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Friday, August 27, 2010

     What a big update I have to make. I'll start typing it out now and get it up by this weekend. The first part is from July which I never uploaded, but it's worth reading, then I continue into August.


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

            I can sometimes understand the ďgroupĒ mentality and other times, like this one, I cannot tolerate it at all. So hereís the scoop. We have been working on this skit for a few months. The students have it down to an art and the stage props look nice. They did a presentation in front of the whole school this morning, becauseÖ..their presentation in the ďstateĒ finals is tomorrow. Itís in front of about 500 people and they represent Koriyama city. There will be 13 other cities/town/villages presenting skits as well. So this is somewhat of a big thing as you can see. They gave the skit this morning and now we are just waiting until tomorrow.

            OR SO I THOUGHT. After lunch some teachers were talking about it and [dramatic music] everyone had an opinion about how to make it better. Thatís partially a world thing. I can live with that, but in Japan when someone in your group suggests something you really REALLY need to find a way to incorporate that into whatever it is you are doing. If someone suggests something really stupid, it usually finds its way into the project. If a higher up suggests something it always does. So what did the group suggest we change for the skit?

            First there are 3 students. The characters are in a boat and one guy didnít bring an oar because he was waiting for the other guy to finish his sentence. He thought the captain was saying ďbring that orÖÖĒ so he waited, but he said ďbring that OARĒ. From there they are doing a fast Abbott & Costello style argument about the oar. So change #1 was that the moron still is Japanese, but one other guy is European and the third guy is African. This is completely extraneous to the story. At no point with their heritage come up and itís completely absurd. So I nodded and said ďhmmm, that sounds interesting. Good idea.Ē Thatís all I could say since any disagreement would be rude. It would be me saying ďyour stupid idea is stupid and we donít need itĒ. So then he started listing some props they urgently needed. Again, these are completely irrelevant and serve no purpose, but I said ďwow, that sounds crazyĒ. Already they attached a butterfly net to the boat minutes before they did the presentation this morning. I saw it and simply didnít care. Last year they decided to paint the penguin character blue minutes before the regional finals (it was amazing that they happen to have blue paint).

            So that leads me to the third and final suggestion from the group that I actually rejected. He said one character was Japanese and suggested some stupid things he would be carrying. I said ok even though it sounded really stupid. Then the other guy was European and would be wearing some European clothing. I donít know what that means, so I just nodded and said ďhmmm, greatĒ. Then, the third character was African so we should (yes, I am going there)Ö.



















ME ?


            If I knew how to say ďare you F-ing shitting meĒ in Japanese I would have said that. I laughed to try to make the situation seem light and said ďactually that would be a little rude to other foreigners. If there are other foreigners at the presentation, especially African Americans, I think they would get really upset at that.Ē The teachers laughed and mumbled something which I assumed meant ďwell thatís stupid, we think itís funnyĒ. They simply donít understand racism and discrimination here.

            Normally one would think about things and then gracefully and vaguely steer the conversation away from a certain idea. Thatís the vague Japanese way, but to paint the kidís face black to show he is African which has ZERO to do with anythingÖI gave a firm NO and explained that would be horribly racist and if there were a black JET at the contest, he would surely be offended and it would, justifiably, cause a big problem. In the end we didn't even win because some NATIVE SPEAKER was in the contest. That's so awesome. While my kids are worrying about acting AND English, this group was just jumping around the stage with no plot or point. It was truly and sincerely not worth getting first place. regardless of having a native speaker, it was simply not that interesting.


[Summer Vacation]


Well Rested
Friday, August 27, 2010

            I had a nice rest while in the US for 3 weeks. I didnít do much of interest, but that was the plan. I ate too much, sat on the couch watching TV too much, and generally recharged the batteries. This past week I have been moving into my new apartment. According to Google Maps I moved about 500m. I stayed within the same block area and zip code. I moved to a smaller apartment so the guy living there could move to my bigger apartment. It worked out well for both of us even though most people said I was crazy. I also wanted a more social area since my previous two places had been total solitude.

            Today at Konan we had a long and boring fire drill. Parts were cool, but we seriously spent more time doing opening and closing ceremonies than we did doing actual fire extinguishing related things. Iím not even exaggerating that either, there was a long opening bit, then explanations, then the drill parts, finally a 20 minute closing part. Several people go up and made long boring speeches about some nonsense while we were all burning alive in the heat. I truly felt like I was going to pass out a few times. The funniest part to me was when they took some townspeople and showed them how to put out a fire with the hose. They kept saying ďdonít aim directly at the fire, shoot the water around itĒ. It was truly the most INEFFECTIVE way of doing it and I would have been screaming at people if it were my house burning. The another squad showed some technique and had all sorts of unnecessary walking around before they pulled out the hose. They would line up and someone would ask if they are ready and they would each reply. Then they would get ready and someone would ask again if they were ready. Again, if it would my house burning I would be furious.

            Other news, I bought a Wii and itís pretty cool. I have it running through my projector so itís a huge screen. So far I have only been playing the standard games it came with, but I did buy one extra game. It looks complicated so I havenít tried it yet. I will once I get better acquainted with the game and Wiimote. I can also make some Wii games, but I canít make good ones since I donít have access to the accelerometer. So the games would only use the RL-UD buttons and then the A and B buttons. Weíll see how that goes.

            The final news I suppose, is I am shortly starting my 50lbs in 100 days diet. The time is now and now is the time. I started losing weight before heading back to the US, but there was no way to resist all the fatty American food. I ate junk food nearly every day and over-ate everything. Back to the Paleo diet and jogging in the morning.

            So I am seriously considering leaving Japan this year, well the end of this year which would be July 2011. There are several reasons, but I will sum up the main ones now.


1)      There is so much wasted time here.

I often ask for 5-6 classes, but the most I get is 4 and thatís a good day. I spend more time sitting around literally doing nothing than teaching. I often have classes scheduled and they get cut for any reason no matter how silly it seems. Recently I took a day off and was asked to come in and help the speech contest student at 2. I get to school at 2 and find that school lets out at 3:20 so I sit and wait until then. Then when I finish at 3:45 I am told I can probably leave early. I leave right then since I am using vacation time and came in as a favor to them.

2)      There is no bonus nor raise.

I make the same amount that native teachers made 20 years ago. Granted its worth more now with the US economy in the gutter, but in Japan it is still the same amount. We donít get cost of living raises nor any form of bonuses, although we are expected to act exactly like the regular Japanese teachers.

3)      English is so low on the priority list.

I drove out to Konan in July, again on a vacation day, to help a different student with the speech contest. I said I will be there at 1:30 and only have a little time to practice. When I got there the student was practicing for some after school activity that had an upcoming meet in September and couldnít get away from practice to work on something academic. I stayed for about 30 minutes and then left.

On any list that shows all the subjects, English and the English teachers will be listed last. Makes it easy to find my schedule though. English classes are intentionally planned on days that have other activities since itís ok to cut them.

4)      No one really cares about learning English.

If students fail a Japanese test the school nearly shuts down and we review kanji and grammar and whatever is needed to pass. Parents are called in and conferences are held. If students make a 0 on an English test then we simply move on to the next chapter. Grades usually fall into 1 of 3 areas. Area 1 is for the top competitive students who try to outdo each other and get around 95-100. Area 2 is the students who half paid attention in class and semi-care and make between a 30 and 60 on a test. This is the largest group. Area 3 is for the students who either donít care at all or simply donít even speak and score around a 0 or 10 on tests. In the end, everyone graduates beside each other.

5)      Nothing is connected. 

A 6th grade student at a different school recently passed level 2 of a national English test. Level 5 is for 7th graders, 4 is 8th graders, 3 (with an oral interview) is for 9th graders, pre-2 is for 10th-11th graders, and 2 is for 12th graders and college students. She was totally Japanese and just loves English and always studies so she passed level 2 which is amazing. Where is she now? Sitting in a regular English class in the 7th grader with a teacher saying Ah-Ah-Apple and she is saying Bu-Bu-Boring. Itís illegal to hold students back, kick them out of the classroom, or advance them forward a grade. If Einstein were reincarnated into the body of a Japanese kid, he would sit through all 12 years of school even if he started reciting quantum physics in the 1st grade. There are no Doogie Howsers in college in Japan at the age of 15 or 12.

We donít teach 6th graders anything useful that would prepare them for their first year of JHS in the 7th grade. We donít spend time preparing letter sounds and teaching them to write. Even if we did and they were fluent, the JHS teachers would re-teach it since nothing is connected.


Going Well.
Tuesday, August 31, 2010

            Iím at Ohse today since I went to the speech contest yesterday and that would have been my Ohse day. Today should be Konan, but whatever. I had three kids in the speech contest yesterday and one got 6th place. Thatís about as well as I expected for us since the two original speeches were semi-lame. One girl talked too softly and the other dropped all her gestures since she didnít like them. It looked like she was holding two heavy bags with her limp fish arms. Whatever, Iím over arguing with them about how things should be. Iím tired of teaching kids one way and having that plan hijacked at the last minute. An example is listed above in big letters.

            Over the weekend there was a big beach party in Iwaki, but I didnít go. Iím getting too old to get drunk and sleep on a beach. The thought of being sunburned and sandy made my skin crawl. Instead I stayed around the apartment and semi-cleaned a storage room we have. It really needs a big once over, but I couldnít do more without the authority to throw things out. I managed to rearrange things enough to fit some stuff in there of mine, but I need more people and the ability to toss things if needed.

            Iím about to have my computer completely redone since I get the blue screen of death constantly. Iím going to keep the HD as an OS drive and get a terabyte drive for programs and software. Then I will replace the Motherboard and go up to 4gigs of RAM with the ability to easily have 8 shortly thereafter. Iíll also replace and upgrade the power unit and some other stuff. The CPU will be the quad core i5, but I will keep the box and DVD drive. Then I will have to worry about getting stupid Microsoft Professional reactivated.

            I managed to send back 150,000 yen which converted to over $1,700. I am loving the horrendous exchange rate now. Sorry for the traders that are losing money, but I am making mad bank. If itís still at 84 yen to the dollar around the next paycheck I will send back the same amount and just eat light for the month. Iím trying to first pay off my two credit cards and then I will start hammering that stupid school loan I took out in college. If I could send $1,500 back to that I could get it down fast. Around the first of the year I will start saving some of the money so I have something when I leave here, if I leave here, which I am 90% sure I will. The only reason I wouldnít leave would be if I could change a few schools, but not all of them. Itís time to move on from Konan and Ohse has gotten lame since two awesome teachers left.

            I forgot how stink nasty hot it can get in Japan. Last year it was cool all summer and I remember just a handful of days being slightly warm, but this summer has been broiling every day. I am dripping sweat as I sit here and type this. I am even wearing my linen pants, but they are sticking to me like glue. My t-shirt is soaked and my dress shirt is getting all crumpy and sticky. Ugh. I really dislike the lack of air conditioners in Japan. If they had them and didnít use them on windy days that would be fine, but not having them at all is bad when there is no wind like today. We are just soaking wet in the classroom. To make things worse, todayís lunch was a hot lunch so now I can actually feel my temperature rising and the sweat come out. Iím going to have to bring my own sweat rag from now on since all they have here is tissue.

            So far the diet and new life plan are going well. I had some light things for breakfast this morning and planned to jog, but cleaned up the recycleables instead. There were some bottles and cans around the apartment so I took them to the drop off zone and then went to the store to get some chocolate soy milk for breakfast. Last night I had some avocados and almonds for dinner and that was it. Right now the biggest hold up is that it is just too hot to do anything really. Even at 6am itís already 80+ degrees.

            Hereís another example of time wasting. I had my last class until 12:30 then lunch until 1. Now itís 2:35 and I have been wasting time until 4:15. I have nothing to do and (oh a cool breeze just came through the room)Öand I am wicked bored. I have to find a way to kill time until 4:15. Luckily I have this computer and can waste time, but Iíd rather be working or simply not here. If I were at home Iíd be making prints for tomorrow, but itís more important for me to be sitting here doing nothing. This is the only job I have ever had where I have repeatedly asked for more work.






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