Thursday, March 31, 2011

How to Help

I’ve gotten quite a few requests about what to do or how to help.  I would say the best three things are as follows:

1. Donate money – the best place would be to the American Red Cross who are sending donations to the Japanese Red Cross 

2. Write a letter – help the 3000 Letters for Japan campaign by writing a very simple and colorful letter to an affected child.

3.  Write or call your local senators and representatives and encourage them to look into our nuclear safety standards and disaster preparedness plans.

Japan is so much more organized than the United States for earthquakes and tsunami disasters, and yet they were unprepared for the aftermath of this one.  Our earthquake building codes aren’t as stringent as Japan’s, the whole west coast sits atop various fault lines, and more fault lines are discovered every decade.  This disaster has hit close enough to home for me and I don't want something like this to happen again anywhere, let alone in my own country to my friends, my family, or my fellow citizens.  There is never a perfect time to address disaster preparedness and nuclear safety and there will always be excuses – it’s bad for business, we can’t afford it, etc. – but if not now, when?   


An Improbable Trifecta: The Earthquake, Tsunami, and Nuclear Reactors

On March 11th, around 2:30 in the afternoon, I was at my base school and about to go into a meeting regarding my job and contract.  I was waiting in the English prep room with two of my English coworkers, when I noticed that I was moving.  It only took a second to realize that no, I’m not dizzy or about to faint, it’s an earthquake.  It continued, and got progressively stronger for over a minute until it reached a point where it sustained a significant tremor level for at least another minute.  As I write it, two minutes sounds like such a short amount of time, but that day it felt like time had warped and that the tremors would never stop.  It's unnatural to have the earth move beneath your feet. 

Dinner with Friends

Recently, I feel like I've gotten more and more requests to have dinner and people's homes.  I think it's a sign that I'm starting to fit in with my coworkers at the schools I visit and, perhaps, that my Japanese is getting good enough that people feel comfortable inviting me into their homes.  Here are just a few photos of dinner with some of my coworkers and friends. 

The man in the photo above works at my base school in the office.  He is super nice, and being that I'm a year younger than his oldest daughter (in white) I think he sees me as a sort of daughter to him.  

Daily Life: The Grocery Store

I thought it’d be fun to show you a little bit more of daily life in Japan.  Grocery shopping was one thing that took a little getting used to, and still can be difficult to maneuver.  Here are a few photos and facts about getting groceries in Japan.

Now, there is nothing weird about apples.  Apples are apples everywhere.  However, notice the prices.  Most apples are listed at 125 yen…each.  The unnaturally large apples are 198 yen each.  That translates into $1.58 and $2.38 respectively, per apple.  That’s a price that I still haven’t gotten used to.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A few thoughts about the teacher’s unions

Only a fool would deprive working men and working women of their right to join the union of their choice.
— Dwight D. Eisenhower

Recently I’ve been a bit disturbed at the slashes, cuts, and layoffs many states have made to deal with the budget deficits.  Personally, I do not believe that decreasing corporate taxes and taxes on the über wealthy can be justified at the cost of cutting funding for education, public safety, and public works.  However, if this strategy proves to be successful in stimulating the economy in a long-term and sustainable way, I’m willing to re-evaluate my economic and political assumptions.

In the meantime, I have been very concerned at the preoccupation some governors have had at attacking unions, and public sector unions in particular.  Unions are groups of individuals who join together to work as a group for a common cause.  As defined by Merriam-Webster, a union is “an act or instance of uniting or joining two or more things into one,” “a confederation of independent individuals (as nations or persons) for some common purpose.”

I will be interested to see what the court system does with Wisconsin’s law, for example.  The recent news is that a court has postponed the implementation of Scott Walker’s ban on most public unions, which I believe is the constitutionally right thing to do if one looks at the 1st and 14th Amendments, for example:

Re-Contracting Fiasco

On the JET Program, the ALTs and their schools decide in February whether or not to renew the ALT’s contract.  Some ALTs only want to be on JET for one year, others change their minds and decide to stay another year, and some plan on staying several years the day from the first day that they arrive in Japan.

I fall into the middle group.  I was certain that I would stay only one year in Japan.  However, by October I was toying with the idea of staying for a second year.  When the time came, I made a pros/cons chart to weigh the factors contributing to my decision.  Here’s a summarized version:


Monday, March 7, 2011

Daily Life

Recently, I feel like I've really settled into a routine.  I work Monday through Friday until 4 or 5pm, depending on whether or not I have English club that day.  Sometimes I have a lot of classes in one day, but usually I only have a few and I have plenty of time to study or read.  My tutor comes over every Tuesday night and afterwards we go to taiko for an hour.  On Thursdays, I try to make it to taiko practice as well.  On the nights that I don't have any taiko practice, I'll use my time after school to run errands, catch up on the Daily Show or The Office, workout at the local gym, or meet up with a friend for lunch.  Here are just a few snapshots from life in Kitami. Enjoy :)