Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Wednesday Free Time

Wednesday afternoons are nice. I like that I have a half day built into my schedule. My supervisor would tell me that Wednesday afternoon was "free time" for me, in Japanese of course. フリータイム(furi- taimu).

It was beautiful when I left for school in the morning but it cloudy by afternoon which was a bit disappointing. When I got home I continued my research into local mountains and hiking trails. I figured I might go climb a mountain if I convinced myself enough. I actually loathe hiking in cloudy weather. It almost negates the experience because of the drab overtones in the sky. Everything lacks that crisp color. About 2pm I finally made it out of the house and set my sights on a mountain that is relatively close. Close is highly figurative because the roads to get to many of these places are narrow one lane turning fests. You can really get up past 30km an hour without having to slow down for a blind curve. The only savior is the countless mirrors that give you a bit more grace. Sometimes you meet other cars by chance. Today I only had to negotiate the road with about 2 cars and a bus which is pretty good.

I actually didn't really know specifically how to get to the mountain because the information I found was vague. Another problem when I was searching initially was that the mountain shared a name with another in the area. 国見山 is some generic name given to some mountains and what was on google maps. I found after some searching around for several days that it actually has an entirely different name known locally. せっこうざん (sekkozan) is the correct name but you can't even type this word in and get the right kanji for the name. Mountain names in Japanese are confusing and unless you get the correct pronunciation from somewhere you might be reading it wrong. But that is the same problem for many Japanese names written in kanji. To make things more interesting google maps doesn't show many of the small side roads that go to random Japanese places. So I just had to hope I would see signs and get to the right place.

I can't believe some of the places Japanese people live. The road to get to the mountain goes through nowhere land. I wonder how long the few little communities have been living up in the hills. Part of me wishes I knew the people and could go in their houses. The other half just wants to leave it all a mystery so I can imagine. After about an hour of driving I made it exactly to where I wanted to go. I didn't have to turn around or back track either. There isn't a parking lot so you have to park in someones driveway. It is a mountain house so people probably only use it on weekends or holidays. I bet some old people used to live there but they kicked the bucket and now the kids just occasionally use it. I met some Japanese ladies on the drive up and asked them if I was going the right way. They asked if I was going to climb the mountain and I was like "It's going to get really dark soon, of course not! I just want to see where the trail starts." That was a lie because I didn't want to be lectured about how I shouldn't go up the mountain. In reality I didn't intend to go up the mountain but after driving all the way there I figured I had committed. My soul wanted to make Travis proud and so I set off just to scout the beginning of the trail and then I thought maybe I would turn back.


Well I hiked about 500 meters and was breathing heavily already. I decided to carry on. I also made myself go pretty fast because I didn't want to have to drive back in the dark. Plus, it looked like it might rain so I had to make good use of time. The information I read said it was about a 1 hour and 50 minute hike up. It starts to get dark around 5:30 or so up in the hills. But I didn't think it would take that long to hike up. I hoped I was right.


These trail maps are great. I love the drawing for the summit and the guy. The stars make it feel magical. If you look at the middle there is a person who looks like they are dead. They call this part of the trail the しんどい坂 (Shindoi Saka). It means exhaustion slope. They really weren't kidding with the name. It was pretty grueling to go up. I liked the name they gave it though.

About an hour elapsed until I reached the top.


926 meters is 3,038 feet. I probably ascended at least 2,000 feet or more. It felt really great at the top. My glasses were fogging up along the way up because of the heat coming off my face and head. It was good to get some nice breeze. The only disappointing part of the hike was the weather.


It was cloudy and the visibility was low. On a clear day you could see the ocean and Kochi city from this summit toward this direction.

I didn't stay long because it started sprinkling. However, it didn't rain which I was thankful for. I made it back to the car about 4pm and set out back home through the curving roads. Took a shorter time to get back because I knew the road better this time. In all I'm glad to have made it out and done some exploring. I don't know if I'll be back to this mountain soon unless its really nice weather. It was good for a quick afternoon hike and is one of many to hike. Finally, a complimentary picture of myself. So flattering...

Soaked in Sweat

Sunday, September 26, 2010

What Do You Need More?

I finally bought a car this past week. I guess I should same something about it being the first car I ever bought but I'm definitely past buying a car now. I waited so long because I just didn't want to drop the money on the three cars I saw. They either didn't have a back seat, were too old, or too expensive. Some a combination of both. The best price was about 1,200 dollars for a very small 4 door car with over 150,000km driven on it. This included about 1 1/2 years until the next inspection which is necessary every two years to drive. It was a decent car but it should have only been worth the remaining inspection so I didn't buy it. The lightweight kei cars in Japan are generally more expensive because more people want them. They have lower taxes and costs as well.

On the other hand if you want to pay a lower price up front but eat some higher costs later you can get a regular car which is basically the kind of car you drive in America. The vice principal contacted his friend over in another town to see if anything was available. He had two possible options. The following is what I decided to get.


It is a 2003 Honda Fit with about 107,000km on it. This thing is pretty nice. Total it cost me about 1,100 dollars with new tires included in that. Compared to the small kei cars I looked at the price was better up front and I got something that is newer and nicer. I probably could have bought an older regular car for a cheaper price but I didn't want to wait any longer. I think the price was fairly low because if it wasn't sold, it would be sent to the scrapyard for a few hundred bucks. So the people on the other end make a bit of money and I get a pretty good value car. I will have to pay for a new inspection come February and probably a vehicle tax sometime next year so my cost might be more around 2,500 dollars.

Yet, the plus side to paying more is that I have a 1300cc engine compared to the 660cc ones the small cars have. My Honda Fit can devour mountain roads and hills with ease. There is no doubt you CAN take a kei car up a mountain but you can only hope the engine doesn't melt or cut out on you. Even with a bigger engine I still get about 15km a liter which works out to about something like 30 miles a gallon. The steering is pretty tight and the brakes are some of the most sensitive I have ever experienced. It will take some getting used to. The space in the back of my Fit is awesome. I can lay the back seats down and make the entire back space flat. I could probably sleep back there. I will definitely be trying that because I intend to hike to some mountain peaks in the early morning hours to catch some sunrises. I can also fold the back seats up and make more room behind the front seats. It is quite convenient.

The only slight complaint I have about the car is that the inside can be a tad noisy when driving at higher speeds. I think it's a combination of the road surfacing and the car design. I don't think it makes or breaks the purchase. The condition of the car all around and the abundant space make up for any little quirks. I just hope no mechanical problems pop during my ownership. The worst I ever had with the Camry was a dead battery and replacing the tires.

My life has almost stabilized.

At orientation back in August all the other JETs had bought cell phones already. I thought I would get one sooner but as time moves forward I feel less inclined to actually buy one. I haven't met many people I would contact regularly enough for it to be worthwhile. I suppose it might be good for if I get stranded somewhere but what did people do 15 years ago? They figured it out. I have to keep up my mysteriousness somehow and a cellphone doesn't help that cause.

I'm happy though. My Fit and I are ready to conquer some mountains.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Check Your Time Because You Are Going To Lose It

For the past week I wasn't anywhere near the internet so I apologize for being so disconnected. What follows is almost an entire summary of the last month. It is long. I won't try to convince you to read it but peruse it as you wish. Some will survive it and others won't. I'll be back soon with internet. I should get my modem today. I'll also respond to any emails or messages as soon as possible. Good luck.

Early September

The first couple days of school didn’t have much going on. Aside from the second semester opening ceremony, where I was introduced formally, classes were in review modes for a few days. The kids came to school all summer but they don’t necessarily study specific subjects. At least I don’t think. The teachers were supposed to have a welcome party/beginning of the new semester party the weekend before school started but it was cancelled and moved to the following week. Not all the teachers came to the party which was at a restaurant in Kochi city. Such parties are a bit expensive in my mind. If you want to drink a lot they are good I suppose but for what you pay I could be just as satisfied for a fraction of the cost. I could get two huge bowls of pork ramen for 1/5 of the price probably. Aside from the cost the food was pretty decent in most respects. It was an assortment of sushi and other random foods. Everyone who came thoroughly enjoyed themselves and I had some interesting conversations with the teachers. I busted out some Tosaben (the local dialect) and everyone was so amazed. It might have been the alcohol they were consuming that blurred their amazement. The strangest part of the night was probably staying with the principal from the main middle school. None of the teachers that came actually live around it so I had to stay in the city. The principal has a pretty spacious apartment type house and next door has a three story guest house. He called it the Oguri Hotel. When the principal and I arrived we talked with his wife for quite some in the living room. They showed me to the guest house a half hour later and we said good night. At this point my head felt a bit heavy. The biggest mistake of the night was probably drinking the shochu (Japanese whiskey) that the principal gave me at the restaurant. I think he gave me two of those mixed with water and I was just being polite to drink them. As I sat there watching t.v. my body went limp with regret as I pondered what would happen next as I lied down to sleep.

Sure enough when my eyes came to a few hours later I felt pretty awful. In the morning it was kind of awkward to feel sick with the principal and his wife. The principal gave me some little drink in a bottle that tasted like medicine. He told me it would make me better but I think it made things worse. I stomached some toast and bitter coffee with a hidden grimace every bite. I think that coffee was a throw up activator because a few minutes later everything came back up. I just wanted to be back home. Yet, I would have to survive a 30-45 minute car ride with a churning stomach and head. Before we left he snapped a picture of me outside his house. He lives right next to the major river that flows through Kochi City so it is a nice view. I really wasn’t in the mood for pictures though. On the way back I had them stop once so I could use the bathroom. Talk about embarrassing. My conclusion from later that day was that it wasn’t only the alcohol that made me feel sick. I think I ate some food that didn’t sit so well the previous night and it exacerbated my situation. Yoko, I might pass on the shochu next time.

The Middle Schools

Japanese schools are interesting places. Don’t expect much space from one teacher to the next. We all share the same office and each of us has a desk. But this environment is nice in ways because the teachers communicate a lot more between one another. There are three main classrooms at the middle school. One for each grade level and then there are several classrooms for science, art, and other subjects. Generally speaking the math, English, and Japanese teachers rotate through the different classes. Sometimes the teachers don’t teach every grade level one day. The daily schedule usually changes from one day to the next. I think there is a regular pattern each week but I haven’t really figured it out. It seems overly complicated to me but it might be my imagination from not paying attention.

Dress code for the teachers is pretty much non-existent or nobody cares. In bigger city schools the teachers might dress more professional but I had no idea. The science teacher always wears a tie as well as the principal. The other teachers are completely random. Sometimes my teacher wears athletic pants and a t-shirt. The math teacher and vice principal are always wearing some type of athletic apparel because they coach some sports. I think that some of my clothes are a little too dressy so I try to dress down a bit to fit in with the teachers. I don’t want to stand out too much. Then again I’m not going super casual either. I think the teachers give you more respect if you look nice consistently. I asked what I should wear for sports day and they said anything was fine. The music teacher said I look nice every day so it wouldn’t matter. Not sure what that means.

I only do three classes maximum at the middle school per day. Sometimes it is only one, sometimes it is two. This depends on whether I have an elementary school visit in the morning which in that case I sometimes miss most or all the English classes on a given day. This leads to a rather easy schedule for me. It is almost a guilty feeling but I don’t make my schedules so oh well. I show up at the middle school and get a briefing on the plan for the different classes and then help out as directed. I don’t have to do any planning which is easy as well. I would like to plan some activities because I think the students want to jump out the window half the time and run away to the mountains when they have to do worksheets and repeat what I read. My teacher wants to drill grammar for awhile to help students prepare for high school entrance exams so after that she wants me to plan more for classes. I feel kind of bad for the students because class is kind of boring. I try to make it as interesting as possible even if I’m just reading vocabulary. If I want to talk about something related or unrelated my teacher doesn’t really mind. I think it is just the Japanese style of teaching though. What these kids need is something interesting to do in class other than reading out of the book and filling in worksheets. Hopefully we can add that into the lessons in the following months. It would be a shame to waste such an opportunity to try things and learn as a teacher.

With that being said the students are generally pretty nice as you can expect middle school students to be. The third year students (9th graders) are shell shocked from a war they fought with the 5th graders when they were 6th graders. Apparently it had something to do with rotten fish and fermented soy bean paste. They don’t talk much and seem disconnected from reality. Hopefully you understand that “the war” is just my grand imagination at work. Maybe after they go to high school they will have forgotten such traumatic events and can learn to talk some more. The third year students are just quiet and have always been that way since coming to middle school. All the teachers report the same thing. I think if any class needs some life breathed into it with a large billow, it is them. It will be tricky to get them to do an activity so it will require careful planning.

I knew that Japanese girls don’t prefer to have hair on their arms and usually shave it but I have come across a related phenomenon. In the third year class there are two girls who sit in the front next to each other. They like to stare at their forearms quite a bit. Well as you might guess they scan over their arms like a battlefield mine detector looking for hair to pluck out. They could really care less what is going on in class or who is watching and intently focus down on their arms with the utmost concentration, precisely pulling unwanted hair from their slender arms. The pain we suffer for such vanity. Is it beauty or an atrocity to undertake such measures? My teacher told me that other girls do the same thing but I haven’t noticed others yet. I find it funny that I can stand right in front of them and watch them do it, yet they don’t seem to mind nor do they hide the fact. If girls have plenty of time to pluck their arms in class then things might be a bit boring for them.

The second year students are pretty lively and interesting. I like their class because they usually talk and participate. Some of the students try to mess with me a bit but that is fine. They sometimes notice things about me and then tell the teacher. I hear the word 失礼(shitsu rei) from some students shortly after which means rude. I can only wonder what they said to my teacher. Is snot hanging out of my nose, did I miss a button on my shirt? Well the other day it was merely that I had some scruff on my face and they were surprised despite the fact Lachlan had a beard when he was teaching. The second year students are generally fun to be with. The first year students are very similar in that respect. Their command of English is pretty poor but they usually try regardless. They like to ask me questions about different things which I love to answer. They asked the other day if I was rich which led into a discussion about how many floors are in my American home. That is difficult to answer if you can picture our (old) home because it has several different levels. I drew them some floor layouts and they were amazed at how big it was. The first year students usually find most things interesting so it is easy to get off track with them to talk about English things.

I never ate school lunch in America. I would usually get milk though. For awhile during elementary school I stopped getting milk at school and brought my own from home. They had switched to milk in a bag. As you all know, milk from a bag is highly suspicious. I thought it had a strange taste and wouldn’t stand for such a dairy derelict. To drink the milk you had to stab the bag with a straw. I’m sure this caused many a mess. Looking back it was a good way to save money for the milk company by reducing the weight of the packaging. Those plastic bags are now sleeping peacefully in a mound of refuse and slowly seeping methane. Japanese lunch is pretty good. The foods have been different every day so far and are tasty. All the teachers and students eat the lunch provided by the 給食センター (kyushoku sentaa) or the school lunch center. They crank out meals for students in the surrounding elementary schools as well. The nutritionist who oversees the menu is pretty funny and nice. She told me to knock on her window whenever I am around at Kogawa elementary school (the school lunch center is next door). I would like to scare her eventually so I will plan for that. The school lunch is shipped in a large metal container with shelves. It is divided further into other metal pails and containers. The students then have the responsibility to assemble the food. Sometimes this only requires them putting rice in bowls or a salad on a plate. Other times they have to dump out some noodles and then put a soup over the top. They put on little hats and uniforms to serve up the lunch which seems completely unnecessary but I like it. I ask them if they like wearing the clothes and I can literally see sweat drip from their brow in exasperation. It always seems like everyone is in a hurry to finish their lunch and they don’t talk very much. This is good because I kind of don’t want to talk when I’m eating anyway.

After lunch time and the lunch break there is cleaning time. Lunch break is like a recess for the students for a half hour. Cleaning time is an interesting component of the day. Instead of having a dedicated janitor the students clean the bathrooms, floors, and entry way. I help out in the entry area of the school and push the broom around. The students follow up with wet rags on poles to collect remaining dust. The students know what to do without being told and they start cleaning. This is only about 10-15 minutes long and then the students head back to class. I wonder how this would go over if it was tried at an American school. It wouldn’t.

For the past month and in late summer the students have been preparing for their sports day (体育祭-Taiikusai、運動会-Undoukai). It is a big deal in Japan and I had heard bits and pieces about it before coming but it is pretty interesting. According to the school newsletter I read today, the first sports/athletic day in Japan was held in 1874. It has since then become a huge tradition for schools nation wide every fall. The students are divided into a red and white team but this distinction is mainly for competition purposes. It doesn’t seem that competitive and I don’ think the students care who wins. They have some processions, games, dances, and cheers. I will cover this more in depth after I attend the sports day on the 19th. Is this event just another conspicuous attempt to reinforce conformity? Who knows but it is fun nonetheless. I will be doing a relay with a teacher team.

I also visit another middle school once a week. It is about 34km south so it takes about a half hour to get there. I always enjoy the drive because I’ve been without a car for quite some time now. Konotani middle school is really small. There are 2 first year students, 5 second year students, and 8 third year students. Next year the middle school will be consolidated into the elementary school. I think they could do that with a lot of schools around here. There are some pretty random places people live in Japan. In America it’s the same way out in the country. I have no idea how some people ended up living in the places they do around here. Especially houses way up on a mountainside. Surely it wasn’t for ease of travel they picked to live there. So schools are built where people have congregated over the years but as time goes on, the students grow up, leave home, and then there aren’t anymore students to feed dying schools. Konotani is pretty cool because the students are really nice and treat me well. It is nice to have really small classes there. I have only done an intro lesson for two classes there because there was a school field trip one week and sports day practice the following week. I will have to plan more for Konotani but it’s only once week so it shouldn’t be too hard. The vice principal was involved with English classes long ago and speaks thick Janglish all the time to me. I’m not sure if he wants to practice or is doing it for the sake of me. “Uhhh gaikoku umm foreign countries uhh sangyou production ga warui uhh bery bado yen daga bad for uhh dore dollar.” Well it was something like that anyway. I’m not there enough to know the teachers that well. Some don’t really pay attention to me but teachers are usually busy so it’s understandable. Konotani is also fun because I get to eat with the students each time I go. I will rotate classes each week so I get to know all the students.

Konotani had sports day rehearsal on Thursday but their event isn’t until next week. I mostly watched and sat under a tent trying to stay cool. They had me do some of the events with the students. I like to be involved whenever possible so I’m happy to be included. One of the events was dragging elementary school students sitting on small tires down the athletic field area. It was more tiring than it looked. Konotani does their sports day with the elementary school nearby because the middle school is so small. It works out well because all the students work together. A staggering amount of prep and organization goes into these sports days and I am glad that I’m not really part of that aspect. I just show up, take pictures, and have fun. During lunch break I ate with the third year students who I have not really met yet. As I was getting ready to eat I turned my chop sticks upside down, the wrong way, and turned around to one of the students while I held my bowl of vegetables. I then said, “Am I supposed to use them like this???” He instantly jumped on the bait and was like no no no do it this way. By that time I was already shaking my head and saying the Japanese word for joke. He was a little annoyed the rest of the lunch period because I had played a good trick on him. He tried to do a couple of his own but they didn’t reach the mark. I thought about trying this joke at the teacher welcome party a few weeks ago but thought it might leave a sour atmosphere in the room so I relinquished. Lunch time soon ended which led into arm wrestling battles with the boys. Come on who do you really expect to win? I think beat everyone with both arms. The girls even wanted to wrestle so I gave them the privilege of teaming up in pairs. This made it impossible to win. The afternoon dragged on or shall I say melted into a sultry mess of misery. I was praying they would soon be done with activities. The bad part about being a part of the practice is that I will see and do the same things this coming weekend. Can I really look forward to it again?

Schooling Elementary Kids

Having elementary schools is good in a lot of ways because it breaks up the routine of the middle school activities. Plus, I can plan whatever I want but that means I’m much more responsible for lesson planning. The Japanese teachers just expect me to show up and teach something. They aren’t really that involved most of the time. I bet if I wanted to collaborate somehow they might be interested but I need to feel things out some more. I have visited all but one of the elementary schools once. The classes are pretty small at the elementary schools so they put classes together (except kindergarten). So 1/2, 3/4, and 5/6. Some classes when put together can get big, however. This is especially true of the first elementary school I visited.

Kogawa elementary is the biggest school and has the most students. Next year I think they are closing some elementary schools and consolidating. I may have already said this somewhere. I wasn’t so nervous to show up and teach at an elementary school for the first time. I planned out some introduction material to teach the students about myself and my life. I printed out pictures of myself, family, things I like do, etc. I brought some maps of America, Illinois, and Champaign. I also brought some screen printing pictures and a shirt I made. I knew it was probably more listening than the younger students would care to sit through but I went with it anyway. I started off with introducing myself and saying my name. I brought a fake microphone from the board of education and had students tell me their names in English (My name is….). My first class at Kogawa was the kindergarten which is in a separate building from the main school. Should I even call it a class? It was two students, a boy and a girl. I didn’t know it would only be two students. It is kind of hard to do an intro activity with this age because they get distracted and antsy so easily. Somehow I managed to keep them mildly entertained. I showed them my pictures and asked them some questions. For the younger kids the big map of Illinois I have with many pictures got their attention. With the two kindergarten kids we found animals and talked about what sounds they make in Japanese and English. There are some big differences in how animals sound in Japanese. The little boy by the end of the class period had lost interest completely and wanted to lie down. I applaud him for his effort to pay attention.

The rest of the classes were pretty good. The first and second graders were nice. The teacher supervising was friendly and involved which I appreciated a lot. The third and fourth graders are a little more bold and sneaky. The teacher supervising them gave me a bad feeling. She didn’t really smile and seemed like she was in a bad mood. It made the class atmosphere extremely awkward for me compared to the class before. The fifth and sixth grade class might be the biggest of all. There are about 14 students in there. The teacher supervising is really friendly and happy. He reminds me of a character from Ocarina of Time, haha. With all the classes I had everyone say their names. I then asked students if they knew how to write my name (obviously no one did). I wrote my name out on paper and cut it into separate letters which I then randomly placed on the board. Students had to guess the correct order of the letters. It was pretty difficult when it came to the vowels so most of the time I had them pick between two letters. I then asked if they knew what brain was in English and wrote it out on the board. I pointed to my head and emphasized it was the brain and then at myself to emphasize I’m Blaine. The students found this amusing and difficult because of the pronunciation. After this we started looking at pictures. I showed my family and went through everyone. I showed pictures of pizza, my unicycles, football, etc. I asked students what sports and foods they liked. The students really loved finding out that I like riding a unicycle. Most elementary students practice riding unicycles in the fall for their sports days so it hits home for them. This scored me a lot of credit with the kids. Towards the end I showed them a map of America and pointed out Michigan looking like a glove. I also taught them about the gnome (Minnesota, Iowa, etc.) that is formed by the states. They also liked this. I then showed the map of Illinois followed by Champaign. By this point the period was usually about finished so I would pack things up to move to the next class.

I repeated these activities at the three other elementary schools I visited this month. The only difference in other schools generally speaking is the size of classes. The second elementary school I went had a kindergarten with about 10 kids. This was challenging to do my lesson and keep them all interested. Several teachers were there so they helped to keep the kids involved as best as possible. After I ended the kids got up and ran all over the room yelling and screaming. One of the teachers said something about the elementary school doing practice that day which really confused me. It sounded like they weren’t having class so I said I didn’t know if I was supposed to go to the elementary school. It caused a bit of confusion for everyone but in the end it was a normal school day. The principal came into the entry way to greet me but she wasn’t that friendly. I think ALTs put the staff on edge because they are worried about communicating with someone who might not know any Japanese. So my first impression of her was one of disgust. The first and second graders become very excited when they found I like unicycles and asked me to come ride during recess time. Many other students were out in the school ground and they were all impressed. It wasn’t only the students but the teachers were watching me from the office as well. When recess ended the teachers were a bit shocked and laughed because I could ride a unicycle. This won me some instant favor with the students and teachers. In all my unicycle experiences in Japan thus far, this has been the case. The rest of classes went off without a hitch. The sixth grade teacher even showed me some local nature photographs and talked to me for awhile before I left.

Kami elementary is the third one I went to. It is right next to the middle school. The kindergarten has five students (1 boy, 4 girls). They are so cute. We had a good time together. Things went about the same as described aside from the unicycle riding part. The most interesting thing I can remember is that they interviewed me for the school newspaper when I was done teaching. One of the teachers prepared random questions for me to answer. The ordinary age and where you are from were asked in addition to favorite color, flower, actor, etc. I’m not sure if they are secretly planning the bachelor but they also asked if I had a girlfriend in the interview. I was like, “What?” and the teacher smiled and laughed. I can’t remember what her reason was or if she even had one. Remember when I talked about Japanese people telling me to find a girlfriend? I swear ladies have been watching too many romantic dramas and want to imagine the love life of the foreigner. Anyway it was a fun little interview. I should see how they write it up in the school newsletter.

Kiyomizu elementary is the fourth school I go to and it is the smallest. The kindergarten only has one boy. He is cute and a bit shy. He smiles a lot though. I tried to do my lesson as best as possible but I think the teacher was more interested in what I was doing. Scratch that, she was more interested than the kid. The principal also came over and was thoroughly interested in my lesson as well. He took some pictures and asked me some questions as I was going through the lesson. He is a really nice guy. He gives off a very warm harmonious feeling. After the class ended they took me outside with the little boy and we rode unicycles together for a few minutes. He is still trying to learn so can’t ride yet. The principal had to help him. I ended up being a little late to the next period but nobody cared. They had been watching me from the window. So after the first and second grade class I went back outside to ride unicycles with all the students. It was a great time. Yet again looks of awe descended upon me. I rode backwards for awhile and this really caused an uproar amongst everyone. I had students asking to be taught the ‘technique’. I wrote last week how riding a unicycle can make you famous. I was being kind of prideful about it but only in a joking sort of way. It serves as a great way to bridge a gap between the students. Here I am the foreigner pouring golden morsels of English into their heads so they can treasure and use them forever but do they really care? I don’t know but riding unicycles with the students puts me on level field with them in some respect. It’s something we can share together that doesn’t have anything to do with language. I love the feeling.

A lot has happened in the cracks and seams that I have either forgotten or do not want to take the time to cover because this is already so long. Congratulations if you made it this far and read everything. I have recalled to the best of my knowledge what school life has been like for the past month. Greater detail about life will follow once I can update regularly again. Stay tuned for sports day and the purchase of my car.

(Blaine takes a breath and slams his computer shut)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Two Weeks Have Elapsed

Excuse my absence for the past two weeks. I should have been writing entries and then updating them at school but I didn’t think it would take so long to get internet. As it stands I still have to wait one more week for internet at home. On September 24th I should receive my modem and will once again reconnect with the world around or after that time. I have come to accept my current situation, however, so internet isn’t the biggest necessity. It will be nice to have it once again so I can upload pictures and write blog updates in my spare time.

A lot has happened in the past two weeks so I will have to update everyone in one fell swoop. I will condense it into one entry starting from the longest ago to the most recent events.

There are some other good snippets of information you might want to know before I head off to resurrect my blog in the form of a massive two week delayed entry.

In the next week I will finally get my car. I say my car because right now I have a loaner car (代車 – daisha) from the mechanic I will get the actual car from. I’m not sure why they gave me this car to use in the mean time because it’s not like I had one before. Oh well, I am not complaining one bit about this situation as I have a little more freedom from now. It will be great when I finally have my own car. Once in my possession all the glorious details, or not, of my car shall come forth like a cornucopia bearing its produce in grand splendor.

Next week I have four days off because of two holidays and two days they give us for working this Saturday and Sunday. I hope to get out and see some new places as I should have my car around that time.

Lastly, do you want to know how to become a superstar amongst the Japanese elementary students? I think there is only one thing you need to do.

Ride a unicycle and instantly become the one of the coolest ALTs in history to grace the confines of the school yard.

Ride a unicycle backwards and you double your coolness factor.

The teachers just might love you for being such a favorite with the kids as well.

You win the hearts of the kids, teachers, and school.

You enjoy your fame.

They won’t forget your name.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Internet Siesta

I don't have internet at home right now because I finally had to give up the modem and service that the previous person had. I would have rather not had internet at the beginning than lose it now.

I believe I completed the application correctly today (Friday). Hopefully in a few days I will receive the modem and materials to connect it at my house.

So check back in a few days and things should be all good.

Rather, I hope things will be all good......