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A Change is (Probably) Gonna Come

February 7th, 2013 No comments

My 29th birthday was this past Saturday, and it was a good one. It was pretty much the same group of people and the same routine as my return-to-Japan party. Kim and Enam, their friends Will and Mai, Stacy, Jack, and Jack’s friend John, and Atsushi. I didn’t ask for any presents but Atsushi actually bought a cake with “Happy Birthday, Kyle” written on it. Great guy.

We hung out at my place for a couple of hours as we waited for everyone to get there, then went out to eat at a very small and very Japanese restaurant two buildings down from me. The food was delicious and the servers were happy to have our business, but there were some regulars there who seemed bothered by the presence of a large group of foreigners and quickly left after we got there.

After dinner we went to Sound Plaza, the nearest karaoke bar and the same one we went to for my other party and, coincidentally, the same one my school used for the last enkai. We actually ended up in the very same room as the enkai. And for two or three hours it was just good old-fashioned drinking and singing, an activity I never thought I’d enjoy but which I’m enjoying more and more each time. I think my singing voice might be improving too, but it’s hard to tell when you’re intoxicated. But this time I didn’t go too overboard and the hangover the next morning was mild.

I hadn’t seen most of those people in months, not since the Christmas party, and I have no idea when I’ll see them next. I like them all and enjoy their company but I can’t honestly call any of them friends (“friend” in the German “freund”-sense and not the American “I have 286 Facebook friends”-sense). If I really loved any of them like I came to love Oliver and Lena, it would be harder to consider relocating.

But that’s what I expect will happen for the next school-year. Every year Interac has all of its employees fill out an “intentions survey” and makes placement decisions based on our responses. Last year I wrote that I wanted to keep the same contract and stay at this school for another year, and I was extremely glad when that request was granted. And as recently as a few months ago I expected to want to stay here for another year as well.

But over the course of the last few months a feeling has been growing in me that I could really use a change of pace. I’ve been teaching at the same school for almost two school-years now and if I stay another year, by the end I’ll have lived in Japan for nearly three years having only set foot in a single school. Most ALTs have experience in many different schools, often at different levels. I want more experiences too.

So when I took the survey a couple of weeks ago I wrote that I wouldn’t mind changing schools but I wouldn’t mind staying here either. But in the weeks since, my urge to have a change has grown much stronger and now it’s something I really desire. As much as I love this school, I feel I’ve been here long enough and it’s time to move on. And as much as I love Togane as a location in terms of its proximity to the ocean and to Tokyo, I’d like to get to know another part of Japan as well.

There are a few other factors contributing to this desire. For one, pretty much all of my favorite students are third-graders and they’ll be graduating in a few weeks anyway. The current second-graders have long since stopped appreciating me and I feel like most of them take me for granted. I make the lessons as fun as possible and they enjoy them, but it’s just routine for them at this point. Let them have someone else for their third year and maybe they’ll realize how good they had it. The first-graders this year have been fantastic, but kids change quickly and there’s every reason to expect that if I stayed another year they’d become just as apathetic towards me as the current second-graders are.

There’s also the simple fact that I’ve got all these great lessons but I can’t do them again for the same students. If I go to different schools I’ll get to do the lessons again for different students who’ll find them fresh and exciting. It would be awesome to go into a school full of students who’ve only ever had mediocre ALTs who never put much thought into lesson-preparation, let alone awesome game-designing. (By the way, I’ve designed my most epic game yet for the end of the school-year. Once I’ve done it a few more times I’ll have to write all about it.)

Of course there’s a risk that I’ll end up in one of those “human tape-recording” situations like some ALTs whom the JTEs never let do anything creative. I’ve been lucky to be in a situation where I can plan and execute all of my lessons under what is almost my complete control, but that’s definitely not the case for everyone. I’m just hoping that if I show my lesson-plans to whomever I end up working with, they’ll see how much thought I put behind it and how valuable it could be to have the students learn English in a way that’s fun for them.

Finally, what really tipped things towards my wanting to move is that O-sensei told me last week that she and her husband will be moving to Korea when this school-year is over. She’s been as perfect of a teaching-partner as I could possibly imagine, so that alone would be enough to keep me hesitant about leaving, but since she’s leaving anyway it doesn’t matter.

Today I wrote to the placement department and told them that now I definitely want to change schools next school-year and that I am willing to relocate. I expressed a preference for Tokyo (that would mean I could still easily come back and visit) but said I’d be willing to move anywhere and the most important thing to me was to have a change of some kind.

So that’s where things stand right now. If last year was any indication, I won’t know what the final decision is until the very end of the school-year, but I think there’s a strong chance my request will be granted and this school-year will be my last at this school. I’m sure there are plenty of teachers who would love to trade places with me, to have one school that they live within walking distance of instead of a bunch of different schools spread out all over the place. I know what it is I’m giving up, but I’ve had it long enough and I’ve certainly appreciated it while I’ve had it. There’s just so much more out there to be appreciated.

Another Year Older

February 4th, 2012 No comments

My birthday was this past Thursday, and while there was nothing particularly special or interesting about the day I might as well document what I did.

I’d invited about ten or twelve people out to dinner on Thursday evening at a place called Dohtonbori, the okinomiyaki restaurant near Ben’s apartment that a bunch of us ate together at a couple of months ago. Only a few people could make it, so it just turned out to be five of us: me, Ben, Fred, Jack and Lily.

Fred and I met Ben at his place an hour earlier to have a couple of beers, get caught up on the month-and-a-half it’s been since we’ve seen each other (the Christmas party was the last time), and shoot some darts on Ben’s new dart-board. I had some serious amateur’s luck, as I not only shot a perfect bull’s-eye on my very first throw, but I ended up winning the entire game of cut-throat.

At 7:00 we took the five-minute walk to the restaurant, got a table inside (one of those deals where you have to sit on the floor) and Jack and Lily arrived a few minutes later to join us. They were nice enough to bring me a present: a pen and an empty journal for me to write about my experiences. I appreciated the thought, but for someone who already writes about all his experiences by typing them up in an online journal (and who can type about 67 times faster than he can write), a paper journal is somewhat superfluous. But blank paper is never useless—it can be my next Japanese-writing-practice notebook.

What’s to say? The okinomiyaki was delicious and the conversation was fun and interesting. Jack and Lily are on a two-month semester break from college starting next week, and they’ll first be visiting Thailand followed by a month in Jack’s hometown of Boston. Ben lived in Thailand for six months so he gave them a bunch of useful tips. It sucks that I won’t see them again for a full two months, but I’m sure we’ll see a lot of each other when they get back.

When we parted ways after dinner I told both Ben and Fred that I hope another two months doesn’t go by before I see either of them again, and they said we’ll try to hang out more often.

But there’s plenty of socialization to come, starting with tonight. Trey, who couldn’t make it to dinner on Thursday, has invited me to a party one of his friends is throwing in the south of Chiba tonight. When I get off work (yes, my school was open on Saturday instead of Friday this week—welcome to Japan) he’s going to pick me up and drive us down there, where we will presumably be drinking and flirting with women, then spending the night and driving back tomorrow morning. I’m as apprehensive as ever about the flirting-aspect, but whatever happens it should be interesting.

In other news, I decided to spend the money required to join my Dad on his bi-annual sailing trip in the Caribbean this year. I was able to go four years ago as a Christmas/birthday present during my brief transition-phase from California to Germany, and it was pretty clear that that was the last time my parents were going to pay for me. I haven’t really been able to afford to pay my own way until this year. They’re covering my share of the boat-rental as a birthday present, but I have to pay for the flight and all the expenses while we’re down there. The flight is the real killer, but since this opportunity only comes once every two years and it’s unlikely I’ll be living anywhere closer to that part of the world in 2014, I figured I might as well go this year. It’ll be in the British Virgin Islands, which I haven’t been to in ten years (for my second trip, a graduation present in 2002) because the trip four years ago was in Antigua. I can’t express how excited I am to be able to go again, but suffice it to say I’m really looking forward to it. Plus, as an added bonus I’ll have a 16-hour stopover in Newark on both the flight over and back, which means I’ll get to spend those two nights at my parents’ home in Glen Gardner. It’ll be extremely weird to see my Mom for just a couple of nights and a week apart like that, but I’m looking forward to that too.

On the school-front, I’m back in the normal swing of things. The past two weeks have been pretty fun as it’s almost been exclusively full-class review games, including my personal favorite—Jeopardy—which never fails to get every last student involved and excited.

On turning 28, it has a bit more of a psychological impact than I’d expected. At 27 I was in my mid-twenties, but now I’m officially “pushing 30”. My youth is almost over. What the hell have I been doing all this time? Oh yeah—stuff I love.

Twenty-Seven

February 6th, 2011 No comments

The events of my birthday this past Wednesday just barely qualify as noteworthy, and I’ve been debating all week about whether or not to document them. So for the sake of my future self who might one day wonder what he did on his twenty-seventh birthday, here’s the gist:

Shortly after 6:00, Oliver and Lena arrived at your flat and you each had a beer or two while chatting for awhile. Amanda came by shortly afterwards and you got to see her for the first time in months, which was quite nice. After an hour or so you all went across the street to the Pfannkuchen Haus where you all ordered a delicious Pfannkuchen. You ate the “China Town” Pfannkuchen which of the three you’ve ever eaten there was easily the best.

Over the course of dinner the conversation drifted from topic to topic, and naturally there was much joking around and laughing thanks to Amanda’s presence. You also made sure to mention that you recently got a tax refund back from having submitted your 2009 tax-return (about a year late) in the amount of about €2,000. Between that and the money you presumed you would get from doing your 2010 tax-return, you can now afford to go to the one European city you’ve always wanted to go to but had thus far not been able: Rome. You asked any of them if they wanted to join you, and while Oliver and Lena expressed some interest it seemed quite clear that they won’t be joining you. You also asked Lena again to help set you up with a meeting with some of her communist friends to talk to them about possibly contributing to Revolution Earth, which you’re making an attempt to promote through a “Topic of the Month” which is currently “the ideal form of government” and which you believed would be perfect to get some communist contributions. She said she definitely would do that but you remained unsure.

At one point you went to the back room for a cigarette with Amanda and joked around about Japanese women. Amanda agreed that they would probably be perfect for you, as she already knew the kind of qualities that you find attractive. It was nice to joke around about that bullshit with someone who doesn’t judge [at least not to your face].

When the meal was finished Amanda got the waitress to bring everyone a free shot of Schnapps because it was your birthday, although the waitress seemed to have brought the cheapest stuff. It was a nice gesture anyway.

After that, everyone came back up to your flat for one last beer. Amanda left when she finished hers and after at least a solid hour and a half of enjoying their company, Oliver and Lena left as well. All in all it was a really enjoyable evening and you felt very good afterwards.

Of course the next morning you woke up at 5:30 and couldn’t get back to sleep thanks to your upstairs neighbors, so you forced yourself out of bed at 7:00 and underwent an entire day of lessons which went by with much more difficulty than usual. But you made it through and before you knew it, it was the weekend.

You probably remembered all of that, didn’t you? So this was completely unnecessary…

But in any case I wanted to write a journal entry today if only to let people know that I have once again been cut off from internet access. If I do get to post this today it’ll be from the Planeo office. I don’t know what the problem is. Maybe I missed another bill. Maybe I’ve been downloading too much and the Polizei are going to come and arrest me today. Maybe it’s just a temporary interruption of service and it’ll be back in a few hours. I don’t know. It’s Sunday and there’s nothing I can do about it today.

So if anyone other than my future self at a future date is reading this, just know that I might not have regular access to the internet for awhile. This comes at a perfect time, naturally, as Revolution Earth is just starting to finally generate some activity again and I just started advertising the site on Facebook yesterday. Naturally, now is the perfect time to prevent me from tending to it.

I don’t know why but I’m in a stupid mood. Life just feels stupid right now. I know that all things considered my life is actually pretty great. I’ve got plenty of money, plans to go to Japan and even Rome before that, a small but loyal group of friends spread across the world and a family that loves me, but man I don’t know…sometimes it all just seems rather pointless. At least I’m 27 now and not 17. I’m much closer to death—and when I get there maybe someone will finally tell me what the point was.

Birthday

February 4th, 2010 No comments

The day of my birthday was extremely cold and windy with snow falling at a slanted angle so it landed right in your face. I spent most of the day inside, cleaning up my flat for the sake of the company I’d be having later.

At 6:00 I called Amanda to find out when she and Oliver would be there, and found that they’d actually just come and rung my doorbell which doesn’t work so I didn’t hear. We were going to eat at the Pfannkuchen Haus right across the street, and when I called they had just gone inside and were about to call me. I threw on some shoes and jacket and went down to meet them in the restaurant five minutes later.

It was a nice evening. The meal was very enjoyable, and afterwards the three of us came back to my flat for another beer, a little smoking between me and Oliver and some light conversation while I played music from my laptop. When the music ended I asked them if they wanted to watch anything, and suggested they might like Eddie Izzard. So we watched the first thirty minutes of that until 9:00 when Amanda decided she wanted to go home. She’d been up since 4 in the morning and had to be at work the next morning at 7. Oliver left too so she could give him a ride. I was enjoying the company, something I haven’t had in my flat since Krissi was there, so I was a bit disappointed that they left so early, but I couldn’t mind too much. So now you get to be alone in your flat for the rest of the night—that’s what you enjoy most. I was surprised at how pleasant it was to have people over.

Anyway, it was nothing too special—just nice. The next day was Wednesday, which I now have completely free, and the weather couldn’t have been farther from the day before. The sun was shining, the temperature was a bit warmer, a nice breeze was blowing that almost felt like Springtime, though I know it’s only February and there’s a hell of a lot more winter left. But after spending the morning on the computer writing e-mails and responding to all the Facebook birthday messages I got, I went out to run some errands and followed that with a nice walk along the river.

I was feeling pretty good overall. Hearing from a whole bunch of people on Facebook that I haven’t heard from in awhile thanks to my birthday was quite nice and gave me a pleasant feeling like maybe I’m not so alone after all. And the sun shining down, blazing shadows of the leafless trees over the white snow along the river was just absolutely beautiful. The path was covered in ice but it was melting slightly, so it almost felt like walking on water. As I was walking I was thinking, I actually really like winter. Summer has its obvious advantages, but there’s just no substitute for the snow, the beautiful patterns of the leafless trees, and the fact that the texture of the ground changes from day to day due to the temperature and length of time since the last snowfall.

But the good feeling from yesterday afternoon was wiped away by some problems of my friend that I’ve been reluctantly yet willingly getting involved with and which I had to dive right back into when I got home, and this morning I woke up feeling extremely low for reasons which may or may not relate to that. I’m half-way through my work day now, typing this on my laptop as I wait for my next class to begin, and I just can’t wait to get home and vegetate again.

Because it was my birthday and everything I felt the need to document this. But clearly it’s a mostly pointless entry and I’ll thank myself for cutting it short now before adding any other pointless details.

But I will mention one other thing—while I don’t feel much of a difference between 25 and 26 per se, there does seem to be a difference between being a 25-year-old virgin and a 26-year-old virgin. I’ve now lived one sexless year for every letter of the alphabet. 14 more years and I’ll be a phenomenon curious enough to make a comedy movie out of. This day and age, there’s definitely something wrong with someone who goes this long without ever having sex. Back in the old days most humans didn’t even live past the age of 26.

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