RichardRichard's Weblog Diary 2002!

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Doing is a strange life, from one night being put up in luxury hotels to the next sleeping on a park bench, from giving presentations to hundreds of people in Tokyo to visiting the smallest schools in Northern Japan, from working into the dawn hours in the freezing Genki House to songwriting by the beach in Thailand and even filming in Hollywood!

There was a lot going on last year so I decided to put my diary on the website. If you want to find out what's it's like behind the scenes or how & why I do what I do or even if you're just nosey or a bit bored, have a read! This is a bit of an experiment so please get in touch let me know what you think!

I'll update the diary as often as I can, so keep coming back!

December 11th Wednesday - Au revoir

Right, that's it, I'm out of here! Yesterday was the last presentation of the year so now I'm flying off home for Christmas.

This year has been totally fantastic and I'd just like to thank EVERYONE for everything you've done for us. I really want to make a difference with what I'm doing and with all the support you have given me, we're well on the way. Thank you very much!

I'll be still working on Genki English whilst I'm at home and there'll be lots of new surprises in the New Year. And of course we still have people in Japan to send out all your CD orders! I'm off to Paris for a couple of days next week, and I'll be back in Japan in February for a major national tour. And of course, if you want us to come to your town or village, however small, just get in touch!

Thanks for everything, and have a very, very, GENKI CHRISTMAS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

December 10th Tuesday (Tokyo) - CIR conference!

Today we were doing 2 presentations for the national CIR (Co-ordinator of International Relations) conference sponsored by CLAIR (Council for Local Authorities for International Relations) and the Ministry of Education.

That was quite good and it was great to meet up with so many people we know from all over the country! It was like a mini-review of the year seeing people from Hokkaido and Saitama, and Ibaraki and Okayama and even LA! Not to mention the CLAIR people who were as cool as ever!

The presentations were a little strange as we had to do them in Japanese and some people had no idea what we really do. But people seemed to get into it. Really what we want to do is the ALT Re-Contracting Conference Key Note Speeches next year in Tokyo and Kobe. If we got the key note I'm sure we'd get a whole year of very Genki Jets. And just think about how boring those speeches usually are!!! So please everyone, help us out to get the Re-Contracting Conference!! Tell CLAIR, tell your bosses, tell everyone, let's get next year's re-newer's off to a flying start (and of course we'll start off with the massage game!)

In the evening it was my final party in Japan for the year so we all went out for dinner and then karaoke. With the Korean SEAs, loads of CIRs and the CLAIR people that was a top night!!! Great stuff!!!! So thanks everyone for a great conference!

December 9th Monday (Tokyo) - Christmas & Starbuck's Day

I looked out the hotel window this morning and it was snowing! Tokyo was covered with a layer of snow and looked just so Christmassy!! : )

Had no presentations today, but just a lot of tidying up of loose ends. So we commandeered the computer tables Shinjuku's Starbucks. The morning consisted of lots of coffee, trips to the post office and travel agents. Then at lunchtime I got an instant message from a mate in Canada. That was so cool just sitting in Starbucks in Tokyo talking to some mates in Canada who had just come back from a wild Christmas party!

We were also preparing the CD-ROM version of the Songs Teaching Guide Videos. I noticed I needed to explain the English intro a bit better (i.e. to explain that when you teach the songs you teach 1) the vocab 2) the song acapella several times and then 3) keep the CD till the end, this way the kids can get up to speed and still find it fun). So I just took the camera out into the snow, filmed a bit and then popped it back into the video sequence. Isn't it great what we can do with technology!

The a few emails answered and a quiet night in before the riot of the CIR conference tomorrow!

December 8th Sunday (Tokyo) - Filming Day 2!

It's day 2 of the film shoot! First off the director wanted to have some shots of us doing a teacher training seminar. But as it's Sunday they couldn't find any teachers so instead...... they hired a bunch of models for us to teach!!! Wha hey!!!

So that was pretty cool! And it was also cool visiting the school with all the crew. Normally it's just the two of us, but today we had lighting, cameramen, grips, caterers and a million and one other people. In the presentation we got the models jumping around, smiling and doing the songs and games. The strange thing was that they thought we were acting too, but no, this is our normal everyday job!

Then in the afternoon it was off to a "film house". A house set up in Tokyo especially for filming in. It did look really fantastic, very light and huge rooms. The purpose here was to film the kids' reactions to the new "Kids English" videos. We were supposed to be there to motivate the kids for the cameras, but there was no need. We just put on one of the videos and the kids just got into it on their own! They were great; jumping around and saying the English with such cool accents. Brilliant!

So then in the evening a long business meeting about next years' schedule, wow, it's getting pretty full already!

But another really cool day!

December 7th Saturday (Tokyo)- Glamour Day

This weekend we were filming the PR video for our new "Kids English" series for kids aged 0-6. After spending the last few weeks in schools, today it was back to Tokyo and into Businessman mode!

So we were put up in the Washington hotel (very nice), and then headed off to the TV studio. There were soooo many people there, it was crazy! And it really just freaked me out that last year I was sat at home in England writing the stories for these books and now there were all this staff in Tokyo to make the PR video for it! Strange.

Most of today's filming was of the main presenter. She was doing really well, and it's always impressive to watch professional actors as they know their lines and always look happy on camera. But during the afternoon session she was getting a little tired. So after figuring out who was in charge on the set it, just like in LA, it became my job to make her Genki again! This is really what we go, give people confidence and energy, no matter what their job, either teaching or presenting a movie! So it's not a bad job I have, making cute actresses smile on camera!

Then it was our turn, needless to say I couldn't remember any of my lines! But seeing as we were also the supervisors of the shoot it didn't matter, I just made my own up! My voice was just about nearly to vanish, but I had enough left to be genki for the shoot. So overall a really fun day and it was great being back into the exciting part of the job!

December 6th Friday (Ishikawa) - Rush, rush

Today must have been one of our quickest visits to a school! Got up and had breakfast and was then picked up by one of the teachers. Met the head teacher who was boasting about his lack of English skills, not the best start (teachers need to show the kids that even if they don't speak any English they are at least willing to try!). Then I did the sound check and found that the schools' speakers had been blown up. Hmmm.

But the teacher in charge was really cool so after a lot of ad-hoc re-wiring and cables slung across the stage, we rigged up a couple of amps to the mics and CD player and it actually sounded really good. Cool!!

Then the show, 550 kids all together. The 1st to 3rd grade were great, big loud voices and very Genki. But the 4th-6th graders just did nothing! And as we know by now, it's the attitude of the teachers' who determine how active the kids are, and sure enough the head teacher was stood at the back doing nothing with his arms folded and not putting in any effort. It's always the same, the schools with the cool head teachers are the ones with the best teachers, and the schools with the best teachers have the best kids. It's not just the English, it's the kids' whole attitude to learning. So if you have a good head teacher, appreciate them! Unfortunately we didn't get time to give them a teaching seminar and had to hop onto the train to Tokyo, all four and half hours of it! But at least the younger kids were still genki!

And tomorrow's video shoot should be fun!

December 5th Thursday (Ishikawa)

I'd been in touch with the teacher at today's school for quite a while, and when the deputy head saw us on NHK over the summer they decided to invite us. The school is a pilot school in Kanazawa and the teachers are quite into getting a good programme made.

The shows were good (we really wanted to just do one after having such a big night last night, but they had invited lots of guests to see 2 shows), the 1st to 3rd graders seemed a bit afraid of English at first (bad experiences?), but got genki, and just like yesterday the 4th-6th graders were brilliant. We did loads of stuff and lots of talky bits which they really enjoyed. Cool.

Then the seminar. The teachers were asking good questions and were truly interested, but unlike last week where I just had to do a bit of "icing on the cake", here I had to start from scratch with how and why language skills and international understanding are important.

The Japanese classroom teachers can make this Elementary School International Understanding thing work, but they'll need a huge amount of training and confidence building. ALTs also need training programmes, but if they are adequately provided then I'm pretty much sure that empowering the ALTs to do this teaching will be the best way forward.

Anyway, tonight's accommodation was a hotel so I managed to at last get a bit of rest!

December 4th Wednesday (Ishikawa) - Genki

Today was interesting as the school is one of the test schools in Kanazawa City. This school has a 5 minute English class everyday, plus occasional ALT visits. And tomorrow's school has weekly lessons. The first show, 1st-3rd graders, was OK, but the 4th-6th were actually a heck of a lot better! Cool!

Then I went through the school's curriculum with the teachers. It does sometimes feel like people are re-inventing the wheel with every school making their own programme and not sharing it. But then again I saw some of the demo curricula they had and was really glad they hadn't copied those (horrible Junior High School like lessons!) But the teachers were cool to learn and even had a "one point" English lesson everyday for the staff! Cool!

One of the teachers was also looking for a game for tomorrow's class. She was looking through a magazine and complaining about not being able to find a suitable review game. I asked if she knew of the Genki English website. She said "yes", so I asked if she had used the games on there. Apparently she knew about the website, but had never looked at it! Anyway in the seminar I went through how to use the games and the curricula on the website and they were very happy.

Both Will and I were quite shattered at the end of the day and really wanted to just crash. But a homestay had been organised for us, so no free time. However the people we were staying with were just soooooo genki. So it was out to a German restaurant for lots and lots and lots and lots of food! We were feeling quite ill at the end of it, but it was a really fun time and it's always nice to be around people who are so full of life and energy!

December 3rd (Ishikawa) Tuesday

Flew up to Kanazawa city, it looks quite nice and the mountains have snow on them! Very Christmassy! I'm off to meet the teachers in a bit to prepare for this week's 6 shows and 2 seminars!!!

November 30th- December 2nd

I had a well deserved rest on the weekend, then back to work Monday with a million and one emails and phone calls! But things are going well.

Just one thing, have you every tried finding a non-smoking restaurant in Fukuoka? It's just about impossible!

November 29th Friday (Nagasaki) - It can't all be chocolate

This morning was also another really cool show, and as the sound system and kids were just brilliant, my voice was no problem! The Board of Education turned out as well, which was pretty cool.

During lunch with the kids I had a few phone calls, it was quite strange switching from chatting with the kids about fish and games to doing business on the phone!

Then in the afternoon it was the final school of the Nagasaki tour. But what a difference! It was the same town as this morning, but whereas there the head teacher was all full of life and totally on the ball, here the teachers seemed to have no idea what was going on. And it showed in the kids. We've had a few shows before where the 6th graders have just remained silent, and sometimes have kids who misbehave, but this afternoon was the first time that the kids didn't actually believe all the motivation stuff I was telling them. I have never seen kids who have such low self esteem. So I basically stopped the show and had a chat with them. Wow, the teachers at a school really make sooo much difference to the kids' education, I really wish Japanese parents could see the difference and do something about it.

This morning the teachers were fantastic and the kids eyes sparkled with energy. But in any case I hope I helped them all to get even just a little bit more confident.

So that was the first Genki English trip to Nagasaki! It was great and thank you to all the people who made this possible. You guys are great! And it'll be cool if we can come back in April!

November 28th Thursday (Nagasaki)- It really works!

The teachers at today's school are very "nesshin" to say the least, they really, really put 110% effort into their teaching. Especially one teacher does some amazing things at the school. So first off was "ABC Time" a quick 5 minute morning broadcast to all the classrooms. This is a great way for the resident ALT to reach all of the kids even when he's not teaching them that day. See if you can try it at your schools!

And then the show, it was again fantastic. The kids went through the songs and just devoured the motivation stuff. Even the 6th graders were totally into the show at the end. But the mic kept breaking down!!! So I had to do the rest of the show, in front of 600 kids with no mic!!! Needless to say my voice was not very genki at the end!

I was also asked to do a normal lesson in the 5th period. The teachers have been so supportive that I said yes, and I think it's very important for me as a trainer to regularly teach normal classes. Some so-called Elementary School teacher trainers in Japan I'm sure wouldn't last 10 minutes in a real class room!

So it was fifth grade and it was decided I'd do the "What do you do?" theme. I hadn't ever tried the finished topic in a class so it was good for me to see how it all works. I planned to use Craig's "Business Card" game that I sent out in the newsletter this morning (I also prepared a hand-out which you can find here) as this topic usually needs 2 lessons to finish. But the kids went through right to the end and with the exception of a modified version of the "I like everything game (they didn't say all the words, they could do it randomly) they were motivated enough to not need a game and learn all the words! The trick is to teach it as a song from the beginning (the claps really help - see the songs training videos) and GET THE KIDS TO MAKE THEIR OWN GESTURES! This worked sooooooo good, they came up with some cool stuff (e.g. the farmer milking a cow or the doctor doing an operation!). They also did really well at coming up with what jobs they wanted to be, cool! So lots of "a cappella" practice of the song and then the CD right at the very end. Cool. Some people have been saying recently that some of the songs are too fast. The key is the "a cappella stage", sing it without the CD loads of times and build up the speed to be faster than the recorded version. The teachers today really appreciated seeing how this works in action, and when they had a try they saw how easy it was to teach. I guess I have to find a way of showing this on the website! But have a try yourself, lots of a cappella and then the CD at the end!

Then it was the teaching seminar and the teachers were really into it, and asked some really cool questions. Then a bit of jam on the piano and drums with the music teacher, then it was another 3 hour drive to the next town! The only problem is I seem to have another cold and my voice hasn't recovered from this morning!

November 27th Wednesday (Nagasaki) - The best Primary School in Japan?

I often say to people that something strange happens everyday to me in Japan. Last night I stayed in the poshest house ever, but the hot water broke! So I had to go round to the next door neighbour's to get a shower. I got all cleaned up and dressed and went to thank the lady who owns the house. But she grabbed me by the hand, pulled me into the living room and said "My daughter wants to see what you look like" and out she popped her mobile phone to take a load of pictures to send to her daughter! Quite strange.

Then it was off to the school for a show for 600 kids. I rewired the sound system the other day, but I had no idea how good the kids would be and the music was nowhere near loud enough! The kids were truly amazing! I had a load of ALTs to help me with the Left and Right song, they nailed Doctor, Doctor and of course, Rock, Paper, Scissors was huge. They were really, really good, maybe the best in Japan, and certainly in the top 5!

The 3-5 grade ALT is fantastic and teaches using many Genki English ideas, but the rate at which the kids picked the words up, and their response to all the confidence speeches was amazing!

Then in the afternoon it was a teacher's seminar and they really got into it and the response was huge. Great, great, great!

I had also sent a box of CDs to be sold at the shows this week, and they bought them all!! Cool!

So then a rush to the train station for the 3 hour journey to the next school.

I did quite a bit of work done on the train, then it was out for dinner with the teachers from tomorrow. It can sometimes be a bit hard doing a load of work, then moving to meet new people and having to be all "smiley and charming", but these teachers were all young and really friendly, so it was quite fun. There were even a couple of guitars, and it was cool to have a bit of a jam! Then off to a coffee shop for a cocoa with some of the local JETs, which was really nice.

November 26th ( Nagasaki )- Gate Crashing

Today I sort of "gate crashed" the Education Center's Elementary School English presentations. I did asked permission but was told I couldn't watch. Which is rather strange considering I'll be doing teacher training presentations in 2 cities and 4 kids shows this week. Hmmm. But I explained to the big boss guy that I needed to know the situation on the ground and he OKed it.

The first thing was a demonstration by an ALT and Japanese teacher. I've seen a lot of these in the past, and most of them have to be honest not been very good. But today's was really great! The ALT was brilliant and managed to get a lot out of the shy 6th year kids. The games and everything were great and I was well impressed! The Japanese teacher was also really cool in that he was totally positive and really supported the ALT.

But he wasn't the class' teacher. This made me think that maybe it would be better for the ALT to team teach with a specialist English teacher in each school (similar to the situation in Korea). This way they'd quickly build up a good team teaching report and have great lessons. Mind you, if this teacher ended up being one of the terrible ones then the whole year would be horrible!!! So maybe not too good an idea!

In the afternoon there were loads of presentations by the teachers and ALTs and I got a lot of new ideas. The Nagasaki ALTs have some really cool ideas and are totally on the ball! But then there was a speech about the state of Elementary School English and they just seemed to ignore all the great work that the ALTs have been doing!! It was basically the same presentation that we'd had in Ehime 6 years ago. In reality the Nagasaki ALTs have moved the programme way beyond this, but were offered no recognition by the people in charge. I guess it also didn't help that unlike many prefectures, all the presentations were purely in Japanese! Come on people, take notice of the great work that's being done!

The thing is that the ALTs (assistant language teachers) are the people who are leading this education everywhere in the country. They need good training and support (which is something I try to help with), and they do amazing jobs. The thing is that they are hardly ever recognised by the Boards of Educations or schools themselves. As foreigners in Japan, everyday we understand the need for International Understanding Education. So rather than trying to train up the Japanese teachers, which will take up far too much time and resources, we really should be pushing for the authorities to really listen to what ALTs have been doing and promote more training.

Guys, you are doing a great job! You might not see it everyday, but when I visit the schools and towns where you've been doing your stuff, they just jump out as being far more advanced than anywhere else. Come back in 20 years time and you'll say "Yeah, all that hard work was worth it!" Stay Genki!

So tonight I had a homestay, in the biggest and poshest house I've every seen in Japan!!!!!!!!!!!

November 25th Monday - Off to Nagasaki

This morning I took the plane and then several trains down to Genki English's first visit to Nagasaki Prefecture. The train down was really nice along the coast, but I had so much work to do that i didn't really get time to sightsee.

I got in just after lunch and popped into the prefectural Elementary School English meeting they were having. The teachers were planning tomorrow's demo presentations and it was quite nice to see many of them using Genki English ideas and songs!!

I had to pop off to one of the schools to do the soundcheck for Wednesday. It actually took me an hour to rewire the whole PA system! But I still made it to dinner with everybody and that was really cool. Mind you the place we were at was an "all you can eat" place, there was so much food I'd love to have eaten, but got far too full far too quickly! But it was still a cool night.

November 24th Sunday (Ehime)- Matsuyama International Festival

Ehime, on the southern Japanese island of Shikoku, is where Genki English is based. Some people think this is strange and wonder why we're not based in Tokyo. Well, the reason is simple, it's a really nice place to live!! And today was even better as it was soooo hot!! Matsuyama is the capital of Ehime and is quite a small place, but we were asked to help out with a presentation for their local festival, so of course we obliged.

We only had 20 minutes, and only a handful of people were in front of the stage, so actually it was more like a "lesson" than a show. But in that 20 minutes we did "Rock, Paper, Scissors", "Doctor, Doctor", "Good Morning" and the "Thank you" song and with help from a couple of ALTs (thanks guys!) the kids did really well, had big smiles and really got into it. Which is really nice.

After a quick chat with the NHK people about the "Ehime Day" in February I actually realised that the next mini-tour of Nagasaki starts tomorrow!!! So I had to spend the rest of the day preparing for that, packing my stuff for Europe in December, and to do my my tax returns. It's not all quite so glamorous, but it's nice to do things to help people out at home.

November 23rd Saturday - Okayama Maruzen

With all the free events and things we do (especially this week!!), presentations like today are how we eat! But luckily most of the parents and teachers who attend are crying out for decent English teaching materials (i.e. ones with real English instead of strange "Japlish" or "katakana!!"). This morning's presentation was good, but I think I have to change the promotion a bit. On every bit of material we produce it says, in Japanese, "Elementary School", and yeah it's cool for kindergarten kids as well, but half the parents brought kids today that looked only a few months old! So as soon as I tried to explain anything, or try to give them some help or advise, the kids all burst into screams and crying and I had to get back to doing the songs!! Sounds like some of them were just after a free English lesson! Hmmm....

So I was thinking that maybe we should just make these presentations for parents and teachers only. But then in the afternoon there were a load of people and a load of Kindergarten and Elementary School kids and they were just brilliant!!! It was a cool presentation, I could explain all the hints and tips, loads of skits and activities plus loads of songs. It was great!!! The Maruzen people were also really happy, they usually sell nowhere near as many products as this, and certainly not packs for 20,000 Yen. But that's the thing with Genki English, you see it in action with all the energy and motivation that's included in the materials and you realise how easy it is to teach, and how quickly the kids learn to speak!

So exhausted, but happy, we set off on the 4 hour drive back to Ehime.

November 22nd Friday - Okayama ALT Mid Year Conference

After a week of bowing and using lots of polite Japanese, it was actually really good to just hang out with the JETs today!! The presentation was cool. Seeing as it was the last day, they weren't quite as genki as they could have been, especially as they had just been told that the powers that be in Okayama are thinking about reducing their holiday time!! But the "massage game" and "What's your name?" song got everyone in the mood. The thing with the holidays is that most of the people running the JET programme in the prefectures don't realise what the job of a JET is. One point is that if Japanese teachers wish to visit their families they simply drive there. When ALTs need to be home it takes about 4 days just to get there, back and recover from JET lag! There are a million and one points like this that most Japanese staff don't get, but luckily we do get to speak to a lot of BOEs and teachers and usually once they have seen both sides they are very understanding.

So my "Genki Speech" went down well and quite a few people were saying it helped them understand more about their job. It was also really great to hear from all the people who use Genki English nearly everyday, thanks!!

Then it was a quick lunch with the AJET people, and off to Maruzen to do soundchecks and preparation for tomorrow. A quick break and then out for dinner with everyone, busy, but cool!

November 21st Thursday - Saitama "Rock, Paper, Scissors"

Today was the first time we'd come to an Elementary School in Saitama Prefecture. We did the JET mid-year conference here last year, and we've had chats with quite a few Boards of Educations, but we've not actually seen the situation "on the ground" before. And things started off on a bit of a low note as the teachers were telling us how "serious" and quiet the kids were. Hmmm..... as most of you know, if you teach them right, 1st to 4th grades are always genki, up for a laugh and willing to learn, but sometimes 6th graders can be a bit, well, Junior High School like. It's not their fault, it's just their age! But we were being told that even the 4th years were like this, argh!!!!

BUT, it was nothing of the sort!! 550 kids in the gym, a bit quiet at first, but once I started with the motivation stuff they were singing like crazy and were really good! We tried out the "Rock, Paper, Scissors" song for the first time in an Elementary School show and boy did it go down well! This could be the new "left and right" song! They kept going for over an hour (most kids tire out after 45 minutes), and even managed an encore with "Rock, Paper, Scissors" - Excellent! These kids don't have an English teacher, nor assistant English teacher, although they had listened to one or two Genki English songs before, but they were amazing! Everyone was well impressed, including the parents and press, cool! Genki English works, and it works well!

So then onto the Shinkansen for the Okayama mid-year conference tomorrow!

November 20th Wednesday - Saitama Kindergarten

Now we don't do shows in Kindergartens. The reason being that the kids aren't usually able to concentrate long enough to make it through a show. But just about all the Genki English materials, including the songs and games, do work amazingly well in kindergarten. Just because we say it's "Elementary School English", it doesn't mean that it's only for Elementary School age kids!

Anyway, so this is the kindergarten where we came in Spring, and were featured in the Japan Times and at the moment they hold the record for being the best kids anywhere in Japan at doing the Genki English show!! These kids are amazing and a lot of it has to do with the great teachers, and the amazing Head Teacher.

They could do all the normal show songs (in fact all the teachers have to do is to put "Left and Right" on the speakers and they start to dance and sing automatically!!)
so after "How are you?" we tried them out with the new "Animals" song which they got in 15 minutes, and the "Rock, Paper, Scissors" song, which was soooooo good, then as a finale they managed to do "Doctor, Doctor" in 10 minutes! Their English teacher teaches each class twice a month using Genki English, and the results are amazing. They had never heard the CD4 songs before, but did them brilliantly! So now everyday they'll play a song at lunchtime and pretty soon they'll have remembered the lot! Cool! It's great to see Genki English working so well!

Then in the afternoon it was a presentation to the parents on how to support their kids at home with English (very important). Basic gist; it's not Junior School English, this stuff works, is easy and confidence is the key! Then a seminar for the teachers of the kindergarten and the local Elementary School, whom we'll visit tomorrow!

November 19th Tuesday (Tokyo) - Busy!

First off this morning was a visit to CLAIR (Council for Local Authorities for International Relations) to have a chat about our presentation at the CIR conference next month. That was great to meet up with everyone, they really are a cool bunch of people! Everything seems sorted for the conference, and it should be pretty good. Sometimes JETs seem to think that CLAIR is this "Evil Empire" that they must battle against, but nothing could be farther from the truth. JETs are employed with their Host Institution directly so CLAIR aren't usually the people causing the problems, but if you ring up and have a chat they'll probably be able to help you out! As I said before they are a really cool bunch of people!

Then it was off for a lunchtime meeting about filming a commercial for our new "Kids English" series. Of course we schedule these types of meetings at lunchtime so that we don't have to pay for lunch! ; )

After recounting the Genki English story one more time we actually finished a bit early, so I got to plough through some of the mountain of emails I had to catch up on, but didn't get a free lunch!

Then on a mega packed commuter train out to Saitama, why anyone would chose to go to work this way I don't know! But we got here and got taken out for dinner, which was cool. I also found out I'm allergic to dust and cats, so that rules out quite a few homestay places!

But tomorrow is another show with the best Genki English kids in Japan!

November 18th Monday (Tokyo) - Altia Central

Today I met up with a couple of the guys from Altia Central. They are a company based in Nagoya who place ALTs in schools. The thing that's great about talking with these guys is that they're really doing it for the right reasons, giving the kids some quality education! Talking about all the materials, support and back up they give to their teachers in Elementary Schools really makes me wish all companies would think like they do!

And if any of you think you're up to the challenge of being an Altia Central ALT, have a look at their website!@@

November 17th Sunday - Thai stuff

I think most of you know that in August I went to do some volunteer teacher training in Thailand. That was a great experience and the teachers were so eager to learn. Teacher training and a lot of resources are financially pretty much out of the reach of most teachers out in the countryside, so the people who went over this year are forming a group to organise more of these idea sharing projects in countries all over Asia. I was lucky enough to be asked to help prepare hand-outs and materials to be used in future visits. So today I met up with one of the teachers from August and we went through a whole load of ideas, games and songs and things to be printed up and given to Thai teachers. It was good fun, I got a load of new ideas and it's great to know that we're helping people out!

November 16th Saturday - Tokyo Maruzen!

Every other month this year, Maruzen bookstore in Tokyo have organised a Genki English presentation. It's 10 minutes from Tokyo station in Nihonbashi and if you ever want any English books or teaching stuff they have loads!! Today's presentation was extra special as it was the first time I got to present the whole of CD4 to the public. And although I was still quite tired and had to do two 2 hour presentations (!) , it went really, really well!! The kids were amazing and the parents and teachers were really genki. These events are always great as we get to see lots of different kids reactions and go "Oh, that works well!" or "That didn't work too well, let's change it!" and this time we also got lots of new ideas from the kids. It seems the animations for each of the songs on the software section of CD4 work really well, and to my surprise the slightly slow "Mr Octopus Song" was picked up very quickly by the kids. So thank you for everyone for turning up and being so Genki, and for everyone at Maruzen for organising everything! It's great to be back out presenting!

Next week is Maruzen in Okayama, it should be fun!

November 15th Friday (Tokyo) - Business Presentation

Over this past year one of the projects I've been working on is a series of pre-school picture books with CDs and teaching videos to go with them. ( Hopefully the set should be released in December time, keep an eye on the website for details of when it's available! ) I often get asked to work with other companies, and if they have people who are into what I do then it's cool, as I get to input a lot of ideas without having to spend all the time behind a computer producing them! And it's great for me as I get to learn a lot of things from a lot of interesting people.

So today I had to present the new project to the rest of the company. This was the first "business" presentation I'd given in Japan for a long time, but you know, being genki works just as well for business people as it does for kids!

The books, videos and especially the CDs that they've produced are really cool, and I'm quite excited to see what happens when they are launched.

November 14th Thursday - "Blade Runner"

Flew up to Tokyo today which, as ever, was cool. It always reminds me of Blade Runner, travelling on the ten storey high expressway through all the neon lights.

November 13th Wednesday (Fukuoka) - Sumo?

When I first came to Japan there were two things that I wanted to do before I left. One of the them was having my photo taken doing a flying kick in front of the Miyajima Tori gates, and the other was to go to a sumo match. But even though I've had some cool experiences here, done some very weird things, and we actually got to meet one of the top sumo guys (Chiyoutaikai) in Summer, these two things have so far eluded me.

But today I was in Fukuoka, and so were the sumo guys for the Kyushu championship!! But.... I wasn't feeling quite genki enough so it'll have to wait till next time!

November 12th Tuesday (Fukuoka)

After everything over the last few days, and before the big tour that starts on Friday, I took today a bit quieter! But this morning I uploaded the Japanese CD gesture/actions explanation videos and the English one for volume III - check out it! Then prepared the newsletters, which you should all get tomorrow!

November 11th Monday (Ehime) - What it's all about

I was asked in an interview last week "What is the ultimate aim for Genki English?". Well, my point of view is that every problem you see in the World today, is caused, or is at least made worse, by a lack of education. Think of a problem you've read in the newspapers today, and think what part good education could have played in avoiding the situation.

But to improve this education it's not necessarily a problem of funding or resources, it's a question of finding better ways to show people how to learn. It's about finding out what interests people and teaching to these interests. I didn't like school much when I was a kid, but the few things that I did enjoy have stuck with me. With the new Elementary School curriculum in Japan I've been handed a chance on a golden platter. There are few suitable ways to teach this subject, but luckily the ideas that I have, have proved popular and have caught on with a lot of people.

But it's not just Japan, thanks to the Internet, teachers from more than 70 countries all over the World use these ideas for teaching all sorts of languages. In the last week I've had emails from people teaching in Hungary, Thailand, China, Europe and Tibet.

And it's not just languages, eventually I want to move on to develop Genki ways of teaching science, maths and history.

But the ultimate aim is to develop these ideas into health care education. I really want to apply my ideas and techniques to health care education, especially in developing countries. This is what I'll be working towards in the long term.

And this morning, sitting in a hospital waiting room, this was really brought home to me. One minute I was sitting in the house hardly able to catch my breath, the next I'd been given some tablets and could actually breathe. Believe me that is a nice sensation! The thing is that I'm university educated and live in developing countries, but I don't know how or why I got ill. My pulse was 102, I know it's high, but I don't know what it means. There are a million and one things that I don't know. What's needed is for education to be made more easily understood and for it to be something people want to do because it's fun! Teachers need confidence, to know how special they are, and to be given techniques and ideas that are effective and free. It doesn't cost you any money to do the Gokiburi Game in class, but it motivates kids to learn more. That's why I do what I do, and that's why I want to keep moving Genki English to the next level.

Of course it's a big target and ambitious, but look how far we've come in a little over 2 years! As I keep saying in my presentations "Dekiru, dekiru, dekiru to omeba. Dekiru!" If you think you can do it, you can!

If you want to read more, have a look at my article from last year's kids com magazine.

Now I'm off to bed, and I think tomorrow I'll be taking a day off!

November 10th Sunday (Ehime) - "Japan Hospital Experience"

It turns out today that this cold I've had for the last week or so isn't a cold, but asthma! So I had to pop along to the hospital this morning. One of the strange things about hospitals in Japan is that they have opening and closing times! Yep, you have to get the phone book and ring round to find out which one is open and can see you! Always fun when you can't breathe.

Of course the other alternative is to call an ambulance, but if you've even seer how slooooowww Japanese ambulances drive then I'd take the phone calls any day. Someone once told me that the reason Japanese ambulances drive so slow if that if they drove faster "it might hurt the people inside". Hmmm.

A quick hint:: if you live in Japan, carry your insurance card all the time, otherwise they'll ask for a wad of cash from you beforehand!

Anyway, one other thing about Japanese hospitals is that they seem to treat everything by putting you on a drip.

So I was put on a drip for an hour, and it worked really well, I can breathe again. Cool!!

In between all this lot I managed to find time to upload all the picture cards for the new CD4, they're pretty funky!

November 9th Saturday (Ehime)

I quite quite often have people saying to me "It must be great in Genki English, travelling to all these places, meeting all these people, doing a few hours of presentations and then a huge party every night".

Well, yeah, if you put it like that it does sound pretty cool! But it's the bits you don't see that are the killers! Sitting in the Genki House doing the website/CDs/videos seems to take forever, weekends and nights just become work days, and long work days at that. Contrary to what they might say on TV, although I try to as much as I can, I don't spend all my time working down by the beach (that would be a bit daft in the middle of the night in November!). The thing is that it's nearly always the computers crashing or breaking down that causes the problems! And the Macs are just as bad as the PCs!!! But these song explanation videos are looking pretty groovy and I'm sure they'll help a lot of people, which is what it's all about! So next time you offer to buy me a beer you know I've earned it!

And hey, if every day was too much fun, it get way too boring!

November 8th Friday (Ehime) - The new CD has arrived!!

Yeah!! It took me three months of hard work, but I've finally got a copy of CD vol. IV in my hand!!!! Yeah!!!! I'm pretty happy! Because we had the pre-ordered CDs sent out to customers straight away, and it's 2 days early, then most of you have seen the final CD before I did!!! I hope you like it as much as I do. Please write and let me know!

There were a few problems with the colours (the green I chose was a bit too genki apparently!), so it does look a little strange, but everyone round here seems to love it! And I've just listened to it for the first time since it was "mastered" onto CD and it sounds really, really, really good. If it was a normal music CD it'd be great to listen to, but add the teaching use and the CD-ROM software and it is just amazing! If you haven't heard a Genki English CD yet, do your students a favour and buy a copy, it's great!!! : )

And this morning I managed to upload the version of the Teaching Guide Video for CD4, so if you've just received your copy, have a look at the video to learn all the actions and gestures!!!

Have a happy weekend!

November 7th Thursday (Ehime)

I had 2 hours sleep last night (and I think Will had none!) as we were busy editing together all the Teaching Guide videos! I can't believe that in 3 days we've produced nearly 2 hours of programmes. But I am really excited about it as one of the things I've always wanted to do is to make Genki English into a TV station where you choose a topic you want to teach and you have a teacher training video to show you how to do it! (In fact the first newspaper article about Genki English from outside of Japan had the headline "Richard has a yen for web TV station"). So this is the first step! I've just uploaded the English language teaching guide for the topics on CD1, have a look and let me know what you think - click here!

Right, I'm off to bed, these late nights are doing nothing for me! But at least it was quite warm outside today!

November 6th Wednesday (Ehime)

Spent the day editing the video from last night. Then at 2AM it was time to video Will's sections. These videos are looking pretty good to say the least and they should be up on the site in a couple of days! Tomorrow is also really exciting as we get delivery of CD/CD-ROM vol. IV!! Yeah!

November 5th Tuesday - Filming, schools and "Bee Genki"

I must have strange jet lag still or something because I keep waking up far too early. At 6 this morning I was doing the Japanese's version of this diary, then decided to leave it for a bit because it's too difficult to make it interesting!. At 9 o'clock a futon salesman came to the Genki House, upon seeing the foreigners inside he said "Oh, you're not Japanese. You can't use futons. Goodbye"

Quite a lot of today was spent on the phone talking to schools and BOEs about shows. It's amazing how different teachers can be. If you have a good teacher, appreciate them. If you have teachers who don't care about the kids then I sympathise! First today was Nagasaki. The Head Teacher at Moriyama school rang and was amazing! He was totally on the ball and had everything worked out, schedules, times, expenses, parents and then at the end he said "look, basically the deal is that my kids love English and we want to encourage that even more". Great, I wish all Head Teachers were like that!

I also phoned the Toyama Education Center as they were supposed to have gotten back to me about the Toyama JET mid year. They hadn't so I phoned and they said "oh, sorry we can't pay travel expenses so we canceled it". It may have been nicer if they had phoned and told me. We offered to do it for free but they wanted it cheaper. But every cloud has a silver lining and it means we can fit in a few more schools in Kanazawa, get in touch if you want us to visit! Some more Nagasaki schools called and were amazing again, it is so impressive how they've managed to organise so much in such a short space of time!

Then I had to speak to a school in a prefecture up north (beginning with a G), and the teacher there was just coming up with every excuse under the sun! If Moriyama can do it in a weekend, then I'm sure you can. Think of the kids! Anyway, if you have a look at the schedules page, all the latest info is on there!

Spent the rest of the day preparing for the CD4 launch party by doing posters and things, if you want something really CUTE to show your students, check out the new "Be Genki!" poster! (right click on the image to print it out!). Also had a look at how well the site is doing, now it's nearly up to 1500 people a day. Thank you everyone!

Then it was time to film the action/gesture explanation videos for all the songs. So from 11PM we started converting the Genki House Music Studio into a Video Studio. It's amazing that we can actually do this and have the quality of the production just as good as a big budget video shoot. Mind you recording the actions and gestures for all 30 songs in English and Japanese takes a long time! But hopefully it'll allow people to get more use out of their CDs. I was really tired doing it, but as with anything if you "Think Genki you'll be Genki!!". So the shots worked out great. But without an audience to get any Genkiness from, by 5 AM I was shattered and went to bed.

November 4th Monday (Ehime)

Today is a public holiday in Japan, but unfortunately not for me. I also have a cold, which isn't very nice! I added a whole lot of stuff to the site, including a groovy little thing were you can hopefully see if I'm online and if I am you can ask me questions really quickly. You should be able to see it to the left somewhere. Try it out and let me know if it works. Also jazzed up a few extra bits on the site and found a game that I hadn't uploaded, have a look at Shiritori!

Then got ready to start filming this week on the explanation videos for each song. Invariably at seminars and shows we get people saying "Ah, so that's how you teach it!!", if you just listen to the song you might not "get it" but if you see the songs in action you see how effective they are. So if my cold clears up video explanations of the actions and gestures of all the songs should be on the site by next week (hopefully!). We'll also put them on a special bonus CD-ROM in the Software Superpack. Speaking of which I had a look at some software in the computer shops today and we must be mad selling the CDs so cheaply! 20,000 yen for the 4 CDs and video is a bargain, but hopefully it'll help a lot of people to get genki! And once this little project is out of the way we can start work on the Genki English TV series, but that will take a little bit longer to get going....

November 3rd 2002 Sunday - rare day off!

As is quite often the case after a big party the Genki House had a few people crashing over. And it was actually quite good just having an easy morning just hanging out. It was when I was chatting with my friends and showing them the books and TV and all the stuff that I'd done this year that I decided to actually start keeping a proper diary so I can remember it all!
We all went out for lunch and then in the afternoon I had a bit of time on my own. And it was a bit weird really, after everything that's happened this year, being in the Genki House isn't really that much fun when it is sooooo cold!! But I'm glad I bought a heater the other week! I was also thinking that living out of a back pack and only being back here for 4 weeks in 5 months was getting a little crazy. But you gotta put the effort in ....

In the evening I was discussing with Will about the JET seminars we do and how really we should have recorded the Renewer's conference in June! Will thought we should do a stand-up type of show not related to children's English, but something that everyone could get something out of. So we sat down and planned the "Genki English: Otona demo dekiru Show", basically a mega fun show full of skits, songs and examples showing Japanese adults how they too can get good at English. Now this is exciting!!! We just have to find some venues to put this show on at! So if you know a group of people who are interesting in English and want a big dose of Genki Motivation, let us know and we'll give you the show!

November 2nd 2002 Saturday (Ehime) - Halloween party

This morning was catching up on email day, yep I do reply to them all. I wrote off to the Nagasaki people to see if we could confirm their shows, if we could it'd be great! I also rang one of the BOEs, and got this strange old man who spoke the most incomprehensible Japanese you've ever heard!!! So I'll ring back on Tuesday.

In the evening it was the Matsuyama Hallowe'en Party so I drove back to the Genki House, taking the nice scenic route, and got dressed up as Darth Maul. That was good until the marker pens ran out and I had to go to the convenience store to buy another pen with a half painted face. But hey, I'm used to being stared at in Japan. The evening was cool, catching up with a lot of people I'd not seen in a long time. Mind you finishing at 5 AM was a bit rough!

November 1st 2002 Friday (Ehime)

Today was I had to go to the city office to get my health insurance sorted for the next year. The guy couldn't quite believe how little money I made last year, but it was true. We do sell a heck of a lot of CDs, but also do too much stuff for free!

Did a few more bits and pieces on the website, then at 6PM I got 3 emails from Nagasaki asking us to visit in November. Argh! I had decided to cancel the Nagasaki trip as flying from Gunma near Tokyo to Nagasaki (down south) and then back up north again was going to be waaayyy too expensive. But it turns out there were several schools interested. So it could work out cool if I go down to Nagasaki and Will takes Gunma on his own!

October 31st 2002 Thursday

I had a bit of a cold and could take things a bit easy so spent the day cleaning up the website, hopefully making it a lot easier to follow and understand. I also starting updating the new series of picture cards. There is so much stuff on there it's crazy though. It was also really nice being at my "adopted" family's house. Whatever strange things people say about Japan I also thing of them and their just normal people like anybody else, it is a weird country to be in but everybody is just as friendly and helpful here as anywhere else and I guess I'm really lucky to have such nice people to look after me.

October 30th 2002 Wednesday

Got up at 11 and had a phone call that I had to rush to Imabari (to my "adopted" Japanese parents house) to check the proofs of the new "Genki English Superpack" design. So it was a bit of a mad rush on the expressway to get there before the printer guy left. But the new design looks well cool! The Super Pack is the name we've given to the set of 4 CDs/Teaching Training Video/Worksheets. I also got master copy of the CD4 worksheets sorted out.

Recently we've been a lot of shows and things for free, which is great as I want to help as many teachers as I can and taking away the price hurdle helps a lot. But of course we need to balance this up with paid for work. Now as it happens when we do private shows the people who organise it can actually make quite a bit of money. So Will's job for the day was to get in touch with as many private teachers as he could to see about getting private shows every weekend in the new year! That way they get to make some money as well as getting the prestige of having Genki English visit, a load of motivation for the kids and a lot of press coverage for their school! If you're interested in hosting one of these then please get in touch!

October 29th 2002 Tuesday - Shiga School!

Today we had a Show at an Elementary School in Shiga. It was strange meeting the Head Teacher, especially as he was dressed as a Mummy. The other teachers were also dressed rather strangely, but luckily that was because it was a Halloween day. The show was cool and the kids were good, but sitting down on the cold gym floor for a couple of hours before the show had made them a little tired! But it was good to hear lots of the teachers thanking us for motivating them so much. For the first time in a show we also tried "How much?" (the kids were doing a shopping activity later), and it worked quite well!
In the afternoon I had a chat with the Deputy Head about the school's curriculum. This seems to be one of the problems in Japan that nobody has a good curriculum to base their lessons on. The school had a few and a few companies publish some, but most of them are just not suitable for Elementary School. But he was glad to see the Genki English curriculum (especially as it was free!), where teachers just pick and choose a topic according to the students needs. But it did get me to realise that I really need to get actual lesson plans put on the site for all the topics that I have. Something else to add to the list of things to do!

Then it was the Teacher Training Seminar which was really cool, they got into it which was good. The idea is that even if we give a great show for the kids it's of no benefit if the teachers don't follow it up! With the seminar the teachers learn how to teach Genki English even when we're not there!

Next was the drive home, all seven hours of it to arrive in Matsuyama at 2 AM!! And for me it was the first time back here for a month! So a bit more work and to sleep at 4AM

October 27th Monday

Transport is weird in Japan, and expensive. For example today I caught the train from Fukuoka in Kyushu to Kobe near Osaka and it cost as much as a plane ticket would have! But the shinkansen is really great for getting some work done, today it was ploughing through emails and getting the next months' schedule sorted.

After I'd been waiting at Kobe station for an hour Will came with the car and we drove up to Shiga. After the sound checks and meeting with the staff it was off to our homestay families. Now the reason we do homestays is to keep things cheap for the schools who invite us i.e. they don't have to pay for hotels and can't make excuses that they don't have any money (this really annoys me! Look, the schools I visited in Thailand in the summer had no money, all Japanese schools are very rich!!).

But anyway, I have been thinking about changing this homestay situation as sometimes people just want us for free English lessons or to comment on my chopstick abilities (many Japanese believe non-Japanese can't use them!), and it's also really difficult to get any work done when staying at someone's house. But like most of our recent homestays today's was really nice! I got a cool family who asked really interesting questions and were fun to be with, so that was quite cool. Mind you the next day during school lunch one of the teachers said, in front of all the kids, "So Richard, I hear you were up drinking sake till one o'clock this morning"..... hmmm.. I'm sure it must have been someone else!

October 20th - 26th 2002 (Fukuoka)

I flew down to Fukuoka to stay at my girlfriend's, I hadn't seen her for over a month! I also had a ton of work to do designing the new Super Pack covers and the Worksheets for CD4 as well as getting the website ready to take orders for when the new CD is ready and the October newsletters. I'm not sure if people realise it or not, but the fun part of Genki English is the shows and seminars, it's the days I spend doing all the preparation work that is the killer!!

During the day it was cool to sit in a restaurant or cafe by the river and work away. But needless to say me working often till 2 or 3 in the morning was not very well received......

Luckily on the last day I'd finished most of the things so took the afternoon off for a nice stroll down to the harbour.

October 19th 2002 - Ibaraki Seminar

So today was the first time in Ibaraki and it was rather good! Millie, the angel of an ALT who organised everything, took us out for breakfast and then we had the Teacher Training Seminar. These were really Genki JETs and really got into it, asking loads of questions and responding brilliantly. We're not kidding when we say that the elementary schools that have the best English programmes are the ones where genki JETs are trying hard and really making a huge difference. Mind you we had 4 hours for today's seminar but still ran out of time!! But it was cool and I'm sure we'll be back.

In the evening it was party time! With Karaoke until 5 in the morning, this is the best thing cool teachers who work hard and play hard! You were amazing!

October 18th 2002 Flying back to Japan

If you ever book an international flight then I'd seriously recommend learning a bit of Geography. I booked my flight from Tokyo to Manchester in the UK in a bit of a rush and didn't think when I was told it was via Kuala Lumpur. But having spent over 20 hours flying (not including waiting for connections) then I wish I'd have taken a more direct route. And I'm sure on the map that it said at one point we were flying over Iraq, but I'm sure that wasn't quite right!

Changing at KL airport was quite nice $18 for all you can eat, drink, shower and internet was great considering I was very smelly, hungry and had just found a few changes that needed to be made to the master copy of CD4!

Eventually I made it to Ibaraki. Living in the Genki House isn't exactly luxury, but tonight I was being put up in a hotel which sounded really groovy! But it turned out to be a little less luxurious than I'd thought. But after that long on a plane a bed was a bed and I was shattered!

September 24th - October 17th - Recording CD4 in England!

This time had been slotted in to record the new CD4 in Matsuyama, Japan. But my Mum had to go in hospital so I decided to fly back home to try and look after her whilst she recuperated. But I couldn't actually stop work as I already had the CD4 Launch Presentations set for one of the largest bookstores in Tokyo for November. But due to wonders of modern technology, I didn't need to take all my music studio with me I just packed up a suitcase with a mixer, a mic, my music computer and my laptop and I was ready to go. So during the day I helped my Mum out, and whilst she was resting and during the night I worked on CD4. She gradually got better and CD4 began to take shape. It was also so nice working back in England. Unlike the Genki House I had a big desk to work on, a comfy bed to sleep in, food in the fridge and TV to watch in my breaks. Plus being with my family was really nice. For me this was all luxury! And all this meant that CD4 turned out to be pretty amazing, the songs worked great and I could put so much new stuff on the software like mini-lessons and animations for the songs. So I was quite happy.

September 21st Saturday CD4 Preview Show in Tokyo!

The Maruzen bookstore in Nihonbashi Tokyo has one of the largest Western book sections in Japan, and the man who runs it, Mr Kondo, is a seriously cool guy. After the shows in August he asked us to pop back up and give a sneak preview of the songs on CD4. So we did, to a pretty much packed house! We went through most of the new songs and everyone seemed to love them, and for us it was great to get some hands on feedback from the people who were going to be using the songs in their lessons. Of course the games and ideas are tested on kids (not animals!), but it was cool to hear what the teachers thought. Doctor, Doctor! What do you do? and Rock, Paper, Scissors went down great. Maruzen even started taking advanced orders, and I hadn't even finished the CD yet!!

So that was cool, but just before the flight back to Ehime I got a call from my Mum who was about to go into hospital. She didn't sound too good about it and I realised that it would be really difficult for her once she got home. So I decided to fly home to England. But my passport was back in Matsuyama, so a few rushed phone calls and I had a my ticket booked.

September 20th Edogawa Elementary School!

Do you know who the most powerful people are in Japanese schools? It's the PTA! And it was thanks to the PTA and Michiko, one of the very Genki teachers who organised our summer tour last year, that we were invited to our first show in an Elementary School in Tokyo! As you know, we do these for free but do ask for travel expenses. It's also really nice if we can invite the press so that more teachers can see how good elementary school kids can get. Unfortunately the press weren't allowed into the school today, but just about all the parents came along which was cool!! Mind you we did have a bit of drama before the show as Will had forgotten to bring the Genki English CDs!! Arrghh! But just in time I managed to get a copy using the MP3s from the website!

The show was cool and the kids were great. September in Japan is hot, very hot! We had several hundred kids in the gym jumping up and down, so naturally had the windows open. But part way through the staff staring closing them!! Apparently the neighbours had complained of the noise! Flippin' eck, it's supposed to be loud! It took a lot to get rehydrated afterwards!

Then afterwards the teaching seminar was great, and the teachers really got into the games and songs and had lots of questions, cool!

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