Wednesday, September 22, 2004

I'm a Lazy Blogger

I haven't posted for so long...the reason? Just laziness. Nothing very exciting has been happening lately. I bought a new vacuum yesterday...not exciting, more annoying really. I spend far too many hours on the internet researching vacation destinations for Christmas. Candice and I pretty much have everything figured out but we are waitlisted for seats so we are stressing.

School is going well, despite major staff changes and a new schedule. My 12th graders really surprised me today. The were given random photos of people and had to make up a story to fit the picture. Some of the groups were so detailed in their storytelling, it was very impressive.

I have a card from the post office meaning I have a parcel waiting for me!! YeHawwwww. More videos from Kathy, I can't wait. I really want to know what's going on on my favorite shows.

I think my fish is dying from the sudden drop in temperature. My mission this weekend will be to find a light to go on his little tank. Genki is genki no more.

Monday, September 13, 2004

It's awfully quiet....

So the staff room has cleared out...
Where did everyone go? I fuckin hate when they do this to me. A simple "we are going to a meeting, but you can stay here" is all I ask for. I saw one guy take his gardening gloves. Are they outside weeding? I know how to weed, I have proven my weeding abilities, so why not just tell me what's up? If they are not going to make the effort to tell me what the hell is going on then I am certainly not going to "look" for them and join in.

This is not the first time this has happened. But they usually will say that they are going to a meeting that will be entirely in Japanese. During those times I am more than happy to sit at my desk and play on the computer, I even turn my music up loud, just because I can. But when no one says a frickin word and all of a sudden I look up from the computer and the entire room has cleared out, arrghhhhh I am not invisible!!!!

I know I will never be accepted as a teacher in this country all I ask is that you tell me what's going on.

On a brighter I was walking to the neighborhood garbage collection area this morning some random little old lady stopped me and took my bag of trash. She was walking in that direction and I wasn't, so it was really nice of her.

Annnnnd I got another basket of flowers from my Mitsubishi Man. The occasion? I renewed my car insurance for another year. So random, so nice.

My favorite "sport". You can't see the big stick, but it's there and they're fighting for it. Posted by Hello

Sports Day opening ceremony Posted by Hello

Nursery school spectators Posted by Hello

Finally, Sports Day

We finally had our Sports Day on Monday. The weather was great, well actually it was hot, jungle hot. Anyone who has been to Japan in the summer knows exactly what I mean by "jungle hot". Every part of your body sweats constantly, even if you are sitting there doing nothing, in the shade. The students worked hard to make it a great day and everyone had fun. My team came in first, just like last year, no thanks to me of course. Some of the traditional Japanese sports would be considered cruel and unusual punishment in Canada. My favorite "sport" was this one where there is a big stick placed in the middle of the field and two teams at opposite ends run towards the stick and try to pull it back to their side. So they are pulling on this stick in opposite directions. This is a sport for girls. Basically it is a huge cat fight, with girls hanging on for dear life and getting dragged in the dirt, kicked, and walked on. I'll put up a picture so that you can see the carnage.

The highlight of the day was a visit from a local nursery school. They came to watch the action. I went over to take some pictures and I got bombarded by questions. They were so dam cute I wanted to steal each and every one. They touched my hair, my earrings, my shirt, my camera all the while asking me questions I couldn't understand. Yes, my Japanese is so bad that I cannot communicate with a 4 year old. One conversation I could understand:

Cutie: You are a foreigner?
Me: Yes
Me: Yes
(she calls over her friend)
Cutie: This is my friend.
Me: Hello. Nice to meet you. (we shake hands)
Cutie (to her friend): She is a FOREIGNER!
Cutie: Are you American?
Me: No, Canadian.

I could have stayed with those kids all day. The were so friendly and inquisitive, so unlike the older students. Not that the older kids are unfriendly, they simply wouldn't come up to a stranger and start talking.

My little Kiyo Posted by Hello

Kagura performer Posted by Hello

Hard core rockin' yukata wearing 18 year olds Posted by Hello

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Plagued By Bad Weather

Arrrghhhhh!!! Will the rain ever stop??? Today was supposed to be sports day. There were students at the school as late as 8pm last night preparing. It poured rain all night and into mid-morning. So no sports day, classes instead. I didn't even dare try a real lesson. I wouldn't want to learn if my sports day dreams had just been shattered. So we watched DVDs all day. We are hoping we can have sports day on Monday. Cross your fingers.

Funny thing is...a group of us had ordered this special "sports day lunch" from a local restaurant. No sense canceling a tasty lunch so we had it anyway. All the other teachers gave us a hard time. A nice big special lunch for no good reason. Tonight we have our sports day enkai. No sense canceling a drinking party....

School Festival: Day 2

The school festival this year was awesome. The students worked so hard to make everything perfect. In the morning some students performed a Kagura. Last year it was like a low-budget-ghetto Kagura, with crappy costumes and minimal special effects. This year someone must have injected some money or maybe a local kagura group offered their costumes because it was so much better!! There were three amazing dragon costumes with lots of smoke and fire-breathing. It only lasted 45 mins which was a bonus as well. Kagura is a tradition in this area but once you have seen one, you really don't need to see 15 more (every festival, every weekend at the mall, etc).

Then the drama club performed a very moving play. Or maybe it was a really shitty play. I couldn't understand anything.

The teachers also performed a play, again, didn't understand a thing. BUT at one point one of the English teachers stabbed and killed one of the math teachers with a samurai sword. That part was really funny because it was the math teacher who is really funny looking and who talks to himself all day.

After lunch the students had options. They could go around to all the classrooms and check out the displays, games, etc, or they could watch the concert in the gym. The concert was amazing!! So many of students have these hidden musical talents. At least 5 different bands got on stage to perform various Japanese songs and a few English songs as well. They actually sounded good! One of the teachers described the music as "very hard rock". My favorite was a group of 5 grade 12 girls dressed in flashy neon yukatas. Two on electric guitars, drums, keyboard, and lead vocals. I will post a picture of them soon.

At the closing ceremony the winners of the choral competition were announced. For some reason this is a big thing for the 12th graders. It was made even more dramatic by turning off the lights and having two spot lights scan the crowd in anticipation. Then a drum roll....the overall winner is 3-1 class!!! Instant SCREAMING and wales of joys. The tears start to flow (including the guys) and they all come up on the stage to sing their winning song again.

So it's great to hear their song again because I really don't remember what they sang. BUT they are all crying! Singing and crying and wiping their tears all at the same time. It's great to see such emotion, too bad it's only during sports day and school festival.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

School Festival: Day 1

So the typhoon has passed and the school festival has begun. I did eventually get to go home early yesterday. I went to sleep and didn't wake up until 7pm, which of course screwed up my sleeping schedule and I was awake till midnight. Anyway, the best part of the typhoon was that my favorite student, Kiyo sent me emails on my cell phone to check up on me. She is such a sweetiepie!! Here are her emails:

Hi Koren!! Typhoon is hitting Shimane!! It's OK Koren!!!??

Typhoon is strong, don't be off guard!!!

Our electricity supply often go off!! So I think you should have a flashlight!!! Maybe we have school festival tomorrow, I don't know. Where is you now??!!!

(I told her I would use candles as I didn't have a flashlight)
Her response:

Hoo!!!! But it's OK. I think candles are beautiful!!! But please tread cautiously!!

Isn't she the greatest?? She really knows how to use that electronic dictionary. She brought me a really nice necklace back from her trip to Seattle AND she also gave me a present from around here. Two presents in one day, I sure felt special!

The power never did go off in my neighborhood. It makes you wonder why the power in Canada goes off everytime there is a storm, and here in Tsunozu a frickin typhoon passes through (it was so strong that in other prefectures it blew trucks over on the highway) and the power holds strong.

My sore throat is worse but there is no point trying to do anything about it. I won't go to a Japanese doctor unless I'm at deaths door. I participated in a tea ceremony today. Our tea ceremony club practices all year for this day so I had to go (even though it tastes like shit). Surprisingly it didn't taste that bad today, it actually made my throat feel better. Lots of green tea for me for the next few days. Those poor girls shake as they go through the motions. If even one drop of water falls on the table it looks bad. Talk about a stressful club to join. Compare that to what my English club students did! I was away for all of Aug. so it was up to them to plan something for the school festival. Their plan? Put on the air conditioning and an English DVD! Nice and easy and very popular! They showed Spiderman today and tomorrow will be The Last Samurai. We are expecting a packed house.

I sang "Stand By Me" with 4 other teachers today in the karaoke competition. We really sucked and lost.

Monday, September 06, 2004

Yet Another Typhoon

This was supposed to be the first day of our long-awaiting school festival. But no. Another typhoon is on its way. As I was driving to school this morning all the kids were leaving school. Not a good sign. Apparently, JR was planning to stop all rail services at 9am. So the poor kids who just spent forever (some have hour long rides) getting to school had to turn around and get back on the trains. Sooooo this means no school today, and the school festival is being pushed forward a day.

So you would think that I would be at home, all cozy in my futon, with a nice cup of tea, listening to the chaos outside. NOOOOOOO I am here at school!!! All the teachers still have to sit on their asses at school! One of the English teachers said that eventually the vice principal will tell us all to go home. So here we are, waiting!! The lights are flickering as I write this, the wind and rain are getting stronger and stronger, and we all sit here doing nothing.

I think that it needs to get really bad before they will let us go home. But then we will all be traveling home in the middle of a frickin typhoon!!! Where is the logic?

Normally I wouldn't care because there is nothing for me to do at home either. But today I actually feel like shit. I have a headache and a sore throat. I have NEVER been sick in Japan so this has me really bummed. It turns out that Candice feels the same way. So now I blame her!

For the love of god, let me go home!!

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Shian and Wylie. Note the same facial expression. Posted by Hello

My cute little nephew, Wylie Posted by Hello

A Pretty Good Idea

So I was killing some time today at work by reading the 4 weeks worth of Time magazines that accumulated while I was away. There was this article about innovative businesses in the world. One was about an American company that rents DVDs through the mail. The company was so successful that it has since been copied by a few other countries, including Canada. So, seeing as how I have ENDLESS free time these days I decided to check it out.

It's called Zip.

If I were living in Canada I would have signed up by now. I think it's a great idea. You pay $25 a month (that's about 4 trips to Blockbuster) and have unlimited DVD rentals. You choose what you want online and they mail them to you. The best part is that there are no time limits or late fees. You can have 4 DVDs at a time. Once you mail one back they send out another from the list that you have created. You don't pay for the shipping because it comes in a special envelope that is prepaid for when you return it. AND they have over 18000 titles including TV shows (1st and 2nd seasons of Three's Company - now that is quality "come n' knock on our door....we'll be waitin' for you....where the kisses are hers and hers and his...."), foreign films, kids movies, educational movies, fitness, classics,travel, and whole bunch of others.

For people who regularly rent movies I think this is a great idea. The number of DVDs you can rent in a given month totally depends on how fast you watch them and return them, and if you really like one you can keep it for as long as you like, lend it to a friend, or make a copy (oh wait, that's illegal right? yeah, whatever).

Too bad there isn't something like this in Japan. And no, I don't work for Zip, I'm just bored today.

Two Large Earthquakes in One Night

From the CNN Website:

TOKYO, Japan (AP) -- Two strong earthquakes, one magnitude 6.8 and the second magnitude 7.3, rattled western Japan within hours of each other Sunday night, injuring four people and shaking buildings in Tokyo.
Damage and injuries appeared to be limited because both quakes were far off Japan's coast, and the region shaken most strongly by them was a sparsely populated rural area, Wakayama, 280 miles west of Tokyo.
Still, tall buildings in Tokyo and Osaka shook.

The first quake, with a 6.8 magnitude, struck shortly after 7 p.m., centered 70 miles off the coast of the Kii peninsula and six miles beneath the ocean floor.
At least four people were injured from the first quake, but there were no immediate reports of damage.
A high-speed train service was suspended for about 10 minutes, Kyodo reported. Local commuter lines serving western Japan were also temporarily halted, the news agency said.

The second quake had a magnitude 7.3, and struck just before midnight. It was centered about 80 miles off the coast of Kochi prefecture (state), six miles below the seabed, the Meteorological Agency said.
The agency issued warnings for tsunami, or waves triggered by seismic activity, for large stretches along Japan's Pacific coast. The highest were expected to reach 1 meter (3 feet).
Japan, which rests atop several tectonic plates, is among the world's most earthquake-prone countries.
A magnitude 6 quake can inflict widespread damage in a populated area.

I didn't feel the first one but I sure felt the second!! I was trying to get to sleep and my bed started shaking as if a big truck were driving by right next to the wall. Then it got stronger! It lasted for a while too. Strange thing was I didn't go anything! All those years of earthquake drills in school and all I did was lay there, not scared, actually thinking it felt pretty cool. Isn't that stupid? I did consider for a minute what I would grab if I had to escape quickly. First thought: clothes (it's too hot to sleep with anything on), then my computer, passport and digital camera. Pretty sad to think that everything else in my apartment is expendable. I didn't even think of my fish, now I feel guilty. 7.3, that's pretty impressive. (In 1995, a magnitude-7.2 quake in the western port city of Kobe killed 6,400 people.)

The big one is on it's way, I hope I'm not in this country when it hits!!

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Grass is Not the Enemy!!!

Yesterday afternoon the whole school went out to the playing field to prepare it for the Sports Day we are having next week. The playing fields in Japan are just dirt and dust, no grass. But on our field there is a little bit of tough, scratchy grass on the edges trying to survive. Soooooo while the male teachers and grade 12 boys set up the stands (piece by piece) us girls got down on our asses and weeded the field!!! Yes, that's right! About 200 people spread out along the edges of the field, pulling out the dreaded grass, blade by blade.

Most people just pick at the ground a little so that it looks like they are doing something. Other people have the job of collecting the little piles of grass and putting them in the wheelbarrows. Then other people have to dump the wheelbarrows in the corners. It's quite an operation. Really, it's just an opportunity to sit around and chat with your friends, which wouldn't be so bad if the blistering sun wasn't beating down on you. I liked talking to the girls and I taught them a new question. "Do you like weeding?"

So I enjoyed my weeding experience this year. I was prepared, and being prepared in this country is the KEY to everything. I had on my grubby clothes, my hat, my sweat towel, gardening gloves, and runners. We were only out there about an hour and a half and we actually cleared away quite a bit of grass.

Last year was a different story. No one told me it was weeding day. I showed up at school with a skirt and nice shoes on. I didn't actually understand what the hell was going on until we were on the field. Disbelief was the best way to describe my feelings. So I squatted down on the field and started pulling at some grass, trying to avoid getting dirt under my nails, wondering if the other ALTs were doing the same.

Ahhhh, good times!

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

It's good to be back!

My trip to Canada was great. I didn't get to see everyone I had planned to but I tried my best. I spent a week with Shian in Calgary and took hundreds of pictures of little Wylie. He is the cutest baby ever! I'm not just saying that because I'm his favorite aunt, he really is a good looking baby.

Traveling back to Japan went well, until I actually got to Japan. What a different feeling it was to arrive in Japan this year (compared to last year). I knew exactly what was going to happen with customs and immigration, I unloaded my bags to the delivery company, and was out of the airport within a 1/2 hour of landing. Not bad, eh? I took the bus to downtown Osaka, found the bus stop I had never been to before (by asking only 2 random people) and then sat down to wait for my 3:20 bus to Izumo. I was feeling pretty competent and happy that everything was going according to plan.

3:20 rolls around and there is no bus for Izumo. My heart starts to beat a little faster. Am I at the wrong bus stop? Is it the wrong day? All my gaijin-concurring-Japan confidence flys out the window and I go up to the ticket counter.

Me- (showing my ticket) Izumo bus?
Ticket guy-NO BUS! TYPHOON! (and then points at the MANY posters up on the windows explaining the cancelled buses, which of course I can't read).
Me-when bus?
Ticket guy-tomorrow
Me (in my head) Muther F*cker!!!!
Me- Arigato

The thought of spending the night in Osaka (quite possibly the ugliest, most cement-encased city in the world) was not appealing to me. I noticed that the Yonago buses were running. Yonago is in Tottori prefecture, right next to Shimane. I had been there once before and knew that once I was there I could figure out the trains to get me back home. So I went to Yonago after being in that shitty little bus station for about 5 hours. I spent the night in a shitty, expensive hotel, and then caught the train home the next day. So really, it wasn't that bad. I got home only 14 hours later then I had originally planned, but it did cost me an extra $200. Gotta love typhoons.