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Wednesday, March 1st, 2006

Oh wow I am stressed. I drove back to Fukushima city this morning and made it just in time for Fukushima Higashi High School's graduation. That was as boring as all previous years. I did get to see the teachers and some students I like though. Then I had Indian food at Mana's Rasoi, which means Mana's Kitchen. Mana is Mayu and Nana the owners. Nana actually means 7 in Japanese, but something else in Hindi. Maybe 8.

Then I went to Hard Off, the thrift store with the funny name. Finally I went out to Megan's place in the middle of no where to get an electric grill I left there about two years ago. Then back and to dinner with Dave at gyoza. So I had good Indian food and gyoza on the same day. Finally I started to head back. Here's where the stressing comes.

I took the cheaper way than the expressway. I went over the mountain. Until recently that was an awful way to go because the road was narrow and winding. But they just opened a superb tunnel and new road that is curvy, but not too narrow, actually quite wide. The whole time it's raining just enough to annoy me. I can't see the center line and my windows are constantly fogged.

Then I get to the big grocery store in Inawashiro (like you know where that is). Dave had made a blueberry banana smoothie, but loaded it with milk and yogurt. I wanted some, but didn't feel like sitting on the toilet for hours due to the milk and my intestines having an ongoing disagreement. So I decided to stop at the grocery store. Ok, I made it I am here, I start to get out and notice my lights are still on. Just the parking lights. Oh crazy me, I forgot to turn them off. Although it is odd I am holding the key since the lights always go off when the key is off. So I get back in and turn the switch.....But it's already off. Hmmm. My lights won't go off.

The parking lights on my car won't go off.

Have you ever heard of anything so stupid? No. So I decide I can't go in, my battery will die and I will be stranded. So I drive home, which is about 30 minutes, and the whole time I am freaking out. My parking lights won't go off. What am I going to do tonight? What about tomorrow when I drive right back to Fukushima High School? This is the dumbest thing I have ever heard of. So I look for a fuse box, but why would I be able to find that? Then I see my young teacher neighbor is home so I go ask him. He comes down and looks at it and presses a button and they go off.

There is a button on my car that keeps my parking lights on. I am looking for the one that won't let my engine turn off. Be right back.

[moments later]

I had to run to the Smile Mart and buy a beer. I rarely drink here at home, but I really needed one. I chose a Sapporo Beer, but I was hoping for a dark beer. So now I have relaxed a bit. It's about 9pm now and I think I am going to finish this, get a hot shower, change the dressing (bandage) on my nearly healed toe,  get in my electric blanket bed, and watch one of my new $5 movies. Yes I am liking this idea very much yes.

Thursday, March 2nd, 2006

Well the drama that was yesterday is over and I am back at school. I have one class today, well really just going into the 2nd year rooms while they are taking the English final exams during first period. But I have created tons of things to do since I donít tolerate boredom well.

I am going to start a dedicated page for all my language slip ups. I think my brain is fading since I can barely speak without making some mistake these days. They arenít always noteworthy, but they are plentiful. The newest one happened this morning. I was looking at some JHS girlsí bare legs as they were standing outside in the freezing weather. They stand there to welcome the other kids. I guess they are like a welcoming committee since itís always the same girls. I noticed one girlís legs were bright red, Iím guessing because it was windy and really cold this morning. She saw me staring and asked what was wrong. I said ďI was just thinking about you nakedĒ, but I meant to say ďI was just thinking about your bare legsĒ. Her wide eyes gave it away and I explained what I meant. No doubt she has told everyone by now.

I really donít feel like driving back to Fukushima city tonight, but I really want to see the Chuo Night School kids graduate, possibly more than I wanted to see Fukushima Higashi High School. I will go back to see Chuo next year, but doubtfully Higashi, which is odd since I was at Higashi for 3 years and at Chuo for one year, but once a week. But Chuo was just more fun and more into learning real English. Higashi only wants to learn advanced boring grammar, and no speaking, so they can get into upper universities. But at Chuo we always played fun games and the kids asked me dumb questions. Once they figured out the part of the female anatomy, I said THE so you know what I meant. One student asked me and I stared at him, which apparently confirmed the meaning and pronunciation. Then over the course of the evening nearly all the students asked me. But I didnít mind, because they were actually saying ďdo you likeÖ..Ē which was good English practice, in a roundabout way. So pretty much from here until spring break which is from the 23rd, I have minimal to no classes. Luckily I should get the 20th off for an office day, and then the 21st is a national holiday. Plus I have so many pointless time filling projects to work on.

Dave is checking into Taipei and/or Seoul for spring break. I donít think it will happen since flying around Japan is absurdly expensive. Seriously, I can fly to Atlanta for about the same price as flying 2 hours to the south of Japan. Absurd, and yet people pay it so they have no need to lower the price. I think I know of a $450 ticket from Tokyo to Bangkok. If I can get that I might reconsider going. I would almost rather get to Taipei, but Dave has all these restrictions on when he can go. Granted he doesnít want to miss Aikido since he will be going for his black belt in June or July, but because he will only miss two of three classes per week, thatís going to infringe on when we can go and might bump the price up to something I canít afford. If the airfare is around $500 I will consider either place. If it is much more then I canít, but I am going to check into Thailand as a backup. I can survive in Thailand for minimal since I wonít be shopping, hitting tourist sites, or going anywhere other than Bangkok for one night and then the orphanage. I wonít spend much of anything at the orphanage apart from getting there and whatever I donate. I will check into this at a time that is equal to now.

Well looks like Thailand is off the list again. The ticket I knew of would put me in late on the 4th and I need to be back at school on the 5th. But this ticket puts me in Singapore late on the 4th and in Tokyo early the morning of the 5th. I could do that, but itís frowned up so I wonít. Argh. So itís either Taipei, Seoul, or just loafing around Japan. I would like to see that airplane factory built inside a mountain in Ustunomiya.

I just checked a calendar. Well actually I was sitting at my desk daydreaming while looking at my computer and someone handed me the calendar for next year. So I perused it and noticed I come back to school on the 6th not the 5th. Well poo. That means now the Thailand trip is back on as a possibility. I just sent an email to my travel agent friend and she will check for me. If the total ticket cost is around $500 I will highly consider it. But I will still wait for Dave to check on Taipei and Seoul. Last time I went to Seoul it was a three day trip but really just one since we flew in late and left early. I have never been to Taipei.

[later that night]

Went back to Chuo High School's graduation. Won't bore you with the photos, except for a few. With captions.

Nao sensei, one of my favorite teachers.

Everyone dozed for a bit, but this guy said "forget it, I am going all out".

Me in my pimp-tacular gangsta coat with Armani label.

It's really out of focus, but I tripped hardcore just before the graduation and busted my knee.
If my leg is bleeding and my long johns are ripped, that must mean.....

Yup, I ripped up my nice suit slacks. Now I have to get another pair from Thailand.

What a fun night.

But graduation was fun. Then there was a party and I had to leave at 9:45 so I wouldn't get home too terribly late, though it was still 11:30 when I made it in. At least tomorrow is Friday and I can do nothing tomorrow night.

I still haven't had time to buy the ingredients for my smoothie. HULK NO LIKE.

Friday, March 03, 2006

I just had the most wonderfully logic conversation with a Japanese person. I have a mobile phone, but I hate the model. It has a ďFlat Panel SpeakerĒ which means there is no actual speaker, it just comes out all over the ear area. Which really means either I canít hear anything or itís so loud anyone around me can hear everything. Iíve had it since August when I realized the Vodafone I had wouldnít work in my small rice paddy. I paid about $110 for the phone and service fee up front, so I figured I owned it flat out or whatever. Now I have been looking at phones in order to change models. However, there is a $2-300 changeover fee. Just to swap phones and continue with the same company I have to pay some huge change fee. If I lost the phone and needed a new one, Iíd have to pay also. I asked because if it was cheaper than this I was just going to chunk my phone in a lake, but itís not.

So I asked a teacher beside me why they have these ridiculous fees in Japan. I was also a little fed up with the $2,000 inspection fee I have coming up and the fact I canít get an air ticket for less than $1,000 to anywhere. I was looking at a mobile phone ad and I saw the changeover fees and just told him how stupid they were and they made no sense. Then I asked why they have these fees. I knew the answer. Itís the Japanese way. But he paused for a minute and asked me ďif you really want the new phone, will you pay the fee?Ē. I said I probably would. Then he said ďthatís why they charge the fees. People pay themĒ.

Itís like being slapped with a velvet glove. The culture stings sometimes, but itís always delivered softly and politely. I was so happy that he broke out of the usual process of defending all that is Japanese and just told me, yea it sucks but people pay it.

You know the reason there is still junk email going around? It is because people respond to it. Think about it. If the guy buying the mass emails gets a %0 return on his purchase, he wonít buy anymore since the cost of ďadvertisingĒ outweighs the gain of sales. But no, people still click on the junk mail. Although I have started a fake email account to reply to the Nigerian scams. I canít believe people still fall for that. ďI have 10 million dollars and canít find anyway to get it into the US unnoticed. Can I deposit it in your account? You can keep $500,000Ē. WOW I am rich overnight for doing nothing. No one at the bank will be at all surprised my account balance went from $29.56 to $10,000,029.56 overnight. Oh wow this is so easy. I want to do this over and over until I become a billionaire.

Graduation at Chuo was fun. I think next year I will go to Chuo, but not to Higashi. They just seemed to have moved on quick. I guess that is expected, the new ALT is great (when they rarely use her) and it has been 7 months since I left, but next year I will only have 2 or three students I want to see, whereas at Chuo itís pretty much the whole class. They were my adorable and fun 1st year students when I first went to Chuo. Chuo means middle if I havenít said that and itís pronounced Chew-Oh. Probably should have mentioned that early on for my non-JET readers.

Oh someone sent me a nice Engrish example from Taiwan.  Look at the option to the right of the orange button. Then click here for other Engrish examples.

So today is Friday, as the clever bolded and underlined date line says above. I have two classes with the 3rd years which is far more than I expected during this graduation time. I am going have them write thank you letters to the guest that came two weeks ago, or last week. Itís a special kind of Japanese card. Itís about 1 foot by 1 foot and has a class photo in the center. Then kids write things around it. I received a few from schools when I left last year. They are nice and look good when you hang them up.

Had two language quirks recently. Small and non-embarrassing. One was when I tried to tell a student about her new nickname. Her name is Kaoruko (Cow Rue Coe), but her nickname is Kako (kah coe). Which makes sense in Japanese. So in my head I was saying ďso this is your new nicknameĒ, but instead I said ďso this is your new bookshelfĒ. What made the slip up really funny was I was standing by a bookshelf. Nickname is ďadanaĒ and bookshelf is ďhondanaĒ. The other was in the gym for graduation practice, oh I will comment on that later, but for now just that I was talking to the math teacher who doesnít speak English and we were watching the students set up the chairs for graduation. Iíll write how the conversation went both in my head and how he heard it.

Me: Where will all the parents be?
Him: Heh?
Me: The parents, where will they be?
Him: Right here I guess.
Me: You mean this area?
Him: No right here where I am standing. (then I get the two thumbs up sign)
Me: How many will there be?
Him: Only two.
Me: Only two parents are coming?
Him: No just my two.
Me: No parents are coming, except for your parents?
Him: My parents are always with me.
Me: [inner voice] oh they passed away.
Him: Well each student has two.
Me: Will they all be here?
Him: Of course. (two thumbs up again).
Me: Where's an English teacher......

 Me: Where are all the parents going to be?
Him: (two thumbs up)
Me: What does that mean? Why are people doing that? [Exit stage right]


** And how the rest of the world heard it.

Me: Where will all the thumbs be?
Him: Heh?
Me: The thumbs, where will they be?
Him: Right here I guess.
Me: You mean this area?
Him: No right here where I am standing. (then I get the two thumbs up sign)
Me: How many will there be?
Him: Only two.
Me: Only two thumbs are coming?
Him: No just my two.
Me: No thumbs are coming, except for your thumbs?
Him: My thumbs are always with me.
Me: [inner voice] oh they passed away.
Him: Well each student has two.
Me: Will they all be here?
Him: Of course. (two thumbs up again).
Me: Where's an English teacher......

 Me: Where are all the thumbs going to be?
Him: (two thumbs up)
Me: What does that mean? Why are people doing that? [Exit stage right]
Him: You know you are saying thumbs not parents?

I need to add all these to the book I am writing rather than what I have written about.


GEEZ. I canít speak Japanese. Yet another mistake. Iím going to start saying Y.A.M. Itís really getting silly. The newest one was when I was getting served at lunch. Usually some teacher goes and gets the food and then dishes it out to all the trays in the teacherís room. Then if there is extra she asks and gives people some. So I humbly received and wanted to jokingly say ďmore more more, give it lavishly, mwah ha haĒ. I looked that up in my verb book and said it, or something close to it. I wanted to say furimaku, which means ďto dish out something lavishlyĒ, but I said furimuku, which means ďturn aroundĒ. You can imagine how the conversation went. Abbott and Costello would have been proud.

Saturday, March 4th, 2006

I only left the apartment once for about 10 minutes to get some food things or food stuffs as people call it. Then I came back and re-organized by apartment. It really needed it and I ended up having tons of free space now. But things are in better places. Most of all I rearranged the living room closet and put everything in a nice order rather than just throwing it in there.

Then I worked on some websites. Here's one I didn't design, but I am providing the space for it. It's the semi official site of the orphanage I go to in Thailand. It's called Baan Dada. Baan means house in Thai and Dada means brother in Sanskrit. The man who runs the home is called Dada. His real name is Richard Zoleta, from the Philippines. I am also working on several other sites. But basically today I just organized the server they are on. I had previously had several smaller servers and now I moved them to just one. It uses virtual dedicated technology which lets me have more control over things, but not pay as much as the bigger sites.

Tomorrow I have no plans. I wish I had a bike. I plan to buy one in the Spring and then next winter or fall I will buy a dryer. Those are my big purchases for the future. Then I should be done with buying big things. As long as I stay 3-5 years they will pay for themselves over and over. I plan to get more of a riding bike than a mountain bike, because when do I ever ride on a mountain?

Well it looks like Thailand is out. I did find a cheap ticket that falls within my timeframe and price range, but I don't want to be gone the entire time as I was for winter break. I'd rather have a few days off around here to travel locally and really spring clean my apartment. Plus I could save the money. Though there is still a chance of going to Taipei for a few days with David, but he may not get around to planning that. I would be fine either way.

Tomorrow being Sunday means I am not going into the city. Everyone goes shopping and drives on Sunday and traffic as well as parking is a disastrous nightmare. Furthermore, I have nothing I really need to get, and I really do need to save money. Though I found I was able to save about $1,000 this paycheck and nearly live off it. I had to dip into savings a bit since I went to Fukushima city a two days in a row, and then the Sunday before that and it always costs at least 5,000 yen ($50) to get there and back. Then I had the graduation party at Chuo which cost 5,000 as well, plus various other fees and expenses. So I blew around 30,000 ($300) during that week. That made this weekend and this coming week low spenders. I have already pulled out $500 for my ridiculous car inspection in April, $300 for the Ryokan weekend, and $400 for Spring break. The money for SP is the first to go, then the inspection money. If I save another $500 from March's paycheck and then the rest from April's paycheck, I should be alright. I was able to send back some money to pay my loans and even send some to Baan Dada.

Monday, March 06, 2006

I had another logical conversation that really made my day. The graduation ceremony set up is an enclosed circle of sorts, rather than a lecture style as all the other ones Iíve been to. My own in the US, Fukushima Higashi High Schoolís, Chuo High Schoolís, Adachiís, really all that Iíve been to as well as what I consider logical. One person on the stage addressing the graduates with the other students behind them and the parents behind them, then the teachers off to the side. We definitely have the space because there are only 45 students graduating and like 150 total.

But the set up is a circle. The graduating kids are on in the back, the non-graduating students (1st and 2nd years not failures, no one fails in Japan) sit opposite them and the parents are around the sides. The main stage where kids are handed their diplomas is in the center, so the speakers have their backs to some parents and the non-graduating kids. It doesnít make any sense to me to have your back to people when itís not necessary.

So I asked the English teacher, the one I mentioned above about the phone fee conversation, and he gave me a great answer. He said ďyea years ago it was in the other format, but as you know we [Japanese] are group based and we have a habit of making sure everyoneís opinions are used. As best I understand years ago there were several meetings about the layout and it just kept getting changed until it became this. I donít know why itís a circle with the principalís back to peopleĒ. Wow. Any other teacher would have given the non-answer of ďit just isĒ or ďitís the Japanese wayĒ, neither of which do any good.

There are so many things I donít believe in or practice or follow just because I kept getting the non-answer of ďit just isĒ when I asked questions. I have to really understand something all the way around it to get into it. I love computers and computer programming, but I really donít completely understand everything about them so programming can only be a hobby for me. Day by day I am learning more and more Japanese which is making that puzzle clearer. I could never fully grasp music and reading music, so that too is only a hobby for me. So in conclusion, I hate that answer. I would prefer ďI donít knowĒ, ďblueĒ, ďthree times a weekĒ, or even ďall of the aboveĒ when I ask things, even if they donít make sense.

Letís see, this weekend I really did nothing overly productive. Well I cleaned a bit. By a bit I mean a lot. But that kicked up dust and I nearly had the ďcleaning the dusty apartment sore throatĒ syndrome, but I avoided it. I worked on my websites a lot and have a few more planned. Iíll list some here when I have something more complete. This coming weekend will be busy. Actually from Friday to Tuesday will be busy. Friday I am going up to Fukushima city, not by car, to have a welcome party for Fukushima Alum Michelle. We will go eat at Shoya and then maybe Karaoke. Then Saturday I go to the Big Palette ( a convention hall) to help set up for Sunday. I do that from 1-3. Then Eriko will pick me up and we will go to fancy, by fancy I mean pricey, Ryokan which is a Japanese style hotel. Then early Sunday we will go to the Big Palette again for the festival which lasts all day. Though we have to be there from about 8am to set up and it will finish around 4, but we would leave by 6 or so. Then Monday is graduation. Tuesday is White day when guys give chocolate back to girls. On Valentines day guys receive chocolate. I plan to give chocolate to all the girls at the school and then a special bit to the three students who gave me chocolate on V-day. So I guess Tuesday wonít really be all that busy.

Soon we have more graduation practice. The students already know how to do it all, but itís the Japanese way to make sure ceremonies run perfectly. Once it is more than clear that everyone has it completely down, we will start rehearsing nonsensical things like bowing and accepting the diploma. I think we had maybe one or two one hour rehearsals when I graduated. It was really just ďwalk out in this order, walk around all the seats then sit down, stay quiet, when the guy beside you stands up you should as well, when we call your name come get your diploma and shake the principalís hand, then sit back downĒ. But we arenít a ceremonial-fixated society so that was pretty much it. Here things have to be done an exact certain way. Well I am going to mosey on down to the gym for a bit even though I have been through about 10 graduation practices in my life already and am thoroughly rehearsed on the matter.


I only stayed a minute, well ten or so, since it was the actual formal dress rehearsal which means they were running through everything and I only want to sit through that once. I came back and printed out some pictures of Philly Cheese Steaks for our booth on Sunday. They look ok-cheesy, but the booth would look worse without any decorations. I know that from experience. Especially at the Koriyama Big Palette festival, because most booths are overflowing with decorations. The FuJET booth was always nearly bare and looked really stupid. I hope to print out a big sign on our mega plotter soon.

Oh a cute lady-woman-girl just walked through the teacherís room. I think she is the elementary school English teacher for next year. Well actually she would only be student-teaching, I think she is a college student. Either way, she is cute. And she was looking at me. Thinking either ďhey cute foreignerĒ or ďwill I get to teach with himĒ or maybe ďloser is checking me outĒ or ďI can smell the rotting stench of the foreign teacher from hereĒ. I am hoping more for the first two. We have too many male or married female teachers. If I were king I would say there needs to be a law requiring that each school must have at least %15 cute-female-unmarried-willing-to-date-foreigners teachers. I doubt that would fly, but it will be law #1 in Ryanís Empire.

I go to the 5th grade class twice this week which is a little strange and yet at the same time I am glad. I have to write reviews about the kids. Iíve already been told all the grades would be Aís and everyone would have a generic good comment, but also the some students get actual feedback. Just like the 10 or 15 best get individualized comments. But I never really pay attention to who answers and who doesnít, at least not for everyone. There are a few kids, like 3-5, who always try to answer or speak, but 10-15 is pushing it. So tomorrow I will play some game that gets them to speak and I, or the other teacher in the room, will make notes of who answers and who tries. So now I have to plan a fun speaking game tomorrow.

I was just counting my classes for an unrelated reason and I noticed I have been here for 8 months but have been teaching for about 7. During those 7 months I will have had more classes than I had in my entire 3 years at Fukushima Higashi High School. Thatís really sad. They just didnít use me, and it wasnít a ME thing, they arenít using Erin, the new ALT there. Itís so wasteful and quite typical of the JET program. Itís more about having a foreigner there than using him/her. I have some down time in my new job, but itís only when all the teachers have down time. If there are classes, then I am mixed in with the others.

Tuesday, March 7, 2006

My bitterness and sarcasm has been avenged. I have always said I thought Japanese people are predisposed to believe foreigners canít really speak actual Japanese, even when they can. Not everyone, but a vast majority. I have had so many instances where I was saying something perfectly clear and the Japanese person just couldnít/wouldn't understand me.

I buy several cheap movies each month. Maybe I buy 5-10 for 500 yen (around $5) each paycheck. I have watched them all and want to share them with teachers and students. So I wrote something out in English then had a Japanese teacher (that means a Japanese person who was born in Japan and has been speaking Japanese for 30 years) translate my letter to all the teachers saying they could borrow the movies if they wanted. Then I made a copy and handed it to some teachers. Later I asked a few teachers if they saw the memo and they said yes, and then one said it was a little hard to understand the memo I wrote. I did add one part that could have been wrong, but the big paragraph was not touched by me. I just added the phrase "other side too". Rather than explain the truth I provoked them a bit. I asked if others thought that way and although no one said yes they looked down and nodded a bit. I across the room I said ďso and so sensei, they said they canít read your letter. He marched over there and was all like ďwhat?Ē and they were like ďoh wait YOU wrote it? Then yea itís fineĒ. So he was like ďoh then why did you say it was hard to read when you thought Ryan wrote it?Ē. Then the confusion and malfunction set in. They were trying to explain why, but really had no excuse. I loved it.

An interesting issue has arisen. During the summer there is nice grass behind the teacherís room. During the winter about 3 feet of snow is constantly stacked on said grass. Now that we have an early spring the snow is melting and the ground is showing. At times during the winter the snow got up to 6 feet maybe, but then melted and more came so it was compacted. When it gets bad, they bring in a big tractor to move it around. I still think itís silly to move solid water around and someone should develop something that melts it rather than moves it. So the big tractor makes tracks in the snow, and subsequently the ground below. The grass is all torn up and there are big holes and areas where the blade went too deep. I wonder what will happen when all the snow melts and the grass is goneÖ

In class the teacher started to play a CD, which still amuses me when there is a native English speaker standing beside the CD player. But then the CD started skipping really funny. There was a part where the script went ďhas anyone seen MarkĒ, but the CD player skipped on ďhaĒ and it sounded like a robot laughing. The kids laughed and so did I. It was funny. Then we stopped it and I read. In the next class I told them they had to hear this CD, but I would be reading the text. I played some of the tape and it never skipped. The students were looking at me like I was stupid. Finally a teacher explained the tape messed up in the other class, but it was still awkward.

One thing I really donít like about the Japanese language, and this might be the case for others, is if you donít stretch certain vowels a wee bit longer than others in certain words, the words end up meaning something completely different. So Jishuu (G shoe long u sound) means practical training as in a college student doing practical student teaching, which is what the cute mystery girl is doing here. So I knew the phrase student teaching wouldnít translate as I wanted so I asked how to say what I wanted. I was told jishuu, which I assumed was a noun, which it is. In Japanese many verbs are just doing a noun. The word for do is suru (sue ru). So I logically construed if I wanted to ask if she was student teaching, I would say roughly ďare you doing practical training?Ē. That makes sense right? If you speak some Japanese you will understand the logic here. So I go up to the new cutie and say the following:

Me: Are you turning yourself in?
Her: For what?
Me: UhÖfor college or something.
Her: Why would I turn myself in for college?
Me: Then why are you here?
Her: To turn myself in.
Me: What? I just asked you that.
Her: No you said jishu suru, I am jishuu suru. (apart from them both sounding the same, they really sound the same).

So I said sorry and moved along. I donít even remember her name since I got flustered at the whole Twilight Zone conversation. I can only imagine what I could have said.

Wednesday, March 8, 2006

Some students came to the teacherís room before the tests and asked about an English grammar point. The English teacher referred them to me. A word in question was ďbearĒ and how it had different meanings. I explained one was a large brown animal and they knew that, and another was to endure something. I explained some words sound the same and mean different things and others sound the same but are spelled different. The teacher was asking what the grammatical names for these terms are and I was trying avoid that conversation. But he insisted and even looked it up. Then he starts to sound out the innocent-doesnít-sound-like-anything-else word to the students. Ho-ho-homo-homo-homogra-homo-homo-graph. Homograph and Homonym.

Yea, I was really hoping to avoid that. Iím in no way embarrassed to say words that start with homo, but I knew the kids would instantly fixate on that part and forget the rest. Even forget the grammar point. Which they did since homo is the Japanese way of saying homosexual. So they were giggling and whispering homo and giggling and then they left.

If you donít live in Japan you wonít know how silly this next thing is, but believe me itís silly. We canít turn the heat on until December 1st. It doesnít matter the temperature outside. That is irrelevant. We canít turn the A/C on until June 1st. It doesnít matter the temperature outside. That is irrelevant. We canít wear long sleeve shirts or short sleeve shirts until the same days. You really get strange looks if you wear a short sleeve shirt before June 1st. So now you know that part.

As I mentioned in January, I have to turn off my water supply to my apartment everyday when I leave. Well I am supposed to, but I donít because it doesnít make sense to me. And as I mentioned in a previous post, I usually donít do things that donít make sense or have decent explanations. It doesnít make sense because it gets really cold at night, but there is no problem letting the faucet drip overnight. Then it gets warm during the day, but THAT is when we must cut the water? Why canít we let it drip during the day also? You just canít. The non-answer. So I did it a few times and then it got annoying because of the third knob that is nearly unreachable. So I skipped a day, then another, then a week, and now I havenít done it since maybe mid-February or something. Plus itís much warmer these days and much of the snow has melted. So I run into a teacher in the apartment lobby and he is turning off his water. His 3rd knob is so low (how low is it) that it is in my panel. He lives upstairs. He was cutting off his water and I was refilling my kerosene heaterís kerosene. I asked how long ďweĒ have to cut off the water everyday. He said until June 1st.

Now that is in fact the most absurd thing I have ever heard. I could easily understand April 1st, MAYBE even May 1st, but June 1st is absurd. Not culturally different, ABSURD.

I got bored since today is a test day for the 1st and 2nd years and some special classes for the 3rd years. I drank two coffees from the Smile Mart since I knew I needed to be productive. I got too much done and then had little to do so I started surfing the web. Sites are extremely limited on this school computer since they have a proxy server and it checks every site I go to. If you donít know what a proxy server is then you are an idiot. No, seriously, itís a computer that all internet traffic must pass through before it gets to a desk computer. The administrator can tell it to look for certain phrases or words and then block those sites. Our administrator set it to block anything useful.

So anyway I was surfing and started typing in random things into Google just to see if I could find something interesting. I came across http://folklore.org/index.py which has lots of stories about things in the past. I came across some articles about the history of the Macintosh computer. Even if you hate Macs (which really means you canít use them) you must still at least acknowledge their contribution to computing and windows. If you canít do that you are a big dumb doo doo head. But anyway, I started thinking of how amazing the personal computer introduction was back in the 80s. Then I started thinking about now and the future. I canít imagine there being anything equal to or greater than the computer being invented these days. Then again in the 80s most people couldnít even think of the computer. So what will be next? Where will we go? What will come about in 5 years or 10 years or 20 years? I really canít imagine the technology we will have in 2026 nor can I imagine looking back to now and thinking how primitive we are/were.

Ha ha, remember when people drove automobiles? And would actually eat other animals for food? I remember having a computer in 2008 that was only 5Ghz, 10 Terabytes, and a mere 50 Gigs of RAM. Oh how we suffered those days? Can you believe at one time it took 12 hours to fly from Tokyo to New York? And those mobile phones we used or the music we listened to? It was like the stone ages.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

I just had another frustrating circular conversation and then read some annoying news. First the conversation. Yesterday I added some utility bills and other monthly fees to my Excel spreadsheet so I can keep track of expenses. I updated water, gas, electricity, phone, and a few others. I do this every month. I noted that gas was 5,500 yen ($55) which was higher than last month, but it was during the peak of winter. Then today a guy comes into the teacherís room and talks to some people. Then he tells the principal I need to pay my gas bill. I go over and talk to them both and politely say Iíve already paid it. He asks if I have a receipt. I say no because it was automatically withdrawn. He says without a receipt then has no way of knowing if I have paid it. Then I showed him my bank book which is updated by the ATM machine (during the 45 minutes it is open every day.Ö). He looked at it and nodded and said ďoh I see, but with out a receipt there is now way for me to know if you have paid it. So then I realize this will not end, but rather than just cut it off myself I try to break him. I was a little frustrated from an earlier thing I will soon get to. So I say oh I see and then look at my bank book and act surprised. I say ďoh I think I have already paid it. See it was withdrawn on the 2nd of MarchĒ. Then I ask if they give receipts when they automatically withdraw money from an account. He said they did not, but he had no way of knowing if I had paid without a receipt. So I say oh I see and then look at my bank book and act surprised. I say ďoh I think I have already paid it. See it was withdrawn on the 2nd of MarchĒ. Then we go in a circle over and over. Logic had nothing to do with it. He would not break. I will break someone at some point. I had to pull over an English teacher and explain it was taken out automatically on the 2nd and receipts are not given for that. Then he told the English teacher since I didnít have a receipt there was no way for him to know if I had paid or not. The English teacher told me that. I told him again it was taken out automatically on the 2nd and receipts are not given for that. He told the guy and the guy said since I didnít have a receipt there was no way for him to know if I had paid or not. So I caved in officially since he was incapable of logical thought. Why can I not remember resistance is futile? In Japanese that would be teikou wa muda desu. As for opposing/resisting futile it is.

So the previous thing that annoyed me, and let me be clear on this Ė this is a purely selfish thing in the whole scheme of things, but still annoying. So when I interviewed and was hired I was told several times by many people, we donít go to school during the breaks because there are no students and nothing to do. Thatís awesome, the one thing I really hated about the JET Program was having to sit in the teacherís room so much. They wanted me to sit there doing nothing just staring at the wall during breaks. THAT was ok, but for me to not be at school was a cardinal sin. The world would stop revolving if I wasnít sitting in the teacherís room. They arenít getting their moneyís worth if I am at home reading a book, but they are getting their moneyís worth if I am at school, alone, in the dark, when the power has been cut to the whole school for maintenance. That is a not a cultural difference I should just accept, that is just pure stupidity. The submissive nature has carried over from the samurai period and itís just dumb. Me sitting in an empty school completely alone in the dark because the power is being worked on. HOW ARE YOU GETTING YOUR MONEYíS WORTH? Itís flat out stupid. And yet completely typical of my three years in the JET program. I felt it was less about teaching English, and really had nothing to do with internationalization, and everything with me being assimilated into their culture. I think the true purpose, and I am being serious here, is to force us into seeing their way, and then hope we will go back to our home countries and defend their culture and say nice things about Japan. In fact it really backfires, I know so many people who go back and talk about how rigidly inflexible and uncompromisingly strict the program was. I use the term ďprogramĒ only in the sense of that is what itís called. The JET Program is really only a match making service between people who apply to teach English in Japan and schools that want a foreign toy to play withÖ..erÖ.uh a foreign English teacher to be a part of their team.

Wow. Venting feels great. So anyway, I was told we could have the breaks off, which was a real selling point sinceÖ.you know. So I took all of August off and didnít use any vacation time and all of winter off and didnít use any vacation time and I had planned to take all of spring break off and not use any vacation time. But now it seems we have to use vacation time unless we write some report about why we should be allowed special leave. Well for summer and winter I did things that are directly related to school and taught about where I went and what I did. For spring break I plan to go to Taiwan for a few days and then I wanted to just cruise around some small places in Japan on my own time as well as take a few days and just do nothing. I have really been busting my butt at school and then at home for a few hours a night and then some on weekends, and I really just want a few days of nothing time, but now I have to justify each day or use vacation time. I do understand they are still being fair, but I donít like being told one thing and then something else being the truth. Again, I know I am just arguing on the various levels of selfishness, but I really HATE sitting in the school doing nothing. During the break I have to come in and work on several things, but I donít want to commit exactly which dates that will be now. I guess I will just have to be creativeÖ.

On a different note, I do suggest everyone create an online journal or a blog as they are called. Itís so therapeutic to write whatever I am feeling and then post it up for anyone to see. I always feel much better after venting, even if itís annoying to read. Some people have told me directly, and oddly other members of my family, that some topics are annoying to read. I can respect that, but Iím still going to just type whatever I want. See I feel even better now.

For some reason I had to stand up during the morning meeting and announce about the movies I have to give out, even though I already gave out the memo. Yesterday I made more copies and gave some to the office staff and the lunchroom ladies. I also had to explain about the international festival on Sunday. I think several students and teachers will come. We should have some good sales since it will be a popular and different booth. I hope we can remember ďJapanese people love to be internationalized, as long as itís done in the correct wayĒ.

Yesterday seemed to flow very well. I got many things done and things clicked. One big thing was all my students passed the standardized English test. Itís called the Eiken, which is a contraction of Eigo (English) and shiken (test). Ei + ken means the big English test. I had about 10 2nd years, 4 3rd years and 1st year pass the level 3 test. Thatís average for the 3rd years, a bit advanced for the 2nd years and insane for the 1st year kid. Then again his dad runs the local English school. All of them passed and that was great for them and good for me. I quickly had them write their thoughts in an advice notebook to show other kids. Then I got a lot of other things done and went into Koriyama to buy some hay fever medicine, eat sushi for dinner, get blueberries for that smoothie from a week or two ago, drop off clothes at the cleaners, and check on some stuff for Sunday.

Itís after 7pm and we are still working on graduation stuff. We were sorting papers and then stapling them and now we (they) are binding them with tape into little book things. Little book things that have had about 20 hours of prep time and will be used for an hour total then tossed. But we will meet our paper usage quota for the month.

I spent a few hours working on accurate grades for kids in the 5th and 6th grade. I based it on notes I took in the recent classes and faces I knew or didnít know. I was proud of it, even though it still leaned a bit toward the generous side. Then I had the other English teacher look at it and he was doing the head tilt and making the sucking in air noise that either means NO or there is a problem. So I asked if it was ok and he very politely and in a huge roundabout way said basically we need to add more Aís for motivation. Then he said, hmmm well we need to add more Aís for ability as well. Then he tilted his head and sucked in a bit more and said well basically all students pretty much get an A for motivation. I said ok no problem. Then he said pretty much all students get an A for ability as well. I said whatever, wish I knew that before, I wouldnít have spent hours working on it. So hey, no problem with that. I will just give Aís out like they are candy. Whatís this in English? Dog, Face, the letter G, a bird. Thatís right you are all correct. Sometimes we call it an Apple in English, but these other words are fine as well. Really just say anything. Or actually you donít have to, you get an A either way. Life is perfect. Everyone loves everyone. There is no war. Letís all make love because we have no problems in life. Seriously though I really donít care though it is a bit sad to just give everyone a perfect score. No child left behind, even if he doesnít try.

Apart from that I spent most of the day making signs and posters for the international festival Sunday. I will surely take dozens of photos of the booth and the cheese steaks so all the world can see. I think some students and parents are seriously renting a bus to come to the festival. I think they will enjoy it and it will be worth it. Sadly someone in the cooking group had a family emergency and we wonít be serving Jambalaya. My thoughts are with her.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Usually I donít care about how much paper and how much we waste. I always say there is a quota because we use so much paper and for the most absurd things there can be no other logical explanation. Today was the peak. As I mentioned yesterday we spent hours printing these graduation books. There is only one small logo on the front thatís in color and that made it take forever. Then we collated them and stapled them and then bound them with a special tape to make them book-like. I was here late helping them work on that. Then this morning a teacher passed them all out with some other forms. About an hour later he collected them back up and said there was a mistake and then threw them all away. The mistake was the small color logoís colors werenít as vibrant as they should be since it was printed on green paper. Some people started talking and felt the colors represented weakness and should be bolder.

It was so completely absurd that I couldnít even laugh. I just stared into space. I canít even begin to comprehend how much we spend on paper and the sad part is at one time I was actually worried about wasting paper. Not anymore, like giving out Aís, I just donít care.

[tangent] Some visitor just walked to the old entrance of the school. That wouldnít be noteworthy if he didnít have to walk past and directly in front of the new clearly and obviously marked (in Japanese) entrance. This was a variable and he could not compute it. Then he tried the old doors, which can be seen from the teacherís room, for an unnecessarily long time. Finally he knocked to a passerby and asked something, most likely ďwhy is the entrance to the school locked?Ē.

So the madness begins tomorrow. Well tomorrow will be fun, but the busy-ness begins tomorrow. Starting about 8:30am on Sunday and going until around5:30-6 will be a hectic madhouse, but fun overall I think/hope. More on that later, kids are pouring into the teacherís room for some presentation or meeting.


Oh they came in to have teachers sign their yearbooks. I really donít like having people sign yearbooks. I mean I do it, but it can be awkward. First thereís nothing really cool to say. Thanks for letting me sign your crack. Raise Hell This Summer (which doesnít work in Japan since they graduate in the early spring). I canít think of the other stupid phrases. Secondly, you feel bad if not many people ask you to sign theirs. I was known in high school, but not in the popular crowd. Everyone knew me and liked me, but I didnít really fit into any one group. So whenever yearbook time came around, people would ask me but only when no one of priority was near. Whatís worse than not many people asking you isÖThirdly, when you are accidentally put in situations where people well above your ďrankĒ ask you to sign their book. Maybe people are just going down the line and oops there you are. Or there are two people in a room and someone walks in to have the other person sign theirs and then feels bad. There are so many times when that happened, and I am smart enough to know when it is happening. (Ironic prime examples) A kid just had the person on either side of me. Then walked away. Then looked back and finally came over to me and asked me to sign it. Finally, when you find your old yearbook 10-20 years later, half the signatures donít mean a thing. I would rather people write things like ďremember that time we put Ďkick meí on Markís back?Ē. I mean that way in 20 years I could remember that thing, but now all I see are things like RHTS, You were alright man signed (something I canít read now Ė unless my mom made a note of who it was back then at which time I would have been mad she read and then wrote in my yearbook).

Hmmm, then again, maybe I should rethink my anti-yearbook-signing feelings. There was just a line of ten students waiting for me to sign. And since this is a small school I can say %25 of the graduating students were lined up waiting for me. I should go to some obscure place in the school to see how many track me down. Naw, I wonít let my depressive ways get to the students. Itís their time, they worked hard through 3 years. Can you guess how many arenít graduating? The same number as those who received less than perfect scores all throughout their schooling.

[Tangent] The one graduating 3rd year who I was sure didnít like me just came by and asked me to sign her book. I mean she never talked to me or looked at me and rarely did anything in my classes, but sheís overall a good student so I figured she just didnít like me. Strange. I wish I could have written something in Japanese like ďI always wanted to get to know you, but you were so distant. What did I do wrong? Why did you hate me? I cried myself to sleep at night thinking about why you didnít like me. Why, why, why? Oh the painĒ. But I didnít write anything like that. Iíve been writing things I found on some inspirational web page like ďDonít follow the path, make your own and leave a trailĒ and ďWherever you go, go with all your heartĒ. They fit and seem appropriate. I wrote them in English, but I wanted to have them written in Japanese. I will do that next year. The benefit of staying more than one year is you know what to expect, but then again part of the fun is not knowing whatís next.

I wish I had my graduation video to show them. They would really get a kick out of how different it is and how thin I was. I am definitely going to get copies of my Christmas videos when our neighbor dressed as Santa and came over. It scared me and I acted like an idiot and it would be fun to watch. Again, I was skinny. Next year I will do things better which is good since it will be for my current 2nd years who I really like and will really miss. Same with the current 1st years. Maybe the incoming 1st years, current 6th graders, will grow on me more, but they just seem different from the current 1st years.

Sunday, March 12th, 2006

Most of the way through the crunch days. I'll make a bigger update tomorrow during all my downtime for graduation. Basically, the ryokan was good. not quite worth $300 a night per person though. The international festival was a blast, we sold a lot and were the most popular food place. Only aggravations came from Japanese culture and things related to that, not people helping us or how we ran things. More tomorrow. Then I got to hang out with Michelle for about 3 hours before she went back to Fukushima city for her graduation tomorrow. Then I came home and unpacked. Tomorrow is graduation and then a graduation party which I can't afford nor want to go to but somewhat am expected to (means have to). Then Thursday I have another party for teachers in this building. Ok, I just had a long hot shower and now I am going to bed. I am beat. Over and out.

Monday, March 13, 2006

How can it go from seriously warm weather for a week, back to an inch of snow, subzero temperatures, and snow falling in buckets, all in less than an hour? Well it did on Sunday. Saturday it was so warm I didnít need a coat or even my cotton pullover thing. Then Sunday it was cooler, but nice. When the festival was over it was freezing and rain/snowing. On the way home my car slipped around on some ice. It was scary.

The international festival went ok overall. We sold a lot and people were really interested in the Philly cheese steaks. The only things that annoyed me were things related to doing things the Japanese way. First some band was warming up when everyone was setting up. Thatís perfectly fine, they will be playing later and need to warm up. But do they need to warm up at full volume for an hour? They arenít even performing for an hour. We couldnít hear anything across the room because it was so loud. Then I asked someone why a regular Japanese high school pop group was performing and they responded, to get people to actually come. Yea the international part of the international festival isnít the draw. Then as we are still rushing to set up, they wanted to have an opening ceremony. You must have an opening ceremony or itís just not official. They kept looking in our direction, but there was no way I was going to stop what I was doing to have a useless ceremonial pep talk opening ceremony. We were just too busy for that nonsense. Then right during our peak time, someone came over and gave us a questionnaire that needed to be filled out right away. I said ok, and threw it behind the partition. An hour later someone came over and asked where the interview sheet was, it was urgently needed. We were still busy so I made a big hurried scene about looking for it and trying to cook things. I said I couldnít find it and would get it later. She said she really needed it right then. I said ďor what, the world will end?Ē. Then I said I would do it in a few minutes when I got caught up on these orders. Nope, it had to be filled out right then. We had a line 20 people long and already had about 15 orders waiting and David needed things done now. I just circled 4s all the way down and threw it at the lady and got back to work. I can Ďt stand stupid things like that. YES, they should have a questionnaire about the event, YES, I am happy to give feedback, but NOT during the peak time. Seriously? That was very Japanese. I bet she took it over to someone who put it on a desk and left it there. Then, even though it didnít directly affect me, the entrance and exit were done in true Japanese style. Let me draw a map to better explain.

So as you can see people entered the building from the right. Then had to walk past the exit, then had to squeeze past the info desk, which isn't drawn to the best scale, then inside. Then when hundreds of people were leaving they had to walk out and be diverted to an info desk to fill out a questionnaire or something. It was such a clogged traffic jam and no one could figure out why.

One thing I am/was disappointed in is that out of all the teachers and students that I told at my school, only one came. I even made copies of the flyer for all the 1st and 2nd year students. They can easily ride the bus alone or have their parents take them. Granted not all could come, but I assumed some would. So next year, if I participate in the same capacity I am not going to stress myself about making sure everyone here knows. I might not even mention it at all.

The graduation ceremony is over. It was rigidly formal like all ceremonies, but for this one I realized it should be. It would make me feel more traditional to know people before me for 31 years have gone through this exact ritual. So for ceremonies like this I think the process should not be changed or updated. But for general day to day life, I think the process should be reviewed and updates made, but they never are nor never will be in Japan.

When the graduates were leaving, the whole school, both elementary and JHS, lined the long hall. Then the graduates walked down the hall and shook everyoneís hand and said a few words. This was probably the most emotional time for me. Actually during the ceremony people were really crying. First it was general whimpering, then a few burst out into ďby the way your entire family and all the people you have ever known were killed, and you will never walk againĒ type of wailing. But during this hall walking thing, everyone was just whimpering sad. A few people said sincere thank-yous to me and that was touching. Even a few of the people I didnít really know or talk to much. The kids from my English elective class said they really enjoyed the class, even though I thought I had done a bad job. We played games and had some good lessons, but in the end I spent too long trying to film this 3 minute news skit. But they said they enjoyed it and either way they will forget about it, the school, and even me soon.

Lunch was great. It was a box lunch, called a bento lunch and it was a lot of good food. I just backed out of the graduation party at the last minute. It was no real problem since we gave them 4 hours notice. Had I just not shown up it would have been an issue. All last week I was looking forward to going to the party, but today I just didnít want to go. Have you ever had that feeling of just not wanting to be somewhere? All day I was just thinking I didnít want to be at the party. Part of it was that it is right beside Koriyama station. Which means I would have to drive all the way there in this nasty snow, pay 5,000 yen ($50), not drink, then drive all the way back. Or I would have to ride with someone else and leave when they wanted to. Plus I really donít want to spend anymore money this month since I blew through my spring break savings and the Ryokan was pricey. From now, any money I spend will come from my car inspection fee which should be around $2,000. I have $500 saved for it, and plan to save $500-700 from the March 21st paycheck, and then the rest from the April paycheck, but if my shaken is due before the April paycheck, then I am in trouble, so much trouble that I canít even do anything for spring break. We will see. For some reason, Manaís Indian Restaurant has a connection to a mechanic who does the inspections really cheap. Iím going to check into that. If I can save anything on that fee then I will send that money to the US for bills. Once this fee is paid, my first priority is to pay off two of my three loans. I might even forgo traveling during the summer to pay down my loans. If I could get these two down and then make a few big payments on the college loan I would be doing much better. I could save a fair bit each check.

Well it is 4:45pm and I am about to go home. Iíve really been down today and I donít know why. I can only guess because itís because I was so busy over the weekend and then today was a stressful day as well. I plan to cook something, take a hot shower, watch one of my new cheap DVDs, then go to bed early. Which means I will probably wake up at 4am again.

Just found two pictures. One is an Engrish style photo even though it's from the US. The other is the graduation ceremony set up, you can see how the principal is in the center with his back to half the group. I still don't see why we did that.

The center table is facing this way. The graduates sit in the chairs nearest the camera, the teachers sit on this side of the piano, parents are under the far basketball goal in the upper right, distinguished guests sit on the far left, completely opposite the piano, and all the 1st and 2nd year kids sit behind the center stage.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Apparently the last few weeks were some big weather joke or something. The weather was teasing us with how nice spring will be. Or maybe the sky was clogged and it was snowing, but just not falling. Since Sunday afternoon, weíve got about 45cm or a foot and a half. I had to get my snow boots out of my car, but it took 30 min to get to the car and then open the door. Then walking to school the snow fell into my boot a few times because it was so high. It would have been far more impressive had it fallen in January since it would have added to the already high snow here.

Iím about to go to a class as an ALT with the first year students. Then I have a class with the elementary school 2nd graders. We are going to review briefly then play duck duck goose.


Just got back and it went well. I reviewed colors and animals for a minute and then taught them the words duck and goose. Then I told them to raise their hands when I said goose. So I would say duck a few times and then goose and they all got it. They are a smart class and have good listening skills, plus there are only 20 of them so it was easy to play. We played about 20 times and they enjoyed it. They are thoroughly versed on the words duck and goose. Iím going to try to make other lessons work with DDG. When things are fast like that you forget you are learning and just learn.

I have four classes today which is a good number. Itís enough so that I feel I am being used and in the classroom, but not so much that I am swamped and have no prepare periods. I think teaching is like flying. It does no good to sit in the airplane, you only count flying time.

I walked past the 3rd yearsí rooms. They still have remnants of the classes, but overall they are empty. There are still some decorations on the wall, but the desks are bare. Itís an eerie feeling. Much like going into your someoneís room after their funeral. Thereís just something different about it now, even though it might be just as they left it. Thereís no spirit or soul to the room. The room is there but nothing is attached to it, nothing emotional. The current 2nd years havenít moved it or claimed it yet.

I saved all the receipts from the international festival and I am going to tally (fun word alert) all we sold and see what was the most popular. Even though we have already decided pretty much what changes need to be made and remember most people ordered a quarter size regular, I still want to see percentages.

Pretty much the only way to explain the weather is that it has been snowing for 4 weeks straight, but the sky was clogged. I mean we are getting that much snow. Itís constantly coming down and itís big fatty chunks. It has completely cancelled all the melting of last week. Oh well, I guess they were right when they said six months of winter and six of summer. That means since it started snowing right at or around December 1st it will probably snow through April and then stop in May. I think it started snowing late this year.

Itís a sure thing that if you have a sore part of your body you will hit it at least twice a day. I was walking around in the lunchroom and kicked a chair. I just gave a piece of chocolate to all the girls in the school. It was only 150 or so and I bought some small pieces in packs of 30 so it wasnít really bad. But it was great giving each girl a piece of candy and the boys begging. I walked through the elementary school lunchroom and gave all them a piece and they loved it. So that was fun. Maybe I will get more chocolate next year. Oh yea I gave the two girls, who gave me chocolate on Valentineís Day, a big box of chocolates. The people around them were jealous. Sadly I donít really like chocolate. Well I do like it, but I shouldnít eat it. It makes me break out and is overall bad for the body.

OK there is definitely some correlation with too much sugar and my hurting toe. I did hit it slightly earlier and it hurt for a bit but it got a bit better. Then I had some chocolate which I shouldnít have. When I had the chocolate it really started to hurt and it stays at a constant level. I am going to drink more water and see if I can flush something out. Maybe tonight I will fix some veggie juice and try to flush out the system, but I bet it will take far more than I can drink in one night.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Graduated students keep coming back for questions about various things. Some schools, especially the local high school, give them pre-homework to get them up to speed with the lessons that will start in April. Iíve been helping a few students that are going to the local high school. I was a little sad that so many kids are going there since it is a lower level regular school. It will still be a challenge, but not like the ones in Koriyama city. I heard today about 23 students are going to Konan high school and there will be a total of 28 students in the first year class which means it will really just be like JHS for 3 more years. They are really going to be in trouble in a few years when the current 2nd grade elementary school kids graduate. So really by a few years I mean 7 or so. Anyway there are only 20 kids and they are all really bright so if half the kids, and thatís being generous, go to Konan that will be ten kids, plus maybe 5 from the other JHS in the non-immediate area. Plus what if more kids go to better Koriyama schools? There could be just one or two kids from here and we are the main supplier.

You know what I really love about the winter here, it will be freezing and a blizzard in the morning and then bright and sunny in the afternoon. Now that it has snowed for a few days straight, everything is white. More precisely bright white. The sky is clear and quite blue and the bright sunny is brightly shining on the snow. I canít see anything outside because it is so bright. I can try to use that word more, but I wonít.

After lunch the 6th grade students have some thank you lunch presentation planned for us. There will be a live band, of the 6th graders, some photos displayed on the big screen, and some snack things, plus a big banner as shown above, or somewhere. They are showing baby photos so I brought in one of mine.

We had natto again today for lunch. It truly makes me sick just to smell it and really even look at it. The best way I can describe the way it looks is a bowl full of beans mixed with mucus. Thatís honestly what it looks like. Would you want to eat that? No way. The smell is like someone wearing the same shoes and socks for a week during the summer and never ever taking them off. I mean it truly reeks. The smell alone turns my stomach. I finished lunch as fast as I could and then got away from the table. Itís not one of those stupid ďitís cool to act like you hate thisĒ things. I seriously find it repulsive and yet I know some people who eat it.

The graduating 6th graders just had a farewell thing for all the teachers. It was two hours long but I didnít realize it. I actually thought the clock was wrong. They led us into this big special activity room. Then we had a muffin and some apple juice. There was a menu of drinks but I chose apple juice. Then they sang and showed pictures of everyone as a kid and then now. Some were big changes others were not. Then they all said something about each teacher. The ďfunky 6Ē band played. They were good overall, but the old guitar was horribly out of tune. Then two kids told some jokes, which were pretty good for their age. Finally we all held hands and formed a big circle and sang the school song. Some teachers were whimpering and one kid who always seems to be crying, burst into the ďyour family was killed and you will never walk againĒ type wailing. It was humorous at some times because he would lean on a friend and then cry on their shirt. Then that person would be trying to sing while pushing this kid away. It had a movie like quality. Then we all left and more people cried. I was actually happy that I didnít really understand everything since I would be crying too. Even though they arenít leaving or going anywhere really, just moving 100 feet down the hall to the JHS. I plan to start documenting things that happen so I can mention them in a few years when I leave.

 Thursday, March 16, 2006

I only have 3 classes next week, but thatís much better than it could be. We only have 2 days of actual class. Monday is one, Tuesday is a holiday, Wednesday is the other, Thursday is the elementary school graduation, and Friday is the start of spring break. All teachers more or less have about the same. I will do something in the 1st year classes to support the last thing they learned in the text book. It was the 12 names of the months and cardinal or ordinal numbers through 31st. I guess that would be ordinals. They really need that enforced. I am the enforcer. Wasnít that a stupid a stupid song in the late 90ís? Enforcer [fast gibberish] Iím a man, a licky boom boom yea. Oh wait that was Informer as sung by Snow. Yea, strange memories there.

I hate when teachers have the same last names as students. I mean that is unavoidable in any country, but in Japan you give everyone suffixes based on their rank. Teachers and doctors are sensei, female students are Ėsan, male students are Ėkun, and young children are Ėchan. There is a student name Mutou (moo tow) so I call him Mutou-kun. There is also a teacher named Mutou and I always slip and say Ėkun. When I see him my brain says Mutou. Then my mouth, which is more accustomed to speaking to the student, says Ėkun. Then I apologize and move on.


Just got back from the teacher's apartment building party at a local bar. I planned on staying sober and somehow managed to drink too much. Now it is 11pm and I can barely typer. But there was a kid at the bar for a while. His mom workes there. His name is shouta and he will be a 1st grader inApril. so I met him and said hello. Party wasgood overall. Too tipsy to type now. By tipsy I mean drunk. Ok then.

Friday, March 17th, 2006

Hmmm, that was lovely. Luckily I knew to drink as much water as humanly possible and now I feel ok. I really should backspace over that, but that would defile the purity of it all. So anyway, here is a link to some odd photos I've come across. I'll keep updating the page when I get more odd photos and the like.

It's been hardcore raining all night. Which is good in that it should wash away much of the snow, but if it turns cold again then there will be heck to pay. I mean there would be a solid inch or two of ice if it gets cold. Oh I remember last night the teacher's house people asked me if I still turn the water off everyday. At first I told them no since my foot hurts too much to squat, then I just fessed up and said no because it doesn't make any sense to cut it off during the day when it's not cold anyway.

I've been working on a point system for the kids that involves me giving them Ryan Dollars, which is really just copied and whited out-white outed Monopoly money. To earn the money they have to do various things like write a twice weekly journal in English, answer questions in class, volunteer to speak in class, be the first to finish an activity. It will give me tons of extra work which I really need. I truly want to stay at school until 7 or 8 since that makes me look good and all I do here is watch movies. Having 40x3 journals to read twice a week will keep me late. Crap it's time to go to school.

What really annoys me about always having to be at school, even when there is negative zero to do, is that I canít do anything other than just sitting. If I try to work on a website, even if it is directly related to work and school, the internet magically and mysteriously stops working for a while. If I try to do anything other than just sit here something always magically comes along and stops me. I am tempted to get a wireless Wi-Fi card for either my work computer or bring in my own and surf the web and actually get things done. Thatís a big part of the reason why I leave right at 5, so I can go home and work more on my own computer with high speed not-everything-useful-is-blocked internet. I do work for about an hour or two on different projects. I might research teaching English or look for clip art. Recently I have been trying to create my own online quiz system, but the internet at school keeps not working only on my computer.

I almost said a dirty word in class. And it might even have been the mother of all dirty words. I was asking how many bingo lines a class got. They use a counter for small things in this case it is Ėko. So I said 5-ko, 10-ko, then jokingly 20-ko, 100-ko, 1000-ko, and then the trouble came as I started to say 10,000-ko. I wonít go in too much detail, but I didnít say it. However, all the kids and the teacher knew because they sounded it out in their heads I guess. That was slightly embarrassing, but at least I didnít say it.

Last night at the party we had bird on a stick which is famous here and called yakitori. Yaki means baked or cooked and tori is bird. Itís not like a corndog I mean it doesnít look like a bird, but just bird meat. I sampled a few different types and most were so so or not good. But the regular plain chicken one was soo good. It was like BBQ chicken, but smaller. Man it was tasty and salty. I want to grill a chicken now. I guess I can wait until spring.

I just heard something during the meeting that I had to clarify afterwards. There are two English teachers this year and me the Native Teacher. Next year I am pretty sure there will only be one teacher and me. That will put more stress on him and a bit more on me. Iíll more or less keep the same schedule, but he will pick up two classes. Itís going to be weird in 3 years when there is only one class per grade. I wonder if they can justify my job then. If so the kids will be getting ridiculous attention, in a good way.

Some teachers I like will be leaving. Thatís sad, because we have a good solid team now. Ouch, I said team like some stupid corporate job. But really we all click, I think. I could be missing things. Hopefully we will get some good new teachers and of course I hope they stick to my proposal of having at least 15% of the teachers be young attractive single females who are willing to date foreigners. It would be ideal if those teachers were also fluent in English, Thai, and something else and loved doing PHP computer programming, teaching Japanese and Thai, and giving massages.

BOOYA. Itís 5:30. I swear I just got here. I love computer time, itís like dog time. One computer-minute is like 12 real minutes. It feels like I have been here for an hour. I worked on things this morning and then had two fun classes, then lunch, the more on the computer, then there was a meeting, and now itís 5:30. Wow.

Monday, March 20, 2006

I am so confused. I get to work on Monday morning and there is a ďmoneyĒ envelope on my desk. It says $330. WOO HOO. I can really use that now. I committed to this Taiwan trip, but I really just canít afford to go. I am even getting a loan from David who is also going. I open the envelope and there is nothing there. Then I read the note attached as best I can and it seems to say I need to GIVE this money to another teacher because itís my rent. Hmmm, the other teacher has nothing to do with my rent and anyway my rent is taken from my salary on payday. I asked two teachers and they too had no idea why I would be giving some other teacher this money. On top of all that I really donít have it. I am already committed to the Taiwan trip and even tried to back out because people here needed to know definite plans last Friday and I couldnít tell them so they assigned me to some useless meeting. So not only do I really not have the money, I flat out donít understand what itís about. Iím going to have to be ultra thrifty in Taiwan, which I hear is easy, because otherwise I am going to be in a world of hurt.

Well my internet has been turned off, and most likely because of money. I ignored two bills because I sent in my auto-withdrawal form like three months ago. I guess I will send in another and maybe even like ten if my next monthís bill is deducted. So aggravating.

I have one class today, but I might be able to weasel my way into a second. Tomorrow is a holiday, then two classes on Wednesday, then the elementary school graduation on Thursday, then I am just taking a vacation day on Friday. I could apply for special leave, but I would have to write some long report basically lying as to why I deserved to have that day off. Same for next week. I am just going to use vacation time. Which I have plenty of, but it really bugs me since the job was presented as having those times as just off days, like teachers do in other countries. I wonít get started on how completely #$&%#&$ stupid it is to just come in and sit for 8 hours a day with zero to do.

Something else that irritates me, and I have mentioned this before, is how we flip between being actual Japanese teachers who are government employees and then some special situations that nothing seems to apply to. This was far more obvious when I was an English puppet, I mean a Fukushima JET, but it still exists. Like one day it will be ďyou must dress up and act professional since you are a government employeeĒ. Ok that makes sense. Then the next day ďcan I go on the school trip with the students? No thatís only for real teachersĒ. Well ok, I guess I can see that. Then there is ďyou have to come in everyday and sit during the holidays because you are an actual and equal employeeĒ. Which goes against ďonly actual employees get to take off one week during summer without taking vacation timeĒ. Hmm, which am I? Then during vacations ďyou have to write your flight details and hotel name when you leave the country. Do the other teachers? No, ha ha of course notĒ. My favorite is ďyou need to go to your traveling school on this day, even though it is the first day and you will have no classes, because you are an actual employeeĒ. Even though I went there for the past year and already know all the teachers I have to do a self introduction because two new teachers came. Do all the other teachers do a self introduction? No they are already part of the inner-group, as I should be, only the special situation student has to. When things get really stupid and start making zero sense, I become an ass. Sorry for the language, but thatís the best way to describe things. I gave my self introduction, but kept saying ďMy name is STILL Ryan. I am STILL from Atlanta, just like when I gave my introduction beforeĒ. This was at a different school last year.

Either I am an equal employee and should be treated like one or I am not like an equal employee and should not be treated like one. Treating me differently at different times to accommodate different situations, all of which are accommodated not in my favor, is annoying. Itís hard to figure out how things work and the processes people follow if the rules always change.

Well I had the one class today and it was pretty good. We played a slap game where there are cards on the table and someone (me) calls out a word and the players search for it quickly. I usually say something in Japanese so they have to convert it and search for the English word. Then other times I give hints or say the word in English. Itís a great game and they already know it so there is no explanation. This time we played it with month names and ordinal numbers 1-12. Then I added some ďYes I did/No I didnítĒ phrases, which didnít work as well as I thought. But it lasted right to the time needed. I was going to have them memorize the names of the months if there was time left over.

When people come into the teacherís room or leave everyone says a set phrase. Iím never comfortable with the phrase so I just mumble. The reason I mumble is when I try to say the phrase, a teacher will say ďoh we donít say that in this situationĒ. So I remain in a state of confusion. I really think Japanese is all about saying the right phrase at the right time. There is no actual grammar since you only say certain things at certain cues. Anyway, I just mumble because I have never actually asked what we are actually saying. I think it is ďotsukaresama deshitaĒ (oh tsue car ray sah mah day she tah). Then in the morning I assume it is ohayo gozaimasu (ohio go za-e mah ss) but it sounds more like a hissing sound since they just stress the ending part. So as I said I mumble. Then today someone enters and everyone says it out loud, then I mumble just at the time there is a lull in the loud announcing. So everyone hears me just mumbling and looks at me. I sounded like some drunk pirate trying to make some snide comment under his breath. Good times.

Oh the English teacher is talking to the teacher I am supposed to give money to right now. Itís not going well for me since the English teacher keeps saying ďoh is that so, oh reallyĒ. Now they are looking at some book. When you read this part know that I am whispering as I type like a golf announcer or a spy watching something. Ok, here he comes with some piece of paper. I am dying to know why I allegedly owe some random teacher $330. He is writing something on a form. I donít want to look over quite yet. Ok, I have to. Here I go.

Yea, I gotta pay. Itís for crap related to the apartment. Stuff the board of education said they would pay. I am still learning to clarify that many times when Japanese people say things like ďsince you live in the teacherís housing you can save a lot of money because the board of education pays for many things like water, sewage, outside lighting, having the parking lot cleared of snow, and general maintenanceĒ that actually means ďyou will have to pay it all yourself divided by all the teachers in the building, but not for a while, so until then you can save moneyĒ. The last big time that caused me trouble was when I first got to Japan and lived in Fukushima city. About 10 times I asked my supervisor ďso just to confirm again, ALL my bills are being automatically deducted from my account each monthĒ. The reply ďyes, ALL bills are being automatically deductedĒ. That translated to English as ďI donít know, itís your problem, stop speaking to meĒ. Then 6 months later the school gets a call saying if I donít pay a few hundred dollars by tomorrow my water service will be cut off. So I pay it, of course I used vacation time to go pay it Ė that would be a silly thought to think otherwise, and it wipes out my account more or less. By more or less I mean completely. For the next two weeks I eat the only things I had in the cabinet, rice and soy sauce. Actually the first few times I had it I found it to be tasty. Then I started thinking of it as some kind of gruel like pirates might eat or whatever Oliver Twist wanted more of.

So really having to pay this bill is semi-reasonable. I mean apart from the fact that I was told it would be paid by the BoE, but since, for now, I am an equal and actual teacher I guess I understand it. Itís really just the timing that is killing me. I donít know where I am going to pull the money from. If I think about it as being only $28 a month, then itís not bad, especially since I have reduced rent. Although from now on I am going to put about $150 a month away for this and my absurd car inspection fee and also I will keep turning off the apartment hall and door lights. I mean itís Japan, itís safe. If anyone comes to attack us that would be coming for me since they hate foreigners, but I donít think we have any of those types around here.

Speaking of the car fee, the guy that owns the Indian food place in Fukushima city seems to now own a car related company as well. He mentioned he could get a highly reduced rate on this inspection fee. I was going to just try my luck at the local garage owned by a studentís father, but if this place can give me something ridiculously cheap then I will try to go with that. As of now the estimate is $2,000. This is the inspection fee and the cost to repair whatever is wrong, it could be higher or unlikely lower. But maybe this place will do something better. He said they pay the garage every month regardless of how many people go there. So maybe thatís like some retainer or something. Iím also setting up a website for him so maybe that will make it cheaper. That means the first paycheck I can possibly save money from would be May. Geez.

Darn itís snowing again. Not a big deal, but I am just over the snow thing. It was impressive in Jan and Feb and now I just want it to cease and desist. It can be cold for a while, but the snow is getting old. Oh as I typed that last sentence I looked out the window and noticed it was terribly windy as well. Thatís groovy. I have found I hate wind the most. Rain sucks, as does snow or cold, but when wind is combine it turns nasty.

You know what I really like? Washing my hands in room temperature to lukewarm water with a good flow of water then soaping them up with a real lathery soap and finally drying them off with a dry plush towel or even a nice paper towel. None of which I get here in Japan. Well never in that triple combo. The water is always cold, as in thatís the only option even in the winter, if there is any soap it is average at best, and there are never any paper towels. That actually both amuses and confuses me. Having sinks with no paper towels. When you wash your hands you just walk around with wet hands. There are no dryers either, just nothing to dry your hands with. Even funnier is Japanese people always complain about this, and yet there are still none. If I were supreme master of all things I would make that a rule.

A few jobs that would simply never work in Japan:

* Paper Towel Refiller
* Trash bag salesperson.
* Public trash can installer.
* Policy efficiency checker and changer.

Iíve never had a job with so much nothing-to-do time. Iíve had plenty of jobs with too much to do, but never with this much down time. Plenty of jobs where I counted the minutes until I could leave, but never one where I was doing nothing BUT counting the minutes. At least I am paid well, although that is nearly negated by all the expenses I have. I am really waiting until the first week of April to clean my desk/workspace and apartment. Make it like my spring cleaning. I know it will take a long time once I get started and I donít want to do some now and some later. Plus it will feel more like spring cleaning if I do it in April.

I was just talking with a teacher who is leaving. We were watching the students wait in the lobby for the buses. He is the lead teacher here and will eventually move up to be a vice principal and then a principal at some point. Both of which he would be good at. At which both of he would good be. Or whatever. Anyway, I realized I really donít like the Japanese system of shuffling teachers around every 3-5 years. They have reasons for doing it and I understand it. It gives each school a different flavor each year. New teachers bring new experiences and new ways of teaching. Well there is only one way of teaching, but they might bring some new activity. For the teachers they get good networking and get to teach in all different environments both good and bad. That way they really learn the system and can be promoted easier because they have a variety of experiences. But the reason I donít like it is you can make real connections with students. Whatís worse is if you do make real connections you might have to say goodbye. Whatís still worse is if you play a sport like volleyball, you might have to compete against your old school. Another thing is if you are an expert volleyball player/coach, but the new school already has a volleyball coach, then you actually have to go out and pay for lessons in some new sport. That would be very bad for me since I am not coordinated and canít really play much less teach any sport, at least not in a way that the students would respect me.

I am really tired of typing but I donít have much else to do. I have already typed 4 pages in MS Word and I will upload this later. I have another hour before I can leave. I guess I will go to 7/11, or 7i & Holdings as they call it, and pay my internet bill. Then I will send in 20 more auto-withdrawal forms until they either do it or call me and tell me to stop, at which time I will tell them to start taking it out of my account or stop sending the letter telling to fill out the form to have it taken directly out. Tomorrow I had planned to go to Koriyama and buy some more movies, which has now moved onto the unlikely list, then get some coffee and do a little shopping, very little, then get lunch somewhere possibly at the Indian food place if I can find it. Really I just need to get out of my apartment. Iíve been cooped up too long. I also have to send almost all of my paycheck away for various bills. I am so tired of having money issues.

Today has been one of the strangest weather days I have ever seen. It started out snowing a bit. Then at school during the morning it was a massive blizzard. Snow was falling heavily and the winds were blowing it sideways. It was really nasty. Then the sun came out and melted half the snow and warmed everything up. Now itís a blizzard again, but it is flipping between nasty blizzard and nice sunny day. I mean like 15-30 minutes of each. Now itís bright and sunny.

Tuesday, March 21st, 2006

Today is a holiday and I had planned to go into Koriyama for no particular reason. Well I did want to transfer some money to the US, but apart from that it would have been just to not be in Konan. I probably would have had sushi for lunch, gone to Starbucks, bought a few more $5 movies, maybe seen a movie, and thatís about it. Then when I woke up I realized it had snowed heavily all night and was still snowing. It has pretty much cancelled out all the shoveling I did last week when it was warm. I guess thatís why none of the other teachers were shoveling.

So my internet is still out at home, even though I went and manually paid the bill. I figured I paid it too late and today is a holiday and nothing actually happens on a holiday. So maybe tomorrow or Thursday it will be turned back on. Typical that itís cut off when I am deeply involved in working on some online stuff. I mean I spent most of last weekend working on various online things.

One thing I am really sick of, and this is not a Japanese thing, is being broke. Most of it is my own fault for spending too much in college, but then there are these new nonsense expenses like this apartment tax, my car inspection fee, and others. I end up wasting so much time because things cost money. I canít go anywhere this month or do anything that involves spending any money. Then Aprilís paycheck will go mostly for this car fee. I have tried to save, but havenít been able to save much. On top of that I will have to pay David back for part of the Taiwan trip. I think I will be able to not spend much in Taiwan since I hear it is so cheap. Plus we are only going for 4 days and three nights. Maybe 4 nights now that I think about it, but airfare and hotel are already paid. I just have to take spending money and I am no going to buy much apart from food and some small souvenirs. I know electronics are cheap there, but I just canít afford anything now. If I can only spend $1-200 then I will be much better off. I guess this is a good month start eating less.

The only big or semi-big expenses I have coming up are buying a bike around May or June and then a dryer in the fall. The bike will only be around $300, since I just want a basic one I can ride around to get exercise. I donít need some $1,000 name brand just to impress people when it rides the same as the cheaper one. Then for next winter, I donít want to go through the stupid process of hanging clothes in the apartment to dry for 3 days. Hang drying is great in the summer, but stupid in the winter. Not culturally different, just stupid.

I donít have much to do today. I guess I could clean a bit, just the general crap on the floor not the hardcore spring cleaning I want to do in two weeks. Plus I will need a mask for that. I also kick up so much dust that it causes me to start coughing and wheezing. It would be easier if the weather was nice so I could just open the windows and let the breeze flow. I might watch another of my cheap movies, though most are at school. I just watched Ali Baba and the 40 thieves. It was good, but the ending was awful. I mean the actual ending, it just stopped and returned to the menu. I guess it was over and credits are overrated, but it was surprising. I didnít realize that was the movie ďopen sesameĒ came from, although they actually said ďopen o sesameĒ. Ok, going to do something other than type since I canít upload this for a while.

Well I successfully wasted a day without spending much. All I did was go to the Smile Mart and buy two cheap things of ramen noodles since I had nothing for dinner. It snowed heavily all day and pretty much cancelled out all the melting of the last few weeks. Ok Mr. Sky, we get it. We are sorry for shoveling snow and hoping for an early spring, weíll stop. Itís 10:30pm now and I will go to bed soon. Although I am not really tired since I slept on and off today. I was on the bed waiting for the big guys in sumo to go at it and I dozed off a few times, but I managed to see who I wanted. The guy who is somewhat from Fukushima is winning and the grand champion is still undefeated. The one guy who needed to win or he would have to retire lost and might retire and other people did ok.  Then I watched Arabian Nights, which was really just like Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves. I mean same two or three actors and similar story. I almost thought it was a sequel. I wonder if certain things came from that story/movie, or if they were just referencing things of the time. Like Aladdin kept rubbing lamps, and Sinbad kept talking about his time on the sea. Then I watched Black Narcissus which was just ok. Kinda had no real point I thought. So now itís 10:30ish and I will lie on the bed and wait for the time to come.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

I really donít like wearing a tie. I donít mind the suit look, but I just donít like a tie. I mean I like the look, I just donít like tying them. I spent about 30 minutes getting ready this morning and most of that was tying the tie over and over and then trying to fasten my cuff buttons. Would that be cufftons? Sounds like a British town. Iím from Cufftonshire. I did realize I should have buttoned the cufftons before putting on the shirt, but by then I already had the tie done and didnít want to redo that fiasco. Looking back I wish I had been sent to some etiquette school. I know I would have resisted like a death row criminal at the time, but now it would have done me good. I actually had to look up when to button and unbutton my suit as well as how to tie various types of tie knots. I am wearing a Thai tie now. Japanese people never get that. I think I am going to buy a collarless suit sometime. Iím going to google that now since I have internet here but not at home.

Well the elementary school graduation ceremony is over. It was too long and overly ceremonial as expected, but there was an incident that challenged the rigid formality. More on that after lunch. Now I have to wait for 30 minutes and then go into the hall and see the students off. Itís so anti climatic. We line the halls and say goodbye to them and then they stand in the lobby waiting for the bus. Furthermore we will just see them in a few weeks anyway. So after the seeing them off thing, then I can eat this box lunch in front of me.

Well we just saw them off. Now I am staring at this box lunch waiting to eat it. We do nothing as an individual, and everything as a group. Therefore we must wait until all members of the group stop LOLLYGAGGING in the hall and come back to the teacherís room. Then and only then can we start eating. I secretly took two bites of the food already very subtle like.

Yesterday the grand champion of sumo lost. He was undefeated but then was beat by someone who will probably be grand champion soon. There can be multiple grand champions and once promoted you can never be demoted, you only retire when you start losing. Asashoryu, the current Yokozuna (grand champion) still has a while to go. Though he will lose 1 or 2 of the matches during a 15 match tournament, he still wins most and does so with style. Iím thinking of setting up some sumo database online, mainly so I can practice with web databases and partially to keep track of sumo stats. That is assuming I get internet turned back on soon. Itís still off.

I just made an executive decision. I will start eating at 1pm. Thatís well past our usual lunchtime and also past the point of me caring about silly traditions. They arenít all silly, but they can reach a point of being silly. 1pm will be my silly point. We finished the ďseeing them offĒ part at 12:15 and all the kids left by 12:30. Now the teachers are just wandering around doing nothing. Either come back and let us eat or break the tradition of waiting for everyone to come back. Either way I will break it at 1 and just say, ďoh I didnít know and it was sooooo lateĒ. Being a foreigner has its advantages sometimes.

Ha, coincidentally we started eating at 12:55. Everyone came in the teacherís room all at once and then the principal said a few words. The same few words that are always said. The thing you say at this time, as written in the script. ďGood job, we all worked hard this year and graduated another fine class who will now move on to become JHS students. Letís take a moment to reflect on our work while we eatĒ. I mean it sounded very similar to what he said right before we ate lunch on the JHS graduation and I think I have heard it before at school parties. Anyway, we ate and I am still hungry, but I planned for that and brought a Big Cup of Noodles. Technically it is called Big Cup Noodle Seafood Noodle. But it is more than one noodle.

Well the teacher mentioned above who I had to pay the $330 to came over and gave me $110 back. Apparently it is prorated and I moved in August, which kinda sucks because that must mean the other teachers have to pay more. So thatís good news. I will put it into my outrageous car tax fund.

My internet is still down. Itís really to the point of absurdity, and yet I have grown to expect nothing less in Japan. I paid it Monday around 6. Ok, earliest it would be turned on is Tuesday. But Tuesday was a holiday, so although they went into work nothing can actually get done. So then Wednesday morning it should be turned on, or maybe Wednesday evening making it a technical 24 hours. Nope, so maybe Thursday morning. Nope, ok by Thursday evening there is really no excuse. Nope still not on. So I spent an hour, ONE STANDARD EARTH HOUR, on the phone trying to pick through the full speed ultra polite Japanese options on the super convenient self service phone system. By super convenient I mean I was about to gouge my ears out. Every button I pressed, especially when I was deep into the system, said ďthanks for calling, goodbyeĒ and hung up on me. Of course all in Japanese. I had to search the internet, ON MY PHONE, for 30 minutes until I found a number for English support. I call it and it said, ďsorry we just closed, like 30 seconds ago, seriously we can hear the phone ringing, but we cannot answer because we have procedures and cannot deviate. Do not call back. All your base are belong to us. Resistance is futileĒ.  Fine I will wait until tomorrow.

OH SNAP! I was just cooking spaghetti noodles. Then I went to cook the pasta part which was pre-packaged in a bag like thing. I read the back and it said ďjust throw this bag in the oven for 3 minutes at 500WĒ. So I did. Man it was an electric show in my oven. It was all buzzing and sparking around. It was like the Green Mile when Percy didnít wet the sponge for Dellís execution. Then when I opened the door it smelled like I lit some bottle rockets inside. Man now the whole place stinks.

Well internet came on at 12:01am. Coincidentally I was awake and doing something else. I saw all the link lights come on and quickly checked. Also in the coincidental department, I ate about 10 coffee candies, which contain actual coffee and I have been awake for 24 hours. It is now 5:30am Friday morning. Luckily I am not going into school today. I will update the ďincidentĒ thing soon.








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