RichardRichard's Weblog Diary!

Doing GenkiEnglish.com 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 start 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!

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8th December -> New Year - That was 2003!

I'm now back in the UK, I'll still be working on GE all through until March when I get back to Japan, but for now the shows, tours and seminars are over.

2002 was just a crazy year, what with being jetted off to Hollywood and everything, and although 2003 wasn't quite as glamorous it's been very busy and it seems we've moved on quite a way. Highlights have been the Tokyo Bookfair (with the VIP passes), the Key Note Speech at Kobe and all the tours. We have taught thousands of teachers and 10s of thousands of kids, probably more than anyone else in Japan. We also did a lot of work with JALT and I had the first presentation in Korea which was great. Products wise we've only had the Picture Card packs and the DVD out this year, but I have spent an enormous amount of time on the website. To be honest I probably shouldn't have put so much on the site, as that's not what pays the bills, but for the people who support us so much I really want to give as much back as I can.

But next year will see a whole new range of products and hopefully a bigger step on the road to making GE a household name in Japan. One big problem this year has been that teachers use Genki English loads ( just about everyone has the CDs) but the average person on the street doesn't know yet. Plus the fact that lots of people use the ideas eventhough they officially teach for the big English companies who then take the credit!! Parents are the key to success of any education project, so one aim for next year is to let everyone know about GE, and to motivate your average guy and girl on the street to be genki about English and the World. Hopefully the DVD will play a big part in this as it's the first product where you can really feel the genkiness.

And of course you, the teachers who use Genki English, are the key to the future and I want to do all I can to help you out. So keep your comments coming in on the surveys and let me know what you want.

2004 is going to be a wicked year, let's make it as fun, as Genki and as successful as we can! Confidence is the key; if you think you can do it, you can!

Be genki,
Richard


7th December 2003 - Sunday - Last gig of the year!

Today was the final day of the Nellie's Bookstore and it was great to finish on a massively brilliant seminar! The teachers were mega genki and the energy in the room was just amazing, we were just ploughing through the material and they just loved it! Fantastic!

Tomorrow it's off to KL and England, but don't worry there are plenty of things I'll be working on over 2 months!


6th December 2003 - Saturday - Off to Osaka and preparing for tomorrow

Pretty much as the title says!

5th December 2003 - Friday - less beer next time...

OK, the Nara JETs rock too much, I was feeling decidedly ill this morning. But still had work to do, so put on my best genki smile to talk to the national press about the DVD release. And seeing as I was in Nara, decided to take a 20 minute break and have a look round the temples, they are after all World heritage sites, but all I've been doing here this week is work!! They were cool, then more work after nightfall.

4th December 2003 - Thursday - Nara ALT Meeting!

Today was another JET day, doing a presentation sponsored by the Nara Prefectural Board of Education and the Ministry of Education. They had Kip Cates doing the morning seminar and he was great as usual, taking about World issues. It was great to hear the JETs saying "yeah, after his speech last time I really decided to change my whole teaching style".

Then I was on in the afternoon. The room was packed and as there was also another seminar at the same time I only got the Genki JETs, which was really cool. So we started off (after I tried to speak in English and failed many times) and for a warm up did "What's your name?" but the CD player was way too quiet for these guys and impossible to work with! And that really threw me, how to do an elementary school presentation without songs??? But I improved a bit and also did some question and answers. And these guys asked some really cool questions, great stuff. Usually JETs just moan in Q&A sessions, but today we got some great questions. They then loved the games (mingle and hammer) and I final got a new CD player for How are you?. The difference in using the songs or not really shone through, games are cool, but the songs make a world of difference. It was also good to see how even just a little bit of Japanese could make all the difference for the Japanese teachers. In English they understood very little ( I speak very fast!), but just a couple of little "dekiru, dekirus" or other motivation lines in Japanese and they got really into it.

So that went well and I finished on a mini-Genki speech and everyone seemed very happy.

Then it was out for dinner with AJET, and again JETs are the most amazing people. I had a really, really cool night. You guys rock!


3rd December 2003 - Wednesday - Press Day!

Spent the day sending out the press release of the DVD and making the DVD pages on the website live! It's official, the DVD is now available to order!! It's been a lot of hard work, but if it makes Japanese kids genki and positive about the World, it's worth it!

2nd December 2003 - Tuesday - Get ready for the press!

We're staying in one of the cheapest hotels in town ( 5,000 yen a night at the "Superhotel" ) whilst at the same time we're going to be giving away 1,000 copies of the DVD to elementary schools. We must be mad.

So to publicise the fact we're sending out press releases, so today was spent at Starbucks preparing the first set.


1st December 2003 - Monday - Travel to Nara

I had a lot of work to do today but didn't get too much done as we had to take all the trains down to Nara. I did get the DVD print back (the design that is on the actual disc itself) and wow it looks very cool!

30th November 2003 - Sunday Nellie's in Nagoya

It seems quite fitting that I began this year in the Hamilton Hotel in Nagoya (a great place and not too pricey) and now with just one week to go, I'm back.

Today we had a presentation for Nellie's Bookstore. It was also very interesting to see other presenters stealing out jokes...hmmm. Our presentation was last in the day so I had to find some way of making it different from the others (apart from the obvious "genki" factor), so decided the do the "Where are you from?" theme. Of course one of the main aims of this theme is to show people that you don't judge people by their skin colour or their face. But these teachers just did not get it! As one of the non-Japanese people said "what they saw today was the most important thing they've ever heard. But they're just not ready."

In the evening it was the Outback Steakhouse again.


29th November 2003 - Saturday - Kids Show, Nice Lunch & Washing

This morning we had a kids show. Needless to say I wasn't very genki! But "genki is as genki does" so for that hour I forced myself to be genki! The kids were great though, and there were so many of them, news of this weeks shows had certainly spread. But then afterwards, and I think for the first time ever after a good show, I was shattered! I was soooo tired. We got taken out for a very nice lunch (gorgeous freshly baked bread), did some washing, caught up on a bit of sleep then headed down to Nagoya.


28th November 2003 - Friday - Very formal and partying till 3 AM

Today was the reason we were invited to KitaIbaraki, to give a Genki speech to all the teachers in the city - hundreds of them! The place was very posh and about as formal as you can imagine (i.e. as it's Japan, very formal). All the teachers, Head Teachers and PTA heads were there, as were the Board of Education and the board members themselves. Lots of people in suits! So we got them genki! And they were brilliant. I guess the setting helped, they thought it would be formal but we made it very fun. Right from the start they were laughing and getting very involved, even the very old guys!

They loved the songs and curriculum, and although I got a few weird looks during my "War Speech" everyone got on board with my ending about why International Understanding is so important - I actually thought a few of them looked like they might cry! Fantastic.

Then it was the banquet with all the high up people. I was actually thinking it'd be great to be an ALT again, now that I know how these events work. It's all a case of picking up a beer bottle and a sake bottle and going round filling the glasses of the most important people. Whatever hard work we had done today (we'd also done a show in the morning and a photo shoot at lunchtime) then the real work is done now, with beer at the banquet. But as it happened I didn't have to go to anyone, they all came to me. I was just so impressed, all these Head Teachers coming up to me and saying how much they were moved by the speech. They were saying the most amazing stuff about their feelings about Education and the futures of their students. I wish I could have videod them all! But of course the only time they could express these things was with the "excuse" of alcohol. But without fail every single person, from the Superintendent of Education downwards were all very impressive and very supportive. What a fantastic city for children to grow up in.


Then afterwards it was the "nijikai" (second party), and third-party, and fourth, and fifth...... and finally we finished at 3AM. Exhausted, but what a great day, and what a fantastic group of people.



27th November 2003 - Thursday - Schools, Sushi & Negotiations

Had a show in the morning, quite good. It took a long time to get the kids going, but once they did it was fine. Actually they were good, I guess I'm just judging them from the shows we've had recently where the kids are just fantastic!! You can really tell the difference between a school that has an ALT once a week and one that has an ALT a couple of times a year!

Then in afternoon it was another show. But this time the school decided that they'd change the plan at the last minute and ask us to only do 3rd and 4th years. Unfortunately we can't do this as if we do it for one school, everyone would want it. Besides, if the kids were like this morning then we really need the 1st and 2nd graders to genki everyone up. So it was into Japanese politics mode. They said "impossible". So I said, "O I'm really sorry, there must have a communications problem, it's all our fault", of course it wasn't, they'd just decided themselves, but taking the blame off them always helps "let's try and find a way out of this". Making sure they had an excuse to back down and I didn't get confrontational with them. So things were going backwards and forwards and before I knew it they had called in the big wigs from the Board of Education! This was a bit of a surprise, but good news as it meant the school didn't want to take responsibility, but the BOE people probably could. So after lots of talking and being as polite as possible they decided to do the show for all the kids!! Yeah!!! So lots of smiles all round. And after all the hard work the kids were brilliant. We had a massive sound system, 600 kids and everyone seemed well impressed and was wanting to take the credit for deciding to include all the school years!!

Then in the evening we were taken out for a very nice sushi meal. We were all shattered from the night before, but somehow we managed to get to a karaoke bar!

26th November 2003 - Wednesday - Starbucks and Party in Ibaraki

Spent the morning preparing the DVD inlay again, in our Shinjuku office i.e. the Starbucks. Oh I love Gingerbread lattes!

Then a 3 hour train up to Kita Ibaraki Shi. I got a lot of audio work done on the train, then we met our host for the next three days. She had prepared a very nice welcome party which was great!

25th November 2003 - Tuesday - Off to Tokyo

Bed at 4AM, up at 6AM - I need to take a break from Japan!! Mind you for all the moaning I might do and however tired I might be, I had a look around at all the people on the subway in their suits and ties and felt really grateful that I'm my own boss and don't have to do this everyday!

So I flew up to Tokyo. My bags were very wet at the baggage claim. My clothes and music gear were all drenched so I asked what happened. The reply was "it's raining".

Then to Shinjuku, I met up with Will and he did the final content check on the DVD. After all that hard work the last thing I wanted was a spelling mistake in there! But it was cool - great!!

Then a meeting at SSI, the publishers of our Kids English series, to talk about next year's marketing strategy. I played them the DVD and their jaws dropped, they looked well impressed. Which is a good reaction I suppose! They'll also check the inlay card for me tomorrow. Then we got taken out for a very nice Italian restaurant for lots of well deserved food and beer. Nice.



24th November 2003 - Monday - Backing Up

I'm on the road for the next 2 weeks, then I'm off to England so I had to backup all my data today - all 300Gb of it. I also started the design of the DVD cover, which I did until 4 AM when I got a bit tired.


23rd November 2003 - Sunday - O sumo

I got back last night at midnight and found out that my computer had crashed again. Argh!!! So I had no choice but to encode all the video files one at a time. There are over 20 and they take 45 minutes each. Hence I didn't get much sleep as I set a file going, slept for 30 minutes, woke up and did the next one!! But by 2PM I had finished - yeah!!!!! So feeling very, very tired I decided to go to the Sumo!!!

Sumo is fantastic! In 6 years I've never had the chance to go, but today was the Kyushu final and it was brilliant. It's such a cool atmosphere, like a really cool day out. It's a bit funny as they keep doing all these false starts and then suddenly do the real fight which is over in a flash, blink and you miss it! But it was cool, and all the cushion throwing at the end was great. The funniest bits were the prizes at the end, where the champion got awarded things like a years supply of petrol from the UAE, or a years supply of sake. I also got recognised a couple of times, which really surprised me, but it was nice.

So after that I went back and checked the DVD. It had rendered OK and was now ready for it's first viewing. So I put it in the machine and ..... wow!! It looks so cool! On a real TV it just looks, well, real, like a real TV programme. Great.

So I was very, very happy and very relieved that everything had working out OK. Three months of very hard work, and it's very nearly finished!


22nd November 2003 - Saturday - GE in another National TV Series!

Woke up this morning and the computer had crashed. Hmm. 12 hours wasted so I set it rendering again. And hence couldn't do any work so went shopping.

But some great news is that the Genki English materials will be featured in yet another national TV Drama series! Nice! This year our stuff was featured on the soap opera "Wataru Seken" and the new one will be on Tuesday evenings at 10PM for 10 weeks from January (I think). The producers were apparently impressed with "How are you?" so one of the main characters will use the Genki English songs and software to learn English, great!




21st November 2003 - Friday - Editing and Wine

Spent the day preparing the DVD master, which took ages! Editing in all the chapter points for the videos is really fiddly, but it makes the DVD really user friendly (I wish I could do the website in the same way!) I finished in the evening so set the computer rendering (for 12 hours!) and popped out for a bit for Beujolais Nouveau.



20th November 2003 - Thursday - Less like Star Wars

I found an amazing site on the internet today with videos for teaching elementary school English. I was quite amazed at how much they had managed to put on their website. It was all very well presented but the English was appalling (lots of "fine thank you, and you?"s). And it really got my thinking about the Genki English DVDs, it's the content that counts and it's the content that separates Genki English from anything else! I guess I've been trying to make the DVD too much like Star Wars, in a very piece by piece way to build it up in the editing like I do with Flash. But the computers are just not up to it - as proved today by the amount of time it has taken to do simple little things! But I have to get the full set of DVDs done, even if it's only to save Japanese kids the boredom of boring English!!! So when I'm in the UK next month I'll do the next two DVDs really simply, film and edit, keeping all the raw Genkiness in there!

19th November 2003 - Wednesday - Amazing Card Game! + High Volume

There is now the amazing Genki English Card Game on the site!! Whilst my computer has been busy rendering video, I've been putting together this idea which I've been wanting to do for ages!! Your kids should love it, it's a game I used to play as a kid and now it can be used for teaching English!! Try it out and let me know how you get on!

After lots of tests and analysis it looks like the huge increase in traffic to the website since I switched servers is all real. Which is great in one way as it means the site is even more popular than I thought it was!! Of course the down side is that I have to upgrade the hosting to a "High Volume" account. This is quite expensive to run so I've had to make some cut on the site. What I had to do was to cut down the amount of free MP3s from 7 to 3. I'm sure regular customers who have the CDs will be happy and anybody can still order all the songs on CD from anywhere in the World.

But having around One Gigabyte of data downloaded every weekday is a huge number!!


18th November 2003- Tuesday - Newsletters

Sent out the English and Japanese newsletters today. I also updated the site so it's easy to get to the CD pages. Most of the viewers already have the CDs (thank you!!), but recently there have been a lot of new visitors and I haven't really made the CDs as accessible to them as I should. The main part of Genki English (i.e. the songs, software and teaching videos) are on the CDs and the website is just sort of the "glue" that holds them all together. Anyway, with the new design I hope more people will be able to use GE to it's full advantage!

Also did some video work and some work on a new little project...

17th November 2003 - Monday - Back to computer work

Last week was all presentations, which was fun and cool. Today was back to computer work and it is really the most unenjoyable part of doing Genki English!! It's just a series of problems, from my computer not being able to type Japanese to finding out that the hosting bill for the website has quadrupled this month!!! On the old hosts, it seems they used to cut off access to the site at certain times, now it's always up, all the time, everywhere and it is costing a small fortune to keep online and free to use.

On a brighter note I did get a load of new games sent in today, so please check them out, including the brilliant "Harry Potter Game"

16th November 2003 - Sunday - Nellie's in Fukuoka

I was due to present this afternoon, but got a call from Nellie's asking if I could do 2 presentations today. That's no problem as it means I can show people more stuff. Mind you at 9:30 on a Sunday morning, this was one of the toughest seminars I've had in ages. Everyone was fine by the end of it, but there were quite a few people who were just seemed to want a free hour of English and weren't too happy I was doing things all in Japanese!! Then for the rest of the day it was pretty much quiet.

I went to see the some other presentations. One was quite good with a good emphasis on teaching the kids praise words like "Wow! Great! Well done!" etc. They also have a new video series out. It looks quiet good, but I really doubt the motivation behind it. It was really in the "let's learn to teach the foreigner about Japanese customs" style. And I think this type of international understanding is one that is already done far too much over here (I wonder when the next time I'll be told how to use chopsticks will be...). We'll see how it goes, but I always feel English and other languages should be used as a tool for the kids to learn about the rest of the World, not to learn how "different" Japan is. But anyway.

My afternoon presentation was a lot better than the morning, Fukuoka people are really supportive and there were a lot of people I knew which made it really easy to whiz through a load of songs and everyone had a great time. The only problem as far as the bookstores is concerned is that they sponsored today's meeting, but most of the people already have all the Genki English materials. So I guess I'll have to get cracking on the new products to keep the shops happy! Then in the evening I was shattered again.

15th November 2003 - Saturday - Relax day

I slept and watched Knight Rider, shattered from this last week!

14th November 2003 - Friday - A great day in Okayama

Got picked up at 10 this morning and off to today's school. The teacher here had seen my presentation for the Okayama City BOE in Summer so invited me to the school to give the teachers a hand in setting up their own programme. Up until now they've had an ALT once a week, but from now on they have to teach on their own.

The show wasn't till the afternoon, so in the morning I had chance to set up and also to check the DVD as luckily this was the first school I've seen with a DVD player. They were also looking at making their own DVD resources, which was quite interesting.

Anyway the show was great, the kids were fantastic. They were really loud when they should be, and really quiet when I was talking so my voice held out OK.
Then a 2 hour teaching seminar and the teachers were great. The usual questions came up (pronunciation and 6th graders) but they were also looking for some warm up games and motivation/control techniques for first graders. I also spent a fair bit of time going through the International Exchange projects which they seemed to like and also showed them the Christmas page with the musical scores from different countries. As expected they all went "ehhhhh" at the Arabic one! I also got a phone call part way through, one of the teachers answered for me and I don't know who was more surprised, the school that I got a call from a big Tokyo bookstore, or the bookstore because I was doing volunteer work in an elementary school.

So I finished at 5, very, very tired but after such a good day, it was a "good job well done" tired. This week I've been from Kyushu to Tokyo, to Mt Fuji, Tochigi, Okayama and now I'm back to Kyushu. It's been hard, but having such responsive teachers who really care and really want to learn certainly makes it all worthwhile.


13th November 2003 - Thursday - Shinkansen to Okayama

I wasn't Genki to say the least this morning. The bad weather didn't help. Yesterday's kindergarten teacher kindly gave me a lift to the station and after a gorgeous gingerbread Starbucks I got on the 5 hour Shinkansen to Okayama. I didn't feel like working (just looking at the computer screen made my eyes water) so just enjoyed the ride. I got to Okayama at 4, had a bit of a sleep and then in the evening went out for a meal with some of the teachers from tomorrow to discuss the plans. Actually, I don't think I've paid for a meal all week! The teachers were all really cool, but it was so strange not drinking. I just hope my voice holds out for tomorrow!!!

12th November 2003 - Wednesday - Kindergarten Consult & Cold

Today was a bit different. We'd been asked to help out with a kindergarten that is designing an immersion programme. They have a good core curriculum established but are wanting some extra ideas to flesh things out. Although I studied English learning for very little kids for the Kids English series, and spent 3 years of school holidays teaching in kindergartens, it's not exactly an area I know very much about. But I thought we'd try and help out. In the morning we were asked to look at some lessons and then in the afternoon to give some ideas. The morning lessons were OK and the teachers were very good and genki. What I then figured they needed would be more TPR, a good phonics programme, and some student centered learning activities . I think most of the teachers understood this already, so we just spent time going through the latter. But I suddenly became full of cold (again!!). So left a lot of it for Will to do, which was OK. He then got the train up to Iwate.

Then in the evening I was out with the owners again, discussing how to implement some of the changes. Then an early night with lots of hot lemon.

11th November 2003 - Tuesday - Christmas Decorations and Tochigi

It's cold and wet! We have to be in Tochigi tonight, but for now I had to get my backlog of mail sorted out (the servers have only just settled down). It was also really nice to get so many complementary emails, it really helps make up for the rain when so many people write to say they appreciate the work I do. I also put up the Christmas decorations on the site!

Then off on the Shinkansen to Tochigi. Tomorrow we have a consult at a kindergarten (it's a special case!). So tonight the head teacher took us out for a very nice teppanyaki dinner. Mind you I had to work for my dinner, with every two minutes getting told how foreigners are different from Japanese people!

10th November 2003 - Monday - Shizuoka Pilot School

In every prefecture in Japan there is at least one pilot school doing a 3 year research project into Elementary School English. And today we were invited to the Shizuoka school, located right at the base of Mt Fuji. But it was cloudy so we couldn't see the mountain.

First off we did a show for the kids and they were great. If anything they were a bit too hyper, which was no problem. In the shows I always try and balance up really Genki bits with really quiet bits, but with these kids it was a case of forgetting the quiet stuff and just going full on with the genki stuff!

Then the teachers seminar and it was great. From April all the schools in town have to teach English so we had 50 teachers from most of the schools and they were really, really good. Many of the pilot schools often use experimental techniques and in many of the places this doesn't really work (for example in one prefecture kids weren't allowed to speak till 4th grade!). but here they've been using Genki English, have a great ALT and teacher in charge and the kids are cool. And hopefully we'll be back to do a full length training seminar soon.

9th November 2003 - Sunday - Nellie's Bookfair

Nellie's is a large bookstore in Tokyo that specialises in English Language Teaching materials. They're well worth looking up if you're looking for some new materials. Anyway, they invited us to take part in their Autumn tour, and today was the first day in Tokyo.

Set up time was 7:30, far too early!! At 9 I went to do the soundcheck and saw the room..... oh dear. Very small with a huge desk in the middle and the smallest CD player you've ever seen. Hmmm. I was also scheduled to be competing with Matsuka Yoko (very famous). I was thinking this could be a very bad day.

But I had a bite to eat, a coffee and went to prepare the seminar at 11;30 and wow, these teachers were fantastic!!! They were just sooo cool and responded to everything brilliantly! I think we must have been very noisy as people started pouring in from the next room and the corridor outside was just packed with people trying to get in. Instead of just the songs, this time I concentrated on doing full lessons, so showing how to do the warm ups, reviews, the song and then the game. They really got into it and afterwards we sold a ton of Superpacks. Great. It's always good to do a great show and be able to afford to get home!

Aleda Krause also had a presentation and popped down for a chat afterwards. She's doing lots of great work for elementary school English. I hadn't spoken to her for quite a while, but it turns out that she's a great fan of this website so that was very nice to hear!

So after a cool day it was time to take the Shinkansen down to Mt Fuji for tomorrow's show..

8th November 2003 - Saturday - Off to Tokyo

Spent the day tidying up, backing up computer data and flying up to Tokyo.

7th November 2003 - Friday - First time in Saga!

Another prefecture to be checked off the list! Had a workshop today at the ALT Mid Year Conference sponsored by Saga Prefecture Board of Education and the Ministry of Education. It was an absolutely brilliant day and on arrival everyone was very friendly and welcoming!

The speech itself was a bit difficult. Rather than just addressing those ALTs who visit elementary schools and hence doing a teaching workshop, I had to do a presentation to all the JETs and Japanese teachers. As High School JETs nearly always give me a hard time for doing anything remotely resembling anything kids based, I could only do the "making the most of JET" speech. It's OK, but you can tell the disaffected ones who didn't really get into it! It's always easy to see that the happiest, most positive JETs are the ones who get to visit elementary school! But certainly the speech was better than having a boring guy in a grey suit like the day before so generally they were very good and the JTEs also responded well to me talking about some of the aspects of JET that they didn't know, in Japanese. The JETs seemed to like me explaining to the JTEs why katakana is bad (I have a great "trap" that I lead them into). And the Board of Education people also seemed very happy, and talked about inviting me to do a speech to the other Japanese teachers, so that was cool.

Then afterwards I had a small elementary school workshop and that was fantastic. I just ran through a demo lesson, trying to fit in as many hints and tips as I good and it was so nice to see all the light bulbs going off in people's heads! I should really have videod that!

Then it was half price beers up on the 8th floor, great. In Saga they have a groups of District Representatives who look after JETs in each area and they are some of the best people you'll ever meet, and their leader Chelsea is so on the ball. Cool.

Then out to dinner and out to see a JET band play. What a great night out, and thanks to Jeff and everyone for the free beers!


6th November 2003 - Thursday - Stress again...

When stuff works, it works. When it doesn't it's a real hassle!! Today I had the duel problems of having my computer getting so hot that it kept crashing every time I did some video editing, then finding yet more problems with the website. Hopefully for everyone watching the site things should be transparent, it's behind the scenes where I'm nearly always panicking!! Mind you I was happy to find we had a lot of orders today.

But as the day went on I figured I'm not going to be able to get this DVD done today. From tomorrow I'm on tour so won't have time to do anything, and I'm going to England at the beginning of December so have to have the master made by then. So today was the new deadline, but it just takes so long to do stuff!! I must be mad doing this on a laptop, but without a house to live in it's the only way! So now I'm in the last chance alley, where I have to finish this during my few days off in the next couple of weeks!!! Luckily most of the creative stuff is done, so even if I am half asleep it shouldn't matter too much. Let's hope I can get it done by December.

Tomorrow will be strange, it's the first time in a fair few weeks that I have a presentation. It'll be good to get the stress out of the way, presentations are always so much fun!! Tomorrow's is a genki motivation speech for the Saga JETs, let's hope the High School JETs are in a good mood!!

5th November 2003 - Wednesday - I think my computer's melting...

Today was spent fixing up final edits on the parts of the DVD and then rendering them. My computer has now been working solidly for several days now and I think it's melting! It's only 1 cm thick but is getting soooo hot. So I had to put a pack on frozen broccoli under it to keep it cool.

Had some problems with the webservers again today (this is getting beyond a joke). But I set the computer rendering a big file and went to see the Matrix. There were so many people there, they must have made a killing!

4th November 2003 - Tuesday - What a relief

For the first time in ages I felt some of the stress go away today!! I'd spent all night finishing off the "What's your name?" DVD lesson and I think I've finished it!!!! Yeah!!!!! Usually when I look at something, if it's not perfect, I have to go back and change it, even it's the tinniest, smallest little thing. But I watched through "What's your name?" and went "Yeah. It's perfect. I've finished!!!!". That's a weight of my shoulders.

Left and Right now is also looking good, so I can at last see the light at the end of the tunnel and see me getting this DVD out there!!! So I set the computer creating the final video file for "What's your name?" and as it takes several hours I went out for lunch at the gorgeous Italian restaurant they have set up in the Daimaru Italian Fair .

3rd November 2003 - Monday - Still going and Open Source

Spent the day ploughing through more DVD editing. I also had to remix the What's your name? song which took quite a while to do.

It takes a long time to edit DVDs because computers are still too slow. So I often have 5 minutes break where I can't do any work as the computer's busy, so I read through the new Wired Magazine.

I read the story about Linux and the Open Source movement, and thought "Wow!". This could really work for a Junior High version of Genki English. I've been wanting to do more materials for junior and senior high school, but I don't have the time nor the experience really. But with Open Source, I wouldn't write it, other teachers would help out and it could be the best textbook ever!! Very interesting and something to think about!

2nd November 2003 - Sunday - Left and Right

After a few hours sleep I decided to throw out "Left and Right" and start again from scratch. It has now turned out very different from the live shows, and now has a lot more music and stuff in it. It's not quite the same Genki English, but it is looking good!

1st November - Saturday - It's got to be perfect

I can't get the Left and Right video to work right. "How are you?" is just about finished, and "What's your name?" is looking really good, but Left and Right just doesn't jive. Hmm. After trying lots of different things I gave up (no use working with no motivation) and did some work on the website.

I went back and tried again. Still no luck. Left and Right is one of the most popular themes so really the teaching video has to be just as good. I could just knock up anything and to be honest most people would be just as impressed, but if it's going out as a Genki English product, it's got to be 110% perfect. The test is, if I go away for a couple of hours then have another look, do I go "Wow!"?. But at the moment, it's only at the "Hmmm" stage. Hmmmm.

31st October 2003 - Friday - No batteries

Went out to work at Seattle's Best again today. Except that I couldn't use the electric socket, so only got 3 hours work done before my battery died. But I had a plan! I brought my music computer along to do some music work. But when I switched that on the batteries also died. Hmmm.

But anyway I had to go and buy a DVD burner and on the way I found a new music shop! Yeah! And best of all they had a brand new Korg Electribe valve synth that had just arrived today. Fantastic. I had a play around for a bit and it was great, oh I miss doing being a music producer. I guess that's the thing between music gear and video editing gear, the music stuff is just a joy to use, whereas video editing is like trying to wade through concrete, it is just soooo slow and unresponsive! Now if only I had somewhere to live that I could fill up with new synths and stuff...

30th October 2003 - Thursday - Argh!

Oh I'm fed up with problems with the web servers!! I've spent just about all of this week faffing around with the new web host, rather than getting work done on the DVD, which is now well behind schedule. The new web servers just have so many little problems, it's ridiculous! I was thinking of moving back to Yahoo, but that means having the website down for whole periods of time and having my mail being stopped by spam attacks every so often!! Argh!! I should have stayed with the host that I used until August, but that account was just killed with all the spam mails! All this spam and stuff is making it so expensive to run a website, in 4 years it's never been this much hassle! Everything used to be all plain sailing, but not any longer. So I'm sort of stuck in a trap of what to spend my time on, making new stuff or trying to keep the website up and running.


29th October 2003 - Wednesday - Eating Live Octopus!

Today I had a meeting and the food was a little interesting to say the least, basically because everything was alive. They set up a BBQ on the table and brought out a massive platter of crawling, moving live shell fish!! I had never seen anything like it. The jumbo prawns were fighting each other to jump off the plate onto the floor (seriously!). And you had to hold them on the BBQ so that they didn't run off the grill. But it was very nice, and obviously very fresh!

Then after lots of talking, the boss of the restaurant came up with a refrigerated box. I had had a few sakes by now so didn't quite realise what was going on. But he put his hand in the box and pulled out a LIVE OCTOPUS! Which he then plonked on the grill and had to hold it there to stop it running off down the table. Oh my goodness. But it tasted really nice! Well, that's Japan for you, even after all this time everyday I still find something very weird and wonderful! Actually before I came here I thought octopus only lived in the movies, I didn't think I'd end up BBQing a live one!

People always ask me if I'm always genki. The answer is, no. Basically to give good presentations to adults or kids you have to be genki to get good results, so then I become very genki and outgoing and it works. But normally I'm just, well, normal. These last few weeks I've spent all my time doing the DVD and haven't had any meetings or presentations. But today I was asked out to dinner by a publisher who's job is to "make Genki English famous"!

Thing is I'm still full of cold! But I got wrapped up in all my winter clothes and on the subway just kept saying to myself "Think Genki, Be Genki". It didn't work. My eyes were just streaming on the the train! But eventually I started getting a bit better, and by the time I met everyone I had a big smile and was trying to be as genki as I could. And it worked, because in half an hour I'd forgotten all about having a cold. Mind over matter, eh? Of course the strange food helped!

Anyway the meeting went really well, talking about the new DVD (it's crazy that I can show demos of it on my phone!), and lots of new products. There were people from the bookstores there as well and it was great to get their feedback.




28th October 2003 - Tuesday - Backing up the Discussion Board

Well I think I got precisely zero productive work done today! First off I spent hours and hours trying to install the discussion board on the new server. It just refused to work!! But there are a load of really good posts on there so in the end I just bit the bullet and updated all the posts by hand! My mail is also in limbo at the moment, with the mail going to my account on the new server, but I can't actually get to it until my net connection here decides it's going to look at the new server as well. All hassles. But at least everything should be seamless for the people viewing the site!

I also backed up my video work onto the hard disk I bought yesterday, it took 6 hours just to move all the data! Crazy. But luckily I have the use of two computers at the moment, so although I couldn't do any email or DVD work I did spend a bit of time cleaning up bits and pieces on the website. And actually sprucing up the website is quite fun!

27th October 2003 - Monday - More DVD stuff and extras for the site

Did some quick reshoots today and spent a lot of time recording the voice parts for the animations I did last night (recording at 4 AM probably isn't the best thing with neighbours living as close as they do in Japan!).

I also found out a really cool new shopping cart system, which could be useful in getting more ideas out to people quicker.

Then tonight after buying yet more hard disk space I went to the pictures. Mind you it was funny seeing all the special effects and thinking "oh, I can do that!"

26th October 2003 - Sunday - Dodgy mail and animes

Got hit again by a ton of spam emails, and as usual Yahoo responded by closing down my mail account. This is silly. Last week I did set up another hosting system with another company but I haven't been able to get the discussion board moved across yet nor the ordering system, and with the DVD work I just decided to leave it for now. But I guess I do have to get on with sorting out the website! So I initiated the transfer progress. And as that takes 24-48 hours I had time to work more on the DVD and some really cool animations!

25th October 2003 - Saturday - Great

I did more work today than I've done in ages! Wha hey! After yesterday and not getting anything done I wasn't feeling too good, but today I feel very, very tired but very, very happy that I managed to get so much done. I was worried earlier about the teaching segments of the DVD as they just didn't seem to come together at all. But just swapping a couple of things around, putting in a few colourful graphics and adding in the new jingles for each lesson just made everything click and I'm very happy with the way they're turning out! Cool! So I'm off to bed, a 4 AM!! But as Bill Gates says, to make a great business you need lots of late nights and take-away pizzas!! And as one quote I heard the other day said "It's not strength or intelligence, but continuous effort that wins the day".

24th October 2003 - Friday - Cold again!

Why is it that every Friday I seem to get a cold?? Luckily they're nearly always gone by Saturday. So as I couldn't do with looking at the computer screen too much I didn't get much work done. So I read Harry Potter (on my mobile) - it is actually really good!! I also asked Will to email me over one of the sound effects CDs that I'd forgotten, all 600MB of it - isn't broadband great.


23rd October 2003 - Thursday - Comics & DVD

Spent a fair bit of time trying to make the animations from yesterday look a lot more comical and less serious, and it actually worked quite well. With all the CG stuff and cool music I have at the moment it would be very easy to make this into a Star Wars type "serious" thing, but that's not really what I want, it has to be fun! So fun it is.

22nd October 2003 - Wednesday - Too violent and paying Yahoo

I did the GenkiEnglish Man fighting scenes today. But the thing is that when I came to have a look at the final cuts it looks like some people may think it's too violent! It's not really, and there's certainly no blood or gore in there, but it is aimed at elementary school kids and hence has lots of action. The only problem is that if we label something "elementary school age" then parents of 2 year olds start buying it saying "oh, my kid is already that advanced" (usually they aren't ). But with the songs and things that's totally fine as 2 year olds love them. But having the DVD with action superhero stories with shark scenes and power laser battles, might not go down too well! But they do look really good and I'm sure school kids will love them!

I also found out today that it's almost impossible to find Genki English on the Japanese version of Yahoo. I'm not sure if people know or not, but recently Yahoo changed their system and basically if you want to be on the first few pages of a search you have to pay, and pay a lot!! For the English site I don't pay as most people use google instead, which seems a lot fairer, but with the new Japanese Yahoo even if you enter "Genki Ingurishhu" (GenkiEnglish in Japanese) it doesn't give you my site but lists for other companies!!! Yahoo is the most popular in Japan so basically I have to pay...hmmm.... well let's see how things go.

21st October 2003 - Tuesday - Normal Stuff

I went through the main edits of the teaching parts of the three themes on the DVD today. They do look really good and I don't think I need any reshoots. The only problem that if teachers just play the DVD without getting the kids to join in then it could seem a bit boring. But hopefully the teachers will be there to help the kids. The DVD isn't designed to be a replacement teacher, it's designed to be a "virtual ALT", so that class room teachers can teach together with the DVD. And for ALTs themselves it should be good in that the Japanese teachers can use the DVD when the ALT is not there and when they do have visits they can spend more time on communication activities with the kids!

But it does take a long time to edit each one up!

20th October 2003 - Monday - MTV and special effects

Spent quite a bit of time today on the GenkiEnglishMan skits and their special effects. I was thinking they're maybe too difficult to produce, but I updated my special effects software today and the new stuff I can do is pretty cool!!

I also did the video clip for "Left and Right". It takes several hours just to produce a couple of seconds of footage, and then the computer has to "render" the final file. So while I was doing that I was checking out MTV. They had a load of documentaries today about making pop videos. They are basically doing exactly the same thing I'm doing, but instead of a laptop and a load of software, they spend fortunes!! I've been worried if I can get the whole DVD done this week or not, but on MTV one person spent a whole week just shopping for the clothes in the video!! The thing is that this DVD is expected to sell as much as the average MTV type video, so I guess I don't need to worry too much about taking so much time!

Right, got to get back to my laser blast special effects!

19th October 2003 - Sunday - Much better!

Things started going much better today and I actually managed to get a ton of work done! Yeah!
I had to pop out and get a new battery for my computer and also picked up some new sound effects software which helped things a lot. There was also some new graphics files I wanted but they were sold out.

But anyway it's not really what tools I use it's basically how genki I am that determines how much work I get done. So this week I didn't really manage to get much done, but tonight after doing well on the main teaching parts I started the "MTV" video clips for the first song. And they went great! So as I was on a role I just kept going and finished at 6 AM. But the How are you? clip does look really good!

18th October 2003 - Saturday - Music and TPR

Spent a lot of today producing jingles, commentaries and voice overs for the video. I spent a fortune last month on library music, but there is a still a lot of stuff that I'll just have to write myself. But it is so much easier to produce audio material than video, I guess that's why I like the format of CD so much! It's due to a nice mix of spending hours and hours learning music and recording theory as a kid and the fact that video on computer hasn't quite caught up with the audio side of things yet.

I also got a really cool "How are you?" video segment done. Mind you although it looks really good, it's maybe a bit too different to go on the DVD.

Then out for some noodles and a bit of time on the net. I had a look at the English Raven's guide to language theory, brilliant, all the major theories summed up on one page! I also followed some of the links through to the TPRWorld pages and got really excited about lots of new ideas! I always recommend TPR, calling it the "Warm Up Game", and the key with learning the songs is to use gestures, but there is so much more you can do with it, cool!! It's always nice to see it reconfirmed that what I'm doing is all good and above board!


17th October 2003 - Friday - Editing

Got quite a bit of work done today. Actually I think part of the problem is maybe that I'm looking at this at wanting it to be better than any of the stuff on TV, well except for MTV, but just looking through the rough drafts of "What's your name?" the content just speaks for itself and it is very, very addictive!

Took the night off and went to watch Johnny English - it was quite funny really! And yeah, media is the key to get people in a good mood - tomorrow I'll try doubly hard!

16th October 2003 - Thursday - Hassles again

It never goes smoothly. I spent most of the day looking at moving the website and setting up a mirror site. The reason was that the site was down again this morning for around 40 minutes. This is ridiculous, ever since I've moved the site to Yahoo's new service it's been nothing but problems! So the new version will be on a different system which should be a lot more reliable. But at the moment it's having a huge effect on the site and I'm now down to only around 1,000 visitors per day which means a lot of people are being inconvenienced by this! Mind you it is a biiiiggg hassle to have to move the site again, but if it makes life easier for everyone involved then it's something I have to do!

So along with a load of other silly things (like virus software needing updating and message boards resetting themselves) and lots of general business matters to take care of, and a streaming cold, I didn't get any DVD work done today. Well, let's try again tomorrow!

15th October 2003- Wednesday - Coffee Shop

Downloaded some cool new 3D software today which is making the animations work a whole lot better - cool! In the afternoon I figured I'd make the most of the nice weather and work in Seattle's Best down by the river.


14th October 2003 - Tuesday - Making video fun

Today was full time doing the Genki English DVD, and it is pretty hard going! I've done the teaching bits sooo many times, but actually getting them down on video is a big challenge as it has to look good, sound good, be fun on the first viewing but also make you want to watch it again etc. etc. And one of the most challenging things is that one major part of the experience will be missing from the DVD itself, i.e. the viewers interaction! This is difficult to do, and if you look at most TV programmes they don't give you the chance to interact and repeat properly, because if they did there would be huge "holes" in the programme. But with the tremendous feedback from the Kids English videos, which were the first videos to use the Genki English teaching method, then I know it will work and work well! Mind you if only I had the Kids English budget to work with!

So after getting a bit bored with editing up the main teaching bits I had a go at doing the GenkiEnglish Man animations. These are a lot more fun! But unlike music or software (or even the website) where I can easily produce anything that's in my head, it's a bit more limiting working with the video. But the technology does make things a whole lot more easier. One question I've been working on today is whether to make GenkiEnglish Man a "cartoon" type character or a computer 3D character. Each has it's pros and cons, so I guess the quickest solution will win!


13th October 2003 - Monday - Back to work

The plan for the next two weeks is to get the DVD finished and out of the way - it's taking too long! But with being without email for 3 days last week it took me nearly all day to catch up with my replies and maintenance of the site and other stuff!

But now that's mostly out of the way, I'll start a bit of editing this evening!


12th October 2003 - Sunday - Day off at the Hard Rock

I didn't touch my computer once all day!!! Yeah!! It was also great weather, perfect for sitting outside at the Hard Rock cafe.


11th October - 2003 - Saturday - 3 hours of Genki English

Today was a 3 hour seminar for the teachers in Geihoku town. The great thing was that many of them had attended the workshop on doing a 45 minute lesson on Thursday, they'd all seen the kids show and most of them attended the adult show last night, so with all the theory out of the way it was good to just go through a load more themes. However with being in the newspaper there were a few teachers who were first timers, but the enthusiasm of the other teachers pulled them through!

Mind you we got asked a load of great questions such as "When to introduce writing" (not until the kids can speak well!), "How much time to spend on pronunciation" (not too much, the reason for starting early is that they can pick it up easily!), "What do to when there is no ALT?" (use the CD's software pronunciation guides and games) and "What to do in the 10 minute a day slot?" (review this week's song, do a quick game that the kids already know or play 5 minutes a day of the Harry Potter DVD in English!). So that was really good.

Then it was a nice drive and shinkansen trip to Fukuoka.


10th October - Friday - A load of schools!

Today's schedule, 3 school shows and then a "otona demo dekiru" ("Even adults can get good!") lecture in the evening!! Pretty busy! The schools in the morning were great (after I'd rewired up the sound system). We even got some special Macha tea before lunch. And we were also in the paper again. But this time guess what for ? For being "foreigners who visited a school" - my goodness!! I wish the reporters would attend a seminar to realise just how stupid that sounds! I can just imagine a headline in the UK like that, and all the protests it would generate!

The afternoon school had a request to do some shopping songs. They have a demonstration class in a few weeks so wanted some ideas. So after the usual Rock, Paper, Scissors, we tried out, for the first time in a "show", "How much?" and "Bigger Please". And they were great! It takes a bit longer to teach these songs but they managed it no problem. Mind you afterwards the kids came upto me asking for some water, and I said I'd give them some if they could ask me the price in English. But then all they kept coming out with was "Cheaper, please"!!

It was also good to meet the ALT in town. This week's events had all been organised by the headteachers of the schools with no input from the ALT, it was a bit like the complete reversal of what usually happens!

Then a quick rest before the evening show. The adults show is designed for your average person on the street who wants to learn English but needs a bit of a confidence boost to try it. However today most of the people were teachers who also attended yesterday's seminar. So it was a bit tricky trying to keep it all jokes and motivation and no teaching techniques, but most people seemed to like it!


9th October 2003 - Thursday - This is the life!

Big or small, the deal is that for public elementary schools we'll visit any of them! So today we had 2 schools with a combined size of less than 40 kids!! Between them.

But they were good. The first school bounded through the songs and were really great. They couldn't actually speak any English, but their attitude showed that they have an ALT i.e. they were friendly and didn't look at us like aliens! I guess recently I've been looking too much at getting the kids able to hold decent conversations in English, but even if the kids can't speak, the attitude difference between a school where there is an ALT and one where there isn't is huge!

So then off to the second school. After the first one being so good then we expected to sail through this one. But upon saying "What's your name?" no kid could answer! This is very strange as the school system is the same, the ALT is the same, but the kids were so different! Not that they were "bad" but they were just at the level of a normal non-ALT school. Mind you with both these schools we really got the 6th graders on side and that really made a big difference!

Then in the afternoon I had a couple of hours free so did a bit of computer work (but no mail as the internet signal won't reach here!) and also got a call from Iwate wanting us to do the ALT mid year conference. Unfortunately we were already booked on that day, but after a couple of calls it was sorted that Will will do the Iwate on his own, and I'll take the existing engagement in Okayama. I felt like a "businessman" with all these phone calls.

Then a teaching seminar. One of the good things these days is that instead of a general "OK, teach us something" type of presentation, teachers are now starting to ask us for specific reasons, the most popular being "We have to teach on our own next year - HELP!". But in this town they had a specific request, they wanted me to go through a one hour demonstration lesson. They'd seen the shows, but wanted to know how to slim down the genkiness into a one hour lesson. We had to do quite a few of the "basics" first, but doing a full lesson from Warm Up, New Vocab and Song to practise with the Game seemed to give them most of the info they needed!

The other advantage of teachers inviting us for a specific reason is that they also put us up in nice places - this time it was a hot spring resort! Fantastic!!! So after a long day it was great to get in the onsen. And then they laid on a steak dinner. Brilliant! So although we do these presentations for free, getting paid in nice accommodation and food is pretty cool!!

8th October 2003 - Wednesday - Off to Hiroshima

Having slept most of the day yesterday I actually woke up very early today! I checked through the accounts, added some new readers' games to the site and did a bit of video testing. Then on the ferry to Hiroshima, and a very nice drive through the mountains to Geihoku Cho. It's cold, but still nice weather.

I'm doing the next 3 days shows and seminars with Will and I went to check in at the hotel and they had only booked one room - errr, I think they may have misunderstood that it's business partner. So after making sure we got a room each it was time for a quick round of golf (mind you it was the most weirdest golf you've ever seen) and then a meeting with this week's head teachers over a nice dinner.

7th October 2003 - Tuesday - Tired and meeting

Got up at 8AM. Checked my mail. Couldn't see for tears streaming down my face so went back to bed. It's not fun having a cold and being in the Genki House was making my asthma bad. Not a fun day.

Then in the evening a big meeting to plan out all the future projects of Genki English!! I have a ton of stuff to do and loads of new ideas for everyone!

6th October 2003 - Monday - The first day of Winter

And here it is, it's now freezing season!!!! It was sooo cold today - I had to get my long trousers and jumpers out! I wish it could be warm for the other 6 months of the year as well....

Spent the day doing prep work and being full of cold! Bring back Summer....

5th October 2003 - Sunday - New phone + cool CDs + last day of Summer

I only get my snail mail once in a blew moon and it's mostly bills. But this time was cool as I also got my new mobile phone and some great music CDs to use on the DVDs. These should certainly spice things up a bit!

I also spent a lot of the time setting my computer up for production work in Kyushu, from next week I have 3 whole weeks with no presentations in which to produce a ton of stuff!


And my new phone is just fantastic. It's great living in the land of gadgets! It's got an MP3 player, camera, video camera, and can even play games. Surfing the internet works really well, just like on a computer! So I checked up on the Mobile Phone version of Genki English ( http://genkienglish.net/e ) and it is absolutely fantastic - it makes it so easy to find ideas and stuff. And best of all it's one of the few sites on the mobile net that you won't have to pay to use!

So there was my newspaper column for this week- talking about mobile phones, which I wrote down by the beach!

4th October 2003 - Saturday - Nice drive back to Shikoku

Had a quite relaxing morning, a nice lunch and a nice drive back to Ehime. Driving through the mountains and then island hopping across the Shimanami Kaido is just amazing, some of the best scenery in the World - if only Japan could have this weather all year round!

Then a quick call in to Imabari to get my mail and back to the Genki House for a couple of days.

3rd October 2003 - Friday - School and nice Friday night

Today's show wasn't till the afternoon - great! So I got a bit of time to catch up with a bit of sleep, and write an article about teaching 6th graders.
The very Genki ALT in town, Tori, has been doing a great with the kids and in 45 minutes they pretty much nailed all the stuff from the 60 minute show - great!
At the end one of the teachers, in English, said "Wow, that was awesome!"

Then a seminar in the afternoon. Tori only visits the school a few times a year, so the plan I suggested to the teachers was where they do 3 minutes a day, either in the morning meeting or playing the song at lunchtime or cleaning time. Hopefully then when the ALT does arrive the kids remember at least something of the previous time and instead of spending the time teaching the kids something new the ALT time can be spent doing communicative activities.

I actually had a splitting headache today, and after not doing kids shows for 3 months I was feeling well shattered!! The evening was really nice, I had a rest, played around on the guitar for ages, wrote some songs, had a great meal and simply a nice Friday night. I even thought it might be nice to be an ALT again!

2nd October 2003 - Thursday - Tottori Prefectural Education Center Presentation

Today's 3 and a half hour presentation was sponsored and organised by the Tottori Prefectural Education Center - quite posh people!
In the morning were talks by 2 Japanese teachers who cleared up a lot of the basics, and also opened enough lines of enquiry for me to base my presentation on.
So the in the afternoon it was really good, all the teachers were keen Elementary School teachers who had come from as far away as Shimane, they asked great questions and were totally into things! As we also had more time we tried a couple of "workshop" ideas where the teachers get into groups and figure things out themselves. One problem that I often see is that Japanese teachers lack imagination when doing English lessons and get really worried when things deviate from the set plans (arrgh, this activity says 3 minutes but it's taking me 4!!). So I purposely set an imagination exercise based on the Warm Up game and they did brilliantly, coming up with cool stuff such as "Be Godzilla! Do Sumo! Ride a Water Slide! Eat hot kimchi!". Brilliant.

Afterwards was a meeting with the high ups, and they were all really keen. So it looks like Tottori may become like Okayama where Genki English is a recognised force in their elementary school teaching. They also paid us, which is quite nice.

Then afterwards we popped back into VivaShiva. Last night I offered to help set up their web page, but had had a few too many beers to make any sense of the words on the computer screen! So I popped back today, set up a website and in return got a lovely free dinner!! So check out www.VivaShiva.com !!

Afterwards it was an hour's drive to our JET homestay....


1st October 2002 - Wednesday - Tsunoi Elem School, NHK and JET quiz night

After last night I was so glad when today turned into fantastic, glorious weather! It was also so luxurious being in a hotel, I think this maybe the first time an elementary school has put us up in a hotel!

Got to Tsunoi Elementary School and although it is Tottori city, it felt like a countryside school and was pretty good. Of course we new the kids would be fantastic as both the Deputy Head and Headmaster were both really cool people.

Today the seminar was in the evening so parents could attend, so it was great to have a bit of a break and I sent off the English version of the newsletter. Then the parents and teachers in the evening were cool, but I think a few of them were expecting a free English lesson! But we got a least one of the parents genki enough to try again with their English, and one of the others even proposed to me - shame she was already married!

In the evening we were on NHK again. Mind you this time what did we get on for? For travelling 7 hours all the way from Ehime to do one of the best lessons the kids have ever had? For developing the most popular elementary school teaching materials in Japan? Nope, we got on TV for being foreigners who visited a school. This isn't the 1950s!


Then off to the JET quiz night. Great stuff, and the owner of the bar had a great idea. All the teams had to be mixed with JETs and Japanese. Then they would say questions about Western culture in Japanese, and questions about Japanese culture in English, so everyone had to communicate to get the answers! Cool. So if you'd like to try it, head along to VivaShiva restaurant in Tottori City.

Afterwards I had quite a few beers and it was great chatting to everyone. Cool.


30th September - Tuesday - Cold in Tottori & Thanks to Saga JETs!

Finished work at two and started work at 7 (it's strange waking up at that time of the morning, I didn't realise it was so light then!). There was a post on the discussion board asking about the Theory behind Genki English and I realised there isn't much about it on the site - I guess I was just asking people to trust my research! So I started a reply back but it ended up massively long!! It is good to get everything written down though, but it's so long I need to edit it up a bit more, a bit more time please!

I also got some fantastic emails today, including one from South Africa and one from the JETs in Saga asking us to do their mid year conference. Very often the only people who we hear talking about Genki English are the people who moan (usually high school JETs saying the site's not suitable for them - please tell us some ideas you use and we'll put them on the site. It's not just Elem School, I'm quite happy to put up info for all teachers!). But it's so great to hear from the people who use the site everyday and the comments they had were just great (things like "I think this idea ROCKS!!!!!!! " & "WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO") , need I say more! We're really looking forward to coming down there!

Then it was time to get everything ready for our 3 day tour of Tottori and getting ready for the 7 hour drive up here! Mind you it is freezing! I packed my long trousers but I wish I'd have brought a sweater, all I have is Ehime T-shirts!!



29th September - Monday - Taking it back & Living in Okinawa

Took my computer back today! When I bought it I said I wanted a fast laptop to do video editing on, but the one I bought, a Dunamis, wouldn't work well except when it was plugged into the mains! Not too good for a laptop! But full marks to the computer store, Applied, who were great about the whole thing. I also ended up buying a whole load more stuff including another 160Gb hard drive. It is really silly what we can do with computers theses days!

So then I felt really relaxed, I'd been worrying about my computer for a month now and wishing it would work, so now I'll use my old LaVie computer (totally brilliant!) and be content in thinking how much money I've saved! My LaVie (NEC) is great, I hated the Sony I had before, but loved the Sharp Mebius before that! With all the travelling I do my computer is my life, it's my work, my studio, my telephone home, my music and even my TV (my brother records all the good English TV during the year and then I put it in my computer at Xmas) so it's got to be good!

I was also thinking about where to live , and I reckon Okinawa could be a nice place. The upshot of being homeless is that I can live anywhere, so why not somewhere that's supposed to be paradise? Plus I like the fact that everyone gets up late and works at night!! : )

But then I went out for lunch in Ehime in a gorgeous restaurant overlooking the sea. The sun was shining over the waves and with the palm trees in the foreground and the mountains in the background it looked so great. I wish Ehime could be like this all year round! This is actually one great thing about Japan, you actually get 3 Summers. One is the Japanese spring, which is just like an English Summer, then the Japanese Summer which is like the Mediterranean and then you get another English Summer in October! So find somewhere to go in the Winter months and your sorted!

Spent the evening (till 2 AM) doing some more work including a cool new search engine for the site. This one is made by atomz.com and even works in Japanese, so for the first time the Japanese version of the site has a decent search engine!



28th September - Sunday - Checking my computer

Tomorrow is the final day before I have to decide whether to take my new computer back. So last night I spent till 7AM trying to do as much of the high end editing and animation that I can to see how it compares to my older computer. And to be honest for the amount of money it cost I don't think it is really up to the task!

So I spent the rest of the day backing up data to DVDs (video editing takes a lot of space!) and also went out for dinner in the evening with a mate who was over from the States.

27th September - Saturday - On the road again

I travel too much! I had two days solid to get some editing down, and more important to get into a "video editing" frame of mind. And today I have to change to be in "travelling mode". But I really need to get some time to get some new things produced!! : (

So I'm sat on the high speed boat from Fukuoka to Matsuyama catching up on my email and the diary. The crazy thing here is the price, compared with just jumping from one Japanese island to another it would have actually been cheaper to fly back to Korea!!

26th September 2003 - Friday - It's me Superheroes!

Excellent! A few weeks ago I found the most amazing piece of software called "It's me" ( www.reallusion.com ) that has these brilliant 3D animations. They instantly gave me tonnes of inspiration to come up with a series of action packed cartoon clips for the DVDs. I was thinking of doing "cutie, cutie" ones for little kids, because that's what everyone wants, but everybody else does that and the Genki English curriculum is aimed at Elementary School kids so let's make it "cool"! Today I finally got permission to use the software on the DVDs so provided I have enough time to get everything sorted these should work out pretty good!!

The rest of the day was spent editing and decided what to do about my computer! I seem to have spent a whole month on this. I bought a mega cool 3Ghz mega fast laptop a few weeks ago but it is only a little bit faster than my normal notebook, plus it doesn't work with all my hard drives unless I connect it to the mains supply. But for the amount of money I paid it should work a lot better than this!! Hmmm

25th September 2003 - Thursday - To the grindstone

Right I have two days to get some serious work done before i have to travel again (my schedule is crazy!). So here we go with editing the DVD and making it look really Genki! I also updated the website with the stuff I produced in Korea (including a new phonics game ) and sent out the Japanese newsletter.

24th September 2003 - Wednesday - Bye Bye Seoul

I can't believe I was in another country this morning! Flew back to Fukuoka (only 2 hours) and got back to work. Mind you going out for dinner in the evening was a shock, things are really more expensive here!!

23rd September - DMZ & North Korea

Of course one of the main "tourist attractions" of South Korea is the tour of the DMZ or border area demilitarised zone. But just make sure you get the right tour when you book! I was looking forward to checking out the room you see on TV programmes, with the soldiers facing each other and the border line running down the middle. But the actual tour we got was a bit different and just involved one of the tunnels that the North dug to try and attack the South, a snazzy video/museum tour and a look at North Korea from a mountain top. Mind you I say "just", but it was really, really interesting. Going down the tunnels was amazing, certainly not quite DisneyLand. You wouldn't want to be one of the soldiers marching through here, but it just shows the seriousness of the situation on the peninsula.

Actually getting to look over at a North Korean city was also amazing, similar to being in Prague just after it was freed, you really fell like you are watching history happen. The attitude of the South Korean people to the North also seems very different from that seen on the international stage. They say they know there won't be another war as it would just wipe out everything their parents generation worked to achieve in the South. Many of them just wish President Bush would just leave things alone. They have also just built a brand new train station just near the border, waiting for the chance to connect up with the North, and then on to Beijing, Moscow, Paris and even London.

The whole attitude thing is really impressive here and for me it really strikes a big difference to that in Japan. Until quite recently South Korea was a poor country and that generation had to work really hard to make it the 3rd biggest economy in Asia. The youth seem to understand that, really appreciate what has been done for them and want to study and work the best they can. Some people may say this leads the parents to put too much pressure on kids, but contrasting the situation with Japan we have whole generations who don't appreciate the price of their freedom or wealth. The thing with Korea is that the reunification gives them a goal, something to work for and hence they do, I guess that's what Japan needs, a vision and a goal to work towards!



22nd September - Monday - What it's all about & Coffee Shop Phonics


I went for a look round Seoul again today (I'm here till Wednesday as it's a Japanese holiday so there are no flights back!). Yesterday I had a quick look at the Itaewon area, which I wasn't very impressed with, but today was Insadong which is a really nice place!

First off was the Korean Independence Park. And for the first time in 4 days there were no Japanese tourists! Which is not quite right I think. It's OK coming for shopping or nice food, but it is really frustrating that so few Japanese people actually know about the places they visit. And judging by some of the things that are going on in the World at the moment, it also feel this could be potentially very dangerous. You've got to know your past so as not to make the same mistakes again. But that just makes my, and your, job the more important. It's not about giving the kids language skills so that they can get a job or go on holiday, it's about giving them the skills and opportunities to talk with children of other countries, to understand their differences, opinions, hopes, dreams and histories to come to an understanding of each other and to make sure the mistakes of the past don't happen again. The thing is that thanks to the chances that we have been given and the technology of the world we live in today, this is something that can definitely be achieved!

So in between bouts of shopping ( I got all my Christmas shopping done, there are some really cool things here!!) I spent a quite a bit of time planning out lots of new Genki English materials. It's actually a great environment to work in as I not only get reminded of why I do this, or get such good reactions from teachers as I did yesterday, but I am constantly in the "got to learn the language" mode, which really boosts my creativity!! So I think I've got the new Genki English Genki Phonics stuff all worked out!! And if I play things right I might have some free stuff on the site very soon!



21st September 2003 - Sunday - TV

One thing about being in Korea is that I don't understand the TV. Which is quite good as it means I can focus on the visuals and how they are put together - vital skills for the upcoming DVD! So I spent a bit of time today going through some effects and techniques for the new DVD and they do look pretty good.

Last night I was on such a high after the Seoul seminar I spent most of the night planning out a load of new ideas. There are some great things that I've got planned, most will have to be secret for a while, but hopefully you'll see them soon!


20th September 2003 - Saturday - Genki English Debuts in Korea!

So here it is, over 90 countries visiting the website and now 3 Asian countries I've actually done presentations in.

Today's mini-conference was organised by KOTESOL, a group for teachers and teacher trainers in Korea and there are more PhDs here than I've seen in ages! The plenary session was quite good with Dr Park talking about some of the problems facing the Korean Elementary School system, mainly the problem of training all the teachers. There are apparently huge budgets here for teacher training, but the problem seems to be whether the training is done effectively and whether the trainers are qualified enough. It certainly is on a completely different level to Japan, way more advanced. One interesting point brought up was that of whether to only train the keen teachers, as the teachers who are often "forced" to attend distracted from the real work. Interesting.

Then Ritsuko Nakata gave her speech describing the situation in Japan. Everyone fell about laughing. She said some really good stuff, being brutally honest about both the public and private sectors. She tends to mainly deal with the private sector in Japan, and it was good to hear what she had to say.

Then it was my turn! I was a little worried as just by looking around you could see how much greater level things work at here. But I had a packed room and people were well into it! They laughed at the jokes, did all the activities and really got into it. I guess this is the thing here, although they work at a much higher language level than in Japan (for example on TV the High School English programmes talk about "diffraction" and on the kids shows the word of the day today was "impressive", in Japan last week it was "purple"), they still rely on a lot of styles of teaching and materials written by people who may have lots of experience teaching adults, but have no idea how to teach kids! So they just lapped up the songs and the most popular question at the end was "Where can I buy the CDs?". Well... you can get them on the website, but I really need a distributor in Korea, so if anyone is interested!

I even got asked to do another presentation at the end of the day. Cool. This time there was a smaller group (it was standing room only for the first one) and it was good to listen to what people were interested in and wanted to see presented.

But I guess the thing is the same the world over, the thing with Genki English is that I wrote it because I hated school and when I started teaching I just wanted to make it fun! You've gotten keep the solid core with all the educational aims and theories, but it needs to be wrapped in fun and enjoyment. You can't ever teach a child anything, you've just got to show them that it's just as cool and exciting as a Playstation and then give them the tools to learn themselves! Getting them to think "Yeah, my teacher is cool. Yeah, English is cool. Yeah, I want to try my hardest and go out and experience all the amazing things to offer in this World!" is the way to go!


19th September 2003 - Friday - A look around Seoul

Got up, did a bit of work and then went off round some of the sites in Seoul. The palaces and things look quite nice and it was just good being in another country for a change (I haven't managed to leave Japan as much as I should this year!). The food is the best bit, you order something and it comes with just plates and plates of spicy vegetables - great!

Then in the afternoon I did a bit more work (it's typical that here my internet access in limited but I get a huge flurry of international orders to organise - not that I'm complaining of course!!). Then after dinner I went to print out some worksheets for tomorrow and the website was down!! Arghh!! Not very funny, so that means tomorrow is going to be especially busy trying to find out why it's down!


18th September 2003 - Thursday - Off to Korea!!!

Since I first came to Japan I've always fancied coming to Korea and in 6 years never got round to it. But as I've been very kindly asked to do a presentation here on Saturday it's a great chance to finally come here! Mind you I think I need to learn Korean pretty quick. When I did Tae Kwon Do in uni, the exams were all in Korean, but it didn't really help that my instructor was from Doncaster. Speaking Korean with a Yorkshire accent doesn't seem to work very well. Mind you the actual Korea I do know is things like "Flying back kick" which I don't think will come up in conversation any time soon!

But anyway tonight I had a bit of a walk around the city and it seems pretty cool in a 1970's Japan type of way. But the people seem warm and friendly and the food is fantastic!

17th September 2003 - Wednesday - Far too much

I think my head's about to explode with all the things I have to think about at the moment. I have to produce the new DVD (which is proving very difficult with all the travelling I have), the bookstores are wanting me to get the kids workbooks out ASAP ( so that instead of just teachers we can get everybody using Genki English), I have the teachers book to prepare (basically a book of the website), things like accounting and stock control (just had to order another lot of CD4) and then I realise I'm off to Korea tomorrow!!!

Crazy! So the rest of the day was spent at kinkos printing out stuff from the website to present in Seoul!

16th September 2003 - Tuesday - Hokkaido -> Kyushu

It is a very strange life I lead and today saw me flying from Japan's furthest North island of Hokkaido (quite chilly) to the main South island of Kyushu (quite warm!). Spent the flight and the evening doing DVD editing.

15th September Monday - Not much

Didn't do too much today, had some admin work to do on the site and to tidy up a few pages and things. Then the rest of the day I spent making a PR video for a friend - good practise in using the new DVD making software.

14th September 2003 - Sunday - Sapporo Maruzen - Crab & Ghengis Kahn

After last night I felt surprisingly well this morning. And today was our first teaching seminar for non-ALTs in Hokkaido. The teachers were really, really good! There were over 40 of them (a huge number for a bookstore presentation) and they were all really great. We did 2 hours and everyone seemed so into it that I said that if people who had bought the superpacks were up for it then I'd be quite happy to stay behind and do another hour. The bookstore were paying for the room and stuff but if it meant people could get more use out of their CDs then they were cool. So I did another hour doing requests and everyone was good. But then I was a bit shocked as quite of few of them who had asked for another session, after getting 3 free hours of training, walked off without buying anything! Sarcy beggars! I thought that was just downright cheeky of them. I guess the mentality of "everything for free" is still going strong, eventhough they don't see all the costs of doing a presentation like today (i.e. travel costs, hotels, advertisements, room rental etc. etc.).

So thank goodness for the honest people in the group!

Mind you one really good part was near the end when a German teacher stood up and started telling everyone how they had to stop thinking English was difficult. She basically confirmed everything I say in my "English is easy speech", and she could do it fluently in 3 languages! Her best line was "Look, if you think English is easy, you want to try German!". Good point.

One thing about being in Japan is that unlike in the West where people travel to see museums or scenery, in Japan people travel to hot springs, or more importantly to eat! Every place in Japan has it's own famous food for tourists to try, and Hokkaido has more than its fair share. Last night I had Sapporo ramen (it's the equivalent of a kebab) and tonight it was all you can eat crab and Ghengis Kahn - a Hokkaido special lamb BBQ. Lovely!


13th September 2003 - Saturday - Kids English in Sapporo

Today was our Kids English presentation, supposedly for parents but there were actually a lot of teachers here. That's not too good for the publisher, but great for us as we got to spread the word a little more about Genki English. But the audience were great and lots of people were really interested in the programme.

Then a bit of a rest and then out in the evening with the Bookstore people and the publishers. That was cool.

But then we went into a bar and got recognised! Now if we were in T-shirts I could understand, but this was the first time we'd ever been recognised whilst wearing normal clothes. So thanks to everyone for a great night! It also meant I didn't buy another beer for the rest of the night. But the downside of that was that we didn't finish partying till 4 AM......and we have a presentation at 11 tomorrow!

12th September 2003 - Off to Sapporo

Finished work at 9AM this morning. So couple of hours sleep and then my flight upto Hokkaido! I really like Hokkaido, it's one of the best places in Japan.

And one of the cool things is that on the train from the airport to the city there are electric sockets for computers! So I remixed one of the new tracks I've been working on, great.

Then in the evening it was out with friends. Brilliant!


11th September 2003 - Thursday - New software

One really good thing today is that the new version of Flash is out!!! Yeah!!! Flash is the best piece of software ever, it not only allows me to produce the Genki English software on the CDs and do the cool stuff on the website but I also use it to make the print out pages on the site and all the posters we use for events. So look forward to some groovy new stuff soon!

I also found out that the new version of the music software I use is out, called Cubase. I won't be getting the new version just yet, but it is great to have all these new features available, all things designed to help me get more work done quicker! As you may have seen on the NHK Documentary I do have a full music studio set up to record the CDs on, but these days I can just do it all on the laptop - great! I can't wait to see what things will be like in 2005!

10th September 2003 - Wednesday - Editing

It's quite cool having the fastest laptop in the World, but you'd at least think it would work. I ended up going back and doing a lot of work today on my Lavie laptop. Hmm.

9th September 2003 - Tuesday - Editing and Baseball

Today I wanted to start doing the DVD edits, it's taken so long just to get everything up to this point. And I started going through my archives and realised I have some brilliant footage - this should be fun! Basically ever year in England I've been going round filming little clips here and there and now I can get easy access to them all as the computer hard disks are so huge. However I actually spent a lot of the day decided which software to use and running off demo edits!

Then in the evening I went out to my first ever baseball game! That was quite cool and a great spectacle. The game wasn't that much fun (too much stopping and starting) but the whole atmosphere was great - especially the balloons!

So I came back and planned on working through the night again, but there was a massive lightning storm so didn't really fancy having my new computer blow up on me so went to bed!


8th September 2003 - Monday - Korea tickets

I went to get my tickets sorted out for Korea. I had planned to fly straight from Sapporo to Seoul and then back to Matsuyama or Kansai or somewhere, but that would be very pricey. So the best way to do it is to fly back to Fukuoka and then fly from there. Mind you from Sapporo to Fukuoka it's 30,000 yen for s single flight, the return to Seoul from Number One Travel is only 21,000 yen!!! Crazy isn't it!

I also had a look on the net for details about the Korea event, and I didn't realise just how big it is! Dr Park (very famous in Korean Elementary School Education) and Nakata Ritsuko are also presenting. Should be a good day and I might even have two presentations. You can check out details here:
http://www.kotesol.org/seoul/

7th September 2003 - Sunday - Show in Osaka

It's funny that we don't have much Genki English presence in Osaka, we did a couple of OUP shows here and a presentation for Nakata Ritsuko's AETC a while back but no schools have ever invited us! So today we had a private show and a teachers seminar. The show was OK, there were a few little kids who were a bit too young, but most people seemed cool. We also experimented with a "ticket price refund" system for people who bought the CDs which proved quite popular, I'll have to see if we can keep it for future shows. The seminar was also OK, with over 30 teachers, but with only 2.5 hours I found it really difficult to do any solid work - especially as even things like "Mingle" were proving difficult!! But a lot of people seemed to get a lot out of it so that's OK.

6th September 2003 - Take it back and ALT party!

So I only got my computer yesterday but had to take it back today as it wouldn't work with my hard drives (not enough USB power). The thing is there is nothing they can do about it! Major annoying! The only choice I have is to plug the drives into an AC outlet - but that's crazy and defeats the whole point of having a laptop or paying the extra for drives that are portable! Argh!! But I have no real choice as this is the only computer that can do what I want to do. So the deal with the store was I try it on this upcoming mini tour and see how it goes, if it's too inconvenient the computers going back!

But then it was off to Niihama for the Ehime JETs welcome party. And they are a very cool bunch of people. I won janken so didn't have to drive so could have a few beers and it was great. I also did some filming of the girls for the DVD, this should be a pretty cool DVD!

Then the overnight ferry to Osaka. Great.


5th September 2003 - It's here!

My computer arrived this morning - yeah!!! But we had another filming session planned for the afternoon so I didn't get to use it for a while. But then in the evening I started the mammoth task of transferring all my files and info across from the old computer. But I also found out that my external disk drives don't work with this machine ( I use those groovy small portable hard disks to store video footage on) So at 6 AM I gave up and went to sleep for a couple of hours.


4th September 2003 - Tamagawa & another computer

This afternoon I went back to Tamagawa to see how my successors' successor was getting on. She seems to be doing quite fine and the teachers and kids are really happy with her lessons - cool! Mind you it is a bit of a shock, this is my old school but in the last 3 years the teachers seem to have taken a step back and introduced one of the very bad curricula that I spend my time trying to get out of schools. That's the only problem with JET, you get a good JET and then along comes a bad one straight afterwards and everything goes all down hill. So hopefully if I can help out a bit this year with the newly arrived JET then we can get things back on track.

Then I headed off to Imabari to where we process our orders. Yesterday was quite funny in the computer store as whilst I was looking for a top of the range laptop I also bought their cheapest desktop. So that machine is now set up so that if orders come in we can print the delivery company's forms all straight from the computer which should save a lot of time - doing it manually isn't much fun!

3rd September 2003 - Wednesday - Accounts and new computer

First off today was getting all the accounts and receipts and stuff out of the way for August - we spent a fortune on travel expenses, but we also had some really good events so things should probably work out OK.

Then I went to the computer store and spent 2 hours checking out the new models. My current computer is really good and fine for most things, but for doing video editing for all together 8 hours of material I really need something a little speedier. And it just so happens that they have this new laptop which also has a 17" screen. Now that would be very useful. But then again in all the music magazines and things you always read about how it's not the kit you have, it's how you use it!

But after thinking about it for a while I decided it would be best to get it, then I can get cracking with the editing of the DVD project.

2nd September 2003 - Tuesday - Filming

Today we were very kindly loaned a room in the prefectural center and after setting up a load of green screens (so it looked like the set from Star Wars), we began filming the material for the DVD. I did a lot of the first 3 themes (there will be 3 or 4 themes per DVD making for a total of around one hour) last week in Fukuoka, so today we did Will's parts and a few pick ups.

Then for some nice ramen, then I decided to pop into the computer store to have a look at the new machines that were released yesterday. But they shut at 7. But the nice girl let me have a look around as I said I wanted one of the brand new laptops they've just released.


1st September 2003 - Monday - Pre-production

So the deal this week is that we're supposed to be making the first Genki English DVD, and it will also be our first video product aimed at kids. It should prove very useful!
The actually filming of us teaching the stuff is pretty straight forward, after all we've taught each song hundreds of times, but I also want to include lots of animations and little skits that actually use the English we teach. I happen to have a load of scripts and ideas that I'd already prepared for another CDROM project that I never got time to do, but the problem is producing the actual animations and stuff. The animations on the Teacher Training Video each took several days to produce so I really have to look around for a simpler, more automated system, and I think I might have found one!


Mind you I can't believe how much video production software costs, the new version of Final Cut Pro for the Mac is $1000 and "Flash", the most brilliant piece of software in the world that let's me produce all the flashy stuff on the website, is now at $999 for the latest version! It aint cheap...

31st August 2003 - Sunday - Sleep ( I think)

The good thing about not staying at other people's houses is that I can work when I want and sleep when I want. So I finished work at around 7 this morning and then went to bed!! Then in the evening I took a couple of hours to catch up with email at the Santo Santo coffee shop. Nice

30th August 2003 - Saturday - On my own

It was quite strange this weekend as I was completely on my own. Usually I'm always travelling and staying with people or having meetings or whatever, but today I didn't have to meet anybody, which was quite a nice change. I did do a little shopping though, I bought a new music mixer (a portable one to use with my laptop) and a desk. It's quite strange that I don't actually have a desk at the Genki House, all my music gear is racked up and ready to go, but with computer work I usually just sit on the floor. But this week is DVD making week so I really have a desk. Mind you I bought it at the House Off store and it only cost 1000 yen!

29th August - Friday - It is a challenge

It was back to Ehime for the first time in ages, and this time I'm hear for a whole week! Wow!

Today was general tidying up and I also upgraded the new discussion board. Mind you it took a while to do.

And I also found a really good article about Japan and English today. And for all the hassles I've had over the last few weeks, and all the problems on the ground actually getting people motivated, when you step back and look at it from a distance this is a really fantastic challenge. I.e. Japan can't speak English yet, but soon they will and somebody has to bring that about. Now that is a great challenge!!

28th August 2003 - Thursday - A brilliant day in Okayama

As regular readers of the diary will know, since I came back from Thailand I've been a little culture shocked, mostly about the pace I have to do training sessions over here in Japan i.e. veeerrrryyy slow.

But today's teachers were brilliant. Not just good but brilliant, they asked great questions, knew all the basics and were really into the activities. And best of all, these were Elementary School teachers! Great!!

After our 2 trips to Okayama this year, we were this time invited back by the city Board of Education to give a 2.5 hour training seminar to over 60 teachers from most of the schools in Okayama City. First there was an hour's theory and policy explanation by one of the teachers we visited before, and it was quite funny hearing myself being quoted in the speech. The then 2.5 hours of Genki English. There were actually 9 new ALTs here today as well, so Will took them off to a separate venue and I did the Japanese workshop. It was great, and the teachers were really into the software. The whole GE curriculum going up and evolving into 6th grade international understanding projects was great. And sessions on using the website also proved really popular.

I also asked what they thought about having a DVD available and they all jumped at the chance. Cool.

So that was really great, it's so good to present to teachers who appreciate what I'm saying and then go out and put it in practise. The fact that they were public school teachers made it even better.

Then on the (long) train home I was looking at the new software ideas I'm playing around with. I have been stuck with one particular routine for ages, but thanks to a very generous guy on the net I downloaded a fantastic script that let me do just what I wanted. And adding in the GE graphics and sound worked first time- brilliant!! One of those rare moments these days when I felt really, really happy!! What a good day!



27th August 2003 - Wednesday - 4 hours to revolutionise!

As we had the paid for show yesterday ( all the kids paid 1,500 yen each) today we could do a teacher training seminar for the teachers quite cheaply. Things started off very slowly, hence needed lots of motivation talk. But after lunch and in the afternoon session everyone was warmed up and things went quite smoothly.

I tried out a few new ideas, including the new Genki Phonics songs (they went across very well) and also a large section on using computers. The teachers seemed really keen to try these out and also appreciated the guide to using the website.

We also sold a load of superpacks and picture card packs, which is great. I think these types of long seminars are the ones to go for. One hour at a bookstore isn't really enough to show off how useful Genki English can be. But a four hour workshop with lots of hands on sessions and Q&As and the teachers really see how it can revolutionise their teaching, and make life easier for them!

So after all the goodbyes it was on the Shinkansen to Okayama.

26th August 2003 - Tuesday - Show in Nagoya

I think there is a Genki English rule somewhere that says nights out before teachers seminars are cool, but not before kids shows. And if there isn't, someone should make one!! So I was so glad that today's show was in the afternoon! But after a few headache tablets I was OK.

This show has probably taken the most organising of any show we've ever done. But it went off pretty well with over 200 very genki kids and parents all going well over the top and singing to their max. The hall was amazing with a cool sounds system and even a movable stage (this was the main point they pushed when we booked the hall). We didn't actually make any money on this show for some strange reason, but everyone enjoyed themselves so I think we'll be back.

25th August 2003 - Travel Day, killer email & a good night out

This week's schedule has worked out quite well as we gradually make our way back to Ehime, calling off at various places on the way. And today was the shinkansen to Nagoya -and yep, I do seem to be here every other week!!

I checked into the hotel and it was great not to have meetings or anything. So I checked my mail to find it had been terminated!!! The Genki English mail servers had been hit by over 100MB of viruses and hence Yahoo suspended my mail account. Very annoying. So I wrote to them to complain, or rather to ask that they simply delete any virus emails rather than storing them, and they wrote back saying I had to buy more storage space. Hmmmm.

But after a while I think I figured a work around.

So after copying hundreds of pamphlets for tomorrow's show at Kinkos' (they are so convenient!) and giving an ex-Nova teacher a business pep talk, I popped into the Outback Steakhouse. And low and behold, there sat at the bar were two of the guys from Altia Central. Pretty small world. So we had some nice steaks, lots of chats, and a really cool night out. Brilliant.


24th August 2003 - Sunday - Show & Seminar in Hiratsuka

It's funny but there are certain pockets of Japan that we always end up going back to. Which I guess is cool, but it does mean our coverage of the country is a little lopsided. Anyway today's show in Kanagawa (our 3rd this year!) was great. The show was actually sponsored by an English school, rather than a group of teachers, and it was really interesting to see the difference between the songs that the kids had done in class (e.g. How are you?) compared with the ones they hadn't (e.g. What are you doing? )

One thing that people have been commenting at is the level at which we pitch the shows. Basically we start out assuming the kids know nothing, and then test them as we go along, if they are really good and get what we are doing we move on to more complicated songs. However most of the time even kids who have studied lots of English can't really speak it, so the level is pretty much the same wherever. The thing is that were not in it for the entertainment, if the kids want to be entertained for an hour they can buy the CDs or watch another English show, for me it's motivating the kids and getting them wanting to learn more that is the key.

In the afternoon we had a seminar and it was great to have something completely different today. Most of the teachers belong to the school who sponsored the show this morning and were hence already using Genki English - great. So instead of starting from scratch or going through the basic songs, they were asking for more complicated stuff like how to use the How much? and I have a question! songs. Then we had a great chat at the end about all sorts of things about English education. It's great to be able to do this type of thing and raise the bar a little!


23rd August 2003 - Saturday - Flying to Tokyo

I had a couple of hours to kill this afternoon before catching my flight up to Tokyo so had a look round Fukuoka. With the new DVD project I'm going to have to get a new computer, and I even thought about buying one of the new Apple G5s. But a desktop isn't really what I want, and having a look at the price difference between PC and Mac portable hard disks, it isn't really an option. But I wish the PC manufacturers would bring out some faster laptops soon, mine is a year old but still top of the range - but I need something faster!

22nd August 2003 - Friday - Nice day by the river

Fukuoka is a really nice place to be. The people are nice and polite and there aren't all the huge crowds like in Tokyo, the shops are all close together and it all looks very clean and tidy. And best of all there are lots of nice cafes to sit and work in. So today was Seattle's best, sat near the river with an ice coffee working. It wasn't all fun work (I had to do my expenses for this month), but doing the new video projects is really fun!! Plus when my computer battery died I switched to my music computer and wrote some new songs. Then when that battery died I went to Canal City and saw "Pirates of the Caribbean" (quite good). What a nice day, it's nice being in Fukuoka.

21st August 2003 - Thursday - Filming

Today I started doing the first set of video shoots. It all went quite well and it is just amazing what you can do with today's computers. One thing I was worried about was that I end up talking solidly for blocks of 5 minutes. The golden rule is that with kids' videos you should change shots every 10 seconds, so 5 minutes is a very, very long time!! But using funky graphics in the background and a lot of motivation talking it has turned out really, really good and when I was doing the tests I found myself really getting into it. So I'm really excited now!

20th August 2003 - Wednesday - Blue Screen

I decided to leave the website side of things for now. We'll soon be in the busy season (Autumn is always busy on the site) but I have to get on with the new projects.

One of the things I really want to get going is the new video material and for that I need to set up a "blue screen" system. You know, like on Star Wars where they film the actors with a blue (or green) background and then add in the other stuff later. I had been asking people for ages to look into getting a blue screen set up and didn't get any results, so today I decided to do it myself. I went to a fabric shop and bought 10 metres of felt and it worked a treat. I did some test filmings and it just works brilliantly, there is so much I can do now - great!


19th August 2003 - Tuesday - Php + Hero

After last night I was all geared up to produce all these great new Genki English products - I have some great ideas and it sounds like people really want them so I'll have to work really hard!! Unfortunately I first had to sort out the website. I think moving servers last week may have been a bit of a mistake as the new system is taking a lot of time to set up. And I also have to learn computer languages like php and perl to get the interactive features working. Well, in the long run it should make my life easier, but at the moment I want to get cracking on the new Genki English products!!

After staring at pages of computer code all day, in the evening I did take a bit of time off and went to see the movie "Hero". And for all those people who think that exposing kids to "only English" for 45 minutes once a month will make them fluent are just mad, 3 hours of Chinese and all I could pick up was "I", "yes" and "no", and I already new those! But the pictures were good!

18th August - Monday - Genki English in Fukuoka and live squid

The Fukuoka teachers lived up to their reputation of being very genki today, and to say it was a Monday afternoon we had 40+ teachers turn up, pretty cool. And as last week we asked if they wanted a longer workshop and they all said "Yes". So we went through a ton of stuff and it was great to see so many elementary school teachers there. I think my story of how I started Genki English by touring nearly every elementary school in Fukuoka on a bicycle in a typhoon helped a bit!

Then in the evening it was another set of discussions about new materials, PR etc. and seeing as there were lots of high up people there it was cool to have a nice meal of live squid (you could see its blood moving while you ate it!) and live fish! Mind you the discussions went on till 2 AM - but it was a pretty cool night! Doing business in Japan certainly is an interesting experience.

17th August - Sunday - Kids English in Fukuoka

Fukuoka people are cool, it's so much easier to get them motivated and genki then just about anywhere else in the country!! So today's Kids English presentation was probably the best yet, with lots of really good questions. It also helped to have some fans in the audience, so thank you very much!

16th August - Moving Webservers & Meetings in Fukuoka

I got back, after a 3 hour drive, to Matsuyama late last night and set about moving the GenkiEnglish website to a new server. With all the spam mail and stuff going round at the moment I needed to update the mail servers, and at the same time wanted to be able to run more powerful features on the site (more of which you'll see over the next few months). But it took me absolutely ages to back up all the files, databases etc. and get them moved. The website is waaaayyy too big!! But hopefully the new features will, in the long run, make things a lot easier for me to handle. As far as you guys go, everything should be working just fine, with the exception of the discussion board, which I'll have a replacement up for soon.

So I finished all the basic stuff at 5:30AM (this is after doing 2 presentations already today!!). Then a little sleep till 10, then flying off to Fukuoka.

Here I had a meeting about new Genki English materials and stuff, there are quite a few people wanting me to get new materials out there ASAP. Why do I get the feeling I won't get a holiday for a while.....

15th August 2003 - Friday - Tokushima ALT orientation

In May, two of the Tokushima AJET people saw GenkiEnglish at the JET recontracting conference and were so impressed (apparently) that they decided to invite us to the Tokushima new JET orientation. Cool! After yesterday's party I think we knew just about everyone, but first off we had the "Genki Speech" about getting the most out of JET and that it really is "Every Situation Is What You Make It". Then a quick Elementary School workshop for an hour, which was quite tricky as none of them had actually set foot in a classroom yet. But everyone seemed very Genki and very enthusiastic about the whole thing. And this is the key really, it is JETs that are making the difference in Japan. And it's great to be able to support them like this!

14th August 2003 - Thursday - Awa Odori!

With all this traveling, one of the cool things is that I always seem to be in places when they have their big festivals. And festivals in Japan are usually very big! So today was the turn of Tokushima and the very famous Awa Odori. At lunchtime I met up with all the local JETs (they are enrolled in the dancing as part of their orientation!), and we went off to the hotel for a pre-party at 3 o'clock. Then when everyone had had far too much beer it was time to head off to the dancing area. The only problem was that it was raining. But they moved everything indoors and we had a great time!

13th August 2003 - Wednesday - Bleurgh day

After a long spell of presentations today was a very "blerugh" day, or basically a very ungenki day where I didn't really feel like doing much! But I had to get my washing done, and get all my emails and stuff replied to. Then in the evening I flew done from Nagoya to Tokushima, and the city was packed!! It would have been cool to check out the festival, but I was well shattered so crashed at a local JETs house. And actually that was really nice, a nice chat with cool people and an early night!

12th August 2003 - Tuesday - Nagoya - Genki English

Had a Genki English presentation at Nagoya's Maruzen Bookstore. It was actually supposed to be in the bookstore itself but they said we'd be too noisy so put us on a different floor! But it didn't really matter as a lot of people turned up which was good. In fact apart from the few parents who didn't realise who we were and thought it was a kids entertainment presentation most of the teachers already had the super packs so instead of 2 one hour presentations we just kept going for 3 and a half hours! That was cool as the teachers got to see a lot more of the songs ( I have a question was a big hit) , but not that good in that everybody already had the CDs so couldn't buy anymore, so I'm not sure if Maruzen will be inviting us back or not (somebody has to pay our travel and accommodation)!!

Then out for some ribs, which were very nice.

11th August 2003 - Monday - Nagoya - Kids English

Same as yesterday, a Kids English presentation, but there were soooo many people!! Crazy.

10th August 2003 - Sunday - Kids English

Today was another presentation of our Kids English series. I had a bit of time free in the morning and for the first time in a while had a read through some of the picture books, they are actually quite good, especially the beach one. And the songs just stick in your head!! Which made it all the more easier to do the presentation. Then a little look at a Kyoto festival (I can't believe I've been here nearly every week for the last 2 months!!) and then off to Nagoya, somewhere I haven't been to since June!

9th August - Saturday - Genki English presentation in Kyoto

Up until now typhoons have just been a distraction or a little annoying, but today was the first time Genki English felt the economic consequences of a typhoon, i.e. that over 30 people had booked to see today's presentation but many of them cancelled and we only had half that number!

But in the event it actually worked out quite well as we basically had the whole floor of the bookstore to ourselves. So we did an hour of songs and everyone was happy, so we took a 20 minute break and then did another hour! The extra hour really made a big difference and people really got into how to teach Genki English. The most popular part has to be the teaching guide video CDROM that we give away with the four CD pack, for some reason everyone thought it was hilariously funny!

Then I had to write an article for the Korean KOTESOL organisation for whom I'm hopefully going to be doing a presentation next month. Cool. Then a meeting with a few people about the next set of Genki English products - they want more stuff, so I guess I'll have to find the time to actually get all my ideas made up into real CDs and books. Which may mean I have to cut back on presentations in the Autumn, so if you want us to visit, get your requests in now!


8th August - Friday - Typhoon and Kyoto

We've only just gotten over one of the longest ever rainy seasons and we get hit by a typhoon. Which means that the planes and things were all messed up today, but we managed to get one of the last flights out of Shikoku.

7th August - Thursday - Sleep

I suddenly developed a cold. I hate summer colds. So I slept. All day. Mind you I probably needed it.

6th August 2003 - New ALTs

Today was the 2nd day of the summer camp and we had basketball and a visit to the Tamagawa art museum ( a small town with Andy Warhols and Picassos still amazes me) on the menu. Then in the afternoon I went to the BOE to help the new ALT get stuff sorted out. 3 years ago I purposely left my successor alone, figuring it'd be better to leave them to make their own way, but after realising that was a bit of a mistake I offered to help out the newly arrived ALT (who seems really cool).

So it was basically going through things like insurance and formalities and schedules and stuff. The thing is though that even if Japanese staff can explain in English, unless you understand the Japanese system then it can seem really difficult. There were quite a few points where my defenses went up and I was thinking "That's a bit unfair" but then I realised the reasons why it was like that and it's actually quite OK. I could also figure out where the BOE were going above and beyond what they had to do to help the ALT. Mind you that's with 6 years of Japanese and working with the system almost everyday. So my advice to new ALTs is not to worry and if things seem unfair or bad, they probably aren't, ask some people for help explaining things and everything should be OK.

Most BOEs are really keen to help you out and do go out of their way to makes things go smoothly, so most problems are communication problems. Take things easy, don't get mad, and learn Japanese!


5th August 2003 - Tuesday - Being an ALT again

I haven't really been back to my old town of Tamagawa since I left there 3 years ago, things have just been far too busy!

But anyway today they were having a summer camp in the mountains of Tamagawa and invited me along. And actually it is such a really, really nice place, the mountains and everything where cool and the kids were brilliant (but a lot bigger than last time I saw them!). We also did some fishing which was cool ( just stick your hand in the water and grab a fish!), and it was also good to meet the brand new ALT in town as well as some of the neighbouring ALTs. But you know this is the sort of event where you realist that being a professional ALT is a tough job, but getting involved directly with the kids really makes a huge difference, and that's what the JET programme is all about.

Mind you I was a little embarrassed in the evening that they had a demonstration of "Japanese Culture" and one of the things they showed was chopsticks, accompanied by the phrase "Please use these in your country". Which wouldn't have been too bad except for the fact there were 3 Chinese exchange students there as well. But then I got talking with my teachers about it and we all came up with the conclusion that there isn't really anything "Japanese" at all! Just like everywhere else ideas come and go and all get mixed up with ideas from elsewhere. Now that should make a good topic for next week's newspaper article!

4th August 2003 - Monday - Back to Ehime

We were supposed to fly back to Ehime last night but the price of the tickets was 30,000 yen, i.e. it would have been cheaper to buy a return to Seoul or a one way ticket to Sydney! The prices here are crazy! But I had promised my old school that I'd help them out tomorrow, so staying an extra night in Tokyo and then flying out this morning was the cheapest route.

But after over a week with no break and a 5 AM start today I slept most of the day. Right now I've come out to the beach (the one from the NHK programme) to answer some emails and do a bit of work.

3rd August - Sunday - Maruzen and "Kids English"

Today was a presentation of our Kids English series, and compared with yesterday when there was just me, today we had 15 staff members to help!! And it actually went quite well, for the first time our presentation and Q&A was done without any kids (they were all in a special playroom) so we could seriously answer the parents questions. After yesterday I really dropped the level down to basic things and most of it was simply reassuring the parents. Some of the old chestnuts did appear such as "If my kid learns English, won't their Japanese be hindered", and I guess these are parents so this type of question is OK.

Reassurance is the key, and dispelling all those myths. My problem is should I spend my time and energy "hand-holding" and correcting all these very basic things for the teachers here in Japan, or use my time to work hard for teachers abroad who really appreciate what I do and aren't afraid to improve the lives of their students....

2nd August - Maruzen and Culture Shock

Today was another presentation at the Maruzen Bookstore in Tokyo. That was OK but I went in again at the speed I've been doing things all week and just crashed!! The teachers in Japan are just so slow..... it's just that they lack so much confidence and really don't want to help themselves. I guess the thing was that from Feb till July I was in the country without a break ( I usually don't stay that long in one stretch) and really got into the Japanese way of doing things. But then when you get out and see how other people do things it just comes as such a shock to see how things go in Japan. It's not the teachers fault as such, it's the way they are and they need confidence, but everyone makes an excuse of saying "it's the Japanese way", well it is but to be effective teachers it has to change. And besides that the kids were really great today, it was the adults who took forever to grasp what I was saying.

I always used to look on these seminars as seminars, to actually try and teach people something, but really in an hour that isn't possible, I have to push the 3 day workshops a lot more, that's where the serious development goes on.

International Understanding is so necessary in Japan, but average people don't have the perspective to see this. So this makes my work really, really hard, but I guess at the same time really necessary.

1st August - Symposium sponsored by the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Home Affairs

Well after a fantastic week with brilliant teachers in Thailand who are all really keen, enthusiastic and wanting to learn more, it was back down to Japan and talking about silly things like "Why should we start English at elementary school?" and "There is no curriculum, nobody has written one". My goodness this is not 1993!!! It's just amazing that there are so many schools that are doing such amazing stuff, but the people "up above" have no idea what is going on on the ground!! In Thailand it's a case of "Tell me some ideas to help my teaching", over here it's "Hmmm, well, hmmm, maybe...". I went through the Genki English curriculum, explaining that it was written after talking to thousands of kids up and down the country finding out what they want to learn, and that if the teachers do one lesson a week plus 3 minutes review everyday, the kids will be able to express anything they want to in English.

Mind you after the seminar it turns out that most of the teachers listening were actually using the GE curriculum, which is quite good.

Then on the train to Tokyo and tonight I found out that the GenkiEnglish.com address was down!! Argh!! The website is still up at genkienglish.net , but typing in www.GenkiEnglish.com came up with nothing, so the rule is don't buy a name from Network Solutions, all I've had is problems with them!

31st July - Thursday - Bangkok to Biwa

The overtime train pulled into Bangkok at 5:30 and it really was something out of a strange travel documentary, but it was surprisingly comfortable!

Then the flight to Osaka and I felt really good after doing such good work and could now relax a bit on the plane. Kansai airport has wireless internet access which was good as I got to download all the hundreds of mails that were waiting for me - no email for 4 days was bliss! Then off to lake Biwa, which was quite nice, but not a patch on Thailand. Mind you the Japanese Ministry of Home Affairs was paying for tonight's hotel and it was rather nice to say the least!

30th July 2003 - More Genki English and Thai dancers singing "What do you do?"

This morning we were all bussed off to one of the local schools for the microteaching assignments. This was quite good for me as I was just there to co-ordinate the observations and feedback. My group split into 2, with one of them doing a Genki English lesson ("How are you?" which the kids finished really quickly) and the other doing another from the new Thai curriculum. The lesson wasn't too bad, but the kids homeroom teacher kept translating all the game answers, something that was quickly picked up in the evaluation sessions. The only other problem is that of noise. In Thai schools there are no doors or windows (mainly because it's so hot) so it can be very hectic as there were a around 8 microteaching sessions going on at the same time. But anyway that was all fine as the main part of the exercise is to get the Thai teachers used to giving feedback to each other and looking for points to improve the lesson for tomorrow's microteaching.

So most of the rest of the day was spent doing the evaluations and gearing up for improvements for tomorrow. Then it was my final Genki English seminar with the last two songs (What's the weather like? and How did you get here?) and the last game, Newspaper Sumo and then a review of all the Genki English songs we'd done this week. One of the very important points with doing 3 day workshops is that the teachers not only see the games in action, but that they can then use them in their class and understand how they can be mixed and matched to be used for any English topic. But as I have to be back in Japan on Friday, I had to push things a bit today, so tomorrow they will present to each other what they have seen this week and make sure that they can all use the materials and techniques. The whole idea of the Volunteer Education Network is that we head into an area where training wouldn't normally be available (this time we are in Surin in the North East of Thailand), show the teachers loads of ideas and how to run workshops and then they share these ideas in meetings in subsequent months when we're not there. It's all about sustainable professional development.

I finished my seminars on a massive high note, and just as I did the conference organiser popped in saying that the Superintendent of Education would be at the farewell party tonight and he wanted my group to perform one of my songs - with zero preparation time!!! I freaked, but they all said "Yeah!!!". Cool!

So after the success of last night's Quickie Genki English seminar to all of the other groups I had another one today. Everyone was shattered after a hard day, but they did great and really got into the stuff.

A quick shower and off to the farewell party. That was amazing with Thai dancers, presents and lots of great food. But the best bit had to be my teachers getting up on stage and doing "What do you do?". I said they'd have to teach the song first, before singing it, and I was a bit afraid as they had only actually done the song before, they wouldn't practise teaching it till tomorrow. But they were fantastic, they followed the 3 step plan, vocab, acapella (3 times just until it was getting boring) and then hit everyone with the recorded version. Everyone in the room was up dancing, singing, doing the gestures and clapping. Amazing. The Thai teachers just take the songs to new heights. And it was so strange to see all the costumed Thai dancers joining in as well.

And it wasn't till later I realised that I actually wrote that song in Thailand last year, I guess some of the Thai magic rubbed off.

So a final Genki Speech and it was time to take the Michael Palin style night train back to Bangkok.

Thank you Surin and thank you to everyone for organising this week, it has been fantastic. Sanuk!


29th July 2003 - Tuesday - Special Genki English and Microteaching

Up this morning and not feeling all that genki after such a hard night last night, but "Genki is as Genki does" and it's not for me to take my tiredness into the seminar room! So the teachers had another 3 hours of Genki English and were just so genki it was great! The Thai teachers pick up songs so fast, and as for dancing... It's also good to get questions and requests and really have teachers that want to learn, brilliant. I also got a few great ideas from my assistant, Emi.

Then in the afternoon it was tomorrow's microteaching preparation. Eventhough I'm only here till tomorrow, this is in fact a full on professional development week long series of workshops, and tomorrow the teachers have to do microteaching assignments. And that was quite cool. Mind you after this mornings sessions one group wanted to try "What do you do?" in one hour with a group of 2nd graders - and they really thought they could do it, brilliant confidence!

After preparing a load of handouts and stuff to give out to teachers (the basic teacher's monthly salary here is 20,000 yen so I prepare loads of handouts and songs to give away to them for free), it was into the special Genki English seminar for all the teachers in the other 5 groups. And that was great as well. I'm so glad I got the chance to do this, Damian and Nicole, thank you - you did a great job organising this! The teachers just lapped up all the ideas and were so genki, and they are so fantastic at the Genki English songs. Brilliant.

So a bit of shopping and another great night out. I could get used to this.


28th July 2003 - Monday - First set of Thai workshops

This morning was general welcoming speeches etc, and it was so nice that everything works on Thai time, so not too pushed. I also found it quite strange that the Thai teachers all started to pray before the workshops began. We started off with the whole group (over 120 of them) and some basic warm up stuff. Then we were broken up into our own groups and had a quick 30 minute seminar session. That was quite cool, but being the first day my group were a little quiet, but a few "You can do it" and "Losing means try again" speeches and a couple of rocket launches made them a little genki. Mind you I had no tape player, and Genki English without music is a little tricky, but "mai pen lai" - just go with the flow!

So after a very nice Thai lunch it was into the full on two one and a half hour Genki English sessions. And they were just so great. Unlike with Japanese teachers who tend to take forever to grasp a point or get confident, these teachers were straight in and picked up the songs and games so quickly. Their English isn't that hot, but their enthusiasm is just amazing. It really makes a change to do seminars to teachers who really appreciate what I do! And just like last year, Mingle was the most popular game!

Then after a long day it was great to relax in the hotel pool, brilliant. Then out for dinner with everyone and so much food, then back to the hotel for karaoke, this is just so much fun. Great work during the day for people who appreciate the hard work, and brilliant nights out in the hot weather, this is fantastic!

27th July 2003 - Sunday - 7 hour train to Surin

Up early, a nice breakfast and off on the "Express" train to Surin, 7 hours away! It was the first time I'd been on a Thai train and it was actually quite comfortable (even better than the ones in Shikoku), but quite slow. The 7 volunteers also had a great time chatting on the way up, it seems that like last year there is also a great group of people that they have managed to get together. So if you'd like to know what we're doing here, or would like to volunteer yourself then have a look at the website! http://www.vol-ednet.com/

26th July 2003 - Saturday - Off to Thailand

It's been really cool having my Mum here for the last 3 weeks and it was great to be able to show her some of the cool things about Japan (mind you I think she spent most of the time shopping!)

So this morning she caught her flight home and I got on a plane to head off to another set of workshops in Thailand! It was cool to meet up with the VEN people again, with some nice food and then some shopping in Bangkok before heading off into the wilderness tomorrow!

22nd July - Tuesday - In the Daily Yomiuri

Genki English got a great write up in the national Daily Yomiuri newspaper today! Over the last few weeks they've had some really scathing articles about JETs and ALTs, but today's was talking about a very genki ALT in Niigata who was really making a difference, and guess what, yep, she's a Genki English fan! They had some really nice things to say about us, which is very nice!


7th - 25th July 2003 - My Mum's here!

You might have noticed that although everyday in June was really busy, and August is shaping up that way as well, in July there isn't a single Genki English event in Japan!! This happened all by coincidence so I decided to invite my Mum out here for a holiday. She came when I was first in Japan, but it was the middle of Winter and didn't think much too it. So hopefully this time she'll be able to see it when it's hot and sunny!

The plan is to spend a few days in Kyoto, then Hiroshima, then car tours round Kyushu and Shikoku. Should be fun.

During this time I'll still be checking my emails and doing bits and pieces on the website, and of course your orders will still be sent off very quickly from our office in Imabari. However, during the day I'll be showing my Mum around some of Japan. Expect to see updates of the diary at the end of the month when I'll be doing another Teacher Training program in Thailand! Enjoy your summer!

5th, 6th July 2003 - Crash!

I switched on my computer this morning and it wouldn't switch on. It seems part of the hardisk has died. Hmm, not too good as the bit that died is the boot up part. So I had to reinstall it (after the fiasco at Yodabashi camera last month I didn't fancy taking it back there). Everyone knows that backing up is important, so everyday I back up to a portable hard disk, and then every couple of days I make a CDROM. The only thing is that my backup files had become corrupted. Aghhhh. Luckily I could restore the D drive of my computer which holds most things, except my emails. So I've lost 6 weeks worth of email archives. I think I was up to date with all my messages, but a million apologies if yours has disappeared.

Anyway, now I need to spend a load of time reinstalling all my software and downloading updates. Not very fun and my mum arrives tomorrow!


30th June - July 3rd 2003 - Homepage stuff, The Matrix and Terminator 3

This is quite a rarity, a whole week with no presentations! But as I'm sure you know by now, that doesn't mean no work! There are a million and one projects I have going at Genki English, and usually the first one to get back to after a long tour is, of course, the website. So this week I've been going through everything, making sure it's all OK and adding some new bits and pieces. So you'll hopefully find a groovy new calculator on the orders page that shows you just how much you've spent. And I've also figured out (after a lot of experimenting!) how to do those groovy borders around tables, you can see them on the left menu and on the main page, hopefully they make things a lot clearer to see.

I've also been experimenting with the new Google Adsense system. This is a cool new system that places adverts according to the content on a page. Many people seem to think that I get paid if people visit the site, well this isn't the case (it's be great if it was though!). The reason I want people to come to the site, and the reason I put so much on for free, is that I really want people to do the best lessons possible! But it does actually cost me every time someone visits the site (as I have to pay for the site to be hosted), so hopefully these new Google Adsense adverts will make the non-income areas of the site (such as the games) pay for themselves. It is actually really cool how Google chooses which adverts to put up, and some of them are just so useful, check out the Stars Wars Game page!

I did however find a little time off and went to the cinema to see The Matrix Reloaded, ( that's not bad although it's quite strange to see that the matrix is actually written in katakana!!) and also Terminator 3, which seems to be one of the very few films to come out here in Japan before anywhere else! I hadn't read anything about it before seeing it, so it was great to just enjoy it as a film without knowing what will happen. Mind you the ending.....

 

29th June - Fukuoka and the end of our biggest ever tour!

I haven't kept count, but this month it is well over 7,000 kids and over 1,000 teachers that we've taught. And today was the final show and the kids, and parents, did us proud! They blasted through all the normal show songs and Where are you going? as well!! Then at the end there was a massive rush on to buy Superpacks. Great.

So then after buying up all the ink in Fukuoka for the picture cards I was in the rare situation of having an afternoon off. So I went shopping. And bought some sunglasses.


2003 June 28th - Saturday - Homepage and "dirty blood"

Had a look at the homepage for the first time in a while and tidied up a few things. I also did the Japanese version of the newsletter (at midnight on a Saturday - I must be mad!), the thing is that it's now getting way too big to handle myself so I'm going to have to find a web based system.

There was also an interesting story in the papers today. Apparently a primary school teacher in Fukuoka was doing a home visit to one of his students when he found out that the child's great grandparent was American. The teacher then apparently said something along the lines of "Well that explains his bad behavior, it's this unclean blood in him". So what happened to this teacher? He got fired? No, just moved to another class.

I'm sure you can imagine what would have happened with a remark like that back home. But this is Japan and these are the types of attitudes we're fighting to change!


2003 June 27th - Friday - Off to Kyushu

Got all my bags changed round (and slimmed down - it's amazing how much junk you can acquire over a month on the road!), then the super jet boat to Kyushu. That was good as I got a full 5 hours to just plough through emails and admin stuff.

2003 June 26th - Thursday - back home (for a day!)

After last night, waking up at 6 AM to catch a bus, train and boat home wasn't much fun. So I slept most of the time.

Then back to Ehime and it was back into full production of Picture Cards (we'd sold out while we were away). I also had to go and get my visa renewed, and for the first time they gave me one for 3 years! Well, that makes things a little easier.

Then a million and one other things to do before setting off to Fukuoka tomorrow.


2003 June 25th - Wednesday - Hiroshima - Final Day and very young Kouchou Sensei

Today was our final day in Hiroshima so in the morning we went early to the school to go through the new curriculum. Actually though the very cool ALT seems to have everything in hand, he's in his first year so I'm sure by the end of his 3rd year the kids in this town will be fantastic.

The Head Teacher in today's school was also incredibly young looking. Will was trying to ask her age (politely of course), so when she gave a fake age I said "Oh, so you're born in the year of the rabbit?" and she said "No, I was born in the year of the....." Hence inadvertently giving away her age. (But she still looked younger).

Anyway the show was cool today and despite a few crashes of my computer, the teaching seminar was not too bad (once we had gotten them to take down all the katakana posters from the walls!).

Then in the evening it was a farewell party in the most amazing house I'd ever been in, built out of imported Canadian logs it looked just like the house out of the "Dinosaurs" TV show. Cool. So a very nice night.


2003 June 24th - Tuesday - Hiroshima- Adults show and a mess

Today was the first time we got to present our "Otona demo dekiru" (even adults can get good at English) speech to the general public (as opposed to a company hiring us to give the presentation to their employees). And it went really well. It's basically a Genki English teaching seminar but without the games and songs, just the learning philosophy explained in a load of skits and jokes. The only thing was that it was billed today, very clearly, as an adults show, and what happens? A million and one kids turn up as well!! Not that there's anything unsuitable in there, it's just that it's aimed at adults not kids and the weird thing is that like last week when we advertised a kids show we ended up with loads and loads of adults. Makes you wonder if people can read.

So the one problem was trying to genki up the adults whilst simultaneously genkiing down the kids. Not an easy task, but I think we managed it and everyone seemed very happy and motivated at the end. The town also laid on a nice supper which was very well received.


Early on in the day we had had an Elementary School show which didn't quite go so smoothly. First off as there is no internet connection in town, at lunchtime we had to drive for an hour so I could get online. It took me rather a long time as I had to go through a load of credit card orders from Europe and the States, so we arrived at the school a little late at 12:15. So we apologised and started the school lunch, and the school replied "It's OK, you have at least 30 minutes before you start". Ehhhhhh? Just a minute, the plan is to start at 1:45 so we arrived an hour and a half earlier to have lunch and then set up. They said, "Oh no, we've moved the time, it's now 1 o'clock". Very nice of them to tell us!

So without having my lunch I had to go and check out the sound system, and guess what? Yep, they had prepared precisely nothing!! I wasn't very happy. So I ask the teachers to help me get some gear together and they were the most unhelpful teachers I've met in ages. I was getting a little furious at this point . This is the only problem with doing these shows for free, some schools just show zero respect.

So by five minutes to one I had managed to build a workable PA system, put on a smile and changed all that anger energy to genki energy and gave the kids a really good show. Of course the best part was the parents walking in at 1:45 (when we were supposed to start) and asking the teachers how come they'd missed most of it!

Then in the teachers seminar I really let loose at the teachers saying, "Look I can't believe how little respect you showed us today. Your town has decided you have to teach this, it's an important thing, so get yourselves in gear and do things properly."

So then everything turned out OK and they actually ended up asking more questions than any group of teachers this week. So hopefully they'll learn.



2003 June 23rd - Monday - 4th years, Wild bears etc.

Obviously Hiroshima is quite famous. But it's not just the city, it's also the name of a whole prefecture and today we found ourselves up north in the very nice mountains of Takamiya Town. Our deal with Elementary Schools is that we'll visit anywhere as long as we get to present to the whole school and the teachers and we can get travel expenses. So this afternoon's school, the first of 3 we'll visit, had only 30 kids! And no sound system. Or rather they did have a sound system, but I had to spend an hour rewiring it. But everything worked out cool and the kids did great.

In the morning we also had a meeting with the Kyoikuchou (the town's head of education) and it was good that he's decided he wants the kids to speak English. ALTs have been visiting here for ages and the attitudes of the kids is certainly good, but they want more, they want the kids to speak. So along with a great ALT, two co-ordinators and staff that want to get things going a shot of Genki English is all they need!

So the teaching seminar was good and then we had a curriculum meeting. They have one English lesson a week starting from the final year of kindergarten and were wondering what level they should be aiming for. So I suggested the Genki English target, and seeing as they start from 5 years old, the aim should be that by the end of the 4th grade any child should be able to express anything they want to say in English.

At first the teachers seemed a bit shocked by this, but with one lesson a week and a 3 minute review everyday there is no reason in the world why this can't happen. I offered to give loads of help making the curriculum if needed and there was even talk of bringing us back for a two day seminar in August. Cool! They have everything in place to make it happen here, and using the Genki English materials for most of the lessons will make the first 2 years or so really easy.


So then off to my homestay family which was very nice. The only problem with this town is that my computer can't get a wireless internet signal! Hence why you're ready this diary a week late. But it is a beautiful place (certainly beats being in Tokyo!) and the locals were telling me of the systems they have to warn farmers when wild bears come down into the town!



2003 June 22nd - Sunday - First time in Hiroshima!

There are only a handful of prefectures that I've never visited as Genki English and Hiroshima is one of them. This morning we had a private kids show in the best venue yet, complete with a moving stage and lighting rig. Then in the afternoon a Teacher Training Seminar sponsored by JALT and the YMCA. That was cool and the room was packed!

We did have a little problem with the language, after the last few JALT meetings where things have just flown over the heads of most people if I do it in English, today I wanted to do it in Japanese and provide simultaneous translation into English. Unfortunately because of the amount of people in the room this didn't work, and as there were some people who don't speak Japanese at all I had to do it in English. But I don't like doing that, when I'm in a country I should speak that country's language, to not do I feel is impolite. But there were some very insistent people in the crowd shouting out "but we all speak English", unfortunately this wasn't the case and I did feel really sorry for those teachers whose English wasn't perfect, after all those are the ones we need to help most.

But overall the seminar was great, we didn't cover that much ground because everyone was laughing so much and having a good time, which is cool and we also sold a load of Superpacks which is great!

Then a coffee with the very nice organisers and a one hour bus drive to our next stop, the wilds of northern Hiroshima prefecture!



2003 June 21st - Saturday -last day in Ishikawa

There's no rest for the wicked, so after a week full of shows and events we had two final shows on Saturday. After all the excitement of the last few weeks they didn't quite match up to what we were expecting, but I think everyone who attended left feeling pretty happy.

But this last 10 days has been fantastic, it's been organised perfectly and it was so good having our Team Genki to help us out. Plus the place we stayed has been the best so far, we effectively had the top floor of a juku so could rest and get computer work done get as I liked but then eat with the very nice homestay family later. Great stuff! So we've taught 5,500 Ishikawa kids and hopefully influenced a lot of the teachers to really get the English and International Understanding programmes going in their schools.

Then it was time for all the goodbyes, and one last sushi meal from our wonderful homestay family and taking the 4 hour train drive back down south...


2003 June 20th - Ishikawa - Fantastic Schools - 6,000 kids - a record?

We walked into the school this morning and were pleasantly surprised to see that the head teacher was one of the guys who invited us to Kanazawa last year. He's really cool and has been trying hard with his English. The kids were also great, coming up to us and asking how old we were. Actually in both schools today the kids have ALT visits twice a month in 1st and 2nd grades and once a week from grade 3 upwards. Plus the teachers do 5 minutes everyday. This is a lot.

However we were a little disheartened when they introduced the show and all the kids replied to "How are you?" with "Fine thank you, and you?". Arghh! - that's something to fix! But other than that they were great, very genki and nailed all of the songs. And the key to it was that the teachers were really cool, I think they maybe enjoyed it more than the kids! Good head teacher = good teachers = good kids.

The afternoon school was a lot bigger, 450 kids, and weren't quite as good as the morning (the teachers weren't that genki) but it was pretty good all the same.

So there we go, we just taught over 6,000 kids in 12 days. Not bad!

So in the evening it was the "well done everybody" party with our team of brilliant CIRs who have been helping all week. Thanks guys, you were amazing!




2003 June 19th - Thursday - Ishikawa - Not too bad

This morning's school was great, 450 kids all very genki. Cool. Then in the afternoon we had a meeting about Saturday's shows. That was a bit like real work, doing shows is great as we get all this energy back from the kids, but it's the important behind the scenes work that takes all the energy!

Then another teaching seminar and I messed up a little bit as I assumed everyone would have seen the shows this week. What I didn't realise that many of the people were from different schools which quite explained the confused looks on their faces! I should have taken things slowly with a full on introduction instead of just jumping in. But hey, people who don't make mistakes aren't trying hard enough!



2003 June 18th - Wednesday - Ishikawa - Great schools and routine

You know I think this week is the first time in 3 years that I've had any kind of work routine. It's quite cool; wake up, go to school, set up, do a show, have lunch, do another show, go home, do computer work and sleep.

Today's shows in Nanatsuka Town were great. In the first show the CD player packed up half way through, but with our team of genki helpers at hand it was no problem (we'll miss you guys next week!). Then off for an amazing show in the afternoon. This past week we've been kind of spoilt as we've had a full hour to do the shows in. When I first designed the show format I figured on teaching 3 songs, Left & Right, What's your name? and Thank you. But over the last few months lots, lots more has been added and now it's only the really good schools that can get through it all. I think we need to cut back, so today we cut out the Left & Right song. But to be honest the kids were so good they could have done a whole CDs worth. They were great, even the 6th graders were brilliant (they must have read my diary from yesterday).

We also got our first proper booking for our "otona demo dekiru" show for next week in Hiroshima, which should be fun.

Then a gorgeous homemade dinner of "katsudon", answered some emails and now I'm shattered!



2003 June 17th - Tuesday - Great shows and older grades

This morning's school was so big and brand new. It looked like it might have it's own bowling alley. Mind you the Head Teachers made sure we knew this and spent quite a lot of time boasting about how considerably newer their school was than the others in the town.

Mind you they didn't quite have the same passion for English education as they decided to cut the 1st and 2nd graders from today's show. This is getting silly now. The problem is that many Japanese teachers don't understand language learning theory and, wrongly, assume that language lessons are more suitable for upper grades and are too difficult for the lower grades. In reality nothing is further from the truth, and in my teachers' seminar on Thursday I think I really have to make this point clear. They need to start early, and 6th grade is just way too late, their time would be better spent studying other things. It's nobody's fault, it's just their age. But as we're doing the stuff for free you'd think the school could at least help us out by giving us the genki kids! The CIR organiser tried great, but the school wouldn't budge! I'm thinking of maybe cutting 6th graders from the show from now on, just so the schools don't make life hard for us by cutting the lower grades!

It was also funny seeing the Deputy Head run around saying "it's too loud, it's too loud". The kids didn't think so!

In the afternoon we moved to another school that had a very strange gym that was right in the middle of the school (usually they are in a separate building). We got there and it was heart sinking moment as they brought out a tiny little speaker for 450 kids! But luckily the teachers were cool and with a lot of wiring I managed to hook up a working PA system that just about managed to meet the kids' volume level.

We also had no stage, but whilst I was doing the sound system, Team Genki, our amazing group of CIR organisers for the week, built one! Great stuff!

So after a lot of hard work the kids (from grades 1-6) all crammed into the gym and it was a fantastic show!! The atmosphere was the nearest to a rock concert we've had this week and both the teachers and kids were well into the songs and motivation speeches, excellent work!!!

Then back to the homestay and a load of emails (mostly about 6th grade classes funnily enough) and now a quick shower and a bite to eat before a well earned night's sleep!


2003 June 16th - Monday - More Good Schools and another 800 kids

The school this morning had 877 students and we were really looking forward to breaking our record for the amount of students at one show. However the school suddenly decided last week to cut the 1st-3rd graders and only give us the 4th-6th graders. Hmmm. The deal is that we do the free shows if we can do the whole school. And in any case language learning is more effective for the younger grades, rather than the older ones. But we were told that things "couldn't be changed" as it was too short notice. 8 weeks. Hmmm. It felt like we were being used, which is all the more surprising as the Head Teacher was actually really nice and was really into English education. Well, hopefully it means more of the younger grades might attend our paid for shows on the weekend.

Then in the afternoon another 450 kids; we're building these numbers up! At this school the 6th grade were dead, so we just ignored them and let them watch and they seemed quite happy with that. But the other 5 grades more than made up for it and were mega genki!! The encore of Rock, Paper, Scissors was fantastic.

It was also really cool to have my voice back today. But I soon lost it again.

And then finish at 4! Quite early. So a quick nap and a lot of computer time doing the newsletter and two newspaper articles.


2003 June 15th - Sunday - Recovery time

There seems to be a theme to this weekend : sleep!! But I also managed to get a load of email work done in the afternoon and we got invited out for a very nice home cooked meal in the evening.

2003 June 14th - Saturday - Ishikawa Festival Time

Had the day off today!! Yeah!!!! So slept till 12 and popped along to the local festival parade. It's great in Japan that there seem to be always loads of festivals going on and just by chance we end up seeing loads of the them. But it's cool seeing people dress up in traditional outfits and doing some cool things. Great.

Then back to the homestay for another sleep and a night out.

2003 June 13th (Friday!) - Ishikawa - Some great schools. 2,500 down, 4,500 to go!

Another packed day with 2 shows, the first one a small gig with 100 kids and then another with over 450 kids. And they were great. Which is rather surprising really as the Head Teacher at the second school greeted us whilst fastening his tie. A rather impolite thing to do even in Japan.

And after the show the Deputy Head was telling us how it doesn't matter that Japanese people can't speak English as they are "much better than other Asian peoples at grammar". Hmmm. Funny how the TOEIC/TOEFL tests don't bear this out.

Then another great seminar with some great and very genki teachers, mind you they kept laughing in the middle of my war speech. But they got the message and were really cool.

Then out for a much earned beer or two. Teaching 2,500 kids in a week is pretty exhausting!



2003 June 12th - Ishikawa - Much better and NHK again!

After yesterday I was feeling a little worried about doing 2 more shows today. But we rocked up to the first school and out bounces the Vice Principal full of big greetings!
And sure enough with a great Head Teacher (or even deputy head) the kids were fantastic! The rule holds true - good head teacher = good kids.
NHK came to film, originally only planning to stay for 20 minutes but were so impressed they filmed the whole show and broadcast it around the whole Chubu area- great!

Then a very nice Chinese lunch and off for another show - luckily my voice held out and the kids were great. And guess what the Head Teacher was like? Yep, he was a cool guy!

Then one hour to head across town for a teacher training seminar. Ishikawa is quite far behind other prefectures when it comes to Elementary School English and International Understanding education, so it was a very "from the basics" type of presentation. But eventhough the teachers were tired after a long day, they really got into things and were really friendly and receptive. Cool.
We also made it into the Hokkoku and Chunichi Newspapers today which was good. And for dinner we were treated to some very nice sushi by our wonderful homestay host Mrs Terashita.

So a very long day and I was shattered. But the kids were good and I think we managed to demonstrate to the CIRs that all that hard work to get us here was all worthwhile!


2003 June 11th - Ishikawa - Oh dear...

Up early, said our goodbyes and hopped on the 3 hour train to Kanazawa in Ishikawa prefecture. I should have spent the time doing my emails, but after a very full on couple of days I slept!

So we arrived in Kanazawa to be greeted by our "staff" for the next ten days, 5 CIRs whose leader had planned this whole thing with military precision, I felt like I was a Beatle. But it's yet another example of JETs doing a lot of hard work and making great things happen.

In the next 10 days we are planned to give shows to over 6,000 kids. That's a lot. So it was straight into the first school with quite a few hundred kids. We were still on such a high from the brilliant schools over the last few days that we went straight in, full of Genki power.

And they were terrible!! It was one of the worst shows in ages. The kids were just dead! Recently our shows have just kept on getting better and better and I was wondering if it was because we were better as we've had more practice or whether we'd just been going to brilliant schools over the last year or so. Well, we did exactly the same as usual and they just didn't respond at all. And guess what, yep, the teachers were sat around doing nothing and not being very friendly and this just rubbed off on the kids.

So this was not a good start to the tour and not a good image for the attending press people, who didn't even bother to talk to us. And of course when the kids don't respond like this our energy levels just sink!

Hmmm. In the evening we had a "kouryuu" party planned, which was OK, but sorry to everyone present as I wasn't feeling too genki!! But it was a nice evening.

But after today, what will tomorrow bring??????



2003 June 10th - Niigata - One very strange day....

Up early for Kashiwazaki Shogakkou. This is a big bright new building but we were a bit unnerved as a big sign proclaimed it doubles as the local Nuclear Emergency Shelter. This town is also famous for having North Korean agents kidnapping people from the beaches. But I'm quite happy to also say it's now famous for having some of the best Elementary Schools and ALTs in all of Japan!

I skipped out on the first show and it was actually great to just watch for the first time ever!! (My verdict: we need a better ending!)

Then in the afternoon was another big show for the 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th graders. And they just rocked!! A combination of a great Principal, great teachers and a great ALT produced one of the best shows we've ever done. The 6th graders were really getting into it, and the encore of Rock, Paper, Scissors was just fantastic!! Well done!

This town is also really cool in that 5 years ago they produced two books of elementary school ideas, something that MEXT should be made aware of. So afterwards we had a teacher training seminar and that was great, just going through a load of the Genki English teaching ideas. Brilliant. The BOE seemed so impressed they were already talking about having us back in the Autumn!

Then out for dinner with the ALTs and some of the teachers, there were even two very genki (and very nice) Junior High teachers. Mind you we were just ruthless in teasing the BOE people that we'd visited Hong Kong the week before.....

So really we weren't supposed to be here today, but we stayed with some brilliant people, made some great new friends and, in a very strange "fate" type of way, just had a fantastic time.

Thanks guys, you were great and we can't wait to be back!


2003 June 9th - Niigata - The rule holds true

If you've been following our travels you might have noticed that we're not supposed to be in Niigata today. In fact today is supposed to be our day off. But on Friday night I was looking at the map and realised that to get from Nagano to Ishikawa (our next stop) we had to pass very close by Niigata. And has it happens the ALT in Kashiwazaki had been trying to get us to visit for ages, but her BOE weren't too keen on paying our travel expenses. So as you do, we gave her a ring on Friday night at 10:30 and said "We'll be there Monday and Tuesday. Get us some schools" And she did!!! Miracle worker or what!

So the first school (which we only got confirmed at 8 this morning) was Handa shogakkou. We walked in and the kouchou sensei was amazing; bright friendly, chatty and talking about how the kids go outside looking for bugs. And is per the rule, as the Kocho sensei was great, the kids were fantastic!

As it was such short notice (i.e. zero working days) we were only scheduled to do the 2nd and 4th graders, but as we went through the show all the other classes started joining in and by the end of it it was just huge!! Brilliant!! Certainly top ten material!

Unfortunately I was beginning to lose my voice!! In the afternoon we were only scheduled to do the 6th grade class, so I sent Will off on his own with Valerie so I could rest my voice. But just as they got there the head teacher said "Oh, it's the 3rd, 4th and 5th years as well"! So that turned into a show with the guest star of "Roboto Valerie Chan". And apparently that show was rather good too! Well done to Ohsu shogakkou!

So after my rest (in Sarah's gloriously clean apartment) it was out with all the JETs in the town for some of the juiciest JET stories we've heard in ages...



2003 June 8th - Sunday - Nagano and Niigata - Welcome Genki English!

This morning was supposed to be a lie in but the hotel made us check out at 10 AM! So I had an extra sleep in the lobby. Then we joined the Koshoku City workshop for the Question and Answers session and to see if there was anything else we could help out with.

Then it was a very nice train drive up to Niigata, our first time in the prefecture and the first time we've arrived somewhere with our hosts holding a "Welcome Genki English!" sign!!

We'd been invited up to Niigata by Valerie, one of, and quite possibly the most, Genki ALT in Japan. She'd also organised for us to crash at her friend Sarah's place. The only thing is that Sarah is a High School ALT. And for some reason most High School ALTs don't seem to like us. So we were a little bit scared .

But after some great ramen, a few beers and lots of homemade chocolate cookies it was a very nice evening!


2003 June 7th - Saturday - Change to Genki English?

The city of Koshoku in Nagano prefecture has decided to use Genki English as it's elementary school English programme this year. So we were invited up to show the teachers how to use all the stuff.

In the morning the city's staff held a "games and getting to know you" session and it felt like being an ALT again, joining in with all the teachers! Then in the afternoon we had a 3 hour workshop. It was really, really good in that instead of a "sales" seminar or a general introduction, as the city had already bought packs of CDs for everyone, it was a purely a seminar in how to use the songs and games. We could try out lots of stuff that we don't usually get time to show and the teachers were really, really enthusiastic! That was a really cool seminar and it was so good to hear the teachers say how much they are looking forward to teaching Genki English, and how much better it is than the programme they used last year!!

So after being very genki for 3 hours I had a quick sleep and then we went out for dinner with the CIR, who had actually organised everything. It's great seeing all the cool work JETs do!!

2003 June 6th - Friday - To Nagano and the speech tapes

Had a quick meeting in the morning about various bits and pieces, including maybe going for a Guinness World Record, or even a Genki English single!!

Then on the shinkansen to Kousyoko City in Nagano. It was so nice to be back in Nagano, and it was cool to have air that is actually breathable!
Tomorrow we have a training seminar, so today we had a look through the curriculum. And for a change it was really good, with cool topic titles such as "Knowing Me, Knowing You"!

In the evening I did plan on watching the Matrix on TV, but it was only in Japanese so did tend to lose much of it's impact. So instead I did a bit of work and started going through the tapes of the Kobe Key Note Speech. People were having such a good time there, they were laughing so much and just listening to the tapes is so much fun! I can't believe we did it for a whole 90 minutes, but everyone was so Genki right till the end. So hopefully I'll try and get as much as I can on the website ASAP, have a listen, I'm sure you'll love it!


2003 June 5th - Thursday - Kids English

One day teaching several hundred teachers, the next teaching a couple of dozen mothers. Today we had a cool presentation to parents who had bought and are using the Kids English series we wrote. Although trying to talk over loads of screaming kids isn't the most fun thing in the world, it was so great hearing all the feedback about the materials. They were also asking lots of really good questions and it was good to help people out with those.

Then in the evening out with the publishers for a Chinese meal, and then out for an Indian meal with some more very interesting people!



2003 June 4th - Motivation Presentations- What it's all about!

Today was great! Two presentations at a conference sponsored by the Ministry of Education and CLAIR. With all the great feedback we got last week we really edited up the presentation. Mind you the first one was at 9:15 - not the best time to give a motivational talk! But everyone seemed quite cool and although a little subdued people really got into it and the reaction was great.

Then the second one was even better. Most people had woken up by now and the huge room was just about packed. People seemed a lot more lively so it was straight in with being Genki. Seeing as this was the third time we'd done this I made sure that I fitted in all the important points (i.e. most of the ones I missed out last week!!) e.g. no I'm not Genki all the time, I'm naturally not Genki, but it's the best way to get the best out of people! It was really good.

Some people criticise us for making things too much fun, but just one song in the middle brings smiles to everyone's faces, and with doing an important speech about making the most of JET (even for high school JETs!), making people smile is a good thing to do! JET is the best job in the World and the Internationalisation work that goes on is so important, but the cool thing is that you make it happen by trying hard and having fun!

People ask if I feel tired after such a genki presentation, and the answer is "how could I?" Even though I'm well tired before and still recovering from all the parties and a severe lack of sleep, just being in a room where so many people are smiling and their eyes are lighting up makes everything seem so clear and exciting.

Afterwards everyone was coming up to us saying how much they appreciated it and felt really invigorated because of it, and that's what it's all about, whether it's what we do at Genki English or the great work you guys do in your classrooms, it's all about making people feel happy, motivated and just helping everybody out!


2003 June 3rd - Day two

Today I went along to check out the various workshops. There was a good one about teaching in pre-school, and it seems that loads of JETs do teach there! I was also asked why there isn't more kindergarten stuff on the site. Well, there is the kindergarten games page which has a few hints and tips, but basically as with anything on the site, if there's something you'd like to see then let me know and I'll try and get it on here!

The Elementary School workshop was also really good. Ben Shearon, the presenter, went through the official guidelines and then through a whole host of great material. I thought it was really well done and I even picked up a few hints and tips myself! The coolest thing is that hardly anybody ever mentions Genki English. The reason, as I was told, is that everybody already uses it!

Then the rest of the day was spent catching up with bits and pieces of work. The thing was that unlike last week where I had to crash on people's floors, this week I had my own very cool room in the Keio Plaza. Normally it'd be great just to enjoy the room, but it was a lot more fun working with all the cool people in the AJET secretariat!

Then after a quick run through of the edited speech for tomorrow (we only have 60 mins instead of 90) it was out for a quick bite to eat, but everyone was still shattered from the night before!!


2003 June 2nd - Tokyo Recontracting Conference - Smiling JETs?

It's back to JET mode again! The JET (Japan Exchange and Teaching) conferences are so much fun. Today we only had the information fair, but it was so cool to hear people coming up and thanking us for the work we do.

But there was one thing that just stood out so strong. Almost without exception every single JET who worked through the door with a frown on their face was teaching in Senior High School, and every single JET with a smile on their face taught at Elementary School!! Interesting.

Then a massive night out with everyone, cool.



2003 June 1st - Sunday - Kanagawa Ken and "Where are you going?"

Had our second show in Odawara today. As most of the kids had seen us before, I figured we'd try some new stuff. So after the usual "Rock, Paper, Scissors" we went into "How old are you?". But they couldn't do it!! They had obviously been taught with katakana accents and were really struggling with the timing of the correct English pronunciation. In fact half way through the show I was thinking we might have to cut it short!!!

But after a quick rest technique, for the first time in a show we tried the "Where are you going?" song. And they were just amazing!!! They'd never done the language before so got the pronunciation spot on! The trick is that I split the class in two. I, as the teacher, said "I'm going to the mountains", and one group said "mountains" and then the next group said "mountains". It was fantastic, they were so loud and trying so hard to outdo each other! Then we had a little skit where I said it was unfair that one group went second, so we changed around and they said the repeat words in the reverse order. And I was blown away with the enthusiasm!

Of course the full on James Brown style music probably helped (it is very genki!), but the kids were great! Fantastic!!

So that's my recommendation for the week, try the "Where are you going?" song!



Click here for Richard's Diary Jan-May 2003

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