Andrew Magrath (biggrumpy) wrote,
Andrew Magrath

The more things change

A big update about what has been going on in my life. I know some of you read this under friend's pages so I won't clog them up with a huge post. Behold, behind the below link I have hidden the information about my vacation, school complaints, tea related issues, and fabulous other kind-of mundane stuff! How thrilling! Just click it!

~School Stress~
I’m back to school after taking about 2-3 weeks off with spring break. I am not particularly happy how school is looking. One of my favorite teachers, Ms. Iwamoto, has been moved from my school. I really loved her. She was a great teacher that ran a very tight ship. Unlike a lot of teachers she did not put up with any BS. She was also fair. Her classes tended to be the best at my school and I think that is largely due to her. I really miss her already. Unfortunately my teacher that drives me crazy is still at my school and still driving me crazy. First day my schedule is not made and she asked me to do some big big favors.

It also appears that my role will be much bigger my last few months. One teacher wants to do a program where the kids talk to me out of class for stamps. Another one wants me to be in charge of his weekly classes by making worksheets. The first grade teacher wants me to attend every first grade class. I don’t know what he expects me to do in these classes as I will not speak to the students in Japanese even if I can. He comes from Chris’ school and Chris and I have very different ideas on the role of the ALT in the classroom. Chris thinks of the ALT as a second teacher but I tend to think of us as the engine that drives the machine rather than the driver.

This is going to add up to me having a lot more work. I also have two new English teachers including one that has never been an English teacher before. So I have to learn their systems and deal with the rookie teacher. Look, everyone sucks as a teacher at first. I look back at some of my lessons and am aghast at how bad they were. It takes a year or so to get into your groove and get some game to fine tune. It is just a painful breaking in process.

Also coming as a devastating blow is that my English special lessons are not being taught this semester. So I don’t have any classes that are all mine to play with. Which means the highlight of my week no longer exists. I loved my special classes and am really upset that they are not being offered this time around. It was my way to really get to know the kids and also experiment. I am really sad because I had these kids since first grade and had been planning to really pull it all together and try something hard -- we were going to write a story and I was toying with the idea of a pen pal exchange with my fair Alma Mater’s successor, Alliance Middle School. I’m really hurt that the class isn’t being offered. I realize it is not a reflection on me as a teacher, but being reduced to second banana for every class again has me really sad.

The problem comes with next weeks schedule. My save my butt teacher either did not understand that I can no longer save her butt or doesn't care. Next week my staff wants me to work 19 or 20 lessons. The average teacher at my school works 15-16 lessons. If I worked 20 lessons I would have more classes than any other teacher AT MY SCHOOL. Part of me feels like I am kind of bitching about this, but a lot of my friends have said it is unreasonable. Dad said that the saying in the States goes something like, "You whip the horse that pulls because you know it will pull." I feel that way now. I am going to talk to them Monday.

Also stuck in my craw is that when I got to school my seat cushion was gone. A lot of desks were shuffled during the spring break but mine remains glued, nailed, and welded to the same place I found it when I walked into this building nearly 3 years ago, yet somehow my seat cushion is missing. This happens a lot at school. Other teachers use my desk or my things and then do not clean up after themselves or just end up walking away with my stuff. It annoys the hell out of me. Having been sitting on what amounts to a metal slab for the last 7 hours has left my butt not very happy.

~Spring Break & New Club~
Spring break was fun. I have put a lot of cherry blossom pictures up on my flickr site. It was a really nice season for it this year. I was sick through some of the break. Nothing big, just enough so that I didn’t want to leave the house to go on any big trips. More run down than sick I suppose. I went into the city pretty much every day on mini trips. It was good.

I also got some very sad news from a friend I was hoping could be something more. Unfortunately we have very different ideas on dating. We remain good friends, despite both of us feeling a bit awkward for a while. I realize that it is the best possible outcome considering how different our feelings and ideas are, still it can be pretty devastating sometimes. At other times though, I am completely okay with what happened. And at even other times, I get angry with myself or her or the situation or nothing at all or an elaborate and improbable combination of these things. Oh well, I'll get over it.

In related news I found out that two Japanese girls kind of liked me/thought I was cool. Both of whom are now moving to Tokyo. So it kind of appears that now I'm in the same club as Dan. He is the president of the "girls that like you moving to Tokyo" club, and remember he's not just the president... he's also a member. That kind of sucks for me. As the insanely awesome Groucho Marxs once remarked, "I don't care to belong to any club that would have me as a member."

So, yeah, I guess looking at spring break in retrospect things kind of suck right now, but I’m not all that upset about it. Maybe it just sounds like it sucks more than it really does. I don’t know. Regardless I’ve got miles to go before I sleep – like going out and buying a new seat cushion!

~Tea Time~
Katie's birthday was on the 10th. She had a nice party on the previous Sunday and really wanted to book a tea ceremony for something fun and traditional. Dan was nice enough to book it but only Katie and I could go. Though he had a heck of a time doing it. So the birthday girl and I went into Kyoto and walked around the Biwa Aqueduct area. I don’t know why the aqueduct exists as the people we met vehemently swore it was not for drinking water. But why else would you lug water several kilometers (maybe 2ish) if your not going to use it for something like keeping yourself alive? Regardless, the cherry blossoms were still in bloom so it was very beautiful. Plus, it was a part of Kyoto I have never seen before.

The ceremony itself was strange. Katie was convinced that all we had to do was show up drink some tea and be done with it. I had a vague recollection there was a ton more to it that than – though my murky brain failed to produce specifics. We both looked online and no sites talked about what to do, still my doubts lingered. Score one for my brain against the internet. Yes indeed there was a lot more to do than we thought. Katie and I were both hoping for an ultra-orthodox tea ceremony without instruction or talking of any kind. Thank goodness we didn’t get it. We would have insulted everyone. Though the hotel marketed its tea room as traditional it wasn’t. This was not too big a deal considering how bad it would have went as we knew none of the norms and potential pitfalls that awaited us. Everything from how to move your cup to how to take the last sip eluded us.

This is, in many ways, one of my major complaints about Japan. You hear about tea ceremony EVERYWHERE. It is a cultural event well known and published. Yet, it was impossible to book one and find information on. No tourist information site carried the material. Japanese tourism is very different than my ideas. I feel like the average Japanese person’s tourism is about going somewhere getting your picture taken and then rushing to the next sight to get your picture taken. It may be that way everywhere. I recall my mom telling me that people looked aghast when she told them she went to Japan and spent a whole day in the Osaka Aquarium and Museum. For a country that constantly talks about its culture, Japan sometimes does a horrible job actually promoting it.

One of the women that served us was really good at English. She ended up getting Katie’s email address to talk to her again. She was super sweet. We both bought books on the culture of tea. The section on how to actually do the tea ceremony is approximately 20 pages long. That would have been nice to know, going in!

After tea we ate at an overpriced and under-delicious tofu place. It was famous in Kyoto for reasons that escape me. It might have been famous because it was famous. I have certainly had better tofu than what we ate there. It was by no means horrible, but for what we paid, about 2,000 yen each, it wasn’t delicious either.

After lunch we made our way to Ginkakuji (the Silver Pavilion). Ginkakuji is similar to Kinkakuji (the Golden Pavilion). The Silver Pavilion was made to one-up the Golden one, but it failed. The guy ran out of money and could never coat it with silver foil. So the place remains unfinished. Many like the Silver Pavilion more than the Golden one, I am not sure why. Katie says it felt “moldy” and that is really accurate. It was just not as nice. I can’t put my finger on it, but it wasn’t.

Be sure to check out my flirkr site for plenty of new pictures. Do enjoy yourself.

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