Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Clay Aching

But now, O LORD, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand.
- The Bible

Exploring the pottery haven that is Ryoji Matsumiya's 'Tsugaru Kanayama Pottery COOP,' Crave 'n' friends dabbled in their muddy ways.

GABE KNOWS CLAY



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SACHI DOES NOT
: )


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A for effort

So I failed

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Pot Convention

Overall, the locals and gaijin (foreignors) banded together to produce some useful earthy art.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Money Well Spent

I'm not going to lie, I certainly do a kick job as an Assistant Language Teacher for the JET Program. But sometimes I just can't help but feel we are overpaid. Please see below for an example of how I spend my time at the office:

MAGNET EARRINGS!
I discovered that the chalkboard magnets were strong enough to double as nifty earrings. I then spent the remainder of the day modeling them. Puzzled looks surfaced.




Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Spruce It Up

"Gifts of time and love are surely the basic ingredients of a truly merry Christmas."
~ Peg Bracken (whoever that is)

I've had the pleasure of meeting some wonderful characters over the past 27 years. But I must say that a little bunch known as the Rokkoshites take the cake. A conglomerate of open minded, energetic, creative, but most importantly loving souls, I am honored to call them my friends. As some of us were preparing to leave "Unthanksgiving," we were told to wait. Hesitant, I was curious to what these awesomers had cooked up. Well dig up is more like it as they presented a wonderful little Christmas spruce tree to each of us. Talk about a pretty parting plant. Special thanks go to Gabriel, Matthew, Eunjin, Jono, Wendy, and whoever else was involved in the epic endeavour. Thank you!

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Spruce Springsteen
Say hello to the newest member of the Cravak Consulate.


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The ladies love their natural needles.


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Tree Hugger
Maribel embraces her "sexy sexy" Petrova.

Another Day in the Life

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008

It’s a quarter past seven and I somehow manage to rise from the mattress I dragged from the bedroom and placed in front of the gas heater.

The morning shuffle concludes and it’s off to work. Someone must have returned from a trip as there is omiyage (souvenir) in the form of a shrimp flavored cookie on my desk.

I realize it’s going to be an unusually busy day at work so I plow into. I don’t even pretend to pay attention during the 10th grade teachers meeting.

I teach a Christmas lesson geared towards enhancing the students’ oral communication skills. I noticed a couple of girls smirking the second I mentioned the word oral. Consequently, I decide to adlib and added a few sentences featuring the coveted innuendo word.

I spend the next few hours grading homework and revamping the next lesson since it tanked yesterday.

For lunch I decide to take a trip to the local grocery store to compliment my peanut butter jelly sandwich. I pickup some deliciously sweet tofu rice thingy, some tiny pieces of fried chicken, some yakisoba noodles, a bottle of Afternoon Tea, and of course some of my much needed Energy Gym.

After lunch I teach an ongoing lesson in developing students’ essay writing skills. Then I glue myself to the laptop as I flesh out a sample essay from a gaijin (foreigner) perspective that an English teacher asked me to write for him to use in class. I was asked to help grade 400 midterm exams. Today I decided to knock off 200 of them. In all, mixed in with some Facebook action I don’t end up leaving Aomori Koko until after 6pm.

Luckily, it’s a beautiful day so I decide to bike around town. I start with a scrumptious dinner at McDonalds. While there I make sure to place a call to a beautiful maiden and another to a friend on his birthday. Then in a perverted move after just hanging up the phone with the girlfriend, my eyes are stuck on a high school chick whose skirt appears to be allergic to her legs, and damn with those panty hoses. I can’t help it, I look. She either thinks I’m a scary dude or she’s a fan too. For when she walks past, we catch each other looking back. Before I leave I make sure to snap a photo of Colonel Sanders in full Santa gear.

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Colonel Claus


Then it’s off to the onsen, the relaxing natural hot water spa that I so dearly love. Sure enough the onsen delivers as my perennial muse. After soaking for over an hour I continue a new tradition started by my good friend Gabe whereby I sit at a table and drink me some grape juice. But I need two cans for I have many Children’s Books and story ideas for the “Book of Feste.” I end up sitting there for over an hour. I can’t believe how many old people stroll into that place after 11pm. During this time Miki called to inform me that I had left my boxers in her backseat. Fun times!

I bike over to Don Quixote to pickup some booze. But by the time I leave I end up with a random Christmas gift for my sister, a blue head bank to compliment the Captain Morgan and Smirnoff bottles.

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"Blue"
I figured Spruce Springsteen needed a friend while I'm not home.

I arrive home around midnight. It’s time to get domestic as I do some laundry and tidy up a bit. Finally after preparations are made for tomorrow I retire to sit and type up this blog. Here we are at the end of my day at approximately 1:27am. Unless of course I decide to stay up writing.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Happy Town

While perusing Facebook, I stumbled upon a friend`s candid photos from her illustrious `Drag Show` birthday party. Laughing uncontrollably, my supervisor`s eyes soon invaded the screen. Curious, he asked if Miami was a `gay city. ` Folks, there has never been a better `teachable moment. ` So being a natural, I grabbed a pen and paper and started drawing. A minute later I presented him with a glorious map entitled `Happy Towns,' with the cities of San Francisco, Miami, New Bedford, MA and New York City; where homosexuality is more accepted and present. While we chuckled like bosom buddies, he was genuinely intrigued. I then asked him if he was going to use the map for his next vacation, to which he turned away and hid behind his coffee mug. Cheers, and if you happen to live in a 'Happy Town,' more power to you. Embrace the difference! (something I miss about America)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Stone Cold


"Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it."
- Michelangelo, the orange Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle



Mystery Machine of Stone Spotting

While driving along the coast, my beloved compadres from Hirosaki; Wyomia, Lindsay, Mike D, and I spotted an odd community of statues. Mike D, being the illest of drivers, kindly decided to `back that ass up` and reversed us closer towards the stone haven.
This place was unreal. It was like the woodstock of statue gatherings. There was a two-story house/office in the back and the front yard facing the expressway was littered with a variety of stone carvings. While we saw no signs of life, we were pretty sure the owners were hiding in fright at the sight of the rude and scary gaijin (foreigners).
Everything imaginable had been somehow manifested into an epic stone form. Of course being located in Japan, there were the perennial Shinto Gods, the mystical kintama (large testicles) sportin' Tanuki, and hell even Nintendo`s Kirby made an appearance.
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GODZILLA!

Japan`s coveted monster attempts to take a bite out of Crave. Oddly, he is a rare find, and receives more attention in the US then in his birthplace of Japan.


But in addition to the staple acts, there was quite an omoro (strange) bundle of characters. Overall, it was worth the 15-minute look around. If I only had a handful of benjamins, a garden, and the muscles to pick it up, one of these babies would be mine. Verdict: Scultpures in Japan are stone-cold cool!

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Minnie Clubbin` It

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`Let's do it like they do on the discovery channel!`

Saturday, November 22, 2008

JOIN THE PARTY

Want to get away?
Challenge everything you have ever felt, thought, or believed while swallowing some rubbery raw octopus. Yes folks you need to put down your coffee, zipper your pants, and apply to the JET Program! But you need to hurry up as applications are due to the Japan Embassy by November 25th. Damn, they surely moved up the date this year.

I applied within a week to of the deadline, so no worries.




Thursday, November 13, 2008

Smack That Ass

Make no mistake about it, chalk loves me. In fact, it never leaves me alone. I`ll often walk away from a lesson looking like gay rights activists got ahold of me and sketched rainbows all over my suit.

Today was no different, but somehow the chalk decided to steal a base taking our relationship to the next level. For apparently, there was plenty of pastel dust on my backside. Though, I didn`t realize this until a stranger came knocking.

I was standing in the center of the room speaking while I shuffled through power point slides, when a hand gently descended down my butt.

I can't lie, it's a flattering moment when someone touches your ass. But this was an unwelcome touch, while 39 others watched. Looking behind me I noticed the good sumaritan, a male student. I paused for a second to see if it was a joke. Alas, there were no chuckles. It was extremely nice of him to sacrifice his smooth skin to adopt the chalk from my ass. I still felt uncomfortable though. But I thanked him and carried on with the presentation. But he continued. Apparently, this cat didn't join the union, as he doesn't stop until the job is done.

Looking back though I relish the experience. It's about time we as a people can comfortably wipe foreign particles off each other's vulnerable areas. I guess in a society (Japan) that shuns all things homosexual, it makes it easier for those of the same sex to platonicly 'reach out and touch someone,' without the fear of being wrongly labeled.

Often I walk into classrooms and see boys sitting on one another's lap. They weren't telling each other what they wanted for Christmas. But it wasn't exactly a soap opera scene either. They were just being platonicly friendly. Think of it as Samwise and Frodo on their epic journey to rid the world of that one overpriced ring. Why not? Two guys can be best of or even casual friends without playing with their 'swords' together. While those hobbits did take out their swords, they only did it to penetrate their enemies, not eachother.

Bottomline: It felt weird, but I`d do it all over again.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Special Thanks

Sure my apartment may be leaning on the dingy side...but today it warmed my buns.

Thank you heated toilet seat!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

DD For Hire

Despite the negativity associated with it, drunk driving is one of America’s leading industries. While I’d rather not upset the cash flow in these turbulent economic times, I truly think it’s time the USA reforms its policies on drinking before/while driving. Especially since…umm many innocent people die! Not to mention our fear of drunk driving has created one of the most horrid institutions of self-sacrifice: the designated driver. Seriously, no one should ever have to suffer that fate.

But in Japan, there is someone willing to sacrifice their Friday night to be your DD. Say hello to Daiko (代行) the uber cool taxi service where two drivers show up to your saucy location and drive to wherever your dumb ass has left your car. While one driver remains in the taxi, the other exits the vehicle, takes your keys and DRIVES YOUR CAR HOME FOR YOU!

I was fortunate enough to experience the Daiko magic in the little town of Misawa which just happens to support a thirsty American air force base. Apparently, according to a friend, the Japanese government subsidizes this program thus resulting in the Daiko only costing $10. Talk about a bargain, a.) transport for 4 to our car b.) Designated driving to the apartment. Can’t beat it! The only drawback is that the experience was so earth shattering that is sobered me up.

So a friend and I got to talking and we discussed our “anti-drunk driving policy” for the NEW AMERICA! I think you’ll like it, and if you don’t, well then you’re just a dumb asshole.

1.)ZERO TOLERANCE: Just like Japan, America needs to adopt a system whereby if your blood alcohol registers ANYTHING above 0, you are driving while impaired/intoxicated. If you want to take the risk, then you should be prepared to be busted up, at least financially! : ) I’ve honestly felt this way for quite some time, and I recall one idiot arguing, “well you have to realize that we rely on our cars.” AND YOUR POINT? Stay at home and drink then. Look partying or even a casual drink is a WONDERFUL thing, but it’s still a privilege. If you want to enjoy it, then do it responsibly.

2.)INCREASED FINES: I’m not sure how I ultimately feel about increased “sin taxes” on alcohol, but why not up the fines for drunk driving. Look, save your pity, these people broke the law and put lives in jeopardy, so let them pay through the roof. Sure, I may have “crossed the line” before, but do you see me in handcuffs? Nope. Plus with the 0 tolerance plan in affect, I doubt as many people will dare to take the risk. I for one would not dare risk it. Plus the increased fines could also be used towards providing more adequate public transportation.


3.) DAIKO: Do I need to say more? But to make this happen the government needs to step in and strangle the insurance companies to easily allow for the Daiko drivers to man your vehicle. The name for this service must be called Daiko as an homage to the Japanese who use it and rock it so well. Also, if possible it would be a smooth move to use any left over alcohol tax or drunk driving fines to subsidize the service so that:
a.) It’s affordable
b.) Creates jobs
c.) Eliminates the need to tip. Get rid of that selfishness like NOW!

4.) BREATHALYZER: Every business that sells or serves alcohol, even grocery stores, must have on the premises a working breathalyzer with free use to the public. If possible, have a non-profit company or a government agency manufacture the breathalyzers. What does that equal: JOBS! And please spare me the, “who’s going to pay for it?” Umm, the place selling the alcohol. Look if they can’t afford a breathalyzer then they don’t need to be selling something as fun as a few drinks. If this is a real problem, then I guess we could lower the bar license a tad. I’m open for compromise, permitting it makes sense.

5.) BAR CALLS: Every bar/restaurant serving alcohol must either have a free public phone w/ a directory of all taxi and Daiko services or be willing to call one for you. I’m sure most bars already do this, but we need to make it more readily available, especially for the timid drunks at heart.

6.) EMBRACE ALCOHOL: Make it legal EVERYWHERE in the US to publicly walk around while drinking or intoxicated. But if you still brown-bag your 40, then the police are obligated to high-five you. Put your ill-guided beliefs aside, this is a great idea. First of all it will be easier to spot who shouldn’t be driving, but also it will provide so much free entertainment. Remember, alcohol is not the problem; it’s the losers who hinder the safety of others while under its influence. Perhaps we should even lower the drinking age to 20 or 19. Maybe lower it each year that drunk driving statistics drop considerably. It would be great to see America with the legal drinking age at 5 years old, but handling it responsibly.

So America, or the 8 people who read this, what do you think of this drunken yet sobering plan of action?

CRAVAK IN 2016!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Better Never than Late

It’s November 10th; Happy Halloween! At least, that’s what I said all day as I was ‘loaned’ to the Wakaba Nursery School to take part in their Halloween celebration. An eventful day? Nah…not really. An interesting day? Yes!

It’s 11:37am, and I’m five minutes early to ride for the very first time the Japanese metro bus. I’m stoked! My supervisor thought it was a good idea for me to get my public transportation feet wet. Instead they drowned. To clarify, at 11:42am, the precise time I am to board my precious vessel, I realize that I’m at the wrong stop. I need to be across the street. But, I don’t notice this until my bus drives past me.

Though as luck would have it, there is a bus following the same route at 11:49am. I know this only because all of the Kanji written for the 11:42am bus are the same for this time. Also, it helps when your supervisor makes you giant flash cards with the names of all the necessary stops. I just pull a simple “Sumimasen (excuse me)” out of my pocket, point to the card, and see whether or not the lovely Japanese person decides to shake their head in approval, or just stand there gazing into the abyss of my eyes.

Well I got on this bus. But, this bus decides to pull an ‘American’ move and shows up five minutes late. ‘I don't think I’m going to make my connecting bus’ is jumping around my head like a crack baby in a bounce house. I look to my professionally prepared ‘Bus Survivor Guide’ packet, of course prepared by my supervisor. I must say it was a nice gesture. I think I’ve found a 12:14pm bus to take, and seeing as it’s a 10 minute ride and I need to promptly arrive at 12:30pm….I am GOOD TO GO!

Riding the bus is not too bad actually. If you are ever rockin’ the bus tour in Japan, be sure to board from the middle, and promptly grab your little ticket. Then find a seat, but if you sit in a different colored seat, you will be provided with complimentary dirty looks. I kind of knew I was sitting in ‘Priority Seating’ for the nearly dead, handicap, pregnant, and nursing mothers, but I didn’t see anybody coming, and I wasn’t absolutely sure. But when I finally found an open seat, of course I’m even more embarrassed to see that the nature of this ‘special’ seating is written in English too. Oh well, ‘gomenosai (sorry)?’

I sort of hear my bus stop called and I press that magic button. I rarely rode the bus in America, but I do like how EVERYONE receives their own special stop indicator. When ready to get off, you take your ticket and dump it along with the correct change into the vaginal slot of the bus adjacent to the driver. Thinking the driver doesn’t ‘trust’ me, I show him the ticket to ensure I’m paying the right amount.

The stop I need to move to is across the street, so I trek up the pedestrian overpass bridge and make myself noticed at the stop. I’m quite confident that this 12:15pm bus will get me to Wakaba, but I decided to ask two old biddies to make sure. But I have to wait a few minutes because this 60+ year olds are practicing their dance moves dangerously close to the street. When they take a break, I do my trick, but this time they don’t nod in agreement. Instead, they sort of murmur back and forth looking at the various times and descriptions to the scrutiny as if we were at an art gallery. After I ask a clarifying questions, it’s decided, the next bus that I need won’t be cruising through until 12:30pm. Damn!

But once again, due to the obsessively organized nature of my said boss, I got maps! I know the route, it’s 12:03pm and it shouldn’t be more than a 15 minute down this major street. But boy was I wrong. Not only were my feet ‘wet,’ but my entire back was drenched in sweat as I ‘came prepared’ and wore a heavy winter jacket on what turned to be a nice day. Having a heavy back pack doesn’t aide the process either.

But we got a problem folks. It’s 12:36pm, and I’m still not there. I actually don’t end up rolling until about 12:45pm. Being late is not in my portfolio. I’m so embarrassed, and you know you’re late when they are standing at the entrance waiting you're your foreign ass. I do my trademark greeting about 5 times before I am moved to what is referred to as ‘my room.’ My room? Yes, it’s too late the power has seeped to my head. I feel like a little celebrity, kind of like a visiting author. And judging from the progress of my childrens’ writing, that reality may soon materialize.

Though my itinerary reads ‘meeting’ at 12:50pm, this ‘meeting’ is more of the Japanese Teacher of English, my guide/host/interpreter running back and forth from the room to the gym.

For a hospital school that specializes in educating sick children, 28 children, they spared no expense when it came to the costumes. I brought my trump card in my Kappa costume. A Kappa is an ancient Japanese water demon. But the costume is a toe to head fully green spandex body suit. Like those Winnie the pooh from your childhood, but this is tight spandex and one size may fit all Japanese, but me it does not. I’ve rocked the costume a few times, and I think as it began to rip down my chest, it was trying to say “give it up.” But I couldn’t. It’s the only costume I had, and I’m in this cubby hole of a locker room with Mickey Mouse from Fantasia and some creepy lion.

I try to walk into the gym to join the party, but I’m quickly shoved back into my ‘room.’ Apparently, I am to receive a grand entrance. Now I know I’m a star in the making, but I’d like to think it has nothing to do with my skin color and where I’m from. But today, that’s all that matters. You have no clue how ‘in demand’ Americans are to ‘guest spot’ Halloween parties. Honestly though all we do is just stand around and smile.

So the curtain…yes they installed a curtain is opened and into the gym I strut. I just kind of stand there for a minute providing a pathetic round of waves. I’m quite impressed with the costumes. We’ve got a lion with a golden mask, Darth Vader, an orange ghost, a girl with cardboard over her face, and just a plethora of shit I don’t understand, but it does look neat!

Keep in mind that I have NO CLUE what I’m supposed to do. Luckily I’m a prepared bastard and brought visuals, a cd of music, a powerpoint presentation, and some ideas for games. I’m shocked that everything I had asked for it setup and ready to go, namely a projector and a cd player. The Japanese are freaks about details and it shows. Now if I could only understand their language.

Apparently I was supposed to prepare a 30 minute introducton and when my slideshow ends after 5 minutes the JTE says, “that’s it?” So luckily, I’m an ace at filling in the cracks. We just extend the Q&A session (damn do sick kids have a lot of questions, and honestly good ones at that), and a show and tell of popular American Halloween costumes.

The pressure is off as I realize my duties are now lessoning. Another hour goes by with games, odd quizzes. Apparently, according to the Japanese the Irish used to carve into a vegetable that appears to only grow in Japan before they used pumpkins. I tried to explain that it was a potato, but it was useless. I know I’m write because of youtube and wikipedia. Hell yes!

Then it’s time to trick or treat. I’ve done this a couple of times already at my various Halloween Party visits, and I crack up every time. Trick or Treating is all about innocent fun. Gallivanting about the neighborhood and being surprised at what wonderful treats you can acquire. Not at the Japanese party though. It’s too damn organized. Basically, you and a few other adults stand in strategically placed points in the room with their bag of candy. Then the students need to stand in a line, and one by one they approach and must say their name, a favorite of theirs, ‘trick or treat,’ and thank you. They actually had the students rehearse this. Oh well.

But then there’s the grand finale. “Memory making,” at least that's what they called it. After about 30 takes from 5 angles, and 8 different poses, the cameras have captured the memories and I’m done!

Luckily, I tell my host how I must catch a quickly arriving bus and I am spared coffee time with the Principal. I’m thanked way too many times as I’m walked to the entrance. I put my outdoor shoes, and the entire staff bows to me, and I’m out of there.

It’s a shame I had to be in such a pissy mood. It was a wonderful little school, and I give it up to them, they have a tough task ahead. It tore me up to see some of the kids leave the party only to return to their hospital bed as two nurses attended to them. The kids were adorable! They were just so innocent and happy to learn whatever they could get their hands on. A pure treat!

But this Halloween, so of course there’s a trick yet to come. It’s bus time folks!

Talking to the locals I actually get on the right bus. Now I must say, the flashcards: PURE GENIUS! Because, my dumb ass thought I had a lot of time and accidentally doze off for a minute when a polite good samaritan said “Tsutami Bashi,” the name of my stop. I shook my head and he said in decent English, “next stop.” I thanked him thoroughly and was able to get off in time. I love that man! Then I exited the bus and I thought, how did he know that was my stop? Then I looked down and saw the flashcard in both English and Kanji. Fun!

It was smooth sailing as I walked across the bridge to the next stop. The bus arrived a few minutes late but all was good. Until I realize this bus is not going in the direction my map shows. Shit! But I stay on board longer for needed as there is a HOTTIE a few rows back. Normally I would say a “goddess,” but this is not a woman I’d marry. Instead, she’s the type I would prefer to sleep with every night for the rest of my life. She exits the bus sporting her shorty shorts and long pale but ripe Japanese legs and there’s a puddle on the floor. It’s my body having melted from gawking at her. But perhaps she was a gift from above, as the bus starts to turn, and we’re headed back towards home! Sure, it’s not all good news, and I still have a 30 minute walk to endure, but oh well.

I arrive home angry, but sadly there’s no one to blame but myself. It’s not like I was dragged here. I chose to be a guest of Japan, and I couldn’t ask for a better host. But maybe I should learn a few more kanji characters if I’m ever going to try that bus thing again. To close this up, it gives me great pleasure to say, “Happy Halloween!”

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Day in the Life

Monday, October 27th

5:00am – My keitai (cell phone) begins the day with its annoying alarm. This barrage of electronic noise continues for two hours.

7:00am – Physically out of bed, I crawl to my computer to see if the Bills defeated the Dolphins, which they did not. So much for BILLieving. I skip to the refrigerator to grab my prepared snacks for the noontime feast. I also assemble my workout gear in a separate bag.

7:15am – While staring at myself I cut fragments of hair off of my face. I am later voluntarily attacked by soap and water.

7:35am – I hurry to cover my frigid skin with gray slacks, a purple dress shirt, and matching gray tie and socks. After I plop some temporary glue on top of my head; I’m ready to roll. I throw a jacket on to keep the chilly 50° F air at bay. It’s going to take awhile before I transition from sunny Florida to seasonally ice cold Aomori.

7:40am – While Aomori Koko (High School) is literally less than 100 feet away, I walk over to my storage shed to retrieve my jitensha (bicycle) for a fun commute. I park it under the protective roof and strut into the “adults only” entrance.

7:45am – Strategically I remove my outdoor shoes on the lower level while only stepping with my socks on the above ‘indoor’ floor. I exchange the outdoor for the indoor shoes in my very own shoe locker, then I walk over to a Periodic Table looking contraption and flip my name from white to red signaling that my a$$ be in the building.

7:48am – Walking up to the third floor, I utter an incoherent round of “Ohayo gozaimasu” (Good morning) to students and colleagues. My contracted time is from 7:55am to 3:40pm. Typically though, I like to be at my desk by 7:45am and try to stick around on campus in some shape or form until at least 5pm.

7:50am – Arriving at the office, I perform my daily start-up tasks. I turn on the desktop computer, place my edibles in the office refrigerator, make some semi-disgusting tea, and write today’s to-do list.
10/26 To Do List:
o Katakana / Hiragana Online Quiz
o Katakana / Hiragana Writing Handout
o Study Japanese
o Grade Class #1-4 “Who I Want to Marry” homework
o Request nenku (vacation days) for winter break trip to Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore
o Publish 1 blog
o Mail Call (having my supervisor translate my mail)

7:57am – I see the English department head by the coffee machine. This is seriously the best place to find someone! I confront him on how I think it’s a good idea to skip today’s lesson since his class would end up being two weeks ahead of the others. He agrees! I’m now off for the entire day. I literally have ZERO assigned tasks.

8:00am - Staff meeting. We all march professionally into the special meeting room. There all assigned seats, and a strict order to follow. I work on my katakana / hiragana writing sheet while everyone makes announcements in Japanese. Occasionally I glance up and smile.

8:15am - I grade my katakana / hiragana writing practice sheet…I did not do such a hot job today. I continue on to my daily dose of an online quiz where you must match the katakana or hiragana characters to their appropriate English syllables. Once again, no records were set today. I begin my breakfast consisting of water, tea, Ritz crackers, and an apple.

8:45am – I thank a teacher for the little pastry omiyage from Miyagi prefecture. She went there over the weekend for a school related business trip. I also begin my daily obsessive periodic checks of hotmail, facebook, blogger, and myspace. I continue to surf the net. My supervisor and I also confirm my nenku (vacation days) for winter break, and we do a little “mail call,” where my he translates my mail for me.

9:51am – I grade all 36 Class #1-4 “Who I Want to Marry” worksheets. I then type up the best excerpts to publish for a blog.

11:00am - The MacBook Pro makes its debut and the headphones find themselves on my ears. I repeatedly listen to a favorite track from the Hancock Score. Then I shuffle a play list of ‘emotionally moving’ tracks that include: Paloalto’s ‘Breath In’; Radiohead’s ‘Fake Plastic Trees’; Pete Yorn’s ‘All at Once’, Rachael Yamagata’s ‘Worn Me Down’, and South’s ‘Paint the Silence.’ Looking at unfinished blogs, I decide to post four pictures for the Around the Town blog entry.

11:30am – I research voter trends, statistics and quotes for an upcoming blog entry about voting.

12:00am – I spend more time piecing together this very entry.

12:30pm – I decide to take a break. I packed a lunch for poverty and it’s time to enjoy it. There is no cafeteria for the staff, as we all merrily eat at our desks. I typically chat it up w/ my supervisor as we joke around. Since all of the solicitors arrive during lunch, my supervisor and I partake in a classic rating game for the women who dare enter our office. Other times I use the time to surf the net for wrestling or roller coaster news. We can eat/drink whenever…but our official ‘designated’ time is from 12:25am until 1:05pm. Most teachers bring their lunch, but some order the 500-yen ($5) ‘Obento,’ (boxed lunch) to be delivered. I try to rock the ‘Obento’ scene at least once a week, but you never know what you will be eating. It’s always a random surprise. Hit or miss baby! Today I will be eating what I brought from home: instant miso-ramen, a ham and a cheese sandwich, Ritz crackers, and a package of pizza flavored potato chips.

12:50pm – My supervisor provides me with a kind lecture on how I incorrectly prepared my instant miso-ramen. He then randomly hands me a banana. I jokingly proceed to dip the banana in the ramen by saying “Banana Ramen.” His face swelled shut in shock, and then quickly changed to laughter signaling his relief that I was joking. We then discuss the itinerary for my upcoming visit to a local hospital to teach sick children all about Halloween, which strangely occurs two weeks after Halloween. Oh well.

1:30pm - The remainder of the lunch period is filled with casual bites, extensive research into amusement park project developments for Dubailand, the WWE ‘Cyber Sunday,’ and Facebook. I must say, there is no such thing as a “cliché” joke in Japan, so I can get away more with a lot less. For most of the English teachers, they are hearing these doozies for the first time. Today I asked a co-worker how her school-related trip to Miyagi prefecture went, and she made mention of how her and our department head met up with his daughter in the bustling metropolis of Sendai. She hinted that she was cute and looked nothing like him. Then I said, “Maybe she’s adopted,” a classic over-used line in America, but here…OMG…my supervisor barely made it out the door struggling to hold back an onslaught of giggles.

2:15pm – Lunch is in my belly and I head to the second floor to unload the goods at the “Staff’s Toilet for Gents.”

2:25pm – Desert comes in the form of a kit-kat bar and glass #3 of 3 of Coca-Cola. The headphones are back on…and we’re gonna try to produce some blogs to save for future days when I can’t get to it. We’ll see what happens.

2:43pm – Damn I’m still editing this blog. Ohhh snap. I’ve completed everything on my to-do list except for “Study Japanese” which I never do get to. My eyes are beginning to shut. It’s time to stretch, I chug the coke, and change up the music. Can’t go wrong with a mirage of Faithless – Insomnia remixes.

2:48pm – The Obento deliveryman walks into the office to retrieve the boxes, and you can tell I’m tired because I neglect to react quickly enough to play his patented theme song. My co-workers looked over in anticipation, but I’m afraid I disappointed them.

2:50pm – To end this state of gripping tiredness…I pull out the trump card. ‘Transylvania,’ the opening track from the Van Helsing score. The only drawback is now I feel like leaping into battle and stealing someone’s life with the brute force of my fist and maybe a knife or two. We’ll see what transpires.

3:10pm – As I’m angrily plowing away at my “To Vote” blog post, three innocent girls humbly approach me to grade their crossword puzzles. Last week I started a “Cravak Sensei Presents ‘Fun With English’” bulletin board in the main entrance. It now features the holiday Halloween and inside a hanging pumpkin are Halloween Vocabulary crossword puzzles. Any student who completes it and brings it to me in the office gets a free piece of candy. While only 6 students have done so, I’m satisfied and it does save me time from running to the store to restock.

3:14pm – The cleaners arrive. Every day after school, students and teachers are assigned to different parts of the school for sanitary purposes. While the school employs three janitors, their primarily goals include lawn care, toiletries, supply stocking, and opening/locking the school. The cleanliness of the classrooms, and hallways though are the complete responsibility of the students and staff. The vacuum cleaner is making its way towards me, and with all that sugar swimming in my mouth; it’s time for a cleaning. M coworkers and I freely brush our teeth in the office sink. I thoroughly enjoy the gurgling and harsh spitting sound effects.

3:20pm – I go downstairs for an encore performance in the “toiret,” and to change into my workout clothes. The school conveniently has a staff changing room. Each staff member receives their own generously sized locker, mine being the biggest. Ya damn right! What about locks? Forget about it, if you can’t trust a Japanese teacher, whom can you trust?

3:32pm – I emerge back in the office to add to this blog and to make sure I’m “seen” in the office until 3:40pm. While the powers that be don’t care what I do, I want to be set the standard for Americans in Japan. So far, so good!

4:20pm – I finally make it out the to the Karate gym but apparently practice is cancelled as I don’t see anyone. Regardless, I decide to go for a 2K run and finish off with some stretching, sit-ups, pushups (10 of them, I’m a machine!), and weight lifting. I felt the burn, and I love it.

5:15pm – I return home to change and rock some laundry. I don’t do Karate on Tuesdays for I have Spanish class, so it’s a prime opportunity to wash the clothes.

5:30pm – Time play cook. This evening’s fare consists of scrambled eggs n cheese, toast, baked beans and a Reese’s peanut butter cup thanks to Mom and Dad. I’ll wash down the goodness with water and afternoon tea. I spend the rest of the time goofing around on the Internet while listening to The Album Leaf. They’re a stellar dream pop / post-rock band.

6:26pm – The laundry is ready to be hung. It’s too cold outside and I’m afraid of spiders getting in my clothes, so I’ve devoted the spare room for the sole purpose of hanging up the fabrics.

7:12pm – I finally make it out the door for my shopping stint. I’ve decided that I must acquire a shamisen (Japanese banjo), a desk, and Christmas or any other assorted ‘cool’ light. A 15-minute jitensha ride later and I arrive at Hard-Off for what proves to be a fun shopping adventure. The agenda went out the window as I pick up a Salacious B. Crumb Star Wars Bean Bag toy for just 84 cents to join my giant toy soldier on my work desktop computer. I add in an Anpanman lunchbox with wheels and a handle for just 105 yen. Apanman is an extremely popular Japanese cartoon character that has a deliciously edible head that gets eaten and re-baked. I would have taken some photos but I’ve officially lost my camera. But that piece of crap went obsolete before it was made. This is good news, as it will force me to finally purchase a Canon Powershot G9 that I’ve had my eye on. While at the Hard Off I find a desk I want, but I’m going to have to make a call tomorrow to see if a friend can drive it to my apartment before I purchase it. There’s no shamisen or Christmas lights. But I do find three lighting alternatives in the form of a cheesy but fun fiber optic light for 800 yen, an eclectic green and yellow polka dot lamp for 300 yen, and a nostalgic wooden tree lamp that I plan on painting red and white.

7:50pm – I take my business to the nearby Dream Town shopping plaza. I need to take advantage of the public restrooms. But where will I leave all of my purchases? In my bike basket of course. Won’t someone steal them? Nope. I have a feeling that Don Quixote (spelling?); a previously mentioned Wal-Mart meets Spencer’s Gifts may have some Christmas lights. To my dismay they do not, but that doesn’t stop me from picking up Halloween decorations for tomorrow’s English Speaking Society (an afterschool club that I sponsor) Halloween party, a new journal to be used for “The Book of Feste,” which I will write during November’s National Writing Month, I also throw in a bottle of RockStar. I was shocked to find the energy drink there, as Red Bell seemed to be the only American energy drink to be available. But I guess the invasion of American energy drinks will soon make its way over here.

8:30pm – I decide to stop at Mister Donut to pickup donuts for the Halloween Party tomorrow. Donuts sure at expensive in Japan with single donuts hovering between 105 to 155 yen each, with no deal for a dozen or more. The cashier was either stupid or a condescending bitch as she asked me the donuts were for here or to go. “Yeah hunny, I’m so American I’m going to eat two dozen donuts in one sitting.” Then she proceeds to publicly laugh at and critique my choice of money, apparently I added one too many 100-yen pieces.

9:05pm – Home sweet home. Before I get lost in my computer, I attend to the dishes. I then check the progress of the Halloween Television Special torrents I’m downloading so that I can play some for the kids tomorrow at the after-school party. I end up with Disney’s Halloween Treat, Disney’s Monster Hits, and the Peanuts Halloween special.

9:31pm - I take the burnable garbage in its corresponding blue bag out. In Japan, taking the garbage out means a black or two walk to the nearest garbage dumpsite.

9:38pm – I decide to cave in and I surf the net.

10:15pm – I do a hardcore trim, and shave off most of my beard to leave a faded but “nifty” beard. It’s shower time! Nothing beats just hangin’ around in the hot steam for as long as you like!

10:57pm – Pajama time! I test out the new lights, and they look fairly cool. I then return to the computer to finish this blog. Getting tired I make my way to bed to finish this sucker. I’m exhausted, but I’m determined to finish.

12:40am – I’ve been watching Disney’s Monster Hits Halloween special while I continue to write away. These blogs are a serious time commitment folks, and I imagine reading them isn’t any easier. Well it’s off to publish and I will hopefully doze off to the band the Album Leaf. Dreamland awaits and the cycle begins all over again.

Monday, October 27, 2008

To Vote

“Bad officials are elected by good citizens who do not vote.”
- George Jean Nathan (American Journalist, critic, 1882-1958)

This past weekend I made sure to take advantage of suffrage, my civil right to vote, by mailing in my low budget looking black and white print-out ballot. I didn’t even need a #2 pencil to circle in my vote, hell even my 4th grade spelling tests had more requirements than the federal absentee ballot. I voted for Barack Obama and some democratic lady running for something I don’t remember. Sure I didn’t exactly research the candidates, but who cares. I voted; therefore I count as an American. I may be critical of the two-party system, but at least seeing a (D) next to someone’s name tells me I’m voting for the lesser of two evils.


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If you haven’t yet already sent in your ballot or don’t plan too…you are not only a lazy a$$hole, but also the epitome of an imbesol. Ignorance cannot be used in this instance, as anyone breathing for more than 5 minutes should understand the importance of casting his/her/its vote. Sure there is an aisle full of excuses to yank off the shelves, but maybe you’re forgetting something. Our country, The United States of America, is EVERYWHERE! We’re not quiet about it either, as we love touting the promise of freedom through democracy. How in the world (literally) can we be persuasive, when just over half of our registered voters take part in the presidential erection (election)? According to my pathetically researched sources, Australia is the champion of voter turnout with 96%, however must realize that they institute a compulsory voting system, whereby you will be punished for not voting. HINT HINT! In America, you’re rewarded for not voting by getting more time to watch ‘Fresh Prince of Bel Air’ reruns. Not bad huh. But in regards to major countries, the US lurks near the bottom with 56.2% recorded in 2004, whereas Japan was at 68% in 2005.

Consequently, I urge you to vote. I don’t care if it’s for Elmo, the communist party, or even McCain, but try to prove to the world that Americans are actively involved in the process and eager to rid the world of George W. Bush. You have the right to choose whomever you please, and I for one am not about to challenge that right. Remember, the world is not keen on Mr. W, but they are letting Americans use the “get out of jail free card.” Sadly, failure to prove our involvement or elect their fan-favorite Mr. Obama will cause a rippling effect.

Honestly, all I’m trying to do is to abdicate the ability that you possess. There’s no pressure (well…maybe a little), but please try your best to go out and show that you matter. You go, you independent action taker you! Ganbatte (go for it)!!!

“To vote or to vote, that is the answer!”

AROUND THE TOWN: Session A

AROUND THE TOWN:
In this series, I will be merely posting pics from in and around my humble city of Aomori. yEp
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On Top of the World

or Mt. Hakkado in Aomori.


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Rectangular Water

This be a local stream of H20. Very nice!



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Random
The view from crossing a bridge near my apartment.
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Office View

This is what I see when I turn around from my desk at school.

SHOW & TELL: Who I Want to Marry Vol. 2

WHO I WANT TO MARRY VOLUME 2
For homework my students had to write body paragraphs explaining why they wanted to marry a person of their choice. The following are excerpts presented exactly as they were written.

Yakihi:
“I like beautiful things. And she is rich. I want money. And she is thin. I like thin woman.”

A Nihongo Teacher
“He was naughty in the cradle. But now he is gentleman very much.”

Snoopy:
“He can speak well.”

Mary Antwanet (Marie Antoinette):
“So, she said, “If there is no blead. You may eat cake.” This word is very famous. And I hear about her looks very beautiful. She has a golden hair, a long hair, a sharp nose, a small mouth, and so on. But, she had a two bad points. One, she has a fiancé. He is Rui 16. Rui is a king. So I can’t won him. One other, she have already died. I can’t meet her.”

Wada Akiko:
“In fact, she looks stylish, beautiful, I can find her in people as soon as. That is good point for me.”

Pooh:
“He likes honey. So he is cool.”

Takeru Sato:
“I like cats. I love cats. So I have felt close to him. Around the world, people that cat like is not bad. I like cats and Sato.”

Windows Vista:
“ It’s able to do many things, for example, to prepare the comprehensible tables, to make sentences, to draw with clear lines and colors, to sing and play my favorite songs, to help to make things, and so on. It’s getting to be able to do more and more things.”

Setouti Jacucho:
“I want to marry Setouti Jacutyou because she has no hair. I don’t like long hair. When I watched her on TV, I found that she has no hair. Because I love her.”

My dog, Panta!:
“When I am depressed, he comes to me and licks my face. I’m encouraged very much. Panta always of a cheerful disposition. So he has a lot of friends. Everyday, his friend come to my house to see him. He wagged his tail and play together. I love such him. But! He is a dog. Therefore of course I can’t marry him!”

Thursday, October 23, 2008

SHOW & TELL: Who I Want to Marry Vol. 1

Welcome to “Show & Tell” a new segment where I present intriguing, intelligent, or just odd work from students. You may chuckle over their confusing usage of English mechanics and grammar, but keep in mind that these students never speak English, and have learned primarily through a boring workbook. While I do encourage you to get a good laugh, just try to realize that in terms of their thought process and structure, these students are quite creative and on their way to producing brilliant English compositions.

WHO I WANT TO MARRY VOLUME 1
For homework my students had to write body paragraphs explaining why they wanted to marry a person of their choice. The following are excerpts presented exactly as they were written.

Pikachu:
“He is not only pretty, but also strong. He can use electricity.”

Hilary Rodham Clinton:
"I feel activity as her politician great. When I travel with her, I can do a trip without minding a price because she will pay all money. If I marry her, I maybe aimed at my life, and I always care about her. However, she has charm to attract me, it will remove my worry. She will love me like a grandchild. So I want to marry!"

Utada Hikaru by a stereotypical dominating Japanese male:
“I watched her PV. On the P.V, she washed the dishes. I felt she is very family-oriented woman. I like such a woman. In the future, I want my wife to wait me comming home. If I marry to such a woman, she will relax me. She is the type of woman I like.”

Ichiro Suzuki by a stereotypical submissive Japanese woman:
“He is older than I, but no problem. I like him”

Wada Akiko (honest & funny):
“It is known that she is a heavy drinker. There`s nothing we can do when she drinks a lot. And she is very tall for her age. She is in good health. And after all, she does not mince matters her words.”

Takahashi Daisuke (charming):
“He wants to be world champion. So he practices very hard everyday. For that reason he usually lives in foreign country. When he is not in Japan, I may feel lonely. But I can watch him on TV.”

Yosuke Eguchi by a stereotypical catty woman:
“He is manly. My heart thrill to him. But he have a wife and two children! He has already married long time ago. But I undaunted. I will deprive his wife of him.”

PS – I LOVE MY STUDENTS!

Monday, October 20, 2008

I've Created a Monster

“It’s Alive” – Dr. Frankenstein

My humor has apparently been rubbing off as the other day my supervisor dropped some wonderful joke bombs.

The coffee machine was once again acting up when a colleague was having difficulty obtaining his precious caffeine-enriched liquid. My supervisor turned to me with a serious deposition saying “That is not coffee maker,” pausing and then adding, “It is trouble maker.” Hilarious! I literally dropped to the floor laughing.

He struck later on during lunch, while I was furiously attempting to wipe chalk marks off my suit, saying, “When you wear black...(pause)...you must write with black chalk.”

You must put into perspective that these corny/witty lines are originating from an older father of two who is by far Office Depot's customer of the year. No one is more professionally organized than this chap. I love working with him, and I’m glad that my 'craziness' has been inspiring.

I’ve also been able to take my trademark sayings and teach them as if they are common American expressions. To clarify, over 600 students in one of the most highly praised academic high schools in northern Japan were writing and saying “it’s a party in my mouth” when describing their favorite food. YES!

Then for the school excursion to Mt. Iwaki…I decided to bring a little craziness to the affair by adorning my Daniel Boone-esque skunk hat. While, I received the expected scattering of shocked glances and a plethora of giggles, I had no clue that it would become a conversational piece within the community. When I went to my Spanish class, which is held at a local mall’s community center, my instructor inquired about my mysterious skunk hat. How the hell did she know? Well apparently, the students were so awestruck that they ran around town spreading the good word. And I thought Buffalo lacked excitement.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

APOLOGIES

Hey there,
Gomenasai (I`m sorry), for not posting anything lately. I`ve got the stuff, it just requires a writer`s touch, eventually I`ll get around to it. Lately, I`ve been pretending to be an athlete, downloading thousands of songs, researching Japanese mythology, writing vast pages in my `Muppets` journal on new characters and how I would revitalize the brand, and balancing all things in life all while methodically planning my eventual rise to fame. It`ll happen...remember the turtle wins the race!

yEp
Crave

"I do my reading in the pages of life"

Friday, October 3, 2008

Englishanese: Round 9

HARD OFF

No my friends, `Hard Off` is not the title of an adult-friendly film...instead it`s the moniker for our neighborhood used goods store. Instead of non-profit entities like the Salvation Army handling the selling of other people`s crap...the Japanese have made it a profitable business. `Hard Off` is a massive store complete with computers, video games, music, clothes, games, furniture, and...diapers. Thankfully after de-frosting from the shock I was assured that they were brand new. But I`m still having difficulty figuring out how diapers come into play. "Hey hunny, this couch looks good, wait I think Junior may want to take a dump later, let`s pickup some diapers." Regardless, Hard Off is a fun adventure for anyone looking for peculiar items. And unlike American thrift stores, you won`t leave the store craving a shower. But in Japan these places are quite pricey. Well...on to the pictures!



A `Japafied` Elmo
Tickling is not permitted.

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Go back to America

This pathetic independent film shot in Buffalo actually made its way overseas and carries a $30 USD price tag. Apparently, this movie is well known over here as one of my co-workers mentioned having seen it after hearing I was from Buffalo. Lord help us.

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Let`s Beer Great

Yours truly guest-spotting this Englishanese segment as I hold a product called "Let`sBeerGreat." I can`t make this stuff up, but I can sure as hell purchase it!

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Are you serious?

Apparently the Japanese are Yahoo Serious. But I guess this guy deserves a lot of credit, he did launch a multi-billion dollar search engine site. So maybe that was lame. :)

Advanced Gift Giving

In Japan, omiyage (souvenirs) are a big deal. When you take a vacation, it is customary to bring back a gift to your co-workers who ‘held down the fort’ while you were away. Typically, this ‘gift’ should be given to everyone in your office. Now I’m in an office of 30 people, but there’s no need to worry as traditional omiyage typically consists of a small edible treat. The Japanese are practical people. They don’t care to inherit hoards of useless $hit like books of fifty thousand postcards, or a 73rd anniversary commemorative pin. Instead, they prefer to eat their presents. Consequently, you’ll rarely find magnets and shot glasses in gift shops. But you will see boxes of treats and sweets elegantly displayed in front of a dangerous looking woman armed with a vast array of gift wrap weaponry eager to beautifully cover your gracious offerings.

While, I’ve only been rockin’ the work scene for less than two months I have already tasted sweet-flavored mangos from the Philippines, a granola bar from Germany, and countless other morsels of fun from all over Japan. But today’s omiyage just went too far.

While pretending to be working hard at my desk, a sensei (teacher) cordially presented me with a ‘manju,’ a sweet little pastry in the shape of a Japanese maple-leaf. He then uttered his well-prepared English saying, “Hiroshima…very famous.” While I was thankful for his generosity, I thought to myself, “he’s been working all week so when the hell did this guy go to Hiroshima?” But when my supervisor turned to me and said, “The souvenir has already arrived,” it all made sense. So get this kiddies…ni-nensei (11th graders) are going on a school trip next week to Kyoto and Hiroshima. So instead of picking out luscious treats to bring back, they simplied order their omiyage in advance. Sure I enjoy the thought, but what the hell is the point? Even the others were kidding the ni-nensei teachers saying how they no longer needed to go on the trip. So now I’ve been toying around with the idea of ordering omiyage from Uzbekistan. I’ll just let them figure it out for themselves. But I guess this is just as bad as our made in China ‘I Love NY’ t-shirts.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

MAP THIS

Please excuse the crap-factor of these images. I swear they looked delicious when I edited them in Photoshop. Damn you Blogger.com!
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Japan has 47 kens (prefectures), much like America`s 50 states. I live in Aomori, the northernmost ken on Honshu island.


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Map of Aomori. I live in the capitol, Aomori-shi. The yellow is actually water...apparently the whales up here pee a lot.

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Map of Aomori-shi. I live in between two streams and near the train tracks. I actually enjoy hearing the train rushing by.

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One of my favorite places for a leisurely stroll, but be prepared to jump on top of your foes.

Grand Entrance

Over the past few days I have been able to bring `sports entertainment` into the office. Yes, folks we`re talking wrestling-style theme songs here. To clarify my excitement, there are a handful of offices within the school. The main office, where my desk is, houses over 30 teachers, therefore it`s a prime location to target the staff. Since, the teachers work late hours, they rarely have the time to pay a visit to the bank, run to the restaurant, or to their travel agent. Consequently, there are many salespeople, delivery persons, and solicitors who provide `housecalls`and frequent the office on a daily basis. And well, I just felt these foot traveling son of a guns deserved a proper entrance. So...collaborating with my supervisor, mind you this is a 50 year old grown a$$ Japanese man, we`ve been picking a lovely selection of tunes for each person. Thus far, we have launched a pilot program, whereby we are testing out the themes for the Obento (boxed lunch) delivery people. So whenever the `Obento Man` enters and exits, my laptop will suddenly blast a Mariachi style Mexican romp. On the other hand, `Obento Lady,` who is quite the looker, gets a smooth serenading track from the `Great Expectations` soundtrack. Thus far, they appear to be unaware of the generous theatrics I am providing for them in their honor. However, the sensei (teachers) have caught on, and now they immediately project an anticipatory grin towards me whenever someone enters the office. It has been a fun project, and I can`t wait to see what we can do next!

In closing, the other day my supervisor turned to me and sincerely said, `You are crazy, and now everyone is getting crazy...thank you!` I am proud that I`ve been able to take my simple but zany approach to fun and apply it to the rigid Japanese working environment. Cheers!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Playtime at the Office

I`m truly falling in love with the office atmosphere. Today there are no classes for students, so there is a staff workshop on counseling methods. Now, one of my favorite sights is when the teachers giddily herd together and rush their giggling bodies out of the office. These `herds` just spring out of nowhere like a tornado in a trailer park. Typically, you will hear some high pitched grunts and laughs, and before you can say `konnichiwa,` they have already grouped together and are hurrying away.
Today`s `herd` was no different, and like always I decided to follow. I keep a safe distance though, so I can exile myself if needed. The `herd` had decided to frolick into the staff meeting room. The teachers stood frozen in amazement at how the tables and chairs had been re-arranged so everyone could face the front for today`s lecture. Then they scurried around the room to save their seats by placing magazines or even wallets at their desired spots. It was like watching little kids save their seats on the bus.
The Japanese practice an intricate and cherished system of saving spots. In order to save a location or spot in line, they simply place an object there or X out the spot in tape. For instance, you won`t see them camping out for `Star Wars,` instead you will see a parade of tape with large Xs. The Japanese have developed a system of trust, whereby no man, woman or child will take advantage, except for maybe an American.
To continue the office antics, a few of us actually took turns sitting at the head table. The rules of this game are as follows: 1.) when you are sitting down you must be formal because you are the head boss 2.) when not sitting you must repeatedly bow down to honor the boss. To add to the roleplaying, I said to one of the bowing teachers, "Please..RISE." This guy seriously bowed like 11 times.
Then just like it had never happened, everyone rushed back and put their `I`m working so hard!` earnest faces on.
Awesome!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Motherload

I opened the door for an obnoxiously polite delivery man. He insisted on shutting my door for me. Okay buddy, you rock those manners! Sadly, his graceful aggressiveness didn’t impress for I had a big package.
What was in this package? Let’s just say parental love. This special rendition of sentiment comes in the form of my soccer keeper gloves, a bag of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, 5 boxes of Kraft Macorini and Cheese, two cans of Bush’s Baked Beans, a bulk bag of candy corn, and something I wasn’t expecting. Did someone say Championship? That’s right a$$holes, I now have Lipton dry iced tea mix in my possession, and Captain Morgan is just a 10 minute bike ride away. My world famous liquid satisfier will now grace the island of Honshu. Giddyup!
You might be thinking, “but that’s all junk food.” You are absopositively correct! I want to publicly say ‘Thank you, and I love you,” to my family.

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`Party In My Mouth`

America`s Garbage Can

Village Vanguard Part 2

Sometimes I’ve wondered where all the products that no one buys end up. Well, now I know. The Village Vanguard is Japan’s answer to Spencer’s Gifts. Some are so willing to get a piece of exotic consumer culture that they will buy $hit that even an American wouldn’t be caught dead with. Take care for instance, the Hollywood Hogan Bashin’ Brawler. Now in the mid ‘90s, this was a hot product. But of course like any trend, too many were produced, and they flooded local Big Lots or any other “crap we can’t get rid of” store. Well, if you’ve had a change of heart and you’re ready to bashin’ brawl brother, you’re just 3990 yen ($40) away! NWO 4 Life!

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A blast from the past that I wasn`t ready for.


Now say hello to the American stereotype baby pacifier. At first I thought this was the Japanese mocking us, but when I saw only English on the package and the trademark ‘As Seen on TV’ logo, I stood corrected. There are football pacifers and even camouflage pacifiers for the hunter and soldier within your baby. But what Japanese parent follows football? These are products merely for novelty, and I guess it’s as asinine as people who get kanji tattoos when they have never studied an Asian language in their life. I suppose ignorance is a vital aspect of consumer culture across the globe.


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This product lessens the chance of your son turning gay.


The one that took the cake though was the McDonald’s happy meal toys. Once again, the package was only in English. Yes folks, you can buy a Disney’s Stitch McDonald Happy Meal toy. I honestly find this to be both cool and a rip-off all in the same purchase.

The Village Vanguard happens to be infatuated with American Pop Culture. In fact, it’s probably one of the only places to find Spiderman. Of course Winnie the Pooh, Tom and Jery, and Snoopy are well represented, but there’s also a random outpouring of obscure American pop characters.

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If I was only into wasting money...these bastards would be coming home with me.


Now, if you’ve ever gone into Spencer’s, then you know the feeling when your eyes explode at the sight of a ridiculously sexual and just useless product. But folks, the Village Vanguard is a Japanese store, meaning their products need to be useful, and boy are they ever.

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Look again…those ‘boobies’ are not for wearing. Instead they are for providing a sensual shower experience.

You`ve Got To Be Kidding

Village Vanguard Part 1

I’ve seen my fair share of unusual products, but today was a different story. While happily strolling through a Village Vanguard, Japan’s version of Spencer’s Gifts, I came across a package of band-aids. But folks, these aren’t for you. Unless of course you are black. Everyone, I’d like you to meet Ebon-Aide First-aid strips. The package proudly boasts their strong message claiming:
“At last, A protective strip that’s made in your shade!”
“Ebon-Aide is the bandage exclusively designed for people of color.”
“Ebon-Aide specially designed first-aid strips blend with skin tone to help conceal as you heal.”
It gets better as there are five colored people friendly shades with Coffee, Licorice, Mocha, Cinnamon, and Honey.
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Whooop, there it is!

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Back at ya!
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I’m just curious, did someone think that band-aids are for white people? Maybe I’m just that pale, but I know those strips are quite obvious on my skin. But honestly, if Ebon-Aide is a product useful to people of color, then I’m all for it. However, I’ve got a serious question to ask: WHERE ARE ALL THE PEOPLE OF COLOR TO PURCHASE THEM? I honestly don’t know of one black or Hispanic person who lives in Aomori-shi, a city of 300,000. I’m sure there are some, but come on, this is clearly not being sold for people of color.

And I couldn’t have been more convinced of this strange form of ‘mildly racist mockery’ then when I came across Little Black Sambo. Yep, you got it! Straight from the oppressive Jim Crow laws comes Little Black Sambo. There appears to be quite a nice selection of ‘merch’ with a series of books, toys, and a Little Black Sambo key chain. I honestly can’t determine if this is wrong, because I’m not sure where they are going with it, and I don’t exactly represent any particular race, including whitefolks.

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This doesn`t seem right.

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It`s not too early to put Little Black Sambo on your Christmas list.


If you`re craving more, there’s also “Black Love,” an incense sold at area stores with a loving black couple on the package cover. Needless to say, I feel kind of bad because of course I had to buy a pack of Ebon-Aides. If you are a person of color with a coffee shade and want to conceal while you heal, I got your back, or wherever the cut is!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Englishanese: Round 8

FUN WITH FLAVORS
This round is dedicated to the consequences of the Japanese taking their love of certain foods and flavors to places where they don`t belong. Enjoy!
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Green Tea Donut

The Nihonjin find green tea to be cho umai (super delicious) therefore they have no qualms with enjoying this funky flavor with anything they put in their mouth. Take for instance this midori (green) tea glazed donut from Japan`s reigning donut vendor Mister Donut.

Verdict: Uber gross!

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Blueberry Kit-Kats
As stated in a previous blog, the Nihonjin love their kit-kats/choco-wafers. They also love exotic fruits, so it`s not surprising to find blue-berry flavored choco-wafers on the shelf. What`s shocking though is the lukewarm taste.

Verdict: Yucky!

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Ice Cream Soda

Japan has a passion for ice cream...apparently it`s so deep that they needed a carbonated beverage version. I honestly only purchased this peculiar bottle for the photo-op and I still don`t have the kintama (Japanese slang for testicles) to try it.

Verdict: TBD once a high level of intestinal fortitude is obtained

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Corn Infested Pizza
Corn is rightfully popular in Japan, as corn-on-the-cob is truly a `party in your mouth.`So why not sprinkle a little on your pizza? Hell, why not sprinkle a whole $hitload on your pizza? Yeah, now we`re talking! When it comes to toppings though, you can`t top (small pun) Japanese pizza. Actually the corn was the most normal item and it helped distract me from figuring out what else was on the pie. But...what do you expect when you`re ordering from a pizza place called Strawberry Cones.

Verdict: Yummy in my tummy!

Friday, September 12, 2008

CraveQuiz: AmPop Culture

While western fashion and cheeseburgers have certainly slipped their way onto the big stage, American Pop Culture as whole hasn’t. While the Nihonjin (Japanese) are fascinated by American culture, they haven’t allowed much to seep into their daily lives. Well folks, it’s time for the inaugural CraveQuiz, a new segment where I will axe you some fancy questions. Test your knowledge! Then when your done look below to see the correct answers and enjoy a little educamoocation from yours truly. Cheers!

1.) What is the most widely available American chocolate in Japan?
a.) Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup
b.) Snickers
c.) Kit Kat
d.) M&Ms

2.) What group of fictional cartoon icons is big in Japan?
a. Batman, Yogi Bear, Captain Planet
b. Winnie the Pooh, Snoopy, Tom & Jerry
c. Scooby Doo, Bugs Bunny, Beavis and Butthead
d. Garfield, Spider Man, Casper the Friendly Ghost

3.) What American sitcom is syndicated locally in Nihongo (Japanese) and Eigo (English)?
a. Seinfeld
b. Roseanne
c. Empty Nest
d. Full House

4.) What perennial treat do the Japanese love the most?
a. Ice Cream
b. Donuts
c. Slurpies
d. Lollipops

Answers:
1.) What is the most widely available American chocolate in Japan?
c.) Kit Kat


Answer Explained: Kit Kat’s are huge over here. The Kit-Kat wikipedia page reports that the phenomonan may be due to how Kit Kat is similar to the Japanese phrase ‘kitto katsu’ meaning, “You will surely win!” As a result, Kit Kat bars are purchased as a gifts for good luck, much like how lame but cool teachers in America would pass out Smarties before a test. According to the site, there have been a variety of flavours including, maple syrup, melon, vanilla bean, grape, apple, banana, caramel, kiwki, azuki, green tea, and cherry blossom. There is also a knock-off brand called Choco-Wafers ranging from the traditional chocolate to vanilla or strawberry and I’ve heard talk of a mysterious pumpkin flavor. I actually just ate a blueberry Choco-Wafer…not bad actually.

In regards to other American confectionary imports; Snickers, M&Ms, and Crunch bars are scarce but available. Other than that, you’re pretty much out of luck. Shockingly, Reese’s are no where to be found. Peanut Butter is not a big deal over here. Luckily, Jupiter, a nearby foreign food store has Skippy creamy peanut butter in stock. I even snuck in 5 slides in my introduction powerpoint presentation proclaiming my love for peanut butter. Apparently, my new name around school is Mr. Peanut Butter. Sounds good to me!


2.) What group of fictional pop icons is big in Japan?
b.) Winnie the Pooh, Snoopy, Tom & Jerry



Answer Explained: Winnie the Pooh reigns supreme as the king of western merchandising tools. His friends from the 100-acre woods though are rarely seen. Tom and Jerry, the official mascots for Michinoku Bank appear often in Japanese culture. While Snoopy is not as prevalent he shows up once in awhile. Other Disney characters, especially Stitch are fairly common. I also noticed that one of my students had a complete Sesame Street stationary set. I was impressed…and confused. But as far as Scooby Doo, Batman and Spider-Man, from what I’ve seen, or haven’t seen for that matter, you won’t find them in Japan. Shockingly, Hello Kitty appears to be bigger in America than over here.

Tom & Jerry are quite popular in Japan.

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Pooh will even hang your clothes. What a gentleman!

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3.) What American sitcom is syndicated locally in Japanese and English?
d.) Full House


Answer Explained: Yes, it’s true. Those retards from Full House just won’t go away. There’s a button on the remote that you can press for some shows that will play only English, only Japanese, or both. Sometimes I try watching in Japanese, but then I don’t get the uplifting holistic meaning at the end. The music plays, but the tears don’t shed. It’s probably aired because it showcases universal family values. While America loves Seinfeld, I’m not sure the Japanese would necessarily understand all of the slang and inside jokes.


4.) What classic western treat do the Japanese love?
a. Ice Cream



Answer Explained: They may exist, but I have yet to see any slurpies/slushies or lollipops. You can find smoothies though. While there is the popular Mister Donut franchise, donuts aren’t as popular as they are in the states and can’t possibly compare with the winner: Ice Cream. They love it! Nearly every food court establishment serves up a variety of ice cream, and you can’t walk five steps in a park or at a festival without seeing an vendor dishing out some ice cream. While Dairy Queen withdrew their over 100 locations in 2000, Baskin Robbins is in full force with tempting exotic flavors. They even had the scoops to use the brazen “We make people happy,” as their official slogan. Ice Cream is traditionally sold in a cone. There’s typically one size though for ice cream cones, and yes in Japan one size does feed all. You can also find ice cream wrapped up with a variety of sweets in a crepe. Sundaes exist but not with all the toppings you may be used to. But have no fear, for McDonald’s serves up the McFlurry. Thankfully shakes, floats, and gelati are also available. Best of all though are the Haagen-Daz vending machines! The Japanese scream for ice-cream.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

March of the Children

I have timed my journey to work to coincide with an epic event; the March of the Children. There are no yellow busses in Aomori. So how do the children get to school? The old fashioned way: THEY WALK! Talk about barbaric. How dare the Japanese force their children to travel on foot to school. Perhaps this explains why I can’t spot any over-weight children. I can honestly count on one hand the ‘fat kids’ I’ve seen at Aomori Koko (High School). How dare the Nihon-jin (Japanese) be so fit! Who are we supposed to make fun of? You see, one would have to be a real lazy son of a gun to be packing the pounds in Japan. With all the rice, and daily exercise, it’s no wonder they put America to shame.

Moving on to my original point, let’s return to the wondrous ‘March of the Children.’ I thoroughly enjoy strutting along the streets with this parade of youngsters. Every morning, around 7:00am they begin. They will start their journey by putting on their cute synchronized outfits and if a boy, a nice little baseball cap. They look so tiny under the weight of their gigantic square backpacks. Japanese book-bags are stupid. They just look so lame. Our (America’s) book bags are far superior with their leather bottoms and endless compartments and colors.

Like all youngsters, Japanese children are playfully innocent. You’ll see an older kid politely bullying another child or little girls giggling in packs as they waddle along. Then it breaks my heart to see the loner...he’s in the back of the parade, usually with his head down low picking a winner in his nose or anus.

I adore the childrens’ reactions when I sidle up behind them. Their jaws instantly plummet to the ground as their eyes open wide. Little girls are more prone to throw me a nice little ‘Ohaiyo gozaimasu (Good morning).’ Though boys remain conservative and prefer to practice their stare-down tactics. If I say ‘konnichiwa,’ I won’t hear it returned until about 100 yards later when a disgruntled ‘konNIchiWA’ is muttered beneath their swollen breath.

The parade is not complete without the high schoolers. They have technologically progressed their methods of transportation and ride in on bicycles. Be careful, for they are wheeled warriors. They will not hesitate to run your sorry behind out of the way. They’re usually so tired from staying at school past 7pm only to study until early morning. Girls wear blue dresses with straps over a white short sleeve shirt. Smart girls wear long dresses, and dumb girls wear short dresses. Consequently, being at the top academic school in the ken (prefecture) we rarely see ‘skin.’ This is good. However, at the other schools my god do those skirts rise. I’m sure the old men don’t mind checking out all that leg. On the other side, the boys adorn a modestly professional white sleeve button down shirt and black slacks.

It wouldn’t be a school morning though without crossing guards. Yes, Japan has crossing guards. But...Japan is smart. They don’t pay people to simply stand at a corner only to walk in front of children. Japan utilizes its team-oriented culture and gathers volunteers. It’s hilarious watching a thirty old man handsomely dressed in a stellar three-piece suit helping youngsters cross a puddle-ridden street in the rain.

So if one wants to kidnap children, come to Japan between 7:00am and 8:00am. They are waiting for you!

EARTHQUAKE!

I’m sitting in the teacher office when my supervisor turns to me and says, “you feel earthquake?” I immediately chuckled as I felt nothing. Within seconds, I wasn’t laughing. My chair began to bobble as the office shook like Godzilla was cradling the school in its arms. It was both a cool sensation and a scary realization. The ‘tremors’ continued and I felt nausea as if I was out at sea on a rocky boat. Dizziness clouded my vision. The teachers laughed when they saw me get up and stand in solemn silence. They are experienced earthquakers, and found humor in my frightened reaction to my first ground-moving experience. I thought that Universal Studio’s Earthquake ride would have properly prepared me for this encounter with unpredictable Mother Nature, but it didn’t. Earthquakes are a common occurrence in Japan, especially in northern Honshu island, where I happen to reside. I guess I must get ready for many sequels. It’s been several minutes, and either my mind is playing tricks on me, or we are still vibrating. I feel sick, but yet cooler having experienced it.

Shameless

As a pride-infested society, shame is ubiquitous in Japan. However, this feeling of personal wrong-doing is absent when it comes to getting naked or publicly letting your natural juices flow.

So I had just finished wrapping up the projector cords when I lifted up my head. To my utter shock and dismay I was confronted with a Japanese crotch. Thankfully, it was masked by a thin layer of boxer fabric. A quirky smile of confusion erupted when upon looking around I noticed EVERY student changing for gym class. The girls showed more refinement though, as they lifted their shorts, or whatever they were putting on, under their skirts. But it wouldn’t take a pervert to obtain a nice money shot. I then took my culture shock to the sensei (teacher) office and immediately questioned this odd behavior. I was told that there used to be changing rooms, but the students did not care and would rather change clothes in their own co-ed classroom. Talk about strange. It’s not wrong, it’s just different, and maybe convenient?

I would have liked this shame-less behavior to cease in the classroom, but my friend it wouldn’t be blog worthy if it did. Let’s go back to the onnanoko tachi (girls) and throw in onnanohito tachi (women) for good measure. In America, and I suspect most of the civilized world, women are taught at a young age to either close their legs or cross them when wearing a skirt or dress. Apparently, Japanese women think they are Sharon Stone from ‘Basic Instinct’ as they clearly didn’t get that memo. In the classroom, at the bus stop, on the train, and at McDonalds there are beaver shots to be had. Honestly, I’m not sure if they are wearing panties or not, because I have maintained a high level of respect and haven’t looked. But I gotta tell ya, those days are waning thin. If they’re not going to learn to close their legs, then my eyes might as well come inside. It’s so bad that when I was preparing a student for her exchange visit to Maine, I put a section called “Cross the Legs” on the ‘MUST DO IN AMERICA’ list. It’s not that the Japanese are polite and won’t look, because I see many a man, especially the old perverts, taking full advantage of the grand canyon view. I think this behavior is more attributed to the innocence that many young Japanese women embody. Or maybe they just don’t care. I’m not sure, and I’m afraid to ask.


Finally, one cool and crisp morning while shaving, I shifted my gaze just outside the window. “Awwww,” I thought as my eyes spied a little boy all geared up for school. But when the sound effects of his urinating on my front yard storage facility entered my ear, “aww” quickly went to “what the f****!” Whatever happened to finding a tree, or going behind the house? This little prick had no shame. Oh well, welcome to Japan!