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Thursday, 7 September 2006
Important News Update!!

This
is the coolest thing ever. Don't ask any questions! Just watch it! Go now!

Posted by nc/frodaddy at 10:41 AM EDT
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Thursday, 31 August 2006
Oita City Orientation
Orientation Time again this week, in Oita City for Prefectural Orientation. Well, Tokyo Orientation wasn't so hot, but the Oita one turned out to be halfway decent, but not the greatest either. Onto the breakdown. I drove to Mie Town and met Alastair and Ryan, two other JETs, then rode the train into the city. A very different experience from Tokyo trains- 2 cars, trains only every half hour, only single track part of the way. After that, it was about a 15 min. walk to the prefectural office.

Once there, we saw demonstartions of traditional Japanese dancing, and Iaido, traditional sword play. There were also some of your standard orientation speeches, icebreakers, etc. as could be expected. Later that day we went to a beer garden and had all you can eat/drink from 6-9, which was definitely fun. Met a lot of fellow JETs, which was nice, then stayed at someone's house in Beppu, which wasn't as bad as it could have been. Overall, Oita City seems like an alright place to go for a weekend, kind of your standard midsized Japanese city with plenty of entertainment options.

Now onto the negatives. Man, it was so humid, it was disgusting. I'm sweating just thinking about it. I'm gonna have to take a towel with me at all times from now on. The next morning, we had to do some little scanvenger hunt thing, which could have been fun, but I was sweaty, hung over, tired, and in an all around bad mood. Some people got their re-entry visas taken care of, so that was probably a 30-45 wait of nothing. Then it starts pouring of course. Finally, I grabbed some Yoshinoya, which apparently everyone else thinks they are too good for (seriously,wtf people). Then we couldn't find our classrooms in the prefectural office (probably the worst designed building ever), but once we got there we actually had some useful orientation sessions, and a little Japanese class. Finally, it was over, and I just headed home and took a long shower. The End.

Posted by nc/frodaddy at 11:16 AM EDT
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Thursday, 24 August 2006
Car and Mobile Phone in Japan.
Next in our exciting series of "Mike Living in Japan" is the one-two punch of my car and my keitai (cell phone). First, my car. It's a special species of cars in Japan known as "kei" cars. Kei cars are essentially subcompact cars, that are engineered to fit within certain parameters set by the gov't such as of engine displacement, size, and horsepower.. If it qualifies, you can save a lot on insurance and inspections, not to mention savings on fuel. You can tell Kei cars apart from normal cars because they carry yellow license plates. There are kei trucks as well, although most Americans would have a tough time classifying them as such.

As for my car, it's a Mitsubishi Minica- they seem to be pretty common. I bought it off my predecessor, so I'm really not even sure what model year it is. It gets me from place to place though, and can actually be somewhat fun to drive being very small and nimble. It's got A/C as well. Just forget about acceleration and top speed. Anyway, some pics:


First, a side view. 2 doors, and a hatch back.

From the front. That's one bad machine.

Back view, see the yellow license plates?

Interior view- two adults can sit comfortably in the front, forget about the backseat. My knees are a little bit up into the steering wheel but not too bad.

Can you read the name on the tires? The Bridgestone "Sneaker". Cute.

Overall, a no-frills machine. Manual windows, probably no power steering, casette radio, no tach, no brights, about three wiper settings, no trip odometer, three gears. But for utility, it can't be beat. Easy to park as well.

Now for the cell phone. Japan has a well-deserved reputation for great cell phones, so I've been looking forward to getting another one for awhile. Unfortunately, I had to wait for my alien registration card so it took a little bit longer than I'd like. I stuck with au, which I used when I studied abroad, and by coincidence also got another Sony Ericcson phone, so it's very similar to the one I used previously. Even with this being the introductory model it's still far ahead of what you can find in the states.... music, movies, GPS, internet, you name it.

Closed view, you can see an LCD display and camera.

Opened up, unfortunately you can't see a lot of detail in this one.

Ridge Racer on a cell phone! This seems impressive, until you remember that the original Ridge Racer came out 13 years ago!!

Anyways, its pretty sweet, and you can ever put in a memory stick for even more capacity. Did I mention how much better the signal is as well?

Posted by nc/frodaddy at 8:57 AM EDT
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Tuesday, 15 August 2006
Apartment in Japan
Here are some pics of my apartment. It's basically over the garage on somebody's house. It's nothing fancy, but by Japanese standards fairly decent. It's relatively spacious, has two aircons, and was pretty much already furnished when I got here.You might be able to tell, but this was basically two smaller apartments joined up to make one decent-sized one. On to the pics.



First off is the "genkan". It is just an open space right now, I don't know if I will utilize it that much yet.

Now on to the dining room, its got a nice little table and a small closet for the clothes hanger.

Next is the TV room, this is genrally where I relax at.. Only 5 channels though!

My main kitchen/cooking area, with bathroom sink on the left.

Next to it, another kitchen area, pretty much just used for the fridge and to dry clothes.

Bedroom area- it's actually quite comfortable to sleep on.

That's the tour, pretty exciting, isn't it?

Posted by nc/frodaddy at 10:47 AM EDT
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Friday, 11 August 2006
Baked
Man, it's hot here. Hot, Hot, Hot. Sweating more than you've ever sweated in your life hot. Fortunately, there are A/Cs in my school office and car, as well as my apartment, but if you step outside, watch out. Case in point, Wednesday I went to my second school, Chitose Junior High school for the first time. They needed some extra players to help with the baseball club, so I said, sure, why not.

Bad idea.

First of all, I didn't have a hat. Or any sunscreen. With only a few small trees along the sides for shade. And the heat was relentless. No wind or breeze to break up the stifling humidity. So, we had a full warmup, and then a complete 7-inning game. Our team was worse, so we spent more time in the field, i.e. the sun. So there I am in left field, with only a short sleeve shirt, sweating my ass off. The results were almost gruesome, I was dehydrated and lobster red all over. I spent the whole night trying to cool off and grab whatever liquids I could. The next day, however I was ready with a cap and long-sleeved Under Armor (tm) shirts. So it was a little bit better.Anyways, I've got to be more careful.

How did we do? Actually we rallied from six runs down, but lost 7-6. I was 0-2 flyout and strike out, with a walk and a run.

Posted by nc/frodaddy at 11:22 PM EDT
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Monday, 7 August 2006
Next Post
Had my speech at school, no big problems there actually. During the ceremony, an old lady who lived through the war gave a speech. I couldn't understand it entirely, but from what I could gather she didn't appreciate having to send off her friends to die (and remember, as bad as the fighting was for the Allies, the Japanese casualty rates were much, much higher). If you come to Japan, it's easy to tell who lived through the war, because they are so tiny. It's not hard to imagine what several years of starving and malnutrition will do to a person's body.

Afterwards, around school, I've been meeting some of the kids. Most of them so far are really great (of course, we'll see how it goes once class starts). They are really friendly and enthusiastic, although unfortunately their english level is just about zero. I was hoping for a little bit better comprehension to start with, but outside of "my name is" and "I like..." there's not a whole lot going on. I'm having to try pretty hard even in just basic conversion to convey words and ideas in english. Hopefully there will be some improvement over time, but we'll see.

Anyways, I've started on my first assignment, an introduction poster about the United States. If you had to break down US culture, history, and geography into one neat poster, what would you choose? So far, I've got a lot of famous landmarks, some notes about the US flag, etc. The political scientist in me wants to break down the US Constituion, Separations of powers, etc. but at the same time I don't want to put the kids to sleep. So I'll try to keep it somewhat interesting.

Posted by nc/frodaddy at 8:38 AM EDT
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Friday, 4 August 2006
Greetings from Kyushu
Hello All, I've finally managed to get settled in my new home of Ono Town, Bungo Ono City, Oita Prefecture, Kyushu, Japan. As I type this, I just had my first official full day at Ono Junior High, which is my base school where I'll work Monday, Tuesday, and Friday. I'm still recovering from today's heat and humidity, which is fierce in August on this southern island of Japan. As soon as I stepped off the plane at Oita Airport, I knew I was in trouble. Of course, this winter I'll be begging for warmth in my uninsulated apartment. Such is life in Japan.

Atlanta Orientation was great. The Hotel we stayed at, the Renaissance Concourse hotel, is serious luxury, and everyone was still in a pretty nice mood. The flight over was nice, in that it was uneventful, which is really all you can ask for. Tokyo Orientation was awful. I never thought I'd say this but I was so glad to leave Tokyo. It was just nonstop, mostly boring meetings, surrounded by many annoying other foreigners, jet lagged, hot and tired, in a suit and tie. Don't even get me started on the elevators, Keio Shinjuku Plaza is a nice hotel but they have about half the elevators they need to have.

As for where I'm staying, it is in fact quite rural, although not quite as much as I expected. I live in a quite mountainous region, well away from the coast. In fact, everywhere you look there are tree-covered mountains, rivers, and waterfalls. So, the scenery's great. But I could see how things could get boring fast. There's just not much to do around here, and everything's so spread out a car is absolutely necessary. Additionally, there aren't many folks my age- it's either young, old, or really old (this is Japan remember). So hopefully I can find some people my age here or figure out where to go on weekends. Don't want to go crazy from boredom.

Oh, how's this for fun. My first official duty will be giving a speech (some in Japanese, some in English) in a ceremony on August 6th. Do you remember what happened on that day in history? Oh yeah, the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Talk about an awkward situation. But I'll but on my best diplomat face and try my hardest to make a good speech.

OK, that's enough typing for now... I'll post about my schools and apartment later!

Posted by nc/frodaddy at 7:25 AM EDT
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Friday, 28 July 2006
JET Finally
Got back from the family beach trip, a little bit sunburned but overall a lot of fun. Leaving tomorrow for Atlanta, then on to Tokyo on Saturday. It's tough to be leaving the people and places that I love, but really there's nothing else I'd rather do than go to Japan right now. Hopefully it will be a fun and informative experience.

Later Peeps! And don't forget to email.

Posted by nc/frodaddy at 1:27 AM EDT
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Sunday, 23 July 2006
Crazy Busy
Finshing up job, cleaning my room, buying suits, family trips, packing bags, passports, visas, doctors appointments, insurance, atm cards, omiyage, flights, socks, shoes, car... too much. I need a break.

Posted by nc/frodaddy at 12:05 AM EDT
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Monday, 10 July 2006
All Dogs Go To Heaven
My dog, Kelsey, died today. We found her in the lake, in front of our neighbor's lawn. As best we can tell, she decided it was her time to go and went off to the lake to die. It's not a huge surprise that she passed. Her hearing, sight, and sense of smell had all been going for some time now, and she pretty much slept the entire day. Despite her health problems, no one was ready to see her go. It was tough on everyone, but as for myself, I've never been this close to a death before. It's been a real shock to my system, and I think I will have to re-evaulate the way I look at a lot of things.

Overall, she had a good, long, healthy life. She was pretty spoiled, and was able to a lot of fun stuff like go on trips with the family. Then, in the end, she decided to leave on her own terms, at her own choosing, with little suffering. If dogs must die, it's all you can ask for.

We buried her with her favorite toy in a nice spot, by some trees, an area popular with birds, plenty of plants. It's right by a window, so all we have to do is look outside and there she is.

Posted by nc/frodaddy at 11:59 PM EDT
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