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Happy New Year
Sunday, January,

     I'm back with an enormous update. This year was much more adventurous than last year so it will take a few days to work it all up, but I'll do it in stages starting later today.

Chew on This
Tuesday, January,

     I'm still working on my big update and should have something by the end of the week. I had planned to finish it all today, but I got called to a meeting in Koriyama and had to leave around noon. But here is something to chew on for a while...and yes they are real and living.

Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi Thailand

Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi Thailand


Good News
January, 11th 2007

     Today has been a relatively good day. It started out with me having the yearly health check. People donít really look forward to this, but I can appreciate how many different tests I get all for free. I mean Iíve had some physicals in the US, but this one is a 2 hour comprehensive one. They checked my hearing, vision, weight, height, blood, stool, EKG, eye glaucoma check, chest X-ray, and last year I had a stomach X-Ray. This year I opted out, but I will have one next year. Man it was like a total check-up. But the good part was I seem to be getting slightly healthier. My blood pressure went way down, I lost about 7 kg (15 lbs) and other blood related things were getting better. Thatís really the jumpstart I need to get in even better shape.

     The other good news, which is really great is I secretly found out which teachers are staying next year. The main one I cared about is the English teacher (the Japanese English teacher). Heís a great teacher and we work well together. He will definitely leave in two years, but for this year it will give me a chance to really get my act together. One semi-bad change I found out about is they are cutting my 2 elective classes to just one. I had planned to have the smaller class as a test prep class and the larger one as a speaking/listening class. So now I need to rethink that, but itís ok.

     The other other good news is I found out my request for reduced payments for my big school loan went through, so now I owe less than half what I had been paying. That means I will be able to send back even more toward my other smaller loan and get it down by April. Then I might take a few months off and build up some savings either here or in the US or both.

     My only major expenses this year are going to be the car tax of $2,000 USD and then I want to go to some Japanese language school(s) during spring and summer. My Japanese ability is sad. Last year there was one other Native Teacher with zero Japanese ability, but this year itís me. Argh. I can take a weekís classes in Tokyo during spring break and stay with Daisuke for free, and then 3-4 weeks worth in summer and possibly stay for free again.

     Although I still canít fully talk about the details, my gifts to my parents and sister were a success. I sent one back for a friend and he hasnít picked it up yet so I donít want to post pictures. I think he reads this. If so Larry go to the shop and get it, I sent you the map. GO.

     Iím almost finished with my Thailand update. I did a few things that were interesting. One was the tiger temple as shown above and the other was to visit a prisoner in Thailandís infamous Bang Kwang prison. He was busted for trying to smuggle heroin out of Bangkok to Australia. He fully admits his guilt and regrets his actions. Many people believe drug smugglers should rot in hell and donít deserve a visitor. Well thatís your opinion. Iíll write up a page about my trip there and how others can do it if interested.

We Are Za Worldo
Friday, January 12, 2007

Letís eat. Ryan are you ready?
Today the kidís will play music during lunch.

(I hear a strange version of We Are The World).

Whatís this?
You donít know? Itís We Are World.
Oh, yea but it sounds different. Who is singing?
Itís the original version.
By original do you mean Japanese version?
No no, the original version. America copied it from Japan.
Ha ha. Ok, thatís very interesting.

     I found out thatís a SE Asian thing, not just a Japanese thing. When I visited the prisoner in Bang Kwang, he said the Thai people in the prison thought a Thai person was the first on the moon. He also convinced them that people in Australia had pet dragons when they saw a commercial for Eragon.

Tangerine Attack
Sunday, January 14, 2007

      The nice lady who runs the Smile Mart (they sell happiness) told me there was a festival near my apartment today at 4. Ok, cool. I have nothing pressing to do other than clean my apartment, so I'll go. I get there at 3:45 and they are just setting up. Here's a page dedicated to the Konan machi-Miyo Winter Festival.

     Here's the other news I can finally post. I have been hinting vaguely discussing some Christmas presents I sent back for my parents, my sister and brother in law, and a friend who owns a music lessons place (I think there is a better name for that). I couldn't say much about it since they all (minus the parents) read this so I couldn't post anything about it. But now it's all done and they have all received the gifts so I can show the rest of the world.

     I sent back three framed Japanese calligraphy pictures. Actually the framing was done in the US at my dad's company's old location's neighbor's framing company (wow). They make frames for pictures, they don't frame people for crimes, though that would be funny. Anyway, here are the photos of the three things I sent back.

     So here they are. On the left we have "The Arts" for Larry my friend with the music school. The center one is "Sacrifice" for my parents, and the right is "Faith" for my sister. I had to wait since Larry, who reads this, hadn't picked his up for a while. I've been thinking of doing this for years, but haven't been able. This year I got tired of waiting and had my calligraphy teacher do them and I mailed them back. Hopefully one day I'll be able to draw them myself, but I have a poor sense of space which is a big part of writing Chinese characters.

     Oh here's a humorous story about the above paintings/drawings. My sister's one is the faith image. When she took it home she leaned it against the wall for a day or two and then she was ready to hang it. She told my brother in-law that she knew exactly where she wanted to hang the faith painting. Say that out loud a few times. Faith painting. My niece, the elder niece, came running into the room so excited that they were going to do "face painting". My sister said that was the hardest thing she has ever had to do, tell her excited smiling daughter that she misunderstood.

     I finished my Thailand update, but I left the files on my laptop which is at school. I'll bring it home Monday and make the update then. It's big, about 10 or 15 separate pages. I could write about the two other things I did while in Thailand, which are visiting the forensic museum which cadavers split apart like that horse from The Cell, and then visiting a prisoner in Bang Kwang prison. I'll work on those soon.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Today all the kids have tests, all three grades for all six classes. I donít mind since I have some things I need to do. One is to clean the heck out of my desk. Since I teach all 9 grades I have lesson plans and activities and planning stuff for all nine grades. Iíve noticed I have a cabinet drawer that I never open so whatever is in there needs to be in a less accessible place. I have too much clutter on my desk and need to sort it better. My goal is to make lessons a year in advance for all my classes. Figure out how many classes I will have, the curriculum I want to teach, and then start planning lessons that build on each other. But for that I need a lot more space.

I bought the movie Goonies at the record shop. I havenít seen it in a while, but my plan is to show it to the 3rd year students over three class periods. Most are already accepted into a high school and the others will be taking the general test soon. There are some things I could be teaching them, but their attention span goes down day by day. Plus they have really busted their butts over this past year and the movie will technically count as listening practice. Paula, a fellow Koriyama Native Teacher, has been showing the movie to all 10 of her 3rd year classes and sitting through the movie each time. Ouch, I sat through E.T. twice last year and that was too much. Oh I had better check and see when the 2nd years get to the E.T. chapter in the book.

I woke up this morning and felt odd in some places. Then I saw I had some bruises and I didnít know why. Then I remembered getting smacked down with hundreds of tangerines yesterday. Iím going to try to be on the throwing end next year. Maybe I will invite some friends since it is a quaint little interesting festival.

Almost Finished
Tuesday, January 16, 2007

        I had no planned classes today, well the one with the 5th graders, but of course Iím not needed there. Iíve been thinking and I have been to that class less than 5 times total. When they are JHS students in two years I wonít have any idea about their level. Sadly I canít say anything to the people above me since the teacher is the best friend of the guy that is the liaison between Koriyama ALTs / NTs and the Board of Education. I could say something, but this teacher is well known as being such a good teacher, it would sound like I am the problem. Technically I do think he is a great teacher, but he doesnít use me much and that is wasteful. By ďmuchĒ I mean never.

        Iíve spent the morning fixing some stupid issues I had with creating the Thailand Trip files. I am finished with the updates, but now I have to upload them and thatís taking a while. Itís not important what the problem is, just that I thought I was doing things efficiently by making the pages offline at school and uploading them later. But actually I was taking twice the time it would have take to make them directly online. Anyway, they should be uploaded and done soon like now or tomorrow. Iíll post the links as well as the links to the page about the Forensic Museum and Visiting a Prisoner at Bang Kwang Prison.

        I really need to set some goals as far as hobbies go. I have interests in so many things, but they are all media related. I enjoy writing and have written a few articles about Japan (and shortly Thailand) for an online ďmagazineĒ called http://www.GoNomad.com . My next writing goal is to get an article with photos published in a real print magazine. [Tangent: I hate when people say ďI run a magazine and I am thinking about doing a print version. EH WRONG Mr. CHUMPERs. A magazine IS a print version, you run a website. You can have an online magazine, but the online part is part of the title. A magazine, like a book, is printed. End Transmission]. Then after that, or possibly around the same time, Iíd like to have a science fiction story published in aÖ.real print magazine. Later Iíd like to work up to novels, then bestsellers, then something else.

        Also Iíd like have some photographs published somewhere. I enjoy photography though I donít call myself a photographer. Technically I could since that technically means someone who takes photos, but I am going to wait until I get paid for a photograph. I wouldnít mind just having something published in a magazine and not getting paid, or getting paid and not having them published, or just getting paid. I plan to take my regular film camera around when I travel and snap some nice shots on film as well.

        At some point, hopefully within this year, my college friend and I are hoping to start a small FREE English magazine in Tokyo. Can you believe there are no free magazines in Tokyo, the city of 712 Gazillion Trillion people? Ha ha Gazillion is a word. Anyway, it will cost us a bit at first, but I truly think it will catch on. Even if it doesnít at least I can say I tried.

        What else, it seems like there is more. Oh, I am still working on my quiz website for my kids. I have decided to stop worrying about programming it myself and hire someone to do it right in PHP and MySQL. PHP is a strong and fast programming language for Linux and MySQL is a strong and fast database. Now I have it in ColdFusion and MySQL, which works, but PHP is easier to get access to, faster, and will handle far more people using it at once. I hope to make it so the whole school can use it for test preparation, then maybe release it to the BoE and they can tell the whole citywide school system about it, but that will cause all sorts of new headaches.

        Well anyway, those are all media related. Oh thereís also getting my black and white darkroom set up first at home and then possibly at school. Iíd like to get back into that as well as slide photography which is what magazines require. I also need to get some new lenses and filters and a better tripod, but these are all on the back burner and smaller projects.

        I have made a few other goals which seem to be highly doable, even though I donít seem to be doing as much as I could. Here they are in no order:

Lose 10 kg.
Pay off my second loan.
Have $2,000 in US savings and $1,000 in savings here.
Get better at Japanese.

        Well technically I am making plans for all of them, but the losing weight requires more than making plans, which is my problem. If only I got credit for my intentions I would be in such good shape. As far as paying off the second loan goes, I have a plan for that. I am sending back most of my paycheck for Jan-April. Then Iíll have to save some for my stupid $2,000 car tax, but I should have it paid off by then. Then I will keep sending the money back and save it as well as save some here. The vague last goal will be accomplished by me not traveling during spring break or summer and going to an intensive language school in Tokyo. I can stay with Daisuke for either free or buying him dinners occasionally to save money.

The part about losing weight would put me quite close to my ideal weight. Well my realistic ideal weight. The doctor said I should be 77kg which is 167 lbs, but I think my true ideal weight is more around mid to upper 80s which would be 187-198 lbs. 167 lbs for someone 6í3Ē is really absurd. They are clearly using the Japanese BMI scale. The principal suggested I do some cross country skiing, at least around the field at the school. I donít have any skis, but thatís a good idea. I donít like pure exercise because I get bored at the tedious nature of running in circles. But moving around an area in cold air might be alright.

So thatís my 4 part attack plan. I think itís realistic and doable, though as I said I need to make hard goals about the hobby related stuff. My aunt has moved me along a bit as far as writing goes. She graciously bought me several books regarding writing points that I had in my Amazon wish list. Well, some folders just showed up that I had ordered so I am going to continue sorting my desk. I stopped yesterday since I had no such folders.

Iím about to whine a bit, even though I am trying to whine less and less this new year. But anyway, sometimes I want to casually look up some word on this nice online dictionary called Jisho.org. When I am in no rush the schoolís network loads lightning fast almost before I press enter. But when I am in the middle of a conversation and someone says a big word that I donít know, it takes 6 years to load Internet Explorer and then another decade to load the Jisho page. I love that. I mean itís really awesome.

        I'm seriously almost done with the Thailand page. As a matter of fact, I might even finish within the hour, or the night.

[The Next Day]

       Ok, although some links don't work and I am still checking them, here is my big page of links and photos from my Thailand Orphanage Trip 2006. The two other pages I finished are about visiting a prisoner in the infamous Bangkok Hilton, Brokedown Palace, Bang Kwang Prison (possibly the most brutal prison on earth). Then the Bangkok Forensic Museum located in Siriraj Hospital.

Language Differences
Thursday, January 18, 2007

     Obviously there are some language differences between English and Japanese, but some I just canít remember. The one that keeps getting me, though only for about 1 second, is when I ask if I can use a certain room. I ask in Japanese ď3rd period, computer room/gym, is it ok for me to use it?Ē So I am expecting ďyes it is ok for you to use itĒ. But the answer is ďnot use itĒ. This means, they are not using it.

     I think we are having a party tomorrow. It started as a few people getting together, then the group thing kicked in and they culturally had to invite more people. I heard the math teacher telling another teacher about it. First it was just the math teachers, then the PE teacher. Then the teacher that sits between them since it was the whole row minus one. Well that teacher is also a 3rd grade homeroom teacher, so then they had to invite the other one. Oh the other one is an English teacher as am I so then I was invited. Then the teacher beside me since I am part of the 1st grade group. Then more and more until it was the whole JHS. It was interesting and works out ok for me since I was going to Tokyo either tomorrow or Saturday to see sumo and stay with Daisuke. Iíll just get a cheap hotel room in Koriyama tomorrow and leave from there.

     I had two classes today with the 2nd year JHS. I had planned a running game where I call a word and they have to run to the other end of the gym and find it. I had all the parts ready and when I got to the classroom to tell them, all the students were shivering since it was so cold, even with the heater on. I too was cold and caved in and altered the game on the spot. Iím actually pretty good at altering or coming up with games on the spot. I have created an online ESL blog about teaching ideas so I can keep a log of them as well as share the ideas with others.

     Things that fall into the ďNot a Good IdeaĒ category. Number one: putting small pieces of chocolate in your pocket, forgetting you did, then putting hand warmers in your pockets. More will come later.

Letís Play Cards
Friday, January 19, 2007

     I played two card games with the 6th graders today. They thought it was just going to be them playing cards, but I worked some English into the mix. It was subtle so they didnít really think it was a lesson, but I had them reviewing basic numbers, using the conjunction ďofĒ and then pronouncing the 4 types of cards as in hearts, diamonds, etc. There was a little discussion on the correct pronunciation of the suits though. I wrote, in the phonetic Japanese alphabet for foreign words, dia-mon-zu, which is as close as you can get. They all laughed and said the ďcorrectĒ pronunciation, by correct they meant Japanese, was just ďdiaĒ. I explained that we were shooting for the English pronunciation, but they still laughed at how I was doing something different.

Poor Planning
Monday, January, 22nd 2007

     Itís amazing how you learn a word in Japanese and then suddenly hear it 20 times a day. I caved in to my addiction while in Tokyo and bought more Learning Japanese books. I probably have one copy of every one ever written. Itís like the mere act of buying is all I need, but more on that later. Anyway, the phrase I learned is ďo-mie ni narimashitaĒ. Itís a really polite way to say ďsomeone has come to see youĒ, or really just ďsomeone has arrivedĒ (that was expected). So I read it on the bus ride back and then forgot about it until just now when some visitors came from Nagano prefecture and a teacher said it about 5 times to the principal.

     Last week through next week I am showing the seniors ďGooniesĒ, which is a great movie from the early 80ís I think. I could check the box for the exact date, but that would require movement. Anyway, they enjoyed it the first week, but this week they were really drawn into it since itís the part where the kids go into the caves and start the adventure. I will force them all to write in their journals if they want to see the ending.

     Itís really strange watching the movie and reading the Japanese subtitles. There are so many language and cultural differences. One example is the kids frequently say ďjerk alertĒ when someone (they think less of) is coming. But it translates to ďsomeone is comingĒ. There just arenít that many variations on words like ďjerkĒ. In English I can think of hundreds, if not millions (well at least dozens), but in Japanese there are less than 5 and I can really only think of one right off hand.

     Iíve been getting tons of junk mail on my phone recently so I was about to change my address. Thatís a hassle because then you have to notify everyone in your address book and I have hundreds, if not millions (well at least dozens) of names. Instead, a teacher told me how to block most of the mail by rejecting all mail except that of which that comes from another phone. Spammers usually donít take the time to write junk mail on a phone and then type in the hundreds, if notÖÖ..several addresses. Iíll see how this goes and consider changing it later. I did make notes of all the domain names it came from and have contacted the host providers.

     So why did I label this poor planning? Well this weekend I went to Tokyo mainly to see sumo, but also to do a few other things. My plan was to get to sumo around 10, buy a ticket or tickets and then come back around 2 to get a decent seat. I did keep in mind that it was the final bout and it would be packed, but I let other people persuade me into not going at 8am and waiting for tickets to go on sale at 8:30. I got there around 9:30 and asked a guard where I could buy the tickets. He said they sold out in 15 minutes, 400 seats in 15 minutes. Wowzers. So I decided to snap some other photos of Tokyo and then take the bus back rather than the shink. Luckily I took the bus down and stayed with Daisuke in his old and small Tokyo apartment.

       I doubt I can ever live and work in Tokyo, at least not like a local person. First of all to move into a place you have to pay key money, which is really just money you throw away. Then there are 2-6 monthís rent deposit. Daisuke said he paid about $5,000 to move in and will get back less than $2,000 if the place is ok. What a racket that is. I had to pay $2,000 total when I moved from the schoolís apartment to the nicer and smaller one in the city 4 years ago and got nothing back. Part of the money was a "deposit", part was first monthís rent, but most was money simply as a way of saying ďthanks for letting me live hereĒ. I would have gotten the deposit back if I gave them two month's notice, but I didn't find out that my successor was married and would be living elsewhere until 3 weeks before.

       The working aspect of me being in Tokyo is less financial and more having a life. Daisuke works Monday through Saturday from 7am to midnight. Then sometimes he has to go in on Sundays. I only saw him for about an hour Saturday. His sister, who no longer lives with him in the nice 28th floor pad, also works the same hours. How is that having any form of a life? There is no way I could do that mainly because a large part of the time he spends working, is not actually efficient work.

In Japan, loyalty to a company or job is shown by constantly being there. Teachers at this school as well as all the oneís Iíve ever worked for in Japan, constantly stay late. Sometimes as late as 8-10 every night. I often joke with the other English teacher that he probably canít even recognize his 1 year old son. The child is asleep when he leaves, asleep when he gets back, the teacher frequently comes in or has some school event on weekends. Itís only on Sundays that he gets to play with his kid. That is actually not even the best example, some fathers live and work far away and donít come home often, others just stay at work all the time. I almost think ďwhy did you bother to get married and have kids?Ē

To me, and I accept my beliefs are only my own, working is a part of my life. It doesnít define who I am or what I think, itís just part of my life. I enjoy it, but I wonít put in 12 hours a day 6-7 days a week especially if Iím not really doing anything. I spend a lot of my time at school writing this, searching the web (on a limited basis), working on other projects, and so on. I do plan lessons and work, but I seem to do these things much faster than other teachers. I know they have other things to do, but the amount of time we are at school versus what we get done is disproportionate. But the longer I stay at work, the more ďloyalĒ I seem. Regardless of what I am doing.

Today there was a meeting between the first year teachers (those that teach / work with the first year JHS students Ė I canít remember how to say that in English). The funny thing is they told me not to go. I didnít want to sit through an hour long meeting where they were talking to a travel agent about the school trip fee, but it was so un-Japanese to tell me to not go. They didnít even say I donít have to go, it was just ďdonít goĒ. Maybe thatís what they meant and I just didnít pick up the delicate nuance of the sentence. I donít care, I didnít want to go and I didnít have to go. I would like to go on the school trip though, even though it will be in 2 more years. I might be here then.

Something is Amiss
Tuesday, January, 23rd 2007

We have a number of students who attend school, but donít actually do anything here. Well, ďa numberĒ sounds like a lot, but itís really only 5 or so. I guess they have learning issues (donít know the newest politically correct terminology). Some hang out in the library, some show up once a month, and some attend classes. One kid attended classes last year and through winter vacation, but since then Iíve noticed a teacher goes and picks him up every morning and then takes him to the counselorís room where he plays video games all day. I often wonder why this happens and why he doesnít just stay home. Iíll ask someone about this later.

Today I have two ALT classes and one elementary school class, but Iím not going to that one. Iím sure you can guess why. Iíve got enough stuff to do to keep me busy for the day. Then the rest of the week I have 4-5 classes a day. Iíd rather have them spaced out evenly over the whole week, but after being a Fukushima JET and having no classes at all for three solid months, I donít mind having a full load one day and no classes the next.

Some of my friends have been emailing saying they just received the post card I sent. I mailed about 30 from Thailand. Some went to family members, others to friends, and some went to old acquaintances. I mean like people I havenít talked to in 10 years. I should have put my email address on them so these old friends could send an email and say hello. This year I have no major, as in interesting, travel plans. I think I will go back to the US and spend a Christmas there with family. It would be my first Christmas with family in 6 years. Iíve been here five, plus the Christmas before I left I had to work at my stupid job. Plus it will be nice to see my two nieces who will be at an enjoyable age then. One is too young now and she canít really enjoy things, but by then she would be almost 2 and talking/walking. So yea I guess I can just not go to warm Thailand for one year. Argh.

I finally mailed some CDs to some teachers who watched my observed class back in December and wanted a copy of the PowerPoint presentation I used. I also included a copy of the ABC ordered game. I wasnít able to mail them in Koriyama since I temporarily forgot that things that should make sense, donít. I forgot all the post offices closed early and didnít open on Saturday mornings. So I had to take the packages to Tokyo and mail them from there. It costs the same and they still made it here in one day. I know this because one of the packages came to me.

I thought I had addressed it wrong or backwards, but I did everything correctly. It came here because the way you address an envelope in Japan is silly. I typed the TO address in big letters on the front and my return address smaller on the back. But hereís the thing that makes me mad. There is a space on the front of the envelope for the SENDER to write the postal code of the RECEIVER. Thatís what the spaces are for. The personís postal code who will receive the envelope. Thatís what goes there, and guess whatÖ.drum rollÖ.thatís what I wrote there. Hereís the real kicker, when you address an envelope you put the character ď-samaĒ after the receiverís name. Itís a more polite version of ď-sanĒ which Iím sure youíve heard.

So I had these three envelopes written clearly and correctly and one came to me. I ripped off my return address and gave it to the postal guy when he showed up and explained the situation. He told me it would be better if I write the return address nanoscopic in the lower back corner so there is no question. I asked about the front postal code and the ď-samaĒ and he said that too will guarantee it gets delivered. I pointed to the fact that I had done that and he said ďyes thatís how you do it, it will be delivered this wayĒ. I asked why then did I receive it. The answer had something to do with the fact that the Japanese way was far too delicate and precise for many to understand. Then he gave me a ďsorry we messed upĒ gift and took it.

Thatís pretty much the focus of why I get so frustrated in Japan. Itís not about doing things a different way, thatís what makes the world go round. Itís about doing it one way and not even acknowledging the possibility of another way. All I wanted here was the guy to say to himself ďhmmm, we usually put the postal code here, but he did write ďsamaĒ and filled in this postal box correctly and the return address is on the back, I think this should go to this other personĒ. But thatís not what happens, though somewhere someone must have done that with the two others. I bet he had them in his bag when I approached him and hid them when I explained it. Itís also like when I asked the teacher about fundraising at school and he said we couldnít although he had a box for fundraising at school by his desk. He couldnít make the connection that we canít fundraise for things not in Japan, but fundraising itself was ok. All I wanted was the ďah, I get it, the thing is we can fundraise, but only for this oneĒ, but I just talked in circles for a while.

Dear GOD NO!!!
Wednesday, January 24, 2007

     I saw some elementary kids run into the computer room so I went in to see what they were doing. They were about to play some game or something. It required a login which was written on the whiteboard. When I saw them looking at it, I noticed the address to my English site for students was still up there. Itís been several months plus it has changed so I went to erase it. I secretly expected what would happen, but not to the degree it did.

     I started erasing and one girl turned and said ďno no donít erase itĒ all in Japanese of course. I wasnít erasing the login they needed so I continued, smiling. Then she yelled it again louder. I kept erasing and added some gas to the fire. I looked wide eyed and said ďuh ohÖoh noÖĒ and so on. She started screaming bloody murder. It was like I was about to kill her beloved dog or something. It was blood curdling, but I pressed on erasing my part and saying the little things. Then she just exploded into a temper tantrum like no other. She was nearly in convulsions as she screamed and flailed her arms around. Then I stopped and said ďdoneĒ and she looked up and said something like ďokĒ and kept typing. Wow.

     I just received $60 for some overpayment regarding the teacherís house. Groovy, though I added $30 to it and gave it to the office lady because I am slightly late on some school fees. I had planned to catch up with this paycheck, but I accidentally spent more than I planned on payday. For example I was going to Tokyo to see sumo, but also to take some nice slide shots. So I took my film camera, but I no longer have a bag for it so I needed to buy one. Well that was $33, but I needed it. Then there was the air cleaner for my apartment since I am always coughing or have a nasal drip, but only IN the apartment. I figure thereís something in the air from the tatami mats. That was $100. Then I bought some film for the camera, and then some books in Tokyo because I have a book buying addiction. So basically I spent the money I had planned to pay the school. But now I am only one month behind and Iíll be able to catch up easily with the February paycheck.

     I sent $500 to my 2nd loan bringing it down to $1,800. Hopefully next month I can pay a bit more. I had to pay extra to my credit card since I still owe a bit on the things I bought in Thailand. He let me take them if I promise to pay later. So next month Iíd like to send $800 to the loan place if possible, which I think it is. But I need to save a little for spring break since I plan to go to some language school for a week. It will be a thrifty week since I will bus down and back and stay with Daisuke as well as eat cheaply. My goal is to ďlevel upĒ my Japanese.

     Well Iím off to English Camp in about 30 minutes. It will be fun as usual even though they changed it so this is the last time this group goes together. I told a 3rd year student who went with the same group of kids (from different schools) for the whole three years and she agreed that this really sucks. Part of the fun of the camp is meeting all these new people with an interest (and high level) of English and then always running into them at speech contests and high school after graduation. But this time they only go a few times and stop in their second year. I made diplomas for them which will be cool, but still not as cool as staying all three years.

Being Negative or Going from Experience?
Thursday, January 25, 2007

      I went to English Camp last night and it was the usual. The first 30 minutes was spent doing the standard Japanese ceremonial procedures. I spent the time chatting with other Koriyama ALTs and then seeing if I could be the first and last person to clap. Then we played some cool game that took far longer than the time we had so it was cut short. Finally we get to the end and have a short meeting that I requested. I used the time to explain a few things about some upcoming events.

      I also used the time to talk about the Konan Snow Day on Feb 21st when the Koriyama ALTs come to my school and play with the elementary school kids. It was going to be just a morning event and they planned to leave the nanosecond it was over. I told them the principal requested they stay and eat lunch with the elementary school kids. Then I asked the big question, to which I already knew the answer. Would they mind staying for one period after lunch to let the JHS students interview them for English speaking practice.

      How dare I ask such a rude thing? A few of them, the few I expected, said sure sounds great. The majority didnít really care, but I could tell they preferred to leave. Then a few, the few I expected again, were adamant and loud in expressing their disapproval. They wanted to take advantage of the free monthly day off and couldnít be bothered helping kids learn English.

      I often wonder why people choose to come to Japan to teach English. Most people I know who do this are far more interested in the getting paid, having time off, and not being at work aspect. I was semi-like that when I was a Fukushima JET at Higashi High School for three years, but when there was an opportunity to help people interested in learning English, I jumped on it.

     Then I asked for volunteers to help me with the Global Citizenís Festival in March. Again, one or two said they would help, most people expressed Sunday was their day off and they could not be bothered by helping with some international festival. I have done it for 5 years and enjoy working the whole 6 hour shift. I donít understand why people are so lazy about helping some times. Oh the funny thing is when there is a work-type activity, itís like pulling teeth getting people to attend. When itís the beer garden or the FuJET free ski day, there is a waiting list with too many people. Itís like ďwill this benefit me immediately? Yes, I will attend, noÖOh I might be busy that weekendĒ. I have often wanted to offer some boring international event and see how many people volunteer and then after the names barely trickle in, mention they will receive $200 or something for one hourís work. I offered free hot dogs to whomever helps me for the day. Weíll see if that makes a difference.

Friday, January 26, 2007

      I just had a class with the Elective B group. I donít really like the class as in the structure as well as the members. Most of the students are ok, but some just took it because they wanted to watch movies or hang out with other friends. The big reason I donít like it is because it is so hard to plan for. There are some high level seniors and low level 2nd years. Activities are either too hard or boringly easy. Thatís why we were watching movies for a while, but I got tired of doing only that. Last year I had them start on some English scripts for movies, but that ended up taking more than 5 classes and they still hadnít written them, so I am trying to get out of that even though they were really excited about doing that. It would take 5-10 classes to make the movies and there arenít that many left. Today I played a poor manís version of Boggle. I wrote some letters on the board and told them to make words. It went over well, but I felt like a chump the whole period. Itís just so hard to plan for that group. I want to make it really strict next year so far less people sign up and those that do are really interested in learning. I would be happy with 5 or less.

     Here are the links to my trip photos and info. A few pages have bad links and missing pictures because I made the pages on a different computer and tried to upload them to the server. It was my new improved super efficient time saving way of doing it. I've spent 5x the amount of time it normally takes going back and correcting each page. Learned my lesson. I am in the process of fixing all the bad links as you read this (as long as you are reading this on Sunday, January 28th, 2007, around noon - Japan time).

Baan Dada Thailand Orphanage Trip

Bangkok Forensic Museum

Visiting a prisoner at Bang Kwang Prison

Staying in a coffin sized hotel (capsule hotel)

Mr. Squeakers
Monday, January, 29th 2007

     We have a mouse in the teacherís room. Somehow it gets into my desk and eats any food scraps I might have had in there. I accidentally left some chocolate in my desk once and when I opened the drawer later it looked like a mouse had nibbled on it. The thing is, we have no idea how a mouse would get into the places it does. For the drawer on my desk, there is less than a centimeter gap between the drawer and the side of the desk. Plus it would have had to climb the side of the desk or something. I guess the moral is donít leave food bits in the desk.

     Four of us had a meeting at Paulaís house about trying to plan a curriculum for the Native Teacher program. It was a bit disappointing in a way, though I did bring back some new ideas. I really hoped we could set down a foundation and say ďthis is what I want the kids to know by the end of each yearĒ, but it was more of an idea exchange. We found out that most of us have completely different teaching philosophies. I want to improve test scores for both the high school entrance test and Eiken standardized English test. That includes the test part as well as the speaking interview part. Others only show movies, which improves listening. Others say forget the tests letís get them speaking naturally. I aim to improve test scores mainly to help them advance with English through their academic life, and because I know from years of experience managers want quantifiable results. Itís called job security.

     This week I have a slightly smaller load, well at least by Japanese standards. I plan 6 classes and attend 6 others as an ALT. Teachers in western countries please hold your resentment. 4 classes is a heavy load here for one day. 5-6 is brutal. Yes I know you have to work all day and have maybe 1 planning period. Maybe soon you will learn the advanced Japanese way. Mwah ha ha ha.

     I didnít leave the apartment once on Sunday. I meant to go into Koriyama, but then I started watched some DVD and then I wanted to see the next episode and so on. Then it was 3pm and then I called the local restaurant (singular) and had them deliver dinner. Oh we ordered pizza on Saturday which was really good. Even though the ďDeluxeĒ had squid and some other Japanese nonsense on it. They put such odd things on their pizzas here and still manage to mock the American style pizza. Iím pretty sure they think they invented the pizza, which is most definitely an Italian dish.

     Sometimes I exchange these small notebooks with various elementary kids. They write a little note about nothing in Japanese and write back and occasionally drop in a simple English word for them to use. The 4th graders love it and I am always passing out more notebooks and recently some 2nd graders wanted in so I gave them some notebooks. It went fine for a few weeks and then two kids just returned them with ďI quit the notebook exchange, Iím sorry, bye byeĒ all in little kid Japanese. I was really shocked since so many other kids in the class have been begging me for notebooks. I donít know if it has to do with the teacher or some other student in that class (it is the brat girl class) or if their parents donít like it. I donít care who reads it, we just chat about things like ďthanks for the last letter, what sports do you likeĒ. Itís just odd.

     Iím back tracking a bitÖ one good thing that came out of the Native Teacher meeting on Saturday was the other guy there talked about his money/point system. I do money just like him, but he has a lot more ways of getting it back. First they get money for various things. Then they have the option of joining a Fite ClubĒ since his last name is Fite. Then they can pay to ďlevel upĒ, then the top members of the club get to decide things like what movie people watch in class. Also there is an auction as well as big things each term like buying an American style football or something. He said it makes the motivation go way up.

     I am so tired of getting all these nonsense junk memos. At first I tried to translate them to see what they were about. Then I would realize they were dumb and not worth translating. Anytime anyone remotely related to the school does something that gets in the newspaper, rather than post a copy of the paper on a bulletin board, someone copies it and passes it around to everyone. That gets us that much closer to our minimum paper overuse quota. Sometimes people make memos for things that could be said in the morning meeting. Better yet, sometime people say them in the meeting while we are reading it on the memo.

     The reason I am mad now, is because I think I threw away some important work by students for the English newspaper I wanted to produce by the end of the year. I remember they wrote it on the back on one of the millions of nonsense memos I get. Now I canít find them and I fear I tossed them in a purging fit from before. Over the weekends or any days that I am not here, I get a small mountain of these forms.

Lack of Sleep
Tuesday, January 30, 2007

     I woke up, rather was woken up, twice during the night with stomach pains. Itís from eating something and I am leaning towards the Ritz cheese sandwich things. Thatís a good thing actually since I donít need to eat them. I wouldnít mind getting violently sick every time I ate something bad like that. I mean 12 hours worth of vomiting and the other thing, convulsive fits, hallucinations, and so on. (Dear Universe, that was satiric writing, I donít really want that to happen). But it would, as it is doing, cause me to eat better. So anyway the point I was going for is now I am sleepy since I was up a lot, and I couldnít drink coffee this morning since my stomach was upset.

     Tonight I am going into Koriyama to see Paula and we are going to work on some pre-fab activities. Thatís what we both wanted from the Native Teacher meeting on Saturday anyway. We are going to pick 5-10 grammar points and think of some activities that we can ďcopy-n-goĒ. We are also going to figure out a foundation of things weíd like to pass along. Iím looking forward to it, plus I get to eat out somewhere, but I wish it were on Wednesday. Thatís her fiancťís day off so it canít be. But Tuesday is ok. Weíll go eat somewhere that we have a little waiting time and can spread some papers around. Then go back to her place for a bit and work a little more til her man gets home around 8, even though he gets off at 5. You gotta love the Japanese working way.

     I happened to stumble across a book about the standardized national English test and noticed the kidís version is next Monday. I didnít even know it existed until I had lunch with the Endo family in December. No one has told me anything about it whatsoever. I can understand that when I think in Japanese. We Japanese can speak English, why would we need the help of a native English speaker? It fits my mathematical calculations perfectly. Think of what is logical and makes sense, then think of the opposite and thatís what happens. It sounds negative, but it really helps me anticipate what will happen many times. It also lets me understand things like ďwhy didnít anyone mention this test, much less as me to help?Ē

     Today I have one official class with the ES 3rd graders. We are going to review a little and then Iím going to teach them the annoying ďHello How Are YouĒ song from genkiEnglish.com. Yes it is annoying, but they do remember it and can then answer the question with one of eight responses. The 2nd graders can still respond to that because of the song and thatís great English interaction. Thatís stuff they can really use especially when the Koriyama ALTs come on the 21st to play in the snow (or not play and whine about it). I need to plan a few more activities for that day although we really arenít going to have more than 30 minutes per activity with all the gathering, waiting, moving around, preparing, and so on. Sounds negative again, but itís from experience. Thereís always some schedule that says ď10-10:05 students gather, 10:05-10:10 opening remarksÖ..Ē, but the fact is we always run late because the times are not realistic.

     I just had the above mentioned class. It went fine, though they were slightly rowdier than usual. By rowdy I mean I had to say be quiet three times as opposed to once. We reviewed a bit first and then I taught them Hello How Are You and I played the annoying song. They danced around and sang and then asked for the song again. So from tomorrow I have to start asking them as well as the 2nd graders. The 2nd graders are really quick to respond now. Iím hoping to break them of ďIím fine thank you and youĒ.

Tweet Tweet
Wednesday, January 31, 2007

     I was trying to write some prophetic for the soon-to-graduate 6th graders (Japanese schools are 1-6 7-9 10-12), but I wrote something pathetic. I meant to write ďchildren eagerly want to grow upĒ, but I wrote ďchildren eagerly want to become adult birdsĒ. Itís actually the same pronunciation, but a slightly different Chinese character. La ti da. DetailsÖblah blah. Luckily I practice everything before I commit it to something official and I am not so arrogant as to have it checked by a native speaker. The teacher laughed and showed me the problem. When you write Japanese on a computer, you first write the plain curvy characters, then you hit the space bar and it shows the Chinese characters available for the letters. So I picked the wrong one. It would have been funny if they let it pass.

     We just had a JHS meeting that was supposed to start at 4:15, but actually started at 5. I was secretly happy since I always get bored and leave right at 4:55, but I want to stay and show my ďloyaltyĒ. Thatís how you show loyalty in Japan, just be at work all the time. So it started late and teachers said I could go home, but I said ďNo, I am part of this team and I am going to stay and participate in the meetingĒ. By participate, I meant sit in the farthest seat from the head honcho and scribble. They were all happy I was showing such loyalty.

     I studied some Japanese and then read the memo that was being read to us and the doodled a bit. Finally we reached the last two parts which, in reverse order, are my most dreaded parts. The worst thing is the last part. Itís called ďsono hokaĒ, which means ďis there anything else?Ē But there is a pattern to it. Someone asks the question, then waits, asks again, we wait, there is small talk about something else, he asks again, we wait, then someone who actually has ďsomething elseĒ asks it. Then we discuss that for a bit, then start the process over.

     The second most dreaded part, which is always second to last, is the discussion of personal problems of students. I always laugh to myself about how this would last 12.5 seconds in the US. ďJim was absent today because he had severe diarrhea. His father lost his job last week and they havenít been eating well. Susan, who has mental problems, stays home and doesnít participate in class, but recently she said she might be up to coming in occasionally.Ē I hate it because A) itís grossly personal, B) I donít care who has severe diarrhea each week, and C) there are six classes and each teacher talks for about 5 minutes (including follow up questions from others).

     Today was especially bad since there was a pre-sono hoka at the end of the first page and I assumed that was the final one, but then he said ďand next is #8Ē which was on the back of the page. #8 was the list of who had the poopies this week and then #9 was the long drawn out closing. But now itís 6pm and I can go and I get credit for staying late, even though part of it was me typing this. But they donít know that. I wonder if I should make a bowel movement chart and report it next week.

February's Journal




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