Sep 22, 2012

Boat Rides

I got so wrapped up in Crazy Mama Drama that I didn't even write about my yakatabune experience.

Roomie and I were invited to go on this yakatabune excursion back on the 9th.  We met up with Mr. Big Bear and M-sensei and headed to the meeting spot where we were picked up by a large tour bus.  There were about 30+ others on the bus already.  We were given drinks and snacks as soon as we sat down, then we headed off to Tokyo.

The whole boat ride pretty much just consisted of eating and drinking.  When we tired of that we could go up onto the roof of the boat and hang out.  It was a fairly nice evening, especially with the breeze from the moving boat.  Got lots of really nice pictures.

Also, just last night Roomie and I went over to Mama Ann's apartment, because she wanted me to show her how to make bibimbap.  So we had a delicious dinner then rode our bikes over to the closest Aeon mall.  I didn't plan on buying anything but there were some really good deals that would've been silly to pass up!

I had been wanting some jean capris for a while.. now that it's finally cooled off I probably won't get to wear them until next year, but they were marked down from ¥1980 to ¥980, plus an additional 30% off at the register, so they were only ¥600-something! 
I've always been a one-bag kind of person... the thought of having to transfer everything from one bag to the other each day just seemed bothersome.  BUT!  This bag was cute, red plaid flannel material, and no leather handles or anything.  Only ¥980.  :)
And lastly.. Roomie was looking at baby clothes for her new nephew who's due in January, and I saw this and thought it was too cute!  Normally I wouldn't've bought it, but it was on sale for only ¥100!  It seemed too good to pass up.  My reasoning was that someone I know will get preggers eventually, right?  Well, if it's a boy then I've got part of a gift already bought!  But for now, I guess it's just going to sit in the closet, lol..  Any takers??

Sep 15, 2012

More Drama Ensues

Crazy Chinese Mother has returned to bring more drama!  So much for her daughter being in another class and not having to deal with her.
So, Thursday morning she came to the school to drop off her daughter as always.  I was going about my morning duties as usual when one of the Japanese staff came up to me and said CCM wanted to talk to me about something that happened yesterday.
Seriously?  Again??? was all I could think.

So, she told me about how her daughter had said that yesterday, in the morning during their free playtime she had fallen, and that I went over and pulled her to her feet and said to her, "何やってんの?"  (Nani yattenno? A kind of rude/slang way of saying "What are you doing?")

Oh, the ridiculousness of it!  I don't think I've ever spoken a word of Japanese to any of the students.  I rarely even speak Japanese to any of the Japanese staff because it's an English school and we try to avoid using Japanese in front of the students and parents if at all possible.
The Japanese staff lady who CCM was using as a kind of go-between, bless her heart, stood her ground and stood up for me and insisted that none of the English teachers speak Japanese to the students, and that she's never heard me speak Japanese either.  CCM hmmm'ed and haaa'ed and rambled and insisted she didn't think her daughter would lie, and finally just told me to "Use my smell to the children."
I just kind of went, "Ohh.. kay."  I thought perhaps she meant something about some 'sense' or something, I have no idea.
"You understand what I say?"
"Umm, not really... use my smell?"
"Yes, use your smell with the children."
I looked at Nice Japanese Staff  Lady for help.
"におい?" NJSL asked for confirmation using the word for smell in Japanese.
"No no," and she pointed to her cheek and made as much of a smile as her permanently angry-looking face could muster.
"Oh, smile!" NJSL explaimed.
"Yes, smell." CCM continued.
I just nodded, saying, "Okay, okay."
She finally left.

Other teacher, who has CCM's daughter, came to me later and said there was a note for me in the renrakuchou.  And what a note it was!  An angry, scathing note questioning why I would say such a thing to her daughter when she fell down, didn't I know what I was saying?, and that I should say sorry to them, "because you should be!"
 I wrote as polite of a reply as I could, explaining that her daughter did not in fact fall, but that she and another girl were goofing off during our morning activities and that I had asked them to stop playing and stand up, and that I never use Japanese in front of any of the students.  

Friday came, and so did her reply in the notebook: I hope what you said is true.
So, again, I wrote another politely-worded but firm reply, that yes it is true, that I have no need to use Japanese at the school as my job is to teach English, which is my first language and what I use naturally anyway, and that I didn't think her daughter was purposely telling lies but that children that young don't always understand everything around them, especially if it's in a new language to them, sometimes they just make mistakes.  
There was a lot more that I went on about, but that's the gist of it.

All my Japanese coworkers have been very supportive of me, which has been nice.  "Don't let her bother you!"  "I know you didn't say that, don't worry!"
Even one of the higher-ups came in on Friday before classes let out, to tell me that she knew I wouldn't say that and that she was going to talk to CCM and explain to her that her daughter had probably picked up that phrase from other kids in the class.
CCM was cordial to me that day when she came to pick up her daughter, but I left shortly after so I don't know what happened after the higher-up spoke to her or after she read my last reply.  We'll see what comes of it on Tuesday I guess.  Monday is a national holiday... definitely a much-needed 3-day weekend as I have also had this really persistent cough all week that I just can't seem to kick!  Did a really thorough cleaning today, which was also much-needed, so the next couple days I can just enjoy and relax.
So, in parting I'll leave you with the lovely view I had from my kitchen window today.

Sep 12, 2012

Foooood, Family, and Fun

To counter the negativity from the post about the crazy mum, I thought I'd share the letter I got from a different student's mum a couple weeks ago.

"Hello.  Thank you for always taking care of my daughter.  Every week she comes home saying things like "I did my best today so I got a sticker!" and "I answered lots of questions so I got a little note pad!", and seems like she's really enjoying it.  Thank you.  Please continue to help her with her English studies."

Notes like that really help brighten my day, especially since it's from one of my Wednesday evening students.  Normally I dread those classes (one of which includes the Little Shits I talked about before), but I do enjoy my last class.  They're good kids, and to make things a little more fun for them and to motivate them more, I started this point system.  Each time they answer a question they get a point, even if the answer is wrong.  I don't care about mistakes, I'm there to correct them, but I can't correct them if they don't speak!  
Then, at the beginning of the class the following week, I total up who had the most points from the previous week, and that person gets a piece of candy and a sticker (and since everyone always tries their best and answers as many questions as they can, the others get to choose either a sticker or a piece of candy).
And *then*, at the end of 4 weeks, whoever had the most points total gets to choose a prize.  Granted, it was all stuff I just grabbed at the 100 yen store, but they were *so* excited when I pulled out the bag and were ooh-ing and aah-ing over everything, saying how lucky the girl was who won.  Like I said, they're good kids, and I felt bad for them at first because every class I ask them how they are and they always say 'tired' and 'sleepy'.  They're worked too hard, these kids, so I'm glad I can help them enjoy the class at least a little bit. :)

Anywho, on to other recent events.  

Went to a Bon Odori with Roomie and Mama Ann.  Mr. Big Bear was working the anpan stand and his friends were working the yakisoba stand and the drink stand, so we got free food!  :)  And a TON of raffle tickets.  I swear we had about 40, so the three of us divided them and during the raffle drawing would search through our stacks to see if our number was called.  There were lots of great prizes and we would've been happy with any of them, even the bag of rice which we needed at the time, lol.  But alas, nothing.  It was still a fun night though.

Roach Battle.  This is part 2.  I won't show part 1, which is The One That Got Away, since it's really just a bunch of screaming and no real conclusion (although we set up a trap for it and caught it that night).  This one's ending is a bit more satisfying.
And if you don't know me, I just have to make it clear that I am not a wuss!  Bugs don't bother me- moths, beetles, spiders.. even had a pet tarantula at one point and held it with my bare hands!  And I love lizards and snakes and the like too.  But roaches... guhhh.  They're just little demons after my soul.  

Finally, last weekend I went to go visit some of my family who's here in Japan!  My cousin is in the military and got stationed here, so he and his wife and 3 kids moved here this past March.  My aunt (his mum) came over to visit them, and they invited me to join them for their middle daughter's birthday party.  Mr. Big Bear gave me that Friday off, and I called in sick to Other Job that day too so I could go to the immigration office and get my visa officially renewed (finally!).  Headed over to the base after all that was taken care of, and spent the night there and hung around most of Saturday too, just visiting.  It was really nice, and I got to see  my little second cousins who weren't so little anymore!  Before I left they also took me to the grocery store on base so I could get some comfort foods I had been missing.  :)  Got my belly filled with lots of good-old Amurrican cookin' while I was there too.
Got a nice family picture of them all, but my aunt and cousin's wife were insistent that I not post it even on Facebook, which is private, so I doubt they'd be happy if I put it here.  Instead you get a picture of my food haul.

Soooo many good vegetarian/vegan things that I just can't get here, and at the same price I'd pay back in the States.  :)
Nice to have family close by that I can visit when I'm getting a little homesick.

Sep 6, 2012

Problem Parents

A "problem child" is to be expected when teaching, and while irritating they are tolerable.  After all they are children, and as such will act like a child.  What is really irritating to deal with are the problem parents, and I had my first one this week!  Basically, the parent of a newer student, who started just a few weeks ago, was all in a huff when she came to pick her kid up after her trial Art Kids lesson (an art class thing offered on Wednesdays after regular school ends at 2pm, when I and all the other teachers go home).  Her daughter was supposedly crying and had a scratch and bruise under her eye.  The girl said it was because another kid in my class hit her (said kid isn't even there for the art class), and the next day mother came in all upset with me and my helper-teacher for not saying anything about it.  In her broken English she told me she didn't think I wasn't "pro".  I looked at her incredulously before having to stifle the laughter and the urge to tell her, "Of course I'm not, do you think this company would fork over the money to pay a 'professional teacher'?"  And then I just felt pissed off and wanted to tell her, "Alright, let's stick you in a class with 10 psychotic three-year-olds and see how you fair." 
Because seriously, that's how it was.  Granted, there were two teachers in that class.. it was chaos when it was nine kids but when they decided to stuff one more new kid in our class this past week that was just kind of the breaking point for me and I told them that having this many little kids in one classroom (and having to actually TEACH them) was just insane.  (I won't go into all the other reasons why I think this company is just complete BS.  That could take up a whole other post..)

But then to have this mother get all pissed with me because "I wasn't watching her daughter", just really f***** me off.  She wrote a long note in the renrakuchou (little notebook for notes between the parents and the school) that she wanted us two teachers to read and write a response to.  Other teacher ended up writing the response, because they FINALLY split our class and that girl is in the other teacher's class, not mine thank God.  Now I won't have to deal with that mother's nonsense.  Though I really did want to be the one to write the response.. other teacher was quite nice in her response, but it might just be that I'm at the point where I don't give a shit anymore.
Don't get me wrong, I completely understand that, as the mother, she would want to know what's going on with her child and if there are any problems.  But then to go off on me with out knowing the situation and to question my capabilities...   Rrr!!

First- when I left at 2pm your daughter was perfectly fine.  She was making her usual goofy faces as we sang the good-bye song.  Her eye was fine, she wasn't crying.  If something happened during the extra hour she was there after I left, well how the hell am I supposed to know about that?

Second- if it did happen during class time with the kid she claims hit her, and I didn't see it?  That's something that needs to be taken up with the company.  I have TEN KIDS to look after, with only two eyes that can only see in one direction at once, and there is almost always at least one kid screaming and crying for one reason or another that needs to be held/comforted, or other kids arguing over toys who need to be talked to, notes that need to be written to other parents, lessons that need to be planned, all while 10 little maniacs run around strewing toys everywhere.  Granted yes, I have help, but she is also trying to do all the things I'm trying to do as well.  Sorry ma'am, I can't watch ONLY your daughter for every bloody second of the day.  If that kid hit her in the few seconds my eyes were averted, and she didn't cry or say anything to me, it must have not bothered her all that much.  They were playing together the whole time, carrying around a basket of plastic fruit together and everything.  They took a couple spills because they wouldn't stop running around, jerking each other about with that basket, but I certainly did not see any hitting.  Ever consider the possibility that your daughter isn't telling the truth?  She is 3 after all.  Kids are good at making stuff up.  I doubt she'd be doing it maliciously to get the kid in trouble, or even intentionally.. Maybe one of those times she fell and bumped heads with said kid, or the kid just accidentally got her in the face while they were playing, but in her mind he hit her on purpose
And lastly- questioning my ability.  Hi, yes.. you have one daughter.  I have taken care of more kids in the past year than you probably ever will in your entire life, under the guidance of licensed day care workers and a child psychologist.  No, I am not an expert by any means and I don't pretend to be, but I've been around kids enough to know how they interact with each other, and how to handle situations like fighting, hitting, etc.  If I had seen something happen, I would have addressed it appropriately.  So please give credit where credit is due.

I knew I'd be having issues with this woman the first week her daughter was here.  Her daughter was crying one morning and was saying she didn't want to go to school because some kid was being mean to her.  I knew for a fact that wasn't the case.  Said kid hardly even interacted with her that first week.  It was the girl's first week at the school, after having just moved to Japan from China.. of course she's going to be upset having to be adjusting to so much at once.  But mother was so concerned, making a big fuss with me and all the Japanese staff that we have to watch her daughter and make sure she has this and that and is comfortable and happy and rah rah.  
Yes.  Because we don't do that already..
All the other parents I've ever dealt with have been wonderful and understanding, and I've even gotten some really sweet notes from some of the mothers in the renrakuchou..  I know I shouldn't let this old biddy with unrealistic expectations get to me.  I just needed to rant.  

I would like to hear other people's perspectives on the matter though.  From a mother's perspective, or another teacher's perspective?  Or just and outsider's view.

I didn't want to get into it too much, but that just turned into a really long rant.  But, like I said, the classes are finally split so I'll only have half a flock to look after and won't have to deal with crazy mum.  Yesterday was the first day with five kids and my goodness it was a dream!  I didn't feel like wringing their necks every five minutes!  :D
Called in sick today though so I could go to the immigration office (they wouldn't give me the day off for that, but that's another rant I'll spare you), and then it's off to visit my aunt, and my cousin and his family.  Should be a good day ahead.. gotta hurry and get ready.

Sep 2, 2012

Kitties and Goldfish

Been a while since I've really posted about any of the going-ons in my life.  Working two jobs sure can take up a lot of one's time.

Well, lets see.. The few days before August 4th (the day my visa was to expire) was a bit of a whirlwind of last-minute visa-extension madness.  Turns out my Other Job had forgotten that my visa was expiring and they didn't have any of their stuff together.  Luckily though I got a couple days off to do all the errands that needed to be done, like getting a hanko (name stamp) made so that I could then open a bank account. 

My hanko.  Got my first name done instead of my last name, because my last name uses four kanji characters and for that I would've had to buy the bigger, more expensive one.  I like the characters of my first name better anyway.  Hanko here are often used for stamping official documents, and you need one here to open a bank account.
Hadn't had any need for a bank account up until now, but Other Job requires us to have one if they're sponsoring our visa, so get one I did.  The process took almost 3 hours; 2 of those I swear were just spent waiting.  The lady went through the trouble of explaining the different account types and terms and conditions and whatnot, and a lot of it was over my head but I'm proud to say that I got it done all by myself!  I am now the proud owner of a Hello Kitty bank card.

Kitty-chan cash card!  Came with a Hello Kitty bank book and pack of HK tissues too. 

 There was a lot of other document-gathering, taking of ID photos, and excessive amounts of running/biking around (thank God I had just bought my own bike, sure saved my butt), but I got everything turned in on time.  Will finally be able to go back for my new visa stamp within the next couple of days.

A few weeks ago, friend Gaki-chan and his girlfriend (who came with us to Disneyland back in April, she's a nice girl :) ) came up from Nagano, and S came down from Ibaraki and we all met up to go see this goldfish exhibit that just opened up in Tokyo.  Very interesting, and very artsy.  It was only 1000 yen to get in so I think it's worth a visit.

There has also been a Bon Odori festival, and a couple epic cockroach battles on the home front as well.  I have videos of both, I'll try to get those posted before too long.

This Friday I'm going to meet with my aunt who is here to visit, and my cousin and his family who are stationed here, so expect to hear about that in the near future as well!
Now, I'd best be getting ready for bed.  I need all the rest I can get in order to function during the chaos that is work.

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