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Friday, July 03, 2009

            I have Thai yoga tonight and I am looking forward to it. It’s hard and I look like a moron, but I can really feel the muscles burning and I plan to do it in my apartment in between classes.  

            I get an English newspaper everyday and there’s a New York Times crossword puzzle in it. Some days I can’t get one word, other days I finish right away, most of the time I get about 60% right away and then think about the rest for a while. I eventually get the answers and check them the next day. I don’t even know why I am mentioning this, it’s just that it’s interesting how one day I can’t get anything and the next day I whip through them all right away.

            Well I finally made it to the top level in that online game I have been playing, World of Warcraft. Now I just do some smaller daily quests or participate in raids or other things. I can’t explain it all now, nor do most of you care. I’m just glad I made it all the way. Now I can take another character all the way to the end or do something else. Maybe I should focus on getting out of the house and meeting girls, like the cuties in the yoga class.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

            I called in late on Monday claiming to have a headache. It was partially true, but I could have gone in if there was some urgent pressing reason other than simply sitting there. I made it in around 10:30 and sat doing my own various other projects until 4:30. Then I helped some students practice for the upcoming prefectural skit contest.

            "We can’t do it." It's strange how common that phrase is  in Japan. I think it's part of the reason why the vast majority of people don't speak English. If you were to say "yes, I can speak English" you then separate yourself from your immediate group, so people jokingly say "I can't, no way, I just can't speak English" and luckily no one does. Really annoying when you are an English teacher though.

           I bought some magnesium supplements recently since they are supposed to be a "sleep assistant, muscle component, mood enhancer, and much more". So far I possibly notice a slight sleep improvement, but I'm not sure entirely. Maybe I need to build up more in my system first.

Nonsense Overload.
Wednesday, July 08, 2009

            Constantly driving to Konan is getting annoying when I don't have classes that day. On July 22nd when we go to the skit contest in Fukushima city, I was told I couldn't drive there. So we are going back to the old bit about "you are a regular normal government employee and you must act like that at all times" when THAT is convenient, or "no no, you can't do that, you are a special situation" when THAT is convenient. So now I have to either ride with the teacher who will go at some annoyingly odd hour and return ultra late, or take the bus and walk.

               Then I was filling out my summer schedule and basically put "not here" all summer. They laughed at the sheer audacity of the idea of me not driving 45 minutes each way each day and sitting there DOING ABSOLUTELY NOTHING all summer. Oh my GOD, who will generate gluteal energy? Someone must be sitting in the teacher's room at all times so we can generate electricity based on butts in seats. The nerve of me to want to travel around all summer looking at Japanese cultural sites. He can't do that....we are embarrassed of our culture....we don't want him to see our history....we need his buttock energy powering our school. What will we do if he isn't here? Seriously, constantly sitting doing nothing is REALLY getting old. Especially when I have to drive 45 minutes to do so.

             Here's a prime example: On August twenty something I have to drive out to school, 45 minutes, and sit through a 15 minute opening ceremony. It is more important than actually breathing for me to be at this ceremony. Then when that is over I have to drive back to my apartment and park and walk across the street to the park where we learn about how to put out fires. Which is good since I usually run round in a crazed stupor when there is a fire. This lasts 30 minutes. Then they want me to drive BACK to Konan again to sit for the rest of the day since there are no classes. It would be one thing if they would just say "yea this is a lot silly driving, but you gotta do it", but they don't say that. They actually get surprised at my attitude when I hint at how UTTERLY #$%&-ING WASTEFUL THIS IS. They actually cannot comprehend NOT driving to work to check in, then driving back to 100 feet from where you started for something, then driving back. The group must be together. Anything else is irrelevant.

                  I can always tell when it is raining by how I wake up. If I get up and feel great and actually want to go out and run for an hour, then it will be raining. If I feel sluggish and lazy and don't want to get ready or leave the house, then it will be the most beautiful day in the history of the world.

P.S. Clearly the mood enhancement aspect is not working. I've been getting really tired of certain things in Japan and had the thought of quitting a few times.

Pre-Mini-English Day Camp.
Monday, July 13, 2009

            Yesterday I helped Matt’s girlfriend with a small English summer camp type thing. It was at a park in Koriyama somewhere and about 50 elementary school kids attended. It was fun and I enjoyed it, but it included the usual standard time wasting that accompanies most Japanese events. We were told the even was 10 to 4, but includes lunch and a small stipend for us. Cool. We had to leave at 9:30 to get there by 10 to set up and prepare things since it started at 11. So we do all that and learn it starts at 11:30 after we have set up and prepared everything by 10:30. So why did we have to get there that early? Then the kids arrive and we get into groups and do some introductions. Ok, what’s the first activity……..it’s lunch. Eh? Really, we just started.

            Ok so we go to lunch from 12 to 1 and eat with the kids. Lunch was great in comparison to the Koriyama BoE’s English Camp meals. It was a buffet style all you can eat with a drink machine and various types of beverages. Awesome. So that goes until about 12:45 ish and then we go back to the gym and waste time until 1. At 1 we do the Hokey-Pokey with some stupid version from a CD. It was Right arm-Left arm-Right leg-Bottom. So first off, what happened to left leg and secondly, why would you include “bottom” in this kid’s event. Put your bottom in put your bottom out, put your bottom in and shake it all about. Seriously, bottom? That was odd and the kids knew it.

            Then we played some fun games like pass the ball down the line over your head and then under your legs and then to the left and to the right. I suggested the kids say “over” as they pass it over and everyone agreed that was a great idea. But then we didn’t do it, we just passed the ball which had no English at all. At the peak of excitement in this game we moved to…

            An uber-boring phonics lesson, but I was impressed that some young kids could say the names of the letters and read simple words. One 1st grader in my group, who was adorable and shy, could write all the letters when I said them. So then we taught the kids how to read the word “Orienteering”. The funny thing is A) I have never heard this word in my 36 years of speaking English, and B) Why would we teach elementary kids this word? So then we went out and did some orienteering.

            There were 15 questions around the park and as a group we went around to find them. Then the kids would ask me some questions like “what food do you like” and I would answer according to some pre-written answers on the sheets. That lasted until 3 and then the kids were told they could have free time to play on the playground until 4. So basically they showed up at 11:30 and we did basic check in stuff until noon-ish then ate lunch for an hour and started some activities at 1, ending at 3. The Japanese employees of the school had to be there at 8:30 for set up that we finished right away. The 10-4 day was really 1-3 and the rest of the time was wasted with ceremonies and general breaking the flow activities.

            It ran pretty much like my Konan Snow Day back in February. I kept trying to run it in a foreign way which was to make use of as much time with the kids as possible, but the plan kept getting hijacked when they had to dam the flowing river to proceed with some standard time wasting. Yesterday when they said go around the park looking for signs we all went outside and then as a group we started walking around the park. They quickly summoned us back to a starting area and went over the directions one more time and made sure everyone was comfortable and felt good about the activity. Then we stood around for a minute and finally one group just walked away to start and I took our group away as well. I could see they wanted us to leave together, but I was sick of all the time wasting. In Japan, procedures and making sure people “feel good” about an activity are more important than actually getting anything done.

            After the mini-English Camp thing, we went to Italian Dining, which is right behind my apartment and had a small party for Henare. He was at the English Camp thing with us and some kid asked his birthday and he had to respond “it’s today” so then the kid had to start yelling it to everyone and later we sang to him. I ate way too much at Italian dining and ended up blowing that entire stipend they gave us. It was fun though and I discovered some good food rather than the usual thing I always get.


            ARGH. I am so mad. WHY WHY WHY does this happen? I was making another round of the old treasure maps where you print them out and pour coffee on them while they are soaking in the sun. When they dry they look like they are 100 years old. So I printed them out and took them to the roof. I looked all around in every direction and it was crystal clear. Not a singular weather related item in the air. NOTHING for miles. So I set them down and brush the coffee on them. The sun is baking them and they are going to look great. Finally I finish with the 10th one after about 15 minutes of brushing and adding coffee. When I look up it starts to pour down rain and the sky is completely cloudy. The wind starts blowing fast and the papers are blown all over the place and folded (which then ruins the effect of the coffee). WHERE THE #$%& did this clouds come from? How fast did they move in? How was it clear until the point that I stopped looking and then suddenly starts to pour? More importantly how is it that this is the SECOND TIME it has done this when I was making THIS activity? Seriously, WTF?


It’s Finally Over.
Friday, July 17, 2009

            Today we had the obligatory closing ceremony for the 1st term. Awards for the term were given out and the skit contest participants put on their first public performance. It went great and they hypothetically have a chance at winning, but I don't expect anything. The teacher redid the costume in a way that doesn't look quite right, but it could be funnier. The only response I could do that was culturally ok was "oh wow, thank you for your hard work, that looks great."

            Then there was a long cleaning and finally a 2 hour teacher's meeting. Some kids were practicing for an upcoming concert and rehearsing all over the school. Since we don't use air conditioning we had all the windows open which then caused flies to come in and buzz around. There are no screens either. There were some kids sitting right outside the window practicing trumpet. I couldn't hear a single word the teachers were saying, but no one thought to close the window or tell the students to go somewhere else.

            There are two girls participating in the upcoming speech contests. One is from the skit contest and I was determined that she do the original speech and the other more serious girl do the recited speech. The teacher did the usual Japanese nonsensical reasoning of giving some bizarre non-related answer as to why it had to be the other way. I refused to accept this and went to talk to the girls in hopes of planting the seed of change and having them convince him my way was better. When I talked to the 1st girl she said she wanted to do th recited speech about Tom Sawyer. I thought about and yea she would be good at that since there are several voices to do. Then I talked to the other girl (more serious) about her speech and she wants to do a serious speech about our folk tales in the area. Hmmm, yea she would be better at that. So in this case, I can admit defeat. The chosen girls are best in their respective roles. I don't agree with the reasons and especially how we waited until the absolute last minute to start it, but that's ok.

            On Wednesday I had an observed class with the 4th graders who are my favorite kids now. There are some slow ones, but no troublemakers like in some other classes. The class went great and I was complimented on my previous use of A/V in the class and encouraged to use it more. I took that as a sign to pursue it since I am interested in it and wanted to use it more in class. The particular thing he referred to was when I taught the 9th graders about Agree or Disagree and had a split screen of me arguing with myself. I plan to use some A/V in the next observed class which should be November. About 100 people will come to that and no telling how many will come see my class. I want to make it epic, even though I only go to that class once a month.


Already Bored.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009

            Today was payday, but I wasn't terribly broke so no big deal. I went by the summer day camp for 7th graders today and watched what they were doing to make sure my plan wouldn't overlap and I'm glad I did since it would have somewhat. I have a better plan for tomorrow so it will be ok. Photo: In Japan when you ask for a large or medium, they don't fill it up anywhere near the top. Honestly in the US I would have complained and said...uh...yea keep going. With beer someone has started a myth that head is good and you get about 30% foam at the top. Japanese people actually complain if there is less head than that. It's so silly.

             This weekend was uneventful. I bought a big rug for the living room since it was on sale at Nitori which is my new favorite furniture store. I also bought a lamp for only $20, but it looks much nicer than you would expect. Hmmm, Sunday night I hung out at Dan's for a bit. Then yesterday I went by Paula's and we had lunch at this nice choose-your-own-dish cafeteria place almost like Morrison's in the US. Then we went for a walk around the river and by her university where she teaches English to Engineering students. So far I've been doing a whole lotta nothing and I am getting bored. Tomorrow I help run the camp with the other NTs. Thursday I go to school to help the kids with the speech contest, then later in the afternoon I am going to Fukushima city with some people to do some stuff and to get gyoza. Yummy. Friday is the second part of the summer day camp, but only in the morning. Then Friday night is Thai Yoga and hopefully Thai food after if Dan doesn't wimp out again. Then I have to find something to do for 3 weeks. Photo: The main walk down Paula's university, Nihon University in Koriyama.

Paula's single electrical socket in the kitchen. Two more slots open....how wasteful.


Still Bored.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009

            This past week has been slow which I needed. I'm sleeping much later than I usually do. I haven't been able to sleep past 6-7 in the longest time, but today I woke up at 9 for some reason. I think it's because I've been taking Magnesium Glycinate pills before bedtime. They help with blood sugar and apparently with sleep as well. Today I drove all the way to Konan to help a girl with the speech contest and she wasn't even there. Such is life. I helped the other student for a minute, then printed out something in color and burned a CD for girl 1. Then drove home. I spent longer driving one way than I did helping them.

             Last week I saw a wreck at an intersection. I didn't see it happen, that was just before I had gotten there. I don't know exactly what happened, but I could tell it had to do with someone running a red light. I feel bad when I go through an intersection and the light is changing to red while I am in the middle. Then I look back and see 2 (sometimes 3) cars going through past me. The first five seconds of a red light don't mean stop. It's amazing to me that there are not more wrecks.

              Thursday I think some of us are going to the beer festival in the park. Of course there is a Japanese tint to it and that is it's only from 5-9. I asked someone why they don't go later and the response was a gasp and "keep the park open past nine????" I know, what was I thinking. Clearly the park would implode if it were open past 9. We might come over to my place after that ends ridiculously early.

                I've been meaning to go to the gym or run in the morning, but I have just been too lazy. I guess I need a lazy week or so and maybe next week I will make more of an effort. In my defense it has been rainy in the mornings and around the times I wanted to go jogging. I could get on the treadmill at the gym I suppose, since I am paying for it.

              Oh I guess the big news items are 1) I am changing fiber providers this Saturday. If I don't get a connection faster than 1.5 Mbps then I am canceling the whole thing and setting up a page about how much of a scam fiber is. I'm changing to another provider that my friend uses. He lives in the same area so I can't see any reason why it would continue to be slow. 2) My students in the skit contest won the city contest against 10 other schools, and then went to the prefectural contest and won 2nd place there. Now they are going to the Tohoku Semi finals in Sendai. That means the first and second place students from about 8-10 prefectures will be competing. I don't think we will win or place since it's really just one of the three girls that's carrying us. The second girl is better than average, but the third girl is slightly below average in her intonation and delivery. The first girl really makes up for the other two though.

WHAT THE @^$%#*^??
Thursday, July 30, 2009

            This week I called the fiber place and changed it over since it is appallingly slow. Seriously I get 1Mbps from fiber that is advertised at near 100. My ADSL was much faster  than this. So I called and had them transfer it over to some other company. I wasn't happy. They asked "are you sure it's not your computer?". I was like "up yours clown &@%# with a big #&@$ for a face, no it's not my computer, it's nearly new and ADSL was faster on this. So they will make the change over on Saturday.

             Then I had Matt over yesterday for  nerd session of group gaming where we play the same game while sitting in the same room. We actually cheated for a while when we went into this area where two factions fight against each other in real time. He got on his other-team-character and I stayed on my usual character. Then we ran around and he would say "don't go near the tunnel, we are all in there waiting." My team ended up winning. But I digress.....

            When he got here I told him we may not be able to do it since my connection was so slow. He plugged in and I had him go to speedtest.net to check the speed on his machine. The arrow flew around to nearly 20Mbps each time he did the test. BAG OF POO. That means it has to be my computer. Frickin stupid dumb bag of dodo with a big #$%#@ mixed in. I just said a bad word loudly in my apartment as an act of protest. So now I have to first try and get a faster Ethernet card and then if that doesn't work a faster computer. Seriously, I want kick something now.

             Well tonight is the beer fest in the park. I'll wash away my pain and then start my juice fast on Friday to cancel out the beer festival which cancels out any exercise I have done recently. ARGH.

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