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Rants and Raves

Note that this collection of rants dates back years. For a somewhat more recent blog, my livejournal is at:

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October 28th

I know I have been meaning to update this in a while, so here you go.

I had a run-in with the police (indirectly)! After the usual Saturday evening get-together with my friends in Sagamino, we decided to get some dinner. After dinner, one of said friends comes out to see his car vandalized (hood kicked in, rear-view mirror broken off, side has been keyed). Since this was his father's company's car, we had to call the police to report this. They showed up...at 4AM. The investigation was pretty routine, and Akudaikan-san has a nice camera since he is a professional photographer by trade, and helped with the police investigation. What bothered me the most was this guy (I am sorry I forget his name; I only talked to him once before), was real hesitant about talking to the police officer. All the time, I was thinking "Geez, what are you doing. You *don't* hinder a police investigation by making it hard on the officer". Oh well, at around 5:30AM or so, I got home, and slept till noon. Today I have a cold, anyway, so I am just resting, and writing this.

Next, I learned some interesting things about Japanese culture from my Japanese teacher. It seems that in Japan, doctor's advise against taking a bath if you have a cold for some reason. If someone wants to explain this to me, feel free. Also, according to my teacher's Japanese text, foreigners are not allowed to have Japanese credit lines (the book was written in 1982). Since I just got a Japanese credit card (Nova card (Mastercard)), I thought this was funny. I also went to an international "Friendship" meeting last weekend. I love being the only foreigner who can actually use enough Japanese to carry a conversation. It seems like such an accomplishment, or something. I still get a kick out of convincing anyone asking for donations or religeous zealots of strange cults asking for membership that I am Japanese and I don't understand English. According to the few locals that commented, anyway, my accent is almost good enough to pass myself off as Japanese, if I had a better command of the grammar and I didn't look/act so foreign. Oh well...

Also, I had since been the target of a number of people from California regarding my DDR web page. It seems this group of people was very intimidated by the photos of me and my friends doing remarkably well, and they thought they should flame me. I thought the whole thing was hilarious, and their insults, such as:

"This is definitely Photoshopped [digitally edited with Photoshop]"

Only came off as if this were true, then I am the world's greatest user of Photoshop, and that is a compliment. The general flow on the message board after the initial insults went something like this:

I explain how the pictures are in fact real, and explain the scoring system to show that score is possible
Kasper (as he is known) ignores the information, and claims the whole picture is fake, since he can get much higher scores. Someone also posts an altered version of one of my pictures (changing it to a cell phone ad)
I explain again, citing the original references from Konami
Kasper gets real irritated, but others notice my page and email me about the information/pictures/edit data on my page
I thank them via email
Kasper posts on a Hawaii board about my edit creations being too simple, and everyone else's is total chaotic garbage
Other posters tell him to shut up
Kasper gets really irate, but noone is listening

In contrast, I get along very well with many of the people from the Northwest U.S. (SaeNoDa, foyboy21, Nykkel, zmode, etc.; they are all cool), but it really bothers me that some people would get so worked up over a game (physically demanding, but still).

October 9th

The cultural festival...

Well, getting there (and back) was the hard part by far. I took the limited express Azusa train shortly after work, and arrived at Matsumoto around 10:00. Unfortunately, after getting a haircut (I desperately needed one), I found that the next train to Kiso-Fukushima would be at 1:30AM. Eesh... Anyway, in a half-sleep/half-dazed mode, I somehow engaged in a coversation with an older man from Nagano. He was very "worldly" in that he could see that Japanese are taught to think in a group/individualism is a vice/in the world there are Japanese and everyone else/etc. Sort of entertaining, but I don't remember much of that conversation.

I arrived at my school at 3:00 AM. A little too early, but fortunately for me, the lunch lady would arrive shortly after 5:00 AM, where I slept for a few hours in the nurse's room (I would have just got a hotel room that night, but none were open at that hour).

The festival was a mash of speeches, plays, music, and art. One speech was wonderful, though, and that was the speech from a 2nd year students who got down to the final 4 in the prefectural English speech contest. It was about how she learned that she loved English, and more specifically, foreign culture, and why. Very impressive for someone only 14 (?) years old. I have a copy of the speech, so I will post that as well.

The Saturday night party(ies) were good, too. All of last year's teachers came as well, so it was fun. The new AET, Josephine was there too. She is very nice, and I am sure all is well at school with her. Some are worried about a lack of Japanese, but so far she seems to be surviving, anyway. She was even nice enough to let me stay at her (was my) house. Before you all go jumping to conclusions (like all the students did), I merely spent the night sleeping in the guest room and had a shower in the morning, nothing more. I try not to get involved with people who live 3 hours+ away anyway.

Here is the bad part: I accidentally left my digital camera at the place where we had the second party. No worries, though. Mr Imai said he would mail the camera to me once he was able to get over there and get it. Darn, I had some pictures of the jam-packed trains here as well as the culture festival. Maybe this is a sign I need a new camera, I don't know.

October 1st

Strange, strange, strange.

First, something very weird happened to me recently, so I thought I should share it. I was at a company drinking party after work on Friday. After a night of eating and drinking and the bosses taking cheap shots at each other, we headed home. Since this was Friday night, the train from Yokohama to Mitsukyou was, of course, packed. I got pressed up next to a whole bunch of people I never met, as usual. Well, there was some girl behind me, and as the train was making its' way down the track, she slowly but surely started to lean over in my direction. She then slowly reached out and grasped my hand. She *then* proceeded to rest against me. Not being able to move due to being packed in like so many sardines, I just stood there, hoping noone else would seriously notice. One of the stations we stopped at, Futamatagawa, was where many people got off, but we were still on, and she still continues, but now she removed her glasses and hung them on her sweater before continuing to seemingly fall asleep on me. Once I arrived at Mitsukyou, I got off, but not before she looked out the window in a state of shock (at seemingly nothing), and bolted towards the exit. What a crazy evening...

Apart from that (which I must say was a welcome change to the usual routine), I received my salary, albeit through much difficulty. You see, when I first arrived, I only worked half a month, and thus only received half a month's salary. Whomever is responsible for payroll aparantely forgot to change this little detail, and I initially only recieved a half month salary again. Not wanting to sound too demanding or insistive, I brought up the matter with my supervisor. It was taken care of, but I really wish these salary "receipts" were easier to read, what with over 70 different figures listed.

Next, I bore witness to a horrendous spectacle...the Tokaido train on the stretch from Yokohama to Tokyo. Now, every morning, that stupid train is packed beyond capacity, with people literally packed upon people, which is a reason I will *never* take that train in the morning. Fortunately, I head in the opposite direction, so it doesn't matter to me. Anyway, as one of said trains was about to pull away (they come and go every few minutes), some overweight salary man is *throwing himself* at the open doors of the train trying to get in. One of many conductors was shouting at him (so everyone in the station could here, I guess) "Look! There is *NO* more *PHYSICAL ROOM* in the train! You will have to wait until the next train! Sorry!" (note: Yes, there really was no more physical room. I will take a picture of it someday so you can see). Nonetheless, this man insisted he throw himself some more, amid the *oofs* and *ouchs* and *stop it already!* noises. The conductor literally had to force this man to get away from the train and wait for the next one. This *man* spewed some insults about the station paying for him being late for work or something to that effect, to which *All surrounding people* told him to shove it, so to speak. My train left before I could see what happened next, but it was generally entertaining.

Finally, I have been feeling *under the weather* lately, so sorry for lack of updates in the way of pictures and such. Heh, after seing some peoples digital cameras, mine now looks totally old and obsolete, but at least I can still take pictures. I have been receiving many hits on my DDR page, though, especially the edit data section. I am still not sure why, but it certainly is popular among the University crowds in California and Washington state. It also is something to do since I haven't been feeling up to karate lately.

September 21st

Oooohhhhhh, my aching...everything.

I made the *decision* to start karate again. It has been a month since I last really trained, and despite the fact I am a black belt, I felt myself falling from peak performance, so to speak. Anyway, Mr Ishihara is a very nice guy, but boy are his classes intense! I was a little concerned as the class mixes the youth class with the adult class, but fortunately, for practice requiring another partner, we don't mix the classes (the size and body control difference is substantial). After Monday and Wednesday, I ended up with two sore feet, legs, an aching shoulder, mark on my arm (now almost gone) where I delflected an incoming kick to the head (better my arm than my head, I guess). To top it off, afterwards, I gulped down a fruit drink after, and I guess I downed it too fast or something, because I was temporarily choked for a second, and now my chest hurts. Not my week...

On the plus side, I have received much mail from viewers like you, especially regarding my DDR page. I get the impression if I included much more edit data, it would be appreciated. I will work on that.

As for my Japanese studies, everything is peachy. I guess I have to stick to my private tutor, since any *class* I have been to tells me they can't help me, but for [insert ludicrous price here], they can arrange a private class with an advanced teacher. Sigh...

Next, I have a fridge and microwave, and it was *FREE*! Some of the people moved from my residence, and the landlord gave me some things at no charge. What a sweet deal!

Oh, and thanks to the dual release (and purchase by me) of Dance Dance Revolution 5th mix for my PS, and Guitar Freaks 4th/Drum Mania 3rd, I now have more Konami music games than all others combined. Scary.

Finally, I have received my medical exam results on paper. Here are some interesting results:

Height : 176.9 cm
Weight : 69.2 kg
Body Fat Measurement : 3% (is this right?)
Vision (left eye) : (0.5) (whatever that means)
Vision (right eye) : (0.5) (again, ???)
Hearing (left ear, 1000Hz) : OK
Hearing (left ear, 4000Hz) : OK
Hearing (right ear, 1000Hz) : OK
Hearing (right ear, 4000Hz) : OK
Blood Pressure : 122/76
(Various blood measurements) : Fine
Blood Test (GOT) : 15 IU/l (normal : 8-33)
Blood Test (GPT) : 15 IU/l (normal : 6-30)
Blood Test (y-GTP) : 12 IU/l (normal : 40 or lower)
Cholesterol (Total) : 145 (normal : 130-219)
HDL Cholesterol : 61 (normal 40 or above)
Blood sugar/fat content (?) : 32 (normal : 50-149)
Blood HbA1c : 4.3 (normal : 4.3-5.8)

There were others, but I can't translate some of the more obscure medical terms. The fun note is that my Blood sugar/fat level is so low. According to the definition on the paper, this is an indicator of your sugar or alcohol consumption/absorbtion rate. I believe what this means for me is that I am not getting enough sugar and alcohol in my diet (or I absorb them too fast). Oh No!!!

September 13th

Eesh, does the paperwork never end? I had to go to the doctor's office for a full medical examination (paid for by Hitachi, thank goodness). I had the works, urine sample, blood sample, hearing and vision tests, X-ray, and some weird cardiovascular test.

That last test was strange. At first, I was asked to remove my shirt, at which point various suction cup-things were applied to my upper body. I was then instructed to remove my jeans, at which point the nurse applied even more to my legs. At this point I lied down on the table as instructed. I asked the cute, smiling nurse jokingly if this was the highlight of her day, to which she replied (translated by me) "Well, you are more interesting than the 60 year old overweight, bald patients I have to check". Hoorah for me?

Next, there is a new breed of terror on the streets of Yokohama...old hunchback ladies who try to stop people from walking around them to pass them. At first, it was all fun and games, with these old ladies thrusting their canes into potential on-passers with a crackly and grating "Dame!". As cruel as it sounds, the usual response by all locals of both genders is to simply shove these ladies aside. Usually, it is just a shove powerful enough to force them out of the way, but once I did see a group of impatient businessmen shove someone with amazing force into a fence. Is the moral of all this don't be slow in Yokohama?

School Update: Junior and Senior high schools in Kanagawa-ken don't get a provided lunch; the student's mothers have to make them every day. Kids in Nagano are lucky. I will tell them the next time I see them.

Ugh, this hasn't been my week for food, though. On Tuesday, I had some niku soba (Meat on buckwheat noodles) served so hot and so late, that I think I damaged my brain as well as the rest of my insides. On Wednesday, I had the set lunch which was a pile of rice covered with onions and eggs. Too bad I can't digest eggs (unless they are baked into something). Some have suggested I might have a slight allergy to eggs. I don't know. I just can't eat them. At least today is going all right (Tonkatsu rules!)...

Finally, my studying is leading me to amazing new heights. I went to a volunteer-run Japanese class, and after my 5 minute self-introduction following a group of American "Watashi wa"s, the ladies replied "We can't help you without running a special class for you" (1500 yen a night). I politely declined and decided to stick with my private *free* tutor on the weekends, a nice older lady who *can* help me. Ah, but I loved confusing some of those teachers that night with dialect from Nagano. They kept stating "Noone says that!", to which I would always replied that was how it was in Nagano. The poor ladies almost had a brain hemmorage (sp?) by the end of the night. Maybe I was just being too evil that night.

August 30th

Geez, my second update before I could upload this page (and the rest of my site)...

This week was busy and uneventful at the same time. While researching other companies' products and such, we came up with pages of questions to ask them (we were also negotiating contracts with a few of them). They haven't responded yet, so we are still in the dark.

On the bright side, I am now some sort of coordinator between a Korean company and Hitachi. I am an English-English translator and sometimes a Korean-Japanese translator. Crazy...

I finally met TAKE and YASU (the top 2 DDR players in Japan). They are only 16 and 18 respectively! They hang out around where I live, and I met them completely by accident. They want me to play with them sometime along with the rest of the "crowd", whoever that may be. Anyway, this pushed me to put my DDR page up.

Next, my old Canon WordTank 9500 kind of *died* for the last time *sniff*, so I had to get a new dictionary. I was able to talk down a sales lady on the price of a new Canon IDF-4000 Dictionary to just under 20000 yen, but that is still a big gouge to me. One things for sure, and that is this thing is an encyclopedia! It has synonyms, antonyms, illustrations, the Gakken Japanese Dictionary, the Genius English/Japanese dictionaries, some ludicrously huge kanji dictionary, and a much higher resolution screen in addition to being faster. I know there are other electronic dictionaries on the market, and I have tried them (I like the Zaurus' draw the character on the screen input), but it all comes down to the fact if I see a definition on my Canon that I can't read, I can instantly get the furigana (the reading) if it isn't already there. This also has an idioms/expressions dictionary I find real cool. Well, for almost 20,000 yen, it had better be cool!

Lastly, I found a Japanese teacher. She is a nice older lady who really knows her stuff. It is free because I am teaching her English in exchange. Her daughter is studying English at University (Tokai University), and she has many friends from when she lived briefly in Utah. There is another class I was asking about before all this, and it is on Sep. 1, but I was told it would probably be for beginners only, so maybe I should go to the first class only and impress the newcomers or something. As long as I don't get patronized... Some people at work still do that and it drives me nuts. Before I can rattle off a sentence to them, they will interrupt and say how good I am before I start. Once I have spoken to them, they usually be quiet, but there are an awful lot of people here I haven't met yet...

August 22nd

Okay, so much has happened during my holidays. Where do I begin?...

Okay, I finally took care of my VISA problem, but that immigration office is living hell. During my several- hour stay (good thing I brought a book), there were two couples of Chinese/Vietnamese/whatever descent who were facing deportation for working on a non-working class VISA from what I could pick up. The office was filled with screaming from these people saying they had done nothing wrong, and they have a family to support, and they will go back to their country over their dead body, etc. The upshot for me was that the office gave me a 3-year engineer VISA when I only applied for one. This was after they apologized for having no clue how to read the instructions the Nagano immigration office wrote down and faxed for me.

I *am* the salaryman. I must look so goofy every weekday morning dressed (usually) like the average Tokyo salaryman acting the same way on the way to work in the crowded trains while drinking canned coffee. I'm afraid I just don't have the "die for your company" attitude many people here have.

Let's see, I did get an unexpected gift. Turns out I stumbled into a Para-Para dance competition at a Konami booth in Shinjuku. Now, I am afraid to admit I actually do know many of the dances off by heart thanks to my students, and I got a special prize for being the only foreigner they have ever seen do any of the Para-Para dances correctly: A Para Para VHS Video. I don't even have a VCR (just a DVD player). Oh well, it is the thought that counts.

Sidenote: Para-Para dancing is a dance style which involves shuffling your feet to the beat of euro-dance music in a very confined space while performing actions with your arms/hands/hips/waist. Extremely popular with Japanese teens here, though most of the rest of the world laughs at it.

Next, Shinjuku is too damn big. I am going to write the mayor and ask him to remove half of the city (ward, actually). It doesn't matter how many times I go there, I get lost in some fashion at either the station or a few blocks from the station EVERY SINGLE TIME. I fear asking the tourist office for help because they are more interested in getting stats on foreigners than actually helping them.

Next, I remember a commercial many years ago in Canada where an older bald businessman is complaining how he just spent $17 for lunch. Well, at the time I thought $17 was absurd for lunch, but now, here in Yokohama/Tokyo, it is quite easy to get a small lunch which runs over that, and that is just a small pork cutlet with rice, miso soup, and a cup of coffee. I suppose I could just get a sandwich for $3.50 or something...

Oh, and I am impressed with the police record here. The Police board outside the Yokohama branch office displays stats on the number of certain types of crimes committed this year, and under the category of "satsujin" (murder), there was a big fat 0 next to it. I feel better, I think.

Finally, I exist! People in my office building have come to notice a foreigner who has been here on more than one occasion to work. Wow, who'd've thunk it? Most of the younger ladies now insist on stopping by to stare at the mystical blue eyes I have from time to time. I swear, if I stay here long enough, some Japanese lady is going to marry me for my eyes alone. Hey, this happened to me in Nagano too, so I don't think this is just a coincidence.

August 7th

Okay, enough about karate, I can now rant about Yokohama. Heh heh heh...

First, Yokohama is big. Not quite Tokyo but pretty darn close at times. However, in Tokyo, there is a constant feeling of being overpowered by the mass of buildings, concrete, and people. Of course, Yokohama has its' fair share, but it is a little more tolerable. Don't get me wrong, I still think most people here are crazy.

Next, it is soooo convenient here. I have convenience stores, shopping malls, public transportation, restaurants, public offices, etc. all real close. The downside is that places are usually crowded and it feels very utopian at times. People also seem to be in a big rush for the most part. The local walking speed is faster than even the Waterloo walk(tm).

My place is okay, though it is like living at the EPSON dorm all over again, except cleaner, and with a friggin' huge widescreen TV in my room! I mean the place is okay, and the food is very good. I just wish the local staff didn't seem to go out of their way to try and make everyone feel lonely. Let me explain: People know that I am from Nagano, and I really don't know anyone in Yokohama, but their effort to comfort me comes out as "Don't worry, everyone here is lonely and fights on (perserveres)". On the bright side, though, the meal-lady felt sorry for me and brought her daughter(s) to meet the new foreigner. They were all pure genki (energetic) and hazukashii (embarassed). I really liked how the commented I was very "cute" (kawaii) before they realized I could understand them. The meal-lady now likes to joke about her daughter and her "new" gaijin "boyfriend". Unfortunately, since I am 25 and she is a mere 19, I seriously consider against persuing a relationship with her.

Lastly, the work environment is very nice, despite being here of questionable legality. Heck, I technically don't have a valid engineer VISA yet. You see, the Canadian government is so friggin' slow in responding over a month ago to my application for my new VISA, that they have in-sense made me a semi-legal alien in Japan. Thanks, Canada.

My office is filled with energetic and brilliant engineers. They assume the same out of me, so I hope I don't disappoint them... Right now, my first projects are on fiber-optic high-speed transmission of data, Voice over IP protocal, and VSDL modems. It will probably be okay in the end, but it is an awful lot of work to start with.

Oh, and the work environment is also very relaxed. Two big coffee breaks at 10 and 3, 45 minute lunch, and people take regular breaks to stretch, walk, and rest. Sweet. I get paid for drinking coffee twice a day. That's amazing. I admit, after so many farewell parties in Nagano and the welcome party here, I am convinced the purpose of these many parties was to try and get me so tipsy, I wouldn't notice that I woke up one morning in Yokohama.

August 6th

Okay, I am back up and running after my move to Yokohama, I think. Unfortunately, the phone lines in my residence do not permit me to dial an NTT 0077 number, but many people still use my DION account to mail me, so I had to set up my PC at work with a modem so I could dial out to get my mail and such, since receiving my mail from my work PC outside the DION network is impossible (and the service tech as well as the stall here confirmed it). Anyway, mail me as usual, I think.

Next, I passed my karate black belt exam (shoudan shinsa), and I am now a fully registered (in Japan, anyway) 1st dan black belt. Took me long enough, I guess (3 years) but this is a great step for me, anyway. I can go on to do 2nd or 3rd, etc. degrees, but that will take time.

Anyway, about the test, we had a 2 hour warmup on the morning of July 29th (2001), in some rural district of Matsumoto city. There were about 130 or so applicants there (elementary and adult classes). Most people were trying for their 1st dan, but there were some doing 2nd dan, and a handful doing 3rd. Anyway, after lunch (I had a *very* light one in case some one landed a good punch in my stomach in the sparring part), we started the test.

There were three parts to the test: basic moves (Kihon), Pre-set performance (Kata), and Sparring (Kumite). In the Kata, we had many we could choose from, the most popular was "Jihon" (focuses on strict but fluid movements and combinations of the basic moves). I did "Bassai Dai", which focuses on the balance of fast, powerful moves, with smooth, fluid transitions. One person did "Empi", which is just plain long, but finishes with a jumping high-kick followed by a backhand blow on the way down, which looks real cool. Noone did "Unsu", "Tekki Nidan", "Tekki Sandan", or any others, because those are just plain nutty (a flying 360 kick? I don't think so.) I was pleased to have the highest score of the Bassai Dai people, but that is because I have done this kata for over a year now at two different competitions and for 2 grading exams (2 kyu and 1 kyu). Not to sound too egotistical, but after all that, I had better be pretty darn good at it.

Next was Kihon. Pretty basic stuff, actually, but the judges were looking for perfection of movement, balance, and speed/power. If I remember right, I was asked to do the following in order (each done five times in a sequence):

  • 1. 3 punch combo of head, torso, torso (jodan oizuki, chudan gyakuzuki, chudan gyakuzuki)
  • 2. Rising block followed by reverse punch while stepping backwards (ageuke, chudan gyakuzuki)
  • 3. Outer block, elbow thrust, backhand punch combo (soto-uke, empi, ura-ken)
  • 4. Inside block, short-hand punch, reverse punch combo while stepping backwards (uchi-uke, kizami, gyakuzuki)
  • 5. Sword-hand strike followed by sword thrust punch (shoto-uke, shoto-tsuki)
  • 6. Thrusting middle kick (chudan maegeri)
  • 7. Middle kick, high kick combo (jodan maegeri, chudan maegeri)
  • 8. Side snap-kick, Opposite side thrust kick combo (keage, hantai kekkomi)
  • 9. Roundhouse kick (mawashigeri)
  • 10. Side thrust kick from front stance (zenkutsu kara kekkomi)

    Lastly was kumite. I am so glad my intructors from Canada and Japan forced me so hard to practice it and do it in tournaments even when I wasn't very capable at all. You see, in my first tournament in Canada (in Toronto) with the Waterloo group, I got beaten, but it was at the intermediate level, so noone got hurt; I just lost bad (partly because glasses were not allowed and hence I could not see my opponent...*Wham!*). In Japan, I was fighting 1st and 2nd degree black belts when I was only 2nd kyu, and I got hit...hard. That sort of experience makes you defend yourself a lot better from that time on. In my recent tournament, I fared a *lot* better, and finished with a tie as opposed to a loss. Now, in the test, we fight two random opponents. I was so lucky; I got two scrawny high school students who fidgeted a lot. I didn't just beat them, I made them look like bouncing fools in front of the judges. I have this on videotape if you don't believe me. I will post it when I can get a hold of another Digital Video Camera. I did get one red flag, though, for pounding my one opponent in the head a little hard, but I had padding on my hand, and he was perfectly fine, so all was well. Of course, I should be more careful. I mean, all of the judges are 4th dan or higher. Those people could simply destroy me. I don't want them to think I am just there to cause trouble.

    So, there were 8 judges at each of the 3 venues for a total of 24. They give a grade as a circle (pass), triangle (questionable), and X (fail). However, basically, the end result is you will pass beautifully or fail miserably, there is no middle ground (kind of like being sort-of pregnant, I guess). I, fortunately, passed gloriously, receiving 23 circles, and 1 triangle (I think it was for kumite, but I am not sure). However, now my whole body hurts...bad, so I need to rest a bit before I start up again.

    July 20th

    Well, I have borrowed my friend's video camera for the week since he was busy this week. I have recorded just under 4 hours of footage. Later, I will put it on videocasette (it is on Mini-DV tapes right now) so I can mail it to all those interested in school/work/rest/other lifestyles in Japan.

    I have been finishing up my last visits at most of my schools. Many of the schools were very sad and threw nice parties for me and gave me lots of memorial pictures and cards by the students and teachers. However, since they know I will be in Japan, they insist on me visiting them. I may have to do that...

    My house/yard is infested with bugs! I keep a fairly clean house, but I don't think it matters how clean it is. The bugs will keep on coming. There are some terrible ones here, too. There are beetles and cockroaches the length of my baby finger (I wish I were exhadurating). One thing I am looking forward to in Yokohama is the sterile environment that bugs can not live in (but people do).

    I am still bothered by the number of JETs that are convinced beyond a word that you must have PERFECT Japanese communication ability in addition to EXTRAORDINARY hi-tech skills to get a job other than English teacher here. I can point out many EPSON employees all across Japan who can barely speak a word of Japanese, and whose technological skills are nothing to write home about. Where do these people get their ideas.

    Also, I have been reading the discussion boards on Big Daikon (a web page for JETs). There are a disturbing number of people who think they can just hop on a plane here and start working wherever they want. Unfortunately, once we all explain about the VISA system and how difficult it is to work here legally, they all get discouraged, insult us all for some reason, and are never heard from again...

    More stuff about contact lenses: The soft lenses will turn *hard* if exposed to air for too-long a period of time (a few minutes). DON'T try to put it in your eye when they have gone hard! Put them back in the cleaning solution to soften them out again. Oh yes, I hope it goes without saying, but DON'T put them in your eyes if your hands are the slightest bit dirty! I'm sure it is not good for your eyes to have pieces of cheese sandwiched between your eyeball and a thin piece of plastic (under pressure).

    July 12th

    Now that I am back to myself once again, I can write more things I forgot earlier.

    Okay, if you think teaching English to Japanese students is hard, try teaching French! I was asked at one school to think of something to do for an extra class the 3rd graders had one day, and the vice-principal (in his infinite wisdom) decided I should teach them French because that is the other "official" language spoken in Canada (according to him). Now, anyone who remembers me from school knows my French is atrocious compared to other Canadian students at the same level and I am including the other students I didn't get along with.

    Anyway, I knew there was some reason I has in my head why trying to teach French to these students was pointless (other than my own limited ability), but I never thought of what it was until I started class...PRONOUNCIATION. Now, I have reached a point where if my students slightly mispronounce an English word, as long as I know what they are saying, I don't care, but when they have a total inability to do a rolling r, or any r, l, or v for that matter, it becomes a class in frustration. There were a handful of students that could do a rolling r sound, but then nobody understood the grammar. Oh well, at least I got them to say and understand "Bonjour. Je m'apelle [insert Japanese name here]" and "Comme ce va? (Ca va bien)" with an above-pitiful level of competency. Hoorah for the class and my awful French ability.

    Sigh, there are still many teachers that didn't know I wasn't returning to Canada this summer. They are now also totally confused. I should just tell them a moose ate my family. Maybe that would keep them quiet. They are very nice people. I guess then just didn't know.

    Also, There are now three, count 'em, three students from Mitake now going to Fukushima JHS. I have no idea why, but there seems to be a big student-drain to Fukushima. Mitake, on the other hand, has a small student population that gets smaller every year. I wonder how many years that school has left...

    July 6th

    Whew! The wedding is over, among other things I did this week.

    Okay, first, the wedding. I have uploaded 13 pictures for your viewing enjoyment. The couple opted for a more western-style wedding, so it wasn't too different from any wedding I have been to, but it did have some noticable differences. The ceremony itself was pretty quick, and the reception had no dancing; it was basically a dinner and some speeches by just about everyone in existence. Hey, but they had roast beef and a rose Zimfandel wine. I kept myself busy.

    Next, Miura-san (from Hitachi) came to Kiso on Tuesday/Wednesday to take care of my VISA. We ran all across this great prefecture trying to get everything done. In the end, I had to submit the following to apply for a change of VISA:

  • 1. 3 page application form
  • 2. Essay on why I deserve to change my VISA
  • 3. My *ORIGINAL* University degree (photocopied and handed back to me in the office)
  • 4. My original contract from my current job
  • 5. My proposed contract (signed) from my next job
  • 6. My resume (translated to Japanese)
  • 7. A 12 page document from Hitachi talking about the company's financial status
  • 8. My income tax records for the year
  • 9. Proof of accomodation in Japan
  • 10. Photocopy of current VISA in passport
  • 11. Photocopy of my Foreigner Registration Card
  • 12. Proof of termination of current contract before entering new contract
  • 13. Information pamphlet on my next company
  • 14. Current medical records
  • 15. 4000 yen for the actual VISA stamp

    Crazy, isn't it? And this is just to apply for it. I have to wait while they talk with the Canadian government on whether or not I can work here. I see no problem, but it they should happen to say "No!", I am in serious trouble. You see, I had to cancel my current VISA to apply for the new one, and if they say "No!", I immediately become an illegal alien. Even if I have enough money to buy a plane ticket to Canada, upon arriving at Narita airport, I would be identified as an illegal alien by security and arrested on spot to face criminal prosecution. Therefore, if that happens, I will hide in the Kiso valley until I can obtain a legal VISA somehow. But NO WORRIES! I believe this system only says "No!" to Phillipinos, Koreans, and Chinese who try to bring their whole family over as permanent residents and don't have any marketable skills.

    Ah, the immigration office. There is a place I don't want to spend more than a half-day a year (or less) at. A small office packed with Phillipinos, Koreans, and Chinese wanting to bring their whole family over as permanent residents and don't have any marketable skills. All the while arguing (unsuccessfully) with the officers while their 2 year old child screams away. Oh, it was a tiring day.

    On a better note, my farewell parties have started to happen. I am taking pictures, but please be patient.

    Also, my toilet is full! Yes, that partial-pit toilet I have is full! It will cost me 8000 yen to empty it, but it has to be done before I get deathly ill from the compounding smell. At least the rest of my house is clean.

    See the other rants:
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