SCHIZO-ALIAS

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

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.

Advertisements

Quick Update

Modeling: Recently did some Self-Photography. You can see the latest pics on my Facebook Page.

YouTube: I’m on a video hiatus as of right now. I don’t really have time to sit down and talk, and/or I just don’t feel like it. I do have ideas, but making and editing videos takes more time than I want it to.

Cosplay: This is what I’m currently working on. My next two costumes are Kasumi and Sailor Star Fighter. I’m pretty focused on getting these done by the end of June so I can spend July getting ready to visit home for the summer as well as doing other things.

So that’s what’s up. My Facebook Page is updated more often than my blog, so be sure to “Like” that page if you haven’t already!

2013: Year of the Concert

Last year, I only went to two concerts: L’Arc~en~Ciel’s concert at Universal Studios Japan (both days) and “DECEMBER’S CHILDREN” in late last December. The latter one was pretty lame, not because of the performers but because of the crowd. It was the most pathetic, unenthusiastic crowd I’d ever seen. Sorry, Ling Tosite Sigure, your music is really good but your fans sucked. MUCC’s fans are so much better 😉

There were a lot of concerts I could’ve gone to, but didn’t just because my weekends were so busy–Bonnie Pink has a concert in Osaka, MUCC also had one…so this year I decided that I would go to as many concerts as I could.

Source: last.fm

On March 9th, I’m going to try out exist†trace for the first time. They’re Japan’s most famous all-female visual kei band, and the only one on a major record label, as far as I know. I actually only liked a few of their pre-major songs, and their recent music is pretty mediocre, but I’m willing to give them a try, as well as to observe their fanbase. Is it mostly female? Do guys listen to them? Is there girl-on-girl fanservice? Are they decent live performers?

I’m also planning a short trip to Tokyo at the end of March to see Bonnie Pink with New Japan Philharmonic (March 30th), and MUCC at NHK Hall for the conclusion of their Shangri-La tour (March 31st). The two couldn’t be more different, right? Originally I had planned for the 29th and 30th, but as I expected, there’s going to be a going-away party on the 29th for any teachers that will be leaving at the end of the school year. Fortunately, both are 2-day concert events, so I just shifted my plans over by one day. I’ve yet to buy tickets because MUCC’s go on sale this Saturday–once I confirm a ticket for that one, I’ll get a ticket for Bonnie Pink’s. This is will be my first Bonnie Pink event, and…I’ve seen MUCC play at least 5 times.

Bonnie Pink & MUCC

Bonnie Pink on March 30th, MUCC on the 31st.

A few days ago, a friend invited me to see Korean rapper G-Dragon on April 27th. I’m actually not sure whether I can go, since I just found out that there’s supposed to be a school event that Saturday (because Saturday school events never fail to ruin my plans). If I can manage to get out of it, or at least leave early, I should be able to make it.

Another plan that might be derailed is Bonnie Pink’s fan club concert on May 25th in Osaka, because…Saturday school events never fail to ruin my life. Out of nowhere, my current school, who usually holds their sports festivals in September, have for some reason moved up next year’s event to May. May 25th, to be precise.

I don’t mind sports festivals. I usually don’t have to do any real work and I get Monday off. Fair enough. But for the past two years, sports festivals have kept me from going to Tokyo to see the Tokyo Game Show (which for the past few years has been held in September, instead of October when I first went in 2008), as well as keeping me from L’Arc~en~Ciel’s 20th L’Anniversary Live (thank goodness they did a tour later that year), as well as their last World Tour concert in Tokyo (thank goodness I was able to go to USJ). So I’ve decided that I hate sports festivals, because I believe they are designed to rockblock me. (See what I did there? Haha…ehh.)

So once again, if I can manage to get out of sports festival (I’ve already had to go to last year’s in September…do I really have to go again?), then perhaps I’ll be able to attend Bonnie’s fan club concert.

I should probably stop planning concert attendances from there, as I still have a cosplay to work on and money to save. But that doesn’t mean I won’t try to see T.M.Revolution in Kobe on July 13th.

Anyone who knows T.M.Revolution knows that he LOVES androgynous outfits and crossdressing. Yup, that’s a man, but I’m sure you could tell.

Online Dating…ugh.

An exchange of words with a friend got me to revive my two dead online dating profiles. I was somewhat reluctant to revive them, and I don’t expect anything from them either…I’m already getting the flood of messages and “Interests” from guys who aren’t compatible and/or outside of my age range.

The curiosity of dating a Japanese guy still lingers, but I’m not nearly interested as I once was. I’ve made up my mind that it’s not going to happen. I think it would’ve been an interesting experience, but meh. That’s really all I can say.

Stomachaches at Work – Part 2

(Click here for Part 1)

Soon after, the nurse came back and gave me a thermometer and told me to take my temperature as she went to get a plastic bowl in case I needed to throw up again. The thermometer read 34.9℃, but being used to Fahrenheit, I didn’t know if that was low or high. I tried to remember the formula to convert it…the temperature multiplied by 9/5…but I couldn’t remember what was after that.* So I waited for the nurse to come back so I could tell her, and she exclaimed, “That’s low!” She asked if I needed to go to the hospital, and that the principal and vice principal said it was okay if I did. I refused though, since I knew I didn’t have a fever and I wasn’t throwing up anymore. I just wanted to go home and rest.

I continued to lay there, but my stomachache still felt uncomfortable. I knew then that laying down was actually not helping my stomachache at all. After the bell marking the end of 6th period rang, I got up and told the nurse that I needed to go to the bathroom.
To put it bluntly, I felt constipated. Sounds like an embarrassing issue, but it happens to everyone, right? No big deal. I sat there, feeling like I needed to go to the bathroom, but nothing was happening. My stomach still hurt, and these episodes of sharp pain happened about three times before something happened. As I sat there, my legs were shaking and my face felt extremely cold, as if all the blood had drained from it. After previously learning about how digestion works (it can take up to 24 hours for food you eat to pass through your body), I knew it wasn’t the school lunch that made me sick; I narrowed it down to the biggest meal I had before that, which was the curry rice I had for dinner Sunday evening. I ate it pretty fast, and before that I had scarfed down a bag of 7 small raisin bread rolls that I bought that morning. It was just too much for my stomach to take.

After about 20 or so minutes in the bathroom, I managed to go back to the staff room and prepare to go home. I told the homeroom teacher whose class I was teaching that there was no way I could ride my bike back home, so another teacher offered to take me home and pick me up the next morning if I was feeling better. I took her up on her offer, and while in the car she asked how I was feeling, the timeline of when everything was happening, and she commended me on trying to teach even when I wasn’t feeling well but that I shouldn’t overdo it.

After getting home, I went to the bathroom again and then went to bed. I couldn’t fall asleep very easily, so I messed around on the computer and checked for the symptoms I had, and then tried to go to sleep under my warm electric blankets. I woke up about two hours later, feeling hungry but not sure what was okay to eat, or if it was even okay to eat at all. I felt dehydrated after vomiting though, so I drank some Aquarius (sports drink) and then made some miso soup and tofu. I was sorely disappointed that the freshly cooked rice I had in my rice cooker was going to have to sit there, and that the cream stew I planned to cook that evening would have to wait, as I didn’t get to bring home the carton of milk from school that I needed. All of my after-work plans were postponed–I couldn’t go to the post office to mail a package, I couldn’t go to the ATM, I couldn’t go to the BOE to sign my re-contracting form…everything had to be put on hold.

I decided to just take it easy and play Star Ocean: The Last Hope until about 10:30pm, which is the time I felt it was best to go to sleep. I normally go to bed around 11:30 and get up between 7:00 and 7:30. But the teacher who took me home said she’d call around 7:30 the next morning to see if I could go to work, so just in case I had to wake up earlier than usual.

I wasn’t sure if I still wasn’t feeling well or if I was hungry, but I needed to eat something if I was going to go to work, so I had half of an apple and a slice of bread. I also took two packs of dried seaweed to snack on if I needed to.

And so now I’m at work. Half of me is wondering if I should have stayed home. Hopefully I made the right choice. The principal said that I could go home early if I’m still not feeling well, so I might do that.

*The formula to convert Celsius to Fahrenheit is (temperature in ℃) x 9/5 + 32. So my temperature was approx. 94.9℃, which definitely isn’t a fever.

Stomachaches at Work – Part 1

I wasn’t at all prepared for what would happen yesterday.

As far as I was aware, it was a Monday like any other. It’s certainly not my favorite day of the week–not necessarily because it’s Monday, but because it’s the day that I teach the 6th graders. They’re in that “We’re too good for English” phase which makes teaching them a little more challenging. Even though they enjoy the games, I feel like most of them haven’t warmed up to me compared to the younger kids.

So today I wanted to be a little more energetic. Sure, they might’ve thought that I was weirder than they already think I am, but I didn’t care. Anything that would make them be more alert and responsive.

The first three classes went well. The kids had fun and I was glad. By the end of my third class–which was after lunch–I wasn’t feeling very good.

I occasionally have stomach problems at work, after lunchtime. It would be a sharp pain in my stomach, and I’d end up in the bathroom for at least 10 minutes, if my class schedule allowed. I tried to counter it by eating more slowly, chewing my food more, and occasionally skipping the carton of milk that’s served to us every single day (because I thought it may be related to lactose intolerance).

After I started doing that, the stomachaches occurred less frequently. Sometimes it worked, but sometimes it didn’t.

And then there was yesterday. It was a normal school Japanese school lunch, not one that I hadn’t eaten before: white rice, steamed broccoli and crab meat, and a stew of beef, konyaku, quail eggs, and other things (I know it sounds strange, but it really is a typical menu here).

I noticed discomfort almost immediately after I finished eating, but I figured that the pain would go away if I just focused on class. But near the end of 5th period, my stomach was hurting, and as soon as we finished I left and dashed to the staff room to put my stuff down before rushing to the bathroom.

I could only stay in there for 10 minutes though, because I had my last class for 6th period. Once again, I told myself that if I just ignored my stomach pain, maybe it’ll go away.

It didn’t.

We weren’t even halfway through the class when I started feeling really hot, as if I had a fever. My face felt weak but I tried as best as I could to hide it. I rushed our pronunciation practice, told them to practice on their own, and then told their teacher that I wasn’t feeling well. She rushed me out of the room and I ran to the nearby sink and leaned over it because I knew what was coming–I threw up.

Despite that, I wanted to continue class, but I knew the teacher wouldn’t let me even if I asked. I went to the health room, told the nurse what happened, and she led me to a bed and told me to lay down. As I lay there, I wondered what that 6th grade class must’ve been thinking, and what their teacher might have told them to do. I felt bad that they couldn’t play the game I had planned for them. I was blaming myself for causing such a burden, and blaming myself for these continuous stomach problems.

(Click here for Part 2)

School Uniforms

After today’s Rock Band Club rehearsal, The supervisor for the club–who happens to be my English supervisor–laid out the rehearsal details for the club’s performance this Saturday. Everything sounded good to our drummer, a 6th grade girl, except for one thing…

5th grade girl: 先生、私服着ていいですか? (Sensei, can we wear regular clothes for the performance?)
Supervisor: そうね…学校のイベントなので、制服を着てください。(About that…this is considered a school event, so please wear your uniforms.)
5th grade girl: えええええ?!じゃ、行きません!(What?!?! Okay, I’m not going!)
Me: (クスクスクス) (*snickering*)
Supervisor: まぁ、それもいいけど… (Well, that’s fine too, but…)
5th grade girl: センセイ!!! (*whining* SENSEI!)
Me: *raises hand* 先生、私、私服でいいですか? (Sensei, can I wear regular clothes?)
Supervisor: *nods* いいですよ。(That’s fine.)
5th grade girl: もう!!! いじめ!(Enough!!! Stop making fun of me!)

Victoria’s Secret and “Geisha” Lingerie

I don’t follow Victoria’s Secret–I’m not a fan of the brand, their marketing, nor their prices–and the shop doesn’t even exist in Japan because there are several other lingerie and sleepwear chains in the country (my favorite in particular being Body Line). But there are a few shops that have imported VS’s body fragrances and sell them at prices not really worth paying.

Today during my daily news surfing, I came across an article about a blogger’s complaint towards VS’s “Go East” line, apparently some “Asian”-inspired collection, including one called “Sexy Little Geisha.”

Upon reading the name, of course I had to see what it looked like:

What the Fudge-pop is this…?! (Source: E! Online)

First off, I’m more offended by the design itself than I am about the “Geisha” label slapped on it. It’s ugly. That belt with that obnoxious bow in the back just looks tacky. The mini fan is laughable; it’s so tiny and pathetic! And probably the worst of all, apparently NONE of the models in that collection are even Asian! So it’s easy for some to say that it’s making a mockery of Asian culture by fetish-izing it. And it’s no wonder that several blogs have already said so. (See Angry Asian Man and Racialicious)

However.

I did one simple thing. I typed in “geisha” in the search bar of my favorite site for online shopping in Japan, Rakuten. And HEY, LOOK WHAT I FOUND!!!

Hey, it’s another Sexy Little Geish–wait a minute…

This one isn’t being modeled by an Asian woman either. Looking at the name of the item reveals:

The highlighted word is how “geisha” is written in Japanese. Thanks, Rikaichan.

And that’s not the only one; you can click here for the full search result. I could’ve typed in “kimono” or “yukata,” since search results for those items in the past has given me similar results. (I was looking for a REAL yukata at the time, mind you.) But the reason I used “geisha” as the search term was because I KNEW such things would come up, even on a Japanese website.

So there you go. Sexualizing Asian culture–or any culture–is not a new thing, neither overseas nor at home. Victoria’s Secret’s version of it just got the spotlight because they’re a major, internationally-known company. Just to confirm though, where’s the cultural offense? Is it in the clothing design itself, in the race of the model, or the description? Is it all three? (Not rhetorical questions, I’m honestly asking.)

One thing’s for sure, I’ll be honest; that item I found on Rakuten is pretty cute and I’d wear it as lingerie if I had a reason to. I just wish they didn’t call it a “geisha” costume.

This is what geisha actually look like, in case you didn’t know. (Source: Wikipedia Japan)

EDIT: For the record, here’s a list of other roles that have been sexualized other than the geisha:

  • Military
  • Police
  • Schoolgirls (For goodness’ sake, SCHOOLGIRLS)
  • Nurses
  • Maids (might I add the “French” maid)
  • Racecar drivers
  • Football Players (!)
  • “Gypsies”
  • Cowgirls
  • Ninja/Kunoichi
  • Animals
  • Clowns (creepy, I know)
  • Teachers
  • Minnie Mouse

Writing in Japanese

At the start of every class this year, I have introduced myself while writing my name in Katakana. Most classes have said nothing about my writing, a few kids and teachers have made remarks about it, along the lines of being surprised that I could write in Japanese.

Now I haven’t told these kids that started studying Japanese ten years ago. In fact, in my farewell speech to my last two schools, that was the first time I had ever mentioned it.

But whether it’s ten years or ten months…it’s really not hard to write in Japanese. It takes practice, like with any other writing system.

But, for some reason, some Japanese people have it in their minds that foreigners can’t write Hiragana or Katakana, and Kanji is just simply impossible for anyone who isn’t Asian.

Kanji isn’t easy, that’s for sure. But when I write the days of the week in Kanji, it’s really not deserving of a “Wow.”

As with other things, Japanese people probably aren’t used to it. Maybe a previous ALT couldn’t write, or something. Maybe it’s because I have really neat handwriting.

Yesterday I wrote my name in Katakana for a 3rd grade class. I got an applause.

A ROUND OF APPLAUSE.

I just smiled, but on the inside I was facepalming. I almost mentioned that I had been studying for 10 years, but decided to just move on.

An outline for the curriculum I’m planning this semester, 99.9% in Japanese. I generally write my lesson plans in Japanese, even though I’m the only one who looks at them.

EDIT 9/14/2013: Yesterday I had a 6th grader give me the “Wow she can write Katakana” comment, and that’s when I told them that I’ve been studying for a long time and learned it when I was in high school. He had made a mention about the previous teacher’s Katakana, which implicated that it was more of a comparison to the last foreigner’s writing skills, and not a, “Wow, non-Japanese people can write in Japanese” way of thinking. Nonetheless, just as some Americans treat immigrants as if they’re incapable of speaking English, there are some Japanese people (mostly older ones) who think that non-Japanese people have little to no Japanese language skills.

Called by the Wrong Name…again

I imagine that some ALTs who have the same schools throughout their entire JET career may not have this problem, but as a JET who lives in a city where the ALTs rotate schools every year, being called by the wrong name is something I’ve gone through since my first year here.

My first year, I occasionally was called by the previous year’s ALT’s name by accident. She was also a female, but looked nothing like me. I didn’t really care so much since it was within my first few weeks there; they were probably used to calling a certain name all the time for a year and had to get used to it. I never really had the problem by the end of that year.

My second year, the ALT I was replacing–a guy–warned me that my predecessor had been at that school just before him. My predecessor, like me, is female and somewhat dark-skinned, so I was absolutely prepared for wrong names left and right.

Not only did I have teachers accidentally calling me by her name, I had students calling me by her name as well. It dwindled down after a few months, but by the end of the year it still happened every once in a while.

It wouldn’t bother me so much if it weren’t for the fact that my predecessor was allegedly a horrible person. (The fact that she NEVER contacted me before I came to Japan already gave me a sign.) She was very self-centered, promiscuous, and irresponsible. I don’t think the kids ever knew that, but some teachers (and some mothers at my previous school) knew. So it goes without saying that I never want to be associated with her in any way.

Nonetheless, simply because we have a similar skin tone and possibly similar height, it’s inevitable for mistakes to happen here in Japan.

I don’t know if it’s a “Japan” thing or what. Do all foreigners look the same to Japanese people? I’ve heard stories about white males being told by Japanese people that they look like Tom Cruise, even when they look NOTHING like the guy. I myself have once been told that I look like Beyonce. LOLWUT.

But here’s the thing. A lot of Americans who have never been to Asia have said that “All Chinese/Japanese/Korean people look the same.”

Actually, that’s pretty true when not taken literally. Especially in Japan, a small island of people who share common names and–well, you get the idea. I have seen Japanese people that have a lot of the same facial features as a co-worker or a friend.

But guess what? I’ve never called any of my co-workers by the wrong name.

(I’ll admit though, I’ve called a kid or two by the wrong name before, only because their name sounded similar to another kid’s or because they had a sibling in another grade.)

I thought that, for my third year, I wouldn’t have this problem at my new school. Horrible-sensei was–not one, not two, not three–but FOUR TEACHERS AGO. You would think that she was long forgotten here. And yet I’ve been called by her name by two teachers already.

It would be one thing if I was called by the name of the ALT who was here two years ago. I wouldn’t mind that, because she’s a friend and was a very good teacher while she was here.

I can only hope that this passes as the months go by. Fortunately, since it’s been four years, many of the kids here don’t know her. And I’ve yet to be called the wrong name by a 5th or 6th grader.

I’ve already gotten some kids to call me 美人先生 (Bijin-sensei, or Beautiful Teacher, hehehe), so that works out. 😉