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Browsing Posts published in April, 2007

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About 10 hours from now, I’ll be finishing my last class of the day, and will be doing back flips out of work into GOLDEN WEEK!

4 more days until Golden Week

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…and I’m looking forward to it more and more every time I think about it. Not that I have any specific plans over break, but I’m just looking forward to having 9 days of complete and utter freedom. I haven’t had a vacation like this since winter break, about 4 months ago, so it will be a welcome period of relaxation. Work seemed to go by fairly quickly on Tuesday, since in every class I can ask the students what their plans are for Golden Week, and could also think to myself about how I will have a whole week to sleep in, hang out, explore Tokyo, play video games, and sleep some more.

In other news, my mama-chari bike arrived last Thursday morning and it has been a nice addition to my arsenal. On Sunday the weather was great so I biked and shopped for around 5 or 6 hours. There is a surprising amount of stuff in Ichihara. I found some rice fields, a 24-hour McDonalds, about 5 video game shops, and even saw some random clothing shop called “Stock Market” that had a cigar store Indian standing in front of the building. Very random.

After several weeks of weekend research, and a rampage of comparing cameras this past week, I decided on a new digital camera to buy. Since I’ve had my current one since Freshman year of college, and it’s 3.3 megapixels, kind of bulky, and the buttons are starting to lose responsiveness, I figured it was about time to upgrade. I decided on the Casio Zoom EXLIM EX-Z1050, a 10.1 megapixel compact behemoth that should last me quite a long time. Kakaku.com, a Japanese price comparison site, actually found some really good deals but I decided to pay a little more for the reliability and safety of Amazon.co.jp. In the end I didn’t have to pay that much more, and the thing should arrive here by the weekend. I also found a high-speed 1GB SD card for around 2000 yen (like $17USD). I do miss Ben’s Bargains, but I’ll have to start exploring more Japanese websites for cheap buys. The new camera will be just in time to take pictures of my lazy adventures during Golden Week.

I feel like there was more I wanted to write about, but I need to get some sleep now. Golden Week soon!!!

Waiting for Ma Wheels

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Had my kids class again today with the kid I mentioned last week (Pork Bowl). After he got a telling off by the Japanese staff before class started, and after I gave him the “oh hell no” attitude before class, he actually was fairly well behaved today. Thank goodness, because I think I would have had to kick him out of the window otherwise. If he can keep this up, my Wednesdays will be great.

Last weekend was awesome, primarily because I had absolutely nothing to do. After a month where I had every weekend booked with friends in town, party obligations, Sunday Opens at work, etc, it was great to have absolutely nothing to do. On Saturday I just went to Chiba to hang out, after the usual grueling Saturday shift. It didn’t help that I stayed up until around 3AM the night before downloading 90’s songs (long story), then was up for almost 40 minutes in the early morning in a duel with a killer mosquito that broke into my apartment… via an open window. Sunday I slept until the mid-afternoon and couldn’t have been more satisfied. I went to Makuhari in the afternoon and finally bought a bike from Carrefour. It was pretty cheap; the label price was about 8000 yen. However, when I paid it ended up being only 6900 yen which was a nice surprise. With the registration cost, delivery charge, and new lock I bought, it cost me around $100 USD for a new bike that will increase the convenience of Goi a lot.

Now, please note that this is no mountain bike. It’s a pretty typical traveling bike in Japan, called the “mama-chari,” (ママちゃり) which translates to “Mom bike.” Yes, this is the kind of bike that old ladies ride around to go shopping. I don’t care. Of course I could never ride a bike like this in the US, but here in Japan I am one of millions doing so, thus it doesn’t seem so bad and I won’t be ridiculed for riding it in public. My bike has a basket, a light, and a bell. Watch out Hells Angels. I realized that renting a bike every weekend from the shop here in Goi would add up, and since I was able to get a bike this cheap, I figured might as well just buy one. I’ll never get used to laying down a ton of money and walking away empty handed in Japan. Since a lot of people don’t have cars when they go shopping for big stuff, most stores are very good about shipping stuff to you for cheap. It only cost me 1500 yen to ship my bike, but I also had to wait a few days. It should be here tomorrow morning (Thursday).

After taking care of the bike stuff on Sunday, I went to Outback for dinner. Never would I have thought that an Outback burger would be so tasty. I don’t usually think about how much I miss American food like that, but it felt great to eat a real restaurant burger. Monday was raining and stuff, so I spent pretty much the whole day again just loafing in my apartment. I actually went shopping at Ito Yokado for a bit in the evening, but that was about it. I missed being super lazy on the weekends.

A week and a half until Golden Week. I won’t be going anywhere really on vacation, but it looks like Nick is coming up to Chiba to hang out. Brian will have his mom in town, but he’ll be able to hang out in the evenings most likely. Should be nice to have everyone off and near enough to actually hang out. It will also be nice to just have a week off with nothing to do. I’m hoping to do some really touristy stuff around Tokyo as well.

Links:
Japan Cycling: Mama Chari

I want these DVDs!

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How did I not know that Mama’s Family was released on DVD!?!?! I might need to order this set (Amazon link). Even though it’s only season 1, which isn’t as great overall as the later episodes, it is still a quality TV show that was worth staying up until 5 or 6AM last summer to watch on TBS.

Vinton!

Also another note to self: I need to get News Radio season 5 eventually, just to complete the set. Who knew I would actually be so willing to pay for DVDs?

Can I punt this kid?

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Am I petty enough to actually complain on my blog about a 10 year old kid? Yep!

So with the new kids classes that started this month, I started teaching different kids in my Upper Elementary class (5th graders). Three of the kids are really good, but the last is one of the trouble maker kids at the school. Not trouble maker as in “beats up old ladies and smokes behind the dumpsters,” but trouble maker as in “doesn’t pay attention, won’t shut up, and is disrespectful.” Either way I’ve only taught this kid once before when I had to substitute for Matt, but I’ve heard the horror stories and know that overall this little punk is a pain in the butt who thinks he’s a hardass (please note that he is 10). For privacy’s sake, I won’t give his name, although I will describe him as a Japanese version of Augustus Gloop with a buzzcut. For this blog, I will call him Pork Bowl. It’s a funny name.

Today was the second class, and to be honest last week he wasn’t too bad. He started off on a bad foot today though, going into the Staff Only storage room and taking a basketball. Not too bad. He was, however, being a pain when I told him to give it back so we could start class. This kid has some kind of complex where he thinks he’s tough even when faced with adults/teachers/other people who are obviously higher than him on the food chain. He also wants a lot of attention, and I don’t think he gets much from his parents since I heard that while him and his sister are in class, his mom plays pachinko. Sounds like a great parent. Add that to the fact that he is big for his age, his English is the worst in my class, and he smells (haha), and you can see that this kid has issues. So yeah before we even started class I wasn’t too happy with this kid. Anyway, during class he’s doing stuff like screaming nonsense, laying down on his desk, and zipping his jacket over his torso to hide his fat head. All of that wasn’t so bad because I would just ignore him.

Then I have the kids sit on the floor and play Memory with these flashcards. Pork Bowl is again being a pain, screwing up the cards and also throwing the cards up into the air and around the room. All the time I’m telling him in a stern voice “Pork Bowl, stop it.” He knows what I’m saying also. It’s getting worse now because he’s actually interrupting the other kids playing the games, and he’s starting to damage school property. Anyway, he’s a pain the entire class, even with me ignoring him, not including him in games, and almost making him cry. Is it terrible that I was hoping he would cry to teach him a lesson? He didn’t this time, but he’s done it in Matt’s class before. So the whole class I’m having to keep an eye on this kid, and I can’t do things as well as I usually would. I take the kids out of the classroom to ask questions in the hallway and lobby, and Pork Bowl is pouting on his desk. I have to take him with us though, since otherwise he’s the type who would rip up my books or something. He’s dragging along the way, trying to hide in classrooms, etc. He doesn’t participate in asking questions, doesn’t follow instructions, and then after the exercise he goes back in to the storage room and tries to hide. That actually didn’t bother me too much, until I get him out of the storage room and he slams the door really loudly. There were other classes going on, and this kid was already trying my patience, but the door slam really did it for me. Most of the time I’m very good at keeping my cool, but this set me off. I glare at the kid and in a voice I would use towards a dog who just pooped on the new leather sofa, scream “Pork Bowl, NO!” I saw the other kids in the class look at me for a second with a look of fear. Matt told me later that he heard it from his classroom.

So really this rant/story/blog is pretty bad, but I’m writing this mainly for recording purposes. I’ll probably want to read about this later on, since I don’t think I’ve ever actually gotten this angry at some little kid. I’m trying next to either have this kid and him mother talked to, or even better having him leave the school. I shouldn’t have to deal with this little snot, and neither should the other kids in the class, who actually have excellent English for kids their age.

All right

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The above title is not some kind of indication that things were going badly, but rather it’s the catch phrase of the now-former head teacher at my school. He and our assistant manager transferred to different schools in March, in turn giving us some co-workers/staff at the school to replace them. This is not including the first replacement assistant manager, actually a friend of mine who some of you know, since she came and went within just a few weeks. There were many reasons, but I think a bit part of it was the fact that Japanese staff at these schools work long hours, get paid terribly, and have pretty much the worst job. But ah well.

So it’s already Monday night, meaning that another weekend has come and gone. This past week was about as uneventful as can be, with the exception of the new co-workers starting. Luckily, they fit in well and things are going good. With the coming and going of teachers, as well as new kids classes starting to coincide with the new semester/year at real schools, my schedule has also been a bit changed. I teach a few extra classes a week, which overall isn’t that much of a pain but of course not too great. Of note are the two new kids classes I have to teach, both of which are middle elementary, meaning I think 3rd and 4th graders. Before this, the youngest kids I taught were 5th graders. Teaching the classes really aren’t that bad; in fact some of them are better/more fun than adult classes, and the kids are definitely better at making jokes. I also now teach Voyage, one of the lowest level classes at the school, which is a bit tough. When teaching people with English that low, you have to slow down to almost a ridiculous speed and also use a lot of gestures and stuff. Imagine Chris Tucker yelling at Jackie Chan in Rush Hour, only I’m the black guy in this situation.

On Saturday night after work we had a Farewell/Welcome party at an izakaya near Goi station, Yushun, which was my first experience of a big school party with a lot of students (over 50) there. It was overall a fun time and better than what I was expecting, even with the official ban on me using Japanese. I’ve gotten really good at hiding the fact that I understand Japanese in front of students. Some students were pretty tricky though and would ask me stuff quickly in Japanese and I would nod or answer in English, but they would know that I at least understood them. Part of this was done on purpose, because it got a pretty funny reaction. Also sometimes I would just tilt my head and be like “huh?” They’d love this because I would give a good few seconds pause before doing it. Sunday was another Sunday Open, which means that I got to spend my entire afternoon at work rather than doing what I would want to be doing on my day off (ie, sleeping). These Sundays Opens are definitely one of the most bogus parts of my job. If my calculations are correct, though, I shouldn’t really have to do these ever again. I wouldn’t be surprised if AEON tries to sneak attack me with one at some point during the summer, though.

Just a few more weeks until Golden Week, the national spring break! A full week to do absolutely nothing.

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