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

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Hardest Day of my Life

I completed my 60 kilometer ultra marathon to raise money for Save the Children Japan last week. Here is a little more about the run:

Here is some more about the actually running data for the entire run. this was collected by the Runmeter app I used on my iPhone to track the run.

"Running to Help Japan 60km" Splits

Kilometer 01 - Average 6:41 /km
Kilometer 02 - Average 6:14 /km
Kilometer 03 - Average 6:01 /km
Kilometer 04 - Average 6:20 /km
Kilometer 05 - Average 6:22 /km
Kilometer 06 - Average 6:12 /km
Kilometer 07 - Average 7:15 /km
Kilometer 08 - Average 6:23 /km
Kilometer 09 - Average 5:45 /km
Kilometer 10 - Average 6:37 /km
Kilometer 11 - Average 6:15 /km
Kilometer 12 - Average 6:27 /km
Kilometer 13 - Average 6:25 /km
Kilometer 14 - Average 5:23 /km
Kilometer 15 - Average 5:51 /km
Kilometer 16 - Average 6:17 /km
Kilometer 17 - Average 6:25 /km
Kilometer 18 - Average 6:02 /km
Kilometer 19 - Average 5:58 /km
Kilometer 20 - Average 7:31 /km
Kilometer 21 - Average 6:36 /km
Kilometer 22 - Average 6:07 /km
Kilometer 23 - Average 8:19 /km
Kilometer 24 - Average 6:56 /km
Kilometer 25 - Average 7:10 /km
Kilometer 26 - Average 6:48 /km
Kilometer 27 - Average 7:39 /km
Kilometer 28 - Average 5:46 /km
Kilometer 29 - Average 6:05 /km
Kilometer 30 - Average 6:19 /km
Kilometer 31 - Average 5:48 /km
Kilometer 32 - Average 6:37 /km
Kilometer 33 - Average 5:15 /km
Kilometer 34 - Average 8:24 /km
Kilometer 35 - Average 6:06 /km
Kilometer 36 - Average 6:46 /km
Kilometer 37 - Average 5:34 /km
Kilometer 38 - Average 6:15 /km
Kilometer 39 - Average 6:10 /km
Kilometer 40 - Average 6:21 /km
Kilometer 41 - Average 7:19 /km
Kilometer 42 - Average 6:13 /km
Kilometer 43 - Average 10:46 /km
Kilometer 44 - Average 6:45 /km
Kilometer 45 - Average 6:19 /km
Kilometer 46 - Average 7:54 /km
Kilometer 47 - Average 7:04 /km
Kilometer 48 - Average 5:53 /km
Kilometer 49 - Average 10:25 /km
Kilometer 50 - Average 6:20 /km
Kilometer 51 - Average 7:49 /km
Kilometer 52 - Average 6:18 /km
Kilometer 53 - Average 6:49 /km
Kilometer 54 - Average 5:29 /km
Kilometer 55 - Average 6:13 /km
Kilometer 56 - Average 7:09 /km
Kilometer 57 - Average 5:43 /km
Kilometer 58 - Average 7:45 /km
Kilometer 59 - Average 6:49 /km
Kilometer 60 - Average 6:04 /km

Next stop....Osaka Marathon on October 30th. After that, Kobe Marathon on November 20th.