Friday, February 13, 2004

Friday Feb. 13, 10:59 p.m.

Another long day and another event comes to an end. The Pancake party came off without too much of a hitch although I had to do some quick shopping and quick running to a supermarket that wasn't too close because the coordinator conveniently forgot to get some of the ingredients. Reminder to self: don't rely on her again. Movie Buddy was there but he seemed a bit out of sorts during the party...just kinda staring through people although he was willing enough to gab with the rest of us. The Songbird came in briefly but had to miss out on the pancakes because of a class. Senior student Skippy was doing her usual happy-go-lucky stint cooking up the fondue and the pancakes. She's also gone on the plan for the second party after the official grad party on the 21st. By the end, I was giving away the remaining bottles of syrup to whoever was left. I also got some Valentine's Day chocolates from one of the students as well.

I ended up staying in the lounge for a full hour after everyone had left just doing my crosswords. I needed to warm down...after the events of today, I felt a bit of lingering post-event letdown. Strangely enough, our resident weirdo student for this year dropped by briefly. I can only imagine what he will say for his grad speech...ina way, I'm kinda dreading it.

Finally, I got myself home. Once again, I didn't bother to cook anything since I wasn't in the mood. I ended up going low-end by just grabbing a burger set at the neighbourhood Lotteria. I couldn't even bothered to cross the street for the superior McDonalds.

Well, I did catch a repeat of Men In Black tonight on Nippon TV. It is by far the more superior of the two MIB flicks that have come on. Man, that sequel pretty much drowned out any hopes of a third movie. The so-called franchise joins the ranks of Star Wars, the Matrix and Rocky in terms of the Law of Sharply Diminishing Returns.

I gotta do a relatively fast clean tonight and tomorrow morning since Movie Buddy will be crashing at my place after The Return of the King. For some reason, I'm not nearly as enthused about catching it as he is. I guess it could be because of the long wait ahead. Also, I've got that new kid to see before I meet up with MB.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Thursday Feb. 12, 11:37 p.m.

Well, happy birthday to my Dad. He's 67 today. Speaking of old age, I was rather surprised to hear on the news today that some 73-year-old was given a second warrant on top of his first one for armed robbery in which he seriously wounded a guard at a UFJ Bank in Nagoya about a year ago. This time, the oldtimer got it for owning a whole ton of guns and ammo illegally.

I was initially a bit depressed when I did my books just now to find out that I made a loss this month. However, I do have to realize that it was a lean month in terms of work at my school, and this is the first loss I've ever incurred in the 13 months that I've kept books. And considering how much I lost, my other friends would probably laugh at me in envious derision. Frankly speaking, if I had curbed my spending a bit here and there, I probably would've even broke out even.

Well, on this workless day, I found myself taking a bit more equipment over to the school in preparation for tomorrow's Pancake Day. It was the periodic level check day for the students, so as the afternoon hours passed, several of them came in to chat before and after their inteview tests and the follow-up counseling chats with one of the staff. I noticed that the manager didn't give me the time ofday when he came by. He can go to Hell! Otherwise, I had a pleasant time talking it up with the kids and the teachers while I constructed a few props. The Songbird was there for the first hour of checks and then Music Guy came by. I hadn't seen him since the Xmas party so it was good to talk with him again, since we like to talk about, as his code name would indicate, music. He shares parallels with Chip Guy though they have never met in that they both have the same first name, they are both good friends of mine and they both have recently arrived baby daughters.

I once again decided to eschew making dinner and instead went out to another subway mall restaurant...this time, it was TONKI, the tonkatsu (deep fried pork cutlet) place where I had the B Set. It consists of three juicy slices of the pork, two slices of chicken cutlet and a single breaded prawn with a little tartar sauce on the side and mounds of shredded cabbage, the de rigueur side veggie of choice for tonkatsu. With a bowl of rice and tonjiru (pork soup), it's a huge bargain at a mere 880 yen.

I came home and vegged a few hours before I finally got on the e-mail and sent that little message to one of my longest and best students to see if she would be my apartment's guarantor. Odds are that she will reject me since it is a pretty heavy responsibility. But I just have to try.

Also, I packed up my hotplate into the suitcase to transport over to the school. I was even thinking of bringing a pan and the portable gas stove but with the suitcase and my regular bag, I figured that I would punishing myself more than I would be benefitting the party plans. I don't really know how this party will turn out and if there may be an outing tomorrow night. Basically, in previous years, we had the pancakes and that was it. Plus, I do have my kids the next day and then my first meeting with my latest new student. All that happens before I meet up with Movie Buddy in Shinjuku for the premiere of The Return of the King.

I kinda learned a new aspect of student culture today at the school. I had bought a bag of mini Kit Kats for myself and anyone else who was in the student lounge. A number of them got pretty happy on seeing the famed chocolate brand. Apparently, students have a tradition of munching on two bars before a major test since KIT KATS sound roughly similar in Japanese as "I will win!" Also, another food that the kids usually nosh on the eve of an exam day is the aforementioned tonkatsu because th e last two syllables of the word mean "to win". Go fig.

I recently started a regular dialogue with a student about jazz. She was the one from whom I borrowed The Great Expectations video a couple of weeks ago. Although she's not been the most proficient of students, we've had a chance to link up in our mutual interest in Diana Krall and Bill Evans. We exchanged e-mail addresses, so hopefully even when she graduates next Saturday, we may still continue our dialogue and perhaps even hit a couple of jazz bars someday...something that never came to fruition with the now estranged Madame. contacted me once again in my e-mail to inform me that I had a few more entries from my high school days. I originally signed up back in 2002 just as a lark but quickly forgot about it. In fact, when I went to take a look at the site out of curiosity, I realized I had forgotten my password. Well, one e-mail solved that oversight and I logged in. I could only ooh and aah as I saw a number of old names listed there. I could have contacted them immediately but I was never a popular student at my high school, and frankly, the happier side of my life really didn't start until I entered university. And even then, I've burned a lot of bridges.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Wednesday Feb. 11, 10:36 p.m.

It is the national holiday that noone knows or remembers here in Japan: Constitution Day or, more banally, Japan's birthday. I think the one reason for the apathy is that Japan is so old, well over 2000 years, that the meaning of anniversary has basically become meaningless. Canada is a mere babe in comparison, although I wonder how many Canadians realize that our country will be celebrating its 137th b-day this year.

Aside from that one class, it was of course a day off for me. I was a bit annoyed at my Wednesday afternoon student, although I didn't let her know, since she didn't realize the significance of today (see what I mean?) until she woke up this morning. I had asked her last week about the possibility of this lesson today because of the holiday. She apparently didn't hear me. Well, I guess she must have been a bit apologetic since she gave me some DAIFUKU, or bean-filled rice cakes (they actually do taste pretty good despite the description). And besides, I made a bit of money. However, she also said that she and her family would be off in Hawaii from the 24th for possibly an entire month. Her father had just gone through a pretty bad bout of cancer so he needs a lot of rest and relaxation, so I think I can understand the month-long stay there, but still the paranoid part of me is wondering if she's just telling me softly that my services will no longer be needed. Yes, it does sound paranoid, but in this country, face-saving is paramount and giving the most transparent of lies is not at all uncommon to get out of something. Heck, the staff at my old school routinely tells company students that a teacher has either gone mad or destroyed his or her health when that teacher quits or refuses to teach the class.

It looks like though that my gripe about having to go all the way out to the west of Shinjuku may just be sour grapes since my juku boss left a message stating that my Thursday night student has once again cancelled out. I realize that he is a company cog and that this time of year is especially tough on cogs, but he should have considered that before taking the plunge for English classes. He isn't a high student by any means so the extended absence will not help his retention any.

So I find myself with 2 days without classes starting from tomorrow. I'll just be taking some more ingredients and equipment out to the school for the Pancake Day before taking the heavy stuff on Friday.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Tuesday Feb. 10, 11:57 p.m.

Well, it looks like I have another legal headache to consider. I knew it was coming but it's still not great looking at the real thing. My real estate company sent out the lease renewal form for me to fill out since I'm approaching the end of my 2-year lease. I don't mind paying the extra money to pay for the renewed lease, but there is the pain of the guarantor. In my first few years here, I relied on my uncle whom I don't have any contact with anymore. The last few years here I didn't worry about guarantors since my then-real estate agency took into consideration my long tenure at the same apartment and waived the need for my uncle's stamp. However, last year, another agency took over control and so I now find myself in the unenviable situation of having either to contact my uncle (who probably has a healthy dose of resentment against me), hat in hand, for his stamp or to talk with one of my senior students for her help.

On the good side, I did get my package of books and CD from Amazon. The books are on maple syrup gathering which will help me a lot on Friday. I have to do a bit of prep work on that during the holiday tomorrow. By the way, it is a rare national holiday Wednesday. It's Japan's birthday.

I also got my first Valentine's Day chocolate from my first batch of students at the juku tonight. Always nice to get. And I got another free lunch from my Tuesday morning ladies. We went off to the same little local restaurant...great food.

I have one class on the holiday. In a way, it's a bit of a waste since I have to travel all the way out past Shinjuku for just a one-hour lesson, but the student is very good. Plus, it'll get me out of the apartment.

Monday, February 09, 2004

Monday Feb. 9, 10:36 p.m.

Had my first class with the ladies thi s morning. It's starting to look my maple syrup crusade is picking up as much speed as John Kerry's campaign. I think I may be making pancakes for the ladies next Monday. One of them was left flabbergasted by the fact that maple syrup is actually healthy.

I did another pit stop at my school after class to drop off some more supplies for Pancake Day. The kids were in the middle of their practice TOEIC tests so I just quietly munched away on my lunch and worked on the lesson plan for the class at the Iconoclast's company. Later, I had a nice chat with the Songbird about her life and times at the school. She told me about some sort of tax receipt she had received from her ward office for some money that she was supposed to have received from one of her public schools. When she asked the mealy-mouthed assistant manager, she got some doubletalk about keeping things quiet. I think she's being shafted out of some money.

My class at the Iconoclast's company was good if tiring. Certainly, one of the two students who did show up was looking pretty spent. The Iconoclast and I did our usual dinner at Fufu. Yes, I admit that it's my second time there in as many days, but when the food is good and spicy there on such a cold day, I think I can be forgiven for risking a little monotony. And especially since two of my favourite restaurants have gone down the wayside, I need to appreciate those class acts.

Sunday, February 08, 2004

Sunday Feb. 8, 11:26 p.m.

Another chilly day today. I made another run for Pancake Day. I returned to th e Canada Centre in the Sunshine 60 Building. I couldn't believe that there was a jug of Dark Grade maple syrup for 2500 yen. I could've just been happy with a small bottle of the stuff but a jug was all they had. Plus, I picked up some maple popcorn and maple butter. Perhaps I'll buy some bread for the kids to spread the stuff on. I'm still waiting for those books I ordered from Amazon concerning sugaring off. I also picked up a package of DARE blueberry cream cheese cookies. Resistance is futile.

I met up with Chip Guy and family at Tsutaya in Shibuya. Apparently, there is some major construction going on around the Hachiko statue. It hasn't stopped the young ones from collecting around the dog but it's even more crowded there now, and I know that the Chipster hates personal congestion. The four of us (or should that be 3.5 of us) went to a pretty trendy Korean BBQ place called Toraji in the PARCO Department Store. I'd been there a few times before with Chip Guy and even with some of the students. Good stuff but it didn't come cheap. Afterwards, we dropped in at TGI Fridays down the street for some dessert. We each ordered a half-sized version of the Brownie Sundae. It was still plenty heavy for me.

Got home and did some ironing. After that, I checked my e-mail. One o f the messages was a response from the husband of one of my students at the school. He's a huge movie fan, and is especially a fan of Star Trek, The Matrix and Lord of the Rings. So I gave him a congenial Star Trek quiz composed of 10 questions. He didn't do too badly...he scored on six of them. There's potential for him.