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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Kyle hosted our “Inaka Immersion” tonight. I went snorkeling earlier because I had to do something.
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.
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.
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|
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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|
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.
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.
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.
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|
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.
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|
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.
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.
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.
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|
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.
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.