Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Feb 22nd - Mar 29th

February 22nd
Ms. Tojo took holiday today and the office had me stay there with nothing to do.  At the end of the day Ms. Tojo came in and gave me papers and workbooks to grade.  She seems to do this a lot, instead of giving it to me when I’m bored out of my mind.  I had lunch with kids who wouldn’t say anything.  Went to the BOE afterwards and Ms. Tojo came because she wanted me to record an English test on a tape.  Again, something I could have done at the school when I was going crazy from boredom.

February 23rd
It was raining when I woke up this morning and I barely made it out the house in time.  Interviewed students 1 on 1 during my first class.  It consisted of me asking the students 5 questions and then grading their response based on comprehension, using complete sentences, and other factors.  I did this for 2 other classes. 
For 2 weeks straight, one of my principals has been coming into the hallway during cleaning time and taken pictures of me.  Not while I’m teaching in the classroom or playing with the kids at lunch, but when I have a broom and dustpan in my hands. 
Got a package from mom today and wanted to eat everything in the box.  Nearly finished Race to Dakar and fell asleep.

February 24th
I think I’m starting to hit the snooze button too much.  Interviewed some more kids today.  Helped the tennis team scoop water off the courts and somehow we got into dirty words like nipples, playboy, blah blah blah.  They kept pointing to my pants and asking me what it was called, but I wouldn’t give in.  I just said, “Snake?”  Two kids fell on the ground laughing while the others ran around nearly out of breath.  I need to learn to keep my mouth shut.  One boy came up to me, still laughing, barely able to say 'stomach ache' in English.
After school I went to Kuninomatsubara to fish, but the waves were too big and I couldn’t cast beyond the white water.  

Finished Race to Dakar tonight and am now on the hunt for more documentaries like this.

February 25th
Suuuuuuuper nice day today.  My first class had me to head, shoulders, knees, and toes 15 times.  My first class.  Somehow I don’t see my back healing anytime soon.  I found out Dorian is coming to Japan with mom and Kalika.  In my third class, once again I was able to witness my teacher dragging kids along the floor and throwing them out the doors.  I played on the pull up bars with the kids at lunch and showed them how to do a one-armed pull up.  My last class was great.  Took pictures with them and they couldn’t stop smiling.  
Cutie pies

Went to Topher’s to eat pizza and watch Inception.

February 26th
Slept in a bit.  Went to the beach and it was too windy.  Waves were too big/blown out to snorkel  or bodysurf.  Skyped with mom and John from the beach.  Met at Becky’s with Kyle and left for Kagoshima.  Took the ferry across and met with Fiona and Bridget.  
Ferry ride

Went out for Kat’s b-day, ate, drank, karaoke, pizza cheese, met crazy group of people at Mister Donut, and had an old guy kiss me on the cheek.  
Group picture in Mister Donut.  One of those guys is a parent of one of Lily's students.

That was an interesting night.  We found out later that the group of people we saw at Mister Donut included the father of one of Lily’s students.  The kid came up to her at school saying that she has photo evidence. 

February 27th
Woke up at 8, fell asleep again until 11:30.  Went to Amu Plaza and had Indian food.  Walked around the mall a bit and then left Kagoshima for home.  When we got to the other side of the port, it was dark, windy, cloudy, and then began to rain.  Welcome home!  Bridget was yelling “Yoku-nai!!!” (this is not great!) at the wind and gloomy condition of our side of the peninsula.  Went to Nishimuta for groceries, watched Jurassic Park, then woke at 3:30am, 5am, 6am and couldn’t sleep again. 

February 28th
Got to Osaki JHS and the teachers were having a meeting.  The woman was speaking so fast I didn’t know if she was pissed about something or not.  1st class made me not want to become a teacher.  The teacher DESTROYED a kid in class after he was talking and not paying attention.  He silently cried into his towel the rest of the period. I'm not joking.
Had the afternoon off and went to help Becky move into her new place as much as my back would allow.

March 1st
Kids are more annoying today than usual.  Only 3 classes.  Had lunch with 3-2 and talked to one boy who spoke complete sentences.  He told me that he wants to become an engineer.  I skyped Adam from class and let the kids see how the iPhone facetime thing works.  Went home and slept afterwards.  Went grocery shopping after my nap and looked at motorcycle stuff for hours.  Skyped with Cassie and Topher.  Watched a new motorcycle documentary I found online called Mondo Enduro.

March 2nd
At Daiichi today.  My last time teaching a 3rd grade class.  Only one student came up to thank me and even gave me a hug.  He told me that he got accepted into a technology university, which is a 5-year program instead of the normal 4.  My JTE told me that it’s extremely hard to be accepted into these schools and I could tell that he was very proud of his accomplishment.
I was asked to grade a ton of papers and left promptly afterward.  Cleaned the house a bit.  Went with the clams to a travel agency and then to Indian food.  Dinner was really really really really wonderful.

We also stopped at another restaurant/cafĂ© on the way back and had desert.  Cassie and I split something called honey toast.  It was a half-loaf of bread, hollowed in the middle, toasted with butter, drizzled with honey, chocolate syrup, slices of banana, and a couple scoops of ice cream.  Holy carbolated-potassium!

March 3rd
It’s so cold again!  Nooooo!   2 classes at Hishida JHS and reading magazines the rest of the day.  Went to Osaki Elementary and may have been late.  I say ‘may’ because I drove into the parking lot with my entire class of students waiting for me.  Haha!  They took my bags for me and walked me up the flights of stairs to the room.  Of course I was holding 5 or 6 kids’ hands at the same time.  We played ‘Saigo Says,’ a version of Simon Says, about 20 times and the kids still wanted more.  It was a great way to end the day.  I love the little kids, they never lose their spark.

March 4th
No classes today, so I slept in and went to Kanoya to find a ‘Vegas’ suit.  I found one and wore it to dinner with the clams at Viamore.  We went to Ace Bar afterward. 

March 5th
Went to the beach with Topher.  Awesome, clear water today. 

Bought fins at a scuba shop.  Went to Becca’s to help put bookshelves together.  Went for a drive with Cassie and set off fireworks.  Then we were too awake to go to bed and watched Paranormal Activity 2.  Not even close to being scary.  Fell asleep with Cassie playing sounds of ET on her iPhone.  Thanks…really.

March 6th
The Shibushi marathon is this morning and we went to cheer on Kyle, Bridget, and Mil.  Mil collapsed at the end of the race and the officials all gathered around her.  One guy made an ‘O’ with his hands over his head to indicate to others that she was okay.  By far the greatest thing I saw that day.
Went to Mr. Donut with the clams.  Went snorkeling/bodysurfing at the beach, followed by the lighting of bottle rockets, and a beer.  Stayed in my car and listened to the rain for a couple hours.  Went home and did nothing the rest of the day.

March 7th
Had 2 classes at Daiichi.  2nd SMILE class was the last time.  They gave speeches and played Jeopardy.  School lunch was keihan, but not even close to Amami's.  

March 8th
Taught 1 class (1st period) and read Lila for a few hours until lunch.  A student said that the teacher was ‘debusen.’  I looked it up and it translated to “chubby chasing” (fat fetishism).  Now, sure that’s a little funny when you’re talking in a group of friends, but these kids were saying it out loud, in front of the teacher, and pointing at him.  The teacher just kept eating his lunch and didn’t say a word.
Drove to my secret spot at lunch and read a while longer.  Taught one more class at Hishida Elem.  My teacher had gone to get me in the office, but I went up a different flight of stairs.  The kids were laughing because he had just left, so I grabbed a stool and sat down next to a student.  When my teacher came in, he couldn’t figure out why the class was laughing so hard until he spotted me hiding behind a kid. 
The students were really funny and played charades with me, trying to figure out English words. 
I finished Lila after school.  Just like Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, I’m going to have to re-read this one. 
Cassie and Becky picked me up and we went to Kyle’s.  Picked him up and drove to the Ace Bar.  Had a couple drinks and went home.
Becca and Cassie with their new Japanese hairstyles

March 9th
Had 3 decent classes today.  Started Where the Pavement Ends and am loving every page of it. 
Went to Becky’s at night and watched Cannibal Women of the Avocado Jungle of Death with the other clams.  Drove to the beach with Cassie and lit more fireworks.  We saw some shooting stars for the first time since summertime.

March 10th
The day is fine.  I’m starting to relate some of my experiences teaching in Japan with those of Erika Warmbrunn (author of Where the Pavement Ends.)  She’s teaching in Mongolia for one month, but has already made more progress than I have with her students. 
At lunch I had a conversation with three 3rd grade girls.  I tried to talk to a couple of the boys around me, but they didn’t know anything.  The girls had to translate everything for them.  2 more classes at Nakaoki were great.  My heart/mind has been telling me to stay, but I go back and forth too much.  Plus, I know it’s just because I had such a nice time with my classes today.  I keep forgetting about the wasted hours sitting at my desk doing nothing, not being with family/friends, not riding motorcycles, and the absence of Mexican food.  I will miss these kids a ton.  The teachers…ehhh. 
Wonderful, crazy kids

Made plane ticket reservations for Amami when mom, Kali, and Dorian come to visit.  Also scored some rooms in Kyoto.

March 11th
Happy 311 day!  It’s a bit cold this morning, but ‘Amber is the color of your energy.’  Today at Daiichi, we had a basketball sports day. All day, all basketball.  Kids were so funny playing and I have never seen so many turnovers in my life.  I went into the school office during a break period and saw that my vice principal was watching TV (this only happens when something big is happening in the news: coal miners being trapped, earthquakes, etc.)  He wasn’t able to translate, but I saw that places were flooded and towns were ripped apart.  It looked like a tsunami had hit.  I noticed a map of Japan on the screen with our area highlighted in yellow. 
Went back to basketball and they had us teachers play the best team of the day.  It was only a 5 minute game, but we ended up winning.  I did some dribbles through my legs and while driving up the court and the entire group of 3rd grade girls screamed.  I nearly turned over the ball because I started to laugh so hard.  All the boys came up to me afterward saying how cool it was. 
After school, I stuck around the office to see what was happening in the news.  It turns out a massive earthquake struck the northern areas of Japan. I tsunami had hit and flooded towns everywhere.  The news had video of teachers/students stuck on building tops and towns completely wiped out.  I decided to go check out the ocean at Kuninomatsubara but there were police and firefighters blocking the road.  I went to a bridge where I saw other people and we waited for an hour to see if anything was going to happen.  Some waves broke over the sand dunes but quickly receded and that was the extent of it. 

Went to Cassie’s and hung out with her, Topher, and Allie. 

March 12th
Went to Miyakanojo with Kyle, Topher, Cassie, and Allie.  We met with Kathryn Hays and went to lunch.  Walked around the mall and then decided to return to clam town.  We had a party at Kyle’s that started with nabe we didn’t eat, peaked with elephant underwear, and nicely mellowed with a walk in the cemetery.  Definitely a night to remember.  Allie had decided to walk to Cassie's in the rain, so Cassie and I gave chase.  We were stoked to find her safe and sleeping.
Fact: Becca likes knives

March 13th
Woke up around 8 and left to meet with Topher and look for waves.  We stopped at Daguri but they weren't breaking.  We drove to Koigaura and had the beach to ourselves for over an hour.  Some older men came up to us after we had gotten out and told us not to go back in because of the tsunami warnings.  They even waved down the other surfers who had joined us and told them not to surf anymore. 
Went to Becky’s for dinner, drove to the abandoned hotel to listen to the waves, and headed home for sleep.

March 14th
Happy White Day!  The day when men reciprocate the Valentine’s gifts they got with white chocolate.  I’m at Hishida JHS today and the 3rd grade girls keep walking by the teacher’s office yelling “Niku!” and giggling.  I didn’t teach a single class today, so I walked around the school and signed kids’ yearbooks.  Maika and her friend would not stop hugging me and I had to walk down the hall with them attached to me.  5 kids cornered me and asked me what the word for “Up penis” is.  After a lot of internal judgment calls, and them refusing to let me out the room, I decided to tell them.  They immediately began writing it on scraps of paper and giving them to their friends as if they were business cards.  Thankfully I was able to get them all back.  I’m not sure if it really mattered, since the teachers have no idea what is being said. 
One of the funniest kids in the graduating class

The kids rehearsed for graduation and couldn’t keep still.  They seem excited for high school, but I think they just want some time off. 
I went to Cassie’s house and helped babysit Finn.  He is such a cute kid, staring at everything and smiling tons. 

 March 15th
It’s graduation at school and everyone is dressed up.  I wasn’t sure if today was graduation for Osaki JHS so I didn’t wear a tie.  One of the teachers gave me the class note book (parting wishes and reflections of the year) and a school picture.  I went to the ceremony and made it through the national anthem and 4 kids receiving their certificates.  I was taken out of the gymnasium because there were classes I had to teach.  A mistake was made at the BOE and now I have to go to one of my elementary schools and miss my kids graduate.  I didn’t take it too well and was a bit agitated to say the least.  I was able to put on a good show for the elementary kids, though, and we played some fun games today.  My 2nd school only had me teaching one class then we went outside to play baseball.  My back was great and it felt so good to swing a bat again.
I went to Cassie’s tonight and we watched an episode of the Daily Show.  Then we took a drive to the beach and lit some fireworks.  She kept trying to give me all the money she had (61 yen) for fireworks and had me laughing because she was so adamant about giving it to me.  

March 16th
Only had about 4 hours of sleep, but I’ve got some pep in my step.  Drank two energy drinks and my body doesn’t know how to function.  I had a few classes at Osaki JHS and was able to leave early.  I went to International Wood and set up my hammock to catch some rest.  The wind was blowing so hard, I was only able to sleep for about 45 minutes.  Stopped off at Nishimuta and had my oil changed.  The guys working the shop were really nice and made small talk with me.  They especially liked the sticker of the egg on the hood of my car. 
When I got home, I put myself in a horrible mood by watching 2 different Travis Pastrana videos.  Now I can’t do anything but think of motorcycles, cliff diving, base jumping, and rally car racing.  “He who dies with the most toys, wins.”  Right?

March 17th
Last week, I had made arrangements with my JTE to leave the school after our one and only class in the morning.  Upon entering the office, I was given looks of wonder by the staff.  It turns out my JTE took a holiday and didn’t tell me about it.  She also hadn’t informed the office that I was able to leave early.  So I had to sit at my desk for 4 periods doing nothing.  I even asked to go to the BOE, but was denied.  I read the book Cassie loaned me and walked around the halls a few times.  Then, probably not 3 minutes after lunch, I was in my car and driving home. 
Topher picked me up and we drove to a gorge to do some hiking.  It’s a fairly small route, but there were some big pools of water along the way.  On the way back, we decided to jump in and test the water.  It was freezing, but so much fun jumping from the rocks. 
One of the water holes

After getting home, Cassie, Becca, and I went to okonomiyaki for dinner.  Luckily, Cassie changed her ‘no cheese eating’ policy and was able to join us.  We left, full of good food, and I dropped the girls off at their places. 

March 18th
Went to school and left after lunch.  Went to dinner with the other clams, Kyle’s mom, Kat, Beau, and Finn.  Kat and Finn are returning to the US soon and we all wanted to get together to say bye.  I had a tuna sandwich and had forgotten how great sandwiches taste.  They let me hold Finn for a while and he fell asleep in my arms.  I LOVE this kid.  We went to the convenience store down the street and got ice cream before everyone parted ways.  Got home and chatted on Skype for a bit. 

March 19th
This morning I got a text and a call from Hamanoue saying that we weren’t going riding because of the weather.  Then it cleared up and was sunny so we jumped into action.  I met with Hamanoue, his wife, son, and son’s girlfriend.  His son is visiting from Tokyo, staying for a few weeks because of the earthquake and other crazy stuff going on around there.  He’s a DJ and is all into Latin music.  He put on some vinyl records and we talked about some of our favorite bands.  We went riding toward Ibusuki, but stayed on our peninsula.  Met up with a guy named Derrick, who had bought Nathan’s Honda Shadow.  We all rode along the coast and found some beaches that were deserted.  We took the dual sports onto the sand and acted like teenagers, riding up and down the coastline. 

Hamanoue and his wife paid for an amazing fish lunch.  I think we each had 7 plates in front of us and everything was delicious.  
Too much food!

After lunch, we met with an Aussie guy who also had a motorcycle.  He has only been in Japan for four months, following his wife from somewhere between Perth and Darwin.  The Aussie told me about some interesting dreams he had: Buddha and other religious icons coming to him in his sleep, seeing images of his yet-to-be-born children.  It was all sort of a confusing thing to take in.  But he seemed honest and I think he’s a nice guy. 
Talked with Hamanoue’s son for a while about motorcycles and music and then went home to Skype with tons of people back home.  Got to see everyone hung over at the Agate house and talked with Kalika and John early in the morning. 

March 20th
Went exploring toward Cape Sata with Topher.  

We found a ton of places to cliff jump, camp out, and even a little village that must have only had a population of 20.  They had a cool shrine built into the side of an enormous tree, and the local police man gave Topher a double take when we passed by.  It started raining and we were listening to some Steve Miller Band.  
Mini dunes and the river that flows into the sea

Then Topher had a great idea to get Indian food in Kanoya.  I went for a level 9 and it wasn’t as hot as I thought it would be.  

Then when I was about finished with dinner, I saw that there was a huge glob of spices that hadn’t been completely mixed in with the food.  I tried it and holy jeez, my tongue nearly caught on fire.  Topher dropped me off at home and I stayed up fairly late.

March 21st
Went to Koigaura with Topher and bodysurfed for a long time.  The waves were great and there were tons of people in the lineup.  After the waves died down, I layed on the beach and read.  I can already feel that my face is sunburned from the day.  I got home, thinking it was later that it really was, and had dinner at 4pm.  Made myself stay awake for a while longer and passed out quickly on the bed.

March 22nd
Taught 3 classes today.  My principal gave me a photo album before lunch.  I guess this is why he was taking all those pictures of me cleaning the hallways.  After work, I went to the BOE and had a long talk about my vacation request for Bangkok.  Ended up cancelling my plans at the suggestion of Shinmiya, but he said that I’d be allowed to travel after my contract is up.  Went to Cassie’s to meet her couch surfers from Oz.  They made curry and rice and were really nice people. 

March 23rd
Last 2 classes before spring break at Daiichi.  Went to Osaki Elementary and they were crazy.  Wouldn’t let go of my hands.  One kid wrapped his arms around me from behind and the teacher had to stop every 10 minutes to tell him to let go.  At the end of class, he asked the teacher to ask me if I would come to his house after school. 
Drove to Kanoya to pick up Cassie’s Baskin Robbins ice cream cake.  Dropped it off at Becky’s house and then waited to pick up Cassie and Becky from their enkai.  Took them to Becky’s while Kyle, Topher, and Satoko were there waiting to surpise her.  Funny enough, Cassie saw their shoes in the hallway and knew instantly that there was a surprise.  We ate cake and talked for a bit, then went to Cassie’s to see how the Aussie couch surfers were doing.  Ended up going to Daguri beach and lighting a ton of fireworks.  Bottle rockets whizzed by our heads more often than not but we were laughing in hysterics most of the night.  Becky threw a rocket at Kyle and Cassie, causing them to run away, and then it shot toward the rest of us, making us split into two groups.  Someone’s going to lose an eye or limb one of these days.  We even went into the abandoned hotel and it was a bit eerie. 
After nearly everyone left, Cassie, Alex and I walked back into the heart of Shibushi to retrieve Cassie’s car.  It turned out to be a longer, colder walk than we had anticipated.  Cassie’s nose was freezing and her scarf wouldn’t stay around her face.  Alex was balancing on walls everywhere and for some reason there were a decent amount of cars in the streets. 
March 24th
2 classes at Hishida JHS and the kids were more annoying than usual.  Went to lunch at Joyfull with Kyle, his mom, Becky, and Cassie.  My next school had their graduation ceremony, so they had cancelled classes and said to go to the BOE.
I have been down today.  Don’t even want to be around people.  It sucks knowing how I get myself into these funks, and I just keep kicking myself farther into misery until I just jump out of it.  Luckily, I face-timed Uri and he was able to talk.  More than ever, talking to someone back home really helped me snap out of my mood. 
At the BOE, Mizoguchi-san asked me if I was genki and I told him I was sleepy.  He went to the fridge and got me a yogurt/milk drink that’s supposed to wake you up.  Then we talked about the quality of tap water in the US, Osaki, and Tokyo.  He says the water in Osaki is fine, but the Tokyo water is no good.  Not sure if we're going to solve any water problems at this point, but at least we were able to converse.  Went to dinner with the BOE guys and they were being funny.  It was Masuyama’s going away party, he got a job as a principal at an elementary school of 50 kids.  He seems to be excited about it and asked me to come visit later this year.  Mizoguchi kept having me say Kagoshima-ben words, but would crack up when I tried saying them.  They ordered me ‘yamaimo’ - mountain potato - and laughed when I said it was good.  Imoto-san drove me home.   

March 25th
Today was nothing special.  At lunch I went and paid for my Tokyo ticket at Lawson.  Skyped with Dorian for a while.  I am tired today.  Fell asleep maybe around 4:30 or 5 and woke up around 8:45pm.  

March 26th
I had to wake up early to meet Marilyn in Ibuski.  I ended up leaving around 7am and getting to Marilyn’s at 8:45.  We went to the train station to pick up Kat Ricketts and Lily.  Got to the Greenland amusement park around 12:30pm and had a great time.  Some of the rides were so horrible, we had to laugh at how long the wait was for the ride.  Overall, none of the lines took more than 10 mins to get through.  They even had a few great rollercoasters that got our stomachs turning a bit.  I ate some churros, a green slushie-type thing, and visited their ‘petting zoo’ that included a dog petting area.  That was my favorite part of the entire day.  I laid down next to a good sized St. Bernard and pet him/her for a long time.  I can't wait to get home and see all the dogs.
Puppy face


At one point when I stopped, he pawed at me to keep petting him.  Besides an Australian Shepherd next to the St. Bernard, the rest of the dogs were gathered around one another, near the kerosene heater.  These poor guys, always having people come in and disturb them, and who knows if they even get to run along a beach or sleep in someone’s home? 
We got to our Dyeing and Hostel accommodation for the night, which was beautiful.  New everything, beautifully decorated, and you couldn’t take the smile of Koji, the desk worker.  We left for dinner to a bustling street in the downtown area of Kumamoto, for which I hadn’t braced myself.  

The restaurant had mouth-watering Italian food, accompanied by waiters who performed magic tricks.  Although the food took quite some time to come out, we enjoyed ourselves.  A few people wanted to go dancing, but some of us also wanted to sleep.  We ended up going to the hostel roof and talking for a bit before retiring to the futons.  I fell asleep first, while everyone was listening to the bed intruder song. 

March 27th
I woke up first and couldn’t get back to sleep.  I took a shower and got ready for the day, returning to see that Kat was the only other person awake.  We finally got everyone ready at the last minute of checkout and Koji gave us all good-luck keychain charms.  He even took a group picture of us, possibly for the hostel website.  Our group split, into two.  Our car with Marilyn, Kat, and Lily went to the Kumamoto castle.  It was enormous and I couldn’t stop looking at all the woodwork inside.
One of the five floors

Amazing to think that this was a fully functioning fortress, keeping out real ninjas. 
Real ninjas play air guitar

On the way down from the 5th floor of the castle, there was an older woman climbing the stairs and pointing at each person coming down.  She was saying, “Go-hyaku en, go-hyaku en, go-hyaku en, etc.”  Everyone got a kick out of her, because she was simply realizing how much money the place was making in a single day. 
On our way home, we were stopped at the entrance to the expressway, saying that there had been an accident and our destination was not accessible.  We took side roads for two hours, following a huge river that reminded me of Colorado.  When we finally got close to the highway again, we saw that there was no traffic and we had passed all the commotion.  Marilyn dropped me off at my car and I went to A-Z before heading to Shibushi for dinner at Cassie’s.  She has a new couch surfer over, from France, and we all talked and ate.  I took Becky home and got to bed around 1am. 

March 28th
Today I spent the entire day sitting in the BOE.  There’s nothing for me to do but read, play solitaire, and draw.  At night, I went to Cassie’s to shoot fireworks with her and the couch surfer.  We had a good time at the beach and then I took them back to Cassie’s.  

March 29th
Another fairly boring day.  I am about halfway done with my new book, "Letters to a Young Teacher."  Takagi, the Osaki JHS tea lady, came into the BOE and started talking to me about my journal.  Then she said that her nickname is “Machinegun Takagi,” because she talks so fast.  I couldn’t stop laughing and it kept her laughing too.  Mizoguchi just stood there and shook his head at the absurdity of the situation.
I finally got the motivation to start doodling on scratch paper.  I felt like I was in 3rd grade again.

Went to the beach after work and shot some fireworks while watching the gorgeous, blaze-red sunset.  Can you tell that I like fireworks?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Here's the link to some videos I have on YouTube

January 28th - February 21st

January 28th
I’m working at Daimaru Elementary all day.  To begin, I get a list of what all my teachers have planned for the day.  It’s the same thing in each class: 10 minutes of head, shoulders, knees, and toes, followed by them speaking in Japanese for the last 35 minutes.  Unfortunately, during the first period I had a little girl jump on my back and another try to swing from my arm at the same time.  My back is now messed up again and I still have a whole day of head, shoulders, knees, and toes.  I was even introduced to a new class today.  I have previously played with some of these kids on the playground, but this is the first time I have taught in their particular classroom.  So, they’re only allowing that class 1 visit by the ALT every 6 months, or what? 
16 times I did head, shoulders, knees, and toes today.  Some of my JTEs didn’t know their head from their shoulders.  I’m not joking. 
At the end of the day, I showed the video of my Christmas vacation to the vice principal (since he likes riding motorcycles.)  Throughout the video he would quietly say, “Motocross.”  He seemed to like the desert landscape we rode through and said something along the lines of wanting to ride in California. 
After work I drove toward Kanoya and picked up some new weights at the sports shop.  Worked out a little and went to bed.

January 29th
I was going to drive to the city to watch my friends dance, but I woke up a little later than expected and my back was hurting more than yesterday.  Instead, I took a quick drive toward Miyakanojo and found a mall to walk around.  Met a girl who worked in a shop that specialized in California surf style (Billabong, Lost, T&C, etc.) and we talked for a bit. 
I went to buy some food in the food court area and got a call from mom.  I had no idea I could video chat with Skype on my iPhone.  Mom got to see me pay for groceries and also witnessed the crazy ash storm that’s blowing everywhere.
Piles of ash

Finally got around to adding the pictures to my journal entries and posted them online.

January 30th
Went for a drive to Shibushi to try and find some new Engrish shirts.  I ended up playing video games at an arcade for a while.  When it got to be too smoky, I left for home and worked out.  Went for a quick walk after that and froze my buns off.  One of the little girls next door brought over some food, what I thought were fried octopus dumplings.  She stood at the doorway not knowing what to do, so I asked her some simple Japanese questions and she would shyly give me one word responses.  I finally said “Goodbye” and she turned and skipped off.  It turns out the octopus was really pieces of hotdog instead.  It was good, but I already had eaten a lot and could finish it all. 
Watched a movie called “Battle Royal” and it made me laugh.  It was about all the school kids in Japan rebelling against their teachers until the government finally makes a plan to send certain classes to an abandoned island.  They are given three days to kill each other until there is only one surviving.  I laughed only because I could see this happening with many of my junior high students.  A few of them even fit the characteristics of the people in the movie.

January 31st
I was frozen upon leaving my bed this morning.  Got to school and all the teachers were gathered around the kerosene heater.  Showed my vacation video to the last class at Osaki JHS and got some good laughs out of them. 
In class, the kids were supposed to write what their friends are doing next weekend.  One student (Seiya) wrote, “I hear you’re going to (the) toilet this weekend.”  
"I hear you're going to the toilet this weekend.  Uh-huh.  Lucky you.  What are your plans?  I don't have any plans. That's too bad."

I couldn’t help but laugh while he wrote it.  This is one of those kids who is loud and annoying, but because he likes to repeat everything out loud, he actually retains the information better than anyone in his class.  If the teachers disciplined students for those disruptive actions, he might not be doing so well. I guess that's one positive way to look at their style of classroom management.  
During a free period, I was typing on the computer when my vice principal was bored again.  He burst through the door and literally marched up to my desk.  He put both hands on my table and leaned in, about 10 inches from my face to say, “How are you today?”  I responded and asked how he was.  His reply was to turn and walk away without saying anything.  This is a weird place.
Kyle went to Fukuoka with some other JETs to snowboard this weekend.  While there, they stopped at Costco and took orders from all of us.  I asked for a ton of almonds, dried mango, cranberries, blueberries, dates, and some other stuff I have forgotten.  I’m excited to go and pick it all up today.

February 1st
I woke up and froze again. Kyle and I both felt our houses shaking this morning from a possible earthquake or volcanic eruption (who knows these days.)  Another icy windshield as I get to my car and my wiper fluid is frozen.  Arriving at school, a JTE sits down next to me and says to herself, “Samui, samui, samui.”  They really are just testing my limits.  Maybe I’ll put on some fake tan lotion tonight and comment on how hot it has been around here.  I taught one class and my JTE said because of my back, I don’t have to go to class.  But I can’t go home, so I just stayed and taught some more.  I read two magazines today (Outside and Motorcycle Escape) and it made me want to take off on some 2 year motorcycle journey.  Went home and laid flat for 15 hours.
February 2nd
Back is the same today.  Wrapped my torso with a stretch bandage to try and relieve pain.  My principal of Daiichi (now my hero) made phone calls to my BOE and arranged for Shinmiya to take me to the emergency room after lunch.  I’m actually happy to be going, as this pain is just getting worse. 
I got to the BOE and they arranged for Tomomi to come along as a translator for the doctor.  Aiboshi also decided to drive, so we had 2 cars and 4 people going to the hospital.  Sadly, everyone realized at the hospital we didn’t need this many people, so Aiboshi had to leave.  After a bunch of X-rays and the doctor punching my back, the result was a herniated lumbar.  That doesn’t sound too bad, right?  Well, now I can’t work out or do any sort of sports for a month or more.  I can just see how bad this journal is going to get in the next 6 days, 5 days…tomorrow.  After the hospital, I went back home and Shinmiya brought over a ton of food.  I had actually left to pay a bill and when I came home my neighbor brought over all the groceries, as well as some stew she had made.  They are way too nice.

February 3rd
I stayed home and watched movies all day.  Shinmiya came over and woke me up by banging on my bedroom window and calling my phone at the same time. 
All day I was in bed watching movies and TV shows (thank you Kenny v. Spenny.) 
At night, Shinmiya brought more groceries, dinner, and took off.  My back feels the same as yesterday and these pills the doctor prescribed aren’t doing anything.

February 4th
Stayed home again but wasn’t able to sleep much.  My back is sort of feeling better, but I’m definitely not great.  Went to Kyle’s with Becca tonight and we all chatted for a while.  Started a movie but everyone was falling asleep.  Got home and Shinmiya had left another bag of groceries hanging on my door handle.

February 5th
Kyle hosted our “Inaka Immersion” tonight.  I went snorkeling earlier because I had to do something. 
Snorkel spot

I think the ocean actually relieved some of the weight on my back.  Some of us met up at the okinomiyaki restaurant while others went for sushi.  We had snacks and drinks at Kyle’s, then went to a Karaoke bar. 
Inaka Immersion

I was a designated driver and we somehow managed 8 people in my hatchback.  The tires were actually scraping the wheel wells the entire time.   Got everyone home by about 3am and then got back to my house at 4am. 
February 6th
Woke up and met the group at Joyfull.  I saw this awesome motorcycle parked out front...

We took our visitors to explore Shibushi, going into an abandoned building by the ocean, driving through the maze of the catfood factory, and eventually ending up at International Wood. 
Mini car at the Shibushi port

L to R: Bridget, Lily, Becky, Kyle-kun

International Wood

I went to the onsen tonight, but that didn’t do anything.  It was actually a great weekend even though my back wasn’t cooperating. 

February 7th
This morning I woke up at 4:30am to an earthquake.  I was so mad about being woken up, and hurting my back getting out of bed that I cursed at it.  
I decided to try and teach today, so I went to Daiichi JHS.  The older man with no teeth made me stand up at my desk, in front of the other teachers, and started massaging my spine.  I think I felt more awkward here than I did when the ex-kamikaze pilot grabbed my junk. 
At lunch, I went to the beach and laid on the sand for an hour or so, but saw that I missed 2 calls from Shinmiya. 
My favorite beach in Miyazaki

I bought my plane ticket to Amami and then headed to the BOE.  My co-workers gave me dried flying fish as omiyage from somewhere.  They were hard as a rock and I don’t think I'll be eating that anytime soon.
I cleaned my house as best as I could and tried to fall asleep early, with no luck.

February 8th
Only one class at my first school.  The principal invited me into the office to ask if students were being good.  Luckily, these are the kids who always ask funny questions so I was able to give a good response.  I waited 3 periods for lunch to come, since they wouldn’t give me anything to do.  The kids wanted to talk about guns throughout the lunch period and now want to come to California just to shoot.  Went to the beach after lunch and picked up sand dollars.  
Dolla dolla bill yo!

Next school only has one class.  Played “Keyword” game with the kids.  I talked with the guy at Hishida Elementary, who is really into motorcycles, and he showed me a picture of his BMW R-100 Mystic.  He was stoked to see the Motorcycle Escape magazine.  Went to sushi tonight with Kat, Becca, and Kyle and could barely eat anything because of my inability to exercise. 
I woke up at 2am and 3am because of the cats fighting outside my window.  I’m going to set mouse traps in my yard.

 February 9th
Such a nice morning!  It’s warm, I don’t have to wear a sweater, but already two teachers have come up to me rubbing their arms to say it’s cold.  I made a rule that since they didn’t address my name while miming that they’re cold, I would pretend I didn’t see them.  Jeez, I’m getting grumpy. 
My notes indicated that, “I am so bored.  I need to cliff jump, wheelie a motorcycle, shoot a gun, something to make me wake up.”  This whole process of simply going to work and not being able to run or work out afterward is mind-numbing.  A teacher suggested I use cauterization or acupuncture to treat my back.  I’ve heard of acupuncture for body pain relief, but never cauterization.
One of my teachers just ripped a 3 second fart in the office and EVERYONE went quiet.  Why can’t/won’t they laugh at this!? 
I was really out of it today and took a drive through the hills after work.  Sadly, besides the 3 second fart, that was the highlight of my day. 

February 10th
It’s colder today, but there’s no frost.  Only ½ day since my other school cancelled.  The Rotary Club dinner is tonight that I’m not too excited about.  Shinmiya picked me up and the dinner was actually fine.  Tomomi met us (the other translator had to cancel) and translated my speech to the club.  They asked questions about what I said (getting the kids to ask more questions, individual participation, etc.) and then asked me to spill my guts about how they can turn around their economy.  Having never studied that matter, I suggested advertising the city to all of Japan in hopes of having more tourist numbers.  They seemed happy and didn’t press the subject much more.  They took pictures and gave me 3,000 yen as a gift.  Shinmiya’s daughter, Mayuko, was performing with her friend for some mayor of Indonesia in the room next to us.  We took a quick peek inside and I saw one of my principals and a group of my students.  They came over and dragged me inside but I had to leave. 
I packed for Amami and couldn’t sleep tonight.

February 11th
I left my house around 5:30am and got to the airport about 45 minutes before my flight took off.  We left on a propeller plane, which is only the second time I’ve flown in one.  
Tooooo much turbulence

Jenny picked me up from the airport and we made breakfast back at her place.  Went on a walk to a temple, the beach, and some random water purifying plant. 
Deep pink cherry blossoms...nearly purple

I had my first drink in over a month and then met with some of Jenny’s coworkers.  We ate some great food at one of the small restaurants and then moved onto the karaoke bar.
New friends at dinner


February 12th
Ate breakfast and then went to sleep again.  It was really windy today and I wasn’t too keen on the idea of flying back to the mainland on another propeller plane.  We drove to Naze and had sushi at one of those conveyor belt places. 
Sushi master

Went to the local aquarium and got to hold/feed sea turtles.  We even made friends with the man who works there and he gave us oranges as we left.  
Jenny and her new friend

On the way back to Jenny’s, we stopped at the store and got some chocolate stuff for Jenny’s coworkers.   We made truffles for her crush next door and melted chocolate over little heart cookies for the rest of her friends. 
At night, Jenny had me watch one of the scariest movies I have ever seen.  My heart was going crazy the whole time and even hearing that it wasn’t real (after it was over) didn’t help. 

February 13th
I woke up and packed my bag, went to the beach resort with Jenny and ate my favorite meal, keihan.
Oh so delicioso 

Jenny was too nice and bought me lunch.  She dropped me off at the airport and I boarded the propeller plane.  The flight home was fine and I decided to stop at A-Z on the way.  I also found a flea market and saw an old black powder rifle for sale.  I was tempted, but it was nearly $1,200 US dollars and I don’t know anything about shipping firearms through customs.  
Old rifle at the flea market

I bought more fireworks and a new spear at A-Z.  Cleaned my house when I got home, talked on Skype, and then watched Donovan’s Reef and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof before falling asleep. 

February 14th
After my alarm went off I heard my doorbell ring 4 times in 5 seconds.  I turns out the neighbor kids all brought me Valentine’s candy they made.  I felt horrible, still in my sweats while they were walking to school.
I left work a little early today and took a Valentine’s gift to my BOE.  Nishitake gave me one in return. 
I got home and took some candy to the farmer guy who lives next to me.  I saw him scrambling around his house to find stuff to give me.  No English or Japanese was spoken, just a lot of nodding and smiling. 
Went to Kyle’s for Becky’s birthday and made nabe.  Shot fireworks, Cassie and Becca almost killed people, Elephant Kathy was created, and fun was had by all. 
This is right before Becky decided to 'blow out' the sparkler and shoot sparks into Cassie's face

February 15th
Cold, cold, cold this morning.  Frost everywhere.  First class was repeating months and days of the month.  2nd was repeating the alphabet.  I wouldn’t be complaining about this, but I know from the first month of working here, that these kids already know their months and alphabet.  My voice nearly died from overuse, and my vice-principal dropped by to see how boring the class was.
In my other classes we played a supermarket game where kids had to buy and sell groceries with fake money.  When a little girl was giving me change, she dropped some of the money on the ground.  Instead of picking it up, she took money from her friend, who wasn’t looking, and gave it to me.  Haha, she’s awesome! 
After lunch, the kids all wanted to play and still don’t understand that my back is bad.  I had three little girls holding my hands while walking down the hallway.  They spoke so slow that I was actually able to have a Japanese conversation with them. 
When cleaning the school after lunch, we played tag and the kids wouldn’t stop giggling. 
I drove to Kuninomatsubara after work to go fishing but it was windy. Instead, I slept in my car, listening to the waves crash. 

February 16th
Only one class in the morning and we played games the whole time.  Waited until lunch and hesitated to eat with the students.  I’m glad I did, though.  One kid was crazy and kept saying my full name, then acting as comedians, and finally as cartoon characters.  After lunch, another student made me ballroom dance with him down the hallway and up a flight of stairs while Maka and her friend kept trying to hug me.  Eventually we had a 4-person hug but they all jumped when I told Maka to hug the boy.  She said, “I’m a Japanese girl, I don’t hug boys.”  I guess that since I’m American, I’m not considered a boy.  A group of boys taught me the Japanese word for nipple and went into hysterics every time they asked me to say it. 
I went to my next school and all the elementary kids wanted to touch my hands.  Some of the students were giggling and touching their hair, so I thought maybe there was something in my hair.  I shuffled it with my fingers and then with one swoop, put it back in place.  They were awe-struck and couldn’t believe that it hadn’t messed up my hair.  So now 4, 8, 15, the entire class is shuffling their hair with their fingers and trying to put it back in place.  This whole time, my JTE is messing with a CD player, not knowing what’s going on behind her.  We eventually played 9 or 10 games of Simon Says and that was it.
I scribbled, “These kids need to be hugged more,” in my notes.  This was in response to watching a little girl crying in the office, head buried in her hands, while a male teacher sat their yelling at her.  This isn’t some high school or junior high student, she’s a 2nd grader in elementary school.  I’m sure that she couldn’t have done anything THAT bad.  The lack of physical affection, besides the affection mothers give their children here, is really apparent.  It has taken some time, but I now have most of my elementary kids running to me for hugs.  C’mon Japan, hug your kids.
Cassie invited us to her house for falafels, couscous, and salad tonight.  It was better than I remembered.  I think we all needed something different.  You can only eat so many noodle, rice, and fish dishes in 6 months. 
Kyle has officially become Japanese

February 17th
Got to Daiichi today and Ms. Tojo says she has to go to the hospital because her father is dying.  Ms. Oyama and I took over the classes.  I was a sea urchin and Spiderman for our “Who am I” game.  The kids did a great job.  Now, there are no more English classes and I’m stuck in the office with nothing to do.  Went to Mochidome after lunch and taught one class.  My last one until April.  The principal seemed sad but we shook hands and said that we’ll see each other in April. 
I finally got the courage to get the mop on my head cut.  I took a picture of James Dean to the shop and pointed at it.  They smiled and said, “James Dean!”  Randomly, there was a JTE there that I had never met.  She spoke wonderful English and translated some of the conversations for me.  The helper guy just got back from Guam and talked about riding a banana boat and going girl hunting.  I got to Skype with mom and Kalika tonight.  I ate dinner and watched Rebel Without a Cause.

February 18th
The vice principal took over my rowdy class at Nogata today and turned those kids on their heads.  Instead of repeating the months or days of the week for 45 minutes, she actually planned a great lesson that worked!  I was so happy, I couldn’t help but give her 10 minutes of praise after class.  Maybe that’s why she dropped in on our class last week. 
The second class at Nogata was also great and even the 3rd!  This has been an amazing day, the best I’ve had in months.  I love my elementary schools, but this one is by far one of the best.  I’ll be sad to leave it.
At lunchtime, my favorite little girls held my hands and pulled me around the playground.  I let them use my phone to take pictures and they went insane.  I LOVE these girls and want to adopt them.  So adorable, always wanting hugs, and they make scary faces.

This is her telling me to stop taking pictures and give her a hug

We went to Cassie’s for drinks tonight and had planned to walk to the port, but got sidetracked.
Instead, Cassie decided to try on my back support.

February 19th
Went to Koigaura with Topher and Kris.  I was going to spearfish, but there were a lot of guys in the water.  Instead, I took my underwater camera and got some shots of the waves and myself bodysurfing. 
White wash

Mr. Topher

Topher and I went to a strawberry farm to pick our own strawberries.  Later, we picked up Cassie and went to okinomiyaki for lunch.  
Getting back to Cassie’s, we stayed in my car for 2 hours and were plain lazy.  We kept talking about what we were going to do with the rest of the day until realizing we had just wasted another hour.  Topher put his feet all over Cassie, we shook the car, honked the horn, and made sure Cassie’s neighbors didn’t like her.  Quite possibly the best 2 hours I have spent in my car. 

We had a pot luck at Kyle’s tonight and I got to meet Nahoko and Satoko, Cassie’s friends.  They were hilarious and somehow we managed to eat the ½ ton of food we prepared. 
What would I do without these clams

February 20th
I woke up at 8am and then went back sleep until 2:30pm.  It’s an official lazy weekend.  I went shopping, made dinner, skyped with Dorian (Adam, Metcalfes, and Marisa), and then started to watch Race to Dakar again.  Rainy all day.

February 21st
It’s another beautiful morning with the sun shining on everything.  Only 3 classes today.  The kids were hilarious.  ½ the first class kept saying how nice my hair looked.  One boy was going overboard and Maka says, “He is very small.”  Takumi said to me, “Today it’s ‘I’ll Kill You Day.’”  Oh, great.  I gave him my crepe from lunch and told him to shove it in his mouth with another crepe.  He did and nearly threw up everywhere.  But he laughed and gave me a sticker afterward.  The younger classes made hamburgers for lunch today and it smelled really good. 
After lunch a group of girls asked me to come to their graduation.  I was already asked this question by my BOE, but I have to choose between 6 schools because they’re all graduating the same day.  I’m stuck between this school and my base school. 
My last class played “Nanko” (how many?) and I won 4 of the 7 games.  Being mostly based on luck, the kids couldn’t believe I could win so many games.
I went to Kuninomatsubara after work to look at cabin prices and met the three people who run the campground.  One of the guys spoke a great amount of English and invited me in for tea and cream puffs.  He used to run an outdoors shop with his friend and even is a certified PADI instructor.  Hopefully I can finally get certified! 
At 7:30 we had a surprise birthday party for Kat.  I bought her a little toy puppy that walks and barks.  We tried to get Finn to look at it, but he wasn’t amused at all.  I held him for a long time and he fell asleep in my arms.  The first time I've ever had a baby fall asleep in my arms.  I think he farted on me too, but that’s just his way of saying that I’m a homie.