Friday, September 25, 2009

Silver Week

In Japan we recently had silver week. This is a stretch of holidays from Monday to Wednesday. So the last weekend I had was a 5 day weekend. I tried to take advantage of it as much as possible and I think I did.

On Saturday Matt and I went to the Kishiwada Danjiri Matsuri. This festival is known throughout Japan and is pretty popular. A lot of famous people come from all over to watch it. It’s the only festival where people have died from celebrating. During the day the men pull these giant wooden floats around the city in celebration. (more on it)

I posted a video on facebook of the day.

On Sunday Matt had a sports festival at his school. My sports festival isn’t until the 2nd of next month so I joined some friends that I met through my company on a trip to Himeji Castle. It is the most famous castle in Japan.

I also made a video of this on facebook.

On Monday Matt and I went to a BBQ at a friends house. It lasted all day and was a lot of fun. We got there at around 3pm. Then we went to the store and all bought some stuff. It was around 11 people and more people joined later. Later it turned into a drinking party.

On Tuesday we relaxed and recovered.

On Wednesday we went to Kobe. We met some friends there and walked around the harbor. We also watched some acapella groups perform while we waited for our friends.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Longest Update Ever

After a long, long, long wait…….

Finally I am again connected to the world again though the wonderful thing known as the internet. I finally got internet on Saturday after not having it for about one month. This is the longest I’ve gone without using the internet and man, it is rough without it. I didn’t realize how much I use it, how important the internet is to keep in touch with people, and how much time I spend on it.

First off I missed a couple birthday wishes due to lack of internet so, Happy Birthday to Luke my biggest brotha (he’s 5 now I can’t believe it), Mike my uncle, John, Becky, and Hiromi. I hope you all had nice bdays.

After that being said, it’s time for a pretty big update. Since it has been so long I’ll break it down into easier to read Chapters haha.

Things that have happened over the last month….

Chapter One

The Move

For those of you who haven’t been keeping up I’ve moved to Osaka now. I first moved here on August 3rd, but into a guest house. After talking with Adrian and Yu (friends from where I used to live) they convinced me, living in a guest house would be a good move because I could meet many people in a short time, the cost was low and it was half way between my school and between downtown Osaka by train. The location was great, the price was decent and there seemed to be no reason not to move there… until I actually moved in.

After living there for a week or two, it wasn’t exactly what I had imagined. I thought people would be hanging out in the common rooms and people would stop by my room knock on my door and say a group of people are going to a bar or club and ask me to join. A lot like what I though college would be like too. Despite my high hopes this didn’t exactly happen. After moving there I realized how small and dirty my room was, how important to me it is to have access to free laundry, my own kitchen, bathroom, and shower. Also one of the main reasons I moved to Osaka was to meet lots of people. The town the guest house was in wasn’t exactly happening. It was more like suburbs than the city that I imagined. Also everyone in the guest house was European for some reason. A lot of people from France and Germany in particular, a Nigerian family, and random Japanese people and a few others lived in the guest house.

Everyone pretty much kept to themselves and did their own thing. Those that came to the guest house together hung out together but other than that nothing really happened.

It was also really hard going from knowing everyone in town, to knowing no one in a place I had never been before, and of course that got to me a bit. I didn’t really make any friends in the guest house. I had a few people who I knew by name and talked to occasionally but we didn’t do anything together. Regardless I wanted to move out after two weeks.

This is a little unrelated but I did this while I was living in the guest house so I thought it’d put it in this chapter lol. In my free time I visited my school that I knew I’d be teaching at, but didn’t go inside. I just went there to figure out how to walk there from the station and see what the outside looked like. It was pretty interesting. I even saw some students and said hello, but didn’t tell them I was going to be the next ALT.

Chapter Two

The Second Move

Anyways luckily and by coincidence a friend I had met two years ago when I studied in Tokyo was in the middle of changing jobs and wanting to move to downtown Osaka. His name is Matt, Matt told me he was looking for a new place so I suggested we get a place together. After I suggested it he said he was going to say the same thing. After searching and visiting a couple apartments we finally decided on one that was furnished, in a really good location, but a total dump.

After seeing the apartment I thought “Man, I don’t think I can live here”. I had never seen a place so dirty but still “ready for new tenants to move in”. Since I was tired of living in the guest house I just said ok whatever lets move here. So we did on August 15th. I knew the place had a lot of potential, and the location was unbeatable so I told myself I’ll fix the place up and make it livable and nice even. It will take a few months but I still think Matt and I can do it.

After we moved in the cleaning process began. First thing on our agenda was cleaning the fridge as that was important to keeping any food we planned on buying. Unfortunately the people who lived there before us were a total slobs. I was told they lived there a total of 3 months, and from what I saw, I don’t think they cleaned the place once over the whole 3 months they lived there.

Anyways, cleaning the fridge took about 3 hours… that’s how nasty it was. Matt and I took a video before the cleaning process began, please enjoy.

The refrigerator inside smelled like someone spilled a bunch of soy sauce inside closed the door wait a few hours and then opened the door, let a huge fart out then shut it.

The freezer was a whole other story. As for the freezers smell, I am unable to put into words how putrid it was. Matt described it as Satan’s Taint. I on the other hand liked to describe it as a dead carcass of a yak in the grass lands of Africa that had been rotting in the sun for days and then other animals vomited and pooped on it plus the smell of raw sewage. It was probably the 2nd worst smell I’ve ever smelled in my life. Only to be trumped by the maggot filled dead rabbit Harry and I found in the gutter one day.

The reason the freezer smelled much worse was because the last people who lived there left some type of meat or something in the freezer and it just got nasty. First we put our gloves and masks on then we brought the thing into the shower area. We hosed it down, scrubbed the hell out of it, bleached it, let the bleach work its magic, then scrubbed it again and rinsed it. Matt and I agreed the whole process was like a bonding experience haha.

With the fridge out of the way we started sweeping, cleaning the walls, deciding what dishes to keep and throw away, and how to arrange our rooms. From there we kept working until the place was decent enough to call a house. We’re still in the process of decorating the place, it looks pretty bear for now, but both of us are poor from having to move twice in such a short time and due the fact that neither of us have been paid in quite some time.

Chapter Three

My Birthday

After moving into the new place and being so far away from all my family and friends in both the US and Tochigi I was starting to wonder what I could do for my birthday. Luckily I’m part of a website known as, if you’ve never heard of it, it’s a website where you can post your information on where you live and people from all around the world who are traveling can stop by and visit you. You are supposed to be a host who can offer anything such as a person to get coffee with and talk to, or you can go as far as offer a place to stay for travelers and be their guide while they are visiting. It’s a pretty interesting concept and website if you’re interested check it out. Anyways enough free advertising, on that website I found a BBQ that was taking place the same day as my birthday. I suggested to Matt we both go to this BBQ because it looked like a lot of fun and was a good place to meet a lot of new people.

We got to the train station where it was taking place around 7ish. We met the host of the party and got a ride to their house. Her name was Saori. After we got to the party we hung out ate and talked to a lot of people. There were around 25 people or so at the party so it was a nice size. The thing is a good portion of the people there were travelers so that was interesting too. It was nice to meet such a diverse group of people considering Japan isn’t that a diverse at all. We met people from Italy, Taiwan, the Netherlands, Germany, Canada, France, and Japan lol among other places. Everyone there was surprisingly good at English, now I know why it’s known as a world language. Everyone who came from countries (that didn’t speak Japanese) would speak English. So it was interesting hearing a French guy talking to a Taiwanese girl and they’re both using English.

I showed a couple people some magic tricks and they really liked it. A Japanese guy played the guitar but sang a song in Spanish haha.
At the end of the night we had a cake because Saori’s birthday was actually 11 days before mine on August 11th. It was really nice to get a cake and have a bunch of 20 or so strangers sing happy birthday to me haha. It made my birthday feel more like a birthday, since I couldn’t spend it with people who I really wanted to, friends and family. Thanks to Saori for hosting the party!

Since then they have invited us to go to Karaoke, which we tried but showed up late so we missed it, but I plan on doing more things with the Osaka couchsurfing community again soon.

Chapter Four


Training with Interac began on Tuesday the 25th. There were actually two group training sessions, one of which started the 18th the week before. I chose to do second group session because I thought I was going home and that would have given me more time to be at home, sigh. After meeting a few of the people from the first one I’m glad I chose the second one.

Anyways training went really well. Since I had experience I actually taught everyone else who didn’t a lot of good/important things. They were pretty appreciative. A lot of the things training tried to teach me I already knew but a couple things were pretty useful since they are specific to Osaka. Also each Board of Education operates a bit differently and that was to be expected. We never actually visited the BOE like I though we would, but instead we had a big group meeting with teachers and discussed various topics to help things go smooth in the classroom.

It didn’t take long though and everyone I met in training seemed like really nice people. After training was finished on Friday we had a big party in Namba (downtown Osaka). We did a big group karaoke (like almost 30 people) then finished at a bar later.

Something funny that happened was, the last tenant in my apartment who left it looking like crap is working for the same company as me. He told my landlord he had returned home for some family emergency, which obviously was a total lie hah. I told him I moved into his apartment and he said get out of there, it’s a craphole. I didn’t say it but I was thinking, it’s because you let it get like that.

On a different note, I’ve hung out with the group from training randomly (on the night I was supposed to go to karaoke with the couchsurfer community). Matt and I were walking around Umeda (northern Osaka) and randomly I heard my name and I looked behind me and it was a group of 6 friends from training. It was pretty lucky we ran into them. We went in search for dinner then went to a bar afterwards and hung out and talked. Matt and I wanted to go home that night but the rest of them wanted to stay out so they stayed out past last train and were in Umeda until 5 am.

Chapter Five

School Starts

My first day was on September 2nd. When I first got there I had a short meeting with the schools principal and 3 other new assistant staff, who are university/graduate students. After my talk with them they though I was bilingual or fluent in Japanese. I’m still far from it, but I appreciated the compliments. After that short meeting I had a big speech in front of all of the students for my introduction. I went ok, but the students weren’t very receptive. This wasn’t much of a shock because it was the first day back from summer vacation, which no one likes, and it takes a few days or conversations for students to warm up to you. After the big speech I gave another to the staff, but pretty much the same speech.

The first day I didn’t have any lessons to teach so it was a little boring. The students didn’t have any classes either which was weird; they just had the morning meeting then went home. I just studied Japanese and talked a bit to the teachers. About 8 of the teachers all went out for lunch together and invited me. I was nice to get to talk to all of the teachers and see what kind of people they are.

The school size is pretty small for being in a big city. There are probably only around 300 students or so in the whole school. There are 3 grades in Junior High here equivalent to 7th 8th and 9th grades in America. In Japan every year they go to a new school they become 1st graders again, so in this case Junior High 1st graders. Even though they are really 7th graders the teachers call them 1st graders or 一年生 ichi nen-sei. So for each grade there are only a total of 3 classes so for example 1-1, 1-2, 1-3 are the 7th grade classes, 2-1, 2-2, and 2-3 are the 8th grade classes.

Anyways so far I really like the school. Everyone is nice and the English teachers are great. Mr. Funada is really good at English, I think he told me he lived in America for sometime, or went to High School in LA. I’ll find out more tonight because we have an Enkai (dinner banquet thing) and that’s the best time to get your teachers to tell you all about themselves. Mr. Kano is really funny and likes to make jokes every chance he gets. Both Kano and Funada are the 1st grade English teachers. Ms. Nakabayashi and Ms. Kitani are really nice too. I worked with Ms. Nakabayashi for the speech contest we had last Monday. We helped one of the students for the speech contest by practicing pronunciation and intonation. Apparently her sister participated a few years ago and got 2nd place.

Although my student didn’t place 1st I though she did really well and I was proud of her. I want to get her something for her hard work, but I’m not sure what I can get for her. I’ll have to talk to her and find out what she likes. Last year in Sano I had three students in the speech contest and gave them all something for their hard work. So I’d also like to give her something too.

Tonight is an Enkai which I’m really looking forward too, it’ll be the first one I have with my school. I brought my camera so I’ll take some pictures if I can.

I’m looking forward to this weekend too because Saturday night Matt and I are holding a party at our place in celebration of getting the internet.

On Sunday I might go to Umeda and play Ultimate Frisbee so that should be fun.

Today I don’t have any classes because it’s a big assessment test day. So I’ve been writing this blog all day hah. I’ll probably study a bit today too since I have so much free time.

Sorry for such a long blog but it has been over a month since I’ve had a real update. Thanks for reading. お疲れ様でした。