Wednesday, April 30, 2008
I will present my point in ascending order of importance.
1: Physically, every student riding a bike to school is impossible. There is nowhere to park them. If 400+ students parked their bikes within the grounds, there would be nowhere for recess or clubs. I don't think that is an alternative. If you haven't been in a Japanese neighborhood, it might be kind of hard to conceive of what they look like but I think "mixed use." Might be a generous term. Stores and houses and businesses and factories are all jumbled on top of each other. If the same 400+ students tried to park their bikes outside of the school, it would be a terrible nuisance for the neighborhood. Everyone would complain. The streets would be filled with bikes.
High schools students can ride bikes. Elementary and junior high can't. There is a good reason for this. The streets and sidewalks would be flooded between 7:30 and 8:30 AM. Traffic wouldn't flow. There would be tons of kids on bikes competing with cars and pedestrians and old people in wheelchairs and mothers taking their kids to pre-schools. It just couldn't work. Especially given what shit bike riders junior high schoolers are. They would be riding four across doing mail on their cell phones, and then we would have to be on them about their riding manners and following up on accidents. It just isn't feasible.
2. Rules are important. In Japanese junior high schools there are a ton of chickenshit rules. There are rules that I hear and wonder why anyone would need to follow them. But, and I see this now more than ever, the role of junior high in Japan is to teach young people how to function in society. In elementary school the kids can run around like monkeys all day. It is pretty free and full of breaks. They can go nuts as long as they learn to read and write Japanese at a basic level. That is what is expected of them. I might surprise you with this next point so sit down and hold on to your loose change. The academic component of junior high is...hold...hold....zero. There is no academic component to junior high in Japan. You may say, "But there are classes! They receive grades on their tests." That is true but I ask you; what happens if you fail every test between your first day and your last day? What if every paper that comes to your desk you immediately tear up and eat? What if you laugh at every homework assignment and tell the teacher that you forgot to buy a pencil for three years straight? I will tell you; the same thing that happens to the best student in your class. You all graduate. All that is expected of you is to show up and to follow the rules. That may sound crazy, but to a large degree I have bought into the process. When it works, like at Mikuni, you get a school where kids can be what they want to be. If they want to work really hard on getting into a strong academic high school, they can. If they want to concentrate on sports and develop that area of their talents, they can. If they like reading books and writing manga and keeping to themselves, they can. All that is asked of them is to respect their elders and treat the people around them with respect. I agree with that. It is better than my junior high. When managing that many kids who have different goals and backgrounds who all have to exist in close proximity(35-45 a class) every day, the unifying factor is that everyone follows the same set of rules. Of course, within that, I over look silly little things when the kid is descent for the most part.
3. This school is actually out of control. The bad kids run the school. They actually run it. They show up when they feel like. They leave when they feel like. If a teacher or administrator attempts to discipline them, they raise their hands like they are going to punch them. If you ask them why they aren't in class they will respond, "Get the fuck out of my way." They run through the halls during class kicking on doors and stuff the bathrooms full of paper towels so they won't work. They talk to adults like they are dogs. They spit inside so that the hallways and stairs are covered in sludge. They can't have a serious conversation without laughing hysterically or fighting. They can't concentrate for more than a minute or two. I am seriously concerned about their immediate future, their safety and wellbeing.
In the midst of this are a good number of kids who would just like to go to a normal school. For this they get beaten down, both metaphorically and literally. The young man who comes and sits by my desk during every break because he is too scared to be anywhere else and who teaches me kanji because his hobby is reading novels, was beaten in front of the school last week because he had enough of the school bully harassing him and wouldn't listen to him. His face had a deep gash where his glasses broke. It was the one day in the week that I wasn't standing on the front steps at the end of school. There are many other kids who would just like to come to class, do mediocre and go home, but they can't because these loud mouths disrupt everything. You can either play along, withdraw into yourself or suffer. I don't think that is fair. I don't think this situation allows for and slack being given to the worst kids. I think they have to follow the same rules as everyone else. If they can get that through their heads then maybe we can move on.
A lot of the problem is that everyone, students and teachers, have gotten used to this situation. It seems like it is the way it is supposed to be. A few of us new teachers refuse to accept it and you can already see the change. Small though it may be. If they ignore me about the bike rule, why will they listen to me in class? If they don't respect me in class, why will they listen to me about running wild in the halls? If they don't care about that, why wouldn't they beat up the kids that are weaker than them? I don't see anyway around being a dick about the little rules until they can act like human beings.
Monday, April 28, 2008
That brings us to Friday. Nakamura rounded the corner on his bike with 3 other kids as I was walking to school. He was on his keitai and didn't notice me. I crossed the street and 65% strong-saftied him into the wall. He deserved it. I thought about yanking his pink keitai and smashing it on the ground. However, having a keitai outside of school isn't really against the rules. Riding a bike to school is. I told him to get off his bike as his friends ran away. He got off after a bit of yelling. I had planned to drag him to school by his collar, but realized that everyone in the neghborhood was staring as they have no idea who I am, a foreign guy who has just shoulder charged a junior high student off of his bicycle. I let go of Nakamura and he snatched his bag away like he was ready to throw down. "Get the fuck to school!" I yelled. I walked the bike up to an assistant principle and told her what happened. Later that day Nakamura went downstairs and took his bike back. Sometimes I think I am alone in my battle. "You did a great thing." Inoue sensei told me. "Most teachers would have ignored them." Okay, maybe the two of us are alone in this battle.
Sorry to say that one month in I am pretty certain that I am going to hit a kid in school. I don't believe in that, but at this school I do. I really can't get across to you how rotten these children are.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
I have found that the internet has no blockers on it here and am therefor chancing it and posting from school. I think they can live with it because I am a rad teacher and that is just the price they have to pay for me not slapping the shit out of their insolent children.
I got off the train at Sanjo instead of Marutamachi and walked up Kamo-gawa. The weather here has changed quickly from coats and gloves and hats, to blistering attic like heat. The bugs swarm around the new, yellow flowers and ducklings struggle to follow their mother across where the current picks up. Even when everything is terrible, which it isn't really right now, in the end I still live in Kyoto and am a very lucky person for doing so.
I encountered the much rumored Japanese crazy first name boom. SOme of yesterday's examples:
There were many more, but I forgot most in the rush to remember them all. Natsuki had the best quote in regards to Ryutaromaru; "What? Is he a boat?"
If you speak Japanese, that is funny. If not, it probably isn't.
As an educational institution, Tomorogi-chu is still lacking. As a sociological experiment, it has come out guns blazing. What a load of assholes. The kids I mean. But I don't know how much to blame them. If you have never learned any manners, then it is hard to use those manners which you haven't got. Japanese bad kids are odd. My junior high was full of freakish man-children who did crime like adults and scared the shit out of most anybody. They were surrounded by the usual wash-outs and social retards. Japanese bad kids are like babies in a pre-school. They just simply defy control and whine in the face of discipline. It makes it a little bit harder when I am not sure I am on the same page as the other teachers. At least Inoue is a bad ass. I almost threw a 2nd year in a pond today for running away during cleaning time. They are allowed to laugh it off here. I busted kids smoking 3 times in 2 days last week. It wasn't hard. Their cunning strategy? DUck behind the gym. Amazing. They do their make-up in class.
Monday, April 14, 2008
This school is beyond terrible. The kids run it like a zoo after the apocalypse controlled by the residents of the monkey cage. They leave class when they feel like. They come to school when they feel like. They don't wear their uniforms. They talk all during class. They bring their cell phones.
There is a rule that I can't speak Japanese at school. That lasted about 3 hours. There school has a long way to go until that's their problem.
Friday's total from English class: One bloody nose. One swollen leg. One big, crying baby. One missing tooth.
I am fortunate that another new English teacher, Inoue Sensei, is a former pro kick-boxer. We have both decided that we aren't putting up with this and for all of our introduction classes we brought gloves and leg pads and offered to fight any students who wanted a piece. Does that seem over the top? That's how we are going to do it. The story is longer and I will get to all of it at some point. This school is nuts.
Sunday, April 13, 2008
Now I am finally reading Into The Wild as someone left it in my house. It is even more unsettling than The Prestige. I am a bit disturbed by how much I completely associate with a lot of what Chris McCandless was feeling. He was a lot more motivated and confident and bright than I am. That is probably what keeps me alive. A good deal of what he was doing was quite admirable. Just a few small mistakes and it turns a great adventure into a death spiral. Strange what a cultural touchstone he has turned into however.
Understand that I see many f'd up things in my life. I have seen a man with a back-pack at 7 in the morning laughing and screaming, punching a garbage can. I have seen a man in pink short-shorts crouched with his arm up the opening to a vending machine. I encountered an old man with a giant truck entirely covered in apples whose only comment was that no one could ever take pictures of his apple truck. I didn't mention these things. Then there was last night. Not since the emergence of the Werecat, I tell you, have things gotten so strange, so fast.
I was recovering from my Friday, late-night drunk. Sitting in the spare room, playing Winning-11. Caitlin, who has the room next door, asked if her outfit was appropriate for going to see her boyfriend's band. She asked me if I would like to come along. Free. Music. Saturday. Sure. It was a small cafe on the second floor of a building in Kitaoji. It was a private party and the owner's wife had made sandwiches for everyone. The room was tiny. There were maybe 20 people. Half of those were playing music that night. Caitlin's boyfriend is Japanese. A small guy with a perm. Quite the looker and completely aware of it. He has to go to school to become a monk because his family owns a temple. His band is all Japanese guys with a girl singer who translates everything for me even when I am speaking Japanese. She had a pink, fuzzy sweater and doesn't figure in this story at all. Because of Caitlin there were about 5 foreigners there, including me. Everyone else seemed to be in a band, or associated with the cafe. As the first band started playing, three older guys playing cover tunes with one of their 9 year old sons on guitar, one of Caitlin's Japanese friends showed up. Her name was Ayako and she looked very Kyoto. Very artsy. Tall and thin with horn-rimmed glasses and multiple smocks and sweaters. Her shoes were some form of odd leather work. After the first band was finished I talked to her. She carried a sketch pad and told me that it was hard for her to work because she has many mood swings. She has an apartment were sometimes rust comes out of the pipes and most of the pople she has dated are weird. I should point out that her Japanese is very hard for me to follow, and that, although looking odd, she could very easily be considered pretty. She told me that her school had been bad and there were lots of bullies.
Caitlin's boyfriend's band began to play some jazz inflected cover tunes and Ayako began to draw in her sketch pad. She wasn't amazing, but definitely talented. The band's singer was good, but over the top and over confident. She was in love with her English ability. They were all good musicians however. Did I mentioned that they named their band after me for the night? Go figure. The band took a break and an odd young man in a suit who had recently graduated from the Buddhist University got up and played a song about washing dishes at the ramen shop. He then played a Theremin he had just bought.
The band got back up and played some disco covers and some R&B. They finished their set and the owner said, "But we have 2 more hours. Somebody play some music." Caitlin's confident singer friend had showed up in the meantime. She has orange hair and no shame and it was clear that she was going to sing. As they were lining up who would play. Ayako said to the man who had played the Teremin, "I sing." A small lump of worry formed in my stomach. I could feel something coming down the road. The girl with orange hair did quite a good rendition of some Janis Joplin and Mr. Big. Oh, the Mr. Big. The band started setting back up and I could see Ayako looking at the microphone as if it were her assigned turn and everyone else looking at her like, "What?" The band tuned. Ayako picked up the mic and began saying "Lah. Lah. Ah. Ah. Lah. Lah." This went on for about 2 minutes. I got very nervous and began muttering, "Talent show. Talent show. I can't take this." I turned to the guy next to me, "This could be very good, or really bad." The band started playing a sort of jazz-funk thing. Ayako began singing in a strange monotone falcetto. A table of older Japanese people, drinking beer, looked unsure of how to react. The band looked down and concentrated on their instruments. Ayako's high-pitched chanting began to take the form of a story. A story about her high-school. Somebody at her school had kicked the lockers, "Dom! Dom! Dom!" She yelled. "Peace is better. Quiet is better. Why are people outside always talking?" Her voice pitched up and down somewhere between a wail and a chant. There were words. There was a story. There was kind of a melody, but there was mostly an effect. A strange, strange effect. The man who had played with the Theremin early had been funny as a crazy act. The act had been usurped now. We were knee-deep in real life crazy. "Even the president of the soccer club was a bad person!" She screamed. Now she was punctuating the story with high-pitched screaming. I was sweating ans staring at the floor. Sometimes I was laughing uncomfortably. When I tried to look at Ayako she stared straight into my eyes and I knew this was no joke. This was the first 5 minutes. From this point on you could see the band looking for ways to end, but Ayako having no intention of being done. The only line I can remember from the second 5 minutes, amid the screaming and the booming and the yelling was, "And even the class president got dragged off to the courthouse! People are terrible" "Oh no. Not the class president." I said to no one in particular, hoping there was an exit I could slip out of, but knowing there wasn't. Finally, the band conspired to end the song, but the audience had turned. The old people were cheering Ayako on. Some people were dancing. I was bright red and my palms were sweating. Things had gotten weird for real. Ayako came and set back down. She was composed and quiet. "Was that a true story?" " Yes," she said. "That was some of the story. There were also two 2 meter tall twins who played basketball and punched me in the head. Now they are famous, but I hate them." I got called up to play "Sweet Home Chicago." And a strange session with the Theremin guy. The master demanded that someone play "Loving You." Ayako returned and sang a monologue about hating karaoke to the tune. At some point amid Eric Clapton covers and Japanese versions of Monkees' songs, the evening ended. On the cab ride home with Caitlin and Ayako I asked if she had gotten it all out. "About a sixth." She said. All of it would be too much. After dropping Ayako off, Caitlin told me they had met at a concert where Ayako had been dancing by herself and then biting the microphone. Before getting out of the cab, she had told us that rust comes out of the faucet in her sink sometimes and that the businesses in the neighborhood have big shutters on their front windows that make a lot of noise.
Submitted for your approval.
Monday, April 7, 2008
Ed and Shoko got married this weekend. I am still exhausted from the whole affair and going to work this morning so I will have to chronicle it all later. Somebody peed on a limo, got a Korean tourist's number, smoked some weed in broad daylight in a crowded area and made out with a stewardess. If I find out who it was I will let you know. Still investigating.
Thursday, April 3, 2008
I found rat poop in the kitchen. I am thinking about laying out snares and prowling around. Maybe we should introduce weasels.
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
This is a really, really, no irony included, really good card. Fights galore. Good fights. No superstars.
Johnson vs. Speer - Speer by decision. Speer's wrestling and toughness will get him through. Johnson's cardio could go out early leading to TKO.
Mitichiyan vs. Sotiropoulos - Armenia vs. Greece. Mitichiyan is really an unknown commodity. Sotiropoulos is the real deal. He is a smooth striker and grappler. His stamina is not in question. Plus he trained at Purebred Omiya. I have Sotiropoulos by sub in the 2nd.
Guida vs. Schiavo - Guida by whatever. Probably G-n-P TKO.
Cox vs. Gamburyan - More Armenians. Gamburyan is too powerful. He wins by TKO in the 2nd. His shoulder might pop out of joint however.
Aurelio vs. Roberts- For as long as Aurelio has been around, I feel like I don't know much about him. Still, I have him winning by submission in the 3rd. American Top Team on a roll.
Neer vs. Thomas- I wish this fight was on the main card. Thomas is one of my favorite fighter of all time. He is good on his feet. He is good on the ground. He is technical in all aspects. He has the best head movement in MMA. Thomas by sub in the 3rd.
To the main card.
Edgar vs. Maynard- Stamina is the deciding factor in most MMA bouts. While both of these guys are talented wrestlers, I give the stamina edge to Edgar. Edgar by exciting decision.
Alexander vs. Irvin- If you follow fighting, your only real question about this fight is what craziness is going to happen. Both of the guys are explosive and have quick victories. They also, especially Irvin, have very strange finishes. Someones knee could explode. Someone's head could explode. A paraglider could drop into the ring. The cage could explode. Alexander by spontaneous combustion in the 1st round.
Diaz vs. Pellegrino- Pellegrino is a tough tough guy. I am scared of him. His wrestling is superior to Diaz'. Pellegrino is also a black belt (I think) in jiu-jitsu. That being said, I never bet against a Diaz. Diaz by crazy sub in the 3rd.
Boetsch vs. Hamill- If you haven't seen Boetsch's last fight, watch it. It is a crazy beat down culminating in him throwing David Heath onto his head. I like Boetsch's fights. I am interested. I still believe in Hamill's talent. It hasn't all come together yet, but I think it will. Hamill by decision.
Alves vs. Parisyan- I love watching Karo Parisyan fight. This is going to be tough for him. Alves has savage leg kicks that could disrupt Karo's hybrid judo game. Parisyan, although being an explosive athlete, lacks real striking power. If Karo can overcome the kicks, he wins in the clicnh game. If his stamina is there, he takes the decision.
Florian vs. Lauzon- Two fighters that I love to watch fighting. Florian is a slick jiu-jitsu black belt that his really integrated muay thai into his game. Lauzon is a nutty grappler who integrates computer networks. They are both very, very good and the kind of fighters that I like to watch and pull for. I think at this stage in their careers, Florian is the more well developed and he wears down Lauzon. Nasty G-nP gets Florian the decision. Lauzon grows as a fighter.
Great card all around.
Today I researched how to rid animals from your crawlspace. It was universally agreed that the first step was figuring out how they were getting in. If you saw my house you would be laughing along with me. In this house, the distinction between "in" and "out" loses any real meaning that it might have had. It is that elusive "ambiguity" that all fruity books about Japanese architecture talk up. That "ambiguous" line between living in a rich enough country to be able to seal up your house or being fucking poor. So deliciously ambiguous. Let us bask in it for a moment.
I am contemplating a platform to sleep on so that when the "weasel" finally crashes through the ceiling it has a clear path to the door or window without running across my sleeping body.
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
We have to have health care that covers everyone now. Not the kind that hangs up on pre-existing conditions. I tore up my knee when I was 16, so if I move back to the U.S., I can probably never have it worked on again as it is pre-existing. Our country is insane when it comes to health care. And I don't mean that as an overstatement.
attempting to silence the voices in my head.