Friday, 26 September 2008

A Blog, A Korean and A Struggle

Watching last night's Naruto episode tonight, the comment in the opening credits led me to this site. It's interesting -- though not as interesting as this blog. I just wish my blog looked a whole lot flashier than it does. Perhaps in time I will tweak it and edit the overall style.

Wednesday was more or less a day off. I spent the day in the office, of course, but I didn't have any school. I passed the day without too much boredom. At least my "boss" on Mob Wars is getting stronger (and wealthier). I also met a Korean lady who is here -- teaching Korean, I assume. Her Japanese is really good. I was able to exchange a few words in Korean; she was pleasantly surprised to hear her native tongue being spoken (albeit somewhat poorly).

Yesterday was the usual Showa Chuugakkou (junior high school). I had three classes for the first time since starting to teach there. For the ichinensei and ninensei (first and second graders) I did my obligatory introduction, complete with shitsumon (questions).

All of my classes went well; it was a good day at school. With the sannensei (third graders), I had made up a Word-find and some Fill-in-the-blanks sheets. We also played a game called Keep Asking Questions because there was time to spare at the end of the lesson.

Today, I went to Showa Shougakkou (elementary school). I did my introduction in two classes. The younger kids had a lot of questions that took up the remainder of the lesson time. The older kids weren't quite so responsive -- until I played hang-man with them, then they all got into it; especially when each person that guessed the last letter was allowed to do a word of their choosing. All in all, it was a good time.

This weekend, I have no big plans. Michael and I were contemplating heading into Kochi city, but neither of us really feels up to it; especially considering all the travelling we did last weekend.

So I will probably sit at home and play WoW all day -- after cleaning my apartment. At least I can stay up indefinitely tonight and sleep in tomorrow. :p

I eventually want to get a large desk and a comfortable chair for my apartment; an MP3 player for listening to music more conveniently as I travel between here and each school; and will need to somehow pre-order the WotLK expansion. :/

It would be nice to have a bit more to do around here, or at least have ideas about what else I could do with my free time. I'm sure that in time -- especially when I have my own car and can travel to either city at my own leisure -- I will meet new people, make new friends and go out and do stuff.

The language is still a huge barrier for me, but I don't really _need_ to be able to speak Japanese -- at least not to stay alive, or anything equally as important. It can get frustrating when I am unable to express myself -- or if I do express myself to be met with blank looks (since I usually resort to an outburst of English -- 'tis the writer in me; I cannot help it at times!).

Well, one day I will look back and wonder what it was like not being able to communicate in Japanese. For now, I am not a Japanese speaker and I even struggle with the simple things. There is so much to learn and so much to remember, that at times it seems to be quite overwhelming. I guess the key is not to think about how much you don't know, but to strengthen what you do know.

In time, I will improve. And in time, I'm sure my memory will develop more so that I won't have to hear something a hundred times and still not know what it is.



Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Back From Okayama

I just got back from a three day holiday in Okayama prefecture.

I'm sorry about no update for a while. I've mostly just had school as usual. On Thursday last week, I once again only had the sannensei class and no others, at Shouwa chuugakkou (junior high school).

On Friday, I went to Ino city to have an interview for getting my Japanese driver license. I have an eye test coming up, probably some time this week. After that, I should get my license and will be able to put away my IDP (international driving permit).

On Friday night, Michael and I drove into Kochi city to stay at a hotel. We started out early on Saturday morning, driving north and crossing the land-bridge that connects Shikoku with Honshu, the main island of Japan. It's an impressive structure.

We made a few wrong turns but eventually made it to Okayama city, and then to Tsuyama city, where we met up with Philip, my predecessor. He took a new non-JET job up in that prefecture.

We went swimming in Tsuyama, at a public pool. There was a tube-type waterslide, which was pretty cool, and a couple of saunas. We met another 2008 JET, a friend of Phil's who is teaching at Tsuyama high schools. He is an American named Evan.

The four of us went to Aeon mall (smaller than the Kochi-shi one) and then went somewhere for dinner, where we sat around for a while talking.

After dropping Evan home, we went back to Phil's and I set my laptop up.

Sunday wasn't the most pleasant day, in terms of weather, but we still walked around a little in the morning. We had Italian for lunch and checked out a small breakdancing competition in the city.

Back at Phil's again, I played World of Warcraft and talked to some of my family on Skype -- complete with video -- which was nice because they happened to be around at my brother's house.

We had sushi for dinner at a kaitenzushi (pick and choose sushi on a conveyor). I played more World of Warcraft when we got back. Such a productive time in Japan!

Mikey and I left for Okayama city on Monday morning. We found our hotel, parked, and walked to a Japanese garden to check that out before lunch. We checked into the hotel before lunch and then went to a large shopping arcade. We had lunch and I bought a few things from various places.

We visited Okayama Castle, and Michael took some photos.

The rest of our evening, aside from dinner at a nearby Chinese restaurant, was spent in the hotel. Technically, the restaurant was below the hotel, so we didn't actually leave the premises.

This morning, we got up early again, packed everything up, and travelled back down here to Taisho. It has been a long day and I am sure that Michael is as tired as I am, if not more so.

My first holiday in Japan is over and I am back in the office tomorrow. I haven't looked at my schedule for the week, but I'm hoping I have either tomorrow or Friday off, in terms of school visits. ;)


Friday, 12 September 2008

The Introductions Continue

Yesterday, there was another sports day practice at Shouwa chuugakkou (junior high school). I spent some of the morning outside watching (and holding one end of the finish line ribbon for sprints and relays), and the rest of the day until sixth period watching Naruto and Bleach on my laptop. :p

For sixth period, we discussed an excerpt from a NZ movie, The Whale Rider.

Today, I went to Tokawa shougakkou (elementary school) again. That's twice in the same week. For the 1-2 year students I went over aisatsu (greetings). We talked about responses to "How are you?" -- eg. Hot, Tired, Happy. It seems that a lot of them were happy, XD. We also discussed fruit, with pictures, and then I had them play Fruit Basket, where they all stand in a circle and run around once to get in the middle when their fruit is called.

For the 3-4 year students, I did my obligatory introduction, complete with shashin (photos). I began talking about and explaining the NZ school system, such as Summer holidays and a typical day, but because I don't speak Japanese, and the two teachers present didn't speak English it got quite awkward. So I broke out hangman and the students enjoyed themselves. :)

Surprisingly, they were able to get "throw" before hanging their man, but had been unable to get "cat" and "sit" before that. Go figure. :/

Going to Nakamura tomorrow for a couple of things. One is a free Japanese lesson, which should be interesting.

Yay for Friday. ;)


Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Got Milk?

Yesterday, I took my laptop to Tokawa chuugakkou (junior high). Unfortunately, the Internet there runs through a proxy, so most websites are blocked. I ended up watching Naruto when I wasn't in class or helping Igei sensei to prepare for the lessons.

Today, Candice and I both joined Michael at Kitanokawa shougakkou (elementary school). Once again, spending time with kids is enjoyable. We talked about food with the 2nd graders, the body with 3rd graders and "what is this / that?" with the 5th and 6th graders, using visual aids (animals, colours and food). I ate lunch with the sannensei (third graders).

A few things to note about schools, in terms of interesting differences:
  • Children don't bring a packed lunch to school; they all eat the same meal prepared at school and served in each classroom by children that are on lunch duty.
  • The servers wear caps and masks while handling food -- the youngest children are very cute all dressed up as they do their duty.
  • They have milk at school every day. I guess Japanese people like milk or see the benefit of giving kids milk.
  • After lunch, just about everything is put in the correct place for washing or recycling. Milk cartons, cheese wrappers, and even straws are collected.
  • Also after lunch, the children brush their teeth. Bodily care and material recyling are both big here.
Matta ([I will write] again).


Monday, 8 September 2008

Happy Happy Joy

On Friday evening, my laptop arrived. I had trouble setting the Internet up, so two people from the office came around to assist me: Hayashi-san and Sasaki-san. I had everything going by mid evening, and so was able to go online this past weekend. Suffice to say, I played a bit of WoW and downloaded a lot of movies and anime, lol.

On Saturday, Michael and I went into Kochi city. We looked at various things. Projectors are pretty expensive! I'm not sure if I will get one after all. I'd still like to get a PS3, if only to play Blu-ray discs (and Final Fantasy XIII when it comes out!).

Sunday, I just spent at home. When I have my own car I will be able to go into the city to attend church. Right now, things are usually inconvenient in that regard. When I am able to regularly attend church on Sundays it will be quite expensive, too.

This morning, I had two classes at Tokawa shougakkou (elementary school). It is next door to the junior high that I teach at on Tuesdays. Kids can think of so many questions. It makes for an interesting lesson! I got asked everything from what Japanese food I hate to what sort of fish I caught in New Zealand when I went fishing. I really enjoyed it, despite feeling quite tired.

The main reason I have felt tired today is that I went to bed late last night. I got off Wow pretty late and then watched a movie as well. :o

Tomorrow, it will be my first real lesson at Tokawa chuugakkou. Igei sensei and I will prepare the lessons first thing in the morning. I get up at 6am on Tuesdays and Thursdays, to give me time in the morning before heading to the junior high schools for an 8am start. Classes start a little later than that, and I never have a first period English lesson to take, but the teachers at both schools still want me there for the morning meetings -- and to prepare for the day's classes.

I finish pretty soon. No more hanging around in the office for me (well, maybe once a week, for that necessary "face time"). I can go home and relax (ie. play games and watch movie and anime).


Friday, 5 September 2008


Yesterday was my first day at Showa chugakkou (middle school). They had a sports day -- more of a sports preparation day -- so I didn't have class until the afternoon; and then, only one. For the first part of the day, I sat in on Mizobuchi-sensei's ichinensei (first grade) homeroom class, as they discussed stuff for sports day. He is the English teacher. His students are all girls. The entire population of the school is only 32 students: 13 boys, 19 girls.

Some time was spent in the gym. I'm not sure exactly what the point of sports day preparation and discussion is, but the students sure seemed to be occupied.

Sixth period was my only class for the day. I took the sannensei (third grade students). I went through my introduction, with photos and pictures, and then had them ask me questions. I also asked them each individual questions. That class has five boys and four girls.

Today, I went to Wakaigawa shougakkou (elementary school). It is another small school -- just 13 students. I took the 5th-6th grade students in the second period, then the 3rd-4th graders and the 1st-2nd graders in the third and fourth periods respectively. None of the teachers could speak English (the principal knew a little, and he took the senior class), so it made my day interesting. My introduction to each class was good Japanese practise.

The 3rd-4th grade class asked me a lot of questions about animals in New Zealand. The 5th-6th graders asked me what I liked and I asked them what they liked (food, colours, etc). I love how much more responsive kids are than teenagers, even if they can only ask questions in Japanese. I think that communicating will get easier as I learn more Japanese. Today's experience really stretched my Japanese language skills. I didn't understand a lot of the time, but I lived. :)

The most interesting class was the little ones. There was one 1st grader -- a cute little boy -- and one 2nd grader: a girl. They ended up just showing me a few of the toys in the classroom, after my introduction and a couple of questions.

I played with the kids between classes and also after eating lunch with them. The teachers also eat lunch with the students, as there are so few. It was fun to play with the kids. I showed them how to play bat down. There was one boy, Ryo, who was about eight. He had a lot of energy, both in the classroom and in the gym, running around. He reminded me of my nephew Reuben. XD

Mikey and I are going into Kochi city tomorrow. I am really tired right now and have a headache. I think I will rest when I get home.

On Monday, I am going to Tokawa shougakkou. I will try and be a little more prepared this time, but without my own computer this might be difficult. I should be getting my laptop on Monday. I can't wait!


Wednesday, 3 September 2008

School's In Session

My first taste of teaching was yesterday. I had three classes at the Tokawa chugakkou (middle school), one for each year. The largest class had 15 students in it. Each lesson consisted mostly of my own introduction, followed by questions and student introductions. I look forward to all of the English that we will attempt to impart to these malleable minds.

This morning, Michael and I attended the local shougakkou (primary school) here in Taisho. Kids are definitely more fun than teenagers in the classroom. They are more responsive, even if they don't understand English and have trouble remembering what they have "learned" -- or trouble with English pronunciation.

That's about all that's going on. We have plans to go to Kochi city on Saturday and will probably look into starting to film our short movie next week for the Chobitto Film Festival. Also, I should be getting a personalised kanji hanko (stamp) made for me. The closest to my name in Japanese is "tei mu". There is a kanji pronounced "Tei" that means "Emperor" and one pronounced "mu" that means "dream". So Tei-mu, Emperor's Dream, will be my very own kanji stamp.

Back to Mob wars. ;)


Monday, 1 September 2008

Ashita Hajimaru

On Saturday, as planned, we went over to Nakamura. We had ramen for dinner and walked to the festival across the river. The fireworks were insane. I uploaded what I filmed to YouTube, but I ran out of room on my memory card and missed the last part, which was incredible.

Yesterday, Michael and I looked for a waterfall that he had mentioned to me. We drove into the hills near Towa, trying to find our way. We ended up at an interesting track, which we walked up for a while. It was good exercise and nice to be out in the bush. After we got back in the car, we backtracked a bit and went up another road. We eventually found the waterfall. Pictures to come.

We decided to continue driving up past the track that led down to the waterfall, stopping at the summit of the hill. We walked down another track, which presented us with a breathtaking sight of the surrounding hills.

Mission complete, we drove back to Taisho, which took about an hour. After dinner, we watched a movie at Michael's house. Weekend complete.

I spent part of today preparing my introduction (complete with pictures) for the schools I will be teaching at.

Tomorrow marks the start of my vocation as a JET. I will be teaching at the Tokawa shugakkou (middle school / junior high). I'm looking forward to finally getting into it, but am a little apprehensive about what to expect. ^^