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Friday, September 1st, 2006

I just had a class with the 6th graders. I always worry about if I am being effective. Since I donít, or didnít go to the elementary school much in the past I donít get a good feeling about the plan. The ES teachers all have English licenses so they just teach English themselves. What I donít like about that is when I go to the classes, I donít know where they are or what they have learned. Half the time I end up going over something they already know.

I just had my elective B class. I donít really like it because itís not what it should be. It is supposed to be a few students who want extra English work, who really like English. Itís about 5 students like that plus 15 of their leechy friends. So the class is much too big to do the things I did last year, and some of the kids donít even like English or are terds at it. I wish I could hand pick a class, I could get them to a high school level quick. Plus this class is open to 2nd and 3rd graders (8th and 9th) so I have the top seniors and some low juniors. I canít do much in the class. Next year I am going to make the syllabus much less appealing.

Sunday, September 3rd, 2006

I had a pretty good day and I'm not finished. Well there were some things that could have been better, but overall I feel it was productive. I went to the Konan sports festival that started at 9am. I didn't really fit in since it was a community thing and I felt out of place. It would have been better if there was a teacher's group or someone I really knew. I was just wandering around like the loser at parties who has no friends and wants to meet people. So I left.

Then I drove into Koriyama to get some things done. I have made a pact to never drive near the station on Sundays, but I have modified to so that I can before noon. It's exactly at noon when people come out to go shopping. I bought some blank DVDs to make some backups, a cheap wall rack system ($1 store cheap), some detergent, had Starbucks coffee, then had sushi for lunch. Then I came back and did a few loads of laundry, hung the rack system (which will fall at 3am and scare me). Then I organized a few things. Finally I made some major programming progress on some things I am working on. I program in ColdFusion, which is a fine language. More popular and cheaper is PHP. I gave up CF for a year to learn PHP. In the year that I spent foolishly trying to learn PHP, I didn't do any CF nor did I make any progress. I just don't get the language, no matter how strong or versatile it is. ColdFusion is English based and much easier to follow. I have already done some wicked things with it. More on that later.

Then I sent some overdue emails, created a hanging area for clothes in a back closet, now I about to wash the dishes. That will make it all the more productive. One thing I could have done without was that I bought Video DVD-Rs which apparently won't accept data from the computer. I know they are for video, but I assumed they would take computer stuff. When I try to burn to them I get an error. ARGH.

I just thought about adding a simple mail comment form since a few people have mentioned they miss the guestbook. I do too, but it was hit hard with spam the first day I put it up. [10 minutes later] Ok I added a comments link at the top.

[much later]

I think I have some form of insomnia. Seriously, I can't sleep or at least go to sleep before 3am. I noticed it since I starting jogging. I don't drink caffeine drinks after noon and usually have to take something with drowsy side effects to get me asleep. I had Starbucks coffee today around 11am, but nothing since then that would justify me not being sleepy at 1am. I still wake up at 6:15-6:45 and try to jog, but I just don't get sleepy. Tomorrow I am going to have some green tea early in the morning and then nothing but water all day. I'm going to Google this.

Monday, September 4th, 2006

I am starting to realize why certain teachers keep talking so fast to me. I am skilled at the art of acting like I know what is going on. I can pick out the important key words and more or less ascertain what we are discussing. Furthermore, I know how to mimic nods, deep thought looks, and agreement. When another teacher does something and I think I understand what we are talking about, I will do the same. We just had a meeting about (I think) how no current 2nd years want to have certain roles in the student council so we need to think about which 1st years could do it. I mimicked an agreement nod when someone suggested a few people, I repeated a name as if I was thinking about it or hadnít thought about that person before just then, then I did the deep thought gaze while we reflected on the moment. I was secretly thinking about my horrendous heartburn and which of my natural herbs caused it, but they didnít know.

I went for a jog when I got home. It was shorter than usual, but far more intense. I left a bit late since I was tied up at school. When I passed the area where the trees end I started thinking about how dark it was. The song I was listening to had a airy female vocal part that was creepy. Then I thought I saw movement in the woods out of the corner of my eye. I took off running full speed screaming like a schoolgirl with a scraped knee. Well it was worse than that, but I like that reference. I ran probably 500m until I was far enough away from the evil forest ghost. It was probably some lost soul of a genie who would grant me three wishes. Great. Not going back to check though.

I have a class with the 5th graders tomorrow. I always plan and the do the lessons for the elementary school, but the 5th grade teacher is the one who also teaches the 7th graders in the JHS and who doesn't use me much. By much I mean never. So this is my only class tomorrow, which is still ok since I have other things to do and journals to grade, but still I want classes. Anyway, I asked him what he suggests I do for my lesson tomorrow since that is the Japanese way and I have no idea what level they are. His response was "I'm thinking about the plan now". Which means he will plan everything and do it all and I will assist. I honestly don't mind since he knows their level and probably has a better plan than me anyway, but still, I would honestly rather have too many classes than not enough. I did the "no classes" thing in Fukushima City for three years.

I got fruited today. My nice farmer neighbor gave me some tomatoes and ran away. Look at the one in the back that looks like a butt. I have a tomato butt or a butt tomato. He mumbled that a few are "blue" and won't be ready until tomorrow. In Japan traffic lights are "blue" even though they are blatantly green.

Tuesday, September 5th, 2006

I go through phases where I get fixated on something. Recently it was this tank game, that I listed above or in August. I probably played over 500 rounds of it. Then one day I was tired of it. Now I am fixated with programming various things, some useful others just to see if I can do it. Other times I am fixated on writing things like stories and whatever. Iíve learned to accept these phases and use them to be productive rather than trying to swim against them.

I was just sitting at my desk and I had this vivid flashback of one summer when I was bout 10 or less. A neighbor, a boy my age, and hi mother went for a walk around the neighborhood. As I type that it sounds like it is building up to something major, but itís not. We walked a long way, further than I had ever been before, which makes me think I was younger than 10. We walked to the furthest part of our neighborhood. It was a cul-de-sac with one empty lot. We ran into the lot and explored. It was deep with thick woods. Back in the far corner was a hog skinning place and then a stone grill. It would have been in the middle of nowhere before the subdivision came. I donít know what made me think of that.

I just had a class with the 5th graders and the teacher who never uses me. Guess what, you arenít going to believe this. Even though I was in the room, he didnít use me. It was a good lesson and I learned a bit, but I said about 10-15 words. 5 of them were when I interrupted to clarify something. The rest were when I was asked to say a word. The kids had a good time, but itís a shame I am not used more. I think the kids actually benefited more when there wasnít a teacher on site. Before ALTs would come out to these schools twice a month and have either 5 or 6 classes. That could mean 12 classes per month, two per grade. I will have a total of about 6 classes TOTAL in the whole elementary school this term even though the principal asked them to use me more. If I say something then it will get them in trouble.

I forgot to mention, we went to this really cool wind generation place near the school. Near as in 20 minutes away, but still near, on top of a mountain. The propeller things were huge and we had a great explanation of size and numbers and so on, even in Japanese. I forgot my nice camera of course, but I did snap some decent shots with my camera phone. It seems odd, but I was sure the props were spinning backwards. I mean a propeller or fan will spin one way to push air. If air is blown against it, it will spin one way right? These seemed to be going A) way too slow and B) the wrong way. I will try to draw this out later.

Konan Machi wind generators, working for the future  Konan Machi wind generators, working for the future  Konan Machi wind generators, working for the future 

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

There is a school trip today. The 1st graders go to the Big-I and then the museum which seems to have an exhibit on Pixar which would be cooler than paintings from a small rural German town by people named Carl from the Renaissance.


At first the trip was the same as last year. At the planetarium, we saw the same thing about planets. Then we watched a demonstration about how some chemical solidifies certain liquids. Then we played in the space park for a while and the kids got to simulate the moonís gravity, weightlessness, a space trip, and so on. Finally we headed to the museum which has an exhibit on 20 years of Pixar.

I was excited about that. Again, at first it was the same as last year. They shuffled us into the ďpermanent exhibitĒ which is about what you would expect from a museum in an average size town of Japan. Some paintings were old and some were abstract, which I am not a huge fan of. No where was anything about Pixar. Then we go into a small room and see a 40 foot wide movie about Pixar (I keep typing Pizar). Then we go into a special hall and see some original early drawings, story boards, and clay models of characters. Eh, it was ok, but I was glad I didnít pay for the admission ticket. Then as we leave there is this temporary covered area with a display of some characters. They are on a big circle that is about 8 feet in diameter. Each one is in a different pose, but only slightly different. There are about 6 different characters. First are some small aliens, then some others that seem to be jumping, then the girl from Toy Story with a lasso, then Buzz Lightyear on a ball, finally some people parachuting from the center hole. But they arenít moving and itís a little odd. Then the whole thing starts spinning. Oh cute, what do I blink or something and it looks animated? Nope thatís not working. Oh now itís going really fast. This is really stupid, I canít even see the characters anymore, even when I blink, I really just donítÖÖ.

BOOYA. The lights go off and a strobe comes on and everything was moving as if alive. The front aliens are waving, the others are jumping in a hole off a springboard, the girl is twirling her lasso, Buzz is walking on the ball and the parachuters are jumping and falling. This alone was worth the admission ticket. I watched it for a while and tried to film some, which I will show below.

I am starting to get the hang of how I am supposed to stand/sit/pose etc. There are certain things that I do that seem perfectly natural and normal, but are considered semi rude in Japan. The way I figure out what they are is by thinking Ė anything that is comfortable, relaxing, or slightly casual is not acceptable here.

I might sit cross legged or have my arms crossed or lean against a wall or lean back, etc. All these things are usually not normal here. People stand at attention, remove their bags when talking to superiors, donít lean against walls, donít cross their legs, etc. If itís comfortable and casual to me, itís probably not the Japanese way.

Here are some shots from the school trip to the planetarium and art museum.

I think I managed to capture some of the spinning thing I mentioned above. It looks alright in the video, but the strobes made the camera blink a few times. In real life it look amazing, but here you only partially get the idea. If it doesn't play try clicking the link for an external player.


Launch in external player


Thursday, September 7, 2006

I am wearing a shirt that I donít like. That sucks too since it is a new shirt I bought on sale in the US. I like the color, but it has no button down collar. I canít stand these on me, even though they look great on other people. Hereís a photo:


I just feel stupid in non-button down collars, even though I am sure they look alright. Then as I am leaving I put on my comfy black slip in shoes. So as I am walking I realized I have this pinkish-purple open collared shirt with light almost white pants and black shoes. Iím a fashion idiot.

I tested the online quiz program that I made with my 2nd year JHS students. So far it worked great. It took a little time to explain what things mean since I don't want to have any or much Japanese on the page. Once they got over that, their competitive nature kicked in. The program displays their score as they are going so people beside each other started trying to outdo each other, as I had hoped. They seemed to understand all the questions and then would learn when they made a mistake. I need to find a way to get them to use this on their own at school or at home. I think this will really help raise test scores, which is all they want from me.

I taught the 6th graders a few English things in the last class. Things like ďlong time no seeĒ ďtake care Ė you tooĒ and others. So now in the hall when I see a 6th grader I say something and they answer. At first they would answer slowly, but now they are getting almost natural.

We have this ongoing polite disagreement about the arrangement of the English room. There are these long tables and we use them 3 per row and maybe 5 columns. My thing is, we should have two of the three touching, but the other teachers want them equally spaced. When they are equally spaced itís hard to get between all of them, but when two touch itís easy to get through the one, and impossible through the touching ones. But thatís fine, since we can just walk down the other row. Their argument is they want to walk down all the rows and pass through any columns at any point, but with the tables spaced evenly we have to wiggle and squeeze through.

On top of that there is a desk with the projector on it. It has always been slightly in front of the tables, but now it has been moved so it takes up the space of the gap of two tables, which then pushes the others so close together you really canít get through without some weird wiggle dance. I mean itís really tough. So I kept moving the desk out and adjusting the tables. Then they are magically put back. This has gone on for a while. So now I turned the desk sideways so it still sits between two tables, but takes up far less room. I simply turned the desk sideways. I didnít paint it fluorescent pink and write racial slurs on it. I simply turned it sideways.

One of the teachers saw me and said that might not work. Seriously, why on earth might that not work? I didnít rewire the classroom or use duct tape to rig up some way for the projector to hang from the ceiling like it should. I simply turned the desk sideways. So then I left and there was a class and when I came back it was adjusted. So I readjusted it and wrapped some wires around the legs in a way that it canít be easily adjusted back to the stupid way.

Friday, September 8th, 2006

THIS IS RYAN SYNDROME. You laugh when I say I have it, but EXPLAIN THIS and donít say ď oh itís just a coincidenceĒ, because that IS CRAP. In Mexico that would be EL CRAPO.

I am making a quiz program. Itís working great. Last night I made some major updates and changes based on what I saw from the students using it. Then before I went to bed I started to add several hundred ďprepositionĒ questions, but I started to get tired so I went to bed. This morning I got here and finished the file and then decided to enter it as I have done 50 bazillyatrillion times at school.

But no. It wouldnít work. The same process I have done so many times wouldnít work. Well ok, there is a network issue or they blocked it or something, except it eventually did work. Not only did it later work, but I could easily insert other data, just not the specific data I needed. Well maybe I am trying to enter too much? Nope, I just entered twice as much into a different database. So why wonít the exact database I need work? It did, one nanosecond after class. One micro-speck AFTER I needed it to work, it worked. Not before as it always has with no problems, but the second after class. Then it magically cleared up. CRAP.

There is a strange habit in Japan when listening to or broadcasting music. I donít think I have ever heard an entire song on the radio. My kids are playing some music over the intercom while people eat lunch and they are doing the same thing. They talk over half the song and then only play part of it. I can semi-understand them doing it here, but playing fewer songs all the way through would seem to make more sense. They do it on the radio too, which is yet another reason why I donít listen to much Japanese radio. They will start playing a song, sometimes an English song, and talk about nonsense for a minute or so. It sounds like they just want to hear their own voice. Then right near the middle they cut the song off and do another one. I donít get it and itís annoying.

I just did this really funny thing, at least in Ryanís world. Most of the teachers were in a meeting in the principalís office and some students were using a computer to print something. A girl went over to the printer and started collecting the papers and commented how there were far more than she expected. I quickly opened MS Word and typed out something in the phonetic alphabet (though itís really not). Then I quickly got up and walked over to another part of the room so I wouldnít be near my computer. Finally it stopped printing her stuff and then one more sheet came out. She grabbed it and read it and of course didnít understand it so she read it out loud. The sounds didnít make any sense to her, but luckily I was able to write it in a way that it made sense to me, as well as anyone else who saw and enjoyed Bruce Almighty. She turned to the teacher who was helping her who was also across the room and said:

I lika do da cha cha.

I do da cha cha like a sissy girl.

I had my back turned and was literally biting my fist so I wouldnít laugh. Since no one knew what it was they thought it was gibberish, like parts of data that were corrupted and just randomly came out. So they gathered around the teacher reading it. Then more students started reading it. I was nearly in tears and had to leave the room. They still donít know what caused it.

Speaking of ďdataĒ you canít say there were many data. The singular is Datum. Nor can you say ďI speak many EnglishesĒ. Itís WRONG. I hate when I hear some scientist moron on TV saying ďwe collected several data on the mountainĒ. WRONG DORK. You collected a lot of Data. Then maybe you were thirsty and drank many water and gave someone many money. I am so rich I have so many moneys.

Monday, September 11th, 2006

Wow that date just hit me. I guess this is the 5th year anniversary. Anyway, it's about 3am and I am just not sleepy. I have to figure out what is going on. For a while I was sure it was my new vitamins I am taking since the daily vitamin designed for the husky boy (really it's just weight conscious with special fat losing herbs and stuff). One ingredient is Green Tea extract, which translates to caffeine out the whazoo. But the latest I take it is 12:20pm before lunch. I guess it has some time delay or something. If I ate breakfast I could take it then, but I never really have time or the ingredients to make anything. I wish I could make a lot of food on Sunday night and have it last for the week, but I don't think I can.

I just glanced up and saw the prank about the cha cha. Man that was funny.


Hereís something that may or may not have ever happened. Maybe I just made it up, which is far more likely (and provable than me saying some Japanese teacher told me when they had been drinking heavily). Yea, weíll just say I made it up. Or better yet it was a conversation between myself and my imaginary friend, Armando.

M.I.F.A.: So you like to teach elementary school kids?
Me: Yes, itís fun. They are so alive and full of energy.
M.I.F.A.: We should probably have you in class more, but some teachers are scared kids might lose their Japanese identity.
Me: What do you mean?
M.I.F.A.: Japanese kids, at the early elementary school age, are just developing their sense of self, that they are Japanese. They are learning their place in the world. They are learning the order of things. Learning English too soon might confuse them.
Me: Ha. That sounds very Japanese.
M.I.F.A.: Well you wouldnít understand it anyway, itís part of the delicacy of Japanese culture.
Me: Ah, I was waiting for the ďyou wouldnít understand our advanced cultureĒ line.

I really feel kinda disjointed with the students now. I havenít been to any of the classes as an ALT this term yet so I donít really know where they are in the books. I havenít been to the first year classes as an ALT in a long time and I really miss being there. Well I miss being an ALT in the 2nd and 3rd year classes since I am really used. When I go to the 1st year classes I feel like I am intruding on the teacher, whereas in the other grades itís actual team teaching. I read some, I make comments, I check papers, I am part of a team. But either way I would rather be in the classroom than sitting here. Even though I have come up with several things to keep me busy, I would rather be in the classroom.

Ehh. I just had a class with the first years. I showed them my online quiz program. Once the network finally connected to the internet it was still lousy. We seem to have the slowest network connection in the history of the known world. Apart from that they asked me about 3.2 gazillion questions. Half the questions I had already explained. The really annoying thing is when I explained something in Japanese. ďThis quiz is a TF quiz. Choose T if it is an adjective and F if it is notĒ. The response from most kids was ďwhat is an adjective?Ē. But this was in Japanese. They donít know the Japanese word for adjective. How can you make it to the 7th grade and not know that word? Itís not like ďpast participleĒ, itís adjective. They found some more bugs which is good, but the overall class was slow. I think there were some smart kids in that class so maybe the next one will be worse.

Teacher: You didnít finish your soup. Was it ok?
Me: Well my small country town is a little sick today.
Teacher: The whole town?
Me: Itís not like part of the town could be sick, pretty much the whole thing.
Teacher: What about Chikako sensei?
Me: What about her?
Teacher: She lives near you.
Me: So?
Teacher: You said everyone in Miyo was sick.
Me: No I didnít. I saidÖ..Iím an idiot. I meant to say my stomach was a little sick today.
That would make more sense.

Stomach is onaka and small country town (or just the country in general) is inaka.

Ryan sensei, I found this coin in the computer room, is it from America?
Uh no, it is from Taiwan. See the kanji.
Oh wow, they use kanji in Taiwan too?
Well they sorda invented it.

You know what I really hate, and this is not about Japan, when you go to sleep and have a vivid dream about something and at the end of that dream you go to sleep. I didnít sleep much last night, as mentioned above, and today I felt bad. During an off period I napped in the counselorís room. I had a brief dream that I was fired and went into the counselorís room to take it all in. So then when I actually woke up I felt really strange. I went back to my desk and sat there wondering if I was fired. I decided to just wait and see if someone escorted me out. Eventually I remembered it was a dream (the Swedish bikini team was the clue) and all was well. Thatís about as bad as falling asleep on the toilet.

The seniors sculpted some hands and heads in art class last week. Over the weekend one kidís clay hand model fell, landed, and dried in a way so that it looks like it is flipping a bird. Itís funny. I tried to get a photo, but the art teacher did the mature thing and broke it.

[later yet]

I definitely have some form of insomnia. I drank nothing today that would keep me awake. Actually I just drank water all day and none of those new health vitamins. Plus last night I went to sleep around 4-5am and got up at 7 and slept only 20 min at school. But now it is 11pm and I am wide awake. Granted it's early, but I should be zonked out. Plus I took a sleeping pill 45 min ago and still feel wide awake. I can see myself getting addicted to sleeping pills just so I can get to sleep. Man this is odd.

I did talk to one of the teachers and told him to please use me, I am just sitting here doing nothing all day when I don't have my own classes. Today I worked on some computer things and then got tired of them and just wandered around for a bit. I was really bored. I get like that on Mondays and Fridays since we only have 5 classes and they let out at 2:30 as opposed to 3:25. When I have nothing to do (since I had all day to prepare) that early time makes me feel like the day drags on. On Tues-Thursdays, I will look up at the clock and it's already 5. Those are the days I usually stay until 6:30 or 7. Well those days that I have classes other than my own.

It's my favorite weather now. Not rainy and slightly cool. I can wear nearly nothing around the house and just relax. I keep thinking of the winter when the place is frigid since there is no insulation in Japanese apartments or houses. I don't really like the winter's here and luckily this summer was cool out in Konan. Last summer, my first, was nasty hot. Most of the time this summer it was nice and cool. I think I have used my A/C unit about 5 times since May or so. I love having the windows open, but I hate being on the first floor since people can see right in. 

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Iím starting to embrace the odd Japanese conversations I have. When they happen I seem to feel at home and warm as if I were a child wrapped tightly in a blanket. Hmmm, maybe that is why I havenít been sleeping well. One night they installed the Borg implant in an effort to assimilate me and a side effect is insomnia for a while. Hereís my Tuesday morning conversation:

Office Lady: Ryan sensei, you must stamp the book every day with your name stamp.
Me: Oh Iím sorry, I usually forget and catch up at the end of the week.
OL: I know, we have allowed this but you need to make sure to stamp it everyday.
Me: Well Iím not accustomed to doing that since we donít do that in the US, but I will make a note.
OL: You see we wonít have any idea if you are here or not each day unless you stamp the book.
Me: You mean apart from actually seeing me each day you wonít know if I am here or not?
OL: Well seeing you wouldnít be official, we have to check the book.
Me: Ah in case I took a half day off or had a business trip or was just stopping by for fun?
OL: No, we wouldnít know if you are actually here or not if the book wasnít stamped.
Me: ButÖ.you could justÖ.I would be standingÖ..my head hurtsÖ.

    Initiating ImplantÖÖÖÖÖÖÖ..ÖÖ.System OK
    Basic Logic Offline...............................Ö.System OK
    Ability to Argue Offline........................Ö.System OK
    Think Out of Box Offline..ÖÖ.Ö..ÖÖ.System OK
    Blind Unquestioning Submission.........Ö.System OK

Me: Ah yes the book. There is no excuse. I will stamp the book now and everyday. There is no excuse. I apologize for wasting your time. Must stamp book now.

The 3rd & 4th graders are going on some overnight trip. They all brought their luggage for the trip and itís a bit funny. For one night, the kids have more than I take on my whole Thailand trip. I guess I packed either a lot or too little as a kid. Wait I still do that. I either pack not enough or way too much, usually not enough, though in Thailand I intentionally donít pack enough since I can buy so much there. I always buy soap and deodorant and such there since itís pennies on the dollar. Sometimes I even buy shirts since they are about $3 for a decent one. Things made in Thailand are pennies, but things imported like cars or computers are the regular price.

After lunch I was sitting at my desk. A young teacher came over to use the computer near my desk and then left. He said something to the English teacher who then came over and asked me why I had waved the teacher away so abruptly. I told him I had no idea what he meant. He explained that the young teacher had come to use the computer, but I had brushed him away with my hand as if I was saying ďgo awayĒ to a dog. I told him I had been swatting flies, not brushing him away. It was explained and we all shared a hearty laugh. I was over laughing just to be funny and because they both had deep laughs, but when I laugh I use my inside voice.

Why is it so hard to start peeing when someone else is in the room? I mean I was in the bathroom, and at the stand up toilet (I am trying to avoid the word that starts with ďuĒ and sounds like carnival) and the vice principal came in. We are both guys, we both pee, so why did it take me 10 seconds to start? Strange.

I am supposed to have a class with the ES 5th graders, but that is with the super nice teacher who never uses me. Last week I had a class with him in which I was supposed to do semi solo, though he could assist, but it was 90% him with me barely speaking. I should really say 95-98% him. This day, or today in modern English, I was supposed to have another class. I asked him about it yesterday and he said he was still planning it. So then moments after after-lunch cleaning I asked him again and he said it would be just him. Then we had a discussion on how to say ďjust meĒ or ďonly meĒ. I thought about telling him he could also say ďjust me since you are a lousy teacher and a worthless human being and I donít want you near my kids you wasteful bag of mostly water. I will never use you in any of my classes. You can die you dirty stinking apeĒ. But I went with ďjust me is okĒ.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

We just had a morning meeting where three people read memos to us and then the principal gave this pep talk about something.

Last night I went into Koriyama to do some shopping and then had sushi with Paula and her boyfriend Yuya. I helped her get a job up here as a new Native Teacher. The sushi was good and we chatted for a while about things. I bought some blank DVDs (since the previous ones were for video only argh) and some prep books for the big national standardized English test coming up. I could probably get the school to buy them, but the paperwork makes it easier to buy them myself.

Some kid is getting yelled at since he exited the teacherís room through the wrong door and didnít say ďI was rude for entering the room, and now I am being rude for leaving itĒ. I mean he is really getting yelled at. I think it would be about the same yelling if they caught him with cigarettes or something. How dare he not precisely follow the rigid cultural rules. How dare you. You must not deviate from ďthe wayĒ. You must not even think about it. We do not allow variables. Ė I totally understand someone telling him ďdonít use this door and always say that phrase when you leaveĒ, but the yelling is absurd. Truly absurd.

I just had a class with my three students in the elective class. We combined with the bigger class since we are doing a big project together for the school festival. We are filming an English introduction to the school. There are 13 kids total and each one gets a 30 second spot to discuss some part of the school. We are going to make it slightly funny and I think it should be good. Much better than my feeble attempt at making a video last year. I also want to do something with my three kids. Something like them doing interviews with famous people. I would find the already filmed interviews and then the kids would act out the part of the interviewer and I would just show the part of the famous person. It could be funny if done correctly.

When does autumn officially start, or rather unofficially? Is it when one leaf turns brown or when that brown leaf falls to the ground? Itís been hot for a while so I still think of it as summer, but it just turned cool and several leaves turned brown and fell. I guess it is officially autumn now.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Had an average day. A few classes in the morning and then some school festival prep stuff in the afternoon. I confirmed my flight to Thailand for December. Now I am sitting in the teacherís room in a 2 hour meeting. Oh the humanity. Itís been an hour so far and I can barely understand what is going on. It is good listening practice, but my brain shuts down after taking in too much Japanese. I have a stack of 20 memos on my desk about the meeting. Just for kicks I am typing this part slowly, like one letter at a time. Itís a good way to pass the time. Sometimes I will just stare at the big projection screen and lean over and type a few letters without really looking. This meeting is partially about the school festival since the kids are about to come in and formally ask permission to have the school festival. The one we have already started planning. The one they have had as a tradition for as long as the school as been here. But it is the Japanese way to be rigidly formal in matters such as this.

Iím real sensitive to people, especially me, fitting in or not fitting in. Sensitive in the sense that I can see it as well as the early stages quickly. Many times when a random group forms, maybe a new class or a summer camp etc, I seem to always be left out of all the cliques. Iím not really whining about it, just noting it always happens. I guess it is because I donít really have any outstanding skills like others. Iím a terd at sports, I donít really excel in any subject, genre, or specialty, and in general I donít have many things, if any, that attract people. Some people can play a piano, some are good at sports (or at least not terds), others can do math in their head or think critically. I just kind of bounce around and mingle with all the groups, but never really become part of one.

I donít know why I started thinking about that. I guess it could be because the teachers finished their meeting and were making jokes about something. To amuse myself I would laugh when they laughed and I would laugh really dramatically like ďha ha ha hardy har harĒ (as mentioned above). So that proved you canít really type laughter, but you get the hint. Anyway, I felt strange, because I do fit in with them in one sense, but I donít truly fit in. If I were fluent, or more gooder at Japanese then I could semi fit in, but even then I am a foreigner and we never fully fit in. Japan is a closed society and even though some foreigners are fluent and nearly Japanese, they are simply not Japanese, and that is always there.

Itís strange how group dynamics have changed. When I first got here we had a great social group. There were about 10-12 of us and we would meet every Friday and or Saturday. We all complimented each otherís personalities and got along great. It had a smooth dynamic. But now, I am older and donít fit into any group. I hang out with Paula and her boyfriend most of the time, but they donít like spending money or going out as much as I do. Plus I live so far from them. Thatís another thing, even as far as living locations go, I always seem to be out of the group. When I was in Fukushima city many people were clumped together in a group, and I was way outside of town. Then I even moved and tried to get closer, but it didnít work. Now I am the one Koriyama ALT or NT rather than lives outside of the city. I wonder if it is happening for a greater reason. Since I have no one to play with everyday I am becoming more introverted and doing things on my own. I have also taken up some new hobbies. Since I have been writing this journal and getting both post feedback and hate mail (seriously) I have decided to start writing some as a hobby. Maybe for magazines and then novels. I am going to start out with young animal erotic torture fiction. I think there is a good market for that. No seriously, maybe some short fiction maybe even speculative fiction or something for magazines. Oh and the ďmore gooderĒ comment above was a joke. I am more better at grammar than that. Ok, that one too.

I have a can of carbonated orange juice I havenít dranken drinken drunk in a few days. Rather than drink it now I wish I had a BB gun so I could shake it and then shoot it and watch it burst. Speaking of that, sorda, I found some site where people dropped Mentos in Coke bottles which made them spew like 10 feet tall. They rigged something up so they re-enacted the Bellagio fountains from Las Vegas. It was fatty cool. Ok, Itís 7:30pm and I think I can call it a Friday night.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Well I feel like a gimp. I don't know if I used gimp correctly or not, but it seems to be how I feel. Around 9am this morning, I heard some Japanese Taiko drums outside. Then a flute. The drumming sounded very childlike. When adults drum, they stand correctly and hit the drum hard and in some distinct rhythm, but kids just swing the sticks and hit the drum whenever. It was definitely kid like. Since tomorrow is a holiday I assumed it was for some festival. I grabbed my camera, quickly got dressed, and ran outside to roughly where the drumming was.

There were no people.

So I looked around and still heard some drumming. I tracked it down, and it was some drunk old man swinging away. But no kids. So there I was standing in the street looking at this drunk guy and then he saw me and waved me over. I bowed and ran away. I ran to the store and bought a sandwich for lunch and asked if there was a festival today and they said it started around noon or 1. So I guess I will go back for that. He must have been up early and ready to practice. Man drunk at 9am, reminds me of college.

Then I went back out around 1pm and waited for the small festival to start. Small is definitely the correct word.

World's smallest beer or world's largest man.

First I drank the world's smallest beer in two chugs.

Japanese festival - Miyo, Konan Machi, Koriyama

Then the shrine was carried past me.

Japanese festival - Miyo, Konan Machi, Koriyama

Followed by some local kids and a Taiko drum wagon.

Japanese festival - Miyo, Konan Machi, Koriyama

Then they went on down the road playing drums and carrying the shrine.

And that was it.

I took about 20 photos total, but there are cars blocking the way. There is some weird driving thing in Japan as well as Asia in general. It's culturally insulting to be behind someone or to have to wait. I have seen cars pass on a curve, people nearly get in wrecks getting around some turning car that would have turned within 20 seconds, people passing school buses as they are stopped and letting kids out. I mean come on people just stop and wait for 30 seconds and it will be ok. I truly want to know how people from this region survive when they go to foreign countries where it's not ok to park in the middle of the road while you are checking a map, or pass on a curve, or pass a bus. How do these people not get arrested or die? Is there some memo at the driver's license place that says "Oh you can't drive like a drunk infant zebra in this country". They don't evens low down to pass the festival. I could understand if they inched by maybe, or if there was an emergency, but it's every car. They just fly past the people. Here's one of many photos, look at my reflection and the motion blur. He was speeding even without the people all in the street.

You can't really see how fast he was going, but he was moving. I can't do anything about it since it is the Japanese way. Everyone does it all the time. When I am riding with someone I am usually gripping the seat and white knuckled. It's much worse in Thailand though. They drive like they have a death wish. I mean taxis and buses and minivans. I try to avoid the tours that use a minivan, because they truly drive like demons.

Monday, September 18th, 2006

Saturday I went up to Fukushima city for the day and met Emiko who is married, now pregnant, and lives in Korea with her Korean husband. I still think she has such a beautiful face, angelic actually. But she is married to a strict husband who won't let her travel alone (or at least not without him) and she has to conform to all his beliefs. I started thinking about people I have known in the past who were dating or married to someone that just didn't make sense. Some of them were girls that would have been perfect for me. I just drives me crazy when there is someone who would be a perfect match and is in the relationship simply because of some physical attraction, but the other person has nothing in common with them. It just bugs me when you have strong feelings for someone and they are in a stupid relationship that doesn't really make sense. Once you are with someone for a long period of time, you have too much invested to call it quits and start over.

I think people get married for one of three reasons:

1) They have been with the person too long to call it quits and start over. It would be easy to stay together.
2) They think they can't do any better.
3) They are truly in love.

I am pretty sure I am officially single. I haven't emailed her since April 15th. I wrote "When you come back to Fukushima in May can we get together?". We hadn't seen each other for two months after she moved. Her response "No, I will be too busy meeting with my friends". I figured we were clearly on different paths and just didn't respond. My initial reason was I wanted to see how long it would take her to email me since I felt like it was always me initiating contact. So April and May passed, then June and July. Then I went to the US, when I came back there was nothing, now it's late September and pretty obvious we are over. I'm going to venture out and say definite. There is no point in fooling myself. It's not like she lost her phone and had no way of contacting me. I do owe her some money and would like to get it to her though. $80 for when she backed out of going to sumo in January, and $30 for something else. It's not like I borrowed money and owe her, it's like she got a refund and I have it. Maybe I could figure out the address of her old apartment and send it there since it would be forwarded.

I bought a $6 optical ball-less mouse. Oh it is so nice. My old one would stick and I had to move it left or right and then up. This one has a reaction time around the speed of light. For a while I couldn't use it since I would fly past the point I wanted to stop at since it is so sensitive and I am used to it being a hassle to move the mouse.

Today I'm really just staying in and watching movies as well as adding more questions to the quiz program I made. It already has around 3,000 questions, but I have more to add for the standardized English test part.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Today has started out to be quite ironic. First, I am teaching two listening lessons based on the Daniel Powter song ďBad DayĒ. Thatís where the irony comes into play. Those classes are from 4th period, now itís second period. My first period class was more or less a flop causing me to start having a Bad Day.

First I couldnít get the printer to print the worksheet. So I had to use a different one to print it. Then the copy machines simply would not copy the activity. It would cut off part or blur another part. Finally I get a finished copy, Iím only ten minutes late to class. I pass them out and the students start telling me there are problems. I glance at the sheet and see none. Then I notice the copy machine randomly, and seemingly perfectly, didnít copy certain areas around the page. These areas perfectly lined up with whole words or answers so random answers arenít showing. Wow it keeps getting better and better.

Part of the activity for the first class (not the music) was a word search. So the copy machine, my old chum, chose not to copy the first line of letters, which I could understand since it was a big page, but also, and here is the really fun part, the bottom line. There is no reason in the physical known universe for it to have not copied the bottom line. There are characters, that were copied perfectly, above and below this line. Here I will show you.

So the top line was cut off, and the bottom line where it starts with K,N,L,X was also cut off. The line below that was blank on purpose to space it out some. Ignore the fact that there are spaces in the words to search for, the kids know that there are not spaces in the letter grid, or whatever itís called.

So the bottom line was cut off as was the top, making it nearly useless. I had to rewrite virtually the whole quiz and search on the board. I guess the universe is paying me back for all my sins. I must have been some evil dictator in a previous life. I wonder who died moments before I was born? I was probably Rasputin or something and the universe is still not finished balancing the scales. All thatís left is for it to cause things not to work for me and cause me to be generally annoyed.

Scene 2: After lunch, in the teacherís room.

Who put this stuff on my desk? Where are my notebooks? Who moved the pictures from under the mat on my desk? Who put this computer here? Ö..Iím an idiot, this isnít my desk.

I have had a full load today and it feels good. It makes up for tomorrow when I have two scheduled classes and only one I will be used in, which is my own. Thursday I have two also, but I will be gone for one since I plan to stay in Koriyama tomorrow night after the board of educationís welcome party. Thursday morning the new foreign teachers will come to my school, but I wonít be here until noon. I have some things to do since it is payday. Friday I should have 4 classes, but it will only be two since half are with the first years and I donít even go there anymore. Overall this job is much better than the JET programme (British spelling), but itís just part of the Japanese culture to not need a foreign NATIVE English speaker when it comes to teaching English.

I am really bad with short term memory things. I end up making lists to organize my thoughts. Then I make lists of lists and organize my lists that way. I donít know why I am talking about this. I guess I am in a typing mood.


Wow, this is big. I am still at school at 6:30pm reading journals. At some point someone said to the music teacher there is a visitor. The music teacher is a super nice guy, around my age, who is always smiling and speaks average English. So he walks over and greets the man and woman. The man starts saying something to him. Then he gets louder and louder, then he is yelling and swinging his arms around. Other teachers walk over and try to see whatís going on. Then the vice principal comes over and then the principal. They are trying to talk to the man, but he is getting out of control. This is really strange for Japan. Then they do the Japanese thing and go into the principalís office and have a meeting. He was still yelling in there. Teachers all the way across the school heard him. I honestly canít possibly imagine why this guy would be mad at the music teacher. If it was me, well yea, maybe I said something wrong or who knows, but the music teacher is so nice. Other teachers know what is going on, but wonít tell me.

Update: Uh oh I heard gaijin, which means foreigner. Now I am getting worried.

Double update: One of my students wrote in her diary ďtoday student X was loud and the music teacher told him to be quiet, so student X cried a bitĒ. Hmmm, maybe this is a clue. I wonder if this guy is old man Smithers from the amusement park. I've been watching too much Scooby Doo recently. I shouldnít make jokes. Either way they are gone and the meeting is over, but actually they are all gone. I mean flat out not here. I wonder if they went to someoneís house or are in another part of the school, though most of the school is dark.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Doesnít it make sense that adults would be given more food than elementary school kids? Am I wrong in thinking that? To me it makes no sense to be eating the exact same amount as a 6 year old, sometimes even less since they often get refills. This truly doesnít make sense to me.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

The board of education's welcome party was fun, but I always wish they would let it last longer. It was from 6 to 8. I get there about 6:05 since they mailed me the world's smallest and unreadable map and the taxi driver couldn't read it. First we sit down, then 5 people give opening and welcome speeches, then we have a toast. We eat for about 20 minutes and then the new people start giving their welcome speeches. Apparently we can't keep eating during these. Well la-ti-dah. Then they pass out some nice little origami things a person made as well as some fine sake from the superintendent of education. He is a cool guy, but doesn't have the cool Corrado Soprano glasses like the previous guy.

Then finally we can talk a bit, but suddenly it's time to go. Since it was on a weekday no one is interested in a second party. I walked back to the station and it was a long way. Partially because every time I thought about getting a taxi there weren't any. I passed a few at the city hall, but when I tried to get one the driver was sleeping and I woke him up. He was in a deep sleep and I freaked him out so bad he just drove away. Then I crashed in a hotel. I could have stayed with someone, but I am getting too old to do that. I have strange sleeping habits if I even get to sleep. I really think I have some form of insomnia.

Then today I sent some money home as well as some to the travel agent for my ticket to coup de etat land, known as Thailand. The travel agent already paid for the ticket, so if I don't pay is hurts them. Then I got a lot of little things done such as buying some more study books for the standardized English test as well as getting a haircut and some other things. I bought a new mobile phone since I hated the old one like the devil. The big thing was it had no ear speaker. It had this stupid design idea called Flat Panel Speaker, where they sound allegedly came out of the whole screen, but it really didn't. It was like I had a piece of cardboard between my ear and the phone. I hated it. I really shouldn't have gotten the phone today, but I have been wanting a new one for a while.

It has more features and much better service at my school. I can even check messages at my desk as opposed to sticking my arm way out some distant window. Plus I can use it in foreign countries which is great, and expensive. It also has a time display in the outside, as opposed to not having one like the old one. Though sadly, I do miss the old phone a bit. It had this fun card game that I would play every time I was in the bathroom. Not every time I was actually in a bathroom, but when I was doing things that required sitting for a bit.

Then when I got home I documented every single expense since I am now saving receipts. I am starting to track exactly where my money goes. I did send back far more than usual this month, but that's because I have to start paying some things down faster and then saving something. The only way I can do that is by just getting used to not having as much money here. I sent back around $950 in Yen, which came out to be $750 USD. IF that makes sense. I sent back 95,000 yen, which is like $950 or 950 dollar units. A dollar unit being 100 of the smallest coin. Hey it's my life and my abstract way of thinking. There are always people who say "you can't think of 10,000 yen as $100, it's more like $88.92". You know what dork, I can think of it however I want. It's close to $100. It's closer than 1,000 yen or 10 yen. It's the $100 unit of Japanese money.

So now I am wicked broke, but I found these cool frozen food packs at the grocery store. I bought four and they should last me for a week. They go over rice which should be filling. Not super healthy, but you can't eat healthy cheaply here where there is one small grocery store for 30 miles in any direction.

I had to cancel my trip to Tokyo to see my old roommate Ken and then go to the Tokyo Game Show. Oh well. I'll have to be thrifty for a while, but I should be able to make it last. I'll just not eat for a while if needed. I need to lose the weight anyway. I should try to run tomorrow morning if it's not raining as it has been everyday.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Because I spent so much yesterday and am tight for money this month, I am going to try to spend nothing for a 7 day period. Maybe starting Saturday, but I might get bored and go into Koriyama one day. Plus I need to update my bank book which I forgot yesterday. But for 7 straight days I am going to try to spend no money. No morning coffee or orange juice and no dinner since I bought several days worth yesterday.

I sent back some extra money as I mention. Then I sent a big payment to one of my loans. Itís getting low so I am really going to try to pay it off by the end of the year. It is possible and I set it as a goal. Then I can take that money and use it, plus my regular payment, plus a bit extra to pay down another loan. When I get that one down, I will use that money, to pay down my big school loan. That one will take several years, but I would like to get a chunk out of it while I am here.

Last week I told my kids in the Elective B class they had to turn in their journals by Thursday if they want to watch a movie. Half turned it in 5 minutes before class as usual. So I made them do memorization instead of a movie. They were starting to think they could slack off and still watch a movie, but I snapped them into place. I figured group spankings would be frowned upon.

Something just happened that I would have loved to have seen, but I was involved. I was updating the points chart in the hallway. I use a ruler, a red marker, and a black pen. I had just updated it and this 1st year JHS student started talking to me saying nonsense. I was semi-ignoring him. Then a fly came by and started bugging me (ha ha literally). I started swatting at the fly with the ruler. The student was jumping around and slapping his hands together every time I swung at it. He is always a bit too hyper so he was really excited from the energy of me getting mad at the fly. Then the fly flew between us and I was still swatting at it.

Seconds later a teaching came running at me terrified. He thought I was hitting the student with the ruler. It looked like it and due to the kid clapping when I swung it probably sounded like it too. Ha, I really would have liked to have filmed that just to see how it looked.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

I did a whole lotta nothin' this weekend. Saturday I just watched movies. Today I worked on the quiz site for the kids. Each time I work on it I make some many major improvements. Soon it's going to be wicked fat. I didn't spend any money this weekend since I didn't leave the apartment once. I didn't even lean out the window. I can't say I got a lot done, but the big thing was not spending any money. I can get by during the week without spending much, even though I ate my week's worth of food this weekend. In my defense the food packets I found were much smaller than I thought. There is no way I could have used this food for the whole week. I'll have to spend money sometime, but I can't afford much.

Monday, September 25, 2006

I just had the most amazing experience ever, in the history of the all life. Ok, that was an exaggeration. Most likely from the coffee. The coffee that I didnít buy this morning. Yes I did. I bought it. Iím going to alter my plan to make it 7 days in a month, not 7 in a row. Maybe I can make it 10 or 15. So far I didnít spend anything for two days, but I ran out of food and have to buy more tonight anyway. So back to my amazing experience, which was really just semi-cool.

It was a dark and stormy night. Lester McMillian, a 28 year old sly detective, was washing bonesÖ..

Nope, sorry again. Definitely the coffee.

OK, I get to school this morning and there is some memo on my desk about an adjusted schedule for tomorrow. I glance at it and read it. Then I put it off to the side and say I will translate it later. Then I look at it again and realize I donít need to, I just read the whole thing. I even read some words I didnít know I knew. I guess I forgot I couldnít read Japanese and just read it. Like when I drink a bit, the alcohol blurs the part of my brain that reminds me I canít speak Japanese and I just speak it. I guess we all have that shyness about making mistakes, though the Japanese are the worst at it. They just donít speak, rather than say I donít know or something.

I was in the teacherís room alone a minute ago and the VP walked through. I thought there was something I was supposed to be at since there were no teachers here, not even the part time ones who are always here. So he walks by and I put my hands on the keyboard and start rapidly hitting keys as if I were typing. Then I put my hand to my chin in that thoughtful way, thoughtful as in I was in deep thought not ďhow thoughtful of you to touch your chinĒ. Then I fake typed more. It was fun. He thought I was in deep thought about some lesson plan, but I wasnít. Itís like when I was a tech support specialist (the specialist was the most insulting, just call me a grunt). People would call and ask some dumb question, I knew the problem was on their end or the network between us and them, but they wouldnít believe me if I said that as soon as they finished asking. So we would listen, then move the phone near the keyboard and rapidly fake type while acting surprised at the outcome. Ah, hmmm, well, oh. Then sometimes I would say my standard phrase to buy a few minutes while they sat on the phone thinking I was fighting the good fight for themÖĒlet me put you on hold for a minute while I reconfigure the main system structureĒÖÖ.minutes laterÖ..Ēthat didnít seem to maintain a connection so now I will recalibrate the internal bindingsĒ. That worked great until I had some upper level senior advanced systems analyst whiz guy, with an attitude no less, who said ďthat was gibberish moronĒ. I changed my plan after that. Anyway, the VP thinks I am working on some serious lesson plan or something, but I'm just pretending. Oh here he comes again...dhfsdhfshdf;oauihdfgoeihrgknflvnsdfoidsfglsfj

I have officially declared it to be the beginning of autumn. I had to close my windows over the weekend and put on long pajama pants and socks. Usually I just sit around in my underwear and no socks, but it got to the slightly chilly stage and I had to give in. Iím not looking forward to winter. It's especially harsh in my small mountain town. That almost rhymed. Mountain town. I live down in the round mountain town. Yea, mental note, no more coffee on an empty stomach. Anyway, last year there was about 10 feet of snow total over the year, maybe more. This year I will be slightly more prepared for it, but itís still bad. Plus I might be the only guy living in the guy side of the teacherís house which means there will only be one person clearing the snow from the door. I need to take some photos from various places showing the differences in the winter and non-winter months. I will make this happen. Iíll be right back, I have to recalibrate the internal bindings.

I just received a memo in which words exist that I have no knowledge thereof. So I translated some of it. One of the words translates to: a meeting in which participants will be roused. I guess that means pep rally, but man what a non-rousing way of saying it. Excuse, do you feel you have been adequately roused for the match tomorrow?

The 3rd grade teacher came over to me all smiling a minute ago. I knew exactly what she wanted. She will be absent sometime soon and wants me to fill in a class. Not because she wants the kids to practice English with a native speaker, but because she wonít be here and needs people to fill her classes. Iíll take what I can get. I like her class, not as much as the 4th graders, but they are probably my second favorite. I also go to the 6th graders, but not the 5th graders. Iím wondering if the teacher who never uses me asked the guy who makes the schedules to stop putting me on the schedule for his class. I find it odd that the principal gave this big speech about how the ES has to use me more this term and they are actually using me less. When the new teachers get here in March, I am going to have someone tell them I should be in their classroom at least once a month. I will tolerate nothing less. Before having a Native Teacher, AETs came to the elementary schools at least once a month, if not more.

Oh how it makes me laugh when students write in their journals about Ďelectionsí and have troubles with Ls and Rs. Oh the amusing sentences they accidentally make.

My online quiz program is working better than ever. I showed some more kids who are taking the Eiken test (standardized English test) in mid October. I gave them a brief intro and they used it for a minute. I told them they could quit whenever as long as they understood how to use it. Then I left and when I came back 15 minutes later they were still using it. They were competing against each other. I heard one girl say something like ďyou can go ahead and stop when you want toĒ, but they kept glancing at each otherís score. Let me tell you, if you are reading this and you teach Japanese kids/people, use their fierce competitiveness against them. I pit each class against each other and that causes more and more people to write in their journals and to outdo the other class. The Japanese are group based and work hard to protect and improve their group. My next project is to make some quiz things for the younger kids. But that will have to be audio and pictures since they arenít allowed to learn the alphabet until JHS. If they were to learn English too early, they may not fully develop their Japanese identitiesÖ

Yes I can Use Chopsticks at McDonald's


Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Handicap spaces mean nothing in Japan. Oh they have the spaces and the signs that say donít park here unless you are handicap, but that is a variable and we have established Japanese people donít deal with variables. I canít count the number of times I have seen people park in a handicap space and jump out and go shopping. Not even parking to drop something off, just flat out parking in the space because it is the closest one. I could take pictures, but that would just me shots of cars in the spaces. Plus I am the foreigner and that would most likely draw suspicion. Perhaps I donít understand the advanced Japanese way (of disregarding the law).

I just got fruited. Well it wasnít a true fruiting, thatís when a farmer knocks on my door, shoves fruit or veggies in my face, then scurries off flustered. This was from a studentís mother after school, at school. Itís a big bag of tomatoes. Are they fruit or veggies? I think fruit. Iím not complaining, I can eat tomato sandwiches all this week and next since some are still green (or blue in Japan). I wish I could get dinnered rather than just fruited though..

The volleyball girls kicked butt again, but most of the other teams lost as usual. The volleyball girls are just with it. They really have their act together and they are usually my favorite girls in class. A few in particular. They are going to be hard to lose when they graduate in 2008, at which time I plan to still be here. Wow. I can almost say ďIíll see you in 10Ē as in the year 10.

Another teacher was fruited outside with me, but she is now doing the Japanese thing of giving them all to the group. She is walking around giving a tomato to each teacher. ARGH. Itís making me look a little bad and really like a foreigner, but I need the tomatoes and how odd is it to receive one tomato on your desk anyway.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

I donít have a problem, so much, with teacherís giving English tests using a CD for the listening part. There is a certain uniformity to it. They can play it twice or more and get the exact same intonation, emphasis, pronunciation, speed, and so on. But to have me sitting here playing this really cool tank game (or adding questions to my online quiz program or writing some fiction) and use a CD player everyday is sad. Hey Iím in the wasteful JET Programme again. Foreigners? We donít need no stinkiní foreigners. We is able to be speak Engrish ok not need foreigners.

We had some city wide sports day Tuesday and today, here are the photos of what ALWAYS happens when they return.

Here is an updated link to More Than You Wanted To Know About Growing Rice.

Some man just walked into the teacherís room and I have seen him a lot. I asked, let me clarify: I whispered to the teacher using the computer beside my desk, ďwho is that guyĒ. In true J-style and full volume, ďTHAT MAN IS MR TAKANAKADAKAWAKAWAKAĒ. So the guy hears this since he has ears capable of picking up loud sounds and comes over. I was flustered and tried to say I was just curious since I always see him. But I think I just mumbled something. I mean, seriously dude, did you not hear me whispering to you? Wouldnít that imply I wanted a whisper in return and NOT speaking full volume? I have never heard a Japanese person whisper. It is my new quest.

I had a mild language thing yesterday. I was walking around as the students were leaving. The bus was at the door and students were getting on. I saw a teaching walking around announcing ďnose bleedĒ. So I assumed there was someone with a nose bleed and the teacher lost track of them, so I joined in the search. I too walked around and said ďnose bleedĒ. Finally some students heard me and saw the bus and said ďoh Ryan you are so silly, the bus is Hamaji not HanajiĒ. Hamaji is a place and Hanaji is nose bleed. The actual characters are Hana for nose and Chi (chee) for blood, but it is phonetically altered for some reason (to confuse foreigners). So I got credit for making a stupid joke and not being linguistically stupid. Iíll keep making the joke for a while so they know (think) I meant to make the mistake.


I was arm wrestling with the chorus club (girls) for some reason. It was their doing. One girl was tough and I could have won, but gently let her. Another girl was no problem so I slacked off a lot. When I did she looked at me and said ďhonkyĒ and then the other girls were calling me honky as well. I started laughing and asked why they were calling me that. Apparently honky, spelled in the roman alphabet of Japanese as HON KI, means true energy. It makes sense, but when I heard them saying Honky it was too funny.

The 3rd years are going to sing Time After Time by Cyndi Lauper for the Fall Festival. I found the song (sadly I had a rip from a CD I owned at one point in the distant pastÖer wait maybe it was my sisterís). They loved the song and I showed them the video on YouTube or Google. Then I wrote the lyrics in English. Today they asked for the lyrics in Japanese so I said I would try to start them and someone could fix them later. Then I searched Google (in Japanese) for the song. After figuring out how they spell Cyndi Lauper in Japanese (surprise it is phonetically wrong) I managed to find the lyrics. So I copied them and matched the English to the Japanese and printed out a copy. I gave it to the song committee leader girls and they loved it. I heard them playing the song and singing along and making the universal gasps of understanding. It was nice. I need to video the whole festival. I planned to do something big this year, but I will wait and do it next year. I still have a small surprise for the kids.

Japanese Rakes

They won't use a rake since THAT makes no sense, but using straw brooms from

300 B.C.

is perfectly normal, logical, and modern.

A shot of the teacher's kitchen where I work my magic.

Or at least make green tea in the morning.

This is the ultra modern way of seeing who is here and who is not. The books mentioned above
are just below this board. I can never remember to slide my little name slider thing up when I get there.


Thursday, September 28, 2006

Japanese kids, perhaps kids in general, have the attention span of wallpaper. There was a camera crew here today filming the young kids eating and stuff. Then there was an interview with the vice principal of the elementary school. The interview was in the old style room down the hall and down stairs, but there were no walls between it and the lunchroom. The VP came into the lunch room three times to say please hold it down. Which the kids would, until the end of his sentence. Then they were back at full volume. Then in the hallway teachers would say ďplease be quietĒ, but kids would stop for about 2 seconds and then keep yelling. One kid started yelling at his friend AS the VP was telling HIM to be quiet. It was funny.

The studentsí journals give me never ending amusement. Whenever I feel down I read them and always find a way to cheer up. Maybe they are talking about the big 'elections' that everyone enjoys and they mess up their Rs and Ls. This time one girl was talking about a past foreign teacher here. She wrote

I miss her. She was a good teacher. I want to lick her.

Iím pretty sure it means ďI want to BE like herĒ. Oh good times.

This is funny in a strange way. In one of my 7th grade classes today, I was playing a game called shiritori. Shiri is actually butt and tori is grab. So I had all the kids grabbing each otherís butt. No, it really means the bottom of the word, as in the last letter. If I say Flower, the next student has to say something that starts with R. Maybe we would call it word chain. So I had them get in teams. I told each team they could keep going until they paused for 5 seconds. It worked well for a while until a special child in the back starting paying attention. Yes I mean special as in special. I think he is mildly autistic. When it was his teamís turn he started spitting out words faster than I could follow them. It was like ďbus star red door running great tall light tunnel leftÖ..Ē It was amazing and strange mixed together.

After school the baseball team was horsing around and throwing some balls around. They werenít way down on their field area, they were right by the teacherís room. I grabbed my new cheap Wal Mart glove and ran out to join them. They were impressed with my glove and how far I could throw. Once a kid threw a ball to me a bit too far and it was above my head. I instinctively threw my glove in the air. It happened to ďcatchĒ the ball and hold it and then drop back to me. Well I took a step back, but all it all it was cool. Even I was impressed, but the kids wouldnít stop talking about it. They tried to get me to do it again, but it was my once in a million chance so I didnít try to recreate it.

Friday, September 29, 2006

I just had a great class with the 6th graders. I usually have so-so classes with them since they are advanced, but we arenít allowed to teach them the English alphabet until JHS. Even though they already unofficially know it, we canít officially teach them. So that limits my activities greatly. Today I started by playing Bobby McFerrinís ďDonít Worry, Be HappyĒ. I explained the song and taught them the chorus which he repeats about 20-30 times. I told them to say the Be Happy part when they hear Donít Worry. It worked flawlessly until the end when he starts improvising. I also explained there are no instruments other than him singing and humming alone. Ok, that all took ten minutes.

Then I reviewed some body parts and we played doctor. Not that ďplay doctorĒ, in this one they would do rock paper scissors and the loser had to blindly take a piece of paper with a body part on it. Then they would say ďdoctor doctor my ___________ hurtsĒ. The doctor would then take some toilet paper and wrap the injured area. You can imagine how fun it was to take toilet tissue out of a bag in class. Students got quiet and stared. When I explained it, they cheered. It was a great success and they had a great time. It really gave me credit for planning a fun class. So now I have to plan something for next week too. Argh.





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