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Wednesday, August 1st, 2007

     It's already August and I am still sleeping under my comforter. It gets chilly at night and rains nearly everyday. I'm sure it will be a heat-wave now that I have jinxed it, but at least that would be more like summer. If it would just stop raining in the morning that would be fine since I could jog then rather than at night.

     Time flew by today, I mean hyper-speed. I was working on this book project and I looked up when I heard some teacher saying my lunch was getting cold. Then I looked up again later as the person in charge for the day was closing the windows. Wow, seriously the fastest I have ever been through.

More Ryan Syndrome
Thursday, August 2nd, 2007

     I had another bout of Ryan Syndrome today. When I got to school I sat down and opened up a web browser and went to the same site I have been using for translating all week. I noticed it wasnít coming up and thought it was a slow network day or something. I tried some other sites and they all came up hyper-fast. Ok, fair enough this site does get a lot of traffic, maybe itís down. So then I used another site until it went down. Argh. There are plenty of sites I can use for this, but none are as easy to use as the first one, which is still down. So I started using others until they all systematically went down. Again, any other website in the world was fine except those that I needed. Needed, not just wanted to look at or use, but needed for some purpose.

     I decide to push through it and do other computer related things until the web starts working again. I did some things in MS Excel and worked on some things in MS Word. Soon I noticed my computer was going a bit slow and then I couldnít print. I decided to reboot since maybe the memory is all tied up with some of these files. I rebooted (rebat?) about 5 times total over the course of three hours until my computer came to a near halt. I asked the tech teacher about it and he had no idea. He had never seen anything like this. My computer just stopped running.

     I have no idea what caused it all. I call these things Ryan Syndrome because they defy all logic. Itís normal to have obstacles, but when these blockades seem to adjust every time you make a change you start getting curious.

     Oh hereís an unrelated funny story. I was jogging last night and walked past this rice farmer doing something rice farming related. I had my headphones on and was jamming out to the tunes. When I walked by him again later he said something and I stopped the music. ďjo knee ka sheĒ he said. I asked him to repeat it a few times and really didnít understand him. Finally he sang, in decent English ďI feu into a ba-ning ling a faya, I wen don don don and frames glue hayaĒ. Oh wow, thatís Johnny Cash. Apparently he listened to it as well and I had been singing outloud. The odd thing was that I had been singing it from across the way when no one was around, but apparently the sound bounced off the water and echoed all the way over to him. [end irrelevant story]

     During lunch, or shortly before, I went to the post office to get the refund for the car tax. I wasnít sure if I could get the money right then or if there was a waiting period. I took the form and my name stamp and ventured out. When I gave the younger guy the form he read it and had no idea what to do with it. Fair enough, I doubt they send out many of those forms and even when they do it very well could have been the first one that post office had ever seen. He handed it to someone who explained it was only a notice explaining I would receive another form that I should bring in to get the money.

     That is very Japanese, sending out a form explaining they will send out another form. It reminded me of when I went to the Worldís Fair in Nagoya a few years back and stood in line for a while to get a ticket that explained I should come back and wait in a second line to get a ticket to get in. It wasnít like come back to get the ticket and wait in line, it said come back at this time and get in this line. It was a ticket that allowed me to line up again in a line that would give me a ticket if they had enough. I donít entirely mind that I canít get the car tax refund now, but I do want it before the 21st which is when I will send money back. Iíll send an extra $300 back for the plane ticket along with any money I receive from doing the Koriyama English Camp. I also didnít mind it because I have grown to expect it. Call me cynical, but I call it experience.

Lazy Friday
Friday, August 3rd, 2007

     Today was so slow. I mean I got here and the translation site was up so I worked on that project for a while, but then after lunch I just lost motivation and started wandering around. I think itís because I only drank one cup of green tea today and then had something called mugi-cha, which seems to be some form of wheat tea. It was good and had a cool refreshing summer taste to it, but I donít think it has the caffeine that the ďceremonialĒ green tea has. Iím tempted to take vacation time and go home, but I have even less to do there.

     I must have made some wicked mistake with money this check since I am down to like $100 for two weeks. Itís doable, but I will have to be thrifty and have no fun. I fully expect there to be some awesome party or trip or something and I wonít be able to go. I have made a commitment to not make any promises about spending money from my next check. This past check I had a few things I had to pay and apparently over budgeted. Next check I am going to just send some back and not spend anything extra. Iím hoping I get the car tax back in time so I can send a big payment back and get the plane ticket out of the way.


Another Week
Monday, August 6th, 2007

     Itís sunny and semi warm, though not nearly what it was last year or the year before. Students are outside running practicing for the upcoming city wide relay race. One girl got over heated and is lying by the door to the teacherís room. Other students and a few teachers are gathered around her partially to help partially because they donít know what to do. The overheated girl is cry-whimpering-heaving. Thereís not really a word for it. I donít know how much pain she is in, but her response doesnít seem right for being over heated. She was making sounds like I would expect someone would if they lost a limb in some bizarre accident. As best I remember, when I have been over heated in the past, though perhaps not as bad, I just felt like hell, but nothing worth crying over. Especially the way she is crying.

     Hangovers are really just extreme dehydration. The bad thing about that is if you every die of thirst it will feel like a demonic hangover. When I have a bad hangover, technically when I HAD bad hangovers since I donít get drunk anymore, they felt horrible, but I just wanted it to stop hurting. I never wanted to cry or sound like I was shot. I would take a photo if it were for that fact that it would just be rude, but there are about 20 people around her now. She is rolling back and forth and making this strange exorcist type noise. I canít even describe it, but it just doesnít sound appropriate. It got louder and louder and then softer. The loudest part was like ďyour family was just killed and you have no money and terminal cancerĒ. I donít want to get dehydrated just to see what she is feeling, but I really donít understand the crying part.

     They decided to take her to the hospital so the logical thing was to pull a car up to the door and load her in (she is on a stretcher). One small point that they might have missed was that the car had been sitting in the warm sun for a few hours and was rather toasty inside. So they pull up and people start to load her into the hot car and out comes the most God awful sound Iíve ever heard. It was like putting a cheetah into a meat grinder. It was a squeal-cry-whimper-wheeze-growl all rolled into one. They nixed that idea and then called the ambulance. However, this is a one light town as well as a one ambulance town and when they called it was already in Koriyama so it took a while to drive back.

     I learned a few things when the ambulance pulled up. Honestly, they didnít entirely surprise me. First it pulled up and the driver and other ambulatory guy jumped out and bowed to the highest ranking person at the scene, which was the principal. Then they gave their names and said a few standard greetings. Second they loaded her into the back and shut the door. Finally, they brought out some paperwork and filled it out while she was in the back waiting. I would say the paperwork took about 5 minutes, but then I got bored and went inside and didnít hear the ambulance leave for another 5-10 minutes. I donít know if they would have done all that ceremonial stalling if it was someone having a heart attack or something urgent, but it was interesting.

Tuesday, August 7th, 2007

     Sheís all better now, though she canít run for a week or more. No telling what caused it. I guess it would be severe overheating since the kids seem to drink some wheat tea rather than water and when they do drink water itís from the uber-small cups I know as Dixie cups. The kind you get at the dentist with just enough to rinse and spit. ďOk letís take a break and drink two swallows of water and then get back to running in the heat in dark clothes.Ē

     It really sucks for some kids in club activities, especially the volleyball girls. They get here at 8am each morning and run outside in the heat and then practice volleyball until around 5 every night. Granted they are in great shape Iím sure, but man that some sucky summer vacation. I didnít even go near the school during my summer vacations except when I had to go for summer school once.

     The elementary kids are also coming in everyday to practice for a concert in October. Iíve mentioned that before, the music sounds like MASH and Jurassic Park. First they do warm up exercises like sit ups and stuff and then go to their private instrument sections to practice until lunch. Finally they practice as a group from lunch to 2 or 3 I think and then leave for the day. After lunch it gets a bit lonely here as itís just the teachers and a few kids who are being babysat. That sounds strange, babysat.

     The second form came for the car refund. Iím probably going to take it today and just try to save the money. I should be able to since I found out 7-11s in Japan that have ATMs now take foreign visa and ATM cards. I was able to get money from my visa card even though Iíd rather not use it. The point is I can now access money easier which may not be good. I should be able to make it two more weeks with what I have, just no big trips. Anyway, I plan to get the money later today and save it and then send it back on the 21st.

     Iím still hoping to pay off debt number 2 by this year along with buying the plane ticket and saving money for the trip. Then next year I want to make a huge dent in my totally unnecessary federal loan as well as have a fair bit saved in the bank. Iíd be happy with a few thousand at this point and paying the loan down 5-10K. I could pay it off if I didnít go anywhere next summer, but as I have found this summer, that really sucks. I thought about Thailand for a month, but itís really hot in the summer and there are more chances of malaria around the orphanage.

     Although what I am actually thinking/planning for debt number two is to pay it off down to like $1 or so and then forget about it for a while. The way it that company handles loans is it takes the money you send in and projects the payoff date in the future. As it is now I have sent extra for several months and my next due date is May of 2008. But each month they report to the credit places that I am paying off the loan as planned. So I think I am getting bonus points for paying it off, even though I merely sent a lot ahead. The way they get you is interest keeps accruing. But if the principal balance is $1 the interest would be pennies per month. They might just close the account on me, but I think it would be good to try.

     My credit is getting better and better each month, but what I need is to reopen a few older credit cards with the higher balances. It seems American credit reporting agencies prefer a few cards with decent limits. I have one credit card with a low limit now, but they seem to prefer three total. Man am I so bored that I am talking about my credit.

Hump Day
Wednesday, August 8th, 2007

     Last night I went into town for no real reason other than to not be in Konan. Iím glad there is nothing to do here since I save so much money, or accidentally by cars, but I do need an escape every so often. I had sushi and then went to my new favorite discount store called Trial. I passed it for the longest time first wondering what it was, and secondly thinking it was something like a trial sized store. Then I went in and found it was like a run down K-mart or Wal-Mart. I bought a few things, one of which was a bag of peanuts that cost $2, but at the Smile Mart in my town, they sell the same bag for $4.50. Ouch-a-roni.

     Today I am doing the usual stuff, though I did buy some Amazon Shorts last night and I am reading them today. They are downloadable short stories or how to bits. They were only 50 cents each so I bought a few.

     I did a funny, slightly mean, thing earlier. Two of my favorite girls were practicing the French horn upstairs. I went into the classroom in which they were practicing and noticed they were across the room looking out the window. Near the door was an electric piano which they were using for a click track. I hid behind it and reached over and pressed the ďup tempoĒ button once. It only slightly sped up the tempo. After about 5 minutes of casually doing this one of the girls said ďthis is way too fast, I donít remember it being that fastĒ. When I heard her stand and move her chair I gave it one last hurrah and hit the button about 50 times so it sounded like one solid buzz almost. They laughed and said ďitís probably RyanĒ. I donít mind being known as the jokester.

     I did take the form to the post office yesterday to get the car tax refund. There was no waiting period, which was a pleasant surprise, so now I have the money. Once I received the second form I knew it would be a breeze since it was the equivalent of a money order. Although there was a brief scare when I handed both forms to the young guy. He read them and said ďoh these say you need another formĒ. I nearly exploded, but then he said ďnever mind THIS is the other form.Ē I think I am going to use that money to pay off two months of school/lunch fees that have accrued. That way I can still send that money back with the next paycheck since I wonít have to take it out and pay.

     Something I thought of last night, and checked into with no result, was paying my school loan right here in Japan. Citibank owns the loan and there are branches in Tokyo. Iím trying to see if I can either make payments AT a branch in Tokyo or better yet, wire the money to them. It would really rock if I could since I lose a bit of money in the transfer process, though I would probably still lose some the new way.

     In the morning sometime, I asked the vice principal if I could move a wooden standalone closet into the vacant apartment next to mine. I explained with a photo that it was too big for my apartment, but not big enough for me to fit clothes and such in since I am a bit larger than what it was designed for. He called the board of education and they called someone else. Itís been several hours and there is still no word. They are having a meeting about it later. I didnít ask to burn or smash it, just move it into a vacant apartment.

     I have honestly heard more thunder and lightening in the past week than I have heard my entire time in Japan. There are rarely thunderstorms and when they happen during class the kids always scream in horror. I remember being at the night school when we had a storm and kids were running around hysterical and crying. I donít really know why, but I guess American kids might do the same during an earthquake since in Atlanta those were rare/non-existent. There was a storm, I wanna say, Monday or Sunday where it sounded like someone fired a shotgun outside my window. It literally knocked me on the floor. Today it just rumbled all day and Iíve seen everything in between during the past week.

Friday, August 8th, 2007

     Last night I drove into Koriyama and had dinner with Paula who just got back from an eventful week in Kobe studying Japanese. Her Taiwanese roommate was whacky and the school chose to teach no kanji since everyone else in the class was Asian and already knew the characters. She spent a week at the school rather than two and then traveled for the second week.

     First we went to the station and I printed some photos of kids I took last week. I took them casually with my phone, but then the girls kept asking where the prints were. Apparently I promised to print them out, which seems like something I would say. So I printed those out and then we went to this place called Milky Way. If you have been reading this since I was a Fukushima JET, you will be familiar with that place as I went there frequently with Michelle. They have a great salad bar and nice portions.

     Something humorous, to me at least, that happened there was regarding water. I usually order the drink bar along with the salad bar, but this time I decided to get water. One would think that means a big glass of water, but itís just the small glass that comes when we first sit down. It was a hot day so I was drinking a fair bit. Eventually I asked the lady if she could just leave the pitcher on the table since we were tired of summoning her every 5 minutes to refill our shot glasses. She gave us a look that would have been equal to us asking ďwill you serve us naked from now on.Ē I was, foolishly, expecting either yes or no, but this was one of those cultural differences where we had asked for the unimaginable. Then we heard her go back to the kitchen area and tell another waitress about the foreigners who had the audacity, the sheer nerve to ask her to leave the water pitcher on the table.

     Finally we left and I mentioned I needed some paint and a few other home supply things from a store. Paula suggested a place I had never heard of which was on the way. We went there and I fell in love. It was like a K-Mart or a Wal-Mart or a Target. A big two story place with all sorts of stuff. Nothing in particular, just general store stuff like a Wal-Mart would have. It was great. I walked around for about 20 minutes and then decided to leave since I knew I wanted to stay for hours just looking at everything. Iíll go back on some Saturday morning and just wander aimlessly.

     Next week is a vacation week so I will sit at home doing nothing all week. I donít have enough money to really travel so Iíll just loiter and wish I had a fast forward button on life. I think we might plan a BBQ by the lake one day. Not sure when since we would want to invite the new people, but they have stuff to do most weekends and weekdays until school starts. Then the next week, which is from the 20th, is the second English Camp. I donít know anything about this one.

     I played Japanese checkers today. At first I thought it was a silly game since you can move the pieces as far as you want in any non-diagonal direction. The object is to trap your opponentís piece between two of yours. I did this quickly and foolishly thought it would be like that the whole time. My opponent, an elementary second grade girl, was fierce and unrelenting. In the end I won, but just barely. I might play the game with the kids more often since I always see them playing and have never understood what they were doing.

     Apart from that, nothing much going for a while so I am going to take a break from this journal for a week or two. The next entry will be around late August for the speech contest in Koriyama.


At a recent street festival someone dressed as a Transformer and it was pretty wicked. It was totally RAD.

It was a distant photo with my cell phone.
At English Camp I noticed some tracks on the hill behind the place. Apparently there is a hill with a track where you can ride a skateboard down.          RAD again. When the 8th graders went bowling (teachers, students, and parents), we were told to return our shoes to the Shoeser. It's a clever, though meaningless, name.


English Toilet
Monday, August 27, 2007

The official first day of school. All the kids are back as are the teachers and thereís a buzz of excitement in the air. I was feeling the buzz as well and started chatting with the kids. Even the kids that usually ignore me (thinking itís funny) were chatty today. Then I noticed several teachers lined up at the lead teacherís desk. Oh, I had better get in line as well since I too have to get the schedule changed. Iím going with the English teacher to the speech contest on Thursday.

Me: I need to have this class moved since I wonít be here on Thursday.
Oh I see, no problem. Where will you be?
Me: I will be going to the English toilet.
Him: Whatís that?
Me: It happens every year. The English toilet.
Him: Where is this English toilet?
Me: I think itís at the Citizenís Hall in Koriyama.
Him: We probably have one here as well you know.
Me: Oh we have one today, but Iím going to the one in Koriyama on Thursday.
Him: Why are you going all the way to Koriyama to go to the bathroom.
Me: I go every year.
Him: You go to an English toilet in Koriyama every year?
Me: Yes.
Him: That seems really strange.
Me: Iím going with Kimura sensei.
Him: Really?
Me: And two students, Yuri and Yuki (girls).
Him: You are going all the way to Koriyama on Thursday with Kimura sensei and two students to go to
the bathroom?
Me: Yes.
Him: That doesnít make anyÖwaitÖthey wonít be here on Thursday, they are going toÖoh idiotÖ(him or me is unclear Ė most likely me)
Him: BenRO is speech contest. BenJO is toilet.
Me: Oh I think I have heard that word only once.
Him: You might want to practice it.
Me: Benro. Benro. Benro.

     Today there is a practice for the chorus and the two speech contest girls so thatís what I thought he meant. I think I have heard benjo used for toilet once in my whole time of learning Japanese, but even still the sound stuck easier than BenRO. Partially because the R sound is pronounced like L so itís BenLo. [update] After looking it up, itís actually BenRON.


Just Not You.
Wednesday, August 29, 2007

     Iíve come to notice something over the years about myself. I canít narrow it down precisely to any one explanation, but I can give several examples. You know how some kids get picked last in junior high school when teams are being chosen? Oh no, thatís not my problem at all. Iím the one who doesnít get picked at all. The two team captains just say ďok weíre finishedĒ and the coach doesnít even notice. When I ask about why I wasnít picked the response is usually something like ďoh Ryan stop complaining, everyone gets a chance and itís just not your turn nowĒ. That would be fine, but I wasnít complaining and I never got a chance.

     A few other examples include when I meet a nice girl and just make casual small talk with her and then later word gets back to me that I was making her uncomfortable and I should back off. To the best of my knowledge I was merely being polite and had no ulterior motives. I say ďto the best of my knowledgeĒ, because maybe I have some disease where I unknowingly say things like ďSo where are you from (I want to stick my hands down your pants) oh Oregon, wow thatís a nice place (I punch helpless dogs) Iíve been there once.Ē Thatís the only thing I can think of because otherwise there was nothing to make someone uncomfortable. That has happened dozens of times and itís probably the reason I am single now. I end up concentrating so hard on making sure I don't say anything wrong, that I probably sound like an idiot.

     Hereís an actual real documented example. When I went to Sapporo to study Japanese in the summer of 2005 I sent in my application form and money on time. I get there and find that my ďdormĒ for the next two weeks is IN the lobby of some hotel. I had a bed and a small, rather small, paper curtain blocking my mattress on the floor. When I say ďblockingĒ I really mean ďnot blocking, and drawing attention to.Ē When people would come in they would see this thing in the way, in the middle of the lobby, and look behind it and there I was. I didnít get any sleep since I would wake up when I heard the door open. I think I have a picture of it. Not only did they put only me in this absurd location, they assumed it would be ok for the whole time. It was only when I complained that they put me in the cool boyís dorm. Everyone else had great accommodation from the start, but only I had this absurd Kafkaesque situation.

     There have been several other situations where I would sign up or apply for something just like everyone else and then I would stand out for some reason. Maybe they didnít have enough copies of something, just one short, or I get the special situation room that has no window or door or something, or everyone lives in one block but I get placed in some remote location. Itís no conspiracy, itís some bad karma energy I give off.

     The reason I am mentioning this now is because I tried to plan a trip to a restaurant for this Saturday with a few people. I and one other person were planning it. Let me explain how all the conversations went regarding the planning.

Me: Hey, me and Person-X are planning a trip to Place-X this Saturday.
Other: Oh cool, yea Iím totally in, and my friend (someone).
Me: Hey, me and Person-X, Person-A, and Person-B are going to Place-X on Saturday.
Other: Awesome, yea I have been wanting to go there.

This goes on and on until about 10 people are happily confirmed. I even re-confirm a few days later and everyone is still gung-ho about it.

Me: Person-X had to drop out, but everyone else is still in.
Other: Oh really, hmmm, actually I think I had better not go since I have to (something).

Me: Oh I see, ok have fun. [no sense in whining about it]
Other: Oh, Person-X is out. Thatís cool, actually I think I have plans already too.


     And the numbers dwindle down to just me. Again I am not whining about it, itís somewhat common. I donít expect or at least try not to expect it and possibly project any negative feelings, but once I see the pattern form then I realize itís happening again.

     Itís really strange, itís like I just donít have the ability to hold anyoneís attention. When I give speeches, even in classes with kids who are supposed to listen, I either spend half the time saying ďbe quietĒ or I just get over it and ignore the chatter. This happens with most everyone for as long as I can remember. Iím not whining about this even though Iím sure it will seem that way, Iím just curiously confused about why this happens. Many times it could be written off as coincidence, but itís a long repeating pattern now and I have hundreds of examples. Most of which are absurd and barely believable.

8th ainít so bad
Friday, August 31st, 2007

     Yesterday morning I went to the 5th grade room to get a little notebook from one of my favorite kids. I exchange notebooks with some of the elementary school kids. Itís all in Japanese, but sometimes I get them to write some things in English. Like ďDear so-and-soĒ or ďFrom so-and-soĒ. This girl had given me hers weeks ago and then I hadnít seen her due to summer vacation. When I asked her for it yesterday, she gave me a little note that was so sad. It said ďRyan, I am so sorry, I have searched all over my house for it, but I canít find it. I am really sorry, I think I lost it again. I enjoy writing it and will buy my own this time because I lost it againĒ.

     I buy the notebooks at 3 for $1 from a local store so I would happily buy her another one, but then I remembered she gave it to me before the break. So I should have it, but I have searched and didnít find it. Then I remembered I think I put it in a special pocket of my bag. It was a pocket I thought would be so obvious I would never forget. When I checked, it was there. I wrote her a long note and apologized and explained it all, but I still had to give it to her today. I decided to give it to her and apologize in my own way.

     When I got to school I went straight to the 5th grade class and she saw me. She came over to me and started to apologize again. I asked her if she wanted to play a really fun game. She said ok hesitantly. I told her to close her eyes and stick out her hands. When she did I put the notebook in her hand and told her to open her eyes. When she did I started saying ďlook you have the notebook, itís magic, wow you didnít lose it, wow, magicĒ. She smiled and read it and was happy. Sheís a big reason why I want to stay for a while. Sheís like a puppy dog because she is always happy to see me and makes me happy when I see her.

     So anyway, yesterday was the JHS speech contest for Koriyama city. It was long and boring as usual, but good to see kids I knew from previous English Camps. In the end we won 8th place in both categories, which was far better than I expected. I figured we would get in the top 8th in the recitation and not place at all in the origination. There was always the possibility of complete nonsense scores which happens frequently at these contests. There was some scoring issue with who won the Origination part and when I talked to a judge afterwards it was as I expected. This judge person said the foreign judges and the Japanese judges disagreed and since there were (and always are) a majority of Japanese judges (at an English speech contest), the majority won.

     I stumbled across something by accident when I was a judge years ago. There were three judges at one contest. Myself, and two Japanese English teachers. I mentioned we should have another judge since there were four categories and each judge could listen for a certain thing. I also suggested since it was an English speech contest, maybe it could be another foreigner. The chief judge said ďif we have another foreigner, then weíd have to have another Japanese judge since that would be 2 and 2 and there must always be one more Japanese judgeĒ. When he said that, several people in the room stopped and stared and I just played it off and moved on. I realized he wasnít supposed to have told the token foreigner that it was all for looks and the balance of power could never actually balance.

     When I was a judge, I felt that the Japanese judges used all sorts of nonsense to judge. Things that were progressively less and less relevant. Sometimes they masked it and other times they flat out said it. Sometimes, like in this contest yesterday, an absolutely average nothing special speaker would win. When I was a judge I would never understand why and the reasons would always be nonsense.

Judge: His intonation was very good.
Me: Uhhh, yea it was in the parts where he didnít stop and make mistakes or forget his lines.
Judge: We canít judge them on mistakes, only general performance.
Me: Oh, then I think this student should get higher marks.
Judge: Oh no she made too many mistakes.
Me: Uhhh, butÖ.

     I always felt that sometimes the results were being steered toward someone. Most of the time it was vague enough so that no one could really say anything. When I was just watching a contest and there were 5 people I thought would win then maybe they would all place high just not in the order I thought. So I felt both satisfied and not at the same time. But it was always vague and close to what I expected.

     As a judge you feel compelled to stand by the groupís decision even though it was always an odd battle in the end. I would think someone should win. The majority (Japanese judges) would think some average random person should win. One time, with the judge above who said things he shouldnít, I wouldnít let up on why they picked some idiot who clearly didnít deserve to be in the top 8, much less win. Finally he got mad at me and said ďthis school won last year and it would look bad if they won again. They also have a new English teacher and it would look strange if she won since she is youngĒ.

     The final straw was the following year when there was some mystery bonus score that we were allowed to give. It was like we added up the criteria points and then we added in this bonus. That in itself was ok, but then the results came out and it was the absolute worst kid as the winner. I asked about the scoring and found out, from Mr. Talk-Too-Much, that the people who counted the scores (NOT judges) were allowed to add in points for someone they thought should win. Apparently they added in something like 25 points and this kid won. It was so obviously opposite that everyone gasped when they announced it and even the kid didnít believe it. He messed up his speech several times when he gave it again in the victory circle.

It's not some new word, it's supposed to be Trophy.

     I think the way a speech contest should be run is double blind. Maybe thatís not the right phrase, but itís cool to say. Anyway, students should wear a standard outfit. Letís say a black skirt/pants and a white shirt. No names should be used and no school names should be shown or mentioned. If possible the judges should come from a completely separate area or even different prefecture. Hereís the big part, for an English speech contest the judges should all be native speakers. I would never in a million years want to see English speakers judging a Japanese contest. No matter how fluent we are we could never get the native insight and pick up little things like intonation or emphasis. At the very absolute least there should be a majority of native speakers of the language of the contest. The fact of the matter is, native speakers and speakers who learned a language as a secondary one, judge differently based on different things. [post note] If you do a Google search for ďJapanese Speech ContestĒ, you will find all the contests around the world are judged by Japanese teachers or consulate members either entirely or at least in the majority.

     Other than that, I have no classes today since they have tests. I could have had some elementary classes, but I would have had to requested them and then prepared some stuff and I knew I would be too busy this week. I plan to sit down with some elementary school teacher friends and ask them what they do for various activities. I need to get some new ideas in my repertoire so I can teach better.

     Last night I walked home around 7pm since we got back from the speech contest late. It was nice weather and I wished I could bottle that feeling and have it again later. I walked with a student and we chatted casually. The air was cool and clean and I felt good after a long day of working hard, and even more so because we won 8th place.

     Tonight I have a meeting in Koriyama over dinner to talk about Native Teacher stuff. We have observed classes starting every month in the fall. I think mine are in November. All the other Native Teachers will come to my school and watch a lesson and then we will all go to another school and watch another NT lesson. It should be good to get feedback and new ideas.



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