Monday, December 6, 2010

bfg on nerves

I took a nap today. God, slipping between my MUJI sheets with a heater on. Simple pleasures are the best.

I am a little on nerves. The next four weekends are packed with to-dos. End of semester has had me correcting and staying over-time, not that that is news. And I have to finish this draft by January 10th or I will just shoot myself. I need to sign off on this.

Last week, I sat in front of my computer every night and wrote nothing except unimaginative facebook statuses. Maybe I should ask my thesis advisor if I can add that to my word count? He is pretty cool after all...

I was inspired today after I spoke with my friend Hide who helped me out with SLAMDUNK BUSHIDO, a book that discusses how the manga Slamdunk is the modern reference for bushido. I have to confess I was really unenthusiastic when my prof "suggested" that I read it. I mean his suggestion is like God saying to Moses "I think you should go down the mountain. Just a suggestion." Right.

But buy book three, I was addicted. Yeah, I know. Vanessa Giovanna Salera Gaudio likes a manga that is about BASKETBALL. This is humourous. The last time I played basketball I was centre in high school in gym class. As I jumped for the ball determined to "tip" it to a player that was actually on my team, I missed it completely and the ball landed smack on my nose. I did manage to injure the other centre! This of course led to my high school motto, "Gym is against my religion" which followed with me arguing with my teachers that they could not force me to do something against my religious beliefs. Seriously.

But I love it. I adore this book. I am on Volume 12; 13 came out yesterday and you BETTER believe that even swamped with exam correcting I bought it. I don't want to write about it much here. I can't - need to save that for my Big-T but it really is the "Japanese Bible" as my Japanese friends like to say.

Right now, the funniest thing is I really, really miss home: Antonio, nephews, three am with Robert and talking about how Three Musketeers is the greatest book in the world while drinking champagne. Did you know I missed seeing William Gibson and Tad Williams? Those two had to choose the year I am not in Montreal to come. Really. Honestly. I may not buy paperback editions of your books anymore dudes~!! Only the hardcovers. But yeah, sometimes during the day I find myself looking into space and wishing I was home.

And yet, I feel so at home right now. My new furniture has like suddenly brought this "Your home" feel to life here. I am excited to go to my apartment and just sit in my MUJI chair and flip through kids books in Japanese while samurai movies play in the back ground. How I can have these two intense emotions - since everything is intense with me. Its the WOP factor - at the same time I do not know. But it is exhausting and I blame it for causing my writers block. Dam you! *shakes fist*

This Friday I have a party! Yeah. I am excited - I love dancing and singing and champagne. Doing it with friends is even better. I am a little perturbed as I got emails and requests from people I didn't even know so I capped it all up. Sucks but I am old and entertaining more than thirty people just won't be fun for me anymore. And this is an all-me universe. It is my blog after all.

I may invite Doutor boy but for some reason I haven't been able to talk with this guy. Promise though I haven't played with the toilet ONCE this week. Award winning.

Gina is coming in two weeks - a friend from home. Disneyland and Disneysea for Christmas and if money permits maybe a getaway to a spa hotel in Izu. I really should shut-up. Nerves? In the end, it is all my fault. I filled my schedule with this, volunteering at a kids Christmas party where BFG is the present, Fuji with some students, Muji coffee with another student (Lisa the hair girl), ...

Anyways, bfg needs to return to Big-T. Its always a good thing after referring to oneself in the third person.

Monday, November 22, 2010

bfg on Japan Attack

I have this habit of thinking of the worse. I mean the ultimate worse. Please remember I have a vivid imagination - I can think up anything.

I also have this habit when people approach me that I am under attack 'cause I did something wrong: I broke something; I shoved something; I owe you money; I looked at you strange; I snarled at your cat; something that I did that I am probably totally unconscious of. It is kinda selfish of me to think that way - like the world centres around me - but so it goes.

So last night at 4am when I was doing the finishing touches of the last final exam I had to do for OC I and the Doutor Boy came up to me, I almost shat in my pants. I was listening to music and he caught my attention by leaning forward.

             Holy Moses! How long has he been standing there? Boy, he is standing    
            really straight. Oh crap! What did I do?!

He was standing super straight and he was not smiling. In fact, he was almost frowning but not really. Okay, his face had tension. And his eyes were all small. I was scared. So scared I forgot he was Japanese. Baka-bitch moment #827374

              Boy, this is scary. What did I do now...? Did I crack that cup? I knew I put it  
             down too hard. Shit! No, no. Was it the toilet seat? I really need to stop 
             experimenting with those buttons in the toilet they must thing I do some    
             serious Number Two every time I go....

He finally spoke after not blinking for a like a minute. By then I had removed my ear phones, which were blasting "Love the Way you Lie" on repeat, and gave him my most brilliant smile. Make it hard for him. "I ... am... sorry to interrupt you but I must speak with you."

At this point I was ready to vomit.

              Why me? Why do I get the sickos! I mean, I look like shit. I WEAR A 
             WINTER HAT in here so the smoke doesn't get into my hair and this guy 
            "must speak with me".

".... I am very sorry but...."

              Oh no! It is the toilet. Stupid Vanessa. Stupid stupid. What other 24 hr cafe 
              is there around that actually serves real coffee? Nowhere that's where! 
              Fuck! Maybe it is because I plug in my laptop....

"You bought a toast before...."

             Brain fart. Not where he should be going... Did I like forget to bow or  
             something? I always say thank you!

Smile! "Yes, I did!"

"With strawberry jam."

"Yes. I always take strawberry jam." Strawberry jam is one of those things when you eat it the world is at peace, all is well and you have no problems.

"And there was a grave error."

               The dude used the word "grave" What the fuck did I do? WHAT!?

"The toast is 200 YEN..."

                Idiot Vanessa! Did you give him like a 50 YEN instead of a 100 YEN?

"I am so sorry!" I go for my wallet.

"No!" The most expression he had so far. "You paid 210 YEN. We are so sorry for this error."

               You mean... I didn't do anything?

"I didn't do anything..."

"We are so sorry." He gave me a receipt and the 10 YEN. I start laughing hysterically.

"Your English is so good!"

"Thank you!"

And so we continued our conversation for a minute or so where I learned he was a Shizuoka Uni student and working late nights. Nicest guy, always makes my toast with a nod. That is why I was so surprised when he was ubber-serious, you know?

So now I am friends with Doutor Boy! Which is lovely because I do spend so much time there. His English is amazing though... think about it! He used the word "interrupt" and "grave". AMAZING.

And again, the moment the 10 YEN fiasco cleared up and I asked him a question about himself, he seemed a little surprised but was so open and just happy it seemed that someone noticed. Maybe too that he could use the thing he has been studying. I mean I feel like a BILLION dollars when I tell a taxi driver how to get to my house here. All to say - there is something I can not get my finger on but I love how the process of meeting someone in Japan really is like blossoming. Slow but really opening up.

This does mean of course I won't be playing with the Doutor toilet. For a while anyways. I tell you though, it is a wonder of Japan to behold.

bfg gets ready for furniture shopping with Yuka! Success!! Even though I am poor.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

bfg on 37%

I just got out of the bath. Like, really... I stood up, wrapped my big purple towel around me, flopped on my bed, opened my computer and the fake M&Ms I got from Muji and started this.

I took my first bath today probably since I was a kid. It is possible friends may have stuck me in a bath during an evening of drunken stupper but that doesn't count as I do not remember a thing.

It was wonderful. I got some fruity bubble bath from my friend for my birthday and I put that in. It felt like I was a Duchess or something. New white tub. Fruity water. An awesome manga to read in the bath... Divine.

Confession: I lasted ten minutes. By then, the idea of just sitting somewhere doing nothing gave me such anxiety I had to get out. Am I really that Japanese?

My skin is still tickling and my cramps have really subsided so I can understand why the Japanese say they don't feel "clean" with just a shower. Except needing to end it early, it was really nice and may be the thing I needed to get over my nervousness and go to an onsen. Actually, now that I am writing this maybe not. So it goes in Vanessa land.

Busy day but awesome. I tutored my little Miko-chan this morning. We invented a skipping rope spelling game which rocked. We played cards and learnt new words... the great thing about one-on-one teaching is how I can shift gears suddenly and turn everything into a learning experience. Even jump rope. It is something I want to do in my class but I like the skill and experience. I have been in classes with teachers like that but I don't know how to do it. I am a list woman. I write a list, I cross it off and I love every minute of it. (In case you are wondering, yes I am tutoring her on the side but she is a family friend so I am doing it for free. On JET you are not supposed to accept any more moneys and as tempted as I would be in Shizuoka everyone knows everyone. And if they don't, they soon will!)

I missed my bus but still made it to the library on time. I volunteered at the local library to  read in English (or French or Italian) to little kids. No other word for that than great. Sometimes when I read the FB status' of my friends teaching in younger level schools I am a little jealous at the "oh so genki" remarks. Do not get me wrong - I am not made for elementary school but I do like the squealing and running around in hour doses. About 10 kids came today and it was great. The were super into the the book about Casey and Barney the dogs who ran in the snow. The giggled and clapped and yelled "Omoshiroi!" about a hundred times. And god, Japanese kids are so dam cute. I loved how at the end even the old lady who was listening came up to us and said, "Tanoshi!" I couldn't help but giggle and for those thirty minutes I really forgot about my to-do list. It was more relaxing than my bath! Me drowning in the excitement of six year olds. Not to mention books.

After that I helped my friend plan her Christmas party for the 12 kids she tutors. We are going to write letters to Santa Clause and bake cookies. So cute! It will be my one Christmas party and I am excited about it since it will probably be the closest thing to an actual Christmas Celebration for me this year.

And then - yes the day is not yet over - off to MUJI where I bought the nephew, the bf and my students some Christmas presents. That is when I saw it... the chair.

Back home I have Neal, my Reading Chair. I found his Japanese twin brother in Muji the first time I went there. But 10 000 Yen plus 1500 yen for shipping made it not worth it. But today - everything was 10 % off. It was like almost free! I bought the chair, pens and the presents I kinda mentioned above. The sibling arrives on November 28th along with my Disney tickets. Bliss.

List of trips I am planning: Vietnam in March, Montreal early May and Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Tokyo early August. My treats if my 3K word count blossums into 20K and I actually pass. Oh, post-masters life is going to be so ... different!


That said I was tagged to do this on Facebook but thought here would be more appropriate. Learning someones reading list is a sure way of getting to know them. heehee

Have you read more than 6 of these books? The BBC believes most people will have read only 6 of the 100 books listed here. (BBC, Guardian, whatever)

Instructions: Bold those books you've read in their entirety. Italicize the ones you started but didn't finish or read only an excerpt. 

1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien - I read up to Half way threw Return of the King. My favourite is book 2.
3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series – JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
6 The Bible: My parents were so scared when I told them I wanted to read the Bible. And I did it. hahaha. Book of Amos is my favourite.
7 Wuthering Heights --Emily Bronte: I own several copies at home though.
8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell: my shame. Dark stain on my book list.
9 His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman: and I plan on going to Oxford in 2012 to visit my friend and reread the series. Sigh of pleasure.
10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa May Alcott: Yeah. I am still super pissed she didn't end up with the neighbour. That never made sense.
12 Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier: But I am dying to! Birthday present!?
16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien: I don't think I can. Never liked his writing style just his ideas.
17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller's Wife – Audrey Niffenegger: meh.
20 Middlemarch – George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell: in High School. I met my best friend there because we were reading it at the same time.
22 The Great Gatsby -- F Scott Fitzgerald: three times in one day the first time. I love this book.
23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath –  John Steinbeck  
29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina –Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis
34 Emma – Jane Austen: my ONLY austen unread. ANOTHER BLACK STAIN
35 Persuasion – Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Berniere
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - William Golden: And I never will. What retard put this here?
40 Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne
41 Animal Farm – George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown: In one day.
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabrial Garcia Marquez: Yes, unfortunately I read this piece of garbage.
44 A Prayer for Owen Meany – John Irving: and every time I think of it I think of my friend Cathy Humes!
45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery: and all the other nine
47 Far from the Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaids Tale - Margaret Atwood: fuck you atwood. This is SF. Face it.
49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding: love it.
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan: God. English at its best.
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martell
52 Dune – Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
60 Love in the time of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez: better but still bleh
61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov: amazing.
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas: YES YES YES. 
66 On the Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula – Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes from a Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal – Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
80  Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - Charles Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker: I just bought it and wrote a paper on it but haven't read it HAHAHA.
84 The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte's Web - EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad: YES twice. Better the second time.
92 The Little Prince - Antoine de Saint Exupery: In English and French
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces – John  Kennedy Toole: I could not finish this horrible book.
96 A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet – William Shakespeare
99 Charlie & the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo


= 37% read. Glass half full.

This list sucks. I was scared there would be no Dumas. There is no list without that man's name on it. 

Memoirs of a Geisha though? Confederacy of Dunces...? Really? 

I really need to catch up on my Dickens. Shame.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

bfg on fucking japan

Table of Contents


1 - Why I fucking hate Japan

2 - Why I fucking love Japan



Like any good epic, a forward is required if for no other reason than to establish myself as a posh-Edith-Wardenesque type of writer. Is it working?

Tonight was supposed to be simple: Come home. Change. Fight the urge to nap. Go to Doutor and write at least 500 words for my thesis and clear out some ideas I am having a significant amount of trouble expressing without facial expressions, bodily noises and hand gestures to accompany it. Go home. Curl in bed with SLAMDUNK and actually get more than 5 hours sleep.

Right. I did all that. In fact, I am in bed right now. Curled up. SLAMDUNK volumes 11 & 12 are right by me saying, "Vanessa, please read us. Open us. Use us. Please. We need you." But something happened - see chapter 2 - and I just feel like I have to write it while the feelings are fresh and before I convince myself that perhaps shutting my WOP mouth would be better then telling the world about fucking japan. Oh me, oh my.

Chapter 1

I fucking hate Japan.

I am sick of the banking here. It is shit. It is shits creek without a boat or a paddle or a pair of underwear for some protection of any kind. The people are wonderful and nice but the hours are garbage, I can't get the convenience of whiping out the CCard and buying stuff (and getting points!). So I didn't really think about money until coming home, realizing I had enough money for supper but that was about it.

"No problem," Relaxed Vanessa told Scolding Vanessa. "Tomorrow is pay day! Just go to the bank in the morning and get money."

Relaxed Vanessa won until Brain Vanessa woke up and reminded all of Vs that one does not get paid in the morning. One gets paid when the bank opens... what is that, 8am? I am supposed to be on the train at that time.

Relaxed V chips in, "No problem just buy tickets with the Credit C... - FUCK YOU JAPAN."

So the no credit-cards-think-ahead-about-your-money-in-your-wallet business is not working out too well for me. I am a woman of the modern era. I manage all my bills online, pay them, save what I have to save and spend the rest until the sun don't shine.

Now, if I didn't have to go to the retarded JET "Mid Year Seminar", which is in essence bureaucratic masturbation of the worst kind, I would be fine. But no! I need to pay just over 1100 YEN to get my ass in some Workshop whose outline I could just read in an email and it would be as rewarding.

That said, some of you may be current JETS- as in future current JETs or now current JETs - and wonder at my resentment for having to go. All this week, I had to run around and reschedule my classes because I have to make them up before the test. The teacher's wouldn't meet for whatever reason - they are pretty busy themselves mind you - so it is difficult organizing a whole ring-around of class rearranging for that. AHHHH!

This also means that the following week I am teaching 4 even 5 classes in one day. That is disgusting.

On my way home though, Nicer Vanessa was telling Bitch-ass (no I am totally not over ass words yet) Vanessa "Well than Miss Smarty Ass. How would you organize MYS?"

I had to think long and hard on this one. Not to long - I have a thesis to write! - but I could see how it would be difficult, and there will always be a Grumbler, likely with a name that begins with a V because what can I say we are just like that, who is unhappy. But the one thing that was wonderful was seeing the other JETs, especially my fellow 1st years, and blurbing out everything. Everything.

"... and so Smart V, I would structure this support group style. Have a circle where people can share what is working for them, what isn't, ask questions and just be way more free style talk about whatever. Basically just meet, preferably over food that won't clog an artery. Our lunch was so much more rewarding where we sat down and just got to talk without thinking about the time, or spot light, or anything and let it out. Mixed in with some jokes and some "Oh I need to try that" I would say I would want to spend an afternoon doing that." But never, ever two days. Perposturous. And what are ridiculous activity to assimilate an activity in 10 minutes.

Since this is the bitter chapter of my post, I will comment yet again on the lack of insulation in this country. Rebuild your homes Toshiba-land and stick a personal computer in them while you are at it! My windows shake if I blow on them. I pee with a blanket and sometimes I wear my scooter helmet in the house to conserve the heat in my body. I also wear my helmut because for some reason I am hitting my head on doors and counter edges these days - don't ask. I am COLD people and I am from Montreal! Go figure! I never ever want to stay home and being at Doutor all the time is definitely saving me loads of cash on the hitting bill.

My lamentation, at least my written one, shall end here. For now.


Chapter 2

I fucking LOVE Japan

So yeah, the thesis. Lots of time at the 24 hr cafe. Lots of computer time and wearing jeans and toques with truck drivers and people who missed their last train for company. We are a cool, rough gang but we like our Doutor coffee and so...

A few days ago, a lovely young woman sat next to me. I was dying to compliment her on her dress which was like a potato sack and looked utterly gorgeous on her. I would wear that and people would probably pay me to take it off. This girl looked stunning with her carpet material red and yellow shoes, dark leg warmers and dark purple stockings that are so like my own it made me think of us as instant sisters.

After 5 hours and several coffees we smiled, nodded, giggled and then just said "hello" to each other. M and I now repeat this every night pretty much - just sit there from 11 pm to about 3am, she drawing manga and I trying to figure out ... thesisy things.

Today, I was with my friend A Lot Of Snow - my Native American name for Takayuki - typing away. The Thesis Partners both gunning for a December deadline. And so I think when M saw us she may have felt like she was intruding the great typing rhythm we had going - no honestly, I may need to record an album - and sat somewhere else. When I was leaving I plopped into a chair beside her.

"Ha! I am sorry I was really into my work. How are you?" This was said in half english half Japanese. This is probably my first friend whose English proficiency is equal to my Japanese. Weirdly enough, I am pretty excited about this - you know actually talking in Japanese outside of school and service situation.

"Daijyobu!" And then she takes out a bag. "ageru." It was for me.

A bag of cookies she made for me at the pasterie where she works. She also drew a manga drawing to go with it.

I was so touched. So moved. All I do is sit next to her and we giggle over being tired and drinking too much Doutor water and she went and did something Japanese that moved me to tears.

Of course, I opened the bag and ate some cookies which made her laugh. We talked some more and she is going to make a Christmas card for me which I will send Luca as a present. So exciting.

I know I said this before but it still just amazes me how beautiful friendship is with the friends I have made here. Perhaps it is because what they can not express in words - be it due to shyness or just language barrier - they express with a small but so thoughtful token. It really makes me feel so appreciated and loved and I miss home at that moment but know I wouldn't want to be anywhere else.

Well maybe one other place.

DISNEY LAND. No no no.


YES BIYACHES! I AM GOING TO DISNEY ON THE 24th and 25th OF DECEMBER. Minnie and Mickey show, carolling, rides, the alice and wonderland room - all await moi. How can I not love this country? How can I not drown at the awesomeness that is qitche and corny Disney?

Admit it. Your jealous? And wait because I plan on wearing poka dots, bra, undies and all. Polka dots. Because Disney and Japan can't have it any other way.

That said, I don't do Epilogues. That is just overkill.

bfg pretends to go to bed but really intends to finish SLAMDUNK.

Monday, November 15, 2010

bfg on sharing the love

So I think now is the time JET applications are sent in. TO THINK I was doing that this time last year... I was writing my thesis proposal too and going crazy because the JET application was so intense. I mean a lot of it is just your CV but you have to somehow fit them all in these really small boxes. APPLICANTS! Pay attention - one girl got her placement because she had nice handwriting on her application. True story. She didn't get into JET because of it, but she was given a high-level school because one of her work duties would be to comment on several essays. Crazy thing this JET program is.

I remember one of the most difficult parts was my list of placement preferences. Kobe, Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto were out for me because the odds were SO against me to get it. So, instead, I made a list of all the things I wanted.

1) Access to bookstores, preferably one with some English books.
2) A place I can buy clothes for a large white woman with an Italian ass.
3) A place that had a lot of museums and places to visit so that I don't feel like I always need to travel far and away to experience the "real" Japan.
4) No snow. I want to know what it is like for once in my life.
5) A place that was central enough so I can travel all over Japan for relatively cheep.

I showed the list to two people: my thesis advisor and my Japanese student. The ThA said to definitely consider Shizuoka. My student recommended another city that starts with a Y (yes, I forgot sorry!) and Shizuoka. So the Shiz got first place.

How many people do you know got everything they asked for on a JET application? NONE. But I did. I got the Prefecture I wanted, in the city I wanted, the teaching level I wanted (high school). I did not get a high-level school which was my dream but they didn't ask for it on the application so !

Am I still happy I got what I wished for? HELL YES!

In Shizuoka, I get an apartment subsidy which was something of major concern for me (it covers a little less than half my rent). For someone who is sending half her paycheque home, every little extra counts! One of the MTL JETs who got Toyama Prefecture had to pay Key Money, a "gift" to the landlord, and 2 months rent up front. This was ridiculous! Though you do need to bring cash to start off with 3K is a little too much... and that was just for her apartment.

Also, the trip from Tokyo was short and sweet. I mean it sounds like nothing now but let me tell you Orientation is hell, a hell where you just want them to shut-up so you can sleep. Getting to your place so soon is a blessing in disguise.

Also, Shizuoka is a super safe place. Even for Japan, many friends I have made here who have recently moved here comment at how wonderful it is to be able to leave your helmut in your bike basket/ on your scooter seat without worry of it getting stolen. I left my iPhone in my bike basket three times downtown and it was untouched. For someone who is always out studying until 2, 3 am every night it is somewhat comforting to not have to concern myself as much about just things. (I should say a girl got her bag stolen in one of two nightclubs in Shiz. The bag was found with her papers and stuff but her 70000 YEN went missing. But that is a long complex story which I can sum up with honestly, if I saw 700$ and didn't take it I would call myself stupid. I digress.)

Shizuoka has so much to offer in shopping, convenience and places to see (cue FB pics). Basically, my prof was right; it really checks off everything on my list. I highly recommend if you are considering applying to the JET Programme put the Shiz as an option.

I almost forgot the most important part of Shiz! I'M HERE. And I host one hellofa party. Ask the stray cats, even they get a piece of the action.

Anyways, just in general if you need any help with your application just give me a shout! I have no problems with helping out if I can!

Friday, November 12, 2010

bfg on the worst thing that could happen did

I like Justin Bieber's music.

There. I said it. Let the vegitable throwing, tsking and Facebook un-friending begin.

It was not intensional. It happened... I was chained, forced. I fought the whole way. What can I do?

It started when I had the bright idea to teach 5 weeks on Canadian Music. This way, I would teach them the grammar points "I like..." and "I prefer..." and also, get these kids into answering WHY they like something. The WHY question is not a popular one in the Japanese school system.

"Banessa sensei. On the test, you ask if they like Celine Dion."

"Yes." I waited for the point.

"And then you asked why."

"Yes." Still waiting.

"Well, why?"

Um, maybe because I want my students to engage in an actual conversation with someone and not just nod their heads in yeses or nos.

Anyways, I proposed the idea the JTEs were like, "Who were you thinking of?"

"Well, I am thinking Celine Dion and Shania Twain... " which is great. I adore Shania, love Celine and I ended up doing a whole DIVA lesson that is working well. Plus, these are mega stars so am justified.

"Oh, and Justin Bieber."

Shit. "I guess." But I felt I should give in to the suggestion. They rarely offer anything so when they do I feel like I should oblige. Not to mention that every other 16 year old knows about the Beaver kid. So, what to do...

I decided to introduce the whole unit with him. So for the past two weeks, I have been watching One Less Lonely Girl and Somebody to Love over and over... the first couple of times I tuned out. Or so I thought.

"Banessa! so jyozu!"


"Know all words." And I do. Every one. "Thanks." I wanted to rip the kids hanko card in half.

Then it moved to class conversation. "Okay so, do - you - like - Justin - Bieber?" I asked this really slowly.

I was floored when a student raised their hand and said, "Do you like Biever?"

Whoa, I gave that kid like a million hanko. "No! But I think he is a good dancer."

"Ehhhhh! Banessa sensei Bieversukinai!??? Demo, Banessa sensei dance."

"" I looked to the JTE with the Spock expression "please translate, this Vulcan does not understand" eyebrow thing though not as well.

"They said you sing and dance so how can you not like."

What to say at that point... I was dancing. I knew the words. That night I downloaded his CD and learned that the kid knows how to play the TRUMPET. I mean shit that is kinda cool... as well as the drums, piano and guitar. Respect.

So there you have it. I have gone to the Dark Side of the Force. I will have to buy myself one of those Japanese sick people masks and paint it black.

bfg returns to thesis. Yes, that again.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

bfg on the troubles with getting high

I get high when I teach. Especially when I see my students raise their hand to answer a question... holy moses, I get thrill and chills everywhere.

These are the kids who hid their faces in towels and under the desk? Do not get me wrong, some totally still do, but I can say I have about 50% of them talking and VYING to speak. 

For example, some of my students have gotten into the habit of not just raising their hand but also of STANDING UP and saying, "Hai! Hai! Banessa sensei! Hai!"

My favourite is Genki Boy, a 3rd year student who is so god dam cute I want to wrap him up and bring him home. I try my best to only call on him once because I don't want to show favouritism but it is sometimes difficult. For example:

"Okay guys. What colour is this?" I flip to a new Keynote slide where it is completely covered in pink. Obviously, I was teaching colours. 

Genki boy raises his hand as do about 12 other students in a class of 19. 

"Megane girl!"


"Yes! Pink. Okay memo!memo!memo!" I say this to get them to write it down... it is my hint that it will be on a test. 

"Okay. So show me something pink. What is pink?"

Now, Genki Boy had raised his hand again and I saw him but he had already answered several questions and Shy Boy #2 in the back of the fifth row was semi-raising his hand...

"Shy Boy #2!" But right as I said it and pointed, Genki Boy JUMPED out of his seat, ran to Shy Boy #2 and stood in front of him so it was as if I pointed at him and answered. " Pen is pin-ku." He held up his pen.

I tried so hard to be mad but we all laughed and I gave them both hanko.

So, shit like that gets me high. I love teaching, I never want to stop I can go on and on like a Durasel battery. So after class I get a little low where I am shacking from all this energy inside. I usually calm down by collecting hanko cards and tests and listening to music. That class, I did just that humming Neil Young's keep on Rocking in the Free World as I picked up the yellow hanko cards of my 3rd years.

A student came up to me. "Sumimasen Banessa." She had the JTE with her.

"Yup!" I smiled but I spoke too quickly.

The JTE took over. "She does not understand her mark."

I look at the test. On the cover I put the marks of all three sections added them up and put both a mark on 30 and a percentage. "What is the problem?"

"Well, why is it 11?"

Now, had I been a little calmer or more sane in general I would have decoded this as a "there is a mistake with the 11 on 30 grade on this girls test". What can I say - another baka-bitch moment.

"Because she didn't study. How should I know?"

"Well, this does not add up to 11?"

I looked down. "Ha! No it doesn't."

I turned to the student. "Come see me at lunch, okay? Because I have to change the mark in my book and in the computer."  I paused and made myself speak super slowly. "I am so, so sorry."

In all, I mad an error on three students' exams. With the other two it was the difference of one mark. With this, the girl went from an 11 to a 21 on 30. Talk about ultimate baka-bitch moment. I feel so guilty thinking she had to experience a moment where she looked at the test and was like "OMG, I got 36%". Horrible.

She came as asked at lunch and handed me the test. I changed the mark in the computer, in my book and on her paper. Then I took out my new stickers that I was saving... "You can have ANY sticker you want. As many as you want."

I had sparkling Minnies, Goofy and friends that popped out. Huge stickers! She could have had any of them. The sticker world was her oyster.

She pointed to the simplest of them all. A Mickey smiling. No popping, sparkling, frills, ripples or florescent colours. Just a plain small Mickey. 

Okay. "Okay." I take sticker and put it on. "What else?"

"Eh? Daijobu."

"No! Don't you want the mega-awesome Minnie?" I started being Italian by pealing the sticker off without waiting for a response.  I was just going to put it on.

"No. I like Mickey."

"But you can have more." I started pulling out other stickers like cupcakes and driving signs and Canada flags.

"Okay." She made an O with her fingers. Bowed. Walked away while still facing me. Turned. Ran.

I wanted to give this girl stickers to ungulitify myself and she denied me this. She could have had ANY of those stickers and she took Simple Mickey. Now I call her Simple Mickey girl in class. She smiles. The students are enjoying their English Native American style names I am giving them. Trust me, it is much better than me trying to decipher between the five Ryosukes in my class!

bfg returns to reading for thesis. 

Friday, November 5, 2010

bfg on why I suck ass

I like using the word "suck ass". It is really disgusting. I never realized that until I told someone, "You rock ass." and then they said, "That is disgusting" and then I visualized it and yeah... totally raunchy. Now I use it ALL the time.

So, I was reading some of my blog posts and I realized that they portray evil, bushy eyed Japanese English Teachers. When in fact, usually they are nice, wonderful and generous people.

So I thought to share a few anecdotes, the first one being about how I ... do things ass-like.

I actually go in early in the mornings. I get my tea, I make photocopies, I fix my scooter hair... you know. Do things. In Canada, I never gave a rats ass about my job. But here... I want everything to be perfect. Sometimes, I see the perfectionist my sister is with her kitchen in me when I prepare for a lesson. If there is one black spot on my photocopies I go bessurk, call the teachers in and demand a cleaning so my students can have perfect stencils. I won't use the recycled paper and I like my tests on A4 paper stabeled not large poster paper that is so ugly. Yes, they hate me when I photocopy. I am the Photocopy Bitch. Fuck, that would make a good Halloween costume someday.

So this morning, there I was happy to have made it alive, since who knows when I will be trampled to death by a wild pig, when M sensei, my supervisor, came up to me. M sensei is in her 50s but looks about 30... maybe 31. She is so cute - no other word for it. She is so tiny and cute like a mouse in a Disney movie. She is so kind and is always in a precarious position. I mean imagine this 4 foot 9 little thing between an Italian giant with flying hands and the "stoic" vice-principal? Yes, do light a candle for her.

"Banessa-sensei! Good Morning! How are you?..."

"Alive." I smile! I am a sadistic ass-sucker.

She stares. She blinks. "Okay... ne!? So, teachers tell me you must put back projector. I am sorry but you must."

Now, this requires some context. Anyone who knows me knows I can not spell. When I tell my students "Spelling Counts" the inner-non-teacher-Vanessa cringes in guilt and shame at having broken a promise long ago to never care about English spelling because it makes no sense. When I was dreaming about being Michelle Phiffer in an urban school back in Canada, I was struck with terror at the thought that I HAVE TO WRITE ON A BLACKBOARD (or Whiteboard). Holy asses! I can not do that ! No way. Nervous. Sweat. What if I do not shave my pitts that day? What if I misspell Canada and then forever I have branded the word "Kaca" as the name of my country in the minds of 40 students!?

But, Eureka! I have Jingu, my trusted computer companion who just happens to be a sexy delicious Macbook. I can do all my writing there and just project it all on the white board. I never thought that Toshiba-Sony-Land would have ONE projector for an entire school. Never.

So when I came to the Shiz... yeah man, it was so hard. I had to STEAL this projector. Sometimes I have to hunt people down. And though I have some shame, I abandon it all and RUN after the principal for the computer keys if it means not having to write on that board. Terrified is what I am and when afraid I am at my bravest or worst. It depends on your prospective.

So when M sensei told me I had to put back the projector, it suddenly got very hot in the room. "Ummmm, but then how am I guaranteed to have the projector. I mean I actually use it EVERY CLASS. And I am doing a unit on Canadian Music... , "where I spent HOURS downloading music videos and making crazy memo sheets and writing the lyrics because the stuff online has no proper punctuation and I felt guilty giving my students a stencil with the improper use of apostrophes, "so I can not teach without it. No way."

"I understand." Her face became flushed. I think she is afraid of me. "But it is the way."

And there I went like a fat-assed Italian baby I actually said, "Well, that way is shit."

Yup. The shame. There I am being mean first thing in the morning to the person who is my voice and it is totally not her fault. Later in the photocopy room, "M sensei! I am so sorry about this morning. I am just frustrated with "the way". Not with you." We chatted a bit and she said she totally knew and that I am very kind which is why I have so many Japanese friends (not nearly enough) blah blah. And then I said, "I have a temper you know."

"I am getting used to your ways."

Oh god. Total, donkey moment.

But I am honestly pissed. I mean we are 45 teachers plus a staff of part-timers... ONE projector!? Ridiculous! And what if someone uses it when I need it. Granted, I did make the JTE's make a poster with my schedule and post it on the cub board where the projector is which says PLEASE DON'T TAKE THE PROJECTOR AT THIS TIME (I made it in English but asked them to translate)...

It is not just that... Anyone who knows me knows I can not spell and I hate the sounds of bodily noises. So the gargling, testicle shifting, sniffing, not to mention noodle slurping... I may have to choke someone or harakiri myself. So, only when I am correcting, I plug in some Neil Young or Eminem and correct away. At first, I thought the teachers thought I was a cunt and some probably do since I don't make the kids bow or say crazy polite things to me in greeting, but since they see me doing this after my work hours... now the running joke in the office is "When is Vanessa not correcting?"

But this past week I have been sick and I (re)discovered something wonderful... my disgusting LL Room which is a snap shot from the 1970s at their worst! But I have a set of speakers I "found" which I just took to the room and use to play music from my computer really loud while the kids work ... now I go there, plug in my iPod and work away in a huge ugly room where I don't have to shiver with disgust (just from cold) and can blow my nose without guilt (since that disgusts the others around me).

All to say, I am not so nice right now... but I am trying to be a really tough teacher on top of it all for my 1st years... I am doing it military style - if they don't do their work -5 hanko, lunch hour and after school with Vanessa conjugating verbs and they STILL have to do the work... Studying, bonus assignments, extra help... with some of them I am getting somewhere but it is soooo much work. I love it. I just wish I didn't have a thesis to wrinkle my brow over. It feels like the world is on my shoulders sometimes which is so solipsistic of mean but is the truth.

But now that I have written this and spent about 2 man on an absurdly large Amazon order all in the good name of "thesis research", I feel better. Thank guys!

In other news, Blue came to see me the other day.

"Banessa sensei. Here! For you!"

It was a Disney bag and a letter. "Happy Birthday!" I almost cried. I did after because it was the most thoughtful present - coasters with famous Japanese water-prints on them. "Blue! No, your birthday is important! This is too much..."

The teachers were staring. Blue talking seems to be big news.

I didn't know what to do. Should I bow or look away or something? Fuck it, I thought, I'm white. I gave her a big bear hug. "Thank you! This means so much to me!"

The letter was amazing. She told me what she wanted to be when she grew up and why... it was so touching, and real and awesome. It was an awesome teacher moment which she will probably never know how much I will cherish forever.

There is one other anecdote about my experience in Japan... actually I would have to say to date it was my most difficult experience with culture shock.

Two weeks ago, I was on a high having taught two classes semi-successfully. Coming back to the teacher's room, I heard something strange... "Is someone crying?"

No one answered of course. I spoke English and I didn't really expect anyone to answer... I just went off in search. It didn't take me long to find Lisa wailing with Y sensei, her male homeroom teacher, standing to the side facing the WALL and a female teacher chattering away in a voice I would use when having coffee with a friend. I didn't understand.

Now anyone who knows me knows I can not spell, I hate bodily noises and I have an active imagination. So, when I saw Lisa crying and two teachers one of which was speaking in a low voice... I was certain something bad happened. "Oh My God, did her father die? Her brother!?" Lisa is so lonely... her parents are divorced and she never sees her father or brother. She also never sees her mother who drives to Hamamatsu everyday. To feed herself, she buys food from the conbini... her English is superior so we talk during lunch sometimes where she told me these things and I had to nod and not cry. Fuck, I cry a lot.

No one answered me and I waited and could not help but watch and worry wanting to support her but knowing it was not my place.

I never thought they were talking about hair.

When it was over, I chased Y sensei down. "Y sensei! I am so sorry, I don't want to be rude and please don't answer if it is private but I saw Lisa crying and I want to help if I can. " I braced myself for the news.

"Oh, ummmm" Now Y sensei spent loads of time in the States and he often travels to New York so he probably knew I was going to freak. "Oh, it is just her hair."

"Her hair?"

"Yes. In Japan, your hair has to be black."

Okay... did something happen to her mothers hair or something? I turned to look at Lisa who was sitting down and trying to calm down before heading out. "I am sorry. I do not understand."

"Well, Lisa's hair isn't really black. It is now dark brown... She spent time in the sun and it highlighted her hair..."

I waited for the line that said "so it caught on fire and she has to wear a wig" but it never came. "So?"

"Well, she has to dye her hair and cut it."


"Yes, I know this is strange for you..."

"Okay, but why was she crying..."

He explained, the poor man, but I could not understand. They had her crying in front of all the teachers and her class mates some of which were still staring at her because her hair was OFF brown.

I was mad. "That is ridiculous. This girl is doing badly in school, she is abandoned by her parents, she hasn't had a decent meal in months and you are telling me all this is about her hair! I am sorry but ..." I guess I shouldn't have said anything a part of me was saying "When-In-Rome" but the big part of me was just saying on a higher, moral level that goes beyond culture and tradition there is a fundamental right and wrong. And when this young woman is faced with so many personal and educational hurdles that requires the support and discipline of her teachers but is handed a severe punishment for hair colour... "This is wrong, Y sensei. This is just wrong."

I went to Lisa a few days later... I wanted to tell her what I thought but THAT for sure was not my place. I told her I was sorry she was even in the situation and that she can always talk to me. But even writing this I want to put my fist in the wall... this girl has so much potential to blossom into a beautiful AND intelligent woman. Right now, she misbehaves in class sometimes (like not hand in her work) for the attention she gets from the teachers... she is lonely. "I am sometimes lonely Vanessa sensei."

I end it here. I am happy I wrote this but my hands are trembling in anger right now. More coffee and I am going to outline my my Nitobe section for my thesis. I need to learn how to put work away and live my life. But when you hear words like that... it just stays branded in your heart.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

bfg on Blue

There is a lot to say. Cat Shit. Montreal Guests. Diseases and iodine. Mid-terms. New bathtub. The list goes on.

I thought I would start with Blue.

Blue made me crack. I mean I teared before. Cried even but I haven't balled my brains out at work yet. "Blue" (her name is Aoi which in Japanese means ... exactly) is not your typical Japanese girl except for the fact that she is chronically shy. She is one of my third year high school students in my Basic English class which means when she graduates she will probably get a job. She has a rounder face and body with short boy-cut style hair and manga round eyes. This is not to say she is fat or ugly - just different from the norm. She does have a little moustache which I notice because so few Asians have hair but still - this is Vanessa hyper-sensitive; 99% of humans would not see it.

For the past two months though, Blue has been opening up. It started with her name,

"Aoi, did you know your name is Blue."
"Uhhhhh... yes."

Yes, I am baka, baka.

But then next class I approached her and two other girls in class who never, EVER talk even if I call their name, "Okay, lets make an exchange (and I make grand gestures of changing of hands). Vanessa (they always seem to understand better when I speak of myself in the third person) will NOT ask ... you... to... TALK (hands move to show mouth moving) ... if ... you ... do... extra... hanko homework... Homework, Shukudai - onaji."

Their faces smiled. "Okay!" So I handed them some Disney stories and about every two weeks these girls have been reading and answering questions and true to my word I never call on them.

Until they started raising their hand.

OMG guys, the joy in my heart when Blue raised her hand for the first time. I had to stop myself from giving her 500 hanko on the spot. I gave her 10 instead.

Mid-terms were last week. A real low point since 95% of my first year students failed. Don't worry - they got the Vanessa-Works i.e. "EVERYBODY in first year MUST correct their exams and hand it in next class. Whoever does not, -5 hanko per day, per student. And that student will spend one week with me after school (I checked with other teachers before giving this threat) doing VERB CHARTS and still needing to hand in their corrected test. DO - YOU - UNDERSTAND!?".

Blue was one of the 30% of my 3rd years who failed. I was so sad because the other girls in the Shy Group did super, duper well.

Today, I handed her back the test before the class bell rang. "Next time, Tsugi tesuto, you come to Vanessa. You ask many questions... Okay?"

She looked at her test. She was sad. "Yes. Wakarimasu."

Then I handed her an envelope. "This is for you." I held it up for her to read.

It took her a good 20 seconds but finally her face genuinely lit up, "Thank you!"

The bell rang and I continued teaching military, Book Mistress style.

After school, I am doing photocopies with certainty that any minute I would die from chocking on the flem in my throat (gross!). I am punching holes wishing the rain would stop.

"Vanessa sensei." I look up to see Blue.

"Aoi! Do you have a question?"

There was a long, long pause. I am learning patience Antonio! For REAL.

"Thank you. Your present made me very happy."

"It was just a candy! Are you having a birthday party?"

"My family will bring me to sushi... Your present is my only present."

Guys man. It took EVERYTHING not to cry there. We talked about the test and three teachers came to see who was talking. One of the male teachers was calling people over, "Aoi is talking." It made it that much harder.

She finally went off to her homeroom teacher and I went to the washroom. How to explain... I was happy that my simple, stupid Birthday letter and candy made her that happy. I felt guilty because when I was writing this weeks batch of letters, I was so annoyed and frustrated at being sick and I didn't put that much effort into them. I was relieved that there was someone who gave a shit about the work I did. And I felt pity because if a Letter written on cutsy 100 YEN Stationary from your ALT is your only present... I don't know.

I just wanted to go home. Just for a little bit. Curl up. Watch Firefly with the bf, petting Sasha and pretending the cats don't exist. Be sick and not have to worry about birthday cards or sending money or if I am driving on the right side of the road (as in correct, not RIGHT right).

So that is Blue. She probably will never know any of this but yeah... she makes me feel like I am not a complete failure.

Todays JTE meeting with 3rd Year Teachers.

"Vanessa, please don't sit on the desks. It is rude."

"Oh sorry."

"You can sit in a chair."

"While I am teaching? I don't think so... No, I am sorry. I didn't think it mattered." After all, the SHIT on the tables in my LL Room is all from the 1970s. The class room is big with EVERYTHING bolted in place. I can't move a chair to sit in when I am sick and sweating and dying. So I sit on the table... didn't even OCCUR to me this would be a problem but okay. I get it. When in Rome...

"Well, the students are not allowed so you should not do it."

Okay, now I am pissed off. What the fuck. "Well, the students are not allowed to wear anything but their uniform but you don't see me in a white shirt and red tie!"

Silence. Me coughing and dying to blow my nose.

"Yes, well cultural difference. But it is rude."

"Oh, I am not arguing that point. I am sorry I didn't think of it and probably should have. But don't tell me it is because the students can't that I can't." I hate it when they treat me either like a student, teacher or OTHER when it is convenient for them.

Subject changed.

I have been sick for about a week now (since my birthday), and it has sucked. Having ladytime at the same time does not help (it seems I am always writing a blogpost when I am menstruating?! - anyways). The air here is WET and every time I feel like I am getting better, I feel the wet seep into my clothes and the chills come and ... yup. Sick, sick, sick. The kids have been nice and one of the teacher's MADE me take my temperature. So nice, everyone.

I wanted to choke them all to death. Fuck you Nice People.

So, NOT in the best mood moi that is. Still worked a little on the thesis but I am far from finished my readings. Bushido 16 mangas to finish and the Diet speeches for primary sources - oh and some Japanese movies though  I am saving those. I also bought more translated manga for me to read of the two series I really enjoyed so far and WANT to write about: Bamboo Blade and Shinobi Life. The last is a Love Manga about some Ninja dude who travels to the future and loves this chick. Girl Manga. I LOVE IT. Addicted. Super want to elope with Ninja boy and have babies dressed in black. Also, very relevant to the thesis. Win win.

My friend from Montreal came for two night and one day but I was working and, worst, was sick. I hate it when I am talking with someone and it feels more like a show of watch Vanessa Spit Up Into A Napkin or Other Types of Paper That Come In Handy. The bf sent over some treats, stickers and books for the kids and a winter post card. At least in MTL, it is so cold you don't FEEL yourself freezing. You just don't feel. In Japan, it's torture. And this is fall. sigh.

I posted many the picture on Facebook - my birthday part, my visit to the ex-Tokugawa Grave Shrine which is now a National Treasure in Japan and got me on the local news, dinner with the Unno Family, resto eating with Eri and her kids and the new tub... well the hole in my washroom before the new tub.

I think I will end this long post with my birthday party. I was honestly starting to feel homesick a little then... Last year, I saw my nephew (his name day is close to my bday) and we ate and we did our "thang". Last year, I was dining with my coz, and Tiziana, my sister, Robert and Sarah and the bf to name a few. This year...  it felt odd to do anything with people i had met for just two months.

The party just sorta happened. My friend was having a party for his gf whose birthday is the same as mine so we were celebrating both. but then they broke up but he still wanted to have the party but I was the main attraction... then we moved it to my house... and then I have a big mouth and bing badabom! PARTY TIME. It was great though and I NEED to say that I realized how amazing it has been here so far if for no other reason then being able to meet all these generous and insightful people. Most were uni students, others ECC students helping me with my thesis... Honestly - so kind and giving, they really made my birthday something special. It wasn't the best birthday - I wasn't able to talk to anyone at home and besides facebook, my brother was the only person who emailed me something thoughtful and sweet. But it sure as HELL wasn't the worst. And as much as my JTEs can annoy the fuck out of me, if there is one thing I still haven't been able to get over is how the Japanese people (the ones in Shizuoka anyways) are, to date, for lack of a better word - awesome.

Okay - enough from the big mouth.
bfg off to gargle iodine so she can survive another day of teaching in a Halloween costume.

PS: OMG THE CAT SHIT! I almost forgot. okay, okay. I come home. Sick. About to open my door. Something is not right. Look down. A HUGE pile of shit in front of my door (remember I can't smell). Fuck. I open my door a crack and need to pee something fierce. Fall into the toilet since male guest left seat up (what is UP with that Guys!?). Finally, I pee without injury run downstairs to landlord. Now imagine you have to say in JAPANESE "Sorry, but there is a pile of shit in from of my door I need you to clean up."?

Honestly, I was so proud of myself when I DID get it. So proud. Still some residue.

Okay, so they clean up the shit and tell me how its the stray cats. I couldn't believe a cat could poo so much. (Antonio is was like a poo from all three of your cats x2). Now, I am going crazy listening at every sound to see if it is a cat. A cat... taking a shit... at my door.

This is like The Hill people. It will NEVER get old.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

bfg on being an Oreo Queen

I write this having finished my bag of mini-oreos. 340 calories of pure yumminess. I shouldn't be doing this  but I had to celebrate.

This week of teaching has been crazy. Crazy AMAZING.

So like I said, after one week of disaster with me disciplining more than teaching I had told my students that the Homeroom with the highest hanko every student gets a prize.

Holy Fuck. The difference these two weeks.

I mean its not only that I hardly have to discipline. The kids are laughing. Today my eyeballs almost popped out of my head. I had almost HALF THE CLASS with the hands raised, yelling out "Hai!! Hai! Vanessa sensei!! Hai Hai!!" And at one point when I called on one girl, the rest of the hand raisers were like "NO! NO! NO! I, I, I!"

Just to relish a bit an example: today for my shopping lesson I told the JTE's instead of doing the Warm-up activity they wanted me to do (some lame listening excercise from the textbook) I wanted to get them to talk.

So in class, after showing them the chart of how many hankos each Homeroom has and that if they participate I will give them many a hanko my first questions was, "Can you name some malls in Shizuoka?" I gave an example, "Parco!"

Whereas two weeks ago, I had a room of silence and the echo of the sweat drops from my back hitting the floor (gross), here I was ignoring the screams and insisting on raised hands, "I don't hear voices that come from people who don't Raise. Their. Hands." Yeah, I am kinda military.

I couldn't believe it. I still can't. I mean... a month ago these kids were hiding their heads in a towel. One of my kids, after ten minutes he asks to go to the nurse's office. He didn't just stay today, he was one of the ones vying to be called upon.

It is exilerating. I wasn't teaching them. We were actually conversing. We talked about what we like to buy. I told them about how I like buying books and they were super into my English Edition of ONE PIECE that I got from Toda Books here. Some students would just yell things out like, "This shiumastu I go shopping too!" or "Vanessa sensei, which Starbucks you go?!" Happiness.

I am planning a mega-lesson two weeks from now. Basically the kids are given a Treasure Map (AKA Map of the School) and they have to follow the directions, vocabulary which I have done with them this class, to find it!

I organized it bit more so that groups go out for five minutes at a time while the others do a cross word puzzle. Anyways, I am pretty excited. It is a step towards what I want my lessons to really be like: PRACTICAL APPLICATION.

I will say that my letter writing has paid off as well. I have been getting love letters but even more then that I think the students see me as a human being. They all complain that "Vanessa sensei is too difficult!" but I think they are actually learning. A little.

I really need some off time though and I can't forsee any coming my way. I have been making progress, thanks to tutor appointments where I sit down with someone native and go through my Japanese primary sources. But my own reading - blah. All I want to do is watch tv or do work for lessons... while watching tv. Honestly, I feel super guilty just writing about this now. Which is probably why I am doing it? Writing always gets my ass moving somehow.

Some random stuff...

I am having a lot of trouble opening doors. Yeah, I know - I really need to die my hair blonde or something. Twice now I opened the door on my head. Once I had my helmut on (I forget it on sometimes) so it saved me but yeah my head... hurts sometimes. And then opening a door - opposite to Canada.

Moving On.

I have a Hello Kitty kitchen thing that you use to flip things that are in a pan. I bought it in the most amazing 100 Yen Shop on the face of this earth (that I know of yet). I will probably never use it but I had guests come over and we had to eat the pancakes they made with chopsticks.

The end for now. I need Winchester Boys.

bfg out :)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

bfg on letters

I love writing letters.

Its the sound of the pen on paper that does it for me. I want to make sure I hear the scratch as the words flow out of me onto the page I secretly drown in the sound of the crunch the pen makes as it stresses the paper.

I am not sure why. Or rather, what it is about that sound that I adore. Maybe it is because for a moment I can imagine myself in an Emma-style dress and my name is Jane and I can write an amazing novel about a girl named Elizabeth and an amazing asshole of a boy named Darcy.

My two best friends since High School both live far away; twins, they found love outside of Montreal. One is in Yukon, the other in Austria... and it has been hard with all these years apart being able to keep that connection we had as girls; that understanding of really getting each other. So I started writing them letters and refusing to write any e-mails. The thing in the end was I loved imagining them reaching into their mailbox, pulling out my letter, being surprised, being happy!, and touching something that I did. Rose would sometimes write me a note saying, "I read your letter over breakfast and a bowl of oatmeal." That image of her made me feel like I was there with her, just like when I would board at Scanlon Palace, eating cereal and listening to Ben Harper.

And there is an intimacy to letter writing. Just something shared and special... its hard to loose an email you can easily retrieve. Letters require shoeboxes and closet space.

So today I was writing a long letter to my friend C. She had taken the time to actually write me about her teaching stage and her assignment via email. I was writing away fast as my two fingers can go on my iPhone and I was just frustrated that I couldn't be at my desk... with my MUJI pen. I wanted to write this to her and at the same time I wanted to write this to everyone.

She asked, "How are your troublesome students? Has talking with homeroom teachers helped? "

Oh, C (and world) I never spoke with the homeroom teachers. Most of them won't even talk to me. I understand! They are so busy! I went in this Saturday to pick up a computer wire I forgot and teachers were there, making photocopies, prepping lessons. I was so surprised. I knew they worked weekends but SEEING it in the flesh is a whole other animal. 

The past week has been hectic. No. It has been chaos. 

Speech contest students everyday added about 2 hrs of unpaid overtime to my weekly schedule. Four nights out of five I met with people who helped me with my Japanese sources for my thesis - which is welcome. The closer I get to the finish line the faster I get to party my ass off in this country. Lesson planning... honestly, I really suck at it. I over plan. Case in point last Friday. I decided I would give my kids a "fun" lesson. I taught them 12 vocabulary words - like "deck" and "shuffle". Then, I divided them into groups and admittedly I did it based on their English ability. So each team got an envelope with a deck of cards and directions on how to play a game; Crazy 8s, Pig!, and War. The point was to make it fair and cater to the students level... the kids with difficulty get an easier game the kids with a higher ability are able to be challenged... I mixed the levels between the four players in the group but kept it fair so that it was challenging but not overwhelming.

Or so I thought! 

Photocopies made. I stickered the envelopes... I like pretty things! I get a tap on my shoulder. "Vanessa sensei, can I look at the lesson one more time?"

"Sure." I hand the envelopes over to her again. Last Tuesday I had the lesson okayed, last Wednesday I had shown both my JTEs the sheets for approval. So everything was fine...

"This is too hard."


"Too hard. So sorry. The students can't do this."

"But my lesson is in two hours. It took me all weekend to prepare this stuff." Not to mention me needing to pay 1,000 YEN from my pocket for the deck of cards.

"We understand. This is why we will translate everything."

And off they both go. Translating. They asked me questions, not understanding some parts. I was so frustrated. With myself for again making a lesson that was too hard, at the JTEs because I had done this EARLY to avoid this, and the well... the JTEs. Fuck! Why couldn't they do this to me two days earlier?

They handed me the translated papers. "You can give this to them."

Shit, I must sound like a crybaby but (again) I was so close to tears. I looked at them. "I am going to cry."

"No, don't cry. We are sorry you worked hard."

"No. It is not that" Well, it was a little. "Now, this isn't a class about English. This is a class on learning a card game and that is not what I am supposed to be teaching here." And, probably because I was so fed up I did something I normally would not have the guts to do, "No, I won't do this. Sorry. They will have to play the game in English." Pause. "We can take keywords and translate but I refuse to give them something completely translated. Not in my class."

I think they may have been scared of me. They actually listened to me. They probably think I am a major bitch but I don't care. Tough luck - my students come first. 

The class was a success but even though I only taught for one hour I was FINISHED at the end of the day. 

And all this weekend, I have been having fun with my awesome True Blood party and having the Hamamatsu JETs over but right now I am worried about Fridays lesson. What can I do that won't be too hard, won't be boring but still be in English?!

 And how the fuck am I supposed to make a lesson based on Team Teaching? Because, ballsy as I may be there is no way I am making a lesson which tells someone else (read JTE here) what to do. That is not me. I hate explaining to them anyways, I get really bitchy. They overuse please all the time. Example.

Moi: "So to start off, as usual I like to tell them their hanko scores."

One JTE:"Oh. Can you please tell them the hanko scores at the beginning of the class?"

Okay... " Yes, exactly."

"And you counted the Hanko?"

No, I invented the number. "Yes."

"I am sorry for this. Please count the hanko."

"I already counted."

"Oh, thank you. And will you put this on your computer?" This translates into PowerPoint.

"Yes. It is exactly the same as in all my classes."

"Please do Power Point for this every class."

"Yes. I just said..." I am about to EXPLODE.

"I am sorry for this. Thank you."

That paired with bad breath and the bodily noises going on around me... I think I am going to get out of the teacher's room all too soon. I want to socialize but no one has invited me to anything so screw that - I can make my own party in the teacher's room. Serve some virgin Pina Coladas as I show the students my tattoos and scratch my belly but NOT fart, burb or slurp my noodles.

Did somebody say heaven?

No but in all honesty - I have made progress. And fallen in love.

My OCII class seems to really enjoy their journals. They love them! I bought the journals at MUJI a popular store here, and told them, "This is yours." The look on their faces was worth the 900 yen I paid for them. They coloured it, put pictures and all sorts of things. It was amazing! And my two weakest students in class wrote me amazing entries. I was really happy because I feel like in this class I am accurately assessing them: they have reading exercises every class (ten minutes first thing), a written exam every class (90 seconds at the end of class), speaking and participation grades (during class) and journal writing which is at home and they have 5 days to do one entry (about 10 lines). In this class, I am able, since there are only 8 students, to change my mind, revamp things, and change up my timing to cover what I need to do. If one person doesn't understand I catch them and try as a group to explain it. Its really great and I think though the kids think I am tough as nails and make them work way too much, I actually want them to learn and not just babysit. Its tough love but love none the less.

But my first graders... god, that is survival. On average, 35 students in the class. You have no idea... its a zoo. Its hell. I want to die. Any activity that involves them getting up is horrible. They understand little and well, remember the towel student? Or the boy in my class who looks me straight in the face and says "No. I won't do anything." He won't write a test. Won't make a hanko card. Nothing. I even sat down next to him and say in my best non-fake fake voice, "You can do it!"! But nothing. 

Discouraged, I wrote a letter to every single student. All 346 (I still have 34 left to write for Tuesdays class). It took me many the late night to get this done but yeah... I survived. I don't know... with some of them, the fact that I took the time to write the letter... omg! The look on their face, it was like I gave them an awesome gift. Others threw it on the floor. I just picked them up and taped it to their test. I felt bad throwing it away since I did work on it but I knew this wouldn't work on everyone.

I just don't get the people who say ALTing is easy. Its hard, man. I have to take time from my personal life right now to stay afloat. But if I don't invest this time now to make a firm impression (of a teacher that wants them to learn and believes they can do it even though society has given up on them) I won't be able to do it later.

Its the letters from C and others who take the time that are saving me. Her letter, though there was no ink and no paper, really reminded me that there are teachers out there who are just Awesome and can make it easy (or seemingly so). And that there are friends who understand my very fast though nicely accented English. I just need to get through this rocky stage I guess to get the flow. 

But, its true, I really am a hardass.

Okay more concrete updates tomorrow. Not to mention, I still need to write my True Blood post.

bfg is off to bed but leaving SKYPE on. Hoping I can open gifts with Antonio (its his birthday) :)