Protected: Is it spring yet? Bad case of the blahs and blues.

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I am sitting at my desk, reading craft sites, looking for something interesting I could make for today’s Gifu Art Collective. I am idea free, so have been randomly searching different craft sites, as I feel the need to get glue on my fingers today. However, my search was derailed because I have a secret bit of crazy and keep ending up on sites that demand the use of a particular item for creation, and I have to stop and breathe deeply, close my computer for a moment, and start again.

I am going to share with you my own particular brand of nuttiness, that I try not to tell to many people about – for fear of having it used against me. You see, I have Sidonglobophobia. I don’t know if that is the real name… but it is what comes up when I did a Google search on ‘extreme fear of raw cotton, in particular cotton balls; to the extent of a powerful negative physical response.`

Yeah, I can’t touch cotton balls.  It gets worse though. Not only can I not touch them, I can’t look at them, look at anyone touching them, or even read or think about them without getting an uncomfortable tingle on the back of my neck, tensing in my spine, and a bit of a headache. Seriously. I am actually shaking a little bit just writing this. I keep having to stop and close my eyes and think of something else to get the image of cotton balls out of my head. AGH, here it goes again….

I am back.

Sheer terror.

Actually, I have been chased by cotton balls (not the ball alone, by someone with one) and it makes me feel sheer panic. John likes to occasionally put them in his mouth – gah, that image as well just made me violently shudder.

Note: I had to leave this and come back after a few hours, as the physical response was getting too violent to maintain in a Japanese staff room. Was getting hard to pretend the shaking was from cold.

Anyway, this is something that has always bothered me, and I have no idea if there is a way to make it better. Maybe immerse myself in cotton balls for 24 hours?  I have a friend that cannot touch chenille, but does anyone else have anything weird they cannot touch?

The proverbial one legged man in the ass kicking contest

I don’t think I have said the words ‘I have nothing to do’ or ‘I am bored’ for months.

2013 has been so insanely busy, that I just now realized that we are into March already. I am shortly going to be 35. And I still have no idea what I am doing with my life… A friend made a comment that she can’t keep up with what I am doing, HA, me neither.

Since New Years in Gunma and Tokyo, I have been to the Snow Festival in Hokkaido, had John visit for 6 weeks, and have been to Osaka twice. I have tons I can tell… but at the moment I am simply overwhelmed. I purchased a new diary and have been spending the last half an hour putting all the events from my phone and head into this little pink book. In the next 22 weeks, I have only 8 weekends free. EIGHT. On the books:

– Tokyo twice… maybe 3 times, not 100% sure about Yamathon anymore. Once for AJET changeover, once for a SMUS presentation for the summer school programme, ISPY.
– Osaka about a dozen times. Again, for SMUS but also for an ajet event this coming weekend, then games days 3 more times, and a few flights
– a weekend trip to Taipei I am hoping to take May 31-June 2.. maybe sneak in a meet with my friends school. Tickets are $50 each way. Cheaper than staying home!
– 10 days in England! It happened! $1080 of the $1200 I needed was sent in. I am flabbergasted. I cannot believe my friends and family are so generous. I also get a short stopover in Dubai. Plotting how I can get outside in the 3 hours I have, so I can count it as a country visited…
– 2 beer festivals (Nagoya and back in Osaka)
– Golden Week Games Convention! Woot!
– Hiroshima (after GWGC I am going to night bus down and spend one night in Hiroshima)
– Friend coming from Fukuoka, and we are hitting up Shirakawa-go and Takayama
– an Art Show! I am making something that will hopefully look as cool in reality as it does in my head.
– Walking/running 38kms with my students in 2 weeks. Eek. My first attempt at pretty much a marathon distance (Marathon is 42?)

Those 8 weekends I have, I have ideas for,but not solid plans. Still want to bike the Shikoku bridges this year (Perhaps as a PEPY event? Not sure) and hopefully make it to Shimane and Tottori

Perhaps in those 22 weeks I will find time to blog about these events!!! we shall see…

Crowd funding my birthday trip to England?!

Steph and Liam's Wedding!

Goal: $1300 by February 21st

Start: $0

Current: $460




Ok, I finally figured out how to add in some easy code to wordpress, so here is the progress bar I promised! Yes, it is super simplistic, I am not a programmer.

On January 30th, I was talking to one of my best friend’s who recently bought her plane ticket to one of my other best friend’s wedding in England that is happening in April.  Of course, I was also invited, but originally had to work, and so did my best not to think about this event, and how much I miss my girlfriends.  Then, my work got cancelled, but by that time there was no way I was coming up with the funds. So, I put the whole idea out of my head. The car accident – no, I am not hurt – but meaning I had to unexpectedly fork out a lot of money for a new car, and the fact I am leaving Japan in 6 months; means I don’t have the funds to go to this wedding.

However, when K told me she bought her ticket, I idly went online and looked at ticket prices ($1280) and then posted this on facebook. As a JOKE:

This year, I will turn 35. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I am old. All I want for my birthday is a ticket to my best friend’s wedding in England in April. Turns out it is only $1300. I have 500 facebook friends. You each feel like giving me $3 so I can go? 😀

I never expected any response. It was a joke. A very, very cheeky one. Everyone is always asking for fundraising for causes, this was the ‘charity of Raygan’, and I should probably be ashamed of myself, right? However, I started getting pretty interesting messages from people saying they would love to send me a few bucks for my birthday, and how cool if I could get my trip funded by fb friends. I told them no, and that it was not necessary, this was a JOKE. But they insisted, and so – duh, you never say no twice – I posted my paypal information. Now, obviously, some people say they will give money or do something and never do – and that is OK. But the people who sent me money, didn’t just send me $3. They sent me between $5 and $100. I have been truly shocked. And not just from my closest friends either, but people I haven’t seen in YEARS have sent me money. People I have worked with, or met casually in hostels and spent a few days with, people I may never see again. They sent me money.  They sent me touching notes wishing me well, telling me what is new with them, etc. and I am truly grateful for every penny that has been sent my way.

Now, of course, some people think this is rude or stupid – and to them, I apologize if you see this that way. I never expected this to go anywhere, or there to be any chance I could attend this wedding. I am not saying I deserve your money, nor is this post an attempt to get more donations. I am not a charity case. I have a job.  This trip is a luxury that I currently cannot afford right now, and that is all. It is my birthday wish – but not a dire need.

Again, to any who donated, thank you. I am still 65% from the goal – but as I said, I am not destitute. I am going to do everything I can to come up with some extra cash between now and the deadline (that is payday,  and about a month before travel, so I need to get the ticket before the price shoots up!), I am going to scrimp and save all month, and make this a reality.

So this is Christmas

I am 34 years old. This is my 34th Christmas on earth, and probably the 30th I can actually recall.  So many liters of eggnog have been drunk, rum balls consumed, turkey legs gnawed on, stuffing stuffed, wishbones snapped, carols sung, presents opened, etc.  In those 30 Christmases, I have spent the majority with my family. One year was spent with my best friend in England. Another with 13 new JET friends in Kuala Lampur. Last year, my husband and I spent Christmas together, albeit across the room from each other in silent meditation.

This year, I am sitting at my desk, in the school that is the least friendly, staring at a computer screen all day. I have no classes, and nothing to do, but decided since I was staying in Japan that I would save my paid leave and just go to work. I had other options – I am the one who chose this route, so although I love the sympathy, it is 100% not necessary.  As I chose to stay in Japan, I did manage to have a Christmas party on the weekend, in which I invited 11 new friends to come to my house to have turkey, mashed potatoes, perogies, cranberry sauce, stuffing, assorted veg, gravy, etc… all the stuff I love. We played Christmas games that I learned from John’s family and played some new ones as well. We drank, we laughed, it was awesome. I am thankful for the kind-hearted, happy people I have met while in Japan.  I am sad to be away from my family and friends who know me so well, but if I have to be, at least I know that I am loved. I am missed. I am going to be ok. This morning one of my best friends called me from England and prompted me to get out of bed, so it was a good start to the day 😀

Anyway, this has made me really introspective. What is Christmas to me? I am not religious, so no, I am not celebrating Christ’s birthday. The imagery of Santa and his reindeer  are just for fun to me,  and although I miss having a stocking, it is just due to sentimental reasons. I know there is one with my name on it hanging at John’s parent’s house in Ontario. And for some reason, that makes me feel all warm inside.  Why? Is it purely the memories of Christmas past? The knowledge that people I love, and who love me, are all together eating a delicious meal? Playing games? Drinking drinks? What is it? Why do I feel so attached to this arbitrary day more than any other? I can’t describe it. I can’t explain it to my Japanese friends. It just is.

So, from me to you, whatever you do today and tomorrow – Merry Christmas. And I mean that to encompass whatever you celebrate, wherever you are. If you read this, chances are, I love you and miss you.

Discipline the right way?

Being an ALT is a super easy job. Come on now, any  of you that bitch and complain, some of you are doing it wrong. Some of you, yeah, ok, your situations might be a bit harder. However, on average, most ALTs teach between 15 and 20 classes a week. Even if up to 25, that still allows for over 10 hours a week of prep time. And if you are spending more time prepping than you are in class… again, I think you are doing it wrong. Keep it simple. Difficult activities lead to difficult explanations. I think most of my classes are successful because I have a total of 8-10 games in my repertoire that I rotate through. My kids know them, like them, and they are useful for hammering home grammar points.

However, aside from the actual lesson, there is the difficulty of discipline. Kids who don’t pay attention, don’t do their homework, don’t answer you when you speak, outright do what you tell them not to… it is a problem that is difficult to address. Especially since there is that grey area as to whether we should be disciplining children at all… isn’t that up to the JTE or HRT?

For those of us that are given free reign over our classes, in which we do all the curriculum planning, lesson planning and implementation – unfortunately this often comes to us. I struggle with discipline in my classes, partly because sometimes a lot of the issue stems from me. I can’t make myself properly understood, or something that was not a problem before has suddenly annoyed the hell out of me. Come on, you other ALTs know what I am talking about. Usually, I am pretty good at holding back,  and getting the other teacher to talk to the kid(s) who are the problem – and I don’t have problems often. However, when I do, I have this horrid ability. I can make kids cry. Ooops. I hate it when my kids cry, and I hate it even more when I am the reason for it. Totally missing the mark on trying to make my kids like English, if I make them cry their little hearts out, right? The weird thing is… the criers often, in the same lesson, become my star pupils.  I think it is because I don’t spoil my kids with stickers and prizes… I shower them with praise, and they seem to lap it up. And, if a kid is scolded, I make sure to put them in the position to receive praise shortly thereafter… being an elementary school teacher does have its perks.

Anyway, this post isn’t actually about me.I just saw some really amazing discipline going down at my Friday school.  Now, I love this school. It is awesome. The teacher’s are kind, funny, and they genuinely love the students. Every morning, the teachers  wait in the entrance to welcome the kids, and the teachers who can’t leave the staff room because they are busy? Every kid stops by and says good morning to the teachers in there too. (It is a small school, only 48 students and 12 teachers). The good bye song at the end of the day is heart wrenching, and every teacher goes outside to wave them away. It is super cute.

Anyway, the rule at this school (and one of my others as well), is no raised voices. Teacher’s can’t yell at students. Students can’t yell at teachers or each other. Ever.  However, there are a few little pains in the ass at this school. One, has made me very nearly lose my cool on a regular occasion since April 2011 when he became a grade 1 student. He is SO aggravating.  But then, 10 minutes after you want to smack him, he can be the best kid ever! SO FRUSTRATING.

Today, I guess he was bad in math class, which is taught by the vice principal. From what I could understand, he didn’t do his homework and didn’t study for their end of term test, so failed. Badly. He didn’t even take his math book home with him – meaning he couldn’t study. And then… he lied and said he did take it home, even though the teacher knew differently. Pretty small potatoes in the big picture, but in a Japanese school, these are HUGE offenses.

I have seen this happen at other schools, and the result was one of two things. Either the teacher said ‘oh, he is lazy/dumb/a lost cause’ or the teacher yelled at the kid until the kid cried.  At my Friday school, the Vice Principal called him in to the staff room and talked to him. Now, usually teachers stand when they berate a kid, thus towering over them and dominating the conversation, right? The VP sat in his chair, and had the boy stand in front of him. He took his hands in his and gently rocked them a bit while he talked to them. He spoke calmly and slowly, and looked the kid right in the eye. All he said was, ‘tell me the truth’. The little boy started crying (and usually he is really solid in his badness, when he is being bad, and it takes FOREVER to wear him down) and the VP said why are you crying? I just want to know what is happening with you. You are a smart person, and a valuable member of this school. Why did you fail this test?

The little boy said he forgot.

The VP called him out on this, and said he was sorry, but he didn’t believe him. But that he shouldn’t cry, they were all friends and together they could find a way through this.

It went on for about 20 minutes, and I couldn’t help but eavesdrop. It was awesome.

I read on FB a friend who posted about her reaction from a student that she called out in class for misbehaving. He was doing something completely unrelated to class, and she held it up and said, ‘only english work in english class please’. His reaction was very strong, since he thought no one cared what he was doing. But she cared. She cared that he spend the time  doing what he was supposed to – not for her sake, but so that he could succeed when it came time to be tested on that material in the future.

I guess my point of this rambley Friday post is… before you start yelling at a kid in class for their bad behavior, watch the pros. Do some research. Check your own shit at the door, and remember – we get paid a lot of money to help kids see English as something fun and not scary.

last 5kgs

Ok, so I had a pleasant surprise the other day, and realized that I am 5kgs  (11lbs) away from my goal weight. Not bad, considering at the start of the summer I was 13kgs from my goal. Woot! I haven’t actually been trying that hard, just running a bit more.My goal weight is closing in!

For interests sake:

1 pound = a Guinea Pig
1.5 pounds = a dozen Krispy Kreme glazed donuts
2 pounds = a rack of baby back ribs
3 pounds = an average human brain
4 pounds = an ostrich egg
5 pounds = a Chihuahua
6 pounds = a human痴 skin
7.5 pounds = an average newborn
8 pounds = a human head
10 pounds= chemical additives an American consumes each year
11 pounds = an average housecat
12 pounds = a Bald Eagle
15 pounds = 10 dozen large eggs
16 pounds = a sperm whale痴 brain
20 pounds = an automobile tire
23 pounds = amount of pizza an average American eats in a year
24 pounds = a 3-gallon tub of super premium ice cream
25 pounds = an average 2 year old
30 pounds = amount of cheese an average American eats in a year

So, in perspective, I have lost the equivalent of a sperm whale’s brain and a dozen Krispy Kreme donuts. I just have about 2 chihuahua’s left to go!

If I can go it by May, I am buying myself a super cute bikini.

Anyway, in order to get there – I signed up for my second half marathon, which will be in Kakamigahara on March 24th. Goal time: 2hours 15mins.

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