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.

November 3, 2002

A Huge Earthquake just hit. Wow it was cool. I don't know if there is any damage outside or what. It was at 12:42 pm. I was sitting at my table on the computer, I had just rebooted and I was about to start typing this journal. When I sit and type and pretty much all the time when I am sitting I have an anxious habit of shaking my leg. I never know I am doing it, I just do it. In Georgia my Dad will tell me to stop doing it, and 3 seconds later I start again because it's unconscious. So I was shaking my leg and that always vibrates the table a little. Then all of a sudden the table was really shaking, like when someone is passed out and you are shaking them to get them to wake up. I thought first my shaking leg was doing it, then I thought the table was falling apart because I had unscrewed the legs earlier to try to adjust it, but that's a tangent for later.

So then I stood up and took off my headphones and looked around. The whole apartment building was really shaking back and forth. I mean I lost my balance a few times. The lights were really swinging and the whole thing went on for about 30 seconds. I wasn't worried in the least since I am only on the second floor of a two story building so worst that could happen is I would fall maybe ten feet and there's not much to fall on me. But wow, it was amazing. All the other ones were nothing compared to this. It really felt like a boat. I had my drapes open and I could see the house beside me really shift. Man that was awesome. I gotta see what the rictor scale said about that.

Ok, back to the weekly recap. Friday was the speech contest and she didn't win. It was an aggravating day all around, but not because she didn't win. She was beaten fair and square, though I thought the 1st and 2nd place winners should have received opposite scores, they were both equally very good. Some students still had too many gestures, some gave monologues to themselves, and the 3 winners (out of 6) really sounded fluent. The second place guy got up there and just causally spoke English. At no point did I think of him as a High School Japanese student, he was an American giving a speech. Perfectly natural gestures, great annunciation, everything was very easy to listen to. But he got second place, the first place winner wasn't quite as natural to me but I wasn't a judge.

The whole day was aggravating because of the "Japanese way of doing things". Every culture has their own way and since I grew up in the US, I am used to that way and it doesn't seem strange until you see a different culture and have to explain why we do something a certain way. Before the speeches started we had to register and pay $50 a person. For what? Shouldn't the school board eat the costs? Luckily my school thought that was stupid and told Hiraki not to tell them I was with Higashi so I didn't have to pay. At the beginning of the speech contest there were 3 speakers. One "officially declared the opening ceremony now open". The second gave a broken English speech that was clearly not proofread by a native speaker. If I ever gave a speech to Japanese people, no matter how fluent I thought I was, I would have a native speaker proofread it to make it sound more natural. That would be better by having people think I was fluent, than by me writing it and them instantly knowing I was not. Then the 3rd person went up and said he "officially declared the opening ceremony now closed". Then a fire drill buzzer went off which was way too loud. This was the official starting buzzer.

The speeches started and at exactly 7 minutes a bell was rang. One of those "ding ding ding service please" little desk bells. What is the point in this? Every student who went over 7 minutes glanced over when they heard the bell. If it was to notify the student they were over the time what was it out to do? Make them hurry and finish? Just stop right there and not finish? They've already gone over, just make a note and move on. Stupid. Even Hiraki sensei hated the bell idea. I wanted to steal the bell and start ringing it when the final judge was giving the "why it took us so long in the judge room". Oh I'm sorry is me ringing this bell while you are trying to talk annoying? How rude of me? I am sorry that I am so rude. ding ding ding. Have you ever been in a contest where the judges came out and said "well that was an easy decision". It's part of the way of doing things in all cultures to come out and say "it was such a tough decision, we debated for a long time". That's why they go in a secluded judges room so they can walk in and say "so who do you think - I don't care - how about the second guy - sounds good - let's go have a smoke". An hour later they emerge looking like they have been vigorously debating each students merits. Hogwash.

Then we leave and go eat back at the station in Sendai. Sendai is a tad smaller than Atlanta geographically and population speaking. Not much just a tad. We had this really cool Korean food where they mixed all sorts of veggies and rice in a hot hot stone bowl and serve it in a wooden box so you don't have to touch the bowl. It's always good and cheap. Anyway we rode the shink there and back, and I took some pics and movies and upload them to the transportation photo page. My friend James from my old job was kind enough to allow me to put the small AVI videos there since my web host censors what I upload. No videos or MP3s. I have unlimited space and 10 Gigs bandwidth, but no media files. Whatever.

I made it back to the apartment about 3 and felt weird. You when you were young and didn't go to school one day for some reason. Maybe you were sick or had a doctor's appointment or whatever, but you stayed home from school. You know that feeling that you weren't supposed to be there. Something just wasn't right. I had that feeling so I wandered around the apartment and couldn't find anything that felt right so I shut all the drapes and got under the covers. I wasn't depressed or sick or sleepy, I just didn't feel right anywhere. I dozed off quickly. I was woken up around 7:15 when Flo and Corrinn were calling my cell phone repeatedly. I had slept over three hours so I guess I was tired. I got dressed and told them I'd meet them at the station by 8. There were a few other girls going who were going to get there by 8 so I didn't feel bad about being late. The only bad thing I saw was it was going to be about 6 girls and me. They are all cool girls and attractive, but girls no less. When the balance of power shifts and they are in the majority I know I have to endure things like "oh that waiter is so cute", "does this jacket make my hips look big", and other girly things. We all get together and go to Catfish, this really small dive bar that foreigners always gather at. I ran into a guy named Graham whom I've been emailing about Japanese lessons from his wife. It's a great price and I really need structure to learn faster. I pick up things a lot but I never know the usage or polite level.

We stayed there until late, maybe 3am. I wasn't tired because of the long nap mentioned in paragraph 8. It was an informal going away party for Flo since she is leaving for France tonight (Sunday night) for a year or more. Now I know someone in France, maybe I'll go visit sometime in the spring. Then I walked back and got online for a bit and then went to sleepy sleep. I woke up the next day around noon and it was really cold outside and I just felt like staying inside all day. I worked on this and a few other websites all day. I decided to stay in all day and eat here and save money. Then Kamery called and said she was at the station and wanted to know if I wanted to see a movie. I was out the door in 3 seconds flat. Strange how a pretty girl can change your plans pretty quick.

I met her in the $1 store and then we had to wait an hour for another girl to get here on the train. We walked down to the theater to see the times and then walked back. We concluded we could not see anything since they started late and Kamery and Joy had to get the 10:22 train back. We went back to the station and waited for Joy. As we waited we saw Meg and then Corrinn then Joy. We all agreed to have dinner and then go somewhere. We first tried this really cool place where the entrance is just a 3 foot by 3 foot sliding black door with no signs or markings. You slide it open and there you are. I'll get a picture, although I think I've said that before and still don't have one. But they were full and we left and went to the Moon which is almost as cool. We had a ton of food and it was only $13 each (five people). There was a little bell on the table and I picked it up and rang it and BOOM there was a waitress. Oops, that's what that's for. I apologized and she left.

After that we went back to old faithful, Catfish. There was a party there for James English School so there were several foreigners and a bunch of Japanese students who spoke fairly decent English. I chatted with a number of them, in English of course, and then I met Flo's successor. This is a strange story. The girl that worked in the job at James English School before Flo was named Susan MaKay, the girl after Flo is named Susan MaKay. Same spelling, same name, but a different girl. Both from British Columbia. She was nice and of course she though Meg and I were dating, as everyone does because we have natural chemistry together. But Meg has a BF and is going back for good in July to be with him. We are not dating by the way, it's more of a sibling relationship.

So we are sitting at Catfish and I'm flirting with different people and then this guy sits down beside me and says his name is Yohei (yo hey). He said his company will pay him more if he passes this English test called Toeic (Test of English International Communication). So we chat for a minute. I wanted to chat with some other girl but he was nice and really wanted to talk. If you believe all things happen for a reason, then you will agree I should keep talking to him. He's going to be in charge of something or know someone somehow that will benefit me in some way later, I'm sure, so I didn't blow him off. I kept making basic English conversation. Then this other guy came up and said "are you American?" I said yes and he said his friend wanted to speak English with me since HE was in the US for 4 years. OK, great, come on over to Ryan's English Corner for Drunk Guys. Well the second guy screwed up his pronouns and meant SHE. She was a Q T 3.14 (Cutie Pie). We chatted for about an hour. Occasionally I included Yohei in the conversation. At one point Atsuko (the girl) was explaining something to Yohei in English. I laughed out loud and pointed it out, they laughed too. Atsuko's friend worked for a local small magazine about Fukushima city. It was a good night for networking. I got everyone's numbers and promised we can get together later for more English practice. I actually enjoy teaching English to people that want to learn. I think I've found a future career path in teaching somehow. Maybe English in foreign countries, who knows. It's fun and life should be about having fun, or why bother living?

That brings us up to today which is Sunday. At about 10am there was a knock at the door. I unconsciously knew who it was. I opened the door and there stood two cute Japanese ladies, very well dressed with packets of info in their hands. Their eyes opened wide when this 6 foot tall American opened the door and said "howdy" (me). In pretty fair English they said "Hello we are Jehovah's Witnesses". Arrrrggggghhhhhh, in Japan too? Come on. So I politely said thank you I am not interested and they said ok and continued to talk. I said sorry not interested again and they still were giving the speech. I need to learn how to say in perfect Japanese "I just said not interested three times, why are you still speaking to me?". But I said not interested again and then shut the door while saying "shitsurei shimasu" (sorry for being rude now). A few of my friends said if you stutter slightly or hesitate they will make plans to come back and bring more people because "not interested" seems to sometimes mean "actually I am curious but scared". Which I am not. I am truly approaching the stage at which I will not open my door period. Saturday I was sitting on the computer and heard someone running down the walkway to my door and shove something in mail slot. I grabbed it and it was a slip for a package from my Dad. So I opened the door and ran toward him, but he had hopped on his little moped and zoomed off. Geez, I was right here. Oh well, gotta go get it Tuesday since Monday is a holiday.

So that was 10am, and then I added some stuff to my expense spreadsheet, to track where my money goes. Then the earthquake hit. Well it's 2 now and BJ called and I think we are getting together for Flo's final official going away party. If anything happens I'll update this later. This was a pretty big update. But it was three days worth.

[after thought]

It's 6 something now, I just raced up to the station to go to the ATM since it closes early. I got there and it had closed at 5pm. Arrrrggggghhhhhh this is SO aggravating. Hulk want normal ATM. Normally I can see the rationale behind something, and still disagree with it. But here I can't see why they would close them A) at all, and B) at 5 pm on a Sunday. Next month I am either going to always take out too much or take out the whole thing and allot a limit each day. I know whining about it won't help, but this is so unbelievably aggravating. I hope the person in charge of ATMs is reading this, if so, You are an idiot.

[after after thought]

It's amazing what dishes you can come up with when you are on a tight budget. I cooked some rice in the rice cooker today and thought, hey why not throw in some broccoli and okra and carrots and soy sauce. I mean the rice cooker really just boils and steams the rice. So it came out 20 minutes later and it was delicious. So I've found an easy healthy new way to cook foods. Yummy. - I just cooked some tofu and onions and garlic and then had some rice prepared in a pre-made pack. When I was opening the rice it flipped out and hit the floor. I was so mad I nearly gave myself a stroke. I was about to scream and just held it in. I've done that before and this time I was being extra careful not to do it. But I did it.

November 4, 2002

Nothing really happened today or yesterday evening. I went to BJ's place and watched a movie with some people and we just go back. Other than that, nothing really. This week is a short week, Monday was a holiday, Tuesday and Wednesday are regular days, Thursday and Friday are regional JET meetings. So I'll get to see all the JETs in my prefecture. Might have some stories after that.

[at Hobara]

I just weighed myself on the Kilogram scale. I weigh 100.5 Kilos. That's 2.2 pounds per kilo, so I am now at 220 lbs. WOO HOO, I've lost 25 pounds. Once I get down to 200 I'm going to reward myself with 6 months of eating poorly and drinking beer everyday. err....wait. NO. Next weight update will be 210.

[at home]

There's nothing like dropping a tack on the floor to spoil an evening. I came in and worked on some websites and other computer related activities, then I decided to decorate a little in the living quarters (den). I was adjusting something and heard a poster fall and then as if in slow motion I heard the tack go "plink plop roll roll". Well crap-a-roni. I spent about 30 minutes feeling around the floor for this stupid tack. I mean you have to find it now or you will find it at 4am on the way to the bathroom. Well I found it, painlessly, it was near the bookshelf (like you know where that is).

Speaking of Thailand, I was thinking about it at least, I found this really cool site that some 15 year old kid made. But it's really cool and informative. He has a page dedicated to things in his fridge and other crazy stuff, It's www.thailandlife.com I think. I still want to go there sometime since I have a college friend who lives in Bangkok. Bangkok, the oriental city, but the city don't know what........anyone remember that song? One night in Bangkok.... Well I do. I also remember Safety Dance.

Not a whole lot happened today since it's Tuesday and I went to Hobara. I had only one class since the rest of the day was for the stuff to practice running in a marathon tomorrow. Marathons and relay races are really big here. When I got to Hobara they said I had one class first period. The teacher came over and told me what she had planned. She wanted me to give hints about my introduction and have the students guess answers.

Have you ever actually taught a class of Japanese students, I thought of saying? I KNEW right away what would happen. Then she sealed the deal and said "This should take 10 minutes". HA. It's going to take ten minutes of me staring at the kids not saying a word. They will not speak out if their life depended on it. Once I said in English I will give the first student 5 bucks if they answer the question, then I said even if they try, then I digressed to all they had to do was raise their hand. I said again "just raise your hand and I will give you $5 I promise". Then I was really mad and said "just make a sound, just grunt, breathe loudly, sneeze, come on". No one budged. You couldn't keep me quiet in school, it's opposite bizarro world here. If you've seen the "Jeopardy" episode on Saturday Night Live you know exactly how this is. "Just say the word 'blue' " - Will Ferrell.

Sure enough they said nothing for 10 or 15 minutes. So I gave more and more hints and finally someone whispered it somewhere. Heck they might have been in the other room, but we moved on. Then they had to write sentences about me and then read them. A few students had statements like "his name is Mr. Ryan - His is from Atlanta in the Georgia - He likes computers". Then one student stood up and said "His name is Ryan McDonald but he prefers to go by Ryan and not Lion, we should really try to pronounce the R sound. He likes Golf, and Computers, and traveling". All I could say was "abooooooooooo". WOW. Where did that come from. PERFECT English, and this was no regional speech contest, this is some hole in the wall school in a small town in Japan AND it was a 1st year class. Later I learned she lived in the US for a few years in middle school. I gave her my email and told her we can chat English if she wants.

Then I watched them practice running and then I came home. Want to see why I am losing weight. This was my dinner.

Raw broccoli and cauliflower, and a bottle of %100 carrot juice. That's all I ate and I'm still not hungry hours later. Oh, tangent.


November 6, 2002

I'm really freaked out now. I don't understand how or why these schoolgirls wear nothing on their legs. They were loving it in the summer, but now it's insane. It was about 7 Celsius this morning when I left for school. I would estimate that is around upper 30's F. I wore two layers of socks, my pajama bottoms (I don't wear pajamas, but I wear the pants things around the house and then to bed, at least in the winter), and then my pants over that. I was cold and I walked to school, but these kids were riding their bikes and their legs were bright red, like how your ears get when it's really cold. I'll get a picture when it snows and they have their little skirts and no pants on.

Shoes, tan socks, white socks, pajama things, and pants.


November 8, 2002

I think I'm going to stop drinking. I don't have a problem with drinking, I don't get angry or belligerent or always drink too much. I just feel I need to change something to allow myself to evolve further. I feel something is keeping certain parts of my life on a carousel. Plus no real good comes out of drinking other than feeling good for a few hours. I will have a glass of wine or champagne at weddings and such, but I'm going to try to stop social drinking, having  a few beers on weekend.

Today and yesterday we had a regional meeting downtown where all the JETs from the entire prefecture had to be there. It was the same old convention type thing that companies have, and equally as boring. There were good workshops, but there were also a few lectures that lasted over an hour in hot rooms where we had to sit in the same seat for hours. It really doesn't matter what they are talking about in the situation you will get sleepy and nod off. There was a very informative speaker named Huw Oliphant and I thought his name was Huge Elephant. I'm sure he's heard that as much as I've heard Ronald McDonald comments.

On the way back from the meeting (I walked to continue the weight loss) I went into the station and bought some carrot juice. On the way out I walked through the sliding automatic doors and then *smack* into the other doors. I always do this. Have I lost the capacity to remember things and to learn? I have done this at least two dozen times. I guess the reason is there are two sets of doors with one being auto and the other looking exactly the same but not auto. So I walk right up to the first ones and at the last minute they open and then I keep walking and the next ones don't. People always see me and laugh.

Then I go in the tunnel under the station and there's this low point where a heating duct comes about a foot lower than the rest of the ceiling. I always have to duck slightly and it makes me feel like I am nine feet tall. I hate that. People look at me and stare because I am some huge giant who can't fit in the tunnel. It's an optical illusion, but one not in my favor.

Then as I passed the drop off area at the station on the other side there were some cars backed up because people can't drive and won't move out of the way. They just stop in the middle of the throughway and wait for people to get in their cars. Can you not see you are blocking 20 cars? So one car started honking and waving his arms, he was really getting uncharacteristically mad. A few minutes later someone from a car two up gets out and walks back to his. He throws his hands in the air as if he said "what?!". Then they stare at each other for a few seconds and the honker starts apologetically bowing and then the other guy bows back. Then he gets back in his car while bowing. There would have been a fight most likely in the states. Crazy stuff I tell ya.

I was going to go to Sendai tomorrow with a bunch of other JETs but my school's soccer team is in the prefectural finals and the school rented a bunch of big buses to go and take students and teachers. So I'll go to that instead. I'll take some pictures and hopefully can get some pictures of some teachers so you can see their faces.

Last night after the first day of the conference I took a few people to this cool Okinawan restaurant in town. One guy in particular was an old college buddy and lived in Okinawa for a few years in the army. He has a cool website where I actually got the journal idea from. I checked his site daily while I was planning to come here, and it made my preparation much easier. His name is Dave Hoffman and his site is www.jetanuki.com Last time I checked he hadn't written in his journal much but at the conference he said he had stuff just no time. But he has some other cool pics and movies as well. He teaches at a JHS and Elementary school. I wish I taught at an Elementary school, the kids here are so cool. Kids in general are cool I guess. They are at the age where they don't discriminate, they don't hate, they are dramatic about everything, they don't lie, and they are always happy to see you. High schoolers have much better English, but they are so concerned about getting into a good college or what their girlfriend said or what's cool.


November 9, 2002

We are the champions. They played good and beat the Soma City Cougars 1-0. Soccer is really hard to watch because one second they are about to score the next second the other team is. It's like an emotional roller coaster. On a different note, bananas, batty, bedlamite, bonkers, brainsick, buggy, bughouse, bugs, crackbrained, cracked, crackers,   crazed, crazy, cuckoo, daffy, daft, demented, deranged, disordered, fruity, loco, looney, lunatic, mad, maniac, mental, mindless, non compos mentis, nuts, nutty, reasonless, screwy,  unbalanced, unsane, unsound, wacky, witless, wrong.

Those are all the synonyms for INSANE that were listed at Merriam Webster online. There are two reasons why I listed them all. The first is because several girls wore no pants again, and it was about 20 degrees F and it snowed. The second reason is a few students dressed in a traditional manner and held a huge flag while they were BAREFOOT. The entire time from Higashi to the park and all during the game and the snow, and all the way home. Barefoot.

flag-feet.jpg (238812 bytes)

I had on three layers of socks, and big boots, and I was still cold. How, why, what....er....I am malfunctioning. I cannot compute....what.....help.......

Well we did win and we were the only team with barefoot flag holders. Man the flag they were holding was unreal. It was about 10 feet tall and 15 feet wide. Here is a short video of it. A one point the wind started blowing really hard and he nearly lost it. A few people ran over to help.

A few of the guys were wearing geta (gay tah). They are wooden flip flops that neither flip nor flop. They just wore them around the place and cheered with them on. They can't be comfy. See the flagpole resting on the other shoe. Hey, why don't you walk a mile in my shoes. No I'll pass.

Here are some other pics that don't really warrant too much explanation:

2girls.jpg (192018 bytes) endo.jpg (128446 bytes) flag-guy.jpg (193888 bytes)
loudguy.jpg (136664 bytes) sign.jpg (134866 bytes) stillmoregirls.jpg (175276 bytes)

Here's a pic showing their skirts and snow coming down. Some are wearing pants and others just the skirt. I do not understand this. Not one bit.

snow-skirt.jpg (187220 bytes)

[hours later]

BJ and Kevin and a girl named Kazue (kah zoo eh)  sent me a phone message that they are coming back from Sendai and want to go eat. So I went up to the station and we met and ate at that cool place with the sake where they pour it and it overflows and so on. BJ got it on video so I will upload that when he burns it for me. On the way home it was snowing like mad. Really like crazy. Big chunks of snow coming down and there was already about half an inch on the ground. If the temp keeps dropping and it keeps snowing, it will be thick tomorrow. Kazue said it never snows this early in Fukushima so I think we are in for a cold thick winter. Which really sucks because my heater is acting up and I need to buy a new one. There are some beautiful mountains behind my apartment and I need to get a picture on a clear day. It's very picturesque.

I'm going to watch Hunt for Red October and then cuddle in the warm blankets and go to bed around midnight I think. I'll write more as it happens.

November 10, 2002

Well the snow didn't stick. I woke up this morning about noon since I couldn't get to sleep until late because my stupid kerosene heater (which I overpaid for) wouldn't come on. When I woke, I worked on a website for an hour or so and then walked to the post office to get some money. They were closed of course so then I walked to the station and got money from there. Then I walked across the street to Ito Yokado and bought a cheap electric heater for about $15. I'm tired of this kerosene crap, even if it is cheaper. When the gas runs out I have to take this huge 7 gallon jug about a mile and get it filled with more kerosene, it's only about $5 but it's super heavy. Since I have no car I have to walk about 10 feet and put it down since my arm feels like it's coming out of the socket.

The little electric heater is great, but I am going to try to get the school to buy me a new gas heater or have this one fixed, or out the door it goes. There were two here and of course the other one doesn't work. Whoever replaces me is going to be so happy since I am going to label how to use everything and not charge him for anything. You shouldn't be broke all the time on this program. You should be able to travel and enjoy Japan and learn about the culture. All my friends are in Sendai today, but I couldn't go. Guess why.

I've realized I look identical to %90 of all the male foreigners here. Tall white guys with glasses and goatees. I swear there are so many. There are a few in my city that could easily be my twin or my brother. It's scary. What is it about people who look like me that makes us interested in Japan.

On the way to the heater store, I noticed several homeless guys sleeping on the street and such. They even take off their shoes at their little bed area. A little extreme I think, but I guess it's their way. When I was buying the heater, and a plug for my electric table, I asked a saleslady where I buy it from, as in which counter. She pointed me to it and I started walking. Then she ran in front of me and pointed again, OK I got it. I see the big sign now, thanks. Then she did it again. I SEE IT. I thanked her about five times and bowed. Didn't get the hint. She ran over to the counter and said what must have been "This man needs to buy this now", because the man behind the counter stopped helping another customer mid stream and rang me up. Well I felt like the jerk. I kept saying "he's next, I'm sorry, I can wait" in Japanese and he smiled and continued.

I've met a number of quite attractive ladies recently and they all want to practice English with me. Sure, ok, that's cool. Could be stupid guys I guess. I enjoy teaching if they actually want to learn. I enjoy it more if they are pretty ladies. A few are very good and others are so so. The good ones I focus on slang and idioms. Not dirty slang, but native casual talk. No one talks like "Hello, my name is Ryan, my hobbies include running and basketball". It sounds text bookish. I teach them things like "ripped off, an axe to grind, what's up, and that's all she wrote". Stuff they don't teach here. So I'll let you know how that goes.

I watched Hunt for Red October again last night. Haven't seen it in a while, but I have seen it a few times. Oddly there were parts I didn't remember. It's odd how the brain remembers certain parts and drops the rest. It was still entertaining even though I knew how it ended. There are only a few movies I can watch over and over again. Shawshank Redemption, Three Amigos, and Holy Grail are a few. I'm going to set up the heater soon and hopefully hang around the house all day so as not to spend anymore money.


November 11, 2002

I only had two classes today and they went pretty well. We learned about the history of writing and communication. I actually learned a few things so it was cool. What was really cool was when I came back to my desk after the classes. My supervisor and the office lady (cute but married) had an envelope. I kept seeing the figure 10,500 yen on the front and heard her explaining about Tokyo and Koriyama. I was worried they were going to charge me for something strange. But then she explained the regional office paid the school for me to be in Tokyo during orientation and then for my trip to Koriyama where my supervisor and VP met me. But they paid for a shinkansen ticket and we only rode a bus, so there was change. Somehow this change was mine. So they handed me $105. Wow, that rocks I got paid for doing nothing really. Woo hoo.

After that I went to the grocery store and bought more veggies and carrot juice and hopefully food for the week or so. I actually eat a pretty balanced diet including peanuts, rice, veggies (raw), and tons of carrot juice. Nearly 3 liters per day, and I could drink  more if I could afford it. For the past few weeks I have really only had carrot juice, water, and a few beers. The point is no sodas and such. It all makes a little difference.

After the grocery store, and walking 1 mile home with the heavy bags, I had Tai Chi class. We completed an entire cycle already so I feel good that I can do it. I have to keep practicing though. The teacher looks so fluent when she does it like she can actually see the energy and she is moving it around like water. It really looks cool and it's relaxing as well as a workout for me. Then I came home and ate some big blue grapes, a carrot, carrot juice and some peanuts. Now I'm here typing while I am doing laundry and cooking rice for tomorrow. Busy day tomorrow.

November 15, 2002

Sorry for taking so long for an update, I've been so busy I usually don't get home until 9 or 10. I won't go into too much detail about why, but I'll write as much as I can. Couple of humorous things to mention and some just regular stuff.

Wednesday I had to teach a few classes alone at Higashi because someone was absent I think. Whenever I do this I rush through the lesson and then play a round or two of hangman. So I played a round Wed after a lesson on something another. The word I picked for this semi-advanced class was "assumption". I found it in the next lesson and thought it would be good to show them the word and have them see it the next day. I've played the game before so there was no need for explanation. I drew the hangman on the board and they all knew what it was. Then I drew out the spaces and said "guess".

Look at the word again and try to figure out the worst two possible letters they could pick first. Assumption. Yes, they picked S and then A. So the word ass was on the board. Then they picked a few wrong letters and I start sweating. Do I erase it and make them wonder why or hope they get another letter and we can move on. I knew the principal would drop in with a group of visiting officials and see the word ass on the board. Finally I gave up and gave them the letters U and M. Then someone guessed a few more and got it right. Man that was close.

When you hear broken English all the time you start hearing it even when it's right. When I'm around my friends and someone says something sometimes (someone something sometimes ?) it sounds wrong. Then we discuss it and decide it's right. Then we start thinking about strange English phrases or words. For instance, do you know the opposite of Exceed, Hibernation, Nocturnal, difference between a road and a street, what comes after thrice as in once twice thrice, the word for a group or cats, a group of crows, female equivalent of Brethren or Fraternal, is there one word with five vowels in a row, what are you if you fear the number 13, and finally, does anything rhyme with orange or silver. Answers later.

I went to the school with the eccentric teacher today, nothing major with him happened, but there was an incident with two other teachers that was humorous. One guy who is not an English teacher, but speaks ok asked me what sound an American pig makes. I thought for a minute and said "well let's see, a French pig might say La Oink La Oink, and a Spanish pig might say El Oink El Oink". He wasn't getting my sarcasm, and I was laying it on pretty thick. So I gave in and said "Oink Oink". He looked at me like that wasn't the answer he wanted and then thanked me and left. I didn't think about it for a while since I was on my way to class. In the teachers room a few hours later I heard two people arguing in the copy room (in English) so I leaned over and tried to listen. All I could hear was "I say this to you, because you are a pig, do you rike (like) that name, Mr. pig man, oink oink to you, oink oink".

I instinctively knew who it was and that it was my fault somehow. Later this same teacher came to me and asked again if there are other sounds a pig might make. I really couldn't think of any. They say Oink, I mean that's it. Then as I was thinking out loud, I accidentally said "they say oink, unless you mean........ squeal". His eyes lit up and I knew I shouldn't have told him that. He said "squeal yes yes yes squeal......yes yes.....squeal.....squuuueeeeaaaaal.......yes.....zank you berry much".

We ended up going the whole day without an incident related to the pig thing. Then after school the eccentric teacher calls me to the AV room to interview some students for something, of course that was my two minutes notice. Luckily I had no plans. During the interview the intercom comes on and someone is making an announcement. Yes you already know where this is going. I wish I did. The announcements are all in Japanese so I'm not listening since it's natural speed and too fast for me. Then they stop mid sentence and there is silence for a second or so. Then the man comes back on and you hear shuffling and another voice (guess who) says "Mr. Matsuda is a pig, he rikes pigs so much he is one, squuuueeeeaaaaal you pig" then more shuffling then "oink oink squeeeaaaaal" then more shuffling. Then silence, then the announcements continued as if nothing happened. The students in the room didn't understand it and I was laughing uncontrollably. The kind of laugh that hurts your face and you are really trying to stop but you can't and no one else thinks it's funny and they are just staring. Then I got over it. I learned later they are good friends who always joke with each other and all the upper level people where gone at noon for a regional meeting.

Also, I found out today I get to teach a class on how to make Clam Chowder since the eccentric teacher told everyone I like to cook. I don't know how to make clam chowder, not in the least. Apart from opening a can of it from Kroger. Oh I miss Kroger. So that class is coming up in a few weeks I guess I have time to prepare.

Tuesday I went to Hobara and saw a strange thing, next week I'll try to get a picture. It was a pencil case. It had a cartoon of a guy sitting on a toilet fully clothed reading, and someone barging in the door. Nothing special. Across the top it said "Jesus Rules", but here's the irony, at the bottom it had a book with the words "Rock & Roll Sh*t". Clearly created because someone liked the random words, as none of them have anything to do with each other. I've seen others that were odd, but that was the top so far.

Thursday I went to a meeting at the State Capital or Kenchou (ken cho). I get to teach paramedics and firemen English body parts in a few weeks. They come in contact with foreigners occasionally and need to understand the difference in "my foot hurts" and "I think I hurt my shoulder". Should be fun, I'm looking forward to it. After that we went to eat Indian Food at this new and surprisingly cheap place in town. I really enjoyed the food and the guy behind the counter spoke great English. I'll try to go there again sometime, preferably after payday. While we were there two people planned for us to eat dinner there November 23rd, for a friends birthday. The place only seats about 20 and we will have 20 so we were worried if other people were there we couldn't fit. So the owner says "it is no problem we will just close that day for special party". Wow that was cool. It's going to be about a $50 night, but it's right after payday so it's cool. Plus my B-day is two days later, so secretly inside I'll pretend the party is for me. I hope I don't grab all the presents and run away.

Funky English answers: the opposite of Exceed-not one yet though deceed is being reviewed, Hibernation - aestivation, Nocturnal - diurnal (come out in the day) - crepuscular (come out at twilight), difference between a road and a street - road is general and street is chiefly urban in application: a street typically has buildings on either side, and is paved or metalled, what comes after thrice as in once twice thrice - nothing, the word for a group or cats - clowder, a group of crows - murder, female equivalent of Brethren - sistren or Fraternal - sororal, is there one word with five vowels in a row - queueing, what are you if you fear the number 13 - triskaidekaphobia, and finally, does anything rhyme with orange or silver - only two words in which nothing actually rhymes although I think Florence is close to Orange.

November 17, 2002

I woke up early today and went to help a friend move apartments. She teaches for a private school and they tell her where to live and take rent out of her check. I think she really gets shafted since they charge each person that lives in the apartment full rent price. So if the unit rents for $500 total, and there are four people living there, they each still have to pay $500. I don't get that logic, other than it being all about money. I guess the purpose in that situation was for me to see people have it worse off than me. Although, she was moving close to downtown which is still a part of my argument. I pay full rent, and live far from everything.

Moving on. I helped her move for a few hours and then came back and did some computer work. I need an outside active hobby, but I love doing websites and such, although this one isn't all that creative. I have others that aren't relative to this. One is an alumni site for my college. Like a central network of everyone. It's doing pretty well and growing daily.

Saturday I slept til noon and then did nothing all day. I stayed in and did more computer related stuff. Then I went to an English party and met many new people and sat through hours of broken English. I can't complain though a few of the people were pretty girls so I was just staring and nodding since many of there questions only required a nod. There were a few older ladies (like around 80) and their English was good. One talked about having a friend in Augusta Georgia and having visited there a few times. Oh slight tangent, a few weeks back when Hobara had that marathon thing the teacher and I went out to the field after school. As we watched the students practice and prepare the field he introduced me to the running coach and gym teacher. One person. He asks where I am from and I say Ato ran ta (Atlanta). He said he has been there, but actually just outside Atlanta in a town called Stone Mountain. I was blown away, why had he been there. He said he was just looking at the mountain, someone had brought back pictures and it looked cool. He knew of a lot of little spots around Stone Mountain. I that was pretty crazy.

When I was walking back this morning from helping my friend, I heard the cheetah baby again. I MUST get this on tape somehow. I heard it a mile away. I can't even recreate the sound to my friends. It sounds like someone is electrocuting a cheetah. It has to be the worst baby crying sound I have ever heard. I would go insane if it was my child. It gets on my nerves just thinking about the sound. Like someone dragging their nails down a chalkboard. Which by the way, I read is a learned sound. Newborn babies didn't react to that sound so they concluded we hate the sound because people tell us to. I've been thinking we do most everything in life because people tell us to. We rarely question our native beliefs. Think about how many times you say "that's just how it is". That translates to "I was told to believe that and have never thought of anything else".

Complete tangent. I was just looking at my arm and realized I have hair on top of my arm but not the underside. I wonder why. There's a point where the hair just stops. I wonder what the purpose of the hair on my arm is and why the bottom side doesn't warrant such hair. I'll ponder this. While we are on tangents there has been no change with the crane in some time. They have built the building up a little and somewhat around the crane, but it's still there. I doubt they will leave it there since it's a hardcore crane. It's gotta be several hundred thousand dollars worth of lifting apparatus.

OK, back to the wonderful land of Ryan.........

November 18, 2002

It's amazing how things seem to happen at just the right moment. This morning before school I was thinking I really need to call my Mom back in Atlanta since it's been almost a month since we've talked. I've been so busy during the short window of opportunity I have to call back given the 14 hour difference. Plus there's always some weird connection charge to call overseas. There's no anti-monopoly law here so the phone companies charges whatever they want. Anyway I was thinking that this morning and then the phone rang and it was her. Wow that was pretty coincidental. Then I started thinking about a million dollars and the Swedish bikini team, but that didn't pan out.

We chatted a bit and then I left for school. The school day was regular, I had three classes and tons of free time. Then I realized I was broke and went to the bank to get some fundage. At the ATM I discovered I had only $30 until payday. Not too bad, since payday is Thursday. I have travel expenses tomorrow for Hobara, but after that I can survive on very little since I have some food in the fridge and I more or less eat light these days. So I get the money and get a modest lunch from the store and then head back. On the way I am budgeting in my head and decide I can make it, though it might involve a juice fast one day. Then I start thinking about a girl (married) I met a few weeks ago. I don't know why I thought about her, except that when we met a few weeks ago we couldn't remember the actor Heath Ledger's name. It popped in my head and then I started thinking about her. Then take a wild guess who drove by and honked at me? It was unreal. I barely saw her as she waved and honked. Again, million dollars Swedish Bikini team. No luck.

I get back to the school and eat my cup of Soba noodles and drink my %100 pure vegetable juice. Then the cute (married) school secretary comes in and hands me an envelope with $105 in it. Wow, this is getting really coincidental. I decided to focus on the million dollars since maybe the bikini team is too hard to arrange for me to run into in Japan. Then I started thinking about the Yen to dollar conversion to make it easier for the "people in charge of making coincidences happen". For the record it's about 121,066,831.39 JPY.

 Then I left school and rode to the station. I had a little bit of sushi as a treat for being stingy for so long. Then I bought more carrot juice at the store and a few small (needed) things from the dollar store. Finally I rented a movie from BOM. I needed to go in there and see if a rumor was true. The rumor was if you return something late put it in the box outside since their computers don't register late fees. Alex, I'll take "Things that aren't true" for $1000 please. They got me for $5, but I owed it so I couldn't complain. I rented Ali and just watched it, it was pretty good, but a tad long.

So at the dollar store I start thinking about that family I stayed with in August when I first got here. I was thinking I needed to get in touch with her friend at my school and tell her to have Emma call me. Then poof there she was in the dollar store. 121,066,831.39 YEN. Over and over. Still nothing. We chatted I told her to have Emma call me since I bought her a gift months ago. Then we left. I rode my Mary Poppins bike home. It was a warm day here, I'd say about high 60's F. Tomorrow I go to Hobara and let me guess here, two classes periods 3 & 4, speak for 5 minutes then sit. Oh but there is a cute teacher there and we started talking last. I think I made that happen mentally because I was staring at the back of her head thinking "say hello to me, say hello to me, you like me, say hello to me". Then right before school was over she passed me and said Hi. Oh yea. I told her my name and she said she knows because her shoe locker is right by mine. Oh yea. So I'll leave a cute little note in her shoe locker tomorrow. The bad thing here is they are not big on wedding rings, so I don't know if she's married or dating someone. Plus she speaks little English, since she teaches Japanese. But we'll see.

Slight tangent. My legs are completely asleep and I can't move them. I've been sitting Indian style for a while and my legs are not happy. Sometimes I squat and other times I sit on my lower legs. My legs are not amused. I can now fluently say my legs are asleep in Japanese. Ashi ga shibereta. So at the dollar store I found a little step meter thingy. I put the little battery in and walked around my apartment. Sure enough it said I took six steps, which I did. Three into my bedroom and three back. How it knew that I don't know, but now I can create a page with the amount of steps it takes from my apartment to all over town. Woo hoo. Oh maybe a full blown website would be better. I'll think on that. I've already got a crazy website in mind once I travel to another country. How about TheNumberOfStepsFromMyApartmentToPlacesAroundFukushimaCity.com, yes maybe so. Not yet, and don't steal that name or I'll just change a letter and you'll be stuck with a stupid domain name.

I'm very popular thanks to my parents sending me videos of The Practice and Friends and Scrubs and CSI. People here can get episodes but they are usually a season old. So everyone is always wanting to borrow them. I think this weekend maybe Sunday (after payday) I might have Mexican night at my place and invite some people over. We can cook Mexican food and watch the Three Amigos and drink margaritas. I miss Mexican food (but not the 20 pounds I gained from eating it). I've been curious about my International ATM card ( really just Bank of America). It's easy to take out money and they only charge me $1.50, so I wonder if it will let me deposit money? Wouldn't that be sneaky for me to find a loophole in sending money back. Doubt it will be that easy, but I'll try with a $10 or something.

November 20, 2002

WOW. Today was really a fun day. I mean I really enjoyed it all around. First off I got to sleep late. I slept til about 8:30 and then took a bus to Kenchou the "state capital" of Fukushima. Then we had a brief meeting and then got in a nice limo type car. They drove us to the Fireman Training Facility about 10 miles away. When we arrived I was in awe of the place. It was obviously brand new and built for the people to grow into. It was huge. I meant to get pictures, but I forgot my camera, but there are two more times I get to go. So the building was brand new and there were two towers beside the building for them to set on fire and then put out. The building was rather artsy with big round windows and tall ceilings. 

We arrive and are greeted by top officials and we all bow and say humble thanks you and what not. Then they escort us to a ready room which is a small nice room with four chairs. A nice lady walks in shortly thereafter and serves us all green tea or coffee. I chose tea. Then a few minutes later they say lets go and we walk toward another room. I was dragging behind checking the place out. I expected us to go to a room and then have the 60 students file in later and mingle and then causally get to business after a few minutes. So I was taking my time getting to the room. Well I was wrong.

I walked in about 30 seconds after the others with somewhat of a causal stroll. As soon as I turned the corner and stepped in the room time started to slow down. If they were filming a movie this would have been where it goes into the dramatic slow motion and they focus on my face. From the angle I came into the room I was facing the chalk board and walking toward it. As soon as I walked in the room I hear "key deets", in a loud military like voice. Out of the corner of my eye, still in slow motion, I see 60 men in perfect uniforms, in perfect rows, stand up at perfectly the same time. Then the voice yells "Lay" and we all bow. The students all bow for about 3 seconds and then in unison stand upright again. Then they all in perfect unison say something I didn't catch. Wow, that was surreal. OK time has resumed normal cruising speed by now.

We give a few short greetings and divide up into two groups. Scott and I take one group to another room since there were 4 of us and each room needed two teachers. We get to the other room and there are chairs all around the room, but somehow they manage to instantly sit in 5 rows of 6 each. Alright cool. So we start the lesson by giving them each Body Part names. So instead of someone being Sato Masaki, he was now known as Mr. Face. It reminded me of the movie Reservoir Dogs where each criminal took on a new name like Mr. Blue or Mr. Pink. I remember Mr. Pink didn't like his girly name and wanted it changed. They all liked their names luckily. Then we played a few games where they learned about body parts and repeated after us. We played bingo where we called out something in English and they had it written in Japanese. The one guy that won got to wear my Elvis Glasses for a while.

Then came the really funny thing. We taught them different ailments like my stomach hurts, or my heart is hurting and then we played a game where one person in the room had a condition written in English and another had the condition in Japanese. They all had different things, but there were 15 English and 15 Japanese so they each had to get up and ask someone "What's wrong? Oh, I have a bad heart, I'm sorry I have stomach pain" and then they would move on and find their opposite pair. After a few minutes of them strolling around asking each other what's wrong we finally hear two people jumping up and down and hugging.  Everyone turns and looks and they see us all looking and they turn and say "we both have heart attacks, we are so happy". They were hugging and jumping and so happy they were first and could sit down. Then the others found their pairs and eventually everyone was seated.

At some point I realized this would actually be the worst time to actually have a heart attack. I mean I would hit the ground and grab my heart and someone in the back of the class would say "Oh Oh I know, his Liver hurts" and I would yell "NO idiot" and then someone else would say "Oh he is having a heart attack". I would be rolling around screaming "help help". The whole class would start clapping at me since they thought I was acting like a victim. Then I would die and someone would raise their hand and say "He is unconscious", and someone else would say "No I think he is dead". Then they would all clap.

Then we took a break and when we came back in they were already seated. As soon as we walked in the guy yelled "key deets" and they all stood up. It was really cool in an odd way. I felt like a 4 star General walking into a press conference. Then they bowed and we started class. It's an odd feeling, but I liked it. I'm going to try to get my friends and family to bow when I enter the room from now on.

After two hours of class we finished, they bowed, and they left. Then they escorted us to the prep room and there were four nice meals waiting for us. I chowed down. Another girl there was a full blown vegetarian, and wouldn't eat her pork. Since I was only a wannabe, I offered to eat it. I was hungry. Then they drove us back and we departed from Kenchou and I started to walk back to school. I decided to take the bus instead since there was a stop right there. So I wait by the #3 bus stop and many pass and then one stops. So this is the right bus since it stopped. Nope. I get on and sure enough it takes a wrong turn away from where I want to go. I decide to get off at the next stop and walk. Well the next stop was about 3 miles away, so I decide to ride it out until it goes back to the station. I had some money but it would only be about $6 total so whatever. I was tired and I dozed off a bit. I wake up and see the bus stop from a previous entry about when the eccentric teacher dropped me off in the middle of no where. Oh great where are we? I check the current bus fare, since they change as the bus goes further, and I was only up to $4 so I doze back off. I am awakened by the bus driver saying last stop gotta get off. I'm still half asleep. I start to pay and realize, where they heck am I. I ask the bus driver and he says Horai Machi. Oh, that's great, Thanks. Where they heck is that? I explain I usually take the number 3 bus to Higashi Koukou mae (the stop in front of the school), and he looks at me and then thinks, and then says what I can only imagine meant "too bad kid, not this bus". But he didn't charge me the fare and told me to wait across the street at the other stop. About 15 minutes later another bus came and I got on it and it back tracked and went to the station. From there I decided to just walk to school, even though by now it was nearly 2. I made it and hung around for a while then met some friends for a bit.

I found out I think I get one or two weeks off in March, near the end of school. So if any one wants to come visit around that time, it would be perfect. If not I might travel somewhere, maybe Thailand, or China, or somewhere. It's about 10 pm now, so I will get to bed. Tomorrow I'm going to eat with Meg since I haven't eaten out in weeks, at least not at a nice sit down place. I can afford it since IT'S PAYDAY. Woo Hoo.

November 24, 2002

Sunday noon. I always seem to do updates around this time. I just got an email from my ex-landlord and roommate, Larry. He teaches drums and has a house cleaning business. He named it the Cleaning Guys, although it's just him. So right before I left, I saw his stationary on the computer after he had printed some envelopes and cards, and I made a change. He said he was printing out envelopes when he notice his business had changed to "The Cleaning Gays" apparently. Luckily for him he noticed it before he sent them out. Darn those meddling kids.

Friday I planned a little party, which I secretly considered my birthday party, but I didn't tell anyone, because then they would have got me presents and a cake and had the whole restaurant sing "Happy Birsday" to me. So it was just some of my friends getting together for dinner and drinks. It was fun and I'll plan it again soon.

Saturday I went to Darwin's birthday party. First we saw "Harry Potter", whatever the new movie is. It was alright, but I'm not entirely into the fantasy wizardry type flicks. There were some really cheesy parts I thought, that would only be cool if you had read the books, which I did not. But after that we went to our new favorite Indian food place where we had a reservation for 20. The whole place sat 20, so he closed before we got there so we could all fit. At some point in the night the owner, a nice Indian guy, asked if I play soccer because he was on a local team that had a few matches against other teams and needed some players. I said "sure what the heck". So that will get me running around outside and help the weight loss goal. He said they play every Sunday morning or so, so I guess that's something to do, although I like to sleep late on Sundays. Back on subject. I gave Darwin a pack of MiniDiscs for his player that he hasn't gotten yet. I also let him borrow 4 tapes of "The Practice" which my parents send me over every so often. They like the practice and haven't seen it in a while. Other people gave pictures or other gift type stuff, but BJ gave him this silly Wrestler's mask from the $1 store. I am going to go get one later, since it's only a $1, and use it to answer the door. If the people at the door don't yell "youbin kyouku" which is post office, I am going to open the door fast while wearing the mask and start clucking like a chicken and bobbing my head up and down. I won't say anything else until they get tired of me and leave. Eventually, word will get around not to knock at Maple YH 205.

They just tore a building down right behind my apartment. It was  two story and now it's gravel. It's great, now I have a clear view of the back of another building. But it did open up the area a little. I wonder what they will build there, space is too valuable to let it go. Oh, I just realized if they build something that will involve months of loud noises right beside my place. When they were tearing it down big chunks would fall over and shake the place. But it was so cool watching them do it because they had this big backhoe thing with a steel cutting hand on it, and I watched them snap a huge piece of steel once. It looked like a knife and warm butter. When it fell to the ground I could feel the ground shake, I knew it weighed a ton.

Speaking of large machinery, no update on the Crane yet. I hope something happens soon. It has to since the building is close to finished. I thought maybe they would lift a smaller crane up top, and use it to disassemble to bigger crane and lower it, and then they would disassemble the smaller one and bring it down via some elevator ("lift" if you are British). That is only a guess, but I must know how it's actually done.

Tonight we are having BJ's movie night at my place. I suggested a change in venue's because everyone that goes to movie night has to ride a train 3 stops, except BJ, so why not have it in the city and only BJ has to ride three stops. Economically it makes more sense. Next week we'll have it at Meg's place since she just had it repainted and refloored. She merely "mentioned" it at school and all of a sudden there were the painters.

Speaking of mentioning things and having them happen, remember the coincidence day recently? Where I kept thinking about 1 million dollars? Well it finally came around, the next morning on the way to school I saw a stupid t-shirt that said "You many have already won 1 million dollars" and it had Ed McMahon's face on it. I liked the way it came around, but I was really hoping for the actual money. I'll focus more on the Swedish Bikini Team next time.

Does Sweden actually have a Bikini Team? And if so what do they do? If not, who came up with that? Is it just a symbol of beauty, because I could only imagine it would be quite the beautiful sight. I've heard it and made reference to it, but never really thought about what it meant.

So it's one now, and I am going to the station soon to get a movie for tonight and get my pictures from Friday developed. I didn't feel like messing with my digital camera so I bought a disposable one. It takes 30 minutes at BOM, although I saw a place in town that's called 23 minute photo. Why the exact number, if it takes a minute over will I get a discount? I'll probably buy some Carrot Juice while there as well as snacks and munchies for tonight, though I'll try not to eat too many.

November 25, 2002

Woo hoo, I'm 31. Yuck, getting closer to 40. Today is my birthday. Last night we had BJ movie night at my place and everyone brought a little gift. They were all from the dollar store, but they are still cool. I got two little statues of Handel and Brahms and a Map of Japan, in Japanese, and a picture frame and a nice clock. Hiraki sensei and her husband gave me a nice bottle of sake and a cool little thing that bobs it's head using the energy of the earth's rotation or something. Then we had a few brownies and some drinks and someone brought some red wine. We watched two Friends episodes and then "What dreams may come". Pretty good little party overall.

Today was excruciatingly boring. It's mid term time so the students take tests all day, so I had nothing to do. The computers weren't working so I really had nothing to do. I don't know why I have to come in on these days when it's obvious there is zero for me to do. How is it any different me being at school doing absolutely nothing and me being at home doing something productive. It's not like they are getting their money's worth with me being there. I literally was so bored I stared at the clock to see if I could see the minute hand moving. I could. I stared at it for about 15 minutes. I took two lunches and a short nap. Then I read some Japanese and studied more kanji. Then I read a book and then it was 9am. There are finals again on Wednesday so I went ahead and took the day off. I haven't taken one off since I've been here so it's no problem at all. Not even slightly. They are impressed I have been there so much, the guy before me always took time off.

I left at 3 and walked to the little Ramen place on the corner near the bar district. She gave me a free beer for some reason. I really didn't want it but she gave it to me so I drank it. Then I told her it was my birthday. Didn't get a free meal, but it was only $5 and it was warm and good. Then I walked over to Nakago and bought some cotton bed sheets and a pillow case and this little fit together thing where you can build your own night stand or shelf system or bookcase. It was pretty cheap, and I'll probably build more stuff later.

OH, I deposited some money in my Post Office box today, only $10, but I wanted to see how easy it was. WOW. It was super easy. You press the English button, then the deposit button, then a door opens, you drop in the bills, wait a minute, and out comes your receipt. I still need to see if I can put money in my Bank of America account from here, but I'm sure it won't be that easy.

It's about 7:15 pm and I am going to go meet some friends for something. I'll write more as it happens.

November 26, 2002

I can't wait to have my own house. Whether it's Japan, the US, Tasmania, or wherever, I can't wait. I'm going to design it from the ground up. Here are a few of the minimum requirements of which I will require:

1) Everything will be big enough for a 6'5" person to fit in, under, through...(I'm only 6'3" but I want space)
2) The shower will have strong water pressure. Not the fast spray that feels like it is ripping your flesh off, I want nice big drops, but plenty of pressure. My shower slows down when I turn up the heat.
3) The water will be heated on demand so there is always enough hot water.
4) The toilet seats will be heated.
5) I want a remote control heater, A/C, fan, TV, and something else I just forgot.
6) I like my front door intercom, but want a camera system as well.
7) A heater in all bathrooms. (My aunt has that and they really rock in the winter).
8) A Jacuzzi outside and a big Japanese style soaking tub inside.
9) A Japanese style rock garden outside, or heck inside too.
10) My own red wine vineyard.

Your honor, I reserve the right to amend this list at a later time.

Today I went to Hobara and as usual did nothing. One girl passed out in class for some reason. The teacher discussed the difference in Passive voice and Active voice. I played on the computer and "rested with my eyes closed" on the couch in the sun. The wind was insanely crazy, but the temperature was not super cold.

I'm going to use my birthday money (thanks Mom) to go on a nice ski trip in two weeks. It includes a round trip shink ticket and hotel and some other stuff. Should be fun. I can ski a little, but I've only been once. I picked it up pretty quick. But it was Sky Valley and a really basic slope.

I have tomorrow off since they are doing midterm tests and there is ZERO for me to do. Monday the computers were not working so there was Negative 5 things for me to do. As I mentioned earlier I stared at the clock for a while out of boredom. OK, going to do computer stuff for a while and then go to bed. I might set my alarm just so I can turn it off and roll back over.


November 30, 2002

Sorry for so many days without an update. I know how many people's lives depend on my journal. I've been so busy that any spare time I had I would sleep or rest. Wednesday I had the day off and just lounged around the house. Thursday I went to Higashi and again did nothing all day. I think I read some stuff and worked on the computers a little. Thursday night I got together with Darwin, Karen and Meg. Later Karen and I went to look at this pottery class across town. It actually wasn't a class, just people making things with clay. They were closing as soon as we got there and could only watch for about 15 minutes. It was cool and I want to do it sometime, but I'd rather take a beginners class.

Friday was ultra-hectic from 7am to 3 am, almost a 20 hour day straight. First I woke up a little late and had to really haul butt to the station to catch the one train that goes to Adachi. I made it. On the way there I was standing in the train car somewhat dozing as usual. I was in the first car by the door. A few stations away from Fukushima as the doors were closing an old man came up and reached for the door. He was a little late and the doors shut on his hand. At first a few of the people on the train including me looked at him and casually thought "crazy old guy, the doors smashed your hand, should a got here on time". We were in the first car about 3 feet from the driver(s) and they always check after the doors close before they start moving. Always.

This time they didn't. The really funny part was there were two drivers. One to drive the train and the other to spin the ladder. Sorry, no the other was to check if people were on the train and watch for stragglers. So the doors shut and no one says anything because the drivers always double check. Then the train starts moving. Instantly everyone realizes this guy is in a world of trouble. Everyone starts screaming in Japanese "Excuse me, stop, wait, stop, hold on" and various other things to get the drivers' attention. the drivers that were spitting distance away. They slowed a bit. A crisis averted. Then the train suddenly jerks and is now going faster. I turn and try to pry the doors open. The man is probably 80+ years old and he is doing a mixture of trying to keep up and falling and being dragged and regaining and then losing his balance. Since we were the first car we had about 5 or 7 feet of station left then there was a rail and a drop off. I can only imagine what would have happened if we made it that far.

At this point some man pushes through the crowd to the drivers (maybe 5 feet) and yells what I can only imagine to me "STOP THE ****** TRAIN RIGHT ******* NOW !!!!!!". They heard us this time. The train came to a screeching halt and everyone jerked forward. The driver got out and accessed the situation. Here's the irony in the situation. The doors have to completely close before they can open again. Brilliant engineering here. We managed to get three or four guys to pull it open just enough for him to pull his hand out. Picture this, while we were pulling the doors open. The driver is apologizing to the man. The man has his right hand in the door so his back is facing the front of the train and the driver. He turns slightly so his arm is across his chest, and start apologizing as well. So he is bowing with his hand caught in the door. Finally they reopen the doors and he gets on the train apologizing. Had he been anywhere but the first car, he would have been in real trouble since it took so long as it was to get them to understand to stop. Wow.

I made it to the school on time and fully awake thanks to my dose of adrenaline. I took the bus since I really didn't feel like the long walk over the hill. Friday was the day I had to teach the class on how to make Clam Chowder. I go to the class and the teacher goes over what she wants. I tell her I've never actually cooked clam chowder since I'm from Georgia and she says she will tell them how to if I just talk about American Food a little after the meal. So they prepare the food and I walked around and talked to everyone. They were all really cool and did a great job. I told them I was a food inspector and had to sample everyone's. One group even cooked some extra for me. It was really tasty. That ended up being the highlight of my day and I was worried about it. Next Friday I have to teach a Christmas song and then talk about growing up in America. But I get to do it with my favorite class 2-1, they are just really cool and flirty girls. I like it.

After Adachi, I came back to the apartment and took a nap then went to the new Indian Food place for a Birthday party for a girl from Australia named Shasi. It was a blast and I met many new people. After that we went to Karaoke, which is not my favorite activity, but it was alright. We sang about 1 hours worth and then people wanted to head home. BJ was staying at my place so he didn't have to catch the 11 pm train back home. On the way back he suggested we go to the Public Bath in the station. Great, I had never been there and it was a really stressful day.

We go in and pay $5 for the service and then $1 for a towel and 50 cents for a face towel. Then we head to your standard locker room and get undressed. Then we head to the long row of showers where you sit and wash yourself off thoroughly. Then we head over to the first big pool which was 42 degrees, which was pretty hot but felt great. I stayed there about 10 minutes then went to the outside pool which was a little hotter, plus it was pretty cold outside. That felt great, but it was really hot. Then I came back in and saw a pool that said 16 degrees so I jumped in and it was ffffrrrrrreeeezzzziiiiinnnngggg. I quickly exited and got back in the 42 pool. Then I washed off again and jumped in a yellow pool. Not sure what it was but I'm sure there is some reason why it was yellow. I just hope it wasn't the.......never mind.

Then about an hour later,  we exit and get dressed. On the way out I see something where you stick your feet into for about $1 per 5 minutes. I try it and the low setting was nice. It applied pressure to the top of the foot and the rubbed the bottom like you had a cramp and were trying to get it out. Then I found a massage chair which was $1 per five minutes. I think I have found a new addiction. This place was so relaxing, and the massage chair was incredible after the hot soak. I dozed off a few times, only to wake up long enough to plop in another dollar coin. I think they offer massages there during normal hours. That place is open from 6 am to 3 am. we were there from 1-2 am and it was semi crowded. I plan to go back often.

Today we woke up and went into town to eat and buy some Christmas gifts. I got most of mine today and will ship them out later this week. Mine are mostly little Japanese trinkets and such. I think tomorrow we might go to BJ's or Megs for movie and Qoo night. Qoo is a grape drink and it's really tasty. When we drink it we feel so Qoo. that was a joke, get it? Qoo. Tuesday I go back to the Fireman's thing, and then Friday I talk about my Childhood, and then have another school party somewhere. Then Saturday bright and early I leave for somewhere really north of here. I think it's a few hours by shink which means it's really far away.