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:
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
They are very cute. Friendly.
I am playing.
Dogs and Cats are rivals.
I play soccer everyday.
I eat 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.
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.
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:
May I help you?
No, I was just looking at this. It says the height is 1200 cm.
Thatís right, itís one meter and 200 centimeters.
One meter is 100 centimeters. 1200 cm is 12 meters. (40 feet)
This table is 12 meters tall?
It is 1 meter 200 centimeters.
I am 200 cm. This table is 1200 cm?
Yes, one meter 200 cm.
I am about 200 cm. This table is not as tall as I am.
It is one meter 200 cm.
Maybe it is 1 meter 20 cm? 120 cm?
No the label is correct, it is one meter 200 cm.
Can I measure it with your tape?
Itís 120 cm tall not TWELVE HUNDRED centimeters.
Thatís right. One meter 200 hundred.
No, it is 1 meter 20. See?
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
About to Snap.
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.
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...
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.
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
A) Before school
B) During class breaks
C) During a free period set aside for the tests so as not to disturb
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.