Don't Talk to Strangers

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

...they'll think you're strange.

So, in my never ending attempts to make more friends, I have tried several times to strike up a conversation with a stranger. It has never once worked. They always freak out and get really nervous and pretty much try to run away as fast as they can.

On the other hand, I am always quite pleasant when any sort of Tom, Dick or Harry comes over to chat with the token gaijin. And I've gotten some real weirdos too! But conversation is almost always welcome so I don't mind.

I just don't understand why I'm so scary to these people.


I've decided to take the JLPT level 3.

The JLPT is pretty much the official Japanese language proficiency test (hence JLPT). There are 4 levels with 1 being the toughest. If you can pass that, there is nothing you can't do in Japan. You can even read a newspaper!!!!

Level 4 is stupid easy. So I'm taking level 3 which is also a bit on the easy side but I'm still going to need to study a lot for it.

Surprisingly, the difference between level 3 and 2 is amazing! There is no way that I could ever pass level 2 right now but 3 doesn't seem all that bad. Weird.

Before my time in Japan is up, I'd like to be able to pass the level 2 exam. That is my ultimate goal. That won't happen by sitting at my desk ready "The Time Traveler's Wife" either! (Crappy ass book! I just need to know how it ends so I can start a better one!)


For now, my new obsession is Diner Dash (#1, #2, and# 3). It's quite addictive. Enjoy!

Snot Everywhere!!!!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

So after watching this guys hilarious video, I decided to check out his blog. As I was watching I suddenly came to a strange realization. I was sitting there watching him talk about himself as if the universe revolved around only him and I couldn't turn away. In fact, I really didn't want to! He wasn't particularly interesting but....just something about him made me care about his life and all the stupid mindless details that it contains.

And I realized, I'm the same way! MUWAHAHAHHAHAHAHA! I love me (^_~)v

And I know you do too, yeeheehee (<-- very high pitched like a witch)


Tuesday, February 20, 2007

It turns out the credit card fraud was a mistake. I knew there was no reason to get all panicky about it. Just forgot that I had in fact bought something on the internet. Hey, it's a crazy life people!

And speaking of crazy, this past week and a half has finally caught up with me and then some.

I came into school today and the first thingI did was notice how everyone around me was wearing an "I'm sick" or "I don't want to catch your cold you sick freak" masks. I should have known something was up but half of them told me it was just allergies to spring. Well, I can understand that but the thief next to me was coughing and snorting to the point that I really wanted to gag. She'd blow her nose then keep working and suddenly she'd sniffle in the most disgusting manner that I could actually feel snot dripping down my own throat!

Well, it turns out it wasn't my imagination. As of this evening, I believe I've finally caught my first cold here in Japan. Check that one off my to do list.

It's a small cold really. Just a drippy nose that's making my throat a little sore. Ironically, I'm teaching my students how to say this in English and I wasn't able to tell anyone in Japanese what was wrong with me.

But the real irony is that I've been secretly wanting to catch a cold so I have a legitimate reason to sit in my apartment and do absolutely nothing instead of sitting at my desk. I just wish I had caught it next week! As Friday comes closer and closer, my schedule keeps getting worse and worse!

Allow me to explain.

Last week was supposed to be the last week that I teach any of my students. Starting last Friday I was to begin administering the final interview test to all of my first years which equal 167 total. I was going to have 4 days total to complete this task which was perfectly scheduled out to have exactly three classes everyday with no real stress.

On Tuesday of last week two of my JTEs came to me and asked if I could move their class to Friday of this week (1 1/2 weeks later) I looked at my schedule and I was easily able to squeeze them in.

On Friday of last week, I went up to another JTE and asked if his class was prepared to take the test since it was going to be the last time he was scheduled to work with me (and god knows I'm the only person who can actually give the test....but that's another rant for a little later). He then informed me that it was impossible for his students to take the test at that time. They just weren't ready! So we moved his class to the following week on Thursday.

That meant that I had two tests on Tuesday (today) two tests Thursday and 5 tests on Friday. Fine.

Today, I went up to my #2 I hate JTE (Let's call him Lazy from now on, like the dwarf) So I went up to Lazy and asked him if his classes were ready to take the test. He had two of them today and he told me that both weren't ready.

"Can't I just have them take it on Friday?"

Well, sir, I'm sure if you had come to me earlier I could have done something for you but I already have 5 classes on Friday and there are only 7 classes in a day and though I'm sure that sounds like perfect math the schedule for the students doesn't actually match up. I was able to squeeze in another class for Friday making me work the entire day and I swear to you I'm going to go crazy from saying "what sports do you like to play, what sports to you like to play, what sports do you like to play?" over and over and over and over again for the grand majority of all my students in a single day!!! (how's that for a run on sentence?)

As for his second class, we had to move them to the following Tuesday which I have a sneaky suspicion is going to be too late to actually administer the test but....well, I didn't make the decision. It's out of my hands.

Which brings me to the idea of...why the hell am I the only person to give the test?! I mean, the other teachers aren't exactly completely incompetent! Some of them have better abilities than others but how hard is it to ask "What sports do you like to play, what sports do you like to play, what sports do you like to play?"

Whatever. I'll become a mocking bird for a few days. No biggy.

In other news, I recently realized that my school has a nice collection of Largo yearbooks! In fact, they have three of my four years!!! Too bad they don't have my Senior year, I would have rather had that than Freshman but beggars can't be choosers.

I spent the majority of the day looking through them. All the books were given to the school as a gift and incidentally, I actually signed my Junior year one. I had come to Japan for the first time that year and as part of the gift we all signed it. Talk about nostalgia.

I'm bringing 5 of them with me tomorrow to Odochi and I think we're all going to really enjoy looking through them and seeing how the schools are so very very different! It's going to be awesome!

Also, I don't know if it's a good thing or not but...I look exactly the same in every single one of my pictures. Meaning, I look the same in my Freshman, Sophomore and Junior year pictures as well as my drivers license (16 yrs old) , UCF school id (18 yrs old) , and Japanese registration card (22 yrs old). That's like....9 years people! And I haven't changed!!! Well, I have fewer pimples, and that's saying something.

Story of my life Part 10 Finale

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Woke up unhappy. Had a bad conversation with the family and almost felt worse. I decided to pop in some Reno 911 and things are all gravy again. I plan to meet up with Kae later today and hopefully things will get back to normal. Thank god this week is over!!!

Story of my life Part 9

Saturday, February 17, 2007

I woke up early and missed the train by 3 minutes. Go ahead, call me a hypocrite. It was raining! It could have happened to anyone!

I showed up to the Genki practice only 30 minutes late and enjoyed my time practicing and laughing. This play is going to be fantastic!

Afterwards, I went out with a couple of people where we all chatted until I met up with Erinn for another go at the bagel shop. *crossing fingers*

I walked in and instantly CBB asked, “are you Nina?” Yes, I am the weird stalker who sent you a creepy valentine. He then thanked me profusely and apologized for not calling because he was a “lazy boy”.

The story is long and not all that interesting. So to cut it short, the boy’s not gonna call me. I talked to a few girls way after the fact and someone said “doesn’t he have a girlfriend?” It would have been nice to know that before hand. “But, Nina! You never asked!” Whatever.

I went out with Erinn and took purikura. It’s a completely different experience when you’re not with a Japanese person! Ours came out totally weird! (and way smaller than we were expecting)

Story of my life Part 8

Friday, February 16, 2007

Went to school and was bored as hell. I taught one class. Next week is going to be crazy though as I will be administering a test to every single 1st year by myself. There are about 200 students (500 in the entire school) and I have three days.

I stayed after school for about 45 minutes so that students could bring me their pen pal letters. In the end, I was only missing 5 or 6. I think that's pretty good :) Garuntees that the students who don't want replies won't actually get any in the end! (not being sarcastic either!)

That night I went to Nankoku where I met up with the teachers from Odochi for a normal drinking party. Three of the teachers had just come back from a three day long school trip to Tokyo for skiing and Disney world. We were celebrating their hard work. Thanks guys! Wish I had gone.

Story of my life Part 7

Thursday, February 15, 2007

At school, my computer continued to make moaning noises like an old man. I really hope it dies soon. On the home front, my lap top is working properly though it’s a real pain in the ass to have to redo absolutely everything and reinstall every single thing all over again!!! Gah!

The only thing I had to look forward to on this day was watching the movie in my 2nd year’s class. I apologized to my JTE for constantly questioning him about the room and the rental of the movie.

When class rolled around, we all gathered in the AV room and I made a short announcement about the pen pals. I could see that some students had them out but I could also see that some of them had totally forgotten about them. I told the students that they had until the end of Friday to hand them into me. I plan to send them out this weekend.

We then sat back and enjoyed Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

Say what?!!

Yeah. It turned out that even though we had reserved the AV room someone else had reserved the DVD player. The best I could do on such short notice was to raid the teacher’s closet of educational VHS tapes. It was either Indiana Jones or Pocahontas.

I felt like a complete failure. BUT not to stay down for too long, I made plans to watch a Wallace and Gromit 30 minute short next week. Hopefully this time it’ll turn out alright.

I got home and continued working on my computer. When I checked my email, I noticed that my mother had sent me the billing information for my credit card. Everything seemed alright except for a $59.00 charge to a place in Massachusetts via phone. It was charged on January 2nd when I was still in Sendai with Aozora. Strange, I don’t recall buying anything like that.

I called the company and asked what was up. Turns out, the charge was made through Suitcase . com and I didn’t make it.

I am now the official victim of identity theft. That’s a first. I kinda never though it could happen to me.

Call from CBB: no

Story of my life Part 6

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Valentines Day!!!

I woke up at 4am to the sound of fuzz. What? Fuzz? Did I leave something running? I got up to investigate and realized that it was raining furiously. I enjoyed going back to sleep knowing that nothing was running and I wasn’t going to have some ridiculously high power bill over nothing.

In the morning, I gathered my stuff and headed off to Odochi. On the way, I dropped my eggs on the bus. Two of the 6 eggs broke. But when life hands you a broken egg, make an omelet! And since we had use of the home ec room, that’s exactly what we did.

Actually, the students were more hyper than usual. It was probably all the chocolate that was being given out. Three girls gave me homemade chocolate which was to die for and a number of teachers also gave out little bits of candy as well.

I then spent the grand majority of the day reading the Time Travelers Wife and I have got to say, that woman writes horribly! I mean, she’s almost as bad as I am but the big difference is that I’m not a best seller, and with good reason!

Later, I suddenly got a very worried feeling in my gut that the movie idea I wanted to do at Tosayamada wasn’t going to work. Either my JTE was not going to remember to sign up for the room or he would forget to rent the movie! I emailed my supervisor and she sent back that everything would be ok. I was relieved but not convinced. Call it intuition.

Anyway, I gained another member to the English club thus doubling the members. I knew there was a reason we were making delicious chewy chocolate cookies.

Because the main student has a curfew of 5:30 and I have a bus to catch and an English class to teach, we cut the recipe in half and made about 30 cookies. We handed them out to all the teachers and the students took a good chunk of them home. I was very pleased. Also, the JTEs were quite hyper as well. More so than usual which was awesome! They’re so funny when it comes to chocolate. I swear all Japanese women are addicted. But that’s another story.

I went home and straight to the grocery store where I saw one of my students working. I’m sure you remember him, he’s mon-chan, the cute monkey boy from Odochi! He wasn’t very happy seeing as he was working and all, so I gave him my extra cookies. I was a little over-sugared by then.

I went home, ate quickly and went off to English conversation class. By 9, I was exhausted.

Progress on the computer: It’s running and I’m slowly nursing it back to health

Call from CBB: No

Story of my life Part 5

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

I woke up in one of the most miserable moods ever! What was I going to do about my computer?! Send it off to America, have it repaired there! I'm barely surviving after three days of a nonfunctioning comp and I can't imagine what a few weeks would do to me! This is my best friend!!!!

Well, if I had a boyfriend I'm sure it would help my situation. But no call from CBB! WHYYYYY?!?!?!

I decided that I should probably drop by the bagel place on Saturday when I go into the city for genki rehearsals. With that in mind, I needed to start looking cute. First step, nail care! I began rummaging through my drawers looking for a nail file when I came across my dell windows xp disc. It was the missing piece to my puzzle. No wonder I couldn't reformat!! PRAISE THE LORD AND THE BAGEL BOY!!!

I almost cried I was so relived.

I then went to work and had a nice day being unhappy. See, even though I was relieved to have found my disc, I was still facing erasing my entire hard drive over some stupid STUPID file that I didn't even need! And besides, it was like a lingering phantom pain. I was still upset over the idea of having a broken computer despite my being able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Once at work, the bitch next to me conveniently left me out of her lessons again but it was all the same to me. I didn't want to be there anyway, especially not in her class. (though her students are some of the best. Damn double edge sword of reality)

Even though I was slightly bored, I notice that everyone was working like crazy. On top of all the crazy that my life seems to be in right now, I also started thinking about my students. Since I wasn't at Odochi, I tried to focus my attention on my Tosayamada classes and all I could think about was my 2nd years and their botched up pen pal lesson! I could take Kathy's advice and show them how mad I was by giving them a lecture but in all honesty, I was the one who should have known better. It's because I'm a new and inexperienced teacher that got the class into trouble. Not the lack of responsibly on the students parts. Besides, it was only Tuesday, Thursday would really reveal if I had messed up royally or not.

Instead, I started lesson writing. I decided that since there were only two classes left for the 2nd years, and I couldn't use another day for pen pals *sigh* I decided that I would show them Wallace and Gromit in the Curse of the Wererabbit. Very cute movie. It would work out perfectly. It was the exact amount of time as two classes would allow. I made plans with my JTE to reserve the AV room and also rent the movie. As I said earlier, everyone was really busy and he kept forgetting to do it all day. But I didn’t want to insult him by constantly bugging him so I let it lie.

When school ended I hooked up with my English club students and began baking Chewy Chocolate cookies!!! (Look for the recipe on the Tosayamada home page…when I get it all up and running. Gah one more thing!)

Normally in situations like cooking for club activities, I am told that the students and teachers who want to participate will gather in the home ec room and great fun is had by all. Except that the home ec teacher is a very nice but very strict woman. Without hesitation she abruptly said “NO, it’s not ok to use my room. It’s for classes only!” Alright. Can’t argue with that.

So instead, I brought what I had from home and also barrowed an oven from my supervisor. The same oven that I used for International day and my wonderful smores! We were all very grateful to her. On the down side though, the oven was on the tiny side and so we were only able to make 7 cookies at a time. The recipe makes about 60 some cookies. On the up side, the oven was hotter than I expected and the cookies took half the time to cook!

When some of the students started getting bored around 5:30, I sent them out to give cookies to all the teachers. By 7, we were ready to go home all towing 2 cookies each for personal consumption.

I then ran to the store to get supplies for more cookies since I was going to be doing the same thing the next day at Odochi and then settled in at home for some ramen and computer reformatting.

I put the pot to boil and popped my disc in. 1 hour after initiation, of which there is no turning back, Dan emailed my keitai and informed me that he had in fact found the solution to my problem and there was no need to reformat!!! YEAH!!!

I just about threw noodles all over my poor monitor.

Progress on the computer: Newer than factory issue!

Call from CBB: no

Story of my life Part 4

Monday, February 12, 2007

Thank the lord for this holiday!!! For whatever random reason, the Japanese holiday known as "replacement holiday" fell on Monday and I was so overjoyed to sleep in for once. I got up, cleaned the apartment and avoided the computer and my keitai which I was afraid would ring with CBB on the other end. By noon, and with a spotless apartment, I sat down in front of my machine and began troubleshooting it again. I figured out how to get internet connection but since its Linux, it seems that most websites do not support its browser so that left me with a worse connection than if I were behind the biggest parental firewall imaginable.

By 3 in the afternoon, I called up my other friend Monique and politely said "CAN I PLEASE COME OVER NOOOOOOW!!! I must get out of this *%&"# apartment!!!
I then spent a very lovely evening with her and a few friends eating Thai curry and watching Love Actually. Incidentally, I told Monique and company about my romantic valentine story. "Ohhh, CBB, yeah I know him. Like, everyone flirts with him."

Fantastic. She informs me that his name is Aki (I really like that name).

When the evening was over, I returned home to see a dark cloud hanging over my apartment. I came in, flipped it on and somehow managed my way to the dell help page. I chatted with a very nice man, Padmanabhan Ramaswam, who pretty much told me that there was no way around it. I was going to have to

Oh god.

I thanked him and tried to reformat. I couldn't even do that right. I got back on the Dell chat line, this time with Salini Sood, and told him it was a no go. He told me a couple of different ways that I could reformat and I just needed to try. By this time, it was almost midnight. I tried his methods and not a single one worked. So I decided to go to bed sulking.

Progress on comp: internet
Call from CBB: no

Story of my life Part 3

Sunday, February 11, 2007

I woke up bright and early and realized that my life was empty without my computer. I'm beginning to realize that my best friend has been replaced by my machine and I'm only slightly sad about this. It just means I need to take better care of it! Again, I hopped a train into town equipped with USB drive and made my way to my favorite internet cafe. I wasn't sure of my plans for the day but I knew for sure I needed to finish fixing my computer. It was only going to take 20 minutes anyway!

3 hours later, I emerged from the cafe. It was the middle of the afternoon. Dan, who is currently living in Spain and no longer dating me and therefore has no obligation to help me, stayed up until 5am his time to walk me through the solution to my problem. I was now equipped with a reformatted USB drive and a brand new Linux bootable disc! I've
never used Linux before but how hard could it be? (is my foreshadowing getting annoying?)

I decided that the afternoon/early evening was still young. And I suddenly got a tickling in my brain. It was probably a thought but I couldn't be sure. I called up Aozora to see what she thought. I asked her if it was a completely weird idea to give CBB (the cute bagel boy) a valentine. I mean, the timing was quite convenient.

Let's digress for a minute (as per usual). See, Valentines Day is a crazy holiday here in Japan. Everyone knows that the holiday was created by the chocolate and card companies and the Japanese have embraced the idea with open arms. But as with everything in this country that came from the western world, they had to put some twist in it. Instead of men giving valentines to women consisting of but not limited to chocolate, candy, flowers, cards, balloons, lingerie, stuffed animals, a nice dinner out, and whatever else she might desire. I recall one year getting a huge teddy bear. The following year I was given a 60gig hard drive. Ahhhh those were good times.

BUT, here in Japan, it's the women that give men the valentines. It's not usually cards that say "Be my valentine" or "Some bunny loves you" with a cute picture of a rabbit. No no. Instead, the women go home and make chocolate from a kit. I can only imagine that it takes hours upon hours. They then wrap them all individually and give them out to the men in their lives. Particularly the ones they want to get with ;)

My mother tells me that this is similar to America and I shouldn't be making a big deal out of it. I mean, I was the one child in our family that made a big deal out of this Holiday every year. I was the one who had to buy some cute children’s valentines with sponge bob or the transformers on them and give them out to all my friends. It wasn't so
much that I was really into V-day or anything, I just really like giving people cute stuff!

Anyway, at the same time, it's not so bad that women give to men, which I was really originally hung up on, it's more so that some women do it out of obligation. In fact, if you go to Wikipedia, it actually tells you that there is a word for "The obligation of giving chocolate on Valentines Day". It's called 義理チョコ. I asked my friends and
they all agreed. It's totally a common word!!

Anyway, with that said, when I asked Aozora if it would be a good idea to give CBB a valentine, she practically jumped through the phone and demanded that I do it now and with a smile and cute skirt or she would personally kick my ass, in a loving way of course.

I still wasn't convinced. Yes, it's important to the Japanese but to me…the whole idea made me feel kind of silly.

I then called Monique and we made plans to hang out. I thought for sure she would put my mind straight and prove to me that it was a total joke but instead she actually thought it was a good idea. "See Nina, this is the reason why we're single. I won't do this sort of crap. I don't even like Japanese guys! But if you really think he's cute, go for it! You'll get him instantly!"

" what do you know about this guy anyway?"

"Oh, the bagel guy? Yeah everyone knows him. In fact, every gaijin girl that goes in there flirts with him!"

Long gossipy conversation cut short, basically last year the bagel shop was the place to be if you were a JET. There was always the CBB but he also had an accomplice in crime aka CBG (cute bagel girl). Both people were big hits with the gaijin and everyone would always flirt with them. Recently, the bagel shop has lost its flare or so it seems and the girl has changed jobs for something bigger and better. Monique believes that they will never fire CBB because it is believed that gaijin will flock there just for him. Personally, I think it's the bagels but he's not exactly hard on the eyes either. Besides, why would they want to fire him anyway?!?!

Monique, who really knows the most gossip in the city, wasn't sure if he had dated any of the girls in JET. It would make sense if he had only because that would explain is good accent!

SO I went with her to the local foreign foods store. The last one. The only one. It consists mostly of foreign chocolate and face wash. *Napoleon Dynamite cut* Yeeeeesssssss! I then found the smallest most insignificant box of $3 chocolate I could find with a cute little card on it. I wrote my number and "call me" on it. When I got to the bagel place, he was not on duty. I was slightly relieved. Nicer to leave it and see what he does than watch him turn pink with shyness while I'm standing right there. Did I mention that he's really shy despite being a good conversationalist? I think he's an in the closet outgoing person, he just hasn't admitted it but everyone knows. It's obvious.

In a split second I drew a cute stick figure picture of myself with really curly hair and left if with his coworker. His manager actually came by and if he had been an American, he would have given me the wink and a gun. ACK dirty old man!!! But really, I was just another gaijin girl coming in to hit on CBB. *Sigh* I hate being unoriginal.

It was starting to get cold and dark and I really wanted to get back to fixing my computer. I took the train home and spent from about 6pm to 11pm working on my computer.

Progress made: I can play my music. I can not access the internet, I can not delete said file, I can not back up my files either. Weeeee

Story of my life Part 2

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Thia felt it was her duty to call me at 8am to remind me that there was a genki meeting at 10. I looked at my train schedule and realized that I had all of 40 minutes to get to the rain so that I could get to the meeting place on time. No time for a shower. Joy of all joys!

But thanks to the dry weather, my hair has been doing some fantastic things! It's gorgeous!

Anyway, I hopped on the train and after a few minutes I met up with Thia in the flesh. I was equipped with a nasty bran breakfast (gotta keep it kinda healthy!) and my USB drive in case I was able to commandeer a friends computer. We arrived on time and abruptly got lost. I do love those street signs by the way. Very helpful those street signs. When we finally did show up, we were greeted by equally groggy faces.

We then sat back and enjoyed ourselves for the next few hours of genki practice or lack there of. Genki, btw, is a musical production put on by the local JETs in the local dialect. They do it every year to raise money for something or other. I don't know, I'm just looking for a good time. Incidentally, I seem to be the only person who's really excited about this production. As I'm sure my long time readers and friends know, there are just some things that tickle me pink for no apparent reason and being apart of genki is one of those things. I can't imagine anything more fun at the moment. Everyone else on the other hand seems to think of it as more of a fun chore. Fun but a chore nonetheless.

They don't want to come in every Saturday or take the time to learn there lines. They want to do it but they're unhappy that it takes up such a big chunk of their lives. Whatever, I'm thrilled to do it. It's becoming the highlight of my week!

We took a break at the local food court and on the way back, we caught sight of the cutest chicks ever!!! (Don't make fun of me for the stupid face. I was in a goofy mood) There's actually a shrine/temple right behind the food court and I guess they let the mother hen wander around freely because she's the only one not in a cage. She had some super cute babies and we just couldn't resist!

Sometime after lunch a few more people showed up and we continued practicing. By 4, everyone was ready to go home. I did a little shopping and then met up with my buddy Erinn for a good old fashioned bagel dinner.

There is a single bagel shop that I know of in this prefecture. At least, only one that I know of that I am actually able to get to. At this bagel shop of which there is only one, there works a particularly cute Japanese boy. All I know about him is that he's out of high
school and not yet old. (this is a big deal people!) Also, he doesn't know a lot of English but the little bit that he does know, he uses as frequently as possible and with one of the best accents I've heard in a long time. He actually said "Thank you"!!! Not "Sank you"!!

So I got to talking to him and I guess you could call it flirting. We talked about different things like "why is your English so good?"

"well, I lived in England when I was about 5 years old"
"Yeah, for about…­" thinking... "three weeks. And then I also studied in High school"

Personally, something about his story doesn't add up. No one gets that decent at English just from three weeks and high school. I mean, some of my best students can't speak with an accent as well as he can..­. though they probably know more English.­ I don't know what it is, just something doesn't add up.

Anyway, he kept hinting that he was going out that night and I kept hinting that I didn't have any plans but in the end we all went home alone. So sad.

Progress made on my computer: None

Story of my life Part 1

Friday, February 9, 2007

I have a bit of extra time at work so I've decided to break up my super long post into single day posts since I ended up leaving out a lot of details that just make the situations that much more…­savory.

I woke up in the morning and turned on my computer as per usual. Everything was fine. I don't quite remember what I did for the day but I do recall that I was so exhausted from the entire week that even though I wanted to go out on that fine Friday night, I instead decided to go home and spend a relaxing evening doing one of three things: playing Final Fantasy, Playing with my computer or reading my new book (Time Travelers Wife).

I realize that I'm a total loser for listing those three things as my activities of choice but I really needed to relax. When I came home that evening, I flipped on the computer and puttered around with other things while I waited for it to boot. When I came back I was faced with a black screen. There was nothing. So I restarted my computer. Same result. As soon as it finished loading windows and before the login screen, my monitor would go

I won't bore you with technical details but in the end, through the use of my cunning keitai web browsing skills, I figured out that my problem was with a tiny little system file called SPTD.sys . It is associated with Daemon tools. This is a program that I had recently installed for a different fiasco I was having at the moment but never
actually used. I figured it was a harmless program so why delete it?

Normally in a situation like this, I would pull up the number/email/screen name of one of my many computer savvy friends but it goes to show how much I rely on my computer when I was unable to contact any of them! Instead, I called Dave.

And what was Dave doing on such a fine Friday night? He was staying home as well. He had a bit of a cold. Poor popular Dave was unable to live it up for once. HA

Dave who is only literate with Photoshop and other editing programs was at a loss and so he got a hold of Dan on the net and we all chatted back and forth over a very expensive keitai conversation. In the end, Dan said I had no worries and he would email me the solution to my problem. It would be a wham, bam, thank you ma'am sort of solution and I'd be in the clear as soon as I found a computer to use for maybe 20 minutes tops. I mean, it's only a crappy freeware program. How bad could it be?

That night I went to bed feeling pretty good and enjoying the idea that I was going to be able to sleep in for once!


Thursday, February 8, 2007

Kareshi - Boyfriend

It has come to my attention this week that the entire staff as well as every last one of my students believes that I have a boyfriend. In fact, the only people who don't think I have a boyfriend are the ones who know for a fact that I am single. Other people just believe that there is no way I could be without. I mean, I'm too beautiful and special to be alone. It would a crying shame. It would be such a waste. It would be too unbelievable to possibly be true!


Also, I made a boo boo. I couldn't help it though! It's all my neighbor's fault!!! She brought me all of her pen pal letters from her students and they were...well, I was blown away. They were written really well and most of the cultural things that she needed me for, she either steered the kids around it or they actually figured it out. I mean, one of the kids knew what a sugarglider was and they didn't even ask me! That's pretty impressive and I don't know how she knew that unless she went on the Internet to figure it out. It's not in any dictionary to say the least and most people don't even know it off the tops of their heads. I don't even know how I knew it!!!

So anyway, I see these letters written very well and on really nice stationary that the students brought in from home and I students can do better. These kids are only first years and it's a required course! My students are a year ahead and they chose to be there! HA this'll be easy!!

Or so I thought.

In reality, I think I just bombed the whole lesson. My original plan was to walk into class today and tell the students that they needed to finish up before the end of the period. They needed to write it on the paper I provided and cut and paste whatever they thought was cute off of their rough draft onto their final paper. It was going to be sweet and simple with no frills or complications.

Instead, I gave the class extra time because it was too tempting to think that I might be able to draw this out for another day and not have to write a different lesson plan. It also meant the possibility of having the students be a little more creative and maybe show up the first years in the end! I mean, the first years letters were really good! But by the end of class only three people had finished and the rest were fighting off sleep much to my dismay. I showed them the other pen pal letters hoping it would inspire them to do better. Since some students were already done and I could see that my other students didn't actually need the extra time, I made the split second decision to tell the class to take their letters home and finish them.

And it was like the slow motion scene in The Christmas Story when Ralphy says the F-word. I just saw my entire lesson crumble before my eyes. All my work, gone. All my effort, for not.

I had just wrote not 5 days ago that I should never give my students something to take home. It'll never come back!!!

But my neighbor had done it! In fact, she's done it many times and her kids always bring it back! So where am I going wrong?

I just hope my Tosayamada second years are more trustworthy than my Oodochi first years. You would think that's a given but my JTE for that class basically said in a Japanese way "Nina, you just screwed yourself. You should never ever let your students take their work home...but I'm sure everything will be ok."

It's all my neighbor's fault for making me jealous of her work. She made me do it!!!

Oodochi 2nd Years

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

I had the pleasure of teaching the second years at Odochi high school. Remember when I was commenting about how those students seemed a bit gay when I first came here in August? Well, apparently I'm not the only one. One of my JTEs mentioned that when she first came, the students were so...well gay (the original meaning of the word) that she thought for sure that they were. Even though we both know all those boys are not in fact gay (well, we speculate anyway) they certainly do appear that way.

It took some thinking about, but I've come to the conclusion that the majority of the second year boys are like cute, happy, curious, little monkeys! There are three in particular that will come into the teachers room and amok!

Picture this if you will. The student came in and sang "Senseeeeeei! You forgot Mr. attendance book in the classroom!" and hands the book over. He then walks over to my JTE, a cute little woman, and says, "Weeee"as he starts spinning her around in her chair. In her timid sort of way, she has a bit of difficulty getting out what she wants to say "Waaa! Bu...wai...hol...ahhhhh...stop it! Stop it!" but she's laughing all the while so it's hard to not smile too. He then takes the slipper that has fallen off of her foot and starts waddling around the room with it. She asks him to bring it back which he does like an obedient mon-chan (cute monkey boy). "Ooo what's this?!" he trills excitedly as he pulls a box of chocolates off of her desk. She takes it from him to discuss it's contents and as soon as it's out of his hands "oooh and what's this?!" he goes on. The bell rings and "Welp, see ya in class, byeeeeeee" and walks out of the room. And that my friends is the most amusing thing I've ever seen take place in a matter of 2 minutes or less. And this happens on a daily basis! It's fantastic!

It's only too bad that I don't get to teach those students more often. I don't care how much English they don't know, they'd be so much fun to play games with!

And I did too! In class, for one day only, I was able to pull off all of my crazy game ideas that would just never work without the right class. I had my students dancing, writing, talking, and touching. Yes touching. (mind out of the gutter please!) I decided to play a game where all the students stand in a circle and put their arms into the middle. They then grab the hand of two different people (a different person for each hand) and then they have to untangle themselves by working as a team. It really is a wonderful game though the only English in it is when I'm giving them the directions. But eh, it was fun anyway! I could never do that in any of my other classes. Their either too big, too unmotivated, or too polite to want to get that close to one another. The stars aligned in my favor that day and I pulled it off. It was fantastic!

Also, they said I look like Agnela Aki. She is a girl who was born in Japan to a Japanese father and an American mother (100% Italian) and went to high school and college in America. She is now a very famous singer here in Japan. She didn't exactly make it in America. She sings in both English and Japanese.

It's not uncommon for me to meet someone for the first time who has heard of me and hear them say under their breath 「やっっぱりアンジェラあきですね」 which is the equivalent to "I know it, she's Angela Aki" or "She really is like Angela Aki".

Do you see the resemblance? Lie to me (^_~)v

I'm flattered. She's very pretty and talented. Maybe I should learn her songs and sing them in Karaoke. That'd get a great response!

Armed with the lethal weapon of English

Monday, February 5, 2007

Recently in one of my classes at Odochi, I've started to realize that one of my favorite teachers doesn't really do well in the discipline area. So I've become a little bolder in the classroom and I've taken it upon myself to actually get up the gumption to tell the students to sit down and write their vocabulary out because if they don't, they won't be able to study for the interview test I'm going to give them next week.

However, there is one student in particular who seems to think that English is the complete bane of his existence and it personally insults him when I try to teach it to him. I've never seen a student try so hard not to learn.

At the same time, I'm getting a decent response from the students and I'm also surprising myself in a good way. Today, for example, I told the students to take out their worksheets from last week. The worksheet was to be about a three day assignment where they slowly filled in the blanks as I taught it to them and then they would practice on their own. We would take it nice and slow. The stuff they're doing now would take any of my Tosayamada students about 30 minutes to do. I'm not saying that my Odochi students are stupid, it's just that their English ability is lower than that of the Tosayamada students. At the same time though, I always say that effort is important and goes a lot in my book but....well when I see these students give me any effort it's to avoid English at all costs. That's not exactly what I was looking for.

So anyway, I told the students to get out their worksheets. Last week when we had filled in a little more than half of it in one class, it was like pulling teeth and I knew that the students weren't used to trying this hard to listen to English or write down just about anything so I could understand that they were caught off guard but I figured it was something they definitely needed. Unfortunately, today more than half the students didn't have their papers. Of 7 students, two remembered it, two had been absent so had never gotten it, and three had lost it.

SO, I decided to take the two girls that had their worksheets and they stood up in the front of the class and helped me teach the lesson all over again. I was hoping it would teach them a lesson about saving their worksheets (and not throwing it away like I think at least one of the students did) but I don't think it taught them anything. It wasn't so difficult this time around but at the same time, two of the three students that didn't have their worksheet didn't fill in the new one either. Eh, we'll see how well they do on the exam. I doubt it'll keep them from moving up a grade and it probably won't teach them to study either. They've been doing this for 10 years now. They should know how it works!

But that's not even fair for me to say. I remember I wasn't exactly the best student either and if I knew I could breeze through a class then I would. But I never made such an effort to refuse what the teacher asked me! Especially if I didn't even need to do anything for homework!

I'm going to give the two girls who helped me something nice on Wednesday. They're good people ;)

Also, after this month I won't be teaching them anymore so I should enjoy what little of it I can while it still lasts. I hear the next bunch are going to be worse, at least in English ability. (though rumor has it they're worse in attitude too and I don't know if I can handle that) Oh, I don't know if I mentioned it but Odochi will be closing eventually. Not in my lifetime, but not too long after it. This is the last year that they will be taking new students. After that, they will slowly graduate every student until there aren't any left and then they're closing it down. Odochi isn't the only school either. I don't blame them. The school only has 58 students!

Also, I asked a teacher at Odochi what she thought of my pen pal fiasco. She told me that it was normal for people to open mail at school. If it's personal, why have it sent to school anyway?! Regardless, my name wasn't even on it in the first place! So I'm not mad about that. She then told me that she had no idea about my neighbor and her thieving ways. She said that if we were good friends then it would have been ok but it's not exactly a normal thing to do with the Japanese culture. This is entirely on a single personality level. I think if my neighbor were American, I'd like her even less because I'd be able to see everything that I don't like and not just the stuff that gets translated.

Lastly, I was talking to Kae last night and she said something really cool. I told her that some of my friends wanted to check out the Anpanman museum and she wanted to know why since it was for children. I told her that it was Japanese culture and it was also super weird!!! She laughed and then we got into a conversation about weird Japanese things. I told her that there was a myth about used panties in a vending machine. She couldn't believe it but Ikuo chimed in and said that supposedly it's true though not in the Kochi area. Thought that was hilarious.

So then I started trying to think about all the weird things about American culture but I couldn't come up with anything that rivaled the panties or the head feeding super hero. In all honesty, I know America has some really weird things in it but to me, it's just the norm so I couldn't come up with anything.

Kae then said that she was sure that America had weird things just like Japan but they both even themselves out. Both cultures have really cool and really weird things about it.

That might not sound very profound, but most Japanese people won't admit openly that they think something about their culture is weird or even bad, especially not to a gaijin which I can respect...kinda. Most of them will admit that some things are better than others and they won't hesitate to say how their culture is better than someone else's but for Kae to admit that there were some bad things just like every other culture in the world was very big of her. I love her (^-^)

Sleep over at Nina's!

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Yesterday, being Friday, I wanted to get out and enjoy myself. But since it's only been getting colder* I decided that I didn't want to leave Tosayamada. That left me with....few options. I had invited Tsubasa out but he canceled. I had invited Adam out but it was looking like our paths were going to split early in the evening. So I called up Thia and had her run over here on the next train which happened to be in 10 minutes and we decided to have dinner and a movie; Pride and Pejudice with Keira Knightley.

Adam showed up not too long after since his plans had changed and everyone enjoyed making a mess of my kitchen and I enjoyed being able to rant to another person about how pissed I was about the pen pal letters. (The fact that my anger on that situation keeps fluxuating leads me to believe that it's mostly culture shock and not the actual fact that my next door neighbor is a theiving bitch)

We decided that after the movie we would meet with Adams JTE friend. The guy just came to the school about a week ago and he's young (27) and Adam and he really hit it off. They've become pretty good friends. We would have hung out with him earlier in the evening except that the JTE had a welcome party to go to with the school. Adam was not invited...hmmmmm. But when he invited the JTE out, he was so willing to go that he almost wanted to ditch the party and come hang out with us. Or so Adam got the impression. We decided that his party would probably be over at 9 and we'd all go out after that. Then Adam would take the last train into the city, dropping off Thia on the way and he'd pull an all nighter. I'd stay home in my warm bed ;)

Later in the night we realized that Thia had missed her last train since the "last train into the city" is an express and doesn't stop at her station. Adam failed to mention that. And instead of taking a cab home, she decided she would just sleep over at my place. Hey, what do I have a pull out couch for if I don't intend to have people over?! But I still felt bad becuase I'm such a high mantenance person that I would feel disgusting in the morning from sleeping in my clothes and not being able to brush my teeth.

The movie got out later than we expected and there was still no call from the JTE. We decided to out go out to an Izakaya for a few drinks without him and he'd meet up when he was done. It was after 10 so the first one we went to had to turn us away because they had stopped seating people.

As we were walking away, we saw Adam's vice principal. She was quite sloshed as she said hello and then goodbye. Apparently the party that Adam was not invited to was being held at the Izakaya we had wanted to go to. It was still going strong.

We went to another place down the street and at midnight (15 minutes after the last train) the guy finally calls (three hours late) and without apology or remorse said that he was going out to a second party with the other teachers and he'd see Adam Monday.

How kind of him to call.

And so now, Adam has been exposed to the flakyness of most Japanese guys. In Japan, apparently it's ok to pull crap like that but in most western countries, you don't do that. At least, you don't do that without a fake apology at the very least. And on top of it all, he could just say that he was drunk and so he get's off scott free.

This guy sounds cool and I'm sure that he is when he's not ditching people but before I even meet him he already has some big negative points in my book. That's going to be hard to fix which sucks because he sounded so awesome.

Woman, you insult me

Friday, February 2, 2007

I don't feel like writing everything again so I'm going to post a bunch of emails from the day of the event. As things progress through the day, so do my emails:

Thursday morning

I'm pissed. Like, really pissed. First off, today was supposed to be a good day. There are three things that I am looking forward to today and I'm still looking forward to them. HOWEVER, there are a few things that have really irked me in the past three days, this one being the icing on the cake, and I'm about to tell someone off! I just don't know who.

Keep in mind however that this really is culture shock talking. I'm not sad. I'm angry. Little things are throwing me off the deep end.

I've been waiting for my pen pal letters from Largo high school. They came in yesterday when I wasn't here. I got to my desk and made an unintentional but audible sigh and the teacher next to me asked what was wrong. I told her I was waiting for my letters because I need them today but I don't see them and now I don't know what I'm going to do. She told me that the other English teacher had them. Great! I sprinted over to his desk to find the envelope opened. Fantastic. Thanks for the privacy. I sat down at my desk and mumble to myself that there are 18 students but only 11 letters. I told the president to make hand written copies so it didn't look like I had made duplicates. The teacher next to me says "oh, well just make copies like this." and pulls out her copies of my letters.... I just about spit on her. What the hell is she doing with copies of MY LETTERS!!!! What the hell does she think she's going to do!?!? More pen pals with my Largo students!!! I'm already making duplicates of the damn things! How many pen pals does she think the Largo kids want!!! I mean, they're not very long or even written well! She couldn't possibly want them for translations with her students!

GAH that woman pisses me off!

A very angry,

A few hours later

The thing is that my name wasn't on it. It had Deborahs name up at the top and no person in the main address. They knew I was waiting for the letters though and that still doesn't give them the right to copy them. I was probably over reacting about opening the letters, but it's not the first time that things have been addressed to me and have been opened. At least before they were opened with good intentions such as trying to translate before I got it but usually it was already in English anyway. But none of that mattered. This matters!!

I'm having a hard time not showing that I'm pissed.

-Nina (still angry)

Next email

I finally got up the nerve to nonchalantly ask the teacher next to me what she plans to do with the letters she made a copy of. She told me that she wants to give them out to her classes and have them write letters back. She also told me that another teacher (whom I also do not like very much) wants to do the same thing and would I please inform her of when I plan to send these letters back to America.

a string of curses is floating around in my mind. You know, the Japanese students aren't going to get replies!! Talk about overwhelming!


And finally at the end of the day:

I've just finished the pen pal lesson with my students and there's just no way that I can stay super angry. Yes, I'm still upset and I will never think that what those teachers did was ok but at the same time, I'm not taking it out on the students. The club will enjoy reading all the interesting letters and I know that no one expects those 11 students to reply to....120 some students. God, it is really going to be that many? Well, yes if I do my class (18 students) and the other two teachers do their other two classes with each class being about 25 students. That's ridiculous. Maybe they can pass the letters out to the school as a whole and see who wants a pen pal...I'll ask Deborah to make an announcement.

Anyway, the students are actually really responding well to this activity. Some students are more interested than others but giving them a chance to use English for their own personal interest/gain is something they seem to enjoy. I'll probably do this every year. Hope I can make it bigger though...I need more students on the Largo end!

Anyway....In all reality I know that the other teachers saw that my idea was so wonderful and they couldn't have done it without me. I couldn't offer to do it with their class because I didn't have that ability though they didn't either but that didn't seem to stop them (jerks). Whatever the deal, they have always wanted to do pen pals but just couldn't for reasons unknown....whatever.


And there you have it. My totally crap day. The students love the letters. They really respond well to the idea but I'm so angry about the whole thing that I almost want to burn the whole lesson just to spite that woman! Literally burn!!!!

So, my more objective solution is to ask Deborah to ask more people for pen pals. Yes, as far as I know right now (lord knows something else is going to change soon) there will be about 120 letters. Most of those students won't want to continue but some of them will. I'd say out of 120, about 20 or 30 will really want to continue. And then I have my English club to think about too!!! but I think I'll do a website with them instead....

but I digress. That's my story.

ps - to all my teacher friends, know anyone that wants to have a Japanese high school pen pal?!

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