Defeat at the end of a good day

Tonight is probably the first moment where I felt utter defeat from being in Japan that made me want to say, “I hate Japan!”.

I was having fun riding my mama chari down a slope, when I hopped a small curb, and then felt my rear wheel go flat. Boo. No worries, just get a new tube and replace it, right? WRONG!

The rear wheel on mama chari bikes are a freaking pain to remove. You’ve got a stand, a rack, and mudguards to take apart, if you can. And then you have a stupid chain guard that doesn’t even come off. Plus the rear wheel is attached to some brake system. Taking the wheel off the chain was a bitch, and now that I’ve got the tube replaced, I still can’t figure out how to put the chain back on the rear wheel. I was able to do it once and popped the wheel back onto the frame, then realized I was missing a piece before putting it on the frame… So off it went again. And now I can’t put it back on.

I was going to get help on Sunday with a friend, but I wanted to figure it out on my own. I feel shitty asking him to help me put my mess back together, so I’m going to find a bike repair shop, and take my mess to them to fix. I’m hoping I didn’t break or lose anything important.

So basically, a freaking bike made me feel defeat. And because of this stupid to fix bike, I had to borrow a friend’s bike, which is a bit tall for me, and it brings back bad memories of my bike accident in Japan that tore my ACL. Anyway, tonight, I was heading down a street, and saw a car coming from a driveway. I slowed down, thinking it would head into the street quickly, but when it stopped, I sped up, thinking that it saw me. But then it started to inch out and turn. I reacted with a quick U-y, and turned around. The middle-aged woman inside called out to me, “もしも〜し。もしも〜し。” I didn’t want much trouble, and assumed she might be asking if anything was wrong, and said, “大丈夫で〜す。(I’m all right.)” Wrong answer. She replied with, “大丈夫じゃないでしょう!(It’s not all right!)” I responded with a “は〜い。(Okaa~y)” rather than “すみません!” I realize how rude that must have sounded now, so I’m feeling pretty bad, and defensive at the same time.

*sigh* At least Halloween at school was a hit. I went with my coworker to give out stickers to the junior high students, and candy to the high school students. A few track and field kids thought they would trick me by yelling “Track and field!” instead of “Trick or treat!” I couldn’t hear them well, so I was ready to give them candy, but they insisted that they said “track and field”. Such honest kids! One of these kids had no confidence in her English, and stood quietly in the back. Because of her super short hair and how much like a boy she looks, I couldn’t help but really try to get her to warm up to me. I learned her name through the school “yearbook” and use it to get her attention. Kids here are so surprised when you know their name. It’s like they can’t hide from you anymore. The first years already had their share of chocolate, so this was their second chance to get candy, especially for those who didn’t get a perfect score on their assignments. I hope the ones that didn’t get chocolate try to come up and get their treat.

I wandered to the third year students area and they  swarmed like crazy. I love that they’re okay with me enough to come up and say “Trick or Treat”. I only see 16 of the 200 or so seniors regularly, so it was nice to interact with them a bit.

Tomorrow, I’ll be giving out the rest of my candy to the 2nd years, who’ve just come back from their school trip in Kyoto and Hiroshima. Hope I have enough for everyone who wants to try some American candy.

Adrenaline rush

I had downloaded the new OSX Mavericks the night before, and my computer notified that I could start upgrading. I was enjoying breakfast, and just idly clicked on the upgrade button. Thirty minutes. I could leave the computer on so it could finish while I was at work.

Then I realized that I had a Halloween powerpoint lesson to teach in a first period class. F*! I need my computer! But I couldn’t stop it in the middle of upgrading! The progress bar showed that I had less than one minute left. But it stayed there for more than 5 minutes! I checked online for some solutions, and found that OSX Mavericks had some issues with the installation, and that I could force quit it. So I did. When I restarted, it went through the usual setup process. Dammit! I don’t have time for this! I’ll do it at school. I chucked my hard drive in my jacket pocket, and decided I would restore from a Time Machine backup once I got to my desk.

I had 10 minutes to make it to school, and 10 minutes after that to prepare. I arrived 5 minutes later than when I usually come in, so I immediately started to set up. I went through the dialog boxes, skipped the network settings, and attempted to restore from a backup.

NOT ENOUGH SPACE! Dammit! I ended up just installing my applications because luckily I had my presentation on a USB key, and all I needed was PowerPoint to work.

I had to get to class with my Halloween lesson materials, and set up the projector. Then the bell rung, and I had to get to class. I went through my lesson plan in my head, greeted the students, and went over the instructions for the warm-up. It was a wordsearch and I wanted them to do it in 3 minutes by themselves before working in pairs to make sure they got all the words. This was an opportunity to go back to my computer and see how it went.

The restore finished and I had my USB key. Yes! I took them to class, just as it was about time for the students to move on. Made it by a hair on my chinny chin chin.

I am thankful that my office was right next to the classroom in order to do this chaotic running around without sweating too much. OMG.

On Japan’s sexuality

Recently, the Guardian posted an article about Japan’s youth choosing not to have sex. While this has been an issue that stresses the unbalance of the decreasing youth population in comparison to the increasing elderly, the article chooses to focus on the “foreign”-ness of this “asexuality”.  The author mentions trivial odd things like virtual girlfriends and disposable underwear that you can buy at the convenience store, making Japan sound even more weird. To its credit, the author has facts I can agree with, such as the high cost of having a family.

But  like every other popular odd article about Japan, this problematic situation is most likely centralized in Tokyo. Granted, much of Japan’s population convenes around the big cities, but there are other cities that people do live in and are much more comfortable and happier. There are also a lot, and I mean, A LOT,  of kids out here. There’s no shortage of them, as any JET ALT can probably tell you.

Anyway, I realize that the article was written for clicks and high readership, but I’m so tired of the English-speaking world looking at Japan (or just Tokyo) under a magnifying glass,  studying it like we do, and making the usual conclusion that Japan, as a country, as a people, is weird because we assume that they don’t have sex, aren’t open about sex, or too open about sex. Honestly, if Japan really cared, they’d do their own studies about this. Are we out of things to study in the West?

Here’s what I think: The fascination around Japan has always been because people here are good at being hospitable, but also very good at being private. You really want to be part of the group because they are so good at blocking you out, so your first inclination when someone pushes you out is to push yourself back in. You poke and prod them to try to get their attention, and you kinda do, but they don’t let you in much further because they know you can’t keep a secret.

On Teaching

I am not a teacher by trade. I work better in a collaborative work environment, and I’ve found that I work better hearing from all viewpoints before giving my opinion. I’m very quiet while a discussion is going on because I’m trying to listen.

It feels weird to be teaching high school kids English. I’ve got a TESL certificate from UC Berkeley Extension, but that doesn’t make me an expert at teaching English. I took it as a way to understand what I was planning on getting myself into, and preparing myself to be an effective teacher if I was really going to do this. I have to be honest that teaching English was more of a way to live in a big city in Japan rather than career move, but once I learned about the life of eikaiwa teachers, I continued the TESL program rather half-heartedly.

What really motivated me, instead of teaching in Japan, were some of my professors and classmates. People who seemed to genuinely care about different ways of learning, and thinking about ways to teach those learners. Because teachers don’t earn or receive that much money to begin with, they have to work with slim resources. Which, not so strangely, reminds me of game development.

Then, when I took the practicum course and observed and taught my first lessons to an adult ESL course, I discovered how fun it could be to learn English, and get students to use English and hear their ideas. Because they’re not as well exposed to professional, academic, and advanced English enough to be in tune with popular thought, they provide a a different perspective, often funny, definitely interesting.

That’s really what I’m looking for. I know I really push the students’ limits on their comprehension when I speak English. I think I still talk relatively fast for them, and my instructions can be complicated, and hard to understand. I’m constantly being tested to give instructions in a way that’s easy to understand.

Sometimes, because I’m Asian and familiar-looking, I wonder if they really understand me, or they’re just projecting what they think I’m saying on me because they’ll be nodding and a second later, ask me what I just said (I know because I do the same! Asians…).

Even though the students might not have followed my instructions to the T, I’m still pleased with much of the output. If it’s something that they themselves wrote, it’s good enough that they are producing English rather than copying it in repetition.

I see students in passing moreso than I see them in class. Because it’s a high school, they are more concentrated on their college entrance exams so the grammar that their English teachers teach them is more important. As the ALT, I can only hope that the activities I conduct are fun and sticks.

Kinda reminds me of game concepting for educational games.

体育の日

Today was the school’s Sports Day. They hold this once every 3 years, and rotate with the School Festival, and Chorus Concert. Sports Day is like Field Day in schools in America. I personally don’t remember much about my field day, except that it required a lot of running, and while there were activities, they were not as fun as team oriented as Sports Day. Sports Day has the followingToday was the school’s Sports Day. They hold this once every 3 years, and rotate with the School Festival, and Chorus Concert. Sports Day is like Field Day in schools in America. I personally don’t remember much about my field day, except that it required a lot of running, and while there were activities, they were not as fun as team oriented as Sports Day.

Sports Day has the following activities:

大玉転がし(Giant Ball Rolling): Teams of 8 people run 100m per pair while rolling a giant ball.

パン食い競争(Bread eating competition) About 7 or so individual members of teams run up to a rope line dangling bags of bread. Players must grab the bag with their mouth without using their hands, and run to the finish line. This is much harder than it sounds because once someone pulls down a bag, the line bounces out into the air.

玉入れ (Throw in the balls): Teams throw as many balls as they can into a basket within a time limit. This looks fun as it looks like a fountain of balls in the air.

障害 (Obstacle course): Individual team members run through an obstacle course. First, they go under a net, and try to get out of it. Then, they sack jump for a while. Then, they try to get through part of the course without dropping a ping pong ball on a spoon. Lastly, they climb into something like a cardboard tread, and roll themselves to the finish line.

棒取り (Grabbing poles): Teams would come out on either side of the course and run to the center to grab things of different point values, such as tires, chairs, bats, baseballs, basketballs, a giant ball, ropes, mops, batons, and poles. The point value on an item is less if there is more than one of it on the field.

騎馬戦 (Japanese jousting): This was one of the best games to watch. Teams of 4 make up a rider and horse: One person carries the rider on the back, the other two assist by having the rider sit on their shoulders as they keep a hold on their feet. The teams worked really well with this setup and moved together quite quickly! There were about 10 “horse and riders” on the field, and half wore white caps and the other wore red caps. Stuck on the caps are balls that opposite teams must knock off with paper fans. Once the kids got close to each other, those paper fans got violent! Of course, no one intentionally wants to hit anyone, they just want to knock off the ball off the cap. But it got pretty competitive, but hilarious to watch as some of one team’s horses would corner one horse from the other team. The kids definitely knew how to strategize.

部活対抗リレー (Club competitive relay): This was another interesting game to watch. Most of the clubs at the school participated in this race, and would do special things during the race to represent their club. It’s not at all a relay to take seriously, unless you were in Track and Field or Baseball Club. These teams, by the way, provided the best sports entertainment of the day, with the baseball club starting in the lead, and the Track and Field team catching up and coming close to the finish line with the baseball club, then winning by a hair. It was incredible! Other clubs would do interesting things. For example, the swimming club ran wearing their swimsuits, goggles, a swim cap, and a kickboard. The volleyball club ran while bouncing the ball on their arm. The basketball club ran while dribbling. The badminton club ran with a lei made of shuttlecocks. The naginata club ran in a form with their naginata spears pointed to the ground. The kendo club started off… with little shuffles and hits, as they would in a form. They didn’t even bother running for at least 15 seconds until they were done with their form. For the non-sports clubs: The art club ran while wearing dirty art jump suits, and a canvas. The calligraphy club ran with calligraphy brushes. The home ec club ran with kitchen utensils. The photography club ran while these camera heads to parody a popular Japanese commercial. The drama club ran in drag or anime costumes. And the tea club ran while making tea and offering it to the principal to drink by the time they ended the relay. Of course, all of these crazy things happen at the start/finish line where everyone can see. It was so impressive the ideas they came up with and the kids enjoyed the teamwork.

三人四脚 (Four legged race): Exactly what it sounds like. I was in the middle, and calling out Ichi-ni, ichi-ni really really helped!

借り人競走 (Borrowing person race): Team members get cards with descriptions of people, and the person has to go get that type of person and run with them around the track to get points.

綱引き(Tug of War): Another one, exactly what it sounds like. There were at least 20 people on each team pulling on the rope. It was pretty fun to see who came out on top at the end. The team where most of my third year communication class come from won, so it was nice to see and recognize them out of the classroom environment.

リレー (Relay race): The relay race was the last event. Junior high students start first, then teachers, then two groups of high school students. I was asked to replace a teacher who was injured, so it was pretty embarrassing when it was clear that I slowed down the whole team and we came in last. I tried to run as fast as I could, but my quads burned! Oof.

What a day! Can’t wait to feel the soreness tomorrow.

Perspectives

Today, I had the 3rd years randomly pick a website from a group that I chose that I felt had the best design and easy to find headlines on the front page. The ones that were picked were Spin.com, ComicVine.com, DarkHorizons.com, People.com, Gothamist.com, HypeBeast.com, and BOF (The Business of Fashion). I asked them to determine the name of the website, what the website was about, finding words that identified the website from whatever could fit on a landscape 8″x11″ page, and the most interesting thing or headline from it…

The most interesting thing on People.com was Kelly Osbourne’s purple hair. Why is her hair purple?

The most interesting thing on Gothamist was Driver Kills Man Selling Bottled Water. Because it is interesting. Zero points!

The most interesting on ComicVine was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Because it’s about ninjas, and they probably understood what it was.

The most interesting thing on BOF was… the video link. Because it’s probably the first thing they’d want to click on. Enough words, more pictures, especially moving ones!

The most interesting thing on SPIN was that you can listen to music that you read about right on the website. This was a really keen observation!

The most interesting thing on Dark Horizons was what it’s like to be raining meatballs. In reference to the movie “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” that was listed on the movie list.

Lastly, my favorite one, from the group that seems to have the least interest, or at least, freely expresses their disdain for it:

The most interesting thing on HypeBeast was a Ralph Lauren Polo Sweater with a bear on it. Because the bear had its paws in its pockets, and that is very dangerous. I wondered why! There was no time to explain why, so at the end of the class, I learned that because of Aizu’s icy and slippery winters, one can accidentally slip and not have time to pull out their hands to brace themselves from the fall.

It’s very dangerous to have your hands in your pockets.

Tomorrow, we do the same lesson, except they’ll get to choose their favorite websites.