Signe and I have been keeping busy for the last few months. The biggest news is that she has quit her part-time job teaching at Miyoshi High School to seek other employment. Currently she is down in Yamaguchi prefecture teaching kindergarten and elementary school students in a private school until the 12th. We came really close to having Signe move down there for the year, but it is over 2 hours and a $40 toll road away, making it hard to get together often, so ultimately we decided against it. She has her eyes set on some ALT-like positions closer by which should open up in the upcoming months.
In other Signe-related news, she has recently gotten interested in sewing. She bought some patterns and a nice sewing machine and has already made one great looking outfit. Being in a country that gives you no options to buy new clothes if you are greater than a size 0 can be quite annoying after a few years.
As is true with most teaching jobs, but especially the JET Programme, summer is a very slow time. I get to work, sit at my desk for many hours and go home. Throughout the long months I have developed a routine to keep me sane. Currently I am aspiring to take the US Foreign Service Written Exam in April. Unfortunately, my knowledge of US and World history, politics, management, etc. is painfully lacking, so I have decided to study various subjects at work. I started with the US Constitution, which I wrote out in it's entirety by hand, adding notes after each clause. Including the Amendments (and the 6 un-ratified, but passed by Congress, Amendments) the work took 44 pages to complete. I am currently studying the US Presidents, writing about 1 1/2 pages per President. I am on number 13 right now. After I complete the Presidents, I intend to expand my knowledge of the countries of the world by studying the CIA World Factbook. but, that is not the only thing I study each day, I am also studying management. I aspire to become a Management Officer in the Foreign Service, they are the people always in the background making sure everything runs smoothly at US Embassies. From my work and conventions, and my experience with both very good and very bad management styles, I have grown quite a desire to become a good and competent manager of people and resources.
I was studying these things exclusively for about a month, when I got a packet in the mail about an upcoming Japanese self-study course I wanted to take. To get into this high-level course one must take a qualifying test. Feeling good in my Japanese skill level, I tried it and failed miserably. That rather embarrassing incident had inspired me to refocus on Japanese studies as well. So now, I focus a part of my study day on Japanese study as well. I have many books that are useful, the one I am currently using is a book full of upper-level Japanese expressions by ALC Press called _donna toki dou tsukau nihongo hyougen bunkei 500 - 500 Essential Japanese Expressions: A Guide to Correct Usage of Key Sentence Patterns_ (ISBN4-87234-589-4). The examples are easy to understand and the book is a good resource for intermediate to advanced level students. You really can't go wrong with the ALC line of Japanese study books. In fact, the book I use to produce "Today's Kanji" on my daily journal at http://trevmex.livejournal.com/ is another ALC Press book called _nihongo nouryoku shiken kanji handobukku - Kanji Power Handbook for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test_ (ISBN4-87234-314-X). It has kanji separated into various levels for easy kanji study.
Another thing that I do daily is listen to and read news sites on the Internet like NWPR at http://www.nwpr.org/ , The Economist at http://www.economist.com/ , Foreign Policy at http://www.foreignpolicy.com/ , and the New York Times at http://www.nytimes.com/ . Although admittedly I do not read all the articles, just the current news bits.
I was doing all this for a while and I realized that I was neglecting my Lyrics Worksheet that I worked so hard to create using AJAX principles at http://www.trevreport.org/lyrics/ , so I resolved to add new songs each day as well. I am almost finished with _The Beatles CD Singles Collection_ and I will start on The Carpenters soon, not because I like The Carpenters, but because the songs are easy to understand, and are useful in the classroom.
Finally I write in my journal in Japanese everyday and show it to my coworker Ms. Mishima, who corrects my Japanese for me, and I enter it into my Blog Autoformatter at http://www.trevreport.org/blogForm.shtml which, when submitted, sends my well-formatted entire to both my LiveJournal account at http://trevmex.livejournal.com/ and my Blogger account at http://www.trevreport.org/blog/ and sends pings out updating services through http://www.pingomatic.com/ .
That is my basic summer workday, although as you might expect each day varies slightly, and I usually alternate priorities to make sure each subject gets equal amounts of my time dedicated to it. It is helpful to have a plan like this for me to alleviate boredom in these long hot summer days.
Trev's Cave Fun
Recently on a trip to Yamaguchi to visit Signe's current employer, we stopped at a place famous to Japanese, but little know to westerners called Akiyoshidai. Akiyoshidai is a huge grass plains land in the middle of Yamaguchi prefecture that was formed by coral reefs a long time ago. The coral has corroded and slowly formed beautiful limestone caves under the plains that are amazing to see. The biggest of these caves, Shuhodo, is the third largest limestone cave in the world and a marvel to see. There are many great caves to explore in the area though. Our favorite was called Kagekyodo in the town of Mito. It is a much smaller cave deep with water in spots, but quite an adventure to explore. Shuhodo is a big tourist attraction, so the crowds are large, but the lesser known Kagekyodo doesn't get the business of the larger cave and they let you really explore it. For a small fee you can get hard hats and a flashlight and got exploring deep into the cave which at time had enough water to reach up to your waist. On top of that about halfway through the cave the water gets so deep that they stop providing lights to the cave so you have to explore in the dark with only your flashlight as a guide. It truly feels like an adventure!
Caves aren't the only thing to see at Akiyoshidai, they also have a wild animal park called Safari land that resembles the San Diego Wild Animal Park and the Olympic Game Reserve. We got to drive in our car and see elephants, tigers, lions, and bears roam freely around us. It was a wonderful experience, we even got to pet a baby elephant! The youth hostel is inexpensive and one of the nicest I have ever stayed in. If you are looking for a great long weekend mini-break I would highly recommend going to Akiyoshidai.
Trev's New JET Friends
With August comes the parting of good friends, the closest to us to leave was Rebecca Butt from the UK, who we will miss dearly, but with any luck will see again when we next visit England.
This time also brings a lot of new friends. In the town adjacent to mine, Unnan, many new faces have appeared and for the last two weekends I have been spending a lot of time with them. Last weekend we explored the waterfalls of the Unnan area with our new friends. The Unnan area is host to many beautiful waterfalls and we had a great time showing them all around.
This weekend was the big adventure though. It all started Friday afternoon, when I left work early to go with my friend Matt Bruno to go swimming in a nearby waterfalls. After many wild adventures and many more wild bug bites, we went to an Unnan welcome party and Kristin's, one of the new CIRs, house. There we met the whole Unnan gang and had a great time late into the night. At the end of the night I took Matt and two new ALTs, Kate from the UK, and Sarah from the US, back to my place for the night. The next morning the four of us drove down to Hiroshima to observe the 60th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. We met up with some other JETs from Shimane there as well, and after visiting the Peace museum and going on a peace walk with Chris Madden, another Shimane JET, we all headed off the the famed Okanomimura Japanese Restaurant for Hiroshima's famous cuisine, Okanomiyaki. Okanomiyaki is sort of a savory Japanese pancake, and the Hiroshima style versions ofter has a layer of noodles in the middle of it. There are many different styles of Okanomiyaki, but the most famous are Hiroshima and Osaka styles. The Osaka style is thicker and lacks noodles in the middle.
That night we gathered around the Hiroshima River to watch the thousands of paper lanterns with wishes of peace written on then float down the river accompanied by live music and a crowd of thousands. It was a great experience.
We soon headed back to my place for the night and the next day Matt and I introduced Kate and Sarah to The Settlers of Catan board game that Signe and I love so much. Then in the afternoon we headed off down to Unnan to get ready for the annual fireworks festival in the capital of Shimane, Matsue. All the girls dressed up in Yukata, a semi-formal Japanese summer robe, and some of the guys dressed in Jinbei, a short-sleeved traditional Japanese outfit, and we headed off to the capital. When we got there we got some food at the local department store, Saty, and headed off to Lake Shinji to see the show. When we got there we met up with the new JETs in the Matsue area and had a good time socializing and watching the hour-long fireworks display.
All and all it was a great weekend and I am really glad that I got a chance to get to know a lot of the new JETs in my local area. In the upcoming months I hope to meet up with them a lot more and introduce them all to Signe as well. I have a feeling that we will all have a grand time this year.
I have rediscovered the wonder that is Stepmania. Stepmania is a free PC program that simulates Dance Dance Revolution. I had been looking desperately for new DDR games for my PlayStation but to no avail. Then I recalled this simulator for the PC and soon loaded it up with hundreds of songs and ordered an adapter for my dance pads so they would interact with the PC program. When it got here it worked great and now we have a large selection of songs to play.
The other main thing I do on my computer is listen to radio programs on NPR, which Signe and I have become quite addicted to, with shows like "This American Life," "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me!," and "Car Talk." We are often listening to the radio online.
Besides NPR, Signe and I have been using the power of BitTorrent to watch weekly TV Shows in the US. The new seasons of Stargate SG-1, Stargate Atlantis, Battlestar Galactica, and The 4400 have started and we are keeping up with them, and when the new seasons of Desperate Housewives and Lost start, we will be following them too. I am a sucker for a good TV show, and these days there seems to be a few pretty good ones out there on the US small screen. BitTorrent is a great device to get TV Shows from the US, especially if you like to participate in nerdy online discussions about said shows. :)
One thing that I have been trying hard to do recently is exercise. It all started a few months back when I was at a hardware supply store with Signe and bought a 5 kg (about 11 lbs.) dumbbell. Signe said I would never use it and as a challenge to myself I started using it everyday after I got home. After a few weeks of this I realized that it might be good to exercise other parts of my body too, so I took up doing abdomen and oblique crunches after using my dumbbell. After a few more weeks I realized that all my work was anaerobic, so it was improving my muscles, but not doing much to burn up all that energy I was eating in, that is when I looked into Stepmania and took to playing DDR 30 minutes a day a well with the hope that I can improve my energy intake to energy output ratio, and thus lose some weight. I don't know if it will work or not, but it certainly feels good to have a routine and work out some when I get home.
Trev's Movies and Books
Signe and I watched a lot of the big summer movies as they came out here in Japan in the big theaters. Episode III was fun, and we both really likes Batman Begins a lot. War of the Worlds was worth watching too.
On the book front I am still working on the Night's Dawn Trilogy by Peter F. Hamilton, and I am over halfway through the 2nd book, The Neutronium Alchemist. Signe just got Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and I am sure she is done with it by now. After I finish reading these books I am going to sit down and reread all the Harry Potter books again, and read the 5th and 6th ones for the first time.
As for non-fiction I have been getting though America: The Book by John Steward and the Daily Show Writers, and I find it very funny and informational. I am also reading Inside the U.S. Embassy, which is a book about all the different jobs that go on within a US Embassy.
Trev's One Point Japanese Lesson
So you want to learn Japanese, huh? That's great! How about looking into some adjectives!
There are two types of adjectives in Japanese. "i-adjectives" and "na-adjectives," or Nounal Adjectives. Let's look at the first type again.
i-adjectives are called that because they all end in "i." For example:
utsukushi-i - beautiful
tanoshi-i - fun
ooki-i - big
omoshiro-i - interesting
To conjugate these i-adjectives into the negative past tense is really easy! All you have to do is change the "i" into "kunakatta:"
utsukushi-kunakatta - was not beautiful
tanoshi-kunakatta - was not fun
ooki-kunakatta - was not big
Can you guess what the negative form of omoshiro-i is?
Until next time, keep studying and work hard!
Well that is about it from the desk of Mr. Lalish-Menagh for this month. It was a long one this time, but I hope you all enjoyed it. As always, I love hearing from you, so feel free to drop me a line anytime. Until next time, take care!