October 24, 2007

Badminton Club

Today was good. Maybe I'm getting the hang of the sort-of teaching that they are asking me to do. I enjoyed the classes for the most part. Got my Japanese studying in. About 3 hours or so. (Found out that I've gone now from 2 classes tomorrow to 4 classes. Because I missed class 1-1 earlier this week because she was passing out tests and I couldn't teach 2-1 today because of chorus practice.) But it should still be ok, they are still spaced out pretty well tomorrow. And I don't have elementary because it was canceled.

Anyway, after school I came home and unloaded my stuff, checked email, picked up my bedding to hang it outside, knitted a few rows, and changed to gym clothes. I asked Monday if I could go to badminton club. So, that's where I went this afternoon. It was pretty fun. Boy am I tired!! All the running and reaching and hitting. And after my first-in-a-long-time run yesterday, I think I will be super-sore tomorrow. But it was worth it. Tonight, I'm going to Tye's eikaiwa (Remember that one? Yes, community adult English class. Think more conversation class.)

I'm actually ready early for it. I thought I was gonna get picked up at 6 so I was in the shower by 5:58 and ready by 6:05. (Take a sip ST and AH!) But I won't be picked up until 6:40.

Cleaning and Thai/Japanese Food

Monday, I had some major cleaning to do. I had left all the mess from making my costume for the weekend. And Sunday night, I didn't have time to clean because I got in so late. I had to wear a sweater because I hadn't washed any of my dress shirts. It's still a bit warm for sweaters. So anyway, I got 2 loads of laundry done and all my mess cleaned up. I stained the table red though from the food coloring. And I left a quart of milk on the table that went bad. Along with a thing of butter. That was annoying. So yeah, it was a super exciting day for me Monday.

Yesterday (Tuesday), school was fine. Got a fair amount of Japanese studying done. Went to elementary and had a pretty good lesson. This one teacher keeps having me read a book in the last 5 minutes. I don't understand. Like, yeah if I just read "Brown bear, brown bear" straight through I could finish in 5 minutes. But that's not how you read a book. At least not a storytime book. You have stop and ask questions. Do voices. Get crowd participation. Review. Act it out. I could probably spend 30 minutes reading "Brown bear, brown bear" and still have extension activities I could do for afterward. Seriously.

Anyway, after I got home, I finally went running again for the first time in a month or two. I think I've gone running maybe 6 times total since I've been here, and 4 of the those times were right when I arrived when I was waking up at 5 in the morning and had nothing else to do. I happened to pass the track club for my junior high and so I stopped and chatted with them for a while. I was taught how to throw discus and did a long jump. It was fun.

Then, a bunch of us west siders went out to Jeremy's where we had yakisoba (fried noodles with veggies) and thai curry. It was good food and good company. We got home later than I thought it was gonna be so I'm pretty tired today. I was late, of course. Today, though, was the first day the bell had finished ringing by the time I got in the door. Usually, I manage to get there right before it rings or as it's ringing. Oh well. I'll try harder next time.

October 22, 2007

Craft Day

After the Halloween party, I went straight to Takamatsu. Yes, that's right. As a zombie, I took the train (45 minutes) all the way to the capital city. Then I proceeded to walk the 15 or so minutes to the restaurant where I was meeting friends, in a very well lit shotengai (covered pedestrian-ish shopping thoroughfare) still in my zombie garb. I had one lady walk completely to the other side to avoid me. And I caught several Japanese-standard I'm-staring-but-I'm-nots. It was pretty fun.

We had some food at the Sea Dragon which has good foreign food. Their tacos are delicious!! (Note that's taco, not tako, cause tako is octopus! I wonder if a tako taco would be good?) Then we meandered to the station to catch a train out to the east side.

We went to Angelina's to watch an episode of "The Office" and the Nick and I went with Sam back to hers to crash for the night.

In the morning, we all met up and went to a flea market that Angela had heard about from her eikaiwa (adult community English class). It was cool. You had to pay 100 yen to get in and then you go around to all the booths and it was basically like an American flea market. I found some cool cups and sake glasses. I also bought a neat looking plant. Sam found a Mariah Carey Christmas CD. It was good times.

Afterward, we headed to Alison's where we met to do some crafting. First, we got some bento (ready-made lunches in plastic containers from the grocery store) and then we went to the beach. We ate and then walked around collecting sea glass -- you know, those bits of glass that have been worn smooth by the sand and water -- and other beachy-type items worth collecting. Next, we went back to her apartment for some good ole crafting. She was a textile major and so has lots of crafty/artsy experience and know-how. She had a whole sewing machine set-up. We started off by most of us learning to knit. Then, I went through the stuff I collected at the beach to see if I got any ideas for making something. Which I do, but I have see if it will work. But before we could really do much more, it was time to go. So, I'm working on a scarf now. It's kind of cool being able to make something like that. I feel productive. We might try to meet regularly to do more because it was a lot of fun. It was sitting around and having fun. And not drinking.

Nick and I took the train back to Takamatsu. I knitted; he played video games. But then at one point I stopped and we played Tetris against each other on our DS Lites. That's a cool feature: being able to connect wirelessly to another DS and play. I think you can do up to four. Maybe more, I don't know. We played 4 player Tetris on the train the night before. It was pretty cool. Or dorky. Depending on your perspective.

October 20, 2007

Kids' Halloween Party

The party went well. I, of course, was running late. Who would have thought? Well, I was instructed to be something really creepy, so I went with zombie. I found a site that had instructions for making good entrails to hang out of my stomach. And then I found a website for making fake blood. That was the mistake. I don't know why I didn't just think to use regular paint or markers. (I ended up using the former.) So, it took several trips to various grocery stores, lots of dictionary usage, and a few hours of mixing to figure out that you can't make fake blood with an American recipe and Japanese ingredients. That's when I happened to see my markers and thought, "DUH!!" Well, here's how I looked in the end:

I ended up only about 15 minutes late for the set up time. But it was OK. Everything was already done even before I was supposed to be there. So we were just milling around for a while. Then, all the kiddies came. I tried to stay in character most of the time. I would lay down for a while and then grab a kid as they walked by. It was fun. Except there were two or three kids who cried just when they saw me. That wasn't so fun for the mom's, I don't think. I helped during the activities, but then my main job was the trick or treating. I sat in this miniature house and the kids came and knocked and I gave them candy.

Good times were had by all.

Halloween Costume and Fall Festival Out Back

So, I'm trying to decide what I want to be for the kid's Halloween party this afternoon. Surprise, surprise, I've procrastinated once again. The woman who is putting this together told me to be something creepy. So I think I will go with zombie. It's a classic and can be gory. Maybe some intestines falling out of my stomach cavity.

Anyway, so as I'm deciding what to be, I hear the telltale sound of taiko drums and a bell. (It's not a bell; it looks like a gong but it's high pitched; however, I don't know what it's called.) Well, they were right next to my conbini. I thought I might throw on some clothes and go out and watch, but it would have taken too long and I would have only seen a little bit of what I had already seen before. If only I could see them from my window....

As luck would have it, the next stop on their tour around the town was right behind my apartment. So, here are some pictures of the taiko drummers, the dragon, and the bell ringer with the spectators in the background.

(By the way, did you know you can see the full sized image by clicking on it?)The dragons have two dancers underneath. One that moves the head around and another that controls the body and tail. They can make some pretty interesting movements that look fairly creepy. It's interesting to watch the different groups way of dancing. Note the guy in the background with the mini-beer at 9:30 in the morning. Yes, the Japanese love their drinking. In general and especially at festivals.
These are the taiko drums and the little drummers. Usually it's a boy and a girl that drum with two men that get the beat going and maintain the rhythm. Those two old people live in the house behind my apartment.

This is a short video of the end of the dance.

October 19, 2007

Today's Lunch!

Just had to post this. I promised some lunch pictures and here is today's.By the way, I ate it head first. Seriously.

October 18, 2007

i'm so beat.

and i have probably around 1300 pictures already and only 400 or so are somewhat organized. yeah i guess ive been picture crazy. its a good thing though... i think. at least my time here will be well documented. and i thought 2000 pictures over my year spent in france was a lot.

and plus im really tired today... just absolutely drained. i didn't clean or cook or do pictures or even study japanese. and that's been what i do almost every free minute i have. i guess today was different because i was actually working. planned for 2 straight hours. did two lessons. went to lunch. had to scarf half a bowl of white rice in about 2 minutes cause i talked too much and all of sudden lunch was over. then i gathered all my elementary stuff and rode the 20 minutes to the school... on a bike, remember? did a mediocre lesson there because i was already feeling a bit sick and tired... but it still went ok. and all that effort i put into it. actually i think it went very well, im just seeing in clouded by my current mood. there were things that i could have done better and if i get to do the lesson again, ill be able to fix them.

anyway, so yeah, it will be a few days for the pictures. ive got a pretty packed weekend planned. maybe poker night tomorrow, costume hunting sat. am, kids halloween party sat. afternoon, dinner/karaoke in takamatsu sat. pm, craft day on the east side sun., come home sun. pm.

but i have taken the first step and the pictures are now all on my computer. here are a few from today to add some interest.

First Pictures

Sunrise by my apartment this morning.

Footprints that mark where students will be entering a street or sidewalk. Near Asa, today.
Woman sowing seeds. Taken today on my way back from Asa.

October 17, 2007

Halloween Lesson and Pictures

Hey, I get to plan my own lesson for tomorrow. Except all that pent-up lesson-planning potential has now exploded. I literally spent about 5 straight hours working on it and it's still not done. Given, I had interruptions, I was working in Japanese (that I don't know) a bit, and the internet computer in the office won't let you download files to a USB drive -- I was printing (original image), scanning, downloading (the scan to my USB drive), uploading (from USB to my computer), editing, downloading (back to the USB), re-uploading(to the office computer), re-editing (since paper sizes are different in Japan), and then re-printing (the final image). Since, even the editing of the clip art images was taking a while, I didn't want to sit on the office computer seemingly playing around in the paint application.

Anyway, I think it will be fun. I was gonna go straight for the storytelling that I did for French, but I thought, since it seems they are letting me plan what I want, I would prepare them for a future story. So, they are learning some good verbs that will help make a story along with a lesson on Halloween and the necessary noun vocabulary - witch, ghost, jack-o'-lantern, etc.

Oh, and I promise, now that I have internet pumping directly into my very own computer, I will soon be uploading pictures to make this blog a lot more interesting to read and look at. I also have a Google Picasa account and will give out the link as soon as I start getting pictures in albums there. I'll put most of the pictures that I take (you know some of them are too scandalous for public) and only post here the photos most relevant or necessary to what I'm blogging about. As well I'll include ones that I think are just cool. I haven't been doing a good job of uploading photos from my camera and organizing them so far. I have one full memory stick and one half full one. Hopefully, this internet connection will be my motivation. I had meant to get that done today at work, except I forgot all the necessary cords at home, not to mention I was busy working on my lesson junk.

October 16, 2007

Good Lesson at Chugakko

Today was fun at the junior high. Even though they are testing tomorrow and Thursday, I got to come to the class. It sounded like I would just be sitting there for half of it. But she had me prepare some questions using the target sentences so I could ask a few after they reviewed and before they studied. Well, they didn't get to study really; we had just a good time with the questions.

I got to do the questioning sort of like my regular style with French. It's harder, though, now that I'm in a foreign culture. I almost missed the prime opportunity to win over the class's attention. One kid said that he did play an instrument, and when I asked him which one, he answered castanets. I almost didn't realize that the class was laughing at his answer and was about to move away when I decided to stick with him and ask some more questions. And before we knew, we were all interested in his castanet playing and I was then able to move around the room with most of the kids paying attention even when I moved away from the subject of castanets. I would make sure to revisit the student occasionally to reintroduce the humor. It was good fun. Didn't have the same luck in the next class, but you can't really recreate something like that just as you can't force something like that to happen. At least not in Japanese culture. In America, I was able to do a 'wink, wink', and the student would know to answer with something silly. Oh well, still learning to maneuver in this foreign culture. My old tricks just don't work quite the same.

Well, I'm off to elementary. I hope it goes well.

October 15, 2007

INTANETTO!! インタネット!!

Sorry it's been 10 days since the last post. I have one actually mid-draft, but I was pulled away from the computer at school and I've long since stopped taking my computer back and forth between home and school. But guess what? Could you figure out the title of the post? Yes, it's true. I now have internet. My very own home connection. It only took two and a half months of waiting, an entire afternoon of connection and agony and misunderstanding and impatience and near misses and, when all seemed lost, when hope was all but extinguished, victory! Sweet, sweet victory.

Yes, I raced home after lunch because I was late. I was supposed to be home and ready from 1 to 5 in the afternoon. I got home at 1:05, worried that perhaps, as is the cultural norm, the internet guy would have arrived punctually and left. But there were no notes on my door or in my box. So, I didn't miss him. He showed up thankfully (at first at least) within about 15 minutes. He had a little doodad that apparently showed him that my phone jack was now internet capable. That took about 15 minutes. Then, in Japanese that I didn't really understand, he told me that the connection was good and asked if I had a modem. I did not, and he said when I get it, I can connect it right away with no problems. Great! Except I don't remember hearing anything about a modem. I actually had some vague memory that my supervisor asked me if I already had one when he was signing me up online. I thought that I had said I did since my computer has some sort of internal modem and wireless capability and all that. So, I went to the local electronics store and got some cords that said ADSL and bought them and came home to find that they didn't fit. So I went back. Found cords that would fit. Came back. Didn't work. Pondered my situation for a while. Then I decided to grab my dictionary and my set up information packet along with a pen and paper for drawing if it came to it and head to the electronics store where there is a Yahoo BB! (internet service provider) desk. I was literally out my door when I saw a van pulling in and a guy get out. He looked at the mailboxes and seemed a bit confused. Then, I went downstairs and he said, "ごひゃくさん?” And I said, "はい!" and he opened the doors to his van and voila! My very own Yahoo BB! set up modem pack!!!

So I raced upstairs, only vaguely aware of the fact that I might have missed him had I left only a couple minutes earlier which would have necessitated another prolonged wait period for a second delivery time for which I most likely would have had to take more time off of work, to finish my set up process. I took the time to translate the poster that has the pictures of all the wires and outlets and how things go. I just wanted to be sure. So, I got the order of what to plug in when figured out. I did that. Then I had the CD ROM and I put that in... "Not supported on English OS." What!!?!? So, I freaked out a bit. I texted a friend. And as my phone was buzzing this a message from him that said to do so, I was clicking on my firefox icon just to see if internet was flowing, and it was!!! So here I am. Blogging from home for the very first time. Well, from my Japanese home.

Can I get a what what?

October 10, 2007

Camping Weekend

Well, the week ended on an unquestionable high note. Great school days on Thursday and Friday. Good eats and times on Thursday night. Friday night, I was tired after the table tennis and probably still just a hold over from the weekend before. I think I went home and vegged out. I don't quite remember.

Saturday, I got up and did some tidying up. I was determined to keep things chill. I eventually got ready and ate breakfast and left around 10 or so. I wanted to go on a bike ride and take pictures and enjoy the beautiful day. It really was beautiful. I figured I would have Tye's place as a destination. He had mentioned some sort of festival around his town. I made it there by about 1pm, after many detours and pictures. I actually came upon 2 different shrines that were also in some sort of celebratory state. At one, one of the teachers from my school spotted me and chased me down. I got a picture and we chatted briefly.

At the shrine in Tye's town, we watched some kids do sumo wrestling. It wasn't a huge festival, but they did have 4 gigantic portable shrines or something that they were carrying around with drums beating. Then, we headed back to Takase.

October 5, 2007

Great end to a rough week

Yesterday was just amazing. I mean I already wrote about it, but it was just fun. Junior High was so so, but elementary just made it all OK. I was singing on the way home on my bike for no reason. I was unaware of it until suddenly I realized "Why am I singing?" and I started to laugh at myself. I went to basketball club afterward and that was good. I think that's something I've been missing is being active. Things have just been happening so fast -- at least that's my excuse -- that I haven't been able to get a good running/working out routine. Anyway, I left on time for when I wanted to make the train, but I hopped in the shower to cool off and get the sweat off before getting the train and I forgot I was in a hurry. When I got out, I had about 4 minutes to throw on clothes and ride my bike to the station and get on the train. 4 minutes is really pushing it if you are actually stepping out the door. Needless to say I didn't make it. I was on the stairs that take you over the first set of rails to the platform when I saw the train leave with my friend Matt on it. That's the second time I've missed the train for dinner.

I was able to get the next train though and got a taxi in the city and got to the restaurant not too long after them, maybe 20 minutes or so. The had already ordered and so I just joined in. It was a cook-your-own-meat kind of place. (yakiniku) Then we went to Baskin Robbins and then Toys R Us. Crazy, huh? I got some good ice cream, a puzzle, the Mario Kart DS Lite game, and some corn tostitos. Then, I went home and had a decent night of sleep for once.

Today was great simply because I only had one class at the junior high. I got my kanji list caught up. Remember, kanji are the ideographic symbols used in Japanese (and Chinese for that matter) . I have about 45 that I am officially working on and can write given the word in English. For most of them, I can come up with at least one reading, maybe half I can come up with all or multiple readings, and then there are a handful that have maybe 10 different readings each, which I'm at a loss for until I can get my literacy and vocabulary up. But anyway, I worked on that most of the morning. Then, right before lunch, I was able to have a pretty decent Japanese exchange -- I wouldn't call it a conversation -- that made me very happy. I was able to use some of what I've picked up from around me and some of what I've been studying, and I was able to understand and speak with some success. Then I went to Hiji Elementary. I had a great time there. It seems they will also be preparing my lessons for me. (I wonder if they would stop if I said I would like to. Probably not.) Anyway, I did my self-introduction even though they didn't have it on the lesson. But I think I do it pretty well and it's my thing and I get to do it with gusto since it's my one little bit. Then, I did what they had prepared, and it went pretty well I think.

Then, I came back to the school and I went to the boys table tennis club. I am sweating, not as much as with basketball, but I still worked my butt off. It was a lot of fun. I'm not good and I haven't played for an extended amount of time since that month-or-so-long unit in junior high gym class. I was pretty crappy to start with, but eventually, I was able to do OK. I played a game with one kid. He beat me in all three sets. But I was able to get it to 11-8 in the last one. I will be back to play again. Maybe with the ladies next time.

I hope the weekend will be great as well. It's another three day, but it seems plans that people have started are not exactly working out. Maybe we'll get it together before Sunday. Saturday is going to be movie night at Matt's. He got a huge screen and projector on eBay and he has it all set up now. It's about 4 foot by 8 foot. Crazy big.

October 4, 2007

2 months +

It's freaking OCTOBER!!!!!! I've been here for more than 2 months already!! Can you believe it? I mean we are already starting to plan our Christmas/New Year's Vacation. And Halloween is right around the corner. It's fall already. I had meant to buy a fan, but since they are seasonal and it's fall, they no longer sell them. Japan is crazy on the seasons. Everything has a season, it seems.

Well I just had an awesome lesson at Asa Elementary. It seems that will be the best ones. At least so far; I haven't been to Hiji Elementary. Anyway, they are pretty much letting me do what I want at Asa. Which is so odd for here, that I don't really know what I'm doing. I stutter a bit and it takes second to find my stride.

I have to go now. Gonna play with the basketball club. Then I'm off to Marugame for the weekly ALT dinner that we do. Ciao... or さようなら

October 1, 2007


So, normally elementary school visits are pretty fun. But today was sooo frustrating. I think it's because things work differently at each school. And I still haven't visited one, so I have yet another one to get accustomed to. I also can't read the social cues that should indicate to me that it's time for me to leave. I wish they would just say, "We have another class in here next, so let's go downstairs" or more directly "It's time for you to leave now." It would save us all those awkward 3 to 5 minutes of them waiting for me to leave.

It happened the other day at my base elementary as well. I should have clued into it better because the principal was saying hints, but that was the problem; they were just hints. "I have a staff meeting now." I thought she meant she had a meeting with some of her staff but not everyone. If she had said 'we', I think I would have gotten the picture. But the "I" threw me off. And it's also frustrating that I can't get across my own ideas for lessons at some of the schools. I think I have to learn where and when I can do my own thing.

Today, for instance, I got the fax this morning for the lesson this afternoon. That's pretty short notice. (Although at the Junior High, I'm lucky if I get a sit down more than 10 minutes in advance.) But she said we would learn numbers and then play bingo. I thought cool, I can handle that. I have a little thing I do with numbers that makes them pretty easy to learn by having the students use little squares with the numbers on them, 0-9. First, each student gets their own set, and we practice using the numbers 0-9. Basically, I'll say a number and show it to them. And maybe I'll show them 2 or 3 this way. Then, I'll go back and call a number and hold up a card so they can't see; they have to find the number I've called and hold it up and see if it matches mine when I turn mine around. It's instant success for them which builds confidence and lets them master the numbers gradually but fairly quickly. And so I'll do that for 0-9. Then, for double digits, the first time around, I have them pair up with another student and we add 10-19 in the same fashion, and eventually 20-29. (For some reason, she had me go up to 30, which doesn't really make sense, since they already have 1-9, learning 30 automatically means they know 31-39.) Anyway, I cut up all the numbers for this activity, I made 60 of each actually just in case, and there ended up being 54 in the group, since both 4th grade classes were combined. However, before class started, I showed the squares of paper to the English teacher, and she did that dismissive, characteristically Japanese quick intake of air that is most definitely a no yet allows them to save face since they aren't actually vocalizing the word. So, I had to scratch the number thing. I did my self-intro like I wanted though, with asking questions and reviewing and practicing words. But she got me back with bingo. Normally, you start over after someone gets Bingo. But she said to just continue. I knew this would be a mess, since we were only playing with 16 squares and everyone was using the same 16 numbers. And true enough, after the first bingo, I called one number and there were 5 more bingos. I called another and there were 7 or 8. So, the game actually only reviewed 8 numbers because that's all that I was able to call out before the bell rang. I made sure to explain the possibility of starting a new game which would allow for more review of the numbers (while preserving my quickly dwindling stock of English language stickers). Oh and another annoying thing was this one teacher who translated everything. An occasional translation is great when it's well timed, ensures understanding, and helps the flow of the lesson. But when it is constant, it undermines the objectives of the lesson, namely learning numbers. How counterproductive to practice the numbers in English and then play Bingo in Japanese! Needless to say, I'm frustrated. That's the second time I've come back feeling frustrated from that school. So, it may be something that recurs.

And today, before leaving, the "English teacher" (I put this in quotes because she is a regular elementary teacher who just happens to know some English and coordinates my lessons there) asks me if I know any interesting games. Of course I do, but, as I explained to her, it would help if I knew the topic of the lesson earlier than the day of, as that would allow me time to match the topic with an appropriate game, get a Japanese copy of the directions faxed to her, and prepare any necessary materials. Not unreasonable in my opinion. We'll see what happens for the next lesson there on the 12th.

that's a first

Today, was the first time I made it to school and didn't immediately start sweating necessitating a 20 minute cool down period where I alternate fanning my face and neck and rolling up my pants to fan my legs and feet. This morning it was only 24 degrees (remember it's celsius) inside my apartment with the AC off. I seriously considered a light jacket or cardigan.

In other news, Osaka was fantastic and I will have to write about it when I have a bit more time.

I'm off to the Katsuma Elementary School now for yet another self-introduction plus a lesson on numbers followed by bingo. Let's hope it goes well.