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Tuesday, November 1st, 2005

Yesterday I went into town to kill time and do some small shopping. I bought some socks that have slots for your toes. By "your" I mine "my". It takes me about 2 minutes to put them on, but they are warmer in the long run. Then I bought a heavy duty nail clipper since I have a funk-a-delic toenail. Maybe that was TMI, too much info. Other than that I ate at KFC, though I really wanted Curry House, and I had Starbucks coffee. I also look at digital cameras since my current one has no zoom and only takes big pictures.

When I came back I cleaned a bit and then set up my heated table. It's an odd invention, though also very smart. It heats up nicely and a blanket goes over the top to seal in the freshness, or the heat. It's never broiling and won't burn my legs, but it keeps them toasty. It's hard to get out from under it though. Hard as in I don't want to get out. If I move my laptop over there then I may never leave. Well it's 7:30am and I am off to school for a short week.

As you were.

Thursday, November 3rd, 2005

Today was/is a holiday called Culture Day. I had nothing much to do so I went into town. By town I mean Koriyama. I did pretty much the same as above so I won't write much more about it.

Tuesday was a busy day. We took down all the decorations for the culture festival. It's amazing how fast 50 people can clean up a school. In the morning I put a note in one girl's shoe locker. She is the girl that I have been helping with the stilts thing recently. She is really an inspiration. She never cries when she falls, she actually laughs. The most important thing is she never quits. She just keeps getting up and trying again. So the reason I wrote the little note was she has gotten much better. She can now walk about 10-15 steps. So the note had my face drawn in it and "congratulations" in Japanese, and a stupid drawing of her on stilts.

The best part was I happened to be near the lockers when she saw it. She grabbed her shoes and shoved her feet in and then pulled one out and put it back in, then out and then she reached in and found a piece of paper. Then she opened it and her face just lit up. She didn't see me so I moved away. Later I went into her classroom and as soon as I walked in, she pulled the note out from under the plastic mat on her desk and showed me. She was so happy and that made me happy.

On another note, the little brat is really ticking me off. Apparently she hasn't changed and still plays mad. But I ignore her and that makes her more mad. What was bugging me was that I was in the library with cute little Haruna. She was doing math and I was helping her. Another girl, Maya, was nearby. The brat and someone else were at the table across the way. After a while the brat called Maya over to the table. Then Haruna. Then she said something rude to me. So I snapped and fussed at her for a minute in English. She had no idea what I was saying, which was good. Anyway...

So lunch at school is always good, but never enough. I can't tell if it is not enough because I always over eat, or because it is just not enough. I think it's just not enough, because I always see other teachers looking to see if there is more. I'm truly glad that it is tasty, other JETs and ALTs have said that their school lunches are nasty. But I really and truly think, at least for the teachers, the servings should be enough to fill the bowls. We already use bowls and plates from the elementary school, so really we should be able to have enough to fill the bowls with soup, rice, and the salad. Sometimes teachers near me give me some extra helpings, but not always.

I have decided I am no longer going to wear button up shirts with no buttoned collar. I just hate the way they look on me. Others can wear them and look fine, but I always hate the way I look in them. I wore one this week and accidentally had a V-neck t-shirt under it so I looked really stupid casual. I hated it and I'm either not going to wear the shirt anymore or have the collar buttoned down.

I've decided that maybe I will start learning magic as my creative outlet. Like card tricks and what not. I think I could be good at it and it's something I can practice when I have free time. I already know a few simple ones, and I think I can learn more. More on that later.

I hope tangerines, or mikans as we say in Japan, don't go out of season soon. They are always at school in big boxes and I usually eat about 10 or so during the day. I assume they are in the orange family and chocked full of Vitamin C. Now that's not something I say much. Chocked full  of something. But hopefully they are. They are small and tasty and hopefully healthy for me. I think I will have one now.

[moments later]

I think one of the purposes of me being here at this school is to make me lose weight. Every day pretty much all the kids come up and touch my belly. I mean really fondle it. It's both annoying and a good reminder to lose weight. I should lost some because I can't eat as much in this little town, but I can't always eat right since there are no stores super close for me to buy decent food. I can probably eat better once I get a few more things paid off.

They are building a deck between two buildings at school. It's going to be completely and structurally overbuilt. It will span about 20-30 feet. Before there were stones where students could step across. Now understand to get to the other side they can just use two hallways. This only saves them 10 seconds. Here's why it's completely overbuilt.

$10,000 deck will last forever.

First off, they took away all the other stuff and blocked off the area. Then they dug down TWO FEET and poured this thick and secure slab of concrete. Then they marked it all off into little grids. Now they have drilled big lag screws into each cross section of the squares. They are putting the deck on these screws. I'll take another picture, but know that this deck is over $5,000 maybe more and could easily have been much less.

Sunday, November 6th, 2005

The Koriyama Halloween party was Friday, though a few days late. I went, dressed as nothing. Maybe I was lame-o-man. Anyway, I had a decent time, although I hate the club. One local Koriyama JET DJ always throws parties. From a DJ point of view it's a good club. It's narrow and makes people pack into the dance floor right by the stage. So it always looks like there is a lot of people and they are all having fun. But from a participant point of view I hate it. I will show you why via an interpretive dance.

[moments later]

Well perhaps that wasn't as explanatory as I had wanted so I will draw a small drawing of why I am displeased by the club in question.

Koriyama #9 DJ Club

Yellow dots are people. For the record, people smoking, but that's a separate issue. So the entrance is down on the bottom right. You go into a staging area where people are chatting and mingling. Then you go through two sets of swinging doors. You always smack someone, or get smacked, when the doors open. Then you walk into the non-moving line of people waiting for one guy to serve them drinks. Actually it's 4 lines of people merging to the one guy. It's the dumbest way to serve drinks I have ever seen. If they had another person serving they would make more money. I stopped drinking, because I was tired of waiting in the 10 minute line.

Then there is no where to stand, because people are already standing everywhere. There are about two benches which are never free. Oh wait do I have to go to the bathroom? Let me weave my way all the way through the whole crowd to get to the single dual gender bathroom in the far corner. I just hate it.

Apart from that, the party itself was ok. It was much better than the Fukushima JET party because more Japanese people came and more people dressed up. I think next year we should just have the Fukushima party in Koriyama, though I would prefer a bigger club. This one maxes out at around 100 people. I would also prefer if they had a costume contest since that would make it more of a Halloween party and less of a regular DJ party. For as big as Koriyama is there is not a big selection of clubs.

Then Saturday I came back and did nothing much. Oh one good point was as I was having dinner on Friday, or rather after I had dinner, I was walking back to my hotel. I passed a Koriyama JET and he invited me out to dinner with himself and two girls. So I said ok, I really wanted to go back to the room and rest, but I have been trying to say OK and YES more often. So as it strangely turned out they were hot and spoke English well. I have been emailing them since the party and I think we will go out again sometime. One girl's father speak English fluently since he lived in Las Vegas for 10 years as a casino bouncer. The other works for a dentist that speaks English in Koriyama. Technically, he speaks English everywhere, but he works in Koriyama.

Tuesday, November 8th

Today was an easy day. I had no classes that I had to prepare for. Just ones that I was an assistant in. I don't mind it really since they use me properly. In the morning I got a package from somewhere. When I opened it I found it was my hacky sacks that I ordered. I showed a few teachers, then after school I showed some elementary school kids. They were decent. Well a few were others just wildly kicked. They seemed to enjoy it. Maybe tomorrow I will play with some JHS kids and they will be better.

Then I got something else in the mail that was funny. I will scan it later so you believe me. My friend, Michelle, who is mentioned a lot in the old website journal mailed me a postcard. She did so because I told her I was the only foreigner in the town and someone could probably mail a letter to:

Resident Foreigner
Koriyama city
Konan town
[postal code]

So that's what she did and sure enough it made it. To be honest I think you could get away with Foreigner and postal code only, and Japan. So I will scan that later and put it.

Man it has been raining a lot recently. That means when it gets cold, we probably will have 10 feet of snow like everyone says. They started busing all the kids to school, even the ones that live locally. I asked why and they said "because when it snows you can't walk where they haven't plowed, it's too deep". As much as I don't like cold weather, I hope we get an obscene amount of snow. It would rock to have like 5 feet. I could make little tunnels and...I'll stop talking like I am 5 years old.

After school I did something I feel really good about. Some kids took a National English test recently, that I assisted. Those that passed level 3 now have to take an interview test on Sunday. So this week I have been preparing them. I told them how it works and gave them practice tests. They will at least be far more prepared than if I hadn't done anything. I really should have helped them before hand, but it surprised me. I mean I knew it was coming and then procrastinated, and finally it was test day. I will do better for the December tests.

I'll take a picture of all this tomorrow, but I took a small nap in the counselors office today. In between classes for about 10 minutes because I felt cruddy. So while I was snoozing I saw a 2 foot by 2 foot tray with sand and small figures in it. The counselor uses it to tell stories or have the kids explain something. I'll take some pictures and try to fill in what I think the story was about.

Thursday, November 10th

Ok here is my version of the counselor's sandbox story.

Well the color ink jet printers don't work. There is a note saying we are out of ink. No surprise there. We pound those printers. It really bugs me sometimes. We print 10 full color pages per person at 30 copies for a 10 minute meeting and then throw them away. It's so wasteful and I am certain we have a minimum paper quota with some paper company.

On Wednesday I played Monopoly for two hours with one of the smaller classes. It was fun, but I kept landing in Jail for some dumb reason. ARGH. Hulk no like. Then I walked around asking students if they wanted a kiss. They would look at me funny and I would say too bad and hold up a Hershey's kiss. Then they would beg for it and I would make them say something random in English.

Oh this is funny. I was helping some students prepare for an English interview test this Sunday. I first explained what would happen and then gave them mock interviews. I helped students for 3 years at my old school so I know how to do this. So the last question is always about the student. When they answer Yes or No I follow up with why or why not. So they all had similar answers. One student was having a little trouble and I felt bad. There is nothing more I can do since I don't know the actual questions. But then we get to the last question and I asked him "What is your favorite sport?". He said "Baseball". I followed up with "why". He blew me away.

"Baseball is by far the best of all sports".

Ha, wow. What was that? Where did that come from? 3 minutes ago you were struggling with "what is your name". Clearly you memorized this. I hope they ask you this question because I fear you are going to say it no matter what they ask. Wow.

I was surfing the web at school today for something completely different and came across a belief-o-matic quiz. I took the quiz and found out I have a 100% match to Taoism. Interesting. I'm going to google that and see what it's about. The next highest was some flavor of Buddhism then some other things I had never heard of. Some other things of which I had never heard. Some other things that being heard of never have I. Ok, moving on.

Oh well I guess that's it. As you were.

Sunday, November 13th, 2005

I was up at 6am, I will explain when I get back from Koriyama city. But for now, here is the scan of the postcard proving I am the only foreigner in my entire area. The post office that delivered it services about 5,000 people but they brought this card directly to me.

Proof it's a small small town

I think you could get by with only:


Well I am going to Koriyama to do some minor shopping. Mainly because I have nothing to do today, but I do need a few things from town. Mainly just checking prices. Yesterday I went to the Sukagawa Fire Festival, but more on that when I get back also. It's about 9:19am now and I am tripping from all the coffee I drank. Over and out.

Monday, November 14th, 2005

Going radio silent for a few days. I go to school all day and then take a taxi to Koriyama city for English Camp with a student at night. All the Koriyama JETs go and we all spend the night in a YMCA type place and teach the kids Intensive English for a few hours each night. I go with one student, but most schools send two.

Today, and Friday, I put up English signs all around the school. I mean I put up around 100. They have the English in blue and the Japanese (awkward) pronunciation in red. I hate teaching that way because they end up saying things like "myU nameMU isZU" which is how they have to pronounce things. But for the younger kids there is no other way. They don't learn to read English until JHS, and not even recognize letters until ES 5th grade. Here's an example:

Office in Katakana

Like I said, I put up around 100, and there are far more places I can label. Other than that it was a usual Monday. Well we had a really good and heaping lunch. It is hard to explain, but here is a shot of all the teacher's trays set out in the teacher's room:

And here is a close up of one plate. Not necessarily my plate, but one.

Japanese School Lunch - Kyuushoku

As you can see, even though this is what I consider a "good meal" the soup bowl is about 3/4 full. The rice bowl, which is the smaller elementary school size to begin with, it not full, and there is empty space on the plate. But usually there is no meat strip, or if there is then there is no veggie dish, or not nearly as much. So this was a good day. There was a lot of food (relatively speaking) and it was all good. I actually gulped it down while I was sitting in the announcement room waiting for Eri, a student, to do the lunchtime English Listening time with me, as seen below.

She read some historical thing first then we did our short English thing.

Lastly, I have two of Japan's greatest inventions. The heated table, and the floor chair. Japanese houses aren't really insulated, by not really I mean not at all, so people sit under heated tables and use lean back chairs. I am under this all the time and don't want to get out even to pee.

Japanese Heated Table - Kotatsu


Sunday, November 20, 2005

Had a busy week, hence the lack of updates. From Tuesday to Friday I had an English camp in Koriyama with one student. Students from about 20 schools came so there were about 60 kids total since some sent two or more. For 2 hours the 25 Koriyama JETs and the new Koriyama Native Teachers played games and chatted with these kids. They are the upper level English students from all around. And some of them were really good. Others were average. Overall it was fun.

Thursday I had a class in the elementary school 3rd grade. We learned about food. For some reason the book includes sushi and sashimi. So Japanese kids were practicing pronouncing Japanese words. Very effective.  But before I got into the new lesson, I briefly review insects from the previous lesson. When we got to Spider, I asked if they wanted to see a spider. So I brought over a big cup with a napkin on it. I stuck my finger in there a few times and then shook the cup. Finally I just hurled the contents of the cup into the class. It was a small wadded up piece of black paper with strips glued on to look like legs. Flying through the air it must have looked like a spider. The kids squealed and jumped out of the way. Then laughed when they saw it.

For lunch that day we had Natto. It really turns my stomach, even the stench of it. It really smells like someone wore socks for a month and sweat in them. Then dipped them in vinegar and wore them for another month straight. Never taking them out of some airtight shoes. Finally they took them off and put them inside a rotting dead body. Then put them on a plate. It's honestly the worst smell I have ever smelled. My nose can't even fully compute it. Other than that a few days this week there was a lunch mix up, in our favor, and I had quite the full stomach. Then at night we were well fed at the English camp.

I'm going to see Sumo in January. I'm partially organizing the trip to be honest. Corey from FuJET is doing most of the work, but I am arranging the hotel and stuff when we go. I should have my new camera by then and will be able to get some great shots. My old camera, apart from general sucking, just sucks. It takes nice big clean pictures, but the charger is crap (from day one) and there is no zoom. Well there is this joke called digital zoom. They should really just say "how much do you want the camera to crapify your photo, 1x, 2x,4x,6x" cause it really does nothing else.

Oh, I've done this really mean ghost video prank on 4 of my 6 classes. I have a video that starts out like a car commercial. I tell the students it is a car commercial and a ghost was caught on film. I tell them to look really close and listen carefully. The car drives and drives and then a nasty looking zombie creature pops up really fast to a nasty scream. Everyone squeals like a pig when it happens. Even with no sound it's nasty. Let me see if I can capture the screen.


Well maybe later. Not wanting to work now. It's actually a German coffee commercial. Oh I have found a Wal-Mart type store in Japan. It's is truly wonderful since things are not only priced reasonably, but really cheap. They have pretty much all the same things as Wal-Mart, and at the same prices. It's only a tad smaller too. I went there today for a little bit, but man it was crowded. I mean I waited five minutes for a parking space in this huge lot. Japanese people can get nasty when it comes to parking. Actually I guess all cultures can be like that. People are stupid in the US about it too. "Even though you have been waiting by this spot for an hour I saw it from across the lot and therefore it's mine".

So tomorrow is Monday and I go back into the city to have a meeting at the BoE and then go to Fukushima city to pay some bills. I have to buy my Thailand ticket and pay some stupid phone bill from August. Japanese utility companies are, in all honesty, physically incapable of charging a bill twice if it wasn't paid the first time. Once they try to pull it out of your account and it gets rejected, that's it. They cannot try again. I have to drive all the way to Fukushima City to pay this stupid bill or mail it to some random address with some note written like a drunk 6 year old.

Money.................here I make pay.................boom boom...............money is pay...............where is pay money..................who take money with pay.................too much doody in my tummy..................take money......................send receipt to place........................this place...............................tummy................

Something like that. I suppose I will get Indian food while I am up there. I want to take the shink so I don't have to worry about driving and parking and fighting city traffic. I am at a disadvantage when I drive. I am a foreigner. If Japanese people run a red light, it's because they understand something bigger than us all. If I run it, I am just a crazy foreigner who can't follow directions. It gets annoying.

I'm starting to narrow down what drives me crazy about Japanese culture. I will update my cultural disparities page, since heaven forbid I say something bad here. While I am doing that, check out my guestbook. Some 12 year old said I have lame jokes.  Well he is right, I do have lame jokes. I admit it and take pride it in. Though they aren't as lame as some 10 year old saying he is 12 and writing that in my guestbook.

Monday, November 21st, 2005

I am very much angry yes. Well not so much angry anymore, but I wanted to use that wrong English line. I had some European guy say that about something else and it was very. Very much funny yes! No seriously, I had a busy day full of ups and downs. First I went to the Board of Education and sat for an hour. Then I took a bus and then the shink to Fukushima City. While there I paid some phone bill that was overdue, paid for my Thailand ticket, then had Indian food. Then I came back and did some shopping in Koriyama. It felt really good to get things paid up and changed. Oh I also updated my mobile phone account so it auto-deducts. So I was feeling good from all that.

Then I come home and tinker around for a few minutes at 4pm. Then I decide the "Japanese" thing to do would be going back to school and getting some work done (by getting some work done I mean showing my loyalty to the team by returning to work (by showing my loyalty to the team I mean just sitting for an hour)). So I did that. I thought about my classes for the week. Then I thought about the special class I have to do for the parents in December. They are coming to school to observe classes one day and of course they want to see the foreigner's classes. So I am looking at the plan for that day and I notice it's for December 4th. Oh that must be a typo since I am going to Tokyo on December 3rd with some people for my birthday.

Nope. I have to teach one special class for parents on Sunday morning. That is the second time I have had a weekend ruined for a one hour event. One class Sunday morning at 8:30. Why? Why not on a day when we actually have classes? Because that would make sense.

Now you think I am whining, but I am actually starting to think in Japanese. We had to show up last Sunday for one hour to clean the school with parents and locals. It could have easily been done:

A) By students during the week
B) By teachers after school during the week
C) By anyone else on Sunday evening.

But no, it was done by teachers and locals at 6:30am on a Sunday. Why on earth would it be 6:30am on a Sunday? Seriously?

So I had this huge rant all worked out in my head about it. Then I get there and everyone is really happy about cleaning the school. The locals were all excited about taking part, the teachers were there early (even the ones who drove in from Koriyama and left their house at 5:45am), once I woke up even I was into the cleaning. I asked a teacher why it had to be at that time on a Sunday, and he said "it's the Japanese way". I felt my blood boiling because that is the anti-answer, the NOT-answer. As I was about to speak in tongues and drop kick my own head across the parking lot, he said "it's the Japanese way, but it really doesn't make much sense. But then we Japanese never complain or make waves".

So I cooled off and went back to work. That's all I really wanted was one person to acknowledge that it made no sense to be there that early.

So when I re-read the December 4th schedule and confirmed it was for Sunday I was livid. I had already made plans and was really looking forward to the weekend and there was no reason for me to have ONE CLASS on a SUNDAY.



But then there was some voice in my head saying "you know, if you think about it with your Japanese hat on, it makes a little sense" and I cooled off. Sometimes Japanese culture is really difficult, coming from a culture that is quite often completely the opposite of it. I don't assume my culture is the most logical, but it's what I know and I can usually defend it without resorting to the NOT-answer. Though the more I live in Japan the more I start to peek under the culture blanket and get a glimpse of the inner workings.

Oh other than all that, I found a twice daily bus that goes from my small town to Koriyama station. Which could be a nice thing, but I need to check on exact times and details before I go into town with out a car. I would prefer there be a train line near my place, that would make the situation near perfect, but it's alright without one. It makes it more peaceful.


I forgot to mention, I went to the store and saw no less than 10 kids. They were all with their parents and came in over the course of 15 minutes, but still it was odd (and nice) seeing that many kids. While I was there I took steps to be certain I don't catch the common cold, and possibly the flu, for a while. The common cold, and possibly the flu, are kept in check by Vitamin C. What fruit has a lot of Vitamin C? Oranges and probably tangerines. I bought a big box of Japanese tangerines for $10. Seriously, I bought like 50, maybe 100. Don't believe me?

$10, can you believe it? That makes each one like 1 penny, or 1 yen or something. Man that's awesome. I eat like 5-10 a day. I'm going to overdose on Vitamin C.

Wednesday, November 23rd

I stayed the night in Koriyama because I went to an uneventful dinner party and had a bit to drink. Eat time I drink I feel bad earlier and earlier so I am going to cut down on the drinking as much as possible. None of that is important. What is important is what I did today. I went to a few places to do more shopping and bought some more needed things. One was a new computer chair because I broke the old. Not on purpose, just because I am a fat greasy slab of hog meat. I'll add some pictures below. But I also bought this:

It was only $30, or 3,000 yen. It's really small, maybe it is just longer than my hand. It is remote control and the controller takes 6-AA batteries. Then you plug the remote into the plane and it charges the mini-battery. So I brought it home and charged it while watching sumo, which is a growing interest of mine. Then I heard some students out side so I took it out to show them. I turned it on and threw it.

It flew straight up onto the neighbor's roof. The 2nd story roof. I don't mean it flew around for a minute, it was like it was programmed to be on the roof. On-throw-roof. But the 4 second flight was fun. I think I could fly it in a gym. It seemed to turn really sharp and fly slow. Maybe I will manage to get it stuck on the inside of gym's roof or something.

Here are the chair photos:

old chair

new chair


red chair                               blue chair


Sorry about that Dr. Seuss tribute. Anyway, I broke the old chair because I weigh too much for it. The back gave out recently. So I found this new one for $80 or 8,000 yen. It was a display model. I said I wanted to buy one and they said they were sold out. So I said how about this one and they repeated they are sold out. So I said, "no this actual one here, this one here, this exact one". I'm sorry we are sold out. Then I picked up the chair and said it again. There was twitching and I could see computation happening. Then he walked in the back and came back out in 5 minutes and said not only could they sell it to me, but they would mark it down 20%. Sure. Plus I didn't have to assemble it at home, and they cleaned it up to look brand new. But who cares how it looks, it's a cushion for my butt.

So that was a good deal and it pleased me. I also bought a shower rack for the shower from my new favorite store the Wal-Mart duplicate. Other than that I bought some magazines for an activity tomorrow. I'm going to write things on the board like "find a man running" or "find a boy playing". I'm really going to emphasize the -ing tense of the verb (not correct grammar there). I have about 10 magazines and tonight I am going to sort through them all and find tons of examples. Ok over and out for now.

As you were.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Friday was my birthday. I spent it at home. Alone. Crying in the corner. Well I was alone at home, but I didn't cry nor was I in the corner. No big deal. I turned 34 and there is nothing special about that age. Saturday I did nothing worth mentioning. I wanted to see the sumo match at 5pm so I stayed around until then. After that I didn't feel like leaving so I just hung around.

Today I went a  lot of places. First I went to Curry House in Koriyama and had some good cheese curry. Then I went by wanna-be Wal mart and bought nothing. I spent more time trying to park since it was packed. Japanese people are interesting in parking lots. They never look where they are walking. No less than 10 people walked out right in front of me. Since I am on to their evil plan I pay attention for them. Then I went to Starbucks and by Yodobashi camera to look at my birthday/Christmas present I plan to buy soon.

Then I went to Xebio (zey B oh) sports to look at wide snowboards. I want to get into that but I need to buy my own board since my feet are so big. I found some good deals on no name brand boards. Around $300 for the board, the what they are called that connect the boots to the board, and the boots. That's a good price for me starting out. Then I will buy some cheap snow clothing for about $100-200. If I go three or four times then it will pay for itself. I think I will go at least that much since I have nothing to do on weekends and I live so close to some good slopes. If I get better and enjoy it then I will consider a season pass and maybe upgrading my stuff.

I did find out some bad news today though. Not bad in the whole scheme of things, but aggravating. I have this certain mobile phone that I hate with a passion. It's a poor design. Its got a "Flat Panel Speaker" which means the whole top piece is one big speaker, but it's not really and I can never hear people. I hate it. So I wanted to change phones. Well that will cost $300 to change phones. WHY? I paid for this phone, I will pay for the new phone and I will continue the contract. Why do I have to pay $300? Stupid. I'm not canceling anything, just changing phones. I'm going to see how much it will cost to cancel the contract, though I already know the answer.

Nothing much going on this week. I have a full week with usual classes. Then on Sunday I have this special class where parents can watch. It has to be a "observable" which means it won't follow the master plan. It will just be some class that is entertaining to watch and shows them really having fun while learning. Sometimes I do lessons where they are writing or doing something with paper, but this class needs to be up and moving about. Plus I have to speak a lot of English, even though the kids won't understand me.

Japanese people have this false belief that teaching a language completely in that language is more effective than mixing them. At some point, yes, the target language should only be used, but for 5th grade Japanese kids they need both. It's odd to me that when foreigners take a Japanese test, everything is in Japanese. All the directions and all the instructions and of course the test. But when Japanese people take an English test, you would think it would all be in English, but no. The directions and instructions and other pre-test stuff are in Japanese, then the test part is in English. Strange. They teach Japanese completely in Japanese, but they teach English mostly in Japanese. Odd I think.

Ok, the Yokozuna, Asashoryu is about to go at it in the last match of the Kyushu basho so I am going to stop typing and watch it. I think I will set up a Sumo info page after I go to the Winter Basho in January. Over and out.

Tuesday, November 29th

I've had a bad headache for a few days now, but only at school. Well really only in the teacher's room because the heaters are automatic and set too high. Plus they are set on Sahara Dry. To counter that we have about ten humidifiers around the room, and those ten spots are nice and humid. One foot from those ten spots, well we are back to the Sahara. Also at home when I try to sleep my throat gets dry. It was bad last night, but tonight I am going to run the crappy humidifier all evening and then all night. I hate doing that because there is a film of water all around my apartment, and yet the air is still dry.

At one point the teacher's room was so hot I couldn't breathe. I really don't like how the heaters and air conditioners (what few there are) are remotely controlled by the main office. The teacher's room was so hot I had to go outside in the cold ice/rain and breathe deeply through my nose. Actually I prefer to be a tad cooler in the winter, well all the time really. I get really uncomfortable when I am too hot. Especially when I am wearing a lot of clothing (because it is winter). Last year, and the 2 years before that, I would hate to go to traveling schools during the winter because I would have to dress warmly for the long walks, but then on the trains they would have the heat on 900F. They would never take into account the hundreds of bodies filling the cars. People would stand by the doors so they could cool down slightly when they opened.

I don't want to jinx it, but I think I broke the brat for good this time. She kept ignoring me and I kept having extra fun with all her friends. Finally I wrote notes to all the people that sit around her and put them in their shoe lockers. One morning a complete circle around her was showing their Ryan Notes. The last straw was one time in the hall I was playing that jump game with her friends. She came up to try and without thinking about it I turned and grunted and shooed her away. It was a day or so later that she became friendly and since then she has been nice. We chat and I help her with math and learning kanji. Then we play this stupid chase game. But we are apparently friends so I will just go with the flow and remember how to handle it next time she gets moody.

I had a minor fo-pa. However you spell that fauxpaux. Goof, mix up, language mistake. A teacher asked me to class and I quickly looked up "barely" to say "I can barely speak", since it was early and my throat was hurting. So I looked it up and said something like "I can speak about being bare naked". He said no just stick to the lesson. Then I repeated it slightly different and he understood and corrected me. That's all I need is to be the creepy foreign guy talking about nakedness with Japanese kids.

I looked at snowboards over the weekend. I think I might invest in a cheap one in January. I will wait until after the Thailand trip since I need money for the orphanage, and to be honest, some for the $5 massages. The legitimate massages are only $5 an hour and they are good. The saddest part is that's the wickedly marked up foreigner price. I can't imagine how cheap Thais would get massages there. I know food is half price or less. I am also hoping to get a new digital camera soon, definitely before the trip and preferably before I go to Tokyo in two weeks. Well a week and a half-ish. I want to take some pictures while I am there of various things. Depending who all goes, maybe I will go into a love hotel just to get some photos. It's cheap if a couple goes for 2-3 hours to "REST", so we could pay it and just chill. They only allow couples of opposing genders, so I will have to find someone else interested in seeing inside one.

Tomorrow and Thursday are test days starting 2nd period. So I will have negative zero to do after first period. Maybe I can prepare some things for future lessons. Actually I was debating calling in sick since I feel like crap, but maybe I can get by without doing that. I really only have one more class to prepare for this week, but I have those observed classes on Sunday that have to be extra special. Argh.

Wednesday, November 30th

It rained last night. About 3am I woke up for some reason and heard it had stopped raining. There could be two reasons why. First, maybe it just stopped raining. Second, maybe the temperature dropped and it turned to snow. I have been hoping it would just snow to get that out of the way, and finally it did.

Our first snowing, how nice.

I can't take a picture because my stupid old camera won't work.


Yes it is snowing. And it snowed all day off and on, though it really didn't add that much. It got a tad warmer so the snow melted a bit, then it started coming down heavier around lunch. If it's gonna snow, I want it to be ridiculous. I mean like 5-10 feet at once. That would rock. I couldn't imagine 5 feet of snow at one time. But anything less is just annoying. Well anything less than 2 feet is annoying. 2 feet and beyond is a novelty, and slightly annoying, but more to the novelty side.

I don't like cold weather in general. I have no problem with snow itself, apart from driving in it, which I have actually never done. I mean in the US I would drive in the 1cm of snow that melted before noon, but I have never driven in actual snow. I have been in cars while driving in real snow, but never driven. Anyway, it's just the cold weather part I don't like. Although there is a clean pureness to cold air. It always smells fresh and I like that. I mean hot humid summertime is more likely to stink. I don't really like peak summer either. I guess I Don't like the extreme weather peaks. I prefer fall and spring. I wouldn't want to be in an environment where it was never cold necessarily. Well maybe, I do love Thailand. But it would be nice to have not as cold-cold weather and for a shorter time. Or be able to vacation somewhere cold and return to my nice warm Thai beach house (the one I don't have yet).

Since I don't like wearing a lot of clothes (not a nudist, although it would have its perks) I would love to live somewhere like a Thai island where it's always that no-temperature temperature. You know in the late summer in the evening when the air is calm and it isn't hot cold. Maybe even a degree or two to the warm side. SO I could wear loose shorts and a loose t-shirt. Or no t-shirt if I had a better figure. I could relax on the beach and watch the sunset. It would have to be Thailand because things are so cheap there. I would be like a millionaire, though not really.

I'm starting the final approach to my Thai trip in late December. I'll be gone for over two weeks. It's a long time, but the warm weather will be nice. I really hope we can get to Laos as well. I'm going with some people who have never been to Thailand so they will want to do some sightseeing and I will probably show them around. Laos, man I can't believe I might be going to Laos. I have never even heard about it until a few years ago, and I certainly didn't know where it was. I need to get to Vietnam at some point and that will pretty much cover my SE Asian countries that I want to visit. Well I want to get to Singapore at some point though. I'll check into Singapore from Bangkok while I am there, but I imagine such short notice would be pricey. I know there is a train that goes all the way to Singapore, but I have heard the Malaysian part of the trip isn't so fun. Something with immigration or changing trains.

As I mentioned before, I had one class today. It seems a tad wasteful that I have to sit here all day for two days, though I have 2 more classes than I would have had at Fukushima Higashi High School. It's just that since there is an elementary school in the building, why can't I go down there for some classes. I can't just pop in since it is so disruptive. The kids love playing with me and always run over and talk to me. Sometimes when they have art or something where they are scattered around the room I might step in. But not for normal classes. Although during late August and early September I studied Kanji with the elementary 2nd graders. That's because we are on the same level. They might even be a tad advanced over me. I think I am going to write a little letter to the brat and two other girls who were in the library yesterday. They wanted me to write something and include a sticker. Oh the days when a sticky piece of colorful paper was the highlight of one's day.


Even though I broke the brat as mentioned above, I can see she is still going to be an issue. Today I gave her and two others a little note with a sticker. She grabbed the other two and chose which one she wanted, then distributed the others to her friends. She acts like an only child even though she's not. She is the youngest though, and maybe accustomed to getting her way.

Well it is still snowing strong, but not really sticking on the roads and ground. There is a part of the school where the roof overhangs and snow has been falling from the roof. It falls in big groups and it's somewhat avalanche like. I didn't think it would be a big problem, but when I put my Japanese-thinking hat on, I can see it will be a major issue. Someone has already taken pictures, sent them to a computer, made a printout, and guess what else...WILD GUESS!) made 30 full color print outs of the problem area. Even though we can easily see the problem area from the teacher's room and the morning meeting is on Thursday, tomorrow, we still need a color printout of the area. Of snow falling. Of this dangerous life threatening place that we can all see from our desks in the teacher's room. [update] There was a mistake on the full color printout so they scrapped them all. What kind of mistake would warrant trashing them all? So then they started to print them out again and there was a problem with the color printer and/or with the file so they ditched that full color idea and made the exact opposite. A hand drawn notice about the snow. Better than the full color booklet about it, but seriously, why not just announce it. "Hey be careful of falling snow here, and tell your classes".

"Hello, Japanese school? This is the paper company. We heard a vicious rumor that you made an announcement rather than printing a notice. This displeases us".

Well I knew we could order sumo tickets tomorrow, but I tried to call today to see if someone was around the office. Sure enough they were and she answered. After I struggled for 10 minutes in my broken Japanese (an oddly her hearing my broken Japanese) she finally said "how about we speak English?". Yes how about that. Why not say that 10 minutes ago when I said "me want tickets buy. buy buy tickets how. money have tickets want". Clearly that is a foreigner, someone who doesn't speak Japanese fluently, why not at least ask if I speak English. Statistically there is a good chance a foreigner would speak English, so why not try. Either way I filled out the form and faxed it back. So I should know something more tomorrow. We are trying to take 45 people and that's a big group.

It's nice to watch the principal. He is a really nice guy who worked his way up through the ranks to this respectable position. In a true Japanese way he flaunts that position occasionally. I'm used to people, even superiors, asking if something is ok or if I am busy. Granted some upper level people won't, but I seem to remember most people being like that. But in Japan, when you are a superior, you just boss people around in an amusing way. He will come out of his office and just tell certain people to do things and they jump up and do them. The people just below him, the ones still trying to prove themselves, ask if something is ok, but the top dog just tells people how it is. It's quite entertaining to watch these strong willed personalities turn to Jell-O and run around doing whatever.

I think I have mentioned it before, but out of the 5 people living in my teacher's building, I am the only one who walks to school. I find that amazing, because it's a 4 minute walk. 6 if I stop at the store. Without any exaggeration, it takes longer to start a car, knock the snow off the top, and wait for the windshield to be visible than it would to drive to school and back home again. That includes catching the one light. The really odd thing was one teacher who lives in the building asked which way I walk to school as he would have "no idea" how to walk to school. The only possible reason I can remotely imagine is because the Board of Education once asked if I drive to school. I told them I walked, after I chuckled for a minute. Then they said it would be good if I drove so they can insure my car as a public vehicle, somehow. So I said "OK I drive to school". I do drive to school occasionally to make sure that is a factual statement.



Ryan McDonald 2005, for information about using images or text please click here.