Thursday, 26 February 2009

PostHeaderIcon リラックス

Right... since I always complain about things, I thought I'd write a short update of me being content. I'm in my bed reading a book (After Dark by Haruki Murakami - how Japanese of me), drinking a massive cup of tea and listening to classical music. I had fantastic fried pork for dinner and we're going to make pancakes for Shrove Tuesday tomorrow. Also, I can hear the rain outside which always makes me feel extra relaxed. I mean... today has been so stressful. I did absolutely no work or Japanese study today and I'm not sure how I managed to come out of the day still sane. I made these fake album covers this morning. What you do is find a random wikipedia article (band name), the last 5 words of a famous quotation (album title) and a random picture of Flickr to be the cover. Here are my attempts:

I'm thinking.. of The Prodigy.

This is more of your new millenium Belle and Sebastian types

Mid-90s grunge?

The best band name by far. I keep thinking "Queens of the Stone Age"

Update: It's 11am on Friday morning and I took the morning off work and stayed in bed. I'm doing all the same things as last night. Hurrah
Wednesday, 18 February 2009

PostHeaderIcon Tea

Good morning. I need to be in work in about 4 minutes but I just made a lovely mug of tea. It's too hot to down it right now and I want to enjoy it. Should I pour it into my 四国銀行 (Shikoku Bank) thermal flask and take it into work? 8:09am

I drank as much as I could and then went to work. I found a new favourite kanji just there that I would like to share with you. 脂 has two readings. One of them is 'abura/あぶら' which means lard/grease and the other is 'yani/やに' which means cigarette tar or the gunk in your eye when you wake up. It was part of this saying my eikaiwa taught me last night 脂が乗る which kind of means to 'get into the swing of things'. The two parts are the lard/grease and the verb for to get on/to ride/to board. So there you go. 8:29am

I've been studying Japanese for 2 and a half hours. This must be a new record for 2009. I haven't really learned much though. I've been listening to a conversation between Jim Miller and Aya Endou. Jim is some annoying Yank who can't watch a new drama because his TV is broken. Aya suggests they go buy a new one the next day at a cheap store. It has spacious parking. I can't tell if Jim fancies Aya more than she fancies him. I think Jim might be using her to practice his Japanese. 11:04am

Ahhh.... the crushing defeat of another failed elementary school visit. Nothing like a bowl full of gruel to go alongside being mocked by a bunch of ten year olds. I got sad so I went to the music room to smash the drums and the vice-principal walked in on me... probably ready to shout at a student. I then got told not to worry about my lessons tomorrow because somebody else has already done them. I hope this isn't the 'Smartboard' which is a new piece of technology that is apparently better than me. It's afternoons like this that make me want to pack up my crap and go do something else with my life and youth. Or top myself. Both sound more appealing than ever eating lunch with 4th and 5th grade again. 1:48pm

The pangs of depression have subsided in the late afternoon. I've spent the last two hours studying Japanese in between listening to the late and great Bill Hicks. Have you ever noticed how creationists look so unevolved? I'm going to hit the gym again later tonight and try and finish my current book. There is a chance however that I will just watch a DVD, make dinner and have a beer. 4:18pm
Monday, 16 February 2009

PostHeaderIcon 37.25%

I got 149/400 on my Level 3 Japanese test. I failed it pretty miserably but I never really expected to pass it. However, I kind of regret not studying parts of it now because I reckon I could have picked up another 50-100 marks pretty easily. It wasn't the lowest level but it was still pretty basic stuff so I feel a bit stupid:

52/100 on Writing/Vocabulary
43/100 on Listening
54/200 on Reading/Grammar

With a nice big 不合格 (FAILED) underneath it. The worst thing was that my friend Joey wiped the floor with me and got 227/400. He still failed though. The idiot.

Since I have re-contracted I am trying to kick start an improved version of me. This includes exercising (30 minute run tonight), studying Japanese (I have a new course book infront of me) and drinking less alcohol (not had a beer today!). That's all for now. Cheerio
Friday, 13 February 2009

PostHeaderIcon ノーアアアア

There is a woman that sits next to me at work who drives me insane. Today she has a massive show class with about 70 people coming to watch her. Next year they are introducing mandatory English classes to 5th and 6th grade students at elementary school. My school in Tano has been chosen as an example school and so this class is pretty important. However, I don't know why she is involved because she is not the homeroom teacher. More importantly... her English is so diabolical that I can't believe she has the audacity to get involved so much. For example, she has just asked Noah how to say:

My name is
Nice to meet you
Slower please
And last but not least... the alphabet. The alphabet.

Noaaaaaa. Noaaaaaaa. Mai naemu izu.... Mau naemu izi.... srrroooaaaa purease.... srrrooa puuureaaase. A A A B B B SHI SHI SHI.

I lost the plot when the whole office joined in with a massive rendition of Nice to meet you nice to meet you nice to meet you. You know... I learned how to say that in my first week here. I suppose I should go back to Scotland and teach a show case class on primary school Japanese.

Can't.... stop..... complaining.
Thursday, 12 February 2009

PostHeaderIcon Different Japan: In The Office

Whispering to each other in the office.

Clipping your toenails into the bin next to me in the office.

Talking to yourself in a loud voice in the office.

Making loud YOOOOOSSSHHII noises to let everyone know how hard you've been working.... in the office.
Monday, 9 February 2009

PostHeaderIcon I rabu Nihon

Hello. It is a new week and I am in a more positive mood. Japan is the greatest place in the world. Actually... I'm back in my Board of Education and all my new found motivation is slowly dissolving in the late afternoon. Nope... listen.... right.... everything is going to be just fine. My eyes have stopped twitching and I'm so tired from watching Wales destroy Scotland at the rugby last night that I can't think even if I wanted to. Result.

I'm going to write a book. It's going to be great and I'll make so much money I can just read newspapers and drink tea all day until I die. Alright... how do you write a book?

Sunday, 8 February 2009

PostHeaderIcon 18 months

Good evening. I won't lie... it has been a bit of a horrible week. Ever since last Sunday night I've started to think about life too much and I have continued to do so. The deadline for re-contracting was on Friday and it acted as a catalyst for a minor breakdown for my friends and I. I've had a headache all week as a result of the constant self-analysis that has tormented my existence. I've been feeling quite confident about a third year for the past few weeks but everything just fell apart last week. It didn't help that my work were being really irritating and I was in a constant conversation of despair with a certain Mr Brennan who was suffering a more severe inner turmoil.

I have decided to stay for another 18 months and I'm pretty confident about my call. I can't be bothered going through all the points as I've done enough of that in my head. It is the best decision given my own circumstances and I think I will continue to enjoy it. However, this week made me realise that some things here have been making me unhappy recently. The saddest thing is that I do not know how to change them. I feel like I am stuck in a situation that I can't alter even if I had the motivation to do so. I don't like a lot of the people I work with and they don't like me. I have absolutely no connections with my colleagues and I am starting to dislike a lot of my elementary classes. My Japanese is pathetic but I do not have the chance to practice at my own speed. By that I mean... people at work just bark Japanese at me without trying to communicate and in recent months I have no good Japanese friends. I live in a gaijin bubble and I continue to work so I can enjoy my social life. I'm meant to be 'internationalising' my rural town but recently I have done absolutely nothing. I literally have no positive relationships with Japanese people or my town. My work has wasted Noah and I. They do not treat us like equals and sometimes I feel like I could stay in bed all day and nobody would notice. I'm not too ashamed to say I feel isolated at work and the late afternoons eat away at my soul.

That about sums up all the negatives and they are mostly work related. Recently I have just felt so disconnected from Japanese life and I'm not that fussed with it. I have such a high degree of self-loathing that when I start to blame other people for my problems then I know they're probably to blame for it. The rest of my life is great and I love things like having my own house, hanging out with my friends, my own car and loads of yen to blow away. Also, I've been going out with someone for the past few weeks and that's been going well. In saying that... a lot of people I know (and love sniff) will be leaving in the summer. I've been joking about it all weekend but I did actually have a little bit of emotion when I was uploading new pictures I took at the weekend. Anyone who reads this often might have heard me mention Noah, Joey and Andrew because we do stuff all the time. Well.... they're all going to leave me in the summer. One of my first memories in Tokyo was meeting Joey/Andrew in a conference room and the three of us had no idea what we were saying to each other. I think I might actually have an emotional breakdown when they leave. It's strange because the 2 year JET life is quite common and I feel like I'm being unusual by staying longer. Life here is so temporary and continuously timed/measured that it is different from reality sometimes.

This is my first real/complaining blog post in ages and it doesn't seem that well structured. I've actually had about 5 drafts for other matters but I never posted them. I guess the second year is just a repeat of things that got me excited/angry in the first year. Also, I get embarrassed when I read through on old entry and I'm now aware that people read all these ramblings.

What else is there to say?

I really want to go home and watch the rugby in a pub. I want sausages and newspapers.

I've been reading a lot more books and listening to music from Glasgow to soothe my brain. This has only made me regret not appreciating how amazing Glasgow actually is when I lived there.

I might be going to see Franz Ferdinand in Tokyo next week - a Uni friend is doing the sound for them but he is unreliable.

This has been one of the most stressful weeks I can remember and I only taught about 8 classes.

I'm planning a month long trip in the summer. I might try and get unpaid leave.

I have a desire to study Gaelic and German... it makes no sense.

I had this goatee for one day. I'm now in a February beard-off competition.

They're all leaving me. WHY?

I love this picture aye.
Tuesday, 3 February 2009

PostHeaderIcon Different Japan: Setsubun


I thought I'd break my blog hiatus by writing about a little bit of Japanese culture I just forced myself to do on this rainy and bleak evening. Setsubun (節分) literally means "seasonal division" and it is the day before the beginning of a new season. However, the main day that is celebrated is that of February 3rd as tomorrow is apparently the start of spring. Also, the proper name for today is actually Risshun (立春) which.... err has the kanji for 'stand' and 'spring'.

Anyway... it is historically linked to the Lunar New Year and is a sort of New Year Eve's sort of celebration. Therefore, there is a special ritual to get rid of all the evil demons from the previous year. To do this you shout ONI WA SOTO (鬼は外) which means DEMON OUT whilst throwing soy beans outside. After this you go outside and shout FUKU WA UCHI (福は内) or GOOD LUCK IN whilst throwing more beans. It is then custom to eat a bean for each year you have been alive. I think the man of the household usually does all this and sometimes someone in the family will put on a demon mask and be chased away. I quite liked the sound of it when my English teacher mentioned it so I bought some beans after work and did it there. I quite enjoyed the shouting to be honest. Bit of a stressful week.

Also, this custom seems to have similarities around the world and reminds me of Hogmany/New Year in Scotland. Not only did my mother open the windows to the let freezing "new year air" in but there is an old custom called "first-footing". A tall, dark-haired man is usually chosen to be the first person to cross the threshold of a house during the new year. They need to leave the house before midnight and return after "the bells". They're meant to bring gifts that will bring good luck to the house in the next year. This used to be coins, salt, bread and coal which symbolised wealth/flavour/food and warmth. Nowadays it is more common just to bring whisky and shortbread.

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About Me

I am a 24 year old Scotsman currently teaching English to Japanese schoolchildren. I live in a small town on the east coast of Kochi prefecture.