So, holiday’s over. It all kicks off tomorrow, with one 90 minute lesson. Then a day off. Then another 90 minute lesson. Then two days off.

I’m dead chuffed that I’ve managed to get Thursdays off again, and on Wednesdays and Fridays only have to go in for 1 class in the afternoon. This will give me plenty of time for, er, study. And stuff.

The gym thing is going pretty well. I’ve been every day now for the past week or so, excluding Saturday when I was busy drinking beer in the park, and Sunday when I did that 15km hike. My body is in shock, wondering what all the heavy weights and bicycles that go nowhere are about.

It’s the treadmill that really does me in though. I can’t jog, as my knee with its ‘shelf disorder’ starts to hurt as soon as I assume the position, so instead I walk at about 6km an hour, up a 15% gradient. I challenge you to do that for any length of time and not break into a sweat. I’m pleased to note that the myth that Japanese people don’t sweat is actually a myth – you should have seen that granny this morning, my god, I swear she must have lost about 3 litres on the gym floor. Anyone would have thought she’d wet herself if she hadn’t been wearing a drenched T-shirt too.

I’m intending to carry on with this routine right up until the big day.


Teaching English continues to be a great challenge. Most lessons are OK. The students whose English is at a pretty basic level are quite easy to cope with – I actually enjoy those classes. Likewise with the majority of the advanced students. However, I have one advanced student who I get the distinct impression doesn’t really want to learn English. I feel that they’re doing it just because they feel they should. They don’t particularly like texts, and so whenever I produce any kind of worksheet, no matter how exciting and non-worksheet like I can feel a chill fill the room.

This has resulted in me actually dreading these classes. If they were a private student I wouldn’t mind, they could simply choose not to come anymore, but the fact that this is arranged through a little English school means that there’s lots of feelings of obligation etc on my part.

I do like this student. They’re interesting, and they have good English, but sometimes I just can’t stop thinking about the words ‘blood’ and ‘stone’. It gets to that silly stage where I’m silently racing ahead in the conversation, anticipating its end, and desperately trying to think of the next question to ward off the lethal Wall of Silence. Oh, and there’s the prep beforehand too. I end up fretting so much that I lost almost an entire day, all for the sake of a single hour. It’s quite ridiculous.

I tell myself it’s good for me. A learning experience.

In reality though I’d rather be having my nostril hairs plucked out one by one.

For seven years. Non-stop.


Moving on. I accidentally made an interesting discovery regarding dandruff this week.

I’ve had dandruff for most of my life. It sort of comes and goes. Never figured out what to do about it, and wasn’t really concerned enough to bother ask anyone else. Anti-dandruff shampoos never helped – and have you smelt Head and Shoulders? I shudder to think what they put in that stuff.

Anyway, the other day I noticed that my dandruff was much better, i.e. it wasn’t there. I was a bit puzzled by this, as I hadn’t changed my shampoo or hair-growing lotion in a long time (that, by the way, was a joke, Stephen). Well, whatever, I wasn’t going to try and figure out why I no longer had dandruff, I’d just be happy I was free of snowflakes on my sweatshirt.

Three day ago I was in a frantic hurry to get out of the house to meet someone, but having just come back from the gym I really needed a shower. I was in such a rush that I failed to link the rather chlorine-esqe smell to the fact that *Twinkle* had the previous night turned the water filter off in order to wash the bath (chemicals good for cleaning bath), thus washed my hair in your bog-standard Tokyo water.

It was yesterday that I noticed that my scalp was falling off again. Now I could be wrong, but is it not rather coincidental that my dandruff only came back after my head received a nice dose of chlorine?

It has never occurred to me that my dandruff might be coming and going in time to my moving from water supply to water supply. It would explain it though. If you have dandruff, you might want to check out what’s in your water – pick up some testing tablets from your chemist, then when you find its full of domestos, move house. It’ll cure your dandruff.


I was wondering this afternoon if I might get banana poisoning, from eating too many bananas. The greengrocer continues to unload wheelbarrows of them on us (I often wonder why he just doesn’t stop buying so many in the first place…), and the bin is more banana-skin than chocolate wrappers, always a bad sign.

Especially when one reads up on the facts behind the banana industry…

Where they come from
Between 1988 and 1997 the world’s exports of bananas almost doubled, to just over 12 million tons. This was, however, less than a quarter of the total world production of 58.8 million tons, the remainder being consumed locally in producing countries. Ecuador, with 4.4 million tons in 1997, is the world’s largest exporter, followed by Costa Rica with 1.8 million tons, the Philippines with 1.6, Colombia with 1.5 and Guatemala with 0.6. Aotearoa/New Zealand imports the highest per capita amount of bananas in the world, at 20.4 kilos a year, closely followed by Malta at 19.6 kilos.

The chemical content

Almost all the bananas we eat are treated with chemicals throughout the production cycle. By far the heaviest users are the plantations in ‘dollar’ countries that have minimal monitoring or healthcare services. Plantations in Central America apply 30 kilograms of active ingredients per hectare per year – more than ten times the average for intensive agriculture in industrialized countries.

Fungicides: Aerial spraying up to 40 times per year. Some, like mancozebare, are suspected carcinogens.

Nematicides: Applied between two and four times a year. Designed to kill parasitic nematode worms, they are extremely dangerous. The use of DBCP resulted in the mass sterilization of tens of thousands of plantation workers from Central America and the Caribbean to the Philippines and West Africa.

Insecticides: Like chlorpyrifos impregnated into plastic bags and tags placed around banana bunches.

Herbicides: Are sprayed between 8 and 12 times a year. Glysophate is a suspected carcinogen.

Fertilizer: Applied regularly throughout the year.

Disinfectants: After harvest, the fruit is washed with tisabendazol and aluminium sulphate, which can cause severe dermatitis in direct contact with human skin.

This diagram showing Who gets what from the price of a banana looks great on a page with a white background

Banana split.2

As with almost all commodities produced in the South and consumed in the North, more than 90% of the price paid by the consumer stays in the North and never reaches the producer. Most of the risks of producing a perishable fruit are, however, born by the producer. The largest chunk of all is taken by the retailers – mostly the dominant supermarkets and chain stores.


What bananas cost the environment

Waste: For every ton of bananas produced, two tons of waste are left behind, frequently contaminated with chemicals and non-degradable plastic.

Deforestation: Rising demand for bananas is met by extending the size of plantations, which often means cutting down rainforest.

Soil: Copper and other residues accumulate and can leave land permanently sterile. Fragility of exposed soils, together with the concentrated water flows in irrigation systems, cause severe soil erosion and increased flooding during tropical storms.

Biodiversity: Large amounts of plant, fish (including coral) and animal life are lost from the intensive use of chemical agents. Monocultures encourage diseases, some of which are becoming resistant to the chemicals designed to eradicate them.

Exhaustion: Many of the plantations in Latin America are now more than 25 years old – the maximum optimal productive life for a conventional plantation. Del Monte, Dole and Chiquita are establishing new plantations in other areas of Latin America, India and Indonesia.


I really look forward to being able to eat organically again when I return to the UK. I especially miss organic nuts, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and all fruit and veg. Yes, all of these can be bought in Japan, but they are hard to find in bulk, and currently way beyond my budget. Organic food has been around in Japan for over 10 years, but people are still clueless as to what it really means and what the benefits are. Japan is so backwards like that. Anything that involves making an effort to do what is morally right. Whether it’s the death penalty, whaling, organic agriculture, supporting charitable organisations, environmental protection, human rights in general, respect for others and the acknowledgment of past wrong-doings… I could go on, but it just pisses me off.

I’ll just concentrate on how ‘convenient’ everything is instead.



3 Responses

  1. I know how you feel about the knee. Good luck and don’t push yourself too far too fast lest you injure yourself!

    I’m slowly putting up a web site of my teaching materials and it includes my “discussion” lessons. I’ve been using these lessons with intermediate and high level students and they go pretty well. I haven’t “promoted” the site in any way yet because I haven’t transferred enough content yet from my .pdf files to the web. However, there are 5 lessons up which may or may not be of assistance to you. I’ve had good discussions, particularly with the blood type and “being Japanese” lessons.

    If this is of any help to you, the site is here:

    I’ll be continuing to add to it as time allows. Also, even though your students don’t like books, Impact Issues is really excellent for discussions among intermediate students and Impact Values for high level students.

  2. Shari,

    I really appreciate that, and wow, what a fantastic resource Home Sensei is! I’ve just read through about ten of your posts and now feel positively inspired! I have the site bookmarked and will certainly be referring to it when preparing for my lessons.

    I had actually been considering contacting you for advice on this matter, so I was extra-delighted to read your comment!

    Thank you!

  3. Ah, Joseph, you inspire me to be more diligent about getting my existing content up there!

    I also really should place the .pdf files of the lesson content material (which is better laid out) on a separate site and link to it so printable versions are ready-made.

    So much to do and so little time!

    Thanks for your very kind response!