March 30

15:04  Dudes, I survived! On Sunday one of the teachers at my school got married, so of course there was a party for that. Somehow, I woke up by myself at Yamanakafs around 22:00!!! Oops. Monday night we had a farewell party for two of the library committee teachers who are retiring. We had it at Tenango, and the food was great. Yesterday, after moving all the desks in the teachersf room and cleaning up (every year teachers have to move according to the grade year they have been assigned to), we had the 2nd grade year final party where we had the following dishes:


The entrée: from left to right, squid, tofu skin, and something made with cold cuts.

Aaaaah, assorted raw fish. Tuna, bonito, a shrimp and scallops.

I canft remember the name of this dish, but itfs made with eggs.

Chinese style tofu.

Deep-fried crab and shrimp rolls.

Beef, VERY RARE, and potatoes.

Rice and mushrooms.


Again, it was excellent. The group split up for the second party and I took three of the teachers to Yamanakaya. They didnft stay very long, as they were pretty bombed. Guess who was there too? Hiromi and one of her friends. Naturally, I joined them after my colleagues were gone and we stayed until two in the morning.


Now some of you may ask: Whatfs with all the drinking in Japan? First, drinking is a very important characteristic of Japanese culture. Drinking with their colleagues, or drinking with acquaintances helps the Japanese build better relationships, even if they donft necessarily wish to drink with these people. This is called gtsukiaih. Japanese society is a vertical one and based on strict social rules, where people should listen to their seniors (no matter how little the difference in seniority may be) without discussing or sharing their personal opinions (not too much, anyway). The concepts of ghonneh (what one really thinks) and gtatemaeh (how one is expected to behave and talk) are thus key elements that weave the social fabric in Japan. This, of course, sometime results in stressful work environments where people have to deal with situations they donft like, without complaining at all. Drinking thus serves two purposes: stress reduction, and a more relax context where people can say what they really think (ghonneh). Japanese who donft go to those gwork partiesh are more or less considered antisocial, which in turn may lead to them being ostracized by the rest of the group they belong to. The end of the fiscal year is a period when Japanese change jobs, departments, etc., so now is the season of farewell parties. Not that I mind, in view of all the great food we get to eat.


Today is the beginning of the spring vacation. I have about a week during which  I gdonft have to go to workh. Of course, most of my colleagues are there today, and I definitely should show my face once or twice during that week. Ifll probably go tomorrow to prep for my kids in Ishinomaki. Think thatfs weird? Thatfs how I got promoted to the position of assistant homeroom teacher. Since Japanese teachers are not expected to rest everyday even during holidays, itfs only natural that I go to school too, even for just a couple of hours.


Yesterday I finally got an email from the bookshop in Australia where I ordered the materials for this semester. Apparently, Ifm gonna get them gin a couple of weeksh! I emailed my teacher who gave me an extension for assignment #1, which is due in the middle of April. I hate being behind in my studies, but considering the farewell party season going on here, it might be a good thing.


I finally made Masaakifs grad party album. I also posted a clip of him singing hip-hop. Check it out! I also started using animated gifs, and soon Ifm gonna start using Java scripts, too.

March 27

12:42  I finally signed my new contract on Friday, and even was able to get three more day-offs for next year. Friday night was pretty cool, as we had the schoolfs general farewell party. We had it in a luxury hotel, as usual, and I had the following very excellent dishes.

Masaaki had invited me to his graduation party too, so I skipped the schoolfs second party, and when to join them at Yamanakaya with Hiromi

. Aki, Jun and a few other people were already there.@Then, we went to karaoke (where Yoshiko joined us around two in the morning) for an insane 4 hours. I got home around 3:30c Iaiks! I took a bunch of pictures there too, but still havenft had the time to make an album. As you can imagine, yesterday I felt pretty dizzy when I went to give a trial lesson to a bunch of toddlers in the morning. It was my first time to teach such young kids, so it was pretty interesting, to say the least. In the afternoon, I had one of my conversation circles. Then I took Man for sushi at the Heirokuzushi near Nakayama Jusco. Last night and this morning, I started learning how to use Dreamweaver, a software to build web pages. Therefs only so much you can do with MS Word.

One of the teachers at my school is getting married today, so wefre having a party this afternoon. Therefs another one tomorrow, and another one on Tuesday. God, Ifm gonna die!


Yesterday I took this picture of a pizza boxc

No comments.

March 24

9:22  Yesterday there was a general meeting at the school to officially announce the new positions for the next school year. I will be a 3rd year assistant homeroom teacher, and will move from the library committee to the special activities committee. In Japanese schools, there are more than ten such committees (student discipline, student guidance, school affairs, general affaires, health,@etc.), and all full-time teachers are required to sit on one or two of them. The club activitiesf positions havenft been announced yet, but Ifll most probably be in charge of the Linguistics Club, like every year. The special activities comity is in charge of@special events, student council, budgets for club activities, the school festival, sports day, the inter high school games, etc. I sat on that comity for two years before, and itfs a real b****: several (long) meetings a week, work on weekends (Will I get paid overtime, you ask? That word is not in the Japanese dictionary), work during the summer vacation, etc. Are we having a culture shock, yet? Ok, itfs tough, but I consider myself privileged to have such a chance to really work with the Japanese, to get to understand the culture and the intricacies of social interactions. Itfs a tremendous life learning experience, and the very reason why I wanted to live abroad. Most foreigners who come to Japan to teach English for a couple of years never even get a glimpse of what it means to work in a Japanese school, and I am grateful for that cross-cultural experience. Am I work-addicted? Hey, who does not suffer from any kind of obsessive-compulsive behavior? (Oh, please, donft say: gnot meh, be honest, come onc). Besides, I like what I do, otherwise I wouldnft be here. I sometimes forget about it, but here I am, working all day and living my life (in a third language, mind you) in a foreign country, and I canft think of a better growing experience (actually, yes I can: letfs invent Warp drive and let me explore the galaxy!). But hey, thatfs me, and Ifve worked hard for that. I guess what Ifm trying to say is hold on to your dreams, donft give up, be all you can be. Ok, stop me before I puke.


The blog page has become increasingly problematic, as I keep adding large pix almost daily. Today, I reduced the size of larger pix, so that should make it easier for all of you who still have slow connections to view it. I also experienced problems uploading the files onto the server, so I decided to change the format. Starting on April first, I will use a calendar and make each daily entry an individual page, which should solve many problems, and make it easier for viewers to navigate through the site. The April page will have a white and pinkish hue, I wonder if anybody can guess why. Yumi also asked me to make it possible for viewers to write comments. Slow down, Ifm still a newbie!!! I want to put up a billboard, but first I have to concentrate on the blog, and work on the people page. I will ask Aki to help me with all that stuff, after the party storm is over. Starting on Friday, I have no less than 5 farewell parties in one week, and Ifm in charge of organizing two of them!!!


I have gLetfs Talkh tonight, so I should be home around 21:00.

March 22

9:59  Yesterday was a national holiday, so I took it easy being hung over pretty much all day from going out on Sunday night with Man and Aki. We went to Uotami, an izakaya on Ichibanchou street. Hiromi wanted to come too, but she couldnft find anyone to keep an eye on her kids. Toshi came to join us later for drinks at 9 1/2, a bar in Kokubunchou, and then we went for ramen at Kokugijou, a building with no less than seven ramen shops inside. Talk about noodle heaven! On our way home, we walked by a bar that had this sign outside:


gWhat will you have, sir?h


gMy wife will have a glass of wine, and Ifll have a BERR, pleaseh.


gComing right away, sir.h







gIfm afraid there will be an extra charge for that, sir.h


Today I have to work on a translation I was asked to do by the school. I have a lesson with Sachiko and Kana tonight, but Aki asked me to switch hers to tomorrow.


17:52  Sachiko@switched her lesson to tomorrow too, so Ifm home early today. Ifll be able to work on my gpeopleh page a bitc

March 20

17:08  Last night I fell asleep on the couch twenty minutes into Resident Evil: Apocalypsec Guess the sauna and the ice cream got to me.@Ifve been burning CDs with movies and MP3s we donft listen to often all morning. Ifm seriously thinking about buying an external hard drive, though, like Kazutoshi recommended. Ian, Aimy and her whole family are leaving for Jamaica today. Sounds like therefs gonna be a lot of partying, he,@he,@he!@She sent me this link last night. Itfs pretty funny so check it out!

Today we went to the post office to get a package Man received from Vietnam. On the way there, we walked by a shop that had this chair outside.


Looks pretty normal at first glance, but take a closer look at the sign:

gEROTIC DESIGNh!?!? What the hell does THAT mean?


After going to the post office, we stop at Yoshinoya on Aoba street. Yoshinoya is a chain that used to specialize in gyudon, but since the mad cow disease outbreak last year, they had to change their menu and switched to butadon, i.e. they use pork instead of beef as toppings. I had a small butadon (generously topped with pickled ginger), with a salad and a glass of water (gotta watch those calories).

Man had a combination consisting of (cooked) salmon, pork and onions, Japanese pickles, miso soup and a bowl of rice.

All this for about $5 CND!!! And pretty good too!


Thatfs it! I am now convinced that therefs some sort of curse on me. It all started with this seemingly innocent cup of coffee you can buy pretty much at any convenience store in Japan (Well, at least in Miyagi, but I donft see why they wouldnft sell them in the whole country). Many Japanese people apparently live off convenience stores. Ifm not really a convenience store type myself, limiting my visits to them largely for the purpose of buying drinks, onigiris, or sometimes ice cream.

I used to drink Georgia coffee (the original) only, mainly because it was advertised by Naoko Iijima, who is in my opinion one of the most beautiful babes to walk this Earth (except for Man, of course, who is standing behind me right now holding a heavy fry pan). Anyway, one day one of my English conversation students walked in holding one of those cups, and some how, it looked like it was pretty good. Making a mental note of the brand, I shortly went to the nearest convenience store and bought one. I thought it was pretty good, and for a while it became my favorite drink (sorry, Naoko chan).

Now that company, Mt. Rainier, started putting out new kinds of coffee flavors like crazy: double espresso, non-sugar, creamy taste, etc. One of those new flavors was vanilla, and let me tell you, it was love at first sight, errr, taste. The honeymoon lasted for a while, until one day, upon entering one of the convenience stores I usually go to, I found out that they were out of my favorite. Thinking nothing of it, I bought another flavor, and went on my merry way. During the next few days, I went to other convenience stores, noticing with horror that many of them were not holding my favorite drink anymore. I started asking the employees why they didnft have it, and was answered that Mt. Rainier was putting out even more new flavors, so they needed to make room for them. I guess therefs only so much space on the stands. I started making notes of the convenience stores that were still keeping my beloved vanilla coffee, until they too betrayed me, without even blinking. Now, you have to understand that vanilla and coffee really, really go well together. I was soooooo pissed-off, I decided to boycott Mt. Rainier products altogether. gThatfll show you to discontinue products that sell well just to try out new marketing strategies without even thinking for a second about your faithful customers you inhumane corporate assholes!h, I thought in a run-on sentence. And for a while, I couldnft walk into a convenience store without feeling bitterly disappointed, looking for other brands that would have vanilla coffee. Strangely enough, none of them would indulge me.

A few weeks later, I was at a convenience store with Man, shopping for ice cream after coming back from our favorite@public bath, when she directed my attention to some chocolate milk made with real Belgian chocolate. Now, that really looked yummy, and upon trying it, fell in love all over again. My feelings were not as deep as for my unforgettable vanilla coffee (when you get hurt once, you knowc), so it wasnft too bad when it suddenly disappeared too, only after having it twice! Mmmm, coincidence? Bad timing? Not getting so disgruntled this time, I went right away for another brand of chocolate milk made with French chocolate, this time in a black cup. Guess what? I had it three times, and it was gone! What the fuck!!! I really started to get the unpleasant feeling that someone was watching me, almost ready to scream conspiracy.

During my frequent visits to many different convenience stores, I had noticed a brand of chocolate milk in a 500ml carton, pretty much like those we have back home. This one had been there for as long as I could remember (even before I started drinking vanilla coffee), so I was fooled into believing it was a safe choice. Big mistake! Yesterday I went to two convenience stores and they didnft have it. Today, I went to a convenience store to find out that, and Ifm not kidding, they didnft have ANY chocolate milk at all. When I asked one of the employees, he looked hard and long for chocolate milk, and a bit surprised himself, apologically told me that for some unfathomable reason, they were out. There is only one possible explanation: itfs a curse. I am convinced that somewhere, therefs someone with an evil laugh pulling little cups of chocolate milk out of the hands of a voodoo doll looking like me!

March 19

8:09  Last night I tried to find free software to convert AVI to MPEGs to make the movie files smaller so theyfre easier to download. I found one but havenft had time to experiment with it yet. My hard drive is also full (111 G!!!), so I gotta do some major clean up. Ifll buy a box of CDs today so I can transfer some stuff. I gotta leave for Ishinomaki soon. It snowed again over night, but the light is definitely not winter like.

(This is a picture of me, and Yumi and Mikafs kids in Ishinomakic)

(ctoo serious. Aaah, this is more like it!)


23:30  I came back early today, (around 20:00) so we decided to go for some ramen (i.e. Chinese noodles) at Kourakuen (you can check out their menu by clicking here and here). I had half a regular ramen, and Man had a spicy Tan Tan men (canft remember the name, itfs too damn long), and we shared a plate of gyoza.

(This is a half Chuuka, i.e. regular soy sauce ramenc Gotta watch my diet.)

(Man had this one, well almost all of it. I was glad to finish it. Boy, it was hot!)

(We love gyozas. Ifll be damned if I donft drop any soy sauce on the tablec)

(Yep, you eat noodles with chopsticks! How? Practice, dude, practicecItfs actually good manners to slurp them, which means youfre enjoying them.)

(Of course, SHE doesnft need any practice with chopsticks, he,he,he!)

Then we went to our favorite@public bath, which is very close to the ramen shop. We rented gResident Evilh and gResident Evil: Apocalypseh, which are respectively called Biohazard and Biohazard 2 (pronounce g2h TSUUU) here in Japan.

March 18

7:18  Look at this sunshine! The snow is gone, and this day has nothing but spring and the promise of a brave new world written all over it!

I put a link to all the photo albums, and I updated the profile page last night, adding 6 of my friends. Patience people, youfll get your turn@soon.


14:49  This morning we had a long closing ceremony in the school gymnasium. Yep, one more school year is over. In Japan, the school year matches the fiscal year, so what we call spring break back home is actually like our summer vacation, but much shorter. No, it doesnft mean I get to stay home! In Japan, even during the holidays you have to take paid leavec The next school year start during the second week of April, which means from now on there will be tons of farewell parties (etil the end of march), and tons of welcome parties (from the middle of April). We all belong to many different groups (in my case, the English department, the second grade year, the library comity, the audio-visual room management, and the school as a whole, of course) , which means itfs hell to coordinate all the parties with more than 50 teachers at my school. Ifm in charge of organizing two of those parties, and I think today I finally got the dates set. Cross my fingers. The problem is depending on the importance of the group in the intricate school hierarchy, some parties are more important than other, which means we need to wait until the bigger, more important parties are set before we can organize the smaller ones. Itfs all small groups within bigger groups, and the smaller groups get to have their parties on weeknights, since Friday nights usually go first.

Hiromi sent me an email this morning, telling me that she couldnft see the clip featuring Toshifs birthday party. She thought her computer was too old, but when I tried to download it on a pretty good machine it didnft work. I got a message saying that the file was not supported, that it might be corrupted. I could play it on my computer at home, but not after downloading it from the site. I wonder if files can get corrupted through uploading and downloadingc Gotta look into that.

I have a lesson with Rie tonight, and I gotta go to Ishinomaki tomorrow morning, so I might not go out tonight. No plans yet, anywayc


21:03  Rie cancelled her lesson tonight, because she had to do some overtime. Of course, in Japan if you are not paid by the hour you do overtime for free, so for her it doesnft mean more money, just more work! Talking about work, I met my boss (the principal) before I got off work and he made a phone call to make sure I wouldnft get any bad surprises when I sign my new contract next week. Hefs such  a great guy. Apparently, he was also happy with my first year being an assistant homeroom teacher, because he told me I would be one again this year. Today the first year teachers were officially appointed, which means Ifm gonna be either a second year, or a third year teacherc Please not third year! Thatfs the year the students usually go crazy, being their last year and all.

Ok, I zipped the movie with Winrar, which means you guys are gonna have to decompress it upon downloading it. Itfs the only way I can think about right now, but at least it works!o happy with my first year being an assistant homeroom teacher, because he told me I would be o

March 17

00:34  Ok, Ifm dead tired and I gotta go to work half an hour earlier tomorrow morning because of the entrance exams. The album is only halfway done, but Ifm going to bed anywayc

8:52  I uploaded Toshifs birthday pix last night, even though the album was not finished yet. Major problem: the new camera takes great pictures, but it takes forever to see them even with a fast connection. Ifm gonna have to figure out a way to make them smaller. Another problem: the movie automatically prompts Media Player when you click the link, and you get a message saying that it canft be played because therefs a codec missingc Good job, BILL! Itfs possible to right click the link and choose gsave target ash, but the movie is HUGE (119 MB in AVI format, even though it lasts only a minute!), and it also takes forever to download. Maybe Ifll ZIP it, that should solve both problemsc

22:22  (Make a wish!) Ok, I finally finished the Toshifs Birthday Party photo album. I found a free software that allows you to make picture files smaller in groups. It took a while since I wrote the captions in both languages. I havenft uploaded a zipped file of the party AVI yet, but Ifll get around to it. Right click the link, choose gSave target ash, and go rent a couple of DVDs while waiting for it to download. Now I gotta update the profile page as well.

March 16

22:57  Man Ifm tired! We had a surprise party for Toshi last night at Yamanakaya, with Masaaki, Aki, Yoshiko, Hiromi and Tomomi. Actually, Tomomi was moving back to Fukushima TODAY! Wefll really miss herc Youfre always welcome to crash at our place when you visit Sendai, girl. I didnft write anything in the blog just in case Toshi would read it, but we had been planning the thing for almost two weeks! Anyway, we stayed up drinking until 2:30, so I was a bit dizzy when I got up to go to work this morning. OK, I gotta clarify something: in a previous entry (march 12) I said that Toshi was going to another Yamanakaya in Tagajo in April. I was under that impression because Japanese who change jobs usually do so at the end of March, but itfs a new restaurant that wonft open until June. Phew! We still have a few months to party! (^o^)/


At work, we had a looooooooooooooooooooog meeting in the morning, and I had to prep the make up exams for students who flunked the first time. Then we had the last clean up of the school and I had to help prep classrooms for entrance exams tomorrow. Next I went to Yodobashi Camera to ask if the warranty was still good for my web cam, which suddenly stopped working a few days ago. It took AN HOUR for the guy to figure out that there was nothing he could do to fix it (I kept telling him I reinstalled the software and everything, but of course, being Japanese, he had to check for himself three times!!!). Result: I ended up buying a new web cam@(bonus: it came with a earphone that DOESNfT keep falling off), which I wanted to do in the first place, and I was an hour late for the BEC. Sorry about that, girlsc Came home around 21:30, had dinner, and now I have to prep the photo album with some of the 147 pictures (yep, new toy, we went crazy) we took last night + I have to write the blog Japanese version. Ifll try to upload the very first movie of this site too!

March 14

18:50  I took a big step today, I decided to write my blog in Japanese too!@It took a while, but I finally finished translating / rewriting the whole month of march. The contents might be different for cultural and linguistic reasons, but in general it will be pretty much the same. OK, I gotta workout and then Ifll go to the public bath. Itfs been a whilec

March 13

18:00  We went to Ninnikuya last night with Seiko and Mashuku. We had a very good time and we finished the evening at Baskin-Robbins (A.K.A 31 – read: satiiwan here in Japan). I went out today with Man and we stopped for some sushi at the Heirokuzushi near Nakayama Jusco. Afterwards we went to Jusco just to look around, but Man wouldnft quit whining about buying a digital video camera. Of course, she wanted the most expensive one by Sony, which I vehemently opposed. Hey, Ifm not gonna blow \100 000 for a camera on a whim just because fuckinf Pe Yon Jun (see pic) advertises it!!! So I took her to Max Denkodo in Minami Yoshinari and we settled for a much cheaper and compact model. She was just as happy and I was much less poor after the purchase, done by credit card, of course, he, he!

March 12

12:25  We went to gTenangoh,  a new restaurant in Kokubunchou last night. The new owner, Onodera, used to be manager of New Sozaya, a very good izakaya directly on Kokubunchou.  Hefs a very good cook and a sake expert! Aki and her sister from Tokyo joined us. Then we went to Yamanakaya, to learn with horror that Toshi will move to another Yamanakaya in Tagajo (see map) this April!!! Wefll sure miss himc I have one of my English conversation circles this afternoon, and wefre having another party with some of the BEC members tonight. Wefre going to Ninnikuya!

March 11

13:32  Today is Friday, plus Ifm off! I just finished working out while listening to George Carlin. Ifm gonna go shopping with Man and wefll probably grab late lunch too. Ifm teaching Rie tonight at 18:30. I think Ifm gonna shave the mustache and go for the pinch lookc.

16:51  OK, I did it! How does it look like? Strange, Ifve never had that face before. Ah, well, I guess itfs my new spring look.. We went to Hokka Hokka Tei for a bento earlier, and we had the new tendon (last definition on wikipedia). It was OK, but what really cracked me up is their new delicacy, a GOO cup. Mmm-mmmm, sounds yummy!


How about 
a Goo cup?@@@@@@@@

March 7

7:22  Monday morning! Itfs sunny and I feel (almost) great! I gotta calculate all my studentsf averages this week, and there are more than 300 hundred of them! If I can get that out of the way quickly enough, maybe I can start my readingsc

23:35  We went to our favorite@public bath, and the sauna was reaaaaally hot. Well, it had been a week, so I guess I gotta get used to it againc

March 5

7:03  Great! While I was struggling for my life during those awful three days, we had some freak snow and the landscape turned into@the fuckinf north pole!!!

I have to drive from Sendai to Ishinomaki for work today and it usually takes 90 minutes. I think Ifll leave an hour earlier todayc Then I have to drive for another hour to Furukawa where I have another student. Did I mention I hate winter?


March 4

8:18  Aaaaaargh! I did cancel my class last night. Fortunately, itfs the beginning of the month so itfs easy to switch it to another day. I think my fever is gone but I still feel weak so I took a third day off in a row today – my first time since I came to Japan!!! Ifm supposed to teach Rie tonight, but I think Ifll cancel that too. I have to be in shape to make it to Ishinomaki tomorrowc

23:20  Finally got some REAL sleep today, none of that tossinfn turninfnonsense. I even started bitchinf again which means I DO feel better. Feverfs gone, still feel weak but I think Ifll be fine tomorrow, after a good night sleep (^-^)

March 3

10:26  What did I tell youc When I went to bed two nights ago I thought I didnft feel so hotc Fuck man, I spent 36 hours in bed unable to move! And that fever! You coulda fried an egg on my forehead! So I took a day off yesterday (not like I had a choice), and today. Last night Kazuki came over to get the original for my exam, which is tomorrow. This morning I feel a bit better and the feverfs almost gone, but man do I feel weakc I got one of my English Conversation Circles tonight, called gLetfs Talkh. I donft know yet if Ifm gonna make it, I gotta think about itc Man, I hate winterc.

March 1

9:30  This is my first official entry, so of course, the blog page still looks raw. Well, two days ago there was a fire in my apartment building!!! An older woman living by herself apparently had been using only candles for a while, since she got her electricity cut off. Standing outside for an hour in the middle of the night, I caught a real bad coldc Boy, do I feel like shit. This morning I really felt tempted to take a day off, but I got a lot of work at school. I have to help preparing the graduation ceremony, prep my exam (itfs this Friday!!!), and translate a web page in English for our university. My Masterfs class also started yesterday, when I finally got permission to enroll in a class called gContemporary Japanese Cultureh. Itfs all about J-Pop, mangas, Japanese TV, etc. Sounds interesting and Ifm highly motivated, if I can shake off that damn cold ASAP. The good news is there is no daily online interaction, only two papers worth 50% each. 撣܂I Ifm teaching Aki tonight at seven ofclock, and I gotta wait for Man until 9:30 because she has a Vietnamese class at Abroad. Think Ifll go to a coffee shop and start reading meanwhilec

11:00  I froze my ass off for an hour helping set up the gymnasium for the grad ceremony. The school is not usually very warm (Ifd say 16-17, which is mildly uncomfortable), but in the gym itfs like below 10c It doesnft help my cold at allc