Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Japan in a Minute

I suppose I have been searching for a theme on my main video channel for a long time. My BusanKevin channel recently celebrated 5 years of existence and I wanted to get more grounded and less random. I decided to go with a new series of videos I call a "Japan Minute." These videos will basically be the main focus of that You Tube channel. Essentially they are anything and everything about Japan in a minute or less. I have made seven so far and there will be many more. I plan to cover history, popular culture, food, drink, literature, folklore, etc. You name it and hopefully there will be a Japan Minute about it at some point.

I have been putting out two videos a week recently. Next week I will be off to Canada for a few weeks to relax with family back home. I plan to post a few Japan minutes, but of course not as many as usual.

I hope you enjoy the new path my You Tube channel is taking!

Here are a few Japan Minute episodes:

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Kobe Marathon Eve

I thought it appropriate to make my "blog writing comeback" on the eve of the first ever Kobe Marathon. This one will be a big deal for the city of Kobe where live. The first marathon in Japan was run here more than 100 years ago and tomorrow morning, 18,000 runners will start running from Sannomiya to the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge and then finish on Port Island. I will be one of those runners.

This will be my second full marathon in 3 weeks. To be honest, until last week was feeling the effects of Osaka Marathon. Although a great marathon itself, Osaka was somewhat of a personal disappointment. I went into that race sick and weak. I was running strong until a few km's past the half and then I fell apart. I finished in a decent time, but nowhere near my goal.

I'm excited about tomorrow for a few reasons. First, it's in Kobe. I love Kobe. This is simply a wonderful city to live and and I'm looking forward to running on the same streets I have spent hundreds of hours on. I've seen most of the route at one time or another on long runs and there are some great sights.

Another great thing is that some of my students plan to come out to cheer me on. I know where some of them will be and I hope I get the chance to see them.

The finish line is on Port Island and a ten minute walk from my house. That is going to be super great. I can stumble home with ease when all is said and done.

If you are a twitter user you can send me a tweet of support tomorrow morning. You can find me here on Twitter. I use the RunMeter running app on my iPhone and when people send me a tweet, a voice reads it out loud to me. It is a lot of fun. The Kobe Marathon kicks off tomorrow morning at 9:00am Japan Standard Time.

Another little piece of great news. I now, after many years without one, have a laptop. This means that once the busy times at work ease up a little, I will be back to "Teaching Asia: Tales and the Real Deal." my book will be wrapped up sooner than later I hope. A lot of great stuff is already complete and I've almost finished proofreading the first draft. Mind you, I have decided to ad some more to it.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Pizza in Japan

There are many things I love in life. I love my family. I love running. I love Canada, the country I am from. I love living abroad and the adventures I have in doing so. I also love pizza.

Pizza is food from the Gods in my opinion. It is the perfect mix of all major food groups. I get Grains, Dairy, Veggies and Meat all in one wonderful package.

I have been a fan of pizza my entire life. A great take out pizza is something to cherish, but even more is a great homemade pizza. Luckily, my parents are amazing cooks and growing up I have th fondest memories of my father's "from scratch" pizzas. They were delicious beyond description and now, as I live in Asia, I appreciate them even more.

I have lived in Asia for almost 10 years now. I lived in Korea for more than 5 years and there, pizza is everywhere. Pizza is common, it is cheap and to be honest, doesn't taste very good. Most places that sell pizza basically serve ketchup, a few slices of pepperoni and very little cheese on a slab of cardboard.

In Japan, pizza is really expensive and doesn't taste very good. ALSO, the sizes are really small.

Solution.....make your own from scracth. That's what I do. here is a quick vid of a pizza I made last weekend. An actual recipe/tutorial video will come soon.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Multi-tasked to Death

I’m tired, but I’m happy. Did I mention I am tired? I’m tired in a new way. I’m tired to my very bones.

Things are a little busy for me at the moment. Actually, things are a LOT busy for me at the moment. I am of course working full time as a homeroom teacher and that takes up about 50 hours a week and sometimes more. I’m running two full marathons in the next four weeks and of course I am trying to finish up my first “real” attempt at writing. With the first draft of “Teaching in Asia: Tales and the real deal” near completing I have begun proofreading it on commutes and during my lunch breaks. Did I also mention I have a wife and one year old son at home I try to spend maximum time with?

Things are more than a little busy and to be honest, something’s got to give soon.

Priority number one is my family. Work follows that cause of course, “baby always needs a new pair of shoes!” Then comes running and then the book BUT, there has been a change for me with regards to the last two.

Running has been a major part of my life since I began training for my first full marathon in 2008. It has made me healthier, happy and I have achieved many personal goals doing it. I was also able to raise almost $4000.00 earlier this year for disaster relief in the Tohoku region of Japan through running. Running is good.

The thing that is beginning to wear on me these days is that as I come near the end of my first major writing project, I am beginning to love writing far more than running. There is a serious conflict there because both take up a major portion of my time and to do either one of them well, you need a lot of time.

In recent weeks, as I wake up at 4:30 am to get outside for a training run, I find myself wishing that I was sitting down and working on my book instead. Marathon training has become a chore. Writing has become a joy.

So, here’s the plan. I of course need to prepare for the upcoming Osaka and Kobe marathons, but once they are finished, I’m going to step back from running full marathons in 2012. The training simply takes too much time and once I finish “Teaching in Asia: Tales and the real deal”, I already have another writing project in mind.

I won’t give up running though. It’s simply too much fun. The other night I ran a rather quick (for me) 5k. I was surprised that I was able to run a very hill-filled 5k in a hair less than 23 minutes. What could I do if I seriously trained and even had some racing flats? Can I run a 20-minute 5k in the new year? How about a 45-minute 10k?

In the 2012 I plan to register for several 5 and 10k road races and we’ll see if I can be fast. The training won’t be nearly as time consuming and I can still run a few times a week.

My plan is to focus on my writing once Kobe Marathon is in the bag. My family will be a major focus as well.

You can follow me on Twitter: @jlandkev

Monday, October 10, 2011

Arghh...I can't eat that!

As many of you know, I am currently working on my first book. "Teaching in Asia: Tales and the real deal." will be released as an eBook later this year. It will be a great resource or anyone who is interested in moving to South Korea or japan to teach. It is practical advice from a certified elementary school teacher someone who has lived and worked in both countries (that's me by the way). It will be a mix of entertaining and useful stories as well as advice on how to find a job, prepare for your move and successfully adapt to the culture.

The best way to find out about the book, my progress putting it together and release information, keep an eye on my Facebook page. I will be setting up a website for the book just before the release.

I wanted to give you guys a little taste of what I am up to. This is a
small section form one of the chapters in the book. "Argh...I can't eat that!" is part of the Culture Shock chapter.

Argh…I can’t eat that

You are now in a very different culture and with the different culture come new culinary experiences. The food typically eaten on a daily basis by Korean or Japanese people is obviously quite a bit different from what a typical Canadian, American, Australian, etc. might eat. You are going to have to try your best to get used to it because when you are with your Korean or Japanese friends, students or going to most restaurants, that’s what you will be eating.

To be honest, when I first landed in Korea in 2002, I was anyt

hing but an adventurous eater. I grew up in Eastern Canada and although had a family that was open to new food experiences, I personally wasn’t. As a young man, I was more of a Subway sandwich and pizza sort of guy and freely admit that I feared the unknown when it came to eating.

When I arrived in Korea, I knew nothing about Korean food. I suppose most people who go to Korea to teach find themselves in a similar situation. Luckily, I really enjoyed most of the new dishes introduced to me. I became a big fan of the food Korea had to offer. Generally, Korean food is spicy. A main spice used in many dishes is “gochu” which is a red hot pepper. Korean food also consists of a lot of vegetables. It’s definitely healthy, but for some, it can be a little too much. Some people don’t like the strong smell of the garlic and sesame oil while others tend to find it too spicy. I have met a few teachers in my time that had a history of stomach ulcers or were in general just sensitive and couldn’t handle the “heat” of Korean food.

Again, I took to it pretty quickly and enjoyed it. My advice to those out there who have never had Korean food and are coming to Korea is to be open-minded. You never know what something is like until you try it. Korean food is extremely healthy and packed full of flavor. It is also extremely affordable if not down right cheap to dine out at most restaurants in Korea. Many teachers will prefer to eat out most nights of the week as opposed to cooking at home because it can actually be cheaper to do so.

Japan also has some great food and aside from sushi and sashimi, I had basically no knowledge of the cuisine before I met my wife several years ago. Now I am absolutely in love with Japanese food. There was one stumbling block for me though, seafood. While growing up I never liked fish and since it is a major element of Japanese food, had to really try hard and learn to like it. Luckily I have, with the exception of eel.

Like Korean food, Japanese cuisine contains far more vegetables and a variety of them than a typical Western dish. I suppose what I love the most about Japanese food is the fact that in one typical meal you will find so many flavors on your plate.

Now eating out in Japan sadly isn’t as affordable as in Korea, but it’s always worthwhile. Since coming to Japan, I tend to eat most meals at home, but since my wife is Japanese, the vast majority of them are Japanese food.

Most people will enjoy the local “eats” when they come to Japan and Korea, but some may not. Again, my advice is just to give things a try. Even if a “mysterious” dish doesn’t look appealing, it may be extremely delicious.

If for some reason you just can’t wrap your plate or stomach around some of the local dishes, if you live in a larger city, there are plenty of restaurants that would probably cater to your needs. In Japan, there are Italian and Indian restaurants on almost every corner as well as fast food restaurants and pubs that serve “American” style food.

The same goes in Korea as well. You can find McDonald’s and Starbucks almost everywhere and family restaurants such as Bennigan’s and TGI Friday’s are very popular, although expensive. Many large supermarkets carry a variety of foreign food products and there are even specialty shops that deal specifically in food from abroad.

If you aren’t in a major urban area you are probably going to be out of luck when it comes to finding comfort food from home. You may just have to suck it up and learn to like what’s around you. To be honest, it’s not very hard!

Some kimchi, one of Korea's most famous dishes.

Remember to follow me on Twitter: @jlandkev

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A toddler changes everything

Time is now officially a luxury. I suppose this has been sinking in for some time, but recently it has been really hitting home. Just a year and a half ago it was so easy to work, come home and do all of my hobby-esque type things. I had loads of time to run, write blogs and make videos for You Tube.

Now that my son is officially a toddler, that time is only a memory. I even find myself at times a little envious of my friends out there in the bloggerverse who have so much more time to accomplish so many more things than I do. I sometimes find myself thing, “What could I be capable of if only I had more time?”

Those thoughts are often fleeting though because as my adorable son wobbles up to me to hand me a block or stuffed toy, I realize I am blessed. My son, especially now that he is developing such a funny and wonderful personality, brings me more joy than any blog post or video production I could be involved with.

So what is the answer? Can I have my cake and eat it to?

I can have a little, I just have to schedule every aspect of my day and realize that times are different. Once upon a time I might be able to write five pages in a writing project. These days, I am satisfied with one or two. Once upon a time I used to be able to produce three or four edited videos a week for my video blog. Now, one video a week is all right.

I wake up early in the morning while my son and wife are sleeping and I run. If I am not running that day, I do some writing. Sometimes I wait until my son is asleep at night and then I write. Either way, it is all about scheduling. I’m living in a new reality. It is a wonderful one though.

By the way, an update for all of you folks out there, the working title of my book is “Teaching in Asia: Tales and the real deal.” The bulk of it is now written. I still have a few more weeks to go before the first draft will be complete. Then I have to format, proof read and self edit it. Then I will send it off to someone else to edit. Once that process is completed, I will upload it to the Amazon Kindle store.

I will be charging a price for it, but it won’t be high by any means. I think it will be the perfect book for all of those who are considering teaching in Japan or South Korea at any point. The advice is mostly mine, with the help of some friends and the stories are all mine.

You won’t need a Kindle to read it as well. You will be able to sownload it to any iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch, Android device, laptop and desktop computers.

I’ll keep you updated as I move through my first book writing experience. Already though, I have to admit that it has been far more satisfying than any other sort of media production project I have tackled so far!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Writing and injuries

Just a few days ago, Mother Nature was showing us her kind affection by taking the temperatures here in Japan down a few notches. After a nasty and humid summer, things were becoming tolerable. Daily temperatures were in the mid to low 20's (Celsius) and there was no humidty. It was bliss. Last week all of that changed. we were slammed with summer all over again. "Ugh" is what I have to say about that.

I have been trying to spend more time with my family recently and also have ben dealing with a little running frustration. After Saturday night's sprint training session I developed some tenderness in my right achilles tendon. I wasn't able to go for my long run Sunday morning. It's now Tuesday morning and I still haven't run yet. I am hoping that my tendon will feel alright tomorrow morning. I will try a short 5k run slowly around the neighborhood and I will of course keep you guys informed.

On a more positive note, I have dusted off my eBook project and am writing up a storm. I have lived and worked as a teacher in both South Korea and Japan for many years. Many of my most popular blog posts and video blogs are about the topic. Also, my story videos about my time in Asia often attract a large audience.

Once I learned more about self publishing on e-platforms such as the Amazon Kindle I was sold. If I could publish my own book, why not do it? I'm still working on a title, something I'm going to use crowd sourcing to help me (probably on my Facebook is on the side of this blog) make a decision on.

Since I started blogging about teaching in Asia more than 6 years ago, I have fielded literally hundreds of questions about the topic. Why not put a lot of this information in book form and add several personal stories about my experiences in both countries?

I am hoping to have my first draft completed sometime in early October and then proofreading, editing, having someone else edit it and then off to eBook land, most likely the Kindle store.

There will be lots of updates on what I am doing here on this blog, but the best place to follow would be my BusanKevin Facebook page. I added a new widget this morning on the side of this blog to make that easier for you!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Running to Help Others

Many of of you know that after the disaster that took do many lives last March here in Japan, I wanted to do something to help. I decided to create the "Running to Help Japan" project. This was something I could do by myself to help raise money to help the kids in northern Japan. I am a teacher and have made my career caring for and teaching children. I also have a young son and my heart broke to see so many children, so close to me, who no longer had anything.

I did some research and decided I would work to raise money for Save the Children.

This is an organization who works to improve the lives of children throughout the world. They had set up teams here in Japan immediately after the earthquake and tsunami to help the youngest victims. They seemed like the perfect fit for my fundraising goals.

 Although I know I am not a gifted runner, I am a decent one. I am a "mid-pack" marathoner with an incredibly high pain threshold and stuborness. I am also a runner who day dreams often of running distances far beyond that of a regular marathon. This was my chance. This was a chance for me to push my body and mind to a place they had never been before.

At the same time, raising funds for a good cause. On June 25th, 2011, I ran 60km or 37.5 miles in the blistering heat here in Kobe. It took me more than 6 hours, but I did it. In the process I raised $3917.00. It was an amazing experience. I have never felt so many emotions all at once. I felt pain, joy, pain, excitement, pain and did I mention pain?

This was something I never could have done without the support of my You Tube viewers, my Facebook friends, my real-life friends, family, Twitter followers and of course the article written about Running to Help Japan in the Cape Breton Post. I have to give a special thanks to the sports writer, T.J. Colello. His story really got the financial ball rolling for this charity drive and really got the fire lit under me!

I also have to thank several friends of mine in the Japan You Tube community who supported me so much. I have to thank (these are their You Tube names): qiranger, WarmothStrat (Mully and Misses Mully), softpapa, FindMeInKurume, Gimmeabreakman, DimPerrin, Ozzy78, Micknfumi and the many others who helped.

Another special thanks goes out to Edward at the Japan Talk podcast for his amazing support and shout outs for my ultra marathon. It is now September and I am now smack back in the middle of training again.

On October 30th I will run in the first ever Osaka Marathon. 3 weeks later, I will run in the first ever Kobe Marathon.

What will happen after that?  

I am thinking about something big. I am thinking about running to help a new charity and am thinking about something even grander in scale than the last time! 80km? Maybe a multi-day event? Should I walk across part of Japan? It will be something big for sure. I want to push myself more and more. I also want to raise funds for a worthy cause while doing so.

Any suggestions on my next adventure? (leave a comment)

 A little more about why I did what I did. Here is an amazing song by another Canadian living in Japan. "Blackwater" is a song written and performed by John Jenzen who lives in Nagoya, Japan. He wrote it after reading about an entire bus filled with kindergarten children was swept away by the tsunami.


Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Accidental Teacher?

Teaching is what I do. Teaching is what I do to earn a living for myself and my family. I am a teacher at a school five days a week and a teacher at home the other two. I suppose I am a teacher at home everyday. Everyday I'm attempting to teach my son how to speak, how to have fun, how to walk and how to not throw and break everything he can get his hands on.

As I look back on my adult life, a younger Kevin could have never imagined himself becoming a teacher. I remember, while in my early twenties, my older brother graduating from an Education program and getting his first job as a teacher. I remember his tales of the classroom and I thought to myself, "I could never do what he does." Fast forward many years and here I am. A professional teacher with a teaching degree and a license. I never would have thought it.

What happened?

How did I become something I thought I could never do?

I suppose I knew fairly quickly that I liked teaching. My first class of young learners was in a city called Ilsan in South Korea. I was their language teacher and it was early 2002. After the initial few months of shock wore off (having a room full of six year olds run me ragged), I felt like this was a fun job. After all, I had been a performer (singer, actor, general clown) in years past and in a way, I was taking a stage everyday when I walked into that classroom. Everyday I was standing in front of a small audience and having to captivate and excite them. I had to hold their attention and entertain them. More importantly, I had to teach them something of value.

After some years of that I knew that teaching was the profession for me. I saved my money, applied to Education programs in Canada and eventually received my teaching credentials.

Now I am here in Japan doing what I think I do best. I'm teaching a group of intelligent and funny little people (I don't mean dwarves) everyday. There are of course ups and downs. Sometimes the downs can be really low and often the ups are very high.

As look at the future, I sometimes get more than a little down though. I am a Canadian who misses home. I want to take my skills and use them in classrooms in Canada. Sadly though, there seem to be too many people deciding to become teachers every year. I know that I will be able to find a classroom somewhere, but it probably won't be the place I want to go. Then again, maybe it will be! I think the next few years will lead me and my family down some very interesting and exciting paths for sure.

For the time being though, I am here, in Japan doing the think I know I am meant to do. I'm teaching.

Here are a couple of pictures from 2005 when I was teaching adult students at a school in downtown Seoul South Korea. I only taught adult learners for one year, but it was an enjoyable experience.

In the theme of teaching, the other day, while commuting home from school I thought about making a video tutorial. What could I make one about? The answer was clear. I make lots of videos on You Tube about Asian food. Why not make one about how to eat the stuff? Here is my first ever video tutorial, "How to use chopsticks."

You can find me on TWITTER: @jlandkev

Monday, August 22, 2011

Babies, Videos and Writer's Blahhhh...

Hey there folks! I hope you are all doing extremely well and I of course want to thank each and every one of you for simply being so awesome!

I think all my readers are great. All of the fine folks who watch my video blogs are great and in general....hmmm....what was I talking about? Lost my train of though....

The Japanese Obon holiday season is over and I was back to work today. During the past nine days I didn't have to deal with work. It was nice. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with work, but as we all know, vacation is simply often better than work. I spent a lot of time playing with my son and even more time not working on my book about teaching in Korea and Japan. Now that I am back into my weekly work routine, I will begin writing again. Actually, I already wrote a little today. It felt good.

I'm also struggling to get back into running regularly. The amount of heat we have had this summer has really put me off and family life has also made it difficult to find time to run. Long distance running when you have a baby at home isn't always the easiest thing to juggle.

This past week, I've been focused mostly on this guy. Running and writing will be there anytime, but having the chance to be with my son as he learns to walk will only happen once.

Last Saturday was the day for three small festivals in my neighborhood. Sadly it rained all day, but that didn't kep many of the local kids from having fun!

There was to be dancing in the evening at this festival, but heavy rains closed things up earlier than most would have liked!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Kimchi Onigiri 김치 오니기리

Convenience stores in Japan are definitely convenient. they are located everywhere, open 24 hours a day and normally have their shelves stocked with a wide variety of interesting and captivating products. You might be thinking, "What the hell is Kevin talking about? Convenience stores aren't interesting." In Japan however, they most certainly are!

A popular food throughout Japan is "onigiri." Essentially, onigiri is a rice ball. Many things can be added or mixed with the rice in order to enhance its flavour. The other day while stopping by a 7-11 convenience store close to work, I saw something interesting on the shelves. A kimchi-fried rice onigiri. I had to try it. It was basically a fusion of Korea (Kimchi), Chinese (cha-han or fired rice) and onigiri (Japanese rice ball).

You can find out more about my thoughts and reactions while eating the kimchi onigiri by watching my food review video!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Teaching in kindergartens

For many people heading to South Korean and Japan every year to teach English, kindergartens are their first jobs. Some are good places to work while others are not always. Some kindergarten jobs offer decent salaries and teachers are treated well. Some involve long hours and a relatively low wage compared to other ESL jobs.

Here is a little more about working in kindergartens in both Korea and Japan (my latest video):

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Japanese Eats: Pepsi Energy Cola

It is summer around the northern hemisphere of this big ole ball we refer to as "earth"! It is sumer and if you live in Japan (and many other places), it is freakin hot! It is really hot. In order to get us folks through the summer, the fine people at Pepsi begin getting a little creative. Each summer, Pepsi comes out with some new, and often whacky, summer special flavours.

A few years ago we had Pepsi Shiso. then there was Pepsi Azuki. Now there is Pepsi Caribbean Gold and well as Pepsi Energy Cola. I first saw Pepsi energy Cola a few weeks ago at my local Lawson convenience store and had to grab a can. i quickly realized that it was an energy drink akin to Red Bull. I HAD to try it.

Here is my review of a limited time "in Japan" drink:

Here is my 2 year old review of Pepsi Shiso:

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Teaching in Asia: Private Lessons

If you ever have the opportunity to teach in Asia, you will quickly learn that a great way to supplement your income is with private lessons. There can definitely be benefits to teaching them, but depending on where you live and what sort of visa you have, there may be risks as well.

Watch my "Teaching in Asia: Private Lessons" video to find out more!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Running in Osaka

Today was a lot of fun. This was the first day of my Osaka and Kobe Marathon training cycle. That's right. Two marathons this Fall and they are three weeks apart. That may be too much running for many, not a lot for others, but for me, it's just right (or at least I think it is).

Today I went into Osaka and met a couple of fine gentlemen in Osaka Castle Park. I met @samurairunning and @runlikeustoleit from Twitter for a 6.94km run around the park. It was a hot and sweaty afternoon, but it was a lot of fun to meet two very interesting guys and fellow runners.

Here is an image of the run we made this afternoon in Osaka. Apparently, we ran through the castle moat at one point. I assume the GPS was just a little off.

I also shot a couple of quick video as I went home. This was really my first time walking through the newly rebuilt Osaka Station. It's pretty sweet!

Friday, July 29, 2011

We're Far and Away!

It is Friday and I have been doing a few things to "mix it up!" For quite some time I have been thinking about changing the name of this blog. I of course am a Canadian and I do live in Kobe, Japan. It's pretty easy to see why I dubbed this blog, "A Canadian in Kobe."

I love this city and I like living in Japan, but I have been thinking about and planning on my "post Japan life." I never intended on living out my days in Japan. I do enjoy things here, but found myself a Japan resident "by accident."

"Far Away Blog" seemed like an appropriate title because of the fact that for the past ten years, I have been far away from Canada and my friends and family. I realize that I may leave Japan in the next few years, but I may not return to Canada.

Even if my family and I do move to my "home" (Canada), my wife (who is Japanese) will be far away from hers. No matter how you cut it, someone in my family will always be "far away" from home.

I am a "real" teacher back home in Canada. Sadly though, there are TOO many "real" teachers back home in Canada. I may be back there soon teaching, but maybe not close to my family. The "Far Away" theme appears again and again even while I'm planning my return.

Have no fears my peeps...I will be in Japan for another year. Even when I do leave, I will always return and have a STRONG connection. After all, my wife is from Osaka and my son is from Kobe!

btw, I would LOVE to thank my friend Danielle for creating my new blog banner! She is also the groovy person responsible for my BusanKevin channel design.

You can find her on Twitter @ladyramses

Monday, July 25, 2011

Teaching in Asia: Recruiters

Some are good, many are not so good. The reality for many interested in heading to teach in Asia is that they will have to deal with a recruiter.

Here are my two cents on the subject:

TV shows I loved that my son probably won't!

Yesterday, while sitting home with my son, watching him watch television, I began to think more and more about my favorite television shows as a child. My early childhood through elementary days were in the late 1070's and into the 1980's. Most of the shows I grew up watching and loving so much are no longer even in the world of reruns, let alone available for me to watch here in Japan.

I realize that with the wonders of modern tech such as torrents, iTunes and dvds, I can probably watch most of the shows I did when i was young, but I have a feeling my son won't. Times change and with them do tastes. Some shows I think have a definite charm that children will always be attracted to. Just a few years ago i remember finding some episodes of Sharon, Lois and Bram's The Elephant Show (a Canadian TV show from the 1980's) on You Tube. I played them on the computer during a few lunch periods and my kindergarten class (mostly Japanese kids) were for the most part, mesmorized by it and angry when i had to shut it off! The power of good children's programming had crossed time and culture!

I thought about some of my favorite shows that I loved throughout my pre-school years right through elementary school.

Here is my list of shows I loved as a kid:

The Elephant Show was a kids variety show by the iconic Canadian children's singers Sharon, Lois and Bram.

Mr. Dressup was another iconic Canadian children's show. I remember excitedly watching this every weekday morning in my preschool days!

MASH was a fun show. I have clear memories of watching this show with my entire family. Again I watched it so many times in reruns as an older kid and an adult.

Just Like Mom was a Canadian game show where teams of mothers and their children were pitted against each other. They had to see how well they knew each other. I always thought it was a lot of fun!

The Friendly Giant....nuff said!

The Edison Twins. Kids solving mysteries using science. Too cool!!!! This was another Canadian TV show (you probably all know that I am a Canadian).

The Kids of Degrassi Street. A Canadian children's show about the lives of a group of children growing up in Toronto.

Degrassi Junior High. The Kids of Degrassi street got older and their lives got a lot more complicated!

The A-Team. They were bad-ass!

Wok With Yan. Yep! I loved a cooking show. The host was just damn funny! Another Canadian show.

You can follow me on Twitter: @jlandkev

Sunday, July 24, 2011

I'm Always Sick in Japan

Is it easier for a foreigner to get sick while living in Japan? I suppose there are a lot of factors. Where do you work? Are you a teacher? If so, what age groups are you dealing with? Are there allergens in the air that you might not have to contend with in your native country? What are the pollution levels like where you live? Do you take care of your own health?

I think about this a lot because of the fact that in the past few years, since coming to Japan, I have been constantly sick. I am really tired of it, literally and figuratively.

I suppose I can point the finger of blame in many directions. I can also probably point it at myself.

First of all, I am a teacher. I am in direct contact with a large number of children everyday. That’s nothing new though. I’ve been a teacher for about ten years now and have worked with thousands of kids, but have never been so consistently under the weather. A factor may be their age. I have been teaching very young children who have yet to fully develop their immune systems. That means they are sick a lot more than their older counterparts. Long story short, there are a lot more sick little boys and girls hacking and sneezing away in my presence.

In 2002, when I first moved to Asia to teach, I had a job at a kindergarten in Korea. Most new teachers, including myself were sick for most of our first year there. Many veteran teachers referred to it as the “Korean Cruds” and said most new people to the country got it. Basically, due to environmental reasons as well as new food, illnesses, etc., newbie’s were sick a lot!

I think geography has a lot to do with being sick a lot as well. With living far away from where you grew up, you are now being introduced to an entire new set of viruses and illnesses. For example, right now, there is something called “hand, mouth, foot disease” (it’s not very serious) sweeping through kindergartens and day cares in Hyogo Prefecture where I live. Even my son had it last week. It is an illness that is rare and almost unheard of in Canada and America, while quite common here in Japan.

Now I’ll turn my finger of blame towards myself. I simply do too much and don’t rest enough. I work six days a week, run, blog, video blog, am writing a book and of course am married and have a one year old son. I honestly sleep no more than five hours a night. My schedule has definitely led towards my immune system not being what it should.

Time to slow down a bit and get rest.

Problem is, I don’t want to slow down!

They made you eat poop?

Kids are funny. There is no other way to put it. Kids are funny because kids are honest. They are far more honest than you or I will ever be. They have yet to learn about social norms and boundaries. They have not yet learned that one might offend another or hurt another’s feelings by telling the truth sometimes.

Kids are innocent and kids are honest. Kids call it as they see it.

Here’s a story about that:

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Teaching in Asia: Private Language Schools

It's been a crazy week so far. A typhoon almost hit us and then crawled away in a wimpy fashion. Also, I had a birthday. Today was actually my birthday.

I suppose I can (this being a special day to let my hair down) let you know what I am working on. I have from time to time eluded on my Twitter account that I am in the midst of a "big" writing project. Well, I am. I am writing a book. more specifically, an eBook that I will be self publishing. This book will be about teaching in both Korea and Japan. I have a lot of experience working in both countries as well as Canada. I have been writing for some time now and have been asking amazing members of the teaching community for information and help on the project. You can expect the finished product this Fall sometime.

My new "Teaching in Asia" series is something that I going to compliment this book. I plan to make dozens of videos in this series. I think it will be a great resource for anyone out there interested in becoming a language teacher in Asia.

Here is the latest installment.

Teaching in Asia: Private Language Schools

Teaching in Asia! I plan to have a new and interesting thumbnail for each video.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Donbori, pizza and a tower

Another week has come and gone here in Japan and here are some more instagram photos from the previous week. The weather was hot and sunny all week.

You can see some supermarket donbori I ate earlier in the week, a street near my apartmen, some pizza I made from scratch, my local train station and Port Tower along the Kobe waterfront.

Teaching in Asia: The Series

I uploaded my second installment in my "Teaching in Asia" series of videos on You Tube. This series of videos will be about all aspects of teaching in South Korea and Japan. I have a lot of experience teaching in both countries as well as in Canada so it is a topic I am more than comfortable talking about. I also plan to delve into some areas I'm not so knowledgeable about and in those cases, I plan to get some other bloggers/teachers involved.

Yesterday was a very productive day. I shot two more videos in the series and edited three last night, including the one below.

Today is a gorgeous day here in Kobe, but unfortunately, my family is sick so we cannot enjoy it together. I will however sneak out later and shoot two ore videos and have them edited tonight.

I aim to release two to three videos in this series every week. Is it a lot of work? Yes it it, but I have started to find the fun in You Tube again and am enjoying the video making process once again!

Teaching in Asia: Am I Qualified?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Summer Camp in Japan

This is my fourth school year in Japan. I’ve been here for a little more than three years and have worked at the same school the entire time. Every July, the students and teachers from every campus of my school go to summer camp. The students take the role of; well, students and teachers take the role of camp counselors!

For my fourth summer camp in Japan, I was given the role of camp leader. It was my job to coordinate the activities and events during the camp. We went last week into the wilds of Japan and had a wonderful time. Everything was a success and the new campsite we went to was brilliant!

One activity we did was a nature scavenger hunt. I lead groups of students and teachers up a mountain trail and they had to tick off various items from a list. Before taking the students up the mountain though, I had to explore the various trails myself. I took some videos with my iPhone of my camp explorations. You can get an idea of how amazing the place was.

Two things you won’t see though are the students and teachers. I have a few rules about making videos and blogging. I only speak about my school in a very general way and I never show images of students or coworkers. As a professional teacher, it’s a good policy!

Check out my summer camp videos:

Friday, July 15, 2011

I Kill Bugs

I'm not a heartless man, but sometimes I simply don't pay attention to where I walk. Cicadas of Japan....BEWARE!!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Adventures in Japan

I've had a few extra days off from work this week and have been spending a lot more time than usual with my family. It has been wonderful and has definitely made the week much better.

As many readers of this blog may already know, I am a huge fan of the Instagram iPhone app. I decided to start taking a series of pictures of my son and calling them Baby Adventures in Japan. I have been taking them in various locations we've been to throughout the week and just have two rules: 1. Make the shot cool. 2. Don't show his face. I'm not trying to be super secretive since I have in the past shared pictures of my son. I just thought it would be a cool way to snap some fun shots.

Here's the first Baby Adventure in Japan:

"Baby Adventures at IKEA"

By the way, HAPPY FIRST BIRTHDAY son!!!! It was a wonderful day!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Japanese on Drugs?

Recently I’ve started video blogging again after a hiatus of a few months. Family life, work and my ultra marathon training made life very busy and I simply no longer had time to blog. As life seems to ease up a little, I have a little more time.

I’ve made my written blog (what you are reading now) a priority, as my writing skills need improvement. One of the downsides of teaching young children for several years is my loss of writing ability. I also have a larger writing project on the go and simply want to write as much as possible.

Today, a wonderful mid-week day off, I decided (while both my wife and son were taking a nap), to go back to my old video blogging roots and shoot a short and fun video.

Here it is:

Japanese on Drugs?

Monday, July 11, 2011

How do you stay cool in the summer?

It's hot! It's really hot. That is one thing that is consistent about summer in Japan. Well, there are probably more things that happen consistently as well, but I can't stop thinking about this heat. This is my fourth summer here in Japan and I never like this time of year. I try not to be a negative person. I try to be happy and upbeat as much as possible. I often walk around with an absent-minded/happy/vacant look on my face. I enjoy smiles, laughs. I enjoy puppy dogs and bubbles. I like happy things.

Summer in Japan is not a happy thing, unless you live in Hokkaido and then it's a rather tolerable and probably lovely thing.

This morning my wonderful son woke up at 4:00 am and decided he didn't want to go back to bed. By 5:00 am this morning he was ripping around the living room having a good time. I was trying to sleep on the floor of the living room, but had little luck doing so.

Normally, I sleep in a bedroom at one end of my apartment. Most of the year my wife and I crash in our bedroom every night, but in the summer things change for me. We have only one air conditioning unit in our house and it is located in the living room. Every June I bust out the futon set that we use for guests and stretch it out in the living room just before bedtime. I turn on the A/C unit and doze off into a blissfully cool slumber (and cross my fingers that my son won't wake up too early).

That's one way I cope with summer and the vile heat.

How do you do it?

Check out my video about coping with summer heat and leave a comment below this post telling me what you do to cope with the heat wherever you are!

I ended today's video blog in this alley. It7s a great little place filled with dingy and amazing little restaurants and drinking holes. I love this kind of place, but a narrow street like this in the summer with no wind is extra hot!

Follow me on Twitter: @jlandkev

Japanese Stalkers and Japan in Pictures

Another week of Japan in pictures. I take a lot of pictures everyday and many with the iPhone application, Instagram. Here are some images of Japan I captured.

I also wanted to share a little story. Yesterday, while out for a Sunday training run, I passed a young couple riding a bicycle. Shortly after passing them, the young man decided to hop of the bike and chase after me while his girlfriend took over driving. He followed behind me for more than a kilometer before finally stopping. he was by no means dressed for running and I have no idea why he did it. It was pretty weird though. I'm happy something like tat didn't happen at night or I would have had to practice my sprinting skills!

You can watch the story here:

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Teaching in Asia: Disorganized Schools

I've tasked myself with a pretty large project. I have decided to write some fun and hopefully useful posts about teaching overseas. I have asked a large number of teachers in both Korea and Japan to answer some questions. Once I've received all the interviews, I plan to compile the information into some in-depth blog posts and then later this year, an ebook.

I've been blogging and vlogging for many years now and have received literally thousands of questions about teaching in Korea and Japan. I have made dozens of videos on my two You Tube channels (jlandkev and busankevin) and many of those videos have proven to be my most successful.

I have also decided to get back into making videos about teaching as well. My series "Teaching in Asia" will focus on teaching in both Korea and Japan (two countries I have experience in). I will also look at teaching itself, resources, assessment, methodologies and about getting into a teacher education programs in your native country.

This afternoon I decided to shoot a video talking about a negative experience I had while teaching in South Korea. Not all schools are equal. As a new teacher coming to work in Asia, sometimes finding a great work environment can be a crap shoot.

If you are working for a large franchise operation, one campus may be wonderful, while the other may have a tyrannical manager or unfriendly teachers. Some schools offer great training and a solid curriculum for new teachers while others throw you into the classroom your first day with no truing whatsoever. Some are flexible and some are rigid. Some schools pay handsomely while others may not have enough funds to make payroll.

You simply never know.

Today's video blog is about disorganized schools. There are many!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Why the Hell would you ever want to move to Asia?

Every year, thousands of English speaking people from around the globe make their way to countries throughout Asia in order to teach. The people are as varied as are their stories and reasons for coming to such faraway places.

Some of these soon to be teachers are young and some are not so young. Some are somewhere in between! Some are normal while others are not so normal. Some are married while others come looking for love.

I have met hundreds of teachers over the years in South Korea, and Japan as well as my travels in China and throughout South East Asia.

I have asked many people how they ended up in the place they were and the answers were varied, but often there were themes. Here are some reasons so many come to Asia to teach:

1. Gap Year. Many young and recent university graduates simply don’t really know what they want to do after graduating from university or are not ready to settle into a career-oriented job back home. They are simply looking for a year of fun and adventure.

2. Adventurous types. There are some who move abroad because they simply find life in their own country boring. They want some more flavor and excitement in life.

3. Travelers. Teaching English is a great way to save money for future travels. Also, if you are already residing in Asia, it is a great springboard to so many other countries.

4. Career changers. I met many people over the years who gave up great careers in their native countries in order to teach. Many were burning out in their old careers or simply felt their jobs had little meaning. They simply needed a big change.

5. Heart broken. I met more than a few people who left home because of a broken heart and were simply trying to get as far away as possible from some bad memories.

6. The hopeless. I also have met people who seemed hopeless. When I say this, I mean that they lacked social skills and seemed to be void of any marketable job skills as well. They were the sort of people who would flounder in their own country, but due to the fact that their native language is English, were able to have a job in another.

7. Those struck with Yellow Fever. I’ve heard this term many times in the past ten years. There are lots of guys who are simply really into Asian women. Where are the majority of Asian women? In Asia!

8. Saving for bigger things. I have met many folks who are teaching in Asia with bigger plans in mind. They are saving for graduate school or in order to buy a house in their native country.

9. Bad economies. Since the global economic meltdown a few years ago (thank to the American housing industry), it’s much harder to find employment in some countries. That being the case, many people are looking abroad for work.

10. Mystery men. I have met some guys who seem so absolutely dysfunctional that I have no idea how they survived in their own country or how they don’t get deported from the one they are in now!

Now of course, these are just some sweeping generalizations I’ve made. They are based upon some of the people I have met abroad in my years working as an educator.

When working abroad, you will meet some amazing people. You will make life long friends and you will also meet some people that you wish you never had!

Life in Asia can be an interesting one!

You can follow me on Twitter: @jlandkev

Back alleys of Japan

There is nothing I love more in Japan than simply exploring the back streets and alleys. For a curious person such as myself, there are endless wonders to discover. I suppose the only thing better than exploring is bringing a camera (or iPhone) along and sharing it with all of you!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Japan by Photo

Here are some pictures I took during the last week using the iPhone app Instagram. they are random and a lot of fun I think.

Hope you enjoy. Feel free to leave a comment below if you'd like to see more pictures in the future.

Japanese Beer Garden?

A Sunday morning breakfast audience.

Dead beetle. An untimely demise!

Shoes belonging to the men of the house!

Soon people will be celebrating Tanabata in Japan.

Took this shot the other day after an early morning run. The sun was just rising and the flowers looked great.

Follow me on Twitter: @jlandkev

Koreans Vacuuming Grass

Life abroad can be one filled with excitement, new discoveries and often, things that make you raise an eyebrow. In different cultures, people often do things in a very different way than you might in yours. It may not be culturally acceptable to spit in one country, but perfectly fine in another.

Different cultures also have different standards and definitions for things such as beauty and cleanliness. We eat our food in different ways. We behave at concerts in different ways. We create in different ways.

Cultures are different and the following photos are no exception to this. I lived in South Korea for more than five years, but never came across something this weird. While surfing around a former colleague's Facebook page, I came across these pictures of Korean cleaning staff outside of a store in Mokpo, Korea. I almost couldn't believe what I saw. I had to email him for clarification and then permission to use these pictures.

These are pictures of Korean cleaning staff at a store vacuuming the grass! That's right! They are actually cleaning the real grass on the lawn with a vacuum cleaner.

Bizarre as it may seem to me, this sort of thing apparently happens in Korea.

You can follow me on Twitter: @jlandkev