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Big Fatty.
Wednesday, October 1, 2008

            I went to buy a track suit recently so I can wear it at school since I hate wearing a stupid tie. I also want one so I can exercise some at school. I went to Xebio (Zay B Oh) and looked for the largest size they have. I canít pick out colors I like, I have to find the biggest thing they have and see if I like it. I have to do that with shoes as well. I found a 2-piece set that was 3X and tried it on, but it didnít fit since I am a big fatty. So now I will have to order something from the US and have it shipped over.

            Today being October 1st means we are supposed to wear a suit and tie to school every day. Since I ďdonít understand the advanced Japanese wayĒ I ignore this rule and donít do it. We can actually wear a suit through the entrance and then change into very casual clothes then change back when we leave. Itís all about appearance here.

            Some good news is that I have been eating salads for dinner and losing weight. The guy who is between the BoE and the AETs / NTs told me about it and I tried it. Granted sometimes I eat two salads, Iím still eating healthy light food and a lot of greens. I need to get my blood quality back up and I think less food and more light greens will do that. I have lost just over a kilo which is about 2.2 pounds and I hope to keep going. I think it will work since I would previously workout at night then eat dinner such as sushi and then get sedentary and go to bed. Now I do the same except I am taking in far less calories. Iíll chart the progress and see how it goes.

            I had one class today that was schedule, but the teacher forgot so I just sat here typing this. Awesome. Thatís not sarcasm as one would expect, I have grown to love sitting in the teacherís room doing nothing. Especially since they told us we cannot bring our own computers to school and the computers we use are all in Japanese and have no useful programs on them. At least I am paid well and have great health insurance.

Friday, October 3, 2008

            Today I have 3 classes on the same day so I knew something was up. I looked at the schedule and found the whole chorus club had gone away. It would be rude for these students to miss other ďrealĒ classes, so mine are scheduled. It always happens. If I have 1-2 classes a day every day then there is nothing going on that week, but when I have no classes one day and then 3 another, half the students will be gone for some reason. In Japan you learn more about being ďJapaneseĒ at school than about learning academic stuff. That is saved for after school cram sessions and self study.

            I went to Ose yesterday and it was average. I had two classes and then I read some and walked around a bit. Itís amazing how much I get done without access to a computer. I did realize I am addicted to the convenience of computers, especially ones connected to the internet. In the two classes we learned about ďhave toĒ and ďmustĒ and their opposites. The kids looked at some manga I drew and it seemed to go over well. I should really move on to anime though.

            After that I went to NISPO and worked out my back and biceps. I like working the biceps because I can feel a burn while I do them and then the next day, but I can never feel anything from my back. I think itís pretty strong since I added a lot of weight yesterday and was still able to lift it, but it just wonít burn. I found a new exercise for the biceps that makes them burn like a forest fire. Or should I say burn like Tabasco? Whatever, they were hurting.

            Then I did laundry at the place by NISPO. I have a washer at home, but the one at this place really gets things clean. It tumbles them whereas mine at home spins upright and I just donít get the same vibe from it. When I watch the washer at the place I get excited seeing the clothes fall over into the soapy water, knowing they are really getting cleaned. I should fine better things to get excited about. Then I get to dry them which takes about 40 minutes as opposed to 3-4 days when I have to hang them at home. Plus they donít smell like the Bounce dryer sheets at home and they are smooth. It only costs about $10 to wash a big load so itís totally worth it I think.

            I have to decide what I will do for Christmas break although it will probably involve the Thai orphanage again and then somewhere down South. My friend Larry might go from Atlanta as well as a few other people. It wonít be that expensive since I know how to do things cheap and where to stay. Iíll need to start saving for that. I have been sending $600 back toward my big totally unnecessary school loan and I hope to do that every month. I could send more, but I need to send at least that much to make a difference.

            Today I had a weird feeling all day. It was just sort of a blah thing. I had an extra thing of soy coffee this morning and then I had an actual real coffee drink in the hopes that it would pep me up and help me get some stuff done, but none of it worked. I still felt sluggish and blah all day. Maybe I am depressed, but also hyped up from the coffee. Hmmm, I donít know. Actually in one class the kids were working on something and then just before the bell I walked out and came back to the teacherís room rather than doing the usual closing ceremony. I donít know why I did that.

Monday, October 06, 2008

            Itís raining outside. Itís not pouring, just heavy drizzling, if that makes sense. Itís perfect today since Iím in a drizzly mood. I worried all weekend about my class with the 8th graders. Many students are advanced and my classes always lack challenge and luster. In a word, they suck. The reason is many students are advanced, yet many are well below average. When I have a lesson half the kids are bored or half are completely lost. That gets tiring and difficult after a while.

            My second class, and only other class today, was really blah. I tried to play scattergories, but it didnít go so well. I wrote the word ďschoolĒ on the board and then ďSĒ and explained they had to make as many words as possible related to ďschoolĒ using S as the first letter. That part went great and some groups came up with clever things, but when it was time to check it got boring. Then we did it again and it was even more boring. That class is also hard to teach because some are interested and others act like idiots. A few kids just get up and walk around the classroom like a zombie since thereís no real discipline in Japan and they know there is nothing I can do.

            Iím really getting tired of living in Konan. I love the town and the school, but living here is really tough. Not because the 7-11 just closed, though that makes it more difficult, but mainly because I am usually completely alone. I like myself and can amuse myself, but sometimes itís like a minimum security prison. I have gone entire weekends without speaking a word to anyone and sometimes I donít even leave my house. If I have food then thereís just nothing else to do. The worst is when I am feeling down and want to talk to someone or just not be alone so much. Then I have to drive all the way into town, find someone and force myself into whatever they were doing, then drive all the way back. Whereas if I lived in the city I could say ďhow Bill is home, Iíll go over and chat with him for a whileĒ. I do better in situations where there are people around me. If I were married then living in Konan would be great or even if there were several other single teachers in the building (preferably who donít have families nearby and didnít run away every weekend), but living there completely alone and it being so far away makes it really hard.

            Now I go to another school once a week that is closer to town. I could feasibly go there twice a week and or to another school once a week. There are two elementary schools nearby that a friend goes to, but I could visit them occasionally. If that were the case it would make sense to live in town. Even now I wouldnít mind driving out here 4 days a week if I had a place in town, but if I were at other schools closer then it would be far more justifiable. Plus I usually have 1-2 days a week here with no classes since I am completely underused in the elementary school. I did hear that might change in April though so that the 5th and 6th graders would have English once a week. That would give me 5 classes a week plus any I went to with the Japanese English teacher. I could still do all that in 2 days a week.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

            I have been in a slump recently. I more or less know why and much of it has to do with being so isolated in my small town. I just donít have any motivation to get out and do stuff nor do want to get together with people in town. I know that would lift me up a bit, but itís a vicious cycle. What I do love, and no sarcasm here, is when I see peopleís Facebook photos and stories about how they were IN my town not more than 5 minutes away from me and didnít call me up. In their defense it would have disturbed my busy day of sitting alone in my apartment doing nothing. Man that is awesome. I love it. I donít think I could physically love it anymore than I do.

            Someone is having a gyoza party in a few weeks so that will be fun. It will also be the day of the National English test and the day between the school festival days (Friday and Sunday). So I canít stay in town and drink, but thatís no big deal. Iím not really looking forward to the school festival either since I am always pushed aside somehow. This year I had a big presentation planned and once again told all the right people several times and I even made sure it was only 5 minutes long. Then when the festival schedule came out I noticed I wasnít on there and got the hint. It would be too direct for me to say ďWhat the #Ē$%? I told you I had been working on something.Ē I will make sure it happens for the farewell party in March. I might even do something for Ose as well since their seniors are nice. Sometimes nicer than Konan which is odd since Konan is a smaller country school. I wouldnít mind being an NT there as well.

            Today I am going to take some vacation time and go see the 5th and 6th graders play basketball and soccer at some elementary school in Koriyama. Then Iíll just go workout and come back. Iím going to try to buy some pumpkins and have the 6th graders carve them sometime next week or maybe the week after. I found a place that sells them for a reasonable price. Most places charge something stupidly Japanese like $50 per pumpkin (Iíve seen melons go for hundreds of dollars - MELONS). This woman charges $10 each, but she has some for $5 so I will get 10 or so and have the kids carve them (and hopefully not themselves) sometime as an international project.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

            I was an idiot today and thereís no excuse really. The first thing is they told me the BoE would be coming by for a surprise inspection today (we are told in advance so no oneís feelings are hurt) and yet I didnít wear a tie or suit. I even thought about it, but I just didnít. No real reason why. I just didnít wear one. Everyone else is in a suit, but Iím Mr. Casual in a sweater. At least it is a high collar sweater and not really clear I am not wearing a tie.

            Then there was an English class with the 2nd years and I just didnít go. In my defense the English teacher rarely asks me to go and I usually inject myself into the classes. What other job in the world do you have to force more work for yourself? So I knew the BoE people were here, but I thought it was only for the physical inspection of the school. I didnít know they would be stepping into various classes. The vice principal came into the teacherís room and asked why I wasnít in the class. I had no good excuse unless I wanted to rat on the teacher for never telling me. I just mumbled and acted like I couldnít read the schedule.

            On a brighter note, I had a great chest and tricep workout last night. I actually walked for 30 minutes before on the treadmill and then 38 minutes afterwards. I was listening to an audio book by Haruki Murakami called ďAfter DarkĒ. He has nice prose, but Iím not a fan of the stream of consciousness ongoing pointless commentary. So far itís just about a guy chatting with a girl in a restaurant. Thereís no conflict or real reason to keep reading other than I just want to see if there is some point at some point in the book. I do like his imagery though.

            Oh about the workout, I really pumped the chest and made it burn. Then I tried a new tricep workout and found I was able to do a few more kilos than usual. I worked out the triceps pretty hard at home on Sunday and I guess that helped. Iím going to keep pumping them hardcore for a few more weeks and then take a week or so break from working out. Eating the salads at night has really helped me lose some weight. I eat so much less (and so much better) than I did just last year.

Friday, October 10, 2008

            I am amazed sometimes at how compartmentalized Japan is. Everything about it fits into a certain place and things near each other usually are connected. Even if they are similar or related. There is a certain time and place for everything.

            Yesterday there was an observed class here and the English teacher had a big class. It was in front of all his peers so he couldnít fluff anything. When itís for parents you just need to get their kids speaking something, correct or not, and they love it. ďDid you see my boy, he was speaking real English to the foreign teacher. Wow.Ē But this class was for his peers who would cut through any BS like a hot butter knife. There were 70 teachers, plus all of our teachers so nearly 100 people total watching his class. He has been preparing for a month and constantly asking me if certain English things were ok. Today I asked him how it was and he said it was great. I asked if he went home and had a beer or two and he acted surprised and said no he hadnít because the official ďwell doneĒ party was tonight, not last night. I said ďyea, but yesterday was the stressful day and maybe you would relax after the stressful event, last night.Ē He replied that the proper time to relax would be tonight at the party, not before. He is just holding in, or ignoring, his relief until the appropriately specified time to release it.

            Once I was on a little tour around town, years ago, with an international club of sorts. We looked at various historical sites on a bus. I was really interested in the whole trip since we were seeing some authentic places that were over a hundred years old. Apparently it was a different experience to the Japanese people on board. We were told specifically when to feel nostalgic about certain places, and then when to stop feeling that way. A similar thing happened in Thailand about 4 years ago at the Bridge over the river Kwai. A Japanese tour group was walking around talking about the tragedy that ďhappenedĒ there (even though it was the Japanese themselves that caused it, but they ignored that). At one point they were told to feel sad about what happened here, and then they were told to stop feeling sad. The moment had passed and now it was time to think about lunch. Things, such as emotions, can be turned on and off as the time and place permits.

            I think I am going to try to get my job duties changed again soon. Again this will be in the BoEís favor, not mine. What I will be proposing is they give me more schools for the same, or less, pay. How awesome is that? I really want to move into the city and that would be more possible if I went to other schools once or twice a week. Konan doesnít need a foreign teacher 5 days a week. Iíd say 2, maybe 3 times would be fine. Starting in April I will only have 3 NT classes here per week since there will be only one class per grade, and then about 6 classes with the elementary school. Even if I came 2 times a week, that would only be 9 classes and that would be fine. That would give me 1 other day to go to Ose (where I had 5 classes yesterday) and then 2 other days for either other schools or one school twice or Ose twice and another school once or any other possible combination.

            It would be so nice living in the city. I would only drive when I had to come out here and Iíd buy a bike for everything else. That would be so nice no worrying about parking or gas or what that noise is under the hood. If there were a train that came out to Konan I probably wouldnít have a car at all. That would be a big savings since this whole next paycheck will go to paying the car tax in November. Just when the dollar is really weak and I would make money on the transfer I wonít be sending money back. Poo.

Poorest Planning Ever.
Sunday, October 12, 2008

            I went to the big palette International Festival with a new Koriyama ALT named Angela. She volunteered to work at it for a while and I wanted to go get some international food. When we arrived they said the lot was full, actually all lots were full, and we had to park at the Culture Park. Ha ha, I thought you said Culture Park, but that can't be right because it is 5 miles away. Yep, that was right. We drove until we found this random amusement park in the middle of no where. When we pulled in the guy acted surprised that we were there and didn't know where we should park. Then he moved a cone and let us park right up front. We got on a shuttle bus and headed back for the big palette.

          When we arrived I took her straight to where the FuJET booth always is. It has always been in this one area of the convention center. I noticed there were tents in the parking lot and all around the building. Classic Japanese thinking to plan several things at once. We couldn't find the booth or any booth that looked remotely like where we were going. Then we saw two people involved with JET and they told us the FuJET booth was:

A) outside
B) in the parking lot
C) at the absolute far end of the lot

          I had a moment of WHAT THE %#$@ and then I remembered I was in Japan and things rarely make any logical sense. So we walked all the way out there during a wind storm and noticed there were hardly any people outside in the windy sprinkling rain. Why would there be hardly anyone outside in the windy sprinkling rain? The few people that were out there were watching a tradition at this festival. The tradition is that there MUST be a stage with music that is way too loud and usually completely UNinternational.

           Here we have a band of Japanese guys who occasionally played a Beatles song and then played some Japanese songs. There will always be a semi-almost famous local group like this to attract people to the International festival, otherwise people (especially young people) would not come.

          Finally we found the booth near the end and Angela started to work her magic on some kid. Luckily she was a design major and has some drawing skills. Other volunteers were only drawing Japanese flags or easy things. I was bored so I went in to explore the inside and find some good International Food at an International Festival.

           It was foolish of me to think there would be international food. Apparently this year the reason it was so big was that some other educational festival invited the international association to join up. Once that was set in stone the EF people explained it would cost $3,000 per booth to be inside the building. Ah, hence the reason the Fukushima International Festival is outside at the end of the parking lot. I also heard that all the food booths were only Japanese traditional foods since people might be uncomfortable with international foods. I can understand this. I too don't want to eat the garbage those peasants eat. Who wants to mingle with lower people? So typical.

          What was even more typical was a common Japanese custom related to reserving seats. I always hate it when I go into a restaurant and see people go over and put their bags down and then go get in line. It seems logical to me (ah, I am using logic) to get your food and then find a seat. But what I saw today was a stretch and really annoying, but it didn't surprise me. I saw an empty table and wanted to get it, but as I was walking toward it someone jumped in front of me and grabbed it. That's absolutely classic Japanese and though I was mad, I expected it. The woman put some bags down and then left. I bought some overpriced-less than enough curry rice and sat on a concrete block near the table. I noticed after about 5 minutes no one was there yet. Then I saw the woman and her family watching something on a stage and not actually getting food. I ate slowly and waited and still nothing. Finally Angela came back and she took my pole-seat and ate while I went to go look for something sweet. I found it and came back and still no one was sitting there. Then I went inside the big room and walked around a bit and when I came out, still no one there. The family was still watching the stage and just reserved the table for whenever they got around to eating. A few minutes later when Angela finished I saw them come to the table and sit down to eat after about 25 minutes of hogging the table.

          Inside the hall there were some cool educational displays like the aquarium truck that also had some portable aquariums with cool stuff in them. Other than that everything was a bit too educationally serious for me.


            Outside there were some interesting booths like the one related to building with wood. It was in the international section even though it was not about international stuff at all. It allowed people to do something with the wood. I didn't mess with it even though I like hands on things. Then on the right there is a picture of a boring "Why we should not litter" booth which, oddly enough, never had any people at it.


          I have never been to one of these festivals that wasn't annoying in some way. This year it wasn't due to poor planning by the guy that planned it, but moreso by the Educational Festival people that used this festival to make theirs look bigger. They are going to get credit for having "500 booths" even though the festival end got the shaft. Putting people outside in the parking that is uncovered....bad idea. When it rained or looked like rain people fled. Having a festival take up the parking lot completely and then restricting all the other ones around the event...bad idea. I would have said forget it if I had been alone or if Angela hadn't agreed to work at it. It was a huge hassle driving 5 miles across town and parking somewhere else only to get on a shuttle bus that left every 45 minutes. We had to wait about 30 minutes when we decided to leave since there was not another bus for a while. They expected 10,000 people to come and it was closer to 2,000. Hmmm, I wonder why.

Knock Knock.
Monday, October 13, 2008

            Today was a school holiday. I was leaving to clean my car this afternoon and there were two women in the lobby of the apartment building. They started rambling on about something and I said I didn't speak any Japanese (in Japanese) and then one started speaking English. They were Jehovah's Witnesses and started with their little speech. I told them I wasn't interested and went on my way. I knew they were going to knock on the doors of the unoccupied apartments, but I didn't care. I just wanted to get away.

            I think the thing that annoyed/annoys me the most is not that they are going door to door selling their religion. Or as Elton John says "handing tickets out for God". What really annoys me is that they send non-threatening attractive females who appear to be there against their will. I almost felt bad enough for them to talk for a bit, but I just resent the whole door to door disturbing me idea. It had me really annoyed and as I cleaned my car I thought about why they would do this. Surely 99.9% of the people who they visit say NO or something less polite. Can't they just post billboards saying "Hey, here's our church, come by if you want". I was really in a tizzy about it all.

            Then I started thinking about what it would be like to just drop in to a new church. I mean a church of all places would be about the most welcoming place I could imagine to cold visit, but still there would be that whole idea of dressing up and diving there and then actually going in and having people look at you and wondering who you were and all that. If you had a friend that went there then it would be so easy, you just go with the friend. But if you knew no one at the church and you were thinking about going, but didn't want to go alone, what would you do? Well that would be the perfect time for two non-threatening women/girls to stop by and offer to talk. Hmmm, looking at it like that I can understand it. And they don't come by enough to be annoying, just often enough to find new people who might have moved in since their last visit. Plus they do stop and leave the second you say you aren't interested. Next time they visit I'm still going to say I'm not interested, but I won't be so annoyed by them.

In Excess.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008

            I made about 80 gyoza to make sure I remembered the recipe. A friend named Sarah and I are having a gyoza party at her place this Saturday. It should only cost about 500 yen ($5) per person to eat as many gyoza as they want. Gyoza are cheap to make, but sell for about 50 yen per piece in some places. I can make them for about 3-5 yen each. I should start a restaurant, even though cooking nothing but gyoza would get boring fast. Anyway, I made the usual size batch to see how much it would make and it made about 80. So I will quadruple it and add a bit more meat and it should be good to go for the 10 people showing up. I donít imagine I will eat that many becauseÖ..

            I had a major headache after eating all of them in one day. I think it was from the excessive soy sauce I took in. Soy sauce being pure sodium i.e. salt. It started as a blood pressure headache which is the very top of the head for me. Then I took some medicine to lower my BP and later it was a regular back of the neck headache. I took some regular Aleve for that and it quickly went away. The only thing I like about having a headache is when the medicine kicks in and it starts to tingle away. Iíd rather not have that feeling if it means having the headache first, but if I have one I look forward to that feeling. Itís probably something like my neurons being eaten or destroyed, but it sure feels dandy.

            Then I woke up at the usual 6am and hit snooze 5 times because I realized I had left the window open when I woke up at 3am with the neck headache. I was freezing and ended up turning on my wall heater and then taking a long hot shower. It was one of those where I didnít want to turn the water off although I had finished well before. I was just spinning around the shower and dreaming about having two faucets. Whenever I buy a house I am going to have a fat shower with two nozzles on opposite walls. Iím not looking forward to the cold weather setting in. Iím going to pull out my electric blanket tonight.

            I figured out what that noise was in my car. I donít know if I mentioned that before, but if not there is some annoyingly loud squeaking noise in my car. I assumed it was nothing major since the car still runs, but it squeaks every time I hit even the smallest bump, which is basically every foot. I searched around and compared both sides of the back end and found it has something to do with where the axle connects to the frame. Axles and frames seem like such small insignificant parts of the car so Iím not worried. Nope, not a bit. I mean what would happen if they completely separated? The car would crumble to pieces and crash? Well that could be fun. I have my yearly mandatory car check in early November and I expect it to wipe me out financially. Any money I had started to save will be spent on that. Awesome. I love having a car in Japan. Photo The frame and the rear axle support completely separated from it.

As Planned.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008

            I bought 14 pumpkins for my 28 6th graders last Monday. Iíve been planning this for a while and it came out nearly completely as planned. The only thing that would have been better would have been to have two class periods so they could go a bit slower and have more time, but we started 10 minutes early and went 10 minutes over and that was almost enough.

            I paid 500 yen each for 14 pumpkins and had no intention of asking to be reimbursed, but the 6th grade teacher was so impressed with the class he pulled the money out of the 6th grade fund to repay me. It came at a perfect time because I am broke and thereís no longer an ATM in my stupid dumb head town with stupid dumb trees and stuff. Anyway, I kept them in my car and didnít go into town last night because I didnít want anything to happen to them. Then I cut the tops and cleaned out the insides since I knew that would take the kids 30 minutes. It would be about 5 minutes of doing it and 25 minutes of whining about not wanting to do it.

            This morning they finished their morning stuff around 8:20 and then had the mandatory morning greetings and stuff. Finally they finished everything at 8:30 and I went on. I had told a few kids that my class this week would be awesome, but I didnít tell them what it was going to be about. They assumed it was some new computer game I made, but they were wrong. When I went to the front of the class I told them about what we do in the US as kids around Halloween. Then I said one thing we do is carve pumpkins. Finally I said ďI have 14 pumpkins in my car right now, so letís go carve pumpkinsĒ. Their jaws dropped and they cheered which is the reaction I wanted. Thereís always the chance that they wouldnít care or be bored, but I love this class and knew/hoped they would be excited. I rarely see pumpkins around Japan so I was pretty sure they donít carve them.

            We went down to the front of the school and I had pulled my car up to the front. I had the kids spread out two big tarps, get into pairs, and take a sheet of newspaper. Then they lined up and I dished out the goods. Then I gave them some sample faces on a printout and a marker and told them to choose one or make their own. I didnít mention that complicated faces or ones with curves would be tough, but most went with some variant of the old standard. A few went with curves or stars or difficult things, but it ended up ok I think. About 5 minutes before the class was supposed to be over they started cleaning (which I had planned to do alone) and then we took shots of the pairs with their pumpkins. Then a group shot, which I will treasure. Finally we were finished about 10 minutes after class was supposed to end. Actually it was about 5 minutes into the next class, but that was apparently a free class. Overall it went almost exactly as I planned and I am very pleased. I hope their parents are pleased when we display them at the school festival this Sunday.

Down and Out.
Thursday, October 17, 2008

            Itís out school festival today and Sunday. Tomorrow morning I have to be here at the school at 8am to help administer the national English test. Thatís fine. Then after that I am going to Koriyama to help host a Gyoza Party called Gyozapalooza. Well only I call it that really. This morning when I got here everyone asked if I was going to play basketball on the teachers team during the festival. I quickly remembered something I forgot at home and said I couldnít participate since I had to run home. The truth is I donít do sports (at all really) competitively. If I am goofing around then maybe or a few guys having fun then maybe, but when stakes are high or people are counting on everyone doing their best, then I donít participate. Basically I am a terd when it comes to sports. I donít know all the details and rules of basketball and usually do something stupid. Itís really like watching a newborn horse trying to stand up for the first time. Youíre like ďehÖcome onÖalmostÖeh I canít watch thisĒ. Plus when they made me participate two years ago the red pullover jersey was grossly too tight and short. I looked ridiculous and it really highlighted my obese stomach of which I am embarrassed by easily.

            The kids and teachers are all happy and working intently preparing for the big part of the festival on Sunday. I, on the other hand, have no real duties that I can do at school and Iím just wandering around doing nothing really. This is the part of the culture I hate. Everyone has a job and is focused on doing that job as best as THAT PERSON can. Sometimes I will offer to help because there is something I can do efficiently, but itís not about that at all. If I were to help it would put someone out of a job. So I usually get brushed off, either politely or abruptly. After that happens about 10 times I start getting introverted and feel like hiding or running away. Itís rough feeling unwanted, but itís something you get used to in Japan.     

            I canít really watch the festivals anymore since I have figured out they are nearly identical. Itís like a template they use every year and only change the song names. Everything else is identical. The girls dancing are doing the same dance as the girls last year, to a different song. The choruses are singing different songs. All the skits are nearly the same. The song the teachers sing is the same. The taiko group is playing the same song as last year (and years before) and doing the same routine. Our video is nearly the same. I have put in several hours in making the video and most of the time was spent on the subtitles. Since having to read or listen to simple English would be too much for the babied students. Someone might feel left out if they didnít understand some part. When we were filming I even told them kids to not worry about mistakes since no one was listening, everyone was reading the titles, and even if they were reading they couldnít understand the English anyway.

            Iím having some problems making the video so I went home to try and break it up into smaller chunks and then put those chunks together to make a whole movie. There are some stupid Windows errors so I ended up having to buy a whole new program. Iím using Sony Vegas Movie Studio 9 which is affordably priced and has nice features. When I installed that program it too had problems and wouldnít load. I set in a help request so maybe that will be ok later. Argh.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

            The school festival is today. I just showed the English game show video I made for the elective English class and I realized that I truly do not understand Japanese culture sometimes. The video was great, but they didnít laugh at some parts that were really funny. They did laugh at some parts that were horribly mundane. I mean like a guy walking down the hall. Someone standing up. Someone sitting and turning her head. Those parts were hysterical. Itís like the word ďblueĒ they would laugh at that like they were at a Steve Martin concert, but something funny caused them to just sit there.

            Luckily the video before was horrible and that made us look a little better. Basically the video before us involved them having no script and just turning on the camera and filming. Then the kid that gets really hyper surprisingly got really hyper and they filmed that. He was just yelling, barking, chanting, babbling, and clapping for about 2 minutes. It was so far beyond the point of funny or anything that made sense. I wanted to read over and stop the video it was so bad.

           The funniest thing about the whole festival was the anti-climatic ending which was even moreso this year. They always build up to the same thing, pulling a string and some ball of confetti opens and it falls down on the two student council people. This year they pulled it and it did nothing for about a minute. They were both totally confused as to what to do so they stood there looking it at in total silence. Then the ball opened and it fell. There was so much waiting time after they pulled the string that I was able to pull out my camera, turn it on, debate about whether or not to take the photo, and then actually take it.


Just staring at the ball.                                     It finally fell.


          Later the teachers got on stage and performed some song. It was nearly all the JHS teachers, but not me. I have hinted that I could play bass or something for a few years, but they never seem to invite me. The punishment in Japan for anything is to be excluded from a group. I'm not saying I was being punished, just that that's how they do it. There was a big party in town after the festival, but I didn't go. I wasn't in the mood to be sober and be ignored.

I had typed a lot more, but the computer locked up and I couldn't save it. Oh well it was just me whining anyway.

No Longer Festive.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008

            The big news of the day is that my car is dead. Completely kaput (which seems to be a word). It has been making a nasty sound for a while which gradually got worse. Then it stopped when I went over a big bump in the road. I searched to find what it was last week and saw the rear axle had separated from the frame. [see entry above with photo] I knew it was either going to be expensive or it would be the end of this car. When I took it to the repair shop in town (one I know and trust) he showed me how the frame had rusted out completely and told me I couldnít drive it anymore and that it was amazing I hadnít had an accident with the curvy roads around here. I wasnít terribly surprised since I had seen the problem and knew frame issues are big. He gave me a loaner for a while and said he would search for a car. Someone at school is also searching for me.
The photo is of the loaner.

            This time I am going for smaller and cheaper. I am going to stick to my budget this time. Last time I set a budget and the car place came back with the dead car at about $1,000 over my budget, but I went ahead and took it. This time I am going to stick with it and say maybe $2,000 total. Iím tired of buying cars in Japan. As often as they are mandatorily checked by garages here I should be able to get a decent one that lasts a while. Plus I rarely drive it.

            So this pretty much crimps my winter travel plans. I wasnít really excited about going anywhere for some reason, but now I donít think I can do anything. Maybe I can travel around Japan with someone else who is staying or someone who might visit. Big bag of poo. Maybe I can find the money somewhere and still manage to get out of the country even if itís only to Guam or South Korea, but I doubt it. More poo.

            Hmmm, another odd thing is the big public observed class coming up in November. Sometime last month the English teacher told me I would be teaching and asked who I wanted to teach. I said the 1st years so I could do a listening and reading activity. Then I didnít hear anything about it for a while so I asked today. He looked at the schedule and saw I wasnít teaching any class. Apparently when he wrote me down as being with the first years that meant ďok unless anyone else wants it, then youíre outĒ. Itís fine with me in the sense that I donít have to worry about preparing a great class like I do every year, but also disappointing in the sense that I look forward to doing a wild media-filled class that blows peopleís minds. I wasnít even told that I was off the schedule, but that doesnít really surprise me.

            Today I am going to some other school after lunch to see an observed class. That will be fun, but after that there is some boring meeting all in Japanese for about an hour or more. I went to it last time and it was interesting. It was actually at Ose where I go on Thursdays so it gave me a sneak preview of the school. More on that and the car matter when I get back.

A Loss.
Friday, October 24, 2008

            Having my car taken away on the spot was like losing a distant relative or friend suddenly. Iím not crushed or heartbroken, but I had done things to it that day and made future plans for it and now all that is gone. I filled up the tank, gave it a good $10 thorough wash, cleaned the inside, I was planning to buy some fancy wheels soon and a new radio/speaker combo, I had already bought winter tires for it, and I had attached an auto engine starter. All that was wasted now and it was so sudden.

            When I got to school the VP said the guy from the car place came yesterday (when I was at Ohse) and explained a few things. Basically he has a car or two that he wants me to look at. Itís not a k-car (which means small and cheap), but it is semi cheap and I think I can pay over a few months. Every time I decide to pay down some loan with some spare money I have a car issue. Every time without fail and sometimes it has been nearly the exact same amount. Itís truly amazing in a way that makes me want to pull my hair out. The last time it almost happened was when I had an extra $300 from the Bush Administrationís Stimulus Package (i.e. we donít need to send this money to Iraq, so you can have it back), I was going to buy an iPod. The garage said it would cost $300 to fix my brakes. Instead of doing that I decided to drive it until the problem got worse (although I still didnít buy the iPod). Itís good that I did that because now I donít have to pay for the brakes since the car is scrapped.

            Yesterday I went to Ohse and it was a really slow day. I actually shouldnít have gone, but they had me on the schedule to go. I had one class and then sat there more or less doing nothing. Actually since there is no computer for me to use I always get caught up on reading and making lists of things to do. This time I planned some lessons for next week when I have 4 classes. I plan to make a video for the 7th graderís lesson about ďwhat time is itĒ and ďhowís the weatherĒ. Itís based on a web-chat with people from around the world.

Finally something cool.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008

            Well I think I found a car that I can afford and itís actually cool. This would be the first car Iíve ever had that I thought was really cool. I always buy cars that are economical and safety and reliable and priced right. Iíve never had anything that I thought looked really cool. But this car is actually affordable and cool and long. I think I can lie down in the back with the seats down.

            My first car was an Oldsmobile Omega. Think of what your grandmother drives and thatís it. But it was my first car and I have fond memories of it. It was not the Delorian that I wanted, but that was too expensive anyway. The Omega was affordable, but not cool or overly reliable. My next car was a graduation gift and it was brand new and semi-almost cool. It was a free new car so I loved it and it was reliable for the first 10 years, but I drove it hard. I used it to go to and from college which was 4 hours away. Then I traded it for a great Honda Civic, which was stupidly totaled by someone with no insurance so I barely made any money off it. Then I got a used cheap manual Nissan truck which was almost cool, but it was so old and basic that it had some problems.

            Yesterday I took the day off so I could get my blood checked again. It was better than last time and some tests were in the normal range, but still not where they should be. I think itís because I havenít worked out for 2 weeks and ate poorly a few times when I had no time for a proper meal. Then I went to the board of education and asked them for the stupid form that proves I have a parking space. You canít buy a car without one. The guy said it would take about a week even though itís just filling out a form and stamping it. So I canít buy the car until next week sometime. Iíll have to get up to Fukushima city somehow and buy it then.

            Itís a white plate car which means gas will be back to $70 per tank and other fees will be more as well. For some reason the smaller yellow plate ďcheaperĒ cars are actually not cheaper. They cost more than the big white plates, but taxes are cheaper and so is the stupid inspection every two years.

            I spent several hours at home and then more here early this morning preparing stuff for the 6th graders. Then minutes before the observed class the teacher said he changed the plan and none of my stuff was needed. Thatís ok since he does it a lot and Iím used to it. His kids are going to be great as 7th graders when I get to teach them alone since heís prepared them so well. The problem is only when we are teaching together that he goes off plan and usually excludes me or something Iíve prepared. Itís no big deal though.

            Iíve been super productive this week and I donít know why. Itís not like I drank some coffee which made me hyper, I just planned a few things well and actually got them done. Monday I worked on translating several things for a project. Tuesday I did all that stuff around town. Monday I also filmed some parts for a video I made for Ohse JHS. Itís me talking to another version of me about ďwhere are youÖIím in AtlantaÖhowís the weatherÖ.Itís cloudyĒ. Tuesday I finished it and made it into an independent DVD with subtitles and menus. Today I am typing this in class during an activity. Last night I also made a print out for the 2nd graders and then some stickers of my face. I give them Ryan Stickers after each class.


            And the Universe has spoken. And it has said ďHA, you thought you were going to get a cool car that you liked? Nope, you are destined for the standard plain economical reliable car. Forget the cool cars you saw in Fukushima city. You can only drive a smart car your parents would be proud of.Ē And it shall become so.


            I called the local mechanic to tell him he no longer needs to search for a car. When he answered he started saying ďHey Ryan, great news, I found a car for you and I already bought it and itís already on the way.Ē So I couldnít tell him to un-buy it. Iím not sure what the details are, but itís a 4WD small Pajero Mini. I think itís cheaper than the ones I saw (the cools ones) so that will be a plus. The other thing thatís a plus is that this place knows the place I bought the scrapped car from and that place feels bad that the car they sold me a year and a half ago is now junk so I heard they MIGHT be taking care of something related to the car, but I donít know what. Iím now depressed because I tried to escape who I am and I couldnít. Iím the guy that drives reliable economical cars.

Not Needed.
Thursday, October 30, 2008

            I mentioned that I made a video for Ohse JHS to be used today. It took about 6 hours to plan it, film it, capture it, edit it, and make the DVD. I was so excited when I got to Ohse because I wanted to show them the video that was perfectly matched to the lesson. Then we did the lesson and didn't use the DVD. He said we would use it next week. Then he came back later and said he would be on a business trip next week so there would be no classes with the 1st years so I won't have class with them for 2 weeks and by then the lesson (and video) will be long gone.

          It was depressing that I put all that effort into making the video and it wasn't used. I'm not mad since things like that happen all the time in Japan. Just this week on Wednesday a teacher had me prepare tons of stuff in color and print them all out and do about 4 hours worth of work. Then just before class he said he changed the plan so none of it is needed. You get mad the first 382 times that happens, then you get used to it and laugh it off. I'm really not mad about the video since I learned some things about making videos and I can make a better one next time. That's one thing I love about my Native Teacher classes. No one gets in the way of what I have planned.

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