Trev's Love Life
This month saw me turn 29 for the first time. Signe threw me a birthday party where we went out with many friends to go bowling and sing karaoke all night. It was a wonderful party and I had a great time.
Signe went back to the United States this month to interview for the JET Programme (http://www.jetprogramme.org/) again this year. While she was there she also got a chance to spend time with her family and friends and had some birthday parties of her own. She brought me back some presents including a few books of poetry for me to enjoy.
We have both been feeling a bit under the weather lately. Signe has especially been getting some allergic reactions to something in our house in the mornings. We suspect that it is either dust or kerosene, which we use to heat our living/dining/kitchen room and the master bedroom.
Work is winding down for the year as junior high school and elementary school graduations approach in the middle of the month. I have been teaching the current ninth graders for the past two and a half years here at Akagi Junior High School (http://www.town.akagi.shimane.jp/akagichu/) and have grown quite attached to them all. I will very much miss them when they all enter High School in April. While it is true that all but two of the twenty-five students in the ninth grade class will be going to the local high school, Iinan High School (http://www.commakagi.ne.jp/iinan/), I will rarely see many of them more than two or three more times, since my visits to the high school are increasingly rare and I am leaving this town at the end of July.
The good news is that I will be getting a successor to my position and, presumably, my house. This was a concern of mine since the number of ALTs in neighboring Unnan City (http://www.city.unnan.shimane.jp/) is being reduced and our town is much smaller than theirs. I am glad to know that there will be someone to carry on in our house. It would be a shame if it were destroyed after all these years of use and improvements.
I have submitted my application to become an Elementary School ALT next year. I had to write a 1,200 character essay in Japanese for the application and if the people at the prefectural board of education approve of it I will have to undergo an interview in Japanese before they can accept me to that fourth year position. The job would be radically different from what I do now, with many Elementary School ALTs visiting as many as twenty-one elementary schools in a month. Currently I spend all my time between one junior high school and two elementary schools. Although I like being able to get to know my students well, I think the change of pace will be exciting if I do get the position.
Speaking of position changes, April will see the changing of the guards at all the schools I work at, as well as the introduction of a new co-host of my One Point English Conversation Class TV Show (http://trevreport.org/eikaiwa.shtml), which I will lovingly call "Let's Do Role Play" from here on out. I have a feeling that there will be quite a lot of teachers leaving this year at the junior high school. The common term at a school for one teacher is four years, then they switch to another school in the prefecture.
The Japanese teaching system works on a point system. First you have to get a certificate to allow you to teach a certain subject (Social Studies, for example). This will allow you to become what is called a "koushi," or temporary teacher. These teachers are subject to being fired and have to renew their contracts every year. Koushis are then allowed to take the much harder teacher's test that will allow you to become a full-time teacher in the prefecture you took the test. This is important, since different prefectures have easier and harder tests to pass. The test in Shimane is much easier than the test in Hiroshima, for example. Once you pass this test, which most do not on the first try, you have a job for life, but are subject to the whim of the prefectural board of education on where you will be placed until you accumulate eleven points. For every normal school you work at for four year you get one point. So if you work only at normal schools, you will get your eleven points after forty-four years of teaching. That sucks. So there are point perks to teach at certain schools and point disadvantages to working at others. For example, if you work as a very rural school, say on the Oki Islands (a two and a half hour and \2,500 ferry ride from the closest big city), for four years you will get two points, instead of one. On the other hand, if you work at a school in the capital you receive no points for your four years of work. After you have eleven points you have full authority over where you get to work in the prefecture. Until then you are at the whim of the higher-ups. I cannot say that this is a good system, but it does have the benefit of moving good teachers around to schools that would otherwise not have the opportunity to have them.
As for the TV show, my co-host is getting married and no longer wants to be on TV anymore. This leaves us in a bit of a pickle. The current plan is to have the koushi at Akagi Junior High School, who is now living in Iinan herself having just married a local man, be the new co-host, but there are concerns that she will not be rehired at Akagi Junior High School and will have to move to another town for work. This leaves us with a position to fill and a junior high and high school full of English teachers with absolutely no desire to be on TV. It would be a shame if the show was cancelled, but we will just have to roll with the times, it seems.
I have been working on my essay writing skills by joining a Foreign Service Written Exam (FSWE) essay writing group online (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/fswe_essayprep/). The FSWE is coming up soon, in almost exactly one month, and I have been trying hard to keep up with current events to prepare for it. The FSWE is a six-hour test with sections on general knowledge, job-specific knowledge (in my case management question), essay writing, English expression, and a biographical section. I do not know how I will fair in my first attempt at the FSWE and, if I pass, the Oral Assessment in Washington DC, but I am very determined to get into the Foreign Service. I am fully prepared to take the tests over and over again until the time I pass and am accepted into the service. In the interim I will of course continue my work here in Japan and, when my student loans are paid off, in the Peace Corps, but all the while my ultimate goal is and will be the foreign service. I believe that it is important work that will not only help people in the U.S. and abroad, it is also a chance to travel the world while doing something I believe in.
I think teaching has made me finally want to make a difference in the world. Actually, if I think about it I can trace it back to a Thanksgiving party I went to last year. We have a group in Shimane that promotes charity and community service causes (http://shimanejets.org/community/). In the past I have not been too interested in such work and have often considered the work, for the most part, a sad attempt to make people with money feel better about themselves. Part of me still holds these admittedly jaded views of charitable people, but at this Thanksgiving party, which was put on to raise money for poor minorities in Vietnam (I do not oppose charity if I get something in return, like food, or if it is a charity defending woman's rights... I do not know why, but I strongly support woman's rights, especially the building of awareness of male violence against women... weird), they showed a video of JET participants volunteering in Vietnam dispersing food and building schools in these minority areas. The fact that my nice Thanksgiving meal was interrupted by a video making me feel guilty for not doing anything useful with my life was annoying to say the least, but it did get me thinking about things. I never thought too much about the world outside computers, games, and Japanese animation before. That video and my guilt that followed really opened my mind to a whole other world that I didn't give a second thought about before.
In any case it has given me drive. I want to do things that give my life purpose. I still want to do things that do NOT give my life purpose (goodness forbid I give up playing games and watching anime), but I want a job that I can feel good about in any case. That is my drive. I will get into the foreign service. It is just a matter of time.
Speaking of things that do NOT give my life purpose. My computers are doing fine. I still hang out on #fansubs on EFnet (http://www.fansubs.org/), play my favorite MUD, Achaea (http://www.achaea.com/main.html), and watch stuff from the Internet. They make for good times and a nice escape. My dad just sent me a XBOX 360 from the U.S. with some games (they are hard to find in the U.S. but easy to find here, no one wants them. I wanted a U.S. one, because I want to play games in English) as a birthday present, and I should be getting it in a few days. That will be really fun to play with Signe and friends when they come over.
Trev's One Point Japanese Lesson
So you want to learn Japanese? That is great! We have been looking at the informal, or dictionary, forms of verbs lately. We have covers ru-verbs and the irregular verbs, but before we tackle u-verbs next month I want to take a moment and introduce the te-form.
The te-form of verbs in Japanese have many different uses (for example, te-form + kudasai means Please ~ and te-form + iru means ~ing, etc.), but a verb in the te-form by itself has no particular meaning. Regardless, it is important that we take time to learn the rules to change a verb into its te-form.
When I learned te-form my teacher introduced it with a fun song. It went a lot like this:
The te-form Song (to the tune of "Oh My Darling Clementine")
-u -tsu -ru: -tte
-mu -bu -nu: -nde
To explain, if an u-verb ends in -u, -tsu, or -ru you change that part into -tte (first line), if it ends in -mu, -bu, or -nu you change that part into -nde, etc. Lines six and seven are the two irregular verbs su-ru to shi-te and ku-ru to ki-te. The second verse is full of example words that demonstrate each transformation. I leave it up to you to find the meanings of each word.
Now, you very perceptive students will notice that the song covers u-verbs and the two irregular verbs, but not ru-verbs. That is because ru-verbs are very easy to change into te-form. Just replace the -ru with -te like so:
That is it! Sing the te-form song to yourself until you have it memorized. It helped me a lot with this tricky form, and I know it will help you too.
That is about it for this time. Thanks for reading, and if you get a chance, drop me a line. I always like hearing from you. Until next time, take care.