Catfish

Hello world. Its been awhile. The school year has ended and in 5 days we will begin a new one. Its been a truly amazing time so far here in Japan and it floors me to think that a year has already gone by. Lets proceed with a few updates.

Of obvious note was the 9.0 earthquake that hit off the coast of Japan. At the time I was at school in the teacher's office writing in my journal when things started to shake a bit. The teachers noticed and we just continued on to wait it out like we do with most quakes but this one didn't stop. It was one of the most bizarre experiences of my life and it was obviously frightening as well. After the first quake subsided we got the students out into the grounds where we waited for the aftershock. After a few hours we sent everyone home. The school was undamaged for the most part and both the staff and students were all ok which I am thankful for.

After that it was a very surreal experience in Japan for a few days. Many of us simply couldn't wrap our heads around what had happened which I suppose is natural. There were shortages of things such as gasoline, batteries and bottled water which didn't surprise me. We still have shortages of some things but that is quickly recovering with each day. The funniest shortage was toilet paper. It never occurred to me that toilet paper would be something hard to get your hands on in the wake of such an event. Now I know.

 Graduation for my students went great at all three schools. I was sad to see my graduating classes depart for the next part of their academic journey. I will miss them a lot. As of the 7th of this week, I will officially become an employee of Kuki City as an English teacher. I can't stress enough how excited I am about this. I came to like Kuki almost immediately and its hard for me to picture working anywhere else. I can't wait to get started in 5 days. As for my schools, I'm not sure which I'll be working at yet but I believe I'll be getting two new elementaries. Should be interesting to meet a new set of staff and students but I'm looking forward to it.

Other than that, things are relatively normal around here which was strange at first but thats the way it has to be. I applaud the Japanese for both their quick reactions to the earthquake and tsunami but also how diligently they continued to go to work day in and day out without fail despite the fact that their country was hit by the 5th largest earthquake in recorded history. I really must tip my hat to them.

That said, the laundry Gods call my name and thus I must…do laundry. 

PS In the old days, it was believed that earthquakes were caused by a catfish that swam under the earth. When he got a bit unruly and the earth would shake so the people prayed to a God whose only purpose to keep said catfish under control. I'm not sure if the God has a shrine but if there is one nearby I wouldn't mind dropping a few coins so he can keep the aftershocks at bay for awhile. 😛

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Gestures

Hello internet. Summer has been over for some time and I couldn't be happier. We moved quickly from unbearable heat to barely tolerable cold. Especially while riding a bicycle. Oh well. I think I'd rather bundle up than feel like I'm swimming in my own clothes. Now its time for a story.

In the last month I have been doing a new game with my 3rd year junior high students. I draw a comic but leaving the speaking bubbles blank. Its their job to fill in the bubbles however they like. In English of course. I would typically get the majority of the responses the same as few of the kids have the courage to try something really out there. Every once in awhile I'd get something absolutely hilarious and I made sure to make copies of those that I felt were particularly noteworthy. I will upload them here at the end of the school year.

After about a month I could tell that the kids were getting bored and weren't taking the comics seriously anymore. So I suggested a new game to the teacher. The students would be given a sheet with all the vocabular they needed to review for their upcoming test and we would go through it together to work on pronunciation. At the end of said practice we played the gesture game. No talking, no writing. Well, the students took to it right away as they seemed to especially enjoy watching their fellow classmates embarass themselves at the front of the classroom. I saw some very clever ways to communicate words like: news, day, brother, sister, homework, etc. 

One of my poor victims asked me to give him an easy one so I decided to be nice. I gave him the word 'milk'. I figured it would be a very easy word since it was the only vocabulary on the sheet that was a drink. He pondered it for a minute and then both the students and myself lost ourselves in complete uproarious laughter.

When he started milking an invisible cow.

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The End of Summer

Hi. Been awhile. Today we will be discussing the season you all know as…Summer. We will also be discussing how much I personally dislike the season you all know as Summer.

So summer. This year in Japan was the hottest summer the country has had in 113 years. Highs of 100+ F with 80-90% humidity. Riding a bicycle in said weather was not particularly enjoyable. Especially while wearing slacks and a work shirt. I made it a point to bring a complete change of clothes with me each day to swap into after I had arrived at school.

One particular day, I was in the locker room at Junior High soon after I had arrived at school. It was a particularly hot day so I had stripped down to merely my boxers and used a towel I'd brought to attempt to "dry off". As I was doing this someone randomly came into the room to also change their clothes and likely got their first experience of seeing a large American that is particularly hairy. All I got was, "Oh Sukotto. I'm sorry." then a quick departure from the locker room. I finished toweling off and had a giggle to myself at the ridiculousness of it all. Hope I haven't scarred one of my colleagues.

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Bicycles and Middle Schoolers

A brief depiction of the intricacies of Bicycle retail and middle-school interraction.Story time.

We will start with the story of my bicycle and the low air in the tires.

So I was riding home from work a few weeks ago and noticed that my tires
felt pretty flat. I pulled over and sure enough the things were just
about void of air. Luckily there was a bike shop two blocks away so I
stopped and looked for whoever might be working. I discovered the only
worker and likely owner of the place was a 70+ year old man who looked
like he couldn't be bothered with anything. After asking him for his
help I realized this:

I didn't know the word for air or tire.

Soooooo, I tried to explain that I had a bicycle and needed his help. He
just kept looking at me in such a way as to say, "dude, what?" I
finally got him to come over to my bike and essentially grope my tires
while trying to explain what I needed. He finally looked at me with a
face that expressed his annoyance at a really dumb foreigner butchering
his native language and said:

Air pressure?

Old Japanese Bicycle Shop Owner 1
Scott 0

This next story takes place at middle school.

I was leaving for the day with my bicycle at my side and my bag in my
incredibly precious bicycle basket when I realized that I was being
spoken to. I looked up and saw a group of about 15-20 middle school
girls all waiting outside the gym for their chance to play basketball.
They were waving and saying goodbye in English so of course I responded
in kind. As I continued my way off the premises some of them began to
say things like, "I love Scott!" "We love Scott!" When I turned back
towards them with a laugh and a huge smile 5 of the girls turned redder
than a tomato garden and covered their faces in embarrasment.

They didn't think I could hear them.

Middle Schoolers 0
Scott 1

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The Coolest Thing Since I Arrived

Short but sweet. This one will rock you.Was in my last class of the day at my second elementary school and we
had just finished our lesson for the day. We had ten minutes to spare so
the teacher suggested that since I wouldn't be able to come to the
sports festival they were having that the kids of 3rd year Class 1 show
me their dance they had been working on. I thought this was a great
idea.

Now here I was, in Japan, knowing they were preparing for their sports
festival at the end of the month. I was completely prepared to hear some
awesome traditional Japanese tunes and watch them show me some very
awesome dance. Thats when the teacher turned on the music and my jaw hit
the floor:

They did Michael Jackson's Thriller Dance in perfect unison.

Coolest thing I have EVER seen.

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