Monday, June 14, 1999: "I will try harder in English class"

Today was a very eventful day! First period was "Morals Class". They have this every week or two at the JH schools and it's either in the gym or in classes. The teacher lectures and talks to the students about morality, how to be a good citizen and other stuff like that. I think teachers are starting to think it's more of a critical importance now that there are so many behavior problems in schools here. One of the teachers, Matsumoto, was absent (and has been for almost two weeks!). So the principal, vice-principal, and head English teacher came to my desk first thing in the morning and volunteered me for his classes. Oh wonderful. Not to mention that this was my first day at Isao and I hadn't prepared any lessons. I told them I'd take three first grade classes but not the second grade class; I was able to whip up a lesson for the first grade, but not two different lessons on such short notice. Those three classes actually worked out great!

The problem was in my last class, the only one I taught with a Japanese teacher. Two kids were being such little pukes; talking, horsing around, distracting everyone, and the activity I had planned almost fell apart completely because of them. Ms. Okamoto was so upset (I think more because I was there to see it rather than the fact that they did it), and brought them back to the teachers room and proceeded to lecture them, sternly. Then another teacher got into the act. She came over to my desk to apologize again and I told her that I wanted to talk to them too. She brought them over and I asked her to translate everything exactly the way I said it. I told them that the government had brought me here at enormous expense to teach them and not only did they ruin it for themselves, but for the whole class. After a few more words, I gave them a little assignment. Remembering how much of a pain it was when I was young, I made them write something out 50 times on a piece of paper, "I will try harder in English class". The teacher thought it was a great idea and I gave each student a copy of the sentence. The fact that I even wanted to talk to them had a huge impact on them. It was as if they had suddenly realized that what they did wasn't acceptable because it attracted the foreigner's attention!! Oh no!! It felt so good. My first crack at discipline. I only hope they actually write the sentences and turn it in tomorrow.

On the way out of school a few san nenseis asked if we could go back to my house and "play". Hmmm. I'm not sure exactly what they meant, but this usually has a particular connotation to which I won't delve into here. I told them I was busy. Sorry! Then again, just before I started walking home I ran into another san nensei, her name is Mai, and some of her friends. She's very unusual in that she's popular, but her English is very good and she likes to study and learn English. She asked about things and about my girlfriend and immediately offered to be my girlfriend. Haha! She's so cute. I wish I had a thousand other students just like her.

Tuesday, June 15, 1999: Don't Squeeze the Foreigner!

Today was the first day of rain besides the typhoon we had a month ago. Everyone keeps saying how this is the rainy season and how it's going to storm any day, but I don't see it happening. All I see is it getting warmer. And more humid too, I hate that. A lot. It didn't rain too long before it stopped.

Today I saw something strange. At Isao, they don't usually pay too much attention to how the students wear their uniforms (at least I never see it) but today student after student after student went to the teacher whose desk is across from mine and was lectured on what was wrong with their uniform. More boys than girls, I noticed. She's "Miss Permascowl". She really needs to relax.

I passed Mai in the hallway today. She rushed up to me and wrapped her arms around my arm, then reeled back. I asked her what was wrong then she got close again and smelled me! Then she said, "Jeff! You smell fresh and delicious!" She is such a doll! What I find interesting about my short encounters with Mai is that her other popular friends will take the opportunity to try and speak some English too. Somehow, for Mai, her interest in English and her willingness to study and pay attention in class doesn't make her unpopular at all. I wish I knew what it was which made the willingness to try cool. I suppose it'd make my job too easy if I knew, but I still want to know!

Wednesday, June 16, 1999

Japan is a very illogical place.

Thursday, June 17, 1999: Mysteries of Dichotomy

You know summer in Japan has finally set upon you when the lowest setting of hot water on your shower is still too hot.

Today was cleaning day (sixth period). I was helping to clean the windows in the san nensei section. Those kids were climbing outside the windows to get the other side clean! On the second floor. Crazy kids.

So many of them were trying to talk with me... I can't figure out how they can be so enthusiastic about me outside of class and ask their teachers repeatedly when next I'll go to their class, but as soon as I'm in there those same students form fog over their eyes and tune out, or look at print club or manga.

When I got home I went to the grocery store to buy something for dinner. I wasn't in the mood for something quick and easy, but I was tired, too. Apparently I was a little too tired because I bought something which I thought was chicken, got home and took a closer look at it and with a brief look at my dictionary, translated the writing on the package as shark tendons and muscles. Yummy. So, I boiled up some spaghetti and had that instead.

Friday, June 18, 1999: Where the Streets Have No Name

Today I talked to Mr. Matsumoto about my classes next week, and he cancelled all of them flat out! Now I have 4 classes for all of next week! AHH!! Teacher sitting next to me said I was lucky, but I don't think I'll be so lucky when they pile on other classes onto me next week when I have no lessons planned whatsoever.

Whenever I walk to the train station from Isao, I pass through all of these tiny tiny residential communities with these tiny streets, barely enough room for a small car. There are no street names whatsoever that I can see. Houses interspersed with rice fields. No house numbers, no street names. It's gotta be hell for the novice postman to navigate through there!

Saturday, June 19, 1999: Bank Bust

Today I was supposed to have dinner in Kyoto with a friend, but she backed out because she lost her bank card and freaked out about it. If I lost my bank card, I'd be freaking too. If someone gets a hold of your bank card and knows your 4-digit code, they can clean you out. There's no $300 limit from an ATM like there is in the States. I pulled out a couple thousand dollars one time. No limits. I guard it with my life.

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