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Stupid Idiot.
Tuesday, July 1, 2008

            I had a bout of Ryan Syndrome a few weeks back and it has caused me some stupid pointless problems since then. I was booking my flight from Bangkok to Phuket online. I checked the dates and doubled checked and triple checked. For kicks I walked away and came back and looked at it fresh. Yes, leaving on the 11th and returning on the 12th (month apart). Everything was perfect and if my life depended on it I would swear that it was perfect. Then I booked it and suddenly realized I booked it a day early. I had booked the flight on the 11th to overlap with my flight from Japan. Suddenly it was clear, previously it seemed perfect the way I had it. Now I have to call several times and fax various forms and call back and pay a fee.

Word Fun.
Wednesday, July 2, 2008

            The 8th grade students were learning “I want to be a ____, I want to ____” today and then they had writing practice. During the writing practice they had to make up their own sentences about their dreams. Students are always writing about their dreams, even though most have such low desires. Half the girls wrote “I want to be a housewife”. Awesome, we you should be the best you can be… Anyway, one kid wrote that he wants to be a pianist (there’s that stupid word again). He wants to be the most famous one on the world, but he couldn’t really think of the correct adjectives so he said “I want to be a big pianist”. That got a laugh out of me since I hadn’t checked it in advance. The one that was better and made me step out for a minute was, “I want to be a ball boy. I want to play with their balls”. Another girl, a nice girl actually, looked up and then wrote “I want to be a madam”, hmmm not sure what she means by that.

            During the preparation to this activity they had to listen to a track of two people talking about what they want to be. One wanted to be a doctor so she could help sick people. One kid thought she wanted to be a doctor so she could help six people, which was funny. Another boy, not having any idea what he was saying said she wants to be a doctor so she could house stick people. Then after the activity one student copied another student’s answers. The student whose answers were copied flicked him a bird and said “bitch”. The best part was these were really good kids just imitating something they heard on TV or in a comic. Things like that aren’t rude and are likely on TV.

            After school I played with some kids on the playground. There’s one girl that always cries. Several kids cry at the drop of a hat, but a few more often than most. She was on the slide blocking some kids from playing and one boy said “come on, crying again, it’s like everyday with you”. Of course it was in Japanese, but that was the general vibe of it. I was glad he said it since she cries at the smallest thing. I understand it sometimes, but when you constantly cry that no one will play with you maybe you should think why they won’t…because you’ll start crying almost immediately most likely.

            Later I went into the darkened computer room to write a text message and generally be alone for a bit. There was another girl in there in the dark. I assumed she wanted to be alone so I didn’t say anything to her. After I typed it I noticed she was making a paper airplane so I went over and made one with her. I made the standard long wing jet style. Then I threw it and it went through the window and into the library…Oops. No harm done so no big deal.

            Tomorrow is the farewell party with the BoE and the Koriyama JETs that are leaving. I think it’s going to be interesting, but I’m not going to say anything until ex post facto. That’s Latin I think for “after the fact”. I should learn more Latin.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

            A dedicated reader requested I add an RSS feed to the site so she could tell when I made an update since I do them so infrequently. Others have asked in the past, but I’ve never seen this as a worth “blog”. It’s really just my day to day ramblings that I will read with my grandchildren in 2038, even though the world is supposed to end on December 12th, 2012 according to the Mayans (who didn’t even manage to predict their own total destruction). But anyway, I was curious about RSS so I Googled "how to set up a basic RSS feed"  and figured out how to do it and I did it. The RSS feed is at http://www.yesicanusechopsticks.com/rss.xml so if you know how to receive an RSS feed then go for it. I’ll try to update it as infrequently as I update the journal.

            We finally got the test scores from the June standardized English test. They were about what I expected. Of the 18 that took the test only 9 passed. A few girls were too competitive and took a level that was too high. They failed, but did get close. They should pass if they take it around October or whenever the next one is. A few kids who failed were ones that I really wanted to pass, but they will definitely pass the next time. In September I plan to overhaul my online test so it tracks their scores.

            Tonight we have the farewell party for the Koriyama JETs that are leaving. It’s either going to go smoothly or be Jerry-Springeresque involving the police showing up. I’m really leaning toward the side of it going smoothly, but one never knows. I don’t want to elaborate until ex post facto.

            I got a package today with some shorts, deodorant, and blood pressure medicine. The doctor’s office in Atlanta said they cannot renew my prescription anymore until I come in for a check up. Hmmm, that would cost around $3,000 so I asked my doctor here if he could give me some medicine. He had to change the prescription, but so far it seems to be doing fine. The Atlanta doctor knows I live in Japan as we have talked about it several times, so I don’t know what the deal is with that. Though I have called before (and been put on hold for 5 minutes) and had to explain the same thing to three different nurses since they are incapable of talking to each other. Oh well, hopefully I can just lower my BP myself by eating better and exercising more.

Superhero, of sorts.
Sunday, July 6, 2008

            I have super powers in a way. Not like Superman or Spiderman (Batman was a regular guy with a super belt), but I have some limited powers. The first one is I can change the weather on demand. If it's raining and I decide to wash my car, it will suddenly stop and clear up just as I have the car completely soapy. Last July's entry regarding this. Then today I decided to work on a crafts project for the August English camp that I am co-leading with two other people. We are doing a Pirates of the Kori-bean challenge where they get a treasure list and have to go find various things. The treasures are somewhat vague so they have to think creatively. One item might be "something from a samurai" and they have to figure out how to do that. We did this last July and it was a hit, but I didn't like the treasure list on plain white paper. I wanted to make it slightly more authentic. So here's what I did:

How to make documents look 100 years old.

I waited until the sun was shining bright and there were ZERO clouds in the sky.

How to make documents look 100 years old.

Then I put the plain white paper down and wiped coffee all over them.
When they dry they look 100 years old. I ripped the edges for an added effect.

Then the sun disappeared and a wall of clouds came in. Like instantly there is no sun and
no cloud opening for a million miles in every direction.



I am the master of all weather. I AM WEATHERMAN!

Son of Jarel, kneel before ZOD.


           If this were a one time event I would chalk it up to Murphy's Law, but it always happens and not even on a small scale. There were NO clouds in the sky so I went ahead and laid them out. Now the sky is JET black and I can see rain in the distance. BAG OF POO.

Again Moron?
Monday, July 7, 2008

            I went to the 7-11 this morning around 7:45 this morning to get some quick breakfast since I wanted to take my medicine with breakfast and not lunch. There’s this one employee there who is a moron. He might be a bit slower than normal so I should be careful, but he still annoys me. The reason is that he says dumb stuff to me. First, when I come up to the counter he stares as if I were a 10 foot tall alien. Then I say “can I buy this?” and he starts to ring it up. Then he says “wow, you are so big” which by itself is a bit rude, but perfectly acceptable in Japan (as long as the recipient is a foreigner). But the part that really irritates me about it is that HE is taller and bigger than me. No you moron, you are “so big”. This has happened about 5 times and I just grin and nod. Today I was in an annoyed feisty mood so I replied with “yes, it is amazing isn’t it” in Japanese.

            At school I walked around before classes started and chatted with the kids. The weekend usually recharges me and I can get over the annoying kids. One girl won’t even look at me so I say good morning a billion times to her. Other kids come up and hug me and a few poke me in places that don’t need poking. The hugs and poking usually balances out and I usually look forward to seeing them. Around Friday things start piling up and I start getting annoyed, but the weekend usually washes that away.

            This week (the 30 minutes I have spent in it so far) I have realized I am ready to get to Thailand. I am ready for a change and ready to start working on my CELTA course. BTW, I won’t be making any substantial updates, or really any at all, until the end of August. I will probably make a big summary type at the end of August, but it might be early September. Exactly 12 hours after I land back in Japan, I have to go to English Camp for 3 full days. I’m leading it, but all the participants are doing their share so it’s not like I have too much to worry about, but I still have to worry about the overall details of making sure everyone knows when and what they have to do. As soon as that is over I start school and will probably not feel like typing much. Anyway, the point of this paragraph was that I just want to be gone already and get into the Thailand scheme.


              I didn’t really do much worth mentioning over the weekend. I stayed in Saturday and cleaned the car as well as the apartment a bit. Then Sunday I went to Koriyama to have Starbucks coffee and do some small time shopping. It’s been probably 6 months since I have had a Caramel Frappucino and I really had a craving for it. Partially for the feeling of sitting there overlooking the street sipping a frozen caramel treat. Then I browsed at cameras and manly stuff at the electronic shop and finally I went to check out this store called Donkey Hody or Don Quixote. I am looking for a Pirate outfit for the above mentioned super power thing. No such luck, but I bought some Tabasco for 98 yen as opposed to 268 yen at all the other stores. Then I went to Aeon town (a shopping center) and had sushi for lunch and looked at tents and sporting stuff. I would like my spicy curry  Mird or Super Mird please.

            The vice principal and secretary spent an hour trying translate something into English about me going to the hospital to have the monthly blood test. I have told them repeatedly to just say it in Japanese since I can usually figure it out in context, but they wrote it in a 3rd language that was totally unintelligible to me. It used English letters and had some English words, but there was no order or grammar or point. It was like “hospital go have yes do kanji form take if there is one and blood it is no. some blood a form it’s done”. I asked to see the Japanese original and realized they were trying to say “when you go to the hospital write this kanji on the form instead of that one”.

            The seniors have been working on little puppet show skits. My plan was to take three weeks for them to write a little skit, translate it into English, make little puppets, and have an end of the year fun little puppet show in English for their class. It was a foolish effort and I’m not going to do anything like that again. First they didn’t write much. Then they lost the papers that they wrote it on and had to start over the next week. Then they couldn’t translate anything into anything that is remotely comprehensible. Finally, they spent all of the puppet making class goofing off or making really complicated puppets and didn’t finish. So this is the last week and I had planned to do the performances today, but they need another class to keep making more puppets. I really wanted to have this be an end of the year thing and start with a new style of classes in the fall after my CELTA, so…

            I think I am going to do a bad thing. I am going to tell them they have to finish their puppets today and then give them to me so I can keep them since they always seem to lose papers and stuff. Then I am going to toss them out in a way that no one will notice. Yes, I am going to throw them away effectively wasting three classes. I’d rather do this than have their first class in the fall be a mixture of “oh we forgot those things, what should we do” and “we need one more class to finish this”. I’m sick of it all and want to put it all behind me and start fresh in the fall.

            What I’ve learned from this as well as from the elective class (which ironically has the top seniors) is they can’t write a creative skit on their own. You either have to feed it to them or write it for them. We had students write some ideas for the fall school festival and they were all the same. The same within each group and every year. It’s like their default skit is “my dream”. They all wrote these boring memories and how they fit into their dreams. So what I’ve learned is to just write it for them and say learn it. I should have written the puppet skits in English and had them spend 2-3 classes making the characters. Some kids made really cool puppets, but most made disproportionate characters. One would be 6 inches tall and the other 1 inch. What is this a Godzilla skit?

            I’ve asked the BoE if I can have two schools from next April. I am considering renewing, but there is no way I can renew if things stay the same. I need something new and a second school would be a good change. There’s one school that’s semi close and has 3 classes per grade as opposed to our one class per grade here. I would also like to move into Koriyama, but there are no Koriyama JET apartments open now. I think if I were to move into Koriyama and have Konan 2 days a week and another school (or schools) 3 days a week, I could stay 2 or 3 more years. It’s an easy life and the money, though never going up, is decent. I should be able to save a fair bit this next year. I would love to pay off my last big fat totally pointless loan before leaving Japan. That would let me relax and find some job where I didn’t have to worry about money so much.

African Elephants.
Wednesday, July 9, 2008

            I helped the ladies put the lunches out from the baskets to the trays today. I just put the bowls and plates down anywhere on the tray even though I should have known there is a precisely exact place they go. Any deviation will result in utter confusion.

            I put the rice bowls and soup bowls on the trays. Some other teachers did other things. When we were ready to eat one teacher gasped as if there were a severed finger in a bowl. Then some started pointing at the imaginary finger. “Oh LORD what will we do?” Then a few started talking about what should be done. Finally one teacher rearranged some trays so the bowls were in their correct position according to GPS. Then a few laughed and tried to speak their Japanese pig-Latin so that I wouldn’t understand, but I heard them saying it must have been me who violated this sacred rule. The truth is, I care more about common digestive disorders of African elephants than I do about where stupid bowls go on stupid trays. It’s honestly not possible for me to care any less about that.

            While I am ranting, I love how it is totally acceptable around the world to laugh at an English speaker trying to speak a foreign language, but it would be rude if we laugh at others slaughtering our language. Believe me there are plenty of people learning English who sound like horse choking on a carrot, but I could never imagine laughing at someone trying to learn that. When I go to Thailand people will chuckle when I try to use their tones, but I would never tell a Thai person it sounds like two ducks fighting when I hear them talk. Japan is the same way just slightly more polite about it. I’ve heard Chinese people are the same way and some places in Europe will just ignore you or ask you to flat out stop speaking. I would love to try that sometime in English “what…what…stop…just stop…if you can’t speak perfectly like a native of 30 years with a Linguistics degree, then just stop”. AWESOME.

            We had a seminar today about what to do if a deranged criminal enters the school through any one of the dozen wide open doors and windows. We take this thing called a sasumata (sah sue mah tah) and restrain said individual. When we practiced the assailant wouldn’t resist, just stand their posing with a fake knife. I know it would be 100% different if someone were struggling to get out or avoiding it all together. Luckily that only happens about once every two years in Japan and it’s rarely that bad since I doubt we could restrain anyone with those things, unless they were posing like when we practiced.

Green Japan.
Thursday, July 10, 2008

            Someone mentioned how "green" Japan is recently and I have making fun of that statement ever since. The reason I make fun of that is Japan is coincidentally green because they only heat the room they are in and don't heat hallways at school. They do this more for self-torture than to be environmentally safe. But when it comes to reducing paper or chopping down trees, it's like a free for all. Here are all the papers that have come across my desk since April 1st. Not even all of them since many have to be thrown away in a certain basket so I couldn't keep them all. I'd say this is 90% of them and only about 10% were necessary. The rest could have been internal web pages or just one sheet hung on a bulletin board. We don't need one copy each of notices and advertisements.

          That's about 6.5 centimeters which is a few inches. It's not just my school, it's Japan. They love paperwork almost as much as they love meetings. Anything official requires tons and tons of triplicate paperwork with no copies. They must all be originals. ARGH.

Off to see the Wizard.
Friday, July 11, 2008

            I'm off to Thailand for a month for my CELTA class. The teachers think I am going to party and travel, but I kept saying it was not going to be fun. Oh well. I doubt I will update much, but there is a chance I will have internet access and might make one or two updates. Either way, over and out.


Made it.
Sunday, July 13, 2008

        I am typing this in Phuket in my month-long apartment hotel. So far things are going more or less as planned, though there is one small annoying thing. Technically it's not small at all. They stamped my passport with a 30 day visa. I will be here 40 days. Hmmm, I have to either extend it 10 days or leave the country and come back. I think they have made some changes to the "visa run" option so I had better check that before I leave. Other than that, things are running as planned though I should have planned some things better. I'll just start from the beginning.

        I left Konan Friday morning (after waking up at 5:30am) and drove into Koriyama. There I did some last minute errands and parked my car at the Koriyama JET apartment complex. I caught the bus to the station and bought some new headphones since my old ones broke. Then I went and waited for the bus. It came right on time and I rode for just under 5 hours to the airport. I love the bus since it drops you off directly at the door to the check in counter. The shinkansen-Narita express option takes you to a lower level where you have to walk a while. That's not too bad, but the bus only costs $48 for a 4.5 hour direct route. The shink takes under 1.5 hours from the station to Tokyo station where you then walk for 30 minutes to the basement subsection and wait for the N'EX to take you another hour to the basement of the airport. Depending on the timing of the trains you can get to the airport in anywhere from 3-5 hours at a cost of around $120. So the bus is about the same time at half the price and it drops you off right at the door. Well that's settled.

[Slight Tangent]

        The shinkansen (Bullet Train) in Japan is really amazing and convenient. The most convenient thing about it is how quickly you can get from point A to point B. Someone can go virtually anywhere in Japan minus Hokkaido (top island) and Okinawa (lower islands). It runs the full length of Japan and there are a few branch off points as well. I didn't realize how convenient it was until I flew a few places. When you go to an airport, even a domestic flight,

* First you book a ticket well in advance,
* Then you wait in a line to check in,
* Have your bags scanned and examined,
* Have to worry about how much baggage you have and how much it weighs and what's in it,
* Have to worry about how many ML of liquid you have in your carry on bag,
* Wait for a specific plane and hope there were no problems which would then delay your flight for hours,
* Then you board and find your seat which might be in the middle of 5 seats with no leg room,
* Possibly sit on the runway for a while waiting to take off
* Endure the turbulence and bad weather
* Arrive, get taxied to the gate, wait to get off the plane
* Wait by the baggage claim for your bag which always seems to be last.
* Then you have to catch some form of public transportation to get to the city center

        That's just for a domestic flight. With international flights there's a whole other section on immigration and what not. But with the shinkansen you can rock up and  buy a non-reserved ticket and then get on a train 5 minutes later. No worries about your baggage or liquids, no worries about specific trains or leg room or a bad seat (seats have plenty of leg room), no turbulence since it's like floating on air, no waiting when you arrive since you have your bag and you are there in the center of town already. Granted airplanes go much faster than trains, but the processes are so different and they shouldn't be.

[End Slight Tangent]

        Ok, so I am at the airport and I check in painlessly since I got my ticket online and did the web check-in the day before. I give them my bag, look at the clock and see I have plenty of time and go wander around the store area. Then I realize it's 3:45 and my flight is at 7. I have over 3 hours to kill. Oh poo.  I get something to eat and watch the planes land and take off from the observation deck. That was fun for about 3 minutes, but once you've seen a plane take off and land, they are pretty much all the same. Then I go to the gate and read for a bit and chill out. Finally I get on the plane.

        On the plane I realized I am growing toward hating people in general. Most everyone annoyed me for some reason. I know I can be easily annoyed, but most of the things were stupid. There was a guy who wasn't looking at the seat numbers and walked past his, then he had to get back upstream and got mad at people in his way. There was the guy constantly talking on his mobile phone after the flight attendant told him to cut it off 10 times. He wasn't even talking about anything important either. Then the people behind started talking about stupid things and being loud. I've noticed Americans have no volume control in general. We have to talk loud and then we have to talk louder than the people we are talking to. The people behind me were laughing and being loud and talking about high school things. Then they started laughing at something that wasn't even funny, but they couldn't stop laughing at it. Finally at the end of the flight I found out they were Christians going to Thailand to do some missionary work. It's funny how the people you would think would be the most well behaved sometimes aren't. I remember the rudest most aggressive team in the intramural softball league in college was the Baptist Student Union.

        Finally we land in Bangkok around 11pm and I pass through immigration and customs. The immigration guy stamps my passport for 30 days which is a problem as I mentioned, but I'm sure it will work out somehow. Then I got my bag and passed through customs and had to fight with all the people trying to get me to take an overpriced taxi to the city. I told them I was looking for a friend and they kept saying taxi and I kept ignoring them. That's one thing I hate about Thailand is the greedy beggars for scams and overpriced services. Their taxis are about 800-1,000 baht whereas the city taxis are only 300-400 baht. I chose a special bus which was 150 baht and more or less worth it, even though it drove past the road I wanted and made us walk a bit, but it was fine for the price.

        Then I check  in and get something to eat and relax a bit. Then on Saturday I had several hours to kill so I had breakfast in the hotel and then had a morning massage. Later I bought a new bag since mine was old and already overstuffed and I now had 4 new short sleeve shirts to stuff in it. So I bought that and had another massage and then got a taxi to the airport. The hotel overcharged me for that, but it was only a little. They charged me 400 baht and then the taxi meter said 300 or something close to that. I'm actually losing my love for that place even though it's still a good place and I do recommend it.

        Ok, I am at the Don Muang and I check in and decide to get some nice Thai food for lunch. But then I notice there is a Burger King at my gate and I have an hour to kill. I eat and then read some and finally we board. There were more annoying people on this flight, but it was only an hour so it passed quickly. We landed and went through the whole waiting for our bag thing and then I had to fight through all the taxi people again to get to my hotel pick up. He drove me to the hotel in the usual Thai way which was to accelerate until there was a car directly in front of us, then to honk and flash the lights, then to speed up again. The white lines in the road are only suggestions of where to drive. People were in our lanes, we were in the oncoming traffic lanes, we passed on the part of the road that is called the grass. I just look away and know they always drive like this and must know how to handle it.

        We get to the hotel and I check in. It is a rather nice place, even though my room is not quite as nice as the images on the website. It's still nice and well worth the US $450 I paid for a month on Phuket, but it's a bit funny how it's not quite  like the photos. When I took a shower I thought it was going to be cold water and I nearly panicked. I don't take cold showers, which is the sole reason why I don't want to go to prison. Finally it heated up and was nice. There was a nice water flow and the shower was spacious. This morning I woke up at 6am since my body thinks it's 8am in Japan. 6am would be fine actually since I wouldn't mind going to a fitness center in the morning for a bit if there is one near the hotel. If I got up before 6-ish and got there around 6:15 I could work out for an hour or so and get back here by 7:30 and shower and get ready and then eat breakfast at 8am (when it opens) and then start walking around 8:30 and get to the CELTA place before 9am which is when it starts. That might be pushing it, but it depends on where the fitness place is, how much it is, and what time it opens. Even if I don't do that every morning, I am going to get a bit of a workout from the 15 minute walk in the sun. Plus the food is generally lighter here. I had a fat breakfast this morning, which is fine since that's the meal one wants to have carbs and general garbage. It gives you energy for the whole day. I might even skip lunch, but I doubt that. I don't know how long our lunch break is, maybe 1-1.5 hours.

        That pretty much brings us up to this absolute now. I had breakfast at 8am and now it's 9:45. I've been typing this and watching TV as well as organizing a bit. I realized I don't have much to do today and I should have left Saturday and flown down to Phuket today, but I didn't want to be rushed. I like to have a day to prepare a bit before starting something new like this. Today there is a 4-hour meeting to prepare us for tomorrow and the rest of the course. Four weeks of solid English language teaching learning. That sounds like a lot of fun doesn't it. Narrator's note: The shift key doesn't work so I have to hit caps lock to make a shift letter. Note ended. Anyway, today I am going to meet the 30+ people I am going to work with for the next month. As all groups, I'm curious about the drama that will unfold. What will everyone be like, who will dislike who, which personalities will clash, who will hook up with who... And so the drama begins.

        Now it's 10am. I think I am going to try to find that gym, eat lunch, nap a bit, watch TV since there are dozens of English channels here, and then head over to the meeting around 1:30. I'll update this after said meeting.

And so it begins.
Monday, July 14, 2008

        The meeting yesterday went great. There are only 6 people taking the course so it's just one group of six. There is a guy from the US who has never taught, a guy from the UK that has taught some, another American who has taught in Nepal, an Indian guy who is teaching now, myself, and a girl from Poland who is traveling around teaching in various places. It seems like a good group, but there will be some drama along the way. There were hints of it yesterday. I think one area that will be an issue is with the dress code. A few people were not pleased with having to wear a dress shirt and tie all the time. I agree especially since the regular teachers at the place don't seem to wear ties, but I'm not going to cause a stink.

        Last night there was some loud noise in the hall. It sounded like someone shooting, but I realized it was some moron knocking. I heard people talking loud and realized for once it was not some Americans being drunk and loud. It was someone from one of those cultures where the world revolves around them. They were talking full volume in the hall and slamming doors and knocking loudly. I couldn't identify the language, but it wasn't English or Thai. I hope they don't stay a full month. Though they did seem to get quiet shortly there after.

        Today I have my first teaching lesson. It's only 15 minutes and about a short reading bit so it should be ok. It's going to be a challenge for me since I'm never told what to teach, I always pick it myself. I think having us teach on the first day is a bit much. I would have preferred one day where w watch the tutor teach so we could make notes. It's not a huge thing for me since I have taught, but for the guy who has never taught it's a big deal. He was outwardly sweating in class when he got his assignment. The next time I teach is Wednesday and that will be 35 minutes. That's a big jump I think, but again it should be ok. We have to teach for 6 hours total over 4 weeks so I should have two lessons at 35 then a few at 40 then some at 55. I'll add it up later. I have to prepare for my less now.

And so it continues.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008

        The lesson went ok. There were about 13 students and I heard maybe 20 will show up. I really felt like it was too much info for the 15 minutes, but I got through it in about 20. Some teachers went for 25 minutes and one was going at 30 and tried to start a new activity when the tutor cut him off flat. He way over planned. I over planned as well, but I had made my lesson with check points where I could continue or stop as needed. After the 6 CELTA candidates taught the tutor gave us feedback. It was all balanced and accurate and I know a few things to change next time. I really didn't like teaching on the first day as I thought it was a bit too much at the beginning. It's like teaching someone to swim by throwing them in the pool and then telling when what they should have done after they dog-paddled for 15 minutes. I can understand why they did it, but I would have preferred to watch a lesson by a tutor and then have our first lesson on the second day.

        In the morning we had some interesting classes about learner styles and teaching ideas. A few of the things really helped and I plan to use them in my future lessons back in Japan. One in particular was to give clear directions then ask what the directions are. It makes people repeat the plan and you can verify they understand. We also went over how students learn and I found out (well I was reminded) that I am a visual and kinesthetic learner. I have to see something and also do an activity for it to stick. I verified that several times when he would give us oral directions and I wouldn't remember what to do.

        After the lessons a few of us planned to go to this pizza place owned by an Italian guy. Luckily it is near my hotel so it was a 5 minute walk. Only one guy showed up, but we saw one of the tutors there though we didn't chat.  The guy that showed up was a real estate agent for 14 years and gave it all up and sold everything to move to Thailand and start teaching. He has no teaching experience so he is a little nervous in front of the students, but he has a natural easiness about him that the students like. He is noted to have said the first funny thing in class. When he was teaching them irregular past tense verbs, he wrote some infinitive forms on the board and was about to explain how they were irregular when the students said the answers and he didn't have to do anything. He said "well I can go home now" somewhat under his breath.

        I am typing this at 6:30am which seems to be to the time I am going to do work or write this stuff. I know where a gym is and I might join after this weekend and start going either in the morning or after school. I also plan to stop going out for a long dinner with the other candidates since I need to save money. I can eat for under $3 a meal when I try, though the pizza dinner was $15, which isn't a bad price, but I need to eat better and save money. Around 7:30 I will start to get ready and then eat breakfast promptly at 8am and walk over to ECC-Thai when I finish. The breakfast is great and it's also on the roof patio outdoors. The sun rises behind the building so the patio is in the shade. I'll get a photo of it sometime.

        So I have no lessons to teach today. Three candidates do it today and three others tomorrow. Then I teach again on Friday.  The lessons today and tomorrow are 35 minutes, which is closer to an actual lesson life cycle and should go much better. With the 15 minute lesson if you tell them to work in pairs for 5 minutes, that's 33% of your class. I think the Thurs-Fri lessons are 40 and then they are 45 or 55 minutes after that, but only about twice a week. I think the students signed up for 2 hours a day and there would be a break. Man the "e" key on this keyboard doesn't work well and not at all with the shift. I have to hit caps lock and then the "e".


            I got tired of tying to configure my computer to connect to the wireless network so I asked for a cable to hook into the LAN. As you can see I have access to the internet now. This might be a bad thing since I sat down to check email and looked at the clock three minutes later to see 3 hours had passed. Anyway, I can make updates now and you can follow my progress on the course. Also, I plan to add photos soon, but I don't have the SD card adapter now. I have to plan my lesson for tomorrow about "Adverbs of Manner".

I thought so.
Thursday, July 17, 2008

        I knew there would be drama and personality conflicts and they are starting to appear. I've also realized I am probably the reason I seem to be cast as the outsider when a group forms. Rather than saying "I am going to eat at _____" I ask other people where they are going. I let them know they are in charge, they are decision makers, and I am the follower. I think I do that so I won't have to eat alone even though I don't entirely mind it. I'm going to try to start making decisions based on what I want rather than what others want.

          My 2nd lesson which was yesterday went much better. I made some major changes and most were received well. One was a bit much and as mentioned above I reacted to a student's facial expression and shouldn't have. We were taught to give clear directions and then check the directions by asking follow up questions, but we overdid it and it came across as demeaning to the students. When I went in the middle spot and started checking my instructions one guy rolled his eyes like "we are not morons" and I over-reacted and stopped checking altogether. Other than that it was much better and I received "To The Standard" as a mark.

          The drama and personality conflict thing isn't really so bad and I think it is due to cultural differences. The people that are having problems (that aren't really problems) are not from the same continent. One person doesn't really like any negative feedback and disagrees with certain people when they give it, even if the positive feedback outweighs the negative. One person has a distinctively different style of teaching based on where he/she grew up and was taught. Something I find odd is how I might think a lesson was horrible and another person (not from my continent) will think it was wonderful and vice versa. I'll go into more detail after the course. For anyone interested in taking a CELTA class, and those interested in doing so specifically from ECCThai, I am going to separate my CELTA thoughts to a different page and give a running record of what happens and how I felt about it. I'll also set up a separate page on the hotel that I am staying at, SinoHousePhuket, and maybe some sites around Phuket town. I will make this happen in a now like manner.

           During lunch today I went to find the gym and did so successfully. I took a tour and plan to sign up since it is much better than most gyms in the US and Japan. There were tons of free weights and a huge aerobics room and spin room as well as a spa and some machines and a pool. It will be $35 a week or $100 a month. I can't sign up for the month since I won't have the money for that until next Tuesday or Wednesday and I want to sign up before then. They open at 6:30 so I could get there then and work out until 7:30, then shower and eat and be at ECC by 9. I think I could make it happen. I doubt anyone will be there at 6:30 and I do like working out in the morning.

One down, three to go.
Sunday, July 20, 2008

        I taught on Friday and it went better, though I still had some bumps. You can follow that on my CELTA thoughts page. On Saturday I did some shopping and bought some slip in smart casual shoes that I might be able to wear in class as well as a belt and some underwear. Seems odd that I would buy that in Thailand, but I have special needs underwear. I like the boxer-brief style, which means it goes down my leg a bit and keeps my legs from rubbing against each other. I also like them a little tight so I can't wear loose boxers. I have trouble finding them in Japan or at least affording them. I'm wearing the undies now and they fit fine.

          Then I wandered around more near Robinson's and Ocean Department Store and found a theater with "The Dark Knight" which I will probably see sometime. I found a few other interesting stores and I found out McDonald's and KFC delivers to your door. Wow, that's both interesting and scary. I might eat there once, but not often. I mainly lounged around the apartment Saturday since I needed a "me" day. I had dinner at the restaurant-bar in front of the hotel and thought about getting a massage, but I didn't. I might do that today if I finish my CELTA written assignment soon. By "soon" I mean today.

           Today I had breakfast and am now typing this. It's rainy outside which is perfect since I need to stay in and work on this paper and my Tuesday lesson. I was feeling a bit rushed and overwhelmed teaching so much back to back and then having so much other stuff to do. I'm not overloaded since I have taken Japanese classes that were as long as this and all in Japanese. My brain was literally fried after those classes, whereas this is just so much to do at once.

           Now that the first week is over I realized that it feels like we have been doing this for two weeks or more. It really feels like we have been teaching more than 3 times and taking classes for more than 5 mornings. I feel like I've known the other trainees for months and have been here for a month. It's strange to think we are only 25% of the way into it.

          I finished the written assignment and I will look at it again later. I'm not really sure if it's what they want since the assignment was so specific it was almost vague. I had lunch at some small place nearby. It was average so I probably won't go there again. There are better places I could eat at again or new places to explore. I've looked at my new lesson for Tuesday and I hope to plan it by tomorrow and ask some questions about it. I also organized my notebook since I had been stuffing things into random folders and then losing them. Since then I have lounged around watching Saturday Night Live on TV (a re-run) and just relaxed. If I can rewrite the paper soon I might have a  massage after dinner.

And then there were...
Thursday, July 24, 2008

        I thought it would maybe come to this, but I had hoped not since we only had 6 CELTA trainees. One guy walked out around 10am while we were on break and never came back. He missed his teaching practicum that afternoon and the tutor had to teach on the spot to cover him so I'm pretty sure he's not coming back. We guess if he were sick or had some family emergency he would have mentioned something to someone as he left, but nothing to no one. The sad thing is I really liked him and will miss him. It actually feels like a death since he left without any farewell.

          I had a class on Tuesday that I absolutely hated and thought it was awful, but everyone said it was fine and I got a "To The Standard" grade. I felt bad since I was given several micro points to include whereas I usually prefer a topic that I can build up with my own things. I have another lesson today, but it's reading comprehension and I feel better with it. Plus it's from an authentic text and I am building all the exercises. We'll see how it goes.

Starting over...
Saturday, July 26, 2008

           I got "Above the Standard" on my reading skills lesson on Thursday. It was great even though I was actually expecting "To the Standard". I felt like I had some great areas, but some areas were slow and seemed to drag on. He made a note of that, but also that I followed the steps well and more things were right than were wrong. Well that's great. I also turned in my second paper and I'm pretty sure I won't be getting it back for a re-submit since I made sure I hit all the criteria this time.

         I was having some major computer problems with my 6+ year old laptop so I decided to do a non-formatting clean reinstall of the OS. That didn't actually do anything productive and made several things work less. I then did a reinstall where it wipes all the programs and data off the drive, but puts them in a special folder. So now things are running much better than before and I have all the old data and programs. I spent all morning getting back online then around 2 I went and joined the gym and worked out for 2 hours.

          Later tonight I will go to Centrale (the central shopping mall) with Anthony unless he backs out.  He always has some wedding party to go to with one of his old buddies. "This old buddy of mine is having this party and I gotta go" because if you don't they will.....what exactly? You've known these people casually for 2 weeks and they are your "old buddies"? If he backs out I am still going. I didn't come to Thailand to go to the same two bars EVERY SINGLE NIGHT. He has seriously been to more wedding parties in two weeks than I have gone to in my entire life.

           I bought a USB card reader and transferred some images from the camera. I will create a page for my time in Phuket to show anyone interested. [later] Ok, I've made the page about my room at the Sino House Apartment hotel, please check it out. I will continue to add photos of the area as well as any places I find of general interest to possible interested parties.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

           Anthony didn't back out entirely, but.....Well we did leave as expected and found the Sizzler which was great. I had a big steak dinner with the free salad bar. It was a truly filling meal and well worth the $15 we each spent. Then we walked around the ultra nice mall (which is called Central Festival not Centrale) and I bought some T-shirts and some underwear. I was going to buy long pants, but the salesman said something to two other clerks who looked at me and laughed and I just didn't feel like buying them after that. It's perfectly ok to laugh at western foreigners, but if we made fun of people in the US we'd be racists or rude.

         Then, instead of seeing the movie, Anthony said he felt like he needed to get back. This turned out to mean he wanted to go straight to Michael's bar and sit and drink and talk to some Thai girl. This ended up being he and I were talking while she was talking to her friend in Thai. Then we went to another bar owned by yet another "buddy of his" so Anthony and the bar owner could jam out to Grateful Dead songs. I left after two songs because it was a little odd. There was no one in the bar except me and I was more interested in the TV.

         The T-shirts I bought were too small as I should have known. I guess I will donate them to Baan Dada when I visit in two weeks. They would be well received by some of the older boys there I'm sure and I don't mind since I don't wear tight T-shirts. At least not while I am still fat. The underwear should be alright though. Today so far I have watched some Sanford and Son and then I ate breakfast. I have a lesson tomorrow, but it should be an easy speaking practice with the target language "used to". I'll have to find a way to stretch it out to be 40 minutes though. Luckily it's the first day of class with the new students so I can have a game where they have to interview people and find out what they used to do or used to like. I noticed it was ok in British grammar to say "I didn't use to go skating" whereas that sounds wrong to me in American English. I would just say "I never went skating". Anyway, I'll plan those and I might see a movie if I get some major work done today.

I thought I had been in this elevator before and sure enough it is the same elevator.


Bigger, Faster, Longer.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008

           My lesson went fine yesterday. I received "To the Standard" which didn't surprise me. Receiving above the standard wouldn't have surprised me either actually. I felt that it was a solid lesson. Anthony went after me and had a solid lesson as well, though it was leaning towards below standard since he had some things out of order. He got onto me early on by saying I speak too slowly to the students, which is true since I talk to Japanese kids in Japan, but then a student asked him to slow down TWICE so that argument was pretty much shot.

           One of the trainees that taught yesterday got below the standard. I like the guy and I think he is a good teacher, but this lesson deserved that grade. He didn't do a decent intro (and it was the first class with new students), the took too long with some points, he argued with a student who was correct in a grammar analysis, then he went over 5 minutes. At the 5 minute over mark he still hadn't taught the grammar point I was following up on and the tutor said "ok stop now" so he replied with "can I have 5 minutes" to which the tutor said "no, time's up" and then he still went on for 5 minutes more. When he tried to start a new task after being 15 minutes OVER the teacher shut him down immediately and clearly. This was the 3rd time that has happened and he received "To the Standard" on the other ones, which really annoyed me.

           I have to teach today as well which is somewhat of an annoying point with me. The reason I have to teach is because one of other trainees quit so we have to fill his spot. I'm not mad at him, what irks me is that the tutors won't step in and fill the gaps. I would really like to see some lessons by them so we could see what we are being taught, but for some reason they are resisting. The other odd thing about that is I have talked to several people who have done CELTA in the past and they ALL say the tutors not only teach regularly, but on the first day as well. We had to teach more or less unprepared on the first day and it was a flop I think. I truly did not and do not understand why we had to teach with no preparation or no lesson to model. So now I have my usual lessons to plan as well as these extra unobserved things. I did coin the phrase for them, which means nothing in the long run. I called them CT - Creative Teaching. I actually said that to be silly, but the tutor loved it and it stuck. Hmmm.

The Pressure is On.
Thursday, July 31, 2008

           Some people are showing signs of frustration and...some other adjective similar to that. I understand it even though I'm not there. The reason I'm not there is because I have already entered my defense mode which is to not worry about taking in everything we are told, but to make sure certain things are stated and written in certain places. I know what it takes to pass and I will focus on those things and hope I can assimilate the info later.

            Then again some of the reasons certain people are stressed are easily preventable. One is someone misspelled a word on the lesson plan several times. Why didn't spell check pick it up? Because he/she hand wrote it. Oh god I would never do that for several reasons, this being one. Then he/she made some mistakes and had to draw arrows and mark out words and fill in other words and it was a little sloppy and hard to follow. Then he/she simply didn't follow certain steps they have told us over and over.

          On another occasion one student wrote a weird character on the board for a "J". This person insisted that was how he/she was taught, which was irrelevant to me. At no point did it even remotely look like a J. It was a Y at best. The students thought the word was Adyective which is almost how it is pronounced.

         Then a few people simply don't look at the time when they start and teach as long as they feel is needed. I have no real sympathy for people who simply choose to not look at the clock. Turn your head and look don't say things like "I'm just not used to doing lessons that fit into X minutes".

          A few students still don't make copies of their plan and sheets and turn it in to the tutor before the lesson. How many more times can we be told that? I have done it since the first day because they said it and it simply makes sense, but some people still forget and get flustered when he asks for it in the middle of the lesson. One person didn't make enough copies for class and I had to run get some. I don't know, there are just some things that seem self inflicted.

        I had a lesson on Wednesday and it went fine, but it was a barely "to the standard". I knew that since I didn't do a few nit-picky things. We have 582 things to remember to put in a lesson. When we put one thing they knock us for missing another. It is stressful in an unnecessary way to me sometimes. We are told we must follow a certain order even if the students learn the objective. Most of us think as long as A) the students learn the aim (or even learn something), B) the plan was logically ordered, and C) the lesson was well planned then the little bits shouldn't matter so much. But they do and we get "scolded" leaving out point #837 even though we added 28 other things this time.

         Then we have these FOUR "academically irrelevantly annoying" papers as tangents to take our mind off actually learning what we are being taught. Then we have the nearly assured resubmits on the papers and about 10 other forms to fill out before a lesson. It's like I am applying for a license to open a nuclear reactor. On top of this we can't even relax and enjoy watching the other people teaching because we have all these busy work touchy feely self discovery tasks to do because GOD FORBID we have one minute of free time. I'm trying to watch someone's lesson because he is presenting grammar and I have to do that tomorrow and the tutor says "are you working on your observation tasks?" Observation tasks = busy work to stop us from having any down time. So instead of watching the lesson and seeing something we are learning I am answering questions like "What did the trainee say when the student asked a question? What was the trainee's facial expression? How did that make you feel? What are some other ways of responding? How would those make you feel? Do they make you feel happy or sad? Are you comfortable with your inner student? Do you need a hug? What are some other ways of comforting a friend in need?"





         If I already knew all this stuff or if it were easily possible for me to find it inside myself, I WOULDN'T HAVE PAID $4,000 to come to Thailand for the summer. I want to be taught, not directed to find the truth within my own knowledge store. My Knowledge Store is out of stock. It's closed for remodeling. I am an American, who wants things laid out and actually taught, in a course that is British where they use so much SD to find answers. I think I could teach Astro-Physics using SD. "So what do you think about the speed of Jupiter? talk about it in groups and then teach me...I mean tell me your answers...Ok that's great, now how do you feel about what you learned?"

          Ok, that rant was needed. I'm going to the gym at 6:30 am.


          Ok, it's now 6:35 PM. I went to the gym this morning and then made it to class. We had input sessions in the morning and then teaching practicum in the afternoon. During lunch Anthony and I ventured to the immigration office to get extensions for our visas here. Wow that was fun as one would expect. The fun part was mainly with the tuk tuk ride there. Thailand has taught me to be cynical and ignore people and that most Thai people related to cheap public transportation will jump at the chance to royally screw a farang (foreigner).

          At 12:30 Anthony went to his hotel to get his passport and I went to get money and then to meet him. There are always tuk tuks sitting outside his place and they always try to pull us into one (which is why I have learned to simply ignore people). So we asked one guy and he said a slightly high, but fair, price to drive us there. It's a bit out of walking distance especially during lunch. He takes us there and says "oh no it's closed from 12-1 for lunch" which is true as it is in Japan. It was 10 til and I thought about waiting, which we should have done, but he said he could take us to lunch just around the corner and have us back in no time. Fine, we agreed. 10 minutes later we are arriving at a beach front place. I could tell right away it was place that gave him a commission for bringing us there. They took us into the nice seafood area and we said we were in a hurry and just wanted some Thai food. They sat us by the water and took our order. I ordered something that should be 60 baht ($1.80) and he ordered something that should be 80 baht ($2.40). The waters should be around 10-20 baht each so we were expecting about 180 baht. I knew it would be more and it was 480 baht. I actually laughed when they brought the bill since it was such a blatant "rip off the foreigner" price. I knew how to say "foreigner price" at one time. It's something like farang khaa.

         Then we go back to the place and of course they require copies of forms and passports and photos and yadda yadda. We do all that and pay some lady in a shack for photos and copies (I felt like I was buying crack) and then go back and wait in line. It's already 10 til 2 and they are at number 601. We were number 615. Then some clerk asks us what we want and I said a 10 day extension. He said they only give 7 day extensions and so I said we should leave and ask for details later with a Thai girl that works at the school. So we get to go back tomorrow and deal with it again, but this time no lunch excursion. We spent $30 and didn't get anything accomplished. Sometimes I can handle the mark ups and price hikes for us billionaire foreigners, but sometimes it just gets old.




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