A Fresh Start, butÖ
The new teachers arrived at school by 8 and went directly to the
principalís office to be greeted.
From mid-March to this morning around 7am the weather had been nice.
It snowed yesterday morning, but then melted by mid-afternoon. Today,
between the hours of 7am and 8:20am, hands down, was the worst weather
I have ever seen in Japan. It snowed about 6 inches last night, itís
still snowing heavily, the wind is blowing violently, itís frigidly
freezing, and there is strong thunder. I assume it is a thunderstorm,
but itís just too cold to sustain it as water. I got here early to
shovel snow from the front as the new teachers came in. Wow, I have
never heard thunder while it snowed before. The biggest wow is that I
went jogging last night. It was a little cool, but not anywhere
Around 8:30am they all gave their short, nearly identical
introductions. Hello, I am so-and-so from (previous school), I am
surprised at the weather here, I am happy to be here, blah blah. Then
we gave our even shorter intros and then they all took their new
seats. Then the lead teacher said something and all the new teachers
instantly whipped each otherÖha ha no they whipped out their mobile
phones and called someone. I was told they were calling their old
school to let them know they made it safely and so on.
Then the mound of gifts they each brought was passed out.
Sadly I canít eat one bit of it since I have a blood test on Friday.
It is a required courtesy to bring nice candy to pretty much anywhere
you go in Japan especially when you start a new job or move to a new
location. Each person gets a Halloween bag of treats and sweets, but
no meats or beets. That was stupid sorry.
One good thing I noticed about the new teachers is that
they are mostly younger than some of the current teachers. Now that I
think about it we always seem to get younger teachers that replace the
older ones. I think the powers that be want this school to be
progressive or at least as much as a place can be in Japan. The guy
that teaches PE sits beside me and he is the 1st year
homeroom teacher, with which I am attached. Heís in his late 20s maybe
early 30s and he coaches volleyball which will be good since they are
all good girls. The new math teacher is a young guy and I can see
myself partying with him. We are going to party down big boy!! Except
for the fact Iím not drinking much anymore. The two new elementary
teachers are young (married) females and the new ES nurse is as well.
Even the new maintenance man is a young guy. The two new vice
principals are in their 40s but seem to bee cool. One is a new VP the
other is a vet. When I glance at him I can see a huge grin
occasionally when he remembers he has taken a big step up in life,
even though his family has lost a member. He will now virtually live
at the school and rarely see his family again.
I was planning on going into town tonight to go to the gym, but since
the weather is so bad and I have to go in tomorrow for a new teacher
party, I might just work out at home. I have a weight set and a bench
and should be able to get a decent work out, minus the cardio. I got
it going a bit last night as I jogged around some, but I only went out
for 15 minutes because I was getting cold and it was getting dark.
Part of the reason why I will probably work out at home is because it
is customary for Japanese people to work late. This is especially
important for the first few days or even a week or so. For me I want
to show the new VPs and teachers how different my job is from the
Koriyama foreign teachers. They get driven around in taxis and leave
promptly at 4. If I want the new teachers to treat me differently I
have to show them I am willing to work late. I donít have anything to
do today that would cause me to stay late, but itís all about the
appearance of being busy.
First day of school (teacherís prep day) itís still before
noon and I am already up to 5 memos in the memo drawer. This seems to
be a usual pace. I hope I can do this the whole year just to see. I
remember one day I got about 10+. Hmmm, other than that we had a
meeting where I found out I didnít get any of the things I requested
and I donít even know why I expected any different. Iím not part of
the student council, but Iím back with the club that seems to do
nothing other than have meetings and write about what we did last
time, which was a meeting I think.
The 1st year homeroom teacher is a young guy,
as I mentioned, and he seems really nice. When he left (promptly at 5
ha ha) he gave me some RAM for the school computer. He said it was his
and he couldnít use it so I could shove it in the machine and double
the RAM. That would be wicked fat since computers need at least a gig
to run these days. All the software makers probably have quota
contracts with RAM makers and intentionally beef up their programs so
the computers run slow and then the user goes out and buys more RAM.
Iím going to install it right now. Ė Oh the other good news is that
the office lady will drive to the welcome party tomorrow and offered
me a ride. Now I can drink a beer or two even though I really
shouldnít since I have a follow up blood test on Friday. I wonít have
more than two and then I will drink water or something. Then Thursday
I will flush my liver with carrot juice.
Man the new teachers are running out like (generic analogy
about things moving fast). Maybe they are too young to know they are
supposed to stay and look busy for a while. Maybe they get a free day
of leaving early since itís their first day, but I doubt that. All I
know is I am in this for the long haul. Iím going to stay until 6 or
7. I have several things that I need to do and all of which require me
typing on a computer. I can do those here at school and get credit for
being dedicated and loyal or I can do them at home and not get credit.
Thursday, At Last.
April 3rd, 2008
The party last night was ok, but I was reminded why I donít like going
to them. I mean I do enjoy going, but there are always times when I am
the guy standing in the corner looking around the room. Or I am
standing behind some other people while they are talking and I am just
laughing with them or nodding when they nod. I got a ride with the
secretary who lives around Konan so I could drink a little.
My rapid weight loss is losing its rapidness. Iíve leveled
off and Iím getting the munchies again. It started when I was taken
off two of the three medications even though they were for cholesterol
and should have had nothing to do with appetite. Iíll tell him about
it tomorrow, but I donít know what can be done. I plan to drink some
carrot juice tonight, which flushes and cleans the liver, then go work
out at the gym, which will burn the fat the liver shoved into my
blood. That should help the test tomorrow, but even if it doesnít itís
alright. Iíve already turned my health around 180į.
So far this week I have just sat at my desk all day. I
might get up every few hours and walk around, but for 8 of the 9+
hours I am at school I am sitting. Iíve been busy and getting a lot of
things done, but Iím still just sitting at the computer. Itís really
getting annoying and I wish the regular schedule would kick in so we
can get back on track.
I saw Vantage Point at the theater the other day. It was
fairly good, though I couldnít see it again. When it was over I felt
like it had just start 15 minutes before which was due to the way it
was filmed. It took a bombing incident and showed it from several
different angles and perspectives. It was a good Saturday afternoon
Iíve already used the $200 that I received as a refund for the
teacherís fund. I didnít spend more than $50 on unneeded things and it
put me ahead of budget for the month. I have two more full weeks and
three weekends until payday and I have $300 put aside so Iím alright.
Plus I think Iíll get a little money for doing English Camp even
though I consider it to be part of our job and didnít really expect to
get paid. That will come in the April check so I plan to put that
extra bit aside for Thailand this summer. Thatís really going to be
tight since I leave a week before I get paid in July. If I can survive
for a month in Thailand without using any saved money then I will have
two paychecks in the back when I get back. It would be great to send
that back and severely pay down my big school loan. It would be so
awesome to leave Japan either debt free or nearly debt free.
I had my blood test on Friday and then took the rest of the day off to
get various things done. The big thing was I really didnít feel like
rushing back to school so I could sit in the teacherís room. The blood
test went as expected which wasnít as good as the previous times. When
I was taken off two of the three meds I started getting the munchies
and not feeling full when I eat. My levels went up a bit as opposed to
being under the limits which is where they would have been had I been
on the other two meds. Anyway, after that I had sushi for lunch and
bought some health things at the Sport Authority in Aeon Town. I
bought more protein powder, a few more weights for my dumbbell set,
and most of all some new shoes. The shoes were only $40 and were
actually sized 12 which is awesome. I usually have to ask for the
largest shoes in the store and just decide if I like them or not and
they are usually too small, but this time I got good looking shoes
that are the perfect size. They arenít awesome looking because they
are mostly white and look a little bright in my opinion. I want to
dirty them up some, but not really.
Then on Saturday I hung out with Paula a bit and we went
to eat lunch. She told me about her trip to San Francisco with another
ALT from Koriyama and how they saw George Lucas at his Skywalker
Ranch. She was having a coffee-lunch with Dan and his girlfriend
Kumiko who were going to see 'Cloverfield' at the local theater. I
have already seen it and it was pretty good minus two or three small
points. First there were times when they were standing close to the
monster, but chose to put the camera on the other person. It was like
ďhey man are you seeing this?Ē, but the camera was on the person he
was talking to. There was no way I would take that camera off some
monster attacking the city. Second, there were a few Hollywood shots
that were unnecessary, but tried to add a ďwowĒ moment. Without those
few shots I would have been much happier, but it was still
interesting, and I think the budget was really low since there were no
stars and it was filmed with a handheld camcorder.
Sunday I thoroughly cleaned the apartment including
scrubbing the shower and bathroom as well as dusting and re-arranging
other things. Mostly I sat around and watched some DVDs I had, but I
would chalk it up as a productive day. I also jog-ran for 30 minutes
in my new shoes. I have a course that takes 15 minutes to get to the
farthest point. Then 15 to get back and that includes jogging a bit.
If I were to only walk it would take longer.
This morning we had the new teacher ceremony first off.
That way we are now a new group and we, as a group, can welcome to new
students. I noticed something funny about the parents who were
parking. They showed up at precisely the same time, I donít know when
since I didnít see a clock, but one moment there was an empty lot and
the next moment there was a traffic jam and 50 cars. The reason there
was a traffic jam is because they filled up the areas closest to the
door first and then moved to the far area. I mean they fill all the
spots then they start parking in the middle of the lot and double
parking in places. They did all that before taking empty spots that
were slightly farther away. I notice that in parking lots as well and
usually just go for the far ones so I can park right away.
Next up we have the entrance ceremony which is going to be
painfully long and ceremonial. Iím waiting until the absolute last
minute to enter the gym since I will just be sitting and day dreaming
for the hour after that. Each kidís name will be called and they will
enter and walk a precise number of steps to a precise location and
turn and walk another precise number of steps and so on.
There are two times of the year when the seniors are
idiots, the weeks leading up to graduation and the first few days of
the year. These times are when they have no responsibilities and feel
the need to flaunt their status. ďLook at us, we did it, we made it,
we are the hot shots of this school, we ruleĒ and of course there are
no upperclassmen to keep them in check.
The seniors leave for their school trip tomorrow. Iím not
mad that Iím not going because I really wanted to go, but I am mad
that I paid all my dues with them and did everything required to get
to the stage of going, but then I canít go. I was the assistant to the
assistant homeroom teacher when they were first years, then I was an
assistant to the assistant when they were second years. I went on all
their trips and attended all their grade level meetings and functions.
Then when I get to go on the trip, that I was willing to pay for
myself, Iím not even told I canít go. They never said I couldnít go
even when I asked point blank. They kept saying ďwe donít knowĒ, and
then just attached me to the new first years as an assistant to the
assistant homeroom teacher and hoped I would figure it out. I did and
I havenít said anything else about the trip. It just burns me up the
way groups are important in Japan, as are personal relationships, and
yet they can change in an instant when itís convenient. Things like
that give the Japanese a deceptive image in business, even though itís
a cultural thing.
I seriously doubt I will have any classes for a week or
two. I remember begging for classes last year after the second week,
but this year Iíll just keep working on various side projects that
involve typing on a computer. I need to work on my first term plan for
the classes so I looked more prepared this year. Iím going to tell the
kids that writing their weekly journals is not necessary this year
since only about 10 people did it last year. The new 1st
years will have to practice the alphabet weekly, but everyone else can
choose to turn it in. They still get points for turning one in, but
Iíve learned my lesson on how things work. I am at the bottom of the
food chain and really not important in the over all scheme of things.
I heard from a student last year that a teacher told them they didnít
have to do things I asked them to. I didnít give real grades (no one
does really) and my marks didnít count. AWESOME.
Well the ceremony is over and it wasnít too bad. The
visiting dignitaries were paraded in around the front after everyone
was seated. Since rank is important it must be flaunted as much as
possible. There were 36 dignitaries this time which is the average
number for an event of this magnitude. Then the kids were led in one
by one to some festive pomp-ish music. We had to stand and bow about
50 times. The funny thing was we would stand and bow and sit down, but
that sequence was the closing of the previous part of the ceremony.
Then we would immediately stand and bow again for the next part. Once
we sat down we were told to stand back up for something. Each part
includes and opening and closing bow even if that means we bow two
times in a row and stand/sit back to back.
I teeter back and forth a lot about should I leave next
year or stay a bit longer. Today I would vote for leaving next year or
even this year if I had a job lined up. There are so many groups that
are private, but not public and I rarely fit into many of them. I know
that sounded vague so I will do my best to explain.
I am attached to the first year students. Today I asked if
I should go with the homeroom teacher and the assistant HR teacher
during the pre-ceremony preparations. No, we donít need you, you can
sit at your desk. AWESOME. Thank you. I dreamed of sitting in Japanese
teacherís rooms all my life and you are making this dream come true.
Then after all the ceremonies there was another meeting and I offered
again and was once again given the honor of sitting and typing this.
Then finally there was a commemorative photo taken to mark the start
of a new year and all the people even remotely related to the new 1st
years were called from all parts of the school to be in the photo. I
was standing in a place, and in a way, as not to imply I thought I
should be in it, but close enough so that they could see me if they
wanted me. I made sure all the teachers saw me and knew I was there. I
moved around a bit and dropped some papers once. I wasnít included in
their reindeer games.
The funny thing is, I really want to be a part of the
group. I am willing to come in early or on weekends or stay late or go
on club trips. I am willing to do all the stuff required, but Iím just
not part of that group. Itís frustrating and heartbreaking when I am
expected to be part of the team, but rarely treated like an actual
part. I am a social person, but I can feel myself being pushed more
and more into becoming an introvert. The more I try to reach out and
meet people or make connections, the more I am excluded. Itís really
strange and I donít know what to do about it.
If a tree falls...
If I turn my stereo on and then get in the shower, where I canít
really hear it while the water is running, is the music still playing
or does it just advance to the point at which I turn off the water.
I mentioned that I was in the newspaper recently because I
am doing folk tales in English with my students. Apparently some local
people have called the newspaper to ask specifically when the
performance will be because the newspaper has called here a few times
asking me for a specific date. The English teacher suggested July
since thatís the next time the parents will come to the school for an
observed class, but I told them sometime in May. That gives us a few
weeks to rehearse and I am tired of giving them more time than they
need. The kids goofed off a lot last term and wasted many of the
practice sessions. Iím simply not going to put up with it this time. I
will demand compliance.
Last night I typed a lot on my application for the
intensive English teaching course this summer in Thailand. When I got
to school today to finish it I found all the changes I made were gone.
The file is still there, but it is the original file before the
changes. I canít understand this to save my life and I blame it on
Ryan Syndrome. Itís my junk drawer for things that make no sense. I am
going to see if I can plug my USB drive back in and have it sync up. I
know I saved the file so thatís not the issue. This is why I end up
making 500 backup copies of files and have everything cluttered.
April 10th, 2008
Some people came in to install a new fancy coffee machine in the
teacherís kitchen area. It was a regular man and a smokiní hot girl. I
canít even be subtle about it or socially acceptable she was like
ďBOOYAĒ and I couldnít stop sneaking peaks. One time the guy saw me
and gave me a Ėguy-smile that means ďyea, and I work with herĒ. We
shared a little moment.
Earlier in the day there was an interesting moment not
related to the hottie. The 1st year homeroom teacher had a
business trip around lunch so he told me the assistant HR teacher
would take over, but wait sheís absent today. Hmmm, what can we do?
Hmmm, letís ask the vice principal. He doesnít know either. Letís ask
other people and see what they think. Finally after asking about 300
people someone said ďhmmm, isnít Ryan the assistant to the assistant
HR teacher?Ē Ah, lightbulb. Yes, he is. But can he handle this task?
Letís ask him. ďRyan, can you eat lunch with the kids? They will
prepare everything all you have to do is go there and eat with them.
After that can you oversee the final homeroom? Again, they will do
everything. All you have to do is go there and watch. Do you think you
can do this?Ē I really hope thatís just the Japanese way of being
absurdly polite otherwise itís insulting.
Beaten and Tired.
The newspaper called again and asked for a definite date for doing the
English folk tales that I said I was planning on doing by now. I told
them I wanted to do the skit in early April, but then I had no classes
all through March and two were cancelled in February so the kids
arenít even remotely ready. So the next option was July 11th,
the night before I leave for Thailand to take a CELTA course. Plus
that is 3 months after I said I would do it, but it had to be on a day
when the parents are coming. The skits are only going to be 10-15
minutes each which means if the parents came to see just the skits one
night it would be more of a hassle than itís worth.
So we agreed on May 10th. By ďwe agreedĒ, I
mean I finally gave in to the heavy suggestions of having it on May 10th.
The reason I didnít/donít want to do it then is because that is a
Sunday and itís the day of our Sports Festival. So during lunch when
parents and kids want to do nothing apart from relax and have lunch,
they have to perform/sit through a skit in English that they donít
even understand. Itís completely the wrong atmosphere and I fought as
long as I could, but I saw the Japanese way of saying ďhave it on this
dayĒ over and over so I gave in since I knew I was defeated.
Then I told the kids they had better start re-memorizing
it since the performance date was set. When they figured out it was
the sports festival day they starting saying ďno, thatís no good, we
canít do it that day, we arenít going to do it that dayĒ. So I replied
ďitís going to happen that day. Either you are on stage and you have
your lines memorized or you are on stage and look stupid. But on that
day you will be on stage performingĒ. I am so sick and tired of some
of the kids in that class. The thing is they arenít loud or rude or
troublemakers. The ones that annoy me the most are the ones that excel
in English. They just simply refuse to do certain things that I
assign. Even though it might help them, they just donít do it. That
class is part of the reason I am thinking heavily about leaving next
year. Seriously, that class has turned me against teaching in Japan.
How there is no discipline and kids donít have to do anything and
still pass. I canít function in a society like that.
Back to losing.
April 12th, 2008
I went to
the gym to workout around 12:30 today. I didn't have breakfast, but I
did eat some egg whites before going for a protein boost. I walked
fast for 30 minutes on the treadmill and then worked out my legs to
complete exhaustion. I could barely walk afterwards. I also drink a
protein shake before and after working out. When I weighed this time I
was back on the losing weight track. I'm at 103 now, but I think I
will gradually keep going down. I had a food slip up time recently and
that caused me to gain some weight. The problem now is I am gaining
muscle and that weighs more than fat. As long as I lose fat, I don't
care what I weigh.
Then I went to 'Trial', which is a
discount place and I bought some coffee flavored soy milk and some
veggies. Outside the store I met the nicest kid in the world. He was
probably kindergarten age, but he seemed very smart. He was talking to
his mom when I stopped near him and looked at something. He turned to
me and said in Japanese "excuse me, what do you call this in English".
It was a badminton racket so I told him and he said it rather well.
Then he bowed and said thank you. It was just odd, but very polite.
Why do bugs hit
your windshield exactly dead in your line of sight? I mean of all the
places to hit, they have to strike dead in your view of the car in
front. Not near it, but exactly dead in the center. Then when you try
to use the wipers to clean them, they streak all over the place.
I had a relatively normal weekend, of sorts. Friday I sent in an
application to take an intensive English teaching course during the
summer in Thailand. It was accepted and I was offered a phone
interview for next week. It was more than an application since there
was a 7 page pre-interview task. It was tough and Iím glad they had it
since now I know only people of a certain level will be in the class.
Saturday I went to the gym and worked my legs so hard that
I canít walk right since then. It was a good workout though overall
and Iím satisfied with it. I might even add on some exercises in the
future, but this time my legs were dead when I finished. I could
barely do the after workout walking though. Then I did a little
shopping and came back home.
Sunday I went to the park in Koriyama city to see the
hanami, which means flower blossoms. I didnít feel like going and I
shouldnít have gone, but I wanted to see Stephanie and Keiko as well
as the flowers. Itís a really nice Japanese tradition and in most
cases I really like it. When I got there I discovered a whole new
aspect to the park as well as an archery range where I watched some
students learning Japanese archery. Itís called kyudo and it is
rigidly exact as you would expect from anything natively Japanese.
Back to the hanami, the reason I didnít have as much fun
as normal this time was that it was a little drizzly and cool, we had
to sit on the ground (thatís usual), and it was a big group of people
that didnít know each other. Well groups of 3-4 people knew each
other, but as a whole we didnít so those little groups (which I prefer
anyway for this reason) just sat together and chatted. Then I came
home and had a slightly odd experience.
I bought some tasty bran cereal, which I have since
learned is tasty because it has sugar in it. I ate said cereal and
then I got on the bed to watch Season 2 of The Office. Then I dozed
off and woke up an hour later. Ok maybe the driving made me tired. Now
it was around 6pm and I was still watching and resting. Then I dozed
off again and woke up at 9. I went to the bathroom and came back to
watch another episode. Then I dozed off again until 1am. Then I just
rolled over after turning off the lights and TV and slept until my
alarm went off at 6am. I really wasnít that tired, I was just
comfortable when I was watching TV. Hmmm.
Today I get to school and see a memo on my desk about an
escape evacuation drill today. I donít know if it is a fire drill or
something else. It might be the drill where an unknown assailant
enters the school and we debilitate him in a very procedural way.
Nope, it was a fire drill, but since it had rained earlier
it was in the gym. There was a bell and an announcement and everyone
casually walked to the gym. [I often wonder what would happen if
there were a real fire. Would everyone panic and run around in chaos
or would everyone follow their exactly precise training and ignore
immediate danger? Is it more important to follow directions or be
safe?] There we had an opening ceremony and a speech by a fireman.
Then we left and returned to our classrooms/teacherís room. I found it
funny how even though there was a line of teachers entering the
teacherís room each teacher tried to close the door after he/she went
in. Do what you are told. Resistance is futile.
What is the correct way to say he/she? That is awkward as
is s/he and people say that ďtheirĒ is wrong rather than his or her. I
think they and their should be the genderless pronoun
and I hope it will be one day. There is nothing in English that fits
easily into ďwhen a child is looking for his or her motherÖĒ
The easiest way to resolve it would be ďwhen children look for
their mothersĒ, but that doesnít always work. ARGH. I guess I will
learn about that this summer.
My summer is going to be expense, close to $4,000. The
course itself is $1,600 then airfare is about $1,000. Finding a place
to stay for a month is about $500 (plus the same in deposit) and then
food and spending money will be around $1,000. That is already over 4K
so I should probably expect closer to $5,000. ARGH. I have to really
save these next few months and make sure I have all expenses taken
care of. It will be much better than sitting in the teacherís room all
summer like last year.
Iím still waiting to hear about my future. There is supposedly a 90%
chance that my job will be renewed as would my license, but we still
donít know. They decide on the budget in March and then pass around
the contracts and have literally 60 people stamp their approval, so
that clearly takes time. Itís really too late to apply for anything
else, which is the thing that makes me mad. Iíll be alright if I can
just get one more year. I have been thinking of moving on next year,
but leaving in 3 months would be a bit too early for me.
I forgot to mention the toilet from Sunday. When I went to
the flower watching thing there was a public bathroom on the grounds
as one would expect. It was for men and women, at least the entrance.
When I entered I found a typical pattern of building bathrooms. There
was a shared entrance that split off into a menís and womenís side.
The womenís side was in the back, the menís was in the front. There
was no door to the menís side so women passing virtually had to stare
at the backs of men peeing. Thatís not a no-no in Japan and men
often urinate on the side of the road when driving around or in the
middle of the street if drunk.
I canít really start in situations like that so I went
into the stall. I could create a website and have 100s of photos
showing direct views into menís bathrooms. There are often ones where
young girls can see directly in and that makes it impossible to go.
Today I have one class with the 5th graders. I
donít really know what to do, but the year plan shows we should make
self introduction cards, so I planned something along those lines. We
will also do a review since I didnít go to their class on a regular
basis last year. This morning I went to the seniorís English class
where both classes were in one room. There were 32 kids there and it
was tight, but later the class will split into good kids who pay
attention and the kids that would rather be elsewhere than in class.
Guess which class will get the native English teacher? Remember it
makes the least sense.
April 16th, 2008
How is it possible that a teacher can be a great guy and a loved
teacher and yet have such a poor sense of time? Thereís a certain
teacher who I really like because said teacher is around my age and I
love said teacherís class. But today the aforementioned teacher said
that for the first 10 minutes of the class it would not be my
activity, but another one. Ok, thatís fine I am flexible even though I
spent hours worrying about and then planning the lesson. Well 10
minutes before class ended it was time for my activity, the activity
that was supposed to take up the whole time. So I cut most of it up
and used only a small part. Do I scrap the activity or keep it for
next time, which would throw off the schedule? Itís things like this
that I love about the JHS NT job, there is no one in the class to
blindside me. But other times I like it when the teacher has something
planned to balance out my idea.
I went to the gym last night, but I almost didnít go. I
just didnít feel like going suddenly at 4:45. Just before I was ready
to leave I felt a fever-ish weight come over me. I felt great from
lunch to precisely 4:45 and then I just felt awful. I went home and
had some egg whites for protein and a banana and made myself go to
workout, but I just felt weak. It was strange and I donít know where
it came from. I did an average workout even though I felt a bit
sluggish while working out.
Iím going to stop eating the bran cereal since it seems to
be doing more bad than good. I have varied energy levels after eating
it and if I eat too much, my system gets a bit too clean. I love the
flavor of it and hoped that bran was just naturally tasty, but I have
since learned it is packed with sugar which really defeats the point
of working out. Apart from that I havenít had any sugar intake in
several months, or at least not much. Well thatís excluding the spring
break slip ups and binges, but looking at the big picture Iím doing
great. I eat oily fish about 3-4 times a week, I take in plenty of
vegetables and I get enough water and green tea. All this on top of no
soft drinks or packs of Oreo cookies and Iíve quadrupled my exercise
since before Christmas.
Oh I just thought of something really funny from the
class. The long drawn out activity was about a self introduction. The
teacher had them say ďIím ____, Iím ___ years old, I live in ____, I
like ____.Ē The funny part came when some kid said ďI live in JapanĒ.
I said that was correct even though he was trying to make a joke. Then
another kid tried to out do him by saying ďI live in the Earth (on)Ē.
The problem is Japanese people canít say Rs or THs so the word was ďI
live in the AssĒ. Then the teacher wrote it on the board and everyone
was saying ďin the AssĒ over and over. Then he wrote the pronunciation
of Earth on the board which is ďAósuĒ. Then we had a little tangent on
ďAssĒ and I couldnít stop giggling. Luckily I walked around the back
of the room and looked away till it was over.
We canít split, but letís split.
April 17th, 2008
Way back when I suggested we split the 2nd year English
class since 10 of the 30 are already at a high school level, 10 are
average and about 10 are below average. I suggested taking anyone who
scores perfectly on 2 tests and separating them into a second upper
level focus group. That was shot down because ďgroupĒ is more
important than efficiency or giving some people the best education
possible. Then the principal suggested the 3rd years should
be split into regular and low level. He suggested almost exactly what
I suggested, giving both groups focused attention based on their
levels. In which level do you think the Native English teacher will be
used? The lower level. Even though I could help the seniors with
advanced topics and really give them attention (these are the kids
that enjoy English and will go on to good high schools), it was
decided I help baby sit the class of kids who have no desire to speak
or learn English and constantly act up in class.
Itís so hard to get used to a culture that isnít based on
logic. Youíd think that I could just get over it and move on, which I
have to an extent, but I am constantly amazed at the level of illogic
that exists. Clearly a country can function without logic, but I canít
understand it at all. I truly want to know how and why a country, if
not an entire continent, can be illogical and still be so powerful.
Maybe Earlier Than Expected.
We had another practice yesterday for the English folk tales. It was
supposed to be a regular
English class, but there were two scheduled for the same day and the
teacher had nothing prepared so he said (well I asked suggestively)
that I could use his class for working on the folk tales. The kids got
a lot done and we are really close to finishing the back drops. There
is another class today during their self study time which should be
perfect timing since lunch is before it and there is nothing after so
the kids could, hypothetically, work a little longer if needed.
Yesterday some kids did show up early and stay a few minutes after
Next week we start actually rehearsing the order of the
skit. They already know their parts in English, but we havenít had
time to run through what will happen and when. Itís going to be great
listening practice for all involved since the non-actors still have to
do their stage things at certain times when people say certain things,
so everyone has to listen to all parts. The only thing bugging me
about the performance now is that it has to be done during the lunch
of the sports festival. No one wants to do it at this time and no
parents will want to watch it. It really sucks and I was more or less
forced into doing it. They were really Japanese about itÖĒhmmm, I
think the date should really really be on this day, yea really it
should. I really think it should.Ē They wanted me to say I wanted it
to be on that date so the whole group was in agreement, but it was the
absolute last day I wanted. I held strong as long as possible until
the pressure made me break. I really hope it rains that day so we can
postpone the performance.
Anyway, none of the other teachers really helped me much
before yesterday. The English teaching was invaluable in helping with
the translation since it was old Japanese and not in the dictionary. I
would write what I thought it meant and he would say it was something
completely different. The skits would be about samurai attacking
flower beds rather if he hadnít helped. But since then I have asked
many teachers to come by and help or at least wrangle the kids that
were just playing, but no one would. Then the English teacher came
(since he had no ďIím busyĒ excuse) and he nearly doubled my efforts
since I started. He suggested (as I have) that the kids keep the
drawings simple to save time, he walked around and politely busted the
kids that were playing, he quizzed the people who have speaking parts,
and best of all he asked the actors to ask their parents and
grandparents if they have any old clothes we could borrow. I never
even thought of that and had planned to buy some cheap cloth and make
cheap sad looking clothing. He canít be there today, but what he has
done so far put us well ahead of the curve.
I had my first class with the new first year JHS kids (7th
graders). It went about as expected. Even the parts where I told them
not to do something. I didnít say it went well, just as expected. It
did go well for the most part, since they were just doing what they
were progrÖ.taught to do. I said ďdo not use your book for this quizĒ
and then students pulled out their books. They werenít defying me,
just doing what they are taught. Then I said ďdo not ask your neighbor
if you donít know something, this is about testing your skillsĒ then
they all asked their neighbors or even worked together on the quiz. I
tried to explain it over and over and they all understood it, but the
culture supersedes anything I tell them.
Next period we are supposed to have the folk tales
practice even though it is scheduled as a self study period. Iíll see
what happens. I think we should finish the backgrounds today. I would
love it if we were able to perform the skits on the 28th
which is the next time parents will visit, but thatís only three
practices away and I doubt it. We are most likely going to do it on
the 10th unless it rains and then it will be in July.
I find it interesting the way teachers will talk about
something that is related to me right around me and assume I donít
understand simply because I am looking away or doing something else.
Then they will ask me something about it, still in Japanese, and
expect me to understand it. What makes them think I didnít understand
the first part that they assumed I couldnít?
Ha ha, I donít even know why I expected them to change
self study to the folk tales. Itís on the schedule as SS, but the lead
teacher announced and personally told several people it would be used
for the folk tales. I just went to the class to ask something about
the FTs and the teacher said it would be SS as thatís whatís on the
schedule. She was told directly that it would be my FT class, but the
schedule says other wise. Ok, so forget the chance of it being on the
28th then. I donít even know why I said such nonsense.
Iíve felt really detached from the school since the new
year started. Obviously things change each year especially since
teachers rotate, but this year seems much different. The schedule and
my usage has changed in a way that implies I wonít be here or I am not
needed or something. I had a separate special elective class where I
did different things from the English teacher, but this year we will
be combined. Could be several reasons, one of which could be that
after August I wonít be here and they donít want to rearrange the
schedule then. On a few occasions, a teacher would ask me to do
something such as think about a Halloween presentation for October and
then another teacher would tell that teacher something and he/she
would look at me awkwardly and say ďoh I seeĒ. That could be explained
by many things such as ďoh he wonít be here after August, we all know
but he doesnít haha jokes on himĒ. Some teachers just seem different
as well. I canít explain it and hope I am being paranoid, but there
are things that seem to imply something.
Good news and thenÖ
Itís payday which is great. Plus I got a little bonus from doing
English camp. The good news, which is really only for me, is that
recently I have been able to sleep with the electric blanket on 1
rather than 4. Actually there is no 4 setting since that kanji means
death so it goes 1-2-3-low-5-6-7-8-high-10. The kanji for 9 is also
related to death so they skip the combination frequently. Itís getting
warmer, and yetÖ
At school itís getting colder. By that I mean my job. We
still donít know if we have jobs from August. I have heard there is a
90% chance we will be renewed, but no solid contract yet. The other
school-downers are that the English folk tales are really behind. When
the English teacher helped me last week the students all busted their
butts, but this time he had class so I was alone. About 25 of the 30
really worked, but 5 or so just played. I doubt we will be ready by
May 10th. Iíll take full blame even though itís not
entirely my fault. The other-other school-downer today was that they
forgot my lunch. I was a little late after cleaning up during the folk
tales practice and when I came to the teacherís room I noticed there
was no extra lunch for me. My name was in the correct place on the
board, but they just forgot. I was able to get some rice and soup, but
the other things had already been divided up. It was a little sad, but
it happens (though I canít remember it happening to anyone else
Tomorrow around noon I have my phone interview for the
intensive English course I plan to take in the summer in Thailand. As
long as they donít throw any trick grammar I should be alright. I
spent part of the morning reviewing basic grammar.
Something, of many, that is really annoying about the
Japanese JHS system is that it is not really about education. The
focus is more about teaching the ways of Japan through education and
club activities. I seem to remember having more of a focus on
education and grades and learning in JHS, but here almost anything can
come before actual academic learning. For instance, there is no choice
between staying after school for any unofficial academic reason versus
missing (or being late for) oneís club activity. Itís unheard of to
miss that. Further, teachers allow different behaviors in the
classroom than they do on the field/court. Students can chat to each
other in class, but you had better shut the #%&$ up during practice.
Since I donít coach a sport I find it hard to maintain discipline
at the huge Pooh sticker on the car.
still cracks me up.
April 23rd, 2008
The English teacher told me that local people called the newspaper
about my English folk tales so much that they are coming to interview
me about it. But wait, they have already interviewed me so what is
going on? The people called the wrong paper, the bigger one that goes
all over the place, and they are coming to get info about me and run
it. Wow, Iím famous but I hope this is not my 15 minutes of fame. I
do, however, hope it helps my job get renewed again.
Speaking of that, one of my close Native Teacher friends
said she is most likely not recontracting this year. Thatís assuming
we even have jobs which we havenít been told about. She is at a rough
school and the kids are not overly interested in English, plus there
are about 900 kids. The principal keeps calling her ďthe gaijin
senseiĒ which is rather disrespectful in many ways even though he is
nice. It means he, and many other teachers, have no respect for her or
the idea of foreign teachers.
Itís got me really thinking about what I am going to do.
Sometimes I feel I can endure another year and other times I get near
panic attacks at the thought of another year of the exact same thing.
I know teaching repeats every year, but there are so many things that
could go much smoother and yet things cannot change in Japan. This is
the only job where I have actually asked repeatedly for more work and
duties. I have requested that I go to this and another school since I
am not busy all the time, but that doesnít happen. There is another
small school about 20 minutes away which I could go to for 2 days a
week and see all the classes, but itís better that I sit here doing
nothing. This week I have 6 of my own classes and I could go to 6-8
other English classes. When I ask what we will be doing I get the
typical Japanese answer. Not even ďwe donít need you this timeĒ, but a
really ďJapaneseĒ response. ďWe donít need you in this class because
we are doing a listening exerciseĒ (perhaps since my strong point is
not speaking native EnglishÖitís more about sitting in the teacherís
April 24, 2008
This job, just like Japan itself, is such a contradiction. Sometimes I
love it and realize how wonderful and special it is, other times I am
frustrated at the inefficiency of it all. The really funny part about
the things I donít like is that all the things I want to change about
it would benefit the school and the board of education. I want more
classes or to go to other schools when I have free time. I want to do
more work. When do you ever say that at a job? ďHey boss, I would like
to work moreÖOh no Iím sorry, itís better if you just sit at your desk
and do nothing.Ē Thatís only a Japan thing where appearance is more
important that efficiency. [Photo - One of the highlights of
my morning. Seeing some local kids walking to school and yelling "Ryan
Ryan Ryan" when they see me]
Now that my friend is leaving I have started thinking
about leaving myself. Not leaving myself as a wife or husband would
do, but leaving (the school or Japan) myself. I myself have start
thinking of that. Then I think about how I know I will never have a
job quite like this. Some days I will go outside and play with the
kids for hours. When they are practicing for some sports event I will
walk around and chat with them. Iím friends with most all of them and
I have little ďthingsĒ with many of them. By that I mean one kid
always does a high five, one kid always says ďwhatís upĒ, one girl
writes me little notes, one kid always wants me to do a jumping game
thing. I might have a job that pays more or one that takes care of all
the paperwork for me, but I will never have one like this.
Even my other friends donít have this situation. Either
they are at a junior high school and donít have the elementary school
kids to play with or they are at about 10 elementary schools and donít
have time to learn anything about the kids. Some have 5-6 classes a
day and never have any free time to leave the teacherís room. I do
know it is a special situation and even though I complain a lot itís
almost always about a Japanese cultural thing rather than anything
about school or town.
Some days things are just perfect. The kids are great and
happy to see me, Iím feeling good and thinking about new ideas, and
everything is running smoothly. The next day nothing goes right. The
kids are ignoring me and I feel sluggish and tired and worthless and I
have no ideas and generally donít want to be here. Plus, since Japan
is group based sometimes everyone goes to their group and I am left
dangling. Those are the days when I really feel alone and want to
leave. Other days I fit into a group perfectly and want to stay
A reporter from another newspaper came and interviewed me for about an
hour and then watched us rehearse. Some of the kids were great others
were their usual self. The kids last year who just graduated were so
much different. They would cut up some, but then where there was some
reason to be serious like when a reporter came by or there was an
observed class, they would get serious. I was like that as a kid and
it frustrates me when other kids arenít. The practice went great for a
while, but then a few kids started playing and got really annoying.
One kid was climbing all over the place and then playing the piano.
Seriously you #$%&, shut up. Can you not see we are rehearsing here?
Honestly, I wanted to bite his head off. Playing the fricking piano
while we are rehearsing. Not even playing it really just hitting the
keys loudly. Heís even a decent kid usually, but there is no
discipline so kids never learn to not do things like this. The only
time there is discipline is when someone does something not culturally
acceptable. It can be rude and still be accepted, but when someone
defies the group, rank, appearance, or precision components of the
culture, then they get in trouble. Talking or being disruptive in
class is perfectly acceptable though.
My memo drawer is filling up. I get about 2-3 per day and
each one goes in the drawer. Before long itís going to be really full
and I will be able to properly show how ďgreenĒ Japan is. We go
through mountains of useless paper with memos that are completely
unnecessary. So far the best memo series I ever received was one that
said ďnext week you will receive a memo about whether you want cherry
or banana pudding for the observed class lunchĒ. Then I actually
received the memo. That could have easily been asked during the
meeting ďwho wants cherry puddingÖ.ok thanksĒ, but it was more
ďGreen-JapanĒ to send a memo stating we will receive another memo
regarding that. Forty people got those memos twice. 80 sheets of paper
in Green-Japan. I just got the schedule twice. Two pages of schedule
stuff sent out Wednesday as a pre-cursor and then changes were
requested and the final version sent out today. It is physically
impossible to put the first version on the server as a web page for
people to glance at and request changes. Physically impossible.
My class with the 1st years using my online ABC
games went ok after a slow start. The slow start was because no matter
how many times I told them to NOT press the button that switches to
Japanese, they pressed it. So I had to basically type the web address
for each kid. Then I told them in Japanese ďyour score will NOT be
recorded, nor will the number of times you play, if you press the back
button. Do NOT use the back button.Ē Can you guess how many times they
used the back button? It rhymes with ďevery single timeĒ. Not to defy
me, but because thatís what you do in Japan.
Then there were other problems related to Ryan Syndrome.
Hereís another prime example of RS. I made some games and put them
online. I checked them at home and then at school. They work fine in
both locations. I checked all the usernames and passwords and made
sure everything worked fine. Absolutely no problems so I decide to
make it a class. Then in class there are some problems. Itís as if
someone else came in and made some changes. Some of the games just
didnít work and I had to make some changes on the spot. Why? They
worked fine before, but now they donít. What happened? I donít know so
I blame it on Ryan Syndrome.
April 26th, 2008
night the Native Teachers got together and had a small gathering. We
ate dinner at an
international place called Bamboon that has nearly authentic food from
around the world and a chef from Sri Lanka. I allowed myself to drink
a bit and I had fun. Then three of us went to "God's Party" for a
small low key second party. We ran into a girl that was a high school
JET from another school and she brought two teachers from another
party. The school is one that has a few of my graduates so I chatted
with the teachers about them. Some of my favorite kids go there so it
was fun. In the bathroom I made sure to utilize cleanly. I was also
careful to not break.
That night I stayed in a hotel room. I could have stayed with one of
the other people, but I am getting old and I like my privacy and being
able to move around freely. If I had stayed with one of them I would
have to sleep on the floor and not watch TV and go to sleep early and
blah blah. There is a cheap place in town, technically on top of God's
Party, and it's cheap. I can also park my car there for the night and
comes with a big buffet breakfast. When I woke up I did some shopping
and then went to workout. Two of the things I bought were socks and
underwear. The type of underwear I chose to buy were called Black Man.
I bought them partially because they are long and fit well and also
because of that name. Another interesting thing about buying underwear
in Japan is they wrap it insanely too much (but Japan is GREEN??).
I've heard it's the same way with women's feminine products. The
underwear was in a paper bag in another yellow bag.
to the gym and worked out early since today was a holiday. Next week
is Golden Week
Monday and Tuesday. Sometimes Golden Week is great like when the
holiday today is on a Friday and then we have the Mon and Tues off,
but this year it's not so great. They have a really cool holiday here
called 'between day'. That's when there is a free day between two
holidays, it becomes a holiday as well. But that is rare I think.
Anyway, I went to the gym and when I finished Stephanie called and
said she and some
friends were at Kaiseizan Park in the middle of town having a picnic.
I dropped by for a minute and it was good to see Megan and her 3 month
old baby. The Koi banners were up and getting ready for May. I think
the Golden Week holidays are about boys and koi or something. I always
end up finding something new at this park. This time I found an
amphitheater and an old steam locomotive on display. The amphitheater
wasn't on display, just there. But anyway it was cool and I'd like to
go walking around the track sometime later.
Wednesday, April 30th, 2008
If they were to hand me papers today asking if I wanted to renew, I
would say no. Thatís just a today thing and Iím sure Iíll feel
different tomorrow. First I had morning practice with the 2nd
years for the folk tales skit. About half of them actually came so we
really couldnít do anything. Then I had the actual class with them and
we got about 10 minutes worth of practicing done since there was so
much constant chatter. I would say ďbe quietĒ and literally 30 seconds
later the kids would be back to full volume. Itís either full volume
or nothing at all, there is no in between. Then I had to tell them all
over and over the same things. I would say ďyou stand here and you
there. Ok letís try it again. Ė Ryan sensei where do I stand?Ē There
is absolutely no short/long term memory. I know for a fact that only 1
or 2 kids of the whole bunch actually practice at home, everyone else
only practices (and even thinks about it) during class time. Itís not
going to be a great performance and at this point I donít care.
Then I had a class with the 3rd years, the big
seniors. I used my new lockout buzzer so we could play a quiz show
game. I could barely play the game because they were constantly trying
to show off to each other. I would ask the first word of a question
and someone would hit the buzzer and say ďha ha ha I not knowĒ. Then I
changed the rules so that if you buzzed it and didnít answer you lost
points. Then the challenge became how low their points could be. I put
a lot of work into that game and I am so sick of the Confucian system.
Whatís that you ask? Itís the reason their culture is the
way it is. Japanese culture comes from Chinese culture which is
heavily based on the Confucian way of life. Most of that is fine
except for things like the group system (where I canít split a group
and teach one thing to upper level kids and another to lower Ė and if
I ask difficult questions in class the lower level kids might feel
embarrassed that they donít know the answer [they donít know because
there is no reason to know, if you donít do anything you still move
along fine]). There is also fear of being singled out such as standing
to answer a question. My favorite is fear of doing something unless it
is absolutely perfect. Since Confucius taught relationships are more
important than laws, there is no punishment. I come from a law and
logic system and I have such difficulty functioning in a system where
thatís not important (or non-existent).