Wednesday, March 7, 2012

bfg on sonyland doesn't exit

I miss having a ps3. It was so wonderful. Just looking at it by the TV... So sleek, so blue and handsome. But leaving Canada I was reconciled by the fact that I would be spending the next year (heehee I didn't know then I'd be a lifer) in Sonyland. Akihabara was a 50 minute Shinkansen ride from my house. Worry? Please!

Lies. All lies. Sonyland doesn't exit -

I should have known when I first sat down to the yellow ancient keyboard in my office. But only when I asked to borrow a USB stick did I start doubting that Sony was even from this country.

"Sensei, do you or some teacher have a USB I could borrow?"

"Memory stick? Um, well no but we have this," And in her hands, I shit you not, she held out a floppy disk.

The last time I saw a floppy disk was in my DOS class in Secondary 1. Was this a joke?

Sadly, no. The ENTIRE school has everything backed up on floppy disks. Even now I am shacking my head...

I invested in an inexpensive Sony USB which wows my colleagues to no end. Even though there is a wireless network at school, I am not allowed to log-in. There is one projector for the entire school. Recently, all high school teachers in Shizuoka (not ALTs) were given a laptop. I like to call them Dinosaur. They take up 25% of a desks surface, weigh about 5kg and anytime I try to access any decent website the network blocks me. Teachers cannot access videos or pictures easily - whats the point then? Administrative work can be streamlined. Oh, Japan.

So you can imagine what happened last October when I walked into class to teach with SJ, the new iPad. To say my teachers were shocked is an understatement. Some dared to whisper in my vicinity, "~~~ iPad~~." The best part was how excited my kids got - many coming to visit at lunch time to play with the apps. "Sure wash your hands and speak English!" two of those kids later got iPhones with many similar apps to mine and we play "Words With Friends" where they proceed to kick my ass! Suddenly it wasn't about learning English it was about learning about the iPad and my students, who, as monkeys, really can't focus, were engaged and active in the learning process. Words like download, upload, stream, buy, app store where floating around the room and it wasn't my voice but theirs. I just nudged them a bit and they took off... Made my birthday present to myself worth every penny and more. But more so, I think it really showed my teachers that there is more than one way into the castle. Our castle being English.

As a device junkie - Kindle, iPad, iPhone, MacBook, universal remotes, etc. - I am horrified at the gapping hole in lessons: Teachers wasting time writing on a board when they could just prepare a simple Power Point, NOT allowing CD submissions ("Cassettes only thank you!) for speech contests, computers with floppy drives that do not have a FUNCTIONING USB Key input.

Every class I use something: movies, music, power point, pictures, ... I use my iPad as a reward for students who finish class work early - they get to play English games. I use apps like Teacher Pal to take attendance, record grades and input notes on my students ("extremely loud and annoying. Wants to be a singer so loves learning English songs. Will shut-up if lesson is music centered"). Though my supervisor is supportive of this, I was very very depressed when I learned from a friend that the new school building they are constructing does NOT have a projector in every classroom, will not have outlets to support more tech in the class and really doesn't deserve the word "new".

So my question is why? Why are teachers not using these amazing tools to help enrich their lessons, save them time and do something fresh and new. Something that simulates the real world and isn't teacher centric. And why is it that in Sonyland - where the tech industry makes 130 billion US dollars a year, has some of the highest quality cellular phones and is home to such household names as Toshiba, Nintendo, SHAR - technology is excommunicated from the classroom?

And most importantly, how can Japan start taking advantage of the great technology they create and share with the rest of the world for themselves?


bfg returns to lesson planing ... on her computer.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

bfg on why my iPad is amazing

...because I can blog from bed which is awesome.

bfg goes to bed

Sunday, February 5, 2012

bfg on crumbs

Why HELLO there Blog. How are thee? Happy in your Internet universe of whatevers and whatnots? Me, you ask? What of meeeeeee?

Well, today as I was grading my third year students' final exams armed with a whip-free Starbucks mocha a lady sat next to me. Why an interest in a lady sitting next to me? My dear friend, in Japan people with eyelids usually have a one seat radius of open seats. My favourite of course is the bus ride where I sit with so much room all around me as people stand far, far away. Even better is when I sit next to someone, my Italian hips demanding 60% of seat space. No "wa" there.

Naturally, I devoted an entire corner of my eye to her activities and it proved torturous for it took her exactly 71 minutes to eat her teeny-weeny Japanese sized chocolate brownie.

Crumb by fucking crumb, her fork picked away slowly bringing the little bit to her mouth. Chew. Chew Somemore. Swallow.

Before long, I was fantasizing of teaching her how to BITE her food. Sink teeth in. Roll eyes and enjoy this oh-so Herbal Essence experience. Chew slowly. Making noise is okay. While swallowing raise brownie to mouth so as to not be without it for long. By the end, I almost took it away from her. No brownie should be eaten that way.

Those flashing moments, where my mocha is swallowed in 4 gulps while my peers are still playing with the sleeve of their drink is when I realize I am gaigin. It doesn't bother me... but there are moments where I just come home and pretend I am nowhere. Just today while shopping at the GAP, I tried on a pair of pants that fit save for the fact that they only covered half my asscrack. Not a fashion statement I want to be making at this time in my life. Constantly, they tell me, "In Japan, we don't have such sizes" and I feel life I am a VBFG: VERY Big Female Giant.

February has proven to be overwhelming. Not only is it end of semester for me but lots of shit hit the fan: issues with my 2009 and 2010 taxes in Canada and Quebec (Vivre Le Quebec Libre!), huge volunteer project that took up way too much time, 3 birthdays, exams, creative writing projects due, so many detentions I had to "reschedule" some, my daily twenty minutes of Jillian Michaels and my neighbours hearing me scream "Cunt Bitch Ass Whore" after work every day, and mail. So much mail these days with "pay me!" and "you forgot"...

But really the main thing is I have come to the decision that I am going to take a serious step towards staying in Japan permanently. So... I am applying for a second Master's degree- something that can get me a uni position here (or anywhere in Asia  - Singapore and Korea are interesting alternatives). So a big part of this month is getting my application done with everything else. It seems crazy but life here is good. But you know that don't you? Life would have to be good if what I am complaining about is crumbs.

That said, I came home and ate a hefty amount of Pringles in Crumb Ladies honour. I showed her how its done. "Yes! Yes! YES!"

bfg leaves for midnight snack of nutella and peanut butter sandwich.

Monday, August 29, 2011

bfg on "To Blendy, with Love.

Dearest Blendy,

When I found you my world changed - not just for the better... I became a different person, a better person.

Even though we met yesterday, I had to stop myself from tearing off your cap and devouring you. But I had to think of work the next day and a lady needs her sleep! But this morning ... ahhh  so worth the wait. As I threw out the old Liquid Coffee and poured you into my cup, mixed in a little milk... I was knocking on heaven's door.

Blendy Espresso Liquid Coffee, why do you hid yourself on the shelves of Max Value when you should be in the fridge with the other, granted inferior, cold coffees... We went too long apart.

How have I changed? Besides the fact that there was a skip in my step and song in my voice, you mean? Well, even after five cups this morning I had a sixth right before heading out to Curves, my gym. Didn't tell you about it? Oh, I am super famous there. As the only Gaijin not only is my "Curves Message" at the top of the pyramid, but everyone is aware of both my measurements, my attendance - hell, they even tell  me about my own life.

"Vanessa-sensei~! School starts on Thursday~"

"It does? I am not so sure... I should check."

Giggles and sugoi!'s everywhere. "Thursday!! Yes yes."
Well, Hot-Diggitydog! They were right...

When I missed a week for Hiroshima/Kobe vacation, not only was I required to give a full report as to why but I was warned that I really could not afford to eat so much omiyage. "Really? 13 omiyage?"

"But I had to try every flavour~! How many times will I be in Miyajima?"

Of course, I do this while working out so I am saved by the woman's voice saying "Change Station Now" and all the women chanting together "Chan-gi!"

I have friends there Blendy, though none as precious as yourself. My favourite is Glasses Lady. She works out in pink sunglasses. I think I may be in love with her even though she points at me saying "AKAI! AKAI!" (red! red!) to whoever is working out beside her. I forget I am working out trying to figure out what she's thinking.

My Brain: "Oooo pursed lips. Do you think things are getting hard?"

Other part of My Brain that has the voice of my cousin Amanda: "Maaaaa, what are you SAYING!?"

My Brain: "Maybe she is thinking about her doggie. A woman with pink tinted glasses has to have a doggie."

Other Part now switching to Bad Sean Connery: "Peacock."

My Brain: Nods "goooooood one."

After Curves, I treated myself to one more before heading to a coffee shop where I had lemonade. The serving woman almost fainted.

"I-su-du Ca-fe Ra-te?"

"I-su-du Re-mon onegaishimasu!"

"CA - FE Ra- TE" It was like talking to a two year old. Or one of my students.

"ReMON. L size."

Repeat 5 times.

Chatted away with Ashley and got some studying in - no yawning or eye rubbing at all!! Power-biked home in under 15 minutes listening to George Michael, planning a Gay Pride lesson and dreaming of just ONE more cup before bed. I was distracted from my surroundings with the exception of the 70 year old woman (who looked 50) on her mini-bike, MC Hammer pants and florescent Brazilian t-shirt montage-of-athing. She puts Pink Glasses to SHAME. I want her autograph!

Blendy, you made a good life great. Because now I know that with every quirky Ja-of-pan moment I go through I can accent it with a cup of you. Let's party.

bfg goes to watch The Good Wife. Bad title, good show.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

bfg on having the best cup of coffee in the world. And I don't mean maybe.

If I never hear the word "Maybe" for the rest of my life it will be too soon.

Usually moments that are lost in translation are cute. When my student tells me, "I'm hot!" and I explain that can mean sexy we giggle. If a teacher tells me how "terrible and excited" they felt about a movie, I explain that terrible really has no positive meaning. And I just love explaining to the students that "shat" really does not mean "shirt". But "maybe" is so misused, so misunderstood and so frequently that I may become violent.

For example,

"Are you hungry?"



"Did you go to the party last week?"

"I think so."

Oh, really?

The one I hate the most is when I ask for directions.

"How do I get to the movie theatre?"

"Maybe you turn left from Gofukucho at the Seiten."

"Maybe? You don't know?"


"What? Okay, lets look at a map."

"Oh, but we don't need to."

"But you said you don't know where it is exactly..."


"So we should check the map..."


Kill me now Sweet Jesus!!!

Last Sunday after a long series of unfortunate events where the gods reminded me why I must stay indoors with a Japanese Boy-Toy doing my dishes and other domestic duties for handicapped individuals such as myself, I was comin' down the mountain with friends after camping and there before me was this lovely little cabin that said the most beautiful thing I ever read: "Coffee".

Not even waiting for it to stop, I was out of the car running in. It had been more than 24 hours!! How can a human survive? Who would want to ?

"No! Please take off your shoes."

I don't bat an eye. Direct directions is all a white woman on a coffee mission needs.

I never thought caffeine paradise could be on a mountain with bears and wild pigs. I associate such things with going to school not heaven.

But just look at how they made my coffee. It was like a dance! A song! A ceremony! I was so happy I ordered two.

Good enough to go back for thirds? Maybe...

Thursday, July 14, 2011

bfg on when the extraordinary is ordinary

The other day it hit me.

Old man slows down, rolling down the car window to see if I really am what I am. I bow and continue on my merry way.

Clerk overcharges me 10 YEN. Manager has a hernia. I smile and say, "だいじょぶ!” 

Couple stop crossing the street to look at my tattoos. They backtrack, pointing very obviously. I smile and bow my head. Yup, I got tattoos on my chest! Want a closer look? Promise I cover them in an onsen. Cross my heart.

I forgot my 100 YEN pen in the shopping basket on the 6th floor of one of the most crowded malls in Shizuoka. Walking out of the elevator, a clerk meets me at the bottom of the STAIRS out of breath. "GOMEN!!! You forgot this." I take this in stride. She had to take the stairs so she could catch me at the elevator doors, you see.

Fact is, all these little instances that made living in Japan so manga-wide-eyed have become normal. In many ways, I am EXPECTING such behaviour. Does this mean I will wear nylons at work in humidity of 1 gazillion? I am not psycho. But seeing other female teachers with nylons, woollen socks and sandals - all part of my morning coffee experience.

And there are other "settling in"moments - my students have been friendlier to me. They yell "Hello Banessa!" from across the football field, sneak a wave if I walk by the class and some actually smile. One of my shiest students came up to me yesterday to say he was happy "I can speak to Banessa sensei". I was not supposed to teach 2nd year students but this year I was asked to...

Even disciplining is better. They know what I will do. So I give the look and they smile and I say, "Goto!!" and he actually does it. How the hell did that happen!?

And as the realizations hit - that a year has actually past, that many of the people I have relationships are leaving - I think about what will I do this time next year... Right now, with Megane Boy writing me an email about birthday presents, Yuka making me an ink drawing of Taylor Swift and bike tiers screeching in the city streets with the basketball team chasing me for a "Hello" and weekend sighting I can't fathom it.

Summer is here and I need to take a step back at being "Banessa Sensei" and get back into reading, working out - yes, I actually wrote the words without Mother Earth swallowing me whole - and enjoying Japan. Because with this year having gone by so fast, the other one is just around the corner. I have some catching up to do.

Hiroshima! Kobe! Osaka (again)! Here I come!!!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

bfg on the bold and the bloodless

Tonight I am having a girls night ala Edward/Bill/Eric.

That is correct folks - us gals are painting our faces, dressing up to the nines, putting on some Twilighty movies and hitting my kitchen dance floor.

This is my life. Welcome.

I should say this is my life post-thesis; a series of how well I can entertain myself now that I have so much time. The funny thing is now that I and Time are reunited my most productive endeavour is probably getting over the hangover before I drive to work in the morning.

Oh, my walls are littered with to-do lists. Alphabetized. Colour-coordinated. Even stickered and hankoed up. But there is always the day after tomorrow or "not when it's raining" or "after the nap I need since I only slept 7 hours"... etc.

Work is busy enough but while my nights are spent worshiping bloodsuckers my students are energy suckers. My third year students are wild and I find that either I have to just sit back and ride the wave waiting it out or I need to be a marshal. Both are so unappealing and for the first time since I have been here I refused to teach an entire lesson, forcing my JTE's to take care of the first half.

Coming back after two weeks from home, I was itching to get back to work excited to see my students. I guess this is the bad end of the "anticipation" side of things... Who was it that said never make plans or have expectations for anything more than two days in advance? Words of wisdom my friends.

This past month has been a scramble of enjoying freedom, adapting to my work schedule that has doubled and just settling in for another year of Japan. I have posts I need to do on Nagoya, Osaka and even Vietnam. But its been a while and I thought a little note that marks a year from when I opened my placement and read the words "Shizuoka" was called for. Reading all the newbies being so excited of what is to come, I remember how far and yet how behind I am after having spent almost a full year here.

I better start checking things off the list.

bfg gets off her Italian-ass.