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And Again…
Friday, June 1st, 2007

     I created two MS Word files this week for my 8th graders. One was the things to memorize, the other was the short quiz. I saved them both with clear logical names in the folder for the 8th graders. Now I can only find the memorization sheet. I am searching my whole computer for the other one, but it seems to have just disappeared. No explanation for it. Maybe I broke into the school and deleted THAT file in my sleep one night. Gotta love it.

     In the class I like the least of all, ever, I made them memorize some words. Before that they had a short quiz where they had to write some things in English from Japanese. It was stuff they have been learning in their regular classes, and yet no one can remember how to do it. One of the things to write in English was “I am going to go to lake Towada”. Some students read this and thought it was a boys name in the class, we’ll say “Tommy”. They started laughing about it and giggling, even though it wasn’t even remotely funny. Then when I graded the tests I found that the student beside “Tommy” accidentally wrote “I am going to lick Tommy”.

     There are two kids in that class that really act up and one that is just a terd. He will just get up and walk around during my classes and act like he is on crystal meth or something. He pays zero attention to me and never does any assignment, ever. So today the two boys were cutting up as usual and I whipped out my mobile phone and started filming them. When it finished it made this loud chime and students turned to look. I said I was filming them to show their teacher and club coach. They got quiet for a bit.

     Then after the class I told their homeroom teacher about it and was about to show her the video. Somehow it got turned to the fact that I was filming them in class that was the bad thing. The boys acting up was ok, but me filming them in class was rude. She said I should apologize to them for singling them out. I assured her, as politely as possible, that in fact THAT would never happen. Then I sat down and dropped the subject. I’m going to have them sit in the back of the room from now on and goof off if they want to. I am sick of dealing with them.

Sports Week
Monday, June 4th, 2007

     Tuesday and Wednesday of this week are city wide sports competitions. Today I have one planned class and three assisting classes. The planned class, by which I mean I have to plan it, is with the seniors and tomorrow they start their final sports thing as JHS students. They don’t realize now that once they become high school students, they won’t care about this at all. But anyway, I have a class and I am going to make it an easy scavenger hunt. Not too easy, there will be some mental challenges, but it won’t be like a calculus test.

     This weekend I had planned to do a lot on the computer and to plan today’s lesson, but then the weather was so nice I just rested. I don’t feel too bad since I work until 6-7 everyday and I am usually really working and preparing things. So the break was nice even though I did get some stuff done.

     One thing I managed to get done was to find a way to order products I need and can’t buy here. First I went to WalMart.com, but their site was amazingly unhelpful, unless I wanted to buy a lawnmower. Then I went to CVS.com which is the pharmacy I use for my plethora of meds. Not really too many, but a few. Then I realized I could even order, and pay for, my medication and have it ready to be picked up at the store my parents use anyway. Well that’s good. I don’t have to worry about emailing my parents and asking them to go search for some product and then pack it in the next package of mail and bills. The big thing was the medicine, since there is no reason for them to pay for that on a regular basis.

     I found out a few things recently. One is that I have to sit here during the sports week and watch the school along with two other teachers. That’s fine since I’ll just program stuff, but I would rather go and watch. The other thing is that I am an assistant coach for the soccer team. That was a shock. They had their photos made on Friday and one kid tracked me down and said they were waiting for all the coaches to get in the photo. I feel bad for just sitting around all this time and actually I did find it odd that they only had one coach. For now on I will participate. I don’t mind helping anymore since the really good kids are gone and I won’t look like an idiot. The last thing was that I was first supposed to be part of another team, but their coach politely said NO. He is a teacher who I can tell doesn’t really like either myself or foreigners in general. No worries, I like the soccer coach and the kids even though they just run around kicking the ball randomly.

     I don’t think there are any, or many, really bad words in Japanese. There are things you don’t say to certain people, but no F*** or sh** words like we have in English. I have heard kids say the worst words I know in front of teachers and there was no punishment. Often the teachers would repeat them back. Today during cleaning time one kid was saying “unko”, which is the sh** word. It’s more along the lines of the actual substance rather than the exclamation. A teacher heard him and said it back. No punishment. Hmmm. Although I don’t know why the “no punishment” part surprises me.

     I didn't have time to prepare the scavenger hunt like I wanted so I made up something at the last minute. As usual, when I make up things at the last minute, the kids loved it. They thought it was a really good idea and some told me how much they enjoyed it.  Other times when I put out more than enough effort, the lesson is only so-so, but when I plan it on the way to class (as in the 2 minute walk to the classroom), it turns out great. I don't want to say what the lesson was now, but I will soon.

Let’s FIGHT.
Tuesday, June 5th, 2007

     It’s such a beautiful day and really perfect for outdoor sports. I think it was cloudy last year, which was a bummer, but this year we couldn’t ask for better. It’s warm, yet the breeze makes it cool, and the sun is shining bright. Three of the four sports taking place today are outdoor so this is nice for them. A good memory of their last sports festival as JHS students.

      I get to enjoy it from indoors. I’m not complaining since I have tons of things to catch up on, but it would have been nice to have been able to go. Then again, I am getting old and don’t like being at the mercy of other people for getting around and leaving. Most likely it will be a long day for any teams that win since they then play another round. I think the final round starts at like 4 or something and would go for an hour or more and then the ride home would be around an hour. So some groups will come back rather late.

     How is it that I made it all the way through junior high school and then high school missing only one day of classes each? For high school I missed the day on purpose so I wouldn’t get the nerdy perfect attendance award. In fact most people were there all the time, at least those that semi-wanted to be. Yet in Japan kids are absent about once a month or more due to the mysterious “cold”. That’s the default excuse I think. It’s what I always hear when someone is absent, or if I am absent, or if I sniffle.

     The volleyball club went undefeated and goes back on Wednesday for round two. They have always been a strong club, but I think a lot of it is with the seniors who have to quit the club next week. The baseball team lost and the soccer team lost. They have some good members, but most are just on the clubs since other cool kids are. Sucks for the coaches. The tennis team won a match and then lost two.

     When I asked the kids how the games went, I get the standard response. "They were difficult, but we did our best. Tomorrow let's fight." They don't understand the meaning of that in English. I was asking kids about the day when they arrived back around 4-5. An interesting thing they do is when they first arrive they all get off the bus with their stuff and thank the driver by bowing. Then there is a pep talk and then they leave. Today the baseball bus arrived a bit late, just as the last bus was leaving for some area of Konan. The regular bus had a schedule to keep so it had to leave at a certain point. The two kids who really needed to get on that bus could have made it, but the bowing to the driver ceremony was far more important. So they missed the bus and had to call for someone to pick them up. They had to wait 2 hours.

Huge Favor.
Wednesday, June 6th, 2007

     When I got to school this morning some teachers came over with a serious look. Uh oh, what did I do? Then they asked if I would do them a big favor, no a huge favor. I said sure and they said “really?” Then I started getting worried. They looked at a paper, then chatted, then looked at me, then the paper, then paused, then…..”can you watch the students 4th period rather than 3rd period?”.

     My first thought was a quote from a Friends episode where Phoebe offers to show some old man around NY since she seemed to have his dead wife’s spirit in her. His response was “well it will interrupt my busy night of sitting”. I thought about using that line, but I knew it would translate into “you vile scum of the earth, how dare you suggest me doing something during my God-given time of sitting, how dare you and all your children for eternity”. So I just said ok and they acted so relieved. I thought about saying I would rather be in the classroom the whole time, than sitting at my desk, but I knew that would cause major confusion.

     Yesterday I watched one class. Literally that’s all I did in the class. They all had some worksheet and were working on it or reading. Some kids, who weren’t able to do the worksheet, had the answers so they too could feel like part of the group and that was the most important thing. I suggested another activity that involved them moving around the school searching for stuff, like my previously mentioned scavenger hunt. But that was based on my individual thought and didn’t include everyone’s opinion on the matter, so it was confusingly shot down. This printout was crucial to the existence of all mankind.

     I was able to do “my thing” a few times today. Sadly it probably worked against me in the long run. My thing is where I hear some tidbit of knowledge and later repeat it at the perfect time which makes me sound all the more knowledgeable about something. Today and yesterday teachers would call and report the status of the teams playing. Someone called and said the soccer team had lost to GoChuu (the 5th JHS, Go means 5 chuu means middle as in middle school). So when the phone answering person announced that to everyone in the room (two people) the other teacher said “well GoChuu is a strong team, remember how they did at the ekiden (city wide relay race)”. I didn’t know how they did or what kind of a team they are, but from her comment I could assume they were strong and probably won the ekiden (relay race).

     So then I was walking around the school and another teacher asked “hear anything about the teams?” So I replied, “well the soccer team lost, but it was to GoChuu and you know how they are….I mean remember the ekiden”. He agreed and said something else really fast and natural. I didn’t follow it, but he assumed I would since I said all that. I guess here it’s not the best thing, but when I was working at a record store that sold about 70% gospel and rap, it worked great. Some customer would tell me “oh this is so-and-so’s newest album. It’s more of a classic style, unlike The Some-Church Choir, they still go with the old school way. Their new album sounds a lot like blah-blah”. So then when the next customer asks me about that group, I would just repeat it all and they would think I was the master of gospel. Then I would listen and learn more about other groups and tie them all together. I didn’t care anything about rap or gospel, I was just doing it to make sells and sound like I cared when the manager was around.

Thursday, June 7th, 2007

     We had a meeting with the 2nd and 3rd years to present our plans for the special elective classes. I can’t think of a dumber way of doing this meeting. First we all got up and gave little speeches about what will happen in our class. Then students asked questions. Finally they wrote down their choice. Then we opened a huge can of STUPIDITY and sprayed it around the room. Then all the teachers lined up and the students raced to stand in line to be that elective class.

     Kids were running around getting in lines and then changing their minds. It was chaos. Science, English, Math, Computers….which do I want? When the dust settled the computer class had 36. WOW. Math, Science, and Social Studies had about 5-10. Good sizes, YEA! English 2 with the Japanese English teacher had about 8 great students. And then…….

No one got in my line.

     It was like my own JHS all over again (and high school I guess). It was like being picked last for PE teams, but worse. I wasn't picked at all. Then they had all the kids sit down and people started to notice. “Oh Ryan I’m sorry”. “Oh no there is no one in Ryan’s class”. I saw some smirks and chuckles from a few key teachers. It was humiliating even though I tried to play it off as no problem. I think they are going to push a few kids into my class which is exactly NOT what I want. It's a perfect example of why I want my remote control to either fast forward my life, or zap me to somewhere else.

     I’m not whining without a reason. It was just a dumb way to do it. It would have been equally as dumb if I had 5-10 kids and some other teacher had no one and had to stand there looking stupid. It was a [Expletive Removed] plan and I'd like to shove the plan up a big [Expletive Removed], the kind with all the pointy things….right in the [Expletive Removed]. They should have had the kids write down their choices and then had someone tally them. Seniors get first choice and then juniors. Sure it would have given someone a job to do, but that’s what makes the world go around. Plus we love inefficiency here. If no one chose my class and I found out in the teachers room, that would have been 100x better than standing in front of the whole school while people snickered and kids acted sad that I wasn't chosen.

     The part that really bugs me is that I have been planning this class for over a year. I have written a few notebooks full of ideas and had nearly all the classes planned. I was going to teach a grammar point and then drill them over and over. They were really going to know several major parts of English. All that is down the drain.

     On a brighter note, 2nd period I had a class with the 4th graders and I taught 21 kids how to count to 60 (though technically 100). That was fun and a really cool thing. I’m going to put it on my resume somehow. Taught X # of Japanese kids how to read and count. I’ve been walking around the halls stopping the 4th graders and asking them to say big numbers.

     Oh here is a really odd thing that came out of that class. After the class, when I was walking down the hall two of the 4th graders caught me and asked me something. These two boys are really nice and don’t do the socially acceptable “let’s stick our fingers up people’s butts”. They asked “Ryan, do you know sixty nine”. I was truly dumbfounded. Surely that means something else in Japanese. Then they did this strange gesture with their hands and asked again. I said I didn’t know and left. I am really confused about that, even now.

     Here is something else that I find amusing, even though it’s just the bitter part of me coming out. When we started the stupid meeting it was all the juniors and seniors in the big hall. At the other end of the hall were the musical instruments for the music club. About 10 minutes into the meeting, about 5 elementary school kids came into the hall and started adjusting the instruments. Then they started playing the drums. The big bass drum, the tympanis, the xylophone and the other thing like that. Then the speaker just kept talking, but you could hear ZERO. In a word, it was







     The kids thought “school now over. Time to play music. Play music in big hall. Go and play now.” People in the other end of the hall were variables and ignored. They played for about a minute and the teacher just talked over them, but you couldn’t hear a single word. Then the teachers looked around in confusion and finally one teacher went over and said “could you hold it down a bit”. Exactly how do you hold it down when you are playing the drums 30 feet from a meeting?

     Anyway, that statement was a variable to what they set out to do so it was in fact, ignored. The kids kept on playing. The teachers assumed since a statement was made that the volume was now lower, which it was not. This went on for another minute or so until a teacher went back over and asked them to move. They moved to a classroom across the hall. The classroom had it’s doors open and the big hall had the doors and windows (to the hall) open. They started playing the drums and it was perhaps one tenth of one decibel softer than before. We ignored them for about 5 minutes and then the music teacher came and had them move to the gym. I wanted to get it on film since it was the greatest thing in the  history of the world, but I had my phone charging on a USB cable plugged into my computer. ARGH.

Friday, June 8th, 2007

     I got up at 6am and went jogging this morning. The last time my summer clothes were washed was in December in Thailand. Then I sealed them in a vacuum bag for the winter. They still had that distinct Thailand smell. I made me miss Siam.

    The music club is performing some song in October. Until then we get to constantly hear the song when they practice and during lunch since they broadcast it. I hate it. It’s some famous old thing and I know why they are learning it, because it’s a good song for learning. But it sounds like the theme to some 70’s show like The Rockford Files or Dynasty. Plus hearing anything 9.68 trillion gazllion smillion times gets annoying. And it’s not like I don’t get annoyed easily…

     After school we had the Nationwide Official Japanese English Test. It's called Eiken. Ei means part of English, and Ken is test. This was a record turnout with 26 people, which is about 25% of the school, more if you don't count the kids who never actually do anything at all. A funny thing that happened during the test was the bell went off a few times, and even better announcements were made. I went down twice and asked that the bell be turned off for this floor. I specifically suggested we use this floor for the test since it is no longer actively used. The first time everyone was sorry that they forgot to the turn the bell off. When it rang again after about 10 minutes I politely asked if someone could show me how to turn it off so I would know for future tests. A teacher showed me and then turned it right back on. I stopped and explained we actually needed it off now because it was disturbing the students. Then he was like "oh yea I see". While I was there I put a note (a variable) on the announcement thingy explaining that people should not make announcements during the test for the 3rd floor. You can EASILY not press the buttons for the 3rd floor.

      About 2-3 times announcements were made and I went back down and asked again and got the same "oh I see, oh the test is now oh ok" response. The 4th time I put tape over the 3rd floor buttons and wrote "NO ANNOUNCEMENTS ON THE 3RD FLOOR DURING THE TEST". There were no more interruptions during the test, but the minute it was over there was one. The funny thing is no one knew when it would be over so I think that's just coincidence and they ignored the tape. I know from experience, there is TOTAL silence during the Kanji test. That is a huge thing, whereas the English test is a secondary thing. Sure I understand that to some extent, but some courtesy should apply to both. It's a test, period.

Early Early Morning.
Saturday, June 9th, 2007

    We had our clean the school day this morning. We all had to be there at 6am. This is so completely pointless that I can't even begin to grasp why. First, it's at 6am. I woke up at 5:45 which is no problem, and walked over to the school around 6:10. I always get there early and am the first dork waiting alone until everyone gets there at 6:10 (the Japanese are big on punctuality....or wait a minute...). When I got there they said it was cancelled since it was raining. We were going to be cleaning the INSIDE of the school, but two teachers were going to clean an outside part. Since we could not all function as a group due to the rain, we cancelled the whole thing. No one called anyone, they waited until all the teachers (who left at 5:15am) arrived.

     Ok it's cancelled, let's go home. Nope, we sit around for a bit doing nothing at 6am on a Saturday. I asked a teacher who always tells me insights and he said they were going to wait a bit until the principal said it was ok to leave.

     I truly cannot understand this group behavior. I care more about the cost of a hot dog and coke at the 2032 Olympic Games than I do about when the principal thinks we should go home after voluntarily coming to the school on a Saturday AT SIX AM. Here's probably the best part, we start a 6am, so you think, wow it's gonna be a long day of intense cleaning. If that were the case I wouldn't really mind, but we spend about 30 minutes to an hour. WHY does this have to be done at 6am? Why not on Friday with an extra 200 kids? Why not in the middle of the day? What? Why? I truly cannot find any logical reason to start at 6am. I am more upset at the absurdity of it all than at having to be up that early.

     So then I confirmed with some teacher I could leave and I said the standard "It's rude of me to leave before you" and walked out. One nice teacher, but really Japanese, said "oh you are leaving early?" NO? What is early? We aren't doing anything. When is the politically correct time to leave? An hour? I'm not going to the rain-make up day for this. It's just so dumb to be there at that time. I'll say I will be traveling or something. I made an appearance here so I should get credit for that.

Driving Me Crazy.
Sunday, June 10th, 2007

    I went to the 7-11 for lunch since I just didn't feel like driving into Koriyama today. On the way there I got stuck in traffic in my one traffic light town. There weren't many cars, but Japanese driving logic played a big part. I had to draw something to explain it. It was truly a classic.


     I'm about the 3rd car on the bottom row. Remember we drive on the opposite side here. So car number one was just stopped. He was backing into his driveway which is about where the H is in Houses. You are required by a federal law to back into all spaces regardless of whether or not it's more convenient. That's simply what you do in Japan. The fact that there were cars behind him and he was blocking traffic was irrelevant. He had to park his truck and you back into all spaces. That caused about 5 cars to back up down the road and through the light.

     Vehicle #2 was a big truck trying to turn right, but cars were backed up through the light so he couldn't turn. He could have driven forward and turned around somewhere, but that would have required some form of individual thought. So he sat there with his blinker on (winker in Japanese) and waited until the cars cleared. But we couldn't move since this other small truck was stopped in the middle of the road.

     We sat there for about 5 minutes. I shifted into neutral for a while. People got out of their cars and tried to see what was going on. Someone when up to truck #1 and explained the situation (I guess), but truck #1 probably just replied that he had to park his truck and of course it had to be backed in. Finally truck #2 moved or went another way since that lane opened up and we drove around truck #1. Honestly I think we were there about 5-7 minutes.

So Lazy.
Monday, June 11th, 2007

     I am so angry at myself. I am very much angry yes. ARGH. Seriously though. I set my alarm for 5:45 this morning to get up early and jog/walk extra far. I really wanted to get the heart rate going today since I didn’t eat so great over the weekend and I wanted to burn off some. So it goes off and I hop out of bed. I look outside and it’s the most beautiful day in the history of all life. I feel great and I am awake and ready to go. Then I get back in bed until 7:30. For no reason whatsoever.

     I had two planned classes that I didn’t really plan for. I knew about them all weekend, but I couldn’t decide what to do. I need to start making more interesting activity-based classes rather than lecture style. Today I tried to teacher A and B, A or B, not only A but B, neither A nor B. It went ok, but it was boring. When things get boring, kids start to chat and goof off. Plus there’s zero discipline in Japan so all I can do is say be quiet a million times. Plus my school is a zillion times better than the bigger city schools.

     I seriously think I am going insane. Today’s example is brought to you by the letter R and the number 10. I made this wicked complicated spreadsheet to keep track of the points and number of times the kids turn in their diaries. Today, for some reason, it stopped calculating correctly. There were some parts that I couldn’t understand at all. I kept saying “did I write this part? What does it do and why?” It was as if someone had opened the file and made some changes. I have zero idea why it stopped working and that’s driving me insane.

     On top of not exercising this morning, I also didn’t drink my green tea. So now I am all sluggish and I can’t think.

Do Over Day.
Tuesday, June 12th, 2007

      I have the same classes as I had yesterday, but with different classes. That didn’t make sense. I mean I have a class with the seniors and with the juniors just like yesterday so I can try to make them go a little better. Plus I exercised last night (though I was lazy again this morning) and I’ve already had some green tea so I feel better.

      I have concluded that my laziness is purely mental. When I am out exercising, my body is sending thoughts to my brain like “man this feels great, the blood department is working hardcore, the lung department is taking in all this fresh mountain air, the fat department is getting its butt kicked, we gotta do this everyday”. But the motivation part of me keeps saying things like “why are we running, we should be sitting or better yet lying down. Go home already, get back in bed, take a nap, eat a jelly sandwich, mmmm a chocolate pie would be good, have someone mail more Kraft Shells and Cheese to you”.

      It’s a constant fight between the two sides. Occasionally my shins do hurt, but really most of the reason I don’t exercise is mental. I get tired, but I usually feel good. I don’t know how to overcome this mental anti-motivation way of thinking. When I drink green tea I get a kick of energy, but I would have to wake up at 4 and drink it for it to kick in by 5 something and then go jogging. Clearly that is ridiculous. I’ve even tried putting signs in my apartment that say “you are a big fat greasy slab of hog meat”, but I end up ignoring them and it doesn’t work. All that “just say daily positive affirmations” stuff doesn’t work on me since my other side hears it and laughs.

     Can I voluntarily join a work prison camp? I know that’s a drastic step, but man I know the pounds would come off. I had a friend in college that had to go to one for missing community service for getting busted for shoplifting or something and I think he lost some weight. He said they woke up at 6am everyday and dug ditches back and forth in a field all day. I’d prefer something that involved pulling weights up a hill all day. I would hate it while doing it, but when I was slim and fit I would be glad I made the commitment.

     They moved the Wednesday 4pm meeting to Tuesday without me noticing so I wasn’t able to not be in the room when they announced it would start. I couldn’t just leave since I had been sitting there for a while and it would look odd. It was about an hour, really it would have been 10 minutes but we have to get everyone’s opinion on everything. If someone has a dissenting opinion, then we have to talk in circles until we convince that person to go with what we had already planned in a way that makes them think they voluntarily changed their mind.

     Then we have my favorite part where each homeroom teacher talks about anyone who was sick during the week and why. One teacher said “a student (she named him) had a fever of 38°C. WHO CARES? Then the nurse, and this was great, talked about everyone that come into her room and why. I can barely sit there without screaming “what kind of violation is this?” I can only relate it to my home culture in which we would be arrested and fired for discussing this stuff. If I ever had any kind of personal body problem, I would drive for 5 hours to some big city, pay cash and say my name was Warren McFadden.

     Then we get to the end. Now the meeting leader asked “is there anything else?” But he has to ask like 100 times and then someone waits until the very last moment to raise their hand. I now play a game to amuse myself. I predict how many times he will say it or how long until someone speaks up. Today I guessed 10 seconds, but it was 14 seconds from the time he last said “anything else” to the time someone spoke. Then when they finished and he started again, I guessed 3 times, but he said it five times. Each with about 10 seconds in between. Finally, near the end, I did my little thing to speed him a long. I started shuffling my papers and collecting my things which then caused other people to do the same which then caused him to wrap things up. The timing is crucial and I have it down pretty good.

      I’ve been feeling better this week. I felt really disconnected last week. I guess I was bummed over the whole stupid way of selecting the elective class. Two girls were either put in the class or joined so now I have two, which is fine since I wanted a low number. But they weren’t really into it when they took my elective class last year. They said they really wanted to get better at English, so maybe just 2 on 1 will be ok. We are going to play Monopoly on Thursday since the class is now two hours each week. I will make them say things like “I own that, please give me $50”. It works out ok for an English teaching game.

     I went to Koriyama tonight to get some stuff for a game I have planned tomorrow. I went by the $1 store to get the stuff then I went over to the sushi place. I always go to this place since it's cheap. Tonight I found they upgraded their system. I usually have to order through this stupid old "Charlie Brown's teacher" style speaker system, but not anymore. They now have electronic touch menus. Sadly I thought of how nice this would be more than 5 years ago. Anyway, all you do is touch a screen and select what you want from a picture menu. It's great and really convenient. I snapped a photo with my phone, as you can see.

My anti-motivation/food demon got me tonight though. After school I felt great from the green tea and getting several things done. The do-over day was good I'd say. I walked home to get ready for sushi and noticed I was walking fast. I felt good, I had some energy. I decided to burn some off by jogging a bit before going to eat so I jogged around the rice fields for about 30 minutes. I actually jogged more than I walked this time. Then I came back, changed and left for sushi and the $1 store. It went well as mentioned above, but then I drove home. Apparently I had smothered the food demon for too long since he kept whispering in my head "mmmm that salty sushi was good, wouldn't some nice white chocolate really seal the deal? mmmmm, I see a 7-11 up ahead." I ended up stopping and getting some white chocolate and I didn't even realize it until I was half way through it. ARGH.

So Polite.
Wednesday, June 13th, 2007

     At lunch I went over to grab a tray and then I remembered I forgot to take a B-100 vitamin so I went back to my desk. The art teacher was beside me and started to grab a plate as well, but was called to the phone. I took my pill and went back to the table. Some teachers were laughing when I got back. There was a plate with the chopsticks stuck in it standing straight up. The teachers were laughing because I, the foreigner, who didn’t know their advanced culture, stuck my chopsticks in the rice which they only do at funerals. Someone explained it with that condescending laugh like “oh this is so funny, he didn’t know any better, foreigners can’t understand our culture, blah blah blah.”

     I asked “so you never put them like this except for funerals”. One teacher replied, “no, Japanese people would never do that except for funerals”. I wanted to push this further, but my Japanese was limited so I said “this is not my plate, it’s the art teacher’s.” I took mine and said “is there anything else”, which was really kind of rude, but I was mad. Plus we were having Natto which truly smells like sweaty feet that stepped in dog poo. I wanted to say “any more little witty comments”, but that wouldn’t translate correctly. Some teacher mumbled something when the art teacher came back.

     I made a big game board with tokens and cards and all sorts of stuff. It was huge, literally four B4 sheets put together. It was long too, but students found all sorts of loop holes. For one, I put too many “go ahead 3” or “go back 5” spaces. Another thing was I wrote “Rest Time” and I meant, rest this time, but they thought it was skip a turn. Then one student found the grand flaw that caused me to have them trash the boards when we finished. She landed on Go Back 5 and went back five which put her on Go Ahead 3, which put her on Go Ahead 5, and another GA5, and another GA3, then GB3 then GA5 until she went really close to the end. It took the other kids a good 30 minutes to catch up with her. I never checked the GA and GB spaces, I just put them around randomly, or so I thought. Another girl got stuck in a stupid GA5, GB5 loop at the beginning. Needless to say it’s been scraped and will be redone.


Mountains of Litter.
Thursday, June 14th, 2007

     I woke up a few times this morning and didn't feel great so I decided not to jog. I finally got up for good around 7. Then I went to the computer and read some about what's happening in the world. I'm always curious to see who we've invaded next or who we plan to since we are the world police. I guess we have another 10-15 years until we start another war since we seem to do so every 10-15 years.

     Anyway, I usually go to CNN to see if any major catastrophe has happened. There was nothing, but I noticed a bit on Japan. It was about all the litter on Mt Fuji and how that has kept Fuji from being a world heritage site. People always think so highly of the Japanese, but they litter like any other culture. There are a few reasons such as there being no, or no readily available,  big garbage dumps if you have something like an old refrigerator. The biggest thing, if I had to guess, would be the fact that there are about 6 public garbage cans in all of Japan. I dread getting a drink from a machine or on the bullet train, because then I have to carry the can for hours. You can't have your cake and eat it too people.

Sunday, June 17th, 2007

     I went into Koriyama today for lunch, a haircut, and some other small errands. I broke my own rule of going into town on a Sunday around noon since that’s when people go out to shop. Not before noon, but promptly at noon. Within a 15 minute span there is a noticeable difference in how many people are around you. The other rule I broke was going back to this stupid car wash. This time I opted for the automatic car wash rather than losing money on the stupid manual one. The auto-wash was an auto-waster as well. It was a “no touching” wash and left most of the grime on the car. It just sprayed water and soap (at a high speed) from a distance.

     Then I went to the sports place because there is a computer store below it. I looked at tents and then went down to the computer store. I bought some DVDs to make backups of my HD on my computer. Then I went to KFC. I ordered my food and was sitting down in a tow person booth when a 20-something girl threw her purse in the seat. I was clearly sitting down, but that’s how they reserve seats in Japan. There is something really whacked about anything that involves waiting in line in Japan. I have had numerous people cut in front of me, others have done this rude seat-reserving thing, others reserve a seat then shop a little, then come back and order. Yet I can’t say that they never wait in line because as many times as that has happened there have also been times when I see people waiting in lines for hours to get a single meal. I mentioned Tokyo’s Krispy Kreme before when I saw people waiting in a 3-4 hour line for donuts. Do they come with a free car? Otherwise, I’ll pass.

     So the point of that was she cut in front of me, but she was so polite about it that it made me feel bad for some reason. Then I am sitting at another table semi-near a family of 4. Two parents and two kids. The boy pointed at me and announced “GAIJIN DA!!!!” which means “it’s a foreigner”. Though it technically means “someone who doesn’t belong here”, but I don’t care about that issue. I don’t fully car about kids that point and yell it like that since it happens a lot. What bugs me is when adults like his parents do it. The man was leaning over to pick up something and the wife heard the boy and said “you’re right it is a foreigner, look honey a foreigner”. Then he looked and said “oh wow it is” and they stared at me for a minute. SERIOUSLY do you live in the woods? I’m a foreigner with two arms, a face and a body. I’m not a walking talking platypus, that would warrant stares. Sometimes when it’s just a kid I point back and say “NIHONJIN DA” which means “oh a Japanese person”, but they always reply with something like “of course I am a Japanese person”. For me it got annoying at about the 83 millionth50 time.

     When I was in the parking lot of the place before coming in I realized a Japanese habit that is beyond stupidity. I also realized I have seen this habit for 5 years and never truly realized how stupid it was. When I got out of my car there was a woman getting out of her car. The car was still idling. I walked to the store and then remembered I forgot my note with what all I needed. I went back and unlocked the car. When I was unlocking it my hand noticed several papers in my pocket. They were receipts from other things I had bought. I decided to sit and fill in my note with how much things had cost so I could empty my pockets. Then I went back into the store. I looked around for a while and ate at KFC (I can eat poorly twice on weekends only), I got the DVDs and looked at tents, I took my time basically. I’d say I was in the building for 45 minutes maybe an hour. As I was coming out of the store I noticed the woman from before by the door, it was around 4 and I had one more chore. Sorry, that all rhymed. Seriously though I saw her and she was getting a drink so she was leaving slightly behind me.

     I remembered her because, basically, she was hot. So then I get to my car and she was just behind me. When she got to her car I realized IT WAS STILL IDLING. It wasn’t that cooling fan that goes for a few minutes after you cut off the engine, it was idling. It wasn’t even a hot day. I could almost understand it if it was winter and she had something that couldn’t get cold or summer and something couldn’t get hot, but there was no reason at all. I remembered hearing several cars idling over the years and just assuming someone was in it, or it was the fan, or someone would be right back. WOW. I mean WOW. I feel like running an entire ream of 500 sheets of paper through the color printer just so my name will print in pretty colors.

Monday, June 18th, 2007

     I’ve mentioned my thing called Ryan Syndrome before. It’s really just how I categorize things that make no sense to me whatsoever. I don’t mean things like most of the Japanese culture, I mean when I put a hammer down and then it’s gone and then when I look back it’s there. Things that make no sense in the sense of “the universe is messing with me”. My sister thinks it’s just me in denial and saying “it’s not my fault, it’s other people’s fault”, but it’s not about whose fault so much as why are these things happening. It could be that I am not paying attention, but when it happens now I stop, clear my head and look at it again slowly. So I don’t know if this falls into RS or the fact that I feel myself slowly losing brain cells, but it was confusing…

      I made the scavenger hunt last night and this morning. I wrote out all the charts and posters and things they would be searching for. It was stuff like “what number is above the blue card on the cabinet near the stairs”. So then I made a list of those questions and everything was ready. I put it down for a bit and came back to it later. I checked everything over and over. I made sure I knew exactly where each thing was going in the school and I had each copy of each of the lists. Everything was in order and ready. So I go out and start putting things up. All of a sudden, nothing made any sense. "Why did I write blackboard on this since it clearly goes in the hall, why do I have three copies of the same list rather than one each of the jumbled ones?” It was like someone else had made all this stuff and I was confused. Then I came back to my desk and fixed everything and went around putting it up. I have no idea what happened or why I missed it when I triple checked it. It must be someone else’s fault.

     The scavenger hunt went ok. The kids just don’t read things all the way and I have to use words that my 2 year old niece could figure out and she can’t even read. They didn’t know the word “stairs” which is pretty basic and there is even a phonetic sign on the stairs showing how to pronounce it. I helped them a little, but not much. The only problem was when a teacher took down a sign I had put up. There was even a little note that said “I am using this sign for 3rd period on June 18th so please don’t remove it”. She took it down and later said “well I didn’t know what it was for.” Apart from the sign that said “ignore this”, it wasn’t even anywhere near anything that she would have anything to do with, AND why would you take something down that you didn't put up and willingly admit you don't know what it's about? This actually IS someone else’s fault since I tried to prevent it from happening.

     For the record I think most things are my fault. I don’t even know where she gets that idea from. Apart from Ryan Syndrome which is how I explain the unexplainable, I usually take blame for anything that happens. That’s one thing I have learned from Japan, just say you are sorry and take the heat. There are some things you just can’t argue. In Japan you can’t really argue anything since everything is done a certain way. There are no other ways. Simply one way.

Wednesday, June 20th, 2007

     When I was preparing my lesson during 1st period in the teacher’s room, the school nurse came in and was talking to a few teachers. She said “student X doesn’t feel up to being here today so we are going to take him home now”. That was amusing for a few reasons. First, this kid doesn’t actually participate at school. He sits in the counselors office (with a nice couch) and does nothing. He doesn’t do his schoolwork there, he does nothing. Secondly, how can you not feel up to doing nothing? And if you wanted to be at home anyway, why even bother coming. Thirdly, this kid doesn’t ride the bus nor do his parents bring him. He is chauffeured to and from school, at his discretion, by teachers. Finally, the “we are going to take him home” means more than one teacher will go. One to drive and one to comfort him in the back seat.

     WOW. I can only imagine the response I would have gotten if I even dreamed of treatment like this at my JHS a quarter century ago. WOW. They would have been like “you don’t feel up to what? Shut up and get back to class. Pick you up at home tomorrow? You’ve got two legs and a bicycle. You want us to drive you home now? Here’s a new word, BUS.” But in Japan the teachers are the lowest and the students and parents are the highest. When I was a Fukushima JET I went to a rough mostly boys school where they would blatantly fondle the female English teacher with me in class. I asked her why she let’s them and she said she can’t do anything. You can’t kick a student out of the classroom, they have the right to be there. There are no actual grades to fail people (As far as I know, NO (zero) Japanese student has ever failed a grade, been held back, or didn’t graduate), and if she were to say ANYTHING to the kid that embarrassed him, like don’t feel my butt when I walk by, he would tell his parents who would come to the school and yell at the teacher for embarrassing the kid. I think if I would have grabbed a teacher’s butt as a JHS student, I would have been bitch-slapped into next week and then physically thrown out of the school.


     I’m slightly miffed at myself today. I woke up at 5:45 again and just didn’t go jogging. I felt ok, the weather was a bit foggy, but ok, and there was no real reason not to go. But that part of me that works against me won. I’m slightly sluggish in the morning and I guess the motivational part is sluggish as well. If there was only some way I could bottle the feeling of jogging and drink it before I left, that would motivate me. I always feel great when I am out there doing it (apart from my shins burning sometimes), but I can never get myself going. I know it’s mental, but I can’t overcome it. I should simply think positive thoughts as was suggested.

     It’s like I have some duality. I have two parts. The good part that wants to succeed and its evil arch enemy that makes me eat chocolate and be lazy and not practice Japanese and stuff like that. The duality of man, the eternal Yin Yang struggle.

     I had my elective class today with the two girls that were placed in the class. One girl is ok since she wants to learn, she actually wants me to drill grammar points with her. The other girl just acts goofy, but it’s a real fake way of being goofy. Everyone acts dumb sometimes and some people do it since it usually gets a laugh, but this girl overdoes it so much. Like when someone comes around a corner, you might be startled for a second, she will jump across the hall and act like she saw a ghost. Then she won’t let it die, it’s a constant “wow, can you believe that *panting* I was so scared, did you see how scared I was I jumped across the hall, man that was scary”. I’ve got some friends, or people I know, who are like that. They will constantly do things, especially when drunk, that will make funny memories later. “Oh man remember that time you were SOOOOOO drunk you took off your pants and threw cake on the wall of that restaurant and shouted obscenities at all the old people in the place?” Well that might be slightly humorous if we were all drunk, but when it’s obvious you are doing it to be stupid so we can laugh about it later then it’s annoying. This girl was just cutting up and acting like she couldn’t read anything the whole time. She slipped up a few times when I made something into a race and she wanted to be the other person, but then when we were just reviewing something, she turned dumb again. That class would have been awesome if about 5 particular people took it. Their English would be through that roof.

Made it.
Friday, June 22nd, 2007

     Yesterday was payday and I took the afternoon off to go into Koriyama and get some shopping done. I also had to send back around $1,000, but with exchange rate being so poor I lost a far bit. I managed to only do less than $200 worth of shopping and most of that was really needed. Some was needed, some wasn’t needed, and only about $20-30 was just me saying “man that is so cheap, I have to buy it”. I went back to that cheap place that has a lot of discount stuff. I think I’ve mentioned it before. It’s called TRIAL and I didn’t go for the longest time because I thought it was all trial sized stuff (which is pretty much the size of everything here). In the US I didn’t go into Wal-Mart for the longest time because I thought it was a home improvement place.

     One thing I made a point of buying, at a nice shoe store, was a new pair of school sandals. My current ones are getting bad. I guess that’s because they are 10 years old. I remember wearing them when I came to Japan in ’98. They are the massage type with little plastic things that stick up and massage your feet as you walk. The massage thingys around the right big toe and the toe beside it are missing so it feels like those two toes are numb. For a while I thought the 2nd biggest toe was numb completely since I had hit it against something and from that point on I noticed the numbness at school.

     I was in the elementary first graders room this morning saying my hellos and good mornings. The kid that goes to private English lessons each week came in and had a dinosaur book. I pointed at one and said “what’s this in English”. He responded “Tyrannosaurus Rex”. OH MY GOD WHAT? I meant Dinosaur. It’s a dinosaur. I really didn’t even think you would know that word, but T-Rex? Come on! How do you know these words? Then he pointed at another and said some funky name that I didn’t even know. Later I was asking some 3rd graders “how’s the weather” since next week I have a lesson with them. None of them knew it, but once this particular first grade kid was listening and he said “it’s rainy”. Man he knows everything, too bad he has some behavioral disorder and flips out occasionally.

     The volleyball team is in the hall crying about something. The seniors who are leaving the club this week are sitting on a bench and the new 1st year students are crying and promising how they will continue the tradition and do their best and yadda yadda. There’s such drama involved in Japan some times when you have to acknowledge rank like this. I mean what would happen if the 1st years said “nope we aren’t going to grovel, what are you gonna do about it”. There’s nothing they could really do about it. Granted that would never ever happen in Japan, but this it would be interesting.

Green Tea
Monday, June 25, 2007

     There is a delicate art that I can’t seem to master. At school I can make green tea and it tastes acceptably ok. Not great like coffee with ten packs of sugar, but ok. Given the health benefits I continue to drink it. When I have 2-3 cups before lunch at school I feel great all day. I have energy, things make sense, I have new ideas about lessons or computer things and I am generally bouncy when I walk. But on weekends when I don’t prepare it at home I am sluggish and feel down and usually manage to get nearly nothing accomplished. The reason I can’t make it at home is because I can’t seem to find green tea that doesn’t taste like sour milk soaking in turnip juice. I even bought a really cheap coffee maker and rigged it up so it would just heat up water and fall into the green tea pot so I wouldn’t have to boil water the hard way (rubbing two sticks together to make fire I mean). Anyway, hopefully I can find some decent stuff soon.

Or Else…
Tuesday, June 26, 2007

     The 1st year JHS students have been slacking off about turning in their weekly journals. I kept making empty threats about what will happen (or not happen) if they don’t turn them in, but the kids were getting wise to the fact that they were empty threats. So Monday the girls in charge of “English” came and asked what they needed for class today and what everyone would do. Then they go and report it to the class so everyone is informed and prepared. I told them if someone turns in their journal, that person can participate in a game. If they don’t they will have a boring activity.

     I’d say about 5 people turned it in before class, then 2 more, then 3 in class. So that was about 20 people that didn’t turn it in. I gave them all a short quiz about something and then told them if they had turned it in, they can come up and play this game. If not, then they had to write their journal now. Then I mentioned, if they made it to a certain point in the game they receive 100 Ryan Dollars. They all flipped out (since the currency is so valuable) and cheered. Those kids that didn’t turn in their journal looked sad and started writing fast. Most of the non-turner-inners finished in a few minutes, but others were slow and I gave in half way through, but still they learned their lesson. I think I gave out $100 about 10-15 times, which is fine since I want to show a movie in the class soon, but they don’t have the money to buy it yet.

     I did something that was really NOT the Japanese way, but I don’t care. Last week when I got the schedule, I noticed I had two classes (my own classes) with the JHS 1st years. I asked three people if this was correct and they all said it was. Not three random people, but the three people that would make this decision. I said ok and proceeded to plan two lessons. One was mentioned above, the other will be tomorrow 5th period. So today the VP and 1st grade teacher come over and asked if it’s alright to swap my second class with the VP’s social studies class. Since I had already asked everyone and then spent a while preparing a good test review lesson, I politely said “no”. I’m sure I was supposed to bow down to rank and say “oh anything for the team”, but instead I said “well I was going to review the important points of the whole term for their big test on Thursday, but…..” It got the response I expected which was “oh no no you should do that, oh no you keep the class, blah blah”. Since I put the "but" on the end, it was like I was saying "ok you can cancel it", but they didn't.

     I didn’t sleep well last night because I kept having strange nightmares. I know what caused it and it wasn’t really scary, just a bit odd. I was watching some movie about a historical Queen of England. Occasionally Japan’s NHK TV network will broadcast something in English, or an English movie in English and Japanese. I have the Bilingual button so I can watch it in English. Though the button itself is not bilingual, but you know… I think it was called Elizabeth I (1) and it had Jeremy Irons and Helen Mirren. Anyway, there is a scene where someone was accused of writing something bad about the queen and so he is sentenced to have his hand chopped off. That in itself wasn’t scary at all, and they didn’t even really show it. The singular part that was a bit real was when the executioner locked his hand in the brace and put a wedge thing on it then hit it with a big hammer. Again that part in itself was not impressive, but his expression was so real. Usually people are screaming and then they chop something off and scream more, but he was just announcing “I wrote what I wrote because I love my queen and my country” then the executioner hit it and chopped it off and the guy kinda flinched and looked at his hand then he held it up and kept praising the queen. He was holding his own hand in the air and not screaming. It was just the 1 second flinch that made it seem so real. He was babbling about patriotism then he flinched and looked and had this look like “oh wow that really just happened”. That part alone was like “wow” for me. Somehow it gave me nightmares for a while and I kept waking up all nervous and holding my wrist.

Final Exams...already?
Wednesday, June 27, 2007

     I was a test proctor for the Japanese test 2nd period. Teachers can’t proctor their own subject and the art teacher was late for some medical reason. I sat there reading various things and the time flew by. At the beginning, one smarty pants kid (as in joker) kept asking if I wanted to take the Japanese test with them. I laughed and said I would rather not. Then at the very end as I was collecting papers I jokingly looked at his test and pointed to one answer and said “really, are you sure about that one, here it should be in a different form”. He looked at it and realized it was wrong and changed it and was so thankful. I just randomly pointed to something and had no idea about what it said, but he thinks I am some master at Japanese and I just act like I can’t speak well.

Almost Died
Thursday, June 28, 2007

     Seriously. I almost died last night. I went into Koriyama to eat dinner and get away from Konan and do some minor shopping. I came back around 7:30 or so, just as it was getting dark. On the way back, I’m on part of the road where it is wide and has big lanes. As I go around a turn, I see something odd and think “hmmm, what am I looking at?” Then I realize it is some #$%”$&#& moron #$%&-ing idiot PASSING ON A TURN.

     I swear on all that is sacred, there is nothing “culturally different” about passing on a turn. It just shows you have no concept of reality and are a total idiot. The only reason I am alive, and I am not exaggerating, is because there was a small “rest area” directly in front and to my left. If I had not pulled into it, I would have hit this van head on. It might have been ok in my old Legacy with an air bag, but in my new little car, I would have been smashed up. I was yelling and doing various finger gestures. MORON MORON MORON. I can’t even really write the words that express how stupid it is.


Saturday, June 28, 2007

      There is some PTA sports day today, but I'm not going. I don't like sports where one person, specifically me, is the center of attention and the one person who can win or lose the game. I think they are playing softball and. although I can play it, I don't like to play when there are high stakes. I think this is like each little town versus another for bragging rights. I don't want my legacy to be "Miyo won for 900 years in a row, and then the native teacher Ryan couldn't catch a pop fly and kept striking out". I want to go watch, but if I show up they will make me play. I didn't have enough time to fake an injury for the week before so I just won't go.

     I feel like I am on house arrest or grounded or something. It's a beautiful day, but I have nothing to do outside. So far I have cleaned and done laundry while watching Japanese golf and some Mariners versus Toronto game on TV. Anything with a Japanese person abroad gets broadcast here in English. I want to get outside, but anything that is outside usually involves money somehow. I could drive to Koriyama, but that would require gas money, parking, admission to something, and lunch. I'm really broke this month since I have to pay for an airplane ticket to the US around August-September and it looks like it's going to be around $1,500. I'd really rather not pay that right now, but I do need to go back to visit and I have never been during Christmas since I have been here. So each month I have my $580 car payment and then I send back around $900 and then I have around $400 in expenses and then any food/spending money and that is close to my whole paycheck.

     I have done nothing today. It was one of those days where I really wanted either a fast forward button, or better yet a coma pill. I could take the pill and go into a coma/hibernative state for a while. I have nothing to do tomorrow either so I would take enough to last me the whole weekend. My body would go into standby mode and I'd be in a deep sleep. My body could rebuild cells, cleanse itself, get a good deep relaxing rest and I wouldn't spend any money. Plus the time would just fly by. I'd wake up Monday morning and head for school feeling on top of the world.


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