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AEON Soundtrack

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I’m working a few days this and next week at Chiba AEON, where Blanchard works. It’s kind of fun to work at a school like this again, just for a few days. Plus I already know most of the staff and stuff at Chiba school, so it’s easy to get down to business.

Speaking of business.

This afternoon after my first class I was standing in the lobby talking to students and realized that the music playing over the speakers as background music was It’s Business Time by Flight of the Conchords. Yeah. It was playing on the radio. In Japan. Is it even really a real song, like for the radio? Pretty awesome though. I thought at first that maybe someone had their iPod hooked up to the speaker, but nope – it was directly from the satellite radio thing that all the AEON schools use. I then had the song stuck in my head all day. Oooh.

Professor Leong

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I think I should try to blog a lot so I can move the Choco-Chicken entries down and out of everyone’s memory.

Last week I worked another job through Corporate, at another Tax College. This time it was at Nishi-Funabashi, a lot closer to my place than the Wako one last time. My students this time around were of “intermediate” level as opposed to the “advanced” ones at Wako, and there was definitely a noticeable difference in teaching this group. It was still a pretty good time, and luckily the students were all easy going and cool.

Let me explain a little bit more about the National Tax College, at least the way I understand it. So here in Japan, the workers and people who work at city halls, prefectural offices, etc. go to a special training college for one year. I’m pretty sure it’s all they need as far as post-high school education goes, mainly because I had at least one student who was even younger than me, meaning if she had any other college or university experience, it would have had to be only a year or two. I think one of them told me all they needed was the one year too. But yeah, they do this, then periodically they return to a Tax College campus for further training and workshops, including the English ones that I’ve taught, which are to prepare them for dealing with clueless foreigners who come in wondering how to file their taxes.

Teaching these things is always an interesting experience, much different than, for example, teaching at an AEON branch school. The class is 10 students, in a large classroom where everyone has their own desk or table arranged in a horseshoe pattern. I have a desk/podium up in front of the blackboard. Yes, a real use-chalk-that-gets-all-over-you blackboard. They also give me a wet towel to wipe my chalky hands on, and a nice carafe and glass of water in case your throat gets dry while lecturing. Much more of a “teacher” feeling in some ways. It was nice.

At Nishi-Funabashi they also gave me a security badge labeling me as “講師,” (koushi) or “lecturer/professor” which was a nice addition And to go along with the Japanese 先輩/後輩 (senpai/kouhai) senior/junior system, all of the college students who are at the Tax College studying have to greet every current tax officer: in the hallways, on campus, in the cafeteria, etc. These officers back for training are, after all, the senpai of these students. I would either get the standard kouhai to senpai hallway greeting, thanks to my Asian camouflage, or I would get an even better and more humble greeting since they thought I was actually an educator. Either way it was a good ego boost to walk down a long hallway and have dozens of tax officers in training saying konnichiwa to me.

再び参上

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I’m back online. My new apartment was supposed to be wired for the B-Flet’s fiber internet, but there were too many people using it, so NTT had to install a second fiber pipe into the building. That was finished actually about 2 weeks ago, but then it took another 2 weeks for them to send a guy to my apartment to do the “construction” and installation. It was pretty disappointing having to wait that extra time considering the “installation” involved the guy taking a VDSL modem out of its box, plugging in 3 cables, and giving me a receipt. Ah, Japan.

So a lot has happened over the past few weeks. There’s too much for me to write everything in this blog post, and also it’s about 3AM and I want to go to bed. Expect me to blog a lot over the next few days to cover it all. This really isn’t for you, but mainly for me. I’ll try to keep it mildly entertaining so feel free to read when you’re bored, at work, or bored at work. Quick summary though: I finished my job at AEON, am considering a trip to the US in mid October, love my sweet new apartment, had a mini-reunion here in Chiba, and am already getting kind of bored with being unemployed. It’s almost too easy having this much freedom. I’ll have to start seriously looking for a real job, real soon. In the meantime the part-time work will keep me somewhat busy and not completely income-less.

Note: Originally I was thinking of titling this post Slim Shady but then I came to my senses and remembered how much I hate Eminem.

Thai Food and Movin’ on Up

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I’m sitting at home in the middle of what is the beginnings of a typhoon. We’ve already got pretty strong wind and horizontal rain so I think this might be less of a false alarm than what we had a few months ago. Either way, I got to go home from work an hour early so it’s all good. Supposedly the typhoon is going to directly hit us here in the Kanto area sometime early in the morning. I’m not holding my breath, although the way the storm is going it wouldn’t be totally surprising.

It’s been a pretty busy week. Last weekend especially I was running around a lot, mainly in preparation to move to a new apartment. I have a new place lined up in Chiba city, about 18 minutes by train north of where I’m at now. I’ll be closer to Tokyo as well. It’s a really nice, brand new apartment building that was just completed in April. Of course, it’s a Japanese apartment so it’s pretty tiny to American standards, but it’s a nice studio-type apartment that is at least a lot better than what I have now. The bathroom has a nice wide sink and a super toilet, and the shower is separate. What I have now is a “unit bath” where everything is in one tiny little room, so it will be nicer to have more space. The main room itself has hardwood flooring as opposed to carpet, a long balcony, and a much better closet than what I have now. I’m looking forward to moving in, although not looking forward to having to pack up all my stuff within the next few days.

While I was looking for an apartment, I started by using an Apaman Shop (アパマンショップ), which is like a major chain of realtors here in Japan. The guy there was nice and they have a handy search system where I could find apartments that fit my requirements. I actually checked out about 4 rooms with this place first, 2 of which were cheap but dirty and gross, and the other 2 which were nicer and of course more expensive. This last place actually came up on my second visit, and while it’s expensive, it’s brand new and has a decent location. Renting apartments in Japan is a pain because they have this BS system in place called “key money,” where you pretty much have to pay a month’s rent to the landlord as a gift for letting you live there. Then you have deposits, cleaning fees, and usually a month’s worth of realtor’s’ fees, meaning that it’s not out of question to have to pay 5 months of rent before you even move in. Most of this you won’t get back. This is even worse when, like me, you may very well only be living there for a few months. Luckily not only was this building I found brand new, but they had only 1 month’s deposit, no key money, and no cleaning fees. The place even included 1 month of free rent! There was, however, a 1-month’s realtor fee. Overall it was a good deal. However, I was trying to figure a way to make it even cheaper, so I just called the landlord’s company directly. I was able to get the same deal, but without any realtors fee, just by going direct to the source. As nice and helpful as they were, I have no allegiance to the Apaman Shop, especially when they want to charge me a full month’s rent just for them to fax my application form in for me. Yes, I’m very proud of this.

Last week finally did the lease and contract stuff, which required a lot of explanations in Japanese to me, as well as me writing my name in katakana and using my hanko stamp about a million times. Good thing I bought my handy-dandy automatic hanko stamper a few months ago.

I also decided to hire a moving company to haul all my belongings from Ichihara to Chiba. While I don’t really have that much stuff, especially furniture, I have enough that it wouldn’t be feasible to take it all on the train or anything, plus I don’t have any friends with moving vans or whatever to haul the big stuff like my bike. It’s just easier to pay some company to take all my stuff to the new place. I had a few online estimates, which weren’t so great because I didn’t know the correct names for all my furniture in Japanese. For example, I’ve got these 4-foot tall bookshelves. You would think that one of these would be called 本棚 (book shelf) when filling out the online estimate form. You would be wrong. It’s called a カラーボックス (color box). I have no idea at all where that comes from, but oh well. I had 2 companies just come to my apartment to give me an estimate. The first place gave me a 26,000 yen estimate, which was a bit pricey. The second place quoted me 37,000, which was even worse, but after some hardcore negotiations, I was able to haggle him down to 21,500. I think haggling is expected in this situation, but I was happy with the outcome nonetheless. I have to pack my small stuff by myself, but they provided all the boxes and tape and everything for me to do it. Then on Sunday they’ll come and pack up my closet and furniture, then move everything into a truck, take it to Chiba, and unload everything in my new apartment. I think it’s worth the money.

I’ll write more about the whole apartment renting/moving process later, but probably in a few weeks once things calm down. I’m moving this Sunday (provided the typhoon is gone, which it will be), then have to unpack and get settled in. I have a week of work, then on Saturday a school-wide Goodbye Party for me, and on Sunday a big barbecue party, then 2 days of work at my AEON school, training my replacement Andrew. Then I should have tons more free time.

Oh, if you think that everything in Japan has a cartoon mascot, you’re probably right. Check out my moving boxes, with the Sakai Moving mascot panda:

サカイ引越センター

Waittaminit!

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AEON updated my school’s website, with some new pictures of us fake-talking to a student. (Mosaics have been applied to protect the innocent):

Yes, I really care about your English dreams!

At first, nothing seems too strange, right? Oh, wait a minute! I’m speaking Japanese! But I thought that I was strictly forbidden to speak Japanese with students, especially in the Lobby of the school! Something is fishy here.

Also, why am I saying something so stupid!? I’m saying “AEON has a system where you can change your class’s day and time,” with a music note to imply that I am singing this in a melody to a student who has been going to the school for several years. Not only do I sound like some kind of psycho who sings in the lobby, but I’m telling her something that she already fully knows.

At least they could have made it more realistic to what I would say in the lobby if I was allowed to speak Japanese. Ha, ha.

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.

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