The Groan Zone


One thing is for damn sure…ASIJ knows how to do field trips.  I’m not sure if anything can top sea kayaking, snorkeling and surfing last year on the Izu coast, but this year’s 8th grade trip to Lake Saiko comes in a close second.

The Lake Sai field trip is one designed to challenge students to push themselves to their limit; to get out of their comfort zone and enter into the “groan zone”.  Outward Bound of Japan runs this 2 1/2 day course where students are challenged with tasks such as rock climbing, orienteering, overcoming obstacles such as getting all team members over a 12ft wall and building a raft that they must all be able to float on safety.  The majority of these tasks takes a great deal of teamwork and the ability to work collaboratively.  My team did moderately well…starting off horribly, but learning as they went. It was surprising to observe the girls full on entering their groan zone while my boys stayed nice and cozy in their comfort zone for the most part. If I were to predict beforehand I would have definitely hypothesized the opposite.

Interestingly enough, students reflected mostly on the fact that they were required to cook all their meals themselves.  What a sight to see!!  Some of these kids had never used a pot in their lives and here they were building their own fires to cook meals they had never cooked before.  They were all successful albeit some probably stayed a tad bit more hungry than others.

As for me: sharing a tatami mat cabin with three 8th grade girls and being out in the rain and cold is not my idea of a good time.  However, experiencing the groan zone myself allowed me to empathize with my students and truly encourage them to challenge themselves as much as possible.  I just don’t see why teachers couldn’t stay at the hotel down the street….



Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto

Who would’ve ever thought that this song would have such a literal meaning for me at some point in my life? Last weekend, I had the ultimate pleasure of experiencing one of Tokyo’s quirkiest attractions: the themed restaurant.  There are several of these types of restaurants scattered about the popular areas of Tokyo with themes such as “lock-up” where you are treated as an inmate as you are served your food and drinks, some kind of deep sea odyssey where you actually catch you own fish and it’s cooked for you right there, “Alcatraz E.R.” (yes, the emergency room at Alcatraz),  several video game themed places, vampire, ninja, planetarium, Alice in Wonderland…you name it. Several friends and I joined a Meet-up group for Tokyo gaijins (Japanese word for foreigner) and had the opportunity to experience a private event at “Robot Restaurant”.  I’m not sure exactly why it is called a restaurant since they don’t really serve much food; it’s basically a type of cabaret show…one of the cheesiest, highly entertaining shows I’ve seen.  Ok, so I am a musical junkie and have seen some of the world’s greatest shows on the world’s greatest stages and this is really no comparison….but c’mon, cheesy and entertaining is hardly ever a let-down.

I’m thinking there was some kind of story that dated back to the early caveman days since there were dinosaurs and scantily clad cavewomen swinging clubs, but then Kung-fu Panda made an appearance and I was totally thrown off.  There also seemed to be some kind of battle going on between robots and other unrecognizable species (basically more scantily clad women), but everyone seemed to be friends at the end so I’m not quite sure what that was all about either.

Whatever the story…or not…it was good fun.  We continued the evening with our own battle: karaoke.  You haven’t truly experienced Tokyo until you’ve experienced Japanese karaoke!  We all ended up winners that night.

PS: I plan to update my blog more often this year…I know, I know…I’ve said that before.  This time I mean it!