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.

Wednesday, October 2, 2002

wow, do I have a lot to type, but I am too beat to type it all. Have you noticed computer time is like dog years? You sit down for 5 minutes and then 5 hours later stand up and wonder where they time went. I figured out how to get ADSL online at about 5:30 and then looked up and it was 11 pm. Wow.

So as you can see ADSL is up and running. For now, a few people in the area said they were able to log in a few days then it died and someone had to come over and press a few buttons to get it back online permanently. The funny thing is it's only about $20 a month, and it's 10x faster than the states. I downloaded a program earlier and I saw it download at 4 Mbps for a few seconds. It would be faster if my computer was faster. I have no weekend plans so I'll sit in my apartment like a computer nerd and update the site. OH it feels so good to be connected again.

More to come later, maybe tomorrow.

 

Friday, October 4, 2002


Before I forget, if you haven't checked the journal in several days try looking at September, I made a big update on Mon or Tues just before I separated the month's.

Today is Friday and I am at Adachi, where the eccentric teacher is, but today he is absent. So I can pretty much make my own schedule and go to the good classes. I went to a very lively class 1st period and did some reading. The students would repeat after me, but when they would say "and" they would say it Japanese style which is "ando", there is no "d" by itself so they say "do". Which is pronounced "dough". So I corrected them and wrote it on the board and made them say it each way and then marked out the O and made them practice saying it English style. A few sentences later when we came to the word 'And' I read it again and they all in unison said "ando" very clearly with big grins on their faces, but the next time they said it right. It was funny.

Later tonight I am going to a big lantern festival here in Nihonmatsu (knee hone mah tsue). It's supposed to be really big and cool since it will be dark and there will be millions or hundreds of Japanese lanterns everywhere and on floats. I hear they go very high in the air on the floats. I hope to get pictures.

Speaking of pictures, this weekend I plan to stay in for the most part and redo the site. I will upload as many pictures as I have at home on CDs and build pages for them. I already added more detail to the Details page, and rearranged a few things.

Monday I go to an all boys High School here in town and then go back on Wednesday. Higashi, my base school, will have mid terms so I would have nothing to do. After their mid terms I will start team teaching with the 2nd year students, or 11th grade in the states. I'm happy since their English should be a tad better than the 1st year or 10th graders. Later in the year I go to the Seniors, so that will be a blast.

No new travel plans until payday, then I might head back to Sendai or somewhere. Can't go to Tokyo for a while since it is about a $300 trip, even going on a budget. Getting there and back is at least $100-150 and then food and any sightseeing and trains are another $100-150. That's staying at my friends place for free too. I need to get out to the coast and visit my other college friend, though actually he was really a friend of a friend in college. He is a JET in Shinchi town and his website really made my JET preparation much easier. http://www.jetanuki.com check it out and tell him Rhino sent ya. I hope to add pictures to the journal like he does soon. It makes the story easier to follow.

Irrelevant note, I think I have a stomach virus. There's one going around and many students are complaining of stomach pain. Plus I had to spend one class explaining stomach aches and certain effects of them. That was interesting.

 

Sunday, October 6, 2002


Friday after school I went to the Nihonmatsu lantern festival as mentioned in the previous post. It was pretty cool and I posted some pictures here. There were several tables giving out free Sake to people in the festival or crazy foreigners that walked up. We walked up several times.

Not sure of the meaning behind the festival, they lit fires from a temple in town and walked it down the street to several floats and then lit lanterns on floats and pulled the floats around the city. There were hundreds of people behind each float screaming "washoy washoy, yea yea yea yea". Not sure what that means, but it sounded cool. This went on for a while and then we walked back to see the climatic ending where all the floats line up. It was too dark for a good picture but I got a few decent ones and a short video with no sound.

By this time it was midnight and the last train was at 10:30 so I crashed at Kamery's place with a few other people. I hate having to leave early to catch the last train, but the trains are a super convenience overall. We awoke about 9am the next morning and then walked like 4 miles to a Denny's for a good All American Breakfast. Kamery said "oh it's real close", and then later said oh well maybe it's not so close. Oops.

I got home about 6 on Saturday and then Meg called and we went to go eat at a cool and oddly cheap place called The Moon. I really didn't want to eat out since I am low on funds, but I have saved a good bit this week so I could splurge and spend $10 on a meal. Then we came back to my apt and watched SNL videos that I borrowed from Kamery. Sunday I did nothing much except surf the web and go to the $1 store to buy some cheap food. It's 7pm Sunday night, and the Electrocuted Cheetah/Cappuccino machine/crying baby is going at it again. I'm going to surf and make more changes to the site and then get to bed. I have a new school to go to tomorrow and need to get up early to find it. I tool more pictures around my house so I'll add those as well. Look in the photo section.

 

Tuesday, October 8, 2002


Not much happened Monday at the all boys school. I found the place easy, just followed the stream of boys to the building that I assumed was the school. Though it was a odd no one was really expecting me except one teacher. So I just wandered around getting strange looks until someone approached me and asked if I was "Mr. Ryan".

I had three classes and just did self introductions. They were fun. In the last class one talkative and possibly autistic child stood up and asked (reading from a sheet of paper) "please tell me about your eating habits as I believe if you and I were in an eating contest you would easily win". What an bizarre question from a kid, but his English was pretty good. I discussed how I was born ON Thanksgiving and that could be why I love to eat. Later he stood again and then only said "perhaps the other questions are quite disagreeable". So ok, whatever. Then I walked back to Higashi to pick up something from the school. When I got there I learned it was September's reimbursement money for traveling. Wow, that really helped, what perfect timing. It was just over a Man which is just less than $100. But it really helped.

That night BJ and Meg came over and we watched a movie and then I cut BJ's hair and he trimmed mine. It was much easier with another person than doing it myself. And that brings us up to the present. I am at Hobara now typing this. Nothing has happened here today, let me emphasize, nothing.

 

Wednesday, October 9, 2002


Not a whole lot happened Tuesday or Wednesday either. Hmm. The only thing that might be of any humor value was a little window incident at Hobara. Maybe only I will think it's funny.

They have no A/C in the schools, but there are heaters. So on hot or warm days we open the windows and let the breeze flow through. Usually it feels great since there are windows that open everywhere and the breeze can really fly through. So there are students that sit by the windows. Sometimes a fast breeze will blow through and ruffle some papers around. Sometimes the sun is at an angle that is blinding to some students so they have drapes they can pull back to block it, but when the wind blows they flap around. There was a girl sitting by the draped window and the drapes were flowing around and going over her. They were right at head level when she leaned over to write. It was just annoying, but she couldn't close the window since it was warm and the breeze felt good. But the sun was in her eyes so she couldn't move the drapes either.

Towards the end of class a few strange hard breezes picked up. One time it caused the drapes to pop her in the face. She let a little yelp and people looked at her. Then a few minutes later it happened again, the wind blew and it caused the drape to slap her like slapping someone with a towel. The corner hit her cheek. She was a little hurt so she moved the drape and then the sun was bad so she moved it back. Then she adjusted her chair a little to avoid the perfect angle and we moved on. The whole time I was talking but watching her. A few minutes later, I think she really ticked off the God of Drapery, since the wind picked up again and the drape let her have it. It was like a barrage of attacks "bap, bap, whap, slap, bap, whammy, slap, bap". It was no matter where she moved the drape came around to hit her.

To be honest it was a little funny, though I knew it hurt her. She actually had to leave the room for the rest of class and go to the nurse. So maybe that was only funny if you were there. I thought it was great.

Just got back from the all boys HS. Nothing to report. No strange questions. The students were more talkative than they are when there are girls in the class, but that school changes next year to co-ed, so we'll see. I am going to try to go there once a week next year rather than one of the distant schools. I'm pretty sure I'm going to renew at this point, unless they introduce the Tuesday Night ALT Beatings. Otherwise, things are going smooth and I should be able to survive another year. The only reason I would stay a third year is to save hardcore money. By that time I would have traveled SE Asia and seen what I wanted, so I could send home over $1000 a month and just get by here on the minimum. Plus they take out 1 month's salary divided over a year here so at the end of my stay I get a month's salary for each year I was here once I return to the States. So that would be another $2500 or so for each year I am here. NICE.

Big three day weekend coming up and I get to stay home and do nothing since I am still more or less broke. I sold some stocks and that money is on the way here so that will help. Once I get it I will pay off most of the loan to the school and then the rest of the year I'll have more money to save or send back. I'll probably sit around this weekend or go hiking or exploring. I'm sure I'll work on the site more and take more pictures since they are free with my digital camera. I just got an email from a local coordinator, and she wants me to help her teach the local firemen English one day in November. Maybe we will learn "oh no fire" or I don't know, but it sounds fun. The more people I know the better. Tomorrow I go back to Higashi and then Friday I get to see the eccentric teacher.

trying to wrap up, I just finished a crazy book about the history of Philosophy called Sophie's World. I had never heard of it in the states but it's actually huge over here, it's in all the textbooks and many people have read it. I bought it back in the states after my ex-boss (the cool one) told me a little about it. I have been wanting to learn more about philosophy and this book was a good way to get into it. I suggest you check it out. But beware, it's about 512 pages and at parts is pretty deep. The middle/end was really bizarre, but it ended pretty cool. So enjoy.

Off to the dollar store for dinner...

 

Thursday, October 10, 2002


There were no classes at Higashi today, only a few more midterm exams. Their school year starts in April so this is actually midterm for them. Of course I had to go and sit at my desk and do nothing, but I have set some goals of learning the language and part of that includes kanji. As I've mentioned before, there are over 2,000 characters I have to learn to approach fluency. About 46 native Japanese, 46 for borrowed words and then at least 1,945 Chinese characters which they have incorporated into their language. I've already learned over 100, so I have a long way to go. The funny part is each character has two or more readings. So they can't let it go with the fact there are 2,000 characters, they have to make it even more difficult by adding multiple meanings. The point is when I have nothing to do I read a book or study Japanese, so I wasn't bored.

After lunch, Abe sensei asked if I wanted to go to the Fukushima art museum to see a local exhibit that is leaving soon. Hmmm, no I'd rather sit in the office. So we went and it was really cool. It was artifacts found in my area hundreds or thousands of years ago. There were a lot of Buddha statues made of wood, which I though were really cool. Then there were some old paintings and cloth samples. It took nearly two hours and we also walked through the regular exhibit in the museum as well. There were museum employees stationed around the way to keep people from touching things. I was thinking how boring that must be, just sitting and staring at people actually hoping someone touches something so there is something to do.

One statue was famous in the area and it was about 2000 years old. I asked Abe sensei roughly when it was carved and he said "one". What an odd sounding year. Imagine if there was an old company created then. Like GE or something, you know how they have the phrase "GE, since 1900". I think it would sound cool to have something like "The Ryan Foundation, since 1".

That was funny in Ryan's World.

Then we ate at the museum cafe and I asked what the adjacent building was. It was the prefectural library. When we finished our tea we walked over there. [Tangent]. I keep getting tea that tastes like that stuff that smells really too nice. Like dead flowers in a bowl. Man what is that word? You know what I mean, dead flowers in a bowl that stink up the whole place in a good way. Well this tea tastes like that and it kills me. I always get offered tea and then you have to drink it. So I had the dead flower tea and then we walked over to the library. [end tangent]

The Library then. We get there and he asks if there are any English books and the clerk said they have a big selection in this direction and there are many scattered throughout the library as well. We find the 'big selection' of two shelves. But the really cool thing is I had been thinking since I have some free time I should read all the books I didn't want to read growing up, like famous novels and such. The other type books I had been wanting to read or areas to explore were philosophy. So what do you think the two shelves had on them? All philosophy and great novels in English. The library is a tad far from the apaato but I am going to try and spend some quality time out there. Hey, got nothing going on this weekend, so maybe I'll head out there one afternoon. Nothing much happened after that. Went back to Higashi and quizzed myself on more Kanji (Chinese characters). Then I left right at 4:30, came home and started surfing, and then ate curry rice from the $1 store. Tomorrow I go back to the eccentric school and the teacher will be there this week. So we'll see what happens.

Potpourri.

Friday, October 11, 2002


There was an earthquake during 2nd period today. I wouldn't have noticed it normally, but this time I was leaning against the board.

We were repeating after me as I read a string of boring silly sentences. The class wasn't really into to it, but that's what the teacher wanted to do. So I was leaning against the board with my lower back just on the chalk tray. I feel the board move back and forth and it registered as me slipping or something first. I was still reading, but the sentences were so short I could glance at it and memorize it and recite it while looking around. So I glanced over to the other building as I was saying "Susan likes chocolate cake" and I thought I saw the building move a little. Then my brain reminded me buildings don't move. I stood by the window staring out and thinking, what just happened. Then I looked at the class and they said eartho-quaku. Then we continued to read.

I guess you get numb to them if they happen often. That was my first. There was one when I was in Tokyo in '98, but I didn't feel it. I must have been walking or something. But this time I had the board moving to let me know there was something going on. I'll check the news and see if it was a big one or just a regular one. It's kind of weird thinking about it, after you actually feel it. The earth and ground is solid and stable and it doesn't move. I keep forgetting the earth is alive and moving too.

[lunchtime now]

Well I'm really getting tired of Fridays. I go to the eccentric teacher and it's always something new. There was the animal train incident a few weeks ago, and today there were a few things. First the classes are just strange. The kids just stare at him and recite Engrish when he says to. Today we listened to a CD of a woman and man reading English phrases and sentences. They were speaking "natural speed". I consider myself pretty good at English, but I couldn't keep up. It was stupid. Whoever made that book and CD is stupid. I hope they are reading this. Then I had to read a story from the Reading Book about American Indians. How biased could it get. It started out with "Native Americans lived peacefully and quietly on their land until the white man came and killed them all. The ones that weren't slaughtered were put on reservations. Many Americans still make fun of their heritage". OK, true we did that, but what is the point in teaching Japanese high school students about that. All they will do is think we are hate mongers.

This teacher sometimes tells me to meet him at the east exit and he drives me to a closer station. He said that today so I said ok and met him there. We drove to the station then drove past it. Hmm, ok maybe he is driving me home since he lives near me. Nope, we pull into a public library. We go in and he directs me to the Audio Visual station. He tells me to sit down and watch. So what now, some Japanese history or something on Indians? Great. Nope, it was Bruce Lee, Enter the Dragon.

Well, I've never seen this and really wanted to, but also I had these feelings of, how do you say ......."why are we here in a public library watching kungfu movies when I want to be home napping". I watched about half of the movie and then he said "oh no, it is time we must go now". We race to the car and then race somewhere else. On the way wherever we are going we see a Harley Davidson pass. It had tall handlebars and looked like something Peter Fonda might ride. Now he (the teacher) is on the right side of the car, driving, and we are in the right lane and the biker is in the left lane. So ET (eccentric teacher - not going to mention his name) leans over me, while driving, and says "Ohhhh, is this, how you say, hog?". So that causes us to swerve into the bikers lane and he gives us the finger. But ET doesn't see that so we are still swerving, and he is saying "yes it is nice, I am liking the hog, vroom vroom". Finally, the biker just stops and we pass and don't die.

So we are still driving somewhere and he is talking about how some people are hard to understand in America. I agreed and said there are different accents and dialects that are tough even for native speakers. He said I have no accent and speak very pretty. "You have very pretty speech, yes, when you talk it is pretty. You have a pretty mouth". You did not just say I had a pretty mouth. OK, where are we going? He did, but didn't mean it like "Deliverance", just I talk very clearly in class. I am reaching my breaking point.

We arrive at his house and go inside. His wife is teaching English in the back room to 4 young shy girls. We (he) barges in and makes them all talk to me and ask me questions. They ask something in Japanese and I answer in English. Then we sit in the living room for about an hour. The highlight was sitting in his massage chair and giving my back a nice workout. But there was one setting where it felt like someone punched me in the back. Of course that was the button I always accidentally pressed. Boom, ouch geez man.

He puts in Shrek and we watch about 45 minutes of it. Then all of a sudden he says "oh it is now time, we must go now" and we rush out the door and get in his car and drive for a minute. Then he drops me off at a bus stop and says "it was fun, let's do it again". Excuse me, where am I? He drives off. So I wait about 10 minutes and a bus comes. It was packed so I couldn't ask the driver where it was going, but luckily we are going to Fukushima station. I get back about 7:30 and buy some fruit drinks at the dollar store.

I collected all the tangents for a different page. As far as today goes, keep in mind I couldn't make something up like that if I tried. The earthquake and then a mystery ride. But I have learned a new phrase which I will use quite often from now on "Oh I'm sorry, that's sounds like fun, but I already have plans".

 

Tuesday, October 15, 2002


The weekend really started Saturday morning. My friend Meg told me about getting a cash advance on her credit card and told me you need your PIN. I realized it was an International ATM and not some teller type transaction. So I wake up Saturday and surf the web a bit, expecting to stay in all weekend and do nothing that costs money. I even bought a ton of juice from the $1 so I could juice fast all weekend to further save money. So for kicks I go to my local post office branch and find the ATM. There is even an English button which was too cool. But it somewhat yelled at you in English. "Put you card in NOW. Press Deposit NOW!". But it was still English. I follow the instructions expecting to see some excuse as to why I couldn't get money and all of a sudden I hear my favorite sound in the world "frt frt frt frt". The sound of an ATM spitting out money. Woo Hoo. I was no longer broke.

I didn't rush out and blow it, but I didn't stay in the apartment all weekend either. First I called Meg and we decided to go to a nearby Mexican/Peruvian music festival. An hour bus ride there, and we only stayed a few hours and then came back. It was just Japanese people dressed in authentic Mexican attire playing flutes and doing little dances. We met up with some other JETs, had dinner, and then returned. We ate dinner at our favorite restaurant called "Moon Garden", and then split to head home. We agreed to go to Aizu (eye zoo) on Sunday for an international kids day.

The bus we "agreed" upon was the 8am bus. It was hard getting up for it, but I did and she didn't. I called her at 5 til and she said "oops". So I went ahead and rode down there and she would take the next bus. The Aizu festival was a volunteer thing where we foreigners worked at booths and kids came up and asked us stuff. We had a game where they threw the ball through a hole and won a prize. I kept cheating and telling the kids to move closer or if they missed I would grab for the ball and accidentally toss it through the hole. There was no way I could say "sorry, you lose, go home" to these cute little kids. They were so happy when they would win a prize, it was really a cool thing. In this situation I would say cheating is ok.

I had planned on taking the bus back that night, but the locals (my JET friends) convinced me to stay at their place for free. So sure, what the heck. We went back to Jeff's house and watched a movie and took a nap. Later we all went out for Chinese food and then to a batting cage and bowling. Bowling alleys in Japan are more or less identical to those in the US. Same type of people and everything. Then we went back and crashed again for good.

The next morning Meg and Chantelle came over from where they stayed and we went to the Aizu Castle. This castle is one they use in ads for Japan, because it looks so Japanese. Probably because it is. So we walked around the grounds and then up into the castle. It was really strange to think it was built in like 1300 or something and right where I was standing a samurai might have died. I've got some great pictures and short movies. There's a link on the photos page.

After that we went to another temple shrine place, but of course this one was on top of a mountain so I had to hoof it up all these stairs. Halfway up I noticed there are other lazy people like me in the world since there was an escalator going up beside the stairs as well. I was going to hop on but then I realized you had to pay $2 and I would have to hoof it down the stairs to pay and then ride back up, so I just kept going up. We get to the top and there was a ceremony going on so we watched it and then looked around. Later we walked down the not as steep path and found many cool smaller shrines and a cool pagoda. I think it was an Abe Pagoda. There was a cave some samurais crawled through and a huge monolith they carved from an even huger stone (larger).

After that we found a $1 sushi place and then Chantelle dropped us off at the rain station and we took a train home which took nearly two hours. The bus was just over an hour but didn't leave for a while, so we would get home at the same time either way.

I came home and crashed and went to Higashi today. This week I start teaching the 2nd year students or 11th graders. All introductions this week. I am so tired of my introduction. HULK NO LIKE SELF INTRODUCTIONS. But at least it's easy and only three classes a day. the 2nd years are going to Okinawa next week for a school trip. Other JETs get to tag a long too so I am going to try to squeeze in on the next trip. After school there was a relay marathon for all the 1st year students and then I tutored the Speech Contest student for her big evening a few weeks. They told me I could go which rocks, although I have to sit through so many boring speeches. There won't be as many if any screw ups this time since these students are each the best in their prefecture. It will be tough but she has a good chance.

I am super tired for some strange reason and I am going to bed around 10, so I will write more another day this week.

 

Friday, October 19, 2002


Sorry for no update this week, but not much has happened. Had Monday off, made an update Tuesday, but Tues - Thursday were pretty slow. Thursday there was an English Conference at my school which oddly I was told nothing about. So I observed a few English classes and then had a long lunch with two other JETs and the coordinator named Chris-Lynn. She told us of something in November we get to do. For three days over a 3 week period, we get to teach local paramedics some basic English. Things like "where does it hurt" and then parts of the body. Sounds fun I think.

We ate at the curry place and then I returned to school where I did nothing but learn more kanji. I'll write a big section on kanji later. There thousands, but they only use 1,945 in daily use. Well that's good. Only 1,945. So I have learned about 200 maybe, and of course each one has 2-6 readings. Why would it be easy? So I practiced that then I came home to work on a newsletter for the prefecture. I am part of the Fujet group that organizes activities for the prefecture. A prefecture is a British term meaning something between a state and county. Japan has about 47 Prefectures, mine is Fukushima, which is also the city name.

Last night BJ called and wanted to come into town and go out to eat. I could only afford to because they reimbursed me earlier for Sep and some Oct traveling, so there was $62 extra. We went to a nice place that was rather cheap. I ordered a glass of Sake and asked how big the glass was. It was pretty small but it came in a small box and then on a plate. He put the glass down and poured Sake into it. Oh no, it's about to overflow. It overflows the glass and fills up the little box and then over to the plate. Well that was interesting to say the least. Plus it was well worth the money. I'm actually growing quite fond of the taste of Sake. It's actually pronounced Sah K, but we Americans seem to say Sah Key. Anyway, after that we hit Catfish again, but left early since he had to catch a train and Meg wanted to get home and record the Craft. She has Skyperfect Satellite and always records stuff.

Today I woke up as usual and got on the 7:34 am train to Nihonmatsu as usual. I get off and as I walk out of the station, I get on a bus. It was there so why not. Well this bus goes the wrong way and after about 5 miles stops and says everyone off. Oh great, where am I? I ask him and he says wait across the street for the other bus. I go there and look at the schedule and the next bus is in 10 minutes. So I wait and finally there it is. So it takes me back to the station and drops me off. Well that was a $3 waste of 20 minutes. So I start walking toward the school and see one of my Adachi students waiting for a bus, one arrives and I run across the street and jump on it. She said it was going to Adachi High school. FINALLY. So I get there $1.70 later and pay and as I get off I notice I am in front of several students who were walking with me at the station. HA, I passed them and even went all over the place. I need to walk more but I just wanted to try it. I was only 5 minutes late, but stood outside the teachers room until the teachers meeting was over and then slid in. So now I know. Then first period I was with my favorite class. It's mainly girls, and they are very talkative. There is one girl who is very loud and her name in Japanese is Saeko which is pronounced in English "psycho". I told the class that today and they all laughed, then I translated it and they laughed more. Then the teacher gave out the midterm results and most kids did poorly on them. After that, I played Hangman for a few minutes. Next week the teacher will be gone so we will play hangman for the whole period. I need to bring some prizes though. Something really Englishy and Americanish.

It's mid 3rd period now and I will go back to the teacher's room to read a book. I think I have two classes alone this afternoon. Not sure what I will do in them, but we'll see. OH that reminds me one day this week, maybe Wednesday I had to teach a class at Higashi alone. I finished my self introduction with about 15 minutes to spare and told the students they could talk among themselves. English or Japanese. So they sat and stared at me, and I kept saying in Japanese, It's ok to talk to your friends, please talk, now, please, ok, go ahead, talk. But nothing, they just sat and stared. Finally one girl whispered and I said yes yes please talk. Then a few more did. When the whole class was talking a few boys had questions for me. They were simple like "what is your nickname", "do you like fresh peaches?". I thought it was strange they wouldn't talk when I said they could.

Might crash at BJ's tonight and go on some trip with him tomorrow. Sunday Hiraki and Hiro san are coming over to help me figure out how to use the heaters.

 

Sunday, October 20, 2002

My legs and feet are killing me!!! Saturday, BJ and I planned on joining a school trip of his and then separating and hiking up some hill. Hill being the key word. I get up at 7am (on a Saturday) and catch an early train to his town and we get to the school by 8:30. We sit and listen to a small speech in the Gym while all these kids are staring at us. There were about 200 people total. We get in group B and then start the journey onward. We walk about 2 miles and get to an old grave and they describe it in Japanese and then 30 minutes later we go to another one. Then we walk another 2 miles and find the remains of an old castle in the woods. It was really just some stones, but still cool.

The whole time we are hanging out with this little ball of energy called "yuki kun". Kun is like -San but for kids. He would run over for a hi-5 and then giggle and run away. He was on a total sugar trip the whole time. Bouncing off everything and laughing and saying "herro". He was a little overweight and couldn't keep up with the uphill hike several times so I taught him "hold up, you're killing me here". So he would drag behind, and someone would realize he was missing and we would stop and yell "yuki kun!" and then from around the corner we hear "ho dup you kirring me" and then we see him hoof it around the corner. He was pretty cool.

Then we reach the split off area and they tell us to follow this trail for a few kilometers. We follow this thin trail in the middle of no where Japan for about 8K, for the record that is nearly 5 miles. Then we find a sign that said "Handa Mountain this way" and we follow that. It was roughly 3 miles up hill. I kept saying "hold up you're killing me". Man it was rough, I don't hike uphill all that much and I nearly died. A few times I said I can't go any further but he convinced me it was just around the corner. It never was. Finally we made it all the way to the Lodge and got a drink and some chips and rested a bit. then he wanted to keep going and I said no way. So we began the decent. Walking down actually hurt as much as walking up, now my knees were killing me. So we get down the wrong way and end up walking through people's yards and such and finally find the tracks. We follow the tracks back to the station after yet another mile of walking. All in all, we walked at least 12-15 miles, most of which up hill.

I get to the station and ride home and when I get there I decide to try my big soaking tub. So I fill it up flip the heater to TUB and wait, about 20 minutes later it's pretty hot. I get in and soak for a good 30 minutes. Man it was HOT, but I felt so relaxed. I got out and chilled for about 4 hours and then BJ called and said he wanted to hit the town and drink. BJ lives in a "one horse town" about two stops up, so whenever he feels like doing anything he comes here. We met around 10 and watched Brad spin records at a club. Then we walked to another one. One the way we met two other English teachers from private schools. We hung out with them the rest of the night and chatted about the differences in Canada and the US. They were from Canada. That went on til about 2 am and then BJ and I came back to my pad and crashed. It's noon on Sunday here. Tonight there is a small festival in Kunimi, which is a stop above BJ, so we are going to go and watch it. It's supposed to be intense, where two opposing temples smash their shrines into each other. I will try to take pictures but it's at night so I think they won't come out.

I'm going to try to start adding some pictures into the journal to make it easier to read.

 

Monday, October 21, 2002

What a strange day. Both good luck and bad luck all day. Woke up early to the sound of steady rain. I love that sound usually, like on a Saturday or Sunday when you have nothing to do. But I had to get up and walk 2 miles in the windy rain to school. I walked most of the way then caught the bus. There is a stop near the school for $1 from the station and another real close to the school that's $1.70, so I got off at the first one. I was about 20 minutes late which was ok since all the 11th graders were on an Okinawa trip. Next year the 2nd years are going to Kyoto and I am going to try to tag along. I'd have to pay but that's ok. Well I get to school and start feeling really sluggish and sleepy like I had a fever, so I just sit around and study more kanji and really do nothing. Then at 10:30 the VP writes one character on the board with means "it has been completed" or at least it is the first character of that sentence and that means the money is in the bank.

Hiraki sensei says I should go walk to the bank and then to NTT to pay a bill. My phone was cut off since I didn't pay the bill. Feels like college all over again. Actually I had plenty of money when the bill was due but there was a misunderstanding. When I got here Hiraki arranged all of my bills to be taken out of my bank account directly. It's very safe here and everyone does it. I must have misunderstood that process because I thought it means money would be taken directly out of my account. So I get this bill and ignore it since I thought "money would be taken directly out of my account". All of a sudden my phone stops working and I don't know why. I never really use it so I didn't care, and ADSL still worked. But if I left it cut off for another 7 days, it would be completely disconnected and I would have to pay $750 to get it reconnected. Yes, seven hundred and fifty dollars. Also, ADSL wouldn't work either. I'm going to get Hiraki to call and make sure next month will "be taken directly out of my account". So I go to NTT (Nippon Telephone and Telegraph [Nippon = Japan in Japanese]) and pay the bill. Then I walk back to the school and sit more. I decided Wednesday I would take a half day (the first half would be of me sitting at school doing nothing) and go to Koriyama (Corey yah mah) and get a re-entry permit. Otherwise when I leave Japan I can't return. Since I have a 3-year visa I have to have special permission to leave and re-enter the country. 

I get back to the school and pay rent and the loan to the guy in charge of that. I only owe 65,000 yen now which is less than $650. I found out I have paid extra for the last two months. Well, might as well while I can, get it over with faster. I start really feeling funny around noon and then Hiraki says I should really leave. I actually leave around 2 and walk to the bus stop and then ride to the station. At the station I eat some sushi for lunch since I needed something filling and didn't want to spend a lot on a meal. After that I rented Monsters Inc and then walked over to the pharmacy/department store. I go to the 3rd floor and buy a bench for the shower (I'll explain later) and a mirror so I can shave in the shower. Then I come down and go to the pharmacy on the first floor. Hiraki told me how to say "I have a cold, I need to buy some cold medicine in drink form". They have pill form and powder and drink form. I think the liquid form would digest faster. I go to the counter and say it in Japanese. the pharmacist person looks at me funny. OK fine I'll say it again. Another funny look. - TANGENT - Finally he starts with the broken English. Now if you heard me stumbling through Japanese why did you make me go through the whole charade? Anyway he says "you have cold and want to take me out for a drink?" No, I have a cold and want the cold medicine in drink form. He takes my little paper and shows me my mistake. I should have said "ecky tie" but I was saying "icky tie". BIG DIFFERENCE. So finally I get the medicine and he says take the whole bottle once a day. I was like, uh are you sure? That seems a little strange. So I take it and decide to wait until school tomorrow and ask a teacher. I am supposed to go to Hobara tomorrow, but it depends on how I feel when I awaken.

I leave there and decide to walk back over to the station to get some Echinacea tea, which I have heard is great for colds. I run into Lisa an English teacher from AEON in town. She said she just bought her ticket to Thailand and it was nearly $1500. Well, mark that off my list of things to do. No way I can afford it now. Plus she said it was cheaper if you bought them last month (the month I had no money). So that's groovy. My winter break plans are shot, but I will not sit at home and rent videos. I will go to Tokyo to visit Daisuke, and Hide (he day), and my other friends. Or I might go to Osaka or Kyoto or anywhere, but I will not sit at home. Then Lisa said it's nearly half cheaper to go when it's not peak season. So maybe I'll save my vacation days and take a week off in the middle of February and go. Well poo.

On the way to the station, after meeting Lisa, the wind starts to pick up and it flips my umbrella over a few times. Then I fix it. A few minutes later it does it again, and I fix it. Then a few minutes later it jerks it out of my hand. It flies up in the air and swirls around. It's still raining and I am getting wet, but I am just standing there staring at all this. I was amazed, it was almost intentionally pulled out of my hand. Almost humorous. Then it flips around more and hits the ground hard across the street. I walk over and get it and then go into the station. I can't find any tea anywhere. As I am leaving someone shoves something in my mouth. First off why would you do this. Secondly, why did I open my mouth? Well it was a Beard Papa Pipin' Hot Cream Puff. I walk by this place all the time and laugh at the name, but I'm really trying to avoid sweets so I never go there. Maybe this salesperson guy knew that and decided to take evasive action. It was dern tootin' good. It was like a donut thing with a creamy middle. So I bought one, it was only $1.20. Then I walked outside and opened my umbrella and it flipped back again and I was fed up. I closed it and walked over to a taxi and had him take me home. It's a $6 ride, which isn't bad, but I really was not in mood to fight the rain today, since I was feeling under the weather anyway.

It's 8pm now and I feel ok. I drank part of the cold medicine, but not the whole thing. That just scares me. It's a tiny bottle, maybe the size of two shot glasses of liquid, but I am still scared. If I feel bad I will drink more. So I am going to watch Monsters Inc and go to bed early tonight. Hopefully, this medicine and the Vitamin C pills I bought will knock it out of me.

Strange Restaurant.jpg

 

Thursday, October 24, 2002

Today was quite the busy and productive day. I get to school at the usual time and of course have no classes so I planned to take a half day off and go to Koriyama (Corey Yah Mah) to get a re-entry permit. That way when I leave Japan, they will let me back in. Since I have a three year visa I have to have special permission to leave and re-enter. I get to school and Hiraki sensei agrees I should be able to go. So I decide to go at 1 after lunch.  At about 9, during second period I ask Hiraki sensei if she will help me transfer money back to the states. I use Lloyd's of London in the Tokyo branch. I have an account where I do a local transfer to my Tokyo account and then it automatically gets wired to my Bank of America account, within 24 hours usually. It's pretty amazing actually.

We get to the ATM and she shows me how to do it. I can totally do this on my own from now on. There were about 4 buttons to press and boom it was done. That's awesome. I'll be able to send out checks from my BoA online billpay shortly. On the way back I mentioned I would like to start a Post Office savings account. There are many reasons why, one of which being I need a separate savings account, another being I can access a PO account all over Japan, but not my stupid local bank. The ATMs here are so aggravating. I feel a tangent coming on.

We get to the Post Office and she talks to the guy for a few minutes and I fill out a few things and write my name in Japanese - ra e ah n  ma ku doe nah ru doe - and then make my initial deposit of $10. You can actually start an account with no deposit. They said the ATM card will be here in about 5 days.

We walk back to the school and I am feeling good from all the things I've already accomplished. I asked Hiraki sensei a few things and she was answering them. I asked her what the students say before class. Before each class one particular student says something like "key deets" and they all stand and then the same student says "lay" and they all bow. That's not how they are spelled in Japanese, only how they are pronounced in English. I asked her what they mean and she said it was a commandful form of "stand" and "bow". At this time we were walking down the hall. I had a sudden urge of hyper active energy since everything was going well and I said out loud "key deets" in a grunting samurai type voice. All of a sudden an entire class stands up as we pass by. We stopped and stared and they stared back and then I get embarrassed and explain what happened. The class laughed in an awkward laugh. I felt stupid, but it's really a fun word. (I just said it out loud again).

I'm sitting at my desk wondering where I will go for lunch. Then all of a sudden I start thinking about how good some gyoza would be. As soon as the thought comes into my head Hiraki sensei tells me the Home Economics class has prepared a meal for a few teachers to eat as a test. Guess what it was? I actually just read a really cool book about coincidences like that. So we go to this separate building and there is a nice meal prepared including a big plate of gyoza. I eat it up and it was good. Then the Home Ec teacher comes out and shows something to Hiraki sensei. It looks like a bag full of dead bugs. Which in fact it was. The teacher explains it to her and then Hiraki sensei laughs and says it's a bug found in the rice fields and it is eaten in Japan as a delicacy, but of course I wouldn't want any since I was an American and we don't eat things like that. 

I reach in the bag and grab a few and pop them in my mouth. They were crunchy and had a chocolate / coffee taste. Not bad, but not on my list of yummy things. They are staring while I chew. I say not bad and keep washing my dishes. They were impressed, as was I.  I ate a bug.

After that I pack up and head out to the station. I decide to take the bullet train down there since I need to get there before the Immigration office closes at 4. So I buy the ticket on my own from an all Japanese machine and go upstairs to wait on the loading area. I realize I still had 30 minutes before my train. I sit and stare up and down the tracks waiting for one of those express trains to fly by. A few minutes later one passes by and I was thoroughly disappointed. It was going fast, but not nearly as fast as I thought. So I sit back and relax and start thinking about nothing. I do this for a few minutes then I hear a faint rumbling to my left. As I start to look, another train flies by. I mean it was hauling serious butt. PLUS, it was a double train where two connect to each other. It was probably a quarter mile long or maybe even a half mile long and took maybe 4 seconds to pass me. It was so loud I actually yelled "woo" and couldn't even hear myself. Well I was happy I wasn't going insane. I knew trains flew past and that reconfirmed it. 

Well that was weird, I had this urge to save this file midstream, so I did. As soon as it finished, I leaned back and accidentally kicked out the plug of my laptop. Kinda freaky eh?

I ride the train down there and it only took about 15 minutes. It's an hour by local train or car so this is a good savings. The shink really hauls butt and only stops at Fukushima and then Koriyama. The express that passes by real fast only stops every 100 miles or so, that's why it gets going so fast. I noticed the tracks were about 8 feet apart today. OK, I get there and find the bus that goes to the city hall. The way you pronounce city hall is "shakyusho" or in English "Shock Show". The bus dropped me off and I went in and bought the payment ticket from a convenience store and then walked down to the immigration office. I had to fill out this complicated form and say specifically which countries I will visit and the dates and where I will stay. Are you kidding me? I have no idea. I'm just getting it early so in case there is an emergency I can leave and return quickly. So I put my parents house in Atlanta and made up some random dates. I get the passport stamped and then head back. I take the local train back since I was in no hurry and it's cheaper. I get back around 5 and buy some vegetables and other food so I can start eating in and eating cheaply.

On the way back I realize one crane from the top of that building is gone and I assume the other crane lowered it. I still want to know how the first crane gets up there. Then I saw a massive crane beside the building and I assume it lifts the first crane to and from the top. I really want to see this because the cranes on top are huge and gotta weigh a ton (a figurative ton as in a whole lot).

A few minutes ago I was watching TV and the doorbell rings at like 10 pm. Who is visiting at 10 pm? Well it's the NHK guy. In Japan you are required to pay for public TV, no cheesy telethons here. $28 every two months isn't terrible, but I'd rather not pay. So he cornered me and I have to pay tomorrow. *writing on my things that are crap list*.

Tomorrow, technically tonight, it's 1 am Thursday, I have my first Tai Chi class. Hope I can catch it all since it will be in Japanese. I hear there will be a bunch of old folks in there, and most likely no one young or foreign. Well going to bed now. I'll try to update after the class or this weekend sometime if something of interest happens.

 

** note ** (Tuesday)

the hosting company just warned me not to upload video files anymore. they restrict all music and video files. I think that's crap personally, since they shouldn't censor what I have on the site (especially since it7s not adult or copyright materials), but they choose to anyway. So currently no video links will work. I am going to try to find a place to store them.

 

Saturday, October 26, 2002

It's noon on Saturday and I had a few things planned but it's a cold and rainy day and I really just want to stay in and do nothing. I got caught this morning  by the NHK guy. NHK is Japanese public TV, but here you have to pay per month to have a TV.  Even if you say you never watch TV, which I don't, I only watch videos, you still have to pay $28 every two months. It's a real scam and many people, even Japanese, avoid paying it. I tried a few ways but they cornered me and got it. 

Japan has a few other big money scams. One is "key money", when you rent an apartment for the first time you pay out the nose. First is two month's deposit, which you get back. Then you have the first and last month's rent, which are used later. Then you have a realtor's fee, the person who "found" the apartment for rent, even if you found it. Then you have the best part, key money. This is a gift you give to the landlord as a way to say thanks for letting me live here. It's usually between 1 and 6 months rent. It's just a gift that you never get back. Everyone hates it and no one likes to pay it. Luckily the economy is in bad shape here and many apartments are empty. I know a JET that tried to move and the landlord said 3 months key money and my buddy said "no thanks see ya" and walked off. Later the landlord called and said how about 2 months, and he said nope. Finally he talked him down to zero and moved I think. I was thinking of money to an area closer to everything, but I can't afford to throw away nearly $2000. I was thinking about moving because all my friends live in one big apt complex, which is right by my school, and right by all the shopping, and right by all the restaurants and bars, and right by the station. I live in a small apartment about 2 miles away from everything and near nothing. But I guess I gotta get over it and find the positive thing in it, like now I have to walk 2 miles every day and that will help get me in shape.

The second scam is Shaken (shah ken - not like to shake). It's an inspection fee you have to pay every two or three years for your car. Like emissions but you have to pay $1500 just for the inspection and if it fails you have 2 weeks to get it repaired and then pay for the repairs. Just more gift money for someone's pocket. I would like a car, but can't justify having one now. Once I get all my money straightened out I might look for a car that just went through shaken and won't need it for two years. I can get most everywhere by train and then bus and walking, but some places would be much cheaper and faster with a car. So not for a while.

It's kinda weird how I have already settled in to this new reality here. I mean only 3 and a half months ago I was back in Atlanta doing the same old same old. But now I'm in Japan and it n longer has it's mystic appeal. I don't mean I want to go back to Atlanta, it just feels comfortable now. When I walk around in town I don't feel like it's Japan, it's just a big city somewhere. Streets are asphalt, buildings are concrete, cars are zipping by. The only thing is I can't understand people. I sometimes have random fleeting memories of things in the past. It's not that I miss them, just strange how I have flashbacks of random things. A concert on college, working on a the boat in Alabama, visiting my grandmother. Sorry for the philosophical tangent.

Thursday evening I went to Tai Chi and it was really cool. It wore me out and we didn't really move all that much. It's all about balance and breathing and shifting your weight. The whole class was in Japanese so I had to do everything by watching the instructor, but luckily it's rather visual so I could follow. We had to do a few poses and I couldn't get them right, and then she came over and stuck her arm up and I realized that pose was like I was grabbing someone's arm. It was a little strange, but when she came over it all made since. I need to practice some later. I'll take pictures or something later. No movies though, until I find somewhere that won't censor them,  argghh.

Friday I went back to eccentric teacher. It's something new every time. This time he got up at the beginning of the teacher's meeting and told all the teachers I enjoyed cooking and they should come over and talk to me about cooking. So a few did and I politely said I wasn't actually interested in it and didn't know why he said that. They all laughed and understood. Then I had a class with my favorite students at all three schools. It's just a bunch of really cool out going kids, with decent English. We played Hangman, and I wrote "Halloween Words" on the board. Then I drew the hangman and wrote out:
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ . Before I could turn around I hear the students whispering "costume". Arrgghh. I erase it and they giggle. Then I write out _ _ _ _ _ _ _ and I hear "pumpkin". So I mark out "Halloween Words" and pick random words out of the dictionary. I gave out PEZ as prizes and then a little piece of candy to each student. One of the last words was Adachi which is the name of the school and then I picked Saeko which is the loud girl's name. They all laughed. I'll get a picture of the class picture with her face so big.

Friday night some girl (friends) came over and we all chatted til late. That brings us up to the present. Not sure what I will do the rest of the week. I think I will walk to a cool store call Muji (moo G) later and get this shelving system where you buy little tubes and snap them into clips and build whatever you want. It's mega cheap like 20 cents for a rod and 15 cents for the clip, and I should be able to spend about 10 bucks and make something really cool. Plus I'll buy more vegetables and other cook at home type food. trying to do a 180 on food and start eating healthy. Over and out.

 

Sunday, October 27, 2002

It's 2 or so on Sunday and this schoolgirl skirt thing is really freaking me out. Apparently that's all they are allowed to wear as far as pants go. I saw one of my students today at the station and she had on her uniform, but on her legs were just a skirt and some socks at her ankles. So from  about 6 inches above the knees to her ankles were exposed bare leg and it was cold today. Maybe 40 degrees, at least in the morning. I asked her why she doesn't wear something else and she said teachers would scold her and say it's not proper to wear something else. It's such a male based society here, but being male of course I don't mind. But this is really crazy and they should be allowed to wear pants under the skirts.

Just to see how it was I came back to the apartment and put on a sweater and wore my boxers with exposed legs around the apartment. I used boxers since I didn't bring any skirts over here. I'm kidding I don't have any skirts. I lasted about ten minutes and I was freezing. I could only sit on the couch and curl up. How do they do it?

Oh and here's the real funny thing. I've noticed many many girls will have socks or a sweater with the playboy bunny on it. That's just something you don't expect to see on young girls. I asked one student what it was and she said "pu ray bo ee". I was amazed she knew what it was. So I probed further. I asked what that was and she said amerika zashii or American magazine. I was really amazed at this point. I said what was the magazine about and she didn't know nor did her friend. So there you go, they wear the Playboy bunny simply because they like how it looks and have no idea it's about women taking off their clothes. She asked me what it was and I acted like I'd never heard of it. No way I was going to discuss naked women with a schoolgirl about age 15. Man that's crazy.

I plan to just clean the apartment today and do nothing much. Might go buy more vegetables from the store and cook some food for this week in advance. This Friday I am going to Sendai to see my student participate in the regional speech contest. It's about the equivalent of the Southeast finals, because the next level is in Tokyo for the full blown Japan - English Speech contest. She has a good chance of winning or at least placing in the top three this Friday. She recites the speech very well and even hits the Rs and Ls with no problem. She can't carry on a conversation with me though, but she can sure recite the speech from memory. 

Last week we practiced ignoring distractions. She gave the speech and I dropped a book, and then crumbled some paper, then I coughed and adjusted my seat. The only time she laughed was when I tossed some paper across the room. But no one should do that at the contest so she did very well. She only made two tiny little errors in the speech, she said "Launch ched" instead of "launched" and then she said childrens as in "there were many childrens there". Other than that, each time we practice I point out something and she fixes it. I can tell she practices at home a lot. the really odd thing is she didn't want to be in the speech contest, her friend convinced her to, but now her friend Mayuko didn't win at the last contest, but Mami won. How odd. I've got her speech nearly memorized since I have heard it at least 50 times since August, but she reads so naturally it never gets old. We have a practice Monday after school with some teachers listening and then I have Tai chi class after that so most likely I will be too tired for an update until Tuesday.

[later]

Just walked back to the station to get some money to buy some grocieries. I ended up spending just less than $50 and I am really hoping I can spend no money on food this week. I know Friday I will have to buy my lunch in Sendai, but that should only be a few dollars. On the way back I thought about a few things. First I remembered something funny at the bar I went to last night. I went to see a friend play at a really cool club called God Funky Paradise. The owners just picked three words that sound cool. Anyway the club was on the second floor of a building that looks like a rocket ship, I'll get a picture sometime. But inside, behind the DJ booth, there were two round windows and then below that was a glass block window, so it looked like a face. It was scary. I thought so at least.

Anyway, the funny thing was a person who worked there was walking around filming people enjoying the show. She had one of those cameras with the screen so you can sit back and watch it. I was watching her as she walked by. She walked up to a friend and the person bowed, so then she, with the camera, bowed. So when they watch the video you will see who she is filming then the floor then the person again. I thought it was odd, just don't bow when filming. Then a few minutes later I saw her do it three more times. Man that video is going to be awful.

On the way home today I was able to examine the huge crane I believed to be the one to lower Crane A from the building. But upon close examination, I hereby declare it is not big enough to do so. Therefore I am going to devote an entire page of this site to Crane Status. I am fixated on the idea of how Crane A gets up and down. I saw Crane A lower Crane B, but how does Crane A get itself up there. I must know this.

Back to chopping and sorting my vegetables for the week.

 

Monday, October 28, 2002

It was a really odd day weather wise. It was sunny all day, but still raining somehow. Other than that not a lot out of the ordinary happened. I walked to school again as I have been for a few weeks, it's a good 2-4 miles I think. It takes a solid 30 minutes of me walking fairly fast. The whole way there it was slightly misting. But there were no discernable clouds in the sky. I'm not sure if I used the word discernable correctly, I think it's the first time I've ever used it. I get to school and go through the routine.  Around lunch time I walk to the store to see if they have carrot juice. I've been drinking %100 pure carrot juice like mad recently, which is a good habit since I hear it is great for the liver and eyesight. Well the store had carrot, spinach, parsley, and apple juice mixed together. It would have been good, but it tasted like stale apple juice. If you've never tried carrot juice you really should, it tastes nothing like carrots to me. I think it's more like diluted tomato juice. I bought it and drank most of it but it wasn't all that good.

During my off periods I go to the library and read different books in English. one of which I am reading now is Catcher in The Rye. I never read it in school and I want to see what all the fuss is about. Didn't the guy that shot John Lennon and the guy that shot Ronald Reagan make references to this book? How can a book drive someone to do that. Plus, I know this book is supposed to be a classic, but so far it's just some angry teen cussing every other word. I'm not opposed to hearing or reading cuss words, but seriously every other word is way too much. I counted like 8 "gd's" on one page. But I will finish it soon and see if I can figure out how a book causes someone to snap.

After the school day was over, I listened to Mami's speech one last time before the contest this Friday. We aren't practicing anymore because there's no point. She's got it down and she won't make any more changes. She really has a good chance and I am excited. Either we will be off to Tokyo or it will be over once and for all.

I walked home as usual. As I passed under the station I saw an elderly lady with blue hair. Wow, that transcends all cultures. Then I started thinking, do you reach a certain age and your brain changes and starts thinking "hey blue hair would look good". What is the rationale behind BLUE hair. Here's something to chew on, if an old lady has blue hair she's a nice old lady, but if an 18 year old has bright blue hair, he's automatically a punk. Where's the logic in that?

I made it home around 5pm. I passed the crane and still no change. I'll get a picture of Crane A by itself soon and then a picture whenever it comes down. They better not try anything when I'm out of town. At home I checked email and then got ready for Tai Chi. I walked to class and it was about 2 or 3 miles as well. It felt good. I've noticed the more I walk the easier it becomes. I actually almost enjoy walking places now. I still hate stairs with a passion, but that's a different matter. I'm down to 101 kilos from 105 kilos. Not sure what that is in pounds, but as long as it goes down then I am happy. I need to be just under 200 pounds to be considered healthy and to feel good.

Tai Chi really kicked my butt. It's funny since we don't lift weights or run, but it's all about shifting weight form one leg to another, and having all your weight on one leg can wear you out. I'm ok now but if I practice I should get better. It's fun and relaxing. I tried to walk back but it was raining and Hiro san made me get in his car.

Nothing much going on this week until Friday. I am at Higashi all week since Hobara was cancelled Tuesday. I'll try to upload more pictures soon. For the November journal I will try to add pictures in the journal so it's easier to read and follow. I might be able to have more short videos soon since a buddy of mine at my old job offered to host them - Thanks JH.

 

Wednesday, October 30, 2002

There's one good thing about having a kerosene heater. It's cheaper than central air and heats up the little apartment in about 3 minutes. I click it on, it takes a few minutes to get going then BOOYA I'm at the beach in the keys. I'm roasting here, help me out. I have to cut it off pretty quick. Kerosene is like $3 for a 7 gallon jug and so far I've used maybe 1/50th of it. So I am set as far as heat goes. This heater has a little fan that evenly distributes the warmed air about the apartment. It has an early morning timer which I haven't figure out fully, but when I do I will be waking up to a warm room.

Back to doing nothing at school.

[later]

Why does cabbage smell so bad when you are cooking it? I'm trying to eat more like a vegetarian and get away from big juicy fattening steaks. So far it's working, although it's only been a few days and I still eat fish. But fish is not like red meat and salmon and tuna have healthy oils in them so in Ryan's world it's ok. For dinner on occasion I mix cabbage, okra, carrots, garlic, onions, and tofu together in a wok type thing and cook it in some light olive oil, also very healthy. Tofu is a strange beast. Every time I eat it I think, what is this stuff. It's almost like solid air. Really thick air. It has no taste really, it's almost a filler food. It's not bad tasting and really good for you, lots of protein and other stuff. If you ever watched Star Trek, I think it is the stuff they put in the food machine to make every type of food out of nothing. Captain Kirk would go to this machine and say "computer, filet mignon and crab's tail" and poof there it was. It was probably a tofu version and they just ate it and acted like it was good.

I mentioned earlier I read a book about coincidences and what they mean. It's a really cool book, and I recommend it, it's called the Celestine Prophecy. I had a coincidence today I should have followed as the book says but I ignored it. This morning when I woke up I stopped and looked at my digital camera for no reason. Then later as I was leaving I thought about taking the camera to school, maybe to update the crane page, but then I chose not to take it. At school a teacher said "something might happen today". So what does that mean? Is there a surprise planned? Did someone threaten the school? What's going on. So the whole day I sit and wait and look around for what's going to happen. 

Then about 6th period I hear someone yell something in the teacher's room. I make out "ushi and hashi" which is cow and chopsticks. Everyone gets up and puts on there coat and rushes in the hall. I do the same. I ask an English teacher and they say there is smoke downstairs. Oh no, the school is on fire or there was a bomb or something. We rush downstairs and see smoke pouring out of one room on the first floor. I nearly panic, what's going on here? I rush into the main office and yell "fire fire" and realize they don't speak English. When I come back out an English teacher says "you are doing very good". What does that mean?

We all get outside and walk around the building and they already have an escape chute set up, but it's hanging from the 3rd floor. What's up there? The fire is down here. Then I look at the corner and see a window open and the grounds man standing there warming his hands by  a 50 gallon barrel with fire and smoke blowing in the window. 

At this point if my Japanese was better I would have said "look Jackass, we had to evacuate because of you, can't you burn leaves ANYWHERE else on the grounds except by an open window? Who opens a window when it's 40 degrees out here anyway". Well good thing I didn't say all that because he might have socked me one. An English teacher came up to me as I was thinking that and she said "how do you say in English, fire drill? ".

A boooooooo. So who's the jackass now. It was all planned. Apparently all the teachers have to act scared and I "did very well" by making sure the office people were warned. I hope they think I was acting and not a stupid foreigner.  I was acting you know.

All the students eventually made it out and lined up. The boys in there long blue pants and blue Norwegian Military looking jackets and the girls in their skirts with bare legs exposed. Man I was cold and they had bare legs. WOW. They all lined up in a perfect block according to class, grade and then number. So each student has a 4 digit number like 3421, which means 3rd year, class #4, student #21. Well anyway they were all in order and snapped to attention and the VP talked about how well they did. I always seem to have an English teacher feel compelled to translate, which is good because earlier I heard the man yell cow and chopsticks and there were no cows using chopsticks. Then he picked 8 students out of the group and they had to run up to the 3rd floor and jump down this chute type thing. It looked like something you would slide through if an airplane crashed, but it went straight down. Each of the eight did it and then plopped out at the end. Halfway down it actually looked like food going down a throat or a snake eating a mouse. It was rather eerie in a way. They carried their inside shoes and outside shoes with them down the chute. I wonder if they would do that in an emergency.

The grounds man was standing off to the side watching and then after the chute thing he opened the door to the school and let the smoke blow out. It came rushing out since there was a big wind and apparently formed a vacuum or something. When you write the word vacuum do you spell it with two cc's and then go back and change it when spell check underlines it? I always do. Anyway the grounds man opened the door and the smoke rushed out and he said "oh yea" like he was really impressed or it was really cool. I heard it and moved closer. He said it again. Then he saw me and looked at me and pointed and said "oh yea" again. I agreed and said it back shaking my head as if to say both "yes it's cool" and "wow you speak cool English". Then we stared at it some more and he again said "oh yea" while nodding his head. I looked at him and he was looking at the door and to himself he said "oh yea" again. So when he looked at me I said "you actually have no idea what you are saying right, you are just repeating that one phrase over and over again, because you saw it in a movie or something right". I need not type his response do I? So since he spoke no English excluding this one annoying phrase I decided to get crazy on him. The next time he said it  I replied with "jello pudding pop" while nodding my head. He looked at me funny and then said Oh yea again.

All this time the students and some teachers were practicing using fire extinguishers in the field behind me. I wish I had practiced since I have never used one before. Though I have a faint memory of using one I can't tell if it is an actual memory or just me thinking of how it would be. I turned and walked over to watch the students for a while. They acted silly as usual and some practiced putting out the fire and such. So the point of all this is that if I would have brought my camera like I should have you could see all the cool pictures and understand it better. They have much different fire drills than we did. But why did we do it in the cold weather? What if a fire would have happened last month? What could actually burn, the school is all concrete.

Tomorrow I have Tai Chi again, and I should really practice before I go. So far it's pretty cool and I want to learn it. I can't believe how good exercise it is. OH, I nearly forgot. Monday after Tai Chi I asked Hiraki sensei about Yoga. She and her husband looked at each other and frowned. Apparently you can only take a yoga class if you join that church. I don't fully know what one has to do with the other, but they only teach yoga through churches, and even then they are usually the cult type churches. She said a group of like 18 or 180 ( I forgot) people killed themselves after yoga class because the person in charge told them to. Well, mark that off my list.

[afterthought]

Why are carrots so cheap? I can get a pack of three big ones for 80 yen that's like 65 cents. they are perfectly fine carrots, rather big too. Spinach and asparagus are far more expensive. How is it that carrots are so cheap, but yet why is carrot juice like $2 a big bottle? I'm going to inquire into this at the next "information booth" I see. It technically is information.....

 

Thursday, October 31, 2002

Halloween, I completely forgot since it's not a big deal over here. I finally finished Catcher in the Rye, and I don't feel compelled to assassinate anyone except maybe J.D. Salinger. Man that was a hard book to read. Although I did notice some similarities between me and the main character. He rambles about nonsense and constantly digresses, but my journal is not considered a classic piece of literature. Then he would pick a work like "lousy" or "corny" and use it 18 times on that page. In all the wrong uses no less. "This corny guy came up to me in a corny coat and told me this corny joke". STOP. He used three phrases way too much "gd", "and all", and "as hell". Way too much, to the point I was counting how many times per page. There were times when I could see why the guy that shot Lennon liked this book and then it just disappeared. Like once the main character was in a hotel and the elevator guy asked if he wanted a hooker for $5 a throw, so he said sure and the hooker came and they just talked. As she was leaving she said $10 and they argued. Then the hooker and the elevator guy came back up to his room and roughed him up and took the money. Ah, he was going to snap and come back and kill them, revenge I see. But nope, he just lay there for a while then got up and left. Lousy I say. If I ever go insane and assassinate someone I am going make reference to an abstract book or a Dr  Suess book just to throw them off. "The Cat in the Hat told me to do it". Maybe it will work.

I found a warm looking hooded jacket thing and I wore it today. It was quite warm indeed, but I think a woman owned it before me. I think said woman was, should we say, well endowed, because when I put it on that area puffs out and it looks like I am well endowed. I keep fiddling with it and it really irritates me, but it sure is warm. I'll have to think about this a while.

I was in three classes today, two of which I was alone because the teacher had a cold. I rushed through the boring English lesson and then we played hangman for about 20 minutes. I explained the game in Japanese and then gave them an example. I hate how Japan is a group decision based society. They are taught this from a young age. When you point at one student they will ALWAYS ask people around them. Adults do it to, but they say they are just touching all bases to make sure everyone has input. Too many chefs......... I used simple words like Shadow and Between and I virtually had to pull the words out of them. You really need patience for this job. It's fun (and all) but you really need patience to wait and beg and pry letters out of these kids. They do better in small groups, so I think they are petrified of being singled out. If I point to some students they giggle nervously and ask someone else.

During lunch I paid my phone bill at a convenience store. I don't know why they still aren't pulling money out of my account. I have filled out umpteen forms about this. Ha, "umpteen" didn't set off the spell check. I guess it's convenient how I can pay at convenience stores, but it's a little odd too. After lunch I found a western style toilet at Higashi. No big deal now, since I am used to the squat styles, but good to know.

I've come to realize I am addicted to food. I mean an actual addiction I can't control fully. I  have beaten the sweets demon, but this week I tried to buy all my food in advance and then bring it everyday and not buy any food the whole week. But today I walked past the sushi place and then found my self sitting at the bar, the sushi bar. I justified it by eating mostly salmon which has good oil in it and I only spent about $10. Not bad for the whole week, but I need to learn better self control. In the whole scheme of things I could be addicted to crack or cigarettes or alcohol, so food isn't all that bad (finding the positives in everything). After sushi I bought more carrot juice. I am addicted to this as well. Again, at least it's super healthy, but a tad expensive at $2 a 1 liter bottle. I can never have a little sip. When I finish a sip my entire body begs for more, my mouth gets dry and I get real thirsty and I just chug the whole bottle. On the way to Tai Chi tonight I found another store with other juices. I bought some Spinach juice. It's not bad  really, just tastes like diluted apple juice. But it's got like 15 different veggies in it. I can't read everything but there are pictures on the side showing different things and how much of each. It's like twice my daily allowance of veggies, but it's not as yummy as carrot juice.

Slight tangent or digression, when I was paying at the sushi place I was fumbling with my change and kept changing how much I put down. Then I just put down $15. She gave me back some awkward change and in Japanese without even thinking I said "oh I thought it was $13, but it was $11". It felt really good to relax and speak naturally. I'm getting there. Still learning kanji. I know about 200+ out of 2,000.

OK, the speech contest is tomorrow as I mentioned and if she wins it will be a pretty big deal and good props for me too. I have really put in a lot of man hours ( and some goat hours and chimp minutes) with her and she has made drastic improvements. Partially due to me, partially because she's very bright. So maybe I will have big news tomorrow. 

Notice anything faster about this website? No I guess you wouldn't but I do, because I just received my extra 128 Meg RAM chip for this clunker. So now I have 160 (32 + 128). Wow, it does make a difference. 32 was just torture. I think that should be punishment for white collar criminals. They have to go to a room and do computer work on a machine with 32 MB of RAM. There's another holiday Monday so no school. I guess I'll hang around the pad and do computer stuff. I wish they would require all holidays to be right around payday so I could enjoy them a little. I'm going to pay as much as I can towards the loan in November and try to get it down to nothing. I could use that extra 200 to send back for bills or put in savings here.

I'm going to start a new section called "Things I've Learned While in Japan". I have learned a number of little skills I wouldn't have had access to. Here are a few:

I've learned what past perfect and past simple tenses mean, and how to write in a straight line on a chalkboard, what goes around comes around (I was a noisy one in class and now I have to deal with them in an opposite relationship), there are more to coincidences that meet the eye, how to use a rice cooker, what it's like to be deaf. Ok that last one was odd, but when you are in a situation where you can't understand a word they are saying isn't that the same in a way. You have to convert to hand gestures and little puppet shows to get your point across, or sign language. So I'll work on that and start adding things to it.

Well it's 10:09 pm here (8:09 am EST) so I am gonna hit the sack since I have to get up early for the big speech contest. There should be no funny goofs like the cucumber boy since this is the cream of the crop. But you never know. There are supposed to be some middle schoolers there to fill up time. I'll add a picture to the crane page shortly.