So I've been teaching for a full week, now. Well, that's not entirely true, since a good chunk of my lessons last week (actually, all of the ones in the junior high school) consisted simply of a self-introduction presentation, which itself is composed of over a hundred pictures that describe some aspect of my background: where I'm from, where I was born, where I went to school, what my college town looks like, what my hobbies are, what I like to eat; easy stuff. The difficult classes have been in the elementary schools; one class in particular is very unenthusiastic. I've been told that they're quite a smart class; I reckon it's their smarts that is creating this lack of motivation. Hopefully I'll come up with something to get them to be more 元気 "genki" (energetic).
I came across a HILARIOUS video today; actually, a friend of mine, who is also a JET ALT, posted it on her facebook wall. The video contains audio from a book series called 英語ノート "Eigo Noto," which is the text book series that is used to teach English to elementary school students. Anyway, this video takes the audio from various lessons and remixes it a bit with the theme of male-female relationships (Read: How to pick up women). Really hilarious. Here it is:
Ah, so, before I watched that video, I actually had quite a bit of stuff in my head that I wanted to post about! But I laughed so hard that those thoughts fell out of my head. So! That means I'll treat you to another video. But this one is not funny at all. No. Instead, it is beautiful. I'll post it here, but I recommend going to the actual website to view it in HD and full screen.
I don't recall if I mentioned this in a previous post, but here is another important difference between Japan and the US: in the US, there is a janitor (or team of them) to clean up the entire school grounds. In Japan, there are none. At best, there is a mechanic or handyman, but he is not expected to clean up the classrooms or hallways. Nope. Who then? The students! Haha!
Is it wrong of me to laugh? Well, I suppose it's not technically funny; at least, not until you see the looks on their faces when you tell them that in the US, students don't have to clean the classrooms. It's fascinating, really. Oh, and there is no cafeteria. The students all eat in their classrooms; and again, they are responsible for bringing the crates and boxes of food into the classrooms to serve to their classmates. I can see that Japan makes sure to teach the kids how to be active members in society at an early age. I think it's great for them! If only the brats in the US were made to serve and clean, too, maybe we wouldn't have so many problems with laziness. Or obesity! Anyway, I digress...
I was shown how to fill up my gas tank today. And not just going to the Full Serve and saying "Regular Mantan Onegaishimasu" (which has them fill up your tank with "regular" octane gasoline). I'm talkin', goin' to the Self Serve gas station, hitting buttons with kanji on the screen, paying by cash, and pumping the gas myself. I'm happy to have been able to learn that. Now, the reason I learned to fill up my tank today wasn't just because my tank is only 1/4th full, but also because I was doing some Dimensional Analysis today (it must have been all the Breaking Bad that I've been watching that made me want to do it, haha).
What, may you ask, is Dimensional Analysis? Well, it is the branch (or merely, aspect) of science and math that is used for unit conversion. It's one of the simplest, and yet one of the most important, basic lessons of science. Failure to properly convert units can lead to disastrous results.
Anyway, the Dimensional Analysis I did today was about trying to figure out the cost of gasoline here in Japan (which is in Yen per Liter) and converting it into the units we use in the US (Dollars per Gallon). I knew the gas here was more expensive; I just wanted to know how much.
So, using my recently acquired iPhone, unit conversion apps, and exchange rates, I quickly wrote down this formula:
(Current price in the US in $/G) divided by (volume conversion factor in liters per gallon) times (exchange rate in Y/$)
The formula leads to a conversion of US prices into Yen per Liter. Substituting the current price (at the time) of $2.57/gallon in Pennslyvania, I got 57.16 Yen/L.
Hmm, 57.16...WOW. That's CHEAP. At least, compared to the price I saw at the pump today! The price at the pump was 125 Yen/L!!! That's more than double the cost!!! In fact, using the conversion factor I calculated (22.24203522 ¥gal/$L), it comes out to $5.62/gallon! DAMN THAT'S EXPENSIVE!!! Gas is 2.2 times more expensive in Japan than the US!!! Blows my mind.
Also, seeing that I filled up about 3/4th of my tank today, and seeing that the price was only about 2000 Yen, I can guesstimate that my tank is only about 21 liters, or five and a half gallons. Crazy small! My dinky little sedan back in the US was only 13 gallons, and it was a compact (or sub-compact) car. Well, I guess with an engine size of less than 600 cc's, I don't need to worry about using too much gasoline in the first place.
Lastly, I'd like to say that I've been keeping an eye on the US-Japan exchange rate pretty closely for the past few months. And just now, I saw it finally plummet to below 84 yen/dollar. It's currently 83.89262, according to the MSN Money desktop gadget. That's soooooooo baaaaaaaaaaad! Just three years ago it was around 123. That means Americans could go to Japan and feel slightly wealthier. Currently, the opposite is true. That's great news for me because I'm making money over here! But terrible news for people just arriving (girlfriend, other friends) or people who want to visit me (family, friends). Check out this 10-year chart on XE.com for more numbers. (In 2002 it was 134!!! I wish I went to Japan back then!!!)
Word of the day: 満タン [まんたん」 "mantan," or "full tank." Literally.