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New BeginningÖTechnically.
Wednesday, April 07, 2010

            Itís the start of a whole new year and I have started it poorly. Itís not entirely my fault since I have been stupid sick for the ENTIRE SPRING VACATION. I have some kind of never ending sinus thing going on so I am going to the hospital Friday to have it looked at. Iím technically going for my bi-monthly blood test, but while there I plan to request, no DEMAND, a visit with the respiratory doctor. In Japanese, if you care, that is called kokyuuki naika (coe Q key nigh kah). That's respiratory doctor in Japanese, not demanding to see one.

            One funny thing I always notice that happens around this time is how people change. Students that didnít care for me during the previous year either use now to change and become closer or they act different to remind the new people that they are upperclassmen. The teachers are the same way. Everyone is bouncing off the walls with happiness. I really like how the new seniors are strutting around since they no longer have to worry about anyone above them busting them. They will act like this until summer and then they have to start getting serious and preparing for high school entrance exams.

            I started out having a busy vacation and then that quickly faded and I ended up literally sleeping through most of the break. That was so annoying since I had several things planned for the break and couldnít do them. On Thursday I slept all night the night before, woke up for breakfast and medicine, went back to bed until noon, woke up for lunch and medicine, wasnít really tired, but wanted to lie down for a bit and slept until 6. Then I ate dinner, took my medicine, and went back to bed and slept the whole night. I guess I am definitely rested.

            Before that I went to Tokyo with a Ďmateí Henare. He is Maori and was in the above linked Coke commercial about a war dance he does in New Zealand called the Haka. You can see him (face on) briefly just as the time flips from 3 sec to 4. He and I took the $20  bus down on a Friday and stayed in a capsule hotel for 3 nights. We went to the Costco, an outlet mall, Kamakuraís daibutsu, saw some Jizo Statues, a Big and Tall shoe store in Gotanda, and around Asakusa. I only had my big hiking boots and got tired everyday really quick. It was fun and we are planning to go back in May to see Sumo and do more shopping. We came back Monday and I started feeling bad on the bus and then got worse on Tuesday.

End in Sight?
Thursday, April 08, 2010

            I slept poorly since my nose was clogged and I was breathing through my mouth all night. For dinner I ate with Chandon and an old friend from Canada. Well I met him here in Japan and now he has gone to teach in Hong KongÖ.more on that soon. This morning I got to school early again to play with the kids. Around 8:15 there was an announcement that there would be an emergency morning meeting right now. Oh no, the 3rd years are in Kyoto on their school trip so this Ďemergency meetingí must be a big problem. Is someone sick or injured? I raced to the teacherís room to find out.

            The emergency was that the schedule changed so the lead teacher read it to us as we were holding it and reading along. No one found this annoying except me. They do this all the time and I donít see why. We have to learn new information together as a group at the same time or itís rude. If someone comes across something new, it must be distributed immediately.

            I was almost in a wreck in the parking lot at the school this morning and itís because Japanese people have this strange habit of driving without looking. A car dropped off a child and then I saw him turn to the right (so as to U turn in the parking lot) but he was still looking at his child and not at who might be in the lot, which was myself. He kept turning while looking away and waving and truly almost hit me. Then when I slowed to avoid him and he saw me, rather than stop and let me pass he tried to maneuver around me, but I kept moving while glaring at him. He finally stopped and let me pass, but it was actually close for a while.

            I just had a talk with the new English teacher and apparently I get my NT classes back. I donít know why it was just last year that I lost them, but now I have to scramble and make some ideas for the year. Hmmm, this is good, but now my workload doubles. Thatís fine since I want to work, but I havenít planned any classes on my own in the JHS for a year. I think he will be there with me so I can speak mostly English and Iíll tell him to not translate and preferably explain things in Japanese when needed. This comes at an odd time becauseÖ.

            So I have a friend also named Ryan who was a JET for three years, but now teaches in Hong Kong. He said he does basically the same job, except for two differences. One they are goal oriented in that they actually want the students to learn English and reading. He teaches grades 1-3 and emphasizes reading. Two, he gets paid about twice as much as we do here AND gets raises AND gets bonuses AND gets the same amount of time off. He told me about his job in the past and I was all excited about it, but then I found out they highly prefer a teaching license. So I tabled the idea, but now my job seems to be getting stale. I still love being in the classroom with the kids, but all the other stuff is taking its toll. I am either treated like a special situation where the rules donít apply or as a regular normal Japanese civil servant where all the rules do apply. That changes depending on the situation so that it always favors the system and not me. If they would just let me have 5-6 classes a day and not try to force me to become Japanese then all would be fine.

            The Hong Kong job has one foreign teacher at one school teaching 3-5 classes a day. You get paid more than what we get here PLUS you get nearly $2,000 a month living expenses. You have to pay into the pension system, but (hereís an odd concept) they donít steal the money and give it all back when you leave. He gets a 10% raise each year and a cash bonus for good performance and tons of time off AND they buy him a round trip ticket home every two years to visit. What really sparked my interest was that they WANT him and other teachers to use technology in the classroom. I do that now, but itís kind of a hassle since they prefer just lecture classes. I have an English room at Konan and there is a projector, but at the other schools I have to request to use one and then there are crappy thin curtains that let all the light in. It would be nice to get a raise once in a while and be somewhere that embraces technology. I make the same amount of money that native teachers made 15 years ago in Japan.

            So now I am back to thinking about leaving Japan and moving there, but I just donít know what to do. I really love being in the classroom here, but the other dogma can get annoyingly overwhelming. I have to think of what is best for me in the long run. What I fear is leaving here and getting that job and then saying ďman I had a great situation, I should have just gotten over all the little things.Ē Thereís always the chance I will get there and say ďman why did I stay in Japan so long, this is perfect.Ē Change is hard and no one wants to voluntarily change their situation, especially when they are comfortable. I would have to completely start over with friends and people I know if I left Japan, butÖthe only way to control change is to create it.

            Hereís something I mentioned previously that just came up again. Another annoyance with how teachers change schools every few years. We lost our tennis coach, he was the English teacher. So there is no teacher at the school who can play tennis. This means someone, a new person specifically, has to learn to play tennis and then manage to coach it. You think we are going to do well this year? Probably not if I had to guess. I donít think that system is entirely without merit, but for the most part I hate it. The old English teacher had some side things that he did at the school such as this thing in the lobby where he put an English phrase up and changed it everyday. Now that heís gone it still says ďMarch 23rdÖ.Spring VacationĒ. I took it down today since it was just sad and I canít do it everyday. I copied it for Tadano and Kozu, but only on a weekly basis. The kids at Kozu were looking at it and repeating it which was awesome.


Hoping to Breathe Soon?
Friday, April 09, 2010

            I went to the doctor for my blood pressure and blood sugar tests as I do every two months and the results were as bad as I expected. Not terrible, but I missed the medicine for several days (some this week) and I didnít exercise at all during this last period. While there I asked about seeing a Respiratory Doctor and he said I should come back tomorrow. He gave me one dayís worth of medicine and told me who to see tomorrow. I donít really want to go back on a Saturday, but at the same time I really need to have this breathing issue stopped. It wouldnít be as bad if it werenít affecting my voice as it is, but thatís the deal breaker. One day (or sometimes less) I will sound fine and then later I will either sound croaky or canít speak at all. So weíll see how that goes tomorrow.

            That will be in the morning and then in the later afternoon/evening Matt will be having a gathering in the park to celebrate his birthday. His last name is Trabout so I am calling this the 25th Annual Traboutian Celebration of Life. That should be fun since a lot of people show up and we all chat. Itís funny though, when I go I just take a few things for myself such as drinks and chips, but some people believe we should bring enough food for everyone. But not everyone brings enough for everyone otherwise weíd have a huge surplus of food. I hate that way since thereís no way to know how much to bring and that somewhat ruins the fun of just going and relaxing in the park.


            The initial dose of the nasal medication has worked somewhat. I am definitely better than before, but there is still some drippage. I canít tell if itís from playing outside in the cool spring air or from whatever is causing the mucous flood. I do feel better and I noticed it has slowed a fair amount. Iím still definitely going tomorrow morning to have the respiratory doctor look me over and get more medicine.

            Iíve been thinking about my NT classes for the year and how they were getting boring the year before they were cut. I need to clarify with the Japanese-English teacher about them to see if I will have them each and every week or just when he doesnít need them. If I have them all the time I plan to make a movie in each class. The goal is a 3 part short 5-7 minute movie that we make over one term and show at the closing ceremony. Itís task based learning in the truest sense and simply more fun than me lecturing each week. Plus itís my hobby and plus-plus itís cool, especially since I can do special effects. Iím going to have them come up with an idea and write some of the script and then I will tweak it. By Ďtweakí I mean Iíll make sure it isnít nonsense.

            I really want to start running again, but I have felt like poo for over a month. When I was running I was feeling better overall. It was hard to run when it was cold, but I stuck with it. Then it snowed some and that made it virtually impossible. Now the weather is better and I plan to up the pace and run farther (I wrote Ďfatherí three times). I feel like running would cause the blood to flow and cure so many little issues. Unfortunately my hobbies are all sitting based which is not healthy, but running should help.

Flowers & Classes.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010

            On Saturday I got so much done. First I woke up early and went to Bandai-Atami to go to the hospital and see a respiratory doctor. He gave me some medicine which seems to be working somewhat, but not completely. I am 90% better, but there are still some residual things hanging around. Maybe with time they will dissipate.

            So then after that, as I was driving home in the warm spring air, I got frustrated that my driverís side window jumped off the tracks and I couldnít really use it. When I got home I took the entire door apart and actually managed to fix it. It took a while and I was nearing the point of giving up, but then I had an idea that worked. The problem was the window goes into a u shaped rubber seal which then slides into a metal track which is on a roller and slides back and forth as the arm pushes it up. If the seal was in the track the window wouldnít slide in, so then I tried to put the seal on the window and push them both down, but there wasnít enough leverage. Then I had the idea to put the seal in the metal track and pour some soapy water in the seal so hopefully the window would slide in, which it did and it all worked out. I also took apart the front smaller headlights. The things that come on which you turn the switch once, maybe they are called parking lights or something. I took them apart and took out the bulb, but I havenít managed to buy the replacement bulbs yet. Then I did some stuff on the computer which needed to be done and took a nap. I was woken up by Matt saying they were out at the park. He had his birthday party in the park and we all look at flowers (buds really) and enjoyed the festival food. It was a good day, but busy.

            Sunday I did nothing really, but for lunch I went back to the festival and had some yakitori which is meat on a stick. The kind I had was Roast and the reason I had that was earlier Marc had gotten some and said ďthis tastes like a little steak in my mouthĒ and thatís all I could hear in my head until I had some myself. He was right, it was like a little steak. I plan to go back and get some more before the festival booths leave.

            This week Iím not going to have many classes, but I guess thatís because school is just starting out. Yesterday at Kozu I had two which was a bit low especially because they were in the morning so I had 4 hours in the afternoon to sit there doing nothing. There was some escape drill during one period, but I should have had a 5th period class. Then I went to Ohse to meet the new teachers and found I have 2 classes Thursday which will be groovy since they are in the morning and I will have the whole afternoon to do nothing. Also on Wednesday I go to Tadano and only have 3 classes since there is an observed thing in the afternoon. I guess the real annoying thing is that the kids go home early at these schools and I am just sitting there doing nothing, whereas at Konan some kids stay until 5 and we can play in the gym or outside.

            I seem to have all my normal classes back from which I took a one year break apparently. I donít know why they were taken away, but now everything is normal. Itís kind of weird since I didnít make a plan for them this year and threw my plan away last year when I was told I lost them. That was a boring year, but this year should be nice and busy which is what I like. I hate sitting around doing nothing. At least at Konan I have a computer and can create worksheets or type this, but at my other three schools I have nothing and just sit there staring off into the distance. Yesterday I literally did nothing after lunch, but luckily the respiratory medicine I am taking makes me drowsy so when I was sitting there staring outside I was in a slight daze.

            I had a class with the 2nd years which is the class I liked so much as elementary kids. I told them we are making a movie for the year and they were happy. Today was boring since we only talked about the plan, but overall itís going to be fun. So far the ideas are action/suspense/mystery/horror/ & love story. Apart from the last one they are all related. I might do some kind of escape from Konan bit where people turn into demons since I can do that on my program. Iím going to decide the theme and write the story since the kids would literally take forever to do that.

No Change.
Friday, April 16, 2010

            The boy that flashed his penis and threw epic tantrums left, but that class did not change at all. They still do the same talking in class and completely not listening to me. Literally, about 20 times I said ďI donít want to see your backs, turn around and face meĒ and sometimes I said it about 5 seconds apart. Then for a listening exercise I said over and over ďdo not say any JapaneseĒ because I would say and English word and they had to either write the English if possible or the Japanese if necessary. I made it clear that they could not speak nor look at their neighbors papers. That lasted 5 seconds. Every single time I said something about 5 people would say the answer in Japanese. I started to get mad and said ďdo-not-speak-JapaneseĒ then I said ďdo you understand Japanese? Can you hear me? Do not say anything in JapaneseĒ, but it was as if they simply could not hear me.

            In cases like this itís usually related to the homeroom teacher. Heís a nice guy, but he never scolds them or tells them to be quiet. When I have a good class itís usually because the HR teacher is firm with them. My favorite class was the 2nd graders at a different school because the teacher was fun, but strict and also reviewed my English lessons in between my classes so the kids were always on top of the game. They are now 3rd graders and have a different teacher who seems to be nice, but a bit less strict so we will see how that works.

            This week has been busy at Konan, which was the opposite of last year, and not too busy at the other schools which is also the opposite. At all three other schools I went to this week I had 2-3 classes in the morning and sat around doing nothing. This week fell into the category of not renewing again after next year. Why is it such a problem for me to want to work more? I want to have 4-5 classes a day. I donít want to sit in teacherís rooms doing nothing. I donít want to be paid to pursue my own interests and occasionally teach a class.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

            I have been waiting for payday for so long and have been literally dead broke for a while. I counted out getting paid for English Camp last week sometime, but it came in today with the travel expenses. I really needed it Friday, but since it didnít come in I had to scrimp all weekend. So I checked my account this morning and sure enough there was some money. I am so relieved and can stop worrying if I have enough money every time something comes up.

            This check I have to pay a lot for a major car repair and will go right back to being broke again. I also have to pay some late bills and then pay off my stupid mobile phone. I want to change since I am stupidly paying $80 a month and never use it. Donít know how I got screwed on that.

            On a different note, I literally almost threw my school computer out of the 3rd floor window during class. I made a video to show some special FX. First, I spent a few hours making it in this new editing program I bought recently. Then it wouldnít save for some ďunknown errorĒ reason. LAMENESS. So I redid it in another program and it looks fine. I saved it and brought it to school. Then, and this is the annoying part,








            But when I got to class to show them, it simply wouldnít play. It took about 3 minutes to load the video and then it was all choppy and out of sync. So I rebooted which seemed to take an hour while students were watching me. I noticed my HD was running non-stop and the processor was near 100% which I didnít understand. Finally I tried to play it again and it wouldnít play.

            Something that happened in class that seemed really odd happened when I played part of an episode of 24 in class. I couldnít show it all since there was a sexy scene with 2 people in bed, but I showed some action scenes. The odd thing was some students were laughing hystericallyÖ.at 24Ö.which is not funny at all. Some man would be talking on the phone and the kids were literally rolling around on the floor laughing and it simply wasnít funny. I donít know why they were doing that, but it wasnít the first time. I asked the JTE in the room about it later and he said ďmaybe because they didnít understand the English or the foreigners looked funnyĒ. Maybe the first part would warrant some confused looks, but the foreigners didnít look that funny. It was some guys in suits talking on the phone. Seriously, what could be less interesting than that? This has happened a few times and it really makes no sense other than they are feeling something and donít know to express it, but laughter simply doesnít make sense. Iíd love to watch some normal Japanese drama or something not funny around them and LMAO and see how they respond.

Zero Discipline.
Friday, April 23, 2010

            I had a class with the demon class and it was as bad as usual. They have a 3 second attention span and then start talking and completely ignoring me. This class truly tries my patience. Every class I reach a point where I want to walk out of the class and come sit down in the teacherís room, but I know that would cause problems for the homeroom teacher. Even though the reason the class is so rowdy is largely because he isnít firm with them. The saddest part is there are some kids in that class that I really love. They are great kids and I enjoy seeing them. Usually they are trapped between listening to me and being nice and then not looking like a dork to their friends. One boy takes private lessons after school and knows a ton of English. Another girl always runs up and hugs me. There are a few others as well.

            On Wednesday we had our monthly meeting and talked about various things. The meetings seem to be a bit more planned than they were previously. We also have topics for what we will talk about in our groups and that is helpful when deciding what to show. This time it was phonics and people showed some nice things that Iíll either use or modify to use.

            Iím back to having a full load of classes again. Itís great, but tiring at the same time. It makes me appreciate breaks more which is good. On Tuesdays I have 4 classes and Fridays I have 2 I plan and 1 I go to as an assistant. Then at Ohse they have been good about giving me 3-4 classes which really makes the day fly by. Once I had 1 class in the morning and it was hell sitting around all day.

            On payday I paid off several things that were overdue or that I had been wanting to pay down for a while. Two bills were hardcore late and had to be paid. The mobile phone actually got cut off it was so late. Then I paid off the remaining balance on my phone which was about $150. I donít know if I got screwed when I bought the phone or if I just misunderstood her, but for some reason my phone bill has been $80 a month since I got it back in December of 2008. Paying off the phone will lower it to about $60. Then I might cancel a number of add-ons that I have such as insurance if I lose the phone and something else. That might get it down to around $50 which would be fine.

            So after paying the bills then I bought an HD digital camera. I really couldnít afford it, but I had to have it now for a few reasons and I was not going to have the money in time. I didnít get the model I planned to, because some funding fell through, but I think I got a decent compact HD camera. I plan to really Ďlevel upí my vids.

            One reason I needed it soon was for the Advanced English class Iíll be teaching in May and June. Iím going to be making videos with them using my green screen. They will talk in front of the screen and then I will superimpose images in the background. Another reason is my juniors and seniors are making videos in my special English conversation classes. Right now we are in the boring planning stages, but soon we will be filming and I needed a better camera than the SD one my parents gave me years ago.

Attention Span of Wallpaper.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010

            ARGH. Kids have the attention span of wallpaper. I assume thatís a worldwide thing and not specific to Japanese kids. I will say something in class in clear Japanese and kids will almost immediately ask the same question. Then when I am helping someone they will just constantly say ďRyanÖRyanÖRyanÖRyanÖRyanÖĒ Iíve tried saying ďif you say my name again I wonít come overĒ, but nothing works. I end up having to tell almost each kid individually what to do.

            I am SO broke this month, but the good thing is I have paid off several overdue things. Iím going to have to either borrow money or dip into some special savings to simply eat during this month, but once itís over I should be able to save a little. Ha, waitÖ I have to buy a $2,000 ticket to the US for the summer. So that will break the bank again, but as I mentioned earlier several overdue debts were paid so I shouldnít immediately go back in the hole each pay day. Recently when I got paid I would spend several hundred dollars paying for things I couldnít afford during the week or two before payday. In May all I know of now is a $400 car tax. Other than that there should be nothing overdue or unexpected. Most of my May paycheck will go toward the flight as well as the June payment. Another thing thatís good in the long run is that Iím sending $500 toward my school loan each month, even though that makes my budget tight. It should be getting lower soon.

            I have been wicked busy recently. Itís good overall, but it means I donít manage my free time as well as I could. I usually watch a movie or some TV show or just generally waste time since I donít want to work on important things. Then when I get to school I am swamped. Recently the kids have been leaving all my schools around 2pm which is annoying because then I just sit there in the teacherís room from 2-4:15 either preparing or killing time.

Anything, BUT actual class.
Friday, April 30, 2010

            Itís the time of the school year for the yearly sports festival. This takes precedence over everything else, especially classes. I spent about 2 hours last night planning for today. I have a first period with the loud class, and 3rd period with the JHS seniors who are making a horror movie. So I made my plans and really put some effort into them andÖ.I get to school early to find they are both cancelled. The reason they are cancelled is so that the students can practice for the big sports festival coming up in May. What is there to practice if itís a sports festival? Oh, Iíll tell you.

            The sports festival is only partially about sports. Most of the practicing and the event itself is about making sure everyone follows the exact procedure of entering the ceremony, warming up, doing the start ceremony, then participating. If someone didnít know where to stand or what to say on the day, that would be catastrophic. Today they are going to spend all morning practicing something that will take 30 minutes on the day. They must walk in unison, march in place in unison, walk towards the podium in a certain order, say certain things at certain times, then stand in certain places. Itís worse for graduation which is probably the most formal ceremony they go through as students here. They literally practice for over 50 hours about when to stand, HOW to bow, how many steps to talk to the podium. Coming from a not-nearly-as-rigidly-formal culture makes living here difficult sometimes.

            So I guess the bright side is I already have next weekís lessons planned, but that gives me nothing to do today. I am leaving early so itís no big deal I guess, but still it would have been nice to not worry about planning classes. Iím leaving early to get some money from the board of education. They take some out of our checks as savings and to pay various taxes for us. We arenít supposed to withdraw money freely, but we can when we need to. I need to this month since I might have enough for food in my account now, but I havenít sent anything back for bills in the US. I took out enough for everything I am late on and then some to put away for my flight back in July.

            I told the lunch lady I wouldnít be here for lunch since I am going to take off at 12:30 and do some errands. She made a comment about how it was a big deal that I wouldnít be there since she had already ordered the lunch. I truly donít know what the problem is since A) I will happily pay for the lunch, and B) we get such an appallingly small amount of food that if she were to just add it to the other peopleís lunches, THEY WOULDNíT EVEN NOTICE. I truly and honestly donít know what the issue is. Did she order an extra milk for me? I never ever, in a not ever sense, drink milk and itís always leftover. There are always extra milks leftover, so really why the issue?


            I noticed the Home Ec. teacher and the Shop teacher are here today. They only come once a week, whereas I come twice a week. I looked at the schedule and noticed they have classes the same time I do and mine were cancelled for the sports day practice so logically theirs would be tooÖ.but no. I was told ďThat would be wasteful and troublesome for them to drive all the way out here and have their classes cancelled.Ē I replied ďsounds exactly like what happened to me.ĒÖ..ďWell thatís different.Ē Hmm, why because Iím a foreigner? Because the class in question in English? Why exactly is that different? I didnít pursue the matter, I know my place in Japan. Sit here, shut up, donít complain, and smile.

            During 4th period (my planned class) they had another practice for sports day. I tried to watch them, but I just canít. They started with this interesting challenge where two people push a ball around the field and then everyone passes it over their heads to the end. That was interesting to watch, but thatís not what they were practicing. After this they all ran to one area and lined up by grade and then height. The next actual point of todayís practice was going from the lined up position to the ready position, then back when the thing is over. So they would line up and wait for the whistle and run in order to another position. Some people were LITERALLY 5 seconds late in lining up so everyone had to do it again over and over until it was exact unison. I care so little about things like that and couldnít watch it for very long. We have ceremonies in my culture, but none are as formal as Japan. At my graduation someone did somersaults all the way to the principal to get his diploma. You would NEVER see that in Japan. They follow exact precision and have a specific number of steps to get to the podium. For me it was about the end product, getting the diploma. In Japan, itís about the process of getting there.




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