sports festival

Last weekend I was invited to one of my school’s fall sports festival. Just about every Japanese public school has one and they are a pretty big deal. Preparations begin weeks in advance, and the 5th and 6th years start working on their presentation in July before school gets out. The festival is similar to a field day with various relay races and a few cultural additions. Each grade has a presentation, 1-4th years perform dances and the 5th and 6th years have a trick exhibition. They were all pretty spectacular. The kids did a succession of poses that increase in difficulty; starting with handstands and ending with a giant 4 level human pyramid. Not only was I impressed at the tricks these 10 yr olds were pulling off, but all the kids were doing it, not just the gymnasts.

After the performances, each team had a cheer, lead by the 6th years. This was very entertaining, and probably sounded cooler because I had no idea what they were actually saying. The rest of the sports day was pretty typical with various relay races. I got to have some contribution to the day, I was a prop during the 1st year relay. Each team had to dress up a teacher, and I got dressed up in a kimono, it was pretty fun. I also had the honor of being assistant score keeper, meaning I got to spend the day under the tent- definitely a day saver. So there ya have it, sports day, worth waking up at 8 on my day off.

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toilettes pt2

Sorry I just can’t avoid the potty humor. Bad pun I know. Anyway I had another bathroom experience. As my friend Miguel and I were walking through the city mid conversation he goes “oh thats awkward” and to our right a guy zips up his pants at a urinal and walks away. Another unzips and approaches. No we didn’t wander into the men’s bathroom, this was on the side walk. We managed to stumble into a public bathroom that only had three walls. It was pretty much the same as any other bathroom except open to the world. A whole new take on public restroom. Glad I’m a girl…

its got everything you need, except maybe a 4th wall..

some things i love :)

1) pocky has been my longest running and most available addiction. I may or may not have eaten a whole box in a single night on more than one occasion.

I may run the risk of burning myself out. But no worries, there are plenty of varieties.

2)mister donut. i have fallen in love with an american food while in japan. i can’t resist, they are just so tasty and  have free coffee refills. jacob and i are collaborating on a misdo club card, we are 1/2 way to the bling donut phone charm….

3) pop up coffee filters. before i bought a small coffee maker i found these little guys. they come with coffee already in them and you just put it on your mug and fill with coffee. genius!

4) being turned into an anime. one of my 5th graders drew this in class. i couldn’t be happier.the upper right corner says ellie sensei

5) japanese crosswalks. those little men are just so classy.

Celebrity

Hoards of kids just trying to touch your hand, kids screaming whenever you enter a room, escorts everywhere you go…. sounds like the life of a disney pop star. Actually its my job, and its pretty sweet. Not to brag or anything, but I’m getting paid to play with kids. However, there is some potential for my ego to grow far too large. Each time I walk into a class the kids erupt into applause and cheers, just because I’m there. At the end of class the kids line up to have me sign their notebooks, or give them a high five. Sometimes I almost get overtaken by a mob of happy kids. Everywhere I go kids run up to me just to say “Harrow! (hello).” Sometimes these greetings are followed by a giggling fit, especially from the boys. In between classes I sit in the staff room until my escorts come to take me away. I get such a kick out of the escorts. They are a group of 2 or 3 kids from my upcoming class that creep towards my desk and say “hi my name is….. Yuki…..(stick out their hand)….nice to…..nice to meet you”  I say “let’s go?” I get a blank stare and we go off on our way.

All this love can get pretty tiering, I am out for the count when my day is over. Good thing there isn’t much for me to do on weeknights.

This job isn’t just a bunch of butterflies and kittens tho. It can be pretty frustrating. I have to constantly work around a huge language barrier when communicating teachers about class or just trying to get to know each other. I have also had a few classes take a serious dive bomb, whether I’m just not making sense or the teacher is taking the class to a big fat nowhere, either way it sucks.

Regardless of the frustrations, I’m a pretty big fan of being the coolest kid in school. This is the closet I’m gonna get to being a rockstar.

monkeys…..EVERYWHERE!!!

this weekend the OK (as in OKayama) crew had another fantastic adventure. We spent our weekend at our friend Dan’s house, now called the “mountain home,” as we are planning on frequenting his residence. Just a short drive away from Dan’s are Kanba Falls.

yes, it is a beautiful waterfall, but it has so much more. Monkeys. And not just a couple monkeys, they are everywhere, just roaming around. It was pretty much awesome.

needless to say, i was pretty excited.

cheers to another great weekend…

ps- if this wasn’t enough awesome, my pal jacob made a movie of our adventure. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L9O4e4hH1Qg .enjoy.

is that a street or a bike path?

There is a reason why cars here are so much smaller. Clearly I have not driven outside of the states, ever. Throughout my city the major streets can be “normal” sized, and if I’m lucky there is a sidewalk. But in the neighborhoods between homes and moats (more on those latter) are narrow little roads. In the states these roads would be considered narrow for a one way, but they are in fact a two way street. This explains the size of cars here, my family’s CRV at home is considered a large vehicle. A hummer may not even fit on the road.  As if the questioning the width of the road wasn’t bad enough there is usually a ditch on one or both sides of the road.   Lucky for me, I don’t have to drive. Just being a passenger is nerve wracking enough.

the best part of my day…

Other than the kids, lunch is my favorite part of being a teacher. At first I agreed to get school lunch because I thought it would be easy, save me money, and I was guaranteed  one hot meal everyday. It was so much more than I anticipated. I have actually enjoyed all my lunches so far. Lunches consist of some meat dish (eel, curry, beef and lemongrass),  a huge bowl of rice (big surprise), vegetables, and milk. (today’s treat was  whole mini fish and almonds)  Once a week lunch will have bread. I get to eat lunch with the students in their classroom which is a huge treat. Lunch is surprising for a number of reasons.

  1. the size, I am almost overfull everyday, and the kids eat just as much as me. It blows my mind.
  2. school lunch is served in the classroom. The schools don’t have a cafeteria, just a kitchen where lunch is made. I had a hard time wrapping my mind around that, every school I have ever been to has had a caff.
  3. * the kids serve each other lunch. The class is divided in half, and the groups serve lunch duty on alternating days. When lunch time starts the lunch group get their gear on; a lab coat, face mask, and shower cap. They head down to the kitchen to grab buckets of food and haul it back to the classroom. Kids of all ages serve lunch duty, I always get a kick out of watching the 1st graders haul buckets of rice that are as big as they are. Once the food reaches the classroom the children serve the food into metal bowls, and all the students wait until everyone has food until they eat.

It amazes me to see the kids serve each other without a thought. They probably don’t enjoy doing it, but they still do it. I would have a hard time convincing kids in the states to serve their classmates lunch each day. They don’t even  clean up their trays. Once lunch is over the kids not only clean up lunch but the whole classroom. Buts that another story for another day…..

*note* these are photos from the internet. I’m not allowed to take pics of the school or my students, its part of my contract…(I could actually be making all of this up…)

three hour tour?

Some accidents can lead to wonderful discoveries. That’s how we found an amazing island beach with camping and art exhibits. This weekend we decided to take a trip to the coast and find a beach. We set the gps to a random point on the coast to see what we would find. At the first sight of water we parked the car at the nearest lot. When we got out of the car the parking attendant flagged us down and started directing us down the road. At the corner a man started waving madly at us indicating that we needed to hurry. We didn’t know where we were supposed to be going but there didn’t seem to be time to ask questions. Around the corner we were directed to get on a boat that cost 300 yen, we were worried but followed directions.

This is the way adventures are made, right? So we got on the boat without knowing where it was going, but there were families, and a group of teenage girls on the boat so we didn’t feel unsafe.

After a 15 min boat ride we arrived at a little island.

We wandered the island and found an art gallery, small town, and beach. The beach had campsites and a shop where you can rent all the camping necessities. Some went swimming while others wadded in the water and we all enjoyed just being near the water. We have no idea how this all came together but plans are already being made to go back.

my true love…<3

We met at a cute roadside stand and it was love at first bite. That’s when I discovered the glory of shave ice.

What is shave ice you ask? Its similar to a snowcone, except the ice is much more fluffy and it is sweetened with juice and fruit instead of syrup. Simple concept but oh so good. On a hot sticky day there is nothing more satisfying than that sweet concoction. I’m proud to say that the employees already recognize us and we are on our way to becoming regulars.