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Friday, December 2nd, 2005
We had a class today where I was the assistant. I don't mind those at all now that I am used. Today's lesson involved the students writing their own speech about something we were talking about. They had to use "uh-huh", "that's too bad", and "lucky you" in the little skit. Hey, it's in the book.
So a few groups go and they are average, nothing interesting. Then one group goes. A group with a really advanced kid that likes English and did very well on the English interview test. He tested at a 9th grade level as an 8th grader. So anyway, his group goes and it is something like this:
A: Are you going to see Harry Potter this
Next Day. (they actually said that)
B: Oh, no I can't go to Harry Potter today.
The teacher and I were laughing since it was such natural English. The other kids didn't really follow it, but man it was great. Not only was the English great, it was funny. All the others were just a slightly (very slightly) modified version of the example in the book.
Later in the day they passed around a memo and then after that we had a meeting. After the 30 minute meeting an English teacher leaned over and said "all that, and the memo, was about how we should not drink and drive. Like we need a meeting about that". It wouldn't be Japan if we didn't have meetings and memos about that.
Oh I guess the big news of the area is the new tunnel opens tomorrow. It will save a decent part of the trip. Well no not really. It only saves about 1 minute, but it does cut down on a few nasty turns. The eventual plan is to loop the end part around and make the whole section flow really smooth. I will take pictures and draw a map later. There is another plan to cut out some of the narrow winding road in a different section. Once all that is complete more people will want to move out this way since it will be much easier to drive into Koriyama. That is good for this school and possibly me. Though I am not sure how long I will be staying here.
It would be nice to stay long enough to see some of these kids get jobs. Like after they graduate high school and then college, but that would be about 6-7 more years. It's possible, and I would have MAD BANK (that means a lot of money. But I don't know if I want to stay that long. Although my Japanese would be great and I would probably have traveled the world by then, so who knows. Right now I have no plan. I'm just going with the flow. I will make a decision around the 3 year mark. I have figured on staying at least that long. That's a good amount of time to see the full cycle of things and that would put my ES 4th graders as JHS students. I need to set a Japanese language goal. Maybe the JLPT Level 2 by December 2006. Maybe. Possibly. Esta El Posible. At least it would be a good goal.
Saturday, December 3rd
I am starting to see that people aren't exaggerating when they say it snows like 5-6 feet at a time. Last night I cleaned off my car. This morning I went out there again and there was already 6 inches on it. Then I cleaned it again. Now there is another 3 inches. Last week at school the principal and I built a small snow slide and the kids loved it, which means now I want to build a bigger one, like 5 feet tall and wide. Also I want to build some snowmen. Or snowpersons to be correct in this day and age. I have even been googling how to build a nice tall one.
There was an earthquake last night that actually startled me. It was the usual strength but it came on so fast. Usually something moves, then a bit more, then more, then ok we are in an earthquake, now it's dying down, more, and more, and over. This was like BAM shake shake over. Minus an explosion it felt like a bomb went off nearby.
Today I have done nothing much. I shoveled some snow, which is now wasted. Then I spent a while repairing the really stupid window covering I have. I have this big window that's like 8 feet wide by 5 feet tall. There are two sliding windows that I can open. Covering them are two thin pieces of paper held up by a grid of wood. It's a very Asian look, but the paper keeps cutting and people can see right in. I spent a while taping the paper to the wood. It's fixed now, but I really just don't like it as a window dressing. I might invest in blinds or something later.
I think I need to go to the store and get more food if it is going to keep snowing like this. I have that special class tomorrow and need to prepare for that. Then I have Monday off since we work tomorrow.
Yea. It's going to snow a lot here. Tons. I drove to the store around 2 to get some food for tonight and tomorrow. Obviously I cleaned the car to drive there and back. So now it is 5:30 and I just went to the car to get something and I couldn't remember which car was mine. There was so much snow on all the cars that I couldn't see it and I wasn't sure where I parked. Wow. I cleaned a good 5-6 inches off it again. Wow. The good news is I can build a serious snow slide or snow man. I would do it today so the kids could play with it tomorrow since we have to go to school on a Sunday, but I would rather now have all the parents seeing it. The slide that is. Though this is Japan and not the US so there would be no parents saying "I'm not comfortable with my child blah blah blah and I am going to sue". But still I would rather wait.
On a lighter note, I can see my breath in my apartment. Isn't that great? It's the Japanese way. Houses are built to be cool in the summer, not necessarily air tight and warm in the winter. If I run the heater all day then the air gets too dry. So I can see my breath in my own apartment. For some odd reason it makes sense with my Japanese hat on. Strange.
Sunday, December 11th, 2005
I'll make a bigger update soon since I went to Tokyo for the weekend and took a lot of good shots with my nice new camera. But for now let me say this. Without exaggeration, it has snowed more here in the past month, than it did in Fukushima city in 3 years. I left Saturday morning and I had to clean off my car. There was at least one foot of snow from Friday. So as I was cleaning it another teacher was leaving. He drives a white van. It's a family van, but he is a single guy. Who knows. So he said he was going somewhere and would be back Saturday night. I said I was going to Tokyo and would be back today. When I got back today his van had over 2 feet of snow on it. There was so much snow I had to go an alternate way to get to my apartment and then I couldn't find the stairs. It's insane. More on that later, and I even have some photos of the snow. I will create a page called Magical Winter Wonderland and post them there.
Tokyo was fun. It was good to get away from cold small Konan. Tokyo was much warmer than Koriyama and Konan. I actually didn't wear a jacket most of the time. While there we went to see Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. It was pretty good. Some parts seemed to skip around, but overall it was ok. I could see it again.
At one point we wanted to go to a bar, but it seemed we were too old. How strange it was to be too old to go to a bar, but here's proof:
I assume the word lounge doesn't mean bar, so much as a place for kids to go and relax after a hard day's work. No seriously, I'm sure it was just a changing station, a transfer point.
I've got some other pictures so I will just make a page, with a less catchy title, and upload them all to that rather than slow down the loading of this page. That page will be located in a here like manner.
On Thursday of last week I had my annual health check since I am a government employee. At first I didn't care, I have had them before. I didn't like having to drive into Koriyama early Thursday morning since it was snowing and plus the 1st grade kids had some big treasureland thing planned. But I went. Then I get there and I find out the exam is much more than I expected. I have to change into this stupid hospital like robe and wait with about 50 other government employees. I was all upset about everything. Then I went through all the tests.
They poked and prodded me me for 3 hours. I had tests for vision, hearing, body fat (ouch), height/weight, glaucoma, blood pressure, blood, heart EKG (or ECG), barium drink and x-ray, chest x-ray, and a few others. When I finished I got "chewed out" more or less. The nurse was nice but very direct. Basically, in a semi-exaggerated way, she said:
You are fat. You are a fat greasy slab of hog meat. You are out of shape and lazy. Look at your fat belly. Are you pregnant. How hard is it to not shove food in your mouth constantly. Why don't you walk a little, or at all. Please do the slightest amount of exercise before coming back next year.
Wow, so that was to the point. But it was good to hear it, I plan to really make a difference when I get back from Thailand. Why not start now? Well I already have some food that might last until I leave and I would rather just start the new year on a new foot. Or a new note. Or something. I am going to make 3 or 4 actual and do-able goals.
What else is new. Hmm. Oh I will be on TV next week. Not sure why, but I suspect for two reasons. One is because my school is a new model that is relatively unheard of. It combines 5 elementary schools into one and that's in the same building as the junior high school. And two, because my job is new. I am an actual full blown teacher. I have a teacher's license and I participate in all the regular duties of a teacher, minus a few. So those two combined make for an interesting story I guess. Unfortunately, one of the two classes they are filming is not a super interesting one. The young kids will be making Christmas cards for the orphanage I am going to in two weeks. But I will explain my job is about natural communication as well as internationalization. The JHS class they will be filming will be that Jeopardy like game. I've made sure my bulletin boards will be stocked with good English, and there will be English words all around the English room. Here are my stupid (intentionally) bulletin boards.
Here is a photo of a brochure explaining the new tunnel and future tunnel. It really makes a difference. When they complete all 4 phases the drive out here will be easy and more people will move out this way I reckon.
So yea, not the best image. Looks great on my computer though. However, I don't know why they didn't do this to begin with:
I'm sure there is some reason they aren't telling me.
Anyway. Loving the new camera so far. It's totally point and click. So far it hasn't let me down. To clarify that means it has been great in the 72 hours I have owned it. But it zooms great. Comes on fast and shoots quick. Prevents shaking for the most part. Has a tripod screw and moveable LCD display. Focuses fast. And there is a setting that takes low sized crisp shots that fit directly on this site with no adjustment. It also goes up to 5 Megapixels. Should be great in Thailand and then in China. I should update my goals page.
Here is a funny animated GIF my mom sent me. I hate forwards, but this is cute.
Simple and to the point.
Wednesday, December 14th, 2005
I got up early and dressed to the nines and left the house by 7:25am to get to school early in case the camera crewed asked what time I usually get to school. It would be corny to say I usually get to school by 7:30, but today I got here late. So I get to school and there they are filming me walking to school. They had already set up adn were waiting so that means they left Koriyama this morning around 6:30am. Ouch.
The newscaster was a nice young girl who spoke English very well. She had spent a year in Rhode Island in high school. We chatted about what would happen today so I was more prepared. For some reason I wasn't nervous. I had worried a bit before, but I guess I prepared enough because I just didn't care today. So as usual when the buses arrive I greet the kids with a high five and "good morning" in English. Of course the crew loved this and filmed me from all angles. Then I had a class with just one student. It's a special class that she chose to be in, and I am glad since she is nice and likes English. I interviewed her with the questions I ask before all classes. She should be able to answer them quickly now and sit down first.
Then comes my 2nd period filmed class. First I greeted them with How Are You, and much to my annoyance they responded with the Japanese response "I'm fine thank you and you". I hate it because they are only taught to say that, so if two people say it to each other, it would go on for infinity. But at least they are speaking good English. Then I asked them "How's the weather?" and they all said "It's snowy". I also asked what day it was and they said It's Tuesday.
This is incredible English and listening for 3rd grade elementary students. They are going to be great when they get to JHS. I wonder if I can wait around to see them. That would be 5+ years, so we'll see. Anyway, then we played a quick game where they did rock paper scissors and the loser had to ask "How are you" and the other person replied with the standard J-response. Of course this was great for the crew as well.
Then I talked about Thailand and how poor the orphanage is that I will volunteer at in two weeks. I said they have no Christmas decorations so let's make cards to send to them. So we practiced some Christmas vocabulary and then they made cards. The crew was all over this and got in their faces and filmed everything. It was a good class.
Then I had a class where I was an assistant and the crew filmed around the school. Finally 4th period came and it was my solo class. I had to do something upbeat that the kids would get into. This means putting them in groups and making them compete against each other. Japanese are big into groups and bigger into competing. So we played Jeopardy. I had already created and printed colorful dollar amounts such as 100, 200 and so on up to 500. Then I wrote some categories above them and had the answers on my sheet. This is really a great ESL game because they choose a category and amount in English, then I ask a question in English, then they respond in English. It's one of my favorites for many reasons.
The crew loved it as well. They filmed me asking questions, the students answering and choosing, and the kids cheering when they got one right. We finished 10 minutes early and if the crew had left I would have let the kids just relax, but they were still there so I suggested we continue the competition and play a game called shiritori. This technically means butt grabbing, but it's the game where you say a word and the other person grabs the last letter and makes a new word. I used the same teams, which was boys vs girls. I drew a line on the board and gave two students chalk and said RYAN. So they started with N. They would race to the board and write a word and then pass the chalk. The crew loved this as well and had many great shots.
I have an interest in photography so I understand framing shots somewhat. I did many things just so the the crew could get good shots. This game finished and the girls won by a few points. Or maybe the boys won and the girls won at Jeopardy. Anyway after that the crew filmed me eating lunch with the ES kids upstairs in the big lunchroom. It was slightly annoying to be filmed while eating, but I made sure to eat with my mouth closed and use the chopsticks properly. The newscaster asked if I could use chopsticks. Classic.
They they filmed some other stuff and left. Then I had a class 6th period with the seniors. They were watching some Christmas cartoon. When it was over one girl was reading an English newspaper in the back of the room, or at least looking at the pictures. She put it down and someone dropped a book on it and made the cover fold a bit. This caused the woman's face on the cover to distort in a silly way and we couldn't stop giggling about it. I mean it was that silly been-awake-for-2-days-straight type giggle and I couldn't stop, nor could they. It was so bad I had to scan the cover to show you:
So maybe it's not as funny as I thought. Oh well. Then school was over and I came home to watch some videos my parents sent. Tomorrow is nothing of interest. Two classes. Then Friday I have two or three. I need to start packing for Thailand and thinking about my Spring Break trip, as well as China this summer.
Friday, December 16th, 2005
I have discovered the greatest thing in the history of all life.
Turning on the electric blanket on my bed an hour before bedtime. When I get in, the room air is freezing, but the bed is nice and toasty. It's so cozy.
Saturday, December 17th, 2005
Nothing much to do today. This morning a care package came from an ex-JET named Liz. I mentioned her a lot over the past two years as we hung out a lot in Fukushima city. Now she's back in Athens, Georgia. She sent me a nice package about 6 weeks ago and it just arrived. It has Mac & Cheese, Grits, Kool-aid, Stuffing Mix, Popcorn, a cool Arrested Development shirt, and much much more. It came at the perfect time too. I have nothing to do today and no money or food. Now I can watch the videos and eat good old American food.
In Thailand I always eat great. It's all light vegetarian food and I always feel so good there. I still want to live there for a while after I finish teaching here, whenever that will be. I don't know if I will teach English there or find some relaxing job or something. Maybe I will learn about Buddhism at one of the temples, or Thai massage, or Thai cooking. Or who knows what. I just feel good there, relaxed and healthy. I'm really hoping to get down to Singapore from Bangkok by train since it would be cheap.
It's really sunny today, sunny and bright with all the snow on the ground. I'm hoping it melts some of the snow and doesn't snow heavily again until after I leave. I thought about going back into the city today, mainly to get money and then maybe some food, but I don't know. I only have $50 to last until Wednesday, which is totally doable, but I don't know what I will do if I go. Everything costs money, even filling up the tank with gas.
Monday, December 19th, 2005
When I got home tonight, I inflated a balloon and started working on this:
It was going to be my test of making paper machè, but my fingers were nearly frostbitten in the flour-water mixture. I mean really cold, so I quit. This is really as much as I need. I suppose I could use hot water for the next test. I just need to see if I can make a decent paper machè thing since I plan to make one at the orphanage for the village day. I mean make a pińata for the village day and fill it with candy and stuff. I will use some of the balloons I buy Wednesday for the pinata and have the kids and other helpers help me. Heck, maybe someone knows more about pinatas than I do.
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