Thursday, December 27, 2012

The end of the world?

So when was "2012" supposed to "happen?" Some say 12/21/2012. But maybe it'll happen when 2012 ends? Let's hope not, 'cause I still have a lot of things to take care of!

So, despite it being December, I haven't had very many (physical) gifts lately, despite both my birthday and Christmas having just passed. But it's okay, as I happen to own 90+% of the things I want to own, and I've received plenty of blessings, love, friendship, and a lot of other non-physical gifts.

One of the gifts I got though, was (were) this (these):

Can the biggest head eat the rest?

They're called 達磨 「だるま」 "Daruma" dolls. They're made of hollow wood, and these particular ones fit inside a bigger one not unlike Russian Matryoshka dolls. As you can see, the faces on the dolls have eyes which don't have pupils. It's my job as the owner to fill in one eye with a pupil to signify a goal. Once the goal is accomplished, I'm allowed to "open the other eye" by drawing a pupil in the other eye. There are four dolls (the fifth one is a small egg with 福 「ふく」 "huku," or "luck" on it), so that means I can assign four of my many goals. Surely, at least one will be medical-school-related.

I've been reviewing for the MCAT, and finally I made a structured daily study plan to motivate me. This is probably the most excited I've ever been for studying. Maybe I can assign "levels" to each section and turn it into a real life RPG. Gotta level up!

Reading the material brings back nostalgic memories of studying the same topics in college and high school. Studying with my friends, teaching my classmates the material, and the feeling of satisfaction after acing a difficult exam. Natsukashii ne.

It has been snowing quite heavily! Snow was DUMPED on Miyagi Prefecture. After two days of snow, everything is white outside. Yesterday in particular was pretty scary due to strong winds managing to cover tracks left only minutes earlier. Here's my car:

Like a prehistoric beast buried in the snow

Yeah, so, pretty snowy. It doesn't look all that bad in the picture, but there was about 5 inches of snow on the car.

Japan doesn't recognize Christmas as a federal/national holiday, so I had to go to work. It's the first time I've ever worked on Christmas, and I gotta say, it's not a good feeling. But I was probably more sad about having to work on Christmas the weekend before while anticipating it. On the day of, I spent it studying for the MCAT at work, then going home and watching Avatar: The Last Airbender, playing some video games, and reading Initial D manga. Good times!

As the year is winding to an end, an opportunity to visit the crossroads again appears. Regardless of my choice to stay in Japan for a fourth year, I am doing everything I can to prepare for my application to medical school, which will occur in the summer of 2013. That's why I've been studying so much! Speaking of which, time to hit the books.

Everyone, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year!

Word of the day: 懐かしい 「なつかしい」 "natsukashii," or "nostalgic."

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Blogger App?!

I got the Blogger App!!! It hasn't been updated yet (why is Google so slow?!), but I guess I shouldn't be the one to talk.

I keep promising to post pictures of this or that, and after all, that's what makes posts fun to read!

Anyway, happy December! I am a year older and many years wiser. Oh my lord this app is so poorly made. The text box is awful! It doesn't scroll?!? Okay there we go. But the stupid keyboard icon is in the way. Sigh, Google, what are you doing?

So I've been studying for the MCAT. Yes, again. I do believe I'll do better this time around, provided I have ample time to prepare for it. I hope there are more testing times in Japan than just January 2013.

Speaking of Japan, I have been asked to again renew my contract! There are pros and cons to this. I think the pros outweigh the cons. Probably. I say this because I have med school in the future at a specific date and it coincides well with finishing my 4th year here.

Also, should I start a vlog in lieu of this blog? Or perhaps in addition to?

I hear that it's nigh impossible to find a job in the States, so financially I am probably better off keeping my job here in Japan for one last hurrah before going to med school. If I can't get into med school then I'll look into creating the "next big thing." Hah!

Lastly, I have been looking to get new winter tires. Unfortunately they only last so many years (3?) and mine are 6 years old! Plus, I'm back to using kerosene heaters and the sun sets really early. Stupid winter. I used to love you.

Word of the day: 冬 「ふゆ」 "fuyu", or "winter."

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Holy crap it's October

OMG! I hadn't posted anything since August! Shame on me!

I typed something up and thought that it had been published, but I guess it never went through. Oh well, I might as well start from scratch.

It's mid-October, and as usual, I've been super busy! Tomorrow, there is a big ALT meeting in Sendai, so I've been reading some interesting articles written by "activist" Debito Arudou. I would post them online here, but you all can use google... okay, here is one of the articles.

And interesting comments/responses to it:

I won't talk too much about it. Actually, I post stuff after tomorrow's meeting, where we will discuss various Arudou articles.

This weekend is the School Festival at the Jr. High. The students and teachers have been super busy as well, preparing for this big event. A year ago, after watching the festival, I wanted to participate in this year's. But not having had enough time to prepare, and due to meetings and such interfering with important rehearsal times, I decided to scrap that idea. It's too bad, because there are quite a few things I've considered doing, including, but not limited to: karate demonstration (kata, exhibition, board breaking, etc.), a hip-hop routine (or being part of students' routines), playing/singing a song with my guitar. Oh well. Maybe next year?

Speaking of which, I've been stressing out about next year. I am beginning to prepare to apply to med school for matriculation in 2014. But that leaves the Aug 2013 - July 2014 year "free" for me to plan. And that involves many, many options, especially regarding in which country I would reside (and where/how). That deserves its own post, which will happen in the near future.

When I can, I have been keeping in touch with my best friend and my bro through Resident Evil 6 and Tekken Tag Tournament 2, respectively, both of which were released recently for the PS3. Forest Law, I'm glad to see you're back. Same with you, Leon Kennedy. And Miharu Hirano. Nice.

Halloween is coming up and I need a costume for the party I'm planning! I've been a ninja before, but not in Japan...and I can actually get ninja stuff here...hmm...

Word of the Day: 傘 「かさ」 "kasa," or, "umbrella."

Sunday, August 12, 2012

PI Vacay

I'm in the Philippines! Unfortunately, it's the last day of my two week adventure here. Time to enjoy! Updates soon.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012


HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY!!! アメリカ独立記念日おめでとう!!!

Word of the Day: 独立記念日、「どくりつきねんび」、"dokuritsukinenbi," or literally "independence memorial day."

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


I went to another concert last week! Monkey Majik!!! I mentioned them in an earlier post when I saw them on stage at a same event as AI, Nishino Kana, and Naota Somethingsomething. Anyway, great concert! I knew all but 4 or 5 of the songs (out of a total of about 20). They played my favorites like Change, Together, ただ、ありがとう, fly, Around the World, Headlight, and others. Fantastic. I ended up buying a towel and three CDs. I’ve become a 大ファン (big fan)! Unfortunately, it will be their last concert in Zepp Sendai, as the building (and that whole area) will be demolished and renovated (or something). And their next concert in Sendai is sold out, so I definitely won’t be seeing them for a while. Still, though, I’m happy to have been able to do so.

This past weekend was cool, too. I was an extra in a movie! The movie is called じんじん “Jin Jin,” and is being filmed in Matsushima. It’s apparently the first movie to have been filmed there since the Earthquake and Tsunami disaster last year. I don’t know what the movie is about, but from what I could tell, one of the main characters is either an actor or a stage performer. In the scene I’m in, the actor is on stage and telling some folk tale or other story while we in the audience are laughing boisterously. The camera panned across the audience and stopped when my friend and I are in the center of the shot. It’ll be funny to see myself in a movie theater when it comes out next summer. My friends and I also provided canned laughter. That’s amusing.

I FINALLY started watching Firefly! A friend of mine (who reads this blog; thank you!) recommended it to me years ago. Anyway, I’m watching it with two other friends, now. Very fun. I love the female characters; they’re all so unique and so amazing. I’m trying to juggle it with Game of Thrones, which I just started watching after having caught up with The Walking Dead. The fifth season of Breaking Bad will start next month; really looking forward to that. On the anime/manga front, I need to catch up on Naruto episodes and get on with Full Metal Alchemist. And my brother suggested reading the Walking Dead comics. Too much to watch/read, not enough time!

Lastly, it’s story time! It’s been a while since I’ve shared a story with you all. I found this in a Jr. High 3rd Year English textbook called “One World.” I wonder if it was written for the ALTs or to improve student-ALT relations. Either way, I wish something like this was present in every English textbook.

On Your Graduation Day
     You all have a big future ahead of you.  My message on this special day is this:  Take your time before you make a judgment.
     Before I came to Japan, people gave me some advice.  Some people in my country said, “Japanese people are very shy.”  Others said, “Japanese people will never open their minds to a non-Japanese person.”
     Soon I started to think those pieces of advice were more or less true.  Of course, you greeted me every morning, but when I asked you a question in class, often no one said anything.  “Japanese students really think silence is golden!” I said to myself.
     A few weeks passed, and you still were silent in class.  I started to have a different idea.  “Maybe they are not shy.  They are just not interested in me.  They are just not interested in English at all!”  This thought depressed me.
     Then we had a school trip to Kamakura.  While we were walking, Aya told me a secret.  At lunchtime Kenta gave me some su-kombu.  He said it was “Japanese chewing gum.”  After that everyone wanted to bring me something Japanese, and you were talking to me in English!
     That was the turning point.  You started to talk to me in class, too, after that.  It made me very happy.  You’re not shy at all; you’re talkative!  At the same time, you have things you want to say.
     When you were silent in class, I wondered about it.  “Maybe they don’t want to talk.”  “Maybe they are not interested in the topic.”  “Maybe they don’t understand me.”  “Maybe they know the answer but don’t know how to say it in English.”
     Also, I was confused when I asked a question and you would turn to your friends and talk to them.  “I am talking to you.  Why don’t you talk to me, not to your friend?” I wanted to say.
     I’m happy now because I didn’t judge too quickly.  You have become students who can try to say something.  I’m happy that you’re trying to communicate with me.  That’s the important thing.  Don’t worry about making mistakes.  Making mistakes helps you make progress.
     Some people make judgments right away.  When they discover that I’m from Australia, they are sure that I am always late.  However, that’s not true.  I am an Australian, but I worry about being late.  I come to school at least thirty minutes before it starts.  I think it depends on the person.
     In conclusion, I believe it’s important not to make judgments about other people too soon.  I am glad I didn’t, because you proved that people’s advice can be wrong.  Now I want each of you to be a person who can respect others without prejudice.  Prejudice is caused by premature judgment.  I hope you’ll be able to enjoy communicating in English with someone different from you.  We are, after all, people living together in one world.

Word of the Day: 話 「はなし」 "hanashi," which means "story."

Thursday, June 21, 2012


This week has been fun and busy. Busy, but fun. Last weekend was Father's Day, celebrated in dozens of countries. Happy Father's Day, to those of you whom it matters! Like my brother, for example; his first Father's Day! Why isn't there an Uncle's Day? I wanna be celebrated, too! Haha. (My niece is adorable!)

As I mentioned earlier, I am now the co-president of an organization here in Japan. The committee and I have been working hard to plan and coordinate events that are coming up very soon. There was a big hullabaloo about it earlier because someone had suggested a new location, and all of a sudden, out of laziness, everyone (including me) were saying, "alright...yeah...sure..." It seemed like the event was completely decided without even discussing it. So once we started discussing it with people outside of the group (potential attendees), everyone was turning it down. And it made me think, "hold up, we never thought it through in the first place. Why are we going for this place anyway; whatever happened to the original plan?" Anyway, just all the discussion tires me out.

Played some more SFXT yesterday; since I leveled up to C+, I have been facing harder and harder opponents. So tough, in fact, that I had a net loss in BP yesterday (dammit!) and I'm actually now below the number of points necessary to level up to C+. Sigh.

Okay, so my biggest rant has to do with boxing. I finally got around to watching Manny Pacquaio's latest match, against undefeated champion, Timothy Bradley. Watching the match, it was clear as day that Bradley had no chance against Pacquaio. Manny was stronger, faster, dodged more/better, and got way more hits in than Bradley. I was expecting Manny to knock out Bradley; he had lots of chances, but he's just too damn nice. The way the rounds went were as follows:

Round starts. The boxers get close. Bradley tries to attack; Manny either blocks or dodges. With one minute left in the round, Manny switches from defense to offense and starts pummeling Bradley, getting tons of hits in while still managing to dodge Bradley's retaliations. This is how the fight basically went. This same sort of pattern for 12 rounds. I was really expecting Manny to turn up the heat and knock Bradley out. I really wish he did.

Finally, it's decision time. First judge scores it 115-113, Pacquiao. Second judge scores it 115-113, Bradley (wtf, really?). Third judge scores it 115-113, Bradley. And he was named the new WBO Welterweight champion. Everyone was shocked. Harold Lederman, a celebrated boxing judge and analyst who always comments on the fights as they happen, was shocked. He scored it 119-110, in favor of Manny. ESPN, CNN, Associated Press, Yahoo, and many other sports and news outlets judged the fight themselves, and all have given it in favor of Manny.

What a controversy. Even Bradley didn't think he won. The look on his face when they announced his win was complete surprise. Kinda like, "Man, what a loss. Oh well, I tried my best. Wait wuuuuuuuuuuuut??? I won???" I'm sure that went through his head, verbatim. Manny was asked after the fight if he thought he won. He said, "Yes, absolutely." I completely agree.

The judging was such a controversy that the president of WBO asked five world-renowned judges from around the world to watch the match and judge it for themselves. All five judged in favor of Pacquiao.

The three judges used at the night of the fight were all from Nevada, hired by the state commission. If they were the same judges who judged Pacquiao's last much, which was against Juan Manuel Márquez, I wouldn't be surprised. I think that Pacquiao should not have been given the "win" on that fight. If the three judges are the same, then maybe they were trying to make up for their mistake in their past judgment call? If they are the same, then this confirms their blindness, as they misjudged two times in a row.

I have no doubt in my mind who really won that match. I think they're planning on scheduling a rematch this November. I will try to make weight for that fight, too (boxing welterweight is a 147 lb. weigh-in). It just pisses me off that Manny's win streak has been tainted because of poor judgment.

The exact same thing happened to a good friend and martial arts training buddy of mine. He was part of our dojo's kickboxing team, and he partook in a boxing match. He was beating the other kid down pretty bad. It was a sure win. So he let up on the last round (or two?), only to have the judges give it to the other guy.

Stupid judges.



Word of the day: 盲目 「もうもく」 "moumoku," or "blindness;" literally "blind eye." The first kanji, 盲, can also be pronounced めくら "mekura", which means "blind," "blindness," or "blind person," but I believe it is more commonly used in conjunction with another kanji. 盲人 (moujin) would be "blind person," where the second kanji literally means "person."

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


Wow, what a weekend. I don’t even remember everything that happened. What the hell did I do on Friday? I’m 80% sure I stayed home and relaxed…it was an incredibly long week, and I needed to just sit and *chill.* I spent some time playing Street Fighter X Tekken, which is easily becoming one of my favorite fighting games, for the sheer fun (and competition!) it provides.

Gonna go on a video game side tangent right now. Feel free to skip this paragraph if you have no interest in SFXT or fighting games. So, there is an online ranking system in which you (as the player) are given Battle Points (BP) after you win a battle, and you lose BP when you lose a battle. You start at D rank; next is D+, then C, then C+, and so on. I’ve only ever seen up to B+, even on videos online. I assume it goes up to A+; maybe even higher for tournament champions. Tekken has a similar system, but rather than a letter grade, it gives a title, such as “Destroyer” or “Shihan,” for example. Anyway, I’ve been playing it a lot this past week, and I manage to rack up 2000 BP (YAY!) which puts me closer to C+. I notice that when I battle people B Rank and up, they beat me. Not necessarily “easily;” I certainly give a good fight, but most of the time, they win. Watching videos online and simply facing more skilled opponents has improved my game a lot. But I find that my losses are due to either a slipup of the controls, or my lack of knowledge of opponents’ techniques and strategies. If I spent as much time learning the ins and outs of SFXT like I did with Tekken Tag and Tekken 4, back in the day, I would probably be a B Rank in no time. In case you were curious, my main team is composed of Ryu and Kazuya; not combo-heavy characters, but hard hitting. Kind of like how I fight, actually. When I first picked up Kazuya, it was pretty amazing learning his move set and abilities. He’s incredibly fun to play, and very different from Ryu. So much so, that I was in a bit of Ryu funk, and used mostly Kazuya when I played. It seemed like Ryu was underpowered all of a sudden, his lack of a “bounce” move, and having only one crappy mid attack made me want to use him even less. But luckily, I spent time in the Training room, and learned a few new tricks with both Ryu and Kazuya, learning some decent team combos and strats. Ah, love this game. Gotta play some tonight after doing karate.

So what did I do on Friday? Oh! I remember now! I went to a Sri Lanka/Italian restaurant! The guy who owns it actually had a different one last year, but had to ditch it and move to Osaka due to the big earthquake. But he missed the area, so he came back! I had Guinness, gnocchi, Brazilian sausage with beans, and Baileys. Good times.

On Saturday, I went out with an old friend I hadn't seen in a while and a former co-worker I hadn't hung out with in a while. We went to an all-you-can-eat barbeque place. DELISH.

And on Sunday, I went to my friend's house 'cause she and her family were holding a barbeque. YES! MORE MEAT! I hadn't had ribs in a while; yum. There was also mashed potatoes, bacon gravy (crazy right?), grilled clams, tira misu, a chocolate cake, yakitori, various cheeses, and other things I'm sure I'm forgetting. Unfortunately, I couldn't enjoy their various wines, beers, and home-made plum wine, because I drove there. But her dad and I got into many discussions about sports cars (he owns a Nissan Fairlady Z), motorcycles, and touring around Japan. My buddy was also there, and we discussed plans for an organization I'm in (he was a former co-president, and I'm a new co-president). Yes, my life will continue to be busy.

I feel so fat.

Word of the Day: デブ 「でぶ」 "debu," which means "fat" or "chubbie." It's often used as a derogatory term to make fun of or insult someone. "You fattie!" That kinda thing.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Lazy Update

I met one of the local "bosses" (whatever that means!) at a sushi bar the other night. He owns various hotels in the region. And he was drunk, but he gave me some great advice: 「ちゃんと愛するんだよ!」って。 "Love (someone) properly!"


Note: This is a "Lazy Update" because it's literally just my latest facebook status update, used as a blog post until I have time to actually write something up. Hopefully this weekend! Unless I'm out...which is entirely possible.

Word of the Day: 愛する 「あいする」 "ai suru," or "(to) love." If you want to say, "I love you," in Japanese using this verb, it would be 「愛している」 "ai shite iru" in the written form. If it is verbal, you may drop the い (i), and it would become 「愛してる」 "ai shiteru."

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Lazy Interlude

The title of this post is actually quite misinformative (yes, that's an actual word). While the writing of this post is lazy, the reason for it (and the lack of posts over the past few days) is that I've been quite busy. Both my professional life and my social life have ramped up in busyness (and business) that I've actually lost sleep from having too much fun. Oops! Haha. That said, I intend to get at least 8 hours a night every night this week while still making time for all of the things I need (and want) to do.

I will respond to correspondence, e-mails, comments, messages, facebook pokes, text messages, and post a new blog entry in the near future! But please be patient, my adoring fans.

Also, a new project is in the works; still brainstorming, but let's just say I've been practicing guitar a lot. (The latest songs I am learning are "Because of You" by Ne-Yo, and "I'm Yours" by Jason Mraz [SO FUN TO PLAY, especially 'cause I've learned it in two keys, but playing each set differently so that it ends up being in the same key, but with the guitar tuned differently; put in guitar terms, I learned it with the capo at the 2nd fret or the 4th fret, A E F#m D chords or G D Em C chords, respectively].)

Oh, and to give you an idea of what I've been up to:

Word of the Day: 楽しい 「たのしい」 "tanoshii," or "fun."

Monday, May 14, 2012

Lazy Sunday

Happy Mother’s Day! Treat your mothers right, ‘cause you’ve only got one of ‘em! (Yeah yeah, I know, some have more than one. Treat them well, too!)

So where was I? Ah yes, my dreams. I have a ton of dreams. I’ve mentioned the “doctor” dream and the “headmaster of a martial arts academy” dream already. But you may not know that I have other dreams; “closet dreams,” which I shall reveal now.

Acting. Have you ever wanted to be an actor? I was joking with some friends a couple weeks ago about becoming a タレント (“tarento,” or “talent”), which is the name given to TV celebrities who don’t really have any particular talent. But they’re just on TV for the sake of being on TV. Many shows in Japan have people just sitting on the side, occasionally commenting on whatever topic the hosts are talking about.

More and more foreign タレント are appearing on Japanese television, for better or for worse. The good is that Japanese people, especially those who live in the countryside, are getting more exposure to foreign culture. The bad is that sometimes this is the ONLY exposure some Japanese people get to foreigners, so the タレント end up becoming representatives of whatever country from which they come. This is a big problem because people in Japan have a tendency to think “Oh, David Specter said this on TV, and he’s a white American, so that must be what every American thinks.” (Conversely, people in the US are also guilty of this too, for Japanese people, or other foreigners. “He’s Asian? He must use chopsticks.” Etc.)

Anyway, back to the point. My dream isn’t to become a タレント. But I think it would be fun. And I would like to be on Japanese TV one day; ideally as a regular (like a タレント). But my real acting dream is to star in a hit blockbuster action/martial arts movie. I don’t know where I would get my start, though. I was supposed to star as the main villain in a movie that a friend of mine was going to direct, but the project got cancelled. (Actually, not the villain, technically; but rather, the last person whom the protagonist meets, fights, and kills. From the context of the story, though, my character is more of a hero, as he is the victim of the protagonist’s looting.)

My acting experience is minimal. I was an extra in my friend’s short film, “Mixed Drinks,” which is the story of a foreign English teacher who went to a party to meet a friend of his, another foreigner, who had been living in Japan for a few years. The two of them share stories and interact with other foreigners and Japanese at the party, but some drama happens, and the movie ends after a climactic physical argument. The short film serves as social commentary to various issues that occur between foreigners and Japanese people. I’ll post it here, if I can get permission.

I’ve also starred in a short documentary that my friend, a film major, created (directed, edited, filmed). The documentary was about me as a martial artist. I went with the approach of a comparison between traditional karate (using Shotokan Karate as an example) and modern karate (using my American Kenpo Karate as an example). It was really fun to make, and I’m thinking about doing a project like that again, where I delve deeper into the meaning of martial arts, and explain more philosophies and theories. Maybe I’ll make it a series...a YouTube Series…::gears are spinning in my head::..

To be continued…

Word of the Day: 俳優 「はいゆう」 “haiyuu,” which means “actor/actress/performer.”

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Lazy Saturday

Continued from yesterday’s post, which itself is a continuation of Thursday’s post.

I think about those dreams and think about how awesome it would be to build that clinic. But then I think about the long and arduous road to get there. And I think about all the issues and problems about being a doctor in the first place. And I begin to question my desire to be a doctor. Is that really my dream? Or was it something that just sounded good? Or was it because I “dream big” and reach high because I want to fulfill my potential, but without really considering whether I would enjoy doing it? I think about the hours on the job and the stress of dealing with sick patients, and overall happiness. I currently enjoy working a “35 hour week” (actually it’s about 40 hours a week, like any other regular job, or more when I stay longer), but I still have a hard time finding enough time to do everything in the day that I would like to. And doctors have even less time! (Another reason I would prefer to run my own clinic than work 60 hours a week in a hospital.)

But before I get ahead of myself and worry too much about potential problems in the future (which may not necessarily affect me), I need to look at the “getting into med school” problem. And a big problem indeed it is, for me. One of the biggest faults of it is timing. The application season begins over FOURTEEN months before matriculation into the program. How much sense does that make? That means if I want to go to med school in Fall 2013, I need to have all of the application materials and documents and everything prepared by late May 2012.

Can I still apply this year? Yes and no. Yes, theoretically, if you look at the date. But in all practicality, no. And for various reasons. The biggest reason being that I wouldn’t be able to get the packet of recommendation letters written by my university’s “Pre-Professional Health Committee,” as I believe the due date for that has passed. But moreover, I would also have to refresh my MCAT knowledge, and take the test again. There are two test dates offered in Japan this year: June and August; neither of which allow enough time for me to review. Lastly, I haven’t had much volunteer experience relevant to medicine recently. So in order to wow the admissions committees and convince them to let a fun-loving late 20’s guy into their school, I would have to really bust my ass and prove to them that I want this, like I did with getting to Japan.

So what do I want? That’s the question of the decade; nay, century. Nay, millennium. I seem to never know what I want. Things here and there, yes. Dreams here and there, yes. And I’m fulfilling a lot of them simply by being here in Japan. I know my hobbies, and I know my interests. I love a lot of things. I have a passion for a lot of things. I have a burning desire to DO SO MANY THINGS. But I know that if I delve into medicine, that’s it for me; that’s it for those dreams. That’s it for those passions; I know that I would have to invest so much time and effort into medicine that I wouldn’t have the time or energy to focus on anything else. And perhaps that’s what has been preventing me from finally just going through with it all. My other dreams.

What are these other dreams? Find out next time, on ハロルドin Japan.

Word of the Day: 幸せ 「しあわせ」 “shiawase,” or “happiness.”

Friday, May 11, 2012

Lazy Friday

This is actually a continuation of the post I wrote yesterday, but it is a new topic, and thus I wanted to save it for another day.

And this brings us to my next topic: life. Rigidity in life allows us to proceed forward on a certain path; rigidity on this path allows us to (theoretically) succeed by moving up the ladder and mastering one particular skill. Of course, one has to loosen the rigidity to allow acquisition of knowledge passed on by mentors and peers; the concept of keeping an open mind. But this sort of rigidity and single track mindedness, while benefitting us in the “mastery” concept, restricts us from trying out new things, venturing into new fields, or exploring other professions.

I am at this fork in the road; which I’ve been stuck at for a while, actually. Too long, arguably. Basically, I’ve had this sort of “dream” to become a doctor. But I can’t solidly specify where this dream came from. There isn’t any one point in time where something happened and I had a lightbulb moment: “Eureka! I wanna be a doctor!” No, nothing like that. It was more like, “Hmm, I like sciences and math. I like people, and I want to help people. And it’d be cool to cure disease and fix people’s ailments. Hey, maybe I should be a doctor.”

And over the years, I’ve bounced around ideas about what kind of doctor I would want to be (oncologist, cardiologist, dermatologist, and most recently, pediatrician because I work with kids), or where I would want to work (hospital or my own private clinic; honestly would rather have the latter). Most recently (couple weeks ago), I DID have an apple-on-the-head moment: I should build a health clinic that is part clinic and part dojo. That way I can teach martial arts on one side AND give medical checkups and be a doctor on the other side. One of my friends joked that I could fix up one of my martial arts students in the clinic after giving them a proper showing of the ropes in the dojo.

(This reminds me of another Hajime no Ippo character: the medical student who challenged Ippo after he won the title belt. He made a comment that his hands are used both for fixing and for breaking. He was an interesting character, as he utilized his knowledge of the human body to pinpoint specific targets on his opponent. As a pre-med student, of course I was immediately interested in this character.)

To be continued…

Word of the Day: 夢 「ゆめ」 “yume,” which means “dream(s).” It may be used in both the figurative sense and the literal sense, just like in English.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Lazy Thursday

So here I am, sitting at my desk, on a Thursday morning at the junior high. There were no classes here yesterday. There are none today. And there won’t be any tomorrow. Why, you may ask? Because the first years were on a field trip to Hiraizumi, a town with a famous temple (Chusonji, a World Heritage site), the third years are on a field trip to Tokyo (JEALOUS, I wish I could go!), and the second years are doing job training. Er, not job training…but something like job shadowing. Where they split off into groups and help with work at various stores and such in the area, like hair salons, kindergartens, nursery schools, convenience stores, department stores, etc. So…yeah, no classes for the rest of the week. Yay, that means more time for blog posts and studying Japanese! And…sitting. Lots of sitting. Time to get up and do something.

...Whew! Okay, I’m back. I just did some shadowboxing and freestyle form, karate style and Bruce Lee style. I have been in a martial arts kick lately (see what I did there?). I have been talking to a friend recently who is interested in starting martial arts, and as a result, I’ve looked up a lot of Bruce Lee quotes and other Jeet Kune Do philosophies.

Jeet Kune Do means “Way of the Intercepting Fist.” It is Bruce Lee’s philosophy of martial arts. This philosophy entails a few basic key concepts: that of simplicity, practicality, and disobedience to tradition. With this philosophy in mind, martial arts practitioners should be able to adapt their techniques to a given situation rather than strictly adhere to certain stances or certain ways to throw an attack.

The downfall of traditional styles, according to Bruce Lee, is that the rigidity of the stances and attacks ends up becoming a limitation on the user. Think of it this way: if Guy A knows exactly how Guy B is going to throw an attack, Guy A can easily counter it. This concept was even touched upon in one of my favorite manga series: はじめの一歩 (Hajime no Ippo). The series’ “big, tough guy” Takamura was going for his first world title where he was fighting the champion (Bryan Hawk) who was a master of “unorthodox” style boxing. In other words, he had no set style; he was incredibly wild, and he threw punches from the strangest positions. Conversely, Takamura was well trained, and thus had perfect boxing form and textbook boxing techniques. Unfortunately,  Hawk was able to capitalize on Takamura’s “by the book” style, and he easily countered the attacks. It wasn’t until Takamura started resorting to his pre-boxing, wild gangster-style fighting and animal instincts that the fight started going in his favor.

Anyway, point is, rigidity leads to limitations. Let’s not get too limited by the routine we’ve created for ourselves. (Tomorrow’s blog entry will be a continuation of this one.)

Word of the Day: 無限 「むげん」 “mugen,” or, “infinity.” Literally, it means “no limits.”

Friday, April 27, 2012

End of one school year and the start of the next

I meant to publish this last week (two weeks ago?), but やっぱり, had too much on my plate to finish all my food. And right now, as I type this, I find that there are a series of things I want to do tonight, but I may not have time to do everything. All day, I had been working on my Japanese test (the JET Program offers a very useful self-study Japanese course), so my activities tonight would be mostly recreational. I wanted to get some guitar practice in as well (have I mentioned that I own two guitars now? I don't recall). Speaking of guitars, when I was in Sendai, I found an instrument section of a CD store. One of my guitars is a K-Garage Stratocaster by Kikutani Music.

So late March marks the end of the school year and fiscal year in Japan. It's a time when people change jobs, including teachers, public employees, and company employees. Graduation from all major types of schools in Japan happens in this month as well, to coincide with the matriculation of new students and employees in early April.

I went to a couple going away parties; one for the Junior High, and one for the Town Hall. The Junior High going-away party was particularly amusing. It was sad to see the Principal go, as it was his final year working. In Japan, people retire at age 60. And it's not even a voluntary thing, really; people are forced to retire at age 60. Usually people do their own thing from that point on, like run a private business or do various odd jobs. But if you are a normal "salaryman" you definitely gotta retire; especially if you're a public servant.

In any case, the Principal, a very nice guy who was a former English teacher, said his final goodbyes to us at the party. Other teachers who left was the Industrial Arts teacher, who is just two years my senior (great guy, fantastic guitarist), the Nutritionist (she is in charge of our school food), the head office guy (also very friendly), and one of the incredibly kind assistant teachers whose daughter was one of my nursery school students. It was sad to see them all go. But we all enjoyed our last feast with them.

Here is the part where I mention the really amusing part. So, most of us had been drinking throughout the party and were quite tipsy towards the end. And in drinking parties like this, people always walking around pouring drinks for people and sitting in other people's seats. I had gotten up to go to the restroom, and when I got back, the Japanese Class sensei was sitting in my seat. Let's call her Kokugo-sensei (国語 「こくご」 "kokugo" is literally "country language," and it is what "Japanese class" is called in Japan). So anyway, Kokugo-sensei is in her early thirties; a fun, energetic, genki teacher. I went up next to her and pretended to start sitting back down in my seat. "Just kidding!" I said, as I began to sit in the adjacent seat. She said, "No no, please sit," as she scooted over and made room for me on the seat. So, I sat next to her, as she requested.

Of course, it's difficult for two adults to sit on one restaurant chair comfortably, so I had to cross my legs and rest my left arm on the seat back behind Kokugo-sensei. A few other teachers were laughing as they saw me do this and engage Kokugo-sensei in conversation. We were talking about traveling in Europe, and I was trying to draw a map in the air of places I've traveled. She didn't quite understand the respective locations, so she held out her hand and had me "draw" the map again on her palm with my finger. At this point, the laughter from other teachers turned into gawking, and a couple of them started yelling, "That's dangerous! Dangerous!!!" in Japanese. "Kokugo-sensei, go back to your seat!!!" As she got up, she replied, "...just drawing a map..."

The Town Hall going away party was much larger, and held in the town center. Of the seven or so people leaving, one of them was a senior member of my Board of Education, whom I'll call Mr. Masters. Mr. Masters was awesome; he helped me out so much with so many things. The biggest in particular was in helping me purchase my beautiful car (he helped by introducing me to his mechanic, who ordered it for me). Her name is Misa (I'll explain that in some later post).

So it was really sad to see him go. Interestingly enough, I sat next to my former supervisor, Supes! It was fun shooting the shit with him again. And after dinner, I went with him to the Nijikai (Second Party), which is essentially the term for "After Party." Lots of people from the first party showed up. Someone turned on the karaoke machine and we sang some songs. I ended the night by singing "Hotel California" with a very drunk Japanese guy. Good times.

Word of the Day: 酔っ払い 「よっぱらい」 "yopparai," or "drunkard;" "someone who is drunk."

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

My first concert in Japan

I had a concert today! Pretty awesome. Good times. Good songs.

David Cook's cover of Mariah Carey's "Always Be My Baby"
Mr. Big's "To Be With You"
Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here"

...followed by a mini-encore of "London Bridge," a fan favorite.

Word of the Day: ライブ 「らいぶ」 "raibu," or "live," as in a "live concert" or "live performance." A concert is typically referred to as a "live."

Monday, March 26, 2012

Spring Break

Well, today is the first day of 春休み 「はるやすみ」 "haruyasumi" or "Spring Break." When us Westerners think of Spring Break, we imagine a week-long vacation in March (or April for high school, I guess?) where people like to travel and whatnot. Well, in Japan, Spring Break is actually between semesters. Or rather, it is between school years. Japan's semesters are split up into trimesters (didn't I explain this in a post last year or before?); from April - July, August - December, and January - March. The break between the first and second semester is actually longer than the break between school years. No idea why. Also, no idea why the school year is split up into three three trimesters with a different number of school days.

Something that is rather annoying is that "Spring Break" really isn't a break at all. Students still come to school for club activities. And all of the clubs are managed by the teachers, so they come, too (though sometimes external coaches are hired to assist with the training). Something I find pretty cool is that some of the kids who graduated come back and assist with the training during this time, too. I think it's for the sake of training the new Team Captains. A passing of the torch and showing of the ropes.

Anyway, back to the annoying part. So most if not all of the teachers show up to work. (The assistant teachers don't, though.) But there are no classes. So what the hell are all the teachers doing all day? Granted, there surely is work to be done; finishing up anything from the past school year like grading and such, or preparing for the upcoming school year. But in case you didn't know, there is kind of a running joke that all Japanese teachers seem to be in on; and that is the art of pretending to be busy. "Working." Us ALTs are masters at "working," though we aren't as good at hiding it. It becomes blatantly obvious when we laugh at a friend's facebook comment or a message on Skype. But that's okay. No one cares. 'Cause they're "working" via other methods.

Today, I brought my newly acquired acoustic guitar to school. I played a little bit to show a student a few chords, and a few hours later, students were asking me to play. Guess word got out. The guitar is great; I bought it from a friend for a very reasonable price. And he's an excellent guitarist, so I trust his judgment on having bought the guitar in the first place.

I intend to bring the guitar again tomorrow. I think the English Teacher and I will jam. I look forward to it. This is my way of turning the boredom of "Spring Break" into something productive!

Word of the Day: 退屈 「たいくつ」 "taikutsu," which means "boredom" or "tedium." It can be used to express one's boredom. A related word is 詰まらない 「つまらない」 "tsumaranai," which means "boring."

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Spring is here! Or is it?

Yesterday was 春分の日, also known as the Vernal Equinox. It is the day that marks Spring as having officially arrived. (But in Japan, there was some other day earlier this year that supposedly signified that. I call BS.) For those of you in the US, today is the Vernal Equinox. According to my brother, it's "hot as balls" over there, whereas over here it is pretty damn cold. I woke up this morning to a couple inches of snow on the ground! An annoying surprise. Thankfully, the sun came out a bit and melted some of the snow. Hopefully it'll melt further; slush isn't very safe.

This weekend was pretty nice, pretty busy. I went to the movies on Saturday and saw Time (In Time?). It wasn't groundbreaking, or even great, but I enjoyed it. And it was interesting seeing Justin Timberlake in an almost-action-star role. The few scenes where he gets into a scuffle were cool; but they didn't make too much sense for the character. Why would someone like him be so skilled at taking out multiple guys with weapons? 'Cause he grew up in the ghetto? Eh, I don't buy it. But that's just me nit-picking; those scenes made the movie more exciting.

The movie had a theme of valuing time; not just as their form of currency (tangible value), but also how you make use of what little time you have left. The underlying theme was about class warfare; the 1% benefiting from the expense of the 99%, if you will. "For a few to be immortal, many must die." The movie really made me think about how I've been spending my time, and how I want to spend my time. This brings me to a new hobby:

I just bought an electric guitar! Actually, I got it a few months ago, but I haven't updated my blog in a while, so as far as you guys know, I just got it. It was mad cheap, so it doesn't have the best sound (same can be said with the amp), but it will do for now. I've been learning chords and some simple songs. Eventually, when I get better, I want to replace it with a higher-quality guitar. Perhaps I'll just pick up a decent acoustic guitar rather than replace my electric. That way, I'll have the option to switch between guitars as I switch between playing various genres of music.

Speaking of music, I went to a concert on Sunday! It was a benefit concert for Northeastern Japan. I got to see Monkey Majik perform 6 songs on stage! 5 of which I knew! Monkey Majik is a band based in Sendai (just an hour away!) whose four members are composed of two Japanese guys and two Canadian guys (brothers). One of the Canadian guys was once an ALT, just like I am. After he ended his English teaching job, he started Monkey Majik. After some changing of band members and the introduction of his brother, the band has risen to great success. At the concert, they were the first band to play after the opening act; they got great response (they're arguably one of the most popular musicians in the region).

After Monkey Majik was 西野カナ (Nishino Kana). She is an up and coming pop star; my students bought her album last year when it was released. Mad cute and really popular. Her songs were decent, but I hadn't listened to her before, so I can't say too much. Except that her backup dancers were hottttttt.

There was another guest after her. Naoto something. Some weird name. Really quirky guy. His facial hair/appearance really throws you off for what his personality and singing style would be; basically picture Brad Pitt's character from Fight Club singing like Justin Bieber. Just didn't make sense.

After him was Ai (stylized AI or A.I.), who is a quarter Italian, was born in LA. Really cool, and great artist. I wasn't sure what to expect in terms of what her genre of music was; her poster gave an impression of dance pop (like Koda Kumi), but it was actually hip-hop and R&B. Again, awesome backup dancers; but this time doing hip-hop rather than pop-style dancing.

The equinoxes are holidays in Japan. So, on my day off, I drove an hour and a half to visit a friend, with guitar in tow. He's got mad skill, so he showed me some sweet tricks and techniques that I will be trying out. It was really fun jamming with him, and I got a great idea for a music video project that I want him and another friend to help me with. We grabbed some ramen for lunch and some tapas with two more friends that night. It was too bad that we all have work today, otherwise we could have enjoyed the wine and drink selection. A little pricey, but definitely a good date spot. If only people didn't smoke in places where food was served.

Word of the Day: 異常気象 「いじょうきしょう」 "ijou kishou," which means "abnormal weather."