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Saturday, February 4, 2012

Simple Man

It's Wednesday, November 27, 1991 and I'm visiting Kaneda Minami Chu Gakko (Kaneda South Junior High School) here in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan. I'm an assistant English teacher hired on to work at the Ohtawara Board of Education via the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme.

The scenery out here in the Kanemaru district was so beautiful the past two days, that I brought my 52mm camera and three additional lenses with me to the school today. As is my fate when trying to shoot photographs, I am thwarted by dull clouds - so much so it looks sad and depressed. I think I have enough photographs around Japan showing what it looks like during the rainy or cloudy season - which appears to be 10 months of the year. I exaggerate, but not by much.

After a few morning classes I get to eat lunch again with the first years students - third day in a row. These kids are all 12 years-old or so and don't know much English yet.

But... they like me as much as I like them and we have fun talking in my simple Japanese and they their very simple English. The future looks promising - at least for the kids at this school.

My two third-year friends come around to the teacher's office - and I give them about 200 Japanese baseball cards - which I am sure they totally appreciate. I even think I saw them give some out to a few other boys. Nice kids.

When three girls ask me for some of the baseball cards - I'm out of the Japanese ones, but I give them some of the U.S. ones instead which they explain they can trade 10:1 for the Japanese ones. Now that's some great business smarts.

Some other kids (Thurd -year Grade 9s) come around and ask if I will help them with their math. Are they serious? I love these kids, but boy, if they only knew how bad I was at math. I try to explain to them in Japanese: "Watashi-wa baka desu. (I am stupid)".

They laugh and nestle in for me to please begin the math lesson. I look over their problems and actually concentrate in math for perhaps the first time in my life, and I think I actually understand it... and so, I show them - rather than explain it to them in Japalish - how to do the problems.

They do the work and then run show their math teacher who is seated nearby, who looks up surprised, says something to an English teacher who comes over to say that: "The math teacher is impressed by your different way of solving the problem. It looks like an easy way to do it."

Different? Hmmm. I did it the stupid gaijin (foreigner) way - always look for the easy way out! Still... I am pleased with the compliments, but I do feel compelled to explain I was simply lucky this time and that I failed many a math course in high school... big mistake there... as I then spent the next 40 minutes explaining the vast differences between Canadian/US schools and Japanese. Another blog, okay? Hell... maybe Mike Rogers would be able to tell more than me. Mike?

I get another ride home early from Takeno-sensei who had never spoken to me before this week - and only now do I find out he speaks perfect English! He says he wants to learn more and asks about the TBC language school - which seems decent enough, but a little heavy on grammar rather than conversation. I think he knows enough and just needs to use his great skills more often.

This city of 50,000 is very strange. So many people here speak English so well that it blows my mind. I hope my presence in Ohtawara doesn't screw that up! Naw... if anything, I feel like more kids are interested in learning more English and more about other countries and cultures.

This school is making my decision up for me about whether or not I should stay for a third year. I love this school, but blame them for me staying around longer and thus having this blog continue.

Arriving home, I hop on my bicycle and ride over to the back doctor for an adjustment (electric shocks through my muscles to loosen then, and then a chiropractic manipulation - it's great. My back feels so much better than it did at this time last year!).

I ride out for my daily visit to Books Time and rent a few more videos before Ashley comes over. We watch a McGyver tape I have from my brother Ben, eat dinner (spaghetti) and then ride home with her. We chat amicably a bit before I leave and go home to watch more rented videos and some Japanese television (it seems that most programs revolve around cooking or food).

A very weird day in that it was so good. Nothing overly dramatic except for being a savant in math and a superstar in handing out baseball cards to a few entrepreneurs.

Somewhere in a good place,
Andrew Joseph
Today's blog title is sung by Lynyrd Skynryd:


  1. Sometimes I hate blogspot. I swear I hit the blog buttons to post-date at midnight EST... and it saves it as a draft and doesn't post it. Like this blog. Nertz.

  2. It was published nearly 10 hours later.