Thursday, September 28, 2006

Why didn't you say so!?

It’s the last week I’m scheduled to be at this school, ever. One of the teachers, and old, crusty science teacher, who’s never said a word to me, comes up and says, “I want to speak more English. I listen to the radio, but I don’t improve.” Granted, it came out quite a bit less grammatically correct, but he said it IN ENGLISH. And it’s the FIRST TIME he’s ever said ANYTHING to me. I’ve been here off and on for 6 months, and these are his first words to me. I’ll never understand some people. The thing is, he just wanted to to inform me of this, there was no request for help or anything, not even hinted at. Usually, if a body wants something, it’s considered too rude to outright ask for it. You've gotta do a little verbal dance, saying how much you like something, or how pleasant something sounds, etc. until the other person gets the hint. So, I either missed a potential student, or this guy just wanted to inform me of something he’d have been better off saying in April. Geez.

Baila al ritmo!

I went salsa dancing up in Yokohama the other night. A couple of girls I know recently began taking lessons up there. You pay about $15 cover, which gets you a free drink and an hour lesson.

Now, I’ve done this both in the US and in Europe, but I wasn’t prepared for the organized warm-up that preceded the lesson. It was just like the warm-up done at my schools before the sports festival, minus the old man calling out stretch positions. Instead, we had one of the salsa instructors leading a bunch of people in tight skirts or dress pants through a routine of knee-bends and the like. I’m glad I didn’t split my pants bending over. That would’ve been embarrassing.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Culture Day - Let's Armwrestle!

Saturday was the culture festival at one of my schools. The students and teachers have been preparing for quite a while, and everything seemed to be pretty smoothly run. It amazes me how a horde of 12-15-year olds can pull together (with lots of teachers riding herd, but still) and create something enjoyable. All of the clubs had something planned - the drama club put on a play, the band had several performances, the photo club had a rather impressive exhibition, and the art club had a crafts and coloring thing going.

One of the more surprising activities was the science club's. Let me tell you, you'd never see a school in the US give a 15-year old kid a bucket of liquid CO2 and a ladle and tell him to go at it. No gloves, no goggles, just a crowd of young boys seeing what they can freeze and shatter. Granted, only the 3rd-year students were allowed to actually handle it, but they let everyone quickly dip their hands in for a feel at how cold it was. The 1st-years were no better off, they were given acetyl alcohol and would ignite it in a can and shoot a paper cup off the top. Little boys and fire. I'm pleased that they all seemed to enjoy these activities, and it makes me wonder if we allowed American kids to have the same freedom to do this, would we have more students interested in science.

The culture stuff was fun, but by far the biggest draw for the students, particularly the boys, was the arm-wrestling competition. Everyone wanted me to join in, but it wouldn't have been fair since I pretty muched wiped out all comers. There were two stages set up, complete with elbow rests and handles for the free hand. Before and after, people were permitted to come up and try their luck with anyone. So when I wandered into the courtyard, immediately I was pulled up and everyone wanted to try. I think I damaged my left shoulder. So I'll take it easy this weekend and try not to do too much. At least that's my excuse.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

What I aspire to

This site is about a guy living in Japan. Why can't I write as good as he can. Who know. But I'll be giving it a go from now on. Maybe I need to swear more...

Either way, reading the archives is going to keep me from getting to bed anytime soon tonight.

I think I just found my doctoral thesis

I missed it. Today was Talk Like a Pirate Day. This is the downside of being 13 hours ahead of the States.

Monday, September 18, 2006

3-day weekend wrapup

Well, I can't say this was the best weekend ever, but it wasn't the worst.

The biggest downer was going to the craft beer festival all the way up in Tokyo, only to be told that there were no more tickets available. Apparently, you had to get them online or in specific brewpubs (none of which were closer than Yokohama, 40 minutes away) beforehand. So that didn't make me happy.

Nor did going to the camera shop in Akihabara where I purchased my (now-broken) camera. After half an hour of complaining, they agreed to replace it, only to reveal that they didn't have the model anymore. So I could either take a lower-quality one for roughly the same price, or pay another 19,000 yen for the next model up. I said no thank you, please get me the same model. At which point the manager decided that he wouldn't replace it for me anymore, because there were too many scratches on it (nevermind that it was the floor model that I got stuck with, and I had to carry it around Thailand for 2 weeks with the lens jammed in the out position). So they'll have to send it to Casio to get it repaired. I'm rather put out by this experience. I had expected more from that brand, especially since Ana and Damien were happy with theirs. It SHOULD take about a week, but seeing their treatment of me, I'm sure it will take longer. Japan is famous for its customer service, they will go to great lengths to aid people here. I wonder if it's because I bought it in Akihabara, a place where foreigners seen once aren't expected to return. For what little it will do, anyone reading this and thinking of going to Akihabara would be well-advised to avoid AKKY electronics at all costs. They will foist shoddy goods upon you and the famous Japanese customer service is sorely lacking.

But let's move on. After these two rather sad experiences, I met up with Julian and we headed to the Ebisu Beer Museum. I'd been there once before with Ana and Damien, the time Ana's friends Heather and Jeremy came to visit, but Julian hadn't, so we had a couple of the rarer brews there. His girlfriend Atsumi showed up, then we headed to Shibuya to visit another brewpup, the Auldgate, that I'd been to before. We met up with a friend I'd made last weekend, Yuriko, who lives and works in Narita.

By that time there was a fine mist coming down, the prelude to a tropical storm that blew up and finally passed over this morning (Monday). Yuriko and I went to a Spanish tapas bar near Tokyo station that was excellent, if a bit pricey. It's definitely a place for drinks, though the food can get pricey once you get started. We wrapped up the evening wandering around the area, where we were able to spot a few of the Cow Parade Tokyo cows. I'll try and get back up there soon to see the rest of them, probably when I have to go pick up my camera. Bastards.

So while Sunday was a day of action and moving about, today was a day for not really doing anything. Just a bit of vacuuming and hanging around the house while the storm raged outside. It lightened up about 4pm, so I could get some food shopping in and take in a coffee shop where I launched into An Inconvenient Truth, the global warming book by Al Gore. The book's big and thick, I think I ended up with the coffee table version, released after the movie. The pictures are beautiful, National Geographic-quality, with lots of detailed information. I'm about 20% through it now, so I'll try and write more after I finish. There isn't much writing, it's almost like they pasted the notes from Gore's powerpoint presentation onto the relevant photos. But it's a good read, especially since I won't be able to see the movie itself for a while.

Well, off to cook lunch for this week, and maybe have the bottle of "Bishop's Finger" ale that Julian brought back from England for me.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Weekly update

Last week I was at the handicapped school again. It'll probably be my last time at that school, since the board of education will probably change the schools we go to. I can't say I'm happy about the decision. By the time we start having some sort of stable relationship with the teachers and students (where they're not afraid or feeling contempt for us), they make us change schools and we have to start all over. I don't agree with it, but such is the all-knowing wisdom of the high BoE. Hope they don't read this.

The special school was fun. It wasn't as mentally trying as the first time I went there, perhaps in part because another ALT was scheduled there 3 of the days as well. So we could chat during breaks and I had someone to walk back to the station with when we finished. It was certainly nice, I miss that sort of comraderie sometimes.

This weekend is a 3-day weekend. Monday's some sort of holiday. I don't know which one, and I'm too lazy to look, but I'm sure none of the Japanese know, either. Tomorrow there's a craft beer festival in Tokyo, so I'll head up there with Julian. It'll give me a chance to go to Akihabara and harass the bastards who sold me my camera, which broke halfway into my Thailand trip and prevented me from taking decent photos of the sights there. They've also have Cow Parade Tokyo going now, so I'd like to check that out as well.

That's the plan, anyway. I'm going to play hookey from the gym today and take a walk to Enoshima island with Julian.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


Last week was my birthday, the 7th, to be exact. My friends here made sure that I was out celebrating the entire time. It was pretty good. I met Julian, his roommate Todd, and our friend Nicole for drinks on the actual day of my birthday. Since it was a Thursday, I couldn't really be out late. Friday I organized a party for myself. I was worried about exactly how many people would show up, since many of my friends have a tendency to tell me the day before that they can't come because they're too busy. Must be a Japanese thing. But we had enough people turn out to have fun. First we hit a bar, Beck, in Fujisawa for some drinks. I figured that by 8 everyone would've eaten something, but I guess not because within 15 minutes everyone wanted to move somewhere else for dinner. We ended up at a restaurant called Tapa, where we stayed until the last train. I caught it back with the Hiratsuka crew, plus one of the other ALTs, Kim. We proceeded to a small bar to meet up with a couple more of Nicole's friends, then hit the local latino salsa bar.

The bar used to be really good. The owner/bartender, Hector, was awesome as always, but the crowd and atmosphere seems to have declined somewhat. I think it's because the people who show up now seem to be just kids and a very few older guys. There isn't really anybody in their 20s unless I've brought them. Julian, Kim and I finished up the night in a Matsuya downing cheap grub before Kim caught the first train back and Julian and I wobbled home around 5:30am. I guess it's a good night when you have to peel the contacts from your eyeballs.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Supertyphoon Ioke

So there's a supertyphoon called Ioke that started out as a hurricane in the east Pacific Ocean. It then crossed the International Date Line, becoming a typhoon, and bore down on Wake Island. I think it now holds the record for staying a category 4 or 5 storm the longest. Here's a nice picture of her:
That little dot in the upper-lefthand corner? That's Wake Island, which they evacuated some days ago. And here's where Ioke's headed:

Usually, when my area gets hit by a typhoon, it's already run its course over southwestern Japan and used up some of it's energy. Now, it looks like it's going to hit us directly. Yay.

(Via, The Intersection, who's got running reports on it and other storms)