Sunday, September 5, 1999

Today I met up with a friend of mine, Noriko, and we went to see the new movie Elizabeth. It was good. Kind of an errie ending though. Seeing a movie in Japan is so much different than in the States (or anywhere in the West, for that matter). There's no fresh popcorn, no candy bars or M&Ms, and you get your soft drinks out of a vending machine. Kind of feels a little less "human" for some reason. Less personal. You don't have to wait in line with everyone else in anticipation of the movie you've been seeing previews for for months, no trying to decide between Junior Mints or Hot Tamales.. sigh. Guess I'm a little homesick today.

Anyway, after the movie I was working on some journals and Kristy called and a bunch of us went out for dinner.

Went home with the intent on working on some worksheets, but opted not to. I'm tired of thinking up mostly everything for the lessons I team-teach. I'm going to make the JTEs sweat a little. It's only fair, yeah? I really don't think I'm going to stress about lessons anymore. Worksheets, and planning, and all that other stuff is not worth losing too much sleep over, especially for the amount the kids appreciate it.

Monday, September 6, 1999

Classes today went off without a hitch! I talked about slumber parties in class today and it actually went over well. I'm not sure why I'm so surprised.

My CD ROM drive didn't come today... a little disappointed about that. I wonder what's going on with that guy. I talked to Mayu, student at Seiwa who hails from America, until about five. She missed being born in the US by only nine months! Right after she was born, her family moved to the US and lived there for 11 years. She's like the little Japanese sister I never had, only shoe's not exactly Japanese. Her ideas are so American. She asks the question why which is something people never do here.

After school, I wrote some journals and studied a bit and watched that movie Snake Eyes which just came out on video here not too long ago.

Tuesday, September 7, 1999: Hiroshima

I was pleasantly surprised today when I had two classes, which I had no end of problems last year. Maybe it was because I made a few of those kids write sentences, but I think Inoue-sensei has more control. Last time I was here there was a substitute, young, fresh college grad, and the kids took advantage of her to no end. Some of here classes were a zoo. I think that Inoue is just so old and kind-hearted that the kids can't bear to be bad. Either that or she actually doesn't tolerate any of the nonsense I saw last time.

In the third grade book there's this story about a young girl and a boy who die in the aftermath of the Hiroshima blast. At Isao JHS I had to pull a teacher's arm to talk about Hiroshima and the events surrounding it, but when Nakashima-sensei asked me if I had any ideas about what to do in place of the story, that was the first thing that came to mind. Shockingly, she thought it was a really good idea. She translated everything I said just as I said it. But the class we gave the talk for wasn't really receptive. It was a loud class and it was so abominably hot that the kids could hardly do anything but fan themselves. The environmental conditions in the classrooms are so terrible I wonder how the school administrators can sleep at night. The let the kids broil for three months out of the year and freeze to death for another three months. I really don't blame them for not being able to pay attention this time, but if the weather had been decent I know they probably wouldn't have paid attention, but the weather saved me from getting ticked off at them.

Today Mr. Kawakami said that he needs to take some pictures of me at work, with the kids inside of class. Last term he took some pictures of me outside of class. It's some kind of bogus PR thing that Tsuyama wants. Last I heard, some of the people down at city hall were questioning why they need to spend so much on ALTs. So it's kind of necessary. I don't think they'll shut down the program (or rather Wakayama's involvement) at least while I'm here; things take so long to change in Japan.

I love being at Seiwa for the ride downhill. Every morning I get up and have to ride uphill, a loooong slope which I have to take at a good speed to avoid wobbling my body in order to keep peddling. But after school I get to take it downhill. Ahhh, that's the stuff. That was the thrill of the day. What can I say? I'm a simple man.

Wednesday, September 8, 1999: The Cute Little Dog

I prepared an activity for today... it's Mad Libs with a twist. Instead of having them insert a word wholly by themselves into a slot, which most wouldn't be able to do (not only do they know enough English, but they can't really be that creative, that's not being cruel by the way, it's a simple fact, ask anyone around here) I made six lists of words with a bunch of blanks.

The _________ __________ ___________ ____________ the _________ __________.

I thought it would be a pretty good review of all the vocab they're supposed to know. I was surprised with what they came up with. Surprisingly enough, (or maybe not), the brightest students in the class had the most problems with the activity. Those students tried to make the sentences make sense. Others didn't care. A couple good sentences...

"The cute little dog ate the delicious boy" and

"The great green student burned the terrible teacher"

After they finished we would read them aloud along with the Japanese translations. Some got quite a laugh; it was fun!

Kawakami took some shots of a couple classes. Today I wore a long sleeved shirt despite the nightmarish humidity. I think the pictures he took will come out pretty well, can't wait to see them.

Thursday, September 9, 1999: I Need Another Vacation

Man, this day sucked. Those disrespecting little rugrats. It was two classes today which were really bad. But one of them took the cake. A couple of them wouldn't even acknowledge me. One lied and said she was sick (excuse for sleeping in class; which I rarely allow), others were talking, some disrupting the class, most not doing the activity. What made it worse, is that the teacher has just returned from a leave of absence and doesn't even know their names so it was difficult to call them out after class. She didn't speak English very well and if I told her that I wanted them to write sentences I don't think she would have understood me anyway... not that I think I could have made them do it. After the rotten 2nd grade class, I was kicking back in the teachers' room and saw a couple of the English teachers taking tape recorders to class. I used to feel bad about that, that I couldn't be everywhere and go to every class, but today I don't feel so bad about that.

The other bad class was a first grade class. Man, they sucked. But one kid ticked me off far more than anyone else. He thought he could sit in the back of the class, make loud belching sounds, and say the few "inappropriate" English words he knew all through my lesson. Well, I taught him a lesson. I called his butt into the teachers' room at lunch and told him he had to write sentences (I thought of a really good one too... wanna see what it was? Click HERE!) You should have seen his face! He was incredulous! Especially after the teachers translated what I wanted him to write 20 times. It was very appropriate. He didn't have paper of his own (of course) so the teachers had to photocopy paper with dotted lines on it and then they hovered above him as he wrote out a practice sentence (apparently, there was some doubt as to whether or not he could write all the letters in the sentence correctly). He was nearly in tears by the end of the discussion. Again, Mr. Kawakami comes through with flying colors when he translates my lectures for students.

What made it worse, was that that same class was Eri's class. She's one of the two only first grade students who always came to my English club meetings last year. She's a smart girl. She understands a lot of what I say even though she can't say everything she wants to. You can tell... you know, from that look in their eye. You can always tell who's got more going on upstairs by the look in their eye.

Friday, September 10, 1999

I got copies of the pictures that Mr. Kawakami took on Wednesday. I think I'll put up some of them. I was looking at one picture in particular (me and two students, one of them was laughing) and one of the teachers came by and was surprised, she said that that student hardly ever smiles. Gave me a cheesy warm fuzzy. I guess it's a teacher-thing.

Mrs. Doi asked me to help the two students who are entering Wakayama's English speech contest. I was surprised that she hadn't asked me earlier, I could have really helped them this week. We start next week. Only thing is the kids are busy with club activities that they don't have much time to practice. The have activities after school, and I asked when am I supposed to help them and after school she told them to just skip out on club activities for the first hour or so while I helped them.

I've been waiting today for my friend, Hiroko, to call. She was supposed to get back from Egypt today. She's not there and she hasn't answered my emails... I wanted to go with her, but I didn't for some fairly lame reasons and now I'm starting to worry about her. But she speaks four or five languages, brilliant, and extremely capable. I'm trying not to worry so much.

Saturday, September 11, 1999

I'm afraid something has happened to Hiroko. No answer at her place and she hasn't called or sent word. Egypt can be a dangerous place (yeah, as if I know anything about it). I never got a postcard from her either.... that was something she was really enthusiastic about and she said she'd send me sand. Why am I so worried? Dammit! I shouldn't've let her go alone!

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