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Subject:Rettsu Update!!
Time:06:54 pm
(The subject is Japanese for "Let's update!!")

What a busy Summer I had. I'll start from shortly after my last update, though.

So my company went bankrupt, but most of the schools were bought up by a giant corporation. Giant corporation tried to hire many of the old teachers back, and ended up hiring less than half of them back. I was one of them, luckily (?).

My new teaching position was split between two schools: Mishima (two days a week) and Gotemba (three days a week). There were already full-time teachers at both schools, so my schedules were appallingly easy for these first few months. (Well, after the company finally got around to moving me, I mean. Commuting every day for two-four hours sucked.)

It was during this time that Ben visited me! That was great. I was able to get some vacation days (unpaid, natch), so we saw lots of Tokyo and Kyoto, with the time in between mostly spent exploring Shizuoka (prefecture). Many games were played, lots of K-ON! was watched, and good times were had by all.

But good things don't last, and the company decided to close Mishima school. And then the teacher from Gotemba was going to quit (like many, many other teachers ended up doing), so it was decided that I would be his replacement.

Before that would happen however, I was sent to Hamamatsu (three hours south) for a month. Yet another teacher had quit and they needed a substitute. My schedule was light, so they had no problem canceling my classes. I was unhappy about this, but it ended up going okay. Hamamatsu school was in a mall, so there was lots of stuff to see between classes. Plus, the other native teacher at  Hamamatsu was a cool guy  who I'd met before during training, so I had someone to talk to. The weather incredibly humid, though.

After about a week in Hamamatsu, I returned to my old stomping grounds of Shizuoka (city) to take the Japanese proficiency exam, level three. It was tough, and I was definitely on the fence about whether or not I passed. In about three months, I would find out that I had indeed passed. Callooh, callay! 

It was also during this month in Hamamatsu that my sisters visited me! The timing of this trip could have been much better. Firstly, the weather was brutally hot, although it did sometimes switch up the heat for pouring rain. Secondly, I was staying at the former Hamamatsu teacher's apartment, rather than my own apartment. Hence, I had very few of the comforts one would normally offer guests. It was also not in a good area in relationship to the Japanese railway system. It was a thirty minute bus ride to the station. Lastly, I had no vacation days left, so I had to work for those two weeks. Meaning I couldn't spend as much time as I would have liked showing my sisters around. IN SPITE OF THIS, my sisters got to see lots of Japan: Tokyo, Nagoya, Hiroshima and Kyoto were all thoroughly explored. We watched MST3K, ate sushi and good  times were had by all.

Right before they left, however. My awesome new company killed my internet. That was not good times. Hamamatsu, by the way, also has a very cool cave. It's a bit remote, but well worth the trip. It contains the largest underground waterfall in Japan!

Okay, so I finally returned to Gotemba (and my new apartment) and began my (theoretically) permanent position as main teacher  for Gotemba school. Things are going okay. Most of my classes are alright. Only a few argumentative old people and naughty children. Co-workers are alright too.

Gotemba, if you're curious, is right next to Mt. Fuji. But don't mistakenly assume that this means you can usually see it. Because of its altitude, clouds regularly obscure the mountain from view. Even now, after living here for over a month, it's still a pleasant surprise to actually see the mountain. On clear days, however, I can see it from my apartment window!

As Summer drew to a close, I took a trip to the resort town of Atami and went swimming at the beach. And just my luck, there was a fireworks display the same day! So that was a nice way to end the Summer. ALSO, King of Fighters XIII came out and stole so very many of my coins. That game is fantabulous.

I'll close by mentioning that, yesterday, I went to the Tokyo Game Show with the Hamamatsu school teacher (not the one I replaced, the one I knew from training) and one of his former students. It was awesome times, as you should have expected. I saw many cool games, played a demo for Castlevania: Lord of Shadows, and saw so, so much amazing cosplay. There was also a fighting game tournament happening at the same event, so I spent some time spectating. The highlight, however, were my new purchases:Read more...Collapse )
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Subject:The bank has erupted.
Time:01:04 am
Last night my school received an e-mail about an important webchat scheduled for tomorrow morning (i.e. this morning). So, in accordance with the strange and cruel dictates of the Head Office overlords, I woke up incredibly early this morning and dragged myself to work. Upon arriving, the first thing the manager said to me was:

"The company is bankrupt."

Bankrupt is a rather funny word, but at the time I was in no mood to appreciate that. One quick bullet train to Nagoya and one long, long conference later, I learned that:

- I am now unemployed.
- GEOS is sorry about that.
- I won't be getting paid for the last month.
- The schools were bought by a corporation called G-Communications Group, aka: Big ConHuge Co. which basically owns almost everything in Japan.
- G-Com is looking to re-hire most former employees.
- Some GEOS schools will be reopened this week.
- Mine (and many others) won't.
- They'll get contact info for all employees who are interested in working for G-Com and contact them... eventually.

So, maybe this won't be the end of the world. I don't know if G-Com will work out, but (1) I have plenty of teaching experience at this point, (2) I'm willing to relocate anywhere in Japan and (3) I already have a VISA. Those three elements make me pretty employable by any English language school. Worst comes to worse, I'll have to start job searching in major cities. I've always heard that it's not too hard for foreigners to find work teaching  English, and I can only hope the rumors are true.

And despite the fact that I realize, on some level, that this represents a big change in my financial security, part of my brain can't stop thinking "Huzzah! More game time!" Alas, part of me is incurably optimistic and laid-back. It's the Californian Curse.
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Subject:True Story
Time:04:10 pm
This happened over a week ago, but it was a while before I was able to talk about it.

As mentioned before, I teach Japanese kids English. All sorts of kids: big kids, small kids, nice kids, mean kids, and so on. This story involves one particular kid.

For the sake of the story, I'll call her A. A's five years old and she's one of the shy ones. But that's putting it mildly, as she raises shyness to an art form. When her mother comes to the school with her, she clings to her mom's leg, hiding her face from view and always, always, avoiding eye contact with me. In class, A generally tries to stay in the corner the corner and likely wishes me into the cornfield (or maybe rice field). Still, she's very cute and a welcome change of pace from her two classmates, who are both of the "we're going to scream as loud as we can just because it annoys you" variety of children.

So anyway, during class last week, her two classmates had hidden themselves under a small desk/table and we're refusing to come out. As usual, A was standing against the wall, waiting for class to end. I was bending down, trying to extract the little cherubs from under the table, when I felt a small hand come into contact with my posterior. I stood up. I turned around to see A standing there, not making eye contact as usual. I immediately thought, "she must have lost her balance and reached out to use my butt as a means to prevent falling." There was no other logical explanation that presented itself. So I (foolishly, in retrospect) bent forward again to extricate the other children. Once again, I felt a hand come into contact with my rear. Harder this time.

I stood up a second time, and once again turned to face A. She was still not looking at me, but she was clearly grinning. It was at this point I was forced to acknowledge the truth of what had just happened.

A five year old girl had just spanked me.


My mind immediately snapped into action trying to process the implications of this. Did this mean A was opening up to me? Was she becoming less shy? Or is her shyness a mask for a blooming career in sex offender-dom? Did she spank all foreigners? Did she spank people she disliked? Was she going to make a habit of this? Would I only have 180 degrees in which I could safely teach this class from now on? Should this be punished? How? Had I just been emasculated? Yes, I was pretty sure about that. How much? A lot or a little? I tried to think of everyone I knew to see if one of them might be able to offer counseling or advice on this subject. Although it became clear that I was incapable of imagining any one I knew being knowledgeable on this subject. How many people were there who had been spanked by five year old Japanese children? Was there a support group? Would I be able to tell my friends about this, or would I have to take my shameful secret to the grave? If I told my friends about it, would they ever be able to look at me again without thinking, "there's that guy who got spanked by a five year old girl"? Maybe I was overreacting. Maybe spanking in Japanese society carries different implications with it. I tried to call up all my knowledge of spanking vis-a-vis Japan, but I realized that it was one area of my cultural knowledge that I had neglected to study. Yes, I knew of "kancho," but spanking is very different my mind insisted. Kancho is a game, but what does spanking mean? Was ownership implied? 

Long story short, I failed to process much of anything. My life up until that point had simply not prepared me for the possibility of being spanked by a Japanese child. And over a week later, I still can't process it, and part of my mind remains unalterably broken. Other than that, I've been left with a stronger mistrust of Japanese children. Especially the shy ones.
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Subject:Quick notes:
Time:12:28 am
My first impression of Yaizu was that there isn't much here. So far, there hasn't been much to really change that impression. Although I have learned there's a Baskin Robbin's here. That's something, right?

I also got a list of info on my new students from the previous teacher. The scariest part of the entire (eleven page) list occurred on page ten, at the bottom of a description of a kids class. It read, "It may not happen at first, but [two of the kids in the class] like to touch, so you may want to prepare yourself for that." Not cool, little Japanese children. Not cool.
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Time:07:05 pm
Some things I will miss about Nagoya (not including people):

- misokatsu
- Nagoya Castle!
- watching the bats while walking home from work
- Osu and Sakae
- all the awesome restaurants near my school
- the subway system
- close proximity to the airport

Things I hopefully won't have to miss about Nagoya:

- awesome arcades
- crazy soda flavors (peach is my most recent favorite)
- curry restaurants
- close proximity to the super market, p.o., ATM and work.

Things I will certainly not miss about Nagoya:

-the humidity

And back to packing!
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Subject:Back to the Future
Time:08:51 pm
In a recent class with an old woman, we were talking about movies. She mentioned that she had been completely baffled by the Matrix, which I wasn't surprised by. I'm not sure why, but I suddenly felt compelled to recommend Back to the Future. Maybe it was partly due to Dinosaur Comics? Regardless, she gave me her word that she would watch it. That is such a great film. For serious.

Also, I need to get a haircut soon, but I worry about my ability to communicate in Japanese regarding hair length. Hopefully I won't end up bald.

One of the Japanese foods I categorically refuse is eat is raw horse meat. I've had several people tell me it's delicious, but... Look, I'd be willing to try some kinds of raw meat. I might even try horse meat. But raw horse meat? Too far.

I need to start packing for my move at the end of the month. While I'm sort of looking forward to seeing more of Japan, I'm going to miss most of my students a lot. As the month progresses, more and more students will be leaving. Two of my favorites left this week, and it's frustrating how I have no way to stay in contact with some of them.
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Subject:A new merit badge.
Time:02:59 pm
Getting directions via text message is terrible. Surely one of the top five worst ways to receive directions. At one point, they told me to "make a u turn to your left then turn right." Isn't that just a left turn? What the heck.

So, in the past, there have been individuals, acquaintances, if you will, who have criticized my unadventurous approach to food. I admit, I am generally more likely to go for "safe" options. "A strange fish dish? No thanks. I'll stick to chicken." That's just the kind of chap I am. But now! I've earned my food adventure merit badge. Hence forth, if I want to order a grilled cheese sandwich, I will hear no guff from any of my comrades.

What crazy food did I try?

Intestines. The small kind.

I didn't even know that the Japanese ate small intestines. In fact, I thought the only places where intestines were eaten were the places where starvation was often the alternative. But my Japanese friends assured me they were delicious.

They lied.

Oh, and are you curious as to what animal the intestines came from? So was I, but my friends weren't sure.
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Subject:I have some advice for the Disney Corporation.
Time:10:02 pm
Okay, Disney. I don't know who designs your stuffed animals. I don't know how thoroughly they playtest them. In fact, I don't even know if the stuffed Mickey and Minnie Mouse dolls in my school are even officially licensed.

But here's what I do know: The first instinct of any Japanese child under the age of 10, upon seeing a large, stuffed Mickey and Minnie Mouse doll, is to undress them. I don't even think they pause to register, "Oh hey, it's Mickey Mouse." They only think "anthropomorphic animals should not be wearing clothes." And before you can sing the Mickey Mouse Club song, you have two naked, stuffed mice.

Look, I'm just saying that this is a bad image for the Disney Corporation. When people think Disney, they don't want to imagine Japanese children tearing your characters' clothes off. Also, I've grown tired of having to put Minnie's underwear back on every week.

So, in the future, I suggest you sew your characters' clothes on to them.
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Subject:Snippets of News
Time:11:48 am
In food news, it can now be said that my apartment offers a range of sauces. Well, technically it could have been said before. But now, the person saying would just be embellishing a bit, rather than outright lying.

Applying for health insurance will never, ever be exciting. Ever.

My e-mail account with my college expired today, and I feel oddly nostalgic about it. It was a profoundly crappy mail client, but I spent so much time with it. It's very weird to realize that I'll never be using it again. Also, I very much liked having a "business" e-mail and a "friends" e-mail address. Also, I'm going to need to make a new account with Papa John's  when I get back to the states. Oh, inconveniences!

My bank account back home is screwed up. And that's putting it lightly. Thankfully, I have a decent supply of yens to tide me over. But it's annoying to have lost access to my American money.

Um, that's it for news.
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Subject:Random English Stuff
Time:03:42 pm
I imagine everyone becomes incredibly bored at work at some point, and then needs to exert him(or her)self to find some source of entertainment. Luckily, for me, this is readily found in some of the English textbooks I use.

One textbook has a section called "useful expressions" in each chapter. What they mean by  "expression" in this case, is useful grammar that students can use. So, they might list "My name is Ken," as a useful expression, because students can say "My name is (insert name here)." But to me, an "expression" is something more akin to "An apple a day keeps the doctor away." Thus, it amused me when I saw the sentence "There's a fishing program on channel 8," listed as a useful expression. It makes me want to make up an elaborate explanation as to what it means and teach it to some unsuspecting students.

"You see, a fishing program means something boring, and most US televisions made before the 80s didn't have a channel 8, due to superstitions. So saying there's a fishing program on channel 8 means it's impossible to see something boring. In other words, this saying means you're really interested in what's being said. So you should use this expression whenever someone tells you some interesting news." That's the best explanation I could invent, anyway.

Another textbook, one of our most popular, begins each chapter with a sample sentence from the dialogue, followed by an explanation of what the chapter is about. For example: "Hello, my name is Miki. : Making Introductions." And then there's a picture, also based on the dialogue. So, my favorite illustration comes from a chapter entitled, "She's really bored by it. : Describing feelings." Please take a moment to imagine what kind of picture would accompany a topic like this.

Click here to see the actual illustration.Collapse )
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