Sunday October 3, 1999
I can smell it in the air. Winter approaches. It's getting cooler, which good, BUT in a month it will be cold. Well, it's not actually winter, but the onset of autumn, but as for the winter... I'm not looking forward to that at all. I'd rather sweat than shiver. But I promised myself last winter that I would go out and buy a decent heater. It's a heavy-duty kerosene deal, and it won't stop after 10 minutes like my other one does. I'm going to keep my apartment warm no matter how much gas I have to pour into that thing. It's going to be nice and toasty in there! Ohhhh yeaaaaaaahh! I shivered in my apartment for two months earlier this year... won't do that again.
Winters here are really weird. It's cold, very cold, like it is in most parts of the US, but there's no central heating in the homes here. So, you go inside your house for shelter from the cold, rain, or snow, but you shiver inside as well.
Monday, October 4, 1999
I was late for school today so I missed out on the morning meeting and my little speech. Oh drat.
A student ran up to me in the hallway with a paper plane and said, Presento for Jeffu! Then he ran away.
I broke up a fight in the stairwell as I was on my way to class. I'm not sure if the teacher I was with saw or not (I think it would have been hard to miss a fight breaking out) but she was going to walk right past the two. I stopped to watch the heated argument, but when one of them pushed the other against the wall and put his hands to the other's throat, I decided to intervene. I pried them apart, then the teacher came back and lightly scolded the students and sent them back off to class.
All my classes today sucked. Big time.
When I was in the teachers' room I saw a massive scolding. There were two students being scolded by five or so teachers. Then one teacher broke off from the rest and shouted and pushed one of the students down on the ground. That was pretty much the end of it; they dispersed after everyone got one last chance to scold the students.
Worked out the idea for the Trojan Page. Made a list of all the pages that I'm including and started recoding the HTML. I think I should be done tomorrow and I'll let it leak out that I have a homepage on Wednesday.
Tuesday, October 5, 1999: An Unexpected Guest
Today I had three terrible classes. In one class, a first-grader who wasn't wearing a shirt kept calling out rude comments during class (I'm guessing they were very rude, considering how Takaoka-sensei wouldn't translate them). Another poked me in the bottom. I began the name and checkmark system from the good ol' western system and made a few checkmarks. I called two of the worst kids into the teachers: room after school and when they showed up I asked Takaoka-sensei if there was a room where we wouldn't be disturbed, somewhere where the other teachers and students wouldn't hear me yell. You should have seen her face! So, she goes into the principal's office and then she came back out to herd us all in there. I expected kocho-sensei to get out, but he stayed in. I was pretty mad, but I wasn't as mad as I was before. Still, I made quite a good performance if I do say so myself. At one point I even slammed my hand down on kocho-sensei's coffee table! I told them how their school was so much better last year and how it's being spoiled by little punks like them. I also made a show of how they're throwing their parents money away (their taxes pay my salary). Takaoka translated everything I said pretty accurately (I think she did, anyway). The kids looked fairly shamed and I gave them sentences to write. Kocho-sensei really came through. During the discussion, he figured out what they had done to make me angry and he took his turn scolding them. The fact that he was there and scolding them alongside Takaoka and I really made an impression, I think. I think I'll try that next time, too, if it's really bad. He made them give me a formal apology and then I said that they owed Takaoka an apology, too. After we were all done the students left, but I lingered in the office because I wanted to thank kocho. I thanked him and he asked if there were any more students like that. I said of course there were and he said if there were any more students who give me trouble, please bring them to him! Score!! I got an ally now! That's soooo cool! People talk about getting the kocho involved, but it's like a big taboo. But now he is and I have a feeling like I've taken on some kind of crusade. That'll fizzle out, I'm pretty sure, this school would be impossible to change myself, even with Kocho's help; the teachers have to change their ideas, too.
Got a call around 10:40. PM. That doesn't mean too much until you consider that it was my friend from Kyoto who was at the train station and wanted me to pick her up so she could crash at my place for the night. It would have been nice if I had at least some warning. My place was a complete disaster, as per usual, and the last thing I wanted to do, tired as I was, about to go to sleep, and with a worksheet to prepare for the next day, was entertain guests. But it was great to see her again, I hadn't seen her since before she left for Egypt a month and a half ago. She brought me some Egyptian spices, but not the sand! Ahhh! Oh, well. There's always next spring. My plans haven't changed.
Wednesday, October 6, 1999: Bad Boys
Jeff: Does your boyfriend go to this school?
Rieko: Oh, no. He's in high school.
(Talking to a 3rd grade student. Good kid. Always participates in class (that's very rare here); she's smart, friendly, and has a strong, healthy personality. She's 14 or 15 years old. Last time I was at this school her hair was black and her skirt was longer, but she's still a good kid. Her looks seem to be more in line with her personality, rather than simply trying to be a bad kid, which I don't think she ever will be, or could be for that matter.)
Jeff: Really? Wow. An older man. Which high school?
Thursday, October 7, 1999
I was late to school today, again. I've been alternating days. I'm either early and stay outside to greet the students as they come into school or I'm really late (I never have 1st period at this school). Either way, I get out of the morning meetings altogether! Of course the first thing I did when I got in was check the stock market. All the JHSs in Wakayama have ethernet now, so just a few clicks on the computer next to me and I'm in. Today when I checked in I discovered that I made a sweet $320 while I slept! Woohoo! Of course that means that tonight it will take a dip because of the profit-takers, but I'll still be up.
Made two more kids write sentences... I will try harder in English class. I took them to the counseling room and talked to them there, this time with Matsumoto-sensei. She's young, very attractive, and the kids usually behave in her class (I think the boys behave because she's so attractive). I gave them the spiel and sent them on their way.
Everyone here loves my homepage. Most can't understand it, but there are plenty of pictures and many of them have students or teachers who they know so that's interesting for them. Some of the pages were printed out even and circulated! If you want to visit it, click HERE !
Friday, October 8, 1999: Defeat
A couple very bad classes today. In one class I told two students to come after school so I could give them sentences to write. In another class the whole class was fine except one girl. I wrote her name on the board and 15 minutes later it wasn't there anymore. She'd rather sleep than play the English Battleship game. I told Takaoka that if she doesn't start trying I'm going to make her write sentences until her fingers bleed (I was in a bad mood at this point) and she spent about 25 minutes talking to that one student (which in a class of 35 students, a teacher just can't do). I asked her what the heck was going on and she said that she was assessing her English abilities. She said that the reason she wasn't doing the game was because she couldn't read any of the words. She can't read well enough, nor does she know enough words to make simple sentences. She's been studying English for a year and a half. She also missed the entire first month of class. I told her I wanted to talk with her after class. She never came. I thought about it for a long time what I could do about her. I would ask her if she wanted my help. I'd stay after school with her every day that week so that she could at least pronounce the words which were giving her trouble. If she didn't take me up on my offer (there's no way in hell she would) then I'd have told her that next time I come to her class I didn't want to see her there. She'd get a day off, or she could just go hang out in the teachers: room or the rice fields (Takatsumi is surrounded by them) while my class is in session. But I'd have made it clear that I wouldn't tolerate that kind of disobedience or laziness in what used to be the second best school in the entire city. I told Takaoka that I wanted her homeroom teacher to tell her to come to me the next day or I would come looking for her. She said that she'd probably be absent for a while. (She was).
I feel so defeated today. I can't discipline these kids unless they allow me to discipline them. At any time they can just choose to walk out, or throw my sentences back in my face, or ignore me completely. I can tell them to come and see kocho and me but if they don't come there's nothing I can do. Sometimes I can shame them or threaten them, but it would never work with the students who need it most.
Saturday, October 9, 1999: Danjiri Matsuri
Today I finally saw Danjiri Matsuri! It's the festival where they run around with shrines through the streets. Spectators sometimes meet their untimely demise at the head of an out-of-control shrine. It's great. Murder, mayhem, Matsuri. What else could you ask for on a Saturday afternoon? One of Lesa's (my neighbor) students lives in a town called Shimomatsu and has an apartment with an awesome birds' eye view of the festival. I tagged along with Lesa and Glen and we arrived just in time for the festival. We watched them run around for an hour or so. It wasn't quite what I expected. There was security and other people all around to make sure no one got injured. There were metal rails along most of the route and in some places there were sandbags! After we watched the festival, we had a home-cooked Japanese meal. I recognized a few of the things. Some of it was pretty good! After dinner, the shrines came back around, this time with lanterns strung down the front of each. Also, they weren't running. It was really cool... one of the best festivals I've seen here! I'll have pictures and a video clip or two up on the Festivals page soon!
After I got back I started to mess around with scripts and CGI. I want to make my web page do more stuff. That stuff is really hard to figure out, I might have to get a book. There's plenty of tutorials and stuff on the web, but they're not that great.