Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Bane of My Existence

This year isn't as bad as last, when I spent 3 months doing the SAME EXACT THING: 2-minute interviews with every kid in every school I went to (around 2,000). So far it's been much more spaced out, but that doesn't keep it from dredging up bad memories.

*knock knock* [student opens door, comes in, closes door]
Student: May I come in?
Me: *sigh* Sure.
Student: Good morning, Mr. Jeremy-sensei [it's 2:30pm]
[student sits down at desk and gives his evaluation sheet]
Me: Good afternoon.
Student: Here you are.
Me: Thanks [but you already gave me the paper]
Student: You're welcome.
Me: How are you [glance at name on sheet, written in scribbly kanji, can't read it]...?
Student: Imfinethankyouandyou.
Me: I'm tired and the miso soup gave me gas. Thanks for asking.
[student looks pleased they made it this far, then their face falls when I ready the Hamtaro timer. Who ever thought such a cute thing could inspire fear in a 12 year-old?]

The rest of the interview is even more mundane than the beginning. They have 1 minute to answer all the questions I throw at them. In the process I learn that 90% come from the immediate vicinity of the school (go figure), every one of them plays either baseball, soccer, badminton or table tennis, they're all either 12 or 13 years old, and they all watch one of the same 3 TV programs. How enlightening. Having completed their ordeal (they're trapped in an empty classroom with a big, scary, farting gaijin-san who's barraging them with questions, hoping they can answer enough of them correctly that I don't have to fail them), they leap up, race out, politely close the door and run down the hall screaming "yaaaa-daaaa!" Not my most exciting moment.

Repeat 3 or 4 times a day, for one week. Yuck.

On the upside, my mother sent me a care package with some Valentine's Day cards, the kind you got when you were a kid. You know, the ones with Scooby-Doo and the gang on the front and "Boo! my Valentine" on the back. I've been handing them out to the kids randomly, as they come by my desk, and gave big ones to the student council kids. They were a huge hit. It's amazing what little things will do for your popularity.

Monday, January 15, 2007


On a student's Minnie Mouse pencil case: "Why be a girl if you don't use it?"

Another students example for the present continuous: "I am playing sex with my friend. How about you?"

And on a final note, here's the daily highlight on Wikipedia's main page, talking about the Kitsune.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Rollercoaster weekend

I got a letter from Oiso Town Board of Education Saturday. They're going to hire me on as their AET at the schools starting in April. So I have a new job, yay! It'll be one where I'm not going through a contracting company, which means no more stupid hurdles to jump through. The pay isn't much more, but the conditions will be better. That's good. I also went to the gym, and cleaned house, all in all the day was good. I felt good.

Then Sunday happened. I played soccer with some friends, which is usually tough, but good. But this time I twisted BOTH ankles and managed to wear a hole in my insole, which in turn wore a hole in the ball of my foot. So I spent the aftergame lunch in the bathroom of the restaurant picking pebbles out of my blister with a toothpick. In addition, my future roommate decided to tell me he couldn't move into the apartment we'd all but signed the contract for because his brother's moving out and his parents want him to stay. Did I mention he's 29? Japanese culture and all that, I guess.

So that's the end of my little rant.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The 1st week of 2007 -- not so great

So my New Year's was more or less a bust. After a small gathering to go out and hit the usual places, I woke up with a massive headache and spent the day lounging at home, watching comical specials on TV. This has the be the only time I found the programming available on Japanese TV to be consistently funny. I flipped it on to find a bunch of semi-famous people clinging to punching bags hanging over a pool of water outside. Every now and then someone would fall off. The last person got an envelope with cash in it (a tradition gift on the New Year). The next segment had an enormous table filled with sushi, dominated by a rice mountain ringed with red tuna sashimi so it resembled Mt. Fuji. Most impressive. This carried on throughout the day, until I headed off just after dark to see the local shrine. Unfortunately, I forgot the memory card for my digital camera, so I trudged back and spent the rest of the evening under the kotatsu, watching a sports competition with Tracey. New Year's Day was THAT exciting.

Instead of doing the traditional cleaning (like I should've been doing since I'll move out soon), I spent the rest of my time playing my fantastically enjoyable Wii. The main downside is that it's more fun to play with people, but it's not common to have people over to homes, really. At least, no one ever comes over to mine.

So that's how I spent my first week of the new year. Today I went back to work, which was not terribly fun since I'm not used to waking up at 6:30am anymore, nor am I used to the incredibly cold school. So I spent the entire day huddled in the teacher's room, wishing I could be back in my warm bed. One reason I didn't sleep much last night were the many concerns I have. In addition to the obvious one mentioned below, I'm looking for a new apartment. I have a roommate lined up, and we've checked apartments, but everyone wants us to move in immediately, and if not then, then by the beginning of February. I don't relish paying for two apartments, so I've got some thinking to do. In addition, I'm concerned about my job prospects coming up. We'll see what happens, but needless to say, they're another concern keeping me up. Another is writing this post, which is why I'm going to stop and go to bed early, for once.

Paul F. Benedict, MD

I got a call Friday night from my mom. She apologized for calling so late and then, as I was fumbling with the phone, told me ----- had died. Not hearing the name, I immediately assumed it was our dog, who's got osteosarcoma cancer, and 3 weeks ago was given a month to live. "Penny died!?" I exclaimed. "No," Mom said, "Granddad did."

He'd had congestive heart failure, and other medical problems for some months now. He went into the hospital on Wednesday with some complications, and passed away early Friday morning. Here's the obituary.

He was the patriarch of our family. I have lots of fond memories of him. Motorboating on Lake Wawassee and him letting me steer occasionally when the lake was calm and empty. I used to imagine piles of sunglasses on the bottom of the lake because he would always dive in and forget they were on his head. The way he went to the end refusing to give up a bit of ground in the fight against time, insisting on golfing after heart attacks and never using a cane. A great heart surgeon, he was probably the worst of patients. He always believed he knew more than his doctors he knew the risks he was taking, but never gave up because he believed it better to live a shorter, sweeter life rather than a long, dull one. He was 81, so it was really more like a long, sweet life for him. He lived a long, fruitful life, so it's not time to be sad. It's a time to celebrate his many achievements.

I only wish I could've made it home to see him one last time. Due to financial and time constraints, I can't make it back for the funeral. I last saw him when I was home a year ago for the holidays. Not seeing him is my only regret. So, I love you Granddad, and I hope you have a good adventure in whatever's next.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Obligatory New Year's Post

I'll try and spend tomorrow writing a more detailed account of the festivities, but let me just wish a Happy New Year to everyone. Unfortunately, we had an all-too sobering reminder of the world we live in. Let's all resolve to try to be a little nicer to our neighbors and solve our conflicts without violence.