of a student. I laughed and said right, and she said she was serious. I told her I honestly thought she was a college student or teacher's assistant, in her mid 20's. She was flattered and wanted to talk more later at the second party. I told her I was unable to go because I already had plans. Although I should have gone, because I didn't like the second party.

It was at a place called "Wara Wara" and I don't know why I don't like it. I think it was because I had already been drinking and eating and felt like winding down and this group was just getting started so the group energy was too different. Can't really explain it. Anyway, at some point in the night Jeff Lai called and reminded me the Koriyama International Festival was on Sunday and was making sure I was coming down. I said sure, although I had completely forgotten and thought it was the following weekend. Luckily he expected that and called. I waited a bit and found I was dozing off and made a graceful exit.

I went right to sleep and then got up at 8 or so. He said the event started at 10 but people were setting up at 9. I eventually got dressed and caught a shink to Koriyama and made it there by 9:30. It's an hour by local train and bus, or 17 minutes by 120 mph shinkansen. I called Jeff and he said he would come get me at the station. He asked if I would by some coffee at Starbucks, yes they are here too, and I did. I bought a caramel iced thing for me. That was the first coffee thing I'd had in about 8 years. Coffee doesn't seem to be my colon's friend. But the iced coffee was ok. Then I find Jeff and we are on the way. He said only about 5 people said they would be there today. Out of 100 and something in the prefecture, only 5 could make it. Sad sad sad.

That day was the whole reason I did JET. It was a blast. We had a little booth with info about JET and our home countries. There was a sign in English and Japanese that said for us to stamp their point card they had to name three countries ALTs come from. Behind us were big signs and maps that said "England, New Zealand, Australia, USA, and Canada". So when they stuttered we would point around and help them out. Man Japanese kids are so cute. They are bright eyed and speak a little English and playful. One kid spoke great English, but his parents spoke none. That was odd. I said "name three countries ALTs come from and he said and I quote "Spain, no that's dumb, they would speak spainish there, Papau New Guinea, no I think they speak French there, heck man I don't know". I was blown away. Where did he learn all this natural English is his parents didn't speak English. I asked him and he said "I just picked it up". I couldn't stop laughing from amazement. Some adults were there with the point cards too. At first we got them to play the game and then one guy said "Sign the damn card". In perfect English, so we altered to the plan so that only kids had to play. I think they get a prize if they get 10 stamps by the end of the day.

There were tons of booths there with all sorts of cultural exhibits. I even learned a few things. There were people from Sri Lanka and I we chatted a bit. It looks like a nice place. There were people from Brazil and I surprised them by saying "Hello how are you" in Portuguese. I think it's pronounced "Oy, 2 dough baim". That's at least what I said over and over. There are pretty girls from Brazil, just for the record. Speaking of pretty girls, I've concluded something. The God of distributing pretty girls is drunk. Sometimes he passes out and there's nothing, other times, like now, I say hello to someone and she hands me her number. That happened 4 times at the international festival. I wasn't even trying. I was really focusing on the kids and trying influence them in International Education early on. So anyway, first this really cute girl comes up and is chatting with everyone. She asked where we live and I said Atlanta and she said she lived in Roanoake Rapids North Carolina for a year studying English. Somehow she was handing me her email address and said "I'll come up to Fukushima to see you....and practice English". As if the Practice English was an afterthought. OK, no biggie. I even met her mom and told her I thought she was her younger sister. Now I'm in the with Mom as well. Later I re-met a girl/lady I met at As Soon As for Brad's party. Not sure if I mentioned that in a previous post. She recognized me and said she was really glad to see me. We had small talk and she had to get back to her booth. Later she hand me an elaborate card she made with her name and address and phone number. I'm guessing she's about 40, but I can't really tell. She's cute and nice and speaks great English. I emailed her and she wrote back and said she realyl wanted to see me again. Then yet another girl lived in Denver for 4 years and had phenomenal English. She handed me her email address and said let's get together. The last one was at the booth across from us but I think she is married.

As I was saying earlier, we had the sign with name three countries. If they get them right we both yell "Winner", and then stick up our hand for a high five and say "high touch" which is apparently how they say it here. Most kids would smack it hard. Then we take the card and write "JET" and sometimes draw a star or smiley face. I would draw ^u^ or something like that, The kids loved it. Next time I want more prizes and maybe a stamp or more things to give them. We also had that throw the football through the hole game. We gave them little PEZ or small prizes if they win, they always win or we cheat to help them. Who wants to tell a little kid he's a loser. "On behalf of the International World, you are a loser". Yea as if. This went on until 4 when we helped them disassemble everything and left. Kevin and I took a bus back to the station and then looked around in Tower Records and some other stores. Koriyama is much bigger and cooler than Fukushima city. It has so much more convenience than we do. Although we are bigger than many other places.

I took a bus home because it was dirt cheap and I had time. On the way Meg messaged and asked what my plans were. She had gone skiing that day and just got back. I suggested she come over and teach me to make Kimchee, which is a korean dish that is popular here. She brought all the helpings and taught me how to fix it. It seems easy and I'm sure I will make it again. It made a lot, I still have a few servings left over. Then we watched Friends, Scrubs, and Will & Grace from a tape my parents sent. She had brought a few videos and we watched Shanghai Noon with Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson. It was rather humorous I'd say. I am really starting to like Owen Wilson, he's a lot more relaxed than his brother Luke. Though Luke was a riot in "Rushmore". She left about 12:30am since we both have today off. Somehow we get a full day off for working 4 hours on Saturday and then going to a party. OK, not complaining. That's about it I'd say. That brings us up to me waking up from the earthquake this morning.

Tuesday, March 4

Last night I saw a movie with Meg. She had two free passes so we saw Red Dragon. It was pretty much in line with Silence of the Lambs. Then we walked around bored, but not knowing what to do. We glanced up and saw someone wabving at us from a 10th floor hotel restaurant so we hid behind something and then waved. Then more people were waving down. Then we rode an elevator up across the street and waved at the same level. It was a cute waitress. We acted like we were leaving, but we snuk (sneaked) across the street and found the restaurant and went to it. They were surprised to see us. We chatted for a bit and then saw they did have a great clear view of the street, and there were no people so they must have been bored.

Today is horrible weather. Maybe the worst yet. Last night was cold, but ok. today is freezing and snow is blowing sideways at high speeds. Of course I had to come to Hobara today. He gave me the schedule and at least acknowledged it was nothing special, the same old same old. I'm hoping the weather slows down a bit by the time I have to leave. It has a tendency to change in 30 minutes to the complete opposite so I might be in shorts weather soon.

Nothing of interest planned this week. I need to either do a juice fast and clean my self out a bit, or do the $1 diet to save money. Luckily Feb was the short month so I save 3 days on money, and I managed to save a little. I need to save a bit more since I am hoping to go back to Atlanta for a week in May. Right now it's still looking good, and i hope that doesn't change. Chances are the next time I'd go back is maybe another year or so. I want to plan something big for Christmas next year, or this year I mean. Next term I should say.

[after lunch]

Now the sun is shinning bright, the wind slowed down, it's still snowing, and you can't open your eyes because it's so bright. Well I was partially right. At least it is a tad warmer now, though I probably just jinxed it. I've got two English/Japanese lessons already lined up. Wednesday with Keiko, and Thursday with the new girl I met, Mika. I'll try to get some pictures this week and upload them so you can see how cute they all are.

I just did a websearch for the characters on my phone and ironically, I found a page where someone took some pictures of his phone. The guy that did lives about an hour away in Koriyama, and has a cool site called Spicy Gyoza. Follow the link and look at the characters on my phone, which is the same as his, and then look around his site.

My Phone Characters

Wednesday, March 5, 2003

I have to teach three classes today, It's 1pm now so I've already been to two. The first was a 2nd year class and they just had final exams so I went and played a game. First we played a game called Shiritori, or bottom grabbing. But it's not what you think, dirty mind! It's grabbing the bottom of a word and saying another word that starts with that, like a word chain. So I wrote the word "Flower" on the board and the first team or 2 said "Rough". Then we went on around the room. I could predict most words, but a few strange ones came up. A few examples were "domestic, twice, hefty, and saturated". Most were like "room, bus, ear, dog, fast", so when I get a different one I did a double take. After that we played a game where I told them they were on a plane and it crashed in Siberia and they could only take 7 out of 15 things on the board. I wrote things like candles, blankets, sumo magazine, food, a gun, salt, matches, and a parachute. There were more things, but they were along the same lines. Most students picked the right ones, but there are always jokers who pick the sumo magazine. I can't say anything I would have as well in High School, thinking it was funny. Which it's not.

In the next class I helped with a test and then told them a little about volunteering in 3rd world countries. I think they understood me, but who knows. I talked slow and repeated phrases over and over. I used small words and hand gestures. I have one more class 7th period and I think I will play a game called "Hello how are you". I make them all stand up and ask them that question, they always respond the same way. Always. "Fine thanks and you?". So I write that on the board and say those are bad words, then ask again. They have to say something new like "I'm ok, or I'm great". Then that person can sit down. Oops they are standing, I forgot to mention that. Hypothetically when a bingo pattern sits down, a row or column or diagonal, then that angle wins a prize. I might do that or just let it go on. We'll see.

Tonight I have a language exchange with Keiko. I shouldn't say exchange because we spend %90 of the time doing English. It's hard for me to stop when they are enjoying learning so much. They keep asking "how about Japanese now", but I keep on with the English. I say "they" because all the people I exchange with say that, but I really like teaching them English. I can see a noticable difference. With Hiromi, I taught her some slang-sarcasm like "No way, whatever, as if, and yea right". Then I would ask her questions to prompt her like "after this lesson lets go to a coed onsen together" and she would say "whatever". On one hand I was happy she got it right so fast, on the other hand I was thinking "what am I some hideous monster?". I'm sure she as just practicing what I taught her.

So far Keiko is the best, but then again she is about 45 and has been speaking for years. I told her she will get punished if she does certain things during our lesson. There really is no punishment, but it scared her enough to stop doing them. The things are like thinking in English, pronouncing in English, and something else I can't think of now. Thinking in English is like when she pauses or learns something new, before she would say "asonanda" or "eeto", but now I taught her "oh really, is that so, I see" and "hmm, let me see, I think..". The pronouncing in English is from her childhood. When they learn English words they have a special alphabet to pronounce them called Katakana. So when she is reading something sometimes she will say "He ando I wento the store to geto some foodo". I point out English doesn't always end with a vowel and mark a little bad point on a sheet. That way she can see the points adding up and make an effort to change. In one lesson she changed a lot. I'll try to get a picture of her tonight, but I won't be able to upload them until I use the whole camera, since my nice digital camera is not working for some reason.

Thursday, March 6

A teacher at Adachi just emailed me and said her VP said I would be there next year as well. She said she was very happy. To be honest I am rather depressed about this. My public reason, which is true, is I want to experience as many new things while I'm here. I want to go to a new school each year and meet new teachers and see new students. My private reasons are I don't like how far that school is. The train ride is 25 minutes. Then there is a long 25 minute hilly walk. I leave my house at 7am and barely make it there by 8:30. Then there's the eccentric teacher who puts me in 4 or more classes and constantly makes me do impromptu crazy things and stands one inch from my face talking about how things should be in life. Then there is a different teacher who constantly sends me messages and asks me to write things and describe things and is a tad overbearing. I try to remember it's cultural differences but annoying things are still annoying.

If I get that school and a different school I will be ok. If I get Hobara and Adachi again, I will really lose a lot of motivation. I can't put a lot of effort in when I know it all goes to waste. I can't do busy work. I need to see my work is making a difference, even if it is a tiny small part of a greater whole. It's neither at these schools. I'm more or less a token foriegner used to speak native English on command to whomever wants it. At these two schools I am the secondary meaning of ALT, Automatic Language Tape-recorder.

I know it sounds somewhat pretentious to think this, but if I do get both schools again, I might put that down as a renewing requirement for a third year. If I decide to stay on a 3rd year, I might tell them I will stay given I don't get these two schools again. I'll wait on that for another few months to see first if I get the schools again. Second if anything changes or if it is wasteful again.

On a brighter note, I found my supervisor "accidentally" didn't report all of my sick days when I didn't go to Adachi or Hobara, so I think I've only used 1 instead of 5. So that's a cool bonus. She knows how hard the schools are on my sometimes and how I feel so she accidentally made a mistake. I'll take her and her husband out for dinner one night as a way to say thanks.

[later]

The more I think about it, if I do get those schools again, I will just make my own changes. I will tell the teachers I want to be more active and in more classes rather than just going along with it. Then again it was all so new to me this year that I didn't really think about that. You'd think it would be great to have nothing to do, but when there is nothing and you are trapped in a room with no computer and no TV and nothing to do then you go crazy. If I could leave it would be one thing, but since I have to be there I want to be utilized. Maybe I'll start English clubs at these schools or something. There are always students everywhere that want to learn, but I might not go to their classes.

[later]

Just played a "Newspaper Reporter" game in a 1st year class (10th grade). This was a huge success. I wrote a story about a lion eating a rabbit, but then a deer runs by and he starts to chase it, but can't and then the rabbit is gone. So I wrote out six parts and cut them up and placed them around the room. Then I put the class into 8 groups of five and told them one student was a writer and the others are reporters. The reporters ran around the room looking and writing down the story and bringing it back where the writer had to rewrite it in order. A few groups missed it, since parts weren't super clear. It was good to see them all thinking and writing in English. We actually ran out of time.

Saturday March 8

After class I had a date/meeting with the girl I met in Koriyama. She called and said she would be late. This was somewhat of a wrench in my plans because I was at the station and if I were to go home I would only be able to stay for about 10 minutes before I had to come back. So I grabbed a CC Lemon and sat in the station and read a book for a bit. Finally she made it and she was as cute as I remembered. We went to a restaurant in the station and had a drink and a few small things to eat. We spoke English since she's an English major at a college in Koriyama. She was also studying American Culture.

After eating and having a drink we were finished, but she still had 2 hours before her last train and I didn't want to end right then. So as cheesy as it sounded I suggested we go back to my apartment. She agreed and we walked the 15 minute walk. When we got there, I had luckily cleaned the night before so no embarrasing piles of clothes or anything. She sat on the bed and I sat on the floor and I discussed "A vs. AN" and "some, few, many, and much". Her English is great so I had to whip out he upper level stuff and she still didn't make many mistakes. I'll have to think in advance next time. So then 10 pm came along and I walked her back to the station. It was not too cold at 10:30 pm. Which leads me into....

Friday I woke up at 6 as usual to go to Adachi. When I leave at 7:10 I walk outside and see 6 inches of snow already on the ground. This must have come down between 11 and 6, which means about an inch an hour almost. Man that's a lot. It was still coming down pretty heavy as I trudged to the station to catch the train. I was in a bad mood all day because I knew I had to continue going to Adachi for another year. A big part of the reason is I really wanted to see new schools, but I found out the eccentric teacher won't be there next year. However, I also found out I have to go back to Hobara next year as well. 12 more months of sitting down every Tuesday, doing nothing. Nothing.

The snow stopped around noon, only because it started raining because it wasn't cold enough for snow. So now there is 6 inches of sludge like a big slurpee. I walked all the way back to the station and my feet were soaked. I had on my big boots, which aren't water proof so they were literally drenched. I get to the station and see I missed the train by 3 minutes. Since it was the middle of the day on a Friday the next train wasn't for another hour. This really sucked. My feet were freezing and soaked and I had no where to go and nothing to do except sit outside this train station waiting on the next train. I bought some peanuts and another CC Lemon and sat and read more from the book. 50 minutes is a long time when your feet are soaked and freezing.

Finally I get home and jump straight in the shower and warm myself up for a bit. Then I take a bit of a nap and at 5:30 I head to the station so Hiraki can pick me up and take me bowling with some other teachers. This was pretty fun. Bowling alleys are more or less exactly the same as the US. We had four lanes reserved and 8 people playing, so 2 on each lane. It actually went by pretty fast this way. The first time I was second and the second time I was about 4th. I spoke almost entirely Japanese the whole night and really enjoyed it. After that we went to a nice restaurant called Cadja. If you saw "Austin Powers 3 GoldMember", then you know how this place was pronounced. Just like how Goldmember pronounced "Father" it was like fah zya. Sorry. Anyway, there was good food and a lot of drinking. I let it slip somewhere I liked Sake and now at every event some teacher gets me sake and keeps pouring it.

We stayed there for 2 hours and then walked in the rain somewhere else, but I split off to hook up with some friends. They were at this other place called Wara Wara, which I don't like for some reason. I think I've discussed that in the journal before so I won't go into it now. But basically there's no real reason I can think of. This one girl always plans stuff there and Meg and I always plan stuff at Showya. We need to find a new place. Although everytime I go to wara wara there are tons of single girls sitting around the place. I guess part of it is none of the staff speaks any English so we always have a hard time communicating. A few of us can speak enough Japanese, but something about this place is just different.

I met a few new people there so that was good. One girl was beautiful. I don't mean sexy, or hot, she just had a beautiful face and smile. She was Japanese, but for some reason I never thought of her as Japanese and everytime she spoke I was amazed at how well she spoke. Then I remembered she was Japanese. That happened like 5 times. I told someone else about it later and he agreed and said he felt the same way. I didn't even get her name. I need to take a camera next time and get some pictures of people and post them up here. I finished the camera from Koriyama last week, but still haven't gotten it developed.

I had plans to go down to Koriyama today to see Mika, but she slept late and when I finally got a hold of her we couldn't agree on a plan so I postponed it until later. Which is fine since I really don't need to spend money to go down there now. I won't have to borrow any this month, but it will be close. two more weeks, and I think I get paid on a Thursday. It will be a good check too since I won't owe anything more other than usual. Just money back to the US and rent and another payment on the loan. I'll get it down in two more payments. Then I can add that money to either savings or money I send back to the states.

I think I will practice Japanese calligraphy today and tomorrow. The calligraphy teacher had asked to see some of my practice strokes, but I told him most all were thrown away because I was so bad. When in actuality I haven't practiced that much. I want to but I never have time to sit and relax for 3 hours at a time, and it takes nearly an hour to set everything up. I'll stay in tonight and tomorrow and work on that. Well that's the plan now, it may change if someone calls and suggests something better.

Monday March 10, 2003

Be careful what you wish for is the moral of the story. I kept wishing for time off since I do nothing during exam and interview days. Well today I was secretly told I could take Wednesday and Thursday off if I was subtle about it. I thought, wow that's great, instead of sitting in the office all day, I can.....oh....er...crap sit at home. Since all my friends will be at school I'll still have nothing to do. But at least I'll have freedom and I can walk around town and explore or do something other than sit in the tecaher's room staring at the wall.

Let's see what happened this weekend.OK, as mentioned above my travel plans to Koriyama fell through and I sat around for a bit. Darwin and Karen had invited me to see some buddhas in the side of the wall somewhere near the coast and I should have gone, but I thought the Koriyama plans were going to happen since she was all excited about seeing me and speaking English. Anyway, at some point later in the day Darwin messaged me and asked if I wanted to see a movie or go bowling. I said sure and they picked me up and we were on our way. Apparently no one else wanted to go bowling so we headed to the theater. Everything that was any good was vetoed for some reason so we left. then we drove to the top of the mountain that's right in the middle of town.

This was strange and interesting. I found a nice restaurant overlooking the city and a few parks and gardens and other things of worth up there. We also passed about 50 cars parked in discreet places. Meg and Karen and Darwin were giggling like schoolgirls and wanted to take pictures or turn on the brights, but I thought just leave them alone. Whatever they are doing they want to be alone and not disturbed. Most people live with their parents until they get married so they need a little privacy. Maybe they are just being alone and talking. Not our place to judge.

Then we drove around more and eventually dropped me off downtown. I ate some miso ramen from the small booth on the corner, gotta get a picture of that soon. Then I walked to Catfish and there was no one I knew there, so I just walked home. I fell asleep at 10 or so and woke up at 8 or 9 on Sunday. I had nothing to do on Sunday so I did nothing. I am the master of wasting time. If I have nothing I MUST do then I rarely do anything I could do. A mixture of being lazy, always tired, and not having any money. If I had money I could have done anything, visited friends, go to Sendai, gone to Koriyama. But I don't so I did nothing.

Later I found another free pass to the movies that someone had given me a month before so I used it and saw 007 Die Another Day. There's a reason why I only like old Sean Connery 007 movies. This was pretty cheesy, laws of physics defying, and down right silly in parts. it was something to do for 2 hours, but man it was sad. Just a big shoot-em-up with some outrageous special effects that made me sit there and think "ha ha, yea that could happen". I'm sure there are some people that were thinking "wow, this is incredible, I thought he would be dead, but he's not, amazing". I don't like movies to bend logic or break from reality. If it stays within it's own reality that's fine, but don't do something stupid just because of a weak script.

Here's an example: when I saw Lord Of The Rings - Twin Towers, everyone in our group loved it and thought it was awesome. I was ticked off early on because there are these demon creatures a wizard created. OK, that's fine, it's that type of movie, I can handle this. They are born as adults and designed to fight, fight, and then fight some more. they are strong tough, and barely have a brain. All their brain is programmed to do is fight and kill. They don't know pain, just killing. Fine, all this is within the context of the movie. But in LOTR2, these beasts are running along and one says "We gotta stop and take a breather". A BREATHER? So now you can talk in sarcasm as well? Where did this come from? Later another one says (in English) "I'm tired of this stinking cold food". So now you are programmed to kill, but you have meal preferences and can add emphasis by saying "stinkin". that really blew it for me. Like in Star Wars when they introduced the comic relief Jar Jar Binks. Designed only to make kids laugh and relate to the movie better. I don't mind humor in the movie, just don't depart your own logic.

I do whine a lot don't I. I realize I am a negative person, but I can at least acknowledge that. When a situation is presented I hear myself pointing out the negative side or why it won't work. I trick myself into believing the other person didn't consider this angle and I am pointing out all sides objectively, but it's really just being negative. Nowadays, I just nod and say "wow, sounds great" when inside I am yelling "that's so stupid, it will fail, it won't work, why can't you see that?". It's not going to affect (or effect) me so I just agree with them. I know where my negativity came from, I just don't know how to change it.

I had a girl-friend (friend - girl) I used to work with point it out to me and point out what I was doing and how, and since then I can constantly hear myself being negative. I try to point out the good sides as well, and sometimes there are only negative sides to an issue. If we were talking about Hitler, obviously the conversation would be all negative. The only thing interesting about Hitler is how he made so many people go along with his plan. I'm sure it was pure fear, but it seems he could have been overthrown.

I am the king of tangents as well. It's from how my brain works. I think in tangents and often end up thinking about the same thing all day, because I can never finish a think-cycle. If I could type as fast as I could think you'd get so lost with my tangents. Another little quirk I have is when someone says a word I instantly hear all the words that rhyme or sound similar to it. Oddly, the Japanese people don't seem to get the rhyming relation. I can say two words near each other and many people just stare at me. Then I feel stupid. But sometimes they get the connection and I feel vindicated.

Is it obvious I am in a typing mood and trying to kill time. There's only a few people in the teacher's room and I'm tired of studying Japanese. I did practice calligraphy last night and I brought some of my horrid samples to show the calligraphy teacher. He pointed out a few good ones and I knew the others needed work.

OH, I forgot to mention this, it was quite funny and perfect theatrical timing. I went to the movies as mentioned above. I get there and get in the elevator to go up to the top floor. When I get in there is a family of three, an older man, and a woman. There are several buttons to press which floor located all around the elevator. All at once everyone presses their respective button. Someone presses 5, I press 4, and someone else presses 2. The old man was standing to the left of the door (facing out) and I was standing to the right. When we start to move he starts talking to me in degrading Japanese. I wasn't sure what all he was saying but I could tell it was about the 2ns floor. He said (in Japanese), "2nd floor, why, walk, stairs, 2nd floor, why, 2nd floor, stairs, walk". Of course he made a sentence, but those were the parts I heard and could therefore figure out he thought I was lazy for pressing 2 and not taking the stairs. Right about this time we stop at the 2nd floor and he grabs the door and holds it open and says to me "doozo" which means (in this context) "here you go". So I didn't move (since I pressed 4), and after what seemed like 1 minute (most likely 1 second), the couple with the child in the stroller walk out and say, in a sarcastic way, "thanks". Then he looks at them and looks at me and I press 4 again. The doors shut and goes to the 4th floor. My mind was racing with what to say, but all I said was "oh 4th floor" and got off. That was quite amusing.

It's 11 and I am starving. I don't want to get anything to eat now, because then I'll be hungry at 4 instead of later. I need to save money this week and next week, but I might can make it without dipping into savings. It will be close, but I think I can do it since I have no away schools to go to this week or next, and next Friday, the day after payday, is a big fat holiday. I'll probably do all of nothing that day.

[later]

I've reached somewhat of a plateau again in my Japanese. I know a lot of vocabulary and verbs and I can communicate with small children very well, but I need to get moving again and I'm not sure how. I need progress markers, but what do I measure? First I'm going to pull out my old yellow cheat sheet. It's this thing I bought in college, well before I took Japanese because it was cheap and handy and packed full of info. So I'm going to learn everything on there so people can quiz me randomly. From there I guess I'll focus on my conversation skills. I'll get serious with my speaking partners and start speaking only Japanese for an hour of the two hour lesson. But still what do I measure?

I just hit CTRL-V and this popped out. I had typed it earlier and copied it to another program:

RADAR (the most popular word)
Ogopogo (the mythical inhabitant of Okanogan Lake, BC, Canada)
Glenelg (ON, Canada)
Kanakanak (AK, USA)
Wassamassaw (SC, USA)


A Dan, a clan, a canal - Canada!
A man, a plan, a cat, a ham, a yak, a yam, a hat, a canal--Panama!
Go hang a salami, I'm a lasagna hog
I saw desserts; I'd no lemons, alas no melon. Distressed was I.
Madam, I'm Adam (Probably the most popular palindrome phrase)
Poor Dan is in a droop
Too far, Edna, we wander afoot.

They are popular palindromes. I am collecting English trivia and little cool things about English as well as some quick games. This way whenever someone drops a class on me with 5 minutes notice, like they have recently, I can grab the "Magic Notebook of Wonder" and be off.

Ha. That reminds me of something long ago. In college I worked for computer services. Then I transferred to network services. When we would go out to check the network we would take this big bag full full of all our tools. I worked with about 4 older, conservative, rather not fun loving guys.....er...uh...men. So my boss, Konrad, would always tell me to grab the tool bag and instinctively I would say in a dark samurai type voice "The Magic Bag of Wonder". I always called it that day in and day out. then after about 8 months I quit and moved to Atlanta. I went down to visit the next year and stopped in. As I was walking in I heard Konrad walking out of his office and say "let me grab the bag of wonder and I'll be off". Wow, this was great. they kept saying it. He said that without even seeing me. Good times. Good times.

Almost as good a time as when me a a guy named Swo, knocked the "C" off the Burger King sing so it said "Now Hiring Losers", instead of closers. Good times, good times.

[later]

On the way home I noticed they are building a "mansion" near the station. A mansion in Japan is a tall building with condominiums. Not a big rich house. The site will be premo since it's almost on top of the station, literally about 200 feet. Man they are gonna be expensive. So maybe we'll have a crane saga as we did with the bigger building right near it. I was watching this HUGE coring drill dig down about 10 stories in the ground, then a crane lifts an equally huge steel beam and drops it in the hole. This drill was over ten stories high, and I knew that because I have a keen since of heights. Or because there is a ten story hotel right be hind it and I could see the drill was taller. Well this is something to watch for a year or so. Maybe I'll take pictures to show it's progress, although they might wonder why someone is taking pictures of a construction site.

Anyway, I get closer to home and I see a car parked in the road as usual. I looked at the name and it's a Dingo. That's the name of the car. Dingo. I thought who would buy a car called Dingo and then I realized I probably would since it's such a fun word to say. "What type of car do you drive sir? The Dingo". What would be even cooler is to have a car called "what". Presenting the new Chevy What. "What type of car do you have? What. I said What type of car do you have? What. TELL ME. What." That would never get old, at least not for me.

Actually I was doing that in Japanese to a few English teachers the other day. I asked if they knew how to say lungs in Japanese, and they said "hai" which means both yes and lungs. So I said "great please tell me" and they said "hai" again, and I kept saying will you tell me and they were saying "hai". Then they get it and start laughing. Then I ask if they will tell me how to say brain in Japanese and they say "nou", which sounds like NO and means brain. Then I ask why not and they say Nou and I say please tell me. Then they laugh again. I have a few more teachers to try it on. Either they think it's funny, or I am getting pity laughs. Either way, I enjoy it.

Do you remember a while ago I mentioned a loud girl at Adachi High School? There is a drawing of all the students in the class and then her face is about 10x too big. Obviously she drew the picture, since she's a great artist. Well I doubted you fully understood how big it was so I snapped a picture with my camera on my "last day" at Adachi.






Tuesday, March 11

Had a funny little mishap that was solved this morning. Remember the girl I met named Noriko at the bar and then again at the International Festival? Well I was emailing her via her personal computer and then I said why don't you email me at my cell phone. So the next day I get an email That said "Hello it's Noriko, did you miss me? Let's get together soon". So I replied with basic yes of course blah blah blah. The whole time thinking it was the Noriko I met recently since the timing was perfect.

Then last night I email her and ask how Chuckwagon was and she replied what was I talking about she never had any plans to go there. Then I said with her friend Mokoto and she said she had no idea who that was. This went on a bit and since the English was so good I figured it was one of my English friends messing with me. I asked who it was and she asked if I was drunk. I wasn't. So then I forgot about it and went to bed. I woke up today around 9 and strolled to school after 10. I heard someone yelling "lion lion". My first impulse was to hide to avoid the mad raging Lion running around, then I realized someone was calling me. I turned around to see an old friend Nancy, who recently went to Australia for a month to study English. We chatted for a bit and I said I was glad to see her, then she asked what's up with the strange email last night. AH HA, her real name is Noriko. Somehow this got mixed up with perfect timing. Well I thought it was funny.

I had something else to say and now I have forgotten. Maybe it had to do with my applying to teach a seminar at the Tokyo Orientation this summer. I proposed to teach a class (possibly to 750 people) about Japanese Transportation and how to survive. I'd have pictures and hand outs and we would have a grand old time. I never had a class like this and had trouble getting around for a bit when I first got here. They offered classes on JETs of African descent, Elementary JETs, Female JETs, and Rural JETs, none of which am I so I went to Pop Culture. Which helped me, all of nothing. I could name the number one song, but couldn't ride a bus. Good skills there.

That's not what I was going to say, so I'll wait until I can think of it.

BREAKING NEWS

- I just weighed myself and I am down to 96 kilos, that's about 212 pounds. WOO HOO. Going down baby. Started at 250-ish and headed toward my goal. Right now my goal is 200, but I think my ideal weight would be 190 pounds. I'll check it on the web somewhere in a minute. OK, I see from a chart my ideal weight is two different weights. One is the People's Choice, apaprently a small community in Eastern Wales voted on this and they came up with 88 Kgs, or 194 pounds. Actually, it was a realistic average weight. The second was the medical suggestion which is between 66 Kgs (145 lbs) and 88 Kgs. I'll aim my goal more toward the average people's choice since they seems more healthy. I would be a frail waif if I weighed 145. I couldn't even imagine.

Thursday March 13, 2003

I need to update my "own personal hell" list. Here is the basic summary thus far:

I would be on a beach and it would be hot and muggy, I'd have to strip naked and someone would pour syrup all over me, then I would roll around in the sand and then put on a wool sweater and wool pants. I'd have to wear this outfit all day. At some point I would have to wait in line for something while people around me were smoking and blowing it in my face and talking to people on cell phones. It's not a big deal that they are talking on cell phones, but they keep saying they are standing "online". The line never moves because someone at the front is arguing about something stupid and trivial. Then I leave and get in the car with a bad driver. The driver is Japanese and constantly speaks to me at full speed even after I say speak to me slower. So we are driving around and the driver is constantly pulling out too far or nearly running into the back of a car or going to slow and people are honking. Then they have the heat on and I'm still wearing the wool outfit. Then they start smoking, and say I can't roll down the window cause they are cold. Then I go to work and sit there doing nothing, because they wouldn't be getting their money's worth if I was at home.

That's good for now. The new thing was the bad driver. Not going to mention who, but I can't stand bad drivers. TWICE I had to say something or we would have been in an accident. Maybe this person was nervous because I was in the car and we were speaking English. But this person always revs the engine before letting off the clutch.

Just got back from Indian food with a language exchange. I did mostly English again and only a little Japanese. I get tired of saying, don't use big words, speak slower, don't use big words, speak slower. FOR PETE'S SAKE, I just said that five times, can you not hear me. S-L-O-W-E-R. Then five minutes later, full speed. Whatever. I learned how to say that in Japanese, iitomo (e e toe moe). So I say it all the time. Then the principal taught me how to say mind your own business, but I forgot. So all day Tuesday when people would ask me something I would say mind your own business in Japanese and freak them out. Then I would say I was kidding, and we'd laugh.

Since i had some time off, I've been semi-productive. I've learned about 300 kanji in the past week. Although now I am only learning the meaning, because that's more important that the pronunciation. When I get to 500 I will stop and drill myself over and over and then gradually start adding some pronunciations. Remember there are between 2 and 5 for each one and no steadfast rule about when to use each one. Now I think I am up to 350, I'll do 50 more later and then the other 100 by the weekend. The best part is once I learn thje first 1,000 of the 1,945 standard kanji, then I should be able to read %90 of all written material. Which is good, I'd be close to literate-fluent by then. Though I'm more concerned with speaking and listening.

I had an idea about learning Japanese. It would be great if there were some converstaions to practice listening, but recorded at 3 different speeds. Like regular, medium, and slow. For the slow it would be each word pronounced individually so there is a clear divide between each one. For the medium speed it would be slightly slower than regular, and obviously regular would be normal. Plus all the converstaions could be written out and easy to follow. There's some silly belief out there that people can learn by listening to full speed native conversations. I can't and don't. I would be slow speed conversations and I think 90 million other people might as well. The idea could be applied to learn English as a Second Language as well, or heck any language I guess. It should probably be web based to save money,

Think there is a small gathering tomorrow, and then Sat there is a going away party for a friend of mine. Sat for lunch I am meeting Noriko #2 from for lunch, with her friend of course. Always with a friend. Next time I ask a girl out I will say, can you and a friend meet me for lunch or dinner. Geez.

Tired of typing, back to studying kanji.

Friday March 14

Got an amendment to my personal hell. Some of the people in line would be talking too loud on their phones, others would be looking at their phones while they ring trying to figure out if they want to answer it or not. They must be slow or stupid or cannot read, because the phone is ringing for about 10 minutes and they are just staring at it. Of course the ringer is set to the loudest most annoying tone. Later I have to use a computer for something that keeps locking up because it has 7K RAM and a 4Hz processor.

Got that off my chest. At Higashi today, so far I've just goofed off on the computer. Took a JET survey earlier. It was real biased. I took some upper level survey classes in grad school and I learned how to get the results you want, so now whenever I take a survey I can see where they are going with it. Thanks to those of you who send me comments and questions. Keep them coming.

I just witnessed, by far, the craziest thing at school thus far. Today is entrance exam result day. At 12:10 they announced who made it. Only 320 students were accepted. At around 11 new potential students started gathering at the far end of the parking lot. I'd say the parking lot is about as big as a football field. Then at about 11:30 about 200 of our current students gathered at the other end. Some were dressed in their club outfits like baseball or kendo or simming trunks. One guy was dressed in a skirt and another as a chicken. An actual chicken suit.

So at precisely 12:10 (not noon or 12:30), two teachers brough out two boards with numbers on it. They placed it on a rack in the middle of the parking lot. The anticipation was building and the energy was overflowing. Then they let people go and both groups rushed toward each other. The potentials ran to the board and shrieking squeals were everywhere when students found their number. Then our students were mingling trying to get the accepted students to join their respective clubs. A few people with long faces were seen leving the parking lot. That was really sad, and everyone screaming didn't help.

I mingled a bit saying congratulations and I was an English teacher. When they smiled I said I was strict and then laughed. All these students were the equivalent of 9th graders in the states. I made sure the majority saw me so there would be less surprised faces in April. It really does get old when someone stares and says "gaikokujin ?!?". Like they've never seen a foreigner, and like we don't know that word. That might have been the first word I learned. I hear it all the time and instinctively look. Then the person freaks because a foreigner living in Japan knows the word for foreigner.

Man I need a drink tonight. Talk about a rush of emotions. I'd see one girls screaming with happiness and then right past her a boy sad that he has to go to a lesser school. We actually bumped up a rank in the area I think. One of our students was accepted to Toudai, or Tokyo Daigaku, or Tokyo University, pretty much the Harvard/Yale/MIT of Japan. The other top schools in the area didn't quite manage that I think.

It's about 1 and there are still students in the parking lot. I hear a band playing and the kendo and judo clubs are doing exhibitions. I should have had a sign or something. Next year I will, I'll have some obnoxious elaborate display and everyone will want to join. I'll get some famous rock star to give autographs to people who join.

Sunday March 16

Had a going away party for a friend last night at an interesting out of the way little place. The highlight of the evening was I ate something called basashi. Ever heard of it? I hadn't either, but Mr. Ed would be furious. That's right it's raw horse. The really strange part was it was really good. It tasted like really tender steak. As far as I understand it was completely raw. It looked like thin strips of raw steak. By far this is the most interesting thing I've eaten since in Japan, if not ever.

We ate and drank for a few hours. There were tons of people who speak English there, actually all the people spoke some English since Mark was an English teacher for a private company. I met a cute girl named Emi. She seemed interested in me, unfortunately she works for NHK, or the Japanese version of required PBS. She is a newscaster I think and said sometimes I could see her on TV. That's great, but if we start dating I'll have to pay the NHK guy when he knocks on my door. Arghh.

After that we went to, where else, Showya. We stayed there about 2 more hours and I ran into a bunch of people I know. Julie, Corrin, BJ, Meg, Michelle, and Lisa were there. I hung out with the new people more because they were new and more interesting, but I did chat with the old gang some. I chatted with Emi more and Keiko my language partner was there as well. She had a little much red wine and loosened up. There were 25 people at the first party and then about 15 at the second party. Most people left during the 2nd party since it was an older crowd of adult students.

Today I fixed Kimchee, a Korean dish. I fixed rice, carrots, okra, meat strips, and then the presoaked rotting cabbage and spice. It makes about 4 servings and I had two for lunch. I'll probably have the rest for dinner. I'm watching Star Trek videos that Meg recorded. She's a fiend when it comes to recording things. I plan to study more kanji and chill for the day. It's a beautiful day, I really need to get out and do something. If I had a bike I would go for a ride. BJ wants to have movie night at my place but I'm just not in the mood.

Monday March 17, 2003

Ever had one of those days where nothing seems to be working right? I'm stuck in one now. Got on the bus and sat on my bag and then couldn't flip my umbrella around so it was stuck in the seat then couldn't find the money for the bus then umbrella got caught as I got off the bus. Just one little thing after another.

Just walked to the store and bought some carrots. Three for Y188, which is pretty cheap. In mid April sometime Meg and I are going to plan a juice fast. I shouldn't say we are going to plan it, we are planning it, we are going to do it. She wants to go about 10-12 days and it helps to have someone else doing it for motivation. I need to do it since I put on a kilo over the weekend. I ate and drank way too much so I need to walk to and from school for a bit and eat better. But this weekend I have about 4 drinking parties to go to with the school. I could back out of them, but I really get so many points for going and trying to fit in. Plus it's easy to bond with the teachers. These are going away parties, and some next week are welcome parties, so I really need to make it to those.

So this week is the goodbye parties, and next week my friends Larry and Greg are coming to visit, and then there are some welcome parties, so I estimate the week after that Meg and I can start. I'll ease into it by eating raw vegetables for a few days which calms down the digestive track. Then I'll start the juice fast. She also wants to do some honey based cleanse which I'll check into. I really need to drop another 10 pounds before I head back in May. It would really add to the effect of me losing weight. Ironically when I look at myself I don't think I've lost a pound. I mean the scale doesn't lie, it shows I am at 96-98K depending on what I've eaten or what I am wearing. But when I look down I still see the same. When I look in a mirror I can see a difference, but I want to see a bigger difference. Make this happen.

Students are back today, which I am glad because all last week I would be walking around and random people would wave at me. They weren't wearing school uniforms so I had no idea who they were. From about age 16 to 28 many Japanese people, especially girls, look the same age. There is a student at a different school who is a second year and I would swear she is 25. If I saw her at a bar, I wouldn't think twice about talking to her. She's probably 17 years old. Anyway, the students are back and for some reason the graduated 3rd years are back and wearing their uniforms. There are only a few back, but why would you come back? Maybe for more classes or test review or whatever. I know I wasn't anywhere near my school for at least a year after graduating.

I have my kerosene heater running now and it really heats the place up fast and cheap. An 18 L container, which seems to be about 4 gallons, was only Y742 or less than $7 and it should last about a month. The only thing I don't like about it is it beeps like mad when it comes on. Not a big deal normally, but I can't leave it on when I sleep. It has a temperature control so it only comes on at a certain temperature, but it beeps for about a minute. Not any slow causal beep, like an alarm clock beep. So I can't sleep and have it keep the place warm at night, because I would wake up to the sound of violent beeping. Who designed this? Or was this the reason it beeps? This is yet another thing that falls into the arrrggghhh category.

No classes today. I am just goofing off on the computer and surfing the web. I read about Iraq and North Korea and Bush. Wasn't our economy bad the last time a Bush was in office? Weren't we always at war with Iraq? Interesting pattern. Wonder if Jeb will run in a few years. A president named Jeb. Yee haw. Everyone I talk to in the US asks how bad the anti-Iraq war protests are over here. To be honest I haven't seen one. There might be some in Tokyo, but there are not any in Fukushima. I have a strong feeling they are over emphasizing the protests to make it seem as though the world is coming together to oppose war. It's really really low key over here regardless of what the media says. People are more worried about North Korea than Iraq or Anti-Americanism. I try to follow the North Korea details everyday. As far as I can tell they are really a bunch of morons. They are about to kick over the bee hive and get stung bad. I read on CNN that South Korea has given them over 3 billion dollars during the last 5 years. They said most of NK military build up is due to that money. Here's my simpleton advice: STOP PAYING YOUR ENEMY. But what do I know?

March 18, 2003

I went to Fukuko today, and I really feel used there. I mean utilized in a good way. I had 4 classes and I really seem to be a part of the system. They are getting a full time ALT in August and that person will have a good job. In one class they had to ask me questions and I would answer them. Most were related to me and Japan but a few were about what I think of Bush or War. I avoided those and was vague, because I don't feel like explaining the whole story to them. Then later they had to write conversations about something that made them sad. Most of the stories were silly, but then they started getting funny. One group said "Why are you sad? - I am sad because my dog died. - I am sorry to hear that. - Will you get another? - Yes, I will because I like dogs. - I do too, but I do not like Toshi's head, it's too big.".

There was some kid, who for the record, had a regular sized head, but the class seemed to pick at him. I think it was all in fun. But later 2 more groups made random references to his head. It was really entertaining. A later group was totally serious and then said "Is that a balloon in the sky. No, I think it is Toshi's head. Let's run away. Take the children and run to hills." I was really laughing, their creativity was great and English was ok. So far the best English students I've had, but......

In three weeks the school is changing to coed. That's going to be a downfall for the school, not because girls are bad, but mixing the two genders always adds the hormonal element. At first there will only be 175 girls to 850+ boys, but each year another group will come in until it's balanced in 3 years. On top of that, next year (April 7th), they are relaxing the uniform requirement, and making it a suggestion only. As it was now hardly anyone was wearing the correct thing, so when they change this and add girls, there will be a big decline in status I think.

There are some nice ladies that sell small sandwiches at Fukuko for $1 or less. I bought 3 and was quite full. One was egg salad, one was roast beef (sorda), and one was potato salad. They were good, and filling, and cheap.

For some reason I started thinking about goin back in time at Fukuko. I mean going back to like age 5 or 9. I would do that in a heart beat. It would be awesome if I could retain all or some of my memories of how life would turn out, or maybe have the memories there in the form of dreams. There are things I would do differently, as well as companies I would invest heavily in.

Before one class the teacher and I were trying to enter a room with some students. The students acted like the door was being held shut and couldn't open it. Then as the forced and pulled, finally it popped open. People were laughing and the teacher, passively, wanted to know who did it. Then she moved on. It reminded me of when I did that in my 8th grade class, it was Mrs. Broadnax's Math class. Never liked Math or her for that matter. I was about to enter the room with two other of my loser/joker friends. The teacher was right behind us. The door was shut right in front of me. I acted like someone was holding it closed and we all pushed against it. The teacher was yelling "Open the door, open it now!" and we were pushing. The knob wasn't turned so it was going to stayed closed, but my hands were covering it so you couldn't see. Then we gave one last heave-ho and I twisted the knob and it flung open. About this time a few students were walking towards the door to see what the problem was. We came barrelling in and knocked them all over. She tried to get answers, but everyone said there was no one at the door. She said she saw us trying hard and really believed us, so we never go in trouble. Good times.

After school I had a going away party for a Brazilian friend named Mauricio. I always call him Marsupial for some reason. He's on his way now back to Brazil and invited me to visit, which I fully plan to take him up on. I've always wanted to go to Brazil, and now I have a friend down there. Plus, he's a Brazilian Lawyer. I never would have guessed it, I thought he was just one of the guys, but he's a lawyer. Crazy stuff. Plus I think Brazilian women are some of the most beautiful in the world. No telling when I can get down there, but it's not too expensive. He said there were tons of jobs for English speakers. He also said the economy is crap now, and when I say crap I mean a beer cost about four cents. He said the exchange rate from Japan to Brazil was insanely good, but horrid on the way back. He is taking about Y100,000 (less than $1000) and should be able to live on that for over a year, apart from getting a job. NICE. I need to save up and go to one of these countries and become an underworld lord. [end daydream]

Wednesday March 19

I'm at Higashi today. I called in an hour late. I'm never late so no big deal, plus calling in really makes it cool. It was just not a good morning. I didn't drink a drop last night so no hangover or anything, but a number of things went wrong. I overslept about 30 minutes, I turned off the alarm rather than hit snooze. Then I couldn't find anything to wear that was clean. Then I ran out of kerosene so the apartment was freezing (I had to refill my tank outside). Then I spilled water all over the tatami floor and had to clean that up. Then I couldn't get the shower to get hot, and the whole time I wasn't really awake. I just said forget it and called in an hour late and sat down for a minute to relax. Then I got back in the groove and got ready.

Not sure if there are any classes today. I have school again tomorrow and then Friday is a holiday, and right after payday. I'm just going out with a few friends this weekend, hoping to keep it low budget. I've decided I really need to buy a car. I've found the one I want, a friend who is leaving. It's wicked phat. If you are too old to understand that it's a really cool car. It's a long black station wagon with tinted windows and a cool CD/ Mini disc player. I can probably afford it since he is leaving in July, but it would make so much of a difference here. Now I am limited to trains and buses and can't go many places because of that. If I can't get his car there are plenty others to consider. Getting the license is a royal pain, but feasible.

[later]

I weighed myself again and I am down to 95 kilos. It said 96, but I just ate some soup and drank a big glass of water, so that's gotta weigh about 2.2 pound or 1 Kilo. I'm really going to make a big effort after these goodbye/welcome parties to drop down to 90K. I might go vegetarian for a week or two and cut out all alcohol for a month maybe. Then I might eat only raw vegetables for a while as well. It will be tough. I can't wait til summer when they get more of those big round purple grapes. They taste so good and are really good for you. Not super cheap though, but almost a meal in themselves. I'll need to find several different types of vegetables since I'll get bored with a small variety.

Thursday March 20, 2003

All the teachers are gathered around a TV in the teacher's room. I didn't even know there was a TV there. I leaned over to watch and it was Bush declaring war and then views of Baghdad. As far as I can tell we are bombing them or at war. My political opinions are irrelevant, but it sure is difficult trying to explain why we are at war. Especially since Saddam seemed to be making an effort to disarm. People ask wasn't he complying and I just say I don't know. Then they ask if it's about Oil since Bush's family has connections to Texas oil. Again I say I don't know. Then they ask wasn't the last war with Iraq the same time the other Bush was in office. What can I say?

It's snowing again and it's really crazy because the sun is out and it's warm, warmer than snow temperature I would think. Oh it stopped, it will start again soon. It was payday today and I've already use 3/4 of my paycheck. Money back home for bills, rent here, the school loan, and that leaves less than $600 for utilities, food, and all other expenses. But I might be alright, but I can't say why....

I have an enkai tonight with a teacher from Adachi and two from Higashi. Tomorrow is a girl's birthday and she's having a party at the Indian place. I'm taking Hiromi, one of my English tutoring students. It will be great practice for her to use her sarcasm and new English phrases. Saturday I am getting together with some other people I met a few weeks ago. Should be fun. I'm buying a bike today. I'm sick and tired of walking everywhere and the other broken ugly Mary Poppins bike is hard to ride. It's not too expensive and I really need it.

I asked about moving yesterday and Hiraki told me she tried to ask last summer and the principal said no. But I think he was mad at the last guy and said no because of that. So maybe since he likes me he might say ok. I'm not sure if there is any money involved on the school's part, but if so that could be why it was vetoed. The secretaries in the office overheard all this and are already looking for places. I want to live either close to the school, close to the cool part of town, or in a cheaper place. Now it's none of the above. I'm far from the school, the cool area, the station, it's expensive, and too big. I'm getting rid of an old broken couch and a crappy chester drawers soon. I nearly have a completely extra room. If the A/C were facing a different direction on the wall it might be different, but it's pointing away from the other room so it takes twice as long to cool the place. Not sure what they were thinking when they put it up.

I'm gonna go watch the war, even though it's all in Japanese. I'll check CNN.com as well.

[later]

There's nothing quite like putting your head down for a second on your desk, I mean less than a minute, maybe half a second, just for a little shut eye, and waking up with a huge red spot on your forehead. And even better, you don't know it's there because the way your eyes are in your head you can't see your own forehead, so you walk around the room talking to teachers wondering why they are looking at you funny. Later you see your self in the mirror and realize you are in fact a dork. It's a great feeling.

Friday March 21

Didn't do a whole lot. Hung out with Meg during the afternoon and found a KFC, yes a Kentucky Fried Chicken. I guess that's good and bad, but at the time it was a much needed taste of home. We splurged and spent about Y2300, but then again KFC is a little expensive in the states as well.

Then I went home and got ready for Karen's birthday party at the Indian food place. I took Hiromi, one of my English Tutor students (age 23, not high school). She speaks great English and I told her it was her mid term exam. There were other Japanese people there and she spoke about half and half. We ate buffet style Indian food and then played some cheesy, but fun, board games. I took some pictures and will upload them shortly. I got home about 1:00 am and for some reason woke up at 7:35. I always seem to wake up at that time, which is fine during the week, but not on weekends. I hope I'm not turning into my dad. He gets up at 5 or 6 every morning. Argh.

Oh I forgot the big stickler of the evening. I was off on Friday because it was some national holiday. So I go out with Meg and then go home and on the way to pick up Hiromi I go to the ATM and they are closed. All the ATMs are closed, because it's a holiday. The ATMs are closed. I must have said "WHY!" 4.86 million times. Why would ATMs close ever. I am seriously going to write the bank a letter, and have it translated and ask why they close. I seriously do not comprehend why. It will be polite and pleasant, just an inquisitive letter.

When I ask Japanese people about it they always reply, "oh yea they close on holidays and at night, of course". Then I say of course why? They don't know. They think they ask other people they just don't know. This falls into my belief of people just believing what they are told here and not questioning. I question everything, and usually too much.

But I've already resolved the issue. I am sick and tired of dealing with these insane customs. I withdrew all my money, minus a rough estimate of my monthly bills which are automatically withdrawn. I'll just keep it here safe somewhere and budget it. I still have some in savings in the post office account (which has horrible hours as well). I'll do this next month as well. I can't take it anymore, I had to borrow money from Meg at the party and I brought a date. Sorry Japan, I win.

Saturday, March 22

Saw a movie with Meg today. We opted for "Catch Me If You Can". It was pretty good. I'd like to know more about the real story of the guy that did all that. It said he was still alive and living in the Midwest. It was funny to see so many references to Atlanta in there (I'm from Atlanta, hence why it's funny). In about 30 minutes I'm going to meet some friends for a drink.

Still loving the bike. I'll take a pic sometime, but just imagine an average no frills mountain bike. WITH GEARS. I can switch gears and pass people and best of all, I've gone over the Vivre bridge 5 times without having to get off and push. I realize you have no point of reference, but it's a major accomplishment. I am getting a good workout too. The thing I hate about walking is you can never rest and still make progress, if you stop walking then you aren't moving. On a bike you can stop peddling and coast. So far it's well worth the money.

Sunday March 23

I didn't do much today, just chilled and practiced some Kanji with these nice flash cards I have. I should be up to 500 very soon and then I'll go from there. I really want a good base on the first 500 so I'll review them for a bit after I'm comfortable with them.

Around 6 I got an email from BJ saying movie night was at Meg's at 6:15. I got dressed and went to the store and bought some Salt and Vinegar chips and some CC Lemon drinks and rode over. It only took about 15 minutes as opposed to the 55 minute walk. It was a gradual downhil slope all the way there and not too abd on the way back.

We watched Almost Famous. I had already seen it so I pointed out some slip ups I found on the web. http://www.slip-ups.com maybe there's no hyphen, I forget now. We played a little bit of Friends Trivial Pursuit and I did ok. It was harder than I thought, but I have watched many episodes so I got a lot right. Then I went home and something of which now I have no recollection. Must not have been important.

I need to stay away from Super Glue. I bought some at the Y100 store and fixed my soft attache case and some sandals I brought over. I need to buy a few new pairs anyway when I go back in May, but I'll be able to use these for a while. I could always use a few pairs of sandals anyway. Oh I can't wait until I can wear sandals and no socks to school again. Today is a beautiful day, best so far. It's slightly warm and no clouds. No breeze either. I've narrowed down my dislike to cold wind. Cold is ok, rain it ok, but when it's cold and windy it goes right through the jacket and same with rain. You can't stay dry when it's rainy.

On a different note, I'd like to thank my friend Dave Hoffman Jetanuki.com for the accurate explanation of why my kerosene heater acts as it does. Sometimes it beeps and just shuts off (to keep me from dying in my sleep of fumes, how thoughtful), sometimes it beeps and won't come on (because there is not enough clean air in the room, again very considerate of my needs), and sometimes it beeps when it's out of gas.

It's almost April and my eyes are already itching and I am sneezing. I have a pollen allergy and I always get medicene. By the time I get back to Atlanta I should be through it. I took a walk around the perimeter of my school and there are dozens of soon-to-be beautiful cherry blossom trees lining the border. It's going to be quite pleasant to view, but aggravating to the senses.

Just found out there are two 4 hour teacher's meetings tomorrow and my supervisor asked if I wanted to attend. Actually not really I said. Then she suggested I don't even come in. I think this means I don't have to take vacation time. I actually have things to do, such as really start cleaning the apartment and getting rid of some old furniture that was left there. Plus there's a ton of dust and it all needs a good cleaning.

Tomorrow night there is an English teacher's party of which I will attend. I think I am getting together with Hiromi and Keiko sometime as well. Separately though. The drinking thing Saturday night was only ok. There were too many people there and the Japanese/English level was pretty separated. But maybe I'll hang out again with them, they were cute and want to learn English. It's weird when people want to learn something that is so simple and native to me. But when they get advanced then it starts getting tricky. So far no one is so advanced that I can't answer their questions, or at least bluff a good answer for a while.

My ex-roommate/landlord & a friend are coming Friday, but I won't see them until Monday or Tuesday of next week. I'll go to Tokyo to see them and then we should go to Nikko and up here to Fukushima. I'll try to stuff as much "Japan" stuff in as possible. They'll have a train pass and will be able to travel anywhere on the local trains or shinkansens for free all the time, but I won't so that will limit our fun. I will limit their fun I should say.

I found another stack of 100 notcards and I cut them in half and have begun writing more vocabulary words on them. I find myself in a massive learning mode for some reason. I almost read words out of a book and learn them. Things are just starting to make more sense. I can see patterns and word origins and relationships. This should be the last real notecard push for a while since I wrote a lot of abstract things like things you'd find in a hospital, and internal organs. Ironically I have used internal organs in sentences on occasion. If I go to the hospital (maybe for allergies) I can point out different things and say them in Japanese.

I just heard some of the English teachers went to a famous onsen area in Japan. It's also famous for coed onsens. I couldn't imagine going to a coed onsen with girls I know especially co-workers. Maybe if they let you wear on of those soft cotton yukatas or if it was dark. I mean there are some cute teachers here, but I don't want to disrobe around them. I'm not much to look at yet, naked at least.

I'm still at about 95-98 Kilos. I have a drinking party tonight, Friday, and one in two weeks. Maybe two or more. One for the whole school, one for English, one for 1st or 2nd year teachers. I'll only go to the English and whole school one most likely, since they will be pricey.

Alright, I've typed a good bit and caught up. I'm going to sign off now. I might get to leave early today. If not no biggie. I only ate some raw veggies for lunch and I'm not hungry. Maybe I'll buy some rice and cook some rice and steamed veggies. We'll see.

[later]

I got off at 4:30 and as I was walking out a teacher handed me Y1600 for interviewing some students a few weeks ago. I thought it was part of my job, but I'm never one to accept money. So I decided to celebrate by eating $1 sushi. I rode my new bike to the station and chowed down. Then I rode home and decided to study kanji. Since I don't think I go in tomorrow I decided to take a little nap. I dozed off at 5:15 and woke up at 11. Oops. Guess I was tired. I just checked email and did some computer related work and now it's midnight and I'm not sleepy. I'll find something to do.

Tuesday March 25

Did nothing today. Nothing at all. Studied a little kanji and clean a bit, but nothing of importance. Then I was repairing my headphones from where the ear cushions came off the speaker. I re-attached them with superglue and then managed to get my self stuck to the headphones, glue bottle, and radio. I really couldn't get unstuck because I couldn't get a good grip on anything.

This little fiasco caused me to be late to the Enkai. I finally made it only to find everyone waiting on me and dressed really nice. Apparently when Japanese people say casual they mean coat and tie. So now I know. I looked stupid and I felt stupid and this put me in a bad mood all night. To top it off each person made a sad sobbing 15 minute speech that I understood about 10 words from.

Then we went to the 2nd party and it was in some subcellar of a building. It was a scotch bar and there was karaoke. It was tiny, but nicely decorated. We sang and drank this nasty scotch and water mix for an hour. Then we left. I was riding my bike along side Endo sensei who was walking. He apparently lives near me, but he went way out of the way to get there. I finally gave in and left. I mean the last time we drank together he walked almost right to my door, the shortest way home, but this time he was all over the place. Maybe he was going to his girlfriend's house (he's married). Wherever he was going it was not the same as last time.

Tomorrow I get to meet all the new 1st year students. I'm going to get a name tag so they can see my name and get used to me and my face early on. I get tired of the stares and wide eyes after a while. We'll see how that goes.

Wednesday, March 26

I have probably said "ohayo gozaimasu" and "Good Morning" 500 times each this morning. They mean the same thing so I said one to the parents and GM to the new students. They were all so nervous since it's the orientation for their new high school. I wore a little name tage with my name in English and Japanese so they will get used to it. This way they won't keep repeating it the first day of class, which really gets old.

It's a beautiful spring day. It was a tad windy this morning, but now it has heated up. I feel like the past tense of heat should be hat or hate. It has hat up, it has hate up. Heated doesn't sound right. Anyway, some teachers found a cheap place for me to move to and I will check it out soon. Plus it's right in the middle of everything and $200 cheaper a month, and smaller so easier to heat and cool. It will really have to be a rat trap for me to turn it down or be unsafe somehow. I really need to save $200 a month. I could put that toward my bills or just use it to relax a little bit. Since my friend Larry is coming to visit next week, I am going to have to show him around and that will cut into my budget.

Like I said yesterday the enkai went ok. I wasn't in a real good mood for some reason. Usually I love these things and really enjoy myself, but last night for some reason I didn't feel into it. There's another one on Friday and I will make sure I am prepared. I'll dress up better and not play with superglue an hour before hand. I always watch other people and make sure their drinks are full. It's an odd custom here, the lower people fill the upper's drinks first. You never pour your own, you pour someone else's (elTss) and then they pour yours in return. I make sure to run around the room and pour for everyone. Which thereby impresses everyone that I know that custom. It really helped that the guy before me either didn't go to any of these things or went and just poured his own and got hammered. I am the exact opposite and the teachers really appreciate it.

Next paycheck I finish paying off the loan that the guy before me #$%&#$ me with. Part of it was August rent, the rest was me being overcharged for everything. The guy after me will only get the bare minimum, since I am going to engage a rare business practice called "depreciation". Things don't retain their value year after year. No one has heard of this apparently.

No classes obviously. I guess I will explore somewhere new for lunch. I really need to eat right. As I type this, my mouth is watering for McDonald's. I'm really going to try to resist, but I have no will power. I try to change that, but changing it requires will power. So it's kind of a vicious cycle. Like to get in shape and have more energy you need to exercise, but to exercise you need to have more energy.

I don't think I mentioned that at Karaoke last night I sang "Mack the Knife". Oh the shark has such teeth, dear. And he shows them pearly white. Just a jack knife has old MacHeath, dear. And he keeps it out of sight. - Yea that was fun. All the other songs were slow sad all Japanese songs with little spurts of wrong, yet humorous, English. It was like "blah blah blah blah blah blah touch the sky blah blah blah catch a dream blah blah blah blah blah find what you want to know with the dreams". One guy kept singing very badly and people were telling him to stop. He would type in a song and take the remote and go in the bathroom and sing along so we couldn't stop him. It was funny, and yet freaky all in one.

So much for sitting down to type one paragraph. I like to type. I have a few small things to do, plus it's approaching lunchtime, so maybe I'll go eat or something. It's such a beautiful day I wish I had brought a change of clothes so I could walk around or jog around the field. I'll remember next time.

A realtor just showed up and showed myself and Hiraki sensei around. We saw four apartments. The first was crap. That's the best description. But it was close to the school, like rock throwing distance (at least with a sling shot). It was only Y25,000 a month which was great. Until she said "oh yea, no shower". Ha, what? Sure enough, no shower, just a tub. NEXT.

The next one is in the top two running, it was near city hall and right on top of a bus stop, and best of all brand new. It was only Y30,000. It was a decent size, small but cozy, and semi close to the station, but very close to school. A bad thing is it was on the ground floor.

The 3rd one is also in the top two but inching closer to number 1. It was also Y30,000 and maybe 5 minutes from the station and from the heart of downtown. It was a tad older, but on the second floor which I like and right in front of a cool big temple. It had a bed-in-the-wall type thing, which is a negative since I already have a bed. It was also just one big room, which is perfectly fine. This gets points because of location. It is so close to everything I need, even closer to the school than I am now. I am really leaning towards this.

The last one was way far. I don't even know why she kept driving there, it was honestly 15 minutes by car from the school, which would make it 45+ by bike, and it was Y35,000 so not a bonus. It was a nice layout, but I want cheap and convenient. I need to ask people what they think and think hard about it. Hiraki said the school could loan me the money for "key money" and deposit which is great, because if I am paying Y20,000 less a month I could pay off the loan in two months. Now I pay Y50,000 a month plus Y15,000 for the stupid loan as mentioned above, so if I had to borrow key money and deposit it would be the same for two months then, BIG SAVINGS.

Woo hoo, I'm gonna move, I'm gonna move. To a closer smaller apartment. I don't care about it being smaller, I virtually live in one room now and block off the other. Plus utilities will be much less. It takes forever to heat my three huge rooms now. Yee Haw. I am happy to say the least. But I have a lot of thinking to do.

Thursday March 27

I showed Meg the preferred apartment and before that rode my bike to the newer apartment. I am really leaning towards the one near the shrine and the station. It's really right in the area that I want to be. It's maybe a 5 minute walk from the heart of the city and the station, and only about a 15 minute walk from school. Let me make a list of good points and bad points about the new apartments and moving in general:

Place Pro Con
Current Apt �� Clean
Spacious
Nice Area
Storage
Close to Station
Expensive
Too big
too far
Hard to furnish
Kencho Apt�� Cozy
Low utilities
CHEAP
Close to everything
Not much storage
20 years old
small
City Hall Apt�� Brand New
very clean
Cheap
Close to school
Far from station
1st floor
small kitchen
Hmmm, I'll add more soon as I think of them. But I am really leaning towards the one close to everything and cheap. I either wanted closer or cheaper, and this is both. The single drawback is the way the inside is laid out. It might be tighter with my big bed in there. But it could act as a couch. I really don't think I'd mind the tightness and would most likely enjoy it more. I don't even use my bedroom now and don't need my huge kitchen. Plus they are never the right temp cause it's hard to heat and cool them. It would rock if the closer one was brand new or even if it faced the cool temple. I'll get a picture of the temple whether or not I move into that one.

Here is a crappy map I drew to further explain my situation:




There is no scale I know, but assume from the station to my school is about 2 miles. I'll measure it exactly sometime soon. From my current apartment to the station is almost a mile I'd say. Maybe a 10 to fifteen minute walk. When I think of distances I think of my high school track where four times around was a mile. I think it's almost four times around to the station. The apartment I want is maybe 1/4 mile to the station and 1 mile or less from my school and maybe 5 minutes from the part of town I'm always in. The fun part of town is just where everything is. All the restaurants and bars and stores and anything else really.

[later]

Hiraki and I just walked to another apartment that our school groundsman suggested. Although I'm not really interested in the apartments they showed me, I am actually still considering them based on their politeness level. Don't get me wrong, the first landlord lady (tongue twister) was nice, but this place was...ultra mega nice.

We walked about 5 minutes, I can even see the school from the place. We knocked at the main door and an older lady escorted us in and fixed us green tea. About 15 minutes later her grandson and his wife (who looked 10 years his senior) drove up and brought us food. All I wanted to do was look at the unit. I was already not really interested in it because it was far from the station (even though close to the school) and I just wanted to amuse them and see the place and go on. But we sat and chatted for a bit. The grandson spoke broken English. They were so polite and pleasant that I started to actually consider the place.

He said there are many college students living in the complex that are taking English and want to learn. That sparked an interest, if I could tutor some at night for about $20 an hour, I could pay rent possibly. But I can do that regardless of where I live. They showed me the units and they were decent sized, and the price was about what I was looking for. But they were kinda old. Everything was in decent shape, but it was just old. The stairs to the second floor looked rickety. There was an abundance of storage space and a new toliet (with heated seat). But something just didn't capture my fancy. I'm still stuck on the one above that's close to the station and the fun part of town, and semi close to the school. I'm going to try to go back and look at it tomorrow with the landlady and get some measurements (of the apartment, not her (although she was cute)). I might even get pictures and upload them. But I warn you, it is small. Which is what I want. I'd relate it to a college dorm room. I lived in one for a year and considered moving back in during college.

Alright, I'm finished. I'm meeting Keiko for an English Japanese exchange tonight. I'm really learning the kanji fast. I have their meanings and most of their readings down. Remember most kanji have 2-5 readings which do nothing but confuse, because I still don't know when to use which reading. I think I have a kanji tutor as well. I have a few conversation partners, maybe an etiquette and customs partner, and soon a kanji partner. Woo hoo. Over and out.

Friday March 28

Last night I met with Keiko and then found BJ, Meg, Corrinn, and Michelle afterwards. I found them minutes before they were dispersing. I said I was hungry and wanted some kimchee so Meg and I went to The Moon Garden cafe, our favorite romantic type place. Even though we are not dating or romantic, it's just a cool mellow place. We had the usual, Mango Passoa and Kimchee. Then we left. As we were leaving we stopped and chatted out front, on Paseo street, for a few minutes.

Meg noticed a 2nd floor haircut place was open at midnight. She said she thought that was odd. We both glanced up at it and then looked away. Then she said it seemed busy for that time and we both looked back. As we looked back we barely say a head in a chair. It seemed to be a person sitting in the chair, but that was because my brain didn't have enough time to really see it was just a manequin head with hair. When we started to focus we saw a guy walk over and yank the head up. We instantly made a surprised noise like "HUH!" then realized what it was and laughed like kids for about 5 minutes. I mean it was the side-hurting feel-like-your-going-to-vomit belly laugh. We can't relate how funny it was to you, but I'm writing it mainly to remember it when I re-read the journal in 5 years.

I might request to go back and look at my preferred apartment again today and really take some measurements. I need to see if the bed will even fit and the fridge and the washer. Oh I got some pictures back from Karen's party, so you can see some more of my friends. There's a decent picture of Hiromi, but she looks much better than the picture. Not that I've noticed. But if I had notied I would say she looks better than the picture. I'll try to upload those Saturday. I've already upload some other pics but I can't make thumbnails since Frontpage doesn't work, so I'll have to make a page with text links. [later] OK here is the rough directory of the pictures. I will add links with descriptions soon but the link names are mildly descriptive.

[later]

It's amazing how life is like a rollercoaster. For a few days I've been flying high, definitely on the peak of the coaster. Today we went down that first steep hill that takes your wind out. Hiraki said she found another apartment even closer to the station and brand new and the same price. We are going to look at it later today. So for a while I was still on the peak. Then she came in later and said the school won't loan me money, the last time was only a special situation since I was new and not here. That hurt, but I could just save for an extra month and pay it myself or something. Then she came back later and said when renting an apartment in Japan, especially as a foreigner, I would have to have a guarantor. Someone would would guarantee they would pay the rent if I up and leave. Who am I going to ask to do that if the school won't do it? She said I might could ask the new Principal and he should say yes, but then again she thought the school would loan me money as well.

Do we require people to have a guarantor in the US I can't remember. In college I think we did, but here they don't really do leases just give one month notice. So why do I need a guarantor if I must pay a month's deposit. Wouldn't that be money for the apartment if I skip out and leave. I'm sure countless foreigners have skipped out on bills and really screwed up the system for everyone else. Oh as a matter of fact, the Jack@## before me skipped out on several bills as well. There you go. One small step backwards for foreigners.

Well I was in a great mood all week, excluding Tuesday for some reason, but now I really don't feel like doing anything. I have a big farewall party to go to tonight and now I don't feel like going. I could go and not drink, but I don't want to do that. Drinking when you are depressed is always a bad idea. Hey look another issue with money that has depressed me. It's always money. For the record, people who say there's more to life than money, are those that have plenty.

Saturday March 29

I did go to the farewell party and I'm glad. I got to say goodbye to some teachers who I will miss. It was a crazy party, a few people were retiring and drank a lot. Two of the teachers got so drunk they passed out. I mean fell down, BAM, and hit the ground. One teacher was swaying when we were standing singing the school song. I was watching him, since i hum or mumble during most of the song, I thought to myself "Sasaki sensei is about to fall. He's going to fall backwards". Then he did it exactly as I imagined. I mean exactly. I thought he was really hurt because it looked like he hit his head. He was just drunk. They put him in a chair and then carried him in the chair out of the room. it was a funny sight.

As if one guy was jealous, as soon as they took him out of the room another retiring teacher plopped down. This guy always reminds me of my childhood neighbor Mr Hardy, who has now passed away. No real reason why, he just looks similar and my brain has made a connection. So anyway he drops and people laughed because it's almost funny. He was sitting there laughing too.

It was Y5,000 instead of Y6,000 like I was told, but the thing Tuesday was Y7,000 unlike the Y6,000 as I was told, so I guess it balances out. It was another ultra formal thing where they bring out each course and put it on the lazy Susan and we spin it around and take out share. Nothing really of interest to eat at this one and of course there wasn't enough for me to eat. Each serving was too small. I ended up sampling other people's servings who were out and about pouring drinks and mingling. The people who were retiring never left their table, there were almost always people around them pouring and congratulating.

At one point I actually agreed to be in a weight loss competition with a math teacher. He needs it more than me, but competition will force me to really think before I eat. Food is such a comfort thing for me now, and that's why I need to lose weight. Whenever I am bored or sad or whatever, I eat something because I know it will make me feel good. So I think we will start soon. I am off next week to hang with my pals Larry and Greg who should be in Tokyo now, and haven't called me, so I think we can start the competition the following week. I'd like to lose 5-10 before going home in May. I've heard it's safer to lose 1-2 a week, but I can do better.

Before the party Hiraki took me to look at two more apartments that are in my price range. The first one was on the second floor and really small. The second one was on the 4th floor, brand new, and had a decent view of the mountains, but right on top of the tracks. Not a big deal I like trains. It was Y38,000 which is less that $380. But there is a Y2,000 monthly charge for elevator and grounds maintainence. Still in my range. But then there is this crap called Key Money. The deposit was one month's rent or 1MR, the key money is 1MR, and the fee to the realtor/owner is 1MR. Plus then I have to pay 1MR for the first month I move in.

Let mew see if I can fully explain key money. It's basically a gift you pay as a way of saying thanks. You don't get it back. It's often called gift money as well. It's crap and I wish people would start saying they are not going to pay it. The way I thank the landlord is say thank you and then put rent money in his pocket each month. It's such a scam, and people just go along with it. I can't stand it. The last time I rented an apartment in the US I paid maybe $300 tops and that was at a classy place and was a deposit/ cleaning fee. So when I moved out I didn't have to clean at all.

So I have a real hard time understanding and agreeing to key money. The other apartment I looked at that is on the map above as my preferred place has no key money, only two month's securty deposit, which means I get it back. I think the realtors get Y10,000, but that's fair I think. If not for the outrageous moving in fee and the fact the school won't loan me the money, I think I have to pass these two up and remain set on my other preference of the small one room place near the shrine.

Sunday March 30

Let me start out by saying I finished with the first (of 2) batch of pictures. You can find them with descriptions here . I will add more soon.

Saturday was not such a great day. Meg and I had planned to use my two free movie passes that expire tomorrow. So we went to the theater and they said we couldn't use them on a Saturday so we decided to go eat at KFC again and find something to do. After we ate we found a small kid's arcade, or so we thought. There were a few pachinko machines, which is like an upright pinball machine, but you can win money. So I played a round to show her. Then we found one of those games where an arm is pushing money out and it's almost falling over the ledge. Then you slide a coin in and it may or may not make the coins fall.

So I had cashed in a Y100 coin and we played 10 times. It gave out little arcade coins 10 for $1. So I played and she watched and then she cashed in a $1 and played. It was alright. Then she got a jackpot and we had like 50 coins, so we played those. Then I got a jackpot and we had about 100 coins, so we played those. Then we almost won this huge jackpot of about 767 coins. Then we lost, but were so into the game that I cashed in Y1.000 for 100 coins. We played those and won/lost/won/won/lost. Then she cashed in some and we played more.

Finally we stopped and went to this place called Ito Yokado, which is like a grocery store on one floor, clothing on another, and then a little gadgets type store on the 3rd floor. She had a gift certificate and bought something with it. They gave her change and she looked at me and said we could go across the street to the arcade by the public bath and "see" if they had the pushing machine.

Of course they did and we played for another hour. Finally we quit and went to the public bath and had a beer and some edamame (soybean like things) and then relaxed and chatted. On the way out we had to walk by the arcade so we played one more time. The really sad part was you don't win money or anything, just these little coin things which I don't know if they can be redeemed for anything. Some places redeemed them for money, but I don't know where. It would be some dark alley anyway.

So after that pathetic adventure, we both left feeling dirty. Although in our defense, we would have spent a lot more had we gone out drinking or to eat somewhere. I'm going to try to stay away from those evil machines. Oddly I wasn't that bad when I went to Vegas.

So today I woke up around 9 and didn't nothing much. Then I studied a little kanji and watched a card trick video I had from the US. Then I had to meet with a teacher from Adachi high school and her daughter. He daughter is quite the looker, and speaks good English. They gave me a book about a famous samurai and treated me to Soba noodles. Then we had coffee ( I had OJ) at a nearby coffee shop.

After that I departed and had some sushi since the soba never fills me up. I rode home on my fancy new bike and studied more kanji. I dozed off since the apartment was hot and I was bored. I woke up to my phone ringing with a message. It was Emi, the girl I had met a week or two before at the going away party. The cute one that works for NHK the public TV thing here, that you have to pay for. She said she was in town and wanted to know if I wanted to meet for tea. I thought that was odd since I had the feeling she was ignoring me. Whenever I would email her she would be busy or have a fever or something so I stopped.

She wasn't dissing me. We met and she had coffee and I had a mocha frosty, apparently with tons of caffine because it's 2am and I am bouncing off the walls. Although it's good in a way since I have gotten tons of stuff done and don't have to work tomorrow. We chatted for a long time in English. She lived in England for a year and speaks great.

I wasn't being flirty since I already have a few girls I am interested in, but she was being flirty. My phone had a message half way through and I checked it. She asked who it was from and I said girlfriend number three. She said she wanted to be #1, and I was speechless. I wasn't expecting it and had no clever response.

She's really cute, and has a nice personality as well. She's short though. Like up to my chest. She almost looks like a 10 year old sometimes, but a cute one though. I don't mean I think 10 year olds are cute. Well they are cute, but not like "hey let's have a drink" cute. They are like puppy dog cute or 10 year old cute I guess. So she's petite I should say, but classy and I think she is a newscaster on public TV. We talked about all sorts of stuff. I said I wanted to travel a bit after my term is up and she said she wanted to as well. I, jokingly, suggested we travel together and she agreed. Interesting. Maybe she was jokingly agreeing.

Then we left and I paid the bill while she was in the bathroom, which surprised her when we just walked out. She tried to pay me, as everyone does in that situation, knowing I wouldn't take it. It's an odd little game people play you know. Then I told her I would email her the next day and teach her English via email until we could meet in person. She said she wanted to hang out with my friends and I said we all might get together Thursday at.....Showya. It's actually spelled Shoya, since there is no "sho-w" in Japanese. Oh well.

I really need to find something else to do. But I am not sleepy. I am wired. I can't stop typing. I am typing so fast it's freaking me out. I'm not even looking at the keyboard. Woo hoo. I'm a speed demon. Sorry that was the caffine talking. OK, going tos tudy more kanji now. I'm up to about 100 or maybe 200, I need to count soon. That's the meaning and both readings. It's getting tougher. Over and out. (technically BJ uses that phrase when he leaves, but it's catchy.)

[later]

If you are ever in Fukushima and you happen across that coffee/tea shop I mentioned above. Don't order the Mocha Frosty after 7 like I did. It is slap full of caffine. They should call it Caffa-Mocha Frosty. I think it was Mocha flavored liquid caffine. I had it almost 8 hours ago and I can't even sit still, I am walking around and bouncing off the walls. Wait I already said that. I'm emailing people and typing nonsense, like now. I studied some kanji but my mind kept wandering, more so than usual. It's like 4am here and I am considering walking down to the Family Mart and getting something to eat. A) because I am hungry and B) because I am bored and C) because I can't sleep. I should get something sweet so it knocks me into a sugar coma.

Monday March 31

I finally got to sleep after studying kanji at about 5am. Then I woke up at 9 and loitered in the bed for about an hour. Since then I have been planning my Tokyo sightseeing trip with Larry and Greg. I don't think Larry has a site anymore, but Greg's is Greg's Band.

So far my agenda is to get there at about 8:30 am, which means taking the 6:30 Shink from here. No biggie I guess. Then cruising down to Kamakura and seeing daibutsu which is close and really Japan-ish. Then cruising back catching Tokyo Tower and then lunch in Ueno. I wanted to watch a sumo practice and see Tsukuji fish market, but it won't happen this time. In the afternoon we can cruise over to Shinjuku and see the busiest station in the world and find our capsule hotel. Maybe dinner and something else in the area before we check in. Or maybe we will be zonked and want to bath and sleep. In the morning I wanted to catch some of the Shinjuku rush hour, but I'm not sure if we can. Then we can head over to Asakusa and see the big temple and market, and conveniently catch the Tobu line to Nikko from Asakusa.

Haven't worked on Nikko yet. But after Nikko we will catch the shink to Koriyama and then over to Aizu to see the big castle which is also very Japan-ish. We might also paint an akabeko, which is famous in the Fukushima area. Then we'll cruise up to Fukushima and do stuff here. I think one night we will have a little party at Shoya and then something else the next day. I want to pack in as much really Japanese type things for them to go back and tell their friends. I'm going to get them to eat horse one night. Man if I could get a copy of the theme song to Mr Ed and play it as they are chewing, that would be so wrong. Yet funny.

Back to planning.