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Monday, June 1, 2009

            The big thing of first term is tomorrow and Wednesday. Nothing academic related, this is about sports. A student’s sport or club activity is far more important than mere classes or anything academic. The big sports thing tomorrow is called ChuuTaiRen in which all the JHSes from around Koriyama take two days off and compete against each other in every sport. It gets all the way down to one winner in each area. We could do well in volleyball and maybe tennis, but probably not in baseball or soccer. There are so many terds that go out for the baseball team since that is so popular here and everyone wants to be the next star. There are some good players, but overall many of them strikeout, miss pop flies, and generally run around like chickens with no heads.

            All of this stuff takes place in Koriyama right near my apartment. So here’s a quiz for you, what do you think they want me to do tomorrow:

A)    Drive to school, which takes about 35 minutes, ride back with the principal to right around my apartment (35 min), watch matches all day, ride back to the school (35 min), drive home (35 min).

B)     Go straight from my apartment to the various matches and not come to school at all.


            The answer is easy if you use my method of how things always work in Japan. Think of what is logical and makes sense, and then think of the opposite. They want me to drive all the way to school, sit for an hour, ride back to town with my principal, then ride around to the sporting events (which are semi-nearby), then ride back to school (passing my apartment), sit for 5 minutes, drive back to my apartment. I can’t think of anything that would be more inefficient and annoying than doing that and therefore I plan to take vacation time so I don’t have to worry about that stuff.

            On a different note, I was about 15 minutes late today. I had planned to get up early (5:30am) and go jogging around 6, but when the alarm went off I instinctively snoozed it. Then I thought I had turned it off so I reset it to 6:45. Then I hit snooze about 3 times and got out of bed at 7:20am which is usually when I am getting ready to leave. I finally left around 7:50 and traffic was bad so I got here late. No big deal since I called on the way and explained it and because I have no classes today (or really at all this week). Well I have two although one is with the hell class so we won’t actually do anything. I don’t actually see the other class on the schedule for Friday so maybe I only have one class this week. That’s fine since my classes at Ohse will be big and grand.

            Last week the kids learned “how long have you been _____” so I am going to make a detective game this week. I am going to have 4 students accused of doing something and the others have to question them about. I don’t have the details, but I need to make some fun classes like I did at one time. They have been somewhat paper based at Ohse recently and that’s not good. I want to get back to the full sized board games where kids walk around the board and throw a big box for dice. Things where they are having fun and forget they are learning/practicing English.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

            I watched some games yesterday and came back around 4. Then I did some other things and later thought about either going for a jog or getting some dinner. I got a little sleepy around 6:30 and stretched out on the couch for a few minutes. I woke up in the same position an hour later feeling thoroughly rested. Hmmm....wait, it is 7:20 now, but why is it so bright? I looked at my computer clock and it said 7:20AM. OH MY GOD, I slept 13 hours straight without moving or waking up. Was I that tired?

I Need Fiber.
Friday, June 05, 2009

            I thought I was happy with my internet service. It’s billed as 50Mbps, but due to my location in relation to the junction station I only get about 3-4Mbps. I always assumed that was normal and it’s usually semi fast. Then someone from NTT (the phone monopoly) called and told me about their fiber service. I said please send a fax and they did and then I said I would think about it. Then they called back the next day and the guy started talking full speed as Japanese people always do. I asked if there was someone who spoke English actually to get him to say no so I could say “well I don’t understand so I’m hanging up now”. But he put some attractive sounding girl on the phone who lived in California for a year and she answered all my questions. The big one was about how my current service was dependent on distance from the junction station as well as weather and how many people were using it. With fiber it’s a direct fiber connection that, according to the girl, should be around 100Mbps most of the time.

            Eh…..frickin WOW. I get 3Mbps now and this would be nearly 30x faster? Good lord, yes I will take that. The oddest thing is that it’s going to even cheaper than what I am paying now. I guess that makes sense because it is through the NTT monopoly and they already own all the lines and what not, whereas my current provider has to rent everything from them. I think the price even includes phone service. I wouldn’t even care if it were slightly more expensive than what I am paying for now if I could get anywhere near 100Mbps. Heck even 50M would be awesome if it actually connected near that speed. I can remember having a 150 baud modem and saving for months to upgrade to a lightning fast 300 baud modem. Then there was a 14.4K modem which was insanely fast, simply unheard of. This fiber line is approximately 300,000x faster than my first “fast” modem. Wow. Let’s cross out fingers.

Camped & Stuffed.
Monday, June 08, 2009

            Camping was great for the most part. We ended up leaving later than planned since we kept forgetting everything and had to drive all around town finding stuff. On the way it was slightly raining, but cleared up for most of the trip. It was only Sunday morning that it started to rain again and the spot we chose was windy so it was basically crappy Sunday. Next time we are going to get a better spot and plan a little better. We had plenty of food though, we actually over planned on that. I was still eating low country boil stuff through Sunday night.

            Today during the lunch break (after eating) kids went out into the school yard as usual. There were three boys who heard the bell that signaled it was time to start cleaning, but chose to play a bit more. When they finally decided to come back they were late for cleaning and it had already started. Their teacher walked by just as they were coming in and fussed at them for a minute. But there’s no punishment in Japan is there? Well this time there was and it was great. She made them stand there during cleaning so people would pass by and ask what they were doing and they had to explain over and over. That in itself was great, but then she went a step further. She fussed at them a few more times and finally said “you want to play during cleaning? Fine, go play.” She made them go back out to the yard and play soccer while everyone was cleaning. Everyone was looking at them wondering what they were doing and you could tell playing was the last thing they wanted to do. It was so painful, but I loved it. They are good kids, but they were testing their limits and got shut down. That’s why I love that class. It definitely wasn’t the one I always mention….

Oh...the Language.
Friday, June 12, 2009

            I had two interesting things happen with the Japanese language itself on Thursday. I went to Ohse and had more classes in one day than I do at Konan in one week. These classes were reviews for an upcoming test so I played a popular high speed game called Typhoon. Basically 4 students, one from each group, come to the board and quickly write the answer to whatever problem I give them. This time it was to make a sentence using grammar points they have learned in class. One of which was “__makes me happy.” So I would say it and they had to write something original like “soccer makes me tired” or whatever. They weren’t supposed to use “happy” since that was the example in the book and too easy, but some kids forgot that and did anyway. Another example for another grammar point uses “this pen is 1,000 yen” so when I said go the students wrote as fast as possible which caused them to smush some things together. One girl wrote “the pen makes me happy”. The boy beside her was copying what she wrote, but made a mistake. He wrote “The pen is makes me happy.”, but the pen and is were a bit too close to each other.

            The other happening was about how Japanese is hard for me to learn. I always learn something and it is explained by a smart educated Japanese person. Then later some other smart educated Japanese person laughs and says “we never say that at all, that is completely wrong.” Sometimes I explain where I learned it and/or offer written proof and then the stories changes to “oh well in this specific rare unexplainable situation, we may consider using it.” Ok whatever. So Thursday at Ohse during the above mentioned game, there were 4 groups and a student wrote Group 1 – Group 4 on the board so no one took too much space. In Japanese small groups like this are called Hans. [The leader of the group is called a HanCho which is where the English term Head Honcho comes from.] But Japanese phonetically changes the pronunciation so things are easier to say. Group 1 is “ippan” (E-pahn), group 2 is “nihan” (knee hahn), group 3 is “sampan” (sahm pan), and group 4 is the problem.

            The sounds change depending on the position of your lips, so when you say ni (knee) your mouth is open and can easily continue to han. Knee-han is easy to say. If you were to say “san” and then “pan” it involves some funky mouth movements. Not too much, but enough to cause an issue. So “san” changes to “sahm” so the mouth is closed which easily continues into explosive “p” sound. Wow, what a linguistics bit that was there. Anyway, we got to group 4 and I asked which one it was since neither sounded really correct. The teacher said it was “yon pan” (yone like bone + pahn). Ok, that’s groovy let’s continue.

            Then I played the game in another class with another teacher and got to group 4 and said yonpan and was told that yonpan was incorrect and the correct way was yonHan. I explained that yonpan was what the other teacher had told me, but teacher 2 insisted it was incorrect. Then I had another class with the original teacher again and when we got to that part I pointed out teacher 2 said it was wrong, so then teacher 1 insisted he was right. Then he asked the class which was right and no one knew. How can I learn the language if Japanese people can’t even agree on it?

            Over the years some people have mentioned casually in passing that I seem to have a problem with authority or I don’t follow the chain of command properly. I can see why they would say this, but it’s not actually the whole truth. I don’t have a problem with authority per se, but I have a problem when the powers that be ignore something that seems so blatantly clear and obvious and won’t explain it. I always try to follow the CoC first, but when I get ignored a few times for stupid reasons I tend to go around the chain to accomplish what I think needs to be done. That sounds more powerful than I mean it, but it’s the best I can do now.

            So the situation I am referring to here is regarding a book I went out of my way to BUY and DELIVER to a certain student by a certain date. There was a time sensitive deadline and I wanted the student to get the book well before the deadline. I took the book to a certain school and followed the CoC by giving it to a teacher and thoroughly explaining what it was and when the book giving needed to happen. Then today I found out the book wasn’t given to the student because the instructions weren’t clear (please give this book to student-A today or tomorrow). They were in both English and Japanese….hmmm…so next time I will go around the CoC and simply give the book to the student since the deadline is tomorrow and now there is no time to use it.

            I have no classes today and I am in a bad mood. Wow that’s surprising, me not in a super chipper mood. No seriously though I’m usually in a better mood, but today I had to drive 40 minutes out here to do nothing but sit here all day playing on the computer. Teaching English in Japan, where you are paid well to pursue your own interests and play with the kids, oh IF we have some free time we might have you teach an occasional class or 2, but you won’t have to do much. I actually want to do a lot more than I do which is really odd. I have never had a job where I continually asked for more work.

            During lunch I had two little spiffs with people. I’m just getting tired of certain things and I can’t get over them. First I was helping them set out the dishes and I was making a real effort to do it right. I put the soup bowls by the main plates on each tray. After a few someone gasped and pointed. It was a gasp that one would expect if I dropped my pants and started mooning everyone while slapping my butt. It was a real gasp of shock. Why did she gasp? Of course, because I put the soup bowl on the left side when it was supposed to go on the right. The gasping part was ok, but it was when they laughed and commented that I never seem to learn the right way. I mumbled something about why I could never seem to learn that which was because I think it’s about the dumbest thing in the world to worry about. There was awkward silence for a bit.

            Then when they were putting food on the plates and milks on the tray I said I didn’t need an item with yogurt in it nor did I need any milk since I don’t drink it. I was told all the trays had to be exactly the same and no one could have special treatment. That wouldn’t bother me since it is very Japanese, but then I noticed a tray with a teacher’s name beside it. I asked what this was and I was told it was a special dish for a certain teacher because she doesn’t eat potatoes. Hmmm, so she gets special treatment and a marked tray, but I can’t? So I pushed on and got my name marker and put it beside a tray and took the milk away. GASP. “No we can’t do that.” Look, we are doing it. There look. “No she can’t have potatoes so we make a special dish for her.” Right I can’t have milk or the yogurt stuff so this can be my special dish.” “No no all the trays must be the exact same.” Except this one right, this one has her name and no potatoes. So this one is different? How about if mine is the same….

            It never worked. Her tray was ok because she couldn’t have potatoes and they were being nice by picking them out and putting her tray off to the side, but my case was different. I could have milk, I just chose not to drink it. Well that’s true I could have milk although it was fly straight through me. And for the record she simply doesn’t like potatoes, she can eat them with ZERO side effects. I would have been happy with them simply making the connection of “oh yea, well we are supposed to keep all the trays the same, but since she gets here late we make a special exception for her.” But each thing was completely separate and compartmentalized to them. My case was part of the whole group and I couldn’t stand out. Her case was a special thing they did as a favor. I couldn’t get them to see both cases were the same.

            I was reading someone’s blog about Japan and then I read an entry he made about negativity from foreigners in Japan. He said he stopped blogging for a while because he was too worried about being too negative about being in Japan. It made me think about mine and how some people email me saying I have an immature outlook on Japan. The thing is, for some reason many people wear emerald glasses when they think about Japan. When old friends find out I live here they invariably say “wow that is awesome, Japan is amazing, the people are so polite and the culture is so rich and amazing, do samurais walk around with swords? Do you see the shogun everyday? I bet your apartment is a castle and you defend it before going to school? How do you get to the magical fantasy land of Japan? Do you fly up into the heavens on a magic carpet?” Ok that was a bit of a stretch, but everyone thinks it’s a magical place. In actuality, the Japanese people are just people. People are kind. People are cruel. People are polite. People are racists. The Japanese simply put a high value on the appearance of how things look.

            The other thing is that some people feel by never saying anything negative, that makes you a positive person. Well that’s stupid. There are several things in the world that are negative and it would be stupid to put a positive spin on them. One final thing I noticed was he said “life is what you make it”. That’s pretty naïve. You can do things to change your life MOST OF THE TIME or you can whine about the hand you were dealt, but you can’t simply “make your life different” by choice. I mean by that logic people who are starving or abused want it that way. Homeless people are just lazy and people that die young had it coming. That’s stupid. What people really mean when they say this is “MY life is great and I have constantly tried my best so therefore that MUST be the reason why my life is great, other people with bad lives just don’t try.”

            I don’t hate my life here nor do I hate Japan. There are several aspects of the culture that I don’t understand and really want to know why they do things. By typing my feelings here uncensored I can keep a record of what happens and how I felt as well as air out my thoughts and slow them down. I have had some people explain why things are done a certain way and that was really helpful. I should really find a way to get over some things, but I keep using logic as my basis for everything and they use personal relationships here as the basis. It’s so hard to get my head around that. I keep going back to logic as a foundation and then different cultures have different spins on it, but at it’s core everything should be logical in some way. It’s really not like that here and that’s difficult for me to understand and maintain.

Was it Really That Funny?
Saturday, June 13, 2009

            I had to come to Konan on Saturday morning for 3 hours to help administer the national standardized English test. I really like this test since it’s clear and easy to understand and there are no stupid tricks like the Japanese test for foreigners. That’s a whole different rant in itself. So I’m driving out here and I realize my tank is empty and the empty light starts coming on occasionally. Then it’s on the whole time and the bar thing drops below E. Since I am past all the gas stations, or at least the ones that don’t have bank hours (9-4 ridiculous), I choose to keep on driving. I made it to school, gave the test, then left. I decided to not back track and try to get to the gas station that is semi-on the way home. I make it there and I pull in to the full service station and say “1,000 yen” since that’s all the money I have to spend at the moment. Once I get into Koriyama I can go to the place that takes credit cards. The attendant looks at me and says “fill it up”. I said “No, 1,000 yen”. He replies “eh…what…fill it up”. I said “NO, 1,000 yen only”. He starts laughing hysterically and yells to the guy in the office “this guy only wants 1,000 yen”.

          Seriously, it wasn’t THAT funny. Had I been naked, or dressed like Yoda, or asked to pay in pubic hair then maybe it would warrant a laugh like that, but I went to a gas station and said 1,000 yen worth of gas please. I have done this many times before with other varied amounts and never been laughed at. WHY IS THIS FUNNY? This is exactly what I am talking about above. WHY IS THIS FUNNY? I seriously cannot understand at all why this would be funny. There was no sign that said “we only fill the tank up, don’t ask for 1,000 only”. That would be funny. THIS IS NOT.

Dead Broke.
Monday, June 15, 2009

            So I am dead broke. I mean like I have never been in my life. So far my time in Japan will be remembered by constantly being poor and/or thinking about money. A fraction of it is my fault, I admit that. I have had to send a ton of money home over the years to pay off various loans, most of which are paid off. My current issues are with the car. I pay $300 a month for the loan, plus 60 or so for gas, plus $500-$2000 per year in various fees and other nonsense. But I must have one due to where I work and where I live. This month I was already in the hole a fair bit and then got a few bills that were late and really expensive, then I had the $350 car tax which really broke the bank. It has forced me to eat a lot less and watch what I spend. The problem is this week I can do nothing apart from come to school and then go home and stay inside. I’m so tired of being broke and have tried multiple ways to “make my financial life different”, but nothing has worked yet.

            I went to the supermarket on Sunday and spent my last $30 from my credit card on food, so I should be set for the week. Friday is payday which is good and so far I have no outstanding bills so I might be able to save a bit although I think I just jinxed it by saying that. I’m in the habit of eating light so maybe I can spend far less this month on food. I’d like to put a little away and not touch it, but I’m not going to say how much so I don’t jinx that. A few times I said I was going to save X next month and then I magically bills that were exactly what I planned to save, exactly. The only good thing I have seen about this $300 car payment is that once it finishes I plan to keep making it to savings and build up a nest egg. I have never had one yen more than my paycheck in the bank at any time in Japan.

Sick of it, and Eager...
Monday, June 16, 2009

            I am sick of things just not working. I call it Ryan Syndrome sometimes since things seem to work fine for everyone, but when I try something it just doesn’t. I’m not whining about how the world is against me, I’m just confused as to what I am doing wrong. The newest thing is a web technology called AJAX. You’ve seen it, it’s where you click a box and the page changes without refreshing. It works fine on all the computers I have access to, yet when I try to create a file that uses AJAX, it simply doesn’t work. I copied an online tutorial verbatim, but nothing. Just doesn’t work. I have no idea why not. Sometimes when I am programming stuff things just don’t work. Then I redo them from scratch and build right back up to the exact same place I was before, and it suddenly works.

            The eager part refers to me getting a 100Mbps fiber connection this Thursday. Even if it is merely twice as fast as my 50Mbps connection which is always around 3.5Mbps, I would be happy. But if it were anywhere near 20 or 50 or even remotely close to 100 I would absolutely go insane. I’m not getting my hopes up due to the aforementioned issues, but I’ll know more Thursday. If I am connected to iTunes or YouTube or anything like that I can’t do anything else on the web. That one stream completely hordes my entire connection. I’m really looking forward to it.

            In about 1 hour I get to go back to the hell class. I’m going to try to bribe them with some Ryan Dollars I made for the JHS kids last year. Some kids from this class saw them last year and begged for them and since I no longer use them in the JHS (nor teach there really) I might as well use them as a “shut up and stop showing your penis” tool. I don’t know how to use them, do I give all or none if the class is quiet or just some to the quiet kids. Maybe I will give them all out if the kids are quiet. I can draw some things on the board and erase one each time the class is too loud.

            We have all the windows open at school since it is such a lovely day. You know the best thing about having all the windows open? There are no screens. Anything that wants to fly in the school can and has done so. There are some bees and flies buzzing around now. In the peak of summer the flies are crazy swarming. It’s really awesome. I know I sound like I am being sarcastic, but I’m not. I love it when flies attack me, though bees would be better. A huge swarm of killer bees flying around and chasing me then violently stinging me until I die in excruciating pain. That would be a nice day.

            WOW. The demon class was much better. I drew four faces on the board one happy, one so-so, one sad, and one in red crying, and only erased one. When I did they went nuts and were screaming “EVERYONE BE QUIET. OH DEAR GOD, SILENCE YOUR MOUTHS.” They still got loud sometimes, but I would grab an eraser and walk to the faces and they would get quiet. I also did the fun prank I do when teaching about insects. When I got to spider I asked if they wanted to see one, which they did. Then I pulled out a cup I had with three rubber spiders in it. I peered in and then threw it at them. They squealed and scurried around and then laughed. It wasn’t a usual hell class and I actually enjoyed it. The teacher even left for a meeting halfway through.

            There was an observed class today and I watched it. It was for the student-teacher of English and she did the usual job. Nothing to write home about, but not bad. During the class the kids had to walk around asking other people various things in English. I noticed one kid who is usually quiet and ends up getting left out a lot. This time I noticed he was doing something I used to do often, looking like you are in the middle of something while actually doing nothing. First I saw him see someone across the room and run over to the other person and so I looked away. Then I happened to glance back and saw him doing nothing in the corner. Then he walked over to two other people and waited until they finished and laughed when they laughed and acted like he was writing something. Later I saw his paper and nothing was written. A few other times I noticed him walking around writing or running to another imaginary person. If you weren’t on to him you’d think he was actually busy.

            I did that a lot at previous corporate jobs I’ve had. I would walk around with some papers and mumble while looking concerned. If I was lucky I would overhear something about some client or job or something related to the company and later ask someone about that or mumble something about it. I would do this when I wanted to walk around or hang out with some pals that worked in another department. Then again I got laid off from one gig so maybe they were on to me.

          I signed up for Twitter and have no followers. Well one minute into it I had a follower. Your Horny Kitty. Seriously, how did he/she/it get me one minute after signing up? One minute. It could have been less if I signed up at :59 seconds and YHK got me at :01. Amazing. Off to a great start. No idea what I will tweet about, but my name is samuraian.

Letdown of the Decade.
Friday, June 19, 2009

            I finally got my Fiber Optic line hooked up. The installer tested the connection at 88Mbps which is insane. I couldn't connect so I had to call tech support and he helped me. Finally I am connected and flying through the web at a speed of 2.5Mbps. Wait, wasn't YahooBB 3-4 and this is a fiber line? Yea, this is more of a let down than Matrix 2 & 3 were. My old ADSL line was faster than this? I can't believe it, but it seems that way.

Monday, June 22, 2009

            Got paid on Friday so I can breathe (and eat) again. I pigged out all weekend since I am starting a month of purity. I don’t have a catchy name yet, but I am going to eat right everyday and exercise hardcore until July 17th. So it’s not a true month, but we have a farewell party that night and I am going to drink for sure. FO SHO. Sorry. So yea I ordered a pizza over the weekend and that was tasty, but expensive. It’s around $30 for a large pizza which is really about the medium size I’m used to. I also ate out at various other places and generally didn’t care what I ate. I just took my weight here at school and it is 111.5 kilograms which is roughly 245.815422 pounds, but that’s just a general estimation. My goal is 100kg for now and then ideally about 90 or slightly less. 90kg would be 198.416036 pounds, again very rough estimate. Really just losing some fat would be fine. I hope to gain some muscle.

            My plan includes a fixed number of weightlifting reps to do in a week as well as X number of minutes to exercise either in the morning or at night. If I keep a written chart of it I will be less likely to cheat or slack off. If I were a king about 300 years ago, I would have died by age 30. I say that because I love eating and lounging around and hate exercising. Even though I know when I am physically out there walking fast or whatever, my brain releases endorphins that make me feel great, I hate getting ready and finding my outfit and leaving the house and all that stuff. If I were a king and had several wives and all the food I wanted, I would gorge myself and surely be a goner. I’m going to pause now and make a calendar chart to track my progress.

It’s been decided...by us, not you.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009

            I had something happen that I won’t comment on, but I will relate another story that is the same. Next Monday all the Koriyama AETs are going to another elementary school to do an international day. It will be a load of fun as they always are, but there was a bit of Japanese-ness in the planning. A foreign AET planned most of it and she did so in a way that really maximized the time we would spend with the kids. Her plan was changed because there always has to be some Japanese mark on something planned*. It was changed to something that, as expected, makes far less sense. Then she was told “it has been decided, this is final, we can’t make any changes.” Basically that means “we are doing it our way regardless of how nonsensical it may be so don’t use your silly foreign ‘logic’ on us.” The way they changed it involves far less contact with the kids and we will all be in an odd booth setting in the gym.

            The * above was to highlight some other instances of the Japanese mark. 1) When I was planning the winter meeting (not my idea for the stupid name) back in February, I had everything planned for maximum activity time, but the plan was hijacked (at the last minute in true Japanese style) and marked. The Japanese mark on the planning was to go over the instructions for an excruciatingly long time to make sure everyone was completely comfortable with it, even though we then had no time to actually do it.

            2) When I did an international festival 3 years ago and we sold Jambalaya, there was a woman walking around telling us to be more Japanese. She worked for the international center and kept telling us to stand in front of the booth and say the Japanese standard shopkeeper phrases. We were supposed to say “welcome to our booth, wouldn’t you like to try some Jambalaya?” in Japanese. We refused since it was an international festival and she said the people would become disoriented and confused if they didn’t hear those phrases. We were selling food in the food section of an international festival. How hard is that to figure out?

            3) The whole katakana language in itself. When I teach kids English I have to use this language to spell things out since Japanese is so limited phonetically. There are two ways to spell things in katakana, the correct(ish) sounding way and the way they choose in Japanese (the wrong odd way). Some words are ok, but most sound stupid. “What time is it” could be written naturally as “wa-taim izet” which I did for a class, but the teachers laughed and told me the correct way was “watto tai MOO e-zoo e-tto”. No actually that is nothing like natural English, but that was less important as putting their Japanese mark on English. This is how WE speak English so please teach it that way.

            4) Another written language is called Romaji and it is solely for communicating with foreigners and yet there is a battle going on with spelling. There is a correct way that actually sounds like what is written. For instance shi sounds like “she” and tsu sounds like the first part of “tsunami”. The underlined things are spelled using the Hepburn system which is correct. The Japanese put their own mark on it and created another version called Kunreishiki (coon ray she key). Basically this is the wrong version since si is supposed to sound like “she” and tu is for “tsu”. If you are communicating with foreigners and there are other letters that would correct create these sounds, WHY use wrong ones? Because we gotta mark our territory.

            5) Sometimes the mark is ridiculously huge like when I heard some students say 7-11 was a Japanese company. As in it was founded and started and the first store was in Japan. I later learned other Japanese things included the airplane, the computer, Microsoft, Disneyland, the alphabet song (the English one), the car, and McDonald’s.

            Guess who is really frustrated and in a bad mood today? I was nearly late because my car was out of gas and I couldn’t find a gas station in the city (IN THE CITY) that opened before 9am. Seriously, what is this 1903? Cars drive to work. Cars need gas. Work usually starts before 9. I had to go to this small place way out in the country that opens at 7am. ATMs close at 5 on Sundays and 9 other days. ATMS. WHY would an ATM close?

Funny, then #$&# You.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009

            I had one class today with the elementary first graders about colors. It was ok, but most had already learned colors in kindergarten so this was an odd review for most and new for others. Anyway, after the class I did this stupid thing I always do around kids which is walking down a fake staircase as I left the room. I closed the door and walked down it and the class erupted with amazed laughter. Some JHS 7th graders who were in the hall saw me do it and laughed in a “that’s stupid” sort of way. I explained that the kids loved it in the class. The three girls then said “that was perverted”. Which in fact it was absolutely NOT perverted. I did a fake staircase walk as I left the 1st graders room, that was all. So this annoyed me a little, but then we were walking down the hall and I said the kids thought it was amazing so I do it after class. Then they started squeal-laugh-giggling and loudly say “that was perverted Ryan, it was perverted” IN FRONT OF SOME PASSING FEMALE TEACHERS. Of course I had a look of “I don’t know what they are talking about”, but what other look would you have in that situation? The teachers looked at me with an awkward glance and that whole thing made me feel stupid. Mainly because the stupid girls said I was being perverted which implies looking up skirts or something, but what I was doing was NOT #$%&-ing PERVERTED.

            Perhaps I have overstayed my welcome at this school. Luckily I will be getting two new schools in August and only coming out here twice a week. That will really give me a lot less exposure here which will be good. I still have fun at Ohse and I think it’s because I only go there once a week.

            Last night Chloe had a Japan trivia games night. The game board she had was difficult at first, but then got interesting. There was something with the dice where you could move to your space based on ANY combination of the dice. You could add, subtract, multiply, divide, or use either of the die numbers to get where you were going. Oddly enough there were several times when someone couldn’t move at all. Then you collected cards about prefectures in Japan and later had to challenge other people to try to win a whole region. A few regions together added up to 15 points. It took a lot longer than we thought.

Sunday, June 27, 2009

            It’s been a while since my last confession. Michelle came to visit me and her old town for the weekend. It was quite natsukashii (nostalgic). She was a JET with me for 3 years in Kawamata city which is near Fukushima city. She would come in to visit me and other people 3-4 times a week so we became pretty close. Then we did FuJET and AJET together and co-wrote the Kanji Survival Guide.

            Now she’s in Nagano for 3 months since her employer (the library of congress) has sent her and someone else over to do quality assurance on something they are having built here. She has explained it four times, but I can’t seem to remember. Something to do with books for the blind or visually impaired.

            Anyway, we went to Fukushima city and reminisced about all the old places we would frequent. Then we drove out to her town and she saw many old friends and ex-students. We ate Indian at the place in Fukushima city and then came back for some Gyoza. Oh it was good and I got my fill for a while. She plans to come back in mid-August for a town festival in her old town, that way she can see nearly everyone she knew when she taught there.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

            Yesterday we had an international day at Chloe’s school. I usually love these things, even though they insist on doing them their own way which is almost always the most inefficient and non-internationalizing way possible. I mentioned stuff about that above as you probably read or more likely, skipped. It went ok, but the things I was annoyed at in the planning were actually annoying at the execution of the event. Playing with the kids was fun as always, but there were so many things that simply didn’t make sense.

            We got there around 8:15 and the first activity was 9:20 so there was a long wait. First we went to a classroom and did our introductions. There were two AETs in each classroom in the 4-5-6 grades. In our classroom there was myself and a Canadian AET. We were in a 6th grade class. First we sat down and they asked us odd questions, usually in Japanese. Then we did a short introduction. Then we sang a rainbow song I had never heard of nor sang. Finally, here’s the annoying part, the students went on with their regular English class and we assisted. They were learning the Three Little Pigs, though, as expected, it was the Japanese version of the story. There was a father pig, and mother pig, and oldest son pig, a second son pig, and a youngest child pig. The wolf first tried to blow down the house of the straw, then the house of the tree, then the house of the brick. We read it and the kids listened and then class was over. I really wanted more casual talk time, but the teacher had her own plan, which had little to do with internationalizing.

            Then we went into the gym and tried to talk about the US for 5 minutes. There were 8 of us and we each seemed have our own little agenda. Some people had a good presentation while other’s seem to drag on and waste time. Mine wasn’t really that effective. I brought a big huge 52 oz cup to show the different sizes. This was supposed to be ok, but we only had 5 minutes and a small black board to put stuff on and we had to move around the gym. Plus the other groups were loud so we had to become louder to compensate. We ended up just tossing a football around some to get the kids moving.

           Then they interviewed us, but since they were 1-2-3 grades it was just “what name”, “whar furom”. Some kids were crying, others not participating, some just wandering around. The 1-2-3 grades got two hours, but the 4-5-6 grades only got 45 minutes. Then of course there was a 10 minute break before the 25 minute break between classes. For lunch I ate with a 6th grade class and it was nice, but the teacher constantly pushed kids to ask me questions. I really don’t like talking while I eat, but it’s one of those things. They also asked me stuff in English. When I finished the teacher asked me to sit in the middle of the room so all the kids could look at me easily. Yea that falls into the “#$%-that category. I just slid around in the chair and talked to various groups and made jokes about their name if possible. One girl was named Yuuka, but the way you say floor is yuka so I would point to the floor and she would laugh. We had curry rice which really made my day.

            Then there was 5th period where we did the whole “introduce your country in as little time as humanly possible” game again, 6 more times. That last until about 2:30 which is when we were supposed to leave, but then there was some presentation about the school. Wow these kids are going to talk about the school in English? Nope, it was just in Japanese and I really don’t know why we watched it. It was nice, I guess, but it was just a presentation in Japanese about the school and how it’s different from all the other schools. By different I mean exactly the same. Then there was another presentation about something else, finally one about a mythical story where they found some dinosaur bones. Then they made a tunnel for us to walk through as we leave. Hmmm, what happens when 4-5-6 graders make a tunnel? It’s about 3 feet tall. So we bent over and passed through for a while then got tired and just stood up and started doing high-5s as we left.

            Oh, coolest thing about the whole day…there was a second grade kid name Raian, which is what my name is in Japanese. He even had the same kanji I use whenever I use kanji, which is really never. But when he said his name it was Ryan. He seemed like a cool little kid.

            I have no classes today or tomorrow and yet it is crucial I drive here both days. They seemed a little weary about me taking time off last Friday. I felt a little bad, but could have easily come in if I had any classes. On Wednesday last week I found out my new schedule for August onward. I knew the schools, but not the days I would be going there. Mondays will be Ohse JHS and/or a small elementary school nearby. I think it will be a week on and then a week off for the ES. Tuesdays will be Konan. Wednesdays are the new ES also near Ohse JHS, Thursdays are Ohse as they are now, Fridays back to Konan. It’s about as good as I could ask for I suppose. I pretty much take care of the whole area from Koriyama city to the lake, and I drive myself which saves them money. I really have been meaning to ride my bike to Ohse, but it was either been raining or I had a flat tire or some other preventative reason.

Buying this chair would totally cheer me up. Or more appropriately, it would "chair" me up.




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