Archive for December, 2017

October 3, 2006 – Sad Cows Song

After work I had plans with a few teachers to go for a beer at Wara Wara. Our outing started small, but as word got around more people kept showing up. Our table started to get cramped, so we asked to upgrade to a larger table. Wara Ware was already hosting a large party, so they couldn’t give us anything bigger.

Since we didn’t want to remain stacked like sardines, we relocated to Uotami, where we were joined by even more teachers and friends. I’m not sure if everyone really needed a drink, or if people were afraid of missing out: whatever the reason our small group going for a few beers had turned into an event. We eventually outgrew our table at Uotami, so the staff moved us into an available party room.

The good news is that our spacious party room contained a karaoke machine. The bad news was that the karaoke machine did not have the usual selection of English songs that we could find at our usual karaoke places. The thought of staring at an unused karaoke machine was too much for me to bear, so I started searching through the song book for anything that might have more English than Japanese.

Many of the printed songbooks for karaoke rooms show the first line of the song next to the name and artist. I scanned through the list and stopped at something that looked amazing: Sad Cows Song by Japanese ska / punk bank Shakalabbits.

The song was 98 seconds of pure awesome.¬†With lyrics including “Let us drink to much milk hey, because we feel sorry for the cows around the world” it quickly because a highlight of our evening. Hooray for Shakalabbits!

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October 1, 2006 – Speech contest

Today I attended the annual English / Japanese speech contest at Numazu library. The event was hosted by NICE – Numazu Association for International Communication and Exchanges. The Penpal is a member of NICE, so I went along to check it out.

When I learned about the contest a few months ago, I had given some thought to entering. The demand was much greater than the supply – 24 people tried to enter but only 10 Japanese speeches were presented. There were also 10 English speeches by Japanese residents. My favourite speeches were about the differences in communication styles between Japanese and American housewives, and an elderly Japanese man’s scorching rant about those annoying teens in sweatpants who hang out in front of convenience stores.

I really admire the courage shown by everyone who made a speech: public speaking makes a lot of people nervous, nevermind public speaking in your second language.

I overslept before the contest and didn’t have any time to eat before I got there. By the end of 20 speeches I was STARVING. On my way home I stopped at the new donair food truck in front of Don Kihote. If you’ve never eaten a donair, you are truly missing out on one of life’s great pleasures.

When I got home I received an invite from the Penpal to come over for dinner. I was still full from my late lunch, but I never, EVER refuse homemade curry. Yum!

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September 29, 2006 – Please don’t spit on the teacher

Today my experiences teaching English to children hit a new low: a 4 year old girl spat on me in the classroom.

Most kids that I have taught are pretty good, if uninterested. However, over the past few years I have been hit, kicked, kanchoed, and had a variety of objects thrown at me, most notably a marker which bounced off my face. I have also had kids call me terrible names in Japanese: I usually let this go for a few minutes before telling them in Japanese that I can understand everything they are saying. Today was the very first time I have ever had someone spit at me in class.

At first I was shocked, then disgusted, then occupied with trying to find something to wipe it off, then back to disgusted with a bit of angry.

Teaching English to children is a very effective form of birth control.

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September 17, 2006 – Piano Recital year 3

For the 3rd year in a row I went to The Penpal’s piano recital. As usual, she was fantastic, making difficult pieces look easy.

The star of the show was the 3 year old boy who played first. When he got to the middle of the stage and saw the crowd his expression was hilarious! He needed a special chair and booster pedals, but he played a simple song well.

Yes, 3 year olds play piano better than I do.

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September 10, 2006 – Children’s Entertainer again

Today I made my second ever appearance as a paid children’s entertainer for Yamaha English school. Apparently my performance as “foreigner Santa” went well enough to get another call.

The event I was working was in nearby Fuji City. Usually when I go to Fuji I take the train, which is comfortable and stress free. Today I got a ride with some of the teachers from Yamaha (all friends of The Penpal). The roads between Numazu and Fuji were narrow and terrifying. The same roads in Canada would have been one way streets or back alleys, but in Japan they were two way streets where we came perilously close to walls or other cars. Even through I have been in Japan for 3 years, part of my brain is still convinced that driving on the left is wrong. This, combined with the narrow roads, made for a scary experience.

We arrived safely and set up for the parties. There were two groups: young kids in the morning and older kids in the afternoon. The Yamaha teachers had a list of activities already prepared, so all I needed to do was speak English, follow the script, and be fun. Highlights included a giant game of rock paper scissors with a line of kids and a ridiculous “Simon Says” type game. Fortunately for everyone involved, I was not required to sing.

By the end I was exhausted, but I had fun and so did the kids. A few of the parents even asked me to pose for pictures with their kids, which I took as a compliment. I’m sure that in a few years nobody will remember why they had a picture with the random Canadian guy.

I wish I had gotten some pictures or video of my work – it would be fun to look back someday and remind myself of what I did for money while I lived in Japan. I did get a video of parts of the scary ride back to Numazu, which I’m sure will make me thankful for the wide, straight roads of Winnipeg when I move home.

All the respect in the world to full time children’s entertainers – it’s hard work!

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