August 31, 2007

Last Week of Summer Break

For the rest of the week I was actually fairly busy at school. I was helping students with the English speech contest in the mornings and the afternoons. In between, I was finishing up my powerpoint and creating a Jeopardy game on powerpoint to go along with it. Tuesday night was Matt, Tye, and my first Japanese study night. We met and grabbed dinner and then sat down and basically decided what our weekly goals would be. We also shared what resources we had so we might be able to borrow things from time to time. Then I headed home and stayed up late reading Harry Potter 7 which I didn’t get to read before leaving and another JET (Angie, you’ll hear about her in a bit) loaned me at the orientation on Friday. So I was pretty tired from Wednesday on through the week. Oh and I finally got a call from Alana, my friend from UGA whose family lives in Alabama and who is also on the JET programme but placed in Osaka. She didn’t have internet and so we couldn’t communicate that way easily. I had sent her my cell phone number when I got it, but she didn’t get to read her email for 2 weeks and on Tuesday she was at a party where someone had internet and she got it and called me. We didn’t talk too long, but it was good hearing from her. She was supposed to call Wednesday, but when she called at 10pm I had already turned my phone to silent for the night and gone to bed. I was soo tired. Then I didn’t get a chance at school to call her and forgot when I got home. And Friday was equally busy if not moreso. I thought I would have time after school, but I didn’t realize I was going to have to get the train so soon after school. You see, there was aNOTHER event in Takamatsu for us JETs. Not that all these are required, but I’ve heard the outings decrease after school starts back up again and I’d like to get to know these people around me so that maybe we can plan travel together in the future etc. And plus they are pretty cool people. Oh so after school. Yeah I left a bit late around 4 I think. I got home and realized I had left my keys at the school. So I had to truck back. Meanwhile I’m supposed to meet Matt at the train at 4:48. And I haven’t packed yet. I finally get home at 4 25 or so with my keys. I ram a bunch of clothes in my little blue bag and then realize I haven’t packed my electronics etc. And I have all of that in a pile with my pocket stuff (wallet, phone, change, etc.). So I throw that all in a plastic bag (this is important to remember) and head out the door. I make it to the train station. The set up is so that where we park our bikes you can see the platform with tracks on either side where the trains arrive. But you have to head 50 yards away to go through the station building and then go up stairs over the train tracks and then down them to get to the platform in between the tracks. That takes a good 45 seconds at least if you’re running. But I could clearly see the train was there and Matt was getting on. But I also saw the conductor who could clearly see me. I thought I would just run for it the right way, but then I saw him putting the whistle to his mouth. So I jumped the fence and crossed the tracks jumped onto the platform and dashed onto the train. Apparently the conductor just smiled at me. But at least I made it.

August 27, 2007

2nd Orientation and Weekend

Well, let’s see where I left off… it has been awhile.

So, of course I didn’t do any of the things I meant to get done (dishes, etc.). I went home and then went out to an izakaya to wish Andy farewell. (Andy is the New Zealander who was working as a CIR in Mitoyo and helped Tye and I out a whole lot getting settled in and all.) That was pretty fun. A lot of people ended up showing up and we had quite a time. At one point everyone rapped out the entire intro to Prince of Bel-Air. It was pretty cool. Or uncool depending on how you look at it. After that I sort of got ready for Orientation, but not really. So it was another mad dash in the morning trying to get everything set to go. I packed an overnight bag this time, but I only used it to change into something more comfortable after the orientation stuff. The orientation this time was pretty good. They focused on school stuff which gave me some more ideas. My problem is that I get so many ideas that I don’t know which one I want to use and then I end up not using any of them and doing too much work on my own. Too bad I’m not organized. The best part was the video time. One of the Chrises and one of the Dans had some pretty cool videos to show about horror stories and examples of lessons and just some funny stuff.

After, orientation was the pub crawl. We grabbed a bite to eat before hand and then headed for the meeting bar and were divided into teams and began making our way around to the different bars in our teams. The first place we went was totally empty with some OK music and beer that tasted bad. So we left pretty shortly after arriving. We went to a place called Roughhouse after that. It was in a basement and was realllly small, but it was cool. You could tell that when it’s busier it gets realllllly smoky as well. But it was still pretty empty at the time. They had a vast selection of music and you could make requests for just about anything and they would have it. I played darts with Jeremy (He’s the guy also in Mitoyo City but in a secluded town called Nio right on the coast. We had the Mexican dinner at his place.) It was fun. He one once and I one once. It was luck as my aim was severely impaired due to….. ummm… well, you know.

After that we went to the King’s Yaad. It was this funky Jamaican bar. Pretty interesting to find a place like it in Japan I thought. Several of us ordered specialty drinks. They probably aren’t used to having 5 people order one each at the same time. It took a good while before they all arrived. They came in waves and after the last one had arrived and was drunk, we didn’t have time to make it to the fourth bar, but I and most of the others had been there before, so it wasn’t a big deal. So we met all the teams at the World Sports Bar. I didn’t drink anything there. I just used the internet and talked with people. And by that point I had decided I wasn’t going to travel on the weekend. I had heard about a festival in Marugame which is not too far from me on the West side. And the more I thought about it, an actual weekend spent at home would do me a lot of good. I ended up spending less time in my apartment than I had intended but it was good to relax a bit instead of being gone from Friday to Sunday or Monday. So I headed back to Takase on the last train with several others.

Saturday, Matt and I met at the train station and went to Marugame around 1pm for the Basala Dance Summer Festival. It was pretty cool. For this festival, everyone dances a different dance which is different from most of the other festivals. So we walked around for a while watching the different dances. We walked up and down the Shotengai as well. (Shotengai is a covered [mostly] pedestrian area with lots of shops along it. You find them in downtown areas.) And we happened upon a bookstore that had a CD and game section. They had Nintendo DSs which a lot of JETs had been recommending since there is a kanji dictionary cartridge and kanji games as well as lots of other fun games like Mario Kart and Tetris and you can hook up with other Nintendo DSs and play against people. So I decided to go ahead and get one. I decided to wait to get it so I wouldn’t have to carry it around too long. We went to the ATM and then started back for the dancers. We found a drink machine and started sipping on the Chu-hi around 3 or 4 I think and kept at it most of the afternoon. We just walked up and down the streets and by the main stage watching the different groups. Eventually we went back to the bookstore where I got the DS and a game and a case and where Matt completed a rubic’s cube.

Then we went back to the main area in front of the train station where we ran into a group of JETs that had just arrived. They were heading to an Indian place and we were just following along and before we knew it we were sitting at a table trying to decide what to eat, even though we had just had Indian the night before in Takamatsu and hadn’t really wanted it again. Oh I forgot to mention that at one point we bought kazoos. So of course after eating we got out our kazoos and began playing them for the people in the restaurant. Of course, the others hadn’t been drinking chu-hi’s all afternoon and so didn’t find this as amusing as we did. After eating I think we milled around for a bit and then headed down to the waterside to watch the fireworks. They were OK, but it will be hard to beat watching fireworks from the water like we did in Tsuda.

Afterward, we went to the Grasshopper, a bar that foreigners often frequent with a fair sized selection of imported beers and foreign foods. I got some nachos and had a couple of English beers I think they were. And at some point I fell asleep with my head against the wall. I don’t know if I mentioned it, but for some reason, in Japan, so far I’ve fallen asleep three times while I’ve been out with people. I don’t think that I’ve done this before, but maybe so. Of course, there is plenty of photographic evidence and lots of tampering with the sleeping person, but who could blame them. Eventually we hit the last train home. Sam (who had come from way out on the west side with Tye and who had been out in Takamatsu until 6am with Tye the night before after the pub crawl) came back with us to Takase. Apparently, I befriended a guy on the train. At first, I was playing my kazoo and he was yelling something at me. I guess cause we were being so loud. But at some point in the ride, I went over and sat with him and had some sort of conversation with him and we played the kazoo and made up.

Sam stayed over at my place. We got up and had breakfast. She actually helped clean up my place a bit which was still fairly messy. It was really nice of her. We just focused on the kitchen mainly and tidied up the living room a bit. We got Matt up and out and we all went and ate udon together. Afterwards we went to the 100 yen shop and got some useless, unneeded, yet somehow totally necessary junk. Actually, I got a few things I had been intending on getting for a while. A magnetic shelf for my bathroom and some plants and seeds and pots. Dan from Mino called up to say he was on his way to Takase and as we left the shop he was coming up on his bike. He took us down to an Antique store he had mentioned to us before. It was pretty cool. This little shop with tons of stuff from floor to ceiling. They had instruments and records and dishes and clocks and scrolls and books and trinkets. Eventually they brought out iced coffee and crackers and we all sat down and had a conversation mainly via Dan who can speak more Japanese than us of course. I got a few fans and a drawing of a seascape. Afterward, we went back to my place and got in the car to head to Utazu. Matt had been wanting to get guitars, an acoustic and an electric. There’s a used electronics/instrument store called Hard Off. So we went there after picking up Tye from his place. I got to drive, so that was cool. Except we missed a turn and it took about 15 minutes to finally turn around and get back to it. The shopping trip was successful as he found both types of guitars he wanted and a guitar stand and I got a couple of games for my Nintendo DS. While Matt was still selecting his guitars I drove Sam to the train station so she could make it back to her town before it got too late since she was pretty exhausted from the nights out and had her opening ceremony stuff on Monday. That was the first time I drove the car by myself. No accidents. So that was good. We grabbed a bite to eat and then headed home.

Monday I just stayed at home and played with my DS and lounged around avoiding the work that I was supposed to be doing. I actually did eventually work on my desk and got that mostly sorted and I did 3 loads of laundry. I felt good with that.

August 23, 2007

Feeling sick at school

Wednesday, I was feeling the worst I had. Lots of coughing, sore throat, sneezing, etc. I thought it was a cold, but now I’m thinking it’s allergies since all the snot is clear. I didn’t get allergies until my senior year in high school I think was the first time. And since then I get them but not consistently. Sometimes in the spring and fall, sometimes one or the other, or one year I didn’t get allergies at all. So, when I get them, I’m always taken by surprise and think I’m getting sick. I also had to work with the two speech contestants which wasn’t that much fun with the sore throat, but the kids were nice and I did enjoy getting to work with them. They are only 7th graders and they can actually read English. As for understanding it, I don’t think they could read it on their own and get it, but I think the English teacher explained it all to them and they know which parts mean what, but today when I was working with the one who showed up again, I asked him “Who is your English teacher?” and he didn’t know what I was asking. He said, “yes.” I’m still amazed at his ability to even read English with any sort of fluency. After school Wednesday, I just went home and changed, went to the grocery store for a bento and some chips, and went home to rest. After I finished the bento, I fell asleep for about an hour which was nice. When I woke up, there was a soccer game on, Japan v. Cameroon, which the Japanese won. Then I went outside for some internet, and I think I found an area that will be more consistent, but it’s a bit longer of a walk. I did some reading with the Disney book with my dictionary right nearby and went to bed early. Today, I’ve been feeling a lot better, mainly sneezing and a runny nose. So hopefully things will be cleared up tomorrow.

My goal this afternoon is to actually do my dishes, iron my shirts, clean up the apartment and start organizing my desk. I didn’t realize it was so close to the weekend already, I have asked for this Monday off, so I should make some type of plans. We have to go into Takamatsu tomorrow for the 2nd orientation after which a pub crawl for charity has been organized. So, maybe I’ll stay out there again. I still haven’t gotten that bag I’ve been meaning to get. Since, I’ll have Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, maybe I’ll try to get off Shikoku for a destination. Well, school time has been over for about a half-hour, so I need to get out of here.

August 21, 2007

Meeting the Governor and Shopping at the Mall

Tuesday, we had to meet in Takamatsu for an official meeting with the governor. I got the morning off because I had originally thought I had to go to the city office in the morning and I had already asked to have the day to do that and go to the capital before getting the payslip and didn’t mention anything after getting the payslip. So I took my time getting up and getting ready. I ate breakfast and went to the bank where thankfully the money had been placed into my account. I was so happy I got 5 man (man, pronounced mahn, is 10,000, so 5 man = 50,000) yen, which is about $500. I didn’t want to run short of money again. After that I went to the Joy homestore and got some floor cushions and a floor mat that were all on sale for half price. I got some bungee cords so I could strap stuff to the back of my bike. And I got a couple of foldable outdoor chairs, I thought they would be good for if we do camping like people mentioned and to pull out if I have extra people over. Plus, the “couch” I have is low to the ground and it’s a pain to move the kitchen chairs around, so they will probably be a semi-permanent feature of my living room. I headed home and was going to catch the train at 11:22. Somehow, even though I got a text from Matt asking when I would be leaving to which I responded “11:22” at about 11:10, I failed to realize that I needed to hurry. So I unpacked the stuff I had just bought, and hopped in the shower, and started ironing a shirt, and then I looked at the time again and it was 11:16, which is when I realized I really needed to hurry. The station may only be a couple minutes away, but the trains are incredibly punctual barring a summer festival. Anyway, I managed to leave with 2 minutes to make it to the train. Matt was equally as rushed and we got to the station at the same time and boarded with only 10 seconds to spare. The train luckily was waiting for an express train to go by in the other direction.

We grabbed some udon on the way to the prefectural building which proved to be a mistake for me, one I wasn’t to realize until about an hour later. We made it up to the meeting room and put on our ties and got ready to meet the governor. We all sat on one side of this really long circular table that was open in the middle and there were places for the governor and two other officials on the other side and a table in the middle that had all the flags for the countries we represented. There was a TV crew there as well and a cameraman. The governor came in and gave a short introduction speech that Andy (a different Andy, a prefectural advisor in Takamatsu) translated. The other two officials introduced themselves as well. Then Jenny, another new JET, gave a short speech on the behalf of the rest of us new JETs. Then, we each introduced ourselves in Japanese saying our names, where we were from, and where we work in Kagawa. It was fun listening to everyone speak in Japanese. There are maybe 3 or 4 among us that actually have studied it before and can actually speak it. A couple had prepared longer self-introductions that the governor enjoyed. I just did the basic one. Meanwhile, the udon was playing tricks on my stomach. I thought I was going to explode. Tye kept laughing at me. Part of the meeting was aired on the news that night because a teacher mentioned seeing it the next day. I wish I had thought to ask which station it might be on, but then again, I think the channels differ from place to place and I haven’t figured out how they name stations and where or what the logo might be. We were also in the paper. I think someone said they would bring in a copy for me. Tye said he saw one in his paper and that my head almost completely blocked his. (No comments Alison ;P.)

After that, a few prefectural JETs (High schools are considered prefectural, whereas junior highs and elementaries are considered local and run by cities or towns – I’m a city level JET) had to stay for the official signing of their contracts or something, so some of us went to a book store, where I got a practice test for the yonkyuu or something like that. Basically the lowest level of the official I-know-some-Japanese test. We met up with the prefectural JETs at the train station and caught the bus for the mall. Aeon Town. It was pretty impressive, but not unlike malls in the states. It was 3 stories and all of the store names were either in English or at least romaji. But mostly English. If any of my students remember those pictures of people on the bulletin board and the one with the old guy where it said something about “boo” are reading, I have a picture from the mall to show you, once I get a chance to load up some pictures. It’s kind of funny. Anyway, seeing as I had just gotten paid and I had 5 man burning a hole in my wallet, I of course went on a spending spree. I got a sleeping bag for guests and camping and weekends away, a nalgene bottle for my biking treks to the various elementaries, a couple carabeaners for keys etc., a few more Japanese books for reading (2 manga and 1 Disney story book and 1 book that I had bought in France for my French classes that I absolutely loved and I’ll be happy when I can read it for real in Japanese), some actual bed sheets (the ones I got before ended up being duvet or futon covers or something), a hat for the beach (it’s pretty suave actually, kind of 50s debonair feel, at least I think so), a taco kit and spaghetti sauce from the foreign foods place, and about 6 shirts from Uniqlo that were all 1000 yen or under, which was pretty good. Devin, have you been to uniqlo? You’d probably like it. Some of the t-shirts I got, I would pay about $20 or more for in the States, and I got them for 500 yen (less than $5). My wardrobe took a hit when I moved. I’ve been basically wearing the same rotation of clothes each week. The bad part is I usually change out of my school clothes into shorts each day and maybe another shirt, which means after about 4 days, everything is dirty basically and I have to do laundry. I keep hanging up my shirts to be ironed and I guess I just hope they unwrinkled themselves because I always end up ironing them right before putting them on in the morning instead of ironing them all at once. Anyway, the shirts I got will ease things a bit since I won’t have to do laundry mid-week now. And I definitely wear the pants and shorts multiple times per week, but I did that back home. Of course, I was the last one in a store getting those shirts. I thought I had plenty of time before the bus, but I didn’t and they ended up leaving but Matt stayed. If I wanted, I could have thrown my basket of clothes down, but since I had actually tried stuff on, I was pretty set on getting it and I knew I needed it. I figured I could just wait the half hour for the next bus. It was very nice of Matt to stay though. We ended up seeing Tye back at the train station anyway because there wasn’t another train back before then. Needless to say, my wallet is considerably lighter now. But I mostly got things I’ve been thinking of getting or saw and realized I needed (you know how that goes). I still have a few more fairly big items I’d like to get. I’d like either one or two standing fans, a Nintendo DS, and maybe a small oven. I have a little grill that’s included in the stove, but it fits maybe two pieces of bread and even then, it doesn’t toast both sides at the same time. But maybe I’m not using it right. And I have a microwave. I have to think if I’ll actually use it. In France, we got an oven, and we actually used it. And when I say we, I mean I acted as my roommate’s pseudo-sous-chef. So I don’t know if I would use it as much now that I’m on my own. I need to check out some cookbooks in English here, if I can find some. And I wish I had brought one from home now. I was thinking about it, but it was on the cut-it-if-I’m-at-my-weight-limit list, and I definitely hit that limit, so cut it I did. Other than that, I can’t think of anything else I really want or need. Maybe another futon mat or two and sheets to go with for guests.

August 20, 2007

Payday and Pizza

Monday, I was back at school and I got some work done. I met with the 9th grade speech contestant who was very nice. She did a nice job with the pronunciation. The problem I see is that even if she pronounces it well, is she really understanding it? And then, what’s the point of the contest? It’s not like she actually wrote it. It seems kind of pointless. These contests are a big deal apparently. And I’ve heard it’s equally as pointless to try and change the status quo in your Japanese school as a foreigner.

At one point, I had a nice conversation with one of the female teachers. She doesn’t speak much English, but it’s better than my Japanese. It’s mainly one word utterances to get her point across, which was surprisingly effective. Occasionally, one of the English teachers would step in to clear any problems up. She was asking about the Japanese foods I liked and disliked. This seems to be a popular conversation for Japanese people to have with foreigners. The trouble is I haven’t had the opportunity to try much that I haven’t had before coming here. The main new food is udon which is just another type of noodle. I’ve had a couple new sushi and sashimi items, but that’s not really different. So I mainly talk about what I think I might have trouble eating. Things that people have described to me. One is the whole fish that sometimes gets served with school lunch. It’s small fish with the head and tail and eyes, whole. Sometimes, they are pregnant so you can squeeze it and the eggs come out. And you eat it all. I don’t know if I’ll be able to handle that. But I promised I would try. Another is natto. Some sort of fermented bean dish that supposedly has a really off-putting smell and less than appealing texture. She ended the conversation by saying we should all have a karaoke night out sometime. Which I would enjoy. When I’m feeling better of course. By Monday, I was dealing with a really sore throat and a bit of a cough. The good news was that I got paid though. They gave me my pay slip at work. I was under the impression that since I didn’t get my bank account until late in the month, that my first direct deposit wouldn’t go through. So I would have to go to the city office to get my money. But they gave me my slip at work. I was sooo happy to finally have money!! (That I didn’t have to get from my American account.) Oh and right before leaving work, another teacher, the one who cooked for some of the teachers before, came to my desk. With the aid of Ms. Hara, one of the English teachers, she told me she had made lots of pizzas and wanted to know if I wanted one. She even offered to deliver it to my house. I said I could wait, but she was going to be at work for a couple hours after I was to leave and then it would take an additional 45 minutes. So she said she would bring it by since she already knew the place from my predecessor. I couldn’t believe it. Homemade pizza. I sent a text to Matt and invited him over to enjoy it with me. Since I knew I had my paycheck, I headed to K’s Denki to see what electronics I might want to get. People have been suggesting a Nintendo DS which you can play games on in addition to having a cartridge with a kanji dictionary that would make reading Japanese a thousand times easier. It has a stylus that allows you to draw it right on the screen. It seems pretty cool. Anyway, I ran into Matt there who was also perusing some of the electronics. We headed to the home store after. I wanted to get some small glasses for cold tea if the teacher wanted to come in when she dropped of the pizza. I wasn’t even thinking and I ended up being about $10 short when I got to the register. I almost looked in my wallet before shopping, but thought for sure that I had about 5000 yen. I only had 3000 and the bill was 4000. Luckily Matt was there and didn’t mind loaning me what I needed. I felt pretty stupid. He bought some trash cans for sorting his garbage so he had to walk his bike home and I took off so I could get a few more things and clean up before the teacher and he showed up. Since I had just run out of money, I knew I needed to stop at the bank. So of course, I went straight to the grocery store, hopped off my bike, and was almost in the store when I realized my blunder. So I got back on and went to the bank where I found out that getting a payslip doesn’t mean the money is in the bank. (It did at my school in Canton, but not here.) So that meant if I wanted to get orange juice and cereal and milk for breakfast and to pay Matt back I had to head back over to the side of town where we just were to get to the post office to draw on my home bank once again. Eventually I made it home and I got things mostly clean, which mean a lot of throwing things into the closet and my bedroom. I didn’t then and have yet to do the dishes completely since being here in Japan. I think I will do them tonight. Anyway, Mrs. Hashimuze, the teacher, came over a bit after six with the pizza and also some fried chicken nuggets (that’s basically what they were). It was so nice. But she really doesn’t speak English, just like I really don’t speak Japanese. So her attempt to explain something to me completely failed. It was really bad seeing as we both had our Japanese-English dictionaries with us. She kept pointing at the pizza or right under the pizza and was saying something about kiji. So I looked it up and it said “textile, fabric, cloth”. I thought she had been referring to the dish and that I needed to bring it back to her. But when I saw that definition I was confused and showed it to her thinking I had heard her wrong. When she saw it, she said “So, so, so, so”, which means “Yes, yes, that’s so” basically. So I was really confused at that point. I invited her in, but she said she had to leave I guess and after about 5 minutes of working on kiji, she just left. When Matt came over and we sat down to actually eat, I realized there was a piece of something like waxed paper between the pizza and the dish. I guess she was saying not to eat that or something. Anyway, It was a pretty good pizza. The sauce was homemade perhaps. It had lots of onions and other veggies in it. It was pretty think with a lot of cheese on top and some basil leaves on top of that. The chicken was pretty good as well. Which reminds me, there were a couple pieces left over that I think I’ll have for a snack today. Matt stayed over for a while and we talked for a bit while listening to music. He’s a nice guy. Comes from England and was in a circus group in college and president of the badminton club. He’s interesting to say the least. I think he will be a good friend to have around. He’s literally 2 minutes from me door to door on a bike.

August 19, 2007


Well Sunday’s barbecue was nice, though I was starting to feel kind of sick, like a cold or something. I was getting the sniffles and a slight sore throat. And by the end of the day, I was not doing so well. We headed out to Nio for the BBQ, which is where Jeremy lives and where we had the Mexican dinner. It was nice. Fewer people than I had expected, but it was nice. The principal of the elementary was there and she is really spunky and totally digs English, even though she doesn’t necessarily have the greatest command of it. Andy and a couple other JETs were there, along with Yukari and Che, Andy’s coworkers, and Yoshida, who is the elementary teacher I’ll be working with at Ninomiya, among others. Andy and I swam out to an island that sits a few hundred meters out. It was a nice swim. He was saying we should do that every day. It’s just that it takes a car or a bit of a bike ride over a mountain.

Oh and as for the Japanese style barbecue, it is a bit different. The set up was similar. They didn't have park grills, so they had brought their own camping style grills. They had charcoal that looked a bit different, but worked the same way. But they had this thing, basically it was a flamethrower that they used to make the coal burn faster so it would get hotter faster. The meat and cooking was where things got different. Think barbecue buffet. In America, if you're grilling as a family, you might cook everything all at once and time it so that it's all done at the same time and you sit down as a family and eat your barbecued meal. Or in a big group, you have your hotdogs and hamburgers going and maybe steaks and corn on the cob and as it's ready you get yours and walk away and put on your condiments and get your chips and drink and sit down and eat. You might go back for seconds if you want. At this barbecue, they threw on the meat which was in little chunks and cooked a bunch at a time and had bowls of sauce. So we went around with our chopsticks and got what we wanted and dipped it in the sauce and they were constantly throwing more meat and veggies on the grill until everyone had eaten enough. It was interesting. I enjoyed it though.

After the barbecue, I just went back home and rested. Dan came over for a bit after a short trip to the neighboring prefecture, Ehime, with some of his adult English class.

August 18, 2007

Sanuki-Tsuda and Driving

Saturday, I was up at nine and headed into town in search of the other Matt from Takase who had already gone in earlier. I’ve been looking for a lighter back pack for weekend use which I still haven’t gotten by the way. And he was in search of weekend supplies as he hadn’t been planning on staying. I got more cash from the post office to last me for the weekend and we took the train to Tsuda Beach. I don’t like drawing on my American account because I feel like I’m losing money, paying for the exchange and all. At that point I had my Japanese account, but I hadn’t been paid yet. So I ended up having to get more money a couple hours later after we bought provisions for the beach. Sanuki-Tsuda is where a JET named Alison lives. When we got there, several JETs had already rented a shelter for us. So we stowed our stuff and got into our suits. And we had a great time. I opted to not drink as I was not feeling too good after Friday night. I also bought this little elephant float from the store. There wasn’t much of a selection and I thought it would be fun. The trunk inflated in a very erect form which provided much humor throughout the afternoon. It ended up being a very good purchase. Since it was Tsuda’s summer festival there were lots of food stands and music and dancing. They had a stage set up where they had dancers earlier on and Sam and I saw a magician. He kept saying “Amerika” and I wished I could understand the rest of it so I knew what he was saying. And later on, there were the requisite fireworks. What makes this festival cool is that the fireworks are shot from very close to shore on this rickety pier and people will sit on the beach to watch them. Us being the foreigners that we are, we of course took our drinks and our floats and headed for the water. Those were the best fireworks I’ve seen. It wasn’t the biggest show by any means, but they were literally exploding above us. We could see where some of the sparks were actually hitting the water. It was pretty awesome.

Andy had driven from Takase with Dan and Brent, some other JETs from the west side. They said I could get a ride back which I was thankful for since it meant I wouldn’t have to get the early train and I could avoid the cost of the ticket as well. And since I hadn’t been drinking and Andy wanted to drink, they asked if I would drive back for them. So Saturday night was my first driving experience in Japan. They drive on the left side, if you didn’t know. And I didn’t know that before coming here. When I found that out recently (I can’t remember if it was before getting here or just after), I thought that I should have known that somehow. I’m sure Alison back in Canton knew it. So the drive back…. Well, no incidents really. I was really nervous about landing in one of the common roadside gutters, but that didn’t happen. I joked that I did that twice in a text to Sam but that we had pushed it out both times. Apparently, it’s possible to push the car out if you do that, because the cars are so small. Andy said that he did that once. But I was mainly on the highway so I didn’t have anything to worry about. I can’t remember if I mentioned these gutters though. Instead of having a road with curbs on the side that help funnel the water to an eventual drain which takes the water to a pipe under the road, they just have these open gutters on one side or the other or both that collect water. Think mini-canals or concrete creeks. Some of them are maybe a foot deep and a foot wide, but others can be a 12 foot drop… with NO railing. Sometimes these gutters are covered, but sometimes sections of the covered parts are open. Just to make sure you’re paying attention, I guess.

Anyway, I would have preferred to have had my first driving experience during the day, but I guess it’s better this way. I didn’t really have the opportunity to get nervous and over-think it all. I just had to do it. The guys gave me the directions and I followed them. Easy as that. Well mostly. I didn’t have that big of a problem with driving on the left side. It was having the steering wheel on the right and the gear shift on the left and the turn signal on the right and the windshield wipers on the left that got me. I can say that I only turned the wipers on maybe 3 times during the whole trip. And I have to give it to Andy, one section of the highway was JUST like one of those car racing video games, which I guess are largely developed in Japan, so that would make since. It was pretty cool, though. But we did make it home safely. And I now feel more comfortable driving. Though I think I’d still like having a knowledgeable passenger to direct me and remind me to make those wide right turns and close left turns to stay on the right correct side of the road.

Another night in Tak

Friday, I had to go to the board of education. Andy, a New Zealander who works at the BOE for international relations, had taken me and Tye to get our phones Thursday. He has great Japanese and we would have been completely lost without him. He was awesome. Anyway, I had some papers that I thought I might be able to turn into the BOE after we got our phones. But with the excitement of getting a phone, I forgot about that and left the papers in the back of the car he was driving, which is a BOE car used for International Relations stuff. So anyway, I went down there and got the papers with Yukari, a co-worker of Andy’s since he was out. I stayed for tea and conversation with her and a couple other people before heading back to school. When I got back to the school, someone called for me. It was a teacher from Ninomiya, one of my elementaries. He told me that Sunday there was going to be a barbecue for some Ninomiya teachers and some other JETs and invited me to join. So I said yes, even though I had planned on staying in Tsuda for the summer festival. I figured I could stay Saturday night and come back early in the morning on a train. He was picking me up at 10am for some reason.

In the afternoon, I helped another teacher with a different speech for the contest. This one was for a 9th grader (3rd year JHS student). I just helped edit and correct the speech that the teacher had written based on the student’s Japanese version…. I think. That was interesting once again. Sometimes words and phrases just came to me. But other times, it was hard. Once you read in the technically correct English what it is they want to say and you understand what it is getting at, it’s hard to step away and think of how someone would really say it, in the States at least. There are lots of versions of English being taught around the prefecture, so I try to keep in mind that these English teachers may have been exposed to different dialects and accents. I think North American English is favored in general, though.

After school, I went home and got ready for the weekend. This time I was planning on staying over in Takamatsu since there was a beach party on Saturday. A few of us got together to splash in a fountain for a bit. Then we went and had dinner at a thai place that offered a dinner menu for 3000 yen that included nomihodai. So of course we opted for that. Afterwards, us guys went to a sports bar for a bit and then to karaoke. Originally, the idea was either sports bar OR karaoke. But somehow we ended up at karaoke as well. I didn’t have much money so I believe I am still in debt to another JET. And I guess I just have trouble staying awake after a certain point. I actually fell asleep in the karaoke place. Of course the guys had to take pictures. There’s one with them around me holding the mic up to my mouth. I think they said at one point they were moving my mouth for me with the mic next to it. We crashed around 4 I believe.

August 16, 2007


I’ve been meaning to update while at work, but lately I’ve actually had things to do and I’ve been finishing up a few projects that I started earlier this month. So, it’s been about a week since the last update. Let’s see if I can remember what happened… Again, I’m backdating the posts.

Well Thursday was a pretty normal day. Not too much to do. Although, I noticed a lot more teachers and students were at the school. I think the main Obon day was Wednesday. So all the clubs were back in session. Oh wait. This was a big day actually. I can’t believe I almost forgot. I think it was Thursday. I got my CELL PHONE. I mean not having internet is bad enough, but no cell phone means I can’t even communicate with the people around me. After having the same phone for the past three years, I decided it was ok to get a little fancy with this one. It’s a two year plan, which means… maybe.. I’m staying for two years?? Still not sure, but I think people were saying if you have to cut the plan short after a year, when you pay all the penalties it ends up costing you only 100 bucks more than if you had just gotten a one year plan. And if you stay for 2 years, then of course you’re altogether better off. So anyway, the one I got is a bright metallic green. I was leaning towards a calmer blue, but went for the green in the end. It definitely stands out. It flips open and then the top will twist 180 degrees so the screen faces the opposite direction for self-portraits with the camera. Then you can fold it back down so that the screen is still facing out so you can take pictures like on a real digital camera. I’ve taken a few and emailed them to myself. Some were pretty blurry, but the ones where I stabilized the camera on something turned out pretty good. It’s a 3.2 megapixel camera, so that’s pretty good. It also has a TV receiver, so I can watch TV on it in that position. Email, internet, texting, games, music, books, actual cool sounding ring tones, etc. I only ever had calling and texting on my last phone. And I only ever replied to texts… sometimes. I would usually just call the person back. I think I could do internet but never did because I think it would have been hella expensive. So this is all new to me. It’s been quite a learning curve figuring it out. Matt showed me how to check the train schedules and the “last train” feature which is essential when negotiating the rails in Kagawa and planning your evenings and weekends. He somehow miraculously got his phone and bank account on the day after he arrived in Takase. I was a bit jealous. But it’s all good. I’m happy with my bright green phone.

August 15, 2007

Mexican Potluck

Last night was pretty fun. After work, I went over to Nio. It’s a small town that’s tucked between a small mountain and the ocean. Jeremy, a returning JET, lives there. He invited a bunch of people over for a Mexican potluck. Mexican food, by the way, is difficult to find here. I ended up just getting some chips that had a taco on the front of the bag and which ended up being pretty good and some ground beef because I figured tacos would be involved. We had a good ole time with a nice mix of Japanese and non-Japanese people. Later in the evening, we went down to the seaside and walked around and found a group of Japanese girls who had cooked out and were playing with sparklers. Jeremy had his guitar and the one song they all knew that he could play was “Yellow Submarine” and that was pretty fun. One girl knew Radiohead and he played a song or two. Lots of pictures. We cabbed it back to Takuma and Matt (the other Takase JET) and I hopped the train for home a little after midnight.

I’m not used to all this going out and all. Especially on a school night. Somehow, I managed to make it in and I was only a few minutes late. I’m not sure how things work here, but I’m not sweating me being late, because other teachers mosey in around 9 and the vice-principal came in around 10. I may not be able to resist a nap today, especially if the cloud cover dissipates and the sun steams things up. Yesterday it was 36 degrees here. But I heard back in Georgia it was 40 degrees or so. Yes, this is Celsius. I’m trying to get used to it. I don’t even know the conversion really. I just know that if my AC is on 29, it’s bearable, 30 is too hot, and 26 or 27 lets me sit very comfortably.

I finally got an internet signal on my computer near my apartment sitting on a bench outside around 1am last night. So I was able to transfer some pictures I had emailed to myself from the school computer for my self-intro PowerPoint. It really is a pain. You can’t transfer data from the school internet computer to another computer via a network or dump drive. But it let’s you email attachments. It’s just my home internet isn’t consistent.

Well, I think I will do some Japanese studying.

August 14, 2007

Tuesday Work

I had actually asked off for Monday and Tuesday, because I thought we were going to the Awa Odori for two days and then to Takamatsu today. But since I don’t have immediate access to contacting people, I wasn’t able to verify anything before Friday. And then I was gone. I just showed up at work (where there are only 3 other people anyway) and I’m pretty sure things will work out and I’ll get to save that vacation day until later this month. But none of the English teachers are here so I’m not quite sure. And the office lady with the better English is on vacation as well. It’s the week of Obon, so most people are gone all week. Just a couple people to man the office since they aren’t national holidays and the school can’t officially close.

FYI From what I’m told, Obon is the time from August 10th – August 17th when people go home and spend time with relatives and ancestors. So university students and people who are away will make the trip home to visit and the family will go to the cemetery and clean the family headstones and put fresh flowers out. Oh and Sam has this HUUUUUUUGGGGGEEEE cemetery right across from her apartment. So you open the door and it’s a field of gravestones. I took a couple pictures that I’ll post.

Anyway, I’m at work now, and I’m off to get something for lunch.

August 13, 2007

Takamatsu Festival

For some reason, we were up on Monday at 9:30 or so. We had a lighter breakfast since we ate most of the food the day before. Tye and Emily (a Kanonji JET who is leaving in September) headed back out to the west side around 11. Angela left as well. Sam and I hung around for a bit waiting to hear from Angelina. Eventually we left so I could get some more money from the post office. And we went over to Angelina’s. They were finally up but not showered. Nick (another JET from out west) was there as well. So we chatted for a bit until everyone got ready. Then we went to Joyfull again. It’s pretty good morning after food. I had a couple orders of fries, an order of hotdogs, and a pizza. I know. Not very Japanese. But I needed it.

Monday evening, we went to Takamatsu where they were also having a summer festival. Monday night was fireworks night. 6500 fireworks. We all headed over and found a spot and went off in pairs to get food from the stands. It was an hour long show and pretty good at that. They didn’t turn off the streetlights which would have made things better, but we still enjoyed it. We hung around the port for awhile and then Matt (the other new JET who lives in my town Takase who had joined us in Takamatsu) and I decided to leave and we all went to the train station where I had put my stuff in a locker and we got on a train. According to the schedule on his phone, we should have gotten into Takase around midnight I think. And we were making good time until 2 stops before our town. Literally a 7 minute train ride. And we stopped and waited for 45 minutes because an express train from Takamatsu was running late due to the festival crowds. We had to wait in case there were any transfers since the express doesn’t stop at each stop. That was a bit of a bummer being so close yet so far. And so around 1 we got into Takase and we went to our apartments.

August 12, 2007

Awa Odori


We got up and had breakfast, Tye cooked for us while Dan, Sam and I picked up the futons. Tye and I donned our Jimbe and we went over to Angelina’s for the girls to put on their yukata. They are similar to kimono, but made of cotton and are worn for summer festivals. Girls can also were jimbe and guys can also wear yukata. The differences for both yukata and jimbe are the patterns on the fabric, bright colors and flowery designs for the girls and darker colors and more masculine designs for the guys. Otherwise they look the same. For the yukata, the sash (obi?) that ties around the waste is tied differently for the guys as well, lower on the waist and without the big bow in the back. I will probably get one of those eventually as well. I think I’ll wait for my first paycheck next week. I think someone mentioned that the kochosensei has a shop or lives near a shop that sells yukata. So I may follow up on that.

With the girls all set in their yukata we set off for the train to Tokushima. Tokushima has a summer festival called Awa Odori (Awa Dance). It’s pretty famous. We saw several other tourists there as well as other groups of JETs. We had a pretty large group ourselves (about 20 I think ended up making the trip from Kagawa to Tokushima – the neighboring prefecture and capital city of the same name). We started off getting some lunch before the festival. After that we just walked around to the different booths. The booths mainly sell food and some have toys and trinkets. The dancing started around 6 I think. And so did the drinking. Chu-hai. It’s carbonated alcoholic drink that resembles a wine cooler but less sweet. It’s flavored by whichever fruit are in season. I had the lemon, grapefruit, and plum flavored ones. We walked around in constantly changing groups of JETs to see different parts of the parades of dancers. I’m not sure how it works, but different groups will form dance teams that all wear the same outfits, but everyone does the same dance, the Awa Odori. Each group might do it a little bit differently though and add some choreography to it, but it’s all the same dance. Eventually things break down and people join the groups as they make their way down the street. I think we actually joined a couple groups that we really weren’t meant to, but it’s all in the festival spirit. A lot of them seemed happy for us to join them. Sometimes they have one person in the group in some sort of costume. One guy was in a cow costume and gave a cow puppet to Sam. She was pretty excited about that. They also have thousands and thousands of fans that they give out. So we had a good time collecting those. Angelina is a master and has quite a collection on her walls. We had a great time and danced our way all back to the station and caught the last train to Sambommatsu. We did well getting a group of seats all together. We were all pretty loud on the train, but I apparently was the loudest.

August 11, 2007


Saturday, I just wore the same clothes as Friday. They didn’t smell too bad, but by the end of the day, my shoes were pretty rank. No one said anything, so maybe my feet weren’t too bad. And we did have to take our shoes off when inside. We woke up kind of early considering our night out. Tye and I needed money and we were also in search of jimbe, traditional Japanese summer festival wear. And of course food. We headed out and met Angelina, another JET in Sambommatsu, and went to Joyfull, a diner with some American-ish food. It was pretty good. I’m not a fan of their White Water drink or the melon soda. It’s a bit sweet. Afterwards we went to a store for the jimbe (or jimbo, Tye kept changing the word on us). They only had women’s clothes at that store, but they offered to call another place and check. They gave us directions and sent us on our way. We went to a post office to get money and then on to the other store.

It ended up being this really small mom and pop place. We walked in and they were waiting on us. They had the boxes down and were unwrapping and unfolding the jimbe for us. They only had three sets and luckily they weren’t too expensive. One was about $200 dollars, but the one I ended up getting was only $80 and Tye’s was $50. There were trade offs between the sets. Mine was a bit better quality, but Tye’s had shorts and pants in the combination. Mine was a bit thicker too, and Tye’s was a bit stiff. But I was happy with mine and Tye with his. We looked pretty cool. Once I get my camera charged and internet access figured out, I’ll be posting pictures and videos much more regularly. You’ll have to wait until then.

Oh and the couple who owned the store were really happy to see us and help us. The woman was walking around us telling us to try things on and asking us about the clothes. Luckily Angelina is a 3rd year JET who has a very good handle on Japanese and was able to translate for us when we needed. Which was all the time. The woman even gave us these little pouches. In traditional wear, the men and women carry purses. The women’s purses are little pouches with round baskets at the bottom and the men’s are just little pouches. They both have drawstrings at the top to cinch it closed and carry it. The pouches were about $25 each and they just gave them to us. We stood and talked with them and then got pictures with them. And then they showed us their picture album with a dance event and the foreigners that they knew before. And then they gave the girls linens and then they gave us socks. The longer we stayed the more they gave us. Right before we left, they gave the girls t-shirts. Sam said she will print off one of the pictures and go back and give it and a gift to them. They really were very nice. When we left, the woman followed us out of the store and saw us on our way down the street.

On our way back, we spotted a shrine and went to it for a look around. They are tucked in everywhere around here. We stopped at the grocery store for provisions for breakfast the next day. We went back to the apartment and hung out for a bit before heading to dinner at this little restaurant that is a JET staple in Sambommatsu. Every year the JETs that leave sign the wall after their last dinner there. I think it’s the daughter of the owner who speaks very good Japanese and who has a daughter who lives in London. They were very nice. We had a nice time. It was Tye, Sam, and I and we met Angelina, Megan (4th year JET from the west side of Kagawa, like me), and Angela (new JET in Hiketa, one town over from Sambommatsu). We took it pretty easy since were just out the night before and had a festival the next night. Another new JET, Dan from the west side joined us after dinner to crash at Sam’s. Angela stayed with us as well.

August 10, 2007

1st Kagawa Orientation

Well it has been awhile since I last updated. Last week I had tried sending my posts via a posting address, but they just became drafts instead of being published for people to see. I just got those published today (Tuesday 14th) but I backdated them to when I actually wrote them.

I just got back home after 1am last night from a really long weekend. I’m not actually sure what I did Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday last week, it seems so long ago. I went out to eat a couple of times. Once with Tye, Chris and Dan at a Korean style restaurant where we cooked the meat ourselves on a table with a grill in the center. It was pretty good. We drank a little and ended up back at my place sitting around talking for a bit. Another night, Dan was in Takase for his adult English class. So we went to an Italian restaurant. It was pretty good. They used a bit too much olive oil though. I learned that his adult English class should actually be mine. My predecessor didn’t want to do it and Dan wanted to. I’m going to ask if they can start another one. I’ve heard that it’s a good way to meet people in the town that you might not otherwise meet. A lot of people have spoken very highly of their adult classes.

Friday was our first prefectural orientation in Takamatsu, the capital of Kagawa. I left Takase at 7:30am. And I actually haven’t been back until last night after 1am. And I hadn’t planned on that. I knew I was going to a festival in Tokushima on Sunday, but when we went to orientation I found out the other guy in Mitoyo City was just crashing at Samantha’s (another Atlanta JET who is in Sambommatsu a town on the east side past Takamatsu from Takase) to make a weekend of it. Even though I had no change of clothes, no bookbag, no toiletries, I finally decided to just tough it out and make the best of it. It costs about 20 dollars for a round trip from my town to just the capital and additional 30 or so to the festival city. So it just made sense to stay on the east side for everything. I had already requested Monday and Tuesday off. So I figured I could make things work.

Friday night after the orientation, all the JETs went to a beer garden for nomihodai (all you can drink) and somethingelse-hodai (all you can eat). It was about $35 from 5 30 to 9 30. So not too bad a deal I guess. One of the JETs has an economic philosophy that’s hard to argue with after you’ve had a few. According to it, if you consider a drink is about 500 yen and you pay 3800 yen for the night, then you need to drink 8 drinks to break even and your food is free. And anything you drink after that, you’re making money. I think I made a couple bucks that night. We actually went to another bar after that. Then a group of us went back to Sam’s place by train around 11 or midnight I think. We all crashed on her futons all across the floor. I think the first night was just Sam, Tye, and I.

August 7, 2007


The kocho-sensei just walked by. He was wearing the Georgia pin. He pointed at it and said "Georgia people."


2 30 pm
I was able to leave and go home to finish up my omiyage. When I arrived at my apartment I felt relatively cool and wasn't really sweating even though it was really sunny. That's when I realized I had forgotten to stop at the dollar store for the extra wrapping paper. So I ended up all sweaty anyways. I grabbed a bento (boxed lunch) that I ended up not having time to eat anyway after stopping at the dollar store and then went home….. for the second time. I was told that generally air conditioning gets turned off during the day when you are away because electricity is relatively expensive here. That's why it's off at the school at night. I think I've decided I will turn off the AC in my bedroom and keep the one in the living room on at about 29 or 30 Celsius with the doors closed so I can have a cool room when I get home. Lucky for me I did that today. I still ended up stripping off my shirt and pants. I tend to start sweating the most after I stop biking and have gone inside. I got everything wrapped and realized that I'd been gone about an hour so left without eating the bento. I got locked up and got everything loaded on my bike and was pulling out from under stairs when I felt the rain. It wasn't a lot. A drizzle but with big drops and the sun was still shining. So basically 100% humidity and sun and rain. I had no hope of getting back to school dry. My poncho was at the school and I was already having to ride while carrying one of the bags of gifts and an umbrella would mean an awkward ride or walking in this heat, both of which didn't seem like good options. So I thought I'd ride through it.
Basically, my shirt was soaked through when I arrived. It only took about 30 minutes to dry out. But when I arrived my principal saw me and asked if it was all sweat. It was hard to explain that it had in fact been raining since the window in the office faces the opposite direction as my apartment and I must have ridden through a scattered shower because there was no rain on that side.
All that to realize if I hadn't come back at all, they probably wouldn't have noticed or said anything. (I'll explain that in a second.) Well I gave out the slightly damp gifts and everyone seemed very happy. One of the English teachers said that no ALT has given gifts before. So I really didn't need to worry about anything. I think the kocho-sensei liked the book of Atlanta pictures and he guessed that it was whisky without even opening it. And his limited English includes the phrases "straight" and "on the rocks". I think he was asking how I drink it. Which I don't. But I just said I drink it both of those ways. I actually bought an extra bottle of whisky and opened it last night and had a bit just in case he invites me over when he opens the bottle. I didn't want the first time to be in front of him and with me spitting it up everywhere. The first sip was a bit off, but as I sipped it more and more I got to like the flavor a bit more. Either than or my taste buds were being killed with each sip. Oh and after I had given out most of the gifts, I realized that I had miscounted somewhere and didn't have enough. Luckily several people are not in today or not around. When I mentioned it to one of the English teachers, she said that no one would say anything. It would be impolite. I'll just have to bring more tomorrow. I think I have enough still. I have 3 pens on my desk and perhaps a couple more at home.
Oh yeah, here's what I ended up doing. For the teachers and office staff, I gave a kit kat bar and either a pen or pencil with "Cobb County" on it. To the English teachers, I gave a kit kat, a pencil, two mini-sharpies, and a Georgia pin. To the two kyoto-sensei, I gave a bottle of whisky, a kit kat, a stack of Cobb County post-its, and a Georgia pin. I already mentioned the kocho-sensei. I went ahead and gave the easy button to the office staff. I have another one for upstairs here in the teachers office. I think I'll wait to give that when more of the teachers are here. It's one of the ones that you can actually hang up with a little holder. Now, that I mention it altogether, it sounds like an odd combination of things, but I think it worked. Oh I also included a little message card that said "Thank you for welcoming me to your school. I look forward to working with you."
Oh and as for them noticing my absence or presence, first of all there aren't that many teachers here at any given time due to clubs and trips and vacation time. But more to the point, apparently the ALTs before me have made their own schedules. I have it on pretty good account that one was a bit of a heavy drinker this experience being the first time he was out on his own away from his parents. I was asked yesterday if I was leaving and it was only 1 or so. And then a bit after that, someone asked me if I was coming in today. I thought it a bit odd, but I said of course. I mean that's my job. It's in the contract. I work from 8 to 3:45 Monday through Friday. I have 3 days of summer vacation that I can do what I want with from now until September and then 20 additional vacation days that I can use throughout the year. As I'm not on vacation now, I had no intention of not coming in. Today, a comment made me realize that I could have a bit more freedom. I was once again asked if I was leaving. It was about 1:45. I said no. And I was told that I was not like the previous ALTs. It's not my style to not follow the rules. Though I understand JETs not keeping the prescribed schedule. Obviously, having time to write pages and pages for my blog means there isn't a whole lot that I have to do right now. I've been working on my self-introduction powerpoint and script. I don't usually script my lessons, but I've never taught English before and everything in English seems easy or basic. It's my native language, so I think writing things out in the beginning will help me monitor grammatical complexity and limit vocabulary more easily. Plus I have the time. The internet set up is weird. Only one computer is connected. I was able to check my email a bit, but I don't know if that's allowed or not. I just had a couple emails that I needed to do related to work here or upcoming travel. (Unfortunately, the internet I had been using from the apartment wasn't working last night or this morning. I got 15 free minutes from a pay wifi network from the conbini and sent off a few quick things last night, but I've been without internet and I don't know when I'll be able to connect regularly. I might just give in and get a proper account with that wifi network until I get internet set up in my apartment for real. Until then, don't expect regular replies to emails or blog posts that go up the day I type them.) So back to the work computers. Some people have laptaps that are provided by the BOE I think. But some use personal computers. You can connect to a network. You can print from the network. If you have a personal computer, the tech guy has to do something special so you can also print from the network. I don't know if they are going to allow me on the network. They didn't mention it. Until then, I can use my dump drive and use the shared/internet computer and print from there. Well, what I wanted was to use the internet computer to find pictures to put into my powerpoint. Well the BOE doesn't want data gotten with school computers or school internet to leave the school. So you can't save to the dump drive when on the school computer. I was able to put all the pictures I found into a file and email them to myself. But then we get back to the problem of me not having working internet anymore.
So what do I do? I forget about working on things and start blogging. I only have an hour and 15 minutes left anyway.


Tuesday 11am

I finished that speech and it was interesting working with the English
teacher to add on to it and correct it. It took awhile to figure out
that "burry" was "bully" and that "kick to slip him" was "trip him".
Before I left for the day I asked about omiyage. I know it's probably
not appropriate as I'm asking someone I'm about to give the omiyage
to, but I didn't want to offend someone or anything. I realized after
counting everyone that I didn't have enough stuff to give the same
thing to everyone, so some people will get something different from
the others. I also don't know if it's ok to give it now when there
aren't that many teachers around. I think a lot of them are doing
clubs and some might be on vacation.

When I was packing I decided that I'd try to get some free souvenir
things from the visitor's bureaus. At the Cobb County one, they gave
me some pencils and pens and pads. At the Atlanta one, they gave me
some Georgia lapel pins which are plastic but still look pretty nice
with the Georgia peach. I also bought an easy button from Staples and
some key ring sharpies. I didn't get much because I hadn't heard back
from my supervisor so I didn't know how many people there were, and
plus I was running out of room in my suitcases, which were actually a
total of 2 pounds over the limit. (They let me go though.) I figured I
could have someone send me things if I thought I needed them.

Now that I know how many people there are and I've seen what others
have given as omiyage here at the school for the various trips they
have been taking, I feel a bit more comfortable. So at the grocery
store here in Takase, I got some kit kat bars. They seem to like
individually wrapped items. I think it's appropriate to have the gifts
differ according to rank, so I got some whisky for the principals.
They actually had Jack Daniels at the grocery store, so I got that for
the head principal and my supervisor, and I got a different brand for
the two vice principals. I was told that they appreciate the wrapping,
so I spent most of last night putting everything together only to
figure out that I didn't have enough wrapping paper and it was too
late to go back to the dollar store (hyaku yen kan). I think I will
try giving everything out after lunch today if I can get home or
tomorrow. But I think some people are leaving tomorrow for a camping
trip with the students.

Today I came in and the sweating wasn't as bad. I tried coasting as
much as I could and gave myself a bit more time so I didn't have to
pedal too hard. I was able to cool down pretty quickly when I got
inside. And pretty early on Goda-sensei, one of the kyotosensei, came
up and offered to drive me over to a couple of the elementary schools
I'll be visiting for lesson occasionally. One is about a kilometer
away – Katsuma. There are 237 students and I will see about 40 at a
time 1 or 2 times a month. The principal said that I had a "good style
body". I said a puzzled thank you. Ninomia is about another 2
kilometers beyond Katsuma and has about 100 students. The classes
range in size from 11 to 23. The principal of Ninomia spoke a little
English. She was very excited to have me and asked me to come as often
as possible. I'm still a little confused about my schedule. Since it's
summer break and that means the middle of the school year here, I
figured that I would just continue the same schedule that the ALT
before me had. But it seems it might change and I don't think I have a
definite answer on that.

August 6, 2007


Sorry about these updates being done after the fact. I didn't have
internet really starting last night. I have marked them for when I
wrote them.

Monday 8:30

So I'm at what I consider my first real day of work. And thankfully
they eventually put the air conditioning on at about 8 15. The bike
ride to work really isn't that bad, but when it's already about 85
degrees and 70% humidity, a 5 minute bike ride is like an hour long
intense workout. I thought I was taking my time and not exerting
myself and felt pretty cool most of the way. But the breeze I felt
while riding didn't exist as soon as I stepped off the bike. They have
everyone walk their bikes from the front gate to the back of the
building to park them. So by the time I made it inside my dress shirt
was soaked through. I got to the door and was thinking, oh blessed,
air conditioned reprieve. Once inside, I remembered that they don't
have AC in the hallways. So as I said my first "ohaio gozaimasu",
sweat was trickling down my face. I must remember my sweat towel next
time. Then, once again I got my hopes up as I was about to enter to
teacher's room. That was before I remembered that the air is turned
off at nights and not turned on until I guess they think it is getting
too hot. Or maybe one of the vice principals is in charge of turning
it on and does so at his arrival.

Well, I'm sitting at my desk with a wet shirt trying to cool down
before I set to work. I've met three people so far and have forgotten
two names. I decided to draw a map of the office and write in people's
names to help me, but it doesn't help that I've forgotten those two,
plus several from last week. I've got to work on that. But it's hard
when the sound system is different and they are names I'm not familiar
with. They may be common here, but they are not familiar to me.

One of my English teacher supervisors has asked me to write a speech
for her students to recite. It took about 15 minutes to figure out
what I was supposed to do and I'm still not sure if I quite
understand. But I'll type something up and if it's wrong then it's

And one sentence into that, the kocho-sensei (that's the principal)
and the kyoto-sensei (that's the vice-principal) decided to talk to me
about Atlanta and Georgia. It was fun since they don't really know
English. I'm starting to understand numbers better and better though.
At one point, they were talking about something to each other and
pointing at Georgia on the map when I heard ju-san, thirteen. And I
asked if they were talking about the 13 colonies and I was right. It
felt good. Luckily an English teacher came along and helped translate
the more difficult things. They wanted to know where Tara is in
Georgia from Gone with the Wind. And anytime I mention Atlanta, they
always say "Orimpikusu" (Olympics). And it's hard to explain that I
did see a soccer game but that it was in Athens and that there is
indeed an Athens in Georgia.

Well I should get on that speech.

August 4, 2007


Posting is kind of difficult for me right now. I senses a Japanese ISP, so everything on the blog page is in Japanese which I, of course, cannot read.

Sorry about all the backdated posts. I didn't really have the time or energy to be posting daily the past week, so I just sat and did it all at once yesterday morning. Right now I've got a friend, Tye, over, so I won't be updating at the moment. We were out last night in Kanonji, the biggest town on the west side of Kagawa, with a few other JETs. It was fun. We went to a bar with live music. It was actually a French group from Strasbourg playing world music on Indian (from India, not Native American) instruments.

I'm telling you. French comes in handy everywhere!

Friday morning

I heard it yesterday and today, so I guess it’s a daily wake up song. They play Edelweiss on the city loudspeakers every morning. It’s actually really pleasant, as long as you’re planning on getting up that early. I was up at 3 30 yesterday and managed to stay asleep until 5 30 today, so it hasn’t been a problem. There is also some sort of announcements or a daily message that comes on as well.

Well anyway, I made breakfast, fried egg on toast with orange juice and watched TV and sent a few messages online. And of course I was then running late, so I got ready and headed off to school. It wasn’t raining thank goodness and I made it in about 5 minutes. I was really sweating though which sucked, but apparently it’s not a big deal to have sweat running down your face because it’s so hot and humid here and lots of people ride bikes and walk to places.

I signed in and decided to work for a bit. So I wrote out my self-introduction that I will have to do 14 times at the junior high school and then again for each class at the elementaries.

I met another vice principal, 3rd in charge. He has very good English and was very nice. He brought me some tea and cake and we sat and talked about where he’s visited in America. Also, my computer plug wasn’t fitting here. I have the adapter that takes it from the 3 prong to the 2 prong kind, but it wasn’t accepting it because one prong was bigger than the other. So I asked him about it and he found one in the office and said I could use it and would need to buy another one for Monday. Then he ended up taking me over to the electronics store which was a 5 minute walk and helped me find what I needed. Since then, I’ve just been typing these updates for the blog.

I wonder if they think I’m really working on my lessons. I’ve been told as long as I get my stuff done and look busy when I’m not working, things are fine. I’ll try and stick to that. I feel I can justify it as the JET Programme is not just about what I can introduce to the Japanese about my culture but also what I can introduce to Americans about Japanese culture. So in essence, I’m still doing my job. ;)

Well, it’s lunch time. What will I be eating today?

August 3, 2007


Last night, Chris said that Sanagi-san said someone would be by in the morning to pick me up and would take me to get shopping and other stuff done. Well I was awake at 3 30 and eventually got up at 5 30. I went for a run and was unsuccessful in locating the board of education, but I got a nice run in and managed to find my way back to the apartment. So that’s good. I ate some breakfast that I got from the conbini last night and just waited around thinking someone would be by around 8 30 or 9, possibly earlier. By 9:30, I was getting antsy and decided to go off on my own. I left a note in English and hiragana (that was probably wrong) on my door and went to the grocery store. On the way back, Sanagi-san saw me as he was driving to my apartment. I dropped my stuff off and met him at the conbini and I got in the van and he said we were going to the school.

I wasn’t quite prepared for this as I was in shorts and a short-sleeved button down, but he said it wasn’t a big deal. But the principal and vice principal were there. So I don’t know. Also, I didn’t have any of my paperwork with me and couldn’t answer all their questions about my schedule for August.

I met 3 of the English teachers from the school. One of them was busy with something so I mainly spoke with only 2 of them. Hara-sensei and I forget the other one’s name. Their English was good. Hara-sensei wasn’t as confident as the other teacher though. They also seemed to understand me fairly well. I only had to repeat something once. We got the schedule mostly worked out and when I said that indeed I would like to get some things purchased for the apartment and some time to clean it and settle in, they said I could have the afternoon off with Sanagi-san to go shopping and that tomorrow, I would only have to go to the school to sign in with my hanko and then I could ask the kyoto-sensei to leave for the day and he would let me.

I went to lunch with the two English teachers. We went to an udon place. Udon are these really thick noodles that Kagawa is known for. I had mine with meat and soup. I don’t know what kind of meat, but it was meat. It came in this big bowl with the udon, some meat, green onions, soup, and these two pink and white half-circle things floating at the top. I asked what they were, and Hara-sensei said they were made of fish parts but didn’t smell bad (we had been talking about foods that I couldn’t eat and she mentioned natto which are mashed up soybeans that apparently smell bad and past ALTs haven’t eaten). Anyway, even though it’s soup, you still eat with chopsticks. You just have to pick up the bowl to drink the soup. Also, it’s ok to slurp your noodles. You just keep your chopsticks around the noodles and use them to help them into your mouth and when it’s too much you grab them with the chopsticks and bite off and then put the noodles back in the bowl. I’m still working on that part. I definitely splashed myself multiple times because they would just drop back in. I couldn’t get a real firm grasp on them with the chopsticks.

When we were almost done another teacher came in and sat with us. Hironobu-sensei. He insisted on calling me Brad because he said I look like Brad Pitt and that I could call him Hiro for short. It was kinda funny.

Then, they took me back to my apartment were Sanagi-san picked me up for shopping. Mitoyo city actually picked up the tab for my start up costs. Cleaning supplies and linens and towels etc. I wasn’t expecting that. After he dropped me off, I started cleaning some. There was a vacuum but part way through I realized that the bag was most likely full and indeed it was. With no spares. So I made a list of things I had forgotten or realized I wanted and hopped on my bike. I had wanted to locate the school again so I could make it back in the morning. I did that successfully and with only a few meters of backtracking, I found the first home store again and got more air freshener, those stationary cockroach traps to supplement the spray I had gotten earlier, and the vacuum bags. I dropped those off at the apartment and headed in the opposite direction to the other home store and got a second pillow. I also found a fairly thick mattress pad to put over the mattress and futon that have been in the apartment for who knows how long. By this time the clouds from the typhoon were making their way over the surrounding mountains. I thought for sure I was going to get caught because it was about a 15 minutes bike ride I think. But the rain never really hit us hard I don’t think. And that was it for the evening, just some more cleaning.

August 2, 2007

Tuesday night and Wednesday

Back at the hotel, I made myself stay up until an appropriate bedtime around 9 30 I think, and I thought being out until 5 or 6 am would have made me tired enough to finally really sleep, but alas, we got woken up at 11 by our other hotel mate’s friend, which was no big deal, except, I was totally disoriented and jumped up and was saying “hey I think we need to all check out together” among other things. I don’t really recall. I was convinced that it was morning and he was about to leave. He was confused I think for a second, and then was like “um… it’s eleven.” So I went back to bed and managed to fall asleep until about 3am, dozed a bit and woke at 4, dozed, 5, dozed 5 30 and finally got up. We went down for an early breakfast, then checked out and went to meet our prefecture meeting spots. Oh yeah and I got to speak with Jayson, a guy from Atlanta going to Kagoshima on Kyushu, the southernmost of the 4 main islands. If you weren’t aware, there is actually a typhoon heading through Japan right now. It missed Shikoku. They said we haven’t been hit directly this year. But I need to send him an email to see how he’s doing, because Kyushu was hit pretty directly and he was right near the ocean I think. I also spoke with Christine, she is from Canada and speaks French. I was surprised by the number of French speakers here. There were about 15 in a meeting we had for francophone JETs and that’s probably only half of the total and that’s just the new JETs. They said in the meeting that if English doesn’t work, French is the next best thing. A lot of the post office stuff seems to be done in French as well. So to my French students, learning French is useful in more places than you would think. Keep studying hard.

Anyway, we went to the Haneda airport and flew down to Takamatsu. Tye was greeted with this really big sign that said Welcome Tye, Chattanooga, TN etc. It was pretty cool. They also had these fans with our names on them. Tye and I are in the same city so we had the same supervisor. He was there as was my principal, the kocho-sensei, Miyagi-sensei. He seems like a nice guy. For Tye there were two teachers from his school. Also, Chris and Dan were there, two current JETs in Mitoyo. They helped us out tremendously.

From the airport, they took us to get our pictures taken so we could apply for the alien registration card. That was interesting as we had to get our names put down as we want them pronounced and I couldn’t figure out if they wanted the English way or the Japanese way or what. I eventually asked if I could be Matchoo because Mashyou just didn’t appeal to me. I guess I could have just made it all easier by going by Mato. They also had our “hanko” ready. They are little stamps that you have to use for very important documents. It’s stronger than a signature I think. Tye’s has his first name which is the correct way. Mine has Jad on top and then locki below. My supervisor, Sanagi-san, was relieved that I was fine with it and he didn’t need to get a new one. Also, Dan said it’s weird that ours are in roman letters instead of katakana. Oh well.

After that, we went by the board of education and met the superintendent who asked if we could cook by ourselves. Then we took Tye up to his apartment and dropped him off. His predecessor set him up very well. There were directions for everything he could ever want to do. Everything was all nice and clean and there were even fresh household supplies for him. Not to mention, his apartment is fairly large with a good amount of furniture.

Then back to the BOE to pick up my luggage and then we went to my apartment. Mine was not in nearly the same condition as Tye’s but it wasn’t too bad. It’s a nice apartment overall though. Well equipped and fairly large. Once I get it clean and organized it should be pretty nice. It’s in a good location with a conbini, convenience store, right next door and a grocery up the street a couple minutes and home and electronics stores with in about 10 minutes on a bike. Lots of restaurants too. We met the landlord and his wife who work at the conbini and live next door. They seem nice. Then they let me settle for a few minutes.

They came back an hour later for dinner. We went to a keiten sushi place. It’s where they make all kinds of sushi and put it on a conveyor belt that circles the restaurant. You grab what you want when it passes or can call out a special order and they make it for you. Then at the end, they count up the plates and cups and tell you what you owe. It was pretty cool. Sanagi-san paid for me which was very cool.

Then back home and to bed.

August 1, 2007

Monday and Tuesday

Sooo.. Monday. Well I went to the orientation. We sat according to our prefecture. So I got to meet all the new ALTs placed near me as well as two current JETs, one who was our Tokyo Orientation Advisor (TOA, they love acronyms here), Lee, and one who is our Prefectural Advisor, Andy, as well as a representative of AJET, a group that helps support JET participants. We basically sat around for about an hour waiting for the real meeting to start, but it was cool cause we got to chat and get to know each other.

Then, the bigwigs for the 3 ministries that support the program and CLAIR showed up late (even though the Japanese are apparently very big on punctuality. They made a few speeches and we clapped and then they left for a “previous engagement”. Then blah blah blah and it was lunchtime. We had a few afternoon sessions to “orient” us and then a big reception to toast our arrival. Kanpai!

After that, our prefecture met up for a night out in Tokyo. We headed to Kabuki-cho, I think it was, which apparently is a seedier bit of town. We started at a disco which was ok where we had a few drinks and sat and talked and danced a bit. We were met by a few other current JETs from Kagawa who were traveling. I was about to head back to the hotel with Lee who had to work the hospitality desk at 6am, when it was suggested that nothing the following morning was worth going to. So easily persuaded I am. Well, after that we headed across the street to a karaoke bar. It was about $20 (2200 yen) for all you can drink and all you can sing from midnight until 5 am. That was pretty amazing. And I thought, oh we’ll stay for a few hours and then get going. I believe we stayed until about 20 to 5. The walk home was interesting with a run in with some Irish guys. Eventually we made it back to the hotel and I was up in time for lunch. Thanks only to my roommate who got me up.

The afternoon sessions were ok. In the first one, the girl just talked toooooo loudly for my headache. Then we had a prefectural meeting where we learned what sorts of orientations we would have once we got there and our schedule for the next day for flying in and all that. The second session was pretty entertaining. It was about elementary visits which I will have to make 3 times a week I believe. There are 5 elementary schools in my district that I will go to. One of the things that stuck out was “kancho”. In the States, we usually call it “goose”. Little Japanese boys will put their hands together with their index fingers out, Charlie’s Angels style, like a pretend gun. Then they will go up behind you and just ram it in. And it seems, it’s not totally unheard of for a teacher and students to get into kancho wars. After that, Tye, my hotel mate and ALT from the next town over in Kagawa, and I, we went out looking for some scotch or whiskey because we heard that our supervisor likes to drink. But we couldn’t find the place that I had seen yesterday and we were both still hurting from last night so after about 20 minutes of aimlessly wandering around, we went back to the hotel. We did manage to stop at the ATM while we were out though, so that was good. Luckily, my ATM card did work because that was the only way I had planned on getting start-up money in yen. I got about $500 out that has been plenty so far. I still have about $250 left, but I will probably need to get some more to last until the 20th which is when I get paid for the first time.

After that, we went back to the room to get ready for our departure. We had to pack up our bags to take down so they could be organized and then loaded on the bus for us in the morning. It was not an easy task as they loaded us down with sooooooo much stuff. And not just little things, but we got probably 15 pounds of books within 20 minutes of stepping into the hotel and then another 10 pounds of books and paperwork after that. I really don’t think I’m exaggerating either. Somehow I managed. We then went for a swim in the hotel pool on the 7th floor. We thought it was going to be indoors, but it was on the roof of a section of the hotel. And let me tell you, it was pretty cold out. It had gotten cloudy and the wind was picking up a bit. But since we had already gone through the trouble of putting on our suits and going all the way to the pool, we ended up getting in for about 20 minutes. It actually helped wake me up a bit and it was the most clear headed I felt all day. I also got to try out my new digital camera in its underwater mode. As the ads said, the LCD screen is all but useless underwater, but I managed to aim it in the right direction. The picture was a bit blurrier than I would have hoped, but they may have had a lot of chemicals in the pool. I’ll have to try it in the ocean to see what results I get.

After that, it was a hot shower and changed and took down the suitcase and then Tye, Samantha, another Kagawa JET, and I went in search of our last dinner in Tokyo. We opted for American as we thought it might be last easily gotten American meal we would be able to have for awhile. We found a Wendy’s and I got my favorite spicy chicken sandwich.