Search This Blog & Get A Rife

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Do You Want To Know A Secret?

It's Monday, November 25, 1991 and I'm visiting Kaneda Minami Chu Gakko (Kaneda South Junior High School) in beautiful Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan.

I'm an assistant English teacher on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme and have been living here in Japan for 16 months pretty much enjoying my time here.

It's the first time in my life to be away from home (in Toronto), and while I have going wild with the women and booze, I've also accepted a high level of responsibility here - going with the flow while making sure I don't completely embarrass myself or Canada or the JET Programme.

I'm an idiot sometimes, but I'm not stupid.

Mrs Yamamoto drives by at 7:30AM to drive me to school.

I really like this school. Quiet kids, but still fun and polite and seemingly intelligent bright-eyed kids who have taken a shine to me as much as I have taken a shine to them.

I have many friends here - strangely, all girls. It's nothing perverse, I can assure you. They just seem to either have a greater handle on English or are just unafraid to chat with me.

I teach them English and about Canada and they teach me Japanese and about Japanese things. This is what the whole experience of JET is truly about. Exchange and teaching.

Unfortunately, my workload is pretty slim this week as it is exam time. Oh well. It also means I don't get to see the kids as much to hang around with and chat. That sucks.

I'm asked to do some English reading for some practice tests during my three classes. I read a passage twice. Once slow, and once fast. The kids who have the English words in front of them are asked to write out a Japanese translation.

It's boring, to be frank, but I don't mind too much if it helps these kids hear real English.

My Japanese teachers of English are generally pretty fluent, but sometimes their accents are harsh and they don't always pronounce the words clearly or properly. There's also the incorrect way they pronounce the letter "L"... a letter that is non-existent in the Japanese language and is often pronounced as an "R".

Yes... this blog title does indeed poke fun at that, but truthfully, I'm not being racist or an idiot... the movie "It's A Wonderful Life" is my all-time favorite movie. You know... it's about a man who feels like his life is a waste of time and before he kills himself is shown what life would be like if had never been born. It brings hope... and whenever I am down, I think about it and smile and stop being a mope.
As well... for this blog - which I first came up with in 1990 when I wrote a monthly column for the Tochigi JET newsletter - the word rife is used for another reason.

Rife implies " a lot of" something.

I had often observed on Japanese articles, a lot of stupid, meaningless English writing - clothing, pens, book binders, etc. There would always be a useless word or two tossed in. In fact, Japan was rife with poor English.

It's why I am here in Japan (in 1991) ... to teach and exchange.

Get it?

I only mention this because some anonymous writer complained that my use of rife in this blog's title made me a complete effing idiot and thus made him smfh.

See? Teach and exchange.

Anyhow... back at school, since I have a lot of free time, I begin studying Kanji (the Chinese-style alphabet used by the Japanese). It's bloody tough, but I now know about 100 Kanji... how to write it properly, and what its definition is.

I'm unsure why, but I am driven home at 3PM - I think it's because the teachers are also doing a lot of the exam work and need to either prepare or need to mark the tests. It's cool. Home is fine.

I watch a couple of rented movies and then head out to my adult night school class. I have about 20 people there - beginners.

I'm not the best teacher - especially since I am teaching them by myself - but I do my best to explain things in simple English and simple Japanese - perhaps so they can be confused in two languages.

We just do some review work - I want to ensure they know the basics and can use them. And you know what... they might be slow, but they provide effort, and I am proud of every one of them!

After class, one of my female students gives me a couple of telephone cards from Kyoto. I have to go there one day soon.

All of the women from my class (17 out of the 20 students) try to drag me out to a coffee shop, but they all drove and I have my bicycle, and it's cold... so I beg off.

I do feel bad about it, but I tell them I will go next week, if they like.

Back home, I nuke a bag of popcorn that I don't have to share for once and watch a third movie for the day.

I go to bed at a respectable 12AM feeling like I actually matter. I haven't felt like that in a while, despite my recent woman exploits.

Somewhere teaching and exchanging,
Andrew Joseph
Today's blog title is by The Beatles, and is the first song where George Harrison got to sing lead. It was written primarily by John Lennon.


  1. Part of this post reminded me of an old joke.

    How do you tell if it is a Japanese hand grenade?

    It goes crick instead of click. I know, pretty bad.

  2. You know something Anonymous? You and I are going to Hell.