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Friday, March 05, 2010

            I have had a frustrating week. First off my voice gave out since I’m too stupid to remember to NOT have any dairy products. Monday night I had 5 eggs for dinner and then washed it down with a whey protein shake. That was a dairy overload and it caused the usual problem (yes it has happened before). My throat gets really dry and then too much mucus tries to cover it and I get a froggy voice and maybe a sore throat. This time I got a froggy throat for Tadano on Wednesday, Thursday I didn’t even go in since I could talk and I actually wanted to go to see the soon-to-graduate 3rd years, and today I still have it. Then today they said “oh can you take this extra class that you didn’t prepare for, it’s in 15 minutes?”

            Fine I’ll take it. So I try to print out something in color on the color printer, but someone is printing 56 envelopes with a full color photo on it and some other useless colored things. I asked if I could jump in really quick and get some of these done before the class that I didn’t prepare for because I didn’t know about and I am doing it as a favor. But I couldn’t because it was CRUCIAL that these be printed now. The world would have ended had they not been printed NOW. I looked later and they were stacked up on someone’s desk. If they hadn’t been printed at that exact time, then they couldn’t be stacked now and Jack Bauer would have to betray CTU and kill someone, so I went ahead and printed them in B&W and colored them in myself.

            For my planned class I was going to give diplomas for “graduating English” and then we could use the online computer games I made, but we have, according to Guinness,









            My 300 baud Commodore 64 modem connection was faster and more reliable than this place. Why do we even have computers in school? These lightning fast 512 mhz (MEGAHERTZ) computers with their blazing 256mb (YES, MB) of RAM is too much. Students should have no access to these luxuries and should use sticks in the dirt. I’m going to get the games in a nice stable form and copy them to CDs 30 times, since our network is worthless.

Quiz time. If it’s winter you turn the heater on when it’s cold right? What do you do when the room gets too stuffy for some reason? Let’s think of what makes sense………and now think of the opposite. What makes sense is you turn off the heater. What is the opposite of that? You leave the heater running and open a window. Yes, that’s the correct answer. The heaters are all on and the windows are open. Efficiency at its best.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

            Last night Dan organized a spur of the moment billiards night at a nearby place called Cybex Amusement. I've seen the place for years, but never knew what it was. The word 'amusement' in Japan can mean pool tables or pachinko machines or many other things. I was glad to go and it was a fun night. We played pool for a while and then used the massage chairs, foot baths, and fitness center for a while. It's 24 hours and the $3 an hour fee covers everything including the internet and some drinks. I foresee going there again. Other than that I cleaned the apartment, rearranged yet again, and just chilled Saturday.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

            I just received the über-important software package I had been waiting on. Of course it was a day late which never matters except when I am waiting on it. Also, everyone and their brother knocked on my door on the days I was expecting it. It’s an Adobe product and should keep me busy for a while, locked inside my house working on videos and various other multimedia projects. So I say farewell to the world as I know it and now enter the realm of ones and zeros.

            On a different note, I went to Kozu Elementary yesterday. That’s the small school with 28 kids TOTAL. Not per class, total. In April they lose 11 and gain 4, then next year they lose 5 and gain 2 so the numbers are going down. I love the school and the small family atmosphere, but when there will be 19 kids at a school and have about 10 teachers supporting them, I think it might be time to merge it with the nearby school. That’s about 2 students per adult and really just not fiscally reasonable. Don’t get me wrong, I love going there since I know everyone’s name and classes are small (sometimes 4 kids and me) I just don’t see how they can say “money is tight” while paying at least 2-300K per year in teacher salaries and school expenses when the nearby school could easily take them in. A better example is the other school itself and the smaller 10 student extension school it has. Next year there will be 5 kids total since 5 are leaving and none are coming in. Five kids are 2 taxis a day which must be cheaper than running a whole school.

            While at Kozu I went into the industrial arts room and saw some photos of the school from 1961. It made me feel strange seeing the building exactly as it was back then with some 60’s looking cars parked in front. There are photos of other buildings that are older, but this was the same building. It made me think of how many people had passed through there and had stood right where I was. What were they doing now? How old were they? I guess the 6th graders in 1961 would be in their 60s or late 50s now. I often wonder how long these kids will remember me. When they grow up and have kids and go see their kids in class will they even briefly think about their foreign English teacher some 20-30 years before. “Man he was funny and always made dumb jokes in class and played with us, I miss him”. Maybe when they retire in 50+ years they will sit around thinking about things and people they remember and someone will revive my memory just for a few minutes.

At some point there were about 150 kids at the school, whereas in April there will be 22. I couldn’t imagine the halls being packed all the time. The school could barely handle that many kids. There are 6 classrooms each holding about 30-34 kids at most. Maybe back then there were looser standards and they fit 40 or more when needed.

            In my elementary lower grade classes, such as 1-4, I have been giving little diplomas for the last time I have classes with them. I hum the graduation song and call their names while flipping around the papers in the ultra formal way they do in Japan. I think the kids appreciate getting a little piece of paper since all the attention is usually on the graduating 6th graders. Plus it’s fun for all and takes a good 5 minutes at the end of class. It’s a nice way to end the last class.

            I just had a class with the loud class and we used the computer room to play my online English games. Well, that was the plan. I usually don’t cuss on this site, but…





is a






            Apart from being the slowest thing known to man, there is some delay in it where it always starts ok then nearly stops then finally at the last possible minute unbottlenecks itself and let’s traffic through at a decent pace. If it were just slow it would always be slow, but sometimes it’s ok while most of the time it’s like people escaping a burning building by way of a pet door. This time was the worst so far and it convinced me to spend the time burning the games to a CD. It would be worth the pain and suffering endured when all the kids freak out that someone near them made it through the doggy door and is playing some awesome games. They don’t understand the word wait and click something literally 100 times if it doesn’t immediately load. That causes it to never load. Half the time they click the blue E for internet about 20 times which then causes 20 windows to load.


Wacky Photo Time


Here we have the ATMs closed at 5pm on a Sunday.

"World's most technologically advanced country..."

Sadly, I've withdrawn that twice in one day.
It made that paper flipping noise for about 20 seconds.

The original pimp riders. It has hydraulics too.

Ok, sure.


Luckily you can admit it's lame.

Bandai Atami Hospital

A model of the hospital I go to when I say "I'm going to the hospital."


It's...I mean...what?

Japanese Engrish

I too am sorry for a frog.

Above photo is a shoe box for the elementary kids.
As one would expect, there are snow boots since there is
snow and ice outside. All are snow boots.

Below are the shoe boxes for the JHS kids. They can't
wear snow boots since that's not part of the official uniform.
The fact that there is about 2 feet of snow on the ground and most JHS
kids walk to school is irrelevant. The official uniform says skirts for girls
year round and these shoes for everyone, regardless of weather.

Resistance is Futile.


Tiny Japanese Car

It looks laughably small to foreigners, but I would LOVE this car in Japan.

Japanese Engrish

Hear I am.

A crappy photo of my drive to Kozu with the majestic mountains in the back.

stupid Japanese statue at my school

A ridiculous statue in the middle of the kids play area.

It's a boy mounting and strangling a pelican.

ramen drill

An industrial drill used for mixing vats of ramen.


That was close.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010

            I went to Tadano Elementary today and had a good time. I had the final class with the 4th graders. They are a good class with a good teacher and they excel at everything we do. For instance, they 'learned' how to count from 1-60 back in October. Then they volunteered to go to 100. Since then I have been giving number listening quizzes. Today I said "258,345" and about 5 kids got it. Geez, I could barely say that in Japanese. Then I gave them diplomas for 'graduating' 4th grade English.

             After that I went to the extension school and had a review class with the 1-2 graders. It was a decent class. There are 4 kids and I like 3 of them, but one has ADHD or something and never sits still. There's a girl and two boys who are always eager to learn and participate so I love going there to see them, but then this other boy is literally flopping all over the place and it's distracting.

              Then I went to the 3-4 graders and played a review game for a while, but while I was talking to the boys we heard the girl group slide their chairs away from the desk. But one girl was just sitting at the desk looking down. When I stood up I saw she had puked on the desk. I felt bad for her since she was a little slow and might get picked on some and this wouldn't help at all, but I wondered why kids seem to have no warning before hurling. I have always felt odd moments before and then my mouth waters a bit and then I cough some or gag rather finally spew! But many kids just lock up and it seems to just come out like a breath with no warning. It's not something I want to research. It actually made me rethink becoming a teacher. I HATE the smell of puke with a passion and could barely help the other teacher clean it up.

                So the title of this bit comes from a conversation I had with Kyoko, a friend and my Japanese tutor, about the upcoming Advanced English class I will be teaching. I was planning on some other ideas, but she told me about some things the class had done in the past and some things they were expecting. So now I am going to totally change my plan and do something video related and maybe use my green screen. So yea, that was close. Had I gone in with my original plan I would have been slaughtered.

               Tomorrow I go to Ohse and have no classes since it's the day before graduation. I really want to see the graduation 3rd years so I will go and say goodbye to them since I won't be there for graduation. I might take my camera and get some farewell shots. I'm going to miss them, but that happens each year. They were some good kids and made English class fun. Then on Friday I go to Konan for a half day of graduation and then in the afternoon I come back to Koriyama for a meeting about English camp. Next week I have a full day at Kozu on Monday, nothing at Konan on Tuesday, full day at Tadano on Wednesday, maybe some 2nd and 1st year classes at Ohse on Thursday, and then a big meeting with the board of Ed on Friday. Then back to Konan the following Tuesday since Monday is a holiday. Tuesday is only a morning day and it's completely stupid that they don't just do the closing ceremony on the Friday before, but that's Japan. Things happen when they happen and logic plays no part.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

            Last Friday I sat through the JHS graduation and it was exactly like it is each year. This year, to pass the time, I documented each and every thing they did so you can see exactly how rigidly formal it is. I didn’t even have a middle school graduation and my high school, as well as college, graduation wasn’t nearly as formal as this. Next Tuesday is the elementary graduation and it too is equally as formal. They are taught at a young age about formality.


* At 9:50am the ‘Raihin’ are led in. These are local ‘dignitaries’.
            Examples are the Konan rep in the Koriyama city council, a fire chief,
       the head of the local town hall, postmasters from the area, and
       other semi-prominent people.
* At 10 we are all told to stand, do a deep bow, and sit.
* The graduating students walk down a red flower lined carpet.
* At the end of the carpet there is a circled area. Here they bow and take EXACTLY 16 steps to the halfway point around one edge, then 16 more to the entrance to their seating area. They remain standing until the last person enters. Then they sit in unison.
* We all stand, deep bow, and sit. The bowing is in unison with three piano tones.
* The vice principal is called to the podium to say “the 2010 graduation ceremony is now open”.
* We all stand for the Japanese national anthem.
* We remain standing for the school song.
* We all sit in unison.
* The presentation of diplomas begins. It gets intense here:
 1) Ss name is called. Students says ‘hai’ and approaches the podium.
 2) Ss take 8 steps, starting with Left, to the first step, 9th on the step, 10th on the podium stage.
 3) Ss name is called again.
 4) Ss steps forward with left, then right.
 5) Diploma is flipped clockwise and handed to the Ss like an open book facing them.
 6) Ss reaches out with left hand, then right hand, then takes the diploma using finger tips.
 7) Still holding it out Ss steps back with L then R and does a deep bow (still holding it out).
 8) The diploma is closed and held in the left hand while the student turns.
 9) Ss now walks toward the ‘box’ and deposits diploma there. Then returns to seat.
 10) First and last students get full diploma read, others just get name mentioned.

* Principal returns from podium and sits down.

* We all stand.
* Principal goes back to podium.
* We all do a deep bow and then sit.
* Principal gives generic 7-10 minute speech.
* We all stand.
* Principal bows and returns to seat.
* We all do a deep bow and then sit.
* First dignitary goes to podium.
* He bows, we bow while seated. He rips the sealed envelope containing his speech.
* He gives his generic “well done” 5 minute speech.
* He bows to us, to the parents, to the students, to the other dignitaries and returns to seat.

* Second dignitary goes to podium.
* He bows, we bow while seated. He rips the sealed envelope containing his speech.
* He gives his generic “well done” 5 minute speech.
* He bows to us, to the parents, to the students, to the other dignitaries and returns to seat.
* Third dignitary goes to podium.
* He bows, we bow while seated. He rips the sealed envelope containing his speech.
* He gives his generic “well done” 5 minute speech.
* He bows to us, to the parents, to the students, to the other dignitaries and returns to seat.
* Each visiting dignitary is introduced.
* Two current students give “thank you” speech to departing graduates.
* Farewell song. Current students sing goodbye, graduates sing “your turn”.
* Crying has now started and become noticeable.
* All sit.
* Two graduates give “your turn, you were great underlings” speech to current students.
* Ss bow to teachers, parents, dignitaries, current students, then sit.
* All Ss stand and sing their chosen graduation song. Most are bawling.
* Everyone stands, deep bow, sits.
* A video is shown with baby pics. The room is nearly flooding with tears.
* Students receive flowers from someone.
* As students leave the gym, one by one, they give flowers to their parents. Some hug or shake hands, others just give the flowers and walk away.

It’s over and the vice-principal tells parents to go to another room for a group photo, then the current students leave and finally the teachers. After this we get our boxed lunches, but can’t eat until after 1:30 when the principal finds time to eat. No one can eat before the principal. I ate before the principal. Around 10:40 the graduating students walk down a long hall and the younger current students and teachers give gifts or say goodbye. This year it seemed to be over before it started, but I guess there weren’t as many as before.

That was Friday and then that night I didn’t do much. There was a party for Konan teachers, but I rarely go to those anymore. I’d go with any other school, but I’m getting tired of the same patterns happening over and over. I go, people make toasts, we start eating, I get a barrage of silly questions from people around me (can you use chopsticks), then people get tired of me and start talking amongst themselves and I am left in the corner alone. Sometimes I try to act like I am part of the group by laughing when they laugh, but they could be saying “Ryan is an idiot and can’t understand us” and there I am laughing along. So I didn’t go.

Something else I noticed was Thursday at Ohse all the students wanted me to sign their books and take pictures with me and get the little paper that had my email address on it. Plus all the seniors wrote me a ‘shikishi’ which is a thick cardboard like white paper board that many people write messages on. All the seniors wrote me a message and most were in English. It was really nice. Also, as soon as they graduated most all sent me an email and it said something like “Thanks for 2 years of fun English classes, you made class interesting.”

In contrast, one student at Konan asked me to sign his book and about 3 people asked for pictures. I was even walking around making sure I was accessible, but that didn’t matter. These two are vastly different schools. I’ve heard that many people in that area are semi wealthy and most kids go to some after school extra lessons. It’s actually a nice area since it’s maybe 5-10 minutes from the city, but very rural. Whatever the reason, the kids are so different between these two schools. They really seem to try and put out effort there, but here at Konan…well you get it.

Friday, March 26, 2010

            Had computer issues so haven't updated for a while. I'm on my way to Tokyo for a few days now.

And So It Ends.
Wednesday, March 31, 2010

            I went to Tokyo with a friend and one place that was worth mention was Costco. It was awesome because everything was normal. The products were not tiny child portions, the building was huge, the carts were massive, the prices were not stupid high, the food products were odd, and best of all the snack bar had normal prices and sizes. They had a drink for 80 yen and FREE REFILLS. There was a normal sized pizza for something cheap and a hotdog/drink set for 200 yen with FREE REFILLS. I hope Japan makes a note of the normality of this place. I'm so tired of dixie cups filled full of ice and half full of a beverage for 500 yen with no refills.

Jizo Statues            For a hotel we stayed in a  Capsule Hotel and I took some new pictures that I will add soon. We also went down to Kamakura and I took some new photos with my nice new camera. I tooks tons of photos of the Jizo statues since they are cool. People come and dress them up as a way of praying. Before that I went to English Camp for a few days which was fun. Today I went to school to see the teachers who are leaving this year. There was a send off party and speeches and the usual. Some mothers came and during the ceremony their phones kept going off and they would stare at the incoming number for a minute and then decide whether or not to answer it. That's acceptable here, even though it's rude and annoying. The graduate students came in their JHS uniforms and then went right back home.

          I see no reason why we can't do that back around graduation since the leaving teachers have nothing to do until the 31st. They just sit there or clean and walk around from the 13th to the 31st. They get no break a all. They leave school on the 31st around noon and go straight to their new jobs on the first the next day. I really hate it, but it doesn't affect me so I don't care. I do hate the way teachers are forced to change every 3-5 years though. The schools have no vibe or spirit since they are constantly being renewed. Everything a teacher has learned about a school and the parents and area and students, is lost when they leave. One day they know everything and everyone, the next day they know nothing. I understand why they do it, it's better for the group, but I don't like it. Though sometimes it is good when there are some teachers who I'm tired of, but the new teachers might be worse.


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