Sunday, September 26, 1999
Some maintenance stuff today. Wrote three pages of Kyoto, did some shopping. Lately I've been thinking of a web page for the teachers. A couple teachers have asked me if I had a web page and I had to deny it because there are some things on my web page which could be... misconstrued to mean that I'm not quite enjoying my stay here. Also I can't really tell them exactly what I think of Japanese schools. So, the Real Deal and Only In Japan sections on the Japan page are out, and if they get ahold of my journals... well, I might as well buy a ticket for the next plane out of here. The dummy page would have to be stripped of all questionable material, which unfortunately, is half of my web page. It would be all hollowed out, which is why I think I'll call it the "Trojan Page". A gift for the Japanese teachers and students I know who would be interested in my Japanese travels, but whom I'd rather not tell everything. Admittedly, there are a couple Japanese people who know about my page, but they know how things really work back home so I'm not worried about them reading my journals. It wouldn't be too hard to make it. I'd have to erase all the hypertext references for the larger pictures because I don't want to transfer everything to a new site, only the HTML pages. That wouldn't take too much time, probably only a couple of hours.
Monday, September 27, 1999: Changes
Hiroko called me at 7:30 this morning, waking me up. She was supposed to call me to meet up this past weekend and she didn't. Her phone was disconnected because she was gone so long and hadn't paid it. Turns out she was sick all weekend anyway. The climate difference between here and Egypt was too much for her system. Hope she gets better soon.
Early in the day I had no classes so I sat at my desk and watched as several students came to the teacher sitting next to me and told her that they were sick. They certainly didn't look sick to me. Anytime a kid wants to get out of class and isn't bad enough simply to walk out and go home, goes to the teachers: room and claims that they're sick.
There's been a dramatic change in Towa since last year. The kids just aren't as bad. And those kids who are bad have a higher propensity to actually listen to me and stay awake during class. I can't believe it. In some ways it's better than Seiwa, which used to be my favorite school. A couple ringleaders of the bad boys in the school seems to have no hostility to English. In fact, one of them always greets me in English and will sometimes shout out the answers to my questions in class. You know, I really kind of hate it (and love it at the same time) when something I hated becomes one of my favorites. It's like you have to swallow your pride and say it wasn't so bad after all, or it wasn't so bad that it couldn't be redeemed. Either way, you were wrong. Something you never see coming. And though I'm swallowing my pride here, I'm glad for the change, it was long due. There's an English teacher here who has only one class. He's sick supposedly and he can't handle any more. Today he's complaining that his waist hurts because he was sitting down all day yesterday. Oh, how my heart bleeds for him.
The Mos Burger (popular burger joint here) hat has officially met its demise today. The kids were too rough passing it around and now it looks like something I pulled out of a dumpster. I used the hat in a dialog game set to music. They pass it around until the music stops. Not looking forward to getting a new hat (gotta go to Mos Burger and trying to explain why I need a new one).
Tuesday, September 28, 1999: The Thief
I saw something today that bothered me. I was supposed to be in school, but I cut out early and went to the grocery store near my house to pick something up for lunch. I was near the fish head section when I saw an older man stuff a package of ramen underneath his shirt. Crime in Japan is supposed to be nonexistent, but within the past seven days I've almost had my money stolen, my bike has been stolen and now I'm seeing this. What's going on? It kind of ticked me off when I saw that. First reaction. He looked kind of old and he was a little dirty... but he didn't look homeless and if he was, where would he have made the ramen? He looked just down on his luck. Now I've always thought that in such a situation I'd either turn them in or just tell them to put it back, it doesn't matter who they were. But when actually confronted with it... it's a different story. The ramen could only have cost a couple hundred yen, costing so little, why would he steal it unless he really needed to? I followed him to the exit with basket in hand, not sure what I was going to do. I guess I gave him the benefit of the doubt, because I watched him walk out the door without doing anything.
Found a good site that puts out a program that jams HTML code. Might be just the thing I'm looking for. If I ever go public with my site, it would be nice to protect the pictures I've got up there of me and friends.
Wednesday, September 29, 1999: Rock On
Today in the Pass the Phone game, set to music, instead of listening to Save Ferris as I did in the classes yesterday, I popped in some Van Halen. Mrs. Miyamoto seemed really surprised and I didn't find out why until I got back to the teachers: room and she told me how much she liked Van Halen's music! We talked about their songs and a bit about their music. She's actually pretty cool! I've been talking to her more lately from across my desk. Y'know, at the beginning of last year, I didn't really like her all that much... actually, I didn't like her at all. But now it seems I'm getting to know her and she's not that bad. It seems like another thing, which I didn't like, has now become my favorite. I think she's my favorite teacher at Towa now. Life is full of surprises.
I changed some stocks today. Sold my go nowhere VISX to PMCS. PMCS just took a hit, so it's down about $15, and I think it'll rebound quickly.
Thursday, September 30, 1999: Huff and Puff
I hate having first periods. I probably only just rolled out of bed 45 minutes before and the kids even more recently than that. And it shows. My first class today could be characterized correctly as apathy incarnate. I'm not joking. I truly wish I were. Today was the first day during say and repeat that I said something and no one repeated. Not even a whisper... there was dead silence. No responses out of them for the whole class. Sigh. Their government is spending so much money to keep us here and they're throwing it all away.
Today I saw Ms. Kishi sharpening pencils. A lot of them. About 15 or 20. I asked her if she was stocking up and she said that a whole group of 3rd graders were caught smoking in the bathroom and the teachers were going to try to make them write sentences.
There was a 3rd grade boy who is always very friendly toward me and he greets me in English and he seems very genki and cheerful. Today when he greeted me in the hall with a "Hello, Jeff!" And I said, "Hello!! How are you today?" He said, "I'm fine! OF COURSE!" Then the teacher told me that he got in a fight with another boy last week and put him in the hospital with a minor concussion. You never can tell sometimes, can you?
Rented a Japanese CD today. The Brilliant Green. Anyone heard of them? They're really good. The singer writes all their lyrics and most of their songs are in English (colloquial English). I was impressed.
Friday, October 1, 1999
I think the teachers were still dealing with the aftermath of yesterday's smoke-a-thon in the boys' bathroom. As a result, there were only 21 students present in my first period class. It was perfect! All the bad kids gone and only the good kids left. The kids who don't have an actual physical aversion to learning. That would be so great if we could just lop off a third of the class, the dead weight, and just plow through the material with the rest of the class.
Hey, I can still dream, right?
Later in the day, though, I snapped. I let all the sleeping kids have it. I'd slap my hand on their desks and say, GOOD MORNING! I'm getting bitterer, I think.
There was a girl in my fourth period class who wore her skirt really short, quite a bit of make-up, but was as genki as can be and knew the answers to many of my questions. Usually a kid looking like her would be a pain in class, so I was really glad to be surprised. I've seen her before, in the teachers' room where two teachers were giving her a hassle about her skirt. But as far as I'm concerned, the kids can hike up their skirts, wear the baggiest socks they can find, even check their make-up once or twice in class as long as they're as genki as that girl. As long as they make my class bearable, I don't care what they look like. They could come dressed up as a clown or Conan the Barbarian as long as they've done their homework. Most of the teachers have a preference for a student's personal appearance over behavior and performance in the classroom.
For the last period I sat in on the first graders: shodo (Japanese calligraphy) class. They got such a kick out of me being there! Many of them came up to me and presented me with samples of their calligraphy as gifts. In class we learned two strokes. They looked pretty basic (which is to say that they were still very difficult for me) and she probably did those because I sat in on the class. She expressed distress at my being left-handed. It's harder to make many of the strokes if you are. (These days many parents will still try to change a child's handedness. Sometimes I try to explain to the errant person about the neurological disorders that can be associated with such a forced transition, but my breath is usually wasted.) To make the ink, the teacher put a little water in a little tray and we ground a black stick on the tray. Pretty cool little system. Some kids had bottles of ink. When they ran low, instead of calling the teacher over to fill their little tray, they might just pour a bit in from their bottle. I was doing much better at the end of the class, but I know now that I will never be a Shodo expert.