Daily Journal of an Assistant Language Teacher / Automatic Language Tape Recorder (ALT) in the JET Programme living  and learning in Fukushima Prefecture, Japan. More information on the JET Programme here and here.

Monday, September 02, 2002


Pretty busy and somewhat productive weekend. The big news is I finally have a laptop. Granted itfs a tad slow 333Mhz but it is a laptop and I signed up for ADSL (12 Mbps) but that will take a week or so. The ADSL is actually going to be $20 a month rather than 8 like I thought. So the updates can be longer and more in@depth since I can type them up at home, but pictures still take 16 hours to upload at work, so no pictures until I get ADSL here which should be soon. Once I get ADSL here (at home now) Ifll be on AIM some and can redo the site, and update the main page too. Geez, I canft access that from school anymore.
So Friday I got the computer and signed up for ADSL and then came back to the apaato and chilled. Saturday I woke up at the usual too early, like 5 or something, and then goofed off until noon and then headed for the station. BJ and I met to take a bus down to Iwaki (E wah key) for the beach party. The long distance buses are more like the nice buses you might have chartered to go somewhere. Nice reclining seats and some have a bathroom, not the skank Greyhound buses in the states. It costs about3,600\ round trip which is just under $36 USD. Not bad for a nice relaxing two hour trip. I might could have ridden with someone but then I am at their mercy of leaving. I have been thinking about getting a car, but I really need to save money now. I live like 5 minutes from the main station in the area and have easy access to most anywhere I want, but a car would offer a lot of freedom. If I get one I want to get a real tiny yellow tag car (yellow tags are small and cheaper then white tag cars). Then I want to tint up the windows and get cool wheels and a CD/MD player. I think it would look funny seeing a tall guy get out of a tiny car. Like a clown car almost.

 Tangent.


So we get on the bus and it cruises down to Iwaki and then we eat and meet up with some other people and catch the train two stops up to Yotsukura station and then we walked about 1 mile to the beach. I really learned my lesson at the Yabuki festival and this time I brought one of those folding chairs Wal Mart sells for like $20. Actually I plan to use them in my apaato. So we make it to the beach and set up camp. I had a cooler with beecccokes and other sodas and some chips and stuff. When we get there other people have nice tents and some have nothing (ha ha) so we were pretty set Ifd say. Though we did buy a tent from someone but I slept on my chair. There was a bonfire and a DJ tent. I mainly sat around the bonfire and chatted with friends. At some point I jumped in the chair under my blanket and dozed off. The wind from the water felt great, although the sun came up just after 4am and my face is a little burned now. I woke up about 8am and felt great. Many people said they were too cold or had no where to sleep so they didnft sleep. Hate it for ya. Though next year I plan to take a bigger tent and maybe a grill.


Around 11 we got a ride back to the station and rode the train back to Iwaki and then had to wait three hours for the next bus to Fukushima. But all in all not a bad trip. There are some buses that leave from Fukushima station to Tokyo ($45 4 hours) and one overnight train that goes to Osaka or Kyoto. I think you sleep on it and itfs like $80 and maybe 12 hours. So that would be a good idea if I were going there and wanted to save time. There is also a ferry (an actual boat) that makes and over night voyage from Sendai (big city near me) up to the Hokkaido Winter Festival, both of which I want to do. There is an onsen on the ferry and it takes maybe 12 hours. But you gshouldh be all rested up when you arrive. The Winter Festival is where they make nearly life size ice sculptures of people and buildings and whatever. Ifll go and take pictures. I think thatfs in Feb. sometime.
So this week I start traveling to my two other schools. One is Hobara (Ho bah rah) and the other is Adachi (a dah chee). I hope they are decent schools, some of my friends have told me stories of the students not paying attention or being rude. So far my students have been really great and most are eager to learn English. Some even come up to me after class and talk and a few have emailed me. But the good thing is I go to Adachi on Friday and I think I can hang out with Kamery some since she is in the same area. So wefll see. Ok enough journal for now.

[three hours later]

I went to the station to return a movie, I rented Amelie or however itfs spelled, itfs that French movie that was popular recently. It was interesting although all in French. I returned it and then rented Dogma, which I have already seen but it was entertaining so I got it again. After that I walked to the opposite end of the station and found a nice restaurant and even better an Onsen. Woo Hoo, therefs an onsen in the station and I think I have heard about it from someone. I think there is some electric bath where you get in and they run mild current through the water to relax your muscles. Ifll have to check on that later. I plan to hit this place once it gets cold here. I think itfs only five bucks a visit. There was a sign at the door that said no tattoos which is to prevent the Japanese Mob from coming in. So at least itfs safe. But I have heard the no tattoo thing is also to keep foreigners out as well so I hope that part isnft true. I think I know some foreigners who have gone so maybe that part is false.
OK, enough Journal for real now.

[the next day]

Ifve been thinking about some hobbies to pick up or at least classes to take from the community center. One I will probably do is pottery. Many reasons why. Mainly I like to make things and a pot or cup or bowl is a thing. It could be a creative outlet. Glass blowing would be really cool, but Ifm sure thatfs an expensive hobby. Plus Hirakifs husband Hiro takes the pottery class and he can show me stuff. Finally, when I visit peoplefs houses I am supposed to take a small gift and little cups or bowls I made would be prefect.


Then I want to take a Tai Chi class, also at the community center also with Hiro san. It would be a nice relaxing hobby I could practice anywhere and itfs supposed to be good for the body and soul. The last hobby I think I will at least pursue is Snowboarding. There are ski slopes everywhere and I think I can rent a snowboard pretty cheap and maybe buy a used one later on if I get good. I know several people who go skiing every weekend and then hit the onsen after wards, hopefully the money will hold up for that but I think itfs pretty cheap.


On a different note, I thought I would point out I wear flip flops to school every day. Thatfs what everyone wears. They would be angry if I wore shoes. Itfs so strange, but when winter comes around the novelty might wear off. I wear socks sometimes, but for the most part itfs just my bare feet and my Adidas sandals. The Principal and VP rarely go barefoot, but all the other teachers do. Some have even commented they like my shoes. I only have two classes today. Today I will work for a total of 90 minutes. Cool

@

Tuesday, September 03, 2002

 
It's Tuesday now, and I am skipping ahead. I have a journal for Monday at home, but I found a lighting fast computer at Hobara High school today so I had to make an update. Hobara (hoe bah dah) is a quieter school about 20 minutes away by train. Then another 20 minute walk from the station. Only two classes here, and I head back home soon. I gave a few introductions to the students and one to the teachers all in Japanese. It's amazing how a few words are natural now, I just say them without having to think about them. Soon more and more will be like that then I will be fluent and can tackle Chinese. Ha ha. No.

I'll try to update the site again tomorrow morning, but it will be with Monday's update. I would skip it but I typed it up last night and there is some good info in it. Well the bell is ringing here so I'll go study more Kanji. Only 1900 more to learn.

@

Thursday, September 05, 2002


Monday I got a notice my Lloyds of London money transfer account info is at the post office. That means I can start sending back money to my Bank of America account next time I get paid. I still have to figure out where the main post office is so I can go pick it up. If I understood my supervisor correct the main office stays open until midnight so people can come pick up missed packages and whatever. Thatfs crazy, but I can dig it.

For lunch on Monday I was invited to eat lunch with the English club. 10 girls are the only members. I think itfs just ten girls who wanted to be in a club, they chatted a bit to me in English then talked to each other in Japanese. I gave them each two of those crazy folders I brought with stuff like Brittany Spears or a cute little dog or NfSync on the cover. They went crazy for them, but now I am out so I canft give anymore to other students. Maybe I have three more.

Tuesday I go to Hobara High School in lovely Hobara. Itfs a 20 minute train ride and of course the only train in the morning leaves at 7:34am so I have to get to the station by 7:15 to get a ticket which means getting up at 6, but I have been waking up at that time anyway and then just loitering in bed for an hour or so. Maybe loitering isnft the right word, that seems to imply milling around. But I just lay there (or lie there) until 7:30 rolls around and then get ready. It only takes 15-20 minutes to ride my bike to school. I think itfs going to take a full blown hour or more to get to Hobara and Adachi High Schools. Man I made it to school today (Monday) in like 7 minutes. I was behind this group of school kids and then we caught all the green lights. In between the lights we were hauling butt, it was amazing. I wonft be able to time that right again though, Ifm sure. Some days it has taken me a little over 20 if I hit all the red lights and there is a train. I have to cross some tracks at one section and there are occasional trains. Usually just one or two train cars going somewhere like Hobara, but one day it was a freight train and took longer.

So there are no janitors at the schools. The last period is over about 30 minutes before school is over and all the students scurry around do their cleaning. They sweep and empty trash and take all the recycling bags to the appropriate area. Tangent, there are NO TRASH CANS IN PUBLIC. Why, this makes no sense especially since there are drink machines every 100 feet. I think twice about getting drinks if I am walking because I know Ifll have to carry the can or bottle for hours. Why why why? There are a few trash things near the station or in major areas, but for the most part there are less than a handful. I can actually name where they are, how sad is that. This falls into the gThings that are stupidh category. You know what else goes in there? There are no towels of any sort in the bathrooms. Not in the restaurant bathrooms or department store bathrooms. You wash your hands and then shake them off and wipe them on your pants. Even when there are towels somewhere they are Kleenex tissues. I havenft seen a thick paper towel in a month, and these little tissue things barely cut it. You use them on a wet hand and they break up and stick to your skin and fall apart. I donft quite get this concept yet.

I paid my phone bill today at the convenience store. How odd is that? Of course at first I went to the wrong store and the clerk said what I understood to be, "silly, we don't take these here you have to go to so and so". Silly me. It was nearly $90 so donft expect anymore calls from me for a while. Once I get ADSL here Ifll be able to send email and probably be on MSN or AIM more often. Well on it at all, I havenft logged in to either in a month or more. This computer is working out pretty good so far, I think with more RAM it will be much faster and allow me much better web access. The computers at school are really getting to me, I think they slow them down on purpose so people donft surf the web, they are so unbelievably slow I canft even explain it. It takes 19 minutes to upload one picture.

Next Day

Just went to the supermarket for lunch and there was a sale on Tempura. It was like 98 yen per piece and I can get three or four pieces for a meal, so a meal for under $4 is pretty good. But with tempura you really need this special sauce which has some weird name. So I get the tempura in a little plastic thing and then I ask the clerk where the tempura sauce is. She looks at me funny so I say in Japanese gtempurafs sauce like soy sauceh and I am doing a dipping motion. Then she says gahhh shooyuh (show you) which is Japanese for Soy Sauce. I say gnot sushi sauce, tempura sauceh, so she takes me to some sauce and points and says gshooyuh. Shooyu is specifically for sushi. Did I not just say NOT sushi sauce gshooyu ja naih (show you jah na e) NOT SUSHI SAUCE. Over and over I do the dipping motion with the tempura then act like it goes in my mouth. She felt awkward I was getting frustrated. To be quite honest, my little puppet show was pretty clear I thought. So then I keep saying tempura tempura tempura, and of course she takes me back to the tempura stand. HULK WANT TEMPURA SAUCE !!!

To make things worse they usually have some little tempura lunches already out WITH little packets of the sauce and I point to that and they clerk gives me a few packets, but I was tired of that and wanted to buy a bottle of it.@So today of course they had no samples, why would they. That would have made things super easy. I could have pointed and in Japanese easily have said gwhere can I buy bottles of this?h.

Finally she took me to this other sauce area that looked right and I bought some. Of course, do I even need to tell you, it wasnft what I wanted. The other teachers in the office didnft even know what it was so why did she take me to it. I think she was tired of dealing with the foreigner.

Ifm going to get a T-shirt printed that says gwhy are you staring at me?h. Granted there are some older people here that donft come in contact with foreigners and I can live with that. I expected to be stared at when I took this job, but the stares are getting old. Sometimes they see me and look back. Thatfs fine, I am tall and big and strange to them, no problem. Itfs when they see me and look back and their eyes widen like I am naked. Itfs a look like gwhat on earth are you doing ?!?!?! g. They do this even when I am just walking around. It really makes me want to do something like throw my hands in the air and chase them screaming "I am Godzilla rooooooaaarrr". I mean I am already getting the look. Or sometimes people will move their bag or protect their stuff. I guess it's racism plain and simple, it's truly an aggravating feeling because it's so stupid.

About five minutes ago several of the students here surrounded me and giggled and asked gDo you have a girlfriend?h. I said gNo, how about youh and pointed to one, expecting the giggle response and then gtoo oldh, but nope. One said gOKh and then another said, gok me tooh. Then they all started saying gand me and meh and jumping and cheering. Then one said gplease make me your wifeh. So I said we will have to move to America forever. Of course thatfs all she wanted in life and said gok ok okh. Next time Ifll just divert from the subject altogether since that approach failed. I need to check and see if they all think we are dating. We all laughed afterwards, but I should make sure Ifm still single.

Sorry about all the jump arounds in the journal, I havenft had computer access in a few days. This entry is as of Thursday morning here, Wednesday night for you.

Monday, September 09, 2002

 
I'm typing this first part at 7:20am on Sunday. As usual I woke up too early and have been doing nothing around the apartment. Friday I went to Adachi High School as the second of my two traveling schools. People warned me that my supervisor there would be a little "Eccentric" So I was really worried since that was vague. I get there after a 20 minute train ride and another 20 minute walk and it's a great school. The students were very happy to talk and my intros went great. My supervisor was indeed somewhat eccentric, but I am a little eccentric as well so I was able to handle him fine.

I taught (team taught) two classes with a lady and then two with him. In the morning when we met he asked where I was from and I told him Atlanta. There's no point in explaining Snellville, no one has ever heard of it. So he tells me he will look up Atlanta on the internet and ask me some questions in class about it for the students. Fine great cool, I can dig it. So in class I do my intro and ask for any questions, as usual the students just sit there so I tempt them with a little candy, some of those Cream Savers. Man they rock. 

So then a few students squeezed out silly questions like Are you married or "what kind of food do you like in JapanE Easy stuff, I answered them and then gave out the candy. Then he asks a few. what is the water quality like in Atlanta?E Hmmmm, ok fair question, water is an issue here, I said it was pretty good. Then he asked what the city buses were like, I said not as clean or timely as here in Japan. Then he asked if I knew anyone on the Atlanta Top Ten Most Wanted list. I laughed a bit and said sorry no. 

Then he asked what time the meeting on December 18th of the National Association of Retired Policemen starts. Wow, I stood there totally dumbfounded, thinking, did I hear that right? Have I suddenly become drunk? I managed to say "uhEwhat?" He repeated it and then wrote it on the board and then made the statement it's a simple question I am not knowing why you don't understandE So I laughed a bit and played his own game. I said "oh we call it the NARP, of course, of course, that meeting always starts at 7:30 pm except for when there is new business, then it starts at 7 and usually lasts until 9 pm unless Luther Magilicutty has his usual comment, then it might go on longer"E He was staring at me and the kids were beyond lost, but I made my point and we moved on.

I absolutely kid you not, he asked it and I responded like that. Once I get faster access I'll take pictures and upload them. Once you see him you will immediately understand. He had a thin old business shirt on with a tank top undershirt glaring through and a cowboy string neck thing. Then he either had a toupee or some wild hair thing going on. So later that night my main school had an enkai planned and invited me. It's basically a small party at a restaurant where you pay about $30-50 (or are treated) to all you can eat and drink for 2 or 3 hours. 

For this one it was the first year teachers (teachers who teach first year students) and they invited me since I am in the first year classes now and the new strange foreigner. So we ate and drank for two hours and they asked me questions and I picked up comments in Japanese and it was a blast. That let out at 9 ish and then I called a few people and found they were already in town and met up with them. So we went back to Catfish and then head out around 11:30 cause BJ has to catch the last train to his small Podunk town. So I walk out of the bar and start heading back to the apaato and I see some teachers from Adachi High. They recognize me (real hard) and summon me over. We semi-chat for a bit then all walk back to the station where two of the (lovely) ladies catch a taxi to their separate houses and I walk back to my apaato. So that was cool, a little after school bonding, should make next Friday more fun since we can talk about that or try to at least.

So I go home and crash on my futon and wake up far too early. Good news is I felt really really bad on Thursday and forgot a few things and nearly missed a class and Hiraki asked why and I told her I hadn't been sleeping well (which is totally true). Then I asked the status of my bed and couch and she asked someone and then she said I could get them Monday during school. Woo Hoo, I'll be able to sleep now and sit at knee level instead of on the floor.

I don't know if I mentioned but Hiraki Sensei and her husband gave me a kitchen table and two chairs last week, so the place is starting to look better. Once I get the couch and bed then I will buy a floor rug and hang some cool hanging lamps I have and this place will be the pad. So I spent all day Saturday cleaning the place and throwing out old papers and gathering the trash. I also brought the clothes hanging rack thing inside and hung it in my room so I can dry clothes when it's cold or rainy since it rained all weekend and Friday. Again more pictures when I get ADSL which should be end of this week. Oh I get the next two Mondays off, not tomorrow, but the two after that, and the second one is on the payday weekend, I think I get paid Friday and then have the whole 3 day weekend off. So that might be a Tokyo via bullet train weekend.

I spent all day Sat cleaning the apaato. Then Darwin and his GF send me a phone email about eating dinner, so I relay it to Meg and we all meet downtown and decide where to go. I vote for the old fogies to show us a cool new place. The first place we try is called Camel Egg. It was a really cool looking place. You sit in little egg type things. But they were full and were not able to seat 7 crazy gaijins (guy gene Eforeigners). Then we cruise over to another place called Tyhoon which is how they say Typhoon. Man this place was so cool, by far the coolest. You walk up small stairs and over some wooden drawbridges and then enter this ancient Malaysian or Hawaiian looking place. You know those big heads on Easter Island, some booths were inside the head. Other booths were in a small little wooden enclosure where you could pull back the curtains for privacy. Even more cooler than that was above it there was more seating, but the area was only 4 feet tall so you had to crawl to your table. I am totally going back. 

We ate a bunch of little munchy things and had a few beers and chatted for a few hours. One of Darwin's friends named Ayumi showed up and she was majorly cute. We taught her some good English, since she already spoke rather well. We taught her some native stuff and she asked the difference in Northern and Southern English and I said "alright stand back and I will show youE so I whipped out my standard "how you dern, jeat yet, naw yont to, aightE Then I saved the best for last, "Egit own outta hya" Then BJ talked some Northern talk, which by the way was far less entertaining. I added "paak the kaa in Havaad yaad" We disagreed on whether or not that was how they actually talk and I said I saw it in a movie so it must be real. 

So then we are teaching Ayumi things like "oh you dirty rat" which is from some old movie I think. She asked when she would use that. I killed two birds with one stone here. You might want to grab a pen this is some good stuff . I told her she could say that to her boyfriend if she saw him on the street with another girl. "do you have a boyfriend...no...oh well if you did and you saw him you could say that" .here practice saying it. You see, that was seamless, I found out she was single without her knowing that I just asked if she had a boyfriend. That's a complicated move there, we might need to work up to it. Then, the icing on the cake, Megan said "pretend you are dating Ryan" and I said "woo woo, I would never cheat on her if we were dating" So that was an added little cherry on top.

So we finish up and go to a different place, we all agree somewhere to chat and have a few drinks would be nice. Someone suggests Catfish, but I told them the Friday story about the bartender somewhat roughly asking us to leave since we weren't all drinking. I can understand 1 drink minimums, but the place wasn't nearly full and we have come in there so much on off peak hours with groups of 25-50 gaijins, I figured it would balance out. So I didn't really want to go back there for a while. I wouldn't mind boycotting the place for a few weeks and maybe he will realize we are good business. So we agree on "As Soon As" which is a really smooth and moody jazz club. On the way there we pass the coolest restaurant entrance on earth. It's a door about 3 feet tall with no markings. I would think it's an exhaust fan or back door to something had they not showed me. Wow, you will not believe me when I take a picture during the day. When you open the door it's a really classy place. 

OK, we get to As Soon As and I am flirting with Ayumi and we are sitting there enjoying the place. It's on the second floor and has nice couches near the windows and low light with candles and a grand piano. A few minutes later a Jazz trio starts playing some nice old tunes like Watermelon Man and other stuff. Ayumi asked something about can she ask me more English stuff and I said sure why don't you email me on your phone. Non threatening email is best I think. So we exchange phone email and I teach her something else, of which I forgot. Then this Japanese woman takes the stage and starts singing in English, very good English. I think this was the same girl that was at Catfish a few weeks ago. Man and woman playing piano and singing, gotta be. 

So we are all chatting and I am sending little messages to Ayumi. Later BJ and I discuss going to Sendai on Sunday (later today) and seeing the Jazz festival and just checking the place out in general. Sendai is the nearest big city, there is either 1 or 3 million people whereas Fukushima city is only 300,000. So I am anxious to see the place. I think we will ride the local train up there for only 1000 yen (under $10), I want to ride the bullet train but it's like 3000 yen or more each way, so maybe after payday. So now it is 8:30 am and I should get a shower and call BJ and see about the plan for the day.

Thanks to all of you who have signed the guestbook, I hope more do soon. I was finally able to make a small update to the main page once (from Adachi High). I'll update the Sendai trip later (but for you then update will be instant.

[Later]

Just called BJ and woke him up and he said he felt like staying in today and cleaning and blah blah blah. So maybe I'll get dressed and go to Meg's school festival that she has been reminding me to go to for weeks. Maybe after that I'll take a train to Sendai myself or go somewhere else. I did nothing yesterday so I can justify an exploring trip today.

[Later]

I decided on going to Meg's school festival. We had one on Friday but I had to go to Adachi that day. Theirs was a big one, and I think ours will be big next year. It's like every three years it's really big. There was a little skit or haunted house or carnival in each room. Some were hokey some were really cool. One was "Journey as Food" You enter in a door that looked like a big mouth, slide down an actual slide, go into a big round room where people squirt water guns at you and people dressed as stomach acid, I guess, run into you yelling in Japanese, then you wind down a really curvy area (small intestines I assume), and that leads you to a waist hall passage. As you crawl through this the students are spinning something around you, hard to explain really, but I assumed it was the colon. Then we jumped out of this other door and people through toilet tissue at us. I thought that was a tad odd, but parents were there and they thought it was funny so, when in Rome.

I stayed there until about 2 and Karen, Darwin, and Meg decided to go to a concert at Karen's school. I wanted to look for a 2nd hand shop that was supposed to be in the area. I rode and rode and never found it and eventually made it back to where I knew. On the way I saw a street show and went over to explore. It was a BMX bike show where people would do tricks and compete, but I think it was all just people gathered on a Sunday, I mean no trophies or prizes. Most of the people were just average skilled at doing tricks, but one guy came out and blew everyone away. It was obvious he was either born on a bike or has spent 9 hours a day on one for the past 20 years. He was flipping and jumping and riding on one wheel and doing things that freaked me out. So I stayed and watched that for about an hour and then had sushi at my sushi place. The one with the girl that likes me, but I think she's too young. But then you can't tell with J-girls so maybe she's 25 or so. Well it's 5 pm now and I might just chill for a bit or finish cleaning or go exploring more later. I'll write more tomorrow or later.

Tuesday, September 10, 2002


Monday was relatively event free so no journal post.

Tuesday I am in Hobara again and a few odd things have happened. First I was completely enthralled by a fly circling some fly paper for about one hour. It was during the teacher's meeting and it was directly above the Kyoto Sensei's head, he was talking the whole time about something (in Japanese). I stared at it for an hour and finally the little fly went too far and hit the paper. Yea !! I wanted to cheer. But I didn't. The funny part was my supervisor said he was pleased I paid so much attention to the meeting. Even though I was staring about 2 feet above his head. I wonder how many other teachers were staring at it.

Secondly, a few minutes ago my supervisor told me I should go to the convenience store across the street to get lunch. He told me he will draw a map for me. I took a picture of this because you can see the store from the school so why do I need a map. then he actually drew the map and told me. "go out of the front door, cross the street, there you are, now you can eat". When I upload the picture you will see how funny this is, it's like 500 feet away.

Tuesday, September 17, 2002


I've been somewhat depressed this past week. That is not the reason why there has not been an update, that is because nothing of interest has happened this week. Except a strange map incident at Hobara on Tuesday, but I'll explain that later. Nor is it because of Sept 11th either, even though that is big deal over here. A few stores are closing for the day, which is cool, and there are some celebrations planned for 9:46 pm Tokyo time, which is the exact time the first plane hit I believe. I talked to some people in the area who were here last year and a few had strange stories. One guy said he was at a nomikai (office all you can eat/drink party) when the news hit. Can you imagine being drunk and trying to comprehend the news? Keep in mind it was night over here when that happened. One girl was celebrating her birthday at a restaurant, and a few others were out on the town and did not hear until later. For me I was just waking up and my roommate told me and my response was agood thing there was not a game in the morningE I was thinking Madison Square Gardens. Then I remember rushing down stairs to tell my other roommate who at the time was dating a girl in NY. He already knew. Wow that was a tangent.

So that is not really why I have been depressed, but it does not make me feel any better. I'e been depressed, and not because I am homesick either, mainly due to money. I have always had some issue with money, I love to spend it and do things and I hate to stay at home and be conservative. Most people are like that I suppose, but my moods are directly affected by whether or not I am able to go out or not. So anyway, part of the reason I did JET was to have some extra money to explore and travel Asia while I was still semi young. I talked to a number of JETs in and around the area before I came and they all said they loved the job and they had tons of money to buy things and eat out and travel and whatever they wanted, and they even were able to save $500 to $1000 a month after sending money home to pay school loans. Well that sounds awesome, who would not want to do that, excluding the fact you have to live in Japan for a year or 3. So I was really excited about the whole deal and then I get here.

The job is great, total change from where I was, no longer on big corporate treadmill. I've met many people from all around the world and made a bunch of new friends. I've already seen a number of great sights in Japan and hope to see more. But I am always broke. I am the only JET in the city that pays rent. There are maybe 10 or so and they all have free rent. PLUS, their apartments are all in the center of town 2 minutes from all the cool restaurants and bars and the station and their schools. So they have great apartments in the middle of everything and pay nothing. I pay 50,000 yen per month and live no where near anything. Not my school, not the station, nor the cool bars, or anyone else. Everyone finds it odd that I pay and my school does not pay my rent. My school finds it odd that they do not pay rent. Why am I the only one with rent? I might not mind so much if I was in the middle of everything, but it is like there is nothing in my favor as far as the rent goes. Granted the apartment is really nice and new, so no complaints there. But wait there is more.

So to top things off and really add to the icing on the cake, my predecessor sold me some stuff that was already in the apartment. That makes sense. He said he would sell me the phone line for roughly 40,000 yen or $270 (there is a monopoly on phones here, so it is a fair price), then a phone for $50 and a few heaters for $50 and a few other things for a total of around $600 USD or maybe 72,000 yen. Then the school paid 50,000 for August rent. So I knew coming in I owed the school around 120,000 yen or just less than $1000 USD. Which the school paid him and I would repay the school over a year. Well that should be like 10,000 yen a month for 12 months which I could see, no problem. So I get here in August and I am still JET lagged and they stick 1.5 million papers in front of me to sign or stamp with my "Official" name stamp and one of them is the loan contract. They say Eso you agreed to repay the school for the loan we gave to you to pay for his stuff and August rentE oh right yes sure, [sign]. So that was over and done. Then payday comes around and I give the Jimucho San (guy in charge of my apt and school grounds) 50,000 for rent and then he says 20,000 for the loan payment. OK, great there you go, then I sent back another 75,000 to my Bank of America account, so there is nearly 145,000 yen right off the bat spent. So I am left with a few hundred dollars until next paycheck to take care of all expenses such as utilities, food, traveling, savings, whatever. Then a few days later I start thinking about why I have so little money and I remember seeing the contract and it says I owe the school 20,000 for 10 months. Well that is a tad more than I remember agreeing to, so I ask my supervisor to check into the matter. She shows me the papers my predecessor gave the school. It says I agreed to pay 65,000 yen for the phone, which A) is wrong, like nearly double and B) completely insane for a phone line (excluding the fact 40,000 is also insane, but fair over here). So then I find out he did not pay his last few months utilities and they want their money too. I gave a big fat confrontational NO to that. No way am I paying for this chump's debts. So I get screwed by him for nearly double what I agree to, and for some reason which no one seems to know, I have to pay rent.

So why am I depressed, well all my friends in the area (the other people with no rent) always call and say "hey let's all go out to eat" or "we are going to Sendai for the weekend or Tokyo or both" and I usually say "Sorry can't go, got no money till payday". Sometimes I go and hang out, but that is even more depressing, but sometimes I can't even do that because they are going to another city which costs money. So eventually the calls stop coming and they figure out I am always broke. They are running around town living it up with an extra $700 in their pockets for the month, and I am sitting at home eating ramen I bought from the $1 store and whining about life into a computer.

Sorry to bring you down.

[later]

The Hobara map story might bring us back up to cruising altitude. I go to Hobara today as I always do on Tuesday. For lunch my supervisor there (different person than Hiraki) suggests I go to the convenience store across the street and get some bento (ben tow Elittle quick meal already prepared). I say that sounds great. He asks if I know where it is. We are standing by the window so I point out the window and say, you mean the Family Mart right there? He says yes. I say sure I can get to it. He says in case I can't he will draw a map to it for me. No kidding here, this place is within sight, maybe 1000 feet tops, directly across the street, I even have a picture of how close it is. So he leaves and comes back with an elaborate map that includes the school entrance, the street, and the store. He draws a line that shows me leaving the school entrance, walking about 300 feet to the street (straight shot) and then crossing the street (maybe 100 feet) and then walking through the parking lot to the door of the store (another 300 feet). This is all a straight shot too. Then he says "Ok, yay you made it, should I show you how or is the map ok?" I was really really tempted to say please show me and then have him clarify each step. Then I would keep making wrong turns like trying to turn left and then say oh sorry not on the map, but I figured that would be wrong and he was just being nice. Overly nice, granted, but nice. If the picture comes out good you should be able to see the Family Mart in the middle of the picture and you can tell how close it is. Let me go get my camera and check it. OK, the picture is here.

[Thursday]

So that all happened Tuesday and there was not much going on Wednesday so I did not update the journal. I still have majorly limited internet access until ADSL gets here. Thursday comes around and I have a busy day planned. All day at Higashi and then listen to the speech contestants practice and then meet with three students wanting to go to college next year and need English essay practice. So I meet with all of them and then it is 6:15 time to go to another nomikai (office party). I get there and all the English teachers are there since it is also my welcome party. That was fun, drinking and talking socially with my co-workers. At work we must use the most polite and humble Japanese and it is really exhausting sometimes. You are always apologizing for small things like I apologize for being rude by entering this roomE "excuse me I know how terribly busy you are, may I disturb you with this petty statement". So after a while it gets really tiring and you just want to say "HEY Jack can I borrow your eraser". At the nomikai we can just relax and speak natural Japanese or English.

 One teacher gave a welcome speech and it was funny because he put emphasis on the wrong words. The English was correct for the most part, but it was humorous and I started smiling and then could not listen anymore because I was going to laugh. And this was before he was drinking. He said "we would like TO welcome Mr. Ryan TO OUR school, I hope YOU enjoy working there and can teach US and THE students lots of good ENGLish". He went on and on and then asked me to speak some, so I said some basic welcome type things in English and then we drank. I was the guest of honor and I think it was a challenge to make sure my glass was never less than full. That is how it is done here. When someone wants more drink, they do not pour it themselves they just drink some and then an inferior person will fill it back up. When you want to stop, you just stop drinking and it stays full. Seems like a waste to me, but hey who am I to change the culture?

So teachers were fighting over themselves to make sure my glass was always tip top full. At some point the head of the English department asked if I like Japanese Sake, I said sure it is ok. Now I have a glass of sake in front of me and I sip it and they repour it and this goes on and on for a while Then I accidentally made them all think I was a serious drinker (which I am not). I asked the strength of this sake and it was 15 degrees, Not as in temperature, but more like percentage, and not like proof like 15 proof, it is different I think. So I said E15 degrees, I normally drink 50 degrees, but this will sufficeE All in Japanese. So that freaked them out and they asked the clerk if there was any 50 degree sake in the house and they all searched and scoured the place. I was thinking, please do not have any please. Even though I have had some near it before, I was really not in the mood for 50 degree sake right now. Luckily they did not have any and I could hear the teachers talking about it in Japanese with a real impressed look. Now of course someone is going to find some somewhere and give it to me.

That let out around 9pm and I was full of good drinks and great food. I started to head home to get some sleep since I had to wake up early and head to Adachi on Fridays. Well as I get on my bike the head of the English depart (a 30 year old guy) and another prominent teacher say "oh no Mr. Ryan, now we have special after party". Which, to be honest, scared me a little. The use of the word "special" seemed a bit awkward for me. Why would it be special? Where are we going? Well we end up going to another one of these doors with no signs or markings and then all of a sudden we are in this really classy, but very small, whiskey bar. There were probably 100 bottles of Chivas Regal Scotch Whiskey or whatever it is on the wall. We sit at the bar and the mama san and her young girl employee pour us glasses of whiskey and water. I'm not a big drinker as mentioned earlier and I've never learned to appreciate the taste of whiskey and water, but to be nice I drank for a while. 

Some business men can in and started singing Japanese karaoke, which is apparently pronounced kah rah oh kay. Then there was a mic in my face and a book of songs. I said since I had been drinking at their expense they could pick one. Well I said in the most humble form of Japanese "oh wise karaoke masters please choose for me as I am unwise in the matters". So I get a few really strange songs like Duran Durn's "the Reflex " and Frank Sinatra's "strangers in the Night". They were fun to sing really loud and bad since no one really cared. Then I picked Tom Jones's "It is not unusual" and that was fun.

So I look at the clock and it is 1:30. OH JOY. Have to be up at 6 to catch the 7:34 train to Adachi. Groovy, how do I get out of here politely? Somehow I managed it and we left. The head of the English department lives near me so we rode / walked our bikes towards our home. As we left the bar we passed what I assumed to be a "lady of the nightE She saw me and said "hello big boy"  I just laughed and rolled on, but then the English teacher said "hey you speak English, he is from America, you can talk".  I was thinking, I do not want to talk to her, especially now when I want to be at home and I am falling asleep standing here. But I was nice and said hello how are you. She said fine thank you. Then I realized what do I say to her? Tell me about your family? What are your goals in life? Geez, that was an awkward situation. So I said ok bye and walked on.

I managed to get in bed and then wake up on time and get to Adachi. I took some pictures which will be uploaded later. I come back early since there would be a delivery truck waiting at my house I hope. On the way out of the train I feel a tap on my shoulder and it is the cute girl from the sushi place. Wow, that is cool. I ask her name and make small talk and then say well here is my chance. Oh but wait better make sure her age before I try anything. So I say in Japanese "nan sai desu ka" or what is your age. She says in Japanese, I am 17. Wooooo nelly. Alrighty then there goes that plan. As soon as she said that I realized she looked and acted 17, but before it was hard to tell. Plus when I am 60 she would be 47, but look 30. But 13 year difference is way too much. Well shucks.

I get home at 5 and there are all these things in my door as usual which I cannot read so I do not know if I owe someone money or if I just won 58 million. I end up taking them to my supervisor and she says what they are. I sit down and put in a movie. Then I hear a truck pull up and woo hoo it is my bed. I let them in and they set it up. The whole time the two guys were acting like the Three Stooges, but not on purpose I think. They were just clumsy. One would be inside and open the door and hit the other in the face and then he would drop something on the other is foot and they would say things in Japanese. Then they set up the bed and one guy was pushing it and it trapped the other guy in the corner and he was telling him to stop but he did not. Then he did that awkward fall where you lose your balance but your legs are trapped and he fell forward starting by bending at the waist and then leaning forward. It was sad and funny. 

Finally the bed was set up and ready to go, looks great. I lie on it and realize it is nearly as hard as the floor, The mattress is super firm, well great. At least I am up off the floor. Then they drop off a box and I did not know what was in it. So I opened it and it was 100 cobras, Ha no but that would suck. It was my inflatable couch. Right off the bat I knew this was a bad idea. I am about 3 times as heavy as the average Japanese and I doubt this was designed to hold me up. So I take all these bladder things out of the box and read the directions. Somehow I am supposed to fill each one up with air from a hair dryer and then slap a cap on it. It took me over an hour to get that down. Then I had all these full air bladder things in my apt and could not move. 

Stuffing them into the couch thing was a nightmare I really wanted to cry and toss them over the ledge. Finally I get it. I sat on it a few times and really liked it. I even could stretch out and relax on it. Wow, this was pretty cool. Then I sit down to type all this out and realize I am leaning to one side. I stand up and look and one of the bladders has leaked a bit. I open the zipper and add more air and then sit back down, 20 minutes later I realize it is happening again. So as I figured the couch won't not work. I'll have to go buy my own couch, the one I wanted from the start. An inflatable couch, where did that idea come from?

[Two Days Later]

Well it is Sunday night right now, I'm halfway through my first three day weekend. Saturday I woke up about 9am and went to Sendai for the night with Brandon (From N.C.) and BJ. Side note, every time I see BJ or someone mentions his name I automatically start singing "I'm BJ McKay and this is my best friend Bear". That was a show in the 70 is and it just pops into my head. So I was going to take the bus since it is direct and only $8 each way, but when I get to the line there are like 400 people waiting. So I decide on the train, which costs more and takes longer. But I would not have to stand in line waiting. Another side note, the phrase is 'in line' for standing and 'on line' for computers. Do not say I am standing online waiting for the bus. It sounds stupid and it is wrong. Are you on a line or are you checking email in line? 

Moving on. I take the train which takes nearly 2 hours cause it stops everywhere and finally get there and meet up with Brandon. BJ missed the train so we waited for him to catch the next one. He finally gets there and we head to the Youth Hostel. We stayed at Chitose YH (Chee toe say). It was $30 a person a night, and after we added it up we concluded we could have stayed at the nice hotel in the middle of town for $80 a night TOTAL. So next time we'll do that. With only one or two people a YH is a great deal, but not for 3 or more. But it was fun to stay at an authentic Japanese style Youth Hostel. The clerk was very nice, I was expecting him to be hostile. Get it, hostile, hostel? Another side note, the Japanese actually do take off their shoes everywhere. I have not fully figured out the whole concept, because there are places I would expect to but do not and some I would not expect to and do. We had to change shoes at the hostel, but luckily they expected big tall foreigners and had plenty of big sandals. Taking off my shoes and wearing only socks would be fine, but these thing little slipper things never really stay on and they are a hassle. 

Here is a real kicker, you have to take off your inside sandals to go to the bathroom. There is yet another pair. So you take the inside ones off at the door and slip into the toilet slippers and take one step to the toilet and then take them back off. I somewhat understand the concept but it is really annoying sometimes. When workmen come over they take off their shoes at the door. Actual Japanese people are very smooth about it and can slip them off or on with no effort whereas I have to roll around on the floor and pull and pull and squirm since of course there are never any benches to sit on near the shoe changing area.

Wow, back to the Sendai story. OK, we are all up there and we check in and find our room, and it is nice. It has no furniture and a closet where we pull out the futons and set them up. Pretty much what we expected. We take a power nap and them decide to catch a bus to town and start checking out the area. We get to the station and decide to eat at an Italian restaurant. There were tons of foreigners there, in Sendai I mean, we saw one about every 15 minutes. Brandon wanted to buy a CD so BJ and I waited out side the store and saw three other JETs from Fukushima and went over and said Hi. They told us of a few cool bars in the area and we decided to meet back up later and go out together. We walked around for about an hour and then at 10 decided to go to this place that had a nomihodai (no me hoe die  all you can drink) for only $10 for 100 minutes. The catch is you have to buy one plate of food for each person. 

The food was only 6 or 7 bucks each so if we drank 5 or 6 drinks it would all work out. We spent our time there and then the other JETs came by and we sat with them for our last few minutes. We agreed to meet at a bar called "Shaft" later. There was no cover and a few foreigners there so we could mingle But for some reason the vibe was not all that great. So we left and went to another bar called "Bar, isn't it"E It was $15 to get in but that included one drink. We paid and went in and it was alright. Oh I forgot the dart story, on the way to the first bar we passed a carnival type person with a stupid looking handmade wheel with little spots on it, you throw the darts and try to hit these excruciatingly small spots for about $1 per two throws. So I threw one and missed of course, and then BJ starting filming me with his camera, I told her to spin it faster and while she did I undid the dart from the pointy needle part, so I was holding the tail only, but she thought it was the whole dart. I tossed it right at her and she saw it and said something like "ahhhyahhwoowoo" and danced around a little. I said it was a joke in Japanese and we all laughed about it. I'll get the video from BJ and post it when I get ADSL. 

The ADSL guy called me while I was in Sendai and said they need more information about something, so yet another delay. OK, back to the story, well nothing really happens at the bar, I meet some Turkish guys and speak what little Turkish I know which is basically "Hello, how are you, I'm fine thanks, I like beer, I like Mustafa Sandal (a famous singer), I am leaving goodbye". But he was impressed since Turkish is so hard. I picked it up in college because all the Turks would come to my parties and they get happy when they drink. So they would teach me little phrases. So we are at the bar and Brandon wants to order some strange drink and asks me how to d this. Wrong person to ask, especially after I have had a few drinks. I tell him to say "Shinu hodo aishiteru" (she new hoe doe I She tay du), so he practices and turns to the bartender and says it. The bartender looks at him funny and I say repeat it louder, so he does and the bartender looks at him even more funny. For the record, I told him to say "I love you so much I could die" and the bartender was male. So then I say that was the wrong form, you should use a different for in the situation. I tell him to say it a different way. I can't remember the second phrase since I had it written down and was reading it, but it translates to Please stop wiggling. So I tell him and show him the paper, and he says "oh you were way off". Yea I was. So he turns back to the bartender and says it and the bartender starts laughing and walks off. I order the drink and pay for it since he was the butt of my joke and did not know it. We stay there til about 3 am and then take a taxi back. I kept telling Brandon to say the wiggling thing to the taxi driver but we agreed a taxi driver in a strange city is the last person you want to irritate.

The next morning the phone rings and it is the front desk reminding us there is a 10 am checkout time and it is 10am. This was the last thing I wanted to hear since I could have slept another 4 hours. So we get up pack everything up and checkout. Overall it was a nice place to stay, but we each spent about 10 or 15 bucks on buses or taxis so we might as well stay at the nicer downtown hotel next time. We head into the city and eat at McDonald is. I love McDonald is in Japan for two reasons, one the food is good just like American McD is and two, because they always have clean western style toilets. As mentioned in a previous post, I do not mind the Japanese style squat toilets but sometimes the squatting and balancing is just not on my list of things I want to do now. So we eat and then walk around the mall area near there. 

We find a strange Indian shop that sells incense and tapestries and necklaces and such. There was some cool stuff there that I might buy when I have money. I end up buy some incense and a little tray for it since my apaarto always smells like an old house. We leave there and go to a furniture store so Brandon can buy something for his place, then BJ and I decide to make like a baby and head out and go find the bus station. We go into the convenience store right by the bus station and get some water and on the way out walk up to the bus stop and there is the bus with it is door open, perfect timing. That totally makes up for the Iwaki 2 hour bus wait. The ride back was quiet and smooth. I slept a little and flipped through a cool book about how to relate Kanji to a pictograph of what it means and it makes it real easy to remember. I really want to become fluent. That will open up so many doors and plus it is really cool. Hey I am fluent in Japanese. Man that sounds weird. 10 years ago I never would have imagined I would be living in Japan.


So that brings us up to date. Hopefully I can post this Monday or Tuesday somewhere, or even better, maybe I'll get ADSL soon and can totally redo the site. On a side note, the weather has been really great for the past week or so. I would guess around upper 60 is or 70. I have slept with the window open, on my new bed, and I leave the porch door open a lot. I'm really glad since I need a break on electricity for a while. I am looking forward to colder weather, I ca not stand always dripping with sweat all over my clothes. Plus it is much cheaper to heat my apaato than it is to cool it. I have two kerosene heaters and I hear kerosene is really cheap here. That will be nice, I'd rather be too cold than too hot anyway. You can always bundle up, but there is only so much you can do when it is too hot. I think it will start getting cold here in about a month. Hopefully it won't get hot again, I do not think it will since it is already late September. Well I'm going to waste time and then go to bed, I might go exploring tomorrow and try to find the gym near my place. I hear it is only $2 an hour to go there, but there might be some weird shoe thing or uniform requirement which I do not feel like doing. We'll see.

I cannot type apostrophes anymore so forgive any wrong English.

@

9/19/2002

 Just got back from watching a concert on a field trip with the students. Now I get to help two students with their speech contest practice. Joy.
ADSL coming in 10 business days. I guess it takes four weeks to flip a switch here.

@

9/20/2002 

 It is noon here on Friday and I am planning on going to Tokyo this weekend to see my college roommate Daisuke who lives quite close to Tokyo. I also plan to see another college friend Hideaki and hopefully a beautiful girl named Miho who works at Waseda University in Tokyo. So now I am about to eat lunch and I just had two classes with my eccentric teacher here at Adachi.


I was doing my introduction and he started asking some silly questions like what sound a duck makes or what sound a cow makes so I drew the pictures on the board and wrote their sound. In Japanese some of their sounds are quite odd, like a horse says "huuuuuwa huuuuuwa" and I was thinking, "no, not even close". So he is making all these sounds and having the students repeat them. Then he asks me what sound a train makes in America, I say "choo choo". Then he says in Japan it is "geta chaka geta chaka", I guess for the sounds of the clicking of the tracks. That's actually rather accurate for the trains here. So then he says there are 18 animals on the board, we have 18 students. Immediately I knew this was not going to be fun.


He told all the students to push their desks into the middle of the room. Oh no, what are we doing. Then they all had to line up on the back wall. I was at the front of the line. He assigned each student an animal. I had no such assignment. Then he explained something to them in Japanese. From their faces I knew it was going to be strange. Then he told me we are now an animal train. I was the engine and the students were animals on the train and he was the caboose.


Around and around the room we went for about 15 minutes. Well@past the point of "ok that was cute". Well into the "what are we doing, why why why". I was moving my arms like the pistons on a train and going "chugga chugga chugga chugga choo choo". Each of the students were making their respective animal sound, in English. And he was the caboose, waving his hands and saying "whoopee". Around and around the room. We were so loud the next-door classes came over to see us. Oh great, I want more people to come look at the big strange foreigner acting like a doof.


I tried to slow down the chugga chuggas as to imply the train was stopping, but no. He told the kid behind me to add more fuel. Which translated to the kid pushing me forward. At one point I just stopped and ran into the wall and said "oh no train wreck". Then they all sat down and we continued the class. Well that was fun. That sure wasn't on the JET brochure, but oh well, when in Rome.
So hopefully I can update this from Tokyo, I think my friend Dai has web access.

@

@

9/25/2002

  Itfs about 9am Monday morning and I am not going to school today. Itfs actually some strange holiday here so no school. We have either one or two holidays each month so thatfs pretty cool. There were two in Sept. one in Oct. and Nov. and then I get half of Dec. off I think. As I mentioned before I hope I am going to Thailand. I should be able to since their economy is not so hot and itfs like 1000 Thai Baht equals $2. Ifve heard I can fly there and stay in a nice hotel for less than $1000 USD, so I should be able to do that.

I came back from Tokyo on Sunday rather than today to avoid the huge rush to come back all day today. I was able to get a reserved seat on the shinkansen for just over 8,000 yen or less than $80. Ifve decided to always ride the Shink down there rather than the bus, because it was disproportionately longer trip and not a huge savings. I spent 4,600 yen on the way down and it took 5.5 hours, plus from some reason no one reclined their seat so I sat straight up for the trip. Granted we stopped at two rest stops, but I still couldnft sleep any. At one rest stop I bought two hot dogs and French fries from a vending machine. It was like $5 and not half bad. If I could have slept it would have been worthwhile, but otherwise, it wasnft overly pleasant. So I took the Shink back and man it was smooth. I even heard if I didnft buy a reserved seat then it would be less than the bus. The trip was an hour and a half and I stood on the train all the way to Sendai, so why not stand on the Shink if I have to. Next time I will buy a non-reserved ticket and hope to get a seat, or stand if I have to. I canft believe the Shink would be like 4,500 yen and the bus is more. Strange.

So letfs see about the Shink first. Man it was smooth and fast. I have heard the tracks are all welded together, in a long gradual weld so they are really one long track. Itfs like they donft butt two tracks against each other and weld them, they slice them at a long angle and put them on top of each other. I sat on the top floor of the double-decker car, by the window. Even the seats were cool, mine reclined way back and there was a button to make your butt cushion slide out. Plus there was a ton of leg room. There were two people beside me and I could freely walk in front of them without disturbing them. I probably had enough space to dance a little jig, which I refrained from doing. So the inside was great, and the acceleration was fast, but smooth. I canft think of a better word than smooth right now. We started slow and just kept speeding up. Finally we were hauling butt. I managed to film a little with my digital camera on movie mode. By the way, I bought a 64 MB smartmedia card, just before I left and it lets me hold 25 20 second movies and 500+ full size 2.1 mega pixel pictures. WOW, thatfs insane. Back to my story. So it took exactly 1.5 hours and stopped at a few stops, but was tons better than the bus. Ifm going to try non-reserved next time to see if I can save money and still get a seat.

The only bad thing, and a little odd as well, about the Shink on the way back was this little kid in the seat in front of me constantly yelling and screaming and just talking too loud. Even more annoying were his parents just reading the news paper and not telling him to be quiet. The part that was a little odd was what he was yelling. I swear I heard him say over and over the gGDh phrase in English. I mean the kid was maybe 3 or so or younger, hard to tell ages, so chances were he spoke no English and if he did it probably wasnft that, but whatever he was saying in Japanese sounded exactly like that. Maybe it was something like gGo Daih which I think translates to gfive large machinesh, which is even sillier. But he was just repeating it over and over and yelling it some and then saying it regular volume. So I chalked it up as English sounding Japanese, but a few times he said it in context which really started to freak me out. Like he dropped his toy and said gOh GODh, and it was a little funny. Ifm going to ask someone what sounds like that in Japanese. This leads me to tangent 1 of the day:

On occasion Ifve been hearing random English when I walk around. I am Esure itfs Japanese that coincidentally sounds like an English word or phrase. But I havenft been able to figure out what they are actually saying for the most part. It is possible that itfs a joker saying random English words when I am near. I have done that before when I heard someone speaking Japanese in the US, I would say a random word and not change my expression. Like I would say glibraryh or gplease stoph in Japanese and they would turn and look and I would just continue doing what I was doing, I mean why would they suspect I speak Japanese. So there is that possibility. But I have already figured out one word that sounds English, when they say gtatoebah (tah toe ee bah), it means gfor exampleh, but they say it in a way that sounds like gwhateverh. The other common phrases I have been hearing are gsack O potatoesh, gshower caph, and oddly gbreak dance timeh. Again I donft know if my brain is changing it so it recognizes something or what, but I will be walking down the street and I tune everything out because I am still at the translate everything stage and they gets annoying, but then I will hear in semi perfect English, gbreak dance timeh and it freaks me out. I hear other phrases and words as well, but those are the most common. [End tangent transmission]

Back to the annoying kid. I really wanted to slap him and then slap his parents. Or better yet get in their face and start yelling in a squealy voice, and then say gOh am I disturbing you? How rude of me to yell in public, I am so rude, what was I thinking, I am so inconsiderate, everyone knows no one wants to hear loud screaming whining in a public placeh, but it would come across wrong so I didnft say it. I just made mean faces when the kid stuck his head over the seat to look at me. Which did silence him for a few minutes and then he started his yelling (cussing) again. This leads me to tangents 2 and 3 for the day.


Tangent 2:
When these parents that have screaming children are thinking about having children and they hear other screaming kids on buses or Shinkansens or in church, do they enjoy the sound? Are these people actually not upset by screaming kids? gOh wow, what a pleasant sound, I really want to have kids of our own so they can scream all the time since we love that soundh. I mean how is it that the sound of screaming kids does not disturb them? I actually want to have kids so I can keep them quiet and people will comment on how well behaved my kids are.


Tangent 3
There is minimal, if any, discipline over here for kids. This is really strange because for the most part the students are well behaved. I think it comes from the strong peer pressure aspect of their society and the fact there is so much stress on the kids to pass the constant tests they have. Test wise, they have them all the time, big major tests. High school entrance exams, mid terms, pre-years tests, more mid year tests, final exams, that repeats three times through high school. Then there are the college exams and the prep test for that, and the barrage of tests in college. But why is there no basic discipline. Even in my classes the students can get loud before the teachers say anything, some teachers donft even say anything then. They just keep talking and it is clear no students are listening. I had my friend teach me how to say in three different politeness levels gplease be quiet, be quiet, and shut uph. Ifm going to start telling kids to be quiet in class in Japanese when they get rude. I mean there is occasional chit chat between students, but itfs when one of them turns around and starts talking full volume to someone a few seats away. Itfs not every class, just a few at each school. Some classes are super disciplined and I have no problems. But this lack of discipline is seen outside of class like on the train Sunday and at other places. Parents just donft say no to kids, they do whatever they want as loud as they want. Ifve seen it enough to make the statement that itfs not just a few isolated instances, its how their society is here. Ifm going to ask some of my Japanese friends about their opinions on the matter.
[End of tangents]


Now I forgot what I was talking about. Oh I guess Tokyo. I took to bus down there Friday as I mentioned and made it in at around 10:30 pm and luckily Daisuke was waiting for me. I now know the way straight to his place so he doesnft have to meet me. He lives in a really cool 38 story high rise, which they call a Mansion. We would just say high rise. Anyway, he lived on the 28th floor which had a great view. Ifve got some pictures if I can find somewhere to upload them. Ifm working on a new journal page and picture page for the site, so when I get ADSL I can update it quickly. The journal page will be broken out into each day or update, rather than one huge page thatfs in reverse order. The picture page will have thumbnails and comments and then you can click the thumb for a huge 2.1 megapixel enlargement. OK, so Daisuke (die skay) lives with his sister, who was quite the cutie, her name is Kazumi (kah zoo me). She had her own nice big room and he had a small room that looked like an office. I was amazed at how little furnishings he had. There was a futon which he rolled out at night, a desk with computer (and ADSL), a dresser, and a closet. Nothing really on the wall, but he did have a window that looked out over the city. So I slept in there on the floor and he slept on a futon in the living room. I have two pictures of the place and will upload them to the picture page when I get ADSL. Every time I type that I start thinking of the old 70fs show with Bill Cosby gPicture pages picture pages, time to get your picture pages, time to get your crayons and your pencilsh. So the picture pages will be a nice update. Now I am singing that stupid song in my head.


Friday I had to get up at 6am to go to Adachi and then right after it I caught the bus to Tokyo so I was exhausted. I was really planning on getting some sleep, but that fell into the category of gthings that didnft happenh, so when I got there I was really tired. We decided to find somewhere close to eat and stay in. We ate at a nice restaurant right under his place, not like on the 27th floor, but like just below the building. It was under the shinkansen tracks. I guess the shinkansen tracks could be tangent #4.
The Shinkansen (Bullet Train), is really amazing on many different levels. The first thing I noticed was the tracks. Since it goes up to 180 mph, it canft cross any roads or have any access to anything where someone could walk or drive in front of it. Clearly it canft stop in time and if it has to slow at every intersection it defeats the point in being a bullet train. So the entire length of Japan, which is about the size of California, there is this raised huge concrete structure like an expressway. Ifll get some pictures uploaded whencc.you know. So right through middle of my city there are these tracks and they are separate from the other local trains. Plus the Shink tracks are for the most part straight, minimal turns. I stared at the other tracks outside the window for a long time and they were perfectly inline and had no turns. I donft actually remember turning at all while riding the shink, if I did then it was so subtle. 

So I find the tracks amazing, because they are huge and they go the full length of the country. If a mountain is in the way it goes right through. Plus the ride was so smooth, the acceleration and deceleration were slow, but then train made it up to full speed for a while and everything was flying by. I took a video and will try to upload it soon. Plus in many cities the Shink station or under it is a main part of town. Thatfs the case in Fukushima city, there are tons of shops and restaurants under it. In Urawa, where Daisuke is from, there were shops and such under it although they didnft have an actual station above it. The Shink rode over it, but didnft stop there. In Fukushima city there are trains stopping all the time since it is a hub for some city off to the left of us, so many trains pull in. But there is one train that goes from Sendai to something near Tokyo without stopping, so every 40 minutes or so you see this bullet fly by. If you are in the station you hear a roar for about 4 seconds and if you are near the station you can see it fly through. Some of the trains will stop and hook up with another train and do the two train thing for a while. Not sure why or where they go. The train I rode was one of the new MAX trains that look like a platypus to me. Ifve got a picture butc.. It was pretty fast and really nice inside. I mentioned about the seats and such and the double-decker thing. I saw a snack bar on the 1st floor of a train beside us once and I think a car with little private compartments or something. Ifm sure that costs more, but would be cool for long trips. At some point I plan to take a sleeper bus to Osaka or somewhere. Oh that was a tangent within a tangent.


Back to Tokyo. Saturday we woke up semi early since we left the windows open Friday night because the breeze felt so good. But we woke up because the sun was baking us, I woke up and went into the living room and Daisuke was just waking up as well. We got dressed (separately) and decided to try to find something to do. We ate lunch at a cool buffet type place in Ueno for all you can eat and drink (non-alcohol) for 1,000 yen ($10). That was a good deal and I stuffed myself. Then we walked around and looked at some shops, there were like 25 luggage stores in a row. How does one stay in business with so many others right around? Why should I go to this one way in the middle of the place when I can go to one right on the corner? Who knows, who cares, not my problem. Then we took a train to Roppongi to scope out the bar we were planning on going to later. We found it and on the way back passed a store that he pushed me into. It was the Japanese version of Wal-Mart, but very small, maybe 5 floors and each floor was only 30 feet wide by 60 feet long. Smaller than Wal-Mart, but big for Japan I guess. They did have discount things like WM but I didnft want to buy anything there since it was in the middle of town and I would have to carry it back to his place and then home. It was called gDon Quixoteh, like the Spanish explorer, or whatever he did. There was this super annoying song they kept playing over and over again. gDon key, don key, don Quixoteh, just repeating over and over again. 

Then we left and saw the Tokyo Tower in the distance and decided to walk to it. It was about a two mile walk, and we passed a few cool things on the way, neat buildings and such. One huge one that looked like a spaceship had landed, it was enormous. I think it was a temple. I have some pictures of it I think. Then there was the skyscraper made of glass. I mean it had steel inside, but the walls were totally glass so you could see in it and through it. It wasnft really a skyscraper, but it was tall. Then we finally get to the tower and go inside. It was kind of a tourist trap, but still cool. It was like $8 to go to the first level, which of course was not high enough, so then we went to the second level which was another $6. It was considerably higher but I donft know if the whole thing was worth $14. After about two minutes up there everything looks the same. Itfs all small. I took some cool pictures of the UFO building and another temple and the glass building and stuff. There was this hole in the floor with glass where you could stand and see the ground. Itfs amazing how you stomach drops while standing on this. No movement, just glass, but still , my stomach would sink when I stepped out on the glass. It was about 3 foot by 4 foot Ifd say. 

Then we walked back to Roppongi (row pon gee). On the way there I saw a Mexican restaurant and HAD to eat there. It had been so long since I have had Mexican food. They didnft bring out the complimentary chips and salsa, but the food was still good. We sat there killing time until about 7 when the bar had Happy Hour so we could save some money. We finally made it in to the bar named gGasPanich, which was a bit strange for me when I first came here 4 years ago. GasPanic sounds like a chili bean thatfs too spicy or something. Wonft go into too much detail, but there was a funny Military story that night.


We sat in bar for a while drinking $4 drinks and then moved upstairs where the music was not as loud and there were less people. We sat and drank and talked to different people for a while. After I had had a few I was feeling smooth and talking to the ladies. My Japanese really improves with a few drinks, I guess because I lose my inhibitions about trying to speak correctly and just speak. So I was doing well with a few ladies and this Military guy comes out of the bathroom and bumps into me. This bar is big with Navy guys who are trying to pick up Japanese women so we non-service people reap the benefits of the bar having many ladies there. But also many drunken ganxioush military types so it balances out I guess. So he bumps into me and I look at him and he looks back and I was about to say goh sorry my bad please donft punch me in the neckh, but before I could say that he starts apologizing. I was like, ok this is one of the nicest guys in the Navy. I just said no problem and let it slide. Then I notice he and his two buddies at the bar looking at me and talking. Great, they are planning to come over and push me over the ledge and then kick me when I am on the ground. 

So they come over and ask me something. The one big guy says gwe canft figure out which branch youfre inh. I said gOh, Ifm not in the serviceh. They said gOh we can tell you are, but canft figure out which branchh. What about me makes you certain I am in the service? What about my gut? Does that look like its been through basic training? Looks like itfs been on the couch a few months. Actually I had been sucking in my gut which inadvertently pushes my chest out and makes me look muscular. Then they started naming branches and areas and listing why I could or couldnft be in that area. I heard something like gairborneh or gbattalionh, but the rest wasnft clear. One guy said my hair was too long for me to be a something another like a lower class person, maybe I was an officer. So then the girl I was talking to says gHefs in special opsh and they freak out, in a good way. They were all apologizing and being humble.


So you are wondering why she said that? Well, earlier she had asked if I was in the military and I said no and she said she really liked people in the military so I said I was in gspecial opsh in charge of maintaining surveillance on the ladies in this bar and she and her friend were my first two targets. I thought it was smooth and never really thought it would come back up in a conversation. But it did at the perfect time. Actually I tried to tell them I wasnft in the Special Ops, but they kept telling me all these stories about who they know and how they want to be in SO one day and other military stuff I knew nothing about. But I just used the response I use when I donft understand something in Japanese, which is to nod and say gahhh. So then they go buy me a drink and stand over in the corner looking at me for a while. When my drink is finished BOOM therefs another one. It was a little freaky, and cool at the same time. But we were well past the point of me telling them I really really wasnft in the Navy or Special Ops. 

About an hour later they came over and asked what itfs like and where Ifm stationed and have I seen any action. I knew if I even tried to say anything that sounded militaristic I would be busted. They would know in a heartbeat I wasnft a General in the 43rd Doodle Mule Division of the Super Karate Monkey Death Car Airborne squadron. So I said the only thing that would fit, which happened to fit all too well, gyou know wefre really not supposed to talk about thath. They all knew what I meant and backed off. The whole time I was thinking I am getting in this too deep, gotta change tracks quick, but I couldnft say Ifm just kidding they would be mad. So I took a chance and hoped they didnft know every single other person in the bar and I said gLook fellas I gotta go, my CO is over there wondering what I am telling youh. So they understood and I left and grabbed Daisuke on the way and we headed out. 

Oops it was 3am and we missed the last train, so he called his cutie sister and she came and picked us up. That was very nice of her. She took us back to the mansion and we slept until late Sunday. I was going to stay until Monday but I decided to come back Sunday and took the Shink.
I made it back around 5:30 and ate sushi and rented a movie. So that was my weekend. Semi-uneventful. Today I have been typing this and relaxing and watching TV and milling around in my boxers all day. Itfs a nice day and about 2 pm so I will go try to find that Gym and then head to the station and look around.


[hours later]

A friend in town named Meg called and asked if I wanted to meet the F-City JETs at the station for lunch. So we met and I ate sushi, but they all wanted McDonaldfs. I donft know, maybe itfs me, but I didnft come to Japan to eat at McDonaldfs. So then the others left and Meg ad I and B hung out for a minute. Then BJ had to leave and Meg and I walked around for a bit, neither of us wanted to go home, but we had nothing to do. So We go over to Ito Yokado (e tow yo kah dough) and looked at couches and little electric grills and then we found this small massage chair. It was only $200. That goes on the list of things to buy when I have spare money. Man it felt great. Then as we were walking out somehow movies came up and I suggested we go see one. We walked over to the MyCal Warner Bros theater on the 5th floor of Vivre (in case you drop in sometime, now you know where it is). And luckily there was a movie starting in 15 minutes. It was gSignsh by M. Night Shamalan. It stared Mel Gibson and one of the Kulkin kids, I think Rory, and Joaquin Phoenix. It was pretty good, and yet a little strange at the same time. But herefs the weirdo part, A) it was nearly $17 each to see it, B) we had assigned reserved seats in the theater, and C) the coke and popcorn was only $4 total for what would cost over $8 in the states. So yea a little strange, but the theater was totally nice and I felt like I was in Atlanta again. Thatfs the second movie I have seen in Japan in a theater and each time people sit and wait for the credits before they move. Not this time, wefll play or dumb foreigner card and we got up and left after a few names passed. Then when we left a few people watched us and they left as well. This falls into my Intelligence Collective theory I plan to discuss later when I have more time and examples. So that wraps the weekend up and I am going to bed early so I can wake up early tomorrow and head to Hobara, where I sit in two classes and the teacher asks me if something is right on the board. I chalk it up as a free day. Ifd rather be doing something, but I guess they arenft into the team teaching thing. Oh well, such is life. I guess that makes up for the Adachi experiences.


[LATER]
Now itfs Wednesday morning and I am at school about to upload this entry. As I walked out of my door this morning I heard what I thought was a baby screaming. Then it sounded like someone electrocuting a cheetah, then it sounded like an espresso machine. If I can find a way to record this I will and you will see I am not exaggerating.


ADSL will be delayed yet again, the new date is OCT 5th. I wouldn't be so mad if everyone else I know here got theirs in less than a week. But not Ryan.

@

9/26/2002 

 Today is Thursday and now I am at Adachi. Normally I come here on Fridays but tomorrow there is a speech contest with two of my students and I want to go. I have coaching them for a month or so and now is the grand finale. They both should do well, though one girl speaks with a French accent, yet she is only Japanese and speaks no French. I almost laugh every time I hear her because of her pronunciation. It's not bad just Frenchy.

So today I am with the eccentric teacher and so far not too much has happened. Nothing that compares to the animal train last week. But in one class he was telling the class something in Japanese and then turned to me and said "In English you would say make a poo". I was so dumbfounded as to what he was talking about I just said yes and didn't inquire more. No one was laughing so who knows. Other than that I have been a tape recorder here. I just read and re-read sentences over and over. Not much Team Teaching here.

So yet another delay on the ADSL, this time they say Oct 5th. About ready to just say cancel, and I bet that would speed things up. There is wireless ADSL available in the city and around my apartment, but not sure of how much that costs. It would be cool to use the web at home or at the station or at school, but it's only 128K as opposed to 12,000K like the ADSL. 

No big plans this weekend, might just chill and do things that don't involve a lot of money. I might be able to upload some pictures from BJ's fast computer and fast ADSL (which took like a week to set up and he lives in a small podunk town). I might go hang with him on Sat sometime. I created a few picture pages with about 10 megs of pictures but of course have no where to upload them. Maybe I will Oct 5 or maybe there will be another delay at which time I will probably say forget it and just pay BJ to use his computer all the time at his place. I told my dad ADSL would be about 4-6 weeks and he said that's about how long it takes in the states. That's true and that alone wouldn't be a big deal but when EVERYONE else who signs up here, foreigner or local, gets theirs in less than two weeks, usually less than one week, it makes me a little mad. All these people, as well as the different ADSL companies, all seem to say, "you still don't have ADSL, what's taking so long, it only takes a few weeks".
Whatever.

@

9/30/2002

 Its midnight on Sat right now and I just returned from BJ's apartment in Koori Machi about 3 stops up the way. Meg and I went up there to watch a movie and hang out. I managed to upload a few dozen pictures to the picture page, which I hope you've noticed. It might help you get a better visual image of my life. Once I get ADSL hooked up Ill start the major site overhaul and add all sorts of pictures and videos and the like. I really like saying that and try to use it when I can and the like.

So the big news of the weekend is one of my students won first place in the prefecture wide speech contest. She is the best English speaker in a high school in the entire prefecture. A prefecture is like a state only smaller, but government wise its about equivalent. So that looks good for our school and for me. Her mother was there and her grand mother I think and they were both very thankful. But I really only fine-tuned a few things, she is a bright student who speaks very well. I made a Mini Disc recording of her speech in my voice and then of the hard words over and over for her to practice. I felt bad though because the other student improved so much and didn't place at all. Her speech was very good, but Mami's speech (mommy) and presentation was in the top 3 so I'm not surprised she won. 

I actually thought another student had won, but she didn't even place. Mami's speech was about children in Rwanda. Some speeches were about boring things and others were interesting. One was about Charles Manson. Did you know he released an album with peaceful songs before the murders? One kid, who we thought was major competition derailed hardcore. I felt bad, but was secretly glad he messed up. I also almost started to laugh. His speech was about how he loved to eat cucumbers now that he had major jaw reconstructive surgery and couldn't eat them before. But he chose not to take a copy of his speech up to the podium. So he forgot a line and then paused and then repeated the last line and then paused again. Then he mumbled a little and sputtered a few words. Then he decided to keep repeating the last line over and over again in hopes it would trigger the next line. Well it didn't, at least not the first 18 times he yelled Oh yummy, how the cucumber tastedE Finally he realized he was derailing and moved on. Then he lost where he was again and just mumbled some words randomly and then stared at the crowd for about a minute like he was frozen, then said thank you and walked away. He didn't place in the top 6.

The second big news is my Yahoo ADSL modem has arrived, of course the instructions are all in Japanese, so I have to wait until my supervisor can help hook it up. But then I should be rollinE unless some other unexpected problem arises, which I fully expect. I'm not being negative; I just recognize patterns when they happen. I expect my machine to be too slow, or the connection to be wrong, or Yahoo hasn't set up my account or any number of silly unnecessary delays. Well at least it is here and will be soon. Then I can get AIM and MSN messenger and communicate with people back in the states.

I have two tangents for this entry, #1 is about reimbursement and #2 is about postcards.
I have to travel to two different away schools each week. It costs about $14 roundtrip for each and I pay that out of my own pocket. The school will reimburse me, after a month. What takes a month? It takes me 5 minutes to take money out of the bank. I can understand a day or a few, or even a week, maybe. But a month? Really what takes a month to process? If they were to say they had to process the form on the internet on the three slowest computers in the world (the three at the school) then maybe I would understand. But why does everything take a month? I had to pay my own way to the speech contest and I will get reimbursed for that too, in a month. Arrrrggggghhhhhh. 

The only good thing about the process, I have heard, is they usually double or triple the amount when they reimburse you for your trouble and time. If that's the case then I wont feel as bad, plus anytime now I should start getting regular reimbursements, but up to now its been nearly $100 a month when I am already on a tight budget. They don't give me one lump sum for the month either, they are going to reimburse me for each trip, so I will get two payments a week since I go to two schools each week, plus Higashi, but there are no expenses involved in that. Tangent 1A EI might start walking all the way to and from school to burn some of the extra rice calories off. This idea might last one day and then I realize it falls into the Things that suck category, but its the plan now. Plus once it gets cold I wont be able to ride the Mary Poppins bike anyway. I could ride the bus, but that costs $1 each way and I still have to walk to the station and then from the bus stop to the school. But it would cut out a good 20 minutes of the walk. I expect it to take nearly 45 minutes. End Tangent 1 & 1A.

If anyone wants a postcard from Japan or anywhere else I travel, please email me at TheAmazingRhino Eyahoo.com and just put your address and name. Even if you are some random person who happen to stroll across this that's fine too. Just put that in the email somewhere so I don't pull my hair out trying to figure out who you are. I wont send them out once a week, but once in a while and whenever I travel to other countries. I have some big plans but it all depends on time and money. I want to go home for a week in May for my cousins wedding and if I plan it right I should be able to make it for a week and only use 3 vacation days, so if I plan right I should have two full weeks to use in summer. Rather than sitting in the stupid office doing nothing for 8 hours a day I might go to Australia or Hawaii or somewhere cool. I might have some time in Feb or March to take a 4 day weekend trip somewhere. Anyway, if you want one send me your mailing address. If I get like 50 or 100 then I might reconsider the idea or stagger them but well see. [End all tangents]

So Friday I went to the speech contest. I've already covered that pretty well. The cucumber kid was really a trip. The other speeches were ok, so better than others. Our girl was interviewed for the newspaper and might be on the news. In a few weeks she goes to the next level where students from different prefectures go head to head. Not sure of the competition on that level yet, but we have a month and a half of hardcore training. I will make a few more MDs of me saying the hard words over and over again and reading and re-reading her speech slow and then natural. Then we have to practice gestures because this time she almost over did it. One girl over did it so much I though she was doing sign language. Mami did a few too many, but apparent it wasn't too many, because she won.

After the contest I went out to eat with Kamery and BJ at a local place that I mentioned before. The really cool place with the second level and Easter Island type booths. This time we sat on the second floor that was only 4 feet tall. I will try to get a picture next time I go. After that we went to the really smooth bar called As Soon AsE They always have nice jazz playing either live or on CD. There is a grand piano and candles and cool couches. Ill get some pictures there as well. She had to leave early since the last train is at 10 something. Saturday I spent most of the day doing nothing inside the apaato since it was rainy outside all day. I watched James Bond You Only Live Twice and then napped and cleaned up the apartment for the picture section on here. Go to the main page and you'll see the link. I hope everyone starts on the main page anyway since sometimes I post news or other such important events (and the like). Then BJ called and suggested I come out there tonight since his hiking plans were shot due to the rain. So Meg and I went and I uploaded the pics and checked email and surfed the web a little. Then we watched A Bugs Life again and caught the 11:06 train back to Fukushima. Next weekend I plan to stay in Nihonmatsu after I go to Adachi and see the big lantern festival. Its supposed to be really crazy and famous throughout Japan and its 15 minutes down the tracks for me. That's cool. I think I am pretty bust this week. I stay after school each day for some event like speech practice or interviewing or whatever.

[Later]

Now its Sunday morning about 10:45 am. Its a beautiful day and I want to get out of the house and explore on foot for a while, but Hiro (my supervisors husband) said he would come over around 1pm to help me set up Yahoo Broadband. They call it that even though it goes through the phone line like ADSL. Plus the cable from the phone to the modem is a regular phone line and I though it could only handle a certain data speed, but they are saying I have 12 Mbps connectivity, although I doubt I will ever reach the max. Plus this slowpoke computer wont be able to handle it. Once I get the fast one from the states Ill be in business.

Anyway, its a beautiful day. The sun is shining but there is a slight cool breeze in the air. Its the kind of day you would want to go have a picnic or something. I would look silly having a picnic alone, so Ill pass on that idea. Once Hiro leaves I will definitely go for a walk. I want to try to find a gym around here that I heard about recently. It should be really cheap. So if I can do that, keep eating decent, and maybe walk to school everyday then I should be super-thin super-soon. I don't drink all that much so that's really not a big issue. The walk to school is a few miles I would guess, maybe 2.5 or so. Hard to judge since there are a few turns and then long straight-aways. So hopefully in a few hours I will upload this journal from home and start working on the site upgrade. I could probably do it in a weeks time. I need to get a mouse and more RAM for this computer though, 32 Megs is killing me. I haven't had a computer with 32 Megs in nearly 10 years I think. Geez. It is a 333 Mhz machine though, so maybe it came out around E5 or so. Maybe a tad later. I can remember sitting with my Graphic Arts teachers reading a Tech Journal and it saying in a year or so there will be processors over the 200 Mhz mark. We all laughed in amazement. Now they are nearing 2 plus GIGhz. HEY, I have no plus sign on this computer. HA. That stinks I guess. Although this is the first time I noticed since I had it, I bet now I am going to need it all the time.

[Later]

HA! You thought I was being negative but there was a problem with my ADSL. Saturday I received a package with my modem and some info about how to set it up. There was also a page with a username and password and I could read the first line said congratulations your account is set up, or something to that nature. So I called Hiro and he came over and tried and tried and nothing happened. Then he called technical support and they said only my pre-account had been set up with my username and password and modem, but the actual account would take four more days to set up. So going on 5 weeks to set up my account but only 4 weeks for my pre-account to be set up. Hiro was on the phone and telling Hiraki sensei and she was translating to me. When she said four more days I said to do what exactly and she translated and Hiro said it into the phone. The answer was along the lines of something really vague which Hiro couldn't exactly translate. Just one of those silly delays to keep someone's job looking important. I remember my old company had waiting periods and certain things took longer than others to complete. I've never understood exactly why things take a week to process or a month for reimbursement. Does it take that long to write something down? Can you only write one letter per day? I honestly do not understand why things take so long to process. I wish I could reverse it when bill collectors call me, Oh sure I have the money but it takes my accounts payable department four weeks to process this. I mean it will actually only take 2 minutes to write the check, but it has to sit on my desk for 3 weeks 6 days and 23.99 hours for Processing. I doubt that would fly so Ill try to just get over it

So here we are back to square one, hoping to get ADSL this week. There are really no more excuses. I bet if I threaten to just quit it would speed things up, but I would have to get Hiraki to call them and say it and she would think I am just being petty. Which I probably am, I just hate waiting for things that are being delayed for no apparent reason. Maybe they have to physically run a cable to my house, that might take 5 weeks.

I was just flipping through the speeches from the contest Friday and I found one that was really interesting. I had forgotten about it, but I thought it was very insightful for a young high school student. It was about Cinderella. The girl had read the story and had two questions, oddly I remember having the same questions as a kid. First why did one show remain after midnight when the magic was lost? When the magic was over at midnight both glass slippers should have disappeared right? But only the one she was wearing disappeared. Secondly, who has a clock that chimes at 11:45 pm? I mean really, are there such clocks? Every fifteen minutes is a tad too much I think. I have seen a clock that chimed on the half hour as well as the hour, but 15 minute increments, I don't know. So I thought it was cool that some young student had the same thoughts as me and didn't just read it and say Oh what a dreamy storyE

[Later still]

I've been practicing sitting and squatting for the past few days in order to get my legs used to sitting and squatting the Japanese style. I go to many places where it is necessary to sit Indian style for a few hours so I might as well get my legs in shape for it. The squatting position is surprisingly popular here so I might as well practice both. Then I do as many crunches as possible. So far I can squat for 8 minutes, sit Indian style for 20 minutes, and do roughly 50 crunches until my body says stop. I would like to be able to sit Indian style for nearly an hour and squat for 30 minutes. There are many times when I need to squat down rather than sit and I always fall over after about 4 minutes, but I am already up to 8 minutes and soon will be past that.

Since money is tight I have been eating at the dollar store. Not actually eating there, but buying food there and eating here. Its surprisingly tasty for being so cheap. I had curry rice yesterday, which tore up my stomach, but I think it was a little messed up anyway, so Ill test it again soon. Today I had some kind of creamy shrimp sauce with pasta, they were both $2 meals and filled me up. So if I can do that a few more times I can really save some money. I've made arrangements to sell some stocks back home and then that money will be used to pay off this ridiculous debt to the school and hopefully get me back on track. This month was the worst yet since I had to pay 5 man (mahn roughly $500) for rent, then 2 man for the loan then 5 man back home for bills, then 3 man for the computer, then 2 man to BJ for a loan and half a tent we bought, then 3 man in Tokyo. SO right off the bat that was 20 man or roughly $2000 gone right after pay day. That left me with about $500 to live on, but I still have to pay to travel to the other schools, I had to pay my way to the speech contest, food, all utilities, and any social life I might think I have. So you can see I am really tight now. Next month will be better, but I have to put about 3 or 4 man away for the Thailand trip. I might be able to afford it if I can save 3 or 4 man for the next three checks. Tangent 3, there are no checks here. I have paid cash for everything since I have been here. A few big places might take Visa, but there are no checks. I get Direct Deposit and any reimbursement is in cash.

So check is a relative term meaning paycheck. My next one is 20 something days away. Going to be tight. If all goes as planned the stock check should make it to my parents house around this Friday, and they can deposit it and it will probably take another 3-5 days or so to clear then Ill have to send an online bill pay check to my Visa account and then go to the post office here and do a cash advance from that. Well that's the plan, well see how it goes. I plan to use a good portion of the money to make a big payment toward the loan, so that will be nothing more than a bad memory. Then I want to put a little in savings here, then put the rest into my regular account so it has a little buffer. I also want to start an account at the post office because I can only access my ATM in my immediate area. So when in Tokyo, I am outta luck. Which I really really don't understand the ATM mentality here, but I guess someone does. They all close at 9pm, and you can only access your banks ATMs in your prefecture or area. I couldn't even find any ATMs in Sendai which is an hour away. Forget those convenient ATM things at the supermarket, they are only good for ATMs. OK, its 11pm, and I will get ready for bed. I might try walking to school tomorrow, but I will have to leave too early just in case. I estimate it will only take 35-45 minutes, but it might take more.

[Mon morn at school]

It took exactly 30 minutes and was a good walk. So I will keep doing this to start really burning calories. On the way here I passed a construction site and all the workers were doing calestinics or however that is spelled. The hardcore exercises and such, like jumping jacks. Think that would fly in the states?