Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Mostly Better Now

It is funny, as soon as I posted that last entry, everything started to change for the better. My ARC Card came the next day and I was able to get my phone. It is spiffy and I will post pics of it later.

Today, I am going to try to get the internet hooked up in my place and get a microwave. After that, my apartment will be fully functional and I will not have to put leftovers in a frying pan to heat them.

For one reason or another, the rain gods know when I have the day off and it is pouring again today. It always happens when I have to walk across town. Its okay though, I am armed with my trusty umbrella.

While in Osaka, I picked up the Lonely Planet guide to Kyoto and Hiking Japan. I am learning all sorts of cool places to visit and I am planning on going on at least one field trip a month to a place I have never been before. One place is a shrine in Kyoto for the vagrants and homeless who died and had no families so all of their remains were placed in this shrine. There are over 8000 carved stone faces that look at you as you walk around. I want to see that.

Anywho, thanks to all for you nice comments and know that I am better now. Now if it would just stop raining for ten minutes. :)

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Feeling Blah

Warning: If you are not in the mood to listen to someone whine, do not read this post.

As the title might suggest, I am not in the best of moods today. Its raining, something I love, until you need to walk five miles in it. I still don`t have a phone because I still don`t have my ARC card and they won`t accept the temporary card I have because it doesn`t have a picture on it. And since I still don`t have a phone or my ARC, I still haven`t signed up for internet yet. This is especially aggravating because it means that my normal means of entertainment is cut off and I am starting to feel it. I am behind on my normal television shows that I download and I can`t talk to people that I want to talk to because I have to walk to the internet cafe like I am doing now to get any internet access at all. To top all of that off, I am feeling kind of lonely and homesick at the moment and that sucks.

Having said that, I have a lot more sympathy for all of the Mexican immigrants that come to Idaho and make their kids do all of the talking for them because they can`t speak English. It is damned inconvenient not being able to speak Japanese on a level in which my daily interactions with people can go smoothly, instead of people having to talk broken English to me or go for a dictionary. I need to learn more Japanese ASAP. I wish I were in the Matrix and I could just have a guy download all of the language knowledge I need instantly to my brain. Having said that, since I do not know the language, it is hard to make any Japanese friends to hang out with or even talk to.

Lastly, I have never had to budget on a monthly basis and that is really stressing me out. I have sat down and worked out how much I spend on trains every month so I know to set that much aside and I am anticipating getting some bills pretty soon so I know to set some aside for those. I think I have everything worked out but I am just not sure, I am not good at stuff like this, though I think I am getting better at it. Its all so odd, it looks like a lot of money that is sitting in my bank account right now but I have a hard time remembering that that money has to last me 27 days. Yeah, I counted exactly. On top of that, I am supposed to send some money home to my parents to pay for my car and insurance and the amount I have left to pay on my laptop. Beh.

What I could use right now, amongst countless other things, is a cat. I think it would just be a nice thing to have some sort of companionship with something. A cat would be low maintanence and a passable substitute for a girlfriend. Yeah, I need to learn Japanese. Either way, I have been missing my old cat Totoro lately because I tell my kids at school about him and they get a kick out of the fact his name is Totoro and he is fat and grey. I also miss my parents dogs, Lucky and Bungie. Alas, I am not allowed to have pets and the apartment I am in would be too small for one so, no cats.

Now that I have whined for a few paragraphs, here are some things I am doing to counteract all of the crap that is on my mind. First, I will soon be starting Japanese lessons at the Community Center here. I need to find the community center and sign up for them, which I may try to do in a bit. I think they are free and there are about a billion reasons for me to learn Japanese. Second, I may go into Osaka tomorrow. I need to get out of Fukuchiyama for a bit and though it will cost me $40.00 round trip for the train ride, it may be a nice little adventure to pep me up a tad. I could go to Himeji or Kakogawa for a little cheaper but for the extra ten bucks, there are tons more things to do in Osaka, namely Den Den Town. What better way to break a depression streak than a daytrip to one of the world`s electronics meccas?

I will hopefully get my ARC card tomorrow or the next and when that happens, I will get my phone and sign up for the internet. It just drives me nuts that those two things hinge on that one goofy card. If it doesn`t come by Tuesday, I am going to go have a chat with them and see whats up. The thing about the internet that sucks is for one reason or another it takes for ever to get service activated once you sign up for it. I have heard 21 days is a fast hook up here. Grrr.

Having griped and whatnot this entire blog, I have decided somethings. First, I will probably stay here for at least two years. Japan has its drawbacks but as I get better with the language, I think those will diminish. I do like it here and there are days when I really like being alone, just not lately. I think the reason this all came about was that I have just been reflecting on my time here and I wish I had someone to talk about all of the stuff with face to face and then maybe cuddle and watch a movie or something afterwards. I think also that once I get my cell phone and the internet, I won`t feel as isolated as I do now.

Anywho, I feel better having written all of this and now I am going to try to find the community center and maybe some shelving for my place. If you read this all the way through, thanks for putting up with my whining. If you didn`t finish, thats cool too, I understand.

Friday, February 24, 2006


After more than two months without a paycheck, I finally got paid yesterday. It was a tad less than I was expecting but that is because I did not work a full month in January so the next check will be bigger. It was a very good feeling to get paid again, in the States, I always had a job so I just took getting a paycheck for granted but when you don't get one for a while it almost feels like the first time you ever got a paycheck.

To celebrate, I had McDonalds for lunch and after classes last night, went to a gaijin bar named Rickers for a couple of drinks. Rickers was fun and the guy that runs it, Aki, speaks very good English, he has even been to Idaho a couple of times. It was fun talking to him and I also meant another English teacher there so he and I chatted for a bit.

Bah! Everyday at noon, the air raid sirens around the town go off and I still haven't gotten used to hearing them. I am on the roof again and out of nowhere the sirens start blaring, it scares the crap out of me everytime. The reason for the sirens is pretty good though, the area I am in has been known to get some wicked typhoons and if the air raid siren sounds three times in a row, I am suposed to find shelter because one is going to hit the town.

For those that don't know, typhoons are like really bad thunderstorms with almost hurricane strength winds. They cause flooding and will down power lines. Several years ago, Fukuchiyama was hit by a couple of very severe typhoons back to back and a good portion of the town was flooded. Fortunately, I live on the third floor of a concrete building, bring it on.

Anywho, I got paid and life is good now that I am not Kenny poor. I am going to the 100Yen store after classes and buying a bunch of those cube shelving units that snap together. It is time to actually build and furnish my apartment. After I am finished, I will finally post pics of the kind of bachelor pad that I know everyone will be dying to own after seeing mine.

Time to go teach some wee ones, I will post more later!

Monday, February 20, 2006

On The Roof Again

So, I am sitting on the roof of my apartment again. It is really nice weather today and so I am not even wearing a jacket. And since its nice weather, I have nominated today to be, Air Out Your Futon Day, and I am celebrating by airing out my futon.

Japan being an island and all gets humid, really humid. So to keep mold out of your sleeping area, you must air out you futon every couple of weeks. Futons are also not like you would imagine them being in the States either. They are basically mattress pads that you put on the floor and sleep on. They are not too bad either, I think I still like mattresses but these are not too bad.

To give you an idea of what I sleep on, I have included a pic of my beautiful flowered futons and no, I did not pick these out.

I teach this afternoon but until then, its laundry, futon airing, and dishes for me. I also "liberated" a new piece of furniture. It is a little entertainment center that was sitting out in the hallway a couple of floors below me. I think it was getting thrown out and had definitely not been used in a long long time. I had to clean it pretty good and I think there were mouse droppings in it but I got it all cleaned up and it should be a nice addition to the apartment. It at least has some drawers that I can put stuff in. I also got my bank card today so when I get paid on Friday, I can actually get money....sweet sweet money. After not getting paid for two months, I am ready for a check.

Anywho, I need to get back to laundry and whatnot so I will post again later.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Himeji Castle

A couple of weeks ago on a very nice and clear day, I visited Himeji-jo. Himeji Castle is one of the most favored spots in Japan for castle lovers because it is one of the few original wood castles left in Japan. And of that few, it is definitely the biggest. The castle was built in the early part of the 17th Century and took the better part of seven or eight years to complete. It has been selected as a World Heritage Landmark and if you come to Japan to visit me, we WILL go there. The Japanese government let tourist visit the castle for five dollars a person and you can stay as long as you like. There are free English tour guides but they were all out when I visited. I was there for almost four hours and I didn't get to see the whole thing so I will go back probably toward the end of next month when Spring starts to go into full effect and all of the plants start blooming. Anywho, here are some long awaited pics of the trip. Sorry I havent posted more of them lately, but internet has sucked as I have mentioned.

Like any good castle, Himeji-jo has a moat that awaits anyone who thinks they will try to breach the outer wall's defenses.

Once you have crossed the bridge to the moat, a massive wood and iron gate blocks your path, fortunately for the gate, it was open and I did not have to employ my ninja abilities to scale it and render it useless.

After the gate, you enter the courtyard outside the castle's main walls. Back in the day, merchant stalls and peoples' homes filled this area, now people have picnics here and play frisbee. Of course, those inside the castle could see everything their servants were doing.

I entered the main part of the castle from a side entrance called the Long Corridor or something like that. I had to remove my shoes and wear slippers that were about five sizes too small but the burden of my large feet was worth seeing what awaited me inside. This is the corridor.

Along the hallway, by a stone doorway, I came across this sign. I liked it so of course, being the tourist I am, I took a pic.

After climbing a very very steep staircase, more like a ladder, I came to anotehr part of the hallway that I thought was very cool looking.

After the hallway, I then hit the main part of the castle.

The castle stands almost eight storeys tall. The flights of stairs within the fortress are steep, but when you reach the top floor you are greeted by a small shrine and this view of the city. It is within Himeji's building codes, no building will stand taller than Himeji Castle and so the view from the top floor is pretty cool. They also light the castle up at night and you can see it from the train.
This is the view from the top.

The sun was setting as I was leaving the castle. This is one of the last pics I took of the building, right around dusk.

And just to give you an idea of the size of the main building, I took this pic.

Overall, the trip to Himeji-jo was pretty cool. I took so many pictures that day, it made me thankful I have a digital camera and not a 35mm. Soon, I will have a link on here to another site that will house all of the pics that I have taken while in Japan. Mr. Blue is helping me with the design of that and as soon as it is ready, there will be a link on here so you can all visit it. When I post pics on here, I have to weed through a ton of shots, I take a lot of the same pics that you see on here in color, in black and white as well. I tend to like black and white better but for the sake of the castle, color was a better option. And in closing, here is one last pic of me in front of the castle.

Wild Kids But Cool Parents

One word can describe the kids in my classes tonight, CRAZY! All of the kids had waaaayyyy too much sugar before they came to class and they were bouncing off the walls. It was a hard night to teach and to top it off, I was starving for something to eat.

Anywho, at the end of the last class, I excused the kids and a couple of them came back in a few minutes later with a double cheeseburger and small grape Qoo from McDonalds for me!! I am not sure whether it was bought specifically for me or not but their mom is cool in my book. BTW Qoo is a Japanese drink, similar to Fanta. Its pretty good, especially when its free.

If the parents brought me food every night, I can safely say, I would not complain. :)

Monday, February 13, 2006

Happy Valentine`s Day From Japan

In a country whos flag is red and white, you would think Valentine`s Day would be kind of big here and it is, but in Japan it is a tad different than in the States. Valentine`s Day is still a really big candy holiday but the men do not give gifts to the women here on V Day. The girls are the only ones to give gifts today.

A month from now, there is a holiday called White Day and that is when the men give gifts to the women. It is like Valentine`s only for the opposite sex. Why they do it this way, I am not sure but its kind of funny.

How am I going to celebrate Valentine`s Day you ask? I am taking my sweetheart....me....out to McDonalds. It will be romantic and special, who knows, in the end we may just go back to my apartment and watch some movies. Maybe Zombie movies becasue I hear I like zombie movies. Yeah, I am bored and lonely, bite me.

And for those of you in America, happy Valentine`s Day eve. I like being a day ahead and talking to all of you from the future. Later!

A Very Nice Day

Today was sweet! First, it stopped snowing and the temperature went up to about the high fifties. It was sunny and there was no wind and in general it was a badass day.

I got out of bed around noon and proceeded to take a bath and get ready for the day. My goal for the day was to set up a bank account. The banks here in Japan open at 9am and close at 3pm. I got there at 2pm and did not leave the Bank of Kyoto until about 3:30. It was a little difficult but one girl there knew a little English so that helped. I now have a bank account. Now I just need money to put into it. I get paid on the 24th and that day cannot come fast enough. I have less than two hundred dollars to my name and eighty of it will go to train fares over the next five days. I am going to be in a classroom in Toyooka and the train ride costs about $19.50 each day. I have to go there for four days starting on Wednesday.

I was able to also get cleaning detergent today and a handtowel to dry dishes with. All in all, it was a productive day. I found another shopping place and with it, cheap rice cookers and microwaves. I will be picking up at least a microwave when I get paid.

Right now, I am on the roof of my apartment building typing this and eating pizza flavored Doritos. They are not that good but I figured I would give them a shot. Anything Italian is really big here right now due to the Olympics. McDonalds even has cheese nuggets and some other items that are supposed to be Italian on its menu.

Anywho, it has been a very nice day. To think that a year ago today, was the day that Mushi and I split up seems so far away and so long ago. Lots of stuff has happened since then and I am definitely happier now. It is very peaceful to be on the roof of a building and be able to see the city and hear all of its sounds and have no one know that I am up here watching and listening....and stealing the internet.

Anywho, time to go do some laundry and get something to eat.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Okay, Last Post of the Day

This is some kind of record for this month, three posts in one day. I guess I am trying to make up for the lack of content I have been injecting into this thing over the past couple of weeks. This post is meant to be a general update on the state of things here.

First, it is snowing again. Actually, it has stopped for the moment but a few minutes ago, it was really coming down. I managed to keep warm in my apartment last night though, thanks to my new blanket. Right now, my heater is on there because I like coming home to a warm apartment. As long as I know I am only going to be an hour or two, I will generally do this. If I am going to class, usually I will not run it while I am away just because sometimes I am gone for the whole day and that is a waste of money to leave it running. My heater is called a Beaver and that always cracks me up too for some reason. I wonder if I can get a smaller space heater called a squirrel or chipmunk. Hehe, you said Beaver...hehe...hehe.

Anywho, other things of note. My apartment is finally getting cleaner and coming together a tad more. Next paycheck, I am going to buy a rug for the living room area and a couple other things. I need to get stuff to put on the walls too. Right now, I only have a poster of a map of Japan with a calendar and some subway maps on it. I have been thinking about getting a couple of the shots I have taken, blown up and framed. That would help the decoration situation. I like my apartment though and soon, I will post pics of it on here.

One of my schools is in a town called Wadayama and the Japanese teacher there has invited me to come over to her house for dinner and to meet her family in a couple of weeks. She was very happy when I said I would come because I guess the last guy that taught there before me said no. She also brought me lunch yesterday. Her mom and sister made onigiri and she brought me some. Onigiri is a rice ball that usually has something in the middle of it. The ones that I had were filled with a tasty seaweed and one has pickled plum on it. Pickled plums are very very good by the way. When I told her that I liked to cook, she perked up and when I asked if she liked chicken fetuccini alfredo, she said she had never had it. I told her I was going to have to make her dinner then and she said that would be cool. since I have an abundance of freetime, I think I am going to make the alfredo from scratch and maybe the pasta too. Another reason for making things from scratch is that alfredo is an import item here and is way expensive. I have only seen it here once and I think the jar was something like $8.00. Yeah, when stuff is expensive in Japan, it is crazy expensive.

Today, is the first day of my three day weekend so I am pretty much being worthless. Tomorrow, I am getting my bank account set up. Once in place, and full of money, I will be able to score a cell phone and internet connection. I tried to get a cell phone a couple of days ago and the place would not take an American American Express. They would only take credit cards issued in Japan. I already know the phone that I am going to get, it the phone that I am going to get, it is made by Sharp and is called the 903SH. The thing has a 3megapixel camera on it and will also do video conferencing with a second camera it has. It takes a mini-SD card and is also bluetooth compatible. In short, it rocks and is way cheap as cell phones go by American standards. It is only going to run me about $130. Unfortunately, it will not let me watch tv. I am not kidding when I say that, you can watch tv on some of the cell phones over here. Some of the phones here also have motion sensors on them so you can use your phone as a gun when playing some shooting games with other people or that the phone comes with. Think of laser tag with cell phones.

Holy crap, this van just drove by that was bright yellow and had a fin on it that was seriously four feet tall. It was also lowered and had a body kit on it. Ahh, Japan. I have pics of a similar van that I will post later. This country has some crazy cars.

Anywho, things are going well here and I am enjoying it. One of my schools is in a town that is considered to be one of the top three most beautiful places in the country. It has a natural land bridge that extends quite a ways out and when you put your head between your legs and look at it, it looks like it goes up to heaven. It is called Heaven`s Bridge or something like that due to this. When spring comes that place will look awesome, it is right on the Sea of Japan and has beaches everywhere. Teaching there will rock.

I am going to get going now, I have been in this place for the better part of four hours now and it is snowing again as I type this. As I said, the weather here has been snowy and cold. The sky looks like I could get a lot of snow tonight and the stuff falling now is sticking. When I began this post, that was not the case but the weather here is a tad crazy at the moment. Yeah, it is really starting to come down now. I will post more tomorrow maybe, I hope everyone that reads this is doing well and know that I do think of all of you quite a bit. As I have said earlier to many of you, if you want to come to visit, you will have a place to stay, this country is very very cool and I would love the company. Have a good evening!

The Konshia

Okay, this is another instance when I am not totally sure I spelled it right but it is probably close. The Konshia is a crazy phenomonon that I have seen a few times since I have been here. Basically, the konshia is when one person intertwines his hands as if he were making an imaginary gun out of them. You know, like when you used to play cops and robbers or something. The person will then with his two outstretched index fingers, thrust them into the butt of some other boy that is bending over or has his rear under facing them. Think of getting a finger enema and you have the konshia. I have also seen boys do frontal konshias to other people. What is funny about the whole thing is the amount of time the kids will spend preparing to do it to the other kid. There is a whole ritual involved in giving the konshia, it is kind of like they are trying to give their victim time to get out of the position that would allow them to receive the konshia and if they don`t, they get two quick fingers up their butt.

In the United States, we have the wedgy. The konshia is kind of along those same lines here in Japan. Usually, only boys will do it to each other and it is treated by the boys as a harmless joke. I have even heard of people seeing drunk middle-aged business men doing it to each other on the trains when one person would go for their briefcase in the overhead compartment. They will do it really hard too, I can`t see how it would not hurt in some cases and if an adult ever does it to me, they will be lucky if they do not get smacked.

The boys here love smacking each other in the crotch too. I have had little kids spend a good portion of my class trying to either kick, headbutt, or punch me in the crotch on a couple different occassions. The other day, I was teaching and the parents were in the class observing my lesson when one little kid tried landing a pretty hard kick to my nuts. Fortunately, he misses and hit my thigh instead. His dad saw this and went absolutely nuts on him. I have never seen a Japanese parent go off on their kids like this guy did, it was awesome. Japanese parents are not known for their elite parenting abilities but this guy represented and it was cool. The kid was really good for the rest of the class as well.

If you plan on teaching in Japan, my advice is this. If you know you have a rowdy kid in your class, never turn you back on them, putting your rear end in their direction. And always be weary of your crotch and be ready to block playful punches or kicks to it. The kids are not doing it to hurt you, they are playing, though it is a really weird way of playing.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

On Japanese Schoolchildren

As of this moment, I am sitting in an NTT DoCoMo phone store using one of their many computers they have set up for people to just come in and chill and hopefully, buy a phone from them. The nice part is, it is only about a half mile away from my house. So as the title states, I am going to talk about Japanese Schoolkids. Jake wanted to know about them and this is a post that doesn`t require me to upload pics which is good because I cannot get to the tower for this computer to put anything in or hook anything up.

As I know I have said earlier, part of my degree is in Japanese and Chinese history and I have studied the Japanese culture pretty extensively so I was not totally shocked by some of the stuff I have seen here. I knew the kids here would be different from American kids but I did not know the extent to which they were different, now I do.

Before I get into the kids behavior, let me explain the Japanese school system a tad. Their system is similar to the American system but varies in a few different ways. First, American highschool kids take the ACT or the SAT their junior or senior year of highschool, these are supposed to be the tests that make or break whether or not you get into a good college and as a result, kind of determine the rest of your adult life if you do really well on them. I know people who absolutely wigged out when they had to take these tests, they are a little stressful if you let them be.

In Japan, the equivalent to these tests are taken in the ninth grade. These tests DO make or break the rest of your life here. In Japan, getting into a good highschool is the important thing, college is a breeze here as long as you survive highschool. Like colleges in the United States, there are different highschools for different vocations. Some highschools are known for their computer science and math programs, some are excellent schools for educational studies. Like universities in the States, these schools can be expensive and private. It is an unwritten rule in Japan that if you pass highschool, college is the time to unwind and slack off a little.

Once Japanese kids reach junior high, they are required to do certain things that are optional in the United States. First, you have to do a sport here. It is mandatory that some kind of extracirricular sport be played by each student. It is also frowned upon to not join a club here. Many of the junior high kids will also attend an afterschool cram school to help prepare them for the entrance exams for highschool. So when you add up all of the time these kids spend doing school or sport related activities, they are busy kids. If you were a Japanese junior high kid, your day would break down to something like this. You get up and go to school, school gets out around 2:30pm. After school, you go to your sport or club and do that for an hour or two. Then, you go to you cram school for another couple of hours so when you finish there, it may be like 5:30 or 6:00 in the evening. At that point, you may go to another club or in my kids` case, you may go to an English school to help you out with your English language skills. By this point in time, you are tired, hungry, and just want to unwind. After you are in English class for an hour, you finally get to go home, do you homework, and eat something. After your homework is done and you have maybe watched a little tv or played some video games, its bedtime and you go to sleep, knowing that you will be getting up at 5 or 6am to do it all over again. Basically, a lot of stress is placed on very young kids and once they hit junior high school, their childhoods are transformed into a young adulthood. Some of these kids take to this better than others, some don`t survive well into the new world they have just been forced into and get really depressed and/or don`t do well in school. Some of the kids end up killing themselves; Japan has one of the highest rates of teen suicide in the world for this reason.

Now to my kids. Most of my kids are really cool and fun to teach. This is especially true for the younger kids. I teach kids that range from 3 years old to 15 years of age. The little kids are the most fun. My teaching is a lot more like playing with them and they are like sponges. I have found that the little kids are way better at picking up English than the older ones. This is usually true in learning most foreign languages but the difference in learning speed is like night and day. It is really cool to be able to see this.Many of the little kids are what the Japanese call genki. Genki is a term that loosely translates into good or energetic. Or in the little ones` case, hyper. That is what makes teaching them fun. Little Japanese kids also have to be some of the most adorable munchkins on the face of the planet.

The junior high kids are pretty much the exact opposite. The difference between 9 year olds and 10 or 11 year olds is night and day. The older kids will split into different groups automatically. First, the two sexes do not intermingle very much at this age. The kids do not like being put on the same team as the opposite sex and when they are, they usually will not participate. I have one class that is all girls and one boy and he will not do anything; he doesn`t like being there.

Aside from the sexual segregation, there are the cliques. This is especially true with the girls. The girls that I have observed are much more clique-ish than girls in the U.S. The guys will for their own groups too but usually they will at least interact with other guys even if they are not really friends. The girls don`t like being placed on the same teams as someone that is unpopular or not in their group of friends. When I say they don`t like being placed on those teams, I mean they won`t play or participate if they are put on to a team of people they don`t like. This makes team games difficult when I have classes like this.

There are ways to get around the barriers though. First, if the kids draw hashi they are okay with the teams they are put on. Hashi are chopsticks. I get chopsticks and put either a red or a blue mark on them and mix them up. For one reason or another, the kids are okay with the teams if they are placed in them by chance. On that same note, is jankin. I hope I spelled it right but jankin is the Japanese flavor of rock, paper, scissors. Any problem or dispute can be resolved with jankin and the results of the game are golden. The kids have absolutely no problem with the outcome of a jankin match and will not argue the results. There have even been cases where ties in politcal elections have been resolved by a game of jankin. It is weird but at the same time a very cool thing to watch. I may try to up a link to a video of the kids doing it if I get a chance.

Anywho, the older kids are either very very quiet, especially the girls. Or they are very rowdy. They will use my class to blow off steam from school and life in general. I can`t say I blame them too much either, here you are in a classroom with a white guy that can`t speak much Japanese and you had a bad day at school, you do the math. With the older kids, it is very difficult to get them to speak outloud to a group. They are taught in school to not really speak out and it shows. Very seldom have I seen the older kids willingly present something to the class.

It is funny, I can deal okay with the wild kids but the quiet ones really bug me. I hate teaching classes of nothing but junior high girls. The older kid classes usually don`t have more than a couple of kids in them and when it is just you and two or three girls that won`t interact with you at all beyond your lesson, it is odd. I hate hearing dead silence when I teach and that is all it is with the older ones sometimes. They also sometimes won`t make eye contact with you either. They are like children of the corn. In the States, it is the junior high kids that are usually the loudest and rowdiest, not in Japan.

Okay, this post has gotten really long. I am going to stop now and write another post on a phenomenon that some of the younger boys will exhibit every once in a while.

Friday, February 10, 2006

I Am King of the Winter Carnival!

Or at least I would be if I decided to hold a Winter Carnival in my apartment. Of all of the wonderful things the Japanese as a society have accomplished, they lack in one big but simple area, insulation and heating.

My tiny apartment is something of a heating anomaly. Basically, it doesn’t warm up very well. My little Beaver (not kidding) heating and air conditioning system isn’t cutting it and it is expensive to run. At night I turn my Beaver off and go to sleep amidst the blankets that I have managed to accumulate, speaking of which, I just bought another one a few minutes ago. In the morning, though I am pretty warm in my bed, I can see my breath in the room. It gets a tad chilly to say the least.

After I get out of my bed, I stand up on a hard wood floor, a cold hard wood floor. After standing up, I usually step over and into the bathroom….with cold plastic floors. Basically, I would kill for carpet and a fireplace. But I think I have found a solution to my problem. As I said, I just finished buying a blanket and along with it, I picked up a mat for in front of my sink in the kitchen area and a mat for the bathroom. I am especially fond of the bathroom mat, it’s got a cartoon whale on it and its blue. Childish, yes, but it was one of a couple that they had that would fit into my modestly sized lavatory.

After I get my first paycheck, I am planning on getting another rug to cover the area that will make my living room. I would like to also eventually get a bigger rug for the kitchen area and move the mat that I just bought to the entry way. I think the floor coverings will help to warm the place up a tad. I keep the curtains to the patio closed in an effort to keep the place a little warmer too, though I am not sure if this helps a lot.

Why is it so cold, you ask, well other than the fact it is winter, I have a ton of snow where I am living. The first day I was in Fukuchiyama it snowed pretty good. The following day was nice and sunny. The day after that though, it was a friggin’ blizzard and overnight I got about seven inches of snow. This made the following day very slushy, which kind of sucks when you have to walk everywhere. The next day was cold and it turned all of the slush to ice which, while not wet is not fun to walk on either. Yesterday afternoon, it warmed up a tad and the slush and ice went away and today looked okay as well as I walked to the train station. Unfortunately, I think this will all be short lived because we are supposed to get snow either tonight or tomorrow again.

In other news, I was able to successfully apply for my Alien Registration Card (ARC) and I got my temporary one. This is cool because it is the first step in getting my bank account set up. That is also cool because once the bank account is in place, I can get the internet and a cell phone. Things are coming along now, albeit slowly.

As for everything else, things are going well. Teaching is fun and extremely easy. The little kids are the most fun to teach and I like the people I work with. I think it is part of the hiring process that requires almost all of the Japanese teachers to be pretty hot in order to get a job. I do not mind this. I also don’t mind the train rides that I take because they give me time to listen to the iPod and read. I have a pretty laid back life at the moment.

I am sorry I haven’t posted a lot lately, please have patience. Posts will become more frequent soon. I may not have another post for a day or two however. The class I am in now, I am almost done here for the month and with the classroom goes my internet. I will try to get to an internet café though. I have been to another castle and have seen many other spiffy things I have to talk about. Oh, and to answer your question Jake, yes, the kids here are way different than schoolkids in the United States, I will talk more about that later. Anywho, I need to take off, my classes start soon and I need to prepare a tad. I will post more as soon as I am able.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Another Short Post

I got moved into my apartment yesterday and it is way cool. Very small but lots of character! I am in one of my classrooms right now and don't have a ton of time to post but I will post again tomorrow and hopefully it will be longer. The downside to blogging is that when you don't have a stable internet connection, the blog gets neglected. Hopefully soon, I can start to post more regularly. I have so much to say and show everyone but I have not had the time nor the connection to do it.

I need to take off now but expect a bigger post tomorrow. Oh yeah, today is my birthday so Happy Birthday Me!