Thursday, April 29, 2010

My Sister is in S. Korea now...

The decision for me to work as an ALT in Japan has been something I have considered and thought about for the longest time. While preparing to get over to Japan, my sister witnessed a lot of the headaches and hassles I had to go through. I would occasionally ask her if she would want to be an ALT as well. Who would have thought that she would commit to being one in a shorter amount of time than me? And with less headaches...

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

TWJ - Ep 31 - Silence is Golden

The Dilema With Group Think...

There is a problem I have noticed within my first few weeks of teaching. Its the 'group think' mentality. Generally here in Japan, working collectively together isn't too bad. When everyone has a role and everyone cooperates, thats just fine. The hive mind type of thinking however, isn't always good...

When everyone one is quite, no one will talk. Everyone laughs together, tired together, etc... You get the idea. This is where a dilema is created when teaching.

I had a class today, generally the group of kids are fairly happy and excited. Today it was hard to get any of them to co operate. If few won't cooperate, then the rest will follow.

This is a stark contrast to American children. Kids have a hard time working in groups, communicating ideas but generally a classroom full of students doesn't act like a group. It acts like a collective pool of individuals. Kids will talk out of turn, not raise their hand, etc... They essentially 'do what they want'.

Maybe I shouldn't expect this from Japanese students but it makes it really hard in some cases to teach. If that quiet student was in an American class room, you just pass over them and go onto a kid who will yell out the answer.

So group think is ok a lot of the time but there is always that instance where you need a leader to stand up and grab the reigns...

It also gets me thinking... I was talking to a friend over skpe a few days ago and I was telling him about respect. In Japan, respect for everyone is expected, especially for people who are your senior. Its a bit of a contrast compared to America, where respect is earned.

Alright, dats all for da day.


Sunday, April 25, 2010

Getting a Bike?

I would like to get a bike. Not only a bicycle but a motorcycle or a scooter...

Currently, I am renting a car through the company I am working for. Although the car runs fine and does the job, it will cost me a bit of money in the long run. You would think that the alternative to renting would be to buy a new car. This would be ideal more or less but even that might mean I would have to spend more money.

In Japan, there is something known as Shaken. Which is essentially a annual road tax. Everyone has to pay this each year. The amount you pay is determined by the size of your car, how big the engine is, and how much your car weighs. There might even be more variables. I won't have to pay this because I am renting.

If I am to stay in Japan longer than two years, the amount of money I might spend for renting would be high. If I owned, it would be cheaper but if I had a motorized vehicle, shaken would disappear...

A bike would be unthinkable if I were in Hokkaido but since I am in Tochigi, this might be ok. Although, it snowed a few days ago; which was strange.

The speed most people drive in Japan, on the side road is 60km tops. This would be somewhere around 35mph. So being on a bike wouldn't be bad at all.

The dilema however lies in how big of a bike I want. If I pass my drivers test this summer, I would automatically qualify for a 50cc. A 50cc bike would be nice and could get me around town fine but the problem is the power. If I were to go up a hill or carry another person, a 50cc bike would slow me down.

From this point, this is where I have some problems. So long as I pass my drivers test this August... I can take the motorcycle test following it.

In the US o' A, most states allow you to take a motorcycle riders course and at the end you will get your motocycle endorsement. Generally this class lasts no more than three sessions and costs less than $200. In Japan, a similar course would cost $3,000... Yesh.

I can forgo the course and take the test on a motorcycle... Its just this opens up more problems... I have ridden a moped but have never rode a manual bike. I have no problem with balance or turning but what about gears? There is a lot to consider.

Overall, I am still trying to work it out in my head. I believe that it would be smarter and more ideal for me to switch over to a bike to save money but figuring out how to do this is the problem.


TWJ - Ep 30 - Never a Dull Day in Japan

Thursday, April 22, 2010

first day at elementary...

A new experience. I wasn't sure what I was in store before hand. I never met the staff and I only saw the school from outside. Luckily, it is close to one of my junior highs, on the way really; making it easy to find. On a nicer day, I could walk to school, it would be a long way but the exercise is much needed. I have been fairly out of shape since leaving fedex.

I arrived at the school much earlier than I needed to. In all seriousness, I arrived about an hour early. I didn't know what time class started and thanks to my parents making up that du
mb 'be and hour early rather than a minute late'.... I pretty much had to. Tardiness isn't good in Japan.In America, no one really does a thing about it. Usually just shrugged off.

I got there early and walked into the school. I met some of the staff and somehow I managed to understand their Japanese. They wanted me to move my car and park it in a different spot. Maybe I just might have been reading their gestures much more than the language. Cause in a honesty, I can't speak much Japanese. Still am practicing.

I moved my car, to the wrong spot. Then I moved it again. The Japanese being as polite and humble as they are, still apologized for giving me poor direction. I wish America had a little more humility. It is a good virtue.

When I arrived back in the teachers room, I sat at my desk for a while. Said 'hello' to some teachers. One of the teachers at the school speaks really good English. In the past, when I have encountered a Japanese person who speaks English, I generally talk slow. When talking to her, I was speaking full speed. I wasn't concerned so much about annunciation and pronunciation and slang. That is something I haven't experienced.

I had to know where she stayed in America to know how to speak so well. It was an American accent of course. She spent some time in Southern Idaho, near Utah. Then later in College went up to Port Angeles. She didn't know I was from the north west so when she would say 'I went to Tacoma for shopping'. I would tell her, 'Oh, I was born there and lived the first few years of my life in the city'. Its kind of rare to come across a Japanese person that ends up traveling to the littlier known cities in America. Seattle is probably the smallest city they might visit. LA, NY, San Fran, etc... You get the idea.

The English teacher arrived at around 8:20 and I got to meet her. She is very nice and speaks English well. There was a teachers meeting but afterwards, she gave me a thorough run down of today and a snapshot of the following days. I don't think she knows how much I appreciate this. It is nice to be informed of what is going on before hand. I have had some of this at my other JHS but not this thorough.

Before class, she was curious as if I had any pictures. I had a few that I printed out but my attempts at printing on a Japanese photo machine were less then acceptable. The pictures came out really small.

I then showed her a project I did my first day of school. It is an introduction of myself in some psydo-comic book form. She liked it a lot and then decided that I should make it huge! So we did. We made a gigantic version of it. Which, throughout the day, during my down time colored. The measurements are about four feet tall by about two and a half feet wide and is stitched together with various papers and tape. It was a bit of a puzzel putting it together but I am glad she suggested it.

As far as class went, I ended up helping out with third grade, fifth grade, and sixth. Both the 3rd and 5th were great. The kids are very excited to talk and shoot their hands up as fast as they can when you ask a question.

'Let me try!' Is what you hear from about fifteen kids at once. They are so anxious to tell an answer. A proper answer is sometimes rewarded with a sticker.

As for the sixth grade, for whatever reason they were really shy. Both the boys and the girls. Its kind of weird. As the class progressed, they opened up a lot more. I found that if you can talk to them with something they can relate to, they seriously open up. There were some kids that asked what one of my favorite video games was, so I said 'Street Fighter'. Then I did a hadoken towards one student, they busted up laughing.

Since I have been drawing so much over the past couple weeks, I am surprised at how many different characters have been committed to memory (both American and Anime). After I told the kids I liked Street Fighter, I asked the girl who questioned me 'what is your favorite game?' She told me 'Final Fantasy'. I then proceded to draw a main character from the seventh one in the series 'Cloud'. When I did this, the kids were dying of laughter. It made the class much easier because everyone was much more opening and willing to participate.

Class ran so smooth, it was great. It is a bit different in Elementary. Its not only me and the Japanese English Teacher but also the teacher of the grade in their class. Which does add a bit more variety and sometimes but rarely ever more authority. Japanese kids are really well behaved but they get noisy just like any other group the same age.

What amazes me the most about them, is how similar they are to their JHS counterparts. When lunchtime or cleanup time arrives, they get down to business. Split off into assigned groups with out having the teacher tell them. No one slacks off and everyone pitches in. There is a leader for each group but that is to only make sure the task is accomplished.

If anything like this were to occur Stateside, the moment the teacher leaves a room, kids would just jump around.

It seems to be that the teachers give the kids the chance and the time to get out their energy and act up but when it is time to be formal, everyone follows. It is so different from back home. Sometimes teachers in the US have a hard time just getting everyone to shut up.


As far as lunch went, I spent it with the third graders. Word must travel quick because a lot of kids knew I drew spongebob from some of the JHS students. Maybe it was their older brother or sisters that mentioned this.
Who knows... Or maybe they just really like spongebob.

I think that is about all for now. I am sure there is probably plenty more I could say.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

New week, New school.

This past Monday I began work at a new school. This one is closer to where I live and I am considering, when I get a bike; to take a ride to school.

The staff, more or less is the same as the other school. Very relax and laid back. In some instances, more laid back than the other school. I saw the principle come into school with a collard shirt and tie. Within about 10 minutes he had it off and was in a t-shirt and track suit. He is really relaxed and I'm almost sure that he walks just off of school grounds and out of eyesight of the kids to take a smoke break. He's a riot.

Though I started work yesterday, I didn't do much. I spent the majority of it indoors. While I was inside, I just sat and drew pictures all day. I drew a lot for the other teachers and staff. I was to sit in on the art class but sadly there was no art class for the day.

The art teacher sits right across from me and she is the same age. Although, she looks like she is sixteen. That seems to be the main case with a lot of women here. They take care of themselves, really well.

When I had the chance to get out of the teachers room, I did. I spent some time with students but not much. Enough to say hello.

The most enjoyable parts of going to a new school are watching the students reactions. Most notably the girls. If I were unaware of reading peoples emotions, I would assume that the average teenage girls face is always a bight red and they're always embarrassed.

When the day ended, I left the school. I would have liked to stay longer but I opted out to go home. I was hungry.

Today was a bit different. To sum it up, partly because I am hungry and tired of typing. I introduced myself to the whole school. That wasn't hard. I then taught a couple of classes, which was fun.

I have noticed that class size makes a huge different. A class of 18 is much more fun than a class of 34.

On another note, kids here pretty much don't need authority. When it is time for sports, they get their gear on and go out and practice. The teachers hardly ever monitor the clubs. Its mostly directed by the kids and they know what drills are appropriate. Feedback is only necessary on something a bit more complex or technical.

Plus, you always need to remember to bow to the soccer field or baseball field before entering or exiting the field. Same goes for the gym. Has to be that Shintoist aspect of culture here. Which isn't bad really, if you have respect for a field and are willing to care for it, same should go for other things. Which reminds me, I need to wash some dishes.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Friday, April 16, 2010

The first week of school...

Has been finally completed. A lot has happened this past week and I am having a hard time simply updating and keeping tabs with everyone. This post will be large and fairly long, not lacking much detail.

Also, please bare with me for a moment while I try to figure out the formatting of my blog. I am trying to find a more appropriate layout that can properly accommodate the videos I post from my youtube account. The previous layout was cropping the videos too much which doesn't allow for an enjoyable experience.

Okay, so here goes my story of working in Japan for the first week...

I started Monday returning to Chikasono Junior High. Like I mentioned before, the school sits in the middle of rice fields that just go on forever. Sadly, I didn't take any pictures, until this week...

This is the view from my desk. Well, not quite, I do have to get up. But when I turn my head, al I see are rice fields. During this week, the farmers began the process of flooding the fields in preparation for planting rice. By May, this area will look like a blue and green checkerboard, with little to no brown dirt showing. Its gonna be amazing.

Aside from the rice fields filling up with water, the cherry blossom trees are in full bloom. They are quite a beautiful site and its sad to know that they will only be in bloom for a handful of weeks.

This weekend, there is to be a cherry blossom festival here in Otawara which I will attend. I am not so sure what goes on during these festivals, which makes the surprise a bit better.

I know there will be the standard eating and drinking but anything else is all up for grabs. I hope I see a dragon or something, that would be rad.

Sorry to get off topic ther
e but let me talk about school. Monday and Tuesday went by, rather quickly and with little interest for what happened in the day. The weather was cold and rainy. There were no classes for me to teach so I spent most of the day in the teachers room. I remember mentioning this before but its not fun when you feel useless. This all changed on Wednesday.

During the later half of the week, many of the kids were to be on field trips. Grade three, which is about equivalent to a Freshmen in High School; were out on a three day excursion. Meaning, I only saw them Monday and Tuesday. Grade two, (8th graders) were also out for the day. This meant that only grade one was present.

Since there were no classes, the Japanese English teacher encouraged me to spend the day with the First year junior high students. This is better than sitting around in the Teachers room, watching the day go by so I did. More or less, I had a blast.

The day started off in the computer room, where the students were to spend their first period researching a city they were to visit the following day.

In the picture, you can see a giant HDTV that is projecting a computers desktop. Before the kids arrived in class, I quickly drew a dog in MS PAINT that is common in Japan. A SHIBA! Who was saying 'Good Morning'

I then moved the picture to the desktop of the
computer that is controlling the display on the HDTV. When the kids walked into the class, many of them perked up and were happy to see a happy dog greeting them.

For the remainder of the class, I walked around and tried to get small talk started with the students. Keep in mind that many of the kids just arrived to Junior High so they might be a bit more shy. Some were to nervous to speak English while others were excited and ready to learn as much as possible.

There were a handful of boys who would come up to me and point at my glasses and say 'what is this'. I would them tell them. After they repeated, they would point to something else, and so on.

In return, the would say the Japanese name of something... Though, its hard for me to remember the Japanese vocabulary.

A good portion of the day was spent indoors where the kids worked on posters. The teacher of the class told everyone I liked to draw so to not be shy and ask if they needed anything drawn. This was also fun. Who would have thought I would be drawing more as a teacher than when I was in art school? Every day, I am constantly drawing.

The day was shortened a bit so the kids went home early. Before that, there was PE, which was spent in the gym doing team building activities and dodgeball. The dodgeball session was a bit nostalgic... Although, they are playing a different version I'm not used to. More or less, Wednesday was nice.

Thursday was essentially the same as Wednesday, except now the first graders were gone and it was the second graders who were at school. I have already established some connections with a handful of them so this time around wasn't hard either. Like the first graders, they were to spend a majority of the day working on posters, this time it was of the previous day. They went to Tokyo so they were posting pictures of that event.

I spent the whole day working with them, showing them little tips and tricks to make their posters stand out and look a lot better. Of course, these kids didn't know I liked to draw. I was just giving them advice on layout and such. This all changed with the Social Studies teacher mentioned I like to draw. About ten kids were in the teachers room, printing off pictures from their camera cards when she mentioned it. She told them to go over to my desk and look at all the drawings I had been doing the past few days.

The kids then wanted me to draw something. So I sat down and asked what they wanted. One said 'A monster' then another kids said 'Zombie Mickey Mouse'. I spent about ten minutes drawing a zombie version of Mickey Mouse when the teacher told them to let me work and come back at the end of the period to see the finished product. When the bell rang all ten kids were back to see the finished product. They all loved it and I let them keep it. I am not sure which kid took it home...

After lunch, I spent time with a few kids I already knew. They asked me what I studied in school, which I replied with 'Animation'. The word didn't completely register with them when I explained it was essentially 'Anime'. I spent about the next 10 minutes teaching them the different kinds of animation; stop-mo, CG, and hand drawn. Going over how I worked on Coraline and everything. There was one girl in the group who knew what Stop=motion was so any blank space I didn't fill in, she explained to the kids. Who would have thought that my explanation was going to be successful?

They beginning of the day continued on like this. I was able to spend more time talking with other teachers and staff. Getting to know them a bit more. The Japanese English teacher was gone that day, she might have been out on the field trip, so it was up to me to do whatever I wanted the whole day.

As far as today goes, Friday. It was pretty awesome. I arrived at school and looked through the teachers book on what we might be covering. It was basically questions that revolve around 'getting to know someone'. For example; 'where did you go to school?' 'favorite color?' etc...

I then spent the whole first period thinking up questions that kids might ask. I wrote down about 30 or so basic questions people ask when they are trying to get to know about someone. I really didn't think it was going to be useful in class today but surprisingly it was.

Class started and there was no need to be nervous at all. This was grade two. I already know most of the kids. I did a brief introduction of myself then the Japanese English teacher explained what they were doing today. The kids splintered off into groups of there where they helped each other forming questions.

The Japanese English teacher then took the piece of paper I thought was going to be useless and pinned it too the wall as an example. Every kid in the class got up from their chair at once to look at the paper. I think the examples helped the kids out a little and it clicked in their head what they are to do.

While they were writing down questions, I walked around while student by student would approach me and ask 'What is your favorite sport' or 'what is your favorite movie' or 'who is your favorite actor' or 'where are you from'. I would then reply, using part of the question as my sentence 'I am from Washington State' and then ask them the same question in return 'Where are you from'.

The class went by rather quickly so not all the kids were able to ask their allotted amount of questions, which is a shame.

Next up was the first graders. I didn't do much during this period. It seemed to be more or less establishing what is going to be covered over the course of a year and what they were to do the first day.

After both periods, there was one more before lunch. I spent this period of time, going over the work sheets the second graders began. I wrote in my answers on each of their papers that they were asking me. On most papers, I drew a little picture to accompany what I might have been talking about.

Lunch went well, more of the kids wanted to talk to me and I was called to sit down with another group. 'Jelly, jelly, jelly'. Thats what I hear. I spent the break period with the students trying to say crazy phrases in Japanese. They were all getting a laugh out of it.

After break, I just continued to work on the worksheets. When I was part way though them, the first grad homeroom teachers showed up in the teacher room to grab colored paper and other material. I asked her 'Are you working on more posters'. She said enthusiastically, 'Yes, can you come up to the room?' I told her once I finish the kids papers I would.

That teacher is so tiny. I bet I could pick her up with one arm. Not kidding.

Eventually, I finished the papers and went up to join the first graders on their poster project. I drew a few things for a couple groups. When there was a moment of down time, I drew a hamburger, which one student wanted and placed on his poster, even though it has nothing to do with the content on the poster. I had to laugh at that one.

The day wrapped up and its sad to say but I won't return to that school for a couple of weeks. The job of the ALT is to show up at multiple schools. Only if you are at a large school, would you spend all your time there. Since the schools in this area are small, I have one other Junior High to go to and possibly one other Elementary.

Come Monday, I will meet with a whole new staff and a new set of kids. This will be interesting. I think the only drawback would be if the school was more uptight than my previous school. That would be a bummer.

Thats all for now. I got really tired typing this.



I have been slacking on posting videos here. So here are the ones I have missed posting and have been meaning to post this past week. There are a lot of them....

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Second Day Of School...

I learned today that on the 14th, that I will have one English class to assist in teaching (appro 50 minutes). This means that the days I began work, on the 8th up until then; is mostly me sitting on my hands. To some people, this seems like the ideal job. Which so far, it has its rewarding parts but parts that are holding me back.

Of course I have a totally different mindset. I'm like Togo ready to run penicillin from Anchorage to Nome. Yes, I don't wanna get into it but Togo was a much better lead dog than Balto. Balto was too much hype...

Essentially, I'm ready to go balls to the wall.I have been wanting to do this for the past few years. Since today was 'sit on a hands day', I spent it creating more fun worksheets students can work on and not worry about being graded on. More or less, word searches, crosswords, and even a maze that has nothing to do with English. I have nothing else to do all day.

Sure I could read a book or practice Japanese but I'm there to work and make an impression on the students.

After seeing the entrance ceremony today and how highly regarded education is in Japan, its nearly overwhelming. Yesterday was nothing compared to today.

What happened today was kids coming from elementary school moving to junior high. It was super formal, sometimes felt like I was in a military school, but at the same time eye opening. There was so much respect for everyone. So much bowing, it began to hurt my back but maybe this was a cause of improper lifting techniques at fedEx. At one point I had to introduce myself to not only students but their parents and respected members of the PTA in the area (200 or so people). You would think this would be nerve racking but compared to speeches I've had
to give in front of 30 English speakers back home it was cake. Not to mention my introduction was in a language I can hardly speak....

I feel essentially its the group mind mentality. Back in the US, its all about standing out, which is good in some regards. However, there is also a time and a place for everyone to be equals. I don't want to get into some East vs. West argument, there is a time and a place for both.

Maybe what I am trying to get at is this ceremony was really important for everything. It means a lot for a Japanese person to take time off from work to see their kid to from one grade to the next. They don't believe in sick days over here. It means my job is really important. Sansei is a highly regarded term in this country. It was almost a wake up call...

Aside ceremony and wanting to work, there was other events that happened... I'm getting a kick out of all the kids saying 'Jelly' and wanting me to come talk to them. They give the the thumbs up a lot cause I give thumbs up. They're opening up a lot more. This is almost more important that language ability... Which is a bit weird.

A handful of the guys are wanting to tackle me. I hope I don't get Koncho'd. Thats where you form the tiger hand seal (I need to stop watching Anime). Once you have formed that, you sneak up on an unsuspecting victim and shove it up their anal regions. Probably won't happen in junior high, will probably happen in elementary...

Don't worry it means they like you. So thats good!

The highlight of today was Kendo. I learned a little bit today to hold a sword and a use it; as well as the proper footwork. Think of the sport as how samurai might train...

I didn't know much about it but when I watched it, I noticed how linear it was. Then I compared it to other notable Japanese martial arts; judo, karate, aikido and sumo. All but aikido is linear. Of course they all apply the mechanics of using the least amount of effort to do the most damage (except maybe sumo). What gets me cause up in it is being direct and to the point, which doesn't seem too Japanese. This may seem weird but I might talk about it later...

What was interesting was how most of the best kids practicing kendo were the girls. The teacher that leads the club is a lady. She was the social studies teacher I mentioned the other day. I'm not too surprised that the girls do the best. If this were a different martial art the guys could be doing better. Kendo is about quick, short, and accurate movements. Remember, its about using the least about of movement to do the most damage. The guys probably get too caught up in trying to hit another person on their crazy helmet as hard as they can instead of being quick and agile. The kid that one the small scrimmage tournament today was a girl.

This makes me wonder... Which is more dangerous, innocent Japanese girl or a guy with a gun. Concealed hand gun folks tell you three feet, three rounds, three seconds. A katana is about three feet, you can chop a person in half in less than a second (or take off their head), with little need for a follow up. Maybe the girls here are more dangerous than I think... I've seen lady snowblood, you never know where those women have a sword stashed...

At the end of practice, the teacher wanted me to give a speech to the kids in really simple English so I did. They appreciated it. Nearly three hours after I was supposed to be off the clock, I left the school. It was enjoyable though. The school and staff appreciate it. I don't have to stay after school every day but what else do I have to do? Pull my hair out trying to cook rice? It was fun. I will probably spend some more time this week in Kendo and maybe check out the art club.

Thats about all for now...

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Easiest Job of My Life

Today I started my first day working as an Assistant Language Teacher in Japan. Though I will be working at a handful of schools, I began at my first Junior High. The school is surrounded by rice fields and farm houses. In the distance is snow capped mountains. Its beautiful.

For the past few weeks, my nerves have been building up but each time I'm tested, to introduce myself for example; the nerves disappear. The Japanese like to smile a lot and that puts you at ease. Today was another one of those tests...

I sprung out of bed at 6:10 this morning anxious to begin the day (I had to be there by 8). Last night I could hardly sleep, partly cause I was thinking about Japanese ghosts and the paranormal but also because I was nervous to began working.

Today, I was ready to start full steam but instead felt like a dead battery. I fumbled my way to my car and left far to early. Its a ten minute drive but I left an hour ahead. My parents could be thanked for that stupid lesson 'better to arrive an hour early than one minute later'. In the long run, it was only 20 minutes. I took a stop at a nearby convenience store to get some coffee, gum, and kill time.

As I got closer to the school, I noticed that the 'Kyoto no Sensai' or Vice Principle was standing outside making sure every kid made it to school and greeted them with the standard 'good morning', in Japanese of course. I waved to him and said good morning as I pulled into the parking lot. After a few minutes of fumbling around through all my belongings, the English teacher arrived. I was able to meet her before entering the building.

When I got to me designated desk, I didn't know what to do. I decided to introduce myself to a few teachers before sitting at my desk. Adjacent to me is the English teacher, across is the nurse, and kiddy corner is the music teacher. After looking like a lost dog for five minutes, the social studies teacher showed up in the room and goes 'Jacob-San'. I met her last week when touring the school. She wants me to join the kendo club and hit me over the head with a wooden stick.

Before the actually school began, there was about 10 minutes of school announcements in the teachers room. Shortly after, was cleaning. The Japanese school system doesn't hire much, if any Janitors. The school is cleaned by the students and staff. This means everything in the whole school is cleaned in thirty minutes. Everyone is sorted out and works like a group of ants, furiously polishing every inch of linoleum. Its insane.

At this point, it was the first time I saw most of the students. There was the occasional few I said good morning to while they rode in on their bike but more or less, this was when they all first saw me. Many of the guys would say hello, a few approached me and shook my hand and introduced themselves. The girls were... Um... Embarrassed to meet me? Most of their 'hellos' were followed by uncontrollable giggling. One girl at lunch time came right up too me and wanted to stare into my eyes because they were blue. Its kinda... Strange. But I've had this happen on a fair share of other occasions while being here in Asia, so its not out of the ordinary.

After cleaning, there was a handful of free time but not much. Soon followed a ceremony. This was where myself and about five other teachers introduced ourselves in front of the school. I was nervous but when it was my time to introduce myself, I didn't have much of a problem. I'm sure there is extreme curiosity among students about their foreign teacher. There were a few 'eh?' with ascending tone when I mentioned I liked to snowboard. Some kinds tossed on the 'sugoi' sauce to that as well. (sugoi means awesome)

My introduction was in Japanese of course, so it was fairly short. Following the introduction of the teachers, was a long precession of 'I don't know because I can't speak Japanese'. The vice principle would get up, say something, then everyone would bow. A handful of students got up said something and we bowed. There was so much bowing. A few students were presented with awards of some kind, followed by us bowing. It was all very formal, but I have noticed, that the rest of the day was very laid back.

When the ceremony completed, I headed back to the teachers room, I still didn't know what to do. Then the English teacher suggest I help out the Music teacher. We went to her room and I helped her hang up some papers on the walls. It was a good way to spend some time. Then of course, I returned to the teachers room and didn't know what to do.

The English teacher was unprepared because she has been sick the past few weeks. She couldn't give me much advice aside from look over the book. I did this for about 10 minutes until I said 'I'm and American, I do what I want'. So I prepared material I thought would appeal to the Japanese students. I spent the rest of the free time I had, during the day drawing a one page comic about myself and my hobbies. Other teachers stopped by to see what I was doing, I got a lot of 'sugoi' which is like saying 'cool' or 'awesome'. They were impressed and when I told them my other hobbies, they volunteered me to shoot video for the opening ceremony tomorrow. I think I made a really good impression. Of course this puts me in a tough spot, I can't go lower as in terms of quality of work, I have to go higher. I set the bar high for myself. Which is fine cause a challenge is sick to the power of benign.

I am sure some people might be wondering why I didn't teach today but that is saved until the 14th. Between now and then, I have a lot of time to prepare material. Get to know students before class as well as the other teachers. Its a long way from now, so its a bit strange.

As far as lunch goes, it tasted awesome, totally rad multiplied by killer. Rice, curry, salad, milk. There was a cook or two but the kids served the food. Again, like ants, everyone had a role, even myself. Everyone had their food in about 5 minutes but no one was eatting. We all paused for a moment of silence as one student went to the front and said something in Japanese. About everyone formed praying hands, buddhist style, then said 'itadakimas' which is generally considered grace but literally means 'I humbly receive' Everyone eats at the same time as well, this includes the principle and vice as well as other teachers. All mixed in with the students. Lunch was done in about 25 minutes, then was followed by everyone brushing their teeth. That was different, maybe I should join in. I generally only brush in the morning and evening.

While everyone was brushing I went around to talk to the students and get to know there names. After the brushing was followed by a break, were all the kids do whatever for about 45 minutes. Its kinda like PE or something. I will need to get some 'play' clothes for this time cause all I could do was stand around. Got to talk to the science teacher which was nice.

Yeah, I am getting bored typing this but I might as well finish it off.

I folded some papers that are for another ceremony tomorrow. Eventually, I finished the page of the comic. I then spent the rest of the day hanging out with the kids. It was a good time.

Highlight of the day was running into some former High School students visiting the school. For whatever reason, they freaked out when they saw me in the form of a positive reaction. One of them ran up to me and gave me a hug. He then told me 'hes fat', which, by Japanese standards, yeah but he has a long way to go to be American on that one. He took off his hat and put it on my head. I then smiled and threw down some gang signs like the cracker I am. I think the Japanese just generally have an impression of ALTS being carefree and laid back, so they treat them all the same. It was pretty fun.

That is all for the first day, went out and bought some clothes for exercise tomorrow. Might give kendo a try as a club activity.


Sunday, April 4, 2010

Things I would like to experience in Japan

Its hard to really narrow down a list of things I would like to experience in Japan. Not only is there a ton of things I would like to experience in Japan but around the world and throughout my life. Seriously life is short.

Picture above is a Nissan skyline from around the late 1970's. It looks to be kept in nearly perfect condition. Most cars pushing kilometers beyond their age are kept in great condition. This happened to be one of them...

When it comes to the Japanese import scene, throughout the years; I'm no
t too interested. My favorite car has to be the Pontiac GTO. Especially the one from 'Death Proof'.

Flat black. Tons of power. And straight up evil!

The thing though I do find interesting about the Japanese car scene is drifting. It takes a ton of skill, a lot of coordination, and car that can make it through a hairpin turn without blowing out your tires.

This is something I would love to see, first hand, up close.

WHEN (not if) I get the chance, I will try and make my way to a Japanese circuit to see how this all is done. I hear that the entrance fee isn't to steep. This is no problem. Of course, purchasing a train ticket to Tokyo is a hefty fee. Round trip will hurt my wallet. I'll figure it out.

Later on, I will post other things about Japan I'd love to see. There is quite a bit. I will keep you posted!!!


That Japanese Diet

I've been in Japan a little over two weeks now and the majority of my food intake has been switched over to Japanese. There is the occasional hamburger I might get but more or less, I'm eating Japanese food.

This does one thing to you if you aren't ready for it. Its a lot like if your body isn't used to Mexican food. This disturbance is something I still haven't adapted to and might take some time.