Breaking Nina Records

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Right after writing the previous post, I went out and broke my spontaneous actions record. Granted, I don’t know what the previous record was but it wasn’t very bold or exciting so don’t expect something really strange here. It’s just strange for me, that’s all.

So, last night I wasn’t feeling too hot. I was a little tired and a little down. I decided that it was too late to go into the city (only about an hours worth of time once the train schedule was factored in) and I decided to turn in early. I started my wind down routine and by 11pm I was still awake. Just as I was wondering why it wasn’t that I hadn’t gone to bed yet, I got a call from Monique. She said that the DoCoMo guy wanted to hang out again and was wondering if I was in town. I told her that the last train leaves the city at 10:30 so even if I had been in town, I would have already gone home. She then quickly (and without much effort) convinced me to hop in a cab and go into town. DoCoMo (that’s his name now, when referring to the actual cell phone company, I’ll make note of it) paid for all of it.

We went back to the same host club as before. This time there was an extra girl (can’t remember name) who was also a new ALT like me and is from S. Carolina. There were three hosts and…. I know that the Japanese have this way of making everyone think that they’re gay when they’re really not…but something about these men just screamed that they were all gay and maybe one of the was bi. They actually acted a little less gay than some of my students…but it was just something that I can’t explain. Maybe it was the jokes they were making or maybe it was all the alcohol I was drinking, but I’m going to say that my gaydar was off the charts.

Afterwards we went to club Jamaica which really only Monique likes but my theme for the night was “why the hell not” so I tagged along and made the best of everything. By 2:40 I was in a cab home. I had to concentrate on not throwing up. I had about….5 hard drinks in about 2 hours time. I kept drinking my own drinks and then whatever Monique and co didn’t feel like finishing since they had started drinking earlier. (oh right, remember in my previous post how I was drinking sake? HA, make that 6 drinks over the course of the night)

I broke that record too and have no intention of breaking it again. 1 drink an event is good enough for me. Maybe 2 if it’s a special occasion.

All in all, had fun and want to do it again. There was much drunken flirting with gay host men. Best kind of flirting there is! (next to flirting with a straight man)

Oh, I went to bed around 3:30 trying not to throw up and as soon as my head touched the bed I completely blacked out. The strange thing was that I still woke up at 6:30 completely wide awake. No headache, no vomitty feelings, no dry mouth or eyes…. I forced myself to go back to bed. That’s just not right.

So Much For the Diet

Friday, September 29, 2006

Today I didn’t teach any classes and thank god for that! Instead, it was homeroom day which means that all the students leave the school and do some outing just for funs sake. Most classes went out to different camp grounds, parks, or river areas and had bar-b-q (aka Yakiniku). I decided to go with my supervisors second year class (11th graders) about an hour up the mountain to an Onsen (hot bath) where we ate yakiniku and for an extra $6 took a nice hot bath. Ah, it was exactly what I needed!

As for the diet. Seriously, I tried my favorite pants Wednesday and they just didn’t fit as well as they used to. I’ve decided that I need to drink and eat less. This is easier said than done. In America I never had a problem starving myself. As much as I loved food, I never had a problem not eating. It wasn’t that I ever wanted to starve myself, it was just that I could easily say no to food because I was too busy. Here, when I get home, I have nothing to do really except eat and go shopping for food.

So today, I figured I would be way too busy to really eat much of anything. I figured I wouldn’t have time in the morning for breakfast, I would eat a big yakiniku lunch and then right after that I was going to be whisked away to a farewell/welcome party for the foreign students at Kochi University of Technology. (don’t ask) I was told that I wouldn’t really had time for dinner and they weren’t going to have more than a few snacks at the party. So, I figured all was well enough. I wasn’t going to pass out or anything from not eating and it would be all the better.

No such luck.

Not only did I have plenty of time for a sugary role, I also gorged myself on yakiniku (that’s a whole lotta beef people!) afterwards, we got home around 3:30 and the party didn’t start until 5 so I ran home and bought some instant Udon. I wasn’t even hungry because I was still full from the yakiniku 5 hours earlier. I forced myself to eat because I didn’t want to be hungry whenever this party was going to be finished.

Once at the party, I realized that the “snacks” were in fact dinner and there was food ranging from sushi to sandwiches to spaghetti. Ugh. I am so full!

And what do I do? I go home around 8 and start eating the Japanese crackers that I’m so addicted to. I have no self control.

The only solution is the internet!!!

As for more specifics on the day. I first got to school and it was completely deserted. There weren’t any classes so students were just doing their own thing. Show up when the group is about to leave. I got on the bus with the rest of the students and…I just wasn’t feeling it. I didn’t have it in me today to try and speak Japanese and I …. Just wanted someone to talk to.

We drove up to through the mountains and it was absolutely gorgeous. Breathtaking really. I couldn’t be in a blah mood all day with that kind of weather and scenery. I sat with the students for lunch (since my supervisor wasn’t much in the mood for socializing with me) and I kept telling myself that the reason why the students didn’t seem to want to talk to me was because they’re shy and also because I’m not exactly inviting them to try and talk to begin with! Maybe I’m just tired of making the first mood and usually getting mixed and not always good results. By the middle of lunch I was trying out a little more Japanese and I think it made the students a little more comfortable. They would come up to me to ask for a picture…but they wouldn’t talk to me. What’s up with that?

Then, something happened that just totally broke the ice around me. A student came out from the back and in his hand was a bag of four fish. They looked like they had been cleaned and gutted but at least one was still flipping around in the bag. He then stuck them on a chock stick each and began barbequing them. It ended up taking about 2 hours to finally cook them that way since the fire was more smoldering that flaming. But when he first brought them out I just couldn’t stand being timid anymore and I got up out of my seat and walked over to check out what he was doing. It finally broke me out of my slump and I got some great reactions from the students. We all ended up playing uno and it was so much fun!

These students actually liked the American version and each student that way was interesting in their own way. Particularly these two boys. One boy would talk only in a rap. His Japanese was difficult to understand but he ended every sentence with YO, OH RIGHT YO! Because he wanted to make it rhyme…I guess. The second boy was much more calm but every time he had to draw a card he would say Yea…Yea…Yea….Yea… (he had really bad luck of having to be the person that ends up drawing half the deck) but his “Yea”s began sounding like the retarded puppet on Crank Yankers on Comedy Central. Think of a retarded boy that can only say YEAAAA. (look it up on youtube) No joke, that’s what the kid sounded like.

I’m finding out that I really like the 2nd and 3rd years way better than the 1st years. How ironic. I only have two of the former and a million of the latter. Blah

Now am drinking warm Sake. What the hell is wrong with me? Must find friends to occupy time instead of drinking and eating too much.

Actually, at the party tonight I kept my eyes peeled for possible friends. No luck. All the foreign students are either from China or another Asian country. They speak strange English and almost no Japanese. Half the party was in English just because it’s the one language that everyone understands!

I’m not giving up though. I think I’ll take a few more trips over to the college as it’s a sure fire way to meet people my own age. There’s one woman that I want to be best friends with but she wasn’t taking the bait. She’s apparently older than 30 (wow, can’t tell at all!) and she studied in Australia for some time. Her accent is amazing! It’s good conversation when I talk to her. But I don’t know if I made a very good impression. I’m not as genki as I used to be in America. I can’t get up the same energy because (I’m realizing) it was mostly based on how fast I could talk. Can you imagine me being bouncy and happy and talking slowly? They just don’t mix with me.

Can’t Stop Reading Bridget Jones

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Classes taught 4 (fair) lessons botched 1 (v. good) whole bag of Japanese crackers eaten 1 (had help from Adam, but ate most by self. Fair) Chu Hi Cans 2 (bad) Cockroaches found in apt 1 (not good) Lessons remaining to be written 3 (v. bad)

Have employed Adam to help rearrange apartment this evening. Looks v. nice. Dust everywhere but will clean Saturday when have time. Am v. pleased. Now, must buy fancy couch and two floor chairs so can begin hosting own events at own apartment.

Perhaps should think of finding new boyfriend to help fill extra floor space that have recently created. Also good person to start entertaining at own apt as apposed to expensive bars. Must save money for new couch, chairs, DVD player, bed, shelving units, and whatever food feel like eating at moment.

Will begin diet tomorrow when have no time to eat dinner. Decided to starve self back into fav pants.

Must have internet before start ant collection out of sheer boredom. Or kill student for being ridiculously stupid and ungrateful brat. Hope it is former as will not be sent to jail for having weird habit. Will only hinder boyfriend plan. However Gaijin power will probably outweigh ant fetish. Extra points for curly hair and slight Japanese Language ability.


Wednesday, September 27, 2006

I feel like all my time is spent on school. Thinking about school, working on lessons, blah blah.

Maybe it’s because the sun comes up at 6 and goes down at 6. I wake up early and get ready for work and by the time the sun goes down I feel like the day is already over which is not true. The truth of the matter is that I actually have a bit of free time in my schedule it’s just being spent on me and not on other things. I find more and more that I just want to go home and relax reading a book and listening to music. It’s not that I’m terribly uncomfortable during the day, it’s just that I’d rather be elsewhere doing me things.

As it stands, I have the English language class for an hour on Monday nights. I then have Tuesdays free and Wednesday is my busiest day with English club at Odochi, so I get home late and then an hour later I have my English conversation class until 9. Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and a lot of Sunday are all free. Sunday night I go out with Kae and stay the night at her place in Odochi.

Finally, the last bit that’s taking up my free time is the Largo students. I end up staying late after school to work with them.

I need a hobby where I can meet people. Maybe I can find a choir somewhere. The teacher I don’t like told me about how he was in two choirs…and it didn’t sound like a high school or college thing either. Maybe I should look into that. It would definitely help my accent a lot!

I want internet.

The mountains in Odochi are absolutely beautiful! They haven’t started changing colors yet but it’s just such a wonderful thing to look out the window and see mountains! I’ll admit though, the sunset is more beautiful on the coast more so than it is in the mountains. The sun more like hides than sets.

My favorite Target pants were a bit snug this morning. WARNING!!! Nina needs to lose some weight. I think I eat waaaaay too much here.

For example, there is a bag of these cracker things that I got in the first week I was here. The first time I bought them it took me three sittings to get through them. The second time, it took two sittings. Before I knew it I was eating a bag a day. I’m addicted to them. I’ll be sure to send some home too ;) The bags not that big btw. It’s only a dollar too! But I have no idea about the serving size.

Oh Grow Up!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

I finally got my glasses back!!! $160 for a whole new right side. I am so thrilled to have them back on my face! They are so light, they feel like they’re going to fall off!

I can’t believe how busy I am. When I get to school all I can do is run around writing lesson plans and trying to get ahead of the game so I have some time to study Japanese but I end up just making it in time. If I keep up at the rate I’m going, I’m going to fall behind by Monday of next week. I keep thinking that I wouldn’t have such a big problem if I had internet at my apartment but the question is 1. is that really true? Would I be able to transfer my work from one computer to another? The computer at school is pretty craptastic and if it’s not that then it’s the restrictions they put on it when it comes to web surfing. I probably wouldn’t be able to download my work! And 2. Do I really want to be bringing my work home? I don’t like school enough to be doing it 24/7! But at the same time, I don’t want to be worrying about it all the time either. Hmmmm, dilemma.

I found out today that my horrible couch is not owned by the school so the next opportunity I get, that POS is going out the window!!!! Have I mentioned my couch yet? It is big enough for two people (uncomfortably) and has no frame. It was probably worth $30 when it began and now someone would have to pay me to make me keep it here. People have sat on the edge of the seat so much that now it is angled so that if I try to sit on it properly I slide off. It’s dirty and smells and is taking up space! I don’t have time to find a new one though. Nor do I have the option of shopping for it as there are no furniture stores in walking distance from the train station in Kochi city.

My plan: to ride my bike this weekend to Kochi (about an hours ride) so that I have a second bike to pal around with. I can’t wait!

I haven’t really had a lot of time to study Japanese and this stresses me out. I’ve only been here about two months but I want to be able to speak Japanese NOW. I have so much time to learn it but I am missing out on so much! There are so many things that I want to talk to people about! It’s frustrating and I can feel it just at my finger tips I just can’t reach it yet!

I was a little bit immature today. When I noticed it, I abruptly stopped but I just had a moment of weakness. I guess it’s to be expected though with the self imposed stress and all.

Uhhhhh, this is a long story before I ever get to the moment of weakness at the very end. Expect a horse story.

So, yesterday was Monday. I went to Odochi and had a pretty good time. I enjoyed the classes and the students were really fun to work with. That doesn’t mean they did what I told them or actually learned anything but we all had a good time which in the end is the point. (in the very very end) I learned that Wednesday will be a day without any classes though I still have English club at the end of the day. (now that is a short story all on it’s own. There is only one girl and she can’t speak any English. Do you know how difficult it is to have an English club with someone who can’t say anything? I’m going to play Uno with her tomorrow. I just don’t know what else to do for now. I can’t plan anything with her or communicate in the least. She knows absolutely nothing and I can’t speak enough Japanese to compensate.)

I thought, GREAT I don’t have to really worry about lesson plans because I’ll take my time writing them on Wednesday when I have the whole day to just goof off.

I then get a ride home with Ikuo, Kae’s 22 yr old son.

On my way up to the apartment I actually took the time to look at some mail boxes that I was always a little curious about. Lo and behold, I had a mailbox that no one ever told me about! In it I found letters advertising those stupid candidates, letters to my predecessor, advertisements that I actually would have liked to have read (discount furniture) and finally a letter telling me that a bill was due. It happened to be due yesterday. The day I got it.

I went up to my apartment trying to remember if I had set up direct payment for this particular bill. If I had, then there was no reason to worry about it. If not, then I was screwed. I decided to call my supervisor to figure out what I was supposed to do. It was at this moment that I realized my cell phone had fallen out of my bag in Ikuo’s car.

It was about 5:20 and I had my English Language class (private lessons) at 6. I got on my bike and rode to Adams place. Poor guy was sleeping but I was trying not to freak out so I think I was justified.

I got on his computer and emailed Kae telling her what had happened. I then showed Adam the bill and asked him what I should do. He yawned and told me not to worry. The bill could be up to 2 months late before they ever think about turning off the service. There is no such thing as a late fee in Japan.


My jaw was on the floor.

Eh, crisis averted. I then went home and watched crap TV for about 10 minutes before I had class. I was just hoping that they didn’t change plans on me and tried to call my cell phone to tell me about it…because I never got the message.

The class went fine. They paid for my dinner ($10) and I sat around and helped them out with simple questions. It was really easy and I think I can continue doing this…for now.

I then went home and had some warm Sake trying not to worry about things that I have no control over.

When I got up this morning things were going well. I woke up before my 7am alarm and took my time getting ready. I was early for work and I felt like I was prepared.

Even though I was early, I wasn’t able to read my email until 8am because the computer is so GOD DAMN SLOW that it took a good 10 minutes before I could actually get something accomplished. When I opened my hotmail account I found 4 emails from Kae spanning from the course of 6:30 all the way to 11pm with the same message. At 8am, father will bring you your cell phone. Please wait for him!


I then emailed her telling her I was already at work!!! She knows that I don’t have internet at my apartment yet. But still. This is ridiculous.

In 5 minutes one of the teachers walked up to me and asked if this was mine (the cell phone) I ran to the window to thank Shinji (father) but he had already left. I emailed Kae and thanked her profusely.

Crisis, solved.

Next, I started getting ready for my days lessons. It has been 4 days since I last looked at what I was supposed to be doing so I had completely forgotten if I had actually written anything or made any worksheets. I was totally screwed if I hadn’t. It turns out that I had written my lessons and I was good to go.

Then, one of the teachers that I was working with today told me that she had already finished the chapter we were supposed to do today and she was sure that I had something handy for the next chapter of which I hadn’t even looked at nor did I have any intentions of teaching just yet. Curses were running through my mind and I wanted to do some bodily harm. But instead I kept my calm. One problem at a time. I had other things to worry about and it’s her problem if she wants to tell me last minute that plans have changed in a major way.

I then finished preparing my original lessons for the other two classes I had today. I tried to squeeze in some English Conversation preparation as well because if I don’t do it today, I won’t have time tomorrow.* I also worked on making worksheets for the students who are going to Largo in a month. All the while, the teacher who changed plans on me kept getting me to proofread her hand outs for English mistakes. By the middle of the day she asked me to do the lesson I had originally planned for the chapter that she had already completed (prematurely in my opinion) because she didn’t have a plan either. BAH!

The lessons went well for the most part. It was actually funny sometimes (only for me though)

So the chapter we are on is about fast food. I ended up finding a menu for Rockin’ Robins in my apartment. It’s a sit down restaurant that I’ve never been to before but seems really good!

I brought that and then found a lesson to fit it perfectly.

The students would be give a dialogue: What would you like to eat? I would like to eat a cheeseburger please. What would you like to drink? I would like a chocolate shake…etc etc.

Then they would be given three little slips of paper that looked like an order form. The student would play rock paper scissors and the loser would give up one of their papers and the winner would then take their order. It’s a simple and fun game I think. It’s a good way to practice the same thing over and over again without it becoming boring.

For the most part, the students didn’t listen to a word I said while I was telling them the directions. I’ll admit, they sounded complicated even to me! But all three teachers (three different classes) all wanted me to explain it in English…so I did my best.

It wasn’t until I pulled out some Toostie Roll pops that their heads actually raised from their desks. It was like that AOL commercial where a woman brings a pie into the office of AOL workers in thanks for their hard work and all their heads pop up from their cubicles like gofers. It was hilarious!

I then had to re-explain the directions as now everyone wanted to know exactly what to do to win the game. Get as many papers as possible.

Once the kids got started they actually had a good time. It was a fun game! But by the end of the day I was pretty spent. I wasn’t physically tired but my mind just wasn’t very sharp. I was too busy trying to get everything done and people kept coming up to me all day giving me more work. I have a special lesson to write for Tuesdays class when the Junior High School students will be joining the High Schoolers. I have to finish my English conversation lesson. I need to write a 10 minute speech in English so I can tell the Tosayamada Lions club just how much I appreciate what they’ve done for me. I have to write another few paragraphs in English for the PTA newspaper by next Monday saying what my impressions of Tosayamada are…what a vague question. Geezus I’m too busy to have any impressions that don’t need to be heavily censored! The only things I don’t have to do this week are write lesson plans for my two advanced classes. And thank god for that!

So, as I was saying, by the end of the day, I was pretty much overwhelmed…a bit.

My last class also happened to be the last class of the day. I handed out my worksheet and started to explain the directions in English, as asked. (not that I could have done it in Japanese or anything) Before I could hardly begin the students were already looking at the back side where there is a word search. This is for the students who finish early. You know, if they lose three times in a row they’re out of that game while other students will keep winning and winning for a good 15 or 20 minutes. I then tell them that they are going to play Rock Paper Scissors and before they can even figure out what the point is, they’re already playing and not listening to me. By the end of this class my throat started to hurt from trying to talk over them. What rude little bastards. GUH

So, I started getting angry. I slammed my hand on the desk and masked it as if I was just putting a paper down and said in Japanese “Wait just a minute! Don’t do that yet!” and that’s when one boy started making fun of my accent which got much thicker as I got angrier. I immediately did a self check. Hold up. Who gives a rats ass if these students do jack shit? Let them do whatever they want. The teacher doesn’t do anything so why should I bother? This is only my special lesson that I put some actual thought and time into (though I can’t claim it as mine. It wasn’t original or anything. I’m not that good)

So that was my moment of weakness. I calmed down and left it at that. The class went on without any more problems. I am holding a grudge against that kid though. He’s on my shit list.

After the classes I pulled my papers together, cleaned up my desk and headed over to the meeting room to finally meet in person all 7 of the students that are going to Largo. I had prepared a lot of information for them because I’m really excited! They’re going to have a great time and it’s going to be even better because I’m preparing them for it!

Not only were they 15 minutes late but only 4 people showed up. I was totally nonplussed.

By the end of the meeting I was excited again though. I got out of them some very important information that they should have put on their profiles that are being sent to Largo as I write this but for Japanese Cultural reasons, were left out.

For example: On the profile sheet it asks “what is your favorite food? What food do you hate?

They would write something like “my favorite food is rice and I hate nothing.” Wow, that’s helpful.

Instead, I asked them today what they want to eat and we sat there talking about it so much that I actually found out that one girl loves ice cream but is in fact lactose intolerant. Hmmmm, that’d be helpful to know! Another girl hates hamburgers but wants to eat them anyway…kinda….and I somehow accidentally told them about chocolate fondue so now they want to eat that as well. Oops.

OH RIGHT! The reason for writing about this part of the day was because this isn’t my job.

It’s not my job to be helping with the Largo kids. But I’ll be damned if I’m not seriously involved so I have no problems with doing it almost completely by myself.


There is in fact another teacher in the room with me who is supposed to be doing this instead of me (though I don’t really want him to be). Instead, I decided that I would be using him as a translator for the more important points. There are so many important things that I want these students to know!

Btw, this happens to be the one teacher that I don’t like. And I like him even less now.

So, when he’s actually participating in the class, he speaks in slurred Japanese so I can barely understand him and when I speak directly to him so that he can translate, he thinks we are having a private conversation and keeps the information to himself. I then get irritated and start trying to explain what I just said to him in English to the girls in my poor Japanese and he just sits back and watches. He never ever ever thinks to translate what I say! On top of all that, he sleeps through most of it. This is the same person who I caught sleeping at his desk, sleeping while we were having a conversation that HE initiated and stays after school until 8 or 9 for whatever stupid reasons. The girls made fun of him on more than one occasion this afternoon for his napping skills. I just got more irritated.

All the better that I don’t have internet. I don’t want to go home and work on more school work. At least I have an excuse not to think about it. There’s nothing I can do for now anyway.

*It seems that everything I do revolves around computers and the internet. When I am at Tosayamada, I am constantly on the craptastic computer trying to make it work faster. If I’m not on it, then I’m sitting at my desk…doing nothing. I don’t do anything unless it’s on that computer. I type all my lessons and I find pictures on the internet and get ideas on the internet and blah blah blah it’s all on the net. At Odochi, my day revolves around trying to sneak a few more minutes on the communal computer. I can’t get nearly enough done there because even though the computer is much more up to date (it runs XP instead of 98), I can’t use it for more than a few minutes before I get the idea that someone else wants to use it…even though most everyone has a personal computer at their desk. Hmmm, don’t get it. Whatever.

Are You Pregnant?

Monday, September 25, 2006

I have so many little things to write about…I’ve forgotten most of it.

First, my Japanese is getting better. I’m learning more and more how poorly I’m speaking but at least I can say more and understand more. It’s a slow process but I want everything now!

And on that note, this laid back relaxed style of living is so not for me! I’m a run around like a chicken with my head cut off kinda girl! I want to be constantly on the go. But everyone else is all about the waiting around for the wind to blow before they do anything.

I want fucking internet!!!! I can’t stress that enough!!!

On top of that, I still haven’t gotten my repaired glasses yet. First, it took a good week or so to fix and now it’s taking twice as long to get around to picking them up.

I want internet.

Another thing is the lack of spontaneity. I always thought that I was a person to plan everything since I was so busy all the time. But here, I gotta make plans at least a few days in advance! No one just up and does stuff. Nothing is on a whim here. I feel bad for changing plans suddenly as well. No, we’re not going to meet at the food court, instead I’m off to uni qlo (great clothes store)…no the world is not coming to an end just because I changed meeting places.

Oh, Uni Qlo. Love that store. I went in there to find winter clothes and I mostly found autumn clothes since that is the current season after all. But the prices were a little above Targets and I’m pleased to see that. I got some great skirts, thin but fleece PJs and jacket ($10 each), and a nice and heavy trench coat for windy days! It’s not lined and it doesn’t go down to my ankles but it is thick and…stylish :)

Other than that, my classes, as I’ve mentioned before, are going great! I’m opening up to the students more and more and since I have far less students at Oodochi, I’m really getting to know them! Also, since my Japanese is getting better, I am understanding a whole lot more of what the students are saying. Apparently, I was missing a lot before (hmmm big shocker there)

The things I’ve heard people talking about in the hallways:

1. WHOA! There goes Nina! She was shopping at Value!!! (the nearest and more popular/frequent franchise of grocery stores) <-- So what’s the big deal? I don’t know, I just heard someone shout it.

2. This guy is a bully (pointing to the kid next to me). There was also something in this conversation about pregnancy complete with hand motions.

3. There is a teacher in my office with a particularly round head. A student came up to me and told me that he was dirty. Since the same student was just making fun of this same teacher for brushing his teeth after lunch, I was a little confused. He then told me that his head looked like a kokkeshi doll. Ahhhhhhhhhh, it’s all so clear now. Kokkeshi…..(this is dirty, so a warning first. “The following is rated pg-13, if you wish not to read, please move to #4) Kokkeshi dolls are wooden cylinders with a round top for the head. They are then hand painted and are quite traditional looking. Kokkeshi is thus the slang term for dildo since that’s what they resemble.

4. A girl saw me today in class and asked if I was pregnant. She wanted to know because my outfit wasn’t baggy like everyone else’s (hate that style) and my stomach was…well, it’s got a little pooch to it since I’ve been eating nonstop recently. I told her that I wasn’t but the joke went on throughout the class. It was funny. Suppose you had to be there.

5. This same female student then asked a question about adultery (how she thought of this, I’ll never know) By American standards, is it adultery if the man takes another woman (other than his wife/girlfriend) out to dinner or does he have to kiss her before it’s considered adultery? I told her that if the man pays then it’s adultery because he’s probably expecting a kiss (at the very least) by the end of the night.

6. The Otaku boy doesn’t like pictures of Yuna on his papers. He wants to see Sepheroth. Now, I like a badass character just as much as the next person, but what TEENAGE BOY would rather see a badass bad guy than a sexy chick? And I put sexy pictures on those assignments too!!! AND I know what he’s talking about which I think is commendable. No one else seems to care or think it out of the ordinary. Of course, everyone knows who Yuna and Sepheroth are. Duh!

Now on to some of the strange things I saw students doing today.

Actually, they aren’t all that weird. I remember doing some of the same things….but not all.

1. Every student must wear a uniform. They are complete with boy and girl style ties. Boys get regular men’s ties and girls get a little bow. I watched one girl take a guys tie, put it on, and give him her tie and made him put it on. He was embarrassed, clearly, but he let her do it all the same. Personally, I have no idea if she likes him or what, but the guy is the Magician and let’s call this girl the flirt. She is always touching this guy which is a little unheard of in Japanese schools.

2. The flirt then took the magicians hand and started painting his nails with an orange high lighter. Since the magician never cuts his nails because he’s a freak of nature, he then had orange claws by the time she was done. Just in time for Halloween!!!

3. My favorite student (the one who has a lisp, is outgoing, and really seems like he’s gay though I know he’s not) I have seen on more than one occasion walking around the halls with his pants undone and around his thighs so the world can see his boxers. The second time (today) I looked at him and asked him why he does that. He then pulled his pants down more and started motioning around his boxers…. Why is he my favorite again? Dunno.

Maybe when I get internet I won’t write such long posts because I’ll actually have someone to talk to about all this misc. stuff.

It is significantly colder in Oodochi!!!!!! AHHHHHHHHHH

Asian Blush

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Beautiful weather!!! I wish it were always like this! I have all my windows open and I’ve just finished cleaning! FINALLY! (I just now got to unpacking from my trip to Tokyo a week ago) (…I also couldn’t find a skirt one morning a few days before the trip so all my clothes were all over the floor…all of them)

Remember that high risk behavior I was doing when I said that I left my front door open to get a breeze but for some reason there weren’t any bugs that came in too? Well, I got my small share of bugs. They were only little spiders and flies but hommy don’t play that. So I’ve decided to keep my front door closed and I’ve opened the window on the floor in front of my bed (check out the pictures when I finally post them)

I keep finding things in my apartment every time I get the inkling to clean. For example, I found a menu for….some place in America that isn’t in Florida so I can’t say I’ve ever eaten there but damn if it didn’t make me miss American food!!! See, I love Japanese food so much that if I don’t think about American food outside of McDonalds, I don’t really remember that I used to love it just as much. But I saw a big bowl of French onion soup on the cover of that menu and I sooooooooooooooooo miss Panera Bread!!! And Skyline Chili! And Hops! And Burger King! And bah, everything!

I also finally cleaned and plugged in my rice cooker. I still have no idea how to use it. But it has less functions than my old Japanese/English rice cooker (zojirushi high recommended) so it shouldn’t be too difficult to figure out. I think it has a timer so that will totally help me in the morning and also if I want to make lunch. I have been spending too much money at the convenience store on breakfast and lunch and their selection is growing thin. There are only so many days that I can eat a cold egg and cheese crap sandwich!

In other news, this week I went to the last two of my three enkai’s. (drinking/welcome parties) I must admit that of all the parties I’ve been to I really don’t like enkai’s as much as I like all the others. The food is very traditional and raw and though it is good and I eat until I am full, I just don’t enjoy it as much. It’s really really traditional food! And I’m finding that I don’t like beer with raw fish. They don’t mix well in my stomach. I’m finding that I like beer less and less actually. Now, sake and chuhi are another story ;)

I also don’t like that I can’t talk to anyone. They are all having great conversation and I know that if I could join in I would be the life of the party but …. how depressing. I’m working on it!

People have told me that drinking parties are a good way to really get to know your coworkers. This is sooooo so true. I feel much close to all the people that I have had these parties with and it’s because we are finally together in a neutral environment where they can just let loose and open up!

Now, as for the actual drinking, half the people don’t even drink! In Japan, if you have a single drop of alcohol it is illegal to drive a car (or a bike, but no one’s counting) so half of them have oolongcha (oolong tea in a can that looks like it’s beer)

The other half get totally smashed though. And it’s hilarious!!!! I can not describe in words exactly what goes on but I will try my best!

So, at the Tosayamada enkai, I saw one of the English teachers, whom I like and who has been to Largo on more than one occasion, begin drinking and he went bright pink from the top of his forehead to the tips of his hears down his neck and his arms were even pink!!!

Next was my principal. Great guy. But I have a hard time reading him. He’s really excited that I’m here, as I’ve said, but sometimes I just can’t tell if he’s overly happy or somewhat annoyed. I have to assume he’s happy because everyone says so.

So anyway, he sits next to me at the party and he’s pretty pink himself. He says that it’s a good thing that I’ve been in the newspaper and TV. He said it’s good because it makes me famous. I smile and nod. He then giggles like a little girl and says “It’s me!” in a much higher pitched voice than he normally has. His meaning was that it was he who did all of that for me! HAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHHA I almost died laughing!

The next day I went to an enkai for Oodochi where I learned the Japanese word for big breasts. (that guy was really wasted…and I have no idea who he is because I don’t think I’ve ever seen him at school…hmmm)

Finding Comfort in Unlikely Places

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Jessica, you’re gonna love this one!

So while I was in Tokyo I picked up two books that I had heard of and actually tried reading at one point but I couldn’t really get into either. I knew they were decent books to say the least and both were best sellers. I picked them up because they were guaranteed to be at least decent and I didn’t want to spend a whole lot of money on a book that would turn out to be utter crap.

One of the books I started reading last night and I can’t put it down. I couldn’t get into it before but now I actually find comfort in it because I can be anywhere here in Japan and suddenly I’m transported to a place where I understand all the social contexts and even the language! It’s perfect for me…for right now.

The book that I’m talking about is Bridget Jones Diary. I put down Pride and Prejudice (second read) and picked up the modern day version of it. Personally, I believe it is the poorer of the two. The first isn’t always the best but in this case, it definitely is. I think Bridget is a horrible self hating destructive character but I like the story and it’s just what I need.

So…yeah. If I start writing in short incomplete sentences, it’s because of my current book.

My classes get better and better everyday but…every day has it’s down classes. They are never perfect and sometimes…I just don’t feel like being genki. I don’t feel like being an entertainer when the students don’t really seem to give a crap either way.

For example, at my country school, in one of the first year classes, there are 7 students. They are always sitting in different places with different arrangements of desks but today was the perfect example and I wish I could have taken a picture. There were 5 desks in a line next to eat other, all touching and about a foot away was the 6th desk in the same line just not touching. Behind that desk was the 7th. This is the exact structure of how these students relate to one another.

The first 5 desks are all pretty normal kids. The student at the very end however is one of the smarter kids (not saying much) but absolutely every single day he has his head down and is sleeping like a log. The students (particularly two of the three girls) will draw on him or make loud noises or poke him and generally be annoying but he continues to sleep right through all of it. On the other side is the one desk that is in the same row but not touching. This boy is the one who does magic (the magician if you will) and he seems to be friends with everyone in the class but he’s not completely accepted by them. I don’t know if it’s by choice or by bad luck….my hunch is that it’s mutual feelings of slight dislike for one another. It doesn’t seem that any of the students have problems with one another, they just aren’t friends. So the magician sits a little further away but still close enough to converse.

The student in the back is the self proclaimed Otaku. He is constantly drawing in class and I’m sorry to say…unless the pictures are of cute miniature people (chibi) he’s not all that good. That’s saying a lot too. Most every student will doodle on their papers and about a quarter of both my schools’ students want to be manga artists when they grow up. These kids are constantly drawing and they’re good too! I’m always impressed when I see little drawings on homework :)

But I digress.

So in class today, I was doing a particularly easy assignment that for a little while I actually thought the students understood at least a little bit of but that’s where I was wrong. They didn’t understand a bit of it and I don’t see why because half of it was in Japanese to begin with! I know because I was the one who translated it. It wasn’t easy because I had to keep bothering my fellow teachers to make sure I was right. But that’s neither here nor there.


So I start walking around the classroom helping students with the worksheet. It doesn’t matter how many times I point at the map, they’ll never understand that they need to turn left to get to the school. Turn left…left….left….hidari…..yes left………l, e, f, t. Yes it’s right there on your paper….hidari – left….yes left!!!

I could point to the word until my finger fell off. It doesn’t matter. If they don’t want to do it, they won’t.

So I walk around and I see that Otaku boy is drawing a gundam and not doing his work but…I’m too tired to really try and argue with him so I leave it and watch to see what my JTE will do. She leaves him be. So I do too.

After a while we switch assignments and now it’s dialogue time! Time to repeat over and over again that you need to turn left to get to school! I tried to pair up the students to get them to talk…and here’s another anomaly about this class in particular!

In all my classes, the teachers make a big deal about how they want students to work in groups. Personally, when I was in language class, working in groups never ever ever helped. I just used the time to goof off. In fact, the break was always welcome because when you really try learning a new language, it’s exhausting! But for Japan, group work is perfect because no student wants to be wrong and if they are together, at least they can be wrong together. The key is to never be alone here. Always the group!

But in this class, the teacher specifically said do not put them in pairs. They don’t really like one another so just don’t go there.

Well, it’s dialogue. It can’t be helped.

So since I’ve noticed by now that Otaku boy always sits by himself I decided to partner with him. Mind you, I’m sure this sounds very organized but it’s not. I’ll tell and motion till I’m blue in the face that I want them to pair up. The JTE will say it in Japanese and the kids will just….sit there. In the end only two girls paired up. The others just waited for me or the JTE to walk around and speak with them. Guh, that get’s old fast!!

So I walk over to Otaku boy and I place my completed worksheet in his desk because he hasn’t done his and I tell him that it’s really easy and I begin reading out loud. He is then supposed to read the next part and I ask him to. I point to it. I say it in English…Japanese…and slowly his head goes lower and lower until he just puts his head down on the desk and pretends to go to sleep. The second I walk away he wakes up and goes back to drawing gundams. Whatever.

I can’t say that I’m insulted or even angry. I’m just….disappointed! God. How sad. I wonder if he understands how sad it is to be ignored!!! (this is otaku boy I’m talking about…he’s probably ignored on a constant basis!) I understand he doesn’t want to do it but….

You know, when I was in high school I’m sure I wasn’t a prize student myself. Well….sometimes I was...hahaha ;) But whatever, I know I was an ass sometimes.

In fact, I remember being in Mrs. McKenna’s class and there was one assignment in particular where she put us into groups and gave us all a chapter of the book. She gave us one day to read it over and create a presentation for the class. This way, we could all teach our own parts to the class and we would then learn what everyone else had learned about in different and interesting ways because everyone teaches differently.

Well, I remember standing in front of the class in a very informal setting and trying to present when I realized that two or three people were completely asleep! This is when I realized that I wasn’t giving teachers enough credit. I used to think that if I sat in the back and didn’t bring attention to myself, she would never notice that my mind was completely elsewhere. No, she probably always knew I was sleeping.

These students are the same way. I’m not a person, I’m their teacher. I don’t have feelings, this is my job. This is what I do. I make their lives a living hell…in English. That’s who I am and what I do. I am nothing more to them.

In the end, I like and dislike both of my schools for completely different reasons. They both have their pros and cons and I haven’t picked a favorite yet. In fact, I’m waiting to wake up one day and realize that I absolutely loath my job like so many other people seem to. Maybe I’m hanging out with the wrong people. I have the hope that once I get the hang of this I’ll enjoy the idea of going to school everyday (though I don’t expect to love it as much as the computer lab…*sigh*) but maybe one day I won’t see a student in the convenience store and start panicking because I really have no idea what I’m going to do when I get up in front of his class.

Two Steps Forward And A Half Step Back

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

That’s quite a bit of progress my friend!

I began my language swap class this evening. It began at 6 in the café underneath my apartment. I had never been there because…well…I’m a little intimidated. I didn’t want to look the fool in front of my landlady and she always speaks so much Japanese to me! But when I was in there tonight I realized that it’s going to be one of my favorite cafes…well, the only café really. It had beautiful music which was just my speed and pretty good coffee. I’m not a big coffee drinker but it was such a nice atmosphere! I might go there to study a lot! Though I don’t think it’s like a regular café where I can just loiter…I need a Starbucks for that…but they’re all in Tokyo. Damn.

So the class is rapidly turning into a full blown English class. I got a call this evening to confirm the time and I told that another friend would be attending. After I got there, I learned that not only was another person was joining but a third person would be coming the following class! Hmmmm….

So I whipped out a Japanese language text book that I barrowed from Adam and started where I wanted. I talked about what I wanted to study and I learned what the other women wanted. Nothing too difficult really. But it all comes down to dedication. I can do this as long as I study mostly outside of the conversation time and they need to get a book and start studying vocabulary and I can work on grammar with them during the…class…*sigh*

I turned down their money because I said that it was an equal exchange but I really think that if I’m going to actually have some students then I need to rethink this. I didn’t really want one English conversation let alone two!!! Though this class should be significantly easier because I just review the material in the book instead of actually writing lessons and conversation topics. It’s really up to how much effort my students want to put into it…and I could always use the extra cash….I have a lot of traveling to do! In fact, if I could, I would be all over Japan!

I want to go to Hiroshima, Nagoya, Osaka and Okinawa! If I could, I’d never be in Kochi! It’s not that I don’t like it here, it’s just that my friends are scattered all over Japan! If they were here, I’d never want to leave! No tourist attraction compares to good friends!

And back to the extra cash note, I have never been in such a constant state of want! I want to buy everything! I want to eat everything and do everything! All these things take cash and that adds up! Thank god I got paid Friday! I need to make a budget and start cutting down on spending…so I can spend more ;)

Cloud 7½

What a great day! It's totally the weather! A typhoon went between China and Japan yesterday and left the skies blue and breezy! I wish this weather would never change! It's beautiful!

Today, I'm finishing writing lesson plans and ideas are totally flowing! I wouldn't say that I'm getting the hang of things just yet, but I am doing better! So no worries on that front…for now.

I was afraid that I'd have to stay after school again today thinking about a lesson plan for my integrated class, but I figured it out quickly with the help of a teacher, and I'm on my way to total bliss in that class! Now, instead of being in school, I get to go home and relax.

Then at 6 I'm meeting with one of the students from my English conversation class. It'll be our first private language swap session held directly under my apartment in the café that I have yet to visit. I'm so excited to be truly studying Japanese again! I could totally use the help!

Good music, good people, good weather, good times. Today is a good day. (^u^) Wish I could show you pictures of my purikura escapades and my Tokyo tower visit!!! Ya just have to wait until October!

Vacation in Tokyo

Monday, September 18, 2006


The Kochi news team came in and interviewed me, (which I was not prepared for) and then stuck a camera in my face the entire class. Then, towards the end of my lesson, they actually interviewed some of my students! And I had to pretend they weren’t there! I’m not joking when I tell you that the camera was inches away from my face. I almost tripped on the guy when he was taping me walking into class!

I taped it and I’m going to send it home sometime. Get a hold of my parents if you want to see it! If I still had all my DVD making equipment, I’d be able to put it on the internet…but oh well.

The lesson that I came up with wasn’t bad! While I was sitting at my desk on Tuesday, freezing, uncomfortable, tired and irritable, I found some old magazines that my predecessor had left under the desk. I flipped through them and came up with ten questions the students had to answer. For example, what is the title of this magazine? How much does it cost in the US? What is your favorite advertisement? What is it for and what is happening in it?

The students got into groups because there were only 5 magazines (perfect amount) and after they answered, one person from each group stood up and answered a random question for me. I asked them the more interesting ones like what page has your favorite actor on it, what are they doing? And they had to answer in English to the entire class (and all of Kochi). It looked really good and I think everyone enjoyed it!

I don’t think anyone in Japan noticed but everyone back home will, one of the times that they caught me on tape was when I was reading a question to a student while they were still working in groups. I asked “what page is advertising alcohol?” because every magazine had an advertisement of some sort. I think in America, the teachers wouldn’t be allowed to “promote illegal substances for minors” but in Japan it was no big deal. No one even noticed or made a comment to me. Once people see it back in the states, I know they’re going to notice ;)


I hopped a plane and flew to Tokyo!!!

Note about Japanese flights. When they say that the flight is at 10:40am, they mean that they start boarding at 10:40 and there’s no point to arriving at the airport more than a half hour before then because it takes only 15 minutes to check the ticket, check the bags, and walk through the gate after which there is nothing. You might as well stay on the outside of the gate because (at Kochi airport at least [which only has 5 gates total]) there is nothing of interest besides a vending machine and an Omiyage store which is seriously lacking. It’s only good if you’re desperate.

I was visiting my friend Tomoe. She is a girl whom I met while I was a junior at UCF through a conversation class. She came over with a group of about 15 people who attend Meikai University in Tokyo. It is the sister school of UCF. I don’t know if it was planned this way or not but Meikai is right next to Tokyo Disney and UCF is…well, right next to Disney as well.

Anyway, she is still in college and is currently looking for a part time job. She lives at home with her wonderful parents and older brother. (More about him later)

Anyway, I got into Tokyo at noon and the first thing I did was hug Tomoe! I gotta remember to stop doing that! Also, I would overestimate that about 5% of all people in Tokyo are Gaijin. It was crazy to see so many people from English speaking countries! And we all stood out like a sore thumb too ;)

We palled around and were never in any sort of rush but Tokyo is so big and there were so many things to just look at that my feet were killing me by the end of every day!

I went up in Tokyo tower which I recommend to everyone. Saw the Diet Building (Japanese capital? I don’t know why it’s called the diet building but whatever) and Tokyo Castle where only the Emperor lives. Not Princess Kiko who just gave birth to the next heir.


Shinjuku, Harajuku and the Ropongi Hills! Talk about interesting! Also got to hang out Naomi whom I also met with Tomoe at the conversation class back at UCF.

First, I decided that I wanted to buy some clothes because it seemed like a good idea and with that in mind I also decided to try out some Japanese fashion. I chose a pair of jeans, my white ucf t-shirt and my purple dress. It felt so strange to be wearing a spaghetti strap dress over a white t-shirt. I kept looking at Tomoe who was wearing something quite similar and she didn’t seem to look too strange but then I looked at myself and I just felt weird! By the middle of the day I took off the dress. I also didn’t buy any clothes because I just don’t understand Japanese fashion. Not at all!

Harajuku was interesting. Many strange people with strange outfits.


Uhhh….what did I do?.... Oh, we finally went to Asakusa which is the historical section of Tokyo. Honestly, it has one really old looking shrine (which is HUGE) and about three streets chock full of little touristy shops. I was in heaven. We then went to see the Fuji TV station which I had so much fun at! It was the last of three huge buildings that I went up in and looked out on Tokyo. Only this time I got to see a bunch of Tokyo TV stuff that I actually knew some of and I got to play a cute guessing game which I won a prize for in the end. It was a guessing game because it was Japanese Trivia of which I know nothing nor could I actually read because it was all in kanji. *sigh*

Once we finally got home, I was totally exhausted!

This was the first time that I actually met Tomoe’s brother (24yrs old). He works the night shift as a security guard. He works totally shit hours (three days working 5pm – 9am or something and then two days of weekend) but the pay is good. Anyway, this guy is totally tall! He’s probably over 6’! And on that note, a lot of the guys in Tokyo are way tall! And way cute too ;)

But I digress, so this guy looks at me and his eyes just get big and he sits there completely dumbfounded. I smile and say good evening and the guy doesn’t even nod. I’m too busy looking away because he made me so damn….self conscious. The rest of the night he didn’t look at me or say a single word…to anyone. I told Tomoe that I think he hates me and she told me that he’s not only super shy but he doesn’t get to talk at work so that only adds to his constant silence. She told me later that he did a couple of strange things just because I was there. Strange thing #1: Usually after work, he comes home and takes a bath without taking a shower first. He just wants to relax (I can totally understand that) and then he takes a shower in the morning. However, when he knew that I’d be coming home that night while he was there, he took a shower and cleaned himself instead. Strange thing #2: he normally walks around without a shirt on however since he knew I would be there, he put on a shirt. How kind! (Personally, I don’t think any of these things are strange. I’d do the same thing…if I were him…?)

His mom (who is very kind and speaks almost no English but for some reason thinks I understand a whole lot of Japanese) kept trying to get him to talk to me. I realized later that it was because he takes an English Conversation course over at Aeon every week so he should be able to talk freely and easily. I asked him Monday (after he had kinda sorta gotten used to me) if the teacher for his conversation class was a Gaijin and his answer was the first thing I ever heard come out of his mouth (remember, this is the second day after meeting him!). His answer was also in English and I was completely floored. He told me simply that there are about 5 students and 5 gaijin who sit around talking (I’m assuming one on one). Not bad. Tokyo totally has gaijin to spare so they can do stuff like that!


Fun Fun! I ended up hanging out with Hiru and Kenzo. Both boys I met when I did the conversation class with Tomoe.

We met up around noon and went book shopping! I spent too much money on 2 magazines (normally $6.00 were about $12.00) and two books which were also double the price ($10 instead of $5) You can bet I’m going to read them cover to cover!

We then had lunch after which we said goodbye to Kenzo because he had work and we then took a quick trip to Akihabara. By this time it was around 3ish and my plane was at 6:45. You’d think I would be freaking out about the times but I was in Tomoe’s hands and I was completely relaxed. For once, I just didn’t want to worry! (it turned out alright in the end…luckily!)

Anyway, Akihabara is so cool! I could have spent my entire life there and been satisfied! It’s an Otaku’s dream! It was street after street of anime, manga, electronics, and cheap toys! I wanted to buy everything but by this time I was running low on cash and it wasn’t a good idea to buy crap anyway ;)

We ended up not having enough time to go into a maid café but that would have been nice to see. Akihabara is getting quite famous for maid services. This is where a girl will do anything from serve coffee to give full body massages to cut hair and they do it all in cute maid get ups and go the extra mile to literally baby you (just short of feed you) and they call you the Japanese equivalent of master. I saw these girls walking all over the place! It was crazy!

After all of that, Tomoe and Hiru escorted me to airport and I was very happy for their assistance. I said a hearty “See Ya” because there’s no way that I’ll never visit Tokyo again, and I was off!

My conclusion: In my opinion, Tokyo is the Japanese version of the world. I can do, see, and buy absolutely anything from all over the world the only catch is that is has a slight Japanese twist to it. The food is slightly different and the culture helps to switch a few things around but in the end, the world comes together in Tokyo. It has everything and everyone in it.

At the same time, I’m glad I don’t live in Tokyo. Sure, I’d like to shop everyday there, but I’d never learn Japanese and it really doesn’t feel like Japan. Not true Japan. When people see Japan on TV they are seeing Tokyo. What they don’t know is that that is not real life at all. It’s like looking at Hollywood and saying it’s the same as Ohio. Sure, they have their similarities like….pizza…but they stop there! Hollywood is not reality! And neither is Tokyo. It’s a fantasy that is too expensive for most people to live in ;)

Expect Delays

Saturday, September 16, 2006

You should know by now to expect delays and problems. But let me garuntee you that this blog not working is by far the least of the things that I am worrying about on a constant basis!

Here's the damn picture:

My English conversation class. They look to me for instruction. What the hell am I doing here?!

What Month Is This?

Thursday, September 14, 2006

After two weeks of raining - almost constantly - the sky has cleared and now it feels like late October.

It doesn't smell the way that October normally smells in Florida. It's a very distinct smell in the air that let's you know that you can open all your windows for that one week.

But at the same time I feel like whipping out a pumpkin and cutting that sucker to pieces! It's only the middle of September!!!!

AHHHHHHHHH I'm wearing one of my only jackets and a short sleeved T-shirt because I don't really have anything nice to wear to work that will keep me warm!

And with that, I need all the suggestions I can get! Tell me what you people know about staying warm in a colder climate. What type of shoes should I wear when the rain starts freezing? (It's not usually cold enough here to actually snow a lot. It just rains in a freezing sort of way.) What types of coats do I need? I realize that I don't need to bathe quite as often and layers are a must.

I just need to go buy winter clothes, which is going to seriously kill my budget. Not only are clothes more expensive here in Japan, but winter clothes are more expensive than summer clothes no matter where you are! And I need a whole new wardrobe! Story of my life!

I've got it down to this. I really only need three school worthy outfits. Check this;

Monday: outfit one @ ghetto school
Tuesday: outfit one @ base school
Wednesday: outfit two @ ghetto school
Thursday: outfit two @ base school
Friday: outfit three @ base school

And I can mix and match as I please (^u^)

Also, I've been noticing that the Japanese love to have layers. I thought it was crazy in the hot summers, but I was checking out this one magazine that switched up the layers so well that the model looked like she was wearing a new outfit every time. I can totally do that!!!! Now I just need to start liking Japanese fashion!
On another note, last night I went to one of three welcome parties. This one was with my English conversation class and it was at a very traditional restaurant. The food was interesting. I can't say that I liked it a whole lot. It's not what I'm used to and really that's a first for me. I usually enjoy most everything that I eat!

At the same time, they ordered some very tasty sake and I drank waaaaaay too much. They kept asking me if I was ok but I thought I was hiding it well! NO MORE HEMPAI!

Hempai is a Kochi thing where person 1 pours sake for person 2 and person 2 drinks it quickly and pours sake in the same cup for person 1. This continues back and forth until someone chickens out. They tried to get me to play and I told them they were crazy. I really enjoy drinking sake! I don't want to waste it by drinking it super fast! I also need to be able to walk home at the end of the night.

The good thing about it was that I went to bed before 11pm and I got a great night’s sleep.

Also, one of the students told me that she is a Japanese teacher for elementary school kids. She wants to do the language swap thing where we give each other private lessons. Now that I think I can do. I can work with a person one on one and teach grammar and vocabulary. At the same time I'm super excited to finally be taking Japanese classes again!

Check it out - I actually have a picture!!!

Drink of the week: One Cup

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

So, as my tastes seem to be continually changing, my drink of the week is cheap warm sake! Mmmmmm It’s called one cup and it comes in a glass cup of about 100-200-270mls. The 100 ml is only 100yen so I’m all for that. Since I don’t have a microwave and since it comes in a glass cup, I stick it in a pot of boiling water and wait about 5 minutes. Very nice. Great for relaxing from a stressful day in Japan.

Today, I stayed after school wracking my brain trying to come up with a lesson plan for my integrated class. It’s so easy doing the introduction lesson because it’s the same for every class regardless of what level they are! I just change how I talk.

But my next lesson is going to be video taped so there’s no trial and error with that group. I gotta make it look good!

Also, I keep coming across lessons that would be perfect for upper level students. I am going to have a field day with that one. But everyone else happens to be super lower level so that makes things difficult. They aren’t children so I can’t use children’s games but at the same time they can’t speak or listen or write or read for a damn so that means I can’t do anything that’s really all that interesting. (I hope to prove myself wrong on this one)

For my 1st year students I actually have a book to work with. So I have a curriculum to follow and some nice vocabulary and grammar structures to reinforce. On top of that, I found my predecessors old lesson plans, which makes my life way easier!

On the other hand, for every other class that isn’t 1st year, I need to come up with entirely new lessons and I just don’t know what I’m doing! I want to follow the teacher before me and she was not about playing a lot of games. I can understand why. The games are nice but they’re a bit useless. They don’t really do much good unless they have an actual base to stand on.

For example:

It would be nice if the teacher would teach certain grammar and vocabulary and I would come in the next day and play some games that help reinforce those structures. Or, I could also actually teach them the vocabulary with some nice vocabulary games!

But that would be too logical. (not easy, just logical) Instead, at least for everyone other than the 1st years, they just give me free reign. I don’t have any curriculum to follow, no vocab, and no idea what they already do and don’t know! So I have to feel my way out trying to understand what I can and can’t do. I just have no direction. I’m working completely blind. And the maybes from the teachers don’t help a whole lot.

I’ve never spoken to a single person so much without actually getting a solid answer! Yes, I was expecting this because I’ve studied Japanese culture. But it’s one thing to read it in a book and it’s another to experience it every day!

Damn I wish someone would just be straight forward with me for once!

Oh…someone was today…and it didn’t make me happy.

A teacher told me today that he didn’t like my paper airplane lesson. It seemed to have worked decently with every other class, but he seemed to think it wasn’t very good. I decided I didn’t like him very much…for now.

Maybe if I didn’t care about my job things would be easier. Story of my life. I remember working at marble slab and thinking the same thing. If I didn’t have work ethic, this job would be cake! Well, working as an ALT is the same thing. I could just play games with the students and not really have them learn anything and I could do a half ass job and I wouldn’t get fired or even reprimanded! But I just can’t do that. Damn work ethic! This job is going to be the death of me if I don’t figure it out sometime real soon!

It rained all day today and now it’s about 72 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s kinda cool. In fact, I was too cold in the teachers room today! Every window was open and the breeze was blowing right through my skirt! I wanted to scream for someone to close a window but I kept telling myself that this was going to just get worse. One day I’ll think this is hot! In fact, the teacher that I don’t really like commented that he thought it was hot! ….yeah, I still don’t like him.

They Don’t Know Me

Monday, September 11, 2006

The street outside my window has a metal grate that covers the drain. It runs across the street and every time a car drives over it, it makes a clanking noise. I thought it would get annoying but I’ve gotten used to it. I don’t hear it when I’m sleeping so it’s all good.

My alcohol tolerance has gone way up! I was expecting it but I’m still surprised all the same. I usually drink with someone every night. That’s just the way it works. It get’s expensive though. If I go out to a bar, there’s a sitting fee usually a little less than $15. Then the drinks are around $6. But the more you drink the less they cost so it’s actually better to drink more. Also, if you’re a regular at a certain bar, which most people are, they will lower the price as well. Man, bar owners must make a killing!

Personally, I prefer a night at home with some friends. I’ve always been that way. But houses don’t work the same way here. Most people don’t entertain in their homes because they are so small. So everyone always goes out.

I don’t entertain because there’s nothing here. I refuse to watch movies with friends on my lap top and I don’t even have a decent couch! I could kill someone about this couch but that’s a different story.

Saturday, I showed my Japanese family a bit of my home movies. The DVD worked and I was thrilled about that! It means I don’t need to get a regenless DVD player! Whoo!

Anyway, they saw movies of me from when I was about 6 and 7 years old. I actually didn’t talk as much back then because Sarajane was a big camera hog. Everyone who watches it wonders why I don’t talk more. They know that I talk incessantly and super fast! But when my Japanese family saw it, the father noted about how much I talked. He said that I spoke so much! Why don’t I talk that much now?

That made me sad. Not at the time, but on reflection, I’m quite sad. But it also gives me something to shoot for!

This family of mine, I love them, and they love me. But they don’t really know me and I guess I don’t really know them either. We’d both like to think that we have a common understanding but I’m realizing more and more that it’s very shallow. They have no idea how much I love to talk. I didn’t even realize how little I was speaking to them. I can’t tell them how happy they make me, though I know they know. I can’t tell them about my day, though they get the general idea of it. I can’t tell them my million and one stories, though I’m sure they’re just waiting for me one day to let the knowledge flow.

It gives me even more of a drive to learn Japanese so I can tell them everything! Everything I’ve been thinking and everything I’ve been doing and having problems with and enjoying! There’s more to me than what foods I love!!!

And speaking of food, it’s gotten to the point that I need to calm down!

I love food so much that I’ve been spending crap loads on it and I’ve been eating way too much! I swear I’m going to get fat if I keep this up! If I’m not working or sleeping, I’m usually eating…or shopping for food.

Actually, I tried to make my lunch today and it made me late for the bus. I totally missed it! Luckily, there was one 20 minutes later (instead of the usual hour later) so I wasn’t actually late but I wasn’t on time either (if that makes sense).

Regardless of how bad my home made lunch turned out to be, Kae made me lunch and it made my day. I wonder if she knows how much it means to me. I’ve told her, but maybe I didn’t use the right Japanese. Maybe the words weren’t powerful enough. She knows she means a lot to me.

Actually, after school, her son, Ikuo who is 22 also, drove me home. He was going to Tosayamada (about 20 minutes by car…40 minutes by bus) because he has a job there. I didn’t understand what he was talking about when he told me what it was that he does. I just nodded and pretended I understood. He’s a nice guy. I think I could get used to having a family again ;)

I’m enjoying my classes more and more as I get to know the students and become friends with them. If I’m in a good mood, I can lighten the atmosphere in the classroom and it makes all the difference. Sometimes, it’s just difficult because the students at Odochi just don’t care!

As for Tosayamada, I have only taught one day there (ironically since it’s my base school and I’m there more than Odochi). Tomorrow I have some lessons that I hope I do well on. They should be the last of my introductions. After that, I’ll probably be staying after school to work on my lesson for Thursday.

First of all, thank god I don’t have to worry about my English Conversation class this week! They are holding a welcome party for me so it’s going to be eating and drinking and no lessons! After that, on Thursday I am going to be doing an honest to goodness real lesson with my integrated class. They are really smart and college bound and they enjoy English…a bit. They are all Juniors (2nd years) and the class is a study of culture and general things, it just happens to be in English. It’s not a real English class so that means it’s not a normal lesson (though none of them seem to be). The point of all of this is that on Thursday the news crew is going to be taping that specific class so I gotta make it look good! Hence, I am staying after school so I can work on it. I won’t be there Wednesday because I’m going to Odochi and I refuse to leave it until Thursday and then wing it if I don’t finish in time.

Eh, it gives me something to do. And if I play my cards right, I can get Daikyu out of it. That’s vacation time for working overtime. It’s required and my school is really good about following the rules but it all depends if someone notices that I stay after and how much time I actually stay late!

There have been these cars that drive by all day long blaring campaign slogans for an election that finally happened Sunday. Thank GOD! It was so damn annoying to hear these people saying good morning and thank you in super polite Japanese without actually saying much of anything else. I would hear it while I was trying to sleep at 9am on a Saturday morning or when I was trying to conduct a class. They were never ceasing!

My Japanese is getting better as well. It’s all about the vocabulary baby!

That Annoying Ring Tone

Sunday, September 10, 2006

I have stolen my Japanese families computer becasuse I just had to tell everyone about

As many of my friends back in the states new, I had the same ring tone for about 2 years. I loved my ring tone. I never wanted to change it and everytime I heard it, it made me happy.

The song was Morning Glow from the Final Fantasy X-2 game.

Many people wanted me to change it. Many people found it annoying. But for two years I listened to that cute midi and was happy.

Well, last night, I actually sang that song via Karaoke. In Japanese. With Japanese characters.

So a big HA HA to everyone out there! I did it! I finally sang a Japanese song! I ROCK!!!!


Saturday, September 9, 2006

A note about humidity. Yes, in Florida it is quite humid. But I have never really understood exactly what that means or how it truly affects my life until coming to Japan. In Florida, I can escape from the heat and do the majority of everyday. However, here, I am forced to cope with it.

Humidity is the percentage of how much my body will sweat in one day. If I walk outside and start sweating then, regardless of heat, it is a very humid day. If I walk outside and my skin is still dry after a half hour, regardless of how cool the weather seems to be, it is not a very humid day.

That is humidity.

Crazy Nina At It Again

Thursday, September 7, 2006

I shouldn’t have waited so many days before writing another post. Some crazy stuff happened.

First, (well last really) this morning I thought I was running late because I wanted to make it to the convenience store (since the super market doesn’t open until 10) to get my lunch. So I was in a hurry. Well, there are these metal grates along every road that collect water and everyone has told me to be careful of them because you can slip and fall really easily specifically when they are wet. Well, so far I’ve been really careful because it’s really not becoming for a gaijin to fall. Everyone’s watching me anyway, why give them something to gawk at!

Well this morning, I wasn’t careful. And this morning, I totally slipped and fell off my bike. It wasn’t so bad but I got a nice cut on my hand and elbow. I have a nice white bandage over both of the cuts so in class today I’m sure everyone was really trying to figure out what happened but no one asked. Not until after school when I talked to some students who I’ve already made friends with.

So yeah, that was today.

Well, a couple of days ago…Tuesday…I went out with Monique again. I went into the city to have dinner with the other Monique (from LA) and ended up having a second dinner with Jamaican Monique. She was having dinner at a very nice restaurant with her good friend. I don’t remember his name (or anyone elses for that matter) but he’s the owner of the DoCoMo franchise in Kochi. DoCoMo is one of the three cell phone companies in Japan. DoCoMo is one of the two biggest and he is the franchise owner of the ones in Kochi. That’s really big! And the guy was dropping money like it was water! He paid for Moniques, mine, and his other friends dinner at this very nice restaurant. He then took us to a bar around 9ish because we were waiting for a host bar to open at 10.

Let’s back up a little. So we have this really expensive dinner and then he pays for two cabs to take 4 people to a bar that is just down the street. He then buys us all and the bartender drinks, and then takes us all out to a host club. A host club is where the men entertain the customers by making conversation and drinking with them etc etc. The guys weren’t anything special but I can only imagine how much it must have cost! Clubs like that can’t be cheap!!!! It wasn’t sexy or anything btw. It was just extra ordinary friendliness on the hosts parts.

So then, I tell the guy that my last train leaves at 10:30 but I’m so intrigued by the idea of a host bar that I just don’t want to refuse him. So he pays for my cab back to Tosayamada. About $50. WOW! He paid with a $100 and I still have the change. I’m totally going to find a time to return it to him. He loves company and he loves Monique. He paid for absolutely everything. My jaw was on the floor the whole night!

The next day I had to go into Tosayamada and begin my first lessons. However, plans changed unexpectedly when it began pouring down rain.

See, Odochi is not an academic school. That mean’s they don’t really care about much of anything…or at least that’s the way it seems. So Wednesday was supposed to be a day when all the students were going to go farther up the mountain and tend to their tea plants. They were going to weed and do general maintenance. So I wasn’t going to go to school that day but the rain changed my plans. I ended up getting there late and making up a lesson on the fly. It was actually way better than the first day! The students did a little better and I’m learning how to create lessons that fit them. I hope I can keep it up!

I then had my first lessons today at Tosayamada. I was kinda expecting the same thing as Odochi. I thought I could use the same lessons. But I’m really learning that every class is almost completely different in style and English ability and every lesson needs to be different. This is going to make my life difficult. Once I get in the swing of things, I’m sure it’ll be fine but for right now I need to really learn how to make my lessons and find my groove with the students.

For now, I’m off to eat Yakiniku with Tsubasa and teach him some American Slang. Last week it was LOL and WTF. (He caught me chatting with some friends on his computer and he wanted to know what they were saying)

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