August 31, 2004

I Really Think So...

Today, Karen and I have officially joined the ranks of official Japanese residents. Today, we went face to face with Typhoon Chaba, our first true interaction with the force a typhoon can bring.

Now, this isn't the first typhoon to hit Japan since we've been here, but it is the first typhoon to come right to our doorstep. The winds are very strong, and the rain is... well, the rain is... I don't know how to describe the rain, so I'll just say 'pointy.' It's very exciting.

Once we emerged from the subway station, we saw our girls bikes (mine tipped over) waiting for us to bring them home. The wind gusts were fierce, and we knew it was going to be an adventure. I tried opening my umbrella, but within 5 seconds it was blown inside out, and I quickly discarded that idea.

The ride home was very exciting. Luckily, the wind was behind me for most of the ride; I was never aware of the pure speed you can gain while riding one of these girls bikes. However, the tires were so saturated that the brakes ceased to work, and it made things pretty interesting. Also, the tie I was wearing did a great job of flapping around in my face, making it difficult to concentrate, along with the pointy rain that didn't feel very good when you're traveling at high speed.

All in all it was a pretty exciting experience. Sure, I've lived through many hurricanes before, but they were never labelled as a 'Typhoon.' There's something about that word which suggests a more powerful storm, a storm that takes no prisoners, and a storm that makes you quiver at the very thought of it.

Not to mention it just sounds really cool to say... Typhoon....

Typhoon....


Till next time,

Cheers!

Posted by jed at 01:23 AM | Comments (2)

August 28, 2004

Very Raw Sushi

This past weekend (which was actually last Wednesday), my favorite world traveler and I went exploring down by the bay, just a few subway stops away from where we work. We had heard news that the aquarium here was one of the best in Japan, and seeing as we had some time to kill we went for it.

I love aquariums, zoos, planetariums (no seriously, I think they're pretty cool) so I was definitely excited to see what it had to offer. It was also nice being down by the water again, I neglected to realize just how easy it was to get there, as well as satisfied by how much it reminded me of Seattle. Anyway, enough babble for now, you'll find plenty more within this group of pictures.

A Day By The Bay: What do ya say? Want to see the animals play? Yay or neigh? Catch some rays? Hip hip hooray!

Posted by jed at 10:43 PM | Comments (2)

August 25, 2004

What The Fork?

For those of you have a memory for completely uninteresting and unimportant events from the past history of the Poop Deck, I would like to bring to your attention something that, at one time, caused a great disturbance in the waters, causing this mighty ship to rock and sway into a storm of anguish and disapointment. Until this day, the event to which I am referring has gone unnoticed, hidden beneath the waters in a sea of dispair that was destined to one day be uncovered and exposed to the world as the one and only great failure aboard this almighty craft. The event in question is none other than....

Challenge Melee, the first, and only, challenge that could not be fully completed.

Now, to defend myself, the time frame for creating this challenge wasn't the greatest. It was back in January, at which time I was leaving my job, leaving my apartment, leaving the state, and moving into the first phase of 'where the crap is Jed going next.' It was not an easy time to challenge myself with one thing, let alone a melee. So, having said that, I place full blame on the timing, and not the events.

Of course, I was the one who chose the time, so I guess that means it's still my own fault. Stupid irony...

Anyway, you may be wondering why I bring this up? If it was such a disgrace, why tell us about it when we have long since forgotten about your petty attempt to relieve boredom back in January?

Well, the answer is simple...VERY simple....

I would like to refer you to this post, from January 15. For those too lazy to click the link, let me provide a short synopsis of the events from that day.

My sister, upon reviewing the fork challenge within the challenge melee, gave me sub-challenges to eat spaghetti and salad without a fork.

Now, let me refresh your memories, if you're still reading this babble... the fork challenge was the first notch on my record, the first failure, simply because it was so hard not to unconciously pick up a fork and start eating. This began a chain of events, proving that the Poop Deck was, in fact, permeable, causing a slow leak in the structure that ended in an incomplete and failed mess. HOWEVER!, I never called an end to this challenge, and it has technically been pending ever since.

I know what you're all thinking, "Seriously Jed, where are you going with this? I've had a colonoscopy that was more entertaining than this gibberish."

THIS is where I'm going! You see, here in Japan, the fork is very hard to come by. Sure, you can use them in most resturants, but you have to ask for them. Chopsticks run rampant, and are the way to eat food around here, thus completely eliminating my need for the stainless steel pointy tool you Americans refer to as the 'fork.' As a result, I have not used a fork since the day we arrived here in Osaka, which means the fork challenge has been more than completed!

Furthermore, the sub-challenges in question were completed without a wince. Salad and spaghetti were both eaten without a fork, and yours truly suffered no hardships in doing so. As a matter of fact, I have also eaten soup on two occasions with chopsticks. Take THAT challenge melee!

Not only is this a huge breakthrough for the confidence and morality of the Poop Deck, it's also a huge increase for the ethos of this vessel and all it stands for. I'd like to thank the challenge melee for giving it it's best shot to take me down, but alas... you lose, sucker!

YAAAAAAR!

Posted by jed at 02:17 AM | Comments (9)

August 22, 2004

Re-meow-nder Of Home

Why do I like riding my bike to the park? Well, you can't tell me this guy doesn't remind you of someone that I miss...

Posted by jed at 11:08 PM | Comments (2)

August 18, 2004

Food And Fun

Though rice has been part of just about every one of our meals here in Japan, we have found a variey of other foods that are both interesting and good to eat. One such food is called Okonomiyaki which was best described as a 'cabbage pancake,' or 'cabbage pizza.'

Basically, it's cabbage, ginger, some other stuff... an egg, fish flakes, beef or pork, and some other stuff.... and then grilled on your table. Obviously, it's not that easy to explain, nor does it sound all that appealing. So, I did the best thing I knew how to do, and photographed our latest experience with Okonomiyaki. Whether you think it looks good or not, it is really tasty, not to mention a nice change from rice.

Also, I found a very relaxing park only about 10 minutes from our apartment on bike. It's very large, and has many playgrounds, gardens, walkways, and of course... vending machines. I've made two trips there so far; one to explore, and one to relax under a tree in the peaceful surroundings. Take a look for yourself!

Okonomiyaki: Check out this link for an in depth description, but look at my pics for an up close look at the real thing!

Oizumi Ryokuchi Park, Day 1: This was my first visit to the park, so I tried to explore every aspect of it. The place is huge, but I got to see maybe 80% of the main trails. Soon I'll have to venture off to the secondary trails and really explore. But for now, enjoy the scenery!

Oizumi Ryokuchi Park, Day 2: This was my first return visit. I had an afternoon with no plans, and a lot of energy, so I rode good ol' bicyclees back and had an enjoyable time. Check it out!

Posted by jed at 02:02 PM | Comments (5)

August 10, 2004

Me Teach English

It is time again to answer the latest question from Carrie. (For the record, Joe has also asked a very good question, but I am awaiting further details to support my answer. So, in case you're wondering Joe, I haven't forgotten about it). Anyway, her latest question is as follows:

What is your job like?

Welp, that is a very loaded question. To answer very simply, the job is pretty fun. Basically, we play actor, director, and editor of our very own English 'performance' class. We teach up to 8 classes a day, each 40 minutes long, 10 minutes between each class. There are levels of skill for each student based on how well they listen, how well they speak, their accuracy, fluency, vocab, etc. It starts from students who can barely introduce themselves, and ranges through students who know more about precise grammar than any of us teachers.

We sit in little cubicles, connect our headset, and countdown until the bell rings (which is noted on the screen, so it's easy to do). Once the class starts, we go through a normal routine of intro's, warm up's etc. Class size can range from one student to three students. All of the students in the class are in the same skill level. On our computer screen, we have lesson plans we can follow, as well as a variety of tools we can use for visual and audio aids to help and encourage students. We also have a window in the upper left hand corner that is separated into 4 boxes, and we can see the students as well as ourselves.

Some of the audio and visual aids we have include a 'white board' which we can write on with a special pen that shows up on the computer screen, for the students to see words and phrases. It's also useful for drawing pictures if they don't understand vocab or want to see how something is spelled. There are also many pictures to choose from, and sound clips (like an applause button, which is really the only one I use so far. There are probably a hundred or so sounds to choose from)

Our schedule changes everyday. Class times remain the same, but our personal class times may vary. In other words, the morning shift starts at 7:30, the next class is 8:20, the next is 9:10, etc., and this always stays the same. However, our schedules aren't always filled, so while we have 8 lessons everyday, we may not necessarily be teaching 8 lessons, and one or two of those periods may become 'free,' which is the perfect time to sit down with a book or a gameboy. It's very nice, unless you don't get free's, in which case it is very annoying to see other people with nothing to do, while you run around teaching 8 lessons. One morning, I had three free's in a row. That morning, I ended up reading 3/4 of So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish. (By the way, I'm on the last book in that series now, Mostly Harmless... yay!) Anyway, I realize that explanation is kind of confusing, but we do work consistent times, it's just that the number of lessons we actually have to teach may change.

The students are all from Japan, however they are not all Japanese. I have taught a Korean boy, and Karen taught someone from Peru. I'm not too sure on the rules of who can be taught, but I'm assuming that if you're a resident of Japan you're eligible. Furthermore, English is not the only language taught; French, Spanish, Italian, German, and Chinese are all taught from the same building and the same booths. Sometimes I sit down and see lesson plans from other countries, and think to myself how odd it must be to hear a Japanese person speak perfect French.

So, that's the job in a nutshell (No, this is the job in a nutshell.. look at me, I'm in a nutshell!... Sorry, Austin Powers reference) It's a lot of information and none of it makes sense, but hopefully you'll have at least some idea of what we're doing over here. It's pretty exciting a lot of the time, you can really have fun with the students, and it really leaves you with a feeling of accomplishment when you can see that they have actually learned something. At times, it can get a bit repetative... especially when teaching 7 or 8 lessons a day, having to do the intro's, the routine, over and over again... but I've found that it's fun again on Monday(Thursday) morning when we've been away from it for awhile. All in all, I am certainly not complaining, it's definitely been a great experience so far.

I will now leave you with a quote from Carrie and Sean, which was so profound I didn't know how to respond-

"Why did you have so much trouble finding your apartment that first night, it had a big red arrow over it?"

(please refer to the picture found here if you need clarification)

Cheers!

Posted by jed at 05:11 PM | Comments (3)

August 06, 2004

Nagai Park

Before I start today's meaningless babble, I'd like to thank you all for book suggestions. I'll certainly look into those recommendations, and I look forward to continuing my new found hobby. Now, onto today's business...

I met with my friend Jonathan after work today to explore some parts of the city we haven't seen yet. Luckily, the halfway point between our apartments is a huge sporting complex in Nagai, surrounded by a cozy little park, with odd fountains and interesting trees. A little further down the road is one of Osaka's oldest shrines, Sumiyoshi Taisha. Luckily, both of these are within biking distance (2 subway stops to Nagai, and a bit further to the shrine) so we braved the heat and discovered many wonderful things. I also found out today that when Jonathan says he knows a little bit of Japanese, he's being very modest. It was a nice benefit to have someone who could speak to people, ask questions, and get information. Anyhow, check it out!

Nagai Park and Sumiyoshi Taisha: I may not be able to say the names correctly, but at least I know how to bike there.

Cheers!

Posted by jed at 10:31 PM | Comments (2)

August 05, 2004

Reading Rainbow

Those of you who have known me over the years are pretty familiar with the fact that I have never been a huge reader. In fact, I take pride in the stories I have from high school, and my ability to, not once, but twice, completely ignore a required book and ace the tests that corresponded to them.¹ Now, this isn't to say I haven't dabbled in my share of books over the years, it's just something that has never really held my attention for one reason or another. Most often, I end up with a stack of books that 'I've gotten 3/4 of the way through,' if even that far.

Having said this, I feel it necessary to discuss the strange occurance that has begun since arriving here in Japan nearly two months ago. So far, I have read 4 books, and am halfway through my fifth.

I realize this is but a minor feat for most of you, but it's a major accomplishment for myself. Not only this, but I have a couple more books on the horizon that I plan to start immediately after I finish the current one. Why this sudden interest in the wonderful stories that have always been hidden away inside books, I don't know... but it's been a great discovery, one that is way past due.

Now, there is a dilema. My reason for mentioning this was not for a pat on the back, or a parade thrown in my honor. (though both are not only accepted, but highly encouraged) No, the reason is this-

Having not been a huge reader in the past, I didn't bring a great assortment of books with me. In fact, the only book I actually brought with me is called 'Hug,' and it's only about 20 pages long, each page containing only the word 'Hug'. Luckily, though, Karen came with a decent sized arsenal that I have found to be a pot of gold for my previously uninterested brain, but this stack is, of course, limited. So it is with this that I reach out to you folks who indulge in books more regularly than myself, with the hopes that you might have some suggestions for future books that may interest my newly opened mind. To give you some direction as to what has interested me thus far, I have read:

Barrel Fever, by David Sedaris
Wisdom Of Big Bird, by Caroll Spinney
Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy, by Douglas Adams
The Resturant At The End Of The Universe, by Douglas Adams
Life, The Universe and Everything, by Douglas Adams (1/2 way through)

and on the horizon...

So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish, by Douglas Adams
Mostly Harmless, by Douglas Adams
Young Zaphod Plays It Safe, by Douglas Adams
Naked, by David Sedaris

So, if anyone knows of any books that a person who likes those books might like, I'd love to have some recommendations. Unfortunately, books written in English aren't the easiest thing to find in Japan, but we have found a few book stores with decent selections. After all, the copy of Naked I bought was from a book store here, so anything is possible. Otherwise, a good list to bring home with me will be something to look forward to.

¹The first such occurence happened in Mr. Anderson's English class, and involved the book Animal Farm. We were told that the final exam would be 50% multiple choice from what we learned in the class, and 50% would be one essay question based on Animal Farm. Now, you really need to have met Mr. Anderson to understand my thinking as to why I didn't succomb to Animal Farm. Or, perhaps you just need to unerstand my love for challenging myself. Anyway, long story longer, 5 minutes before the exam I borrowed a book from the person sitting next to me and quickly read the back cover. A few days later, I received my exam and scored a 96%, and a perfect 50 out of 50 on the Animal Farm question. Boo-ya...
The second such occurence happened in Mrs. Lambert's English class. We were told to read Mary Shelly's Frankenstein. Perhaps as a way to discourage what we were all thinking, we were told very specifically that 'the movie is completely different from the book, so don't rent it!' I, however, did not like Mrs. Lambert. She bothered me, very much... so I rented the movie. Just as I suspected, the movie is not only similar to the book, but it follows it specifically enough to allow me to ace every quiz, answer every question, and score perfectly on the final exam questions while the others wondered 'wow, he read that fast!' No my friends, I didn't. I only have a will... a will to survive... and a will to completely disregard the futile attempts made by silly English teachers...

Hey wait, I'm an English teacher now!...

touche, Northwestern Regional #7... touche.

Till next time,

Cheers!

Posted by jed at 08:34 PM | Comments (9)

August 04, 2004

Ferris Wheel-ers Day Off

Today was Wednesday, which means it was our Sunday, and what better to do on a day off than visit one of many Ferris Wheels that populate the city of Osaka. The camera came along for the ride to help you share in our day of going around in circles... only this time, we weren't lost.

Also, there are a few random pictures at the beginning from the last 3 or so days that I thought I'd toss in there for good measure. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the view!

Ferris Wheel Ride 1: Check our first ferris wheel ride here in Japan. For some reason, these things are everywhere. For some other reason, we love to ride them!

Posted by jed at 11:29 PM | Comments (1)

August 03, 2004

Robot Dog

OK, it's time I tackle the lastest questions from Carrie. First, let's go way back to the questions from the America In Japan Post-

Q: Is it true there is no K in japanese?
A: I actually have no idea. I do know, however, that I live at a subway stop called Kitahanada, and Kita means north, so there is a word containing the letter K. Though I guess that's still English, not Japanese... so again, I have no idea.

Q: Did you go into LL Bean (I'm guessing you didn't go into Laura Ashley)... are the sizes the same as in America?
A: I did not go to LL Bean (or Laura Ashley... yet), but I'm thinking the sizes will be smaller. I'm sure they can special order anything, though.

Q: I am confused why Tully's and Laura Ashley are 2 separate photos instead of one 2-fer.
A: Well, I wanted to separate them so I could count how many I had so far. I figured different companies deserved their own special recognition.

Q: Different, or same menu, at McDonalds?
A: Very similar, but it's definitely a Japanese version. It has a few of the normal menu items, like Big Macs and fries and such, but it also has a "bacon lettuce burger" and some other unique choices. Also, you can get chicken nuggets on the side instead of fries. Furthermore, the burgers have a weird sauce on them, kind of like a wasabi mayo or something, and it's actually quite tasty. Oddly, I've eaten McDonald's three times since we've been here, which means I have now eaten McDonald's 4 times in the last 6 or so years.

Q: Does every Starbucks have a guard outside? hee.
A: Ha... no...

Ok, and now for the latest question-

Q: Do you have your Super Dollfie yet? Or some other crazy Japanese toy?

A: I have not yet bought any toys, that day will come when we get our first real paycheck (we're paid monthly). I have won quite a bit of toys from the crane games, though. Those only cost a few hundred yen (sometimes less, sometimes more, depending on how good you are. Seeing as I'm a pro, it's almost always sometimes less, heh heh heh)

We did get to see the robotic dog AIBO in the Sony Tower a few weeks ago, though. It may not be worth $1800 to own one, but it's a pretty cool little 'toy.' It has sensors all over it's body which you can pet or scratch, it can learn over 100 words and phrases, it recognizes it's owners face and commands, you can raise it from a puppy to an adult, and many other bizzare features. (Check out this site for more info.) I don't think I'll be getting one anytime soon, but I can promise I'll buy some nifty toys at some point. Once I do, I'll be sure to take some pictures.

Now, to change gears for a moment, since no one asked about the phrase written at the end of the Tao of Bow post, I will take it upon myself to tell you. Here is the phrase-

Domo Arigato Big Bird! Mapputatsuni hiki sakuwayo!

While it may seem to be a nice, thoughtful comment, this phrase actually means-

Thank you very much Big Bird! I will tear you in half!

Till next time...

Cheers!

Posted by jed at 06:41 PM | Comments (3)

August 01, 2004

For Hannah...


hannah.jpg


What a good sport during my unbirthday party, before we left for Japan.

Cheers...

Posted by jed at 06:40 PM | Comments (1)