|Coverage Days: December 19th 2011 - February 3rd 2012|
Schools Visited: VISIT ALL THE SCHOOLS!!!!
Entry#: The Fifth Season, Episode 12
Xeno's 7 7. My jetlag from the US trip really took the wind out of my sails.
Excuses Reasons for Not Blogging In Over a Month
6. My brother bought me Star Wars: Force Unleashed for christmas and it required my attention.
5. Because it's cold outside... I dunno... I'm sure that had some effect.
4. My new laptop keyboard has taken an oddly long time in getting used to. Can't say why... maybe because it's Japanese and the "spacebar" and "backspace" keys are much much smaller than on other models.
3. Found a way to watch NFL football over the internet, and with the Patriots in the playoffs, my weekends became football-centric.
2. Girls... well... not a legit reason... just wanted someone else to blame. But yeah, I was talking to a girl online for a bit, so that kinda took priority. And also, I made a new male Japanese friend who is going to help me find more girls, haha.
and the top reason why I haven't been blogging much lately....
Yeah, while I was in the US, I had the luxury of just being able to flip mindlessly through the channels to see what was on, and I just so happened to catch an episode of the Big Bang Theory... and holy crap on a crapcake was it hilarious!!! And considering that I am 5 years behind in watching it, I had a lot of ground to cover. Even now, after devoting at least 3 days of just marathoning episodes online, I'm only up to season 5, episode 4. My plan is to be caught up by the end of this weekend.
So given that... on with the blog!!!
Hmmmmmmmmmmmm... where to begin? I guess my trip back to the America would be the first thing to discuss. My trip got off to a rocky start when I tried to check-in to my flight from the school education office before hopping on the train to head to the airport. My eTicket number was being rejected and it wasn't telling me why. Even a frantic call to my travel agency only got me a "well, we issued the ticket, but was can't tell why it's not being accepted. The airline says to just go to the airport and ask the staff there." So great... a nerve-wracking journey through one of the world's largest megaopolises in the time building up to an even more nerve-wracking 14-hour flight. Well, long story short, my flight was cancelled and I was moved to another flight. It was the same carrier, same layover (Newark), but just at a different time. You would think that the airline could have just said that to my travel agency, who in turn could have relayed this info back to me to save my gut.
Anyway, I had originally planned on writing out a huge piece devoted solely to my trip back to the US (for the first time in nearly 3.5 years), but reviewing my notes, I can pretty much sum everything up in a couple bullet-point lists. I mean, most of you all live in the US, Canada, Australia, and Europe anyway, so you don't need to hear much about what you're probably all doing yourselves each day anyway.
The quick-list of semi-touristy things I did while visiting home:
- went to a Celtics game with my brother (my first NBA game ever!!)
- watched 2 NFL Patriots games... including the trouncing of Tim Teblow
- visited the Patriots Hall of Fame with my dad... saw the 3 Vince Lombardi trophies
- visited my old coworkers at the fire station, including a couple ride-alongs on Engine-1
- went to my dad's for Christmas and to show off my photo slideshow
- went to my dad's for my sister's wedding party. A lot of family friends were there and so there was a lot of talk about Japan life and the disaster
- saw two movies: Sherlock Holmes 2 and MI4
- filmed a mini-movie around Boston with a friend of mine to bring back to Japan
and of course, I ate at every restaurant I could get to. I was there for 12 days, I probably ate out 24 different times, heh heh. And I even ate breakfast, which is a rarity for me. I never realized how much I missed Wheat Chex, haha. The only cereal Japan has are "Frosted Flakes" and "Chocolate Rice Krispies." yeah... what?
I thought I would have had more to say about comparing American and Japanese culture, you know, being a sociologist and all, but surprisingly, my list of observations isn't as robust as I would like it to be. The one thing I missed mainly about the US, I should say, is the temperature of the water in public sinks. Japan doesn't heat it's water, so the only options are "ice cold" and "arctic freezing." Some places will have gas heating units attached to the sink, but it takes about 30 seconds to get the burners going and get the water warmed up.
And as expected, the US is just plain dirty. Where's that American pride? I can pick on you, America, because I grew up in your land, but you don't realize what a craphole everything is until you see other places. Japan is amazingly spotless. No litter, no graffiti, no potholes... no puddles of vomit in the parking lots. Parts of the US are clean compared to other parts of the US, but on the whole, we can do much much much better. I was thinking of writing a letter to the editor of a newspaper, but I'd probably just come off as pushy and elitist. I'm just happy that my friends took notice on their own when I showed them photos of my adventures.
Oh, and of course, it was an amazing relief to be able to communicate freely with store and restaurant staff without fumbling through broken Japanese. I took immense joy in the liberty of speaking as much as I could. I had been expecting myself to accidently slip into Japanese at points, but oddly enough, not once did I ever. Actually, of the 40-50 or so friends/family I interacted with during my trip, only ONE person asked me to demonstrate my Japanese abilities... and she caught me off guard, so all I was able to muster was a pathetic "konnichiwa." d'oh!!!
Let's go back to Japan now, shall we? Ikimashouka?
The Weather ReportIt snowed. A lot. It hasn't gone away since. I can't play soccer outside, which is a shame because I had a good thing going with the 4th-graders at ES-1 where our recesstime games were a new regular activity. Wasn't fun being pelted with snowballs, but it was amusing watching the kids slide down the hill at ES-2.
Also, I got to smash ice into itty-bitty tiny pieces. I love smashing ice. What a wonderful job I have. I get paid to act like a kid.
The Love of Older Girls - continuedhaha, looking over the blog stats, I see the biggest jump in readership for the November 10th entry, The Love of Older Girls (who are still too young for me). In that entry, I explained how amazed I was to see how the 5th- and 6th-grade girls are a lot more friendly to me than their peers from other schools I've been to. I think mainly it's just because 2 particular girls have made it known to their classmates that they are insanely in love with me, and rather than ridicule them, the others have... I don't want to say "encouraged" it, but they certainly have been supportive.
haha, though I don't know what this means for me. What am I supposed to say when an 11 year-old girl wants to kiss me? I know... I say "well, would ya look at the time!? Gotta run!!"
But anyway, the update for January has been that I've been helping the 5th-graders of the ES-1 Unicycle Club prepare its piece for the upcoming school pageant. I'm not sure how big of an ordeal this thing is supposed to be. Usually elementary schools have a big "bunkasai" (school festival) after the sports festival, but these schools did not (on account of the disaster screwing up the entire school year). I think this upcoming event is just going to be a mini-event where smaller groups just put together some kind of 5-minute thing, as opposed to the 20-minute long class performances.
So to help the Unicycle Club, I just pretty much stand in the center of the room. The older girls are good at unicycling (including Nanami, one of my admirers), so I just need to be there to be like a turning around point or something. Of course, they still use any excuse they can get to grab onto me. I know they're doing it on purpose... I'm like a toy for them to play with. -__________-;;
Well, I shouldn't say all of them are good at unicycling. Two other girls "joined" the club this semester, but they're not that good at it yet. I'd be willing to bet that they only joined because they heard I was there. Whenever they come (thankfully, because of the snow outside, we can practice indoors in the big multipurpose room), they always shout for me to come over and help them. If I walk away to help the other girls (they want me to throw hula-hoops at/to them), they scream for me to come back, haha.
I'm still not sure what they will be doing for the school pageant. It's going to be held in two weeks, and though they started off planning a routine, I haven't seen any more attempts at synchronizing it since.
A B CI suppose I should take a minute to discuss the actual English lessons I've been teaching. I typically devote January to teaching the alphabet. The 1st/2nd-grade classes will focus on the upper-case letters; the 3rd/4th-grade classes will focus on the lower-case letters; the 5th/6th-grade classes will focus on phonics and spelling. I know the ALT before me did a lot with letters and phonics throughout the year, and in the regular clases, the older students do a lot with romaji writing, so really the lessons I provide are just more real-world practice. I know the little kids like playing karuta (find the card race) and the older kids loved the challenge of playing the scrambled words spelling game I invented for them. However, the middle graders didn't seem all that engaged in the matching the words with the letters activities I made. Maybe it was too easy for them or something. I dunno.
Oh, and they are amazed at how quickly a native-speaker can recite the alphabet. 6 seconds is what they timed me at, haha.
For the kindergarteners, we've been using a pop-up book to practice the letters one-by-one. I think I'm more amused by it than they are, haha.
In related news, I've been using RPS123 as my warm-up for the younger kids. They love hearing my Christian Bale Batman voice when I do it, but unfortunately the real humor behind it is completely lost on them.
P.E. Ain't No FunFigures, right? In the third semester, the schools are already getting ready for the next schoolyear, so English has kinda taken a little push to the back of the line for the time being. Of course, I'm alright with that. The more free time I have, the more chances I have to go drop in on the P.E. classes!!! But wait... all they're doing this time of year is jumprope, which is quite possibly THE MOST BORING THING EVOR!!!! I still go just as a sign of solidarity, plus at least when they do the group rope-jumping, I can direct the traffic (the students tend to stop after they've done their own jump, which congests the jumping area for the students behind them).
I am disappoint :(
Where's All the Cuteness??It's everywhere!!!! Everywhere, I tells ya!!!! However, unfortunately for me, it's become like a drug to me. I am exposed to each and every day so much that I almost take it for granted now. It takes a real moment of extreme adorableness to even register on my meters nowadays, haha. I think it's almost ruined me for life, too. Any job I take after this will be devoid of sugary sweetness and it will just put me in a downward spiral of a funk. Damn you, Goddess of Moe!!!! Why have you forsaken me!?!?!?
Let's analyze our top players...
Karin-chan: she's moved into the top-spot for this semester... though mainly be default (I'll get to that in a minute). But where the others lose out, she certainly wins. Every moment we first come into contact now is begun with a flying hug. I almost expect it every time now... which is more of a survival necessity now, haha, as if it were to catch me off-guard, she would certainly knock me over. I know part of the reason she's so attached to me is because her dad lives in a different prefecture, so she misses having an adult male in her regular life. I wonder what will become of her next year when she graduates from the jidoukan program. I will probably still see her at the evening parents' volleyball practices, and she already told me that she wants to join the Unicycle Club since she knows I volunteer there a lot. All I know is we better make the best out of the next few weeks.
Mone-chan: she still adores me, which is great because she is such a sweet girl (and a bit of a klutz... she's always getting hurt somehow). Unfortunately, she doesn't come to the jidoukan much anymore. Maybe once a week, though there doesn't seem to be much regularlity to her schedule.
Magnet-chan: the other 1st-grade girl who is always attached to me (literally). She still doesn't talk, but whenever I'm around, she'll just come and pin herself to me. She's been sick a lot lately (it's cold and flu season, afterall), so I haven't seen much of her since Winter Vacation.
The 2nd-grade girls: I don't know why it's taken me this long to figure out, but Miyu-chan, Hinano-chan, and Nanoha-chan are all classic tsundere. They are so catty and mean to me, but they always have to have me around. I think they're just at that age where their emotions vary so greatly, easily tipped by the simplest things. Runa-chan and Aoi-chan are still my sweethearts. Mizuki-chan is still as silent as a mouse (though she fell in the mud the other day... didn't say a word about it... just stood there covered in muck as if nothing happened, haha). Sad news to report is that my two 1,000% identical twins, Yuuna and Wakana, moved back to Okayama this winter. How odd that their mother's hometown was right next to my first assignment city.
The troublemaker boys: I've been paying greater attention as of late and have identified the catalysts for trouble in each and every of my classes. For the most part, it's just 1 or 2 really hyper ADHD boys who just can't sit still or be quiet, but they all have redeeming qualities that make them impossible to stay mad at.
Ako-chan and Yura-chan: my two 1st-grade girls who always come to the jidoukan... and they are vicious to eachother when it comes to unicycle time. They are adorably sweet any other time of the day, but when it comes to who gets to hold my hand for balance, the gloves are off. If I can get them to calm down long enough, I am usually privy to the oddest of conversations... like the other day, they were talking about the breast sizes of the AKB48 girls. I... I... am so glad I can't speak Japanese.
Mako-chan: this girl from ES-2 3-1 is a newcomer to the Xeno Rangers Brigade. She absolutely loves English, apparently, though I had never been able to tell because she just kinda lingered in the background of her class. I only was able to single her out of the crowd after her cleaning group rotated into my area and she made it a point to talk to me as much as she could. Of course, but "talking to me" I mean pointing at random things around us and trying to tell me what they are called in English.
She's also the one who told me one day when I was pushing some of the younger kids on the swingset, "I... don't... like... Jeff's... swing... performance!!!" Got to be the funniest thing anyone has said to me here!!! :D
Kotose-san: Kotose is the best English-speaker in my roster this year. She's a member of ES-1, 6-nen 2-kumi. Our thing has become trying to sneak up on eachother... and I got her goooooood last week. She was the volunteer librarian during the recesstime on Wednesday, and with the back wall of the library room open to the multipurpose room, I was able to just walk up behind her as she and a group of classmates were looking over a book. I was standing with my head over her shoulder looking down at the book for probably a solid 10 seconds before the teacher holding the book looked up to me and asked me my thoughts on it. I just casually and sharply said it was pretty, though it was moreso as a way to just suddenly annouce "gotcha!!!!!!", which of course scared the poor girl so much that she screamed and fell to the floor. Heh heh heh, I win!!
Be Gone, You Devil!!!!February 3rd is the day of Setsubun in Japan. It's like a spiritual Spring cleaning, if you will. Children and homeowners must throw beans in their homes and workplaces to ward off any demons that are carrying bad luck with them. This also includes the classrooms. So this past Friday, the students of my schools all used their morning recess to cleanse their rooms (haha, they even opened the windows so the spirits could leave freely). I tried to watch the ceremony with the 1st-graders, but I walked in just as they were finishing. But not to worry, as this was the perfect opportunity for me anyway. The 5-2 students were heading the ceremony there, and their teacher seems to understand how popular I am with this group, so she invited me to go with her upstairs to be the official bean-thrower to her class.
awwwwww, what an honor! haha, she told me what to say in Japanese, but I instantly forgot it, so I replaced it with a half-half "onii out!!!!"... all the while throwing, in this case, handfuls of peanuts at a group of 11 year-olds, haha.
Later in the afternoon, the jidoukan was also doing something to mark the occassion. All the teachers had demon masks on as they distributed peanuts to each snack-table group. They asked me to take photos, so I assumed that they were gearing up for a peanut-chucking throw-down, but nothing of the sort occurred. Ah well, might as well xeno this place up. While the kids were eating their snacks, I put on the onii mask and went around the room doing what I do best: taunting weaker humans and annoying them as much as I could. Lots of cool "can't touch this!!" poses and butt waving to angry up the anti-demon blood.
The capstone in the performance was trying to steal their food and shove it into my demon mouth... except, the mouth on these masks was drawn on. The only openings I had were for the eyes... so.... hey, demonds are scary as f*ck right? They have to do crazy and wild things, so it's only fitting that I stuck the stolen potato sticks I had through my eyes, right? heh heh heh heh heh. I wonder what kind of nightmares the children of my village had that night. I'm sure they were incessant on making their parents go out and buy extra peanuts, just in case.
Super Brady's Super BowlI can't do a blog entry this weekend and not make mention of fact that THE NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS ARE IN IT AGAIN!!!!!!!! awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww yeaaaaaahhh!!!! We can finally get our revenge on the New York Giants for that loss in 2007 (which ruined our perfectly perfect season). And best of all, we're going to be doing it in Indianapolis, which is not only an AFC stadium, but it's also the homefield of the Colts, our archrivals!! How wonderful will it be to crush little Eli while Big Brother Peyton watches it happen right in his own house!!!!!
Of course, being in Japan, I have a little bit of a problem when it comes to the game. Since it's on Sunday in the early evening, for me, it will be Monday morning... classtime. I have devised a plan that I wish I had thought of, you know, at any point in the last 3 years!!!!!!!!!!!! But yeah, I'm gonna have my mom DVR the game, then set up her laptop to point at the screen so I can watch it via webcam. It will be broadcast in Japan on Tuesday night, but by then, the results will already be all over the internet, so what would be the point? Plus, the commentary will be in Japanese.
hey, NFL... I would gladly pay for an internet subscription service... if you'd just let me buy one particular team for a reasonable price instead of forcing me to buy EVERY game for $50. No thanks.
Remembering NiigataI got a little blast from the past yesterday when one of my co-teachers from one of the high schools I worked at during the 1st semester emailed me. He wanted to know if I still wanted a graduation album. Hells yeah I do!!!!! I'm hoping the other schools contact me soon about their albums, too... although, Japanese yearbooks are insanely expensive, typically costing about $200 a pop. I guess it's because all the work is done by the companies, as opposed to being done by the students themselves. Lamezors.
New Sheriff in TownStarting after the 2012 new year holidays, my village's Board of Education hired a new Director. I met her when I returned to work halfway through the month. She's a sweet woman... who can speak English!!!!!!
oh happy day!!!! Finally, a direct-line to the very top of this crazy world of English education!!! And since I work at the BOE office every Wednesday morning (before my kindergarten classes begin), I can make a little bit of chit-chat with her so she can get to know and understand me a lot better. No longer will I just be a nonsensical name written on a piece of paper. But with her arriving so close to my new contract signing time, I hope she will have a good enough sense of the kind of person I am and be able to approve me for another year.
I mean, yeah, ideally we would rely on the opinions of the principals and vice principals, which would work awesomely as far as ES-2 is concerned since I have lunch with the two school admins twice a week, but with ES-1, I am so busy all the time that I have no time at all to speak much with those who hold my fate in their hands.
I made a date with the BOE Director to sit with her during lunch next week so she can ask me anything she wants to know about me. Gotta take advantage of these opportunities, and all.
THE BIGGEST NEWS I CANNOT SHAREAnd just when you think having a one-on-one sit-down with the head of the village school department, an even bigger opportunity lays itself before me!!!! I don't want to say what it is just yet, but it will be happening soon, so just be patient and stay tuned!!!! Put it this way... it requires a suit and tie and my bestest best behavior, haha.
Say What?I recently discoved that my new cellphone comes with a Japanese-English dictionary feature. Using it at work yields some very amusing moments for me. According to my phone, during our game of dodgeball, Karin-chan either "inflicted a penalty" or "burst into flames." O___O;;
Odds & Ends (courtesy my Facebook status updates)Jan 17th: "New York Likes You As A Friend" - random English phrase on one of my 1st-grader's sweatshirts. I laugh inside everytime she wears it.
Jan 15th: One of my 6th-grade boys apparently loves soccer so much, that even with an injured leg and a pair of crutches, he still runs around the soccer field during recess. He gets an unfair advantage with those crutches obviously. I call him the "soccer robot."
(yes, I understand "soccer cyborg" is a lot more appropriate, but they are 12 year-old Japanese kids... they wouldn't understand, haha)
Jan 13th: Because my Friday schedule requires me to teach 6 classes in just 5 periods, we are forced to combine either the two 1st-grade 2nd-grade or 3rd-grade classes each week. The administrators assume that since they are the oldest and thus supposedly more mature, usually I have to teach both 3-1 and 3-2 together. However, these are my two biggest classes and each has a couple, let's say, rambunctous students. I noticed today that when the classes are separated, the chaos is much more minimalized.
So, not wanting to go through another semester of headaches, I went out on a limb and proposed to everyone that we avoid combining the 3rd-grade classes. I was half expecting to hear, "pfft, who does this guy think he is? He's not Japanese. He's not a real teacher. He's got a lot of nerve." Suffice to say, I was pleasantly surprised when all the teachers were like "Thank god someone finally had the guts to bring this problem up!!!!"
Guess it pays to be an American in Japan. Victory!
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Okay, I think I've covered all the major happenings of the last few weeks. Forgive the odd gaps in checking in, but hey, gotta live the life in order for me to report back on it, right?
Until next time... see you!!!
P.S. another observation about the US after my long absense: there are a lot more blondes in the world than I remember :D
P.P.S. because I like keeping random charts and graphs and whatnot, my total number of classes taught in the 2nd-semester was 255. ES-2 6th-graders had the most with 17 lessons.
P.P.P.S. does anyone have just like a whole box of old Pokemon cards? My plan was to give them out as the prizes for finishing the sticker papers, but when I went back to Boston to find my box of repeat cards, it was nowhere to be found. I'll gladly pay for the cards and shipping... or send something from here by request as an equal exchange.