Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Life as a teacher

Life as a teacher in Japan as far as an "assistant" teacher is pretty sweet. Yesterday - in the middle of my school day - my co-teachers were like hey! let's go harvest! So, while the kids were playing outside - the principal dressed in nothing more than his work out suit and 3 other teachers and I walked to this field of crops. We harvested crops and I got to bring home a crapload of vegetables. Can you believe I get paid for this? Where in America would you find people that go harvest crops in the middle of their school day - and on top of that actually have the principal right along with them? I love rural Japan (most of the time).

Today - at Junior High School - we taught some key phrases to use to "write e-mails." I got to correct the papers. I copied down some of my favorites to share with you. I am not making fun of their English - but rather, I found their messages to be hilarious. I don't know where they found these vocabulary words - because it was far off from anything we taught in class today. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did! These are from nineth grade students:

Dear X,

How are you? I am fine. I love Nanako and music too!
I like BEER. I hope to hear from you soon!

Dear X,
How are you? I am fine. I got 200 million yen! Sorry is the a fool.
See you,

3) Ms. Sara,
How are you? I'm HAPPY. Good news!!!!!! I love you! You are very, very beautiful. I hope to hear from you soon.

4) Dear X,
Good news! This cap was 2000 yen last week. Now, it's 1000 yen! This week at the sports store! Take it easy. Take a bath right! X

5) Dear X,
How are you? I'm hungry. Good news! We don't play tennis. Because it's raining! Y.A.T.T.A. AAAAAAAA
See you. From X

6) Dear Ms. Sara,
How are you? I am hungry and sreep now. How about you? I play basketball after school. Do you like basketball? Ms. Sara is cute!
See you. X

7) Dear X,
I am very busy. So, I don't write a letter to you. GIVE ME MUCH MONEY! See you.

8) Dear X,
How are you!!!!!!!!!!??????????? I'm fine? I've very, very, very, very, very busy. So, I don't write a letter. So, very happy! See you? I hope to hear from you soon.

9) Dear X,
How are you? I'm sick. Help me. I'm going to moon. moon is not sanso. I'm almost dead. Help! X

10) Dear X,
How are you? I'm very very sleepy. I have some goldfish. It is very cute and interesting. Do you like Shinjo? I love Nishi Oko. PS How many colors does the rainbow have? From X

11) Dear Ms. Sara,
How are you? I'm fine. I like Japanese food sushi. How about you? It's a very good.

12) Dear X,
How are you? I'm sick. You told me something last week. What was it. I'm almost dead.

here you have it! I hope you laugh as much as I did at these while sitting in the deadly silent teachers room as everyone stared at me! Have a good hump day.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

The week ends, the week begins

Sunday - the only day where I do enjoy my solidarity. My weeks are filled with screaming children and laughter; where my weekends are engulfed with friends & laughter. Sunday is my time to reflect on my past week and anticipate the week that lies ahead of me with my own thoughts. I appreciate my Sunday solidarity and that's a huge step in my transition to Japan - becoming cognizant of my own self.

The week ends...the week begins - lyrics from my main man - Dave Matthews himself.

My weekend was perfect. That is really the best word to describe it. After work on Friday, I drove, all by myself to Ogatsu to Meghann's apartment. I did it! YATTA! I didn't stall out at all nor do I have any stories to tell you about how "my driving went bad". I can only report to you that I was successful. Brian joined us on this evening and we had a delectable meal consisting of salad, sweet pototatoes - which might actually be a new daiski (favorite) food of mine,
On the way, we stopped at FamilyMart, which is basically a 711 you can be sure to see all over this country. On the way in, an old man, probably 70 with few teeth said edamame, and some weird noodle things. Succeeding dinner, the three of us indulged in some alcoholic beverages and entertaining conversations. We all crashed and woke up bright and early to begin our Saturday!

Brian headed out for a soccer game that he was participating in while Meghann and I prepared for a trip to Kinkansen Island! Meghann asked Suzuki-san (the man who took us hiking a few weekends ago) for some maps and information to help get us there. We stopped by his house, and he had this beautiful map hilited for us and some landmarks to look for at the two turns we needed to make. In addition, he provided us with the ferry times to get onto the island and some maps of the island as well.
a few words of English to us. He followed us into the store where he was trying to read my shirt (it had English on it) and it said "Bar Crawl 2, Plattsburgh State Univeristy 06'" I just giggled at the encounter. Our driving was going fine, until we reached where our combined brainpower thought we might need to turn, but it was not matching the landmarks that Suzuki San provided for us. We went for it because going past this turn, was taking us towards Ishinomaki which is the complete wrong direction. We were driving for quite a bit and we were really unsure if we had made the correct turn. The map shows the road that we would want to be on, kind of inland, whereas we were right along the coast. This made us second guess if we had made the right decision. Finally, we come across a small pull - off where there was a man. We pulled over and I ran out quickly to catch him because he looked like he was going to pull away.

"sumimasen!" excuse me!
"coco doku desu ka?" where is here? while showing him our map.
The following story is one that Meghann and I found entertaining all day long. Basically, "here" was the entire peninsula on the map! He just kind of pointed everywhere and rambled quickly in Japanese. We both just started laughing. After 10 minutes of pointing and understanding maybe 5 words out of 100 he said, the three of us came to an understanding of where we were. Thankfully, Meg & I had made the right decision and we were on the correct road, headed the correct way.

It was so unfair that Meg had to drive and that I could take in the magnificent beauty of this coastline. This was my first experience in viewing the Japanese coast. This road we were on was situated up on the mountains. Every now and then, I was teased with what lay to the east of us - many inlets of the pacific ocean surrounded by towering cliffs. I was immediately filled with excitement and couldn't contain my genki-ness (excitedness). It reminded me of my road trip throughout New Zealand with Ferris, where the one person who was driving missed out on viewing the serene beauty of nature around us. Thankfully, in New Zealand there were many pull offs where we could stop and take it in. Unfortunately, Japan's road system is just short of being a death trap and it certainly would be unwise to even pull over because there aren't shoulders on these roads. It was truly a rejuvenating drive for me because I felt more like I was a traveller and not living in Japan. I'm a firm believer in that it is not the end that counts, but the journey that gets us there. We actually drove right through the town where we needed to catch the ferry. We finally stopped and asked an old woman
"kinkansen doku desu ka?" Where is Kinkansen Island
She pointed to it since it was just right in front of us.
Then she pointed for us to keep driving a certain way which we didn't think was right which is why we pulled over in the first place.
"Boato Doku Desu ka?" While pointin the direction she told us to head in.
Many motions that no, boat is the other way. So, we had driven through where we needed to go. We headed back and we just started to drive around the town to try to find this magical ferry to take us to the island.
Finding the boat was kind of funny, we turned onto a street and suddenly there's a man ushering us into park - we rolled down our window and said "boato?" "hai" so, we pull into the parking lot, where a woman then shows us our parking spot. Meghann does the most Japanese thing you can do in a car - and backs right into the spot! Great job, Meg! The Japanese have a fetish with backing in - but it's kind of difficult if you're not used to driving on the other side of the car and in these tight spots they have created. We get out of the car, and the woman who showed us our spot spoke some Japanese to us where she said Typhoon. We were like okay, who knows. Then, she showed us down the street and there was another woman waving to us! We ran to her because we didnt want to miss the next ferry since they only come once an hour. She showed us where to pay for our ticket - $9.00 later we are only following, yet another woman waving to us, who then points us to a man who is waving to us. There's our boat! Who needs Japanese when you have a line up of people waving to you to help you get to your next location!
We were feeling pretty accomplished - we made it there just fine, we had some good laughs on the way and here we were on the boat! We ran to the bathroom before the boat took off - and left our bags on the boat - with my cash, credit cards, my life. That's how safe Japan is - we giggled about it on the way to the bathroom about how crazy this country is. By crazy - we just mean completely different from anything we know. Not crazy in a bad way. The boat ride to the island was nice - by the way, we had the MOST perfect weather for this today. I am glad I don't have to write about how mother nature rained us out yet again. The ride made me feel like I was in Australia again - so many boat rides and ferry rides I took in Australia. Except, I wasn't with Ferris this time, I was with Meg. Seagulls followed us the whole way - nearly flying right into Meg's face which was quite funny.

Approximately 20 minutes later, Yokoso to Kinkasan Island! Let me set the backdrop for you since this is what Men & I were anticipating for our trip here. According to my Lonely Planet guide - population - 32.
Kinkasan is also known as Golden Mountain, Kinkasan is considered one of the three holiest places in Tohoku. Its spiritual significance, and the fact that it used to be a site for gold prospecting, ensures a steady stream of visitors eager for some good fortune to rub off. It's said that if you pay a visit three years running to Kinkasan's impressive shrine, you can kiss your money worries goodbye for the rest of your life. Women were banned on Kinkasan until the late 19th century. Along with its shrine, the island features the pyramid shaped Mt. Kinka (455 m), a handful of houses around the dock , cheeky deer and monkeys, mostly untended trails, a few leeches and the odd snake.

It paints a beautiful picture for you. I'll take you through our day - from sites to our emotions and how they changed. We first arrived, again feeling amazing for being there. You get off the boat and there a few shops in front of you, which we were surprised to see. You walk to the left where you cross under a HUGE Torii (the gate that is commonly leading to a Shinto shrine). Crossing under the torii - is a very steep uphill walk. We come face to face with a deer. At first, we were rather shocked at how tame these deer were. However, the more we were on the island the more we realized that these deer were everywhere and we became more accustomed to them always being around us and we were not so mesmerized by the end of the day.

So after this twenty minute uphill walk we finally reach some of the sites! We were just trying to take it in the best we could. The structures are just so old - built in 794 by an Emperor to show thanks for finding the gold used to finish a gold Great Buddha in Nara (a city southwest of Tokyo). As Meghann mentioned, it's just hard to grasp that we are in front of something or to calculate the year 794. It's just so incomprehensible to us. We soon heard these gongs, and we followed the sounds. We were looking into the home of one of the monks that lives on the island. We realized then that the life of these monks are kind of on display for tourists like us. It seemed wrong. We strolled on over to another little shrine of some sort and I tied onto the rope a coin. I figured maybe I could be rid of my monetary worries as well. The picture above is where I left my 50 yen (5o cents) to help me win the lotto. Along all these structures from the 700's were a few shops and a souvenier stand. We were appalled that the monks would allow for this to happen to this sacred island.

After looking at the sites (see pictures above), we started the hike to the summit of this mountain island. It was a short 1.5km hike uphill. It was pleasant because we really only came across a few others who decided to do the hike as well. It was pretty steep and we rested a bit for a while and chatted. We headed on up some more intaking the landscape surrounding us and questioning all sorts of things, not knowing the answer, and just chatting. We reached a part of the island, where we took out our compass and realized California was straight in front of us. We said HELLOOOO CALIFORNIA!!!!! and continued on up our hike. We starting to gain some altitude and beginning to see the indescribable beauty of this country. After maybe a 5 minute walk further, we reached the summit where there was yet another little shrine. Someone had also built small tables out of stone. A couple was leaving as we were arriving - and so we sat down and had our lunch. I had packed one of the MRE's that Dianna & Brian had sent =)
Lunch was enjoyed with views of the ocean, talks of our future travel destinations and taking in the sounds, sights, and smells of the beautiful earth surrounding us. I've tried to explain to Meghann, how being in with nature makes me feel - and it's something that isn't easy to describe but I told her that this is what I love about being out in nature. There was this awesome tree behind me that I loved. It was dead - but even being dead it radiated such beauty. Since everything surrounding us was alive - this dead tree just stuck out even moreso.
After lunch, we decided that since we didn't have too much time left on the island, we'd like to hike back down and check out the sights down below a bit more. When we got back down - we realized it was the monks that were holding these souvenier shops open. Which showed us that we were really just romanticizing the whole idea of this island. We were shocked but then realized - that maybe these monks need to sustain themselves as well. I guess at least they don't charge to see the sights, right? Then, we kind of giggled and were appalled at the same time that there was this sacred tree, hundreds and hundreds of years old. What was surrounding this sacred tree? Bright red Coca Cola benches. Then, you know that PA system that goes off in my town that is really wierd and annoying? Well, one goes off - and we just kind of looked at each other and laughed. Don't get me wrong - this is definitely worth visiting - it was as beautiful and wonderful as I described it earlier - but we both kind of were expecting this island to be nothing but sacredness and tranquility. We started heading back down towards the port, a little disappointed we had not come across any monkeys. Instead of heading back to the port, we decided to walk the opposite way. Finally, we spotted a monkey! This little guy was so funny looking. He walks on all 4's, has a red face, a red butt and long furry grey hair. He saw us looking at him and ran down. Can you spot him in the picture? It was the closest I could get! We started to follow it but it turned around and gave us an angry face, which we decided it was probably best not to approach it. All around us was perfectly mowed (or rather eaten by the deer) grass, of a gorgeous green. There were the tame deer all over, a ton of birds and then the monkey. Downwards there were hundreds of birds, some deer and then some monkeys. We thought - let's go check it out! We walked on down and all these animals scattered. The birds were squawking and flying, the deer running and the monkeys disappeared. We walked around this area for a bit and it was just so bazaar. I mean an island with tons of monkeys, deer and birds. It's a strange combination. Here we were standing in the middle of all this wild life. We saw one monkey with it's baby hanging underneath it holding on as the momma walked around. It was so cute! While standing in this grassy knoll of wierdness, we notice a ferry. We then realized we actually didn't take a ferry to the island. We took some sort of boat, but it surely wasn't the ferry. Then we needed to make a decision - do we want to risk taking the ferry? What if it doesn't take us to the right port? If we didn't take the ferry, what was that boat we were on?!!!!
Departing from Kinkasan island safari, (kinkasan island below) we headed back down the steep hill. Then, as we are questioning what to do, this woman approaches us and points us to the boat we took there. $9.00 later - we're headed back to the mainland. It was just so comical that we don't know how we ended up on that boat in the first place and as soon as we reach the port they are waiting there for us yet again. It's like they spotted the gaijin, figured, yea they're headed to the island, why else would they be here and whisked us away.

The end. Not! you actually think my blog would be short? !!!!! After that, we went and picked up Katie & Akira from a trian station about 40 mins drive from where our port was. We got there about 30 mins early, so we took a short nap in Meg's car because we were knackered from the being up so early and doing some exercise. The four of us went camping! We got situated and went to the Supaa for food and went back. In all of Japan, it's illegal to have an open fire, so all the campgrounds have some sort of cooking facilities. Akira, being the great chef that he is - did most of the cooking for us. Again, we had an enjoyable dinner over drinks and conversation. Once we ran out of fire wood, we headed up to our tents to camp out in the freezing cold. Most people would think we're a little unusual for opting to camp out 5 minutes from Meg's warmer apartment. However, the little tent that Meg & I shared was not too cold once our body heat warmed it up a bit.

This brings me to today. I went grocery shopping at a bigger Supaa that is on the way home from Meg's to my town. I got home 15 minutes before I needed to head to a luncheon. I took a quick shower and headed out. This luncheon was a goodbye party for some Australian students that visited my town over the weekend. They came into my Junior High School on Friday which was really fun. Let me take you back to Friday:

I knew the students would be there - and I was really excited to have them. My town has a "sister city" in Victoria, Australia where in the summer, students from Monou go to Australia and at this time of the year some of the students from Australia come here. I went into Kocho Sensei's office and introduced myself to the students. All day consisted of events that the school wanted these students to bring home with them. I taught an English class with Mitsue. I helped the two girls introduce themselves in Japanese. After that, the students had to do the Haneko (I think they like laughing at us foreigners trying to dance) - however, I was on the opposite end this time! I was the teacher of this dance to one of the adult chaperones from Australia. I felt her agony and frustration trying to learn! Then, everyone got into a large circle and danced. The Australians were impressed with me because I could actually dance it. Hahaha. I loved telling the chaperones of some of my experiences here - they just kind of stare at me like i'm nuts. After that, I went into Hiromi's English class and helped out there. After lunch, it was "learn to make Japanese food" hour with the kids. In there, I go, with all the 9th graders, cooking. I learned how to make Sushi rolls - I'm pretty excited!

Short story of the cooking hour within the story of having Australian students in school:
I have this necklace that I bought in Australia and I wear it daily here. Often, kids comment on it and tell me how much they like it. My favorite punk boy that I always tell you about was in the cooking session. He pointed towards my neck area and was trying to say something. I figured he was talking about my necklace because I receive so many comments on it. No, I was wrong. I was wearing a V neck shirt. He outlined a V neck on his own neck and I looked down and realized he was talking about me. He continued to say to me, "sexy". Haha! I mean it was a V neck shirt, it showed no cleavage or anything! It's not like I could show cleavage if I wanted to!

Ok, so this hour was a lot of fun. I asked the boys if they thought the Australian girls were cute and they told me no because they are too tall. They said Japanese girls are cuter because they are small. I love it. I have alot of fun chatting with the 9th graders. They are the most friendly grade I believe.

After that I went into the special ed class because they work on learning Hiragana (Japanese syllabary) and I just go in for my own practice. The rest of the afternoon, I just sat around. Typical.

Yea, so I was invited to go the goodbye party lunch for these Australian kids today. I'm thinking it's Sunday and it's lunch. I think nothing of it and put on capris, a tank top and sandals. I walk into this lunch and all the men are wearing suits and ties and women in skirts. Ooops - don't I look like a fool. Then, I am seated with the two most important people in my town and the town next to mine. Even worse, the mayor of Ishinomaki came and introduced himself to me. All these men are dressed for a wedding and I'm in my most casual clothes you can wear. I felt like such an idiot and probably made a horrible first impression. Typical spoof for me! Anyways, I was sitting near one of the adult chaperones where I told her how I look like an idiot and this is just so typical for my life in Japan.

Being around these Australian kids and adults made me realize how far along I've come. They didn't understand anything, in fact, I felt more comfortable around my Japanese counterparts even though I can't really talk to them than I did with the westerners that I could have a delightful conversation with. I told the adult chaperone of my hardships and silly stories and she think i'm nuts for wanting to stay more than one year. I don't think she could imagine actually living here on her own, not being able to speak to anyone. She was impressed in "how comfortable" I seem in such an uncomfortable situation. She was clearly unsure how to act with the difference in culture, and the right way to do a few customary things, she just looked really awkward all the time. I'm positive I looked the same and I'm sure I look just as lost to those who have been here over a year. It felt good though, it felt good to be around westerners and to feel more close to Japanese people, it felt good to be a part of the community and not just a visitor like these people, it felt good to feel comfortable in uncomfortable situations, it felt good to be the person people came to for help. As bitter as I was starting to grow towards my car situation and as bitter as I sort of am towards my millions of different schools that I'm in - I'm trying to be as positive about things.

Alright my PA announcement telling me that "it's almost 9:00" is going off. I think maybe i'll start reading or something. Ideally I'd like to be in bed early to run in the morning. Hope ya'all had a wonderful weekend.

Sara Sensei

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Videos of Haneko Odori

Someone from my English Conversation Class gave me 4 small clips of me dancing. I tried putting them together. You can get the gist. Sorry the quality sucks!

Professional dancers - this is what I should look like =) These women actually go to Australia to dance. I aspire to be like them! ha!

If you recall in my earlier posts when I first saw this dance - I mentioned how the drummers themself are mesmerizing to watch. I think it's so beautiful how they play with such heart and soul. Id rather they taught me how to drum than dance!

Hope you enjoyed this post! It's funny.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

How is the weather today?

I decided that since it's been nearly a week and I have a request - I should really update my blog:

"sara my love, i need a new blog its like the only thing i look forward to these days!!" -remaining anonymous to protect the innocent.

Ok, so here it is! Here's my typical day for the past week:

"Good Morning Class"
"Good Morning Miss Sara"
"How's the weather today?"
---no response

You might wonder why no one has answered me for the past week. It's because it's rained straight for the past week. It's like the question "How are you doing today?" They can only answer "I'm fine, thank you". Even if they aren't fine - they say they are. Hence, the past week there has been no sun, so the students don't want to answer "It's raining." Honestly, they know the words for hungry, sleeping, angry, hot or for raining, cold, windy,'s just that they are most comfortable with answering "fine" & "sunny". If you single any of them out - they can answer raining - but for the most part - you need to bribe with stickers or hope there are a few brave souls.

Rain. Just a bunch of rain. That's what little Monou town has provided me with. Brian and I looked up the monthly average of rain for September and it says seven inches. Seven!!!! In one month!

My weekend


Friday I taught in Elementary School again - I was completely unprepared for this. Why? Well, I was just really busy on my free time last week preparing my students for their speech contest. Besides, in the fax that they sent me - they said things would be prepared for me - in which they surely were not. I only had one class that went really well. Thankfully for this one too because all the kiddies Grandparents came and watched our class. The teacher and I played Snakes & Ladders with the kids asking questions and using the board game up on the blackboard. It went really well. Other than that - there's not too much to report.

I drove myself halfway to Meghann - where she picked me up - in the town and we headed out to the Ish for a good evening of fun. Example one of everyone knowing the Geijan in town. I was in a cheap store looking at some stuff and this woman was following me around the store - she finally approaches me and we have an extremely broken conversation. Now - keep in mind- we've never met before but she knew my name was Sara without informing her. I was twenty minutes away from house - in another town and people know my name. It turns out her son lives somewhere in NY - I couldn't fully understand where but she was trying to tell me about him.

We get to the Ish a bit late - and our group of what we thought was 5 was like 10. We went to dinner at a Korean BBQ. Now - for all you omnivores out there - I think you would have loved the place. I really enjoyed the experience even though I only could eat a salad - but it was cool to see nonetheless. Example of how Japanese people don't understand vegetarianism. I gave the waiter my vegetarian card (it explains vegetarianism in their language). The waiter was completely clueless - I was trying to tell him just to leave the bacon bits off the salad and I'd be golden. He just did not understand - lucky for me - one of the girls with us speaks really great Japanese and explained how to prepare my salad. I also ordered edamame' or soy beans. When the waiter brought out my edamame - he asked me if it was okay to eat. Then, when he brought out my salad - he asked me if it was okay if I could eat corn. I mean - this concept is just so bazaar for them. The poor guy - I wish tipping was customary in Japan because it's times like those when people really go out of their way for me that I'd like to thank them.

After dinner - our large group broke up and Dave, Meg & I headed to this cheap drinking place famous to all cheap, western teachers such as myself. The place is called the fishbone and it's all you can drink for $10.00 for two hours. Can you go wrong? The owner is really nice and speaks pretty good English. Word on the street is he runs a shady business and has shady connections - but for $10 - I don't care - I'm drinking there. His friend had just passed away the day before so a lot of their friends were in there drinking as well. I ended up trying to have a broken conversation with one of the old dudes who just consistently told me how beautiful I was. The night ended with me dancing my traditional dance drunk - and the man asking for my number. Of course - I gave him the wrong one =) Poor guy - he was just miserable with the death of his friend and probably just wanted some ass from the white girls - but hey, that's not my style, thank you very much. After the bar - we caught a cheap taxi ride back to Dave's to crash on his floor. Before heading in we roamed to the river across the street from his apt. It was a really cold night and the sky was absolutely clear. It was really peaceful. We took a small stroll to the bridge where there was a sole being fishing off the bridge at two am and in the cool evening air. From the bridge, you could oversee the river, some lights in the distance and the outline of some hills. Thanks for taking us there Dave =)

The next morning, free of hangover - Meg & I went on a small shopping trip before meeting up with the new crew to go camping. We checked out a $1.00 store where I picked up some teaching stuff I've been wanting to purchase but not waste my money on when I knew I could get it at a dollar store. From there we went to this mega cheap veggie & fruit stand that Dave informed us about. I got two apples, a pear and bananas for $4.00! Niiiiiice. I think it was the first apple I've had since being in Japan. After that we scurried to the train station to meet Dave and the rest of the crew. We were also meeting up with Katie and her boyfriend Akira who live on the outskirts of the Ish. All 5 of us were to go camping. We got some lunch in the city at a nice, cheap ramen place. Then, did some grocery shopping for our camp trip and started the drive. The campground is located right in Ogatsu where Meg lives. Unfortunately...

"Hello everyone"
"Hello Miss Sara"
"How is the weather today?"
"It's raining, of course"

We were rained out - no big surprise - we were only praying for a beautiful day - which alas, did not happen. Mutual decision - let's just crash at Meg's apartment. Meg gave us the grand tour of her apartment complex which is much different than anyone else's apt I've seen yet. She lives in a dorm like complex. She has her own room, and kitchen. However, she has to share the bathroom and laundry facilities - and there is a huge kitchen for all to use. There are a lot of empty rooms that she could turn into hers if she wanted to. It's only her, another male teacher and her Vice Principal that live in there. After the grand tour - she wanted to show us around Ogatsu a bit before the sunset.

Ogatsu is so beautiful. It is smaller than Monou but makes up with it's serene beauty. Honestly, I would give up my larger population for the scenery Meg gets to wake up to everyday. Ogatsu is kind of squished between these mountains. Then, when you drive through the mountainous area, you reach the coast - the Pacific ocean. It's so spiritual. Across from her apartment complex is a river - so you walk outside and you just hear the water rippling down the next to the street. Truly, of all the places I've been to in Japan - I would most certainly choose to livein Ogatsu first. She has this astounding park just a few minutes drive away and that is where we were hoping to camp out. Jealous, so jealous of her!

We were driving up this one mountain that she had never been up before just to explore. On our way down we saw this inlet and looked like something was there. The curiousity in us decided to stop and check it out. Thank goodness we did because we came across this ancient temple. Ancient and new at the same time. We walked up and came to this new gate - looked brand new - all lit up and brand new looking. We continued walking straight through it. To our left was a small pond with large goldfish - heading straight was some prayers maybe? They were these large circles that you can move around and if you can read Japanese - it tells some story. It's kind of like those toys at doctor's offices that are designed to keep toddlers occupied. However, these were much older, larger and more meaningful. Then to the left of the doctor's office toys were some more stairs. Needless to say we walked on up - and came across a temple, a zen - like garden, and so many interesting statues. The stones were raked in circle patterns, the temple looks quite old and the animals were pigs, tortoises and lions. According to Akira - he said that this was very much influenced by the Chinese or Nepalese religions. You can detect this through all the ornate animal structures. He said Japanese temples, don't generally have animals like this. Akira said at this particular temple - a person would come here to pray to have their bad luck removed. It's nice having a Japanese person with you to explain all the questions you have about their culture that you could never have answered really otherwise. The trees leading up to this temple were approximately 1,000 years old. They were my favorite - Cedars. So thick and tall. It's crazy to think that these trees that are still standing preserving a sacred piece of ground in Japan is older than the United States of America.

We also headed up one path which led us to a cemetary. Akira wouldn't go in with us because he is afraid of ghosts. He claims to have seen one last year and firmly believes he did. He told us the story and to be honest, I'd need more convincing than what he told us - but I'm sure it has a lot to do with their culture and religion that I could never really understand. It's really awesome to hear the story though - just to hear, and not judge it - you can really appreciate differences in cultures.

When we returned back to Meg's - we had an awesome dinner - over drinks and great conversation. For the rest of the evening, we hung out, drank, chatted, learned Othello from Akira, got my ass kicked in the game twice - and really thoroughly just enjoyed being in the presence of others. I held a decent conversation with Akira which felt great being able to semi understand him and have a small convo with him.

Meg drove me back to Kohoku, where I left my car. Again, walking these streets, a little boy screamed out SARA SENSEI. Gotta love the celebrity status. I made it back to Monou okay and it felt good to be home after a few evenings away. I really just wasted my day away. I talked with my predecessor for like two hours and some other folks from home. In the evening, I had wine and crashed onto my futon.

Respect for the aged day. Or for me - I don't have work today. Apparently, this holiday is where grandchildren give their grandparents presents and honor them. I'm not really too sure. I do know that my town played this really horrible music for the ENTIRE day. It was on repeat and it was sooooooooooooooo annoying. I only went out for a run and cleaned my house a bit. Brian came over for dinner and hung out for a bit and then he headed home. I practiced some of my Japanese and continued on reading Memoirs of a Geisha.

The Week Begins
eaching at Monou Junior High School. Wow, frustration indeed. I had a really nice schedule as in I taught 4 classes in a row and then had the afternoon to myself. My first two classes were horrible. The first class I thought was bad until I experienced the second class. The next time I teach that class they are getting an internationalization lesson on American Discipline. I have never encountered such rude students in my life. Even as a substitute teacher I received more respect from them. I really only taught the first half - and then Mitsue was doing the second half. Its hard to control a bunch of monkeys because monkeys don't understand you. That's the best analogy I can give when trying to control a bunch of jerk junior high students without knowing their language. After class - Mitsue apologized 100 times over and said that is how they always are and she hates the class because she can't teach them anything and how horrible it is for her to go in there everyday. I feel for her - I really do - those kids are in for it. I don't know how since it's illegal to remove students from classrooms and it's not really atypical to move them around the classroom. I need to find a disciplinary system where I am going to absolutely humiliate the kids that continue to be rude. To be honest - if my discipline doesn't work after a month I'm going to tell them I'm not going back in there because it's a complete waste of my time. They can put me into a classroom where kids want to learn. These kids should be locked up for a week in zoo because that's how they act - like animals. Devil kids!

My last two classes of the day went really great. I am glad I had a better end to my day. My favorite punk kid was in one of my classes - i love him - he was showing me his "bad boy" ear piercings. haha. He either thinks i'm cool or really trusts me but either way he really is eager to learn English to talk to me - so I think it's great. Funny story: Today - I was teaching and all of a sudden - THUD. uuhhh, what was that? My JTE freaked out and ran to the other side of the room - so I went to the window and what was it? A bird - about the size of a seagull, laying dead in it's own pile of blood from crashing into our window. It was disgusting. But, the scary part is that bird was only about a foot off from actually flying INTO the classroom. If it chose the window to it's right - it would have flown right into our room! The kids got a pretty big stir out of this and we had to let class get a little crazy for 5 minutes until someone came to pick up the carcass. NASTY!

After school - I headed to Brian's agian to head into the Ish for Japanese class. Not bad - I made it there perfectly fine. Compared to last week - this week was not so bad as far as returning from Brian's. I got lost for about 3 minutes, but no police, random door knocks involved. No worries!

Which brings me to today! I taught JHS in Kanan today. I drove there myself today which is an accomplishment because it's placed up on a steep hill. I got lost this morning but I don't think I'll make that mistake again. I was 10 minutes late to school but no biggie - I didn't miss any classes. My classes at this school went smoothly. I really enjoy working with the one JTE - whereas the other one, I don't like it as much simply because he's intimidated of my English I think.

Lately, I've felt a bit like a mouse trapped in it's mousehole because it's too scared that if it leaves it's home the cat might eat him. That's kind of how I can summarize how I've felt here. I am a bit disappointed in myself - feeling that I've been really chicken in going out and doing things because I feel restrained due to my car, or not being able to read or talk if I need help. Although, I'm aware I've come a long way since getting here now like 6 weeks ago - I still feel completely lost. I thought I would have known more of the language by now, I thought I'd be able to drive perfectly by now and I can't. Since I never truly set goals to be at these points in 6 weeks, I didn't work hard for it - I guess subconsciously I had these expecations. I find that I am not as far along as I'd like to be and I'm a bit frustrated with myself. I guess with navigating around Australia as I pleased, finally figuring out and understanding public transport and how hostels work and the cheapest places to eat and drink; I had high expectations that I'd catch on this quick in Japan. I'm a far cry from my travel skills I had in Australia.

My new goals - get out there! Do something! My first 1.5 years at Plattsburgh I was really uninvolved in the campus community. Once I put myself out there - I met a lot of people and really met some of my best friends. I am going to try to do all the things I love and additionally start learning the things that I have said I wanted to pick up while here.

There is this community center in Kanan where I hold my English Convo class with Brian. They have these really nice studying facilities there. While at Plattsburgh, if I ever wanted to get any work done, I'd have to lock myself into the Learning Center (how I actually miss that place) and the Library. I could NEVER study in my room or lounges. I just have too many distractions. Just like here in my own house. I think after work, I'm going to head to the community center to get my Japanese studying in because I just don't feel like sitting in my study in my house and doing it. I also will get to have some interaction with people at the community center. In addition, they have a work out facility - that I think I am going to check out the prices and their machines and stuff. If I could make this like my "Angell College Center" & "Memorial Hall" of Japan - maybe my life will start to get some order in it. I never realized how great I had it at Plattsburgh - how easy access everything was, how a part of the community I really felt and how blessed I was to have amazing friends.

I'm pretty psyched because I feel like I can really do that. Other than that - I paid my $20.00 to run in the 10k marathon on October 22. I was running 5k in the summer - and measured out two 5k routes today - one on my bike and one in my car. I hope I can still do 5k like I was in the summer - otherwise 10k might be too much to get to in a month. I was doing a lot of biking when I first got here but now with classes starting and with trying to learn my car - I haven't really been doing too much exercise. I'm starting to put on all the weight I lost when i first got here - which is good and bad. I've got other motives to stay in shape - Lisa's getting married in EXACTLY four months! YAY! That means, I'll be home for a brief visit in exactly four months. Crazy. Even better than going home is seeing Tim in 6 weeks! Yeessss!!!! Tokyo for my birthday with my crazy cousin.

Alright everyone - hope all is well with you and sorry for taking so long to update!

Love you all.
Sara Sensei

Thursday, September 14, 2006

On the up

So when you're as low as I was...things can only get better...which they are starting to.

It's Thursday evening for last few entries haven't been too informative of my daily life - but I think it's becoming more routine now. I don't want to bore you all on crap about how every minute of my day went - so I think I'll stick to stories that stick out for that day. Like my last few entries. Ya'all are in for a long entry here.

So the up & up. Classes are going okay. Some classes I really like, others I feel like I just stand there. I still am in mass confusion all the time as far as my expectations. I really don't think I'll understand what I am expected to do in each and every school for about 6 months. Some schools I'll only have visited maybe 3 times in 6 months - so it's understandable.

Today was the speech contest that I have been preparing 4 students for. Two from each Junior High School I'm in. The day was really long - and to be honest, kind of boring. The first half of the day consisted of recitation English speeches. The second half consisted of speeches that the kids (or rather the English teachers such as myself) wrote. The recitation was the same 5 speeches over and over by probably 20 students. It got really old, really fast. Thankfully, the people gave all us western English teachers some stuff to decorate for the students as kind of a Good job from us native English speakers. The second half was better - but not much cause I was just tired at this point. It was good to see all the other English teachers so we could discuss plans for the weekend. We have a long weekend coming up (thank goodness!). Two of my girls made the top ten!!! Top ten out of 55, i'm really proud. It was disappointing because both girls were from the same school, so the two girls from the other school that I worked with didn't get anything. I truthfully thought the two girls who didn't win had a better chance than the two that did. I have no idea what they based this on I guess. Good job to my girls!

Tonight, Brian & I had our English conversation class. The class broke up into two parts. I told Brian I would take the beginners and he would take the more advanced group. It went over well - we reviewed our self introductions. Then, we played MYSTERY BOX!!!! I gathered a bunch of crap from my house, put it into a box and then they had to pull something out. The other students had to ask WHAT questions. EX - what color is it? what does it taste like? how does it work? what do you use it for? what does it look like? what does it smell like?
You get the idea. They loved it - and I loved it. I have three men and three women in my beginner's section. The one guy is 22, married, and his wife is due in two weeks. He just turned 22 too in August. I can't imagine that lifestyle right now. I have a hard time determining if I'm effective or not. I really need to practice talking slower and using examples. I am pretty sure I'm just going to bring all my teaching materials next week to be prepared for stuff. I have no idea what they want to do. They know more English than I do Japanese - so it's really tough teaching them. It was a lot of fun though tonight. I made it to and from the place with no problems driving - almost. I hit a red light on a hill - and I had to put my flashers on and it took me three lights before I finally got off that hill. Other than that - no stall outs and no problems. Niiiiceeee.

Ok, so one of adult conversation class students saw me dancing. She wrote an essay about it. She asked me to edit it, but I figured I'll put some of it up here and then post the pictures she gave me. Remember when I said Pictures can tell 1,000 words. Well, read my small exerpt from her essay and then check out the pictures and prepare to laugh your head off. She writes very well!

"The dance was wonderful than Nebuta Odori in Aomori, I thought. They used two fans while dancing. The movement of fans, legs and arms looked beautiful. Many junior high school students followed after the dancing team who go to Australia. Suddenly I found Sara dancing.
"Sara" I called her name while taking out my camera from my bag. My husband and I called her name again and again so that I could take a nice picture. But our voices were drowned by the sounds of flutes and drums of the festival. She passed by in front of us without noticing us. I followed the parade running to take her picture. When I came back to my husband, another team was dancing. The team was consisted of lovely elementary students who came from Tokyo. An old woman who was sitting next to me said to herself clapping her hands."Thank you for coming here, coming to such a distant town Thank you very much lovely boys and girls. My eyes are getting watery because of your kindness." All the team went and returned. When Sara team returned to my seat, I was surprised because she was very good at dancing after 1 hour later."

Cute =)

Here are my pictures that she took...laugh your heads off, cause I did. Oh yea, I don't know if you've figured it out but if you click on the picture, it opens up larger in another window. You really need to see my face to get the effects. These aren't the most flattering pictures of me but hey it's great.

I often fell behind because I suck! Look how my fans are completly wrong!

Oh, what have I gotten myself into now?

This one looks like I know what I am doing, except for my fans!

These women are what I should be looking like

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

My Wheels

This post is being written after only taking 1.5 hours to get home in what should take about 30 minutes going the speed limit. I was at Brian's apartment and it was time for me to go home. He gave me a bit longer route to get to his house to avoid some hillwork, but going back home I would be going downhill so there shouldn't have been any problems.

He told me to take my first right at lights. I did, I immediately came to a fork in the road which only led me to believe that maybe I had gone the wrong way. I decided to veer left because right seemed like it would only logically take me back towards his apartment. I go about a minute or two in and then there is no electricity. In addition, the road becomes more of stones and the fence dividing the road from the river, also disappears. I decide, this can't be right. I can't see a thing ahead of me and if I need to turn around, I'll need to back all the way out. Not happening. I decide to back out where I was. I reach a cemetary to turn around in - so I back in. Oops, bad idea. I backed into a hill of a cemetary. So, right behind me are a bunch of dead graves and right in front of me was a river. I felt like a rabbit who is backing away from the fox and then backs right into the foxes brother. I think to myself: (not what a wonderful world) - ok, I could practice my half clutch here - but if i fail - i am ruining someone's gravestones - and the graves here are much different than home - and it would probably cost me alot of money to replace. If I overdrive my car, I'm in the river - dead. I think well, what can I do? I'm in the middle of the dark. I get out, decide that it's a sign from God that I am in a cemetary. Clearly, he is telling me not to try to get out of the rut that I'm in.

Now, we reach that part of the book where you have to make a decision
Decision one: Maybe try it anyways
Decision two: walk back to Brians, but if I do that, I'll have to call my supervisor and tell him what happened (which would be very, very bad)
Decision three: walk to a gas station and see if someone there can help me
Decision four: knock on someone's door

I was going to go with decision three - but I couldn't see any gas stations nearby
I went with decision four. I knocked on someone's door that had a light on - and a tv on. No answer. Knock to the next house with a light on - and that has a truck in his driveway that is only driven manually. Women speaks to me through the door. I try telling her I don't speak Japanese, that I am an English teacher in Monou and that I need help with my car. She keeps talking back to me...her husband comes. He won't answer the door either - I realize this is a lost cause. Go back to house one and knock again. No luck. I go back to my car - decide that decision one is probably my third worst choice. I see a house across the street that is still lit up and looks large. I decide that is my next destination. I ring the doorbell, the intercom comes on - I explain my situation as best as I can in Japanese. A woman then comes on. I explain it is only me out there. They open the door, see me, and then just immediately tell me to come in. I use my dictionary, pictures and gestures. They get the point. We drive to my car - the man is digging me out of the ditch and then the police come. (Probably the neighbors that wouldn't help me that called). The man and woman explain my situation to them - the one officer has sommmeee sukushi limited English ability. I explain how I made a wrong turn and what now.

I am now following the police car back to Monou. I did fine - I only stalled out twice in front of them. Haha. I got one of their business cards, and they told me to practice driving my car and that to call them if I ever need any help.

That's my story. I bet you wish you had death defying nights like me. Not. Ok, so if my supervisor finds out (which he probably will) - this will be bad, bad, bad news. Otherwise, I hope I can laugh at it in the future. I hope atleast, my story made you laugh. The only reason why I am writing it.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Lost in Translation

I thought I'd just write a quick blog about how easy it is to be lost in translation. Today, I went to an elementary school. The principal gave a speech about me and also tried translating it for me. While, I am not poking fun at him regarding his translation, since I had a hard copy, I thought I would share it with all of you to see how easy it is to get "lost in translation." I must commend this man and I am completely honored at what he dug up about little old Lockport. It is really touching.

Boys and Girls. Good Morning.

I introduce Sara teacher who got it as assistant language teacher in the Wabuti Elementary School. Teacher Sara is from American Rockport (that's how it translates since there is no L & R in Japanese Syllabary), New York. For the friend who doesn't understand well even if it is said Rockport, I think that saying as the town near the Niagara Falls is more comprehensible. In the Rockport city, the canal in the Great Lakes where Erie and Hudson River. The Rockport city, overflown in water and green. The Rockport is overflown as much as Wabuti in water and green. In the movie of which the theme is New York of winter, there is a scene to which steam leaks from the road. The experiment on the district heating system is started in 1877 (For 130 years from now ago) in Rockport.

You must recall Rockport where teacher Sara was born whenever you see the movie in New York of winter. If it was said Rockport, the Dr. William Morgan who had invented volleyball was born in Rockport, too. You know the Niagara Falls and steam in New York of the winter, and volleyballs, well, I think Rockport became familiar too.

Teacher Sara just graduated from the university. Leaving the hometown though the age is young and living are serious. Be nice so that teacher Sara should not become homesickness I hope you and please teach a lot as for the Japan Wabuti district Ishinomaki City.

Teacher Sara, Children in the Wabuti Elementary school are gentle. Please relieved and enjoy the life of Wabutchi Ishinomaki City And please come to like people and nature in Japan Wabutchi Ishinomaki City.

The talk that Principal Sasaki introduces teacher Sara is ended by thing. Then, let's have teacher Sara greet it.

Other interesting points of my day:
  • 5th and 6th graders did a dance for me
  • A girl welcomed me to Japan in English
  • By 11:00 I drank 4 cups of coffee
  • The first grade teacher was like a drill seargent, even I was scared of her!
  • A boy in first grade kept lifting up my pants and trying to lift my shirt up
  • At lunch, I ate with 4th graders and they kept making their hands into foxes and biting me with their fingers
  • They laughed at me for eating peanut butter and jelly
  • A boy was wearing a shirt that said "black gang" in English
  • The teachers held a welcoming party for me with tons of food and tea!

There you have it - the day consisted of more self introductions, and learning fruits and vegetables and types of vehicles. Typical day - so i thought you'd get more of a kick out of this!

Have a good one!

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Yellow Tail, Cheese & Blogspot

Hello all. How are things stateside?

I've got a bottle of Yellow Tail, some cheese, the internet and my solitude. This means you all get a long winded update from me. Lucky you!

First of all, Happy Birthday Dad! I intended on doing this yesterday but I didn't post.


I was back at Kanan Higashi (East) Junior High School. Today I actually did some real teaching. I did my self intro to the remaining classes in the school. I went back into the some of the classes where I got to teach with Takahashi Sensei. I was pretty psyched. We were really teaching how to order in a McDonald's restaurant. It was actually a lot of fun. It sucks because since I am in so many different schools, I don't have the opportunity to lesson plan or really decide what goes on in the classes. I have to fill out monthly progress reports since this is my first year here. This is something I fully intend on bitching (excuse my language here) about every single month. It is so stupid that I am in 8 schools. I did the math - on average I am seeing 1,600 students per month. This gives me no opportunity to meet anyone or really get to know anyone on a personal basis. It really sucks. I was really hoping to learn how to be a teacher since I should be team teaching most of the time, which is really similiar to student teaching until you prove your abilities. I really feel that I am ineffective as an English teacher because I don't ever see kids for more than maybe two days a week at the VERY most. What can I possibly teach anyone? At most I fully hope to be a positive ambassador of Americans and leave the kids with the image that Americans are good people. I see the elementary kids maybe once a month. It's a bunch of crap. Basically, they got rid of 3 English teachers, and only have two. Brian and I have to pick up the slack for the missing third English teacher. It's really a waste of their money to even have us here at all. Of course, I won't express that, I want a job here =)

Okay, off that rant, I taught at Kanan Higashi and actually got to teach. I also worked with two special ed students. I did my self intro, and then we played a memory game with animals. The two kids were cute, the boy kept just mimicking me, so part of the day was "My name is Sara" Just repeating what I had already told him. haha. Kuwaii (cute). I had to do another speech here. These stupid speeches are getting old. I got to witness a "cheer" assembly. Some of the students I guess are on a track team and so they do this ceremony. Very interesting. Every single student on the team runs out and then there is a cheer squad (not cheerleading) - and a traditional drum player. Every student in the audience claps to the beat of the drum and it's just this whole process that takes like 45 minutes. Quite silly. After school, Saijo -san picked me up and I was in a pretty great mood. On the way home, we were joking around. My English class in Monou Junior High had a worksheet that was in English that had missing words that the students had to fill in. I took that sheet and translated it into Japanese. I memorized some stupid phrases like:
"I am a Junior High School Student"
"Do you like mathematics?"
"Do you like Physical Education?"
"What is your favorite subject?"
When we couldn't communicate, I just threw out one of those stupid sentences. Saijo -san thought it was fantastically (is that a word?) hilarious. I had a great ride home. Then, we went to Monou JHS for one reason or another. I don't want to really get into it here but they told me some information that really upset me. I had to actually walk away from the conversation and sit at my desk. Crying in public is one of the worst things you could do in Japan. Basically, I'd be ostracized. I sat down at my desk and was writing the days of the weeks over and over, trying to keep myself calm. I went home and lost it. This was the first day that I've felt like giving up. This is the first time I haven't been able to handle things that are going on here. I was super upset.

Yosco came over at night and we practiced the dance some more. I took an ambien (thanks, Shannon!) and went to bed.

Woke up, had no motivation to even want to go to school. I am glad I did go though. I was at an elementary school today. I love elementary school because I don't have to follow a text book and I get to run the show. I had been to this one last week so the students already knew me. They just went crazy over my hair. I really love the sensei's in this school. Everyone is so kind to me. I prepared a game called Fruit Basket that I wrote about in my entry prior to this one. It's a competitive game to learn fruits similiar to musical chairs.
Lesson Plans for all grades
Greetings (hello , how are you today? I am feeling - happy, sad, cold, hot, hungry, fine, etc)
Have students work in pairs and practice
London Bridge
Teach Fruits
Fruit Basket Game
Goodbye Greetings
Yon - Nensei (grade 4)
These students were awesome at following directions so the period went awesome.

San Nensei (grade 3)
Everything went decently. One kid got upset over my game and ran out of my classroom crying. The teacher ran after him. It's hard to predict children's behavior. These kids got pretty rowdy over the game - maybe next time choose a game where students sit in their seats and not run around their room.

Ichi Nensei (grade 1)
Students were surprisingly good with learning their fruits. Teaching them greetings like "How are you?" was hard. These kids are freaking adorable.

Ni Nen (Grade 2)
Ahh, this class was hard. The teacher had no control over the students and doesn't know much English. Where the students were supposed to pair up into partners, they would not listen to him, so I used my creative juices. I made them all shut up and then counted them of by 2's. One's went to one side, Two's went to the other. Whoever, they faced then had to practice their "how are you?" speeches. It worked! I was so proud. I had one girl sprain her ankle during my game - I gave her a sticker. Note to self: have plenty of extra back up plans for this class.

Lunch with 5th graders - practiced my Japanese - not so bad. I could get through who were friends and ages. They love watching me try to speak Japanese. =)

Go Nen & Roku Nen (5th & 6th graders)
The teachers are really great with these classes, everything went well.

The energy and love I receive from these kids helped improve my mood and emotions about being here. They really reminded me as to why I'm here. They are just so great. Again, I was like a celebrity and had my picture taken all day long. I really hope they give me like a picture book when I leave here from them. I had two cards given to me and tons of little pictures drawn for me. These kids are just fantastic.

After school, I was able to talk to my advisor about the things that are going on that are making me upset. It was good, he offered some good advice. After that I went to Monou JHS to practice my dance with Yosco. I get there, and I had dinner with everyone. Then, I spend maybe only 20 minutes dancing. I suck. I really was not in the mood to be at school. Then, one sensei informs me that I have a package from the post office that I have to sign for. I sign and open and read the card. Wow, Dianna & Brian - I can't even express to you how this package made my day, my week, altered my attitude. I was in utter shock to have this package. I'm giving you a shout out here, but works are in the process so I can actually call you. THANK YOU SO MUCH! I got the best package ever - filled with food, halloweeen decorations, everyday needs, and a most encouraging. Honestly, I wanted to just cry from the kindness. Words can't express how shocked, happy, flattered I was. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!

After that quick stop by to my JHS, I had another welcome party for me from Kanan Higashi. I went to Ishinomaki again. I guess something happened at this school where kids got into a fight or got into big trouble. Most people got late and the only teacher that is fluent in English didn't come. I spent the night translating for myself and using my dictionary and limited Japanese abilities. It worked out okay. Everyone is so kind, but again it's so hard to remember Japanese names and then being in 8 schools is such a challenge to remember everyone and everything.

Today, I went out and practiced driving by myself. It went okay. I only stalled out maybe two times. I even mastered the half clutch going in reverse. I am not confident at all, I was but now I'm not by how much I am being babied here. I then went grocery shopping and stopped at Narizen - my liquor shop. I got some everyday items like milk, bread, rice, etc. And my yummy wine from Narizen. After that I napped and woke up. I went to school where they had dinner waiting for me. I was half expecting it. I wasn't expecting it that i thought they needed to provide dinner for me but I figured they would have.

After some time, I am lined up and ready to go. This is my moment of glory. By glory, I mean absolutely, utter embarrasment. I picked the end of the line and tried dancing. After a while, I realized I either am going to suck at it all or be really good at my footwork and suck with my fans. I decided to go with the footwork and suck at fans. Whatever, I made no eye contact with anyone. My name was called out constantly, and I had my picture taken atleast a 100 times. I wanted to give my camera to someone to get a shot of this but I couldn't find anyone I knew that was not in the dance. Anyways, if someone gives me a picture of my absolutely horrible dancing, Ill for sure post it. That picture will be my weekly entry as to my life in Japan - because truly, a picture like that could speak 1,000 words. I mean i REALLY made an ass of myself. I can't even express it. Whatever, who cares, i'm in Japan. After that, we went back to the school and waited for all the students to get back. At this time, I experienced my first earthquake in Japan. I was like, ummm, the ground is moving...uhhhh. Saito-Sensei (who I love, he's really outgoing and laughs at me all the time) used some broken Eigo (english) and hand motions to explain. Then, hanabi (fireworks) went off. I went around and checked out the festival with Yosco. Again, I was a celebrity.

(Me in my dancing gear)

Today, before my dance I got to interact with my favorite punk kid. I love him - he was wearing all hello kitty gear to dance in. What a cutie. Kocho Sensei was really kind to me and some of the teachers that didn't ever pay too much attention to me are starting to have slow Japanese conversation with me. What I don't write too much about is my learning this language. It' hard , it's really hard - but it's necessary. I realize, that by being myself - people like me. Hiromi told me that many people are concerned about me because I am being overworked and I seem tired all the time. The truth is, the past few days, I've just been down. All these challenges, being completely isolated from everyone has really started to take a toll on me. I'm trying, i'm trying really hard to remain positive. This is what I want - I want to be here. Tonight was great - even though I didnt want to dance . Daily, I face difficult cultural differences by being :
#1) a woman
#2) 22 years old
#3) from America

I remind myself, I am in Japan, not America. I - and I am sure most of you take for granted a lot of things that you don't realize. I am starting to realize how wonderful our country is. I love Japan - I love this experience but daily I am starting to recognize things where women in America just have it amazing. I am lonely - I miss my college life - I miss speaking to people - I miss a lot of things. But, hey, this is temporary. As much as I miss things - everything could be worse. Let's just hope it doesn't.

Alright, I'm ending this entry before I end my bottle of yellow tail. Thanks for reading - shoot me an e-mail sometime. My picture below are some of my elementary students. the little cute guy in the front is my favorite first grader. Isnt' he just adorable????

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


This blog entry is being dedicated to Steve Irwin. I am truly sad to hear of his death. I loved this man because I love Australia and everything it has to offer. I guess I am really lucky to have seen him while I was there...

Monday I was back into the elementary school - this one is called Kanomata Elementary.
Of course there is a welcoming ceremony for me and I have to speak again. I hate going into new schools. I am so sick of my self introduction. I never know what is going on around me in the new schools. Everyone was pretty friendly and lacking of English as usual. I prepared a lesson plan for today and didn't really need to use it. My first class was a second grade class. I played a game called Karuta with the kids. It teaches, colors, numbers and body parts. Here's the deal:
Group kids into 4 - put random amounts of color paper onto their desk. Tell them to shuffle. I say, put your hand on your . The color is ....Then the first kid to smack the color paper on their desk gets to keep it. There is always at least one color with enough kids so every kid at least gets one. If it's a tie - it becomes Janken aka rock, paper, scissors. After all the kids are done smacking the papers, we count how many each kid has. Then i say, "if you have one, stand up!" and then we all clap for the kids. We count up to 10. I did this until time ran out. It was really successful, I only had one kid cry over it. Not bad!

I did this for all the lower level classes. At lunch I ate with a different second grade class. The one boy I sat next to was super obnoxious, I was really annoyed with him...and the other boy I sat next to was frightened of me. After we finished lunch, all the girls were entranced by me. They were rattling off Japanese to me so I hate not being able to communicate with them. I taught the group of girls (probably 6 or 7) about high five's. By the time we were finished, they could say "High 5, up high, down low". It was great seeing them. I put my hands way up and they had to jump up and they loved it. (I wouldn't be able to do that for most grades hehe). Then they started trying to teach me Japanese. It's always cute when the 2nd graders are trying to teach me to read and speak and understand. Actually, some of the characters on the board I could read and I was so happy. I have a special ed kid in the class - he's so adorable.

I had some random questions today like "what is your favorite planet?" Planet? I don't know! Goodness I probably can't even name all of them anymore. I said Jupiter. Then they asked me to describe it. Does Jupiter have rings? I think so. Anyways, I said it did. "Who is the most famous person in New York State?" I don't know? What would you have said? I tried saying Hideki Matsui but it came out wrong.. oops, i'm an idiot. At the end of one class I had a kid bring me some yummy Japanese beatles. Oh my goodness those things are big and NASTY. I screamed, I screamed like a little girl. The teacher made him take it away from me. I didn't realize it was real until it's nasty little legs started moving. Kids are funny - since being in elementary schools, boys have run into my classroom naked and then giggle and run out. They change into their swimsuits for gym class right in their own classroom. Nakedness is not anything shameful here. Which is bazaar because women don't show shoulders, low cut shirts or short shorts. Yet, onsens you are completely naked and their kids run around naked until like 4th grade. I sometimes don't understand this culture at all...

The last of my day was for a fifth grade class. I was extremely upset with this teacher. She brought me to her class five minutes late and then made me leave five minutes before my time was up. It was clear that she did not want me there. Secondly, her kids had horrible English skills. All the first and second graders didn't even need to review their colors. I brought in my poster of colors I made Sunday night and her kids didn't even know their colors. Fifth graders didn't know their colors! Ridiculous! Well, I wanted to do this game called Fruit Basket. I showed it to her in Japanese on how to play it. So, she clearly knew how to play. I got the kids into a circle and the object is to get the kids running around. You take one chair out, so there is one less chair per kid. Then all the kids are given a color and the kid standing in the middle calls out the the color. For example, if the color is blue, all kids with a blue card have to run to another chair, never their old one - and the kid in the middle has to try to get a chair too. That way the last kid without a chair has to call the next color. The teacher knew perfectly well how to play - and she watched me struggle trying to tell the kids through examples, broken Japanese and slow speaking English. They finally caught on and then after five minutes she stopped the game and told me my time was up and rushed me out. I was pissed. It's obvious she doesn't care and it definitely reflects back with her kids attitudes and really low level abilities. Pathetic.

Tuesday I was back at Monou Junior High School for the day. I really only had two classes but I went in and volunteered for a third one. I got to teach with Mitsue twice. There wasn't much control over the first class I was in. I have noticed that discipline isn't practiced here. These kids were just talking over her and cheating. I was trying to start my self - introduction and this kid in the back just wouldn't shut up. I put up my map of the United States and started my intro and he kept talking. I decided to make an example of him. I made him go up to the board and tell me where New York State was. He had no clue - I made him stay up there for three minutes before I started helping him. I finished and then Mitsue and I started our lesson. Technically, as an ALT I am not supposed to discipline or cross that boundary. I view Mitsue more as a friend than my co-worker so I crossed the boundary. I stopped kids from cheating, I made them turn around, I made them stop talking. It was a really hard class to control - and apparently, my predecessor refused to go into that class anymore. These schools don't have an "office" that you can send kids to. There isn't detention, there are no repercussions for acting up in class. Absolutely ridiculous. After that class, we went straight into another one. This class was chatty too, but not so bad.
The last class I went to was just by choice - I went into one of Hiromi's class. That was fine - her class was really well behaved so I actually enjoyed it. They are at nineth grade level and they had more English abilities than Mitsue's lower level classes. I have one kid in that class that just kept staring at me throughout the entire class. After class he said to me, "Do sex". Now, I don't know if he was asking if I have sex or if I want to have sex. I pretended like I didn't understand his English. Glad I'm not in high school level. After that class all the teachers and students left to go to a Japanese Speech Contest. They initially wanted me to go but i sleezed my way out of it because what good was sitting through a speech in all Japanese for 3 hours going to do for me? Instead, I created materials for Elementary schools. I made posters of fruits and vegetables and made little cut outs so I could play the switching chair games with fruits and vegetables and not just colors. I cut out the clip art, taped to cardboard and then used a hole puncher to make two holes. I then used this yarn like stuff so that the kids can wear the fruits around their necks. I spent the rest of my day starting that project and then used half of today to finish it.
After school, Saijo San came to pick me up and help me practice manual. I don't feel like I'm too horrible. Granted, my shift into first isn't too smooth - but it will come in time with practice. I suck at reverse. Anyways, I wanted to give it a shot on the road and try to drive to my English Conversation Class Tuesday night. One of my teachers called me after practicing manual, asked me something or other and I explained that I couldn't do something because I was going to that class in the evening. She asked how I was getting there and I told her driving. Anyways, Saijo-san found out, stopped at my house and told me I couldn't drive to English Conversation Class. I was pretty upset because the last thing I wanted to do was ask Brian for another ride. I called him up and told him I couldn't make it to the class. He asked why and I explained, thankfully, he offered a ride, and I don't think he minded too much.
Learning manual from someone who speaks no English is kind of funny. We verified we both knew both languages of numbers. Saijo - san memorized how to say neutral, clutch and "axle" or gas. We used hand gestures to explain how feet move. It was actually kind of humorous. Tuesday was the first day I've seen Saijo - san break out an English/Japanese dictionary in the month I've been here. He's really starting to warm up to me. Like I've mentioned, I am really starting to act like myself around everyone - and I think it's much better than the reserved, polite Sara I was trying to be. Monday after Elementary School - I just went to town speaking to Saijo...he was just laughing and laughing at me. I'm really demonstrating how hard I am trying to learn Japanese and how hard I am trying to understand him. When he doesn't understand me or I don't understand him I just make one of the many Japanese noises that notifies the other person how you are feeling. So, he knows when i'm confused or that I don't understand.

Our Conversational English class went well. We had about 16 people show up. The first thing we did was our self - introductions. Then, we had them fill out a questionnaire about why they want to learn English and about their abilities. Afterwards, we did the "Who am I?" game. Yosco helped me develop a list of popular Japanese names that most people would know. We attached these names to the backs of the students and they had to go around in English and ask questions to figure out who they were. For example, "Am I male or female?" "Am I on TV?" etc, etc...then they need to figure out who they are. The whole evening went over well. One woman hooked me up with Karate times and classes. Unfortunately 2/3 of the classes fall on a Saturday and Friday night in which I don't want to commit to because I'd rather be out drinking. The other night is on Tuesday where I will be taking a Japanese class. I will see if maybe the Karate class ends before Japanese class begins. The one man I sat next to at the party last week brought me the registration form for my race in October. I'm excited. I'll have one of my base school teachers translate it for me next week. I woke up at 6am this morning and ran. How car? I don't know....but farther than I have been in the past. Once I can drive, I'll measure out a route.

Today I was back into Kanan Junior High School. The teachers were shocked about my hair. I had the first 2. 5 hours to do NOTHING. I finished all my fruit cardboard print outs. Then, I started going through more material that I could possibly work on. Finally, I got to go to a class. I went to Takahashi Sensei's class. Today was the first day that I met him - at first, I was wary of him because he never really paid any attention to me. But, I realize his English is kind of poor and he's probably just embarrassed to be an English teacher and not be fluent. We went into class where he spent like 30 minutes or more on my self introduction - forcing questions out of the students. Then, we made nametags. I requested this last week - pretty psyched my suggestion was taken into consideration. However, I wanted more than just a nametag - I wanted them to also include their hobbies (shumi). That message didn't get through - but hey better than nothing. I went into two classes with Takahashi Sensei and then went into one of Yuko Sensei's class. She is the woman I taught with last week. She let me teach the whole class -- I was so psyched!!!! I think she'll be pretty cool with letting me implement ideas.

After that class - 2 more hours of nothing to do (I can't believe I get paid for this). I decided to make bingo cards for elementary school upper classes this Friday. I then helped the girls in this JHS with their speech. These girls are a lot more advanced than the girls at my base school. Makes me a bit sad. Saijo san showed up 15 minutes early and the English teacher was not happy because then I couldn't help the students.

Day Two of Manual Driving : Task: learning the half clutch

Ok, so, here we are trying to learn the half clutch so I can drive up and down hills effectively. Saijo - san is a perfectionist. I get the idea, I get the concept....I just need to practice. Let me tell, you, practicing in a flat parking lot isn't going to get me anywhere. If anything, I can shift into first better. He was not having any of it. Today, was the only day I felt totally frustrated and wanted to cry. Of course, you can't "lose face" in front of anyone. Crying is not acceptable. It's not the fact that I was struggling so much - it's just that I know I can get it if he'd just let me go out on the road. I'm not going to learn anything on a parking lot - I understand! Wakarimashte! the concepts. I know he means well - he always does - let's just call it a cultural difference. It's just frustrating because I really do need my car - it is soooooooo limiting to not have it. I am missing out on so many opportunities to meet with my friends and take Japanese classes and what not. That is why I was so aggravated. I just want to get out there. I am thinking of writing a journal entry about learning how to drive manual from somone who doesn't speak English. I'll submit it to see if I can get it published. It might be my first travel publication!

After that, I came home and ate leftovers and some of the vegetables Saijo san gave me. Saijo san gave me like $50 worth of vegetables. I was so happy - I got to eat CORN!!! yuuummmyyy. He also gave me tons of eggplant, edamame (soy beans), potatoes, green and red peppers, onions. Many vegetables. mmmmm. Then, Saijo - san came back at 7:30 to pick me up so I can learn the dance for this weekend. God gave me two left feet. Okay! So, I got the footwork down, but I am really slow at it. But in addition to the footwork, there is hand gestures with two fans. I am doubting my abilities here. Two girls that are 16 were teaching me and then Saijo-san's son was watching me and making them stop whenever I made a mistake. Learning to dance with no English too - another huge challenge. I never ever, not once took any dance class growing up. I wish I had - I have no count. The girls were great though - the one was very great. Saijo -san even showed me a few steps - he's got it down for an old guy!!!!!! Of course with his perfectionism - he was not very happy with my leg not being high enough or what not. Everyone was getting a kick out of the Geijan learning to dance.

On the drive back home, Saijo told me I was tanoshii which I looked up into my dictionary. He was telling me that I am pleasant and cheerful. I was so happy. I think our relationship is becoming less supervisor/english teacher and more like Japanese/American learning from eachother. The fact that I am trying so hard to learn his language and culture must mean a lot to him. Today, even though I am frustrated that I can't still drive and that I suck at dancing...I realize how amazing these experiences are for me. I mean, I'm learning to drive with no language abilities, i'm learning to dance by watching...i am being laughed at constantly and I love it. I am laughing with them. This is great - I freaking love this. I love my life, I love this job, it's these moments that makes it all worth it. Who knows what tomorrow will bring me; but I'm sure I can handle it!

Sunday, September 03, 2006

hair today gone tonight

The weekend has come and gone, it's almost becoming routine now. Not nearly there, but much closer than it has been for me for the past month. I'll give the update since I've had a few requests. Again, relating my life back to college...I have a lesson plan to create for tomorrow - it's 9:15pm for me but I am more keen on writing my blog than doing "work".


My second day of Elementary school - attending Sue elementary located approximately 20 minutes drive from me. Saijo - san picked me up earlier than expected as usual. Japanese are just adament on punctuality. Something maybe that I'll gain here - as I need to. I usually think within 5 minutes, you're on time, if it's 10 minutes later - you're late. Of course at any new job I would not do this but if you know me, you know I'm rarely there RIGHT on time. So, I see I have less than ten minutes until he should be arriving so I am trying to throw together all my stuff since I wasn't coming home after work. 2 minutes later, ding dong. Well, Saijo - san is here, hope I remembered everything! I go to school and there is no huge ceremony for me and no English speakers. Thankfully, someone at my base school translated my day for me before getting there.

4th grade
Went smoothly, did my self intro, teacher was okay at translating much of what I was saying. Again, they loved the coins and other pass arounds like pictures of Lockport, Niagara Falls and my family. Did "Heads Shoulders, Knees and Toes" song with them. Went fine.

1st grade
What a short attention span these kiddos have. Adorable, absolutely adorable but just feeling out the situation.

3rd grade
Teacher was absolutely wonderful. He was full of energy and probably one of the best teachers in their school. His students have very high potential to learn. They asked me hundreds of questions and the teacher was able to help translate. Celebrity status = me. I figured out they were asking for me to sign my name on their hands. I did it for like 5 kids and then I was surrounded by kids shoving their little paws into my face. Then, kids from other classes heard what was going on and soon I was like Britney Spears surrounded by screaming kids. I think I have a good, free, motivational prize for those students who perform in class. HA!

2nd grade
Ehhhh, could have been better. They combined the two classes, neither teacher spoke English and the kids have like no English. I was completely unprepared for this. I ate lunch with these kids and their one teacher. She also has three daughters and lives in Monou. It turns out she has English language - she can write perfectly but whether she be too embarrassed or shy - she doesn't speak it! Our conversation consisted of her writing and me speaking.

5th Grade
Okay, I'm in love with this teacher. No kidding, he was fantastic. We actually had a lesson plan! We taught "I like..." "Do you like..." Yes, I do..." "No, I do not"...
We demonstrated and then I asked kids, then kids went around and asked me. Then we divided the class into two sections, the "Yes, I do" and "No, I do not". Then one student volunteers to go to the front of the class and ask the class, "Do you like apples?" After the question, the kids scramble to their half of the room. And the group as a whole answers. Very good!

6th Grade
I am escorted by a boy. I generally ask " are fine, thank you, and you?....i'm fine thank you" I also ask this in very...slooowww....ennngliiiissshhhh. So, I ask him "heeellooo....hooowww aaree eyouuuuuu?" He says, "I speak English." and he did!!!!! I was psyched. He grew up on an island near Guam and is bilingual. He will probably be my best friend in that school! 6th grade went well...did my self intro as with every class. Then the students prepared "Hello, my name is.... I like X . I want to be a ... when I grow up" Each student stood up and told me. So, Japanese people have a very hard time with R's and L's because they just don't have that sound in their syllabary. Here's my bad person of the day award. --- A student said he wanted to be a "pilot". With the L and R problem - it came out as "Pirate". I thought he was trying to make a joke - so I started laughing at him. Ooopppppps..I walked to the next kid when I realized what he was trying to say to me. Hopefully, I looked like the idiot and not him. =(
Other than that, school went fine. My last class ends at 3:25ish. Typically, I need to stay at school until 4:15 but since I am relying on Saijo San for rides, he showed up at 3:30. Perfect! Almost...
I was getting dropped at Brian's after work so he could give me a ride to Ishinomaki City for a dinner party I was going to. Brian wouldn't be getting home for another hour. I just hung out at a grocery store and this other store. The dinner party was themed and we could be anything that begins with the letter R. I didn't have a costume because that was one thing I forgot that morning when Saijo San showed up early. I was going to be a "ribbon." But, I forgot my ribbon. I decided I'd be a raccoon and just color and cut and make it fit my face via pipe cleaners. I purchased all that and just walked up to Brian's apt. to wait for him. We hung out for about two hours before we had to leave. When I finished my costume, he said I looked more like a robber than a raccoon. I went with the robber and not the raccoon. He was "red". Basically, he just wore really red pants and shirt. We drove to the Ish and got lost trying to find the free parking spot that is rumored through all JETs that is the best place to park. We made it! Japan has these restaurants for big groups. You pay between $20 - $40 and drink all you can and eat so many dishes. It has a name but I forget what it is called. I had a really good time, it was the first time I've been out with everyone where I felt really comfortable. It was good to see everyone too. There was a guy there named Brock from N. Dakota, he just got here a week ago because someone dropped out last minute. He's a good addition to our group - had a lot to talk about with him. Then, most people stayed out in the Ish - but I had to go home because I am still reliant on rides.

I volunteered for our Sports Day Festival on Saturday which is also why I went home. I arrived at 8:30am to help out. There wasn't really anything I needed to help with but they asked me to and I don't know why. The teachers were all so busy trying to make things run smoothly that they didn't pay too much attention to me. I was kind of frustrated about the whole situation since I definitely made sure to not spend the night in Ishinomaki so I could help out. Once it started getting going it wasn't bad. I guess I was just there to build public relations. I interacted with the students as much as my limited language abilities let me. A lot of them were coming up next to me and standing next to me then pointed out how short I am. Ohhh, some things never change no matter what country I am in. I learned how to ask " Nan sai desu ka? "How old are you?" and "Non nensei Desu Ka" "What grade are you in?" I practiced that all day. I was able to have broken conversation with some high school students. I also learned "Gonbatte ne" Good luck! and "Gonbatta ne" Good job!". Very similiar. I did one "guest" race. You take a badminton racket and then balance a water filled balloon. You do it as a relay, it was really tough!
I had the impression that sports day would involve a lot of individual races. Everything was more or less silly races that are done as groups. Japan is a country that is all about the good of the whole. It is very rare that people do anything in their individual interest. You can see that with the hospitality I received my first weeks here. It's all community - based. I have a good friend (benj) that is huge on community and studying it. Benj, come to Japan because you will see community in such a larger setting than anything else. Truly, if this country were ever in trouble - it would never have a problem getting their shit together and pulling in as one. I see this country as so close knit as opposed to the USA which is very much divided. Of course, individualism is something that I think is a beautiful aspect of the USA and I would never want to lose it. It's just amazing to see the community here. Most of my day was just observing relay races, races where students are tied together by their foot and they have to jog around the 200m track tied together. There was one race that was like a big pair of person is in one "leg" and the other is in the other "leg". Of course these legs are tied together. They had tug of war and then their "clubs" did a race. So, all the guys that practice in Judo club are in their Judo outfit and then the girls in Volleyball have their uniforms on, etc. The Judo guys ran around the track holding the mat they fight on, the girls from volleyball vollied a ball the whole way around, the baseball players carried their bats around, the tennis club carried their tennis things. It was quite funny and all in good fun. I really wished I had brought my camera.

The teachers did a relay where we carried a big math compass to pass and races against some students. I did one run and then had to run back to meet Kazuhiro Sensei to run with him. When he came around, we grabbed hands and held them up in the air like champions. We had planned out that I would get on his back and he'd continue to run the rest of the way with me on his back. During our run, he did the head nod, we let go of eachother and I swung around and jumped up and we did perfectly with the chicken run. You would have thought we practiced it 100 times over and not that it was our first time. The students loved it. It's really funny because he is probably the same weight, and only a bit taller than I am. After we had agreed to hug eachother too. It went well.

Monou town is famous for the Hanabata dance. It is a traditional dance only in this area that is done. The students did this at the end of the festival. I was there, entranced by how beautiful this is performed. There are drummers and flutes that play the background music and the students put on this blue shirt thing that has "happy" written in Kanji (stolen Chinese characters used in Japan). Even how the drummers perform is fascinating. They just put their whole body into it - it's almost a dance that they perform. The students then have two fans in their hands. They move their feet and wave their arms and fans in sync withe music. Absolutely mezmerizing. There is a festival this weekend that is in honor of this dance. Everyone dances it in the street. I wwant to learn the dance. Mitsue has never learned the dance either since she lives about 40 mins away. We are hoping that one of the teachers will show us the dance after school this week. That will be wonderful to spend time with Mitsue. The entire time I was watching this dance, I just said to myself over and over - this is why I am here - so cultural, so great.

After the closing ceremony, it was like ants over a piece of bread disassembling the sports grounds and getting stuff put around. Again, this country is just amazing with how well they work in groups. Of course, there was nothing assigned for me to do, so I just started helping out the students since I don't think the teachers were going to ask me to do anything. I even asked two of them what I could do and they said nothing. I wasn't going to just stand there! I just look stupid.

I have a favorite student because he's a little Japanese punk and I love him. The other day my sub -supervisor, Akki dropped me off at Monou JHS. This kid saw Akki dropping me off and he goes ohhhhhhh Sara Sensei's BOYYYFRRIEEEENNNDDD. I said noooo and he just sat there giggling sayying OHHH BOYYYFRIIEEND and pointing and laughing at my in front of his friends. He probably thinks it's going to make me mad, but in reality it just made me laugh really hard and made my day better. I saw him at Sports Day Festival, he was saying something to me in Japanese, and his friends were laughing. I took off after him and he just booked and I chased him. I think he was in shock - a teacher was chasing him. One of the other teachers made him apologize to me, haha! Afterwards, I had a small conversation with him the best that I could and he told the teacher's he's happy I am talking to him. Cute. He's one of the few Japanese people that have joked with me and I love it. I need humor in my life.

After Sports Festival clean up, I worked with the two girls with their speech contest and they video recorded me reading the speech so that the students can practice on their own. I got permission to leave school on the day of the speech to go with the girls. I'm so happy. I really hope they do well. I had to go sit through a teachers meeting which I can never understand anyways. I just listen and try to recognize words.

Saturday night was my welcome party from my school. About 10 teachers came. It was another party that was a set price for all you can eat and drink. The women teachers were so amazing in making sure there were enough vegetarian items for me. Domo Arigato Goizamasu. It reminds me of elementary school. Honestly, the men sat on one side of the table and the women sat on the other side and there was very limited interaction between them. I was the only woman drinking - all the others didn't. The men, were all getting plastered. Ahh, sometimes this whole gender thing gets to me. I got pretty drunk in the process. I ate so much food. I think I crossed a boundary with Saito - san the math teacher. I love him generally he is so nice to me. He made a joke about Yosco being a "grandma" because she is so old. He was teaching me "Japanese" aka telling me to call her a grandma - not know what I was saying. I never expected this. I love Yosco and felt bad after one of the women teachers told me what I was saying. We plotted against Saito and I told him he was a fossil. I said it wrong and Kocho Sensei told me to get my Japanese right. It didn't go over well. Oops. You live and learn. I felt bad because the tables were so far apart I couldnt' really talk to everyone and it was my welcome party. I tried joking around with Kocho Sensei to get things loose, but man there is not much joking around in this culture. Everything is always so serious!!!!!! I am not a serious person and it's hard sometimes!

Yosco drove me home and I slept on my couch (futon) last night. I crawled back into bed around 6:30am this morning. I woke up from a phone call from Brian since I invited him and Meg over for dinner tonight. My plan was to practice driving my car today. I couldn't get the parking brake down. It was jammed. Plan failed. I rode my bike to Ujie -- my local, overpriced grocery joint. I needed to get the ingredients for what I was planning on for dinner. I wanted to make an asparagus salad and a tomatoe curry. I spent about two hours in the store. These recipes called for things that I have never heard of and then the typical things I know - the people in the store didn't know what I was talking about. I substituted a lot of the ingredients. I came back from the store and cleaned my house cause I hadn't done that in a long while and it was getting messy with papers and what not. I made the asparagus salad since it needed to be chilled.

Meghann got here first at 4:30 so we came back and I gave her the grand tour of my home. Brian came about an hour later and I really started cooking then. I think it turned out really good. Except for the asparagus wasn't steamed enough. Oops. And my rice I didn't add enough water, so there were some chunky rice in there too. Haha. And then I got a hair cut from Meghann. Check it out! It's mega short!!!! She did an awesome job, I love it. It's just what I need because Japan is sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo humid. No, Meghann has never gone to beauty school or anything but she did a great job!
Meg left shortly after and then Brian stayed and we discussed what we were going to do for our volunteer English Conversation Class on Tuesday evening. It was really great to have both of them over. They are starting to really feel like friendships and I'm feeling much more comfortable around them. Oh yea, Meg unjammed my parking brake, so I'll practice tomorrow after Elementary school. Wish me luck! I need to go make up a lesson plan for tomorrow in case nothing was planned for me!

Hope everyone had a wonderful weekend!