Sunday, October 31, 2010

English Festival

I gave up one of my Saturdays to help out an English festival last weekend.

Morning: I arrived at the high school near Yaginishiguchi (say that 5 times fast) station a little late for the festival. Luckily, one of the judges was also late, so everyone overlooked my indiscretion. The morning was reserved for the 61st Nara Inter-High School Speech Competition (a real mouthful). This time, I got to lay back and just listen to the speeches. Other Nara ALTs were judges along with the same guy from the Nara Board of Education. A student from my school was competing, so I felt somewhat obligated to attend and cheer her on.

In high school speech contests, the students write their own speeches (probably with some major help from their teachers). Some of the topics were deep. One student talked about how she became suicidal during her junior high years because of bullying. This was actually a popular theme. Three other speeches were about overcoming bullying, finding meaning in the experience, and maturing as a result. Junior High School must be really brutal in this country.

Other speech topics included: the importance of breakfast, the importance of not wasting food, the Irish harp, and the message of "High School Musical." The student from my school did her speech on why Japanese woman are not having children. The birthrate in Japan has been declining for 10 years. My student blames financial problems, safety, and career driven females for this disturbing trend. I do not know enough about the topic, but I will do some research and write another cultural blog post soon.

My student came in 5th out of 17 contestants. I thought this would make her happy, but she told me she got fifth the previous year as well. I bought her some candy on the conbini to cheer her up. At least she ranked and received a GIANT certificate.

Afternoon: Upon return from lunch, all the students attending the festival received a pink paper with a description of someone. Each description corresponded with one of the ALTs in attendance. The students had to use their English to find the correct foreigner. They asked questions like: "where are you from," "where do you live," and "what are your hobbies." The students found me easily.

We played some English games in our groups for about 15 minutes. Then we combined our groups together to make bigger ones. We played more English games for another 40 minutes. It was fun. The kids were just excited to interact with foreigners, I think.

The closing ceremony was as stereotypical as ever. Lots of applause, lots of "thank you's" and lots of bowing.

As the festival came to a close, one of teachers alerted me that I had earned daikyu for helping on a Saturday. Daikyu refers to vacation days I earn because I work more than I am contractually obligated to. I've earned 2 extra vacation days because I worked the JETNET event and the English Festival. The only restriction is that I must use the daikyu within 8 weeks or it disappears. Whoop!

Speech Contest

Last Tuesday, I judged my first speech contest. The Koriyama Rotary Club sponsored a Junior High School speech contest at my school. Storm (the other ALT at my school) and I were designated judges for the contest in addition to a representative from the Nara Board of Education, and 2 Japanese Teachers of English (JTE). Storm and I were called into the Principal's office to meet the other judges and presumably to keep us from talking to the contestants. We sat silently as everyone babbled on in Japanese. I assume they were just introducing themselves and making small talk. I am always nervous around my principal. He is a very nice man, but always seems so unapproachable. The teachers are always SUPER polite to him including bowing and such.

***Cultural Interlude: The Japanese LOVE their ceremonies. They have a ceremony for everything. With ceremonies, come MC's. Even for the smallest of events, there is a ceremony and MC. For example, when the new prefectural ALTs signed contracts at the prefecture office, there was a ceremony. When the JTE's threw a small pizza party to welcome Storm and me, there was a ceremony. When N-Sensei farted in the office, there was a ceremony. Get the picture? All the ceremonies are also incredibly scripted. EVERYTHING is written down beforehand. This makes their ceremonies rather robotic, but efficient. The start and end times are adhered to strictly.***

After the opening ceremony, I took my seat at the back of the multipurpose room. I was given score sheets for each contestant and a pen. There were almost 20 speeches, roughly 5 minutes each. I had to judge each speech based on time, eye contact/hand gestures, pronunciation, intonation, etc on different numbered scales. At the bottom of the sheet was a place for comments. In the Japanese spirit of being non-confrontational, I only wrote positive comments: "Clear and Loud voice," "Wonderful topic," "Excellent eye contact," etc.

For Junior High students, it is really more of a recitation contest. The students open a book of speeches and pick the one they like most. Then they memorize the speech and practice with their English teachers until the day of the contest. This is how, at one point, I was forced to listen to the same speech twice. In high school, students write thier own speeches for these contests.

I listened to each speech, scored them, then gave the sheet to a student volunteer. The student delivers the score sheets to the Head of the English Department who then creates a spreadsheet of all the scores. Some of the speeches were excellent, some were boring. One student did a speech about getting rid of the remaining land mines in the world, super interesting. Others did speeches about Greek mythology and Japanese folk stories. The winner of the contest was a boy who acted out a scene from "Romeo and Juliet." He did both parts, Romeo AND Juliet, during their balcony scene. English is hard, but Shakespearean English? Forget it, he wins.

I was picked to read the winners at the end. The top 6 won certificates. The top three won trophies. It broke my heart to have to pick a winner. It really made me happy to see students enthusiastic for English language learning. I could tell all of them had practiced a million times for this contest, so I did feel bad there had to be a winner. On a positive note, I got to sign my name on a GIANT certificate for the winners. That was kind of cool.

Next Post: English Festival Day!!!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Gaijin on Parade

"Nara JETNet, comprised of participants in the Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme (JET Programme), is an association whose goal is the grassroots internationalization of local communities in Nara Prefecture. Its organizing committee, which consists of the Prefecture’s five Coordinators for International Relations (CIR) and the Prefectural Board of Education’s Assistant Language Teacher (ALT), plans and carries out international exchange events that bring together foreign and Japanese members of the greater Nara community."

Last Saturday, a JETNet event took place: A Halloween Parade!

32 Nara JETs, 60 Japanese people (ranging from infants to the elderly) gathered at Miwa station, all dressed in costume. Let me paint a picture for you: 30 FOREIGNERS BOARDED A TRAIN COMPLETELY CLAD IN HALLOWEEN COSTUMES. To say people stared would be an understatement. They LEERED.

When we arrived in Miwa, we gathered in groups. We were all placed on "teams" primarily so we could make sure no one got lost on the trail. I was on team witch. There was another team, "Frankenstein," with a mislabeled sign. It read, "Frankenteim." Yes, the MC Hammer jokes were a-plenty:

Me: Hold on guys! Stop. Franken-time!!

Just try to imagine me doing the MC Hammer shuffle in my toga. Yes, I put on a simple bedsheet as a costume. I was not going to walk 13KM (roughly 8 miles) in makeup or some complicated BS. What I didn't realize until someone had pointed it out to me, is that my choice of a light green bed sheet turned my costume from Statue of Liberty. I only bought the stupid color because the store was out of white sheets. Oh well, it WAS funny.

The Halloween parade happened on the oldest road in Japan, Yamanobe no Michi. This road is centuries old, but many areas cut through residential neighborhoods. The trail is incredibly varied. One minute we were walking through someone's driveway (imagine his surprise), and the next minute we were walking through a shrine in the mountains. It was very bizarre.

As we marched on, many people (not JETs) started to drop out. There was a train station about halfway that 1/4 of our guests seized. It really was a tough hike for children.

The trail ends at the Chicken shrine in Tenri. I don't remember the name, but I've been there before when I visited the "center of the universe."

I still have no idea why I was the only one sunburned. Before you yell, "because you have fair skin!" just know that there is an Irish Jet whose skin is a lot more fragile then mine.

Here's the mildly amusing picture to end this post. It's soooooo...artistic:

Before I forget, my blog just got listed on the Unofficial JET Programme Guide -

Monday, October 25, 2010

Elementary Visit PART 2

I returned to the elementary school on Friday to help the teachers with their English conversation lessons. I helped teach two classes. Elementary schools use a textbook called "Eigo Noto," or "English Notes." This book is awful and hilarious. Rather than contribute my own commentary on Eigo Noto, I'm going to use someone else's work.

The following video was made by manipulating the audio tracks from the Eigo Noto CD (a cd that we used to teach grade school level English in Japan). Someone made an adult instructional video out of it. This video, surprisingly, won first place in the Fukuyama Film Festival 2010.

In my class, we used the audio from "Lesson 1." Watch it, enjoy it, and laugh heartily.

I tried embedding the video, but Blogger keeps cutting off the screen so here is the direct link to youtube:

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Elementary School Musical PART 1

Midterms are a strange time. Students come into school, take their test, then take off for the rest of the day presumably to practice their club activity or maybe even study. Either way, there is nothing for ALTs to do during midterms. There are no real classes and no midterm test for English conversation class. As such, I was “voluntold” to teach at an elementary school Tuesday and Friday. I gladly olbliged. What follows is a tale of cuteness, creepiness, and all around awesomeness:

Hour 1, 2: 6th grade
Hour 3: 5th grade
Lunch: 6th Grade

Hour 1: I was told beforehand, I would be teaching 5th and 6th graders. My first thought: cool, a nice class of energetic kids! As I walked into the school’s multipurpose room, it became apparent to me that I would be teaching ALL of the 5th and 6th graders. Was I nervous? Hell no. I live for this.

For the first hour, I did my jiko shokai (self-introduction). I brought my laptop and showed the kids a tailored version of my high school powerpoint. The school provided the screen and projector. Win.

The best part about teaching at the elementary school? EVERYTHING I do is awesome to these kids. I might very well be their first extensive experience with a white guy. I showed pictures of my house, so the kids now think I’m a millionaire. Seriously, they think my house in Florida is HUMONGOUS. As the picture came up, a symphony of “OOOOOOOOOOOHHHHHH” erupted from the children. When they saw I had a pool, one of the kids’ heads exploded. I might as well wear a monocle and swish brandy.

Hour 2: The kids escorted me to gym where I was exposed to a variety of games.

Game 1: A strange mix of “Red Rover” and “Rock, Paper, Scissors.” Basically two lines of kids shout stuff at each other, then challenge the other team to RPC. One person from each team comes to the middle, play RPC, then the loser joins the winner’s team. I was called out EVERY TIME. I won twice and lost once.

Game 2: Very much like Sumo. Two kids enter a small circle at the center of the basketball court, then they try to force the other out of the circle. The largest of the children challenged me. Mistake. I picked this kid up and carried him out of the circle. In retrospect, I probably should have let him win, but I couldn’t resist.

Game 3: Dodgeball. Good ol’ fashion dodgeball. They play with slightly different rules. For example, if you are hit, then you go to a “prison” on the other team’s side. These “prisoners” can get a hold of a ball and still try to peg someone. If they do, they can return to their original side. Also, catching the ball means nothing. I held back, A LOT. My inner child wanted to whip the ball at some poor child…but I was nice. Sigh…

Game 4: The two teachers took out a large jump rope. The students and I (maybe 8) lined up along the rope and attempted to jump in tandem. The problem? I am waaaaaay taller than ALL OF THEM. When I jumped, my knees kept kicking the child in front of me. I tried to buckle my knees, but it was for naught. The kid and I laughed and still had a good time.

Hour 3: I did my jiko shokai again, this time for the 5th graders. This went pretty much like hour 1, but maybe the 5th graders aren’t as enthusiastic. They were still really genki (lots of energy), but the 6th graders had more.

Lunch: At elementary schools, lunch is provided to the kids. The food is really good…for school food. The teacher and students help serve food to everyone in the class. Once everyone has their food (and milk), everyone yells “Itadakimasu!!!” (bon apetit). We clap as we say this, then dig in. The food was meatballs, a tuna and seaweed salad, white rice, and soup (carrots, cabbage, pork, egg). Students are required to eat ALL of their food. Teachers are forced to eat all of it as well to set an example. This was hard. The meatballs and rice were easy (and good), but everything else I had to choke down. During lunch, the school plays a variety of really creepy songs over the loud speakers. They played an Enya sounding song, the Japanese version of “it’s a small world,” and other creepy kids’ songs. When the meal is over, everyone yells “Gochi so sama deshita!!!!” (That was a filling meal!)

This wraps up Part 1, Tuesday. Part 2 is on the way.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Disaster is my middle name...

Last Sunday, I attended a seminar about what to do during a Natural Disaster. It was sponsored by the Nara International Foundation: Commemorating the Silk Road Expedition. Yes, I know. It should be called NIFCSRE…but that just isn’t catchy enough. Either way, about 4 JETs and hopped boarded the free charter bus bound for the southern part of Nara City. 25 other people of Chinese, Japanese, Brazilian, and Dutch heritage joined us. I suppose this seminar was for foreign people living in Japan, but no one told me.

Once the seminar began, we were all broken into 2 large groups. My group went first. We were going to “experience” the 3 major disasters that Japan has to offer: Fires, Earthquakes, and typhoons.

Fire: We were brought to a room that had a gigantic tv screen on one side and a crapload (this is the metric system remember?) of fire extinguishers on the other. After a brief explanation about how fires start and spread (most commonly when people hang clothes above their space heater. Noted.), a video of a fire was played on the giant TV. The idea behind the next exercise was to aim our fire extinguishers (pressurized with just water, mind you) at the fire and “put it out” before it spread too much. The tv screen was obviously special. It could feel the pressure from the water and judge if we were hitting the right areas. The children in our group went first. They stopped the fire ASAP. Then it was the gaijin group’s turn (the 4 JETs including myself). We did worse than the kids.


1. Yell “Kaiji da!” (FIRE!!)
2. Start spraying
3. Stop the stupid fire


1. I yell “Don’t cross the streams!”
2. Aim everywhere, BUT the fire
3. Get showed up by little kids

Fire Part 2: The 2nd part of the fire portion was a “smoke” filled maze. We had to feel our way through a maze while our vision was obstructed by a fog machine and absence of light. Some doors were locked, some were chain linked, and others were open for us. As we were casually walking through this simulation, I asked:

Me: Hey, where is Shadowcat? (remember, x-men names now)
My group: I don’t know.
Me: She better not have ditched us in here.
My Group: Dude, I don’t hear her. I think she left us…to die.

When we emerged from the labyrinth, we saw Shadowcat. She was casually waiting for us at the end…laughing. The jokes flew and laughs were had until our group’s leader berated her. All of us were laughing at Shadowcat for being singled out until our translator told us, “Stop laughing, she’s being serious.” Yes sir.

Earthquake: There was a platform that, when activated, shakes violently simulating a earthquake. The kids were the first to go again. Their earthquake’s strength was a 3.0. Wimps. Then, the gaijin group walked onto the platform. Oh, let the embarrassment begin. Our earthquake was REALLY strong. I actually bumped my head a couple times against the poles meant to help us AVOID getting seriously hurt. I have to imagine our group leader laughing her ass off (inside her head) watching the foreigners jiggle about violently. When we finally stepped off (40 secs later), she told us that our Earthquake was a 7.0, more than twice the kids’ simulation. FML.

Typhoon: We stood in a wind tunnel as a fan blew air at us at 20 m/s. I don’t know the conversion to mph, but the wind was strong. Only funny thing to report during this simulation was that because of Shadowcat’s height and weight, she actually had to LEAN into the wind to avoid being knocked over. Ahhhh, justice.

When we returned to the multipurpose room (hehe, nostalgia), we were treated to a lecture about disaster preparedness including medical supplies, bags, and food. They even made us taste their disaster food, basically bread from a can. Yum…bleh. Following the seminar, NIFS gave each of the participants a bag with batteries, a flashlight, thermal blanket, etc. It was nice.

Also, one of my students pointed out that I was on the new last night!!! The prefectural new station at the seminar interviewed me. My contact at NIFS is trying to score a copy of the interview for me. When I get it, I will post it.

As always, I’ll end with something hysterical. This is a picture of a box of clothing from a nearby children’s store. The name of this store has not been edited. Enjoy:

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Pumpkin' around

Next week is midterms for my students. Mid-term exam week is alot like Finals week in America. All classes stop, and the students come in to school only to take a test. I assume they can go home when they finish...but Japanese students never go home.

Because midterms are next week, my JTE and I are taking it easy. I dedicated this week I would only give minor Conversation assignments and discuss Halloween. The students are FASCINATED by Halloween. In the first lesson, I reviewed Halloween's origins and covered the traditions in America. The real fun started today when I did my second Halloween lesson.

While the kids worked on their assignments, I carved a pumpkin. Japanese pumpkins are like rocks. American pumpkins have the hardness of a watermelon. It took one helluva sharp knife to murder my pumpkin. I picked a simple design (it's my first time carving a pumpkin after all). When I finished, I showed my students a cool powerpoint full of awesome pictures of cool jack o' lanterns. Some of the designs included The Death Star, Hello Kitty, Super Mario, and Jack Skellington. I even told them the folk story origin of Jack O' Lanterns. The students were entranced.

The best part of my lesson? The JTE let the students take pictures of my Jack O'Lantern and me. Imagine being surrounded by 20 students with cameras. I felt like a celebrity and the students, paparazzi. The candle in the pumpkin actually starting burning it a little from the inside, so the classroom smelled like cooked pumpkin!

By the way, my JTE and I have way too much fun in class:

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Ladies and Gentlemen, I told a joke that made the entire office lose their $H#T!

Kumo otoko wa don na aji desu ka?
(What does a spider taste like?)

Supai da!
(Japanese word for sour, also sounds a hell of a lot like the English word "Spider."

I am now beloved.

A journey to the familiar...and dated...

Over the holiday weekend, I ventured to Universal Studios Japan (USJ) with other Nara JETs and one random English teacher. It was an escape into the familiar.

We took a special train from Osaka Station to get to USJ. Upon arrival, the first thing we saw was a trainer doing tricks with a monkey. The monkey was wearing people clothes…it was cute…and a little sad. Here’s a pic:

Once inside the actual park, everything felt eerily familiar. It was like I was back in Florida. It didn’t feel like Japan. USJ is modeled somewhat after Hollywood, CA so the streets had English names. There were speed limit sign that used MPH. The food was still Japanese, but the setting had changed.

The first ride we went on was the “Hollywood Dream.” It’s just a typical roller coaster. It just goes up and down a lot, no upside downs. Coming from Busch Garden, I guess I am a little bit of a theme park snob. It was fun, but I was not impressed.

After saying “trick or treat” to come USJ employee and getting some candy for it, we went to the Jurassic Park ride. Like many of the rides at this park, it is a complete copy of the one back in Florida. There were come cool parts (like when a box with a raptor almost collapsed on our boat, or when the T-Rex makes an appearance). We got wet after the drop at the end of the ride (think Splash mountain), which I disliked.

We did the Jaws ride next. Again, same thing as Universal in Orlando. Cool parts: When we were in the boat house and the giant shark pops up. The best part of this ride was watching the children FREAK THE EFF OUT. I don’t blame them, but it was hilarious to me. Did I mention all the narration is in Japanese? It is, but I could tell what was going on.

We ate lunch at the Jurassic Park themed restaurant. I had the Raptor Galbi. It's basically some teriyaki beef, served with rice, some tortilla chips, and a baked potato. It wasn't really filling, but it was okay because I wanted room for popcorn and other treats.

I did not enjoy the "Backdraft" simulation because everything was done in Japanese (which I didn't understand), the wait was long, and the pay off (although cool) wasn't worth it. The only thing that attraction convinced me of, was to watch the movie "Backdraft."

Unlike Universal Orlando, USJ still has the "Back to the Future" ride. Still good, but incredibly dated.

We concluded the night by eating caramel popcorn and sipping melon flavored slurpies as they (not me) enjoyed the parade. Parades are lame. There, I said it. USJ's light parade was interesting because the 3 themes they used were all Disney properties. For example, the themes were "Alice in Wonderland," "Arabian Nights (Aladin)", and "Cinderella." Someone should tell Japan, "Don't fuck with the Mouse."

I bought a big poster from the Shounen Jump (they make my favorite comics) store, and then we all went off in different directions for home.

Interesting Note: The wait times for attractions are listed as incredibly long. Think 70-120 mins. It NEVER took that long. We waited, at most, 25 mins for a ride. I think wait times are engineered this way, so everyone leaves surprised and happy. It's a sort of artificial happiness.

As always, here's a mildly amusing picture of me:

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Tales from the office

‎(After noticing a teacher's busted lip)

Me: Sensei, what happened to your lip?

Sensei: I don't know. Sometimes when I'm tired, things just happen to my face.


Monday, October 4, 2010

The Devil has come to Earth, and he landed in Japan.

Necessary Background information: Japan passed a law 15 years ago, prohibiting teachers from removing students from class. Students have the RIGHT to stay in the classroom.

I have found myself frustrated as of late with Japan’s education system; more specifically, with how Japanese teachers deal with discipline. They simply do not have a discipline plan. I learned that in order to be an effective educator, students must be aware of all rules, procedures, and most important, consequences.

I have seen teachers let students sleep claiming, “It’s okay, he’s tired.” I have witnessed teachers try to lecture over student conversations. I see students blatantly disregard the teachers’ instructions and continue to be disruptive. I rant about this particular aspect of my life because there was an incident lately that has been driving me crazy.

Before I really took note of the discipline problems in my school, I took it upon myself to halt the disruptions of one particularly rude student. When verbal cues were not enough, I sent him to the back of the classroom, hoping that would end his bad behavior. It did not work. He kicked desks, refuse to participate in activities, and STILL conversed with students (completely ignoring how far removed he was from them).

There is no detention. I cannot remove him from the class. Students have the RIGHT to remain in the classroom. This means students have the RIGHT to disrupt the learning of others. I am stuck with this little bastard. I have almost no ammunition on which to base any threats.

Sending him to the back of the classroom was certainly a shock for the class. Imagine an environment where no one gets punished, then suddenly the new teacher (An American white guy) starts in with a new brand of Justice. This student (let’s call him Beelz), thinks I hate him now. Not only does he think I singled him out in class, but because the entire school lacks a discipline plan, I might as well have singled him out in front of the whole student population.

I can’t exactly blame him for thinking this way. After all, he’s been in a system with no consequences for far too long. This is his way of reacting to change. Since then, he has not felt the need for restraint. He talks though the whole class, never participates in activities, and is a complete asshole to me whenever we interact. Even if I press harder, the discipline will obviously be inconsistent with ALL of his other classes. No progress will be made. I also fear that coming down harder on him will make act out even more. It’s like giving an F to a student who has given up on school. I could give him extra homework, but he wouldn’t do it anyway. I could get angry, but that would only add fuel to the fire. To make matters worse, it seems like my Japanese Team Teacher has just stopped short of telling the kids, “please be quiet,” but it almost always falls on deaf ears with Beelz. As the assistant language teacher, I feel I must follow the lead of my Japanese counterpart. Even she complains how much of a terror he is. If this were America, I could fix his attitude, I think.

I’ve spent some time talking about this spawn of Satan, but I want to highlight the good portions of Japanese students too. I believe the reason there is no discipline plan is probably due to the vast majority of students being exemplary in the classroom. There are only a few students who act up in my class among the 120 students I teach. Most are fantastic, studious, and respectful. They are kids after all, so some minor discipline issues still abound.

I am happy to teach in a foreign education system, but this is just one aspect that bothers the shit outta me.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Journey to the Center of the Universe

On the 2nd of October, in the 2010th year of our Lord, I journeyed to the center of Universe: Tenri. Tenri is a city in the Nara Prefecture famous for the new religious movement (cult) called Tenrikyo. Here’s a brief synopsis of the religion from wikipedia:

“Tenrikyo (天理教 Tenrikyō) is a monotheistic religion originating in revelations to a 19th-century Japanese woman named Nakayama Miki, known as Oyasama by followers.[1] Followers of Tenrikyo believe that God, known by several names including Tenri-O-no-Mikoto, expressed divine will through Nakayama's role as the Shrine of God, and to a lesser extent the roles of the Honseki Izo Iburi and other leaders. Tenrikyo's worldly aim is to teach and promote the Joyous Life, which is cultivated through acts of charity and mindfulness called hinokishin.”

Tenrikyo is like the scientology of Japan, with Tenri being it’s Clearwater.

I went with Rogue (let’s go with X-men names from from now eh?), a first year Nara JET living in Tenri. She first took me to the main temple of Tenrikyo, Daikyokai (literally- Big Church). The building is absolutely beautiful and humongous. We took our shoes off as we entered the main shrine, the center of the universe. Why do I keep calling it the center of the universe? According to the religion, Oyasama created the universe at this specific spot, and, according to the teachings, the stone tablet in the center of the large hall is THE CENTER OF THE EFFING UNIVERSE. So now you won’t be surprised when you die and wake up in Tenri. Rogue and I did the traditional ritual when in the large prayer hall. It’s basically 4 claps, bow, 4 claps, bow. Easy enough?

As we rounded the hallways of the large structure, scores of followers were on their hands and knees polishing the floors, chanting prayers. I’ve heard this is form of meditation, but Rogue and I had to bite our lips not to laugh a little. We kind of felt like we were playing Frogger dodging the cleaners. One of them stopped his meditation, stared awkwardly at us, and then continued his anointed cleaning duties. All glory to Scrubbing Bubbles!

After visiting where IT ALL BEGAN, we ventured to Isonokami Jinja. Unlike Nara park where wild deer roam, Isonokami Jinja has wild roosters and chickens walking around.

This shrine also houses some amazing artifacts. I assume because of the minor construction at the site, public viewings of these artifacts are suspended. That won’t stop me from pointing what I COULD HAVE seen:

As always, I'll leave you with something mildly humorous:

Friday, October 1, 2010

In Japan, no one can hear you English

I woke up one morning and felt like someone had punched me in the right eye. I looked in the mirror to discover that the bottom eyelid of my right eye was pretty red and swollen. Even students pointed it out in class. The vice-principal recommended an optometrist in the area and another teacher made an appointment for me that day. N-Sensei agreed to accompany me as a translator (he was just happy to get out of school early).

I arrived about 30 minutes before my appointment so I sat in the lobby. N-Sensei, where are you? So there I am, all by me onesy, is a place where no one can hear me scream…in English. The nurse handed me some paperwork to fill out, which I left on the bench to my side. I was waiting for N-Sensei to come so he can translate the paperwork. Where is N-Sensei? Luckily a nurse came over and spoke to me in VERY BASIC Japanese. I know the words for address, phone number, and (hilariously enough) insurance card. That was apparently enough for her, so she took the pad away and whisked me into the waiting room portion of the office.

The Doctor actually saw me pretty quick. He examined my eye with some kind of super, hyper, mega microscope machine and came to a diagnosis quickly. He cued up pictures of the condition on his laptop, and typed some key words on MS Word so I knew what I was up against. He typed the words “bacteria” and “corazion.” I have no clue what a corazion is and neither does google. Where is N-Sensei?

One of the nurses was kind enough to walk me around the corner to the pharmacy where I picked up some antibiotics and eye drops. The pharmacist knew some key words like “after meal” and “daily.” I nodded politely, paid for the drugs, and went on my merry way.

On the way to my bike, who should I spot? N-Sensei! He was a little late (grrr..), but he did go into the office while I was at the pharmacy to find out how things went. Apparently, children get the same eye problems when they do something dirty, than rub their eyes. Great! Now I am a child in terms of language AND behavior! Who do I blame for this mess? I blame the Japanese Board of Education for choosing to stick with chalkboards. I must have wiped my eye when my fingers were covered in chalk dust. Well, that’s my theory anyway.

I told N-sensei that I paid $15 for the appointment and you would’ve thought I said $500! He said, “Josh, I’m sorry. Maybe next time you pay $5 or $10.” I saw a doctor and got two prescriptions, all for $20. That is lower than my copay in America. God bless Japanese healthcare.

Crisis averted and my eye is healed. By the way, I’ve heard from good sources that the pictures from Kobe will be up soon. Be sure to check the Kobe posts for updates.

P.S. This is what part of the alphabet would look like if Q and R were eliminated.