March 21 2001

Subject: BEER DOME! BEER DOOM! BEERDOM! B&D!

Date: Wednesday, March 21, 2001 3:50 AM

With all the JETs in town, they all decided to partake in their favorite recreational activity, well, maybe their second most favorite activity.

I had my Aussie buddy staying with me from Wednesday to Sunday, and his fiancee was going to join him Friday night. He’s the JET on the small island where I had the Mantra Ray experience. He’s cool.

Everyone went out the first night of the conference. Not me. I napped, got up, picked at dinner, napped, showered, then went to bed.

The Aussie staggered in around midnight, and I heard all about how he was drunken under the table by somebody’s Japanese girlfriend and how he ended up puking all over the place. And his clothes. I was sort of asleep, but I opened my eyes and made sure that he changed his clothes. He mentioned that some of the ALTs were a little annoyed I never go out with them, so I decided that come Friday night, I was “there”. Where ever “there” was.

Friday night came. The conference was over. And the crew was going to the Beer Dome. Again. They had been there last night, and I had been their the previous Friday night. They really like the all you can drink aspect of it.

I did manage to top my personal best of 12 plates, as this time I had 15 plates of food. And two glasses of frozen juice stuff, and about six glasses of iced tea. We were there about five hours, and by the time the placed closed, much alcohol had been consumed.

I hate to admit it, but I had fun. I managed to circulate amongst the 25 or so JETs and I did a very deft job of avoiding the ones I don’t really like. Also refrained from picking a fight with the drunk and annoying JET who gets really stupid while drunk. It was amusing, as he would move around the group, people would get up and move to avoid him. Or maybe it was due to fact that he hadn’t changed his clothes in two days or so.

I also had to explain the “saimen slurping” thing another eight times. About four of those times to Simon himself. Tough trying to explain that.

When the place closed at 01:00, the lady got on the microphone and said “All you American people leave now!” That didn’t go over too well, glad everyone was drunk. Many of the non-American JETs tend to get annoyed when everyone gets lumped together.

At this point, I led the Aussies back to my place and went to sleep. Thus I missed the festivities that followed at the night club. Seems one of the UK girls ran into one of her 15 year old students at the club. The student was very drunk (any one see the trend here?). Seems one of the English blokes decided that he took a fancy to this wee lass and he tried to “pull” the girl. “Pull” being UK slang for pickup. The teacher, despite being pissed, (“pissed” being UK slang for drunk) and suffering from a concussion (“concussion” being Chris medical diagnosis of this accident prone teacher. She’s the English lass that smacked her chin on the floor some months back) didn’t let it happen.

Saturday passed as well. Being a Saturday, it rained. Thus no riding. The female Aussie was sick, be it from booze, bad Indian Curry (Let me tell you something, I am the master chef of curry. My spices will tantalize your taste buds. Thank you, come again), or whatever, poor girl threw up a lot. At least she made it into my toilet.

Her fiancé decided that he could go out, so after all the shopping (they live on a small island), he and I and five or six other JETs went to the bar run by my predecessor. Nice bar. Well, nice atmosphere anyway. I was looking at the space, thinking, “indoor trials!”. Huge collection of music. Could definitely do the “Twisted Metal” cafe/bar idea formed those many nights ago in the Internet Cafe.  Had some wicked charcoal drawings (he has an art degree) on the walls.

We left around the time some of the JETs were on their third tequila shots. I figure that they had been drinking for five or six hours at this point. It looked like some of them were seriously thinking of engaging in their FAVORITE activity, so Lefteris, my stud of a predecessor, did final call, and we left.

I slept most of Sunday, I guess it was letdown/relief from the whole conference thing.

And now it’s holiday Tuesday, and it’s raining. So I’m off to get a haircut and shake my fist at the rainy heavens.

Chris


Subject: Let the games begin! A little bit long, a little bit education, a little bit funny

Date: Wednesday, March 21, 2001 3:53 AM

Tomorrow, the 20th of March, is national Salary man hair cut day. That’s where all the salary men (white collar workers) get their hair cut and the cuttings are donated to the enormous pillow industry here in Japan. Thus I am getting my hair cut, so I can mix my Gaijin (foreigner) hair with all the Japanese hair.

Actually, I have no idea what tomorrow’s’ holiday is. I do need a haircut thou, so that’s first thing on the list. Then R-I-D-E!

Phew. Insane weekend. The past Thursday and Friday was the Japanese Language Conference held here in Naha. The conference went well. I didn’t really have too much to do with it, it didn’t require a lot of my TLC, so the boss did most of it. I was sort of there to help it along. And for the for the Q&A session on the last day.

Oh yeah baby! Just what I’ve always wanted. To stand in front of X number of irate JETs (they are always irate and hungover) and answer their questions. The toughest part of my job is to take the bad news and make it palatable to the JETs. Thus I tend to suffer a lot of slings and arrows, as some of the JETs don’t like to be reminded that they are adults and that they do have responsibilities.

Wasn’t looking forward to this at all.

Fortunately, I may be dense (Yup, finally agreeing with what Kammi and the rest of the McBike crew has been telling me for years!), but I’m not dumb (keep your comments to yourselves).

I enlisted the help of my English and Japanese counterparts. How can I explain who they are? They work in the international exchange division, and thus aren’t teachers. The Japanese PA (prefectural advisor) is the contact person for the organization that oversees the JET Programme. Thus she knows all the rules and regulations and what not. The English PA is my counterpart, but she works in the office full time as a translator and interpreter. She’s responsible for the 30 or so JETs hired by the local municipalities, while I’m responsible for the 40 JETs hired by the Prefecture Gov’t (called Kencho JETs). Confused yet? I tend to lump all of her JETs in with mine, it’s easier for all, as they and I are all teachers. Some times I have to refer them to her, as they have specific issues that I can’t help with (contract stuff mostly).

We talked about what kind of questions we would be faced with and how to handle it.

So H-Hour came. My boss (who is the senior English consultant in the Prefecture, equivalent to a Vice Principal) had things he wanted me to discuss with the assembled masses. Specifically the 40 or so Kencho JETs. Of course the other JETs would hear all the info, and even thou it wasn’t directed to them, they would still hear it and think about it. And get annoyed. I had heard that last year, it got really, REALLY ugly.

All the JETs were evaluated in January. The strange thing is that in Japanese society, a conventional evaluation like we are used to, doesn’t exist! Rather it was done in secret, and the results were sent to the Kencho. Before the conference, my boss sat me down and we went thru all the evaluations so that I could speak to the group about the general high and low points.

The thing is, the evaluations are secret. The JETs cannot see them. My boss realizes that this is far different then what we do outside of Japan, but this whole evaluation system is very new and very rare in Japan (getting more common, but still rare). So, how can you improve if you cannot see it?

Now picture Chris, standing up in front of the group, telling them they were evaluated (some didn’t know), and that they cannot see the evaluations! Phew. Can you say “early death?” I was contemplating bringing mace and a pellet gun.

Back to my boss. He told me to tell all the Kencho JETs that while they cannot see their evaluations, they can and should ask about them, as that way they can improve. It’s not ideal, but it’s better then nothing. Big points for the boss man. He’s a stud.

After I talked about that, he wanted me to talk about the monthly report that all my Kencho JETs are REQUIRED to write. It’s one page, but you would think I’m asking for serious literature. Then that would be followed by reminding every one that they were teachers, and thus held to a higher code then other professionals, and that if they weren’t clear, they should reread their contract.

Tough sell. I think I was actually a bit stressed out about this. Was kinda not normal friendly Chris to the girlfriend.

Got up there and talked for about an hour. I was pleased. My gift of gab came in real handy. Didn’t really have a plan, I just winged it. And it went well. Very well.

Then the Q&A period. Sadie and Ohama Sempai fielded most of these questions, as they were far more up on the answers then I was. Plus Sadie superbly handled all my crackpot JETs (did I say that?) that asked questions. Give some people the opportunity to make fools out of themselves, and they will do so gladly. And everyone will comment on their foolishness.

The highlight of the Q&A session came when the hamster running the wheel in my head got a little tired.

I was talking about some of the cultural things we JETs do to fit into Japanese society, one of which is we slurp saimen. Now, saimen is a local Hawaii word for noodles. No one in Japan knows what it is. It’s all ramen here. No big deal, the Hawaiian usage slipped out. Except for the fact that one of the JETs is named Simon. The 48 non-Hawaii JETs thought I was getting strange. Poor, hungover Simon at the back of the room, got really confused. I called on the four Hawaiians in the crowd to back me up, and they did. Got crap about it all weekend.

Number two. I stood up and mentioned that I was trying to create a calendar and that “I was looking for dates”, and when someone asked me what I meant, I added that “I was looking for physical dates”.

Thus I fear my name will forever be associated with “physical dates” and “slurping saimen.”

Could be worse I guess. No one threw anything at me. And I got to used my “powers” and not sit thru ANY of the language classes. What the heck is power for, if not to abuse??? 🙂

Chris

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