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Tuesday, February 02, 2010

            For some unknown reason, I didn’t sleep last night. I might have dozed off from around 3:30am to 6 when the alarm went off, but I was wide awake until then. That has happened before a few times and it’s really strange. This time it was odd because I didn’t have anything that should have even remotely caused that since about 2pm. I drank a few glasses of green tea in the morning as usual and then one with lunch which I sipped until 2ish, but that shouldn’t have caused me to be wide awake for that long. Seriously, I couldn’t even close my eyes. It was the opposite of dozing off when you can’t even stay awake. I would close them and they relax and they would open and I would then realize I was looking at the wall. I rolled around and got slightly drowsy a few times, but if anything bothered me, like my shirt or the blanket, I would pop back to being wide awake. Then I worked on the computer a bit and surfed the web sometime and forced myself back to bed around 3. I remember seeing 3:30 and then the alarm went off at 6:15. I almost turned it off and went back to sleep. Oddly, I am not tired today.

            Tomorrow I have that Q&A panel discussion where I am the American representative along with someone from China, Saudi Arabia, and Korea. I saw a list of the questions the kids will ask and some are interesting while others are stupid. One in particular is “why did you discriminate against blacks?” Like I know that. Furthermore, they make it sound like Japan never discriminates which is funny because, in fact, they do. To the best of my knowledge, there are no foreign principals, vice principals, government officials, police officers, etc. It is unimaginable to have a foreign prime minister in Japan.

            But if they ask me about it I’m not going into some rant about how they discriminate too. I’ll just say “oh yes it’s terrible isn’t it…” which is the same response to “how do you feel about Hiroshima?” There is no other answer. Plus this is an elementary school and it’s not my place to teach the 6th grade kids about their own country problems. I just hate these situations where people act like “we are better than you”, but in fact you are the same.

Not so Bad.
Wednesday, February 02, 2010

            So I just finished the international thing and it wasn't so bad. I still think they should have combined the two one hour segments into one day or one whole morning rather than virtually ruining two full days for me. It was fun and I enjoyed doing it, but I can't go to either Tadano today or Konan on Friday because this virtually takes up both days. We had a meeting from 10 to 10:40 about what would happen, then went to one of 3 rooms to do a welcome and introduction. Then we separated into 4 rooms, mine being the American room, and kids who showed an interest in that country asked questions. Most were ok, some were like "how many cars does your family have?" and a few were vague. Then we had another meeting about something and I didn't really understand it all. I shouldn't have been chosen for this since my Japanese isn't as good as other people's. Friday we have some other activity, but I don't know what it is. Then Friday night we might have an NT party and then there is a monthly DJ party I might go to.

Almost Made It.
Friday, February 12, 2010

            I was hoping this would be the first time in almost 8 years of living in Japan that I made it to my next paycheck without dipping into savings or getting a cash advance on my credit cards, but…..I almost made it. I think I can do it next month since I bought a few things on payday last month. I bought a cheap widescreen monitor and an Apple Magic Mouse for my Mac, then I got a track suit for jogging and paid ahead for a month of school lunches. If I buy either nothing or far less this month I should make it. Although I do plan to pay off my stupidly too expensive phone and it will be my last computer payment this month. But as far as food goes I have been spending far less than previously because I have been eating less and that has caused my stomach to shrink some I think.

            This week has been a semi good week. Monday I went to Kozu and had some good classes, although for the 5-6th grades the teacher insisted we use the worthless Eigo Nooto. I hate it for so many reasons, but the main two are 1) I stand there NOT TALKING and just press play/pause on the CD Player and 2) the kids don’t actually learn anything after a class with the book because there is no production component. They just listen to the vague directions and usually circle something on a page. But apart from these two lessons Monday was fun. Then Tuesday I came to Konan and had my one wasteful class where the kids just run around not listening.

            Wednesday I had 3 out of 4 good classes at Tadano, but 2 were great. I used an activity of either Dan or Ben (I don’t know who made it since we mix and mingle activities so much). I taught 6 illnesses and also “what’s wrong”. Then gave the kids 1 card each for 5 of the 6 illnesses. They walked around saying WW and responding with their card. Then I collected them all and replaced one with “The Flu”. They did it again, but if they talked to a flu person they now said “I have a cough….and the flu”. When everyone was infected we stopped. Then I gave the 8 girls a “specialty” and some medicine (stickers) and the boys had to walk around and say “help me I have ______” and pick an illness. If they picked the doctor’s specialty then they got a sticker-medicine otherwise they were told “sorry, goodbye” and left. Then we swapped jobs and did it again. The kids loved it especially when I said, “I will now give you all a disease”. They didn't find any humor in playing doctor. That even made me giggle.

            The other semi-ok class was about shapes. Actually, that was a good class somewhere else, but here it was a little too hard. I felt bad when one nice girl got sad because she couldn’t remember. I redid the activity making it simpler and used it today and the class was great. I mean it went perfectly and they remembered everything and the timing was dead on. I walked into the class passed out a few more name cards I made for the kids, reviewed days of the week and the 12 months, practiced the TH sound, then explained the 6 shapes we were learning today. Finally I gave them the sheet with all the patterns and they walked around explaining their patterns to other students. They would say “2 circles, one square, one star” and so on. It went great and they enjoyed it. We stopped right on time and I left. It felt great.

            I haven’t been running recently because I either have something to do during the time I would run or it has snowed. Sometimes, such as last night, I walked to the grocery store to get food which was some exercise, but I can’t really run in the snow. My shoes are running shoes and the cold are (as well as snow) would go right through them plus I can’t run in the boots.

Big Difference.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010

            I went out to eat over the weekend and saw a big difference between Japan and other countries. A guy came into a restaurant and sat at the counter (there are single seats). Then he ordered. There were about 10 people in the place. After he ordered he had to go to the bathroom, but he wanted to "save his seat". He didn't have a coat or anything big so what should he do? He used his keys and wallet. He just put them on the counter and went to the bathroom for about 5 minutes. I thought of how long they would sit there back in the US.

             I drove to the grocery store last week since it was a blizzard. It was blizzing outside I could say. Anyway, I get there and find a parking space. I back into it as you are supposed to do at all times in Japan. As I am backing into it I see a woman pulling into the space behind it, but she is looking at me confused. I assumed she was going to pull through the spaces so she was "backed" into the one I was actually backing into. When she saw me she just froze. I noticed she was perfectly in the space behind me, but she was facing into it and not backed into it. She was perfectly aligned in the space. Perfectly fine no problem parallel to the adjacent cars.


              So she proceeded to back out of it and work her way around the small area. Moving forward and then backward and then small turns and more forward and backward and then she backed into the space. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD. She was already IN the space. By doing all that she canceled out any shred of time saving she would have had by being backed in and able to pull straight out. It was a stupidly robotic I'm-incapable-of-thinking-for-myself moment.

                 Along those lines, I watched a school employee and a printer repairman drop a printer because one of them was having trouble putting on his slippers. He had to take them off to enter a room. Then when he was coming out, backwards, he had to step down and blindly try to slip his foot in the slipper because OH MY GOD what would happen if he stepped into the room in the slipper or if he stood there in his sock for 10 seconds. But the slipper was more important than the printer and he let it slip a little and it partially dropped. The other guy tried to catch it. I truly wonder what would happen there was an emergency or something outside (or inside) and we had to run outside fast. Would people actually change their shoes while risking their lives? You think "surely no", but I have been here long enough to question it.

                At two of my schools there is some horrible panic if green tea is allowed to cool. On top of that I truly think Japanese people have no oral heat sensors. I swear to you I have seen countless people pour near boiling water into a cup and then immediately drink it. Sometimes I will pour some and let it sit for a few minutes to cool down, but invariably at these two schools some nice teacher will come over and see it not near boiling and go refill it. I have to hide it otherwise they change it when I'm not looking. I had to go pour some out the other day because I had it near perfect before lunch and some teacher changed it and A) took 10 minutes to bring it back and then B) it was almost boiling. I couldn't even sip it so I just went into the kitchen and poured it out and got some cool water.

               I took a vacation day today since there were no classes and I really didn't feel like driving all the way to Konan to sit there. I got some stuff done and wasted some time. Then I walked to the grocery store and bought a few things to keep me going until Friday payday. Later in the day I managed to run around the park nearly twice. I only stopped a few times and I think I can go farther next time. I think I ran 6Km in 41 minutes which is a good pace for me. There was some walking so I assume pure jogging would be around 30 min or less. When I am able to jog around it twice without stopping then I'll probably change paths since I hate going around it twice.

All Have Completed the Requirements…
Tuesday, February 23, 2010

            I am at Konan sitting in a meeting about who gets to graduate or move up a grade. The teachers are making a big deal about how great it is that all kids were able to pass all the requirements to advance. I want to yell “EVERYONE ALWAYS PASSES”. No one ever fails or gets held back. I truly think no one has ever been held back in the history of Japan’s education system. I find it funny listening to them act suspenseful when it’s obvious what they are going to say. “15 boys, 10 girls, all have passed the requirements and will advance (or graduate).” Ha, yea of course. The guy that NEVER SPOKE graduated last year.

            They mentioned that certain wild kid's name a few times and I later asked what they were talking about and was told that even though the kid was wild and a troublemaker they decided to move him on to the next grade. I laughed inside and thought "of course they did, they always do". As if sensing what I was thinking, the teacher added, "but he was almost held back, which is highly unusual". Wow that would have been devastating to the grade coming in. They are so vastly different and seem much younger whereas he already seems older. He would destroy that class.

Another Week.
Friday, February 26, 2010

            I just had a class with one of my favorite classes at Konan, the 4th graders. The teacher wasn’t there so I thought I was teaching alone, but as it turned out the Japanese-English teacher helped me. That’s the one class I don’t need help with, but it doesn’t matter. He is assigned to help me with that class and not the other one. Anyway, I played a great game that is actually supposed to be for 5th graders, but these kids are advanced and will be using the stupid worthless pointless poorly made completely ineffective ‘English Notebook’ forced upon us by the ministry of education. During their time with that book they will learn nothing new and most likely lose a little English ability. So I went ahead and taught them since they could handle it, they would enjoy it, and it was easy for me to teach. It went well and they will leave knowing the phrase “what’s wrong” and six ailments. I didn’t create the lesson so I can’t take credit for it.

            Last week on Friday I think I went to McDonald’s before our monthly meeting. I noticed 2 things that were interesting about Japanese culture, then later I noticed something else at a different store. First, there was a long line at McDonald’s and I was about 10th or so. There was only one person behind the registers and it was going slowly. Some 40+ woman came up behind me, saw the line, and looked around at the other registers and then just went over to another one that was closed and stood by it. A manager saw her waiting and got confused and went over and asked what was going on and the woman tried to order. The manager and a few of the 18-20 something kids in line pointed out there as a big line and everyone was waiting and she acted surprised as if she hadn’t seen it. Then she tried to step to the front of the line and wait, but was told again to go back. Then she stood back a bit and just waited. When the line got much longer the manager opened a second register and the woman tried to step forward to it, but the young people lurched forward while remarking how rude she was.

            She gets served after them even though some people are fussing at her ever so politely as you would expect. I heard her say she was in a big hurry and was just getting coffee. She ordered a full meal, for here, and sat down to eat it slowly. She was there when I left some time later. The second thing was that there were 3 people working total for the breakfast rush which seemed odd, granted it was a Friday and people would be at work or school. Then during the peak time the woman preparing the food looked at her watch, pointed something out to the manager and just walked out with her jacket on. I assumed it was her break time and the fact that they were short staffed and there was a huge line was irrelevant to her. She was on break for about 15 minutes and the register clerk and manager just worked away at the line.

            Then after all that I went to the home goods store and bought some square plastic fake grass things for my entry way. The snow from my boots was causing water to stay on the floor and that got some mail and other stuff wet. Anyway, they were 88 yen each and I bought 10 identical ones. However, one didn’t have a price tag. When the clerk rang them up she got to that one and panicked. Oh GOD there is no price tag, what are we going to do. She looked all around it, but saw there was no price tag. She was terrified and really worried. I was thinking…DEAR GOD lady just scan a tag from one of these…But that was a silly idea. She called another person over and they talked about it for a second. They actually talked about what to do for a second. SERIOUSLY, is this like Japanese Punk’d or something? Then she RAN to the aisle where they were and got one with a price tag. When she came back she remarked “we sure are lucky there was another one with a price tag.” Did I suddenly get zapped into the Twilight Zone? Just scan another one.




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