I am an accountant in Winnipeg Canada who used to teach English in Japan. I like reliving my adventures through my blog. Aside from that, I like music, movies and beer.
Taking a short break from being seriously behind on my blog, I’d like to bring you from the world of 2006 into the present for a moment.
I’m writing this post in March 2018, just over 4 months away from my 40th birthday. This is a scary number for me, as I still remember how much I made fun of my father when he turned 40. My wonderful wife (aka The Penpal for those who have been reading my blog) asked me if I wanted to do something special for my big upcoming birthday. Inspired by eating 30 wings for my 30th birthday, I told her that I wanted to drink 40 beers for my 40th birthday.
My wife is an intelligent, caring woman. She politely and correctly expressed concern at the consequences of consuming 40 beers at the same time.
A few days later I was at Tiny Dog’s 4th birthday party and was telling this idea to my friend Junk (who also appears occasionally in my blog). Junk suggested that instead of drinking 40 beers at once and dying, I should try to drink 40 different beers in 40 days leading up to my birthday.
Drinking in Japan’s 40 beers in 40 days birthday celebration
I am looking for suggestions to help me drink 40 different beers in the 40 days leading up to my 40th birthday. My guidelines are:
- The beer should be something I can get in or near Manitoba
- I’m not a fan of super hoppy beers. Suggestions to try a quadruple IPA hopsplosion will likely be politely declined
- I want to drink the 40th beer on my birthday, so I need to start in mid June
Start sending your ideas now! You can use the comment box below or reply on Twitter. Comments may not appear immediately due to the spam filters on WordPress.
Posted in Teaching English on March 7, 2018
My kids students are starting to actually try to communicate in class!
Teaching English to kids usually involves a predictable routine of the kids repeating what I say (without always understanding) and variations on the same activities. At worst, the kids are checked out or disruptive. At best they usually go through the motions and might even have some fun. Kids actually attempting to communicate in English other than the course material is not at all common; it is a very welcome surprise and I’m going to do my best to keep this going.
Too bad I this happened right before I moved home and not a few years earlier!
Posted in Teaching English on February 21, 2018
Today during my last English lesson I was teaching some lower level students. During the lesson they had trouble understanding the noun “stuff”, meaning a variety of things.
When someone doesn’t understand a word, most people will try to explain the word using other words. This can create a problem for English students who might not understand the other words used in the explanation; instead of having to explain one word you now need to explain 5. Teachers can easily fall into a trap where they keep using more and more words, confusing the class and totally derailing the lesson.
I tried a few times to explain “stuff” using other words, and then realizing that I was digging myself a hole, I tried to think of another way to explain it to my class. Inspiration struck, I excused myself from the classroom, ran to the teachers room, and returned with my messenger bag that I use to carry things to and from work. I told the students that I had a lot of “stuff” in my bag as I started dumping the contents on the desk: some pens, homemade teaching materials, snacks, a book, my Ipod, and other things. After filling the desk, I told my students that maybe I had too much stuff in my bag.
One of the best parts about teaching is seeing the exact moment when a student understands something new. My demonstration worked, with all of my students looking happy and making lesson notes. After the lesson I had to repack my stuff and then explain to the branch staff why I had run out of a lesson – they were truly confused. Fortunately my explanation did not involve me once again dumping out my bag.
Posted in Teaching English on February 16, 2018
This morning, in a surprising turn of events, common sense defeated company bureaucracy.
When I woke up this morning my voice was still weak and squeaky. I had missed work yesterday which resulted in cancellations. The branch staff were in a bad situation – not wanting to cancel more lessons and not allowed to pay overtime for a replacement teacher. They asked if there was anything I could do to help.
I called Super Dave and asked him if he would be willing to trade shifts with me in order to help out the branch. He agreed to cover my shift today and I would work one of his on my next weekend. This deal would result in no cancelled lessons, no overtime payment, and Super Dave could get a 3 day weekend; it was a win for everyone involved.
I felt pretty good about myself until I called the NOVA head office in Osaka. I explained that I wasn’t going to be able to work my shift, but that I had arranged a replacement. They told me that I couldn’t do that. I further explained that the branch staff had asked me to find a replacement if possible. Head office wouldn’t budge, saying that if Super Dave showed up to work they would need to send him home. I understand the need for following usual procedures, but I was shocked that head office would rather cancel lessons than allow a last minute shift swap.
In the end, common sense prevailed; the staff left my name on the schedule and Super Dave worked my lessons. I’m pretty sure this happened without the knowledge of head office, but since the end result was good I don’t think anyone minded.
I spent the rest of my day resting and taking some intimidating Japanese medicine that The Penpal brought me. I should be good to go for tomorrow.
Posted in Life in Japan on January 19, 2018
Working during my overtime day with a cold killed my voice, meaning I couldn’t teach today. Sorry NOVA!
I did my best to recover – lots of sleep, lots of tea and vitamin C drinks, and I binge watched Married With Children.
MWC was one of my favourite shows as a teenager: in addition to laughing at the continuous failures of Al Bundy, I had a huge crush on Kelly. The show is still funny now, although I found myself getting really annoyed by the excessive laugh track. My only other complaint was that they couldn’t get the rights to the song “Love and Marriage” to open the episode on the DVD release, so they simply dubbed in some generic music over the title cards which is pretty weak.
Today, by request from management, I worked a rare overtime shift. I really value my 2 day weekend, but this was an early shift and it’s hard to turn down extra money right before I’m move back to Canada.
Work was busy but not terribly difficult. I was fighting a bit of a cold, so my voice was starting to disappear by the end of the day.
After work I went out for dinner with The Penpal and one of her church friends, who is quite possibly the friendliest person in the whole world. Even though I gave up half of my weekend, my day didn’t turn out too badly!
There are around 100,000 Shinto shrines in Japan ranging in size from massive structures like Mishima Taisha down to tiny miniature shrines on the side of the road. The Penpal has a neighbourhood shrine near her house, and today I was invited to the annual festival where her father volunteers.
The neighbourhood shrine was small, but was surrounded by a large courtyard where I found the usual stalls that are found at festivals around the country: yakisoba, yakitori, takoyaki, and some treats for the kids. As I was filling myself full of delicious yakitori, I started to notice that I was the ONLY person at the festival who wasn’t Japanese. Many of the people seemed surprised to see a gaijin at the neighbourhood festival. Even after 3 years in Japan, it’s still fun to surprise people by eating with chopsticks or speaking Japanese, both things that aren’t normally expected from a foreigner.
In addition to the food, there was also a free bingo game with lots of prizes. As people got bingo, they got to choose a prize from the prize table. Eventually it was my turn to get a bingo, and I proudly walked to the prize table at the front of the crowd, smiling as people stared at me. I chose a badminton set, which was probably not ideal considering that I’m moving back to Canada in about a month.
In the evening I got to enjoy a wonderful home cooked meal at The Penpal’s house, a treat for someone who eats convenience store and pub food far too often. After dinner, I was shown the family photo album including pictures of The Penpal as a kid. Japanese people as a rule don’t smile for pictures, but The Penpal took that a step further looking positively annoyed at having her picture taken.
When we had embarrassed my fiancee thoroughly, the Penpal and her mother went to wash the dishes. What came next was the highlight of the evening: I was watching TV with The Penpal’s father, my future father-in-law, when he handed me the remote control for the TV. I think this means that I am now officially accepted into the family! Hooray!