Sunday, December 28, 2008

"More One"

This morning I realized I miss hearing "Sensei, more one! More one!" and other brilliant utterances that my students come up with. "More one" means "one more time", by the way. I guess they translate directly from Japanese, which has a reverse word order for this phrase. Yeah, it's only been a week, but I miss my kids. Funny. I thought I was really glad not to have to see them for three weeks. I don't really miss the kids below 5 years old, but I miss the older ones a lot, even the crazy rowdy ones. I have this one 9 year old student that can be a pretty maliscious trouble-maker. He'd draw on my materials, throw stuff, bend stuff, and I am very surprised he hasn't broken anything in my classroom yet, because he got pretty close a few times. And yet, I like teaching him, because you should see his face when he is concentrating on trying to read something or get a question right. I think he actually likes English a lot, but acts out because the rest of the class does too. Looking at him always reminds me how right I was to adapt the principle of not judging people by first impressions. If I were to teach him 5 years ago, I would hate him so much, and he would hate me so much, because his actions really are threatening untill you find a way to handle him.

I have a few more kids like him, and I always got frustrated with them at first, but I found common grounds with most of them. I have just one kid who is very troubled and uncooperative, and I really don't know how to deal with him because it's not only his personality, I think there is a slight mental problem there as well, but even he is a very good-natured and extremely smart kid. He just has really bad days and even cried once in my class, even though he is 11. I sometimes feel a little at a loss of what to do with him, especially because his class is very small (only 3 students), and he really disturbs the other two kids (who are really smart and enjoy studying English), but I think with time I will get to figure out how to make the situation better even with that kid.

Anyways, I guess I was really busy until today, but today I had a bit more free time, so I started missing the kids.

Siebunkan Bookstore and Sweets

The other day I went to Seibunkan, a local bookstore chain, to get some more stickers for my New Year cards (nengajoo). I blogged before about making my own cards this year. Anyways, while there I was unfortunate enough to wander into the stationary section. The "stationary section" is an understatement. It is one hell of a section, with any art supplies, craft supplies, and, well, stationary, that you can possibly imagine. I was there for a long time, stickers long forgotten, examining their sculpting supplies. I don't know if they have natural clay there, because I made a point of not looking, otherwise I'd be there forever. They do have such interesting polymer clay, of various consistency. Most of it is white, but they also sell Fimo, the clay I have been using in Canada. They also sell colored paints, liquid paints that solidify and look like syrup, and clay of cream consistency (well, it's probably not even clay), that's in a tube and feels exactly like cake icing. That is, until it solidifies, then it's more like rubbery plasticky material. Of course, this visit to the bookstore was the doom of me, as I could not resist trying out the clay.

As I was paying at the counter for the clay and the stickers (I did get them after all), I was thinking, thank goodness I am so bad at kanji, so I don't have interest in buying books... Actually, speaking of books, they have a pretty big English section, with some interesting stuff. Not that I am planning to buy any books there any time soon, but still. I thought that was nice. This store sure beats Chapters. Of course the manga section is enormous too, but I never go in there because most books are sealed, and also because they are expensive. There are quite a few large bookstore chains like "Book Off" (great name, eh?), where you can buy used books in very good condition for rather cheap. For example, one volume of a manga could cost between 150 to 300 yen ($1.5-$3). Not that I bought that many...

Anyways, back to clay sweets, this is what I made.

They look better than the picture, but anyways, you can at least get the idea of what this clay does. It's so interesting, I am very curious about what exactly it's made of.
The tart featured at the top is called "Взрыв на кондитерской фабрике." Not sure I can really translate that properly because it refers to an old joke, but anyways, the literal translation is "an explosion in the bakery." It's the last one I made, and by then there was not as much clay left in the tube, so it came out unevenly. I have no experience with icing and the tools that bakers use, so it wasn't too easy to fix the damage. Guess I managed somehow, but still it doesn't look as nice as the others.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Phone Charges

To add to my post about the money I spend here, this is roughly what my monthly iPhone charges come up to (this includes the phone loan charge too):
From that amount the internet charge is:
(assuming I understood the bill correctly, but I think I did).
So this is with maxing out my internet limit (when I reach a certain threshold, I only pay the maximum amount but not more). The rest are charges for the phone service, calling minutes (I only used 120 yen worth this month, haha), and also the loan money. So not bad, this is pretty much what I expected.

On the Environment

I think I blogged before about how in Canada, at least in my geography class, Japan is viewed as a country that does little about the environment, even though they signed the Kyoto agreement. On a grand scale it might be true, but I think businesses are doing things on a small scale. For example, Softbank, my phone service provider, charges its customers 315 yen ($315) monthly for receiving a paper bill. When you subscribe to their service initially, they explain this to you and ask you if you want to receive a paper bill. Now that I finally have the opportunity to access my account online, I can see that the online bill is exactly the same as the paper bill (I get one for my land line phone, so I know what it looks like). I think this is a very smart move, because so many people prefer to use internet anyway, and because it saves Softbank labour and paper.


I finished wrapping, writing, cleaning, and most of my other chores, so it's nice to just be home and blog, write emails, or do whatever I want. I can't believe a week of my vacation is already nearly gone. It's nice to have a vacation. I didn't realize how much stuff I needed to do (like figure out some issues with my phone, clean, etc.), until I actually started doing all the stuff.

Softbank and iPhone

Today I went to Softbank, my phone provider, to figure out why I couldn't access their website using my login and password. I still don't know why I couldn't do it, but the girl I talked to fixed it. It was amazing, she was so sweet, even though it took more than an hour I think. I hope she doesn't hate me, haha.

Up till now I have been paying for my phone using my Canadian Visa, because both Softbank and Apple were apparently worried about letting foreigners use the standard withdrawal from the bank account procedure, since the phone is so expensive. It was a majour pain in the neck though, because I have to ask my parents to pay my visa in Canada for me every month, and then I have to pay them back, and then when I try paying them back they will probably be like, oh, don't worry about it. Of course I am grateful if they say that, but since I am earning money, I don't want to accept, so I have to argue with them, and also just asking my mom to transfer money for me every month is troublesome, because I hate asking other people for favours, even if it's my parents. So anyways, long story short, today I asked, if I were to get a Japanese visa, may I use that instead. And the girl goes, sure, visa is ok, direct bank withdrawal is ok too, paying at the post office is fine too. I was so surprised, so I asked, really? Can we change my payment method then? And she goes, let me confirm. She went and talked to another woman, who was making really scary faces, so I thought they couldn't do it after all, but she came back and said, no problem. I was so so happy. This way is infinitely better than using my Canadian visa. So there you go, if you ever want something done in Japan and they say no, go there again and ask a few more times, and they might do it. Good to know :D, because the initial "no, you can only use a credit card to pay" sounded pretty final the first time I talked to them, but they so easily let me do it this time.

In general, I really like customer service here. Even at the post office today the clerks were so kind and so helpful, even though I had such a pile of stuff to mail, and I made some mistakes, and on top of everything I was sending my New Year's cards late (they ask that you drop them off by the 25th, but today is the 26th already).
I am sure people in stores etc. are getting the same wages as in Canada, but I guess all the companies are really demanding of their employees when it comes to customer service.

Christmas Cake

My friend Eri stayed over yesterday, and since it was Christmas Day, I wanted to try Christmas cake. So we went to a patissiere near my house and got one. It looked beautiful (the picture below doesn't do it justice). It tasted even better. Next year I am definitely getting a Christmas cake again.
In general, cakes are so good here. I've missed good cakes since moving to Canada from Ukraine. Japanese cakes are just as tasty as Ukrainian/Russian cakes, but I think they are even better because they use less sugar and butter, and in general seem to be more light and hence more healthy.

This is what the Christmas cake we had looked like:

Post Cards

WEEEE!!! I am done with my post cards and presents! It only took me three days . Seriously though, it was really fun to make cards this year, because I made my own. They sell stickers, glitter, and all sorts of other card-making supplies, and it's not hard at all, but a lot of fun. It just took me forever because I wrote about 10 cards in Japanese, to my piano and kendo teachers, my landlord, and a friend who doesn't speak English too well. For a whole bunch of them I only had the addresses in kanji, and with no way to know how to read the kanji, I just copied it in kanji. So it took me forever to finish. I actually didn't write that many cards for you guys, my friends in Canada, sorry :P—I wanted to write to all of my friends, but if I did, I'd be writing cards for the entire winter vacation.

I went to the post office today, fearing that I will have to leave half of my paycheck there :P. Well, not half, but I thought I'd have to pay about $200 for the amount of mail I was sending, because I was mailing a bunch of packages with presents for my family, and some of my friends (haha, well, you'll find out in about a week who you are :P). Surprisingly everything together wasn't so bad, it was about $88 in total, and given I was mailing at least 20 packages internationally, and about just as many cards internationally, plus a whole bunch domestically, I thought I got off very easy. So happy! Japanese postal service fees are less than those in Canada, I was really glad.

For those of you who don't get a card from me, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, and I hope you have wonderful holidays!
This is what one of the cards I made looks like. Haha, please don't copy my Japanese if you ever decide to send New Year's cards, it might have mistakes.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


I was reading my favourite food blog, "Just Hungry" (instead of practicing piano for my lesson in two hours), and I came across a mention of this German houseware company named "Koziol". Now, in Russian this word means "goat", but could also be used to double as "idiot" or "stupid" "Ну и козел!"—"Gee, what an idiot!") I thought it's just a similar sounding word, and it means something else in German, but I went to check out their website, and here you have it:

Koziol website

I guess they really did mean "goat". Heh, it's just too funny. I wonder if they actually knew about the connotations of the word when they decided to name their company like that...


I've been writing stuff, and taping stuff, and gluing stuff for over 12 hours now. Still not quite done, but I think at least for the taping part I should be done tomorrow. I just ran out of tape, so given it's nearly 4 AM, I guess it's time to call it a day. No wonder I'm so tired. It was fun though.

Japan Post will make a fortune after I go to drop off the products of my taping :P.

Soooo sleepy.

This is what my apartment looks like after today's craziness:

Мамай прошел... А такой был порядок вчера вечером...

Monday, December 22, 2008

Rie's Visit

Last night Rie came to visit and stay over. It was a lot of fun. We went to Toyokawa Inari today (I blogged about this Inari a while back). We walked on the shrine grounds, went to visit the fox gods, and then had lunch. I went to that restauraunt last time I came to Toyokawa Inari, and the lady who works there remembered me. I was really surprised, but it was so nice. They have different events at that restauraunt, and I always wanted to go but never had a chance. She invited me again, so next time I'll go, I think.
After we came back to Toyohashi, I showed Rie Hirokooji Dori (street) and the downtown area in general, and we also went to the part to see Yoshida Joo (castle). It was getting dark already, and there was nobody in the park, but that was kind of nice, really peaceful.
After we had dinner in a Hawaiian restauraunt, and then coffee at the station, and after that Rie had to catch a train back to Nagoya and from there to Osaka. I wish she stayed longer, because I really enjoy her company, but I am going over to Osaka at the end of the week to stay with my brother for a few days, so I'll get to see her a lot :).

And now, pictures.

Foxes at the Inari:

Miso Katsu, which I found out from Rie is Aichi special. I had the same thing at that restauraunt in Toyokawa last time, because I like katsudon. It's very yummy, it's sweet and not too salty at all.

Rie at the Hawaiian restauraunt:

My drink, it was coconut mango something, very tasty. Non-alcoholic though, because I was already sleepy from the night before.

This is spam cheese curry. Doesn't sound overly appetizing, but it was really good.

On the way home I stopped by the local gift shop and couldn't resist taking picture of this. Another lame goods, this time the color is lame apparently (last time it was "lame art").

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Week in Pictures

I thing I blogged before that I bought chijimi (Korean pancake) mix. It's wonderful, the taste is great.

This is what my breakfast today looked like:

This is my breakfast yesterday. Yes, I went to McDonalds. A few Fridays a month I go to a kindergarten in Toyokawa, and I always get there 20 minutes early, and the only place open nearby is McDonalds. So I always go there to get breakfast.

Check out the label of this pack of balloons. These are cautions. Just in case you didn't know, you shouldn't eat balloons. You also shouldn't burn balloons, or put them in people's eyes.

Are these webs to catch leaves? I have no idea...

Three days ago, December 18th. :P

This is one of my studens, she was playing badminton with the kid below.

This is the train station, Mikawa Otsuka, where my favourite junior high school is :D.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Today's Practice

Today's kendo practice was one of the best so far in Toyohashi... but I forgot why... Haha, stupid of me, eh? Now I really have to think hard and try to remember, I can't believe I forgot within an hour what it is I learned today.

Oh, I remember, I understood one of the ways how to create openings. We did a drill of moving forward slightly to fake an attack, and we did this drill for quite a while, so while I didn't get to become good at actually faking, I understood really well from experience why it works so well, when the other person was faking.

Today I thought about something that I'd like to show my friends at the UofT dojo when I go back. During warm-up we always do this drill that I is really good. I think we did it at UofT a few times too actually. It's nice to do it every practice though. Basically what we do is lunge and hit men (or kote, or kote-men, or do), but don't go though. Instead we stop as soon as our shinai would have impacted with the target. And then we repeat it again. I think it really helps with awareness of your own movements, as well as with controling the force that you put into your cut. It was really hard for me at the beginning to stop, it still is, but it's getting better, because I am starting to be more aware of how to control my movements.

Today, for the second time in 4 months I got to do jigeiko with the junior high school students! It was really interesting. The first guy I fought was all right, but he was using a lot of force and pushing, and his movements weren't so well controlled. The second guy I fought is one of the best among the junior high school students, and fighting him reminded me of fighting Bill. He isn't as good as Bill, I think, and he moves differently, but in any case it was a lot of fun fighting him. I am so glad I got to fight with the students today.

We also had a shiai today too. It was really weird though. We didn't actually fight, we weren't wearing bogu either, and all we had to do was move (suriashi), and attack sometimes. It was... weird... But I guess it's good practice.

During jigeiko with the sensei today I had to do drills, and got tired really fast, but I felt very good after, it felt like I am straightening out my kendo a bit. I am so so glad I get to do so many drills, I think it really helps me, because I feel like I didn't do enough drills up till now for my body to learn the movements well enough and to respond without thinking.

Funny, it took me three years to get this whole "don't think" idea that the sensei and my sempai have been teaching me for so long now. I guess it's not a thing you can understand with reason, you just get it one day.
I think this is why I love kendo so much. It's a completely different way of thinking. In everyday life I am used to applying reason to everything, but some things don't necessarily work that way, and kendo is one example. You can learn the mechanics verbally for a long time, but really, one day your body just gets it, and before that you don't get it, even if your mind thinks you do. So you just have to keep practicing and trying new things. Of course you use your brain to figure out good ways to learn this thing you are learning, what to try, etc., but in the end it's like the part of your brain that's responsible for reasoning is by-passed in this learning process. I am talking about learning basics, of course kendo requires a lot of thinking too, but learning basics are a complete different way of learning. In a way it's actually scary and frustrating to learn, I think, because it's like your brain gets it, but you can't do it, and if you are a person who likes reason, you wonder, why is it that I can't do it even if I understand what to do? It's like you have no control over your body, until that moment when you finally learn how to do it. At the same time though it's very liberating to try and not worry about the reasoning/logic-based way of doing things, and I am glad that I have a chance to experince this through kendo.

I think art is a little like that too. In your head you may have an idea of what you want to produce, but unless you practice and practice, draw and re-draw, your hands won't be able to make what your mind created.

Ok, enough about kendo. I need to go clean some more, and eat, before I Skype parents tonight.

A Photographer

I have been watching this photographer's work for a while now, and the photographs don't cease to amaze me. This is one of them.

Sunrise Staple Tor by =Alex37 on deviantART

Check out the rest of the gallery.


Yay, tomorrow is the kendo end of the year party!! :D I am so excited! I never get to see anyone outside of practice, and I don't talk to people so much during practice, so it would be really nice to get to talk to everyone. There's practice too, in the middle of the day, just for an hour though. I wonder if any of the junior high school students are coming to the practice.


Сегодня во время тренировки такая глупость подумалась: а пол такой холодный, как айсберг в океане...

^ ^

Dollar Store

Last time I complained about the prices in this post. Now I'd like to do the opposite and talk about how awesome the dollar stores are here. If you are decorating your apartment (and I don't mean making it pretty, I mean buying stuff like crockery, cleaning supplies, storage supplies, curtains, etc.), then you can find most of the things you need in a local dollar store. Good quality too. In fact, if I had to choose between Wallmart/Zellers, or the dollar store here (and if the prices were the same), I'd pick the dollar store. Of course there are some things they don't carry, like furniture, appliances, etc., but at the same time they have A LOT of stuff that Canadian dollar stores don't have. Everything is really cheap too. You can buy all your kitchen supplies, office supplies, bathroom supplies, and many house-decoration/storage supplies in a dollar store.

I was quite surprised today that they even sell parts for make-it-yourself shelves there. They are not the prettiest shelves, but for 600 yen ($6) I think it's a great deal. Each part costs 100 yen, but they have different sizes, so you can make big shelves, and small shelves, deep and not deep ones. Actually I think I will get more of these for my desk, because right now it's a bit messy and the papers are just laying around.

And in case you are wondering, no, it's not beer. It's tea. I got this beer mug from a nomihodai (party) that our landlord at work hosted. He is awesome. He says he makes the best coffee in the world, and to be honest, I am quite convinced. I am addicted to his coffee. He's the one who has a pig. I think I blogged about it a while back.
This reminds me, I think next time I go to his coffee place (coffee pub? no idea how to call the place in English), I will ask if I may take some pictures. His place is so interesting. It's like a bar, but he has so many cool things in there, most of them he made himself.

Going back to decorating the apartment, I think I wrote the other day that my kendo sensei gave me a kendo calendar. Since I was taking pictures in my hallway, here's a picture of the calendar. Sorry for the poor quality, I just wanted to show you all what it looks like.

Isn't it awesome? :D

To Do List

All right, now I finally get to clean my apartment. It's been 2 weeks since I swept the floors, and even longer since I washed the stove, the bathtub, etc. so I really can't wait to finish my breakfast and get to cleaning. That's the first thing on my list, I guess. After I clean I might not have time to do much else today because I have kendo in the evening, but it's fine, I really want to clean.

Weee, so many things I want to do, I can't wait to get them all done!! :D It's so nice to have free time.

Internet Bill

We had a laugh with my friend from work yesterday. Usually my internet bill comes once every 3 months (this is unusual, but that's how it was set up in this apartment), and I just paid mine about a month ago. It came in the mail again the other day though, and I was very surprised. It also looked a bit different from what my bill normally looks like, AND it was for 2 months, also an unusual thing.

My friend from work came over to check his email yesterday because his computer is broken. He usually comes every week. So I was telling him about the bill, and I go, "Does your internet bill look like this? Because mine usually looks different." He looks at it and goes, "I guess it does look like this." And then I look at the bill carefully again and go, "Wow, this is not actually my bill, it's for apartment 107!" And he goes, "This is my bill then!" :D

Hehe, now I will check all of my bills as they come in, to make sure they are mine.. Guess postmen make mistakes eh?

Well, lucky for me, I don't have to worry about my internet bill this month.

Blogger Settings

Hmm, for some reason all of my settings on blogger, such as time zone, comment notification, etc. didn't stay the same as before. I wonder if I just didn't re-set them when I revived this blog... I can't remember. Anyways, I didn't have comment notification email address set, so I didn't know I got so many comments. Sorry about that. I just went and replied to all the comments.


VACATION!!!!!!!!!!! WEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

3 WEEKS!!!!!!!!!! WEEEE!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Christmas Cards

Today I received by far the best Christmas cards. They were hand-drawn by my students, and it made me really happy. These guys are amazing at drawing. I will put the cards up on the wall in my apartment, and if I take a picture of the wall, I'll post it here. I really love the junior high school, Otsuka JHS, that I go to once a week to do ALT stuff. The students are really fun to talk to, and I like the teachers a lot too.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Party Week

頭が痛い。Last time I got sick during the party week too, sigh...

5 Days

5 days until vacation! WEEE!!!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

"I Am Canadian"

I was searching on youtube for something else, but I came across this and almost fell off my chair laughing. The sad thing is though, at least half of these things really apply... I actually sometimes feel like telling people these when they take me for an American (and ESPECIALLY when I am forced to teach my students the ABCs by saying zeeeee - the hell is ze-e-e-e-e??) Sad, eh?

I think I've had enough patriotism for the day, so I am not going to post the video that I was actually searching for on youtube, and found.

P.S. I am not payed to advertize Molson, although I'd like it if I did, hehe.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Interesting Things from the Past Few Weeks

I bought this cold medicine a while back, that's simple to Neo Citron (basically medicated hot drink). It ran out a long time ago but I found a box from it in my purse today and nearly died laughing. I am sorry, only those who speak Russian would be able to appreciate the joke. Read the red title on the box. Doesn't it make you think it's a medicine for a slightly different purpose than to cure colds?

This picture was taken a few hours ago, as I was biking to the post office. This is a rare sight for Toyohashi. We have two ongoing construction sights that I can think of (one was just finished actually), and I think I saw construction sites on maybe 2 or 3 other occasions, since August until mid December (that's 4.5 months). Now count how many construction sites you see in Toronto, especially if you live downtown. Really, the old joke about Canada having two seasons, winter and construction, makes even more sence now that I have something to compare Canada to.

+11 C on December 13th. MUAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHA!!!!! Ain't I glad I don't live in Ottawa, hehe. This picture below was taken today, by the way. It gets rather cold around here at night, I think according to the weather forecast it almost goes to zero, and it could get chilly too because the winds are quite strong, but really, it's great weather. During the day I think the lowest we had so far was +7. Today I was wearing a t-shirt and a sweater, that's it.

Speaking of weather, I just got home from practice, and I must say, while we do drills it's fine, but it gets a little cold during jigeiko, when you have to wait in line and are not moving. The dojo is not heated, as most of you know (there is no central heating or air in schools here). The doors are left open, so if your gi is wet and you are standing next to the door, it can get a little cold. But I guess it's a nice reason to practice your basics instead of just standing around :D.

I blogged before about getting new furniture because I have, um, destroyed my coffee table. Well, here's a picture of the remains of the coffee table.

This is another failed attempt at chijimi. Today I went to buy some kimchi in an actual Korean store, because the stuff in the grocery store sucks. So while there I saw chijimi mix, and I got it. I will try it next time, as soon as I get help with translating the instructions. This picture is from a few weeks ago though, when I was trying to make chijimi again.

This is a picture from one of the cold days. I think I blogged about how I was sleeping in the living room on a futon for a few days, so this is what it looked like. The winds stopped though, and if there are no winds it's not so cold in the apartment, and I don't need to sleep under my airconditioner.

I couldn't just walk by these glitter sticks without taking a picture. Read the label on the blue pack. Makes you really confident about your art if you use these glitter sticks, no?

(In case you can't read, it says "Lame Art".)

Another great label. I bought this sweater, and only later did I realize what it says. In case you can't see it too well due to my crappy picture, it says "Resting Place". Well, at least they didn't add the word "Final"...

This is one of my students, Kanna. She was playing with my phone and asked me to take a picture of her.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Uncountable Nouns

This week is the quiz week at school, so during the lesson I don't teach new material, but do review instead, and then the kids take the quiz, and at the end, as I mark it, they play a game. Well, today was the first day for quizzes, and as we were doing review, my 8-year olds surprised me by asking for an explanation of why we say "they are fruit" but "it is A muffin", and "it is jam". So I had to explain the countable and uncountable nouns thing to them (like we don't count sugar, so we say "it is sugar", but we count muffins so we say "it is A muffin"). I suppose it's a simple question, but I guess I didn't expect it to come from such young kids, so it made me really happy that they asked. Well, I had to use Japanese for the part of the explanation because I didn't know how to simplify it enough in English for them to understand, and I still don't know if it's a bad thing to use Japanese for grammar explanations, but something is telling me it's ok to use Japanese. I know that when my Japanese was at their level I would have appreciated grammar explanations in English.

Human brain is a fascinating thing. The way people think is amazing, I think. My kids always surprise me by how much they can do.

Ah, and this brings me to a related point. I would like to read more about the fundamentals of language teaching. I did take a class on language acquisition, but it is not much use for me in the classroom, I am not sure why. I still don't understand some of the basics about how people learn, maybe it's because I have such different age groups and little kids learn differently. Anyways, as a teacher, I don't understand yet what my objectives should be. You know, kind of seeing the big picture. I don't really have a plan of what and how to teach my students because I don't really have a map of how they learn and what the best ways are. So we do exercises, but it's not based on a good map. Man, I miss the OISE library, I could use a trip there right now. I really wish actually that I had teaching background. Figuring out from experience how to teach is great, but I think it's much better to have a solid foundation. So I need to figure out a way of how to study by myself about the fundamentals of ESL teaching, I guess that would mean finding a good textbook on google books.

All right, I still have half an hour before bed time, so I shall go off to google stuff.

Desk, Part 2

Man, it's so nice to have a desk. I can really do anything I like. I got so much work done last night, it's amazing. I am so happy!

Не много человеку нужно для счастья, eh?


Today I went to pick up a coffee table and a kitchen table from a girl from work. She is moving to another apartment that already has furniture, so she let me take her coffee table (to replace my broken one), and her kitchen table. I am very happy about this, especially about the table, since now I can work on my computer, and study.

Here's what my living room looks now:

Cold Medicine

Usually I try to stay away from any medicine, but because of the cold yesterday I slept most of the day, and woke up with a headache this morning, so I thought maybe it's time to make a trip to the pharmacy. I was thinking, normally colds go away after the week, but if I have to work tomorrow with a headache, it would not be fun, hence the trip to the pharmacy. I bought this medicine after asking a pharmacist for advice, and I am quite surprised that the thing actually seems to work.

Let's see how it goes tomorrow, but I hope that the cold stays the same or won't get worse. :D

Saturday, December 6, 2008


Winter is here, but it's still so warm in Toyohashi. I think it's a bit cold today, +4, but usually it's between 7 and 14 degrees. Hard to believe that Christmas is so soon. My winter vacation starts in two weeks!

Today I will be skipping kendo because my cute students gave me another cold. Guess that's part of being a teacher... the kids keep sneezing in my face :P. Hopefully I'll develop immunity, but for now I'll just go get some tangerines in the grocery store. It's good it's the tangerine season!

This coming week we have quizzes, and next week we have Christmas parties, so no more actual teaching this year. I am going to see if I can take pictures with my students during the party week, I'd really like to have pictures of my kids. There are some students that are quitting, so that's even more reason to take pictures together ^ ^. Of course I'll post if I take them.

Now I have to go get ready. I am meeting my adult students today for lunch. All the other teachers go out with their adult students a lot, for dinner or drinks, but I never have a chance because our class is in the morning. This time though we all wanted to meet, so I am pretty excited.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


I finally finished calculating how much money I spend on food. For those of you interested, here's how much things cost around here.

In the month of September I spent about 57,700 yen ($577) on food. This doesn't include stuff like drinks from the vending machines and from places where I didn't get a receipt. I didn't calculate as accurately in September.

In the month of October I think I misplaced some receipts in my closet, so for now I have recorded a spending of 46,500 yen ($465). Same comment as above about the receipts, and I am pretty sure I spent more anyway.

For the month of December I decided to give myself a food+transportation allowance, which is 15,000 yen ($150)/week. Out of that money transportation is about 1600 yen ($16) per week, and "food" expenses include everything you'd get in a grocery store, such as aluminum foil, toothpaste, shampoo, etc.
Here are some examples of how much various food items cost.

Same as Canada: meat, fish (roughly), bread
The expensive things are fruit, vegatables, and rice.
Milk (0.5L) 120, I think ($1.2)
Apples (1 apple) 100-300 ($1-$3)
Tangerines (12) 300-400 ($3-$4)
Rice (2kg) 1000 ($10), for an estimation, I went through 1 kg in about 1 month, I think, I mostly eat rice, not noodles/bread
Eggs (8) 180 ($1.8, I think)
Tomatos (1) 70-150 ($0.7-$1.5)
Cooking oil (400g) 300 ($3, I think)
Soy sauce (1L) about 250 ($250)

Hmmm, I went grocery shopping yesterday, so I can't remember anymore, and I can't really read my receipts, but you get the idea. The stuff above is what I eat mostly. I guess if you eat seasonal veggies/fruit that are on sale, it's not so bad. By the way, this totally explains the whole seasonal cooking tradition in Japan. There is no way in hell you can buy fresh peaches this time of the year. Well, I am sure you could, but for crazy prices, but normal people wouldn't really go fishing for peaches, I don't think.

The store owner who gave the talk on brown rice (see post below) was saying how we should be grateful and appreciate the food we eat (he used the word かんしゃしている). I think that living here has really made me start appreciating these things. I get excited when apples are in season, and it's not just because they are cheap. Especially after the business and environmental change geography course I really started thinking about exported food and how many resources are wasted in the process, and this really does make me appreciate the food I can buy in the grocery store. Sure, we didn't have tangerines except in winter in Canada either, but picking up a bag of tangerines in the store the other day really felt like a special treat to me. I think I missed these kinds of feelings, gratitude and appreciation of what I have access too, so that's one of the reasons I like living here. So really, while this post is about prices, it's not just about prices. One of my adult students, a 71 year old man (I think that's his age) is a farmer. Sometimes he'd tell some stories about his work (he farms rice, alone, without any help), and you should see how his face lights up when he talks about his field. His Field. You know, makes me remember those eyes every time I eat rice for dinner, because I know it's people like him, his hands, that made it possible for me to eat that rice, both literaly (since he plants rice), and otherwise (since he pays me for teaching him English).

Anyways, back to prices.

Restauraunt food and prepared stuff (bento) are about the same price as in Canada. I got sick of those though, at least the bento (even though that's what I usually eat for lunch 3 days a week when I don't work in my city). I don't usually eat in restauraunts except with friends, so mostly I spend money in the grocery store. I end up shopping a lot here, at least once a week. Volume-wise I always think, wow, I am going to eat all this in one week? And of course I usually do.. Well, I buy stuff like milk too though, that I don't finish in one week.
I did loose weight in my first two months here (not this month though, so need to go back to eating less). So I've been eating less than in Canada, and if memory serves me right, $200/month for food was quite enough if I don't eat out. Maybe I am remembering wrong though, and parents usually helped me too with stuff like canned food, and rice, so my numbers are off anyway. Well, for those of you who live alone, you can compare.

So here is a rough break-down of where my money goes every month.
I get payed 250,000 ($2500).
I spend:
Tax: 12,500 ($125)
Rent: 52,000 ($520)
Utility/cell-phone/internet bills: 23,000 ($230)
Food + other small expenses like stationary, magazines, etc.: roughly 60,000 ($600)
Transportation: I get reimbursed for work travel, so I won't count it here
Clothes, house expences (like pillows, cups, etc.), stationary: this month I have a 20,000 allowance, but I spent more than that the first month because I needed to get some stuff for the house.
Piano class: 5,600 ($56)

So that's about $1700, which is not bad, I suppose. For the first three months though (Sept, Oct. Nov) I had to pay the apartment deposit of 27,000 ($270), and I also spent money on traveling (Nagoya, Osaka, Tokyo) last month, and before that too. Plus I had more personal expences for kendo (the local bogu shop is a bit pricey, the cheapest shinai was 3000 or $30, and I bought two, plus a shinai bag, and a new gi). I also spent money on stuff for the house, etc. as I mentioned above, and on the entrance fee for the piano school (which was the price of one month of lessons). I am also saving for the ticket back to Toronto in February.

So roughly it looks like I need $1700 per month if I don't travel. In September and October, although I did save some money for the ticket back to Canada, I zeroed out completely (ok, not completely, I had $30 left in my account). This month should be better, even with the savings for the ticket. Next month I have no rental deposit, but I'll probably spend that money on traveling over the holidays.

I do hope though I can cut down on food, that would be nice. Especially if I can loose more weight, hehe.

Anyways, this was a lot of detail, I bet... I guess it's a public blog, but then I don't really mind, I think this is pretty educational, no?

Now I feel like going to the nearby convenience to get a drink. Or not... :P

A Week

In case any of you are wondering why I haven't been writing emails, here's what my week is like.

Just so you know, we have 4 branches for our school.
One in Toyohashi (the city I live in, the school is a 5 minute bike ride from my house).
One is in Toyokawa:

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One is in Kosai (this is not Aichi prefecture anymore, it's Shizuoka, but right on the border).

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The other school is in Gamagori, but I don't really go there. Instead I go to the junior high school close to Gamagori city.

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12:00 wake up, get ready for work
1:20 leave the house
1:30 start work
8:00 (or 9:00 sometimes) finish work
8:10 get home, make dinner, etc. Easy start of the week so far.

8:19 wake up
8:20 make sure the sound on the laptop is on, go online on Skype and go back to sleep
8:30 start the conference call meeting with my boss and co-workers
9:15 (if I am lucky, after 10 if not) finish the meeting and go get ready for work, as well as get some lesson-planning done, or blogging, or emails, or any other unfinished work.
12:20 leave the house to go pick up materials at the main office
1:30 arrive at the Toyokawa school and start work
8:20 finish work
9:00 get home from Toyokawa
Not such a bad day either.

7:00 wake up
8:00 leave the house
9:00 get to work at the junior high school in Gamagori, where I do ALT work for the morning.
12:30 finish ALT work, go to the train station to get back to Toyohashi, and from there to Toyokawa.
13:45 get to Toyokawa branch school and start work there.
7:30 finish work
8:15 get home
8:30 have a paino lesson (only 2 times a month)
9:00 finish the piano lesson
9:30 start a private lesson
11:30 finish the private lesson and have dinner if I haven't yet (this week is the first time I am doing this though)

8:00 wake up (depending on the day, whether I need to do lesson planning or not)
8:50 leave the house
9:00 get to work and start work
11:30 finish my morning classes and other things in the office, go home to have lunch
12:15 leave for the train station
12:45 take the train to Kosai
1:10 get to the school in Kosai and start work (I technically start at 1:30)
7:25 finish work and head home
8:15 get to my house
8:30 start a private lesson
10:00 (if I am lucky) finish the private lesson

7:00 wake up (2 times a month, the other times I get to sleep in)
8:00 leave the house for the station
8:30 take the train to Toyokawa
8:50 arrive at Toykawa school, pack materials for the morning and head out (usually takes 15 minutes)
9:20 or so get to McDonalds next to the kindergarten where I teach in the morning and have breakfast (yes, I know, but McDonalds is the only place open around there, and sometimes I just have a drink)
9:45 leave to go to the kindergarten (which is a minute walk)
10:00 start teaching (I teach 3 classes usually, 15 to 30 minutes each); play with the kids after teaching, have lunch with the kids
12:30 go back to the school branch, put stuff back, head to the station to go back to Toyohashi
1:45 or so arrive at the Toyohashi school (if I don't have kindergarten, I would get there at 1:30, so I get to have the morning to myself for sleeping or for lesson-planning, emailing, studying Japanese, etc.—but most often I just sleep)
8:20 finish work, go get groceries, and then go home.

So that's pretty much what my week is like. I work so late so I can only go grocery shopping on Monday night or Friday night. I can go in the mornings too, but at nights they have sales, so I try to go then. It's great, there is a sale every night. I also manage to get to the store on Thursdays too before my private lesson, or on Wednesdays if I don't have piano. On Thursdays the store has dumplings on sale, so I always wonder what the sales ladies must think about my diet, because I usually buy a bunch... you know, to last me for the rest of the week. Although, I've been trying to cut down on dumplings. They are so easy to cook (heat up, really), but I usually fry them in oil, so it's a bad idea to overdo it. I also was eating a lot of korokke before, but I am also trying to cut down. The stuff is so cheap, but it's deep-fried, so also bad for me. I guess I have been trying to eat more healthy in general recently.

I have the weekends off to myself (except three Sundays per year for work parties that we host for kids). Of course, I have kendo for 3 hours on Saturdays, although I don't always go (as you would know if you follow my blog). Saturdays I usually clean my house first, then either watch TV or study, or catch up on reading. On Sundays I used to meet with friends a lot, but now I am taking it easy because I overdid it a bit and got too tired. It's nice to have Sunday all to myself and not have to go anywhere. These days I just do the same as on Saturday: study, bike around the city, get shopping done if I need anything, read. I also sometimes catch up on work (lesson planning, reading about behaviour management, thinking what to do with the troublesome kids, etc.). I try to write too, but I haven't been doing nearly enough of that, I guess. I really don't feel like writing emails those days though. I guess maybe I am just tired from my schedule, because technically I have time, theoretically. I dunno. Just don't feel like sitting down and writing, especially when I feel I should study Japanese and practice piano. The only people I talk to these days are parents. They complain that I don't write (even if they don't say it all the time, I think they still complain to each other, because I know how they complained to me when my brother was away). I guess for them it's hard to really picture what it's like. I know I used to think my brother is lazy and selfish when he didn't write from Nara, but now I know what it's like... and it's not something you can understand unless you are living it, I guess... Anyways, at least I call my parents, I guess nobody else gets even that, not even my friends in Japan... (X_X). I used to feel really guilty for not staying in touch, but then I remembered a conversation I had with my best friend. She was telling me something along the lines that before taking care of others you should take care of yourself. It wasn't exactly in those words, but I think that was an idea. And she is right, I think... On the bright side though, I am getting more used to my schedule now, and I am not as tired anymore. Also helps that teaching is becoming more rewarding as I get to know my kids better. It's all about small steps with the kids, winning a little bit at a time, and well, it really makes me proud to see when they improve, be it behaviour or actual English. Teaching really is a special thing.

I don't remember if I blogged about this or not, but I was thinking the other day: I keep complaining to my co-workers about my boss, about my schedule, about the kids sometimes, about the prices. When I look back though, a year ago I was walking on campus, anticipating how a year from then I'd be in Japan, teaching as a full-time job. And here I am. I really am lucky to be here. So many things had to happen, so many coincidences, and so many things I made happen, that brought me here. And every minute of it is really worth it. It really is.