Friday, July 21, 2006

and now, another fun round of "test the ALT's psychic powers"!

Well, tonight I was *supposed* to be teaching a special homestay eikaiwa class. I spent a good chunk of my afternoon preparing a lesson plan, various teaching materials, and trying to figure out what would be a good final lesson. So I showed up at the school at the appointed time -- much to the surprise of the teachers. Well, that's not so unusual. They seem shocked when I show up to work at all...

So I go and start getting ready for class, and the vice-principal calls me over.

"eto -- Maryna-sensei, can you come here please?"
"Sure thing. What can I do for you?"
"Well, you see, I think there was a mix-up. I know last week we decided to change the day of the class, but then we didn't really change it. So class was yesterday."
"Yes, but you see, yesterday, none of the parents could come."
"So desu ka? Okay... well that's okay. I guess it's better that nobody came when I wasn't there to teach the class anyways... "
"We should have told you this morning, or this afternoon."
"Oh well, zannen. Nothing we can do about it. Don't worry about it."
"Maybe you and Aihara-sensei should go out for ramen?"
"That's okay, I'm sure she's busy too -- I'll just head home."
"Take some coffee!"
"Ummm... okay, I don't really need any. Really, this isn't that big of a deal..."

So, yeah. My class was changed, then unchanged. Conveniently, nobody came though. I don't know if that means people were actually too busy to go (there was a festival the same night -- I couldn't attend), or if they just didn't think the class was worthwhile. I may have made them do too much speaking*.

Ah well. To be honest, I really wasn't too upset. I really didn't want to teach a class this evening -- a terrible thing to admit, but true. So now I can work on HAJET business. Hmmm... not much better.

Tonight and this weekend I have to finish putting together this year's Newcomers Manual, along with a bunch of sales stuff for Tokyo and beyond. We're trying to expand our sales to other prefectures across Japan. I think I'll have to start getting our books printed professionally... if we start doing a lot more sales, whatever poor schlub takes over this job is going to have a HELL of a time!

I think it might be time for a real break though. I just found a typo -- in the Japanese no less! -- on the BACK COVER of the new book. The one I just finished printing and binding and am about to start selling. Sheesh! I proofed that stupid cover so many times!!!

Have a fabulous weekend all -- if you're lucky I'll be phoning you.

*I'm dead serious on that one. It seems English education in Japan a lot of times shouldn't be "too difficult". Like, include speaking. My friend's theory is that English education exists in Japan simply as a decorative component -- basically so people can understand their t-shirts. And some days that might even be true...

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

tsukareta! I'm tired!

Today was another gratitude inducing day from my co-workers at the Board of Education. I had a whole day there, so I took advantage of it and finished making 240 new books for HAJET.

What does making a book for HAJET take? I'm glad you asked. I was just about to tell you.

Step 1.
Get a manuscript. The book I've been making for the last month or so was a brand new book. It was time to update the old one, somebody came to us with a manuscript, we said great. Next time I'll make sure there's a page limit. The manuscript was 359 pages, plus frontspieces.
Step 2.
Get supplies. I went to a discount store and bought paper for a fraction of what it costs my BOE to buy paper from the town printing office. Which was good, because I bought 75 packages of paper (500 sheets per package).
buying paper

Step 3:
Photocopy as required. The most recent book I have been making is a new one, so I printed 200 copies of a 359 page book. Other books printed to date have been shorter and only 50 copies at a time.
Yes, I have spent a lot of time with a photocopier.
my new friend

Step 4:
Collate. Some of the stuff I've copied I had a friend with a collating machine do the job (Miss Jeshie in the next town over - thanks Pippu BOE!). Some of this book was supposed to be collated by another board member, but it didn't happen in time. So for this latest book, I did it all in-house. Me and my wonderful office. I will have to marry all of them, I love them so much. What does that mean exactly? Well, you put all your piles of paper in a line and pick them up one by one to put them in order. This morning we finished the last of it -- 200 copies of 34 pages. That was the easy part of the day. There were 8-10 people helping me.
Sorry, I was busy collating and didn't take a picture of it. But let me tell you, a Japanese collating team in action is a thing of beauty.

Step 5:
Print covers.
See photocoping Step 3.
Step 6:
Bind books. My office has a binding machine so I can do it all in house. This is good, becuase I can get things done faster, but then again, I and my office have to do all of the labour. It does keep costs down though.

Step 7:
Have the ragged edges cut by the town printing office. This will take about a week it seems.

Step 8:
Ship and sell books. Yeah!

Step 9:
Start printing the next set of books. I think it will be a long summer.

As HAJET Publisher, to date I have:

- photocopied over 90 thousand pages
- collated over 45 thousand pieces of paper (okay, I had help for this)
- printed over 300 covers
- bound nearly 300 books

And there's so much more to come...

Monday, July 17, 2006

The end of the world as we know it

This weekend was a long one here.
Apparently to celebrate the ocean. I marked the occasion by heading to the coast by way of the Shiretoko peninsula, sometimes called the end of the earth. This area has recently been named a world heritage site, and is a large natural preserve. It was incredibly beautiful, but somewhat disappointing at the same time. Due to it's new status as a UNESCO site, much acess has been restricted within the park. This is great, but as a result one of the things I really wanted to see there -- a series of pools fed by a hot waterfall -- is no longer acessible by car, and I wasn't prepared for a 12km hike. [note: I have since discovered that the road is closed due to construction, presumably to allow for increased car traffic. I felt better when I thought it was closed to protect it from tourists...oh well, maybe I'll have to go to Shiretoko again] Compounded by the fact that there were plenty of other tourists with the same idea for the long weekend, and the presence of bears shutting down another popular hike it was a bit of a let-down.

Don't get me wrong -- it was still incredible.

I stopped at a small (and I mean small!) hot spring on the beach where the water was hot enough to effectively boil in. It was great to sit in a boiling pool of water, loose all the feeling in my limbs and look out at the sky. Unfortunately the big pile of tripods along the shore blocked the view of the ocean.

Today I got to go and poke some sea creatures at the coast near Abashiri -- one of the few places I have seen undisturbed coastline in Japan. I had great fun turning over rocks and looking for critters.

Tomorrow it's back to school. The term is almost over, and not a moment too soon. It's been ridiculously hot in class. Add to this my sleep deprivation of late, and you have me yawning through even my elementary school classes. Well, this weekend I have had a good chance to chill out and relax. And visit the end of the world...

Wednesday, July 05, 2006


It seems it's been a while.
Well, someday, I promise to catch all three of my loyal followers up on what I've been doing lately. Mostly, I live in a photocopy room with the odd excursion to school.

Okay, not all the time. Sometimes I try to get rid of all the garbage that has taken over my office. Literally. I can only dump my recycling once a month, and I'm never home that weekend. So I have over a year's worth of recycling in my office.

Last weekend was the HAJET summer meeting, so I trekked out to Lake Toya (sorry, you'll have to google it yourself - suffice it to say it's a very beautiful place very far from where I live) to talk about what I've been doing with HAJET pubs, visit active volcanoes, socialize around a campfire and say goodbye to people I won't get a chance to see again. It was a strange weekend, and although I had a fun time, it was coloured by the fact that there are a lot of great people I will probably never see again. And that sucks. On the plus side, I did hear that there will be someone new coming to live near me. I just hope they're cool...

I also made a stop in Noboribetsu (a famous -- at least in Japan -- onsen town, filled with oni = demons! Yes, it was as tacky as it sounds like it could have been), did some onsening, and went to the tackiest place in Hokkaido (maybe, it's a tight race) -- an Edo Period theme park. We missed the ninja show, but got to participate in the Geisha show. Yes, I have a ridiculous number of pictures which I will post as soon as they make it off of my camera.

Tomorrow I have my first "Homestay Eikaiwa (English Conversation) class" for the parents of the kids who are hosting Canadian students this year. There are going to be loads of Junior High School students from Canada descending on my town and I have been roped into helping to herd them. I'd much rather be going to ECC camp (or Fuji Rock, but that's it's own sad sad story). But before they get here, I'll be giving the homestay parents some idea of what to say to these kids. It should be interesting, but I think I'm supposed to be making snacks too...

This weekend -- well, I don't know about this weekend. I want to take some of my friends that are leaving out for dinner, go and enjoy summer in Hokkaido before it's winter again, I have to get my Newcomers Manual finished, print some more books... all I really want to do is sleep.

I was a bad monkey and skipped work yesterday morning. There were no classes at school, the BOE was expecting me to be at the school but the school wasn't. So I pretended that neither of them existed. I felt bad, but my enjoyment of a morning to myself was disproportionately greater than my guilt about skipping work. So that makes it okay.

I have loads of pictures on my camera, so when I get a spare moment (and an available internet connection) I will treat you to a photo essay on what I've been doing outside of the copy room for the last month. Hopefully things will slow down a little in August. But I doubt it.

Until then, I may not be online much. Feel free to call, write, or email.