September 14, 2000


Right now I'm feeling: pretty good

Right now I'm listening to: Nanase Aikawa

Nanase Aikawa --Jealousy

I can't get enough of this woman...
just rented three more of her CDs.

Harvesting Rice: Part II

After it's cut down by hand or by tractor-machine-thing, it's bundled up..

..then hung out to dry.

After all the rice has been harvested,
the ground is all barren stubble

To my surprise, not everyone harvests at the same time

What? Not growing rice?!?

Just some pretty flowers growing
alongside a rice field

Link of the Day: Want to see some really great pictures of rice paddies? Check out Rebecca and Martin's page!


Mr. Nihon: "He hopes you'll come."
Jeff: "Uhh... no..?"
Mr. Nihon: "But.. he HOPES.. you'll come."
Jeff: "OK. Let me think... (J pauses for .1 second)
No. Sorry! Maybe next year."

Mr. Nihon really pisses me off. I call him Mr. Nihon ('Mr. Japan') because he is the living embodiment of everything that is frustrating to foreigners in Japan. The hesitation. The misdirection. The "I do these things this way because 'I am Japanese'" mentality. We have a history of diagreements and minor confrontations and he is also the teacher who caught me teaching my English club how to gamble two years ago. His English is at an unfortunately low level (I remember half of my old English Club students had better English than him) and for that reason I intimidate him at the same time I aggravate him. Perhaps our past has made him take such an aggressive posture in this issue.

I'll backtrack a bit. Give you some background.

I'm visiting Seiwa to help the English recitation conest participants and Mr. Nihon tells me about this visit to an elementary school after I arrive at the school on rotation in a couple of weeks. The problem is that they have chosen Seiwa's Sports' Day for my visit.

Here's the thing. I'm supposed to visit elementary schools on test days (when the junior high schools I'm at have no classes). In conference with Glen, I realized that this is what we agreed to when we signed our contracts for the next year. We agreed that we would visit these schools once per term if at all. Our first priority was the JHS. The whole point of our visits only being on test days was so that we wouldn't be missing anything at the JHSs. This year on Sports' Day, the entire school is being bussed to a stadium. It's a big deal for the school and the students, usually sports days are just held on their small track. So, when Mr. Nihon brought up the elementary school visit, I naturally voiced this objection.

Mr. Nihon: But Mr. T says that you can go on any day we don't have classes. (he smiles, the little bastard)

I was visiting Seiwa today to help the students prepare for the recitation contest in a couple weeks and all our time together is valuable. They have juku after schools so we practice all we can before they have to go. And Mr. Nihon comes into the meeting room every 10 minutes wanting me to get on the phone with my supervisor and once with the elementary school principal.

My supervisor was very puzzled as to why I was at that particular school, off rotation, in the first place. Especially when I was supposed to be at a different school across the Kinokawa River (that's far). I told him what I was doing and he asked if I had asked permission to leave from the principal of my other school before I left and I said, no, in fact, I hadn't. He started the

sound (explained in this entry). I then told him that I didn't see the principal when I left, but I got the permission of the head JTE to leave (actually I had just told him I was leaving). He said that that was probably OK, and he asked me why I was giving Mr. Nihon shit about going to the elementary school (not exactly in those words). I told him that I thought he told us that sports festival days and culture days were really important for us to go (true, he has denied us taking days off on those days before) and so I thought it didn't qualify as a 'no class' day. It's obviously important to the school so we shouldn't be made to miss it to act like a buffoon for hundreds of elementary school kids.

I've been thinking more and more about why I didn't like that elementary school visit lately... it has to do with the fact that the kids just don't know how to treat a foreigner like an actual human being. Well, that's how I felt, anyway. No effort was made by the teachers to reprimand kids for manhandling the foreigner. I guess I would feel better about it if the teachers of each class I was going to visit would lay out some ground rules. Write some mighty commandments on the blackboard before I got there that should be obeyed or the wrath of the foreigner will be visited upon them.

1) Thou shalt not touch the foreigner on the buttocks
2) Thou shalt not karate chop the foreigner in the groin (my friend Glen has an interesting story about this)
3) Thou shalt not pull out the foreigner's arm hair
4) Thou shalt not dogpile on top of the foreigner
5) thou shalt not poke the foreigners large eyes

The list could go on and on.

He made several calls to the principal of the elementary school coming back to me each time to relay his pleas. Eventually Mr. Nihon came out with his dictionary and told me that the aforementioned principal was just about demanding for me to go to his school.

Excuse me??

He managed to haul me away from practice three or four times before I asked him if we could handle this after the two students (whose names are Natsuko and Mariko, by the way) left for juku. This is a major issue for him, he really wants me to go to this school visit and I'm not sure why. After Natsuko and Mariko left it was resolved that I would go on a day when I had few classes (a rarity at that school). I reluctantly agreed. If I flat-out refused that it would have cause much more trouble.

After I got back home I talked with Glen about this and then with the other city ALTs later. I had set a precedent. I had agreed to go to an elementary school on a normal day when I had actual classes. Glen and I saw the problem almost immediately after that realization. This could quickly escalate into a once-a-week e-school visit, which we most certainly did not want. G and I thought we should put our foot down immediately to avoid non-test-day visits. I was not shocked, but a little annoyed that the female ALTs across town didn't share Glen's and my feelings on the matter.

This can get quickly out of hand unless we (the ALTs) set some ground rules for the frequency of these visits. Don't get me wrong, I love kids. Just as long as they're my own.

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