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One Slip.
Thursday, September 02, 2010

            I had one small slip in the 100 days 50 pounds mega diet. Not entirely a slip, but I ate too much at an Okinawan restaurant. The good news is the food was good and not fast food so I bitter citrus drink popular in the region. It was Keiko’s birthday which is why I went in the first place.

            Other than that I am still moving things around in the apartment. My PC crashed somewhat completely. I’ve been getting BSODs for a while, but last time I cranked it up it locked up, then locked on reboot, and again on the second reboot so I turned it off. I’m going to have my neighbor rebuild it and make it like the 6 million dollar man, much better than it is now. We are talking about a new motherboard, quad core cpu, massive cpu cooler, 4gigs of RAM with 2 slots left open for another 4 next payday, new power, and the fattest video card known to man. That way I can do some serious video editing and even play some cpu intensive games such as Stracraft 2, but not Warcraft. I’m going to try hard to not get back involved in that again. It was fun, but also like a black hole.

            I didn’t wake up early enough to run today. For some reason I was ultra-tired last night and passed out at about 10 and then woke up to the 6am alarm. Had my sleep apnea awakened me at 5:30 again I would have run, but I guess I needed the rest. I’m still in unpacking mode even though most things are in place. I still want to rearrange a few things, but I am really close to having a layout that I like. Actually I am going to do some laying out now using MS Excel.

[later]

            I was just researching the size of tatami mats because I needed to know the size of my apartment to do the layout. I found this bit of trivia about tatami on Wikipedia.  In homes, the mats must not be laid in a grid pattern, and in any layout there is never a point where the corners of four mats touch. I didn’t know this and yet it doesn’t surprise me in the slightest. Changing the layout seems odd, but also totally normal in Japan. Most tatami rooms don’t have furniture like foreign apartments so it would be much easier. Sometimes when I visit my friends’ apartments I get jealous at how little stuff they have, but I’ve already narrowed mine down to about the minimum amount. I keep forgetting that I teach 9 grades and do all three jobs that the BoE offers. Everyone else is either an ALT, an NT, OR an elementary school teacher. I am all three which makes my job tough. I have to have materials for all 9 grades whereas everyone else has stuff for either 6 or 3 grades. Plus most other teachers teach one lesson several times a day or a week, whereas I have 15 or so unique classes a week. Luckily today I have 3 classes that I had to prepare nothing for. For which nothing had to be prepared. It’s reading comprehension so I will either go and do nothing or function as an ALT (automatic language tape-player).

            Today after 5th period I will go back to the hospital about my severe diarrhea. LOL, bet that made you wince. No seriously, I have a rash on my foot and funky toenail fungus. The toenail bit is getting better, but the rash isn’t changing much. I blame that on the weak medicine I get here in Japan. When I have a cold I try desperately to get rid of it myself using NyQuil or other foreign things because the J-medicine will take a week to get results.

            I need to start thinking about what I will do for winter vacation. I could go back to Thailand, which is always nice. While there I could either go back to BaanDada.org or hit the beach or go back to Cambodia and get some updated Angkor Wat photos. I wouldn’t mind visiting Vietnam at some point or China, but I am thinking about going to Hong Kong in November to see a friend. If I went to Thailand and did the orphanage trip I could lead a group to the home which I have done many times. I like doing that because it expands the circle of people who know about the home and maybe it will get big enough that the right rich person will want to donate some mad bank. I’m only doing what I can.

 

Another Slip…sort of.
Friday, September 03, 2010

            I set my alarm to go off at 5:30am this morning, which it did, then I got up and started to get ready to go jogging. I sat down and said “I will listen to the first minute of this song which will get me up and going and in the mood to run.” Then I looked at the clock again and it was 7am, which was time to leave. ARGH. Computer Time. WHY? Since it’s not hot I might be able to go jogging some after work, but morning is so much better in general.

            Other news of interest: All the JHSs in Koriyama got new computers and new printers. We have smoking nice laptops now with 2gigs of RAM, unlike the 512 before with 1.5Mhz processors. They are all Intel core i3 2.27Mhz which is more than we need, but should last several years. The previous one lasted about 8 years. The new printers are great as well. The B&W Laser Printer is cool, but the old one rarely messed up so no big deal. However, the color laser printer rocks and spits out nice quality things fast. I just printed some stuff for the lesson next period in color then laminated it. The only thing I don’t like about these new laptops is the track pad. Sometimes when I am typing my thumb hits the pad which makes the cursor jump to another location where I keep typing and don’t realize what happened. Then I have to stop and retype it. I’ve tried to turn off the pad, but it won’t work. We also all upgraded to Win7 which is nice.

            Tonight is a big techno party down town, although I think tonight is actually Reggae, which I’m not a huge fan of. Of which I am not a huge fan. The guy that organizes it literally lives next to me so I’m going to go and help him. I’ll have to chug some coffee since it starts at 11pm and goes until 6am or so. Doubt I will make it the whole time.

            Man today has been “Make fun of Ryan” day. That’s usual for Japanese kids since there is no discipline here and they can more or less do whatever they want, but today has been especially bad for some reason. Even kids that I was semi friends with were doing and saying things. Most are making fun of my belly which I guess is a good thing since it pisses me off and makes me want to lose weight even more, but in the end it still makes me feel bad. I can take a lot of abuse since I have been here almost 9 years, but for some reason it was really adding up today. Then I was hanging out with an elementary 3rd grade girl who is really and her friends started saying “uhhh he’s your boyfriend, you love him” so of course she had to say “gross, no way, oh no” which I know she had to say, but still it was hurtful. I just walked away went to the gym to be alone.

 

Really Enjoy the Job, but…
Monday, September 06, 2010

            I really do enjoy the job, but I am getting fed up with the amount of wasted time and wasted resources involved. I can’t even count how many times I have been sitting in a teacher’s room and had some teacher walk by and say “I’m going to class, but we don’t need you so you can sit here.” Why would you have an English class in which I wasn’t needed? Apart from tests I cannot think of one logical reason. I can think of several illogical reasons which are the actual reasons why, but none make sense and all are wasteful.

            I am leaning heavily toward leaving after this year. I really enjoy being in the classroom and working, but I am getting to the point that I can no longer tolerate all the wasted time. I’d say I am near the 90% marker now and really can’t imagine what would keep me here another year. If for some reason I did stay it would involve me changing job roles so I was only at elementary schools. I am tired of being an NT (Native Teacher or Not Teacher depending on who you ask).

            Well this weekend was productive as far as the apartment complex goes. We had a late brunch on Saturday and then cleaned out the storage room at the building. It’s about 10x10 or so with racks to hold things, but people have just dumped things over the years and left it there so it was bad. Then this morning we took out about 10 bags of burnable trash and still have 10-20 left for other days. We also have some plastic and cardboard for Tuesday and then non-burnable things for Wednesday. Then more burnable for Thursday and probably some for next week. After that we should be able to actually store some of our own things in there.

            On Friday there was a big Reggae party downtown that I helped with and that threw off my entire diet and weekend schedule. I didn’t realize helping with set up- included helping with take down at 5am. Oh the coffees I drank that night. Then we had a big breakfast and finally I got home around 6:30. I need to remember to stop drinking earlier or not drink at all while dieting. Didn’t have a big hangover though since I drank so much water at the end of the night. The next one is Halloween which is going to be epic and I might be doing some video projections, if I can get them done in time and make them cool enough.

            I ate lunch with the 1st years in JHS today (7th graders). I spent the whole 20 minutes sitting at a table with 5 kids while they ate and laughed at me for various stupid and not funny reasons. Man, that will never get old. How awesome is it to be constantly laughed at by kids for no reason. The final part, which is typical Japan (in that it makes no sense) was something I did that caused the whole group to literally hit the floor laughing. Was it:

A)    I told a joke.

B)     I spilled soup on my crotch.

C)    I burped/farted.

D)    I turned my tray around to eat the salad.

 

Remember this is Japan and you have to consider what would be logical and then think of the opposite. A-C would all be laugh worthy especially at that age. D makes no sense in any way shape or form, but that’s what it was. The tray had two bowls and a plate. Rather than try to rearrange things, I spun the tray around to eat the salad on the far side. This was the funniest thing in the world and they couldn'’t stop laughing. I actually think the reason they laughed is that they all do everything the exact same which and spinning the tray around was different. They had no way to express that emotion of seeing me spin it around and so they laughed, because honestly Bob Hope talking about accounting practices would be funnier than me spinning my tray around. I didn’t even do it fast or funny, I just turned it around. It’s getting to the point that I’m not as concerned about renewing or not renewing as much as simply making through the year.

They just canceled all outdoor after school activities because there was a report of thunder in a nearby town. It’s not rainy or stormy or even overcast yet, but another town heard thunder and therefore it must be dangerous here.

Big Slips, but…    
Thursday, September 09, 2010

            I am supposedly still on the 100 days 50 pounds diet, but I haven’t fully recovered from the past weekend. I overate and drank some beer and generally slipped off the diet. So far this week I have been continuing to eat poorly and so on. Although, I think I am about to start a major weight loss program with another guy around the same weight. We are going to see who can lose the most weight by December something. Regardless of how we do, this will be great for our health and health inspection check thing around January or December. Not sure when it is actually.

            In about 2 weeks some of us are going to see Sumo again and then hit the Tokyo Costco and stock up on adult sized American products. So many things are just too small in Japan or even impossible to get, but Costco has it all. It even has a snack bar with $2 drinks that are refillable. That’s either non-existent or $7 for a drink bar in Japan. I plan to buy a lot of stuff and mail it back to my apartment for cheap.

            I am at Ohse (Oh say) JHS today and have 4 classes, which is great for this school, but I also have 2 open periods and I am just sitting here doing nothing. Well that’s not true. I am playing Crush The Castle online and trying to be subtle about it, but I know teachers can see me. I am at the point that I don’t even care. Japan has made it clear that wasting my time is perfectly ok, so I have no problem playing this while waiting for my other classes.

 

 

Indiscriminate.
Friday, September 10, 2010

This entry has nothing to do with the title, but I felt like using a word that was fun to say. There’s not much to write about since I have one class today and I’m bored. I won’t whine about that since you get the gist and can fill in the whining yourself. Tonight I am going to drive up to Fukushima city so a friend can see his girlfriend who is in the hospital up there. After that we are going to get some dinner and then drive back. I’m hoping for gyoza since it’s been a long time. I’m also hoping to have a “Let’s Make Gyoza Party” soon since it’s fun, cheap, and easy to make. Gyoza shops must make a killing because I can make them cheap and that’s just buying all the ingredients each time. If you bought them in bulk and made some things on your own, you could make them for 5 yen or less and they sell for about 50 yen each. I have no plans to open a gyoza shop at this time.

[later]

Yup, I am ready to leave this job. Or at least this school. It’s a great school, but it simply doesn’t need an NT anymore. It needs someone to visit about 6 times a month and that’s it, definitely not twice a week. I would consider staying another year possibly if I could change jobs entirely, but I doubt any will open. Plus I don’t really want to start at a new school knowing it’s only going to be a year. I am a firm believer in 2 year minimums. I’m sitting across from the regular English teacher watching him grade the students’ English journals. I’ve tried to get students to write them for years, but they never do. They always say “oh I forgot”, but when the teacher tells them to do the journals I can see stacks of notebooks with entire pages written.

The NT job is a good idea, but not used as it should be. I basically have a class to myself to do whatever I want, but I can give no grades. This means students know they don’t have to do anything if they don’t want to and they don’t even have to listen in my class. The way it should be run, if fluency were the goal, is to have the students who make above a 90 in the regular class move into my class. Or have my classes be electives so I don’t have to deal with the kids that don’t want to be there or, even better, have never spoken at school. Instead I am supposed to deal with the lower level students, but I have no resources to use. I actually suggested this once and was told we cannot separate the students, unless they choose to be separated themselves and even then it can only be for students who would like some lower level review. Students would never choose to be in an advanced class since it would pull them out of a group and make them look arrogant. Why bother exceeding when you can fit right in with everyone else.

 

This job is a great idea, but ineffectively implemented. This was almost an awesome job. It is/was awesome in many ways. I have been paid to pursue my own interests and experiment in my classes with no criticism from teachers. But at the same time, some feedback would be nice at times. We were never given any guidance as to what the role of the NT should be which is both great and liberating and at the same time a bit vague and scary. It’s scary in the sense that I am taking up a period of their education time each week. Am I wasting it and damaging these kids forever or am I helping them?

Here’s something that’s amusingly annoying. At Ohse I asked when they were going to start taking applications for the next National English Exam called Eiken (ei is part of eigo meaning English and ken is part of shiken meaning test). The teacher said they were going to skip this term’s test because it “interfered” with the ultra-important school festival. There are three days this test can be given, but the school festival (where students run around on stage acting like children) is far more important than any academic activity. That really sums up English education in Japan. I guaran-#$%&-tee you that if the test were a kanji test or anything Japanese related, the entire event would have been changed. I guess that’s fair. This is Japan. They can choose to not speak English, but they shouldn’t have foreign teachers over here if they are going to waste our time. So in conclusion, yea I am almost definitely leaving next year. Time to move on.

Full.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Gyoza was good last Friday. I drove Brad up there to see his girlfriend and then we went to the famous gyoza place in Fukushima city called Manpuku. Mahn poo coo. Man meaning full and puku being stomach. Maybe you’ve heard “seppuku” which is the ritual suicide samurais did when defeated, well this is the puku part of it. We ate a lot, but I was still hungry so Brad told me about this American style burger joint near the place and we walked there. The burgers were good and came with a set course so it was a good deal, but halfway through I realized I shouldn’t eat it all. I ate it all.

The parts for my computer came in and I started the build, but there was a problem with the power unit so I had to exchange that. They didn’t have the one I wanted in the store so I have to go back tonight and get it. Hopefully by the weekend by speed demon box will be functional. Also this weekend I plan to go see the tennis team play at a nearby school on Saturday and then also the volleyball team on Sunday. I think the students are surprised when we (foreign teachers) show up to events like this during our own time. I also think it helps me in class since the kids from those teams view me a little better.

Won’t Boot.
Thursday, September 16, 2010

The compute build has hit a wall since the computer won’t boot. Technically it will, but not with the smokin’ fast GTX 470 video card. That will let me do hardcore video work with minimal slowdowns as well as play all sorts of games or watch HD video. Something about it won’t let the computer boot though, but there is a chance that a bios update will do it. It will be nice to have a machine that doesn’t shut down constantly like my last one did.

Tonight I’m going to do some small special FX for a friend of mine. We filled him goofing off in the parking lot over the weekend and now I’m going to shoot lasers from his hands and have him do a Hancock style super jump. Once my computer gets going I plan to really start doing at least two little projects a week. To get good at the program I am using I have to use it almost everyday.

On Hold.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010

I feel like my life is on hold. There are a few things I have to do or am waiting on and I am waiting for other people to do something related to the issue. So I can’t get anything done in some areas and I just feel like I am on hold.

On a different note, I might have a date tonight. I was supposed to go out with this girl on Sunday (since Monday was a holiday), but she had to work late. By ‘work’ I mean she couldn’t leave her job until her boss left, but in Japan they call that working. Even if you finish all your work at quitting time, you can’t really leave until your boss leaves. It’s a big game they play and it’s doubly annoying when it affects me. I’m not exactly sure that it’s a date, although it was her idea to have a drink so maybe it is.

Blurbia.
Friday, September 24, 2010

I had a good time on the date Wednesday. She showed up this time and was super apologetic about missing it before. She has two jobs and at the second one she sometimes has last minute drop in clients. Sunday was just such a time, but Wednesday was fun and she made it clear she was on a date. Not clear as in “this is a date”, but she said she had a good time several times and wanted to meet again. Another thing was when we got to the place they tried to put us in a more open booth, but she requested a more private booth. She speaks great English and studied at Texas A&M. That seems odd to me since most people go to California or New York or just not agriculture schools in Texas.

In other news, I got my PC up and running. Somehow I had two bad power supplies. The manager at the shop thinks I am doing something wrong or whatever, but I had them test both units and they confirmed they were bad. The new one is the same wattage, but a different maker. Now it has a smokin’ graphics card and 4 gigs of RAM, but my goal is to get it up to 16 gigs to make my video work go that much smoother. I’ll upgrade the RAM month by month on payday. 16 gigs will be stupid fast.

In yet other news, I am going to Tokyo this weekend to see sumo. It’s my second time, but we have slightly better seats and I will take my DSLR (with better zoom) and a video camera. I’m taking the bus down on Saturday and then either staying in a capsule hotel that night or coming back that night. I haven’t decided.

 

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