Words About Teaching

During my two years serving as the ALT for Ubuyama-mura, I have written some essays on teaching and compiled other resources. I took an extra interest in learning more about educational theory and how it could be applied to our work, constantly thinking about how English classes could be improved. Below are some of the materials that I was able to find(in MS Word format). I will continue to add others as I find them (I have been working on no less than 4 computers on a regular basis). Unfortunately, I can’t post most of my lessons because the files are too large…
Essays and Presentation Material
Death To Engrish!!! Approaches To Improving English Education
Midyear Seminar Presentation: JTE and ALT Relations
Improving your relationship with your ALT/JTE
Things that you need to discuss with your JTE
Interactive Classroom Games And Other Resources
Explanation of Halloween in Japanese and English (used for NHK special, 2002)
Lesson Plans and Materials
Recommended Plan For the 2003-2004 School Year(Yamaga Shogakko)
Directions: How To Get From Here To There (a lesson plan)
Lesson: Family Tree
Cooking (料理をする) French Toast
Emergency English: How To Escape From A Sinking Car
Emergency English: How To Survive An Alligator Attack
Some simple English phrases
Chillin’ with Snoop and Parappa
Sports worksheet (the katakana reflects a more genuine pronunciation of English, rather than correct Japanese)
Other Information
Video Games and Education (from Wired)

Last Lesson Finished

It is 9:30 and I just finished teaching in Ubuyama for the last time. All of my classes are done, and although I still have until the 26th of this month on my contract, my real work here is finished. I spent my last lesson with my 3 nensei chugakkusei students providing guidance on how to translate Japanese sentences into English, and I was impressed by how far they have progressed. There are many bright students in this batch, and I will miss having the chance to chat, share lunch, and to dominate them at ping-pong (sometimes).
The educational system in Ubuyama is something special, as at shogakko and hoikuen I had creative license to create and modify the curriculum as I saw fit. My main priority when teaching at shogakko was to cultivate an interest for foreign cultures and languages in the children, in the hopes that the interests that they have now will kindle a desire to continue learning and to become students unimpeded by geographical or ideological barriers. Mostly I just wanted to show them that learning was fun and to pass out bags and bags of candy and stickers. My classes were designed using tried and true Pavlovian methods and implementing a student centered learning environment whenever possible.
There is a great problem with keeping students enthusiasm about learning English, especially in Junior High School and into higher education. Part of the problem stems from the pressure to focus on technical English to pass tests instead of practical English that can be used to communicate and facilitate the sharing of ideas and common interests. The Japanese educational system is improving, though. Recently, more and more ALTs have been stationed at elementary schools, where they are encouraged to play and teach about culture.
This is a big step towards improving English education in Japan, and it should be recognized that Ubuyama provides their ALT with the opportunity to interact and to influence the children to a very high extent, starting from when they first enter the system in hoikuen (nursery school). No other ALT that I know gets to teach at the same hoikuen four times a month, or for that matter at shogakko four times a month, and some only visit their shogakkos once every two months. I sincerely hope that one day, shogakkusei will have the opportunity to learn English every day, like they do in other countries, in a stimulating environment with lots of support. The children are so smart, and learn so much in the small amount of time that we spend together. I can only imagine how skilled they would become with regular lessons scheduled every day, and hope that this becomes the case in the near future.
Now, I’m off to Osaka in search of another teaching position, in the right school. I have two years under my belt teaching everything from nursery school to high school to adult conversation classes, but I know that I still have much to learn about teaching. All I can say is that I welcome the challenge, and look forward to experiencing a completely different part of Japan and Japanese culture in Kansai from the lens of a person who has lived in the Higo region for two years. Yokka bai, ikko.

Ch-Check It Out

It’s really sad walking into class these days, as many of them are “the last lesson” for that particular group of kids. Most of them haven’t been told that I am leaving, and so when I break the news they have a look in the eyes that is of desperate sadness/ whipped puppy dog/ betrayed best friend that stabs me in the heard and makes me feel bad for deciding to leave Ubuyama. If Ubuyama was closer to civilization then I might want to teach here forever. The kids in my village are pure and innocent, and remain that way because they live in the middle of some of the most beautiful country land I have ever seen. The culture out here is the foundation of Japanese society- the essence of what people take pride in and draw upon in times of hardship.
When I first got to Ubuyama I taught at three hoikuen (nursery/pre-schools). The classes were so small that I got to know the babies on a really personal level. My favorite class consisted of 5 little boys, all super-hyper and pure fun. This class was able to write romaji (the romanized alphabet) at a 6 grade level (in Japan) when they were 5 years old, and their pronunciation was awesome, but unfortunately I didn’t get to teach them more than twice a month after they entered elementary school, and most times I only got to teach them once a month and their English skills (but not enthusiasm for learning English, mind you) deteriorated significantly.
They still remember some of the stuff that I taught them, and I am satisfied with that. My main objective was to stoke their enthusiasm for learning and exploring their interests, regardless of the subject. We studied science, made art, did culture lessons, and I made lessons based on what they expressed interest in learning, but always we learned through play. I found out early on that if you make students study using conventional methods (rote repitition, standard testing, drills) that you can literally fry their impressionable brains and do great harm to their motivation (yes, this is documented and there is some good research material at the ERIC site that explores these issues).
Anyhow, for our last lesson I decided to go out with a day full of games. I taught the whole lesson teaching them how to throw a football (they say American football, but I think that the American part is redundant. Football is football and soccer is soccer) and playing dodgeball, but the part I remember the most is playing musical chairs, the English penilization with candy compensation version. I blasted track one off of To The 5 Boroughs (the new Beastie Boys CD), and they rocked out. As I walked away from our last lesson I heard them rapping out “Check-ch-ch-ch-ch-checkidou! Wha-whu-whu-whussitallabou!”. I could not help but feel a happy satisfaction covering over the sadness. I am truly proud of Tomohiro, Naoto, Kodai, Tatsuhiro, and Yukiharu-kun, and will not be surprised to hear of their successes in the future.

Classroom Punishment

What ever happened to time out or setting up conferences with the parents of a kid who is having problems in school? In Japan, you hear many stories of how screwed up the educational system is, and how the pressure on teachers (to get their students to pass tests) and students (to pass the tests) really is. I can say for certain that if one of my teachers told me to write an apology in blood, I would walk past them and go straight to the principal and call my parents to help me sort this out.
I have been lucky enough to have nice teachers in my schools, in an environment where such behavior would most likely be immediately detected and severely dealt with. I have heard accounts of students being smacked by teachers, and even one case of a retarded student being put into a cage for the period because the teacher couldn’t control him. What ever happened to humiliating a class clown or smartmouth in front of the class, and trying to get to the ultimate cause of problematic behavior? Hopefully, a teacher’s class will be percieved as interesting or at least valuable enough to pressure the students to act in a respectful manner.
It also bothers me how common it is for teachers to have secret relationships with their students. Some teachers have no problem engaging in romantic relations with their students, and this really bothers me. It just doesn’t seem to be such a big deal over here for some reason.

Violent Crime in Japan

Is there a higher rate of violent crime and crime in general in the United States than there is in Japan? Yes, I think that’s a safe thing to say.

Japan is the model most often used by advocates of the prohibition of firearms. There is no private ownership of handguns, and among 120 million people there are only a little more than half a million privately owned long guns, including air rifles.
Japan’s annual homicide rate has been progressively decreasing for a decade and now stands at 1.2 per 100,000. It is reported that 97% of murders are solved – the highest clearance rate in the world.
Japan is one of the most disciplined nations on earth, with an authoritarian and conformist culture that precludes large scale law-breaking. There are few constraints on police powers, especially with respect to search and seizure. Rates of crimes not usually associated with firearms – rape, mugging and assault, are the lowest in the world and are trifling by European and North American standards. Japanese do not kill each other in large numbers because they are, in all respects, extremely law-abiding people. Interestingly, the current Japanese suicide rate of 21 per 100,000 is double the Canadian rate and almost double the rate in the United States. (this study is from 1992)

Japanese frequently and fervently insist that the U.S. is much more dangerous than Japan, but this is almost always based upon what they hear on the news and the movies that they see. I try to explain that only the most sensational news makes international headlines, and that aside from certain locations, the U.S. is a pretty safe place, and some people understand this.
However, the average Japanese violent crime is a hell of a lot more scary than the average violent crime in America. Although the amounts of crimes in which people shoot each other is really low in Japan, a lot of people are slicing and stabbing their victims over here. It makes sense. If there are no guns to kill people with, then you are left with knives. It takes a different kind of killer to weild an edged weapon and to stab and slash someone to death. In comparison, it’s pretty easy to kill with a gun. All you have to do is to aim and squeeze the trigger, and the bullet fills the gap between you and your target, driving itself into a body with its own momentum. If you stand far enough away, you won’t get any blood on you. With a knife, it’s always up close and personal and involves using muscle work and body movements to penetrate flesh (unless you are throwing it, but how many of us would throw a knife at someone we wanted to kill? if you miss, they could pick up the knife and stab you!). You are guarenteed to get blood on your hands. I imagine that killing up close leaves a greater impression on the murderer because it is an intimate act. The greater the physical distance from the victim, the greater the emotional distance can be.
Two days ago, a little girl in the sixth grade used a box cutter to murder a classmate at Okubo Elementary School (in Nagasaki-ken). Lets take a look at an article from the Daily Yomiuri (Thursday, June 3rd, 2004):

“I slashed at her after getting her to sit on a chair. I wanted to kill her,” police sources quoted the girl as saying.
According to Sasebo Police Station and the Sasebo Municipal Board of Education , the sixth-grade girl and Satomi Mitarai, the 12-year-old victim, liket to play with computers and frequently chatted with another friend on their own homepages.
The alleged perpetrator also was quoted as telling the police, “Because her (Satomi’s) attitude was cheeky, I called her (to a study room) and slashed her neck.
The police are investigating what Satomi wrote to the alleged assailant on the Internet and their conversations before the attack.

She killed her classmate because she was being flamed (teased in a chatroom)! And this wasn’t exactly a crime of passion. She planned it out, lured the girl into a room and had her sit down, clicked the box cutter blade out a few notches, and went for the neck! This evil act is so perverted, so unbelievable that it is hard to comprehend how someone, especially an 11 year old Japanese girl, could do it so casually. According to the article, she’s pretty calm about the whole situation and doesn’t seem to be exhibiting signs of remorse.
I remember my brother telling me about a case a few years back about a boy attending JHS in Kobe who cut off his friend’s head and stuck it on a pole in front of the school (mentioned in this article). Seems like a story out of Lord of the Flies, with something far more scary than a pig’s head impaled on a stick. So yes, the United States is a violent place compared to Japan, but I would argue that Japan’s brand of violence is, on average, committed by a much more emotionally disturbed individual, as most of the attacks in Japan are done with knives (another article from today reported that a cleaver and hammer were found next to the corpses of two Japanese men yesterday) and other close quater weapons.
Battle Royale doesn’t seem so much like fiction anymore.

Sannensei Text Bubbles

Today the chugakko third graders were given a picture of two OLs(office ladies) sitting together on a bench, eating lunch together and having a conversation. They were given 20 minutes to write dialogue and I was proud of what they were able to accomplish. Here are a couple of samples from class (No corrections have been made to the original works):

Talkin’ Smack About the Boss
O.L. 1: I hear Kacho has only recently begun to losing hair.
O.L. 2: Really?
O.L. 1: Moreover he thinks he’s cool. He’s a fool.
O.L. 2: Oh, he’s a narcist.
O.L. 1: Thats right. And yet his waif ran away!
O.L. 2: that’s too bad.
O.L. 1: Oh Kacho is coming.
O.L. 2: Run Away!
Pig Woman
A: How are you?
B: I’m drunk and very dangerous now
A: What did you drink yesterday
B: I drank milk.
A: Are you crazy?
B: No. I’m usually not
A: OK. I know. So do you know pig
B: Yes. I am pig
A: Are you OK? Do you understand
B: No I am sleeping now. I solly
A: I don’t want to talk to you anymore bye bye
B: Oh No woooooo
About Relationships
Fumi: Kazuki! How are you?
Kazuki: So so. Fumi! How about you?
Fumi: I’m sad. Because I had a fight with Yasuhiro
Kazuki: That’s too bad. Why?
Fumi: Yasuhiro had an affair with Shunichi.
Kazuki: Oh! Fumi is poor.
A: I often catch my boyfriend.
B: This lunch is very delicious.
A: I often catch my boyfriend.
B: I have to go to work Bye!
A: I often catch my boyfriend. I must kill you.

Now that’s what English class is all about…

Tips On Passing The Driving Test (for converting a Foreign License) In Kumamoto-ken, Japan

Driving in Japan is expensive, complicated, and sometimes frusturating. Following someone who is driving under the (already maddeningly slow) speed limit, cars pulling into the middle of fast moving lanes of traffic (almost) causing accidents, constant roadwork and the workers directing traffic with lightsabres, baffling driving etiquitte, traffic cameras, unmarked Highway Patrollers, and expensive toll roads are just some of the things that irritate me. However, I will gladly put up with these annoyances rather than spend my time trapped on the 405 or 101 during peak traffic hours.
I love driving here in Kumamoto, especially on the country roads. If you like watching WRC Championships (how is Ford doing better than the Citroen, Peugeot, Subaru, and Mitsubishi teams right now???) and playing Gran Turismo 3, then Kyushu is an excellent place to drive. If you are like me, then you need a car in order to commute to work and more importantly to keep your sanity. 103 yen/liter seems a small price to pay for the places that I have been able to explore thanks to my car.
If you are an American, and you spend more than one year in Japan, you must get a Japanese Driver’s License in order to drive legally. Why do Canadians, Brits, and other gaijin get to simply have their licenses converted instead of taking a test like Americans? Well, I can understand that the British use the same traffic signs and drive on the wrong side of the road as well, but why Canadians (this has since been answered in the comments, although the answer did not make me feel any less self-righteous)? In any case, it doesn’t look like the situation is going to change any time soon, so it’s best to just get the license and forget the other bullshit.
Gaijin living in Kumamoto who have to get a license are very lucky. After researching online and talking with friends from different areas in Japan, it seems that most places feel obligated to fail a gaijin at least once despite performance, and to pass Japanese people on their third try even if they are unfit to drive. In Kumamoto, I know of two others who passed on their first try, which is pretty good. People who bitch about Kumamoto’s driving test being “really hard” probably do so because they didn’t do adequate research on the test, because they have trouble understanding what is expected of them when they are driving, and because they don’t know how hard it is to pass the test in other areas of Japan.
However, taking the driving test anywhere in Japan is a pain in the ass because you need to do a lot of stuff before you even go to the center. You need to (aquire and) bring:

1. Your Passport
2. Your Gaijin card
3. Your Inkan
4. Some loot for taking the test, and some more loot for processing after you (hopefully) pass the test..
5. Your license from home along with
6. A translation of your licence from JAF
7. And if nowhere on your liscese says that you have been driving for over a year, you will need a form from the DMV that proves that you have and most likely another translation of this form by JAF.
8. 2 passport photos

In addition, I would also bring along any distractions such as friends, toys, books, homework, etc… You will have a lot of time to kill.
When you are scheduling an appointment, remember to be polite and try to speak in Japanese. If you can’t speak Japanese, see if a friend can help you out, or ask for someone who speaks English. When I scheduled my test and went to the Center, there was a very helpful lady named Mrs. Matsumoto. She speaks English well, but appreciates it if you at least try and speak Japanese. Now that I think about it, at least trying to speak in someone else’s language before resorting to English almost always brings a friendlier response from the locals along with the willingness to help someone out. Is this manipulating the ethnocentricity of others, or shedding your own? I think it’s a little of both, but the bottom line is that it works.
The Written Test
I did too much preparation for this test. I bought a copy of Rules Of The Road from JAF, for 1,000 yen, and read it to prepare. I don’t regret doing it because now I better understand the markings on the road and what some of the obscure signs mean.
There are 10 questions on this test and each is accompanied by a picture. If you miss a question on this test, then you should probably be to wearing a helmet at all times, regardless of the situation. It’s that easy. For example, one question asks something like this:

“If a police officer is standing in the middle of an intersection in front of your car with his arms spread out horizontally you should:
a. pay attention to the signal only
b. drive past the police officer
c. wait until the police officer signals for you to proceed
d. drive over the police officer

Easy stuff. I’m going to recommend reading Rules Of The Road, or at least familiarizing yourself with the signs and markings, as it makes things a lot clearer.
The written test given in the morning along with an eye exam (if you fail this, you should not be driving), and the driving test is administered after lunch. There is a restaraunt downstairs, but the food is nothing special. During the lunch break period, you are allowed to walk the course. I walked it several times until I could recall where to go and what to do with no problem. Walking the course will help you to visualize what you need to do and where you need to do it.
The Driving Test
The driving test is a pain in the ass. There are no English speaking proctors that I know of, and if you get the same guy as I had he will not speak slowly or repeat anything. Just bank on being prepared and remember basic Japanese directions such as “turn”, “right”, “left”, “go straight”, etc… However, if you do everything below that I recommend, you will have a pretty good chance of passing on your first try.

Some Basic Tips
*Always drive on the left hand side of your lane, near the margin of the emergency lane or the curb. If you drive near the center meridian, you will lose points, unless you are making a right turn.
*Drive slowly at all times. If the proctor wants you to go faster he will tell you. If he tells you to slow down, you probably have lost some points.
*Always slow down at crosswalks and look all around for hazards.
*Check your mirrors frequently and make it obvious that you are checking your mirrors. Check your mirrors before you switch lanes, turn corners, or proceed after stopping at signals, stop signs, crosswalks, train crossings, etc…
*Check your blindspots as well whenever you check your mirrors.
*Signal 100 feet before you need to turn and again 20 feet before you turn
*Make sure you do not hit the curb. If you do hit the curb, put the car in reverse and carefully go back. You will not necessarily fail for running over a curb.
*Don’t give up unless the proctor tells you explicitly that you failed and that you are to return to the docking station.

This is a diagram of the driving course at the Kumamoto Driving Center:
The red line indicates the course, and the numbers indicate specific tips for those specific waypoints. I took course 1, and so that is the one which I will be providing tips for. The course starts from the docking station on the bottom and runs clockwise, ending at the same birth in the docking station.

Advice Specific To Course Number One
1. Before you get in your car walk around it and inspect your vehicle. Look under the car (ostensibly to check if there is a young child or some other hazard lurking underneath). Also, it doesn’t hurt to look both ways checkihg for traffic before stepping into the street and opening your door.Once inside your car do the following even if you don’t need to:
A. Buckle your seatbelt.
B. Adjust your seat position
C. Adjust your mirrors.
D. Ask the proctor if you can turn on the ignition
E. Make sure the car is in Park and fire it up.
F. Make sure that there are no distractions (like the air conditioner on high, etc.) and that none of the malfunction lights are on.
G. Put the car into gear, take off the parking break, and signal your departure.
2. Immediately get into the lane, remembering to stay close to the left hand side. Drive slowly and make a point of checking your mirrors and blindspots and look for any pedestrians that may be about to cross (it feels silly looking out for imaginary people, but this is better than having to come spend another full day so you can do it again).
3. Once you round this corner you will be about 100 feet away from your turn. Signal right, check your mirrors and blindspots, and then pull close to the center meridian to make your turn.
4.Signal again when you get 20 feet away and check your mirrors and blindspots again, and turn. I will now assume that you know to signal, check your blindspots, and check your mirrors before you make all of your turns.
5. This is the railroad crossing. Slowly approach it, and stop at the stop line. If you are driving manual, pop the emergency break. Roll down your window to listen for the train, look both ways, check your blindspots, and then slowly proceed. Do not roll your car back down the hill or you will lose points.
6. When approaching this intersection proceed slowly. There are concrete walls on these corners obstructing your view. Come to a complete stop at the intersection, check your mirrors and blindspots, and pull forward slowly to check for traffic. When you determine it is safe, proceed forward.
7.When approaching this intersection proceed slowly. There are concrete walls on these corners obstructing your view. Come to a complete stop at the intersection, check your mirrors and blindspots, and pull forward slowly to check for traffic. When you determine it is safe,pull out slowly and turn left. Signal right away because you are approaching your next turn.
8. Do your turning checks and turn left. Immediately signal for your next right hand turn.
9. This is the part that requires finesse. This road is really small, and the right angle turns will test your driving ability. Remember to drive slowly. As you approach the right turn, stay to the left, and wait until the last moment to cut right (but not too long!). This will ensure that your back tire clears the curb. Immediately get over to the right hand side, so that you can pull the same maneuver for the left turn. After the left turn, stay to the right again, and slowly approach the intersection. Do you turn checks, and drive out close to the center meridian before turning to avoid the last tricky corner.
10. This is an intersection with a traffic signal. Drive slowly and check your mirrors, blindspots, and look for any pedestrians. If the light turns yellow before you reach the crosswalk, you should probably stop, or hit the gas so that you make it through! If you choose to do the latter, let me know how it turns out.
11. The small curvy street is cake compared to #9. Once you turn right at the intersection there is a broken down car on the left side of the road. Check your mirrors and blindspots, signal right, drive around the car and immediately signal left as you check your mirror and blindspot (to the left) and cut over once it’s safe. Do this slowly.
12. Here is a construction site. Treat it the same way as the broken down car in #11.
13. Turn into the causeway quickly, and remember to signal, etc. Head back for the same port from which you started.
14. Park within a foot of the left hand curb, put the car in park, engage the parking break, and shut down the ignition. And now its time for some more waiting!

After the test the proctor will tell you what you did wrong. In my case, I didn’t drive to the left hand side of the lane enough, and he scolded me for being “abunai” (dangerous). After I showed the appropriate amount of (less than genuine) remorse, he told me that I passed. If you fail, you can go home after you schedule your next appointment. If you pass there will be an hour or two more until you are done.
The next step is taking a photo, forking over some more cash to make the license (I think I paid about 4-5,000 yen in all). For the amount of effort that you put into obtaining a liscense, it is really dissapointing. It’s a piece of posterboard laminated on one side, and doesn’t even have any holograms! But at least it brings peace of mind, knowing that you don’t have to depend solely on being a foreigner to bail you out should you find yourself in a driving related incident involving the cops.
A little advice for those of you who are late getting your liscense converted
If you do not have a valid license (meaning that your International Drivers License has expired, or you don’t have one), DO NOT drive to the driving center. If you fail, which you may, they might watch to see how you leave. Have someone drop you off, walk, take the bus, or do something else to get there and back. If not, you risk embarrasing yourself, your employer, and you might even get into serious trouble with the police.
When I was researching how to pass the test, I came upon a very useful site that provided good tips on how to pass the driving test in Japan at globalcompassion.com. It was very helpful to me, and as a form of payback I decided to write an entry similar to theirs, but tailored to Kumamoto. Their site is worth a look to supplement the information on this entry.
Many people contributed to this puddle of knowledge, and so I thank those of you who helped me out with this (Matt, Shige, Tsubasa, Mark, etc…). If this information helps you to pass the test, leave a message and let me know- I’d like to know about it. BTW, if you can think of anything that I have left out, let me know and I will add it to this entry. Good luck.
One last thing…
This entry deals with converting a foreign drivers license to a Japanese license only. If you don’t have a foreign drivers license, then I’m sorry to inform you that your test is likely harder and more expensive. In this case, your best bet is to talk to Mrs. Matsumoto.
Comment Q and A:
hey Adam
just a visitor, passing by, but wanted to say thanks for the april 13 2004 post on driving test tips in kumamoto japan.
i do have one small question, in regard to that post… so do you signal twice? i don’t get it. you say “signal 100 feet before you need to turn and again 20 feet before you turn”… so what youre saying is… signal – for a second – 100 feet before you need to turn – then turn it off – and again 20 feet before you turn?
very interesting, its new to me, the whole signalling twice thing, if in fact thats what youre suggesting.
two more questions came to mind. in the kumamoto driving test, was parallel parking required? ive never entirely mastered that. and about the course, so they give you the map before the test, but its not expected to be memorized is it? im just a bit concerned about how much of the proctor’s commands ill understand… could you post a brief list of useful proctor-driving-commands to listen for.
I’m glad you found that post useful. As for your questions:
1. Yes, you signal 2 times, once 100 feet before you turn and during your turn (check how I wrote it again, because I don’t remember the test so well right now). It’s something that you won’t do in real life, but they insist on you doing on the course.
2. Parallel parking- there was none when I took it. The closest thing to parallel parking was pulling the car up along the parking station where you start and finish the course. Take it slow, and it’s a piece of cake.
3. It is best to remember the course, which is easy if you look at the map and walk through it a few times with map in hand. As for commands, they’re pretty easy and go something like:
Ikimasu- go
yukkuri- slow
Migi o magatte- turn right
Hidari o magatte- turn left
Koko ni tomete- stop here
That’s about the extent of what I remember. Another piece of advice- take along a dictionary and something to write with and on just in case.


Today I was eating lunch at the new Hoikuen with the Yuri-gumi (Hoikuen is divided by age groups from oldest to youngest: sakura-gumi, yuri-gumi, and ume-gumi) across from a 4 year old boy, while the 4 year old boy in back of me was chewing on my sweatshirt refusing to stop or to admit that it wasn’t “oishii”. When I finally got his jaws open and made him sit a safe distance away, the kid in front, mouth full of fried chicken and rice, lets out a monster sneeze, blowing chunks of partially masticated saliva coated food mixed with atomized snot globules. Yup, the post mortem is right there on my tray. But the teachers didn’t see it and suggest that I should get a new tray full of sanitary food, so I sucked it up and cleaned my plate. All throughout the meal, the 4 year old had an evil smile on his face, and I couldn’t help but wonder if he had done it on purpose. I think that was nastier than involuntarity eating bugs in Thailand.
Today’s random link: Kushami Otaku– for people who really dig sneezes.

My Girls

…Mmmmm… American Football wa cho-umai daro!
This weekend I finally got to meet some of the wonderful girls that I teach (via computer, and check out this description of me. not my best picture or profile, I suppose.) at Daiichi High School. Unfortunately, 5 out of 9 of them were too too sick to make it on Saturday, but we still had a great time together. It’s amazing how motivated these students are to learn English, and it always surprises me when they express embarassment in their abilities. They should rightfully be proud of their impressive skillz. I wish I could speak Japanese as well as they speak English!
Saturday was a very unusual day in Kumamoto city. I woke up to find snow covering the ground and my car, and for a minute I thought I was back in Ubuyama. Needless to say, the taikan (gym) at Daiichi High School was freezing, but we all managed to stay warm by playing games and doing activities. I just wish that we had a longer time to chat and hang out. By the time I finally got warmed up and started to get to know everybody, the event came to a close. Thats the way it always seems to happen. If only I could spend a whole year with the students that I teach at these camps…
I would also like to say that my groups once again dominated in all of the contests (although they weren’t necessarily recognized for it. ah, who would think that winning too much could have drawbacks?)! Ah, if only all English classes were fun and games, then more people would be speaking English.
And just to pre-emtively answer you: no, I will not hook you up with any phone numbers, dog, so don’t even ask. Not on my watch.