akujunkan: (kisama)
Taught my last class in a Japanese school today. I'll still be here for about a month, but I've taken half of my remaining vacation days to tidy up the administrative stuff - packing, closing down my bank account, cancelling utilities, Internet service, and my credit card.

Anyway, the BIGGEST irony of this whole experience is that I should have had this job my first year, when I had come over with the intention of teaching English in Japan. Instead I found myself in a school that didn't want me there, whose teachers resentment of my presence in the classroom was only rivalled by their resentment of the free time I had when they cancelled my classes. No one wanted to work alongside me to teach in the classroom, or outside of it, preparing lessons.

Fast forward to this year, when I found myself placed in schools that want me there, whose teachers utilize me five class periods a day, actively solicit my input, and are interested in getting to know me and getting me face time with the kids. The irony being of course, that this is not the job I hired to do, and quite frankly, I hated it. (And I can safely say that now that it's over.)

Of course, the people who really lose out are the kids, because while I love talking with them and playing with them between periods, I couldn't give less of a shit about their lessons. I was professional about it while in the classroom, but I certainly didn't have the enthusiasm for it that I had during my first year. Which sucks.

And it makes me sad that they've hired someone else under false pretenses to succeed me.

That will be all.
akujunkan: (Default)
All the things I've been too busy to write about.

Farewell Party: Take One )

Leaver's Party: Take Two )

I'd been dreading today. )

That will be all.
akujunkan: (Default)
Today was my last day at one of my two elementary schools. I will miss the kids horribly, but it was very satisfying in the end because I was not enjoying myself during the classes, which reassured me that I made the right decision in turning down the 4th and 5th year position they kept offering me.

I should probably mention Sora. Sora is a first grader with major developmental problems. He certainly has ADD, is rather oblivious to his surroundings, and I wouldn't be surprised to hear that he suffers from tourettes. The teachers are often pretty exasperated with him, the other kids tend to bully him a little (and he often plays right into their hands). But he's also cheerful and very approachable.

Anyway, the first-grade teacher told the class accompany me back to the staff room today after I'd finished teaching them. I was immediately swarmed by 30 kids. Sora fought his way to the center, latched onto my arm and started talking without paying any regard to whether or not I was speaking to someone else--nothing unusual there. But he was staring at the ground, which was rather unlike him.

And then I realized what he was saying: "Thank you so much for always talking to me. Take care of yourself."

Oh my god, kid, why not take your Board of Education-issue compass and stab me in the heart with it?

Not sad to leave the job, but damn I'm going to miss these kids.

That will be all.

TRIUMPH

Jul. 1st, 2006 04:59 pm
akujunkan: (Default)
I spent all of Friday evening and Saturday morning plunking away at my speech.

I was so worried I wouldn't fill 60 minutes. )

The most exhilerating thing about it was that I rarely used the speech. I was just telling people what I wanted them to know without having to rely on cues or prompts. When I wavered or made false starts on sentences, it wasn't because I'd forgotten what I meant to say (common in uni) but because I'd consciously decided to say something different. Oh man it was cool.

I was a little worried that I was rambling on, but I recieved over half an hour's worth of questions once I'd finished. People were genuinely interested. I explained a bit more about IASMH/gifted and talented education, and did my best with the toughies. (Quick: summerize American race relations in 90 seconds). The audience seemed especially taken with my explanation of northern Indiyaaana dialect (which needs explained to those who've never heard it. ^.^)

So it went very, very well and I'm quite proud of myself.

Also: if only I'd been doing more of this stuff for the past year, I think I would really have liked my job.

That will be all.
akujunkan: (Default)
...and yet so far from ever learning English. In one picture. )

That will be all.
akujunkan: (kisama)
...or you have the right to hunt me down and shoot me. This is not the gloom and doom journal dammit, and I do not hate life (despite what it may seem like to readers).

That said, I returned to city hall today after my awesome afternoon and discovered that I was PISSED. PISSED in all caps like I have never been PISSED before. Seriously. I couldn't breathe. Just being there made me want to throw things. My vision was shaking.

Everybody but my supervisor and Chill IT Guy were off at a meeting. So I finally did it. I sat my supervisor down and told her exactly why I hate this job and what I want to do (and have done) to change that. Because I like Japan and I like the people I work with and I HATE going to work angry every day.

I discovered that the ALT's school visits are being cut back so that I can take them over. I discovered that this is because I am considered a 'better teacher' than the ALTs. (This is debatable. The ALTs here are smart people who (unlike moi) want to teach.) I discovered that I have essentially shot myself in both feet by going into a job I despise and doing my damn best at it.

That said: Guys. If the guy who held this job before me, and the guy who held this job before him all hated it, maybe that means there is something about what we are being made to do that should be reevaluated.

Again, and again, and again, and again, no one benefits when someone is made to do something they detest - especially when there are other people in the wings who want to do it.

That will be all.
akujunkan: (kisama)
...I would like to add that I've been doing work for CIRs in other cities in order to have something worthwhile to do. I've translated webpages. I've written monthly newsletter articles (another thing my city hall won't allow me to do for them). I've translated speeches and presentations. Translated a report on guidelines for delegating government work to NPOs. I've translated an annual report from English into Japanese.

If I sound insanely fucking frustrated, it's because I am, god dammit. I enjoy working. I enjoy looking back on what I've done at the end of my day and feeling like I've accomplished something worthwhile.

And translating, writing reports and articles, giving presentations - this is work that I enjoy. Meaning, I would do it for its own sake if no payment was being proffered. The fact that I've spent the past several months begging other CIRs for their work to do proves that fact.

So having to spend several hours a day in a random school giving my damn best for a job I dislike only to have the homeroom teacher 'correcting' "I like cats" to "I kyatsu," because, and I am quoting here, the "correct English is too difficult for students to learn" is like being slapped in the face.

I like working. I like doing a good job. For the love of god, put me to good use!

That will be all.
akujunkan: (kisama)
Bile ahead. I am going to revert to being five years old with all the attendant kicking and screaming. It will not be pretty, but I will feel much better for it afterward.

Yes, the JET Programme is giving me a job in Japan, but the bottom line is that I wouldn't have accepted it if I'd realised that I was being lied to. )

Ooh. さっぱりした。

That will be all.
akujunkan: (Default)
In which the JET Programme demonstrates a new low. )

I visited another Kindergarten yesterday. )

Anyway, the kids are all doorbells, which compensates for the fact that goddammit, I'm still teaching English! But seriously, I'll have to get some pictures somehow. Because seriously? Cute. Collect the whole set cute.

That will be all.
akujunkan: (Default)
Let's talk about soft-men day. Soft-men literally means 'soft noodle,'
which only adds another dimension of funny to the original
just-begging-to-be-made English pun. Now, I am one of that rare breed of ALT who
actually thinks Japanese school lunches taste better and have a
consistently higher quality than their western counterparts. Still, Japanese
school lunch does have its share of foul dishes, and while soft-men is
far from the most disgusting (that honor being reserved for Squid Body
day), it disappoints precisely because it manages to be so inoffensively
bad.

Soft-men are vaguely sticky, eighteen inch-long cold noodles the width
of a power cord, the tacky consistency of the glue that clogs the tip
of the Elmer's bottle, and the flavor of raw bread dough. They come in
a clear bag that's roughly the size of snack pack of potato chips. One
is meant to take them out of the bag and dump them into a bowl of soup
and then eat them. The 'soup' in question is usually spaghetti meat
sauce (I kid you not), but curry and even broccoli cream soups have also
been known to make an appearance on soft-men day.

So anyway, dump the noodles onto the soup/curry/spaghetti sauce and eat
them, right? Couldn't be simpler. Well, it isn't that simple. For
starters, the soup (sauce/curry/whatever it happens to be) is ladled to
the very lip of the bowl, so by adding the noodles, one must magically
fill the bowl to twice its capacity without making a mess. Furthermore,
the soup/sauce/curry is thick to begin with, and since it's served an
hour before lunch begins, it's had about forty minutes to develop an
impenetrable cold soup skin which prevents the noodles from settling.

And ah, the noodles. As I've previously mentioned, they're eighteen
inches long, sticky, and vacuum-crammed into a tiny little plastic pouch.
Thus, they leave the bag in a badly tangled block. The soup bowls are
of course round, and as one only has chopsticks with which to
manipulate the noodles (and keep in mind that it's rude to let the
noodles touch anything but the interior of the bowl, it's rude to string them
out high above the bowl, it's rude to use your fingers or chopsticks
held with two hands to manipulate your food, it's rude to make a
splattery mess while dishing noodles into the bow, it's rude to...), this is
easier said than done.

Usually what happens is that one just gives up halfway and upends the
tangled cold sticky noodle block over the top of the bowl, then picks
desolately at it until a few random pieces come loose. As there's no way
to mix the cold, sticky, tangled noodles into the cold, leathery,
thickened soup/sauce/curry, one usually eats a large block of cold, sticky
raw bread dough noodles and then, if one doesn't tire of the whole
business, gets to eat the cold and leathery but mildly flavorful
soup/sauce/curry underneath. Due to the fact that in order not to hold up the
line, one must quickly separate any uneaten food by type when returning
one's meal tray to the serving cart, thus necessitating that one separate
the half-submerged cold, tangled, sticky vacuum-block of noodles from
the cold, gooey was-once- soup/sauce/curry mess in the bowl, there is a
fair amount of motivation to actually eat everything.

Of course eating it poses another problem - have you ever tried
eating a tangled block of eighteen inch long, cold, sticky,
tacky-old-glue bread dough noodles partially submerged in a cold, leathery soup
with a pair of chopsticks? It's not that easy to do without making the
sort mess two-year-olds drool of. Further complicating things is the
fact that school lunch is eaten at one's desk in the staff room, which
means that there are all manner of unmarked tests and essays lying about
just begging to be fouled by cold, sticky, leathery soup drops, and fate is usually only too happy to oblige them.

Of course, I'm incredibly stubborn about eating every last slurp on
soft-men day, because by Jove, I'm paying $6.00 to eat this crap. And
anyway, teachers are obligated to eat everything that appears on their
school lunch trays in order to set a good example for the students. That
said, I noticed a bunch of teachers getting up and slinking toward the
common table in the staff room. Curious as to what might be taking
place over there, I strolled over to have a look for myself. And to my
surprise and delight, what were these teachers doing if not discretely
depositing their bags of cold, vacuum-packed, tangled-block glue noodles
on the counter next to the tea heaters. Busted!

Course, I can't really talk, since I always make it a point to ensure that some lucky teacher gets an extra helping on Squid Body day.

That will be all.
akujunkan: (kisama)
So I left work 15 minutes early today, not caring who saw. Let's see if it gets brought up tomorrow. Of course (of course, of course) it starts snowing the moment I set foot outside of the school building. I steam back to my apartment, drop my laptop off in the genkan, and mount my trusty mountain bike for what will undoubtably be the most harrowing experience of my life. (Lots of Japanese people ride their granny bikes through blizzards to work or school. I have a mountain bike and I could never work up the courage to attempt it.) Now would be a good point to mention that I've been hit three times during the middle of the day in summer by crazy Japanese drivers who haven't yet grasped the meaning of 'both' in 'look both ways before making a left turn on red.' Also, my brakes no longer work.

But I had to get this bill paid or the chances are I'd be forced to take vacation time to do it (as well as looking like an ass to the electric company employees). So I get on my bike, pedal twice, and let inertia and ice-slicked sidewalks do the rest, careful not to go too fast lest I be killed by an idiot. I'm doing the whole Flintstones breaking with the feet deal, and man is it lame.

And yes, I was almost hit by two dumbass drivers screaming up to intersections to make lefts on red and not paying attention to that pesky little pedestrian signal that says they have no business being in a crosswalk at that moment. I swear, one of these days I'm going to start bashing in windows with my fist.

But I make it to the electric company in one piece. I go inside. BAM. Unlike the rest of Japan, where insulation and central heating are unknown, the electric company does not mess around with keeping warm. Thirty seconds and I'm sweating like a pig in my wool coat, sweater, and army-issue thermals.

And now onto the shenanigans, because you can't deal with bureaucracy in Japan without shenanigans. It so happens that the person whom I was meant to speak with has decided to absent himself from the office, and no one else knows exactly what it was he wanted to talk to me about. I sit around, sweat rolling down my back, face, and chest, and wait for someone to get a clue.

Finally, a woman with whom I'd spoken on the phone earlier is located. I explain to her about the bank transfer, and she has enough presence of mind to assure me she'll handle it, thus ensure that I won't receive a phone call next week asking me to retransfer the funds they've overpaid to me back to their account.

Anyway, she hands me the money they owe me, and I hand it right back to her to pay my two outstanding months' worth of bills. As it turns out, I am not give 800, but rather 43 yen back. That isn't even enough to buy a stamp.

I ask the woman if there's any way my bills can just be deducted from my bank account (as some of my other ones are), instead of relying on the current system, which is obviously flawed. She replied that they've already set that up for me.

However, I will still continue to get monthly bills in the mail. I was told to tear them up as I receive them, to make sure that I don't actually pay another bill twice.

Oh dear gods, I could not make this stuff up if I tried.

That will be all.
akujunkan: (kisama)
...Which is pretty cool, although it means that I'll have to leave the Big Hamlet for the Claustrophobically Minute Hamlet (I'm going to miss my apartment) in six months. I'm not looking forward to only being able to buy manga and such once a month (if that), but have otherwise surprised myself with how excited I am. I'm going to be translating and interpreting Japanese - which I currently do for fun - full time come next August, and that will be nice. It's odd to realise that for the first time in my life, I'll be doing something I like for a living. Yes, pay me to sit around speaking and reading Japanese all day. That'll be dandy!

(I'm also one of two people in the prefecture who's passed the test to switch job types. Go me!)


In other news, my supervisors reacted with the not terribly unexpected shitty attitudes. This is exactly why I did not want to make any decisions in October. Six months of attitude will be bad enough; I don't think I could have survived nine of them. (In other news, I'm going to be translating and interpreting Japanese for a living, current supervisors. Bite me!)


I somehow managed to pay my electric bills for October and November twice, while not paying my December or January ones at all. (Methinks a slip up on the electric company's part, but lord knows they would never do anything like that.) I asked if they could just credit the remainder to my upcoming bills... )

Cause after all, I'm not going to be doing English lessons for much longer. >:}
akujunkan: (Default)
Japanese students wear their phys ed uniforms under their regular school uniforms. There are no showers or dressing rooms in the school building, so after phys ed is over, the regular uniform gets put back on over the sweaty phys ed clothing, which is of course on a sweaty body. Then the students march back into rooms where the kerosene heaters are going full blast to continue the rest of their lessons. The smell can get a little...festive, to say the least.

Of course, one can combat this problem with air fresheners. There were some new air fresheners in the classrooms today. You've seen them before, on college campuses and clunker automobiles across the States.

Yup, Yoshi Middle School's air fresheners of choice are the ever-popular marijuana leaf.

Discuss amongst yourselves..

That will be all.
akujunkan: (kisama)
Just try learning English. Or even teaching it.

I play hockey/golf/football.
I do karate/tae kwon do/aikido.
I ski/swim/snowboard.

"Why?" comes the cry of my agonised students.

"Because that's just how English works," comes my agonised response.


I had a whole bunch of really, really nifty ideas for lj entries asault me right during the Great LJ Failure of '05, which, cruel fate, occurred on my Saturday morning. It's amazing how much one gets done when one's favorite source of entertainment is suddenly yanked out from beneath them. OTOH, my house is a total pit now, because once LJ got back online, I haven't done much else with my hour of free time each evening.

And now, Let's Enjoying the Japanese Life Together productions brings you The Modem Saga )

That will be all.
akujunkan: (Default)
I had my health checkup today. No, trust me. You WANT TO READ THIS. )

That will be all.
akujunkan: (Default)
The Japanese have a sports beverage called Calpis, popularly referred to as 'cow piss' by foreigners, based on its pronunciation.

A competitor's recently released a new sports drink, called Tad-as, which is pronounced - you guessed it - tard-ass.

Japan. I love it.

That will be all.
akujunkan: (Default)
I had to come into work today, because we had demonstration classes. I get Monday off in return, which is nice - a lot of JETs don't get daikyuu at all, so I hear. But in reality, it just sucks. I couldn't go out last night because I had to get moving at 7:30 this morning, and no one will go out with me tonight because they have to get moving at 7:30 tomorrow. I could go to Kanazawa, but that's not really fun on one's own. At least I get the daikyuu, so I can go to the bank tomorrow and withdraw all the money I need in person, thus avoiding withdrawal fees.

Which reminds me: I'm going to be in Singapore in two days. That is a weird feeling if ever there was one! I need to rustle up a bathing suit and pack. I'm going into this completely blind, so here's hoping I have a damn good time. Everyone I've talked to has said it's a blast, and I totally digging the kids I'm going with (two of whom I've known since sophomore year of college). Okay, yeah, I'm pretty stoked, truth be told.

That will be all.

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