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?