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Giving Up.
Thursday, May 1st, 2008

            I have reached the point where I donít really care about the folk tales. I only have so much energy to put into it and that has been exhausted. If someone were to ask how much time and effort most of the students have put in you could easily calculate that because it is exactly how much time we have spent in class, minus a bit. I know that they do not even think about this at home because most of them do not progress ANY from week to week. I could memorize a book in Arabic or ancient Greek in half the time they cannot memorize 4 lines of English. The reason is I would practice more than one hour a week. [photo - a copy of a student's script that was thrown during practice]

            I got here at 7am, just as the school opened, so I could work on some stage things for the folk tales. I got a lot done even though I have to redo most of it due to problems we found during the practice. The practice was fun [sarcasm]. First we went to the big hall to practice and heard the seniors practicing in the music room which is separated only by a small partition. Ok, I told everyone to be quiet (that lasted 3 minutes), so we started. Then the seniors split into smaller groups and one group had to come into the big hall to practice. They said they HAD to practice there since there was no where else to practice. No where else in the entire school could they practice. Not a single other place. We actually couldnít leave since the thing that holds the background is taller than the doorway.

            During the practice I almost snapped a few times. I simply cannot tolerate, nor understand, how people can have 30 second attention spans and NO VOLUME CONTROL. There is a huge difference in whispering to a neighbor and talking full volume 30 seconds after I said ďbe quietĒ. I was a kid and I remember how things were, but I knew when to shut up and I would be quiet for the whole class if a teacher said be quiet. Here, I kid you not, I will say be quiet and almost immediately they will start talking again. I could tolerate that for a bit if it wasnít FULL VOLUME. I want to scream because I CANNOT understand this. In all honesty I nearly walked out of the skit and the whole job today. That thought actually crossed my mind. It last about 5 seconds, but it crossed my mind. I will be so happy when this whole thing is over and I will think long and hard about doing it again next year. If we do then we will start in November and shoot for April 28th PTA day as the performance time.

            I am typing this between 2nd and 3rd periods when we have a 20 minute break. Starting 3rd through 4th periods we have some outdoor athletic meeting practice. During April and May there are far less classes than practices for our sports festival. Iím going to work on the backdrops since I found several problems with them and I donít feel like watching a rehearsal where the kids practicing bowing 482 times. ďYou there, you deviated slightly, we must all do it again.Ē
   [Photo - a small stamp I had made of my face]

            I did a poem activity in one of the senior classes and it went well. That was last week. Today I did it in the other class and it went poorly. Partially because out of 17 students in the class (16 actually attend school) only 5 like English. Since Japan is a group society I have to teach the same thing to all kids so the advanced ones are bored and the slow ones are lost. The poems are called Gem Poems and they are not so much poetry as much as a fixed way of writing. Hypothetically they are good practice for learning English since they make students think about something they like and write various grammar points about them. They are built like this:

 

Noun 1

Adjective   Adjective

Three verbs in the Ėing form

A sentence about noun 1

Another noun related to #1.

 

            I wrote that on the board, in English with Japanese subtitles. I explained it and gave an example. I used ďFriendĒ and then ďhappy, funnyĒ and then ďlaughing, playing, talkingĒ and then ďI have many friends at schoolĒ and finally ďClassmatesĒ. Then I explained each word in Japanese. Here are two examples of what students wrote:

 

Dog

They are very cute. Friendly.

I am playing.

Dogs and Cats are rivals.

Cats.

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 

Soccer

I play soccer everyday.

I eat yams.

Yams.

 

            Yams? What? That has nothing to do with anything. At this point I gave up and told them to write pretty much anything. It was the part of Saturday Night Live when Will Ferrell is Alex Trebek and he is frustrated the Jeopardy guests arenít answers so he says ďjust write anything, any word, make up a word, any letters, just mark the screen with a dot, just make any mark on the screenĒ. Of the 16 that were in class 8 turned something in and none were even close to the directions. Before you think I explained it poorly remember the class last week did fine. They all turned in something that was not only on par with the plan, but actually creative.

Recharged.
Friday, May 2nd, 2008

            I had two classes to practice the folk tales. During the morning practice I had the English teacher watch them and not offer any help. He said they did pretty well and started fixing their own problems. I worked with the other group and got them up to speed. For the two afternoon classes I told them to just run through everything. They did pretty good, not great, but almost. I think with three more practices they will be fine. Iím back to feeling better about it.

            You know what I love? I was eating some veggies with Tabasco hot sauce and then my eye itched so I scratched it. Man if mace or pepper spray is anything like that then it is completely debilitating. Even funnier is that I did it again later.

            I worked until about 8 tonight. I helped a teacher who is interested in learning to read English for an hour and then we both worked on the backdrops for the folk tales skits. I had to redo some things and she helped. Tomorrow Iím going to buy some more parts to help with the backdrops. Iíve learned a lot about putting on plays and I might pursue this more with other classes. Iím not sure if I will be doing folk tales next year and I wonít decide until next Saturday the 10th, but maybe. If so things will go a lot smoother.

            One funny thing about the folk tales is that they have been somewhat taken out of my control. I learned that two students will recite the folk tales in Japanese before they do the English skits. All these things are fine, but itís funny how things are just being done rather than me being consulted.

Hmmm.
Saturday, May 3rd, 2008

            I had a funny conversation today. It was all in Japanese and had nothing to do with my language ability, but moreso about someone not being able to deal with variables. Hereís how it went all in Japanese:

 Me:  Ha ha.

Clerk:  May I help you?

Me:  No, I was just looking at this. It says the height is 1200 cm.

Clerk:  Thatís right, itís one meter and 200 centimeters.

Me:  One meter is 100 centimeters. 1200 cm is 12 meters. (40 feet)

Clerk:  Thatís right.

Me:  This table is 12 meters tall?

Clerk:  It is 1 meter 200 centimeters.

Me:  I am 200 cm. This table is 1200 cm?

Clerk:  Yes, one meter 200 cm.

Me:  I am about 200 cm. This table is not as tall as I am.

Clerk:  It is one meter 200 cm.

Me:  Maybe it is 1 meter 20 cm? 120 cm?

Clerk:  No the label is correct, it is one meter 200 cm.

Me:  Can I measure it with your tape?

Clerk:  Sure.

Me:  Itís 120 cm tall not TWELVE HUNDRED centimeters.

Clerk:  Thatís right. One meter 200 hundred.

Me:  No, it is 1 meter 20. See?

Clerk:  This tape must be wrong. Excuse me for a moment.

             It was so absurd even Kafka himself would laugh. It was obviously 120 cm, but somehow someone wrote 1200cm. The width was 40 and the depth was 60 and yet the fact that the height was 1200 didnít strike her as odd. She was just carrying about her business defending the sign. Anything written, especially grammar in an English textbook, is always correct. I know I am very right!

            After that I met Stephanie at the $1 store and let her borrow my tent. She is going camping during the break. Iím probably going to go out there for the day, but not stay overnight. Iím just getting old and donít enjoy being out of my comfort zone, but the big reason is I have a blood test after the holidays and I canít eat camping food. I could take my steamer, but that is getting to be too much so I said I couldnít stay overnight. The point of this paragraph was that we were chatting in front of the store and we saw a young girl, maybe 2 years old or so, walk out of the store alone and wander around in the parking lot. It wasnít too odd since kids walk around alone often, but she was really young and there was no one around. We watched the kid and waited for the mother to come out in a panic, but no one came. About 5 minutes later the kid starting to actually walk out of the parking lot so I ran inside to get a clerk. When I came back out the mother had come out to find her. It was about 10 minutes total (or 1010 minutes for the other clerk). Child-raising in Japan usually makes me nervous even though itís a really safe country. Iíve seen kids really far from their parents for a long time.

Boom.
Thursday, May 8th, 2008

            Around 2am I heard my weight set rattling around in the closet. Hmmm, now why would they be Ö.. BOOM! This big earthquake shook the whole building for a minute or so. That feels like an hour when everything is shaking. Then a few minutes later an aftershock hit and shook a bit more, then one more aftershock that was slightly less. Then I rolled over and went back to sleep. Were I in the US I would have gotten out of bed and checked for damage, but this is Japan and they know how to build earthquake proof buildings so chances are there was no damage. Even in Tokyo where it really hit there was minimal damage and no death I think.

            The folk tale performance is on Saturday and we have two practices today. The first one went rather smoothly and I had the kids do everything. Thatís something I really like about the system in Japan. Everyone has a job and instinctively knows what to do. I tell one kid ďyou are in charge of the curtainsĒ and he organizes a group to close all the curtains when I give the word. Iím going to be in charge of the music since I canít really explain exactly when things need to be played. Also because the general Japanese idea of background music is for it to be blaring and overshadowing the speaking parts. I simply rejected that in the polite Japanese way of saying ďok itís fineĒ and then doing it differently.

            Still no word on whether or not we have jobs from August. Iím assuming we do since it would really be rude to not renew our contracts at this point. On a lighter note, I found out my passport expired. I contacted the embassy and found out itís relatively easy to get it renewed. The only delay is that I am trying to have my name corrected on the passport. For some reason they have it as MC  DONALD which is not technically my name. It has caused minor bumps in Cambodia and in Japan and it would be much better if it had my actual correctly spelled name. Either way that should be taken care of before I leave for Thailand. Well technically it MUST be taken care of otherwise I canít leave. Worst case scenario I can pay extra for high priority.

            Thailand is going to be expensive even though itís a 3rd world country. The course is $1,600 and the flight will be around $1,000 even though it is the low season. The hotel is going to be $600 since I am staying in a fancy place. I tried to book a cheaper place but they were either really skank or required I book from the 1st to the 30th. Since the course goes from the 14th to the 9th I would be paying for two months and it would still be around $600. Plus the crappy places require a monthís deposit so I would have to pay $1,200 up front, whereas the nice place doesnít require a deposit so in the end I have a nice place that is cheaper than the cheap places. Then Iíll need around $500 for food which Iíll have to take out of savings. The good news is when I return to Japan I will have two months salary in the bank and I can send most of it back. Iíll probably send it straight to my big college loan since I want to get that down and this money is like a bonus. I could put it in savings, but I would rather make a dent in that loan now. Iíd love to get it lower than 10K.

            I have another blood test tomorrow. I think the results will be better than last time, but not as good as the pattern of the previous three months where everything was plummeting. I havenít eaten anything bad this week and I wonít tonight. I think I had some carrots last month which clean the liver (i.e. flush the toxins out into the blood). This time I will just eat normally and then work out and have nothing after I workout. Itís back-biceps today and I plan to pound them in the ground. I always work the biceps hard since they are a fun muscle, but the back is so big I can never get a good burn. The silverback at the gym taught me a few good back workouts and I found some on YouTube as well. If we all turned into animals at the gym, he would be the silverback or a big lion. We all kind of grovel when he comes around even though he is super nice. Almost too nice to be as cut as he is.

Final Prep.
Friday, May 9th, 2008

            Today is the last day before the big English folk tales performance tomorrow. It will be during the lunch break of the sports festival. The weather in the past has been half and half and this year I want it to be full on either way. Either it rains and we cancel the sports festival and delay the folk tales, or itís sunny and nice weather. For the last few years it has been either drizzly or cloudy and almost raining.

            The practice this morning went well even though it was just the actors and narrators. I gave them the tip of skipping to their last line if they forget everything and go blank. Donít do that as a habit, but itís better than stopping and repeating your line over and over until you can remember. Itís better in this case because maybe 5 people in the audience will understand it anyway. The other tip I gave them was to not stare at peopleís faces in the audience. They might get distracted and lose their place. Other than those things we are as ready as we will ever be.

            The vice principal told me today that my working time is actually 7 hours rather than 8 each day. That means I can get here at 8:30 rather than 8:10 and then after school I have 40 minutes of free time. I canít leave early, but itís my own personal time. Since I have been coming in at 8ish and leaving at 5-6 for three years I see no point in changing now. If I were to come in at 8:30 that would only mean I was sitting at my apartment doing nothing. Hmmm, though on the mornings that I go jogging I might come in a bit later. That would allow me to wake up around 6 rather than 5:45. I need 20-30 minutes to wake up before I exercise and I walk/jog for 30-40 minutes. Then I shower and walk to school. All that takes about an hour and a half or so.

            Itís 1st period now and I am about to have another practice with the folk tales class. Then I am going to rush straight to the hospital for another blood test. I think this one will be back on track. I believe my body started dropping weight when I made the drastic change, then it leveled off when I ate a few bad things. Finally it is starting to drop again now that I am in a realistic new eating pattern. I was at 102.4 at he gym yesterday and I think I can keep it going down slowly. My goal is to break 100 for a week. Then keep dropping and stay below 100. I think I'll start to see a big difference fat wise in the 90s. My ideal weight is around the 80 kilo area, but I might be a bit thin. Maybe I can start gaining muscle mass and be cut and trim rather than skinny again.

[later]

            I got back from the doctorís office around 2 and the results were much better. My blood fat and cholesterol are in the normal range and my liver function is really close. I noticed at the gym I am starting to lose weight slowly again. I should be able to keep losing weight since I have broken my previous horrible eating habits. When I go to the supermarket I see the things I used to buy and cringe. I would buy a pack of Oreo cookies (a small pack of 16) and eat them all at once. Or I would have 15 plates of sushi and then go to McDonaldís and get a huge meal. I probably ate 10,000 calories a day, but the thing was that I never gained weight. I wouldnít lose weight when I ate better, but I never gained weight. I just stayed at one level. Now I am eating 100 times better than before and I feel 100 times better as well.

            We had two practices in the afternoon for the folk tales. I think itís going to be good after all. There are still some things that could be changed, but donít need to be. We actually changed a major part today which will add to the story. Itís strange how I can suggest something, but it wonít happen until it is suggested in Japanese. Iím actually looking forward to it. They tried on the authentic clothing today and we had a good run through. Most everything is falling into place. Iíve learned so many lessons about running a play and I think I am going to try to incorporate it into some other classes.

It's Over.
Sunday, May 11th, 2008

            The folk tale performance on Saturday went fine, at least as far as the students' performance goes. They all did fine and there were no problems worth mentioning. The part that didn't go well was based squarely on Japanese culture. There were about 20 people in the audience plus about 20 of the seniors. The other 400 people chose to eat outside in the cold windy semi rainy weather as well as directly next door to the performance in the elementary classrooms. When I asked a few parents to come over they said they couldn't because the program said they were to eat in the classrooms and they couldn't possibly go against what is written. But I truly didn't care. I just wanted it to be over so the kids could relax and I could stop worrying about little details. The historian guy who suggested this was pleased.

              Then I ran in the teacher relay on the "Metabolic" team. That means fat and out of shape basically. We lost, but weren't last place. I didn't want to do that all day, but then I started to get into it and had fun even though it was me sprinting for 50 meters. It was a good release of stressful energy that had built up over the past several weeks.

              That night we had a party in town to celebrate the sports festival and they also mentioned the folk tales. I decided I'm probably not going to attend these parties anymore except for the big welcome and farewell parties. I love them, but I am tired of being the odd ball that makes people feel bad for not talking to. This party had a bit of odd drama for some reason. Usually when we get there we have either completely random seats after drawing a number from a bag or there are assigned seats at the formal ones. The assigned seats puts equal numbers of new/leaving people at tables with incumbents, but this party should have been the random seating style. Instead there was one big tuna table which made sense, but then there was a second table that was assigned and it seemed like the cool people could sit there. Finally I was told to sit anywhere I wanted...at the third table. It was clearly the table for people that didn't fit into the other categories. I have never seen anything like that before at any of the 50+ parties I have been to while in Japan. I thought it was just me, but then two other teachers noticed it as well and mentioned something subtly to each other in Japanese.

              I stayed in town that night at a hotel. I wanted to drink and didn't feel like staying with a friend. I'm getting old and I don't like staying at other people's apartments these days. Plus the hotel is convenient and includes a free breakfast buffet with good food. It also includes free parking in the middle of town until 11am so I stayed around and had lunch at an Indian place near the station that also had a buffet. It was only decent food, but the price and buffet idea were good so I'll probably go back. Then I did some other small shopping and drove back around the afternoon some time. Tomorrow is a holiday since we worked Saturday. I'll go back into town to workout and get lunch. I also need to get a calendar about when trash is picked up.

About to Snap.
Tuesday, May 13th, 2008

              I just finished doing the game show activity with the least favorite class in the school. Actually they might be the worst I have ever had. The saddest part is itís not the whole class, just 5 boys that ruin it. One in particular acts like a mentally challenged monkey (I canít be as rude as I want about him). Today I used my lockout buzzer where a contestant hits a buzzer and the first of 6 to press it is the winner and can answer the question. I had to stop using it half way through because HE and another boy from his group would constantly buzz in and then press reset. I mean like twice a second. It was buzz-reset-buzz-reset constantly over and over. I was yelling in English and Japanese ďSTOP QUIT STOP NOW! YOU #$%& #%#% STOP STOPĒ. I had a better chance of writing NO on a wall and yelling at it until it changed to YES than getting him to do anything. I actually thought he had a mental condition that I should respect until I saw him be quiet and polite in any other class that had a Japanese teacher, but not my class. Iím seriously going to put him and his stupid moron friends in the back of the room with some word search and then teach the rest of the class a real lesson. I honestly almost hit him twice I was so mad.

 [later]

          But then I had a good laugh and everything worked out. I was in the big hall disassembling the stage from the folk tales performance and the cheer club came in. They are a group of boys who do this rigidly exact ďcheerĒ to pep up the sports teams. Thereís nothing peppy about it and itís very traditional. So guys walk up to the stage while crossing their arms and acting like they have some bad news. Then the leader yells some stuff and they repeat it and do some arm movements. The thing they yell is ďosuĒ (oh ssss) which has no real meaning other than ďyeaĒ or ďrah rahĒ. They also bend forward while yelling it.

              So the reason I started laughing was they leaned forward and yelled it but it really sounded like they were yelling ASS. So they were yelling ASS and bending forward. It was like some Jim Carrey skit. They did it about 5 times and I couldnít stop laughing. The leader would bend over and yell ASS. Then they would all bend forward and repeat ASS. Then I would laugh and they would stop and do it over. It made me feel much better. Especially because the leader was one of the annoying kids and the co-captain was the really annoying kid.

Able to Sleep Late...
Wednesday, May 14th, 2008

              I have one class 6th period today and we are watching a movie. I decided to set my alarm for 7:15 and possibly take up the new addition of being able to show up at 8:30. I could sleep late, maybe even go jogging, have a decent relaxed breakfast. Wow that will be nice. But then at 5am I had a bad dream and found myself wide awake. Wow, I was awake at 5am and had nothing to do until 8, plus I went to sleep around 12:30 since I wasnít tired for some reason. When I awoke I realized the town blasts some wake up chime at 5am every morning. It was loud, but I have learned to sleep through it. There is really no reason to do that in this day and age since people have alarm clocks, but in Japan itís better if everyone does everything exactly the same at the exact same time in the exact same way.

Sore.
Friday, May 16th, 2008

              Iíve had a usual week, but slightly busy at times. Not really with classes per se, but more with preparing for the summer. Iím renewing my passport and trying to correct my misspelled name by getting a copy of my birth certificate and thatís taking a while. Iím making calls to various places about that as well as reserving flights and hotels for the summer CELTA course.

              Plus I didnít want to make an update yesterday since I was literally yelling at how frustrating the culture can be. I had a class on Wednesday and it was interrupted in the middle because it was time for the kids to have their yearly ear test. These tests cannot be performed:


A) Before school
B) During class breaks
C) During a free period set aside for the tests so as not to disturb any classes
D) During the break after lunch
E) After school before club activities
F) During club activities

                None of those times were acceptable, but in the middle of class was. But wait, act now and you get more. The test itself only took 1 minute per student and we were watching a movie so 3 students could go and by the time one got back another could go. That way the kids would only miss a few minutes of the movie.

                NO. Japan is a Confucian society so the whole class has to go as a group and SIT AND WAIT IN THE HALL. Then one kid goes in and does the test and then comes back out to WAIT IN THE HALL so they can come and go as a group. Is it possible to find a more inefficient way of doing something?

                Wow. I thought I had cooled down overnight, but apparently not. Tonight I am going to eat dinner with Kate at the new Indian place in town. There are bigger servings of curry and the prices are a little cheaper. Other than that I still think there is a general franchise that people buy into when starting an Indian restaurant. All the wall hangings and menus and decorations are identical to all the other places I have ever been in while in Japan. Sunday I might go see the volleyball team play at Paula's school in Koriyama.

                Yesterday I saw something interesting of sorts. There is this one 2nd grade elementary kid who speaks great English, but he has a hyper problem and is weekly in time out or being yelled out. He goes into a violent rage sometimes. Anyway, he was starting one yesterday as he was climbing through a window from the hallway into the big activity room. There are doors nearby, but he wanted to show off. So one kid came over and grabbed him and he resisted and whine. Then another joined in. Then about 10 kids were holding him. Then about 20 and then 30. It was this swarm around him just holding him. Then he had an explosive fit and escaped and they grabbed him again and were all yelling in Japanese "NO-his name-Stop-his name". It was like some intervention, which could be one of the benefits of the group society. It was a bit surreal and I was just watching it. Then a teacher broke it up and everyone dispersed.

                Oh I'm sore because I seem to have some kind of sore throat. But I think it has to do with the air being dry rather than an actual sickness. I feel fine and the throat only hurts a little and only occasionally so that would be a pretty sad virus.

Good Old American Medicine.
Monday, May 19th, 2008

              I tried to go to the local clinic on Friday to get some throat meds, but they were closed on Fridays from 3:30 to 6. Hmmm, thatís about as conveniently odd as the passport office closing Wednesday afternoons which was when I had free time to call. So I decided to check out this English speaking doctor in Koriyama since I was going to work out and then have Indian food with Kate.

            The doctor gave me some Japanese medicine to kill the bacteria and some other stuff to do something else, but as expected they didnít work at all. I actually believe they made it worse since I was in pain Saturday from the drippage. I decided to fall back on what I knew would work and took some American medication. It actually cleared up the nasal drip and started to heal the throat. Itís even over the counter stuff too.

            I spent all weekend inside, more or less, since I still felt a little bad even when the nose and throat issues were clearing. I think the nasal thing was caused by a new brand of protein I took rather than a cold like they assume here in Japan. The protein I take is Whey (as in eating her curds and whey) and whey is basically milk or some form of dairy. Iíve had no problems with a local brand, but I tried some new brand from the US that the silverback gave me at the gym. I think itís a different dosage or kind of whey and it caused a massive amount of mucus to form and it all came out at once. Iím going to stay away from that brand for a bit and see if it clears up and then figure something out.

So you had a bad dayÖ
Tuesday, May 20, 2008

            It started last night when I wasnít even remotely sleepy. I was doing some computer stuff and glanced at my clock and noticed it was 1:30am. WHAT? Where did the time go? I have to get in bed now. So I did and I watched TV a bit and then read and then tried to just close my eyes and force myself to sleep, but then I did that thing where I remembered to breathe and I was manually breathing each time. Then around 2 something I realized I wasnít even slightly tired so I made some hard boiled egg whites and checked more email. Then I tried again and couldnít even close my eyes so around 5 I took a hot shower and set the alarm for 7:45 which is the last possible time I can get up with the new 8:30 arrival time. I think I might have closed my eyes into that twilight zone for 10 minutes tops, because I didnít wake up hurriedly. I just casually opened my eyes and realized I had 20 more minutes. So I got up and let.

            Youíd think I would have been able to sleep better with the wind and rain last night, but I couldnít so oh well. As I left I took out the trash. Wait, where is my umbrella? Mental note: There is nothing smart about keeping all the umbrellas in the car. So I run to the car and throw the garbage bag in and hit my knee and shut the door. Iím in and only partially wet, great. So I drive to the drop off and force it out the window. Then I drive to school and see the rain dying down a bit. YAY. I crack the door and stick out the umbrella and POW it explodes.

            Now I half expected it to pop backwards like umbrellas do in the movies, but why did the handle come off and everything instantly break? Furthermore, as I am fighting it I hear a cackle of laughter from somewhere and realize the kids that welcome people getting off buses saw every bit of my entertainment. I was fighting with it and finally just gave in and started running toward cover. When I got to the cover I realized it completely died. I wrapped it up and shoved it into the umbrella slot. I can only hope itís not pouring when I leave.

            One of the emails I got when I checked at 4am was from the birth certificate place and they said it would take 3-4 weeks to produce a duplicate original. So I am going to 86 that venture of having my name spelled corrected on the passport. Plus I have been having mild panic attacks thinking about the immigration people wondering who this new person is with a completely different name. For those just joining us, my passport shows a space in the middle of my which only Japan and Cambodia have made an issue about. Not even really made an issue so much as created documents on my partial last name. Anyway, Iím going to renew the passport and leave the name as it is and change it later. All my Japanese documents are with the spaced name and they are Łber-literal about things.

Like a Babyís Bottom.
Thursday, May 22, 2008

            I had a haircut yesterday since I had to mail my passport off to the Embassy to get renewed. I forgot to shave and didnít want a stupid sloppy photo in the passport for 10 years so I upgraded from $10 to $15 and had the full service shave as well. POW. I think I am going to get this every time. It was awesome. She shaved me with a straight razor so it was really close. There were a few warm rags used at times. Then she clipped some nasal hair and finally a small facial massage. Then at the end she said the phrase in Japanese that means ďyou must be exhausted after all thatĒ, but I should have said it to her. For $15, that is definitely worth it every time. Pow. Itís weird how things like that are so awesome and make sense and then when you have a shampoo they put you face down in the sink and the water gets all in your eyes and mouth. Face down for a shampoo makes zero sense, negative sense even. I feel dumber for having done that.

            Then I filled out some forms to get an international postal money order so I could send my passport to be renewed. I send it to the embassy in Tokyo and they send it to the US since all passports must be printed in the US. The whole process should take 2-3 weeks which will give me plenty of time to jump through all the hoops for transferring my visa and travel permits to the new passport. Itís either going to be a simple transfer for the end of the world. There is no gray area in Japan. Iím looking forward to that. (sarcasm)

            Last night after all the paperwork and other errands I got on a shink and shot up to Fukushima city to see Corey. He was a JET a few years back and then left when he and his wife had a baby. Megan was also up there so we all had Indian food at my old stomping ground Manaís Rasoi. They had radically changed the layout and expanded so it was much bigger. It was great seeing Corey and his wife (and son) and it was good seeing Megan and her daughter again too. Sheís in town until July 6th which seems like a long time, but things always seem to come up and make it difficult to get together. Plus her daughter, Zinnia, needs to be in bed by around 7-8. Meganís family recently moved to Atlanta and yet when I was there for 2 weeks I somehow managed to NOT meet up with her. In my defense I was sick a lot and had limited access to a car.

            Today the 5th and 6th graders are gone on their school trip. Half the JHS is gone for the city wide field day or sports challenge thing. Today is the day I have 3 classes (since the other teachers would be inconvenienced having to teach to half a class). Hmmm, what else? Oh I think Tracy and Stephanie are going to be in Thailand around the same time I am finishing the CELTA so we are going to travel together a bit and then head up to the orphanage. Stephanie said her flight was about $450 whereas mine will be $950 since I am staying longer than a month. There has got to be some rationale to airline pricing, but it might have come from a drunk chimp as he was falling down a cliff.

            Itís about the time that we decide which student will go to the English camp in August. The day camp in July can take as many as want to go, but the one in August can only take a percentage of the school. The percentage works out as 1 student for small Konan which is usually no problem, but this year 5 girls want to go. There is only 1 girl that doesnít make sense in wanting to go. The problem is the girl that will go will be chosen by way of lottery. If it were an interview as it was in the past there would be a clear winner or a tie, but a lottery could mean the 1 girl who shouldnít go might go. Two girls write journals weekly and clearly enjoy, and excel at, English. Two girls enjoy English and I could see why they want to go, but one girl never speaks English and only partially likes it. I hate the way the participants are chosen and the lottery system could cause EC to be filled with people who shouldnít be there.

Man, Was I Wrong.
Friday, May 23, 2008

            I have always said there is zero discipline in Japan and no consequences for any actions. Students can talk in class and no one says anything. The student who consistently scores at the very bottom in all classes still participates in his club activities. Some kids don't even show up and still graduate. So I assumed there was no discipline at all. Apparently there is discipline for infractions involving other people. When they pour on the discipline, they open the flood gates. I have never seen such punishment.

            Three boys had said something to another boy who then got angry and smashed his chair. When he asked a teacher to help him fix it she did and started to probe as to why it had happened. She eventually got the story and the three boys were pulled out of their sacred club activities to meet their maker. I have never seen students pulled out of club activities for any disciplinary reason. Then they went into a classroom and were yelled at by the disciplinarian teacher (who is the teacher that smokes at school which is prohibited). He yelled at them for like an hour, no kidding. Then the vice principal yelled a bit. Actual yelling that I could hear in the hall. Then their club coach yelled at them for another 30 minutes. Finally, and here is the best part, their homeroom teacher came out to the school and yelled for 1 hour. The reason this was the best part was their HR teacher was helping some kids in Koriyama and was just going to go straight home since it was around 6 on Friday and he had been at this thing from 6am in the morning for 2 days. The HR teacher came all the way to the school just for this. He's the type of teacher that would say "you really let me down" and that would make you feel like crap. The sad part is they are good kids and I like them, but they got out of hand teasing this one other kid.

             Then I went to an older lady's house who speaks some English and wants to practice speaking to a native teacher. We chatted for about an hour. She tried to pay me, but I said it was ok. I don't even know how much to charge and feel like an idiot asking for any set amount. She said next week she would make us dinner and I said ok. She told me a story of when she was in JHS and her principal who spoke English had some students learn one sentence each and go to the local US Army base and recite their one line to the guard. It was like "We are students of Honda JHS" - "We are studying English" - "We would like to practice with a native speaker". So the army sent a teacher to their school to practice English with them. It was a nice little story.

If only there were a machine that would make hot sand easily.

 

Duck, Duck, Goose.
Monday, May 26, 2008

            My 2nd period class, and the only one I have to plan today, was with the elementary 2nd graders. Some of them were annoying as first graders, but they have mellowed out now since they have ďseniorityĒ over the new first graders. The topic was foreign games so I chose Duck Duck Goose since it has minimal English. I thought about Red Rover, but that has too much pointless English. I also thought about Red Light Green Light, but they have a game identical to that plus they believe their green traffic lights are blue, so I stuck with DDG. It went well for the most part, even though some kids started crying if they werenít fast enough and got touched by the chaser. Most were really into it and didnít care if they got tagged. Then we went back to the classroom and I gave them a sticker book and a little silly sticker of my face. They seemed to like the stickers and I plan to make a different one each time we have English class.

            After school, when I left at 7, I was waiting with some kids as they were boarding the bus. I witnessed a funny quirk in Japanese culture. Elementary school kids board the bus youngest to oldest to make sure the young kids get a seat. When they enter JHS they have to respect rank so they board seniors first freshmen last. All the seniors and juniors had boarded and the 10 freshmen were standing around staring at each other. I assume they were trying to figure out their boarding order amongst themselves. The bus driver closed the door and started to drive off since it was time to leave. He got about 1 foot and everyone yelled and he stopped and opened the door. They stood there looking at each other and started to do rock paper scissors. The bus driver closed the door again and really started to leave. They yelled again and the driver said something to the effect of "get on the #^$% bus" since they all looked pale faced and jumped on the bus.

            Last night I went to Stephanie's house to talk about our trip to Thailand. When my CELTA course is over she and Tracy are going to meet me in Thailand and we are going to hang out a bit and then go to the orphanage. They are doing some sightseeing while I am in the course. One thing they are doing is going to Angkor Wat, but the funny thing is they are going by train and bus rather than flying. I have talked to 50-100 who have done this by bus (I flew) and not one of them said it was even remotely tolerable. Usually some will say bad things and a few will say "it wasn't that bad", but in this case not one said it was tolerable. There are long lines at the border, pick pocketing children, mafia taxi scams, the road to Siem Reap is supposedly pot hole hell, and the trip is like 18 hours total. I expressed my experience, but they are sure it will be ok. I'm curious to see how it goes.

            Tonight for dinner I ate at Ebina which is one of two ramen shops in town (one of three restaurants). I had my semi-usual curry rice, but this time it made me painfully full. I ate the same amount as usual, but I guess my stomach is shrinking since I eat less in general these days. Even though it hurts, I like the feeling because I haven't felt it in years. Until recently I would eat until there was no food left and not be full, but now I know I do get full quick.

Been Slow.
Thursday, May 29, 2008

            Itís been a slow week since Iíve only had half my classes. I have three today and one tomorrow. I can also go to the regular English classes as an assistant, but I donít plan anything for those. Last night I went back to the ladyís house and had dinner and we chatted in English for a bit. It was a tasty dinner and she gave me some leftovers. I think next week we are meeting after dinner. Tonight I am going to try to go back to the gym after my 2 week vacation due to a copious flow of nasal fluid. I still have a runny nose, but there seems to be no infection at this point. I can feel myself getting fatter as I type this.

Still Slow.
Friday, May 30, 2008

            I drove into town last night to try to workout after a two week hiatus due to the nasal issue. I got all the way into the dressing room and realized I didnít have my workout pants. So I went to eat Indian food instead of working out. ARGH. The Indian food was surprisingly not as good as usual, but I donít know why. Iíll definitely go back, but I was disappointed.

            Today I had one planned class and assisted in two. In one of the classes the seniors split into regular and remedial groups. I suggested this last year except with regular and advanced since some of the 2nd years are bored in the regular class. I found that they can only split voluntarily and if there was a class that was higher than the normal one, people would feel bad for not being in it. That logical doesnít seem to apply to the kids who voluntarily volunteer for the remedial class. Anyway, one of the really annoying kids is in the remedial class and I actually see him try. Iím starting to dislike him less and less these days.

            My planned class was with the 4th grade elementary kids. They are a good bunch and mesh well. Other classes donít seem to mesh as well sometimes, but I like these kids. Plus this year I get to teach them ABCs and they can play my online games. Todayís class was ďHow Old Are You?Ē and then I taught them 1-60 so they can learn time soon. For the HOAY game they each had 5 cards so they were five years old. Then they asked each other HOAY and then did rock paper scissors. The winner took a card so one person was now 6 years old and the other was 4. They did this for about 10 minutes and had fun laughing at people who were 1 or 2.

            After school I helped the soccer team practice. The coach will drive around to the practice field for some reason. The funny thing is when he parks and walks back to the grounds he is actually farther than if he were to just walk from the school. No one knows why he does it. Anyway, while they were practicing I saw two kids get hit in the nuts with a ball. I donít know why that is still funny to me, but Americaís Funniest Home Videos did get 10+ years out of it. One kid got hit twice which was a double bonus. The second time he was walking and looked away and this stray ball came right at him. POW.

            Iíve stayed at school until 6 or 7 each day this week. Iíve either been preparing for the summer course in Thailand or working on things for class. Today I spent some of my free time working on two scripts for the upcoming skit contest. The kids wrote out some ideas and I tried to piece them together into two workable scripts. This year we have two groups that want to participate, whereas we usually have to force people to do it. The skits are decent I think so we might have a chance to actually join the contest this year. I hate the way they do these things. Speech and skit contests should be on the spot I think, these are just contests that test how well you can memorize the script the ALT wrote. I think students should show up and draw a topic and make a skit on the spot. They have 4-5 hours to write something and then memorize it and practice. Then they choose who goes first and the first few groups get more points or something. Well thatís already more complicated than I expected so who knows. But I do hate the way these kids memorize it and then we have to submit a video so the BoE can decide which one is the best. They should all perform the skits and see the winner. The chosen one goes on to compete in the prefectural contest in Fukushima city.

 

 

 

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