Thursday, August 30, 2007

Raise the Alarm


I went to one of my kindergartens today and during a break went to the restroom. I was trying to figure out how to flush, when I noticed a button. Now before I tell you what happened let me give you some history on my poor judgment when it comes to following compulsions and curiosity. When I was in 4th grade we went on a field trip, on a school bus of course. Everyone knows the red handle on the window that you pull in the event of an emergency. I sat quietly eyeing the temptation for a good hour. I finally caved and gave it a good yank. Bells started ringing and I froze instantly. “Just what have I gotten myself into.”, I thought. The bus driver slowed the bus and my teacher took immediate action. I could see the fury boiling in her eyes. She knew that there was not an emergency yet someone had “cried wolf”. I slumped in my seat. It never occurred to me that there were only a few red levers on the bus so I didn’t flee the scene of the crime. Slowly and methodically she worked her way to the back of the bus. Rabbits aren’t smart creatures. However I chose to imitate one by utilizing their ‘if I can’t see you, you can’t see me strategy’. Avoiding eye contact is a great evasive measure if you can evacuate, if not please try something else (take it from me). Soon I heard angry breathing and felt the searing gaze of born disciplinarian. Her stare bore huge holes in my chest causing my breaths to come in ragged gasps. I fought hard to stave off her stare down. If I could just ignore her for a few more hours maybe we would make it home and I could slip past her and waltz out the door home free. About a second later she crushed me. I cracked and started spilling my guts. I told her I didn’t know what she was talking about. I never even saw that red lever. “No way!! I didn’t pull it. No, I don’t know how it happened. Well maybe I hit it accidentally and the alarm went off. That was probably it. Yeah, I’m sorry I bumped it.” She wasn’t buying. Switch tactics quick. Take someone down with you. “Ok, I pulled it, I didn’t know what it would do, but did you know that someone was throwing paper a few minutes ago. I know who it was.” It ended there. I was sternly reprimanded and I promised to mind my business from then on and control my curiosity. I have a confession to make. I broke that promise today. There are many buttons in Japan. Many of them have fascinating Kanji (Chinese characters) on them. I imagine that they reveal secret passages or release trap doors that shower money on the button pusher. As I was trying to figure out how to flush the toilet I caught a glean of green light and heard the soft whispering of my name. I stopped and listened, yep it was definitely saying, “Ueido, Ueido” (it’s a Japanese button so it uses Japanese pronunciation, of course). I hesitantly called out, “Who is it? What do you want?” It spoke in Japanese and I didn’t understand the words but I definitely understood the meaning. “I am the flushing button, push me NOW!.” I was racked with indecision. “I’m not sure…” I stuttered. “Push me, push me.”, it hissed back. Slowly, I extended my finger and leaned closer. The green light started to dance out of the Kanji on the button. I knew that I was being deceived but my weakness for flashing green Kanji buttons consumed me and I crumbled under the stress. I gave it a quick, sharp jab (in case it tried to bite me). All of a sudden I was back in fourth grade yanking the lever and freezing to the tune of shrill alarm bells. The alarm that sounded shattered the powerful spell of the Kanji button and I sprang into action. I lunged for the door and pulled on the handle. Rejected. I had locked the door. I fumbled with the lock. I tried to remember the code. Did it need to analyze my fingerprint on that touch screen on the wall? Did it use voice recognition software or a retina scan? It had to be one or the other. It was a state of the art lock and the pulsing of the alarm was minimizing the sliver of logical thinking that I am capable of. Finally I cracked it. It was an amazing system, requiring both skill and finesse. I turned the lock and the door opened. I gulped the air of freedom and relished in the warm friendly light of 60 watt light bulbs. I tried to relax and devise a plan. I could flee the building. They would never find me. Plan A: I would cross the border to Mexico before they even realized I was gone…wait that won’t work, I don’t have my passport or a car. Plan B: Hide in the broom closet…nope I would never fit. Plans flew into my brain and were quickly rejected by sound reasoning. (Why can’t planning and sound reasoning ever work together). …Plan K: …nope that will never work there aren’t that many real dragons left in Japan…Plan M: blend in with your adversaries. Ok, now here was a solid plan. Let’s analyze the situation:

Sound Reasoning: Where are you?

Planning: (panting and hopping around like an excited dog) A Kindergarten!!!

SR: Where?

P: Japan!!!

SR: How do you propose we blend in?

P: (no longer so excited) I dunno….

Suddenly it dawned on me that they had me. I am three and a half feet taller than the average occupant of this building and I have pale white skin and curly hair. I slowly curled up on the floor and waited for the prison guards to get me. I heard footsteps. It was one of the teachers. I told her it was me, I had set off the alarm. She laughed. It wasn’t even a cruel laugh. Maybe this would turn out better than I thought. She didn’t know how to turn off the alarm so she went and got someone who did. She turned it off and laughed along with the rest of us. Crisis averted, no punishment, no tears, no death, just a story to embellish into a short novel.

MORAL OF THE STORY: Kanji buttons should not be pushed if you are in a handicap bathroom, even if you do think that it is the flush button. Editors note: It was an automatic flush, had the author stepped to the left or the right it would have triggered the sensor and he never would have been forced to press the button. He really is a genius (heavy on the sarcasm).

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


I conquered Fuji-san (Mr. Fuji). It was a battle and a long one at that but in the end I bested an object that isn’t alive and can’t think. Take that, what a victory!! The day started with a 9 to 5 day that seemed like it would never end. I cut out from work about 4:55 and we drove to the train station to catch a 5:27 train to Tokyo. We arrived in Tokyo about 6:45 and rushed through the station to catch another train and then another to a station called Shinjuku. We then rode a bus for 2 and half hours and arrived a Fuji around 10:20 pm. The trek began at 10:45. There were tons of people on the mountain (including many people who were paying for a guided trek). They were slow and the trail was narrow. Austin and I hiked together and soon we found ourselves in a very long line of people that stretched to the top of the mountain. It looked hopeless. The trail we were climbing on was one of the more difficult trails and at times we were scrambling over rocks an around dazed climbers. We finally arrived at the top around 2:45 and sat down to rest and wait for the sunrise. I was surprised at how cold it was. I was prepared but my feet were still pretty cold by the time the sun peeked over the clouds. It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. From our vantage point Fuji dominated the other mountains in the area. The clouds settled low in valleys around and I was struck as the sun bounced off their fluffy tops and finally crested the puffy sea of white. The cheers from the people on top (there were several hundred) echoed out into the frosty air surrounding the monstrous volcano. Shortly thereafter we rushed to on the huts and tried to warm up with a bowl of udon (noodles). The other members of our crew arrived shortly after and we enjoyed the warmth for several hours. After spending some time snapping photos, we started down. We took another trail down and saw a whole different side of the mountain. It was barren (just like the other sides). Being a volcano it was covered in lava rock that made slipping a certainty instead of a possibility. We finally arrived at the bus station and sat dazed and exhausted.

Yesterday I ate lunch with my principal and the curriculum director. When he invited me a million different scenarios flashed through my mind (most of them bad). I thought for sure it was one of those plans to isolate the bad seed and then fire them where there were not witnesses. Instead we had a nice quiet lunch (it was a little too quiet for my tastes and that says a lot). I had a good time and the food was good.

On Friday, Austin and I are riding the overnight bus to Osaka. We will hang out Saturday and Sunday morning and then Sunday night we will watch the final day of the World Track and Field Championships. Then we will ride the bus back and arrive around 8 am, Monday morning. I will then drive like a madman to try to make it to school on time. I am pretty sure I will not make it. Tuesday I will attempt to pass the Japanese driving test for a second time. The first time I bombed. This time I am prepared. Is it because I have practiced? No. Is it because I have studied? No. It is because I am not going to touch the gas pedal (other than the mandatory acceleration to 40 km at the very beginning). If I get the same instructor as last time I will bore them to death with my driving.

On Sunday after we climbed Fuji we went to a small church and met some very special people. They were so nice and hospitable. I was impressed by there service. There were 15 people. 5 of whom were with my group. The Lord is alive in Japan even if it is in small numbers. I was a huge encouragement to see the perseverance of the leadership in the face of adversity. I think that many people could learn a great deal from some of the people I have met here in Japan. God bless.

Please check out my photo album for some pictures of Mt. Fuji, Mt. Tsukuba, Bali, Indonesia and Taipei, Taiwan.

Thursday, August 16, 2007


It has been over a month since I lasted posted and much has happened since then. First my computer crashed roughly a month ago. I think it was actually the day after the last post. It is interesting to me that my computer crashed right after I posted about how much time I was wasting using it. God knows what’s going on. It was a nice break from technology. My friend fixed my computer a couple of days ago and now I am plugged back into the world but with a little more willpower.

I am school today. Summer break started July, 20th for the students. Teachers in Japan do not have an official summer break. They must use sick days or special paid vacation days.

What I did on my Summer Vacation.

By:  ウエイド ミラ

I took off two weeks ago and went to Taipei, Taiwan and Bali, Indonesia with some of my friends. We had a great time. My second time on an airplane was just as fun as the first. Here is a rundown of our activities in Bali in action verb form: we went rafting, swimming, beaching (I made that word up), elephant riding, monkey watching (like bird watching except with marsupials and danger), sight seeing (volcanoes, beaches, temples, a zoo) and every night we ate at the same little joint on the beach. I learned many things on this trip. I will share two of the most important things that I learned. The cocoa bean (where chocolate comes from) looks very, very disgusting and tastes strange. How they ever get such a delicious treat from a bean that looks like monkey brains is a mystery to me. The second thing (and probably the most pivotal lesson that I learned) is that the sun in Bali is angry. It laughs at pale, freckled weaklings (such as myself) and showers scorn and hate in the form of hot hotness and shiny arrows (maybe the arrows were my imagination). Why was the sun so angry? It might have been because I spat in the proverbial face of the sun and shunned the use of sun armor (some people call it sunscreen). I am a proud owner of very intelligent skin. It used an ancient technique to elude detection from my enemy (the sun). My skin (pay attention, this is the really impressive part), began to camouflage itself with the red lettering on the towel I was laying on. I thought, “WOW, I am a regular gecko!!” The sun searched and howled in fury but I had completely escaped detection. To the sun I looked like a red blob on a white towel. I was giddy with a false sense of victory. I spent a few minutes congratulating myself and my clever skin on a well deserved victory. Right about now you are wondering just how you can train your skin to execute such a handy maneuver. Please let me finish before you run off in haste looking for skin training books in your local library (they don’t have them, at least not here in Mito, Japan, I looked). Apparently my skin isn’t quite as clever as I first assumed. It was so tired from the battle that it couldn’t return to its original state. In fact my camo-technique that was so useful in escaping from the sun only served to announce my presence much more quickly than I would have liked. The only place where I could blend in was the produce section between the zucchini and the leeks. That’s right I was readily accepted by some rather friendly tomatoes. I carried a few around on my shoulders the rest of the week so I wouldn’t feel out of place. Let me tell you that I learned a valuable lesson from the whole sun battle debacle. My skin is cowardly. What looked like a brilliant victory soon turned into a painful defeat and then complete and utter DESERTION. As we speak it is jumping ship and wallowing in it’s shame. As any intelligent person would, I reflected on the entire situation and I figured out what I did wrong. If I would have used a plain white towel (no red lettering) then my skin would not have had to change at all. It would have already blended in with the towel and the sun would have never detected me at all. So, even though I lost the battle, I was able not to overestimate or underestimate my enemy but in fact to estimate my enemy. I must congratulate myself on gathering the counter intelligence to defeat my opponent next time we meet.

Editor’s note: The author clearly proves his IQ is much more than a lima bean (no brain cells) but clearly less than a goldfish (1 brain cell). He did in fact use sunscreen after 30 minutes, but clearly, it was too late and he received a sunburn which later blistered and is peeling. He later remarked that the sunburn reminded him of his childhood and a visit to the Clovis, NM zoo. (It’s funny to me that I am the author AND the editor, so I can talk bad about myself behind my back).

One last story. I was walking down the street in Bali and a guy started talking to me. He wanted to sell me something just like the 208 people who had talked to me before him. He put on his best Australian accent and asked me if I was from Australia. I told him in Japanese that I came from Japan. He was confused. He continued on in English and I continued on in Japanese. We had a great conversation only I understood everything he said and he understood nothing I said.

On the way back to Japan we stopped in Taipei for two nights. We spent one day exploring the city. We went to the tallest tower in the world and looked around at the city. I really enjoyed Taipei, mostly because they had 2 subways (the kind you ride on and the kind you eat at). I enjoyed both. I didn’t realize how much I missed sandwiches.

Bali reminded me of how privileged I am. Many people spend their lives just trying to survive. I don’t know why God has blessed me beyond my needs. It makes me realize my responsibility to use the blessings that I have to help others. It is always interesting to me to see how other people around the world live. I have seen so many things that were beyond my imagination before I left America. I only hope that I can use those things to understand the people around the world and to understand myself as well. I will be starting EBC (English Bible Class) soon. I don’t know all the details but we will be using the Bible to study English with people. I am both excited and nervous about this opportunity and I am praying that God will use the program to his benefit.