Thursday, September 1st

Had the speech contest today. Both my girls lost, but they did their best and actually they should have at least placed. They were actually, and honestly objectively, two of the better ones. But Japanese (English) speech contests are rarely about who was the best. I know this because I was a judge 4 times for the Fukushima area speech contests. My scores were always totally different from the other Japanese judges (and usually overridden). Our discussions would be like this:

Me: I think #5 was the best, he had a loud voice and natural gestures.
Judge1: Oh #5 was good, but #9's mother is sick and it would make her happy if he won.
Me: What? Really?
Judge2: Yes, and #12 won last year so he can't win this year.
Me: Really? That is totally irrelevant.
Judge1: No it's important. #18's brother is a dentist so he shouldn't win.
Me: What?!?!?

Ok the dentist thing was a joke, but the judging always consists of completely irrelevant things like what area a school is in, who the principal is, who won last year, and so on. It's completely stupid, and yet perfectly acceptable in Japan. Two of the people who won this year actually read their speeches that were supposed to be memorized.

There were 27 people in each group, and they gave out 8 prizes. The first section was Recitation, which is just reciting something that has already been written. The second part is Origination, which is not the right word, but neither is STAFFS, which is on the judging door. It's original speeches. Schools can only submit one student for each section. It was really crap that we didn't win, but I told the girls they should be relieved. They did their best and now they can relax and no worry about another contest.

Although these pics were taken last Tuesday, which was August, I am now posting them to the KIDS page. It's just some pics of the kids. Some are really cute. Konan Kute Kids.

Yea so spelling cute with a K was cheesy, but I can beat it. I have always wanted a cheesy bulletin board, and now I have one. Technically I have three, but one is really cheesy. It's called the Culture Corner. But it's written in a way so there is only one C. Here I will show you.

It's pretty much that color scheme too. I am going to put up cultural things like sumo, baseball, volleyball, famous people, current events, holidays, etc...but explain them in simple English.

My other bulletin board is called Weekly Natural English, where I write something small like "thanks, see ya, what's up (the current one)" etc... Just short things that are fun to say. Over the course of a year they will add up and eventually people will have a nice arsenal of natural English sayings. Another teacher does a daily phrase by the door. Sometimes I offer the kids chocolate if they can tell me what is on the Cultural Corner board, Natural English Board, or the entrance English board. I also put up pictures with Japanese near the elementary school as shown in a below like manner.

These pics are from my winter vacation trip in 2004-2005. I went to Cambodia, Bangkok, and then an orphanage near Burma. Not only is it in Japanese, but I also had to explain the Kanji using what's called Furigana, it's how to read certain Kanji since the young kids can't read some of the Kanji.

If I can find it, the next picture I use will be of me as a kid. The young kids will love it. I should look for it now. Be right back.

Can't find it, and hoping it is at school, which I seem to remember it might be. I left school at 8pm tonight. I think I have been at school longer and had more classes in the week I have been here than I did in all of June at Higashi. I was so wasted on the JET programme. I don't mean I was drunk and high, I was wasted as a resource. I was used as a token foreigner. This new job is the anti-JET, it's so much better and I know I am making a difference. I am motivated and appreciated. Two words I never used as JET. So it's 11pm and I need to work on other stuff and get some sleep.

September 5th, 2005

On Saturday we had a cookout / beach party at the lake near my house. I showed up early and talked to the guy running the place and arranged all the small details. In the end that was a mistake since I am no longer in FuJET nor did I plan the party, but I was doing it since it was near my town. There was a mix up with who should pay and I got the brunt end of it by paying for everyone. But another lesson learned.

Here's my 4,000 yen (~$40) tent that sleeps three small Japanese people or one me diagonally. It's easy to set up and packs up really small. Those flip flops are my friend Juan who had no place to stay.

Today, Monday, I had a normal day. Well normal for me. Here is what I did for my second period class:

 

Yea that's right, I played Monopoly. What a job. Actually it was good for the girls, because I made them say everything in English so they were learning, but didn't realize they were learning. There are only two girls in this class because they chose it. It works out good to have only two in the class. I have another class with 3 and one class with one girl, ironically the girl on the right's younger sister.

If anyone knows how much of each bill, money wise, the banker hands out please let me know. I know it's $1,500 but I don't know how many of each and there were no directions.

On Wednesday of this week I will go to Koriyama city to go to a museum with the 1st years and then the Big-I which is a planetarium. I think it is the tallest planetarium in the world.

Well I just checked and if it is a Guinness World Record they sure don't acknowledge it. However it is listed on this page as a being a GWR, but not on the actual GWR website. It doesn't surprise me that the Japanese just claimed it's a GWR. I have heard from so many people that somewhere in Fukushima is the hottest place in Japan. Which really doesn't make any sense because several prefectures are further South than us. Everyone I talk to from other prefectures always says they have heard their own prefecture is the hottest as well. Here are some things GWR acknowledges about Japan:

 

Highest Jump by a Pig
The world record for the highest jump by a pig is 70 cm (27.5 in) and was achieved by Kotetsu, a pot-bellied pig on August 22, 2004 at the Mokumoku Tedsukuri Farm, Mie, Japan.

Shortest Escalator

The shortest escalator is the moving walkway at Okadaya More's Shopping Mall at Kawasaki-shi, Japan. It has a vertical height of 83.4cm (2 ft 8in) and was installed by Hitachi Ltd. It is some 20 times smaller than the average escalator and has become a minor tourist attraction.

Largest Nuclear Power Station
Kashiwazaki Kariwa nuclear power station, on the northern coast of Honshu Island, Japan, has a total output of 8,212 MWe. It came into operation in July, 1997 to supply electricity to the Tokyo Electric Power Company.

Highest Share Value
On March 27, 2000, the share price for one share of Yahoo! Japan stood at JPY120.4 million ($1.12 million). Yahoo! Japan is the nation's dominant information portal, and the scarcity of the stock contributed to the dramatic rise in price. Japanese company Softbank owns 51.2% of the company, with US-based Yahoo! owning 34.2% . Yahoo! Japan's share price has increased 4,700% since December 1998.

Most Fuel-Efficient Vehicle
Team 'Fancy Carol' (Japan) achieved a fuel consumption of 0.025237 l/100 km (11,193.135 mpg) around a 19.2 km
(11.9 mile) course during the Super Mileage Car Contest 2003 at the Hiroshima License Centre, Japan, on August 24, 2003.


 

Either way, here is a shot of the Big-I. It somewhat reminds me of the movie Contact with that crazy time travel machine:

The thing from Contact.

So anyway, I gotta work on some stuff for school since the internet connection there is slower than dirt and I can't get anything done.

[later]

I have had some emails about how people like the look of the new site, and some about not liking the contrast. I am going to experiment with something now.

What about if I typed in a darker grayish text? Would that make it easier on the eyes? I am just typing more and more to see what it's like. I should really just find some random Latin text. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Aliquam lacinia pellentesque tortor. Nunc semper, ligula et vehicula dictum, sapien eros.Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Aliquam lacinia pellentesque tortor. Nunc semper, ligula et vehicula dictum, sapien eros.

Hmmm, well that is less contrasty. Let me try another shade of gray with more random text.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Quisque elementum auctor enim. Ut sollicitudin hendrerit magna. Praesent tempor dolor ac diam. Fusce facilisis ultricies lacus. Sed dignissim. Suspendisse urna. Aliquam diam erat, accumsan eu, sodales elementum, varius at, felis. Nam nec purus at lectus congue sollicitudin. Donec suscipit consequat orci. Nullam vehicula, lorem id ullamcorper sagittis, leo sapien porta tortor, a ornare turpis sapien mattis eros.

That is technically a light blue. One more.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Quisque elementum auctor enim. Ut sollicitudin hendrerit magna. Praesent tempor dolor ac diam. Fusce facilisis ultricies lacus. Sed dignissim. Suspendisse urna. Aliquam diam erat, accumsan eu, sodales elementum, varius at, felis. Nam nec purus at lectus congue sollicitudin. Donec suscipit consequat orci. Nullam vehicula, lorem id ullamcorper sagittis, leo sapien porta tortor, a ornare turpis sapien mattis eros.

That's a darker gray. I really don't want to go back to the flesh colored look since my dad loves that color. Our house and any car he buys is that color. It's just a blah color to me. I always wanted to change the site, but since it was a 3 year contract I figured I would leave it. Ok, I am going to check these text colors in a few browsers and then think about them more.

[moments later]

Well poo. I checked the colors online and noticed the white text is glaring. It started giving me a headache. So you win. But let me now check which color would be best.

light gray light blue dark gray darker gray

I'll worry about the yellow link color later. Sadly making the text gray with the black background makes the site more dark and morbid and bitter. Though the bitterness will be easing up a bit since the job is great. Although this is still Japan so it's not going to be a happy feel good love yourself site.

September 6th, 2005

Today was another good day. Each day I make it a point to see the elementary school kids as much as possible. Today I played some game in the gym with the 3 years during my free period. It was good exercise and the kids like it. There are a few kids I try to see everyday. Don't get me wrong I love them all, but there are a few that I really make a point to "run into".

Haruna-chan. She is painfully cute. When she sees me she runs up to me yelling "Laian Laian Laian jump game jump game". We play a game, which is not really a game, where we face each other and she jumps and I pull her up to about 6-7 feet. She loves it and calls it "jump game" in English. She's a 2nd year. Mami-chan. She's a 3rd year and a tad shy, but she is coming around. She's always smiling and now runs up to me and we do a high five. Only recently has she wanted to join in the "jump game". I haven't heard her talk.

 So everyday I manage to pass their rooms and wave or something. Sometimes I check the schedule to see when they have P.E. or recess and I happen to walk past. It's not like they would ever ignore me. They always scream and drag me into whatever they are doing.

Today I had an interview for two girls who are trying out for an English camp in Koriyama city in November. It was odd that I be included in an English interview. I mean why would you have a native English speaker check someone's English? Why......

 

BECAUSE THAT WOULD MAKE SENSE

 

And this new school makes sense. Their focus is on me actually teaching actual English. For 3 years I just sat around completely wasted while people around me did the most ineffective things possible. I put up with it because I loved the students and enjoy teaching and I have many friends in the area. I am glad I did because this job rocks. It really and truly rocks. I don't like weekends and look forward to getting back to school. I wake up early to plan for the day and stay until 6-7pm everyday, even Fridays. I am teaching English in so many little small ways and usually through humor. I find it slips in easier that way. When you don't know you are learning, you learn faster.

So I think I am going to go with this color text. It is easier on the eye. If there are any complaints I will consider them, but I really write this journal for me. In ten years I can look back and remember each thing I did on each day. Plus I can see how things change over time, especially if I stay here for a few years. I could feasibly stay here for 5 or more. I don't really want to go back to the US and take a massive pay cut / vacation time cut and work at a job I hate. I like this job and I am good at it. Plus I don't really like the direction the US is heading.

Down is the path I see.

I'll figure all that out later. Oh I remembered something semi-funny. During the class where I was in the gym a few girls broke out crying. No particular reason, just to cry I guess. One boy starting crying and it was funny/sad. He was standing with his back to the ball game action, something like dodge ball, and a ball flew over his shoulder and hit the head of a boy near him. Boy 1 started to laugh but the ball quickly bounced off boy 2's head and smacked boy 1 in the face, knocking him down. He started whimpering and walked off the court.

Anyway, two girls had some "thing" and both started crying. The teacher was sitting with one on the sideline talking to her. The other children were waiting by kicking the balls around. One boy happened to get near the girl and teacher. Another boy kicked the ball at him really hard. Logically the boy moved and the ball smacked, by smacked I mean smacked, the crying girl in the face. There was a loud smack, a slight moment of silence, and then a loud almost comedic wail of crying. You bet the teacher was mad.

I giggled inside then mock-scolded the boys. I looked at them and said in a stern voice, in English:

"Sunflower magical pixie. Raindrops keep falling on my head. How can you eat your pudding if you won't eat your meat. Fungus. Jellybean. Horse drawn carriage". Then I just mouthed the word "watermelon" without actually making a sound.

They just stared at me and thought I was mad. Then I said it's ok and they moved. It was funny in Ryan's world. Then I left the gym and as I was walking back to the teacher's room I passed the principal showing a group of lovely young PTA moms around the school. I stopped and listened to the principal explain why a foreigner was in the school. At just the right time I said my quick Japanese introduction in ultra-polite Japanese, bowed, and moved on. They loved it and the principal was pleased.

At some point I had three classes. Two with Yoshida sensei and one with both Yoshida and Kimura. Three teachers in the classroom is a tad much, but it is good for the kids. It's like 1 teacher for every 7 students. During the first two classes, which were with the 1st years, I spent half the time learning their names. I have most of them memorized and will finalize that tomorrow when we take some school trip. I was also told I need to slide my name marker to "here, business trip, vacation, or not here" everyday and stamp a book with my name stamp. That's cool, I don't mind doing stuff like that. It makes me feel more like an equal part of the team. I wonder if I can get my Japanese good enough to be able to be a homeroom teacher. I doubt it and assume there is some anti-foreigner clause against that. I don't mean that in a bad way, but Japan has some Japanese-only rules in certain places. Unlike the US who will probably elect Arnold Schwarzenegger as President at some point. I know I spelled his name wrong. Oh wait, I just checked and no I didn't.

Ok, I am tired. I drank some coffee early this morning at school since I am paying for it. Teachers have to pay $35 a month for some teacher's fund. It buys coffee and some other stuff I think. Maybe it pays for drinking parties too. I have my welcome party soon. Oh the principal invited me to his father's house, who must be 90, for sashimi (raw fish with no rice) and sake. Sounds fun. Other teachers have invited me out as well, but so far no dinner dates. Which is good since I am still broke. Ok, seriously now, over and out.

September 9th, 2005

I had an awkward moment at school today and it was my own fault. Each day I go to the elementary school and talk with the students, in Japanese of course. I also try to learn 3 or 4 students names. So far I am doing pretty good at remembering. Today was no different. I learned about 10 students' names mainly because I made a tongue twister out of a few of them and it was easy to remember. Three girls were named Asami, Ami, and Emi. So I said their names really faster together. It was AsamaAmiEmi. They giggled and I kept saying it which made it easy to remember. Then two more girls came over and I did the same with them. Their names were Yayoi and Yuu. So that was 5 people. Then I ran into three more girls and I kept saying Akane-Kana-Kaori. So that's 8. Then I learn a few others. Finally I get to the funny part.

I ask this one kid what his name is and he looks at me and says "YOU SUCK". I was completely blown away because:

A) this was perfect English
B) this was great slang
C) it was perfect timing

So I step back and say "uh....what?" and he says "You Suck". I am honestly speechless and just stare at him for a second. Then I attempt another inquiry. Again he says "you suck". Then he says it slowly "Yuuuu Saaaaaakkkk". So I say "where did you learn that?" and he said it was his name. So I tell him to write it down for me. He  writes down "yuu saku". Which is a common male name in Japan, but is pronounced "You Suck".

I couldn't stop my awkward giggle laugh and he thought I was laughing at him. So I had to leave. When I saw him in the hall later he yelled "you suck" and I started giggling again. Giggling like I was 5.

I couldn't help it. His name is You Suck. The way it is pronounced in English and Japanese is You Suck. When I see him I start giggling, but I don't forget his name. And I get to say "you suck" out loud (and it pleases him). What a great job. Where can you yell "You Suck" and make someone happy?

The rest of the day was more or less a usual day. At least until about 30 principals from all around Koriyama came into one of my classes. Luckily it was during a fast paced part of the class and seemed to go over well. We were playing charades and it was the "speed round" part.

After that there was some "thing" with a baseball player and a soccer player. I don't know what, but about 3 teachers were talking to two kids. It was some serious conversation that lasted about an hour. I assume it was the same thing said over and over again.

Finally it was about 6pm and time to go to my welcome party. Let me tell you almost the whole school showed up. I would say 1 or 2 teachers weren't there. For my old school it was only the English department and it seemed like a hassle for them to be there. During this one almost every teacher stood up and said something about me. Most teachers talked about how the kids constantly talk about me. How they want me to come to their class and teach them. How they like my stupid jokes. Things like that. It was really nice. Here are some pictures:

The girl on the right has moved into the "too cute" category. She always runs up to me with a huge smile and says "jump game". She is a 1st grader so she has about 6 years until she gets to middle school. After school the elementary school kids played various sports. Here they are learning ping pong, or table tennis as they call it. Other kids played volleyball with a really soft ball.
After sports time, the kids played in the yard. The middle school kids do their sports clubs while the young kids just played. Learning the unicycle is popular here. We also have dirt tennis courts and a tennis club. Just past the tennis court is the soccer field where I practice with the kids occasionally. I asked the (cute) art teacher if she would make a bulletin board for me and she made it exactly as I had hoped. Artistic and easy to look at. This is my "weekly natural English phrase" board.
Part of our tasty dinner was called "nabe" (nah bay). It's a lot of good food cooked in a big bowl. It was so tasty. One of the teachers, not this guy, is always quiet at school. He would pass around a spoon and make people talk into it like a microphone. This is Kimura sensei, one of the English teachers. While he was talking he lowered the spoon and I interrupted and said "We can't hear you, talk into the mic" and everyone erupted with laughter. This is the art teacher as mentioned above. Married with a daughter sadly, which will probably interfere with my plans to date her.

After the party was over, the school nurse drove me home even though she lives about 30 minutes away. We spoke English most of the way home. On the way there I chatted with a nice, and cute, Japanese teacher who oddly spoke decent English. She would constantly apologize for her poor English in perfect English. I think she stayed in the US for a few months at some point. She is going to teach me more Japanese calligraphy which I was practicing a little in Fukushima city. When I say "was practicing" I mean I practiced once, then I stopped because I was so bad. But Japanese calligraphy would be a wonderful hobby to have. When drawn properly Chinese characters are beautiful, and have a meaning as well.

Later she told me in the winter our area gets so much snow. She said she would live in my apartment in January. I asked specifically where in my apartment would she sleep and she realized her mistake. She meant in my building since it is the teacher's building. I wouldn't mind either way......

I have no money more or less. By more or less I mean less. By less I mean none really. I have about $30 to last me until September 21st. I think two bills were deducted without me realizing so I went from $150, which would have been tough, to $30, which will be interesting. I should be able to do it if I do nothing this weekend and next weekend. Hopefully soon I will have some money in savings, but now I have to pay for this car that I rarely drive. But I really need a car so I will keep it, especially in the winter. I will need it in the winter, not just keep it in the winter. I should stop typing now.

September 11th, 2005

I did nothing today and yesterday. Really nothing. I worked on the computer and watched some videos, but apart from that a whole lotta nothing. I got some stuff done that I have been thinking about for a while. One thing I did was scan a photo I found of the school being built. I marked where things are now and will upload it to a below like locality.

It's got everything marked and will let you see exactly how small the town is. I have my apartment, the smile mart, the school grounds, and other things labeled.

I can't believe I forgot to upload or mention this. A last week or so I was playing Boggle with one of my smaller classes. I have three classes where students choose to be in them. One class has only one girl so I play simple games with her. We were playing Boggle. I was really beating her down because I am a native English speaker and she isn't. But I would miss some words on purpose and look for smaller ones she might recognize and be able to learn.

One time I had words like cat, max, dent, and some others. I was most impressed with the word dent since it was a four letter word and I secretly saw her write it down. Oh no, then she erased it. Darn. Then she wrote something else down and smiled. See if you can find the word she wrote down.

Holy cow. Incidental. A) it's amazing it was there, and B) more amazing that she found it and C) the most amazing that I missed it. I even saw the word Dent and just assumed it stopped there. I should have at least seen dental. Well she won that round.

Here are three pictures of random meaning.

Rice fields which are all around my village. They are somewhat relaxing for some reason. A close up of exactly what rice looks like as it is growing on the stalk. I cooked pasta one night and had little sausage chucks in it, but some looked like finger tips. Even up close.

This week there is nothing major planned at school I think. So maybe I will have a full week of classes. So far there has been some assembly, trip, activity, helicopter landing, etc and it has dominated the whole week. I think next week there are two holidays. Which are perfect timing since I have no money. I mean really no money, which is fine during the week because I am at school all day and they feed me. I also drink an obscene amount of water so I am not really hungry at night. But when I am at home with nothing to do, I end up eating, which costs money.

This coming weekend might be a three day weekend, and I think the following Friday is also a holiday so that would be a 3 day week. Man, I loved these weeks for the past three years, but now I would rather be at school all the time. I enjoy it there, time flies, I like playing with the kids, and I am always busy. I have been more productive in 3 weeks than I was in 3 years at my previous school.

Well it's 9:30 pm Sunday so I am going to watch another video and then go to sleep. Then I will wake up at 5:51am, go to the bathroom, check email, and then lie back down for another hour. As usual.

September 12th, 2005

I woke up at 5:54am.

At school, I had no classes which was odd. Even more odd was that the two English teachers asked if I had nothing to do could I come to their classes. Even more odd was that I had to decline since I had so much to do. I had no classes because the 3rd year students had tests all day and some teachers were gone. I put up a bulletin board, and mapped out some activities for this week and beyond.

At some point one teacher had a sports buzzer type thing on his desk. Some other teacher went to pick up some papers and knocked it on the ground. It went off.

It was the loudest thing in the history of all things. Everyone in the room covered their ears and it was still loud. Two teachers tried to kick it off, but it was so loud they couldn't remove their hands from their ears. They were dancing around it, kicking, and yelling. It was the funniest thing I had ever seen. I wish I had filmed it, but why would I be filming a regular day? It's like America's Funniest Home Videos. I always asked myself "why were they filming that anyway?". But it's not fake of course. Just like professional wrestling is real.

Later I played with the ES kids, but they are getting tiring. They constantly want the jump game and it hurts my back after 100 times in a row. Plus I worry about lifting these young kids up in the air so high. I never lose hold of them, but it's still not the best thing in the world. Maybe I will "develop" a back problem and hope kids stop asking. I do love hanging out with them, but they are constantly running around on full and it's exhausting. Today I got kanchou-ed for the first time. Kanchou means enema in Japanese and to get kanchou-ed means to have a kid make two guns with their hands, put them together to form one, then shove them up your arse. Older kids make it painful, but the 1st years were just playing. I tried to be clear and say "do not do that" in Japanese. But when I was a 1st grader I had the attention span of wallpaper and I am sure they do too.

At one point I was working on a game using MS Excel. I pressed the print button and waited. It never printed. I pressed it again. Then again. About five minutes later the principal brings over a copy and says "nice game". I said I was sorry that I sent it to his printer. He said I didn't. I emailed it to him 5 times so he assumed I wanted him to print it and bring it to me. Ha ha, yea I am that arrogant. I bowed and apologized and explained the "send to the principal" button is right beside the print button. Then I checked the screen and it actually was. Someone had created a macro button that mails the worksheet to the principal. Good times.

Later I went back to hang out with the young kids since I heard wild screaming come from some room. Not "I'm being chopped alive by a deranged lunatic named Timmy" scream, but like 30 kids running around. On the way I saw our favorite kid and got to brighten two people's day at once with two small words.

"YOU SUCK". He smiled and so did I.

I can't even think what would be a better name. Shut up would be ok. Bite me would be fun, and great for parties. The other names shouldn't be listed here, but really, you suck ranks up there in the top five. Good ole You Suck.

For lunch we had some soup, rice, and some small weird salad. All of which I gobbled up. Then there was a mystery package. I opened it and it was the infamous Natto. A weird fermented bean concoction that gets all stringy and nasty. People say "how do you know you hate it if you haven't even tried it?". Well I am pretty sure I hate dog crap, though I have never tried it. Natto smells like stinky feet dipped in vinegar then mixed with rotten eggs and moose vomit. The mere smell of it was making me sick.

Then I managed to stay at school until 7:45pm. I was there 12 hours. I was never at my Fukushima Higashi for a minute more than required unless there was some special project I was working on, which was rare. 12 hours. The most impressive thing to me is the first time I looked at the clock it was 3:30. Then I did more stuff, ran around with the soccer team, then helped a teacher with English, then looked up again and it was 7:30. Wow.

I can see my goals becoming a reality relatively quick here. The teacher I help in English also helps me in Japanese when we have time. Another teacher, the one mentioned above about moving into my "apartment", teaches calligraphy. I'm going to get her to help me with that at some point. My other goal of losing weight should be no problem. There's nothing to eat and I drink a gallon of water a day along with running around with the soccer team. Saving money can't be a problem since I spend nearly nothing on food. I could probably spend about $200 on payday and have enough food to last me for a month. Apart from weekend things, I spend less than $20 a week on food, as opposed to $20 a day in Fukushima city. If it weren't for this dern car I would be rollin' in the dough.

Man it's already 11:00pm and it feels like I just sat down. I worked on some stuff at home too which I never did before. Man I need to stop whining about how different these jobs are, it's even annoying me. Ok, gonna watch something on TV then hit the sack. Over and out.

September 13th, 2005

I had one interesting language goof today. Some student's father owns a butcher shop in the small village. He came to visit and brought some samples, which was smart because they were tasty and now I want to go buy some meat. So anyway, only about 6 teachers were in the room since it was around 6pm. One teacher was explaining the name. Something like Obara (her last name) Nikuya (which means meat shop). Then another teacher said that was wrong and corrected her. She said it was called Konan Seiniku. I asked what "sei" means, since I knew niku means meat. A few teachers tried to explain it and I couldn't really understand. So I repeated it slowly so I could look it up in the dictionary. I thought they were saying a "z" rather than an "s".

So I clarified slowly and clearly: "the name is Konan ZEIniku"? Everyone broke out laughing. I knew I messed up and feared it meant something like "I eat rotting chipmunk ass". Well oddly it meant something wrong, but grossly funny. It means body fat.

Before that the 1-4th year elementary school kids went on some cool field trip so the school was a bit barren. I had a class with the 6th year ES kids and it was brutal. There is no way I could teach ES all the time. I was constantly telling them to be quiet and they would get distracted in about 30 seconds.

After that I was talking to one of the ES teachers when the kids came back from the trip. In Japan there are some strange rules about wearing shoes. As you all know you change shoes when entering a house. I like this rule and feel really odd wearing my shoes inside when I go back to the US. However, sometimes you wear different shoes in the bathroom, but sometimes you don't. At Fukushima Higashi I had to wear different shoes in the gym, but not here. And you can walk between buildings, outside, if the ground is a certain way.

So today I saw a teacher walk out on to the concrete, but then she did something odd. Look below: LOOK!

So as one can clearly determine, there is some odd rule that I don't get. I am starting to think it's a bit fishy and changes at whim.

Here are some other pics I took during the day. I took the camera to get shots of me in the ES classroom, but I was running around like mad so I totally forgot.

You can see how close my apartment is to the school. The only grocery store in about a 20m radius. Decent selection, decent, but it closes at 8pm. A magical view of the evening Konan sunset. The bus stops right at our door and is always packed. There are about 4 that come at various times in the morning and evening.
The ES kids eat in their own lunchroom, but usually JHS kids eat in the classroom. Today is a special day. JHS kids are wearing the teal gym outfits. The kids line up and serve other kids. There are 5 women who work in the lunchroom and cook the food each day. Our lunches are better than most other schools in Koriyama. The kids change from their outdoor shoes to their indoor shoes/slippers. They have their own shoe locker in the lobby. Sometimes I leave stupid little notes in their shoes. Haruna on the left, who begged me for a picture. The ultra-cutie that she is. And Mio on the right. She is nice, but a bit aggressive and pushy sometimes. They are in their P.E. outfits.

Well that's about it for now. The only other ongoing issue is I can't fax anything since Japanese faxes make no sense. I am used to putting the sheet in, dialing the number, maybe pressing the fax start button. But here it beeps and I get errors and some dumb Japanese voice lady calls me an idiot for not knowing how to use a fax. So now I am mad and going to bed.

Thursday, September 15th, 2005

I had plans for next Wednesday, the day we get paid, but they have been crushed. Every month, on payday all the Koriyama Assistant English Teachers (AETs) and Native Teachers (NTs) go to the board of education in city hall in downtown Koriyama for a meeting. This month it includes a tour of the city and a visit to my school. That's fine. I had planned on driving there and arriving too early. Then I would go to Starbucks for an early morning treat. After the tour I would do some much needed shopping and return here to plan for the next day. Next week is really short with Monday and Friday being a holiday and me being gone Wednesday.

So everything was in order and then the principal sat me down and explained some things to me. First was that there is a drinking party after the tour. The principal asked if I wanted to go. I said not really since it was about 5,000 yen ($50) and I couldn't drink since I would have to drive back and go to school the next day. Then he said I had to go. Why ask in the first place? Just say it's required. Wouldn't be Japan that way.

Then I said ok I will go and not drink and drive back. Then I get this odd speech about my car being an official city car, though I paid for it not them, and I shouldn't drive to town in it. What? That's the singular and sole reason I have the car, is because I was told I need it to drive back and forth from the city hall in it. I don't drive it much apart from that. Really like once or twice a month to get food or something. So how will I get there?

Apparently my principal, who lives in Koriyama near the city hall, will drive out to Konan and then back around 7am or so. Fine I will do that. How will I get back after the party? Oh I am now staying with him and his family Wednesday night and we will come straight to school Thursday morning. Ok, fine. Friday is a holiday and I can get my shopping done then. If this is going to be a regular thing, then I might sell the car or get a smaller and cheaper one. It eats gas like a drunk. That was an odd analogy.

The weather is starting to get a bit cooler. That's fine with me for a few reasons. I like summer and spring, but I don't like hot weather. It doesn't get too hot in Konan so I don't worry about that, but it gets hot enough for flies to come out. In apartments and homes it's not a big issue, but at business and schools there is some anti-window screen policy. There is also a no air conditioning policy until it gets unbearably hot. Then we wait and eventually turn it on, if all the paperwork is in order.

So at school we always have the windows open. Flies will come in and swarm around everyone and it eventually gets annoying. I can handle a fly occasionally, but when there are about 10 you can't do anything other than swat flies. You would think some fly would report to the Buzz-Weekly fly paper (as in newspaper) and say "avoid the school over there, they like to swat at us". But that doesn't happen. It was worse in the summer when the little gnats would attack and die everywhere. I remember one Friday there were about 100 around my desk, all dead from being whacked. It was so annoying. I had to leave school because of the gnats. ARGH.

Friday, September 16th, 2005

At school I eat the school lunch. It's only about $3 and usually pretty tasty. Other AETs in the city complain about how crappy it is, but that's because one company makes theirs and delivers it to the school everyday. In Konan we have our own cafeteria where it is made fresh everyday. I usually don't have a problem with the quality, just the quantity.

As teachers we get a bit more than students, but never enough. I am always hungry afterwards and try to get a second helping. I have noticed with the students there is usually some left over. In the teacher's room just enough is delivered for us to dish out equal portions. Sometimes I eat with the kids and they have more leftover. So today I asked the lunchroom lady if I could have some of the leftovers of a tasty salad that the kids returned. I got the usual Japan response.

I should have asked if I could run naked through the school while beheading badgers imported from Papau, New Guinea. It would have warranted the same response.

"What? Leftovers? You want to eat leftovers? What?!? I can't believe that. Oh my lord!". Seriously, you just throw the food away. What is so unreal about someone wanting to eat more? But I have seen the response enough to know it's a moo point ( a cow's opinion). I said never mind and left.

From now on out I am going to pillage the leftover food before it gets there. I might even take some zip lock bags and try to keep some of the food for dinner. I will be more aggressive and blame it on being a foreigner.

I like my desk and where it is located in the teacher's room, more or less. Have my back to the window, but I can see the hall and kids coming into the room and walking down the hall. I always assumed it was random placement, but I think it is the result of careful planning. In the evening around 5pm the sun starts to set behind me and off to the right. For some freak reason, only my desk gets the glare.  The teacher beside me to my left is blocked by a wall, and the teacher to my right is blocked my a pole outside. So when the sun gets in a certain position, only my desk is illuminated in a way that I can't see anything nor can I turn my head. It's quite vexing. I am thoroughly vexed.

We have a number of printers in the teacher's room and a few are color. They even print up to size A3 which is huge. Not sure if that makes sense in the US, but it's a standard size here. A4 is around 8.5x11, A5 is half that I think, but A3 is massive like tabloid size. I use it occasionally when I want to do something nice and in color. But sometimes we will get a packet of papers that was printed on the color printer. Like today I got a packet of about 10 sheets and they were all done on the printer. On top of that all 30+ teachers got a copy as well. Man we pound that thing. I am pretty sure we have contracts and quotas with paper companies because I get the dumbest and most useless memos on my desk from time to time.

One thing I have always found weird is when I get a bizarre answer to an easy question from an English teacher. Today I asked why my name was on this certain (colorful) form under the word Staff. What would I be a staff member for? Simple question. The form was in Japanese, the person I was asking was Japanese who also speaks English. Simple really.

The answer?

"Sometimes the children will make, how do you say, an art object of clay or a painting. Parents will want to see these and we will show them at the school festival in October. At that time there will be many rooms with students showing their art or their school projects. Maybe your friends will also come to see it?".

Hmmm, well that was semi close to an answer and I think it means I will be on the staff when the parents come or something. Other times I have received completely bizarre responses that avoid the issue altogether.

Last night I was watching the news since there is a bilingual broadcast for a certain show. They were talking about common occurrences of having the wrong Chinese character translated on phones and in emails. When writing Japanese we spell it out in a simple language called Hiragana and then press the space bar which searches for common Kanji characters for the words. The program was about mistakes that are made. Some were quite funny. I made notes. Here they are in order of appearance:

* Traffic is jam packed on the highway - becomes - Someone is infected with a parasitic worm.
Not sure how this changes since it was the first and I missed the explanation.

* I came to the ballpark to see a game - becomes - I came to the game wearing a mini skirt.
To say "came to see" you say MI which is part of Miru (to see) and then NI which is (to), so mi ni blah blah means came to see something, but when converted wrong it means mini skirt.

Softball club - becomes - grandpa flies.
Softball would be "sofuto" and the abbreviation for club is BU (Bukatsu). So together they would be "sofuto-bu". The way to refer to your own grandfather is "Sofu" and the verb for fly is "Tobu", together that is  "sofu-tobu".

So that was entertaining. This weekend I have nothing to do, mainly because I have no money. It's a three day weekend too, which sadly I wish it wasn't. I have nothing to do except clean the apartment, do laundry (while it's sunny), and do stuff on the computer. For three long days. But next weekend is also a three day weekend and I will have money. I plan to eat at all my favorites over the weekend. Oh yummy yummy.

Sunday, September 18th, 2005

Day 2 of the "nothing to do for the three day weekend" 3 day weekend. Though I did more productive things today than yesterday. I rearranged the apartment a little. I'm still not sure where the best place for the TV is. I also cleaned a bit, printed my apartment number and name for the outside door thing. Then I translated some stuff. Not professionally, but stuff for me. For example I wrote down all the kanji on my fax machine, washing machine, and microwave type cooking machine and looked them up. It was fun and challenging. Then I got to the fun part. I found a sheet with names and numbers of all the AETs in Koriyama. Beside some names are different kanji characters. I tried looking those up and found something funny.

One kanji seems to mean "only one school or city". That's fair since the AETs there are private one-school teachers. The second kanji wouldn't translate on the site I use, which is Jim Breen's Edict. It's a great site for looking up things from either language and has about 100K entries. Maybe more. So I look up all the little parts of the two kanji until I find the reading for each kanji so I can then type it into the lookup box and get the meaning of the two together. The answer?

You can't read it, but it says Shin Ki. The simpler script on the bottom explains the kanji above it. But we still don't know what it means do we? It means novelty. I have a list of JETs who are novelties to the BoE. I'm sure it has another meaning, but when I was a JET that's exactly how I felt. I couldn't find a better word, unless it was something like "toy" or "puppet".

So now it's around 5pm on Sunday and I am running out of things to do. I still have one more day of doing nothing with no money. Then two days until payday. Of course I have a number of bills due by Tuesday. I mean due as in they will be cut off if I don't pay. So I will pay them Wednesday and figure out why they weren't deducted as I expected. I need to learn the Japanese phrase for that since apparently the English means "nod your head and say yes when I finish talking". It sure doesn't mean "are the bills going to be automatically deducted from my account".

Monday, September 19th, 2005

Have you ever had the actual #%$& scared out of you? I was walking the short maybe 2 minute walk to the Smile Mart to get some eggs to bake a cake since I had all the ingredients and it would be something to eat. It was about 8:30 so it was dark. I walked out and down the short, but dark alley to the main road. I heard something behind a wall that sounded like someone moving around, but then I passed it and saw/heard nothing so I relaxed. Just as I relaxed two cats jumped out behind me fighting and hissing.

Dear god. I think I soiled my pants. I screamed something incoherent and ran away like a prison escapee. Needless to say I took the longer way home.

So then I make the cake mix and put it in the oven. The Japanese Microwave/Oven/Grill/Range. That's seriously what it is. Then I press the three buttons that automatically cook a cake. It's really convenient, except that it won't actually come on. It starts then goes off for some dumb error. I try it over and over again for about 30 minutes all the while my temper is reaching it's limit. I hate it when things just don't work like they are supposed to. Then I foolishly search online for an English users manual. Then I read something on the top of the oven that seems to say "if you get an error like C-09, then you need to....". I was getting that error, so what do I do? It's all in Kanji so I can't read the rest. ARGH. I write down the kanji and look it up using the site I was using for the other stuff.

Finally I have it all decoded and it says "be sure to drink your Ovaltine". Ha ha, sorry, actually it says "check the users manual". ARGH. So finally I find the actual manual online since I couldn't find the paper one. Most likely I tossed it thinking "when would I ever need this manual?". I have to read the whole thing since I can't just "see" words in Japanese yet, I have to read each one. I can't find anything.

Later I and looking at the oven and just for kicks try changing the type of pan. Maybe it was in microwave mode. Nope that didn't help. Then I removed the metal stand holding it up inside. Nope nothing. Then I move this ceramic flooring inside up a notch.

BOOYA. That worked and now after an hour of tinkering it is cooking. So it finishes and cools and I get out the icing which has apparently gone bad because it smells like metal. I mix it up and say who cares. I smear it on the cake and eat it. It wasn't as good as I had hope so I ended up tossing the whole cake. Plus I woke up around 3am with the worst gut pain. That was from eating a milk product which my digestive systems constantly reminds me it doesn't like.

One thing to note. Have you ever been writing with a pen and it just stopped writing? Then when you draw the little circles in the corner of the paper to test it, it works fine. Then when you go back to writing it stops again. Testing works great. Writing stops. Over and over. It was amazing. I went through about 10 pens throwing the bad apples across the room in a fit of violent pen rage.

So now it's Monday around 5pm and I had a food plan for today. I made enough pasta on Friday to last all three days. Today for lunch I had some marinated salmon slices to steam in my wonderful steamer that I bought in Guam last year around this time. I cooked the salmon which comes out perfect each time. Then as I started eating I noticed it had bones.

FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS SACRED. I hate bones in fish. They should be outlawed or bred in a way that makes them boneless. They might be weak fish and get teased, but when they were eaten they would be enjoyed far more than the boned bully fish. I took a small bite and had more bones than fish parts so I had to toss all that. I hate bones. Raisins too, I hate raisins and bones. Eck.

So then I was hungry and had no lunch. Well there is this big Tupperware dish of the last bit of pasta, but that's for dinner. Nope I heat it up and swear to myself I will only eat half. Then I start watching "The Whole Ten Yards" and end up eating it all. Well poo.

So I have $10 left, but I am trying to save that until Wednesday since we have to buy lunch somewhere and I won't be able to get to an ATM before we get there. Wednesday is going to be so aggravating. I am glad they care about us enough to give us a tour of the area, but I have already been on the places of the tour about 8 times and I really need to pay some bills and get money. I won't complain while I am there. I am going to be screwed since we end the tour after the bank and post office close. ARGH. Then Friday is a national holiday so I can't make any payments then either. ARGH. This is the last month I go broke. I am so incomprehensibly tired of this.

Tuesday, September 20th, 2005

I have made it. I don't eat breakfast so the first meal I need tomorrow will be lunch, which I managed to save $10 for. I'm sure it will be $11 with my luck. After that I should be able to get money from an ATM somewhere and then all will be well.

Well my "get leftovers from the students" plan failed. Because I ate lunch in the teacher's room, then when I was still hungry I went wandering around, plastic bags in pocket, to the students rooms. First I came across the baseball coach's class, which is 3-1. He glared at me because I think he hates foreigners and the luxuries of my job. Such as all the time off I have. Either way, I moved on. Then I went to the room beside it, 3-2. All the students stopped and stared at me.

Now I wasn't digging through the food. I wasn't standing there naked. I wasn't giving a donkey a prostate exam. I was standing in the doorway. They all stopped and stared at me. So since I made such a big deal by doing nothing, I figured I should move on. As I left I noticed extra curry rice and salad in their bowl. ARGH. If it weren't for old man Smithers.

Oh in the morning I had a real movie like touching experience. There was no touching, the experience was touching. Anyway, I wrote a simple little note that had a bad drawing of me and "hello" in Japanese and then my name in Japanese. I made three copies and put them in the shoe lockers or various kids I know. One was Hinata, who has joined the ultra-cutie club. She found it and came running up with a big smile. The second  kid never acknowledged it, that little..... Finally I put one in Haruna's shoe. You've seen pictures of Haru-chan all over this site, because she is too cute. Literally too cute.

So in the morning when students are arriving they play classical music. She arrived a minute late. Then she went up to her shoe box and took out her inside shoes and put in her outside shoes. Then the note fell out and she picked it up so animated. She put her hands on her cheeks and had that "oh my what's this?" look. Then she picked it up and read it. She tilted her head like she didn't understand it. Then she read it and smiled and looked at me. Then she walked over and gave me a big hug and said thank you.

The really weird part about the whole thing was the morning music. It was honestly just like a movie. It was perfect timing the way the music changed as the note dropped and then as she smiled and hugged me. It was so strange. I immediately went into the teacher's room and asked the music teacher what the name of the song was. Oddly he didn't remember.

Later in the day the art teacher gave me the other bulletin board I requested. It also looks great. She used pasta as part of the decoration. I'll have to snap a picture because I can't explain it to save my life. Then I tried to put some things on the board and nearly ruined it, because I have the artistic ability of an abused turnip. Seriously, if a criminal put a gun to my head and said "just do one simple little creative thing" I would fail. It's really sad. I can see things in my head, then they turn to funk when I try to make them. You know that nasty funk when you forget to wash dishes for a few days? That's what it's like. Just nasty funk inability.

One of the teachers had a t-shirt that said "Sarcastic Bookkeeper". I have no idea what that means. That's all it said. Maybe it's the name of a band or something. Then I saw a picture in the hall that was supposed to be inspirational. It said "Take your dreams with your hands and run around". I don't even know how to fix that to proper English.

Well this time tomorrow I will be sleeping at my principal's house with his family. I hope I am on the couch in the middle of the living room and people are constantly walking by. I sleep great like that. Maybe they have a dog that won't stop yelping all night. I should go pack now since we are going straight to school from there Thursday. But oh Friday. I will go to Fukushima city and party it up Voldnik style. Like they do in Minsk.

Tuesday, September 27th

I will make a big update soon. I have been so busy recently I haven't had time to stop and write much. I stay at school for about 12 hours then come home and do more work. For some reason I really enjoy it. So getting back to the point, I will work on a week or so's worth of updates soon. Apparently one can't make "so" possessive.

Well poo, now I feel like typing. Let's see, last Wednesday was pretty cool. We took a tour of Koriyama city with all the foreign English teachers in Koriyama who work for the BoE. High School JETs don't so it was just 23 of us. We all went to a famous old building downtown, then to the lake, then to my school. That was fun for the 2nd and 3rd years since some of them would come out this way to teach at the local elementary schools. All the kids remembered them and ran around being happy to see them. It was good for me too.

Then we had lunch in a restaurant near my town, which was also good for me since I didn't know it was there. Then we went to the Koriyama Art Museum. I had just been there two weeks before with my 1st year JHS students. To be honest, I am really not an art museum guy. If something is really old or famous then yea I will see it, but some of it was modern art, and that's hard to judge. One guy in the group, Jolan, who can draw like ...someone who can really draw...said about 95% of the modern artists out there today do modern art because that's all they can do. The other 5% do it because they get it. They know what it's about and make things with deep meaning. I can't tell the difference most of the time.

Finally we went to the Big-I planetarium, which is apparently the tallest planetarium in the world. They have some signed official document from the Guiness Book of World Records. I doubt they faked that. It was the 3rd or 4th time I had been there and it was interesting again. Although I always doze off in the planetarium when the lights go out. Even if it was in English. The reclining seat and dimmed lights. Zonk.

That night we had welcome party with the board of education and the dude in charge of it all. he's just under the mayor. I think he is really cool. He looks like a mob boss. You know that suave way about certain older men. They know where they are because they have paid their dues. He's not a mob boss I'm sure and seems really nice. All the new people had to make speeches. I said something really stupid as usual. It was funny in my head then passed through the "sound like a @#&*-$%&#" filter on the way out. Whatever.

That night I stayed at the principal's house. It was nice and I had my own room with a TV. He has a daughter in high school and a son in middle school as well as an older son no longer living at home. I slept well and woke up at 6am for a nice American style breakfast then a 6:45 departure. He drives the 50 minute drive everyday. Sometimes he drives it then drives right back to Koriyama. In Japan you don't just go straight to your meeting that might be right next door to your house, you go to work and check in, then go to the meeting. Then go back to work, then home.

Friday I went to Fukushima city and ate too much. I am still recovering from my "food hangover". Seriously. I have heartburn and had a bad headache Sunday. I had Indian food Friday, and Saturday oddly. Then sushi, a movie with popcorn, and finally curry house. It was good, but I can't do it all again. Living in the small town has changed my eating habits and going back to eating like that reminded me of how unhealthy I was. By "was" I mean "am".

I really think I might start waking up a bit early and jogging or something in the morning. Then when it gets cold and snows 10 feet each day, I will jog around the school gym or something.

Then Monday I had 3 classes, which I forgot to prepare for and just pulled something out of my bum at the last minute. Somehow it all worked great and seemed like I had planned it for weeks. For two classes I made a list of places around the world and in Japan. Then I cut them up, put them in a little origami box I made from a sheet of paper, and had the students describe the places to the other people. So if one was Tokyo they might say, "a big city in Japan - millions of people - capital city". Their language is limited so it was interesting seeing them figure out how to say things.

Today we had a sports day. The soccer team won one game then lost the second. The tennis club lost flat out. The baseball team lost as well. But the volleyball team is kicking @$$. I mean they won 3 sets of two games and really dominated the court. It was fun watching them since they work so well together. They have classy uniforms and really had their act together. They go back tomorrow to defeat some more teams. It was easier than watching the baseball team. There were some stupid mistakes that cost them the game. At times it was hard to watch. They would work great and get all the bases loaded. Then someone would strike out by just staring at the balls fly by or drop an easy pop fly or something else.

I think I am horribly sunburned. My arms have the ultra-farmers tan and my face is bright red. Tomorrow is going to be fun. Other than that, I bought a bit of stuff in Fukushima for the apartment. A floor chair for one, I will take a picture later. Some shelving for the kitchen. Some kitchen stuff and a bunch of stuff at the $1 store, though here it is called the 100 yen store. I broke one of my cardinal rules. I bought a number of small things at a home good store, then found the same things at the 100 yen store. Good grief, how can they sell these things for $1?

I think my beard grows fastest from the time I leave the apartment, until I get to school. I check my stubble in the morning and if I can't feel anything I go to school. Then at school I scratch my neck and feel like Grizzly Adams. Seriously. What is going on? Oh slight tangent. At school there was a PTA meeting or something. Then when it was over this lady walked into the room and all I could say was "this house is clean". She looked exactly like that lady from Poltergeist that said that.

While I was looking for a picture of that lady online, I found this page with interesting facts about the movie. There are some actual interesting facts as well as the usual garbage like "Spielberg placed several Star Wars dolls on the bed during blah blah blah". Yea we know they are buddies, get over it.

So that's about it. Oh one last thing. I was given lunch today and this is the bad in which it came. Rather interesting English I'd say. Rather indeed.

Oh is it really FairyFood? Or Fight Food? It's not dishonest, I see it is Fair Food that is quite fashionable and faithful. What a silly bag. SILLY I say.

As I said earlier, I have been having heartburn so I just took some Pepto pills since I am out of Tums. It said just swallow don't chew so I did my usual thing, but they started dissolving in my mouth. I tried a few times and they kept dissolving so I had to do that stupid exaggerated movie head jerk to get them down. I usually just put pills in my mouth, push them back on my tongue with my teeth and drink some water. I find that head jerk thing silly so I never do it. But today I did it. I caved in to pressure and tried it. I won't be doing it anymore.

Then I put some lotion on my sunburned skin, but I think it was outdated since I feel all crusty and strange now. Great. Just great. Well I am going to bed since it is 11:30pm Tuesday night. Tomorrow I have two elementary school classes which are surely going to wear me down. We will be playing Fruit Basket and Animal Basket. Long story, I will explain it tomorrow. Over and out.

Wednesday, September 28th

I had two elementary school classes today and they went fine. We played X-basket games. First I reviewed the target vocabulary, which was fruits and animals. Fruits for 3rd years and animals for 1st years. Then I made them sit in a circle. Then I passed out small laminated cards with pictures of the vocabulary on them. Finally we started. There is one chair missing. I started by standing in the middle. When I yelled a certain vocab word, all the people with that word had to change seats. It's a fast paced game and the kids like it.

Then I worked on other various things all day. In one of the classes there were about 5 of my favorite kids. Some kids ignore me, others embrace me (figuratively and literally). Some kids are just really cool. One in particular is named Mizuki (me zoo key). She's just really cute and casual. I saw her and her mom at the grocery store and she was just like a little adult person. She saw me and was like "oh hey it's Ryan sensei, hey mom he's a fun teacher". Whereas other kids are sometimes like "why did you leave your apartment? I can't believe I am seeing you here". Since then when I see her she's just really cool. Other kids are "wanty" and want me to give them 100% attention or play some painful game over and over. Some just ignore me as I said. But some are really cool. I hope I can stay long enough to see them grow up.

I have found something cooler than me yelling "YOU SUCK" to the kid named Yuusaku. It's when other kids do it, because it really sounds like You Suck. He was reading a book in the library and I was helping Hinata-chan with her math. It was the simplest of math, but it was so cute watching her count on her fingers. Like 10-6, she would hold up 10 fingers then close 5 plus 1, and finally count the last 4 using her nose. It was adorable. So eventually I saw Yuusaku in the corner and I yelled "Hey You Suck". But he didn't turn. So I turned to Hinata-chan and said "he is ignoring me", in Japanese. So then she and the two other girls doing math at the table turned and started yelling "you suck". Over and over. They were saying You Suck plain and clear. It was so funny I started giggling again. Then the girls started giggling because kids that age just randomly giggle. Finally he heard us and turned around and explained it was a good book. So, of course, I told him how I felt.

You suck.

Oddly today I ran out of things to do and wanted to leave early, but I am on the window closing team and couldn't  leave until I had closed all the windows in the JHS. I couldn't close them up until about 6. So finally at 6 I took the wind up flashlight and shut / checked them all. It took about 30 minutes. Then as I was leaving, the volleyball team arrived after their second day of kicking butt. They ended up in 3rd place within the whole city. That's like 30 JHSes and they are 3rd. That's good for us since we are seen as a back woods small time school. Here is a shot of them on Tuesday at the sports day festival after they won all their games. Notice the stylish uniforms.

So you can't really see the outfits. I will focus in on one.

Our models are Wakana and Mako.

So it's not the best photo, but you can see the outfits are cool-ish. So anyway, they returned and we clapped and what not. Then I left around 7pm and fixed about 2.5 pounds of pasta. I have enough to last a 7-day week and that's over-eating each night.

There are two things I have really learned while being in Japan. Two things that will stay with me for a while. One is how to read 24 hour time. It's not easier than 12-hour time, but I no longer have to subtract 12 from the time. I know that 22:00 is 10pm, 18:00 is 6pm and 23:59 is 11:59pm. The second thing is I have learned more about Celsius relatively easy. I know 15 C is cool and 30 C is hot. The way to convert is double it and add 32. So  15 C is 15 x 2 = 30 + 32 = 62 F and 30 C is 92 F. I no longer convert like that, I just know.

So that's nice. Tomorrow I have two classes that I have to plan by myself. Something else I like is not having to have my plans approved. When I would teach in the past at the other school and I would have to plan my own lessons, which was nearly never, I would have to get them approved. They would also have some stupid, usually WRONG, change to be made. I often thought they were just making changes to show they were in charge and I was only a weak stupid assistant. I would usually thank them and not make the changes. I was never busted. But now I create lessons (or not) and run the class alone. It's nice, but also a bit tough. I want to have fun classes, but also have them serve a purpose. My problem now is I am afraid the lessons are jumping around. Also I am not making a big separation between grades. Sometimes I teach the same thing to all grades. I need to review the grammar in the book and see when they learn what.

I think for tomorrow I am going to have a fun class. I have been teaching useful things recently, but they have been boring classes. I am here to make English fun and teach them native things. I think I am going to show some Bugs Bunny cartoons and have the students answer questions about them. It will be a mixture of fun and learning. Maybe I can find some vocab words in the cartoons and work that in somehow.

Thursday, September 29th

We had a fun tree planting day today, except I think my arms and nose are sun burnt from Tuesday and today made it worse. There was a "drum and fife" parade by the elementary school kids and then tons of boring speeches. The Japanese love their ceremonies and must follow proper protocol. There is always an opening part and a closing part. Today we had about 5 ultra important people give ultra boring speeches. It was boring to adults and the were squirming like crazy.

At some point I saw the cool Chief of the Board of Education. We planted a tree together. It was a special moment I will cherish. I think it was on TV. Then I saw some guy and he was terribly familiar, but I didn't know why. Near the end of the day the principal told me someone wanted to meet me, but was nervous about approaching me. What did he want to ask me? Like out to dinner or something? It was the familiar guy. Then I realized I had seen his face on posters around my little town. Oh I guess he was some local guy running for some local office. Nope.

The principal introduced him as Nemoto Gi-in. What an odd first name. Nemoto is a common last name. But Gi-in is just odd for a first name. He spoke to me in decent English. He said he really supported the NT position, which is my job. I said great. He said his name was Nemoto something, but not Gi-in. Uh oh, if he didn't refer to himself as that it means it's not his name but his title.

Quickly, what does it mean...... -IN means person/member. So what does GI mean? He is a member of something. As I was thinking about this, I heard him say "diet". I switched to thinking about why he would say he needs to diet and furthermore, why he would tell me. Then I realized he didn't say DIE-ET, he said D-ET, as in the Japanese Congress. Oh, I was talking to a senator.

I've never met a senator from the US, but now I am talking to a Japanese senator and he wanted to meet ME. Wow. Time to babble or act stupid or say something horribly inappropriate. Luckily the brief meeting was over and he had to leave. He would be a nice "friend" to have. Too bad we can't hang out casually since the newspaper and TV stations would be all over it. I'll post his poster picture and the shot of us the principal took.

I have had an itchy nose all day. The air is so dry here it is killing me. It's much worse in the winter, but today it was awful. I had to go to the bathroom about 10 times for the sole purpose of wetting my finger and moisturizing the inner workings of my nostrilian passage. I nicknamed it "the Sahara nose" and took an oath to refer to my nose as "the Sahara nose" in all future conversations for the evening. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to work my nose into any conversations.

At some point after all the famous people left, a teacher received a big package in the mail. It was some kind of mat that would absorb shock. The teacher was showing another teaching by dropping a glass on the mat, which was on a table. Sure enough, it just bounced around or stopped instantly. Then more people came over so the demonstration logically had to grow proportionately to the excitement. Finally he dropped it and it bounced off the mat and shattered into dozens of pieces. It was funny.

Around 6:30pm all the teachers left the room and the vice principal told me they found rakugaki on the wall of the elementary gym. I looked it up and found it was graffiti. That was big news. I mean HUGE. Graffiti in a big city would be no surprise, but here it's a story. All the teachers were already there so I ran down. They were all gathered around this area. I ran up to it and saw.......

That's even enlarged a bit. But I will go even further.

It was actually about 2 inches square. I could barely read it until someone told me it was shinu, which means death.

I joked that maybe some kid was practicing kanji. Then some teacher said maybe I wrote it. I said, no that is level 2 and I am only at level 4 now. They all laughed. Then someone told me it was written in blood. That was a bit different. Blood.

On the way to school this morning I saw about 5 farmers standing in a field staring and taking pictures. I wasn't sure why or of what so I snapped one too. Then at school a kid told me what I thought to be "the dragonfly is top secret". Later a teacher told me there were crop circles in the field. I looked up the words and they were remotely similar to the dragonfly secret thing. Anyway, here are the alleged circles.

Kinda pathetic in all honesty. There's no shape or anything, but apparently there was no path leading from the edge so it was considered strange. Whatever.

Here are some of the cute kids from the "drum and fife" band. Apparently these are the fifes. Oddly, I mentioned Mizuki-chan from a previous post. She is on the right. She's wearing a red hat and a white shirt. Mami-chan is on the left practicing.

Then some JHS students took some of the 1st graders by the hand we walked to the tree planting place. Here is my partner and then the long path up the hill.

My tree. I will check on it occasionally. Maybe I will dig up all the others and make sure only my seed propagates throughout the woods. Stage one in the World Domination Plan. Build a forest of loyal trees to serve my every need.

The chief of the BoE that I think is cool. Not the best picture since he isn't wearing a smacked out Armani suit and he is smiling since he is glad to see me, but you can see a hint of his coolness by the pimp-like old man glasses. I wish I could wear them now and look cool, but I would look like the ultra dork. He makes them look cool. I have no idea what his real name is since we only call him by his title. Wait, maybe it's Endo.

 

 

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