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2005-04-01 11:31 a.m.

old shit/new shit

Huge chunks of my archives seem to have magically disappeared. Thatís annoying. But all is not lost for my LEGIONS of adoring fans. [Legions, you say? Why, yes. Just the other day, a herd of talking pigs came up to me and told me how much they loved my diary. Before throwing themselves off a cliff, they told me they were Legion. True story. So there you go.] Iíve saved copies of every single entry to my hard drive, to a JumpDrive, and to a secret cache hidden in one of the multitude of dank electronic oubliettes infesting the world wide web. We will survive. (As long as we know how to love, we know weíll be alive.)

Aww, donít cry. I know itís tough, but itíll be okay!

So, itís April, the time of new beginnings in Japan.

I watched Matchan clean out her desk last week. That was interesting. On her last day she actually came over to talk to me, saying thanks for all your help, la dee dah. It was pretty much the first conversation Iíve had with her since I met her, unless you count our ill-fated dinner date. Which I donít. Actually, I was a little sad to see her go.

Iím not sure how the new (old) teacher will teach or what sheíll expect of me. I know she has fairly pristine English, which will be a nice change. Actually, if she expects me to do things, Iím afraid I might be annoyed for a while. Once Iíd finally accepted the status quo with Matchan, I came to enjoy the immense free time and lack of responsibility it gave me, and I may not be eager to give that up. Oh well.

The English teacher at the high school got transferred. This annoys me, for two main reasons. For one, sheís been teaching at that school forever, and it seems stupid and sad to take her out now and bring in a new teacher to teach five kids for the one year before the school closes permanently. The second reason is that she and I got on really well and were getting to have a really good relationship, personally and professionally. We covered for each other when the other needed it, and she let me teach more or less how and what I wanted. After the lessons for the day were over, weíd frequently just hang out and chat for a couple hours before I left. And now I have to get used to a brand new person. Iím nervous. I mean, at the middle school it couldnít really get much worse than Matchan, but at the highschool? It could get a LOT worse.

demo nan to ka naru ka ne

Iíve got a beef with the elementary school, too. It's a very different frustration from the kind I usually get at the middle school. I just feel really... sad. Basically, at the elementary school I teach English to third through sixth grade. But as Iíve done a lot of fulfilling work with the preschool kids, I wanted to be able to continue working with them once they went to elementary school. So I requested to teach first and second grade, too. Sounds like a simple request, right? Well, it's pretty much been nixed. They claim there's no time; I was told third through sixth grade has time scheduled in for miscellaneous things like English, but not first and second. Apparently this is not negotiable. They offered me 15 minutes a week, which I suppose I will take if that's all I can get, but... I really need at least double that to do anything useful. Then I asked if it might be possible for me to teach a thirty minute class after school on Wednesdays, just for those 1st and 2nd graders who want to come. The response I got was "That would be difficult," which, in my experience, is translated as, "No fucking way, dude."

I'm really bummed about it. I gave up on the middle school a long time ago and am much happier for having done so, but my work with the little ones is really important to me. I feel like everything I'm teaching the preschoolers is going pretty much straight into the toilet if they're going to go two whole years without it. Two years is a long time when you're six! Hell, itís a long time when youíre twenty-six! I feel like the only person this will create more work for is me, that it should theoretically lighten the workload of the normal teachers, and so I don't understand what the problem is. I'm actually really pleased with the work I've done at the elementary school; I feel like I've done a great job there and have earned the right to have such a seemingly simple wish granted. I just want to teach the kids, you know? I just want to do what they're paying me to do. I'm really sad about this. I just know the new first graders are going to show up to school expecting to continue English with me like they did in preschool, and I won't know what to tell them when they ask me why they're not allowed to learn English anymore.

there is no such thing as you
it doesnít matter what you do
the more you try to qualify
the more it all will pass you by

Iíve been a little down sometimes, recently. A lot of little annoyances and uncertainties have been circling. I think itís one of those periodic bouts of culture shock, actually. Occasionally I wonder if the decision to stay here for another year was the right one. But if I think about it, do I really want to miss out on the senior year of my five darling high school students? Do I really want to abandon my super-cool preschoolers and elementary kids? Do I really want to leave my beloved Rock, my beloved Japan, NOW? The answer is a resounding NO. And what would I do if I went back, anyway? The deadlines for applying to graduate school have passed, so Iíd end up spending ANOTHER YEAR vegging out in Vegas, making ten bitter bucks an hour as a substitute, at least if/when I was able to get work. Yeah, I donít think so. Weíre staying.

Itís not so bad, though. And I feel better today than I did at the beginning of the week.

the more you try to shave the cat
the more the thing will bite and scratch
itís best i think to leave its fur
and listen to its silky purr

And I feel I should mention that the fifth graders (now sixth graders, I guess) are a wonderful class. I donít know what I did to deserve such a great class, but they rule.

At the middle school theyíre rearranging the teachersí desks. Iím annoyed, because I wonít be sitting across from MT anymore and thus will no longer be able to look at her pretty face whenever I want.

I told her that, too. Sheís learned to take my flattery in stride, I think, but Iím not sure what she thinks of it. I am not quite sure where we stand right now, she and I. There was a time I suspected she was interested in me, but I donít know now. If I thought Iíd get a straight answer Iíd just ask her. That may have to wait till sheís drunk, though. Thereís an enkai Monday night. Maybe thenÖ

When I was in Kyoto, someone told me I look like a young John Denver. That was a new one.

Another mysterious Japanese word that no one seems to be able to explain to me: sarasara. Iíve only ever heard it in reference to my hair (its texture, not its color), but the word comes up pretty much anytime someone talks about it. I guess that will have to be the definition, then. Itís official: sarasara means ďthe texture of greyareaís hair.Ē

In addition, as it turns out, thereís no word for "frown" in Japanese. In a way thereís not a word for "smile," either, as the word usually translated as ďsmileĒ can just as easily be translated ďlaugh.Ē But thatís okay, because thereís no word for genki in English.

I got a haircut yesterday. The old guy who does it is cool. Heís something of an expert on local history. (Apparently the Rock was a pirate hangout during the Warring States period.) The haircuts are a bit expensive, but charmingly old school. He did my hair up all clean-cut 60s style. I took a picture of it; I looked like my dad. Itís rare that I leave there without a bag of food and/or a dinner invitation from his wife, too. Yesterday she loaded me up with homemade marmalade and a whole bunch of random other things.

Itís that time of year, when the air is cool and the sun is warm, and somehow youíre both cool and warm at the same time. Itís a spring thing, I guess.

It looks like Iím headed to Fukuoka this week for cherry blossom viewing. Iíve never actually done that before. Iím looking forward to it.

Whenever I canít think of what to write here, the word ďovertĒ always comes to mind.


Oh, did I tell you Iíve been learning to play badminton? Thereís a group that meets every Tuesday to play. It seems to be main gathering point for the young people on the island. I had thought I was getting fairly good, but then last week I played with my high school kids. I suck, dude. It was embarrassing. I got my revenge, though! Yesterday I came upon them playing Uno in the bus station. I played one game with them, and I totally kicked their asses! My ignominious defeat in badminton was avenged! Yeah!

They play Uno with weird rules, though.

iím tired of the old shit; let the new shit begin,