Thursday, August 30, 2007


Needless to say I've been neglecting my blog, so I apologize to anyone that still checks this. I'm going to let the words of one of my students express my current attitude toward posting. This is taken from a recent daily diary assignment:

''Today, I'm sleep about all day. So, I'm out of write. I'm sorry.''

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Don't mess with Tekisach

It's test time so that means little classtime but lots of grading for me. And, as usual, the only thing that keeps me going through all 200 test papers is my students' Japanese English. I did dictation for one section of the test meaning that I spoke while the students would write what I said. One of my sentences contained Texas and, among all my students' tests, there ended up being 45 different spellings of the word.

Here they (all) are:


The most popular spelling by far was texs appearing on 34 tests.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Japan Pics

I don't mean this to be a promotion for myspace, but I have recently made a myspace photo page. So, if you'd like to see my Japan pics go to , but the catch is that you have to have a profile to see the pics. It doesn't take long to create an account and it'd be a good way to keep in touch. So, just set up an account, visit my page and click on View my: pics under my profile picture, and drop me a line if you'd like.


Friday, April 27, 2007

A = lo after A

I apologize for not posting in a while. I'm just not finding the motivation to write much these days. The novelty of being here has slowly worn off, and it feels like when I try to write something Japan oriented I'm just writing about trivial daily life stuff. It just feels like this is my normal life now. Honestly, I'm a little disillusioned with being here, but that doesn't mean I'm not happy. I'm just settled.

Anyway, yesterday I zoned out a little during a class while the JTE (Japanese Teacher of English) was explaining grammar and vocab to the students. And, suddenly, he asked me ''Do you know?'' and pointed at the board, upon which he had written:

care for A = look after A

I froze. He and students waited for my answer as I gave a long ''uhhhmmm'' to fill the silence. After admitting defeat and saying ''I'm sorry, I don't understand.'' the answer came to me, redeeming me as the infallible native English speaker.

Now, I ask you, ''Do you know?''

Highlight (click and drag on) the the italicized text to see the answer.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Speeches, ad infinitum, ad naseum

Yesterday was the last day of work for 14 teachers and the principal at my base school, Ishinomaki Nishi high school. The principal is retiring and the teachers are moving to other schools. And in Japan, that means three things: ceremonies, speeches and drinking. The second aspect deserves special attention. The sheer number of speeches was astounding. Here's the breakdown, and keep in mind that I can't understand any of them and each speech was about 5 minutes long, on average:

1.) All 14 teachers gave one each and the principal gave two at a morning ceremony in the teachers' room.

2.) Again, all 14 teachers gave another speech, the principal gave two and the vice principal gave one at another morning ceremony in gym, which the students attended.

3.) And yet again, all 14 teachers, the principal and the vice principal spoke at a formal farewell party after work.

So: (14 x 3) + 2 + 2 + 1 + 1 + 1 for a grand total of 49 speeches.

Which equates to about 245 minutes, or over 4 hours of monologue that I couldn't understand.

I don't mean to be irreverent or cynical. I know it was an important event for the school and all these teachers; maybe it's because I couldn't hear the content of each individual speech, but I couldn't help but see the absurdity of 49 compulsory speeches in one day from the same 16 people, but, then again, I'm not Japanese.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


Sometimes I feel out of place here. Maybe it's because I've never been part of an ethnic minority, and, unlike in America, you cannot be a different race and be considered Japanese. In other words, any person from any heritage can potentially be American, but in Japan, if you're white or black you're automatically a gaijin*.

On a related note, I passed a Japanese midget the other day on my way to the train station and he looked at me like I was the strange one.


*Gaijin is short for gaikokujin. But, the former literally means ''outsider'' and can be considered rude as opposed to the latter, which means ''foreigner.'' I have never been called gaikokujin.

Disclaimer: the above picture is not of said midget. This one's a Thai boxer. If ''midget'' isn't the current P.C. term, my apologies.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

End of the Year Party, Part I

This blog should probably keep up with my experiences as they happen, but in direct defiance to that idea I'm going to recount something that happened over two and a half months ago. Perhaps these sorts of experiences can better be told with this kind of extended retrospect, or maybe that's just how I justify the journalistic laziness I've had with this blog lately. But, even with two and half months between now and Suisan's end of the year party I think this deserves to be told.
While holding a hastily gift-wrapped bottle of transcontinental barbecue sauce I sat in a car heading for a nearby town called Matsushima. Our final destination: a nice hotel with a view of Japan's self-proclaimed third most beautiful landscape: an inlet bay with hundreds of rock-walled islands; beautiful, no doubt; third most beautiful? doubtful. My secret Santa gift: one of about a dozen BBQ sauce bottles my parents sent me in attempt to show their love and provide me with the ability to recreate my dad's mouth-watering Texas barbecue. They love me, no doubt; me recreate Texas barbecue in Japan? doubtful.
In accordance with ever-important Japanese punctuality, we arrived early and left the car with the valet but, little did I know at the time, I left my crinkly bottle-shaped gift on the car seat. So after touring the lobby and chatting with other early comers I realized I forgot my gift. I told the teacher I came with and we tracked down the valet. It looked to be a busy night for him so he told us to wait in the lobby. So we stood near the front door inadvertently becoming the designated greeters for the party until the last guests arrived and made their way to the private room. So we waited in the lobby until every seat in the party hall was filled. And we waited...We waited until everyone was waiting on us. We could no longer be considered punctual, and in Japan, that's the shame of shames. As the minutes ticked by I could see the growing tension in the teacher's face and sensed frustration in the awkward silence.
I distracted myself by thinking about the journey that that little bottle of barbecue sauce made across the largest ocean in the world just to be wrapped in Pooh Bear themed paper and left on a car seat postponing the merriment of all the staff of Suisan Fisheries high school. That bottle was single-handily keeping over fifty Japanese adults from starting the most important faculty social event of the year. All the teachers would have to patiently wait for the arrival of that bottle before touching the food and drinks set out on the table in front of them. But, then again, that line of thinking was just my attempt to displace blame onto a bottle of hickory smoked goodness, and barbecue sauce can never be blamed for anything except of course for making meat delicious.
To be continued...

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Lazy links

I don't think I posted enough about Hong Kong but I, in my laziness, don't see the sense in writing what's already been well-written by my friend Dave, who I went with to HK.

So, here are the links to his HK posts:

made in Hong Kong, chapter one

chapter two

chapter three (with pics!)

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Nice Shoot!*

I recently played basketball with my students at the fisheries high school. I've never thought of myself as especially athletic, and when I play team sports like basketball my hand-eye coordination deficiency especially likes to rear its awkward head. But, I was the resident American so I couldn't let a small thing like having no skill or natural ability get in the way of representing the country that gave the world basketball. I couldn't let my students see me play and think, ''Man, Americans are bad at their own sports.''

So, the pressure was certainly on but that didn't keep me from losing 20 to 8 in a tiring, humbling one on one game. My D was definitely not tenacious, at least not enough to handle this bone thin 5' 5'' power-house the coach matched me up against. I had half a foot, half a buck and half a decade on this kid but he ran circles around me. I was a sloth swatting a humming bird. That day, David was Japanese and Goliath a lumbering American.

So, the gig was up: The big American wasn't good at basketball after all. I've always known I wasn't good, but at times like these it feels like I need to rediscover all the things I'm bad and good at relative to Japanese. It's like when you are in a different country there's the potential to be a different person, so every day can be a rediscovery of who you are until you realize that geography doesn't determine identity, but that your identity follows you everywhere. So, after coming to terms with what I already knew the coach told me that there will be a four on four full court game if I'd like to play.

I had nothing to prove so I accepted just for fun, but as I watched the students warm up it became apparent that the student I played one on one was, by far, the best player on the team. It was hard to believe but the other players' skill level seemed comparable to mine except I had a head over all the competition.

My confidence returned and the game began. It felt like I had wings at tip off, which empowered me to no end. Suddenly and unexpectedly I became the big American that's good at basketball. All at once, I felt tall, fast and athletic and my new-found self-assurance didn't allow me to act otherwise. I came back from the depths of accepting defeat to a level of confidence matched only by my towering height. I tirelessly glided across the court, I made my shots, I rallied the team; I, for the first time in my life, was good at, on second thought, maybe I can be someone else in Japan?


*''Nice Shoot!'' is an example of Japanese English. It's what students say when someone makes a shot. I tried to explain that it should be ''Nice shot'', but they just turned their heads like confused puppies. Some English words like these are so widely used that they think they are Japanese, like the phrases ''Don't mind'' and ''Check it out'' for example, which end up sounding more like ''Don mine'' and ''Shekitau.''

Friday, January 26, 2007

3 quick things

Hey everybody,

Just in case anyone didn't know, I've decided to re-contract so I'm committing myself to another year of this crrazy Japafantasy life.

Not to assume too much but if you are trying to post comments but your comment doesn't go through, just try again and it'll let you post. I've realized that when I try to comment on other people's blogs it doesn't work the first time I try to send it but always goes through after the second attempt. For some reason this new version of blogger is really adament about protecting sites from spam bots, so you have to prove that you are not a computer program and enter two codes.

And lastly, this is just another shameless plug for my other blog: , go there for all your eternal perspective discourse needs.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

My Directions

The setting of this next post should be familiar by now. From the Suisan chronicles (that brought you stories like My Treasure and Suisansado-masochist) comes yet another result of teenage boy hijinks.

I was teaching a lesson on telling directions and, at the end of the lesson, the mood turned conversational, which always guarantees something...special. The students talked amongst themselves until I heard my name mentioned a few times and suddenly the class looked at me inquisitively.

The teacher then says that the students want me to tell them how to get a girl. I knew that I wouldn't be able to get away from this one without telling them something. They seemed genuinely curious and eager for advice, which might be somewhat attributed to there being only 10 girls at the school. So, I searched my brain for succinct, easily translatable directions on how to get a girl. It not being an art I've mastered, nothing came. Ask me directions on how to pop popcorn, how to wash clothes, how to ride a bike or how to do anything except that and maybe I can break it down into a few steps. But, I dipped into all past relationship experiences in a thin-slice Malcom Gladwell sort of way and turned to the chalkboard; these three simple steps are what came out of me:

1.) Tell her that she is beautiful.
- later amended to ''Tell her that she is 'so' beautiful.''
- The extended explaination: ''Let her know that you like her. And make her feel beautiful.''

2.) At first, do not act like you need her.
- I drew two magnets on the board and explained that, even though the two positives faced eachother, the approaching positive would push the other magnet away. Extended explaination: ''Don't 'come on' too strong and too fast.''

3.) Then, when you know that she likes you, treat her like she is all that matters to you.

The students had never listened so attentively and their English comprehension seemed to improve 10 fold. I walked to the back of the class as the teacher translated and explained. From the back, over the heads of 40 Japanese students, I saw all my directions, notes and drawings on the chalkboard on how the get a girl. First, I felt relief that I pulled it off and that my students wanted to listen to English as a means for getting information that they actually wanted. But then, upon looking again at the students and the chalkboard I became conscious of what I just taught them. I looked out the window and suddenly became very aware of where I was and what I was doing: standing in the back of classroom in Japan after teaching 40 students how to get a girl. I couldn't help but think that I live a very strange life but, right now, I wouldn't have it any other way.

Friday, January 19, 2007


My visiting school, Suisan, is a non-academic fishery school with only 10 girls. (I actually only have 1 girl student in all five of my classes there.) So, the students there are quite a different breed than my students at my base academic school. The guys at Suisan can get pretty rowdy and downright cheeky and, if encouraged by a teacher, they can come out with some exceedingly bizarre things. Especially one class in particular, which is the same class that was the setting for the My Treasure event (see blog entry with that title). Anyways, on occasion, the planets align and make for a very strange class. Usually the formula for the perfect storm looks like this: No work + Friday + Sex crazed Japanese students (all guys) + Questionable teacher encouragement + Me (the easy and obvious target) =

The students talk and laugh as the teacher turns to me with a smile and says,
''They are wondering if you are sadistic.''
Me: ''Uhh, are you serious?''
Teacher: ''They want to know if you are sadistic. In Japanese we say `Ss.`''
Me: ''Wow, umm, no, I'm not.''
The teacher speaks to them in Japanese and turns back to me.
Teacher: ''Now they want to know if you are masochistic.''
Me: ''What?! These are really strange questions...''
I turn to the class and repeat slowly, ''S-T-R-A-N-G-E Q-U-E-S-T-I-O-N-S.'' But the teacher persists.
Teacher: ''So, are you?''
Me: ''Uhh, I don't think, no, no I'm not masochistic."
Teacher: "Oh, so you're nuetral?"
Me: "Nuetral?? Yeah, sure, I guess I'm nuetral...why are they asking me this.''
Teacher: ''Oh, well, they are just making sure.''