Teaching In Socks

More words about the pictures; also, less pictures.
January 28, 2009, 5:23 pm
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Compared to last week, I really have nothing of supreme interest or intrigue to report. I didn’t almost faint anywhere in the past week, and any cultural faux pas I committed have yet to flourish into repercussions as of this writing..

On Sunday, I went to farewell party for another teacher in Himeji, and had quite a good time. I was introduced to a cornucopia of friendly, interesting Japanese people. The only notable setback of the evening was that the bar didn’t stock have any good Scotch in stock. Luckily, I was able to overcome, and like always, conquer adversity.

The weather was terrible on Monday, so I settled on an comfortably late wake up and hitting up the movie rental store for the first time. Usually I just grab something off the Itunes store and save myself the trip outside, but I wanted to grab something with subtitles so my Japanese friend could watch.

At my movie rental shop, the selection is pretty evenly divided between Japanese films and Foreign, Anglophone films. There’s a substantial selection dedicated ot American Television shows. I think this layout is pretty standard.  As you might imagine, the organization and categorization of Foriegn films is a bit of a farce–a defeating prospect to anyone searching out a particular title.

First, Alphabetizing is attempted, but it is a wasted effort. I foolishly spent twenty minutes trying to make sense of it all while looking for my favorite movie, Rushmore. I even considered that it might be alphabetized in Roman characters, but by the Hiragana alphabet this theory held no water. There would be spurts where “E” would follow “D” and maybe “M” sequenced into “N” only to be stonewalled by a slew of Jim Carey movies (alphabetized, nor arranged chronologically) before moving on the “S”. On the bottom shelf there were the mutts: a season of “Da Ali G” show, a Meg Ryan movie and multiple copies of every what I imagine (read: hope) is Police Academy movie ever made.

This was just the beginning of the labyrinth. The comedy and drama section were by virtue of misinterpretation, presumably by someone has a very serious sense of humor, interchangeable. The Shawshank Redemption was in the comedy section– a very dark comedy if you ask me.

In retrospect, It’s not surprising that both genres were also jammed back in the corner,  farthest from the entrance, and the least desirable shelf space by far. I can’t tell if it’s because the films are the least popular, or if because American Humor vs. American Drama binary is an entity the staff prefer to pretend doesn’t exist–like getting a “D” on a history exam and then refusing to acknowledge that the Crimean War  ever happened.

I could understand why a store or a worker might take this reaction. Especially when “Ace Ventura” and “Old School” were placed in the “Love Comedy” section. This is not entirely a misguided placement,  but designating these titles as “Love Comedies” could be viewed as someone’s interpretation of “love” as an entity that crude, sophomoric, and slapstick (wait, it’s not?). Frankly, I’m not sure which culture this would be an indictment against.

Despite the perplexing organization and the fact that I couldn’t even find one Bill Murray film, it wasn’t all chaos and entropy.

The “Foreign Horror” section seemed to carry an established logical sequence throughout the cannon. I wonder if this says something about the genre, Japanese culture, or that it was simply a product of the particular shelf they were on having more empty space, allowing an employee to keep things organized effortlessly.

They also had a rather impressive collection of French and German cinema, and a collection of older classics as well.The price was hard to eat as well. Three movies, for eight days, 700 yen (about $8). As long as the returns go down smoothly and they pass the litmus tets of not accusing me of “never returning Batman” (I’m looking at you Blockbuster) I won’t have to cut up my rental card in protest.

January 23, 2009, 4:08 pm
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100% less saddle-sore

100% less saddle-sore

Sure, the rich kids got ponies, but the really rich kids got their own bullet trains.

Laugh it up Doctorheads
January 21, 2009, 6:47 pm
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In Japan, the network of independent and private doctor’s offices Americans are accustomed to doesn’t exist. Rather, if one is afflicted with any sort of ailment, they go to the Hospital. There are private hospitals and a small assortment private offices (there’s a pediatrician right next to my school), but they aren’t as prevalent or nor are they the standard ethos to treatment like as they are in America.

As a result of a bug I picked up on on the plane during my flight home, I found myself in Japanese hospital.  It wasn’t an emergency, but I was having trouble hearing out of my left ear. Normally I embrace a situation and use it to my advantage, expanding my selective hearing bold to a boundless range or irresponsibility.  Unfortunately, I no longer have that option.  When you are trying to teach someone how to speak proper English and pronounce words correctly, your left ear (both of them actually) is a useful and necessary instrument and I can’t afford to get fired in this global economy.

I was sans translator, but flush with patience resources; every coat pocket carried some kind of document I assumed might be important or a conversational dictionary that I thought could be useful if things really deteriorated. Although the experience wasn’t as daunting as you would imagine or as my previous sentence would suggest.

First, it helped that I was equipped with very precise directions from my friend on where to go to reach reception (the second floor), and she had presence of mind to send me an email to my phone with the Kanji for “Ophthalmologist”, and a written request to see one. Secondly, you have to remember, the Hospital is one of those stages where the intentions of both parties are fairly evident.  Most of the script for a conversation is therefore already written out thus pretty consistent across the globe, in fact I could probably could have communicated what I needed to even if they all spoke Kilgon (God forbid I end up in a Kligon hospital,who knows what nerd injury/space travel scenario that might entail).  Essentially, they know I want to see a doctor, I know they want me to fill out some forms.

Perhaps the greatest lapse in communication occurred when two nurses handed me a thermometer while I was still in the lobby. They motion that they wanted me to put it under my arm right there, amongst the other patients and plebes. I was wearing a few layers, and proper placement of the thermometer was going to require a feat of wardrobe adjustment that would in most advanced civilizations be considered slightly awkward. This being winter, the “pale areas” would be be exposed and unguarded. I didn’t think Japan was ready for this, but they were persistent. It wasn’t until a third nurse  entered the fray and saw me start to reluctantly attempt to make the proper adjustments that she got the hint that maybe this wasn’t going to be something everyone would want to see. She kindly offered to escort me back to a room so a public viewing could be avoided.

I’ll spare you most of the glorious medical details, but I will say the Doctor determined that, for one reason or another, “irrigation” of the ear was the best method of treatment. This involves running a saline solution through the ear canal– it’s basically a really good thorough cleaning.

Now, it maybe have been because I was nervous, or wearing too many layers, or feeling dizzy from having a bunch of liquid throw off my equilibrium, but midway through I started to feel sleepy and the light in the room started to get really bright. The sensation was terribly painful or uncomfortable, but I decided that I really didn’t want to faint. I mean, who knows what was written on those papers I signed– I could be part of Japanese Candid Camera show right now and on the brink of becoming the you-tube fainting gajin sensation.

I needed some water and a minute to gather myself. Unfortunately, I haven’t learned the word for “stop” in Japanese. I’m not even sure what I said, but I think I tried to wave my hand and said “atsui” (hot) a few times. Apparently one of the three assistant nurses caught my drift and within seconds I had a cup of water by my side and my chair was flipped backward so that blood could rush to my head.  After a few deep breaths I was back in peak form. The doctor finished and sent me along my way.

In the lobby I could hear the staff and doctor rehashing the story and having a bit of a laugh, but I was more than happy just to be able to hear them.

japanese ear magicians
January 19, 2009, 3:40 pm
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Went to a Japanese Hospital today (not an emergency). They don’t give you a candy or balloon, but I did get a swipe card with my medical information on it. Also, I almost fainted.


Afterwards, as I sat in the waiting room I could hear the doctors and nurses laughing about me, but at least I could hear them laughing.

work ethic
January 17, 2009, 1:47 pm
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There’s really not much Japanese (or discernible) about this photo. But just know, that in that van parked outside the convenience store, with it’s engine running, there is a man passed out, sleeping in the driver’s seat. I was going to take a closer, more candid picture but felt that would be cruel, also because some concerned citizen was calling the police on his cellphone, most like to report a potential drunk driver.

gordon srumbers

gordon srumbers

January 15, 2009, 4:55 pm
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“City in a Bag: New York” from Muji.

Gojirra takes a holiday

Gojirra takes a holiday

Japanograph 1
January 14, 2009, 4:20 pm
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I’m going to try and do one a day, or maybe less if it begins feels like even more gratuitous over-sharing…