Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A story from a Friend

When my fellow JET told me this story, I decided it was worth sharing:

Sensei: "So Jooji san, next week you will go to the kindergarten with the first years in order to promote population growth"

Nara JET: "Heh?"

Sensei: "The government says if the students enjoy playing with the kids, they may want to reproduce more"

Nara JET: "Why not just give students free wine? That'd solve everything."

Sensei: "Good idea, but I think they might prefer...er...shochu." (distilled sake)

Nara JET: "I doubt the flavor's the biggest problem but sure, let's get on it."

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Diwali: A Festivals of Lights Part 2: Just Desserts

Since Diwali is the festival of lights, a couple JETs provided some cheap sparklers for us to light following dinner. We had to leave the hotel, so we moved the party to a courtyard in front of the Nara Visitor Center. Most people left to do other things. About 14 of us stuck around for the sparklers. Our merry group of foreigners lit sparklers and danced around. We were having a grand ol' time until the fuzz showed up. Yes, between conducting traffic with light sabers and trolling the prefecture for a Mr. Dounut, the police took an interest in our festivities. Myself and one other JET tried to sneak away from the group, but were caught and asked to return. Damn. 2 others DID manage to sneak away. As they hobbled into the train station, I yelled (as only a true hypocrite can), "Cowards!" They got away, we didn't.

The officer escorted about 8 of us into the Koban (small police station). Upon entry, we all became incredibly retarded. We ALL pretended to know absolutely no Japanese, even the most fluent of us. It was hysterical. In these situations, it's best to play the ignorant foreigner, trust me. This afforded us a couple advantages. First, the police might grow tired of the language barrier and let us go (this is how I escaped giving a donation to my cable company). Second, we make them think we don't speak any Japanese, then listen to all the crap they say about us. Third, we appear ignorant, not malicious.

One of the officers whipped out his fancy translator and I became the impromptu leader of our band. He would show me the translator and I would pass the message on to everyone else. One hilarious example:

Police Officer:

Me: Hey guys, I think he's telling us we have no manners.

Police Officer: Hanabi, Hanabi!

Me: Ooooooh, um...fireworks are ill-mannered.

This went on for about 15 minutes. They collected our Gaijin cards, made copies, and took our phone numbers. Luckily, our prefectural adviser was with us. Prefectural Advisers are the first call a troubled JET makes. My conversation with her went like this:

(after handing the police my gaijin card)

Me: Hey Banshee, what do we do?

Banshee: BOW DEEPLY.

About 15 minutes after that, another officer walked in. The first officer totally called us Foreigners when describing the situation to him. Keep in mind, they know we are English teachers in Nara because it's written on our identification. Yet, we are still just "foreigners." Racists.

After getting debriefed on the situation from his fellow officer, the new guy laughed and said to us, "Fireworks are not illegal, but they are not permitted. blah blah blah blah..." We all bowed more times then I care to remember, left the koban, and went to the bar to have a laugh.

No JET experience is complete without a trip to the Koban.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Diwali: A Festival of Lights Part 1

The Nara JET community recently celebrated Diwali, the Indian "Festival of Lights." We have one JET who was born in India and she wanted to share her culture with Nara ALTs. About 26 of us gathered in a rented kitchen at a hotel adjacent to JR Nara.

Side Story about the Kitchen: The kitchen in this hotel was originally built to provide an environment to improve relations between partners in relationships. Maybe the wife can show her husband how to cook and they can work together to make a meal. Does this sound ridiculous? It is. Nara AJET exploited this information and reserved the kitchen under the guise of improving relations between men and women. We had to make sure guys and girls were both cooking and cleaning just to keep up appearances. This is how we booked the kitchen for freeeeeeeeee.

Everyone was told to bring their own plates, cups, and silverware (unnecessarily, I might add). No one knew that the kitchen was already stocked with EVERYTHING.

I arrived for the food, not the work (because I'm a nice guy). I purposefully arrived at 4 (cooking started at 2) ready to eat (many other JETs did this too). We all sat down at the tables close to the kitchen and began our festival. The Indian JET read a passage from the Bhagavad Ghita. Then, she introduced the food. She (and other Nara JETs) made samosas, egg curry, chicken curry, vegetable rice, a potatoes and chickpeas dish, and some Indian snacks. The food was alright. Honestly, I wanted more of the chicken curry, but I didn't want to appear gluttonous. Following the dinner, we ate some amazing Indian deserts. I don't remember the name of the deserts, sue me.

After food, ALL the JETS contributed in cleaning up. We had to leave the kitchen as we found it. We washed all the pots, pans, dishes, and utensils. We even had to take the garbage with us. The worst part? We had to put everything back where we found it. Considering just how many items we used, this was a daunting task. When we finished, a representative from the hotel inspected our work, then began to move everything around. Apparently, we weren't as careful as we thought.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

There is a very popular set of advertisements from the cell-phone/internet company Softbank called "The White Dog Family." In these ads, a white dog plays the father in a family of humans. The best part? The dog is voiced by an actor who is famous for samurai dramas.

Yesterday, while rummaging through the remnants of my predecessor's desk, I found Softbank's mascot: The White Dog. The stuffed animal walks AND talks. It even has a cell-phone strap!

The teachers LOVE my new paperweight. Several of them have seen it, then shrieked, "Otousan!" (father) This is how I gain respect in my office. I put cute things on my desk.

Side Note: Here is a link to a "White Dog Family" commercial: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ccBhBXEPlSc&feature=player_embedded

The Things I hear...

Recently, I taught a lesson to a class of seniors about the differences between city and country life. The class was split into groups and given their assignment. The final part of the lesson was a debate between the groups. Some supported city life while others supported country life. This following is actual dialogue from the debate:

Student A: Girls don't like insects. There are many insects in the country. How do you think?

Student B: Women are like animals.

Me: (spit take)

[Side Note: I think the student meant to say, "Women LIKE animals."]

Monday, November 15, 2010


There is a set of 5 or 6 bulletin boards outside the teacher's office. To cover this expansive space, someone has put up posters advertising events no one cares about (meaning: they have nothing to do with the school OR this community). These posters don't even cover the space adequately. I could take all of them and fit them on ONE bulletin board...so I did just that. hehe.

Storm and I got permission to create our very first cultural corner at the school. It started out as one bulletin board, but we quickly began expropriating more and more space. We split our first board in half so we could each work on our own projects.

Because it's November, my side's theme was "Thanksgiving." I basically printed the "myth" of Thanksgiving in sections and accompanied the narrative with cute pictures.

The biggest pain in the ass is the Computer teacher. He is the keeper of the color copier. The color copier is seriously kept in his office on the third floor. He is also incredibly elusive. I can only find him in his classroom DURING class, he's never down in the teacher's office, and his office is always locked. I have no idea where he hides when he's not teaching. The bulletin board would have been constructed sooner, but the knight of the color printer was out slaying viruses or hating on macs.

Storm's bulletin board is a profile of all the ALTs at our school. In addition to Storm and I, two other ALTs visit once a week. We filled out a questionnaire for Storm and even provided pictures. Items on her board:
1. maps of our respective countries
2. joke of the day
3. ALT profiles
4. Nara scholarship information

For a first try, our boards look damn good. We have already reserved the boards next to ours for December. I will do one for Hanukkah and Storm will do one for Christmas.

Monday, November 8, 2010

My new favorite place in Japan

My new favorite place in Japan is Spa World. Spa World is a gigantic onsen in the middle of Osaka. I went with another Nara JET, Prof. X.

As we entered, we dropped off our shoes in a locker in the lobby. After much discussion, we decided our hunger must be sated. We zipped up to the 6th floor where there is a small cafe by the pool. Did I say pool? I meant LAZY RIVER surrounded by 4 big water slides!!! I ate some gyudon (beef, rice, onion) and Prof. X ate udon (noodles...basically).

The water slides actually cost money in addition to the ticket price of getting into Spa World. We went around the lazy river a few times before heading outside (on the roof) to our first spa. Hanging out in a spa surrounded by the Autumn cold is amazing. It feels fantastic. After the Pool floor, we went down to the 4th Floor, also known as the Asia Floor. The actual spa floors are exclusive to men or women (no coed). Because of this policy, they switch which floors are available every day. There is also a Greece-themed floor and others.

We stripped down and made our way to the cleaning room. The spa provides personal showers and toiletries for all customers. Everyone cleans themselves very thoroughly before entering the spas.

We visited EVERY spa on this floor before we finished. Every spa varies. Some vary by temperature, some by scent, some by vitamins in the water. Some highlights:

1. We visited a room with three spas that increased in heat. We hopped from the weakest to the strongest. Did someone order boiled Jew?

2. There is a spa called "Dr. Spa." It is a weird mix of vinnegar, water, and other stuffs. It felt just like water, until about 2 minutes of being inside. I looked down at my body and I was COVERED in bubbles. It was soooooo cool!

3. There is a spa made out of some kind of special wood (whose name escapes me). The room smells amazing. The sauna was built using the same wood. Hurray.

4. After the scalding hot spa, Prof. X recommended another spa that was really close. He said, "this one's a bit cooler." This new one was an effing ICE BATH. He promptly laughed in my face after the realization was made. Well played Prof. X, well played.

5. The last spa we went into was a mixture of water, milk, and honey. It felt great and after it, I smelt great too.

After all the spas (of which there were many), we donned the Spa World relax clothing and laid down the relax room. This is a giant room with comfy recliners. Again, effing awesome.

There is a lot more to do at Spa World, but it all costs extra. Next time I go, I'm going to get a massage for sure. I'll also pay a little bit to ride the water slides.

The best part of this trip? It's only 25 minutes from me by train and it only costs 1000 yen ($12) for a whole day's admission. WHOOOOOOOP!

Winter approaches and I found a great new place to escape its fury.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Little Victories

I have lost 14 kilos since arriving in Japan. None of my clothes fit. YATA!!!!

For American readers: 14 Kilos = roughly 30 pounds.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

No, Japan...just no.

Hello, huge blatant mistake in my Japanese Conversation Textbook!!

EDIT: This is not a mistake in my Japanese Conversation Textbook. It is just a little confusing to understand, that's all.

Now is the Fall of My Discontent...

I am a Floridian. Last winter, in my hometown, the temperature dipped below 32 for 14 days straight. This was a record. However, following this freak cold snap, the temperature returned to normalcy (normalcy = a bit nippy).

Japan is known (and proud) of their 4 distinct seasons. Summers are hot, Fall and Spring are pleasant, and Winter is cold. As Fall continues, the temperature gets lower and lower. Japan doesn't get cold fronts like Florida. It just gets cold. I am slowly coping with the idea that my legs will be imprisoned in long pants until April or May.

I am gathering all the materials necessary to survive the winter. I bought a few fleeces (and long underwear), a box of winter clothes are on the way from home, and my heater arrived in the mail last week. I am physically prepared for my first REAL Winter, but mentally...I'm trying to stay positive.

The weather right now is actually pleasant. Long pants (or jeans) and a light sweater are all I require for now. However, I can feel winter's wrath descending upon Nara.

Consider me a bit culture shocked.

On a positive note, the leaves have started to change colors and they really are beautiful! Fall has arrived!

Schizophrenic Post = Complete.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

I'm Making a List

This is a list of things I should do in order to make my life more comfortable in Japan:

1. Get a wireless router so I stop tripping over the wires running through my living room

2. Build my dresser so I don't use my drying rack and luggage as storage


4. Take all my predecessor's shit out of the kitchen cabinets and put it in an empty closet (because trashing the stuff is a pain in the ass and costly)

5. Get rid of all the cardboard boxes stacked up in my "bedroom" (storage room)

6. Buy a fitted sheet for my bed, instead of sleeping on top of another comforter

7. Find a permanent solution to my headboard problem (right now, I've been using my futon as a headboard for my bed)

8. Buy more cups, plates, and silverware

9. Buy a better drying rack for dishes

10. Buy better washcloths (the ones I have now are terrible)

This post shall be updated when I think of more stuff I should be doing...