next stop: vegas

Last week I had my first taste of gambling. I’ve been to Vegas a couple times but the all I ever did was the slot machines and that was nothing more than a flurry of button pushing until the lights stopped flashing and the machine said I didn’t have any more money. This time was a little more refined.

My friend and Japanese teacher Nagai took some friends and I to boat races in the next town over. The boats race and people bet on them just as you would bet on a horse race. The boats are tiny, not much bigger than the person that drives them and they race on a pond in a stadium. Watching the races were pretty fun, but betting on them made it so much better.

Like I said earlier I have no experience betting, so the bets for my first race were randomly selected. Later on we met an old and very experienced gambler and he told us how to read the hand outs we were given and make a more educated guess. My bets were all 100yen ($1) each, so I wasn’t exactly a high roller.

Having money on the race made it even more fun to watch. I didn’t care just about who came first but the first 3 spots were on the line. I was clinging to the rail shouting at the boats as they went by.

In the end I ended up winning (!!!!!) one race and got back 240yen. Not exactly beginners luck, but things could have ended up much worse. Had I more time in Kagawa I might have even gone back.

Thanks HyperM

Last week I had the first of my farewell parties. The fantastic people of my Hyper M volleyball team put together a farewell party for Scott and I. Its safe to say that Hyper M was one of the best experiences I had living in Kanonji. Although I am not a very good player, I had a great time hanging out with all the people on the team. Everybody on the team welcomed Scott and I even though we didn’t speak Japanese very well and very few of them speak English. But we pushed through the language barrier and always had a good time. My teammates managed to navigate my scattered Japanese and help me with my volleyball skills.

team photo

they put Scott and I at a special table like the couple's table at a wedding

The party was a great time, almost the entire team showed up, even the “ghost players.” We had a huge meal and they presented us with plum wine and graduation certificates in the end. Hyper M was my Japanese family and am lucky that I got to meet such a fun group of people.

chat with my coach: "ellie it was fun to play volley with you this year. But I think that you are no good." "thank you?"

the lovely lady that made it all happen, Takayo

that’s all folks(students)

I just finished teaching english for the foreseeable future. Honestly it hasn’t really set in yet. I went through the whole day on autopilot. I was still angry waking up at 6am even though that may be the earliest I wake up for a while. I downed my third cup of coffee on the way to work and dashed in with seconds to spare. Fortunately my classes were all well behaved today, but I didn’t really savor the moment. I keep telling myself that its the end, and talking about it with people, and the reality still hasn’t set in. I’ll probably jolt myself awake at 6am in the Netherlands thinking of lesson plans when I finally realize I’m not teaching english anymore.

look at me shaping the young minds of tomorrow with important words like "koala" (its the same in japanese)

Since I had so many schools that I visited on a semi-regular basis, saying goodbye was a two week process. Its been pretty sad, but my schools have also been good to me. I have been showered with cards, letters, and little gifts from my students. Its much more than I could have ever expected, especially since my schools pretty much have a new ALT every year and are used to the change by now.

my schools really know how to make me feel loved

Its crazy to think back to where I started 1 1/2 years ago. I still remember my first day and giving a speech in front of my entire school. I was so nervous I’m surprised it didn’t pee my pants. The first couple days of school were terrifying, trying to figure out how everything worked and how to teach a class. Eight-teen months later many of my classes were taught on autopilot.  I can’t say that this is the end of teaching, (who knows where the next year will bring me) but its the end of teaching for now. I’m gonna miss my students and seeing their smiling faces every morning. (I’m not gonna miss the kanchos.)

japanese students

so the shit _______ say videos have been blowing up the internet for about a month now. I’m pretty sick of them and I’m sure you are too. But this one is pretty spot on when it comes to my students. (except for the girls w/ beards, that doesn’t usually happen here)

bittersweet

This next week will be pretty bittersweet only not as tasty as a good 60% chuao bar. The Diekman clan will be reuniting on Sunday for an escapade around Nihon. (Yay!) But I have to move out of my apartment. (ugggg) and say GOODBYE to some pretty great people. Due to the roller coaster of emotions there may be some upcoming blogs that chock full of feelings and emotions.

Birthday madness

Sorry for the bit of delay since my last entry, but between planning my parent’s trip to  Japan, my SE Asia trip, moving and MY BIRTHDAY, things have been a bit crazy. Wait a minute did you say birthday? Yes I did, last week I officially entered my mid 20’s, by turning 25. 24 was a bit negotiable but 25 is right in the middle. I’m really an adult now. I can’t say that things have changed much in the last week, however. There were no great epiphanies the first morning of undeniable adulthood, and I have been fortunate enough to avoid the quarter life crisis, but there’s still time for that. I’ve been so busy that I haven’t had a chance to consider the big picture of my life. I’m just trying to get through the next month in one piece.

I'll have a cake hangover soon if the birthdays don't stop coming

Apparently mid-February through beginning of March is a popular time to have a birthday. 2 weeks ago I went up to Shimane prefecture to visit Heather and celebrate my friend Erin’s birthday. Although it was snowing like crazy outside we kept warm inside by dancing our hearts out. The night was capped off by a frolick home in the fresh snow. Not too good for my immune system but a great time to be had.

A week later it was my birthday. The real day was rather low key. I had birthday greetings from my classes and a fantastic card from one of my students. (yes birthday is  poorly spelled but she’s only a fifth grader and students don’t learn how to write english until 7th grade.) A few friends and I got dinner at a nice restaurant in town and Yuko even baked me a wonderful strawberry cake.

The next day I had my mustache party. Mustache party what’s that? Its pretty simple, we sent out the invite a few weeks ago and encouraged those who were capable to grow a ‘stache for the event, or get creative and make one if you were blessed with the ability to grow fabulous facial hair. In addition to the Kagawa crew Heather and Miguel came down to celebrate with me. It was a great time to be had by all, and it was wonderful to celebrate with great friends.

The next week was another birthday party. A couple members of the Kagawa crew had birthdays last week and there was a combined celebration. We topped the night off with karaoke and sang to the point of nearly losing our voices. I’ve been trying to cram in as much time with friends while I can. Although I have playing the denial card pretty hard, I am well aware that my weekends with friends in Japan are numbered. I’ve been doing the best I can to balance leaving/traveling preparations and making the most of my time here.