Saturday, August 09, 2003

August 9

The grad party went pretty much as expected despite some intense squalls from the typhoon. Lots of food and drink and talk, including some major griping from a few of the teachers about the schedule, which perhaps wasn't too appropriate in front of the grads.

Afterwards, there was a 90-minute waiting period back in the lounge before heading off to the izakaya downstairs for the next 4 hours. There was definitely a major rift between the louder junior grads and the quieter senior grads. However, I'd seen that in previous years so I wasn't too worried about it. However, a rather intriguing running gag started up as one of the students noticed that me and the top grad of the school looked like a married couple. Of course, that got everybody to razz on us big time. I must admit that I was pretty flattered, and the top grad played along very cheerfully with it, but I'm not sure how she truly feels. Plus, there is the fact that I had relatively recently ended my previous relationship. However, she not only likes movies but jazz as well....which perfectly chimes in with me. My ex never really got into the flicks and she had never really registered with any musical style. Overall, I'm just gonna have to take it nice and slowly. I think one reason that my last relationship broke up was that we just went too quickly.

After 8:30, we decided to go across the street and try that trendy bar that we have used for other grad parties and Xmas parties. There, we just continued our separate talks on relationships over ice cream (no other desserts) and tea. Finally, an hour later, all of us went home with the assurance that we will continue to get together once ina while for dinners and movies, and in my case, the possibility that I may get another better chance at happiness.

Friday, August 08, 2003

August 9

The pizza party went well. About 11 full pizzas were generously devoured by the student body. Beforehand, the senior class was feeling some post-grad blues or ennui, so I engaged them in the basics of poker and blackjack.

Today is the big grad party. No idea what's gonna happen this afternoon. It could just end up being a very quiet 2-party deal or it could end up becoming a fracas. In any case, aside from a bit of gale earlier this morning, it looks like the typhoon will just bypass us and leave just some steady rain in its path.

I've been watching the Mariners/Yankees games on one of the commercial channels. The rivalry between Ichiro and Matsui, mostly pumped up by the local media, has been a godsend for sports fans. Watching a game between them is like watching an old game between the Maple Leafs and Canadiens in hockey, when BOTH teams were worthy.

Thursday, August 07, 2003

August 7, 8:30 p.m.

Today was an intriguing day as I spent my last class with the top classs at my school. As usual, the top student failed to disappoint us in leading the conversation to the down and dirty. We got into the topic of attending a men's strip show in Tokyo. I couldn't believe how enthusiastic she and one other girl was about going out to the Japanese equivalent of a Chippendales. At the same time, the coordinator of the year-course programme was showing a potential new student. I may have dodged a bullet; I just shifted to more ambiguous vocabulary, and luckily most of the students caught on. Boy, I am just gonna have to keep contact with this class.

Later that day, I had my first class with an alumnus at the Tea Room. She was also quite an interesting character in her day at our school. I hadn't seen her for a couple of years, and after meeting her for the first time tonight, I think she has developed a certain amount of gravitas although a certain Betty Boop still resides within her. It looks like it won't just be letter writing that I'll have to help her with but also her TOEIC score since she'll be taking the test at the end of September.

Well, tomorrow I may be catching The Hulk with new father Chip Guy if our schedules can be reconciled. Then, I head off to the celebratory Pizza Party back at school to herald the end of summer term. Finally, I do have my regular English circle. All that is tempered by the meterological possibility that a typhoon may plop onto our city on Friday. Mind you, I think it won't be too powerful since it will have gone over most of Honshu before reaching Tokyo.

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

August 7

Well, just heard from CNN's Breaking News that The Terminator will indeed try to become the Governator. Serenity NOW! At least, it was amusing to see the entire media caught flat-footed.
August 6

Fifty-eight years ago, the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. As usual, NHK broadcast the annual comemmorative ceremony live this morning at Peace Park in downtown Hiroshima. However, for the other commercial stations, it was just business as usual which made me wonder if even most Japanese have started to forget about the importance of the day. Mind you, the mayor of Hiroshima shot one across President Bush's bow by accusing the US of helping to proliferate nuclear weapons.

However, apparently and perhaps all may not be lost. One old woman who had been there on August 6, 1945 as a young lady in her twenties has been visiting the graves of as many of the victims as she possibly could and offering water from a waterfall as a means of atonement. She admitted that back in 1945 she didn't help the seriously burned people around her because had been told not to. And since then, she has felt guilty enough to go on this annual mission to the tombs. But now that she is getting too old to keep on going, the task has now fallen to a 24-year-old man whose grandmother was an A-Bomb survivor. Perhaps the younger generation still has some gravitas about the first city to be attacked by a nuclear weapon.

But of course, we must return to hard gritty reality. Mind you, there is a sense of justice done. Recently, there had been a spate of serial stabbings by a nutball in Shibuya. Well, the police finally got their man, a disgruntled unemployed man in his thirties who wanted to REALLY let off steam. I say, a thousand paper cuts weekly.

Looks like I've got that temporary stint over in Nakano, thanks to Movie Buddy. My first meeting will be on Monday after my special "cocktail" English lesson with my real estate agent students earlier in the afternoon.

Tomorrow will be a 5-hour day with two classes at the school and my first lesson with an alumnus for letter writing.

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

August 5, 11:30 p.m.

Another scorcher to remind me how much I dislike summers in this country. I think I was downing a lot of canned drinks today just to replenish my sweat. Plus, I taught a good 7.5 hours which equally drained me. It also didn't help that there was an intense thunderstorm today which made walking home in the humidity an exquisitely unpleasant experience. I just had time to grab my books for the night classes before heading out again into the rain. At least, I was able to have some down time at the McDs and in my room at the juku before my first class.

Looks like I may have a short assignment coming up with one of my movie buddies' sister. I have to give her a call. Tomorrow should be a bit more pleasant at least in quantity. I teach my kids for 2 hours and then I've got my Toronomon student for 1 hour.

An update on that house that my juku owner was thinking of acquiring. It turned out to be too good to be true. It turned out that there were a lot of cracks and damage in the old hourse, including a toilet tank that was emulating a certain Italian landmark.

David Beckham was back in Japan this week for a demo game with his new team, Real Madrid. 1200 of his best friends roosted in Narita Airport to welcome him.

Monday, August 04, 2003

August 5

Well, that supposedly cancelled class today was put back on when the student called this morning to say that the overtime work itself was cancelled. It wasn't too bad and I did get paid, but I sometimes wonder about a class when the students get more excited about my talk on Ontario horseflies than anything on business.

Beforehand, I met up with those two students to head over to their classmate's restaurant for lunch. It was the same place that I had gone to a few weeks ago. We got there a bi t early so we ended up ordering from the lunch menu. However, it was all good; we were privy to a nice cheap meal of some dim sum, noodle and rice dishes and even some dessert thrown in. The three of us had a nice talk for a few hours and then another more at a coffee shop before I had to head out to that night class.

Tomorrow will be a grueling one. I've got 7.5 hours of teaching ahead of me. At least, I've managed to prep for them. It almost feels like my full-time days.

Sunday, August 03, 2003

August 3, evening

Boy, showers feel so nice after getting in so gunky. Also, there was another dire reason for me to be so happy to be home but more on that later.

I started what turned out to be a long entertaining Sunday by heading out to Shinjuku and meet up with some students to catch Johnny Depp's "Pirates of the Caribbean". When I got there at about 11 am, it was already 31 degrees C. You know when a country is truly heading into the subtropical range when you go into a shop and the air conditioning is set to blizzard. The temperature differential was so enormous between the inside and the outside, it was a wonder that the entire population didn't get pneumonia.

In any case, I met my 6 young charges, all of them from the higher classes, in front of the Mizuho Bank. Then, we set off a block down to the theater and got our tickets before stepping into the Wendys next door to have a quick bite to eat. In what would turn out to be a later gastronomic mistake, I ordered a Classic Triple Meal which included fries, coke and a triple-patty burger. Part of the incentive for my insane choice was out of curiosity, the other part was to provide a conversation piece for the students. I'll have to learn not to do that in the future.

One of the ladies pointed out jokingly that I was the teacher and the only man in the group. The irony didn't escape from my notice, and certainly I was glad for the company. In what would be a running gag throughout the day, the school gossip was bandied about like hot potatoes among kids' hands about which teacher was trying to charm his way into the students' hearts and vice versa. But that was a familiar theme with this group. I didn't feel particularly uncomfortable about the talk; I'd been through this all before. However, this group, and the de facto ring leader in particular, was quite intense about it.

The gossip got really hot when we were waiting in line to get in. Never had I been more entertained in a lineup than with this group. I hope all future outings with them are like this.

Pirates of the Caribbean was a 2 hour, 20 minute flick which had garnered some good reviews from the States. This summer, the so-called blockbusters had to start begging for any sort of approval from the critics, and it seems that Pirates was one of the luckier flicks. However, I think I would have to consider myself one of the naysayers. The movie was OK for the length but it just seemed so lacking in energy. And I'm not saying for certain scenes but for the entire movie. It just didn't reach for the highest highs, or for the lowest lows for that matter. It stuck to a pretty dull narrow range. Depp certainly put ina lot of chutzpah into his Captain Jack Sparrow but it was all in a cinematic vacuum. I just wonder what it would've been like if there had been a dynamic cast and story surrounding him. It will be a minor feather in his cap of sorts, but Pirates won't signify the return of the pirate movie as a viable source of income for the studios.
Mind you, the ladies seemed to have enjoyed it...because of dreamboats Depp and Orlando Bloom.

In any case, the first run of the Movie Buddy outings came off successfully. We, or at least a few of us, may go for Confessions of a Dangerous Mind when it comes out in a couple of weeks.

Our next stop after the movie was a cafe called Veloce. It's just another small chain mixed in with the others that have made Tokyo a coffee town. As we were sipping our iced lattes, our ring leader once again regaled us with some of her adventures in Europe. It will be a pity that she will be graduating in a week, although I think I'll actually be hearing or seeing her a bit more often than I have at the school the last couple of months since we've struck a good friendship.

Then, it was time for dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant just around the corner from Veloce. It was tucked into a side street on the 2nd floor; very non-descript. It was notable for the fact that the staff were actually Vietnamese and that the chairs were very heavy. The food itself was OK but not overwhelmingly impressive. In a way, just like the movie, it lacked something. However, once again, the students enjoyed it more than I did, and that's good enough for me. Even after several hours of chat at that point, the gossip was still flying. I landed a minor bombshell on them which threw all of them for a loop.

Finally, our last stop was at a Starbucks...not out of choice but for the fact that it was available and there were really weren't any other interesting places out there for a drink which didn't require a lot of money. In another stupid gastronomic endeavor, I decided to get the Mocha Latte with a Sugar Doughnut. Meanwhile, the ring leader started talking about her former roomie in Paris, a wild child with a long history of substance abuse, and how she had to drag her to the bathroom to help her throw up and then, in another incident, pull her from out of the bathtub since she was drowning. The others suggested that she write a book.

So, 10 hours and over 6000 yen later, the first Movie Buddy outing came to a close. I can't speak for my companions but I was feeling majorly sweaty and smelly in the humid and hot air. Shinjuku is definitely not a place to be if you want to stay feeling fresh. And all of my gastronomic foibles of the day decided to come back at me with a vengeance when I started getting a stomachache on the subway home. Since I was traveling with two women back into Chiba, I couldn't really show my pain so I had to exert a Vulcan control over my stem the flow, if you catch my drift. On second thought, don't bother. Thank god for meditation; I just focused on one word and repeated it over and over to keep things at bay. All this and at the same time keeping a conversation with the students.

When I got out of the subway at last, it was the longest 10-minute walk this year as I mightily trudged my way home while keeping control. But when I got there, a safe resolution was reached and I was proud and relieved...literally. The only bad news is that I have another dinner tomorrow with one of the ladies who had come out today and two other students. However, I'll exercise some more discipline.

All in all, it was a good day despite the hair-raising ending. I think if this continues, it will probably be a monthly thing. I certainly couldn't financially afford to shuck out the yen as I did today on a weekly basis.

In what comes a s a potentially bad news/good news thing, my Monday night student left a message stating that because of overtime work, she would have to cancel the lesson. This will mean that I won't have to trudge out to the west end of town and teach until 10:30 pm and I could potentially spend a more leisurely time with the students at dinner tomorrow. However, of course, another source of income will be lost for the week. Then again, I will have a 3-day weekend. Such is the life of a bohemian teacher.

I probably won't be heading for bed for a while yet. I still have a lot to digest and since I won't be seeing anyone until the mid-afternoon, I can afford a bit of a late night.