Thursday, September 18, 2003

number 4

originally an email

Hello! Welcome to the next installment of my e-novel!

By the time I complete this, it will have been around three weeks since I last emailed. It's amazing how much and how little can happen in three weeks. This is because since last you heard, I have begun my regular daily routine. My days are very full, but perhaps little is to be said about the kinds of things I have been doing, such as marking student journals for two to four hours a day.

Oh, and before I get started, perhaps an explaination of terms is in order.
JET: "Japanese Exchange and Teaching" is the program which recruited me to work in Japan. It is a cooperative program between three Japanese government ministries, and is involved primarily in getting us to Japan and out again. Those of us who were hired by JET are referred to as JETs. There are three kinds of JETs:

ALT: "Assistant Language Teacher". That's me. I work in a school teaching English. Most JETs are ALTs. Also known as AET "Assistant English Teacher", though there are ALTs who teach German, Spanish, and other languages, too. Our paycheques come from local Boards of Education, or BOEs.

CIR: "Coordinator of International Relations" They work in Government offices doing translation, iterpretation, and setting up events. We have 2 CIRs in Tokushima, and 75 ALTs. We have no SEAs, or Sports Exchange Advisors, who are essentially foreign PhysEd Teachers.

For the record, the purpose of the JET program is actually to get foreigners living in parts of Japan that would not usually see foreign people. English teaching is just the method of getting us to stay there, and giving us an excuse to be there. Japan is very homogeneous, and really does need this kind of exposure. I am a visible minority here.

OK!I believe I last left off just as I was headed down to the south of Tokushima for a Friday night party. I was going with Tom. Due to a fantastic miscommunication, we were way earlier than we needed to be.Here is how it went:

I went to the school for the morning on Friday the 30th to finish typing number 3. Finishing that and my other emails, I left the school around noon. I already had my bags packed and house clean, so I left the school by car and went straight to Tom's. After picking him up, we went into Tokushima city where I purchased my cell phone. Making a lane change, I nearly rear-ended a guy, but did not touch him. On our way out of the city, we stopped at "Hard Off" which is a second hand store; a kind of high class pawn shop. Tom bought himself an amp, some speakers, and a record player. We loaded these into the back seat and were on our way.The drive was easy enough, and had I not been distracted by the new cell phone in my lap, it would have been uneventful. I know, I know, having it in my lap was not a good idea, especially on the second day I had ever driven in Japan. As it was,I glanced down at the pretty blue cell phone in my lap and veered off to the left, bumping the curb and losing both my hubcaps. We stopped to collect them. Tom was afraid, I was rather unperturbed. After that, I started to drive more to the right side of the lane. Getting a feel for my car. Good.

We were going to be in Yuki (which is south) between 4 and 6pm. We took way less time in Tokushima than I had anticipated, and the drive was easier than expected; we only took one wrong turn, and that only set us off by about 10 minutes. As a result, we got to Yuki almost exactly at 4. Sarah, the girl who was going to meet us and show us where to go was not home from whereever yet. Oh. Tom and I set off to find a good place to toss a frisbee around. Some roads in Japan are very thin. Yuki had some of these roads. We drove through one that had concrete walls on both sides. Turning out of this thin road I was unfortunately unable to see the stone flowerbox which protruded on the left side. I ground my car against it a bit. I have a dent in my car now. Some lessons you learn the hard way.

Anyways, we found a place to throw the frisbee around until Sarah answered her phone. Then we went to her place to help her unload groceries from her car. It turns out that the Friday party was a pre-party (in Hiwasa at Elliot's) to the Saturday party in Yuki at Sarah's. Hiwasa is the next town over from Yuki, and the drive is not that far. After chilling a while at Sarah's we went to Hiwasa, following her car at night though thin little forest roads. Cool.

The party at Elliot's was easily the worst night I have yet spent in Japan. I'm not sure what it was, but I just could not stand being there. The beginning was alright, playing cards and chatting with people, but the party degraded as the night wore on and people became more and more drunk.

Everything rubbed me the wrong way, and I wanted out. All the people who made the evening tolerable left early, and I would have loved to have done the same. Sadly, I felt trapped. I really could not have found my way back to anywhere, and I was Tom's ride, too. The best I could do was to walk away altogether, and sit on a pier watching the fish swim in the light of the streetlamp. Eventually the bugs became too much and I had to go back. I felt very weary; the party was like a kind of continual spiritual attack. Finally, Damon, the other JET who works in Hiwasa, offered to let me crash at his place. Tom was gonna stay at Elliot's with the rest, so it was perfect. We left at around 1am. It was a welcome relief.But as much as Friday night was a nightmare, Saturday was a dream.

We started Saturday with a 10.30 am game of soccer at one of the local highschools. I bought myself an apple from the local open air fruit market, and some other food from a corner store. We played in the hot hot morning sun for just over an hour. It was great. From there we went to a fast food joint that serves Japanese food. I had more of those amazing Japanese chicken fingers.

Some of the guys knew of a great place to go cliff jumping, so that's just what we did. It was a 30 minute drive to this clear river in the middle of nowhere. We parked our cars by the roadside and walked down a trail to the river. When we arrived, we realised that none of the girls had come with. Turns out that for some reason the girls prefer lying in sand soaking up sand to jumping off of stuff into water. Well, their loss! The water was perfectly clear, and you could see little fish swimming in it. The surrounding nature was gorgeous. The cliff itself was more like a rough rock face that happened to be by a 15 foot deep part of the river. We could climb it carefully and jump off. It was amazing. I also spent some time just floating in the cool water, using a borrowed mask and snorkel to watch the fish.After this, we drove to a bridge. This bridge was around 10 metres off of the water, which was about 10 feet deep. We jumped off. Several times. Again, I swam around with the snorkel. Those fish are hard to catch!

Dinner was had at a supermarket on the way back to Elliot's. I bought myself some chicken on a stick and chips and a drink.We went back to Elliot's so that he could get his stuff and we could all take showers. There were more than ten of us. It didn't take long.

From there we went to the beach at Yuki for a barbeque and fireworks. This was the first stage of the party. There were little crabs on the beach. We spent a good long time at the beach before returning to Sarah's for the rest of the party. The atmosphere of the party at Sarah's was much more relaxed than the one at Elliot's had been. I played some cards, and even got in a game of hearts! It was pleasant. Even so, being tired from all the running, clibing, swimming, and jumping, I was ready to go early (11.30ish). Having not had any alcohol, I was contemplating driving home. Instead, Sarah's next-door neighbor let me crash on his floor. He's a Brit or Aussie guy known as Surfer-John.

Other than driving home, I can't really remember what I did that Sunday. I presume that I did some preparation for school the next day, and I think Dad and Mom called that night.I did not have any classes to go to on the first two days of school, but there were plenty of ceremonies and so forth to attend. At the first school assembly, I was introduced, and did a short speech (name, rank and serial number in english and japanese). For the past year the music teacher has been on maternity leave, and this year she is returning, so she had a speech. The teacher who had replaced her had a farewell speach. It was all in Japanese, and the few words I could catch were not much help. I just kind of sat at the front and smiled, bowing when all the other teachers did.I should mention that the Junior high system in japan calls 7th 8th and 9th graders 1st 2nd and 3rd years. High school also has 1st 2nd and 3rd years.

I spent most of my time marking (correcting) the journals which every student had been writing all summer. They were to fill a page with english each day from the middle of july. 45 students times an average of 35 pages gives around 1500 pages to correct. I was busy at this all week. The first years' journals were easy enough to mark because they mostly just practce repetition with vocabulary, so all I correct is spelling. The second year students are a mix of vocab, copying notes, and some other things. The third years mostly write about their day and things they enjoy, which means lots of grammatical errors, which take the most time to correct. The third years also have entrance exams to write for High School, so they work very hard, and on the whole write a lot in their journals. They took (and take) the most time to go through. Every day the books need to be handed back before 3.30. After that, I have been helping two of the students get ready for the english speech competition. Both are girls; the guys seem less adept at English this year.

Wednesday was spent at the Elementary. I did the Nursery school, and 4th 5th and 6th grades. It was all self-introductions.

I actually don't remember much of the classes that first week; it's all just a blur of talking about myself and Canada over and over and over again. I actually got quite good at it. I also brought licorice with me from Canada, both black and red. In my self-introductions I showed the students the black licorice and informed them that it is my favorite candy. Then they all got to try a little piece. After that, I offered them the red stuff. Most of them hesistated. It was very funny. Even so, most of them liked the red licorice and hated the black. Of all 45 students, only 3 actually liked the black licorice. Funny that, doncha think?

On the friday I had another party at the onsen, this time a staff welcome to me and the returning music teacher, and a farewell to the old music teacher. They spoke lots of Japanese, and I understood a little. Most of them understand enough English to allow basic communication. It was fun, and the meal was really good; similar to the previous meal I had at the onsen.Saturday the 6th was the first saturday where I had absolutely no obligation to be anywhere, so I stayed at home and read. I finished Debt of Honour, and started the Hitch-Hiker's guide to the galaxy. Just for kicks, well, for food and snacks too, I drove into Komatsushima to go to Lupia, which is a mall with a good sized supermarket (like a medium sized Safeway).

Then it was back home again.

Sunday was our first soccer game. The JET team (us) played against TIA (Tokushima International Association), who are a mix of western and Japanese guys around the same age as us. It was hot. We started at around 3.00. We arrived early enough to stretch well and get organised first. I was keeper for the first half. Our team was playing bumblebeeball (following the ball like a swarm), which made it difficult. I had a couple good blocks, but at one point a striker got himself set up like a penalty shot, I guessed wrong, and he got a point. In the second half, Tashi wanted to try being keeper for a while (he's the only other person on the team who likes it). I took his place as striker. Anthony Uno, who is funtioning like our captain, got everyone to keep to their positions. We played much better. I scored our first and only goal. Unfortunately, TIA scored again in the last ten minutes. Tashi could have stopped it if he had challenged the striker, but Tashi is still just learning the ropes. He made up for it shortly afterwards by stopping an amazing shot: he jumped and pushed the ball over the crossbar when we were sure it was gonna be another goal. He's short, so we were all really impressed.

That evening was more relaxing. I read a bunch, and my friend Atsushi called from elsewhere in Japan. He was one of the Japanese guys who was on exchange in Winnipeg last year. This was the first time I had talked to him since I got to Japan. It was good to talk to him.

Monday and Tuesday last week were again more of the same; self introductions, marking, and helping with speeches. I did two full classes of self intro for all the JHS students, but only one each for the elementary students. Wednesday was my last day of self-introductions, done for the kindergarten, 1st 2nd and 3rd year elementary students. In the afternoon, the marching band was practicing. That's right, you heard me. The elementary school has a marching band made up of 4th 5th and 6th grade students. They play their instruments and parade around making different formations and patterns. I was impressed. You would be too.

Also, my packages arrived on Wednesday! I got all my long awaited books, Brita water filter, toothpaste, and other things. It was especially cool that it all arrived on Wednesday because the night before I had used the last of my tube of travel toothepaste and prayed, "God, could you please get those packages here tomorrow, because I really need that toothpaste." It was a answer to prayer in a time of need.

On Thursday after school a few of the teachers were joining the JHS boys in a game of softball. Some of the students asked me to join too, so I did. They put me as first batter up, and I was promptly hit in the leg. Free walk to first. I decided to steal second. I had to slide to do so. Wearing shorts. On gravel. Bad idea. They were all impressed. Eventually I got hit home, and when I got there, all the students were saying "That was great! But, you don't have to slide. Don't slide." The rest of the game went as normal until the time was up. Score was not kept. Ironic.

Actually, most of the sports areas and playgrounds in Japan are gravel. If they were grass, then snakes would be a problem, there are poisonous adders here in Japan. Not a problem you want to have at a school. Further, grass maintenance seems to be a difficult thing here, and you only see small patches of grass in small yards. It's actually rather special. The things I take for granted...

There was a white water rafting trip planned for that saturday, and I hesitated as to whether I should go. It was expensive, and I was not sure if my budget could handle the cost, but it might have been worth the expense. My hesitation cost me a spot on the trip. I only realized that for certain on Friday, so I decided to make other plans. After school I called Tom to see what was up, and found out that a few people were going for Italian in Tokushima. I decided to go, and so doing saved Tom from having to bus there. At the time, a taiphoon was passing by Japan to the south. In Kamikatsu, the taiphoon to the south was only causing an occasional rain or drizzle; the mountains held back some of the weather. In Katsuura, where Tom lives, the rain had been a constant downpour. When I got there, I was thinking to myself, "I don't know what is more strange to me, the fact that there are so many cars on these tiny roads in these conditions, or the fact that I am one of them."We made it into town without incident.All we knew for sure was that Marita, a Kiwi JET and Kirsten, a Californa JET (Tom's girlfriend) were going to meet us there, perhaps bringing some other people. Marita go there just after we did, and informed us that Kirsten would be late; she was getting a lift from some others. When everyone else arrived, it was Kirsten, Steph from Vancouver, Craig from Scotland, Jane from Ireland, Elly from Scotland, and Andy from England.

The food was good, as was the company, and the atmosphere. The place was called 'Vivache', and it's a trendy little joint, which means three things: cool music, cool people, small portions. Expensive, but good. I had a garlic sauce spaghetti with sundried tomatoes and pepperoni, followed by a full ceasar salad.After the restaurant, we adjourned to Big Brother's sandwich shop, where there was a birthday party for two of the other JETs. It ended at 10.30, and we went home.

Saturday, because I missed my chance for the rafting, Tom asked me along with him to some Noh Theatre. He had already arranged a ride with another JET, Angeline, from Vancouver. I met them at Tom's and we took my car into the city. We found the place where the play would be, called the Bunka no Mori, which has the town library, museum, and art museum inside it. We were way early, so we went for food at a place that was close called the 'Cafe de Roccoco'. Tom said it looked suspiciously like a massage parlour on the outside. We got Angie to go scope it out. She confirmed for us that it was safe, though maybe a bit pricey. We chanced it anyhow.

Inside it looked like it had been decorated by someone's rich north american grandmother. Dark wood, gold coloured couches covered with lace, all sorts of over decorated tables and chairs and cabinets, and it was full like it had been planned by a packrat. We actually sat on couches with a table between them to eat from. We all ordered curry, which was cheap compared to the coffee. We were surprised by the large delicious portions. I had the beef curry, as did Tom, and Angie, who is granola, had the seafood curry.It was a fantastic and filling meal, following which we filed out into my car and made our way to the theatre again. It turned out that there was not proper noh theatre, just an outdoor ampitheatre with heated stone seats that had been adapted for the purpose. Knowing that Noh can be really dull, and excedingly long, we planned to only stay for two hours. What we got was barely Noh at all. It was more like a lesson which was supposed to make Noh and its music more accessible to the masses. In a word, boring. But it was not boring in the way that it should have been; because we don't speak enough Japanese, we felt like we did not learn anything about Noh at all. When two hours came around, and we were ready to leave, it abruptly ended. In a way that struck me as uncharacteristic of Japan, the parking exiting was poorly planned and it took us thirty plus minutes to get out. From there we went to a liquor store that Angie had told Tom about, where he bought wine, and we bought some cheeses and snacks. We returned to Tom's flat and spent the rest of the evening chatting and chewing on cheeses. Tom had scored a magnificent merlot from France at half the price he would have paid in England. I had just a little taste because I was going to drive home, but I assure you, it was very good.

On Sunday I slept late and at 2.30 left to go to Kamiyama to visit the Matsumotos, my host family, again. They had invited me back. There are three ways to get to there from here, one of which is only reasonable for 4WD vehicles. That leaves two options for me. I decided to try the west way first, which was a winding road at a slow speed, but which is beautiful and more direct. I arrived exactly at four, just as promised.

From then until dinner I played with Masumi batting a beachball around and looking at beatles and a puppy. Some other friends of the Matsumotos came over for dinner too, and we had yakiniku. When you have it outdoors, its called Barbeque (japanese style) but when you have it indoors it's called yakinuku. Either way, it is quickly becoming my favorite kind of meal in Japan. It's a great way to socialize and eat at the same time. After dinner (which went long, as usual) we played cards. We played BabaNuki, which is a Japanese game, and Memory, both of which Masumi can play, and both were a welcome change from Daifugo(the japanese equivalent of A-hole, Slave, Bigboss/Littleboss etc), which I have played too much of in the last while.

After that, the other people left, and we went to bed.Monday was a national holiday, which was why we had arranged for me to come down that Sunday. When I found out that Susumu (the father) was working, and that Masumi had to go to school, I kind of half hoped that I could just go home early and have a day off to myself. Instead, I was taken to Masumi's elementary school, which only has 14 students but is still a full sized elementary, capable of handling 120. (~20 per grade) The national holiday was Senior's day, and because there is an old folks home right by the elementary, they had a little program where the kids sang and danced. It was this I was taken to see, and was given "Special guest" status, and a good seat so that I could see everything well. Bizarre. Afterwards, I played with the kids a bit while they tried to ride unicycles. One kid would attack me with punches any time I tried to play with someone other than him. When their play-break was over, we left, leaving Masumi there.

Somehow Ikuko (the mother) had managed to convince me to stay for lunch with her and her two friends, and during lunch managed to convince me to stay and wait for Masumi to retrurn from school at three so I could say goodbye.
One of the things I have noticed about Kamiyama is that while there I at times feel unreasonably tired, particularly withing the Matsumotos' home. When I had a moment alone at the school, I was praying and asking God why that was. I think I got my answer at lunch. Let me explain:

Ikuko and her two friends (Natsumi and Hitomi, very common names) are all devout followers of Ko-Shinto. Natsumi speaks really good English, so she was filling me in. Shinto is the native religion of Japan. It is a form of paganism which assigns gods to just about everything in nature: rocks, trees, waterfalls, etc. The older and larger the thing in nature, the greater it's veneration seems to be. During the Meiji Era (1868-1912) the official religion of Japan was changed from Buddhism back to Shinto. But this is not the Shinto which Ikuko and her friends follow. Ko-Shinto seems to be a sect or cult of Shinto which is 'going back to the old ways'. It has its own prophet-figure and on the whole resembles a New Age religion as much as it resembles Shinto. Ikuko herself is a spirit-healer.

The Matsumotos only moved to Kamiyama last march. Susumu likes it because of its beauty; he used to drive there just to take photos. Ikuko likes it because there are some very ancient shrines and temples. Kamiyama literally means 'god-mountain' 'Mountain of the Gods'.What is more, the spiritual powers in the area and house have performed at least one sign for Susumu and Ikuko. Their anniversary is next week, on the twenty third. On September third (this month) they went to get a kind of blessing or ward or confirmation thing from one of Kamiyama's temples. The blessing/ward/confirmation is given in the form of something written in calligraphy; they showed me where they hung it. That same day, while playing cards, when one of the hands was dealt, all the cards had changed. there were now only 46 cards in the deck; 23 regular cards, and 23 nine-of-hearts cards. They showed me the deck. If it was a hoax, it was well devised, because the cards were cheap and well used. As it stands, i beleive them.

While I thought/think that it was a kind of feeble sign, (ie, not powerfully amazing), the fact remains that some spiritual power (cough-demon-ahem) was free enough to perform magic signs in their household, the very same place where I feel so weary. If you recall from my previous email, I had said that the last time I stayed there, it felt like I never slept. No rest.

What will come of all this? More informed prayer on my part, and the next time I go visit, I'll know better what I'm heading into. I know who I am in Christ and I'm not worried, I just don't want to be foolish.Anyhow, I eventually left the house to go rest in my car; I felt so very tired, like I could sleep in a second, but once I was in my car, Bible in hand, I wasn't the least bit tired. So I sat and waited. The other ladies left just before three, and when Masumi returned we just sat outside. Ikuko had bought some treats and snacks, and we sat there playing with them. We put shrimp crackers (like cheesies, except shrimp flavour) into our noses and tried to pull them out with our tongues to eat, or tried blowing big bubbles with gum, etc. It was nice. After that, I left for home, trying the east route this time. In the course of it, I took two wrong turns, one of which cost me half an hour because I had to double back, the other of which cost me ten to twenty minutes because I missed going the shorter way. I'll know better next time. It took me 2 hours total, but I think that going again would take less than 1.5 hours now that I know the way. The east route covers greater distance, but on straighter roads at higher speeds.

If I don't need to be at school next tuesday (another national holiday, but still iffy for me) then I'll go back for their anniversary thing from 2 until 3 (on the 23rd).And then back to school!Tuesday was a special day. It was the practice for sports day! (Not to be confused with Track & Field day, which is in the spring) Actually, the students have been practicing for Sports Day every day in their last period since the term started. Now you must be wondering,"What exactly is this sports day thingie?"

Well, sports day is a kind of a mix between a performance for Mom & Dad and a bunch of crazy games (relays, tug-of war, multilegged races, etc). What is more, because Kamikatsu is so small, the day is a joint effort between the shogakkou (elementary school) and the chugakkou (juniour high school), and is held on the shogakkou grounds. (( Nota Bene: Most JETs use the japanese 'shogakkou' because it is easier to say than elementary. [show-gack-ko-oh]. On the other hand JHS is easier to say than Junior High School or chugakkou. [jay-chess]. As koutougakkou [ko-oh-to-oh-gack-ko-oh] is really long to say, even most japanese shorten it to koukou [ko-oh-ko-oh] (from KOUtougakKOU), but even that is long for us and we still find 'high school' quicker to say.))

Sports Day will be held this Sunday, so that the parents can come watch, and all the students and teachers will get a day off on Wednesday, after the national holiday on Tuesday.

I'll tell you more about sports day after it happens, but for now it is enough to say that the students put a ton of effort into it, and that the way they pull the thing off is a marvel of planning.

Because the students put so much effort into this event, there are several contingency plans to make sure it happens. I'll try to explain, but if you get lost, don't worry. I can only keep it straight because I wrote it in my dayplanner.
Sunday the 21st is Sports Day. If it gets rained out, everyone must go to school and bring a packed lunch (school lunches are delivered on weekdays). Monday is school as usual no matter what. Tuesday is a national holiday, but if Sunday had been rained out, then Sports Day will be held on Tuesday. If Tuesday is rained out, then it is just a holiday as per normal. Wednesday is the transfer holiday for Sunday, because we were all doing school stuff somewhere that day, one way or another. Thursday is the transfer holiday for Tuesday if Sports Day was held then. If it was not, bring a packed lunch with you to school. If Tuesday got rained out, then Saturday the 27th is the alternate alternate day. Monday is the English Speech Contest, so the transfer holiday for Saturday is Tuesday the 30th. There are no plans beyond that, as said plans allow a week for bad weather to blow over, and even if a taiphoon hit, they seem to be bounded by lovely weather both before and after, and only seem to affect a period of around 4 days, give or take.

All they actually did on Tuesday was to run through all of the formal elements (parade, speeches, group exercises, etc) with both the shogakkou and chugakkou together. After that, the chugakusei (JHS students) got to do a trial run of all their games. They have been divided into a red team and a white team, and will compete against eachother. They each have thier own team cheers and so forth, which until Sunday seem to be secrets even from the teachers.

From watching them on Tuesday, I think it could be a tie. The White team guys are better organized than the Red team guys, and the Red girls are better than the White girls. Oh yeah, the guys and girls are segregated, and actually they all play different games. I suspect this may be largely for the sake of variety; they alternate using the grounds because of size. For example, the guys will set up and take down the stuff for the games the girls play, and vice versa.All of this was done before lunch, and we headed back to the JHS to eat. In the afternoon I had class with the ichinensei (ichi: one, nen: year, sei: born, translation: first year students) and then some time to read and correct journals, and even check my email afterwards. I was low on groceries, and the closest decent supermarket is right by Tom's apartment in Katsuura. The 'suupah' is still smaller than your standard Food Fare, but the meat and fruit is fresher than a corner store's. While I was out that way I decided to ring up Tom and see what he was doing. Turned out that he was doing nothing, invited me up and after chilling a while we watched a DVD of Akira (the first anime either of us ever saw) on his 15" Powerbook G4 with his stereo hooked up for sound. It was good, but I felt a little ill after. If you've seen Akira, you'll understand. Well animated, well written for an anime, but really bleak and godless. Not the kind of movie that inspires hope for the future. Tom said afterwards that he remembered it being better. Me too.

The biggest bonus of having the practice at the shogakkou was that because I was there for half a day on Tuesday, I did not have to be there on Wednesday; I was told to be at the JHS. But what, hey? I have no classes scheduled at the JHS on Wednesdays! So I sneaked aside to the back room and typed this all morning. Then in the afternoon I did all the correcting and planning for Thursday, which is currently today, but may be yesterday by the time I send this.After that, I coached Terumi and Natsumi on their pronunciaition for their speeches, and made a recording of Terumi's speech for her to use to practice with. I had made one for Natsumi two weeks ago, it took me four tries before I got the machine to work right. Terumi is late in getting her speech together. JHS 3rd year students are crazy busy.

Today I had but one class, the ninensei (2nd yrs), and I had it in first period. After that I did some marking and a bunch of prep for tomorrow when I have each of the three classes. A moment ago, I just ducked out to re-record the speech for Terumi; apparently when she took it home last night, it was blank. She was in a rush yesterday (at 6.30pm that's understandable), so we did not check to make sure it worked. Just now, after recording the speech again, I checked it. It worked this time. Good.In case you have been wondering or whatever, here is my schedule at school:

5 day schedule. The gist of it is that every day looks like this:

8:15: bell
8:20-8:30: morning teachers meeting
8:40-9:30: period one
9:40-10:30: period two
10:40-11:30: period three
11:40-12:30: period four
12:30-13:25: lunch
13:30-14:20: period five
14:30-15:20: period six
15:20-15:35: students clean the school
15:35-15:50: homeroom
15:50-17:55: after school clubs
18:10: bus arrives

My schedule at the Junior High (usually; it varies from time to time)
Monday: period 1 third years, period 2 firstyears, p4 English club
Tuesday: period 1 first years, p2 second years, p4 third years
Wednesday: no scheduled class (shogakko, see below)
Thursday: p1 second years, p5 sign language club (I'm a member, not a teacher in this one)Friday: p1 first years, p3 second years, p4 third years

My exact schedule may not be confirmed at the elementary, but the gist of it is that one week will be K-3, and the alternate week will be Nursery and 4-6, except that I will only ever do Nursery once a month.

And there you have it. I'm not sure what else to say now, other than thanks to my Grandma for the Clodhoppers, they were delicious.My little indicator is telling me that this is the longest email that I have yet typed, but I am having a hard time believing that, as it has taken me the least amount of time. Perhaps I am just getting faster at typing. (or perhaps thinking and being interrupted less) If it really is getting longer each time, then maybe you all better start printing these out to save on eyesight, or something. Now go make balloon animals! You know you want to!

Anyhow, thanks for listening, and keep up the good work! (?)See ya!Mat

Pee Ess: If anyone is interested in seeing some pictures of some places I have been in Japan, they could look on It's the web page belonging to Joseph M, one of the JETs in Tokushima. Ironically, though I have hung out with Joe, as far as i could see, I am not to be found in any of his pictures. I have even watched him take some of those photos. Truth be told, the top of my head IS in one of the group shots, but you are unlikely to know where unless you knew exactly where I was standing at the time. Sadly, I did not make it to the Karaoke night where the place had a bunch of dresses and all the guys put them on. I only heard about it after. Oh yeah, and Joe has said he'll try to catch people like me soon. Anyhow, 5.40 and the school is closing. Gotta go.

That link is now dead. -Fletcher