Monday, September 29, 2008

Been a long time...

That`s right, dear reader(s?), it has been a long time. But I come bearing gifts. Gifts in the form of good news...for myself. Okay, not proper gifts, where they benefit you, but rather the gift of good news, and not like, Jehovah`s Witness Good News; actual good news.
That`s right. After finagling, panicking, and having a gaijin freak-out or two, the internet will be installed in my apartment soon. Please, hold your applause until the end of the blog. I am handing most of the credit to every ALT`s friend, one Mr. Jimmie Jenkins at YahooBB, the resident english speaker. He told me how unlikely it was that I`d ever get internet with YahooBB, but then filled out and submitted an application for their rival in the area. Above and beyond, Jimmie. Somebody buy that man a beer.
On another note, today I had to go to the Board of Education to sort out some paperwork. I couldn`t exactly understand, because there wasn`t anything resembling a translator yet, and my japanese vocabulary does not cover "insurance plan" and "beneficiary in case of death or incapacitation". Anyway, we muddled through it, I signed a few forms, designated a beneficiary (my mother, of course!), etc. Then I received the form dreaded by most ALTs; the statement of intent for the 2009-2010 year. Of course, I am now only planning on staying one year; Japan is pretty awesome, but I think I wanted to visit, pay some bills, learn a bit of a new language and have an adventure before I came home - I didn`t want to move here full-time.
So, of course I indicated that I only wanted to remain through the end of this which my boss typed into his electronic dictionary a word that translates as "horrifying, regrettable, unfortunate". When I told Nigel about my encounter, he told me that opting to stay only one year reflects extremely poorly on me, in the mind of the Japanese worker. It shows that I hate my job, don`t like my co-workers, etc. or something. But, it`s not just that. Nigel and I will both be leaving at the end of this year, I out of choice and Nigel out of necessity, as he has served a full-term with the JET program (five year max). The BOE does not have enough liquid cash for ALTs to buy two plane tickets home the same summer (so Nigel tells me), which is strike one. Also, they have been relying on old JETs to be the translators for the new JETs every year, because the level of English is so low at the Board of Education, so when the two fresh-faced ALTs get off the plane, they won`t have anyone to help them through the transition. I do feel bad about that, though I am determined to send them pages of email detailing my experience here, send them my blog addy, etc. If you`re reading this boys or girls, I`m sorry if my departure casts a horrible shadow on your experience; you shouldn`t let it. At least you two can laugh it off together. And, hell, you can always email me.
I think maybe two months ago, this would be the type of thing that would upset me and make me nervous, and question my decision in an attempt to cater to the needs of my employer, or successor. Now, more sure of myself, more intent on doing what I want and getting what I want, a gaijin just has to shrug his shoulders and think to himself "Geez, if these people wanted me for two years, they should`va had me sign a two-year contract."

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The L-San...

Okay! It`s not so bad as you might think. I haven`t heard from L-San in a very long time, and I have no reason to expect that she`ll contact me.
This is just a post in response to the oft-asked "can we get some L-San stories?" question. I feel bad slandering this woman to all you fine readers of the English language back home without offering proof. The following story DID NOT occur to me. Rather, I had heard about it from both Nigel and the ALT that preceeded me at my position here.

My predecessor`s first week in town, L-San asked him and Nigel to go out to dinner with her family. Nice enough gesture, right? Well, L-San, as previously mentioned, enjoys alcohol, but has a hard time maintaining her composure while drunk. Regardless, it perhaps a reason to celebrate, and celebrate she did. She had a few drinks through dinner and became very drunk. So far so good, being drunk isn`t a crime. But, then her family just...leaves the restaurant. They drove Nigel and the new ALT as well as L-San, but they just leave them in a city about 45 minutes from my town, with no explanation or anything. So the two ALTs are stuck with a drunk japanese woman who is becoming increasingly incoherent, shouting in broken English in a resaurant, drawing embarassing glances from all nearby tables.
Nigel has no idea how to get home, and his japanese skills were not as advanced as they are now. Regardless, he knows they have to start heading home, or L-San will pass out in the restaurant, and they`ll be forced to spend the night in town. Then, L-San starts trying to hold their hands, and is clinging all over them while Nigel tries to call a cab.
Eventually the cab comes, and L-San takes the front seat, near the driver. Then, to everyone`s horror, she tries to grab at the wheel, and starts to touch the driver on his legs and stuff, and make like, weird verbal passes at him. When she grabs the wheel, Nigel tried to pull her off of the wheel, and she BITES HIS HAND, and begins to call him all kinds of English curse words, and a choice couple of japanese insults (they don`t really have curse-words as such). The rest of the drive is spent with her moping and verbally berating everyone in the car, including the poor driver.
And all this was the first time that she and the new ALT had even met.
So, anyway, it sounds horrible because it would be horrible, and I had to be a bit of an asshole to avoid these types of situations myself. Lord knows the last thing I need is some 60 year old woman hanging on me, forcing me to take care of her because she`s too drunk.
That`s one.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Sports and holidays

September is apparently the month for holidays and special events of all kinds. All last week, the junior high school I work at readied itself for the annual school sports day. It seemed a little strange to me, because we don`t have anything close to equivalent to sports day in the United States. Students are seperated into colored teams by their homeroom classes, and those colors compete in some pretty strange events over a ten-hour span on a weekend day.
Last Saturday, I put on my only orange shirt and rooted for my team through such events as the 5 legged hundred meter race, some kind of elevated cornhole-type game, 20 person jumprope, etc. I can`t remember what the strangest was called, but it struck me as very odd and very dangerous - kids line up four wide and ten lines deep, forty or so in all, and the four kids in front carry a long bamboo pole as they run around two traffic cones, and as they return to the other kids in formation, they lower the pole as they run and have the other kids in line jump over it. It almost always smacks against the poor kids` legs on the way back. But, even worse perhaps, when they reach the end of the line, they lift the pole up, and run back to the front of the kids, the pole just inches from the back of everyone`s head.
In any case, I came in early on a Saturday morning, and I stayed late, but through it all I was giving high-fives, getting hugs and really interacting with the students here. It was a really fun day in retrospect, even though I was worried about potential kancho, etc. during the day`s activities. I really wish that I hadn`t lost my camera`s battery charger, because I lost some really great photos Saturday. When the kids were all seperated by color, standing across a field under their team`s banner, with colored bandanas tied around their head, it had the feel and spacing of a Kurosawa movie, though much less epic in scope.

And as far as holidays go, they`re happening constantly. Yesterday was "Old People Day" in Japan. I celebrated by meeting my friend Jade in Tokyo, and walking around Shibuya, Harajuku and Yoyogi station. It was a really great day, full of conveyor-belt sushi, a couple of strange japanese pop t-shirts (I bought two; they are yellow and purple, both extremely strange colors for me to wear, far out of my color repertoire). Yoyogi park is beautiful - it`s like a really clean, friendly Central Park. Because space is at a premium, a lot of bands and dance troupes and anything else you can name are all practicing everywhere, giving it a really cool feel.
Then, I get Thursday off work, because I came in all day Saturday. No plans yet. I may just relax and read a book, maybe get dinner in a nearby city.
And then Saturday, I`m headed back to Kansai to stay with Josh and Shannon. I`m really excited because I had such an amazing time last time. They`ve just made reservation for Hiroshima, and it will hopefully be a very cool visit there. I`ve always wanted to go; I`ve felt that it was one of the necessary American prilgrimages to make. As an American, I`ve certainly got a lot to atone for, or at the very least, a lot of horrible truths to face.
I`m taking next Monday off, to extend my trip, but I get Tuesday off as a holiday, anyway. That said, this week and next week will be short and sweet. And frankly, I wouldn`t want it any other way.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Six weeks now...

That`s right. It has officially been six weeks now since I applied to YahooBB for internet. The long end of their estimate has come, and there will be a reckoning! ...Or, more likely, they`ll tell me they are sold out of internet (WHAT?) and that I need to seek another provider and wait another six weeks, or something equally dumbtarded. Man, I really can`t believe how backwards things like this can be sometimes. Perhaps it is shortsightedly American of my to talk poorly about a system that I have not yet come to understand, but, seriously people, six weeks? For nothing? Man, no wonder you guys lost the war...
Okay, maybe that was a bit harsh. Definitely harsh. But, please understand where I`m coming from: specifically America. It`s hard to try to stay in touch with everyone back home. I`m not even indoctrinated by American media anymore!
On an equally frustrating level, yesterday I answered my door. Perhaps in any other country, this would not be a problem (save for the occassional Mormon or Jehovah`s witness), but in Japan I realized that this should`ve been on my list of things never to do. In Japan, simply owning a TV means that you have to pay the cable company for its services, regardless of whether or not you receive them. ...Think about how ridiculous that is. There is no free TV channels, and the fact that I moved into a house that already had a TV in it means that I complicitly agree to pay the associated fees. Well, I can see how that could make sense if everyone had to pay them, and the money went towards public broadcasting or some such thing. ...But everyone doesn`t have to pay them! And they don`t go to public broadcasting programs, they go to NHK, a private stallite provider!
Instead, only the idiots who answer their doors to the NHK people (for that`s what they are called) have to pay. Once you answer the door, you`re in the system and they just send bills to your house for your TV usage (I hardly even watch the damn thing, because I can`t understand it). But, if like the other ALT in town, Nigel, you refuse to ever open your door to these people, you never get in the system, they stop bothering you, and no harm no foul. Well, don`t I feel like a right ass?
Basically, my plan is this: I`m going to call next month and tell them that rather than pay their stupid fees for television programming that I can`t watch, I threw my TV away, and now I`m inelligible for the fee. I`ll never open my door for them to verify that my TV is gone, but neither will I pay the bills.
It`s hard, because in America I would know my rights forwards and backwards. I would say "You, sir, are a blackguard. I am not paying you money simply because I own a TV that I don`t watch. Now, get off my property before I let my dogs take a good, long look at you, sir." But, here, there`s little I can do. Sho ga nai, yet again...

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Sho ga nai.

I feel as if my posts are being extremely restricted lately. School is in full swing, and with teachers always in the staffroom, and with no internet at home, it`s hard to find the time to put anything meaningful on here.
I was talking with my girlfriend back home the other day, and I realized that I am just switching back and forth between extremes all the time. This makes for the "up in the air" feeling that I seem to be constantly dealing with. One moment I just can`t fathom how I`ll survive a year alone here (the internet will undoubtedly help...probably, will fix the problem I`m discussing). Twenty minutes later, I`m all smiles and I`m enjoying the Japanese experience. Either class is fun and encouraging, or it`s boring and disheartening and hard.
Also, I am a little bit worried that I might some kind of health issues, possibly related to the stress of moving here, and introducing myself 300 times, and all the social anxieties that are amplified by not understanding anyone. In any case, today I felt horrible after waking up. I usually do. I almost always feel nauseous and tired - I have for about as long as I can remember. Anyway, today it was so bad, and I could hardly eat the half a bowl of cereal I had poured for myself.
Once my days starts, however, it usually subsides. Today, my stomach still feels no good, and I still feel very tired, but I`m a million times better than this morning. I really hope that I`m not giving myself an ulcer, or something. That would be, most likely, a bad thing.

Anyway, teaching has been fine so far; if anything, I am really worried about being bored out of my mind or unhappy every day, but having to smile and be enthusiastic about teaching simple material. Especially when I will teach the same lessons several times a day, every day for the year. (Then again, maybe elementary school is worse in this way from Junior high. I have more classes, they`re simpler, and they`re certainly more repetitive).

I did the math. With all the different schools I will visit in the coming semester, I will have to introduce myself between 200 and 250 times. Talk about boring.
My introduction is mostly falsified anyway. ...Perhaps more on that later.

Oh! And today was my first weiner-touching incident. I hate little japanese boys. Apparently, it`s totally okay here to touch another man`s weiner while you are shaking hands. They quit once I pulled their hands away, and they realized I was scowling.