Year in Review, 2015-2016

Last year I wrote a number of posts reviewing my year in different ways. This time I’m going to condense it down into a single post. Mostly because I think after a second year of JET there is in many ways less to write about as you are no longer jumping over new hurdles but rather old and slightly worn ones.

I think the first thing to address is my post about this year’s goals, which I foolishly made specific instead of general, with the intention of specific goals are achievable goals. So the goals were to pass the Japanese language proficiency test Level 3, attend 4 fighting game tournaments in Niihama, attend a Dragon Quest X gay game night in Tokyo, hit 3 towns from Yakitate Ja-pan, and finally interview another Japanese developer.

I managed to fail all of these,  but I did keep in the spirit of many of them:

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Being noticed, the problem of geo location dating and a small town.

I was looking through my drafts recently, and realized I never actually posted this. It’s… almost a year out of date, but I hope you enjoy it.

So… Like many things in life, being in rural area changes up. Combine low amount of people, with being rather visually distinctive and it was inevitable that one day I would just run into someone who recognized me from one of the geo location dating apps, like 9monsters.

Earlier this year it happened. I cycled to Geo, to browse their games. Finding a wonderful ice blue DS Lite in wonderful condition. When I was leaving though, an older man walked up to me and said “… 9monsters?” as if it was some kind of weird secret code…

Which to be fair, it is.

And I knew this day had to come. After all, on 9mon I am the only white man within about 70km of me, maybe more. (although that’s changed now) It was inevitable that I would run into someone nearby who would remember me from the app.  I had mentally prepared for this. And said:

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English media lent

A little while before lent, one of the other ALTs in my area was talking about what she’d give up for lent. I’ve never done lent in my life. My family are christian, but not a sect that ever really dealt with lent, and I am not really a man of the faith any longer. Despite all that I thought that this year, a year I am in Japan, would be the time to do it.

So, I did. From February 10th to March 26th I attempted “English Media lent.” One of my goals this year was to do much more in Japanese, and so this suited such goal nicely. The rules were simple

No podcasts, videos, books, comics or games in English for the 40 days.

This enabled me to cheat a little with using social media and reading some internet articles. (because giving up social media is an entirely different situation).

Needless to say I failed miserably. But I learned a good bit from the experience. Let’s go through a few things:

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Musical musings

The musical is finished! (well, was, like 2 months ago)

How was it?

Ummm, well, it was good! And tiring! … And umm… yeah. I am sure we have all done things for been in situations where someone asked us the simple question “How was it?” and yet been at a loss. There is almost too much to say and also not enough.

Doing a musical in Japan, in Japanese (mostly) was a very unique experience in a number of ways. And yet, in a number of others, it was remarkably similar to my time with the fantastic Burnie Musical Society’s production of Annie. Enough that I used my knowledge of that to fill in the blanks to generally not be in the way. Which was my general goal. I never expected to be a star or particularly good, I just wanted to avoid being a burden. A task which I can say I succeeded in mostly!


And when I did have questions, often I would hear someone say “I was wondering that too” or something to similar effect. So I managed to mostly succeed.


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Year in review (2014-15), blogging

You didn’t think there would be more did you? How could there be more. We just had a post about cycling! CYCLING. However, at this point we are up to about 58 posts and there is still a week this blog celebrates 365 days of content. On average this worked out to more than a post a week, and while I am too slack to get the numbers, with an average word count of lets say, 400 (we have some really short posts), that is about 23200 words! Although in practice Musical, and things like this helped buff out those numbers considerably… But that still isn’t a trivial amount of writing given how little time I feel I put into this.

This is the first time I have done a blog that wasn’t ultra specific nor targeted towards at more specific audience than people interested in me. Overall that has made things a lot easier. I haven’t been too concerned with writing of high quality, and oddly, compared to my writing for my other blogs I ignore, is generally better.

The blog has been a big mish mash of things, which is a really nice change for me. Maybe not so great for making an audience, but nice for me! And really, what is a blog other than writing for yourself and then just hoping someone else might like it?

Overall though, I found I most enjoyed the more focused posts than I did a lot of the general wishy washy travel kind of writing. You can click travel to see how poor I am at that. Even the super interesting statue in a tree turned out to be a relatively poor post. One of the things I have really learned about blogging though over the year is that the best content, like all good stories, has arcs. The writing I don’t like that I’ve done all suffers from the fact that while it covers interesting ground it fails to result in an arc of any kind. So, now that this has really settled in my mind as a problem to solve, expect some fixes that way.

Musical Diaries might be something I try and keep up after the musical in a sense. I came to enjoy the short format they ended up as, just a short summary and a few asides about the event. Currently I am not convinced they are of great interest, but that I suspect is more a result I usually write them when I don’t have much time.

Since I have written SO MUCH, it is probably worth pointing out a few of the things I either enjoyed writing most, or I think are good pieces. There two aren’t always one and the same though.

Some of my favourite pieces through the year though are

9monsters and gay app dating in Japan. (follow up planned)

Study using games

Musical audition

ESL game breakdown Bowling

The Day the toilet attacked me

Rhythm games

Interview with the director of Fantastic Boyfriends: Legends of Midearth

I am certainly looking forward to updating the blog as we go into my second year of JET, and hopefully, maybe, possibly, spend a bit more time actually improving my writing.


Year in Review (2014-15), Cycling

This seems like it’s almost silly in terms of how this is being broken down right? While writing this I am concerned this is going to be a more detailed than social side of things?

So, when I got to Japan, the bicycle I got was… terrible. Awful. I foolishly assumed the problem was me, but the problem was a bicycle that was fundamentally not build for me. So, after a few days and more blood than I was prepared to lose I gave up entirely on the bike. Assuming that at my current size I was just not cut out to ride a bike. My trouble with cycling back in Australia prepping for the trip was equally terrible, helping that assumption.

This naturally resulted in me walking to most of my schools. Which I am extremely glad I did. Thanks to those walks I had the time to greet students, I had the chance to take so many great photos and just stop and enjoy the scenery. It also made me a little famous as many people saw me walking to school(s) each day. Which helped add a little more conversation into my daily life.  Although it only made the summer worse. Once the weather was less cruel, I loved exploring Saijo by foot. And thanks to that time I spent, even going so far as to talk to the next city (12km), I enjoyed getting to know the area by foot.

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Year in review (2014-15) Teaching

This is the real meat of the year I guess. Teaching is after all what I am here for.

I feel I have certainly come a LONG way in teaching since I started. Particularly with Elementary Schools. Junior High School, I must admit I struggle with a little more than I should, and never feel like I am improving. I suffer from trying to engage the students in anything more interesting than hi how are you, and even if I know they know the grammar, it takes so much work to get anything more from most students. This is only really a problem at one of my middle schools but it is frustrating.

However, I am a lot better at getting classes without much energy to have a little more, I make a lot of students smile during some of vocab repeat stuff using different pitches and tones which I enjoy, and many students seem to too. My activities, once people understand them, seem to go over well with teachers and students. Sometimes the nature of the specific grammar point means making a “fun” activity is a little more challenging or forced, but usually, despite feeling like a number of my Junior High students really don’t like me and are trying to put me off during classes (which is sadly effective) I am generally getting through and students talk about me fondly when I am not there supposedly. On the flip side though, I feel like I get along with most of my Junior High School teachers really well. Which helps me get through the classes.

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