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The number 4 is unlucky and many places don't use it. Here the lockers skip number 4, even though they still have a 4th floor and other things end in 4.

 

I have to clean the snow from my steps daily. You can see how much snow we get here. Even when I clear the snow the steps are dangerous since some snow stays and makes the steps icy.

 

Some new fancy building in Tokyo on the West exit of Shinjuku station. Like you know where that is...
Honestly, this was at a supermarket and is called something like Cauli-ccoli or Broccliflower. It had some stupid name like that and is apparently a mix between the two. Maybe I will try it someday. I came around a corner in my town and BOOM here's a car parked right in the middle of the street. Literally, dead in the middle of the lane. No hazards on either, which would be mildly ok. She was parked and doing something in the garage to the left. She didn't even pull over slightly. Totally awesome, and by awesome I mean ridiculous. A 5th grade student had this shirt on. Sweet Taste, seriously. Not only is it random, it's also a bit inappropriate. But of all the things I have seen people wearing in Japan, this is pretty mild.

 

Much Better.
Tuesday, February 5th, 2008

     I had my follow up health check today. Oddly, I went alone. I think the nurse had something to do, which is fine since there was no reason for her to be there this time. Anyway, I didn’t eat after 6 last night and exercised a little this morning. Then I took the blood test and, the title gave it away, the results were much better. One this was perfectly inline with the standard limits, and the others were getting really close. I got another month’s supply of medicine and plan to keep working out as hard as I have been. It would be nice to be thin (thinner) for a summer. It’s been 10+ years since I was. Wait….ah…I mean nearly 20 years. ARGH. I guess it was around age 21 when I gained weight, maybe slightly before that.

Not Going.
Wednesday, February 6th, 2008

     The two 8th grade teachers (the grade to which I am attached) are meeting with a travel representative to finalize plans for the senior trip to Osaka and Kyoto in the spring. That’s pretty much the first thing the seniors do in the first term and the rest of the term is dedicated to preparing for the sports festival. Academia comes later. Anyway they are meeting with the guy and, even though I am attached to that grade, I am pretty sure I’m not going. The reason I say that is not that I am being negative, it’s because they won’t give me a straight answer.

     I will ask if I am going with them and it’s always, “we’re not sure”. Well the thing about that is you can’t ask a travel agent for prices and reservations and just say “some people”. They want real numbers. Did you include me in that number, if so say “we are planning on you going, but there may be issues with ____________”. That’s a totally different answer than “we’re not sure”. Since the Japanese are vague and non-confrontational I have recognized that as meaning “no, but we don’t want to say that”. I will be happily surprised if I get to go somehow.

     I went to the gym last night and my weight is down to 104 kilos, which is about XX depending on the daily exchange rate. My current goal is 100 kilos which is about 220 pounds. Then I will readjust it to something else like 95. They said my ideal body weight is 76 kilos (167 lbs) at my health check, but that is absurd. I would fly away in a wind storm. I’ll be happy around 90, maybe 85. 85k = 187 lbs, 90k = 198 lbs. There’s also a matter of a local Koriyama marathon that I actually might be able to enter. Then I have to climb Mt Fuji again (did I just actually type that…..) since I didn’t make it to the top because I was so fat and slow. I was a fat greasy slab of stretched out stench lard. Man that felt good to say (in the past tense).

Polite Rebellion.
Thursday, February 7th, 2008

     The “no more paper spoon” campaign is still going strong. We had pudding today and used the regular metal spoon that we used for the other meat-soup product we ate. Using that same spoon always made sense to me, but until now we always had to use separate spoons. I didn’t know why, nor did I really care. So then the student council launched a rebellious campaign to stop the use of them because we have such a “green” goal in mind. Two funny things about that are:

     1) They sent out about 10 memos to all the teachers letting us know each step of the way.
         There’s a huge paper poster on a wall with our demands “No More Paper Spoons” in Japanese.

     2) it was never rebellious. The SC had to politely ask if the it would be remotely possible for
        the lunch staff to allow this change. They met a few times, then the lunch ladies met
        and talked about it, then the administration met with the LL and the SC. Finally it was agreed
        that this would be acceptable. The SC couldn’t do this without making sure it was ok with
        everyone. I’ve always thought a Japanese riot would be like “we are not going to tolerate
        this anymore, we demand a change (if that’s ok and convenient with all parties involved and
        all the  paperwork has been completed.)”.

     During lunch I pushed my milk off to the side as usual. At the end of the meal I asked a teacher if she wanted the milk. She immediately started to laugh and said something like “ha ha ha, do I want a second milk…oh my I can’t believe such a thing”. To me that was completely absurd as it was a yes or no question and I didn’t ask if she would loan me $600, but to her it must have been a variable (since we are only allotted one milk each) and laughing was the only way she could respond to my question. Everyday they give me a milk and everyday I put it off to the side and I think everyday it goes back to the kitchen and probably gets thrown away.

Hey Hey Paula....
Friday, February 8th, 2008

     Paula had her observed class like all the other Native Teachers have done since September. It was interesting and she had some ideas I am going to implement. Most of the things I learn from the other NTs require massive change for my school and vice versa. Since there are 1-2 classes per grade (of 17 to 22 kids) as opposed to 10-12 (of 30+ kids) at other schools, things obviously go different. One thing she did which I liked was to have the kids learn little skits and perform them in class. Ones that are learnable and presentable wholly within the class period.

     After that we all (minus John whose wife just had a baby girl) went to lunch and chatted about our futures. Our boss, who was at the observed class as well, mentioned in the traditional Japanese way of being vague and never really getting to a point, that teacher's salaries are going down and the number if staff is going down and changes will be made in the future. I can't imagine how tight things are when they currently don't heat buildings until the insides reach near freezing already. He also mentioned some regular teachers (who get a fat on month salary x 4.7 bonus) are complaining about how our salaries aren't going down. Here are some things they failed to remember:

1) we don't get the fatty bonus.
2) we don't, nor have never, gotten a raise. One teacher makes the same as she did 10 years ago.
3) we aren't from here, our families live far away. We are fish out of water.
4) we aren't here on a permanent basis.

If a Japanese teacher came to the US, I would expect him/her to make more money than other teachers at his/her level because of these 4 things.

     Then I went to the gym for a powerhouse leg workout. I'm still losing weight, little by little, each time I go. I'm also feeling better and the best thing is the BoE is pleased with the effort I have made to get in shape and improve my blood tests (which they did and will be improved even more next time. But the reason I mentioned the gym was that I noticed Japanese people do this irritating thing there as well.

     I usually notice it at coffee shops or restaurants. There will be a line of X number of people and someone will come in at the end of the line, see the line, then go drop their bags off at some table and get back in line. I feel like we do that in the US, but someone physically goes to hold the table. That's probably moreso because their bags alone would get stolen, but still. So it mildly irritates me when that happens, but I have seen people mark a table then not even get in line for a while. There is also this thing with hazard lights. If you get near a parking space, even if you blatantly cut in front of someone, as long as you put your hazard lights on it means you are about to pull into that spot.

     Well at the gym what I noticed was a woman put her drink on a treadmill and then walk away. Not a big deal I guess, maybe she is going to get water or something. She went to stretch on a mat and then get some water, then the bathroom, back for a bit more stretching, and finally on the treadmill. The only reason I noticed was that she is my girlfriend. I don't know her name and we have never met, but in my secret fantasy world, we are dating. I don't stalk her, just steal glances at the gym. I would say she doesn't know I exist, but everyone always stares at foreigners so I know she ahs seen me. Then later another woman marked a bike and did a few other exercises before coming back. The annoying thing was the bikes were full, except for the one she "reserved".

     Then I had dinner with Paula and Yuya, her hubby. We went to this really tasty ramen shop in town, well actually on the way to my place. It was really tasty and I will go back, though not too much since ramen is fatty. I made it home around 10ish and went to bed. This weekend is a long weekend with Monday being some holiday. I've got a lot of things to get done.

Getting Closer.
Tuesday, February 12th, 2008

    
So far since I joined the gym and started the new medicine I have lost weight every time I go to the gym. I started around 107 kilos and now I am down too 103. My current benchmark goal is 100k which is about 220lbs. That’s still too fat for my body type. According to www.healthstatus.com my ideal weight is 180 which sounds a bit better than something in the 160s like the J-scale wants, though it still seems lower than realistic. I’m going to shoot for 200lbs and then decide from there. When I reach 200 I will have a big drunken party with cake, beer, fried chicken, and the works.

     It seems like I have been away for a year. From school I mean. I had Friday afternoon off, and watched Paula’s observed class in the morning. In the afternoon I went to the gym and did some errands. Saturday through Monday (national holiday) I stayed in and did some intense programming. Not mental programming, but computer programming. It was intense for me, but nothing really special. For a period of a few hours on Sunday, I didn’t leave the chair and then could barely walk when I tried to stand up. Monday I went back into town and worked out again. I thought the gym was closed, but it was open until 6.

     Oh another thing I did this past week was laundry. That seems not worth mentioning on the surface, but when I explain further you will see that in fact it’s still probably not worth mentioning. The only reason I did mention it was because I did said laundry at the Laundry-Depot in Koriyama. It’s actually right beside the gym, as if you know where that is. Anyway, the wash cycle was about $4, but it was a big load, and then came the best part, the drying cycle. It was only about $3-4, but it was totally worth it. A side bonus was that I put a dryer sheet in the mix so my clothes smell nice. A double bonus was that I put the other dryer sheets on the dash of my car and when I turned on the defroster, they slid down and made the whole car smell like magical fluffy flowers. But seriously, having my clothes thoroughly cleaned and then dried within an hour is a great deal and I plan to take far more stuff there in the future. I can’t imagine why I wouldn’t like washing them and then hanging them to dry for 3 days in my cold apartment.

     Today I have one class with the 5th grade class. We’ll probably do more of my computer games. Tomorrow I have 2 classes as with Thursday. Friday is just one. Granted there are some other classes I can go to as an ALT, but they require no planning and a lot of standing. Payday is just over a week away at which time I will once again send back nearly half my paycheck. I think I am going to pay a bit more towards my school loan and then start putting some in savings. When I pay more than is due they extend my next due date. As it is now my next payment isn’t until August, even though the interest would keep piling up. I would like to get it about a year in advance in case something comes up where I can’t make payments for a while. I would at least have a year’s cushion. Then I will start putting shed loads of money in savings.

     So…in conclusion, there’s not much going on now. Well there’s some drama with the job, but I think that will be ok for another year. I’ll decide what I want to do later. At times I want to stay for a while, and other times I want to leave now. At its core it’s a good job and I enjoy it, but I often think I should let someone else try it since maybe they would be more effective. I also have visions of wanting to move on and try something new. There are a few kids I would really miss. I’m afraid if I voluntarily quit and get another job, I might wake up one morning and panic that I made a huge mistake. But on the same note, I am a big proponent of things having a clear ending point.

3rd Term 3rd Years.
Wednesday, February 13th, 2008
    

     There’s not much that is worse than the seniors in their 3rd term, especially the closer we get to graduation. They already have their acceptance letters into the high schools of their choice and it’s their time to have fun after 9 years of “hard work”. I put hard work in quotes because there are no consequences and the “hard work” is more or less optional. Something that compares to the 3rd years in their 3rd term is the 2nd years. They are in the “have fun” stage since they have moved on past being a new first year and don’t have to worry about being a senior yet. Something that IS worse than the 3Y3T is dealing with high school seniors in their 3rd term. They are already accepted in a university or have found a job and are just having fun until then. Though the worst, perhaps, would be 3Y3T at a technical high school which is quite often where people go that can’t get into the other schools. When they have their job offers around early February, they can turn into nasty lazy rude #$%&”&$-s.

     I’m showing Goonies to my 3rd years and most are just walking around the classroom talking and ignoring the movie. It’s really disrespectful (in their polite way), but it’s a fact of life. I can get upset about it or just let it go, either way it’s going to happen. After about 15 minutes into it they do get quiet and start paying attention. I’ve timed the movie to take place over 3 weeks and also timed where I am going to pause it each time. Luckily there are 2 places that are semi-suspenseful and make good cut offs. What’s even better is they are both around a full class period. The first is when the Goonies say “hey look a secret tunnel, where does it go?” and the second is when they slide down the secret waterslide and then turn and see this amazing old ship sitting there. I cut it right before they show the ship. The Goonies all have this look of amazement on their faces and the kids want to know why. It’s great.

     I had another class with the 5th graders and we played more of my computer games. I make a few each week and the kids seem to love them. I plan to make many more and redo them all so they all have timers and no bugs. The kids always find anything I missed. This time I asked if the kids had any requests and two told me about ideas which I have deemed possible and will start soon. I am also in the process of making a farewell video for the farewell party for the seniors in a few weeks.

Gainer.
Thursday, February 14th, 2008

    
Yesterday was the first day in a while that I didn’t weigh less than the previous time at the gym. But that was a technicality since the previous time I hadn’t eat breakfast or lunch and this time I had eaten lunch and drank some water before going. I need to do something at school like walking up the stairs or some mild exercise. Either way I am losing weight in a regular healthy manner.

     Something else that is regular is the pattern I have gotten into at the gym. It just seemed to naturally happen and it feels right. Sometimes I can’t get into a pattern or it feels wrong, but this one seems ok. I leave right after school on Tues and Thurs and don’t even go home, I just drive straight there. I get changed and start around 6. I work out for 2-2.5 hours including warm-up bike and “cool down” treadmill”. I don’t really cool down since I am walking fast for about 30 minutes. Then I go back and shower and change back and then go eat somewhere. Usually I have sushi since it’s cheap and lots of protein, though the rice isn’t the best thing to be eating. But since my metabolism is raging I figure it’s ok. Then I drive back and listen to some audio lecture which lasts the same amount of time as my drive home.

     Last night I probably shouldn’t have gone to the gym. Or more specifically, I shouldn’t have left Konan. There was a blizzard when I left and it was worse, and darker, when I came back. It was so bad at parts that, even though I could see a car’s brake lights about 1 kilo in front of me, I couldn’t see its tracks in the snow directly ahead of me. For a good potion of the trip I was navigating using the snow of the side of the road as a marker. When I got back the stairs were already covered with snow.

     Even though I used said stairs and made big foot prints (a foot deep) this morning they were gone and it was even deeper. The woman who also lives in the building unfortunately left before me and made footprints that came up above my knee. I took pictures since it was so absurd. Luckily I started my car from inside my apartment so the heater had melted much of the snow on the car or at least made it easier for me to push it off. I’ll try to post some of the other photos I took recently.

     Here’s the irony of the day: I’m on a wicked diet and losing weight like a hound dog chompin’ on a junebug, but I have a mound of chocolate from girls for Valentine’s day. It’s called Mount Choco. I’m going to have to stretch it out for a while or give some away. If you are wondering, I just made that thing up about the hound dog. I doubt it’s a real phrase, but it sure sounds southern. More so if you say it like “haun dawg chaw-pin owna jewn-bug”.

 

 


 

It's over 3 feet, but it includes snow that has melted some and packed down a bit. So far we've gotten well over 6 feet. My staircase that I shovel daily otherwise it is impassable. Which means I cannot pass. Three apples you say?

Snow.
Friday, February 15th 2008

            I know I mentioned at some historical point that I was going to stop commenting on how much snow we get, but I have to say one thing. Yesterday we got more snow than I have ever seen in the history of all things. I cleaned the stairs in the morning as mentioned above. Then when I got home I had to shovel a path to get into my parking lot. I had to shovel quite a bit for about an hour. My car could have plowed through it, but I wouldn’t have been able to open the door since the snow was at least two feet high. It feel into my snow boots a few times. All this was from one day worth of snowing. I had to shovel the stairs yet again as well as a path too the door. I went ahead and shoveled an area for the lady that lives in the building since she would have had the same problems. It’s to the point that I have to shovel snow every time I come home. Not just clear a path so I don’t step in snow, but shovel it so it doesn’t fall into my knee high boot as I walk.

            Today I have two classes as a Native Teacher and two or three as an ALT. I have tons of other things to do as well so I won’t mind the light load. Yesterday I had no classes and only went to one for a few minutes. I was thinking about going to the gym tonight to work off some of the chocolate I was forced to eat, but I think I will just go tomorrow morning and make a day, or morning, of going into town. Sometimes I wish there was a train that came to my town so I could go into the city without a car. Overall it is convenient, but sometimes it would be nice to have no car to worry about.

            I had a few language goofs today. One was:

Me: Can I get the key to the cases of soy milk?
Maintenance Man: 
Which cases?
Me:
The soy milk cases in the hall.
MM:
eh……what?
Me:
I need the key for the cases of soy milk in the hall, for the English room.
MM: eh…..what?
Me:
For the English room. I need the key to the…ah wait…vomiting milk.
MM: hmmm….anyone have any idea what that means?
Me:
I always get these confused, the key for the cases of the stuff that goes in the heaters.

MM:
Ah, the kerosene.
Me:
Blah blah…I was close. Kerosene, soy milk, and vomiting milk are all similar.
MM:
Not really.
Me: uh huh, yes really.

            Kerosene is toe-oh-you, a baby vomiting milk is toe-nyew, and soy milk is tone-you. They ARE similar and even more so in Japanese since they are slurred and sound identical. When Japanese people say they sound completely different, they mean the kanji is different therefore they are completely different words. They are similar times infinity.

            The second goof was when I asked a class to write down what arouses them. I said it over and over and should have seen their faces. They had that look of “I can’t believe he just said that” which I have seen so many times before. The reason I didn’t recognize it was that it is in fact similar to the face of “I am over reacting because that’s what we do in Japan”. It’s often hard to tell when I made a language goof and when people are just reacting stupidly. One example was when I told a teacher I was going to Tokyo and she acted like I was going to walk on my hands to Tokyo. I was merely going there like millions of other people have. I don’t know why they react like that occasionally to things that should warrant no reaction. Anyway, I was trying to ask the class what “inspires”, but I used the wrong reading of some verb that blah blah blah who cares.

            The reason for that goof and many others is I use an online dictionary called jisho.org (jisho is Japanese for dictionary). This site is fed by Jim Breen’s massive online e-dict with literally millions of entries. It’s a great online dictionary, but occasionally there are vague entries. For instance, the word “but” can be translated a dozen different ways, but the dictionary might just list them all as “but”. So you see that and assume the first entry is the most popular and use it, but that’s not the case. Luckily I usually ask a Japanese teacher if a certain word is correct for a certain situation, “but” sometimes I don’t.

Sunday Working Sunday.
Sunday, February 17th 2008

            I am at school, “working” on a Sunday. I don’t entirely mind since we get Monday off and I had nothing to do during the weekend. If Saturday and Sunday are considered the “weekend”, why do we say we start the week on Sunday? I always say I start the week on Monday because, and this is a stretch, that’s the actual day I start. When people say “I need this by the first of the week”, they mean Monday. But when you ask someone directly they say “oh yea Sunday is the first day of the week”. I don’t get that. I refuse to acknowledge that.

            Today we are at school for an observed class and some presentation by the 8th graders about the school trip that I still don’t know officially if I am attending. The elementary school is having their ski day where they ski down the small slope behind the school. Their parents came and there are about 300 people gathered around the slope. Most are family of the kids. Well I guess all are family since who else wants to watch elementary school kids ski down a 200 foot slope and then take 30 minutes walking back up. We get tomorrow off for coming in today. I was going to go into town and work out, but tomorrow is the one day of the month the gym closes.

            I’m just sitting here typing even though the other teachers related to the 8th grade are scurrying around preparing for stuff. I keep asking if there is something I can do, but they keep saying there isn’t. I know there is, but I don’t know what needs to be done ergo I can’t defy their politeness and help anyway. Maybe they don’t want me to attend the meeting because the parents will ask exactly how many people are going and there is a chance I will understand them say “everyone except Ryan”.

          As a point of clarification, today is the same day a year later as the "okama" language goof. There are some parents here for the presentation and others came to cook outside in the big kettles. I will post the language goof from last year below. Remember I didn't have this one again, I have learned my lesson on that, we are just reminiscing. Oh I spelled that right the first time.

Me: Where can I rent a homosexual?
English Teacher:
Eh, you want to rent a homosexual?
Me: Sure, but just for a day.
Him:
Why do you want to rent a homosexual for a day?
Me: For cooking.
Him:
You want to rent a homosexual to cook for you?
Me: Yes, and it would need to be a big one.
Him:
Why do you want to do this?
Me: For the international festival next year.
Him:
And the homosexual would do all the cooking?
Me: Sure if it is big enough, I think I would only need one.
Him:
Why do you need a homosexual for the international festival?
Me: It would make it easier to have one big one rather than a few smaller ones.
Him:
I have no idea where you would rent a homosexual. Why don’t you ask your friends?
Me: Oh, well I figured you could ask whoever rented them last week.
Him:
Who rented what?
Me: Last week when the three homosexuals came to the school.
Him:
When? On the PTA day? Did you ask people if they are homosexual?
Me: I asked the vice principal and he said they were homosexuals.
Him:
Who were?
Me: The three outside.
Him:
I don’t remember who was outside.
Me: The lunch ladies.
Him:
Three of the lunch ladies are homosexual?
Me: They were using three to cook lunch.
Him:
Let me ask the lunchroom chief.

Him: Did you rent three homosexuals last week for the PTA day?
Her:
Yes, didn’t you see them? We used them to cook lunch.
Him: What?! No I didn’t. Were they male or female? Where did you get them?
Her:
Male or female? You can’t really tell. I mean they are both or neither.
Him: Last week you rented three homosexuals to cook lunch?
Her:
Well we don’t call them homosexuals, we just say kettles.
Him:
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

     The word for homosexual is Okama. The word for kettle or pot is KAMA. To make things polite in Japanese you add an O or sometimes GO. For some strange reason when I added the O I didn’t hear the other word, probably because I didn’t play the conversation in my head first. I was just trying to speak and practice Japanese. The best part was when the lunchroom chief misheard it as well and thought he was saying kettle. When I redid the conversation in English, after the laughter subsided, he still didn’t know where or how much they were. I want to use the kettle to cook a huge low country boil for next year, and I would provide my own help…

 

Things May Be Closer than they Appear…
Thursday, February 21st, 2008

            Oh yea it’s payday. Maybe I will take some vacation time after lunch and run into town to take care of some things. Oh no wait I can’t because I have English interview practices after lunch. Argh. But other than that I wouldn’t be missing any classes. I mean I do have some scheduled but…and this is going to be hard to believe…they cut some today. I never complain out loud since that’s not the Japanese way, but it usually bothers me. Especially today when one of the classes was with the 5th graders who are my favorite kids. Yesterday and this morning I saw some of the 5th graders and their faces were all happy and smiley and they said “Yay we have English today”. Then I get to the teacher’s room and someone tells me, ever so politely, “oh the P.E. teacher wanted an extra class to explain blah blah to the 5th graders so your class was cut.” They didn’t even ask me if it was ok or if I had something big planned. It was simply “English is low on the priority, especially a required-elective forced on us by the BoE, and anyone, even the maintenance man, can use your class time if they need it.” Things like that make the next paragraph easier to chew.

            A fellow NT told me that she heard some rumblings of the chance that our Native Teacher program might not be renewed THIS year. Like from August I could be jobless. That’s not really in my life plan right now. Pretty much leaving next year would be the earliest I could mentally prepare for it. This year would be way too sudden, though typical of the Japanese style. I flip between realizing it could be time to move on and wanting to stay for several more years. For me, a fair compromise would be leaving next year. I really want to see the 5th graders become JHS students, and one more renewal would do that. We wouldn’t be told until after March and sometime in April. Either way I am going to start putting more money in savings rather than sending overpayments to my school loan. Even though I really want to pay that down, I think it’s more important to have some financial cushion to fall back on.

            Tomorrow the local historian will come by and watch the 7th graders practice the folk tales skit. I’m so glad he is coming by because they aren’t taking me really seriously and it’s so hard for me to get them to practice. When their teacher told them he was coming by tomorrow about 7 kids came to me in the teacher’s room for some last minute questions. The last minute questions were not last minute at all, they had never started memorizing their parts and suddenly they had to. We are also going to start making the big background art for the performance. It’s going to be a big thing for me and the area as well since the reporter is coming by next week. My favorite part is watching them suddenly realize they should have listened to me early on.

Maybe Next Week.
Friday, February 22nd, 2008

            I had a little language thing today, not really a goof so much as a misunderstanding that could have been resolved much faster if I had known someone’s first name. Let’s join the broadcast already in progress:

Me: Where can I get the large paper that the 6th graders use for their graduation art?
Office Lady: They are doing it this year.
Me: Never the less, where can I get the big sheets of paper?
OL: It’s in the printing room under the sign that says “big sheets of paper”.
Me: Touché, I will go there in a now like manner.
OL: Why do you need it?
Me: Hashimoto sensei is coming by later and I want to show him what we have done.
OL: What are you going to use it for?
Me:
We will draw castles or backgrounds.
OL: I doubt he will care or have time, he will be in meetings with the principal.
Me: Funny, I thought he was coming here for me.
OL: ha ha, that’s funny.
Me: No, I really thought he was coming to see my class.
OL: We are talking about Hashimoto [something] sensei right?
Me: Sure, I guess, whatever. Hashimoto sensei. The guy that comes by the school            sometimes.
OL: He’s coming by to see you?
Me: Yea, he said he was going to come by this week sometime and I’m sure it was today.
OL: I don’t know why, he’s meeting with the principal about a P.E. matter.
Me: Really? I don’t see him as a P.E. type person. I thought he was a rice farmer.
OL: Nope, he was a P.E. teacher.
Me: Really? This is news to me. I just thought he was a local farmer. He seems too old to be a P.E. teacher.
OL: Well he’s retired now and just advises about local sports events.
Me: No offense, but that is the dumbest thing I have ever heard. I am positive he is a rice farmer, I saw him riding his tractor around [some area].
OL: That doesn’t sound like him.
Me: He said he was interested in my class today.
OL: He was probably lying just joke with you.
Me: He seemed so serious and really interested. I really can’t believe any of this.
OL: Well we can ask him when he gets here later.

[later]

Me: Oh I heard he wasn’t coming today, he is coming next week instead, but I still need that paper.
OL: No he’s here now meeting with the principal.
Me: What the #$%&? Are you kidding me?
OL: No, he’s in there now.

            Then I storm to the door of the office and knock, which was really rude, then I open the door and see the principal talking to Hashimoto sensei, a different Hashimoto sensei that in fact was a P.E. teacher and now sets up local meetings. The fact I nearly stormed in along with me suddenly realizing what happened made me look like I was drunk and a moron. I just mumbled and left.

            My class with the kids planning the folk tales skits in late March went ok. I told them they had to have their parts memorized by today and no one bothered to make any attempt. Well one girl memorized her parts, but no one else did. This part didn’t surprise me in the least since learning English usually stops at the door. I’ve never had anyone do anything at home that was English homework related. Today the local historian mentioned above was supposed to come watch the class and I was really counting on that, but then he couldn’t make it for some reason. Luckily next week he is coming and bringing a reporter from a local newspaper who is going to write up a story and take some photos. That is really going to make the kids get their acts together. I was secretly hoping it would embarrass some kids this week and cause them to do better, but no such luck.


Unreal Snow.
Sunday, February 24th, 2008

           I said that I would no longer comment on how much snow we get since it was almost a daily thing, but in the course of 24 hours between Saturday around 5pm to Sunday the same time, we got around 2 feet. I have to clean the stairs pretty much every time I use them other wise they form a slide and I slip (onto the soft snow). Well this time I decided to head out around 5:30pm on Sunday and go get some dinner. I thought about just walking over to the local convenience store and seeing what they have, but for some reason I chose to drive at the last minute. If I hadn’t chosen to drive, the other lady that lives in the building couldn’t have left this morning. When I got near the car I realized there were no more stairs. I had to completely re-dig a path to the stairs and it took nearly an hour. If I hadn’t done that, I don’t know what the lady would have done. There was no other way to get to the cars.

            The reason there is so much snow in front of our apartment and specifically around the stairs is because the building is poorly designed. There’s no polite way to put that really, it’s just a bad design. It would have been easy to fix too. The way the roof slants causes the snow to build up and then dump directly in front of the building, completely blocking our way. However, no snow seems to pile up behind the building because the roof slants differently that way. It’s not like it suddenly started snowing 10 years ago and the roof wasn’t an issue when designing it. It’s always been a snowy place because we are up in the mountains and surrounded by mountains.

Wasteful As Usual.
Monday, February 25th, 2008

            I have 9 classes this week, though I will only go to 7. Of those 7 I will only plan 5 of them. Of those five, one will be a practice for the folk tales (with a newspaper reporter visiting), two are movies, and two are some actual lesson plan. Most teachers have about 12-15 classes per week, but the guy that came 7,000 miles to sit in a teacher’s room only gets 5. The sheer inefficiency of how I am underused is one thing that is tilting the scale to the “just one more year” side. I can’t believe I actually ask for more work. I tried to put it in my contract when I was a high school JET since they used me so pathetically. I went 3 months without one single class and from April on my second year to July of my third year (15 months) with only 99 classes total. Most ALTs would have about 99 classes in a month.

            Today the seniors watched the 2nd part of Goonies. They really got into it and were cheering and even squealing in the scary parts. I stopped it perfectly to build the tension for next week. The characters all turned around and said “Oh my God what is that” and then I paused it. The class begged me to show just one more second, but I said they would have to wait. I have to make an activity for next week since the last part only lasts 20-30 minutes I think.

Cut.
Tuesday, February 26th, 2008

            I got the official word that the presentation I worked on for a few weeks won’t be able to be shown at the farewell party on Friday. It’s not he end of the world since I can show it in class, but I wanted to show it during the party since so many students would see it. There are two reasons why I’m a bit mad that I can’t show it. Reason one is because the other grades are also putting on presentations or performances, and those are going on for 20+ minutes. There should be a time limit. Reason two is that, even though I told them I would be doing something long ago, my presentation (like my schedule) was placed at the bottom of the list. When the other groups said they wanted to do something, they were added at the top and that pushed mine down and then off. I understand I shouldn’t be at the top, even though I said I would be doing something early on, but I don’t think I should naturally be at the bottom either.

            I had one class today with the 5th graders who are still my favorite class. I think it’s because of their teacher and that he teaches them English a lot. I really wish I could see them as JHS students, but I think I will only be able to see them for one term. I don’t know if our jobs will be here after next year or even this year. Anyway, in the class we played my computer games and the kids loved them. I need to make more since I no longer have to work on my farewell presentation. I was putting the finishing touches on it, but I’ll just take my time and show it during my own classes. I might still try to do one thing during the presentation, but it would only last about 1 minute.

            The internet at school makes me want to gash my eyes out. It’s turtle slow and if more than one person is using the network then it’s slower than a tree growing. The two things that really cause my blood pressure to skyrocket are 1) any page that is remotely useful, even educationally useful, is blocked. 2) Sometimes it just stops. It doesn’t lock up or crash, it just stops. I will click around and it says it is refreshing, but it’s really not. I’ll have to close the window(s) and start over. I should be glad that we have the internet and can use it, but come on folks this is 2008.

            The 8th graders are rehearsing for their (too long) presentation on Friday. I watched part of it and saw them playing piano, guitar, and singing, but not necessarily in relation to each other. It was “together”, but I don’t think they could hear each other and well…it needed work. I tried to offer some tips, but they were shot down. Actually the recipients nodded and acted like it was useful, but then continued with the way they do things. One way was the absolute most inefficient way to scroll through a PowerPoint presentation.

            Let me see if I can give you a proper example of how Japan is a land of contradictions. I’m going to give you two scenarios and you have to choose which one would be considered rude:

1)      Leaving your mobile phone on your desk while you are in class. Having the ringer volume set to full. Having your voice mail setting set to “never”. Having someone call you and assume you are running for the phone, but caught in some temporal distortion so they let it ring 983 times.

OR

2)      Me sitting at my desk typing out a quick message to a friend quietly.

            This is a tough one. One is considered rude and the other is perfectly acceptable. Go ahead and think about it for a while. (Hint: the answer is the one that makes the least possible sense).

Stuffed.
Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

            I worked out last night and then went to Milky Way with Paula. I ate way too much and was in agony after it. It was awesome. I was really feeling bad and I guess my stomach has shrunk so I doubt I will be overeating like that anymore. Also when I ate too much chocolate for Valentine’s day I felt nasty, actually sick for a while, so I doubt I will be eating like that anymore as well. Before I didn’t feel anything and constantly overate, so I would keep eating. But no more of that, no sir, apart from losing weight, eating less saves me money.

            I’m trying to figure out my summer plans. If I still have a job, I think I will aim for going to Thailand to take that course and get a CELTA. I hate saying that without the word “certificate”, but the C stands for certificate so it would be like PIN number, which is redundant. Anyway, the whole thing will cost around 3 fat, or 3 large or 3 grand, whichever means $3,000. Maybe more depending on where I stay and how much airfare costs. It would be helpful if I continue teaching English as a foreigner language in the future, which is something that could be considered possible. As for being considered a possibility, this is something that could be. If I don’t have a job I could still do it and use their option of “Train then Teach”, but I am thinking of Hong Kong first and Thailand later.

 

 

 

2005-2007

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