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Random Photos From my Phone

The cover of some book in the library.

Japanese toilets and slippers

I'm supposed to take off my shoes, put on slippers that are way too small,
and step one step to the left to pee?  I don't think so.

What's missing? A towel. Have you ever tried drying your wet hands with toilet paper?

Engrish

Did it now?

Big pimpin'

Japanese Engrish

I guess you would be without the diaper.

The face I drew blindfolded with kids giving me directions in English.

My majestic view on the way to school.

This is what you get when there are two sockets in a room and everything is electrical.
This is not really impressive. I've seen much worse.

Japanese Engrish

Surprisingly tasty for sand.

size 60cm shoe made in Japan

A size 60cm shoe made for someone at the big and tall shop in Gotanda, Tokyo.
Just noticed the 'smell killer' in the background.
Size 30cm is about a 12.5 in the US, so do the math.

don't write our names, just write foreigner.

The name beside the 4th one up says "foreigners". I told him our name, but he wrote that.

New Japanese Fan

Some strange new fan. It had no blades and there was actually air coming out of it.

Japanese JHS school lunch, kyuushouku

An example of my school lunch for a JHS in Japan. This would actually be somewhat
filling, but usually I get far less than this. Notice the soup is half full though.

Japanese bento lunch

An example of a bento on a day that we had no school lunch. Seems filling,
but I could easily eat two. The brown things are full of rice and not tasty.

Good News.
Tuesday, May 7, 2010

            Ryan, I have good news. You only have two classes todayÖ..Exactly how is that good news? Why on earth would you think I would want that? Actually, that is exactly what the flyer said and thatís why I came to Japan. It said ďDo you like sitting in teacherís rooms doing nothing all day long? If so then consider coming to Japan to Teach English. We only say your job is to teach English, but really itís to sit in our teacherís rooms doing nothing. We have a special machine that uses osmosis to pull out your English and implant it into the students, but only when you are seated and thoroughly bored in the teacherís room. That is also why we have limited internet access and restrict any website that is remotely useful.Ē It sounded so exciting that I signed up immediately and Iíve been enjoying all the teacherís rooms Iíve sat in for years.

            Following this rant, today I have 1 class even though 3 are on the schedule. Why is that? Because the students STILL have to practice for the sports festival tomorrow. They donít really practice the activities, just the ceremonial stuff and things like bowing in perfect unison, entering and exiting in perfect unison, singing the warm up song in perfect unison, etc. I actually have some things to do and there are some kids here I like to see so itís not so terrible at Konan. Plus I have a computer and can create prints or surf the web if needed. At other schools students leave as early as 2pm (I leave around 4:15) and I have no computer.

            I was sitting at my desk writing out my expenses for the next paycheck and I came to the mandatory car tax that comes every May. Argh. I was wondering how much it would be and thought it was either $340 or $430, hoping for the former. I couldnít remember and had googled it and then I was just thinking, ďI wonder how much it will be.Ē As I thought that the office lady brought me some mail that included the car tax. Thatís strange and most likely a coincidence, but if not Iím going to start thinking about the Swedish bikini team giving me money and endless massages while Iím eating sushi on a beach.

How to Get Rich in Japan.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010

            There are some jobs in Japan where you would make no money. One is selling public trashcans since there are none. Another is selling or repairing (washing machine) dryers or paper towel dispensers or home insulation or central heating, etc. However, there are a few jobs where youíd make a mint. One in particular is printing business cards. There is a travel agent who comes to my school twice a week (sometimes once) and passes out a business card to every teacher, thatís about 50 then twice a week is 100 and thatís just at my school. He goes to about 10 other schools a week too. Man, Iíd like to be his printer. ďHey itís me again, I need another 100,000 itís been another busy week.Ē

            Another way is more for the government to earn money and a butt-load of it. If they were to install cameras at every single intersection in Japan and give tickets of $100 to people that run red lights they would make $600-800 every single time the light changes (during rush hour). Iím not even talking about people who are in the middle of the intersection when the light changes from yellow to red. Iím talking about the 3 cars that follow that car. Itís truly and honestly ridiculous sometimes. I have been at that area where I should stop, but it would involve slamming on the brakes so I ran it and was maybe in the middle of the intersection when it changed and I felt bad about that. But then I see up to THREE cars follow me. One maybe, possibly, the second was pushing it really, the third one was flat out stupid. So that would be about $300 per side ($600) PER LIGHT CHANGE. The light changes what 40 times an hour? Seriously, that would generate TRILLIONS.

            I have been busier than a hound dog chompiní on a junebug today. I had 4 classes that each took preparation, then tonight I have an Advanced English Conversation class for adults at the city hall, and tomorrow I have 4 classes at Tadano. Also, that first line about the hound dog sounded really country like, but I just made it up. Iíve already prepared for the lesson tonight, but I might need to over-prepare in case a lesson goes bad or runs short. For tomorrow the lessons are vague so I donít know exactly what I should do. Perhaps I will make something vague as well and review some things.

            One of the lessons for tomorrow irritates me. It is Ďdays of the weekí and the reason it bugs me is I practice this with all my students each lesson so they already know it. Iíve told the people that make the schedule, but itís like a wind up toy hitting the wall. ďBut itís on the scheduleÖ..yes I know, but they already know it and I cover it every week so letís skip itÖ..But itís on the scheduleÖ..I see that and understand, but they already know it so this lesson is wastefulÖ..But itís on the scheduleÖ.Ē That conversation actually goes on forever until I cave in. Fine, I will waste a lesson teaching them something they already know. Then we can practice writing their names in Japanese since they already know that as well.

            I think my PC has straightened out a bit. I bought a Tune Up program (well two by accident) and then I upgraded to the full version for $29. It scans for Mal-ware and other garbage and has sped it up already. Recently Iíve been getting the blue screen of death, but a reboot would fix it. There have been other bugs as well, but this program (these programs) seemed to have fixed that.

            I said ďtheseĒ because I bought one program and they charged me for 2. I complained and they kept saying ďitís a pre-authorizationĒ and ignored the fact I had two serial numbers. So I told them I was going to refute the charge with my credit card and suddenly they refunded one. During that time I was sure they were going to be stupid and reply with the same form letter I got three times, which didnít even relate to my issue. So I went ahead and bought a different program. Then they wised up and gave me the refund for one, so now I have two programs on my computer, but I guess it will be extra clean.

[Generic Title].
Friday, May 14, 2010

            Why is it when a class of mine is cancelled for sports day, that class just goes poof into the air, but when I have to cancel a class because Iím not here it becomes a big issue about trying to reschedule? The schedule got changed and classes got moved and I donít know what happened, but I didnít know about two classes today. One I made a quick plan for, the other Iím about to make up on the spot. The one I had a plan for was the 1st grade in the elementary school. We did some basic greetings and then I had them walk to me from the back of the room and say ďgood morning, Iím _____Ē while wearing my huge shoes. The principal came in and thought it was cute and the kids loved it.

            I found a web page about Chinese grammar and I looked at it briefly. Amazingly I could read it with minimal difficulty. I already knew the characters in question and they meant the same as the Japanese meanings. The lesson was about a particle for marking time and place. It was similar to Japanese, but the sentence structure was much easier. It seemed almost like English in a way.

            I am trying to save money to fly back to the US this summer, but tickets are killing me. The best I can find is around $2,000 for a layover somewhere stupid and $2400 for a direct flight. That is absurd and I would rather not spend the money now, but I need to go back and I should have my 20th reunion around that time. Ugh.

            The class I am about to go to is the demon class, but I think I beat them last week. I gave them a sheet with 5 boxes and then the words ďcomputer gamesĒ. I told them if they were good each class they would get a stamp and then when they made it to the end weíd play my games. They were actually rather quiet the whole time. I wrote a happy face, regular face, and a sad face on the board and said these were my moods. If I erased the sad face there would be no stamp for the week. It worked last week, letís see if it works this week.

           For two grades in the JHS I am filming something with them. Well now we are planning the stories, but soon we will be filming. One will be like 24 and the other is a horror movie. Itís really boring now, but we should start filming in two weeks. Next week I have a monthly meeting at the BoE so no class. I think weíll be able to make something decent in the end, but itís going slowly now.

 

Paid to Pursue my own Interests.
Monday, May 17, 2010

            I went to Kozu today and had two classes 4th and 5th periods. It wasnít as boring as I thought since 3rd period was practice for their sports day so I had something to watch. Their sports day is going to be interesting since there are 21 kids and they must divide that into 2 teams of 10 & 11. Going to this school sometimes is like an office day. I have nothing to do but sit there and plan future lessons or think about things. I have no computer to surf the web or type this so all I can do is write things down. I really donít even plan that much for my lessons since the teacher for the 5th & 6th grade (one class of 7 total) insists we use a worthless textbook forced on schools by the ministry of education. I truly despise it since it doesnít teach the kids anything, but it means I donít have to prepare anything at all. I just show up and press play on the CD player. When students clean the school after lunch they play music. At Kozu they play some music that makes me feel like I am in a 1920ís silent movie and then after that they play something that makes me feel like I am on acid or dreaming. Itís always weird cleaning to that music. Iíll try to record it sometime.

            Something that came up while cleaning there was how cleaning, like most things in Japan, is not about the end result i.e. a clean school. Itís about the process and appearance of kids doing their part. I was helping people sweep and when I clean, I make sure things are clean. A teacher came by and said what I was doing was unnecessary and had a student show me what to do. He just flopped a broom around for a bit and everyone agreed that was better. I was actually cleaning behind things and making sure everything was done right. At some point in the day I had green tea and since it is served at the boiling point, I had to let it cool for 30 minutes. I was staring at it and noticed dust from the air had fallen into the drink. There was a lot and I almost didnít drink it, but then I figured eh whatever.

            On the way to school I had the greatest experience ever in regards to Japanese people running red lights. I was approaching a light and it turned yellow so I foolishly slowed and stopped at the line as it turned right. A car behind me had planned to run the light and assumed I would as well so when I stopped he was in a conundrum. Rather that do the logical thing of stopping, he lurched into the passing lane and then passed me, well after the light was completely red. I was actually secret hoping for a non-injury causing accident so I could tell the police ďwell it wasnít his fault because running red lights is ok in Japan rightÖĒ

            Every year or 2 or 3 the teachers (and business employees) change positions. Teachers will change schools and employees will rotate positions. I understand why they do this, but at the same time I completely hate it. The benefit is that when you move up in the ranks you have a vast network of experience and colleagues to use. Principals have been at maybe a dozen schools and have worked with hundreds of people. Everyone knows all the people at the board of education. So why do I hate it?

            All the gained knowledge at a school resets every year. When someone figures out how to wiggle a plug to get a projector to work or how to slide a door to get it unstuck, all that goes down the drain and we re-invent the wheel. Anytime I had some agreement with a vice principal or the person in charge of English or my schedule, I have to completely re-explain and re-build that relationship each year. Sometimes a bad teacher will leave and a good one will come in, but at the same time sometimes a great teacher will leave and a new unsure teacher will come in and bring the train to a screeching halt. I partially understand it, but completely hate it. I know foreigners who deal with Japanese companies hate it too. When they have an agreement or deal going on and then April comes around and the person changes (usually without giving notice to anyone) everything must start over.

            Without trying to sound too rude (ruder than normal) Japan is just noisy. When I go into a restaurant all the clerks YELL ďwelcome to the storeĒ in Japanese. YELL IT. When kids come into the teacherís room they announce loudly ďMy name is _____, Iím here to see_____Ē. I find it rather disturbing, but they donít in Japan. Trucks ride by neighborhoods BLARING election announcements or selling things. There are three chimes a day announcing it is now 6am, noon, and 6pm (we have clocks thank you). When itís the end of the term all 26 of us foreign English teachers are supposed to barge into the BoE and tell the main guy ďwe safely finished this termĒ. HE KNOWS THAT. Why do we all have to disrupt everyone by telling him that? Because thatís whatís important in Japan. Itís not a disruption, itís polite. That is SOOOOO hard for me to get used to.

                       

Dear Japan, it is now 2010. PLEASE CATCH UP.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010

I AM LIVID.

 

I made a video for a class and played it yesterday at Konan. It worked fine even though my computer there is 8 years old. Then today I brought it to Tadano Elementary and asked to play it in class and they had to search around for a PC that would play a DVD.

            Did they have to search for a computer to render HD video ? No, that would be an understandable problem. Did they have to search for a computer to record audio? No, that would be an understandable problem. Did they have to search for a computer to compute the expanding speed of the universe? Again, no that would make sense. They had to search for a laptop computer that would

PLAY

A

#%$&-ing

DVD

            UNREAL. This is 2010 Japan, please catch up. Why are we still using computers from pre-2000? Those are literal dinosaurs. Finally they found an old clunker that actually took 7 minutes to play the DVD. Fine, I will use it. So then I get to the computer room and start the lesson after having tested the laptop and now it wonít connect to the projector. Crap!!! So I try to swap it over to the teacherís computer which will SURELY play it. But, again we are still in Japan where nothing makes any logical sense in any way shape or form. The computer would not play the DVD. I spent the whole class fighting with them, but neither would work and the class was a disaster.

            Japan, this is 2010. Please allot more than pocket change for education. Having computers that wonít play DVDs at a school is truly embarrassing. I mean these are DVDs, NOT BLUE RAY. That would be understandable. DVDs have been around since 1995, that is 15 years, and you still have computers in schools that canít play DVDs. That isÖthere are no words to express how lame that is. If you werenít aware, some educational material is available on DVDs, but I guess you wouldnít know because that would make sense.

           

So Busy, butÖ
Friday, May 28, 2010

            I have been sooooo busy lately, but I love it. It makes me manage time better, it makes the day go by faster, and it makes me feel productive. Last year I had about 2 classes per week at Konan, but this year I have 4-5 on Tuesday and 3-4 on Friday. Man it is great being this busy. Iím extra busy now because I have an adult conversation class on Tuesdays that requires a ton of planning and I am also working with the skit contest students, the speech contest students (at two schools) and then planning full loads at another elementary school. It sounds like I am being sarcastic, but I actually love being busy and not sitting around. Granted I got a lot of programming done last year, but thatís not what my job is.

 

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