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) :)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

bfg on simply the best

Before I say anything else, I do an awesome Tina Turner "Simply The Best" a la karaoke.

My Lady Gaga is a close second though.

Simply the Best Worst Teaching Moment this Week


HR 11

Lesson 2 is on Canada!

I will be posting this in detail actually but in short I showed them the commercial "I am Canadian!" and went over the lyrics with them.

Talk done - now it is time for an activity! Okay.

Girl in third row has had her face covered by a towel the entire time. I really don't mind the people who sleep in my class since I would rather be doing the exact same thing but covering your face with a towel? Come on!

Smile on, I am determined to get that girl to do at least five minutes of work in my class. Tapping her shoulder lightly I sit down next to her and take the work sheet. "Lets do this together."


Okay so let us pause for a moment here. When I am in a cafe, people stare probably because of a combination that I am loud, English and oh-so-white. No problem - usually I wave at the starers and many have fast become my friend. I love Japan!

Most people in cafes are rather quiet. But every now and again the sound, whether it be from an old woman or young gal, comes out loud and clear, "EEEEhhhhEEEHhhEHEHHE!?!?!" A sound which means nothing precisely but is understood as something along the lines of "Your-fucking-with-me-no-way-I-can't-believe-it-this-is-amazing-I-need-a-sandwich!"

So when my student said this, I didn't want to slap her or punch her but bury my shoe in my face. "Yes, EEEEhhhhhEEEHHEHEHHE!??! You can do this. Just try. Come on! We can do it together." Patience is a virtue... remember Vanessa!?

Nothing. No response. She covers her face with the towel again.

"Knock, knock." I laugh. She puts the towel down and looks at me with squinting eyes and a frown.

"Come on! 'An igloo is a _______ made out of ice?' Is it a car? Or a house!?" My voice clearly indicated which was the right answer.

Again, the sound. "EEEEhhhhEEEHHEHEHEHHE??!!"

Sweet Jesus! "Okay. How about starting with something about you~! Do you like manga!?"


I was going to kill her. I smiled instead and showed off my teeth. Both rows in fact. I caved, "Manga ga sukidesu ka?" I never, ever say it in Japanese. But this time, I needed to take one step back for one step forward.

Or so I thought.

Her frown deepens. "Manga!? Manga wa nan desu ka?"

I looked at her. Said I was sorry for my Japanese. I repeated myself. Slowly, making sure I pronounced well...

"nani~!?" she says.

Imagine an English person saying they don't know the word ... oh I don't know- ENGLISH! Well, this girl was asking me what manga was. I knew she was pressing my buttons. Fuck, I was ready to press some of hers. I stood up and took her dictionary.

"Here." I wrote manga in both hiragana and in roman letters. "Look it up."

Her neighbours were shocked repeating to her "Manga! Ma-n-ga." They were surprised as I was. I just walked away. I had others to tend to in my class of 35.


Simply the Best of the Best Teaching Moments


HR 11

Lesson 2 is on Canada!

I will be posting this actually but I showed them the commercial "I am Canadian!" and went over the lyrics with them. 

To the left of me is this boy, very tall and slim. He has a wide face and is rather tanned. Right now he is probably not so popular but being older and wiser (and just a Guru when it comes to men and looks ;) it is obvious that once he fills out he will be a looker in a suit. 

The entire time I spoke, every time I introduced a new word, he said it quietly to himself practicing pronunciation. During the lesson, he got right to work, ignoring his rowdy partner. He even looked things up in the dictionary. I was amazed and I felt so guilty. The entire time I tried to make my way to him but there was someone talking here or a face towelled Manga-Unknower over there.

At the end of class I asked him to wait a moment. He was so concerned.

"I wanted to tell you," I spoke very, very slowly, "That you are a wonderful student! And that if you continue putting in this kind of effort and good work, you could be fluent."

He was shocked. HIs eyes went wide (for a Japanese person). "Oh... Thank you." It was said very low.

He turned to go. Turns back. "Thank you!"

Walks to the door than turns again. "Thank you very much."

Fuck, man I did tear up because I was so happy. Here is someone who just needed a little encouragement to feel good about himself. Sucks that it had to be from me, but there you have it folks. I know I made his day. He sure as fuck made my weekend!

I gave him a bonus hanko and above it I wrote, "Hard-working spirit!"

bfg goes to watch True Blood... expect a post on why this is the greatest show ever

Saturday, September 11, 2010

bfg on peach boys


So the scooter is purchased.

All to soon, you people will be craving for the days when I spoke about the Hill. You will beg me to repeat stories of my adventures. But in about a week you will have a reprieve. Latest by Thursday, I should be the proud owner of a scouter. In exactly one month to the day that I arrived in Shizuoka, I got my Japanese driver's licence and purchased my first set of 2 wheel drive that runs on gas.

The best part of this other than the fact that I should get to school in less than 15 minutes is the fact that I am, well still am, overcoming a terrifying feeling of driving that scooter.

When I look at the Scooter Drivers I am always freaked out by the imagined accidents I put them in. No hood of a car to protect, no steal frame from stopping foreign object entering my body. It seems so vulnerable - like being on a bike times a million.

Learning how to ride Glinda was much the same and the memory of that has propelled me to move forward with this because honestly, the misery of this transport is wearing on my mind fast (and the entertainment value of these blogposts). I could not understand riding on the left, actually not running through lights and the worries of parking ones bike. But I learned, quickly! and even adapted. It is so weird to think of me scared of riding Glinda - now I ride her in between lanes even! I am hoping Future Me will reread this post and laugh while covering my mouth from the horrible snorting sounds it makes. Hoping...

Someone asked me if it was difficult and I don't know what to say. In retrospect no, but that is only because things fell into place with me. My JTE Na, my friend of a friend Akiko and Takako my friend - without them being at my side to translate during such "serious" discussions I would never have gotten this far so quickly.

Last week, I went for my license. Na brought me to the Shizuoka Station who sent us to Suruga City Hall who then sent us to Suruga Police Station. That experience was difficult - totally like that (horrible) movie Lost in translation. The entire police station was trying to figure out what to do with the Canadian who had to have a license because of the Hill.


I never finished that post since this week has been hell. I love teaching but I have to say it is so hard. I know now why it is so difficult to teach a language ... to kids that don't want to learn. Especially my kids! Most of them are not going on to university. Most of them have no interest in travel. They are going to work in a Japanese company and really don't NEED English.

Everyday I have stayed at work past 5 (about 1hr longer than I am paid for) preping and helping students in the speech contest. Thursday the school had a feild trip which I was invited to go to but found out Friday that it was a vacation day. How fucking SHITTY of these people to tell me after? My super awesome supervisor was on my side as I said it wasn't the fact that I took a holiday but the fact that I was told after the fact.

Anyways, I did get the scooter on Wednesday night. Went by myself but the man was, of course, super kind and we managed. He was so kind too, "This is your first time?"


"Please be careful."  The last he did say in English.

I was nervous. My first time on the street... but in 5 minutes I was home and happy.

I ended up meeting a friend of mine after and as tempted as I was to take the scooter I went with Glinda. Don't want her getting jealous plus I promised I would really only use the scooter for work.

A great thesis session where Tahei and I discussed this business article in BOSS magazine which discusses how Japanese companies and people in general need to readopt bushido.


Go home. Thinking about tomorrow... cars on the road.... students. I was convinced that practicing this evening would be a good thing.

Off I went on Momotaro, my peach boy!, and it was awesome. I went about 20-25km an hour and though it was dark I was more than fine. Everything was fine. I was getting comfortable.

The Bitch was just up ahead. I was mentally ready to take her over.

Sharp turn at the Mini Shop - in fact the Hill is so narrow the road looks like an alley way.

Turning going up turning tipping falling falling

and this was my fuck up: my instinct was that I was on Glinda not Momo.

I put one foot down. to balance myself. On a bike thats fine - a scooter not so.

I braked which is smart but without LIFTING my hand so I didn't  cut the engine.

So I fell. And so did Momo - on me. Unfortunatly, since the motor was still going the bike went forward and and was scratched.

"Baijyobudesuka!" a dark figure up the hill shouted.

Blood on my knee and ankle. My shoulder and leg were throbbing but it was fine. I can handle my own blood considering I have injured myself so many times falling am used to it by now.

I got back on the bike. "Hai."

I only climbed 1/3 of The Hil-itch (my new name for her) that night, but I did it.

I drove back home went into my apartment and tended to my wounds.

For the rest of the week, I rode Momo to school and back. All is well and I am getting used to the feel of her. I learned on my friends scooter which is much heavier, like a horse, than Momo. Momo needs light guidance so I am still getting used to handling him as well as finding the centre of balance on the scooter.

I will say that it did add this level of stress the whole week. And tonight it is Saturday but I am home tending to a swollen ankle and finishing a long overdue blogpost.

My Friday lesson was again horrible. So tomorrow I will be researching class games and stuff online some more and try to find something that could work with these kids.

Future Me isn't laughing right now. Nor am I a bundle of despair - I love Momo! just hate myself :)

Future Me just needs (another) nap.

bfg off to watch sexy samurai tv shows, play scrabble on my iPhone and scratch my arm pits while I sit under the AC. It may be September but its bloody hot!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

bfg on being baffeled

View of the class from my position
So The Shys hit me today.

Many people, most of them "friends", think I am outgoing because I am loud and move my hands a lot.

This, my friends, is a misconception one that baffles me that people assume loud + extreme gesturing bordering on an epileptic attack + eyes wide in expression = an outgoing person.

Don't get me wrong - I have done some pretty "outgoing" things but most of that has been by the standards of the people who see me, your average Joe Canadian. But I hate introducing myself to people. Ask me to meet someone off the street and start talking no problem. Formally introduce me and the blushes and tongue twisting begins.

Now, that didn't quite happen with my first lesson. I spoke clearly and loudly. Hell, I would even say the kids thought I was confident but inside ball-of-nerves (please read with extreme dramatic pauses). It was a relief to just cry it out after class - a good cry not the bad kind.

Its not that it was horrible. Thirty-three kids though standing up and doing nothing after you just explained an activity - kindof a horrible feeling. Some of the kids really wanted to try but I was being called left and right and trying to manage the 4 rowdy kids who tried to sneak out of class. That was unacceptable and after the JTE failed to control them I grabbed those boys by their shirts brought them to the board and made them do the lesson. It turns out that two of them were way better than I gave them credit for which is a nice but I couldn't help but feel guilty that the ones willing to put in the effort were not getting the feedback and "teacher love" they deserved.

View From Students point
It turns out the language Lab (LL Room) is the hottest in the whole school. Can you believe it?

I can. In fact, as I was helping a student the teacher tapped my shoulder and said, "Vanessa, you are sweating too much." Thanks. Thanks a lot. Point out my disgustingness - like I don't feel it already. In all honestly, she was probably just trying to be nice, saying out of concern but boy I just wanted the floor to swallow me right there or a wild pig to come get me.

The good news is that I reformatted my lesson so that the kids move around LESS so next week when I do my self-intro a gazillion + one times I can move around the class and "dictate the space" rather than letting the younglings go wild. I think that is the issue with any and all of the advice I have taken which was to always keep the kids moving. Or maybe I just take things a bit too literally like when people say "Gullible isn't in the dictionary". Thirty-three kids can't be moving around. Sorry - I can't do it and did a piss poor job of it today.

Not a complete failure. At lunch, I went down to the Bread Lady who stinks like shit but makes a mother-fucking good sandwich, I was walking the halls and, admittedly, playing Scrabble on Elphaba, my iphone, when someone grabbed my arm.

"Please. I want to talk to you."

Her name is Li- and she rocks. Firstly, drop dead beautiful. Like perfect Japanese girl she took my breath away. But when I realized what she said I put the smile on and said, "Yeah! Hey! Lets talk now." I was dying of hunger and technically this was my lunch time. But this was something categorized as precious moment and I couldn't give in to human needs.

It turns out her parents sent her to an International School in Santa Barbara, California for the summer to improve her English and though she makes errors she is pretty god-dam good! It makes me wonder if it would not be better to take the JET Program money and invest it in sending students abroad. Happily, once I am done but yeah...

We chatted for about thirty minutes and she asked if she could come during lunch time sometimes. I almost died with happiness. "Of course. If I am here, I would love to have lunch."

And in general I am just meeting more students  which I adore. The face-to-face time is worth the misery of a bad first lesson. Anyways, I have to do it 15 more times so... time to refine!


PS: SophieW as promised a picture of the pipe I thought was a wild pig.
Rusty Pipe. I named him Wilbur.
But Honestly, Doesn't it look like a wild pig?!

bfg on being fugly

Best Part of the Day:

Me walking to Computer room. Group of Girls walks up. 

I make eye contact with girl in Front of Group. 

I say, "Hello!"

She screams at the top of her lungs and runs away. I felt fugly but laughed anyways. Precious moment.


Twenty minutes early today. I kick your ass Hill!

Morning meeting, blahblah. I actually had time to down my jelly today in relative piece. I spent my morning prepping for Fridays lesson where I would have a whole class to myself. Today was so hot - at 5pm it is hotter now than at noon today! But yeah it was a good day.

I was cutting away at the vocabulary posters that make up my existance when my favorite teacher whose name I don't know but I describe as the Older-Teacher-that-is-Retired-But-Still-Teaches-Computer-Class tapped my shoulder.

"You busy?"

I was surrounded by about 300 pieces of paper that I was cutting and folding. "No."

"Good. Follow me please."

Out the door we go, and I chatter away about my morning. He listens. I like him.

Then we pass the computer room... and the hall... and the lockers...

"Where are we going?"

"My class."

"Which class?"

"My computer class. I want them to know you."

Okay. Right.

Walk into class. Behind me students snicker, "Nice to meet you." I would quickly turn around and say, "It is nice to meet you too." They would either smile at me and wave or put their head down as if I caught them doing something bad.

Into the class I go with the students ready to take a seat but the teacher gestured me to the front of the class.

And so goes my first class.

In a way, I didn't have time to want to vomit or attempt drastic acts of maddess. I just took the white board marker, wrote my name even though it was running out of ink. And starting talking very slowly.

One of the kids went to sleep. I thought that would bother me but instead I was like, "God, I am with you babe!"

They asked me some really good questions though.

"I heard non-Japanese people don't change their shoes."

I told them the story of how at Uniqlo I was practically chased down by the clerks when I went into the changing room with my shoes.

"What is the school system in Canada?"

Well, someone told you to ask me that. But they were pretty unhappy that they had a whole extra year of school than we do.

"How do you enjoy onsen? Do you only take showers?"

Played it cool on this one and said I am too shy to go to an onsen.

"But you know you must be naked?"

"Yes. That is why I am shy."

"You know no bathing suits."

"I know. This is why I don't go. I am too shy."

They must think I am one dirty fuck since I don't bath but there is some truth to that given the sweat on my face at the time was dripping onto a students desk whereas they were lightly patting their faces.

"No bikini too."

I don't wear bikinis. "I know."

In the end though, it was fun. I spoke with some girls and realized that yeah there are shy students and I don't give a fuck students but we politely put up with each other and do our thing. There are those that want to wave, and chat and joke with me and, most importantly, practice English.

I visited my 3rd year class; very genki and not shy which is nice. But they insist on only speaking in Japanese and the teacher translates everything I say. I try to act it out but ... yeah. I was warned about this and will just do my best in the situation. May be different when its a class on "my" time.

One boy in the class frowned at me the whole time... it was very distracting. I was wondering what he was thinking... like "What will I have for dinner?" or "How can I kill this ALT who is making my life so god dam miserable?" Very distracting...

Tomorrow is my first class where I do my self-intro. I have spent many an hour preparing this and I think the teachers are even starting to feel guilty. "Please don't be disappointed when the students show no reaction." I find the best way to to handle the no-facial-expression Student is to smile and move on. I don't let them get away with doing nothing, I just pretend their sour attitude doesn't exist. Hard to miss a frown though.

I will take pictures and maybe even record myself and post here. That is fine - pics of my school and kids are not.

I worked on the thesis. Have been doing a little every night but to be honest am so discouraged. I feel like I am going no where and am just too stupid for words. I leave it at that.

Also, William Gibson is coming to Montreal. I want to die - I can't believe I am missing the opportunity to meet the man who wrote Neuromancer. Sigh. It takes an author for me to consider flying back home. How very moi.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

bfg on wild pigs

So it is the day after horrible day.

I tried to come to school 20 minutes early but I swerved off the road at one point and had to fix my tire so I only made it with 5 minutes to spare. No big deal right? The first day of school was the next day (today)... the only thing I had to worry about was my intro speech to the teachers but that was at 10am. Two hours to cool off and unredden and unsmellify.

I walk in to the teacher's room panting, red, gross... you have heard this before I am sure. They laugh.

I laugh at myself. "Sumimasen! I must be so annoying."

Mi-sensei, "No! You are so sugoi!"

"Yes. That is why the Hill hates me; because I am sugoi." It is fast becoming the catch phrase: The Hill. I now dream of returning to shizuoka in 10 years and hear "Japanese Japanese Japanese The Hill Japanese Japanese." 

I take out the hankie and sweat towel. "Okay, well I will go change now." And off I go leaving behind a room with the chatterings of teachers.

I walk back about 15 minutes later, earlier than usual since it seemed like Mi-sensei wanted to talk, to find silence and all heads turned towards me. Huh?

The vice-principal was standing. Ahhhhh. And then I see the principal... what the hell? He is never in here...

Mi sensei runs up to me. "Banessa. Banessa. Now is the time for your speech."

"But you guys said 10am! It is still 8!?"

"Yes. But they changed the scheduale."

I wanted to die. I almost cried I really did. But instead I laughed and said, "Okay but if my Japanese sucks just throw me out the window."

Up I went. And I spoke. And they clapped. I was complimented on my accent which has happened often lately so I wonder if this is code for "that is good and not much else". Like how when someone asks me if I like their shirt and I say, "It's different." Heehee. Save.

I survived is the point and was super happy to be able to sit at my desk and eat my fruit tarte jelly thing that I am basically surviving on since I am scared to eat anything since it probably has mayo.

"Banessa. Teacher's meeting is now."

"Now." It wasn't a question.

Up I went, picked up papers that I can't really read and sat down. The only thing I understood was Mamma Mia and... "Sensei, did he just say pig?"


As I waited, I circled all the kanji I knew. And tried to desypher meanings from that... I felt like Migyver.

Meeting was over soon after. Lots of bowing. Nothing special to mention. 

"Yes, banessa pig. You must be careful."


"Wild pigs are sitted on the Hill to school. You must be careful on your bike you may be attacked."

I almost fainted. 

I will end this by saying that I am now determined to find me a wild pig. I want a picture with a wild pig something fierce and Glinda has given me several garantees that she will flee like Blue Thunder when the time came. That day, as I went home I fell again in a ditch as I thought I saw a wild pig but it was a huge rusty pipe. Heehee. I was fine. Somehow for a clutz, I fall gracefully.

That day was pretty successful. I talked with Mi and Na about how I couldn't do the fill in the blanks but thought up some easier stuff and they thanked me for being so concerned about education. Mi even said, "Banessa sensei, your voice sounds so happy when you talk about class. I look forward to team teaching with you." It made me feel bad for what I wrote the day before but at the time, it was true - I felt that way.

I took the afternoon off that day... to go get my driver's license. A friend of one of my students back in Montreal who just happens to live in Shizuoka agreed to drive me to the Centre which is so very inaka. Akiko has two kids, one a three month old baby, so for her to do this was a great kindness to say the least.

It is funny - it was so easy and yet so hard for me to get my license. With one of my JTEs I went to the police station, city hall and back to police station to get all the right things stamped and sealed. An officer finally handed me an envelope saying, "Go to the Centre for 1:30pm and it should take 20 minutes to process your request." After warning me it would cost around 4000 Yen, I was on my way confident that it wouldn't be so hard. He did warn me though, "Please go with a native Japanese speaker."

Thank God I took his warning. After waiting one hour, I was called into a room. "Now, we will have an interview for around one hour."

And they asked me question. After question. Your license they are not the same design. Yes, Quebec changed it. Your validation on one is good for 3 years and on another 4 years. Yes, Quebec changed it. Do you have all your licenses? No. But the years don't correspond. Maybe its because I lost mine... I don't understand why this is an issue though since I meet the minimum 3 months driving in my country. Oh - but the renewal was 2 days before your arrival in Japan.

I wanted to kill Quebec.

After one hour of that type of high strung conversation the man sat back and said, "I think you can drive in Japan. But small scooter. Daijobu?"


Off I went to pay, off he went to get the card ready. 
I return with a reciet. He with a frown.

"Have you ever been in Japan before?"

"No. Never."

"When is your birthday?"

"Oct 22 **"

"Do you have your old passports?"

"No. I am sorry they are in Canada. But what is this about?"

SO - of course this had to happen to me. A person with the exact same name in 2001 on October 22nd was arrested in Japan for a "serious traffic offence". Even Akiko was looking at me like "Are you SURE you have never been in Japan."

Another hour passed and the baby started to cry. I watched out the window at the scooter people practicing. Admiring their helmets and their wheels. Suddenly the door opens and just like that he walks in. "Daijobu." And hands me my card.

Gods of fortune, I can go buy my scooter. I can drive a car, a 50 cc scooter and a small truck in Japan. 

I can conquer the hill and maybe even chase wild pigs with a spear! 


I originally wrote about what happened today - apartment drama - but am holding off. Some not so nice words in there and I worry sometimes at not allowing some time to pass. All is well though. In the end, I guess it usually is (even when someone has your name and does crazy mad things in the foreign country you happen to be staying in).