Tuesday, March 25, 2008

All good things must come to an end...

gyakusai_narumayo_yuuyake Today was the last day of school for students. There was a short closing ceremony where final words were given by student body heads and the senior teaching staff.
The closing ceremony isn't really the top news of the day though. After the closing ceremony I found out that in addition to a handful of teachers I didn't know well, my most favorite teacher would also not be returning for the new school year. Japan's school system differs from America's system more than just when talking about length of school years and class arrangements. There are special younger teachers that are on special contracts with the board of education to serve only for one year at their designated school. It is rare for them to teach at the same school for two years ago and my favorite teacher is no exception. Ms. Saito, my favorite teacher, will not be returning in April.
I kind of knew this would happen but I still felt really crushed when the news was broken to me. I think it's the way I learned of the sad news that got to me. I was asked to write some friendly words on stickers for their going away presents. Ms. Saito happened to be one of those names. The official announcement doesn't even happen till tomorrow so I guess I fortunate to have an extra day to sort things out in my head before the going away party. I'd rather not get too choked up over this during the party since its supposed to be a celebration but I'm sure I'll get a little teary eyed. Maybe.
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Ms. Saito and me really worked perfectly as a team and I'm really sad to see her go. She really puts a lot of effort into her work and the kids she works with. I'm not looking forward to meeting the replacement staff in April but all good things come to an end I guess. I hope the new English teachers that start in a few weeks from now are as good if not better. I really don't want to loose such a good thing.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

I don't miss Tokyo as much as I thought I did...

T2OBQ7BZDFYRZL45NVBAIHKNNTJCXJTR In an unexpected turn of events, I was summoned by my company to their headquarters in Tokyo for a not so fun two days of training. Immediately, I started to feel like I did something wrong or they were going to change schools or something for me. Part of my assumptions were correct, but I'll get into that later.
From past travel experiences to and from Tokyo; I decided not to mess around with slower, more cost-effective, modes of travel and went all out by buying express train ticket. It ended up costing about 1,000 yen less than I expected but it was still a hit to my savings at 3,510 yen one way. The during the one and a half hour train ride thoughts of what may have gone wrong or will change raced through my mind. I felt absolutely horrible and more nervous than I probably should have been. When it comes down to it, I hate frequent change. Some change is good but being uprooted and shaken up every three to six months isn't healthy.
The good thing about my little training trip was that my company put me up in a business hotel on their own expense. It helped a little bit but I won't be reimbursed for my travel expense till next pay period. I suppose that's better than not getting anything back at all. I just wish this training happened later because I am expecting to spend a few hundred dollars with my mom when she visits here next week.
The training sucked up one of my national paid holidays which really didn't please me much. I would have preferred to be sitting at home playing lost odyssey than sitting in a tiny business hotel tossing and turning in an uncomfortable bed.
I was penciled in at the last moment and even the trainer was a little surprised to see me there. I got a little refresher on how to teach at an Elementary school level and I also got to talk to some new hires about how the job was like; something I wish had happened to me when I got here seven months ago. The training  it's self, wasn't all that bad. I learned the training wasn't designed for me but it still helped me with some ideas on how to improve my classes and lessons.
C5VKQZH2JOX3PQNBIHBKYGEJ3IJYIHKXI found out my worries were unfounded when I returned from my two day trip. My scheduler sent me a schedule for the 2008-9 school year showing me what new schools were actually added to my work load. To my relief I got to keep my original JHS four out of five days a week. I had a new JHS and elementary school added to my schedule, where I will only have to meet them once a week on Tuesdays. I'm not sure how that will go but at least I won't be dashing back and forth between schools on the same day. The two new schools are one in the same, which means they are deeper in the country and probably a fairly small merged elementary/JHS school.
I guess I get my mild pessimism and worries from my mother. I try hard to make myself as positive and forward looking as possible but sometimes my genes get the worst of me... Here's hoping my new schools are just as interesting and fun.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

I'm touched.

lost_odyssey_japon I recently purchased the international version of Lost Odyssey from PlayAsia.com brand new for much less than I could buy it new in Japan or America. Its been a while since I've gotten into a game straight from the beginning. The graphics although the best any current RPG or even game has offered up to this point, has nothing on the story and characters in this game. Most games today focus mostly on pushing graphic style while most often overlooking story. Lost Odyssey does every thing right and really takes the Japanese RPG genre back to it's roots in the best sense possible.
I think the best feature of the game is not how well it plays and looks but rather the well written dreams you get to read throughout the game. These 'dreams' read like a novel, a very well written one at that. Maybe I've gotten soft being alone in my little slice of Japan for too long but the dreams that Kaim (the main character) often get me choked up. They are just stories, I know, but they are so touching and well written that I can't help but sympathize for the main character.

So I will be spending many hours playing Lost Odyssey long into the foreseeable future. I'm glad I bought this game and I hope the game sells well enough that it outshines other long standing RPG series in Japan. It deserves all the credit it can get.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

This time I'm the one not walking at graduation.

DSC00010 Today my school had their graduation ceremony for the third year students moving onto high school. I came to school wearing my best but the students just wore their same beat up uniforms they've been wearing ever since they started three years ago. I guess, the uniforms looked alright enough but the least they could have done was have worn shoes other than the ones they wear for P.E. . It really looks tacky.
Anyway, the first graduation ceremony was painfully long, clocking in at an astounding three hours. The first ceremony was basically the official ceremony held by the PTA and the school board. The students were handed their diplomas and sat down quietly. Speeches were given by the principal, PTA, and school board members. I really didn't know who was graduating here, the students or the board members.
Just when I thought it was safe to relax and maybe go home, I found out there was a second informal graduation ceremony held by the students. So I sat through another hour or so of singing and sobbing. The students really get worked up over moving out of junior high school. I know when I was finished with my junior high, I couldn't care less about the people in the school or any of the memories I may have made there. Maybe it was due to me being a transfer student. Who knows?
stfu The real reason I decided to make an entry today was to share what happened during the second ceremony. As a testimony to how serious these students can get, I witnessed something no 15 year old should ever endure. While students were giving their farewell speeches on the stage steps, one of the boys just couldn't handle all the stress or whatnot and lost his breakfast all over the stage. At first I didn't know what was going on because he did it so discreetly by turning around slowly and bending over a bit. I thought he had dropped something but then I saw an orange-ish-brown colored liquid flowing from where his head was. I knew he was puking his guts out. Poor kid, I'm sure which ever high school he ends up going to, that story is going to stick with him forever. Kids that age, no matter what country they come from latch on to things like flies on stink.
The best thing about this kid loosing his breakfast was the fact that nobody seemed to react to it. He just continued to puke as the other kids stood beside him almost oblivious to what was happening. I was expecting there to be a chain reaction puke fest' but all that happened was that the music got cut and teachers hurried to clean up the mess and walk the kid to the nurse's office. I felt really sorry for the teachers that cleaned up the puke in their Sunday best' but I guess somebody had to do it. After about five minutes of absolute silence from the students and audience, the ceremony resumed as if nothing happened. Nobody even mentioned it after the ceremony or addressed the audience for the unfortunate event.
I suppose JHS graduation for Japanese students can be really nerve racking. This is a point where many of the students will just go onto part time jobs or what not. It's kind of sad but that's the way it is here in rural Japan. Their compulsory education ends after JHS so they aren't required to complete high school. JHS might have been the bet thing for a lot of those kids that graduated today. I really am not sure because I didn't have time to get to know many of them.
So the third year students move on and I'm glad they're finally gone. They were a tough bunch to work with and I'm glad the second and first year students are generally a fun and active bunch. I look forward to sending off the now second years next year at their graduation ceremony. I'm absolutely sure I'll be more a part of the graduation next time around.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Rearranged the room a bit...

1186375055229 My room has been suffering from a sense of sterility as of late. It feels as if I am living in a school dormitory or something, so I decided to liven things up a bit and make it mine.
First off, my new monitor that Yuko bought for me back in January looks really great sitting a few inches higher on a cheap storage rack I bought at Trial for a measly 1000 yen. Now that the monitor is sitting upon a shelf, it really gives the illusion of it being a DSC00009little bigger than it really is. The monitor looked really sad before I added the shelf. Plus, I freed up some extra space for my sexy white Sega Saturn. Hopefully I'll be able to add a Sega Dreamcast to complete my ivory empire of consoles.  In the second corner of my room, I placed a cheap particle board cabinet. It was only 700 yen brand new, all I had to do was assemble it. It makes my room look less empty and hides my  unsightly extension power strip. If the architect who designed this apartment had a little sense they would have put another socket on the wall near my shelf. Oh well, that's Japan for you. I moved all my manga and CDs/DVDs to the new cabinet in the DSC00007 corner. It looks like it belongs there now, especially when I have figurines on top of it.
Something not pictured here, is my new mattress I bought for my loft 'bed.' I've been sleeping on three layers of crappy bedding for the past seven months or so and I haven't had a decent night of sleep the whole time. So I finally broke my cheap streak and bought a decent mattress for myself. It's a little stiff but I'm sure I'll get used to it. I'd rather have a firm mattress than what I've been sleeping on lately...
Finally, I added a cork board frame to my bare wall. I've been searching for something just the right size to put there and then it dawned on me, some kind of picture collage would work well there instead of a flimsy anime poster. It worked out pretty well and didn't DSC00006 cost much (700 yen.) I plan to buy a couple of smaller ones to flank it and make my room seem more symmetrical. The unfinished wood look is really prevalent in my room. Lots of browns... I regret buying that brown futon cover now...
DSC00008 Well, that's it for today. If I add anymore junk to my room, I'll keep y'all updated.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Money makes me move.

DSC00014 Buying stuff online is ridiculously easy in Japan. I've been wanting a couple of rare figurines I've seen advertised on the Internet for months but haven't had the guts to go through the steps to buy it. The figurines I wanted are from a Japanese comic series called Yotsubato. I've been reading it for a couple of years now and have been looking forward to having some kind of figure to add to my collection.
Lawson_Japan I ended up getting both of my figurines in a bundled set for 3000 yen including shipping from Amazon.jp . I found the figurines by typing Yotsubato in Japanese in the search bar. What's really cool about Amazon.jp is that if you aren't good at reading Japanese, you can switch most of the important buttons like purchase and help into English. I didn't need to do that since I've signed so many documents and typed my home address and name so many times that I know what goes where for the most part. Anyway, I saved about 1000 yen by buying them as a pair as well as saving myself time and money if I ended up searching for them in Akihabara.
The coolest part of buying things from big online sites in Japan is that you can pay for them in cash at your local convenience store. Since Japan is primarily a cash only society, this method of payment makes a lot of sense and really makes life easy for people who choose not to waste money on credit card interest and whatnot. So after I placed my order, Amazon.jp sent me a confirmation email with a special order code which I took to a local Lawson convenience store and entered it into an Loppi automated kiosk. The kiosk printed out a receipt and I handed the receipt to the clerk and they rang it up as a sale. The next day (today) it arrived at my apartment in a clean Amazon.jp box.
DSC00016 Despite there being next to no price competition in traditional Japanese markets, the Internet is a completely different place. I've saved a lot of money doing big purchases online and I plan to do more. Buying stuff from stores in Japan is like highway robbery with all the markups they do along with the driving you have to do just to get what you want. So now I have a couple new figures which I am pretty sure my girlfriend will laugh at me for. Oh well, it's my hobby and if it bothers her that much she can find another guy. :p