SCHIZO-ALIAS

Musings about Japan and life as a human, a cosplayer, a minority, a music lover, an English teacher.

Category Archives: Uncategorized

Tweeting your Congressman

If you REALLY REALLY don’t believe in allowing Trump to take office, don’t just sign that little petition on Change.org. I can tell it has good intentions and from what I’ve read, even Trump agreed that the Electoral College is a problematic and imperfect system. But I read the letter that was going to be sent to the Electoral College and I could see that it wasn’t enough. The petition itself isn’t convincing enough either.
Find another way to reach the Electoral College, specifically the Electors chosen by your state, and include all of the recent developments thus far (why you think Pence as leader of the transition team is a bad idea, why you believe having a GOP controlled government will have a negative impact on the country, how Trump’s election has led to an increase in hate crimes and enabled bigotry, etc.). Don’t just say “Trump is gonna take away same-sex marriage!!” or “Trump is a racist xenophobe!!” Because people have been saying those things for months and it didn’t matter. Talk about the economy. Talk about the environment. Talk about the dangers of letting someone who can’t control his words online, speak to and about other world leaders. A really big number on a single online petition might sound effective and hopeful, but what would even be more effective is a really big number of actual letters and phone calls and e-mails. 
Also be open to the idea that, even if you don’t have the person you want in office, that doesn’t mean it’s hopeless.
I read an article written following the election on reaching out to Congress. I’ll be brief about my criticism of social media and media in general–it’s filled with lies. Everywhere. People are so quick to believe everything they read without looking at the shady URL underneath or researching the background of that “news” source. We became way too engaged in Twitter wars and hashtags and the comments section of every think-piece that we failed to realize that none of that mattered. Your fellow citizen that you disagree with isn’t going to magically change anything. Look to the people who are in charge: Congress.
The article mentions an e-mail or a snail mail letter, but before you send either of those, PLEASE consider the phone call first. Talking to another human being is more effective than a bunch of words that may just be glazed over and then set aside or deleted or thrown away.
 
Don’t waste your time tweeting at Congress members–or do, but also find other ways to reach out to them. Many of these people don’t have time to manage their own social media accounts and have people do it for them, so they don’t hear anything and it just gets absorbed by their staffers instead.
 
 
For years many of us have been led to believe that the Internet and social media will do everything for us because of the feel-good stories about hashtags and remarks about how many views or retweets or Likes something has. The harsh reality is that the power of social media has been abused and overused. Everyone loves a 90s throwback these days, how about a 90s throwback to how we used to communicate?

Amway and Online Dating?

Happy New Year!

This year marks the countdown of my last few months on JET. I didn’t expect to quit the YouTube vlogging and slow down on my blogging in recent years, but I feel more satisfied being able to experience various things without the need to constantly document it. Some people are great at doing that, but not me, unfortunately.

One of my most interesting adventures while in Japan has actually taken place online. Naturally, very little happens here in the countryside where I live, which leaves me with venturing out into the city and making contact with people over the Internet. It started with meeting weird people on mixi early on and eventually escalated to Japanese online dating sites.

Many people, whether they be Japanese or not, will tell you that online dating sites are “bad” and “dangerous.” My mom really doesn’t sit well with the idea of me using them. While the majority of the people I’ve talked to online were very normal (some just a little desperate but still normal), I did run into several incredibly strange and even scary situations:

  • There was a guy who seemed quite normal but quickly started advising that I’d better give up on dating Japanese guys and look for a foreigner if I wasn’t willing to make myself look “cute.” Then he started to feel sorry for me for being single for most of my adult life and started writing in incredibly terrible and hilarious Google Translator English that he likes “ugly” girls and that he’ll date me because he pities me. I thought this guy was gonna murder me if I ever met him in person so I ended that.
  • I accidentally reciprocated interest in a 27-year old single dad’s profile, not realizing that he was a single father (I don’t want kids so that was going to be a problem). Based on his profile he seemed to really be looking for a serious relationship, so I tried to be open-minded but eventually had to tell him that I thought we could only be friends, without mentioning anything about his 8-year old daughter. As soon as I told him, he started begging me for sex, telling me that he hasn’t done it in a long time, that I wouldn’t regret it and that I should give him a chance. Woah.
  • And finally, I recently cut off contact with a guy who wasn’t looking for a girlfriend, but in the end was actually trying to sign me up for Amway.

That last one is apparently more common than I thought it was. At this point I was actually in the process of quitting online dating–I quit two sites but left a few of them up because I wasn’t getting a lot of contacts anyway. I decided to go ahead and try.

It started out as a very normal conversation–looking at his profile, he seemed sincere and mature, not wanting to rush into romance. We had a few interests in common and he invited me to play darts with him the day after Christmas, when I would be in Osaka. Playing darts and billiards is actually part of my ideal first date, because it doesn’t demand face-to-face conversation, and provided that you and the other person aren’t serious players, it’s just fun. You can laugh it off if you happen to not be very good at it, and of course laughing and smiling is always great for a first date. Doing something fun eases tension if you’re kind of shy.

Anyway, I agreed to play darts with him. As the day approached I was wondering about the nature of this “date,” and then when I met up with him for the first time, he mentioned that about 20 people would be there. He had invited me to a party! And that made me incredibly nervous because I would be the only foreigner there around a bunch of Japanese people I don’t know, including this guy that I had JUST met. But I ended up having fun, and figured that maybe this was just his way of getting to know me gradually over time.

He quickly invited me to another party, making mochi. That was also a lot of fun, even though it was incredibly cold outside. But it cost me 2000 yen and I was beginning to wonder where this was going. Both at the darts bar and here, although this guy invited me to join, when I was there he actually barely spent any time around me. I tried not to think about it too much, and I did end up meeting a lot of nice people, including one girl who spoke really good English, which made me feel super comfortable because there were at least 90 people at the event.

After the event, he drove me back in his Lexus into the city where I was staying during vacation. I heard the word “Amway” at least 10 times over the course of the day–that the party I was just attending was full of Amway people. I still didn’t quite understand what it was about but didn’t think it was too significant; I was just making friends and having fun. But we passed by the Amway building on the way in and he pointed it out, and he asked if I knew about it in America and I said I only knew about it by name, and then he said next time he’d tell me more.

The next day he texted asking me when I was free during the next week, and I said that I would be free Sunday. He told me to keep that day open and I said okay, and he said that it was fun being with me, so I was thinking that maybe he was starting to become romantically interested. I actually happened to pass him on the sidewalk the day after that on my way to the station, and he mentioned again meeting on Sunday. If it was really going to be a date, there’d be no reason to remind me, I’d remember pretty easily.

He’d often show me lots of photos of these dinner parties he went to, and every once in a while “Amway” came up and it was starting to irk me. Finally I asked him what he had planned for us on Sunday.

Me: Good evening! I went back to work today. About the 11th (of January), have you decided what we'll do? Him: Good evening! You must be tired from work. As for the 11th, we'll go out to eat, and after that we'll go to my place and I'll tell you about Amway! Ooooh, how romantic! *eyeroll*

Me: Good evening! I went back to work today. About the 11th (of January), have you decided what we’ll do?
Him: Good evening! You must be tired from work. As for the 11th, we’ll go out to eat, and after that we’ll go to my place and I’ll tell you about Amway!

The plan was to have lunch or something, and then go to his place and he’d tell me about Amway.

There it was again–the A-word.

I asked if it was another party and he seemed to imply that it would just be us, so that he could “properly” get a chance to tell me about it. When I asked if this was a date, he dodged the question and said he was thinking we’d cook, eat, and watch a DVD (sounds like a date but he wouldn’t say “date”) and that he wanted me to know more about him and what was important to him.

Then I asked why Amway was so important to him:

No no no, telling me about Amway over an instant messenger just won’t do. He has to tell me in person! And I bet the DVD is actually just an Amway promotional video.

As soon as he said that Amway changed his life and that he wanted to tell me about it, I was done. I told my Japanese friend about what just happened and he said that in Japan there were plenty of those kinds of people using dating sites and social networks to draw in Amway customers. I’ve now heard a lot of people who have negative experiences with Amway and the kinds of people that are involved in it. It sounds cult-like, almost like a religion in itself, except this “religion” isn’t faith-based but on the hopes of becoming financially wealthy. In reality, reaching that dream of wealth in such a way requires stepping on the backs of others, the “friends” that are recruited into selling Amway products.

If you’re not sure exactly what Amway is by this point, I’d advise you to read about it on Wikipedia. What annoys me the most is that this guy used a dating site–where singles are looking for love–to make “friends” who are actually just potential Amway customers/employees.

I told him I wasn’t going to talk to him anymore and ended it there. Just before I blocked him he had asked what was wrong all of a sudden and I said I wouldn’t message him anymore, and he gave me the “I wanted to do more fun things with you” and “I thought we were friends” schtick, to which I didn’t reply.

Even his choice of emoji is creepy…gotta keep that smile, even if you’re in tears about losing a potential Amway recruit…

Afterwards I actually felt gross about what just happened, and I cringe every time I say or type out the A-word. Every little detail from our chat conversations to his behavior in person started to make more sense. After the first time we met he had two “presents” for me, an energy drink and a sample of shampoo, both Amway products. On our next meeting he asked if I had tried the shampoo yet and I said I hadn’t, and he insisted that I do sometime. (I did have the energy drink, it was awful.) Before that, when I was just getting to know him and asked where in America he’d like to visit, he named NYC, Los Angeles, and “Ada, Michigan.” I asked why (it’s such a random place that even most Americans don’t know, let alone Japanese people), and he said that there was someone (or people) there that he respected. I later found out on Wikipedia that Amway’s headquarters are in Ada.

I’m wondering exactly how many people like him are on these dating sites. Since many Japanese dating sites (especially those that are Facebook-based) don’t allow messaging until interest is mutual, there could be many guys who have sent me interest who may have also been Amway devotees. Even now I still don’t really have a problem with Japanese dating sites, as shady and dangerous people can be anywhere. I have a problem with the kinds of scumbags that take advantage of these sites and give them a bad name.

Nearly 4 1/2 years in the Japan Countryside.

For years I’ve pretended like I was completely secure in my independent, single status. As in, when it came to my public/online persona–as a cosplayer, as one who models, as a blogger–I felt as if my personal life should, for the most part, have stayed out of the spotlight. I’ve long lectured lonely people that they needn’t worry about not having a relationship, that it’s better to enjoy the single life while you can and learn as much as you can about yourself so you can improve upon your flaws before entering a relationship. You don’t NEED a girlfriend or boyfriend.

All while saying those words to try to cheer people up, behind the scenes I had grown more and more lonely. I was, for the most part, content with being single throughout my college years. When I entered the Japanese workplace, that’s when I started to see my Japanese male co-workers and wonder, “Would they ever consider dating someone who isn’t Japanese?”

My female Japanese co-workers at work parties would ask me if I had a boyfriend, and looked shocked when I said no. They’d say things like “But you’re so cute!” or, “Would you date a Japanese guy?” because it’s pretty well-known that Japanese men are stuck with the stereotype of being undesirable in the eyes of a foreign woman. (The thing is that I’m totally open to dating a Japanese guy, and in fact I’ve been more intrigued by and interested in them than towards non-Japanese men.)

I’ve been rejected many times by Japanese men, which has led me to think that I am just undesirable–that many Japanese men would rather just have a Japanese woman. I think it’s true for many (but not all) of them. Not only are there the stereotypes of Western women being more forward, blunt, bigger, and less feminine than Japanese women, there’s the perceived language barrier that they would rather not deal with, when in fact I speak conversational Japanese just fine, and am capable of looking up something that I don’t understand, or comprehending after receiving an simplified explanation. Many people can’t see this just from looking at me, though. All they see is someone who looks different from Japanese people, and thus is probably a tourist (even though I don’t dress like a tourist at all). They might even assume that I’m not going to stay in Japan forever, but that’s actually my life wish.

Despite how many times I’ve been rejected, I’ve been pursued by quite a few Japanese men, although mostly online (does that even count)? So now I know that I’m definitely not UNdesirable, but there has always been something that didn’t click with these guys. Some of them were clingy, and were clawing for someone to be their girlfriend because they’ve been single for so long. Some of them saw me as a fetish, or thought I was easy to get into bed. Many of them, like many online men in general, just ignored what was written my profile, didn’t see that we had conflicting interests and personalities, and were very lazy in their introductory messages.

Oh, and then there’s the kid thing. I don’t want kids. So that already eliminates almost every guy in the dating pool.

I’ve been told by many that online dating is “shady” and “risky.” All of these people have never even tried it. It is not what it used to be 10 years ago, and many of us don’t have any other option. My job doesn’t give me an opportunity to meet anyone. And I live in the countryside, which I’ve come to hate more and more. Don’t get me wrong, I like my city and I’m in a very fortunate living and work situation; but the countryside is BORING. It’s even worse when you’re repeating the same cycle and you live in the same city where you work, giving you only the weekend as a chance to escape into the urban jungle, that is, if you’re not tired from working and wouldn’t rather stay home and rest instead.

It’s a lonely life. Five days a week I’m stuck in the sticks. I wake up alone, I come home to an empty apartment (no pets allowed either), and I go to sleep next to my tablet so I can surf the Internet when I wake up.

Now that I’ve admitted all that, I can say that I’m not ashamed. I’m not invincible. I’m not immune to loneliness. I’m unique in who I am, but that doesn’t mean I’m not affected in the same way as others. Of course I’d like to find that special someone. And yeah, I do wish it was sooner than later. I didn’t want to admit it because I didn’t want to be seen as weak and pathetic. I didn’t want to be pitied.

(I wrote this hoping that someone out there would find it useful, and perhaps feel better if they were feeling lonely. Originally this blog was going to be titled “What it’s like being a non-White, non-Japanese woman in the Japan Countryside,” but I figured some people would complain that this wasn’t their experience, or that it had nothing to do with my nationality or ethnic background.)

3 Things about Japanese Schools that I Didn’t Have When I Was in Elementary School

After over 3 1/2 years as an elementary school teacher in Japan, I’ve had plenty of time to observe how Japanese schools operate and what their children get to enjoy. I often reflect back to my own time as a student in an American public elementary school and think, “Wow, I wish I had that when I was a kid.”

I thought about it even more today as I sat in on the first meeting of the Cooking Club. For one, having a cooking club was unheard of as far as I know. In fact, I don’t recall my school(s) ever having any clubs other than brass band and chorus. However, America is a very large country and thus each school operates differently. When it comes to Japan, I think it’s safe to guess that nearly all schools share the same things.

So here’s a list of just some of the things I wish I had when I was an elementary school student. If you know of and/or went to a school in America that has some of these things, I’d love to know!

1. Club Activities. As I just mentioned, all of the schools in the city where I work have club activities. Anyone who knows anything about Japanese schools know that middle schools and high schools have clubs in which students participate nearly every single day, even on Saturdays and when school isn’t in session!

But did you know that the elementary schools also have clubs? (At least in my city.) They’re definitely not everyday, and in fact they aren’t outside of school hours, either. My current school has club activities during the last week and first weeks of the month, for one 45-minute school period. My previous school has them once a month, for two periods. The club activities range from sports like volleyball and table tennis, to cooking and sewing, to music, and even a tea club (for those familiar with Japanese tea ceremony). At my previous school, my former English supervisor (who also plays guitar) had started a Rock Band Club, in which I participated during the time I was there (and even after I transferred schools)! The club members learned to play guitar, bass guitar, and drums, and since my supervisor is a fan of rock music from the 60s through the 80s, he often chose songs like Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild,” and “Rock and Roll” by Led Zeppelin. As someone who had never listened to that kind of music until now, it was a great joy and a challenge to try to sing something new. We got to perform during an intermission for the Special Education school’s play and even ended up in the Kobe Newspaper (Kobe Shinbun) last year! And I actually just met with my supervisor a few nights ago at the city’s karaoke place and he asked me to participate in the club again as time and schedule allows. What a great experience!

Of course, the Rock Band Club is quite a unique club to any elementary school. Even so, there’s plenty of clubs in Japanese schools that I wish I had when I was a kid!

On the flipside, one thing I am glad we had was the opportunity to learn a “real” instrument in elementary school. Of course all instruments are real, but what I mean is that, if we were interested, we could learn the violin, flute, trumpet, clarinet, and many other “serious” instruments  from as early as 4th grade. (I picked up the flute when I was in 4th grade, as did my older brother.)

Elementary schools here have some “real” instruments like xylophones, snare drums, and even accordions. They also have recorders and “pianicas,” but no serious instruments. So when I tell my co-workers and students that I learned flute from when I was just nine years old, they think it’s pretty amazing.

2. A functional and involved Student Council. Not to say that Student Council at my schools weren’t involved…but actually, I have no idea how much influence they had on the school, and what they even did. When I was in 3rd grade, I remember when we had elections for what I think may have been the first time we ever had a student council…? My school only went up to 5th grade, and it was 5th grade candidates who ran for president. 4th grade candidates ran for Vice President…I think there was a secretary too, and then 3rd graders were allowed to run for Historian, who was responsible for taking pictures…or something like that. When it came time to nominate candidates, I was unanimously selected in my class to run for Historian. I won the election pretty easily, thanks to the fact that 1) I was known for being a top student in my grade, and 2) my mom who has a talent for drawing made really awesome election posters, one with the Genie from Aladdin and another with Sonic the Hedgehog.

However, I only remember ever being at one meeting. I don’t think we really did anything, either…I’m not even sure.

At my current Japanese school, the Student Council consists of members from 4th grade through 6th grade, and there are various committees, such as the Broadcasting Committee, who does the broadcast for the morning, break times, lunch, and cleaning time; the Athletic Committee, the Health Committee that assists the school nurse, the Pet Care Committee, who is responsible for taking care of the school pets (this school has rabbits; I’ve been to schools who kept rabbits as well as chickens), as well as many other Committees who collectively help run the school. Perhaps it’s because I’m seeing this from the view of a teacher rather than as a student, but the Student Council is very much involved and is given a lot of responsibility for discussion and decision-making as the teachers simply supervise them. There definitely weren’t that many committees in Student Council when I was in school, as far as I know.

3. Student-served school lunch. Some people may know this already, but in Japanese elementary schools, there is no cafeteria where students gather and eat lunch served by lunch ladies. School lunch is prepared at a School Lunch Center (給食センター) and distributed to all of the elementary and middle schools in the city. When lunch time comes, the kids in charge of serving school lunch pick up the food and dishes for their class, take them to the classroom, and serve them themselves while wearing aprons, caps, and masks. The entire school eats at the same time. When lunch is over, the lunchtime group takes the containers and dishes back, and the trucks from the Center come to pick them up.

From what I remember as a child, most kids DID eat school lunch, and very few people brought their own lunch (I was one of those people). At Japanese elementary schools, pretty much no one brings their own lunch everyday; in the case that a child has an allergy to something in the day’s lunch, they might bring a bento. There’s also a few days during the year where school lunch isn’t served, so all of the students have bentos then as well. Also, in American schools, we did have alternate choices for school lunch. If I happened to be buying lunch on a certain day, if I didn’t like what was on the main menu I’d grab the salad instead (to this day I still love salads and eat them almost everyday). Needless to say, when we had pizza or chicken nuggets, sometimes I’d scrap up from my allowance just to get it, haha.

And I also recall each grade taking turns eating lunch in the cafeteria as well. Kindergarten went first, of course. But with there being only one lunch line, it’s unfortunate that kids who got to the cafeteria later would have to wait for so long. And they wouldn’t get to eat with their teachers, either. (Though I suppose from the busy teacher’s point of view, that’s the perfect break from their children.)

Non-homeroom teachers here usually eat in the staff room, but it’s common for ALTs like myself to eat with a different class each day. For the most part I enjoy it, but on days when I’m extremely hungry, it’s a task to have to wait until the kids finish serving everything. (And sometimes I also need a break from the kids.)

 

These are just three of the many things about Japanese elementary schools that I didn’t have and kinda wish existed in US schools. I’m not sure what the big-city schools are like in Japan, but at least in the countryside, things seem organized in a somewhat convenient way. Of course there must be some things that I don’t like, but I can’t recall those off the top of my head right now.

Using Japanese.

This is a draft from March 1st. I tend to write things and not publish them for some reason…I guess because they feel incomplete and I don’t feel like completing them. I may post a couple of other drafts in the future.


 

It’s one of the greatest feelings to be able to do things in another country using their language.

I used to get nervous when contacting people and telling them my name, and having them deny me just because they can tell I’m a foreigner. And I would obsessively check online dictionaries to make sure my Japanese was as correct as possible. I would have to sit and ponder about what I would say before making a phone call, and if it was possible to avoid phones altogether, that’s what I did.

The other day I was able to call the post office to cancel a redelivery request, because I decided I would pick up the package right away. Without even hesitating, I found the post office number, dialed it, and even as loud background sounds on the other end almost got me distracted, I managed to get my request across.

I’ve also managed to post messages in BBS (bulletin boards) about two extra concert tickets that I have right now. I was worried I wouldn’t get a response, but within hours two people contacted me. Even if the deals don’t go through, at least I know that people will contact me, even if my name isn’t Japanese and my Japanese isn’t perfect.

Even though I still don’t feel confident about my conversational Japanese speaking ability, I feel confident about being able to carry out everyday tasks (and not-so-everyday tasks) with my current abilities, and that’s what really matters when living in this country.

If you ever come to live in Japan or even just to visit, PLEASE learn the language, or attempt to use as much as you can. (Most) Japanese people are very kind and accommodating, but that’s especially true when they hear you using their language.

2013: Recap

2013 was a really good year. It started out rough at first, around January/February when I got sick during a class I was teaching and laid in the school health room for the rest of the day. I realized that my body never got used to the Japanese diet of rice, rice, rice, and that I wasn’t eating a balanced diet. From that day on I decided that I would make sure to eat a salad at least 3 times a week, and it turned out to be the right decision.

I also decided that I would take a teaching course. CLAIR, the organization that sent me to teach in Ono over 3 years ago, was offering grants to people who wanted to take an online TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) course. I decided that I’d tackle it, since I could put it on my resume and also learn how to become a better teacher, even though I’m not sure that it’s what I want to do for the rest of my life. My application was accepted and I finished the course a few weeks ago.

I told myself that 2013 was supposed to be the year of music, and it was. I think I’ve been to more concerts this year than any other. I saw MUCC, Bonnie Pink, exist†trace, G-DRAGON, VAMPS, girugamesh, and BIGBANG. But other than music, I was also able to finish not one, but TWO costumes for Otakon (though I admit they were pretty easy compared to past costumes). I also did three fashion photoshoots and my first cosplay photoshoot.

This year was also the most I’ve spent making friends with Japanese people. I’ve always found it difficult to do; maybe I’m just not very approachable. But I did make a few acquaintances, even though a lot of them want to practice their English (despite me trying to practice Japanese). I was supposed to be studying Japanese as well, but my closest Japanese friend and conversation partner ended up going to New Zealand to study English. Come back!!! 😦

I also went through a phase of being lonely and depressed about approaching 25 and still being single. I tried going on dates, but it didn’t really make me feel that much more hopeful. I distracted myself with cosplay, shopping, and looking at photos of my niece, Kaylee, who was born last September.

Then something happened. My grandfather passed away in November. I couldn’t believe it. When I talked to him over the phone in August, there was a tiny voice in my head that told me that that could be the last time I ever talk to him. I’m glad I heard that voice, because I was able to say “I love you, Grandpa” and not feel any regrets about my decision to work overseas. I was also able to see my newborn niece much earlier than expected, which was very much a blessing behind the sorrowful loss of my grandfather.

Going home for a week and a half gave me a much-needed break from work, which was stressing me out more than anything else. I had handled a big elementary school just the year before, so I didn’t understand why this year was giving me such a hard time. When I came back, I decided that I needed to change my outlook on life. I decided not to pursue dates anymore and just focused on my teaching course, and work. But weekends that were supposed to be fun—and they were—were also starting to feel like obligations, just because I so desperately needed to rest and have some alone time. But I plowed through every single day, all the way into the last day of classes.

I have my friend Talia to thank for many of the good things in the year. Her enthusiasm got me into BIGBANG (my new favorite Korean boy band since g.o.d broke up in 2006), “Free!” that anime with all the shirtless high school boys swimming, and Attack on Titan, the super-hyped up series that absolutely deserves to be hyped up. She’s the reason why I’ve been buying so many things with Levi’s face on it. ❤

By the time I turned 25 on December 16th, instead of feeling sad about being single, I was GLAD to still be single. All of the marriage proposals, engagements, weddings, and babies that popped up on my Facebook newsfeed were nice to look at, and I congratulate everyone as they take new steps in their adult lives. But I realized that everything I’ve accomplished this year may not have been possible if I had been caught up in a relationship, and that I NEEDED to be single and have that freedom in order to do what I wanted and needed to do. Instead of wanting what “everyone else” seems to be getting, I’m very blessed to have an alternative. Single life is wonderful at 25, and I hope it gets even better by the time I’m 26.

Work, Work, Work

A lot has happened in the past few…whatever. I don’t even remember the last time I wrote a blog.

  • Although my work hours are officially from 8:00am to 4:00pm, I’ve been staying at least an hour later pretty much everyday. Today I had five classes and only one period in the middle on the day to plan and prepare for other classes. Last week was actually worse, because immediately after my last class I had yet another “English conversation” session with a first grader’s mom. Thankfully, my former English supervisor from my previous school had cancelled practice with the Rock Band club, so I didn’t need to leave right after that, and just stayed at work to…work.
  • Speaking of the Rock Band Club, this past Saturday I performed as their vocalist. That’s because they don’t have a rock vocalist, and before I transferred I said I’d help them with their performance. The best part of that was that I didn’t tell anyone at my current school that I would be there, so the students who came were puzzled about why I showed up, and with students from a different school. They were shocked once I got on stage. Personally I think I did a terrible job singing, but hopefully no one noticed. At least I remembered the lyrics. 🙂
  • You’d think that, as a fourth year ALT, I’d be spending LESS time on lesson plans. Nope. I recently took a series of online TEFL courses to learn about my job, and actually learned a lot. I’ve been striving to become a better teacher and design better lesson plans, without it becoming some kind of crazy experiment. And following a recent English teaching conference, I’ve become inspired to really…know what I’m doing. I want to take my work more seriously. I’m not even sure if I want to continue teaching, but while I’m still in this field, I might as well develop the skills.
  • My grandfather–the only grandfather I got to know in my life–passed away three weeks ago. I didn’t get to see him while I visited in August, but I did talk to him on the phone while I was there, and I remember his last words to me: “You know I’m really proud of you. I love you.” There was just a tiny thought in the back of my mind telling me that it may be the last time I talk to him, so even though he couldn’t see it, I put on my biggest smile and said, “I love you too, Grandpa.” His passing led to me taking bereavement leave, which meant that I couldn’t teach the students for nearly two weeks.
  • My priorities changed when I came back. I had to finish my online class, redesign previous lesson plans, and take care of other business. Cosplay was at the forefront of my mind, and now I haven’t even been able to touch anything cosplay-related. I probably don’t have time to order a particular costume that I wanted to get by the time I go to Korea this winter. Oh yeah, I’m going to Korea this winter.
  • Nearly every weekend since October has involved SOMETHING to do. I’ve been so busy that I actually have been trying to find time to NOT do anything. This weekend I’ll be going to a BIGBANG concert with a friend, and then meeting with another friend on Sunday. The next weekend is the school marathon, which means yet another Saturday killed. At least I get Monday off. Meh.
  • My efforts to “do nothing” have involved playing Fire Emblem: Awakening. That game is so good that it’s drawn me away from playing Dynasty Warriors AND the new Phoenix Wright for the 3DS. Seeing as those are my two favorite game franchises, you know that means a lot.
  • People still find my YouTube videos, and write comments about them. I’m done making new ones though. I’m finished. Sorry. 😦 It’s just not gonna happen. I’m too busy living life to talk about it. If my occupation was video blogger/journalist, I’d have plenty more videos. But I’m just too fidgety to sit and talk to a camera, and THEN edit those videos myself. Writing has always been my preferred means of documentation.

What I’ve been doing lately.

Cosplay stuff. Waiting for a chance to go to the city and shop for some cosplay supplies, and also waiting for a few things to come in the mail.

Year 3: Complete.

My third year of JET is complete. It was a good year overall–not without its low points, but great nonetheless.

I accomplished quite a few things:

  • Finished my first year teaching at one large elementary school.
  • Got a chance to socialize and hang out more with friends.
  • Completed (well, almost) two costumes for this year’s Otakon.
  • Befriended a Japanese person and conversation partner.

About that last one. He quickly became a close friend. I’m not even sure how. We’re the same age, we like the same Japanese band, we can joke with each other, he loves learning English, and he encourages me to practice Japanese. I remember words and phrases so much more easily because of him. He also takes interest in everything about me–modeling, cosplay, the music I like, my family and friends back home. I introduced him to one of my favorite fashion brands, Vivienne Westwood. He wasn’t familiar with it before but immediately took a liking to the colors and styles. I gave him a Vivienne Westwood coin purse I happened to already have that also happened to be his favorite color.
Needless to say, I took a romantic interest in him. Though I do have Japanese friends here, he’s the first that I’ve really felt close to. That glass wall that I always felt existed between me and Japanese people wasn’t there when I started talking to him. I feel comfortable talking to him and joking with him, playing Dynasty Warriors (my favorite game) and I’m even fine when I lose to him in Tetris (anyone who knows me knows that I hate losing). He’s like a best friend to me and I’ve been happier since we started conversation practice a few weeks ago.

Too bad he’s taken. Curses, foiled again.

It’s hard living as an introverted, single woman in a foreign country. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t lonely and depressed sometimes. I’m watching my friends on Facebook as they all get boyfriends and girlfriends, or get married, or have children. Well, the children I can do without…but I’d love a chance at companionship.

So I’ll grab a drink, sit on my couch, listen to my favorite music, and work on my cosplay. And I’ll continue to tell myself that, the reason I’m still single is because God is preparing someone incredibly and unimaginably awesome for me…

In the meantime, here’s to a (hopefully) more fortunate 4th year of JET. 乾杯…Cheers.

Blogging Your Frustrations as a Teacher

A few weeks ago, I was experiencing something just short of an internal meltdown concerning an issue I was having with students at the school where I currently teach English. I was so angry about it that I wrote out an explosive Facebook status about it, coming pretty close to outright insulting them.

My former high school Japanese teacher saw it and sent me a private message warning me about what I post on Facebook, and suggested that I find someone to talk to privately about it. I felt guilty about making my post public and deleted it soon after.

In an age where sharing feelings openly through social media is normal, sometimes it’s easy to forget that there ARE consequences. Anyone who knows the story of Natalie Munroe knows this. It doesn’t matter how you feel or who sympathizes with you–you can still get fired if the authorities call for it.

Despite being a usually quiet person, I can be very outspoken and have often let out my frustrations in an honest, yet understated way. (The truth is that I can often be much more harsh than I sound, which sounds pretty harsh to some people already.) So being a teacher of English to over 700 children, I’m not going to lie and say my job is without problems. But there is a line that I cannot cross, should I choose to recount a story.

The two most important rules are to 1) don’t give names, and 2) don’t reveal the name of the school. Sure, I live in Japan and blog in English, but that doesn’t mean that I’m immune from being discovered. More and more Japanese people–and even high school and middle school students–are learning English. And they may very well discover you over the internet if they look hard enough.

Another important rule is to simply not be outright insulting. I totally sympathize with you if you have a bunch of jerk kids in a class. I know the feeling. But instead of calling them jerks and a failure to society with no redeeming qualities–even if you honestly believe it to be true–just express your own frustration and difficulty with handling the situation. And if you absolutely must be brutally honest, don’t leave your name, or your initials, and definitely not your photo on your blog, like Ms. Munroe did. Instead, tell a close friend, or keep it in a private journal. You might actually end up feeling better after doing so, to the point where you don’t think it’s necessary to reveal your thoughts publicly.

And while this isn’t directly blog-related, do remember that a few jerks in that class means exactly that–a FEW. This is something I forget a lot. When a group of students cause problems, it’s easy to use the phrase “bad class,” even if there are some good kids in that class, and even when MOST of the class is good and the “bad” group is only made up of 5 or 6 kids. So before you make that Facebook status about how much you can’t stand “that class,” remind yourself that it’s not everyone.

Blogging is one of the many things that teachers have to be careful about. You can argue “Freedom of speech!” all you want, but that doesn’t mean that everyone has to accept what you have to say, especially the ones that have the power to fire you.