Monday, 21 December 2009

A Decade in Review

Now is the time of year when people reflect on the last twelve months and look forward to what the next year will bring. But this is a special year. It signifies the end of one era and the beginning of the next. I am, of course, talking about the fact that next year we enter into a new decade. Many changes hover on the horizon.

But before I wax nostalgic or delve into my predictions and desires for next year or even the next ten years, let me bring my readers up to speed with life here in Japan.

Presents sit under the tree in our lounge, and my presents to New Zealand arrived safely. My dad has the final details for his flight to Osaka this coming Sunday, and we will be bussing him down here to Kochi the following day.

Last night, we had a shard Christmas dinner at church, which was very nice. They called it a candle party, but we only lit candles for the ten minutes or so that it took our pastor to read something from the Bible and play a song.

And as Japanese are very big on bingo, we played a bingo game using characters from the Bible. Eddi and I were the last two people to get bingo. Go my family. >.<

That about sums up where things are at. I didn't have school at all today because Tokawa chuugakkou had some parent meeting regarding high school entrance, or something.

As this is Christmas week, the few times that I do have class -- including three classes on Christmas morning -- I will make the lessons as Christmasey as I can. This is a great opportunity to tell the Christmas story. I borrowed some large flashcards, a book and a video from church last night. Let's see what I can do with them!

Well, 2009 is almost over. I'm not sure that I will write another entry between now and 2010, although it would be nice to give one final update before this decade hums to an unpreventable close and becomes yet another part of history.

I'd like to just talk a little bit about my last ten years and then what I'm looking forward to or what I expect for next year. And now, to take this blog away from Japan briefly and down a more personal track.

A brief look at the last ten years:

2000 The millennium crept up on us very suddenly. No fear of Y2K was going to prevent me from enjoying a great historical moment. It was a rather uneventful year, however, as I simply gave up on the degree I was studying for and moved back home to live with my parents, play games and work at Burger King.

2001 I continued working at Burger King and attending our local church, not really doing much else aside from the occasional youth focused event, watching DVD movies, going to the cinema and playing computer and video games. Of course, it was September of that year that the terrorist bombing of the twin towers happened, but it didn't really affect me much beyond seeing muslims as a greater threat than I already perceived.

2002 This year changed my life. After battling with a decision, I chose to attend Faith Bible College. It turned out to be a very good decision, as I grew a lot spiritually and saw myself mature as a Christian. It was a fundamental year for me and can't really be summed up in a few words.

2003 I spent half the year in South Korea, after an opportunity came up to work for a small organisation that took in students to teach English through Bible input. It was my first time overseas and far from my last. There were times in South Korea when I felt very isolated and alone, but also great times of friendship and fun. And my three-week trip to Canada during the summer was a great experience, too. I also got my full driver license before moving back home.

2004 An opportunity came up for me to work for my church for a year. It was an awesome year for me as I did small jobs around the church and was highly involved with a project that saw hundreds, if not thousands of copies of the Jesus movie put into homes throughout New Zealand. I also joined our church music team as a drummer, which continued right through until I left New Zealand in 2008.

2005 I went on a missions trip to India and Sri Lanka with my pastor, celebrating my 25th birthday in Singapore. It was a good start to the year and a good way to finish up my stint with the church. I moved into full-time work again, landing a job with an electronics retailer. Despite the stresses involved, I enjoyed my work environment; especially my colleagues. We all got along well with each other and it was a good experience overall. My brother and I also started playing World of Warcraft that year, about six months after its release. Later in the year we moved out of our sister's place and went flatting together.

2006 Continued working in retail full time until the second half of the year, when I switched to part-time to finally start on a Bachelor's degree that I could stick with and see through to the end. So the second half of the year was juggling work and study. I moved back in with my sister and my brother moved up north.

2007 I quit my job in December of 2006 because they wouldn't give me time off over Christmas. It wasn't a sudden leave, either -- I gave two months notice. I had a wonderful holiday with my family in Northland, where mum and dad were teaching. The rest of the year saw me studying full time and playing World of Warcraft during most of my free time. I also regularly attended church events, including our cell group and my worship team involvement. I didn't however, grow very much spiritually, as my time since Bible College was too much about me, despite my ability to keep myself occupied with church-related activities.

Took a holiday in the Gold Coast with my sister and her family in September. It was a great getaway and we enjoyed ourselves immensely. The theme parks were all fun and it was good to just get away from life and study for a time.

2008 I had applied for the JET programme, knowing full well that I would finish my degree in time. I also started this blog the previous year at the beginning of the application process in the hopes that I could carry it through into my experiences here in Japan. I finished my degree, with the last semester keeping me very busy, and came over here in July. And as mentioned back then, I was able to spend some time with my parents before heading over here. My first few months in Japan were difficult, as documented in earlier posts; but my immersion into my life here wasn't really all that bad.

2009 A huge year for me. I met my wife and we got married within three months of dating (actually, on our three month anniversary). Now, we are expecting a baby in February, our daughter Eddi starts school next year, and the last few months have just flown by before we can blink.

So, here's to 2010, a great year full of promise. I will be 30 years old next year and will experience the birthing of my first child. I will sign up for a third year on JET and continue teaching at primary and junior high schools, keeping myself occupied with this and that both in teaching and with our church.

I am excited about this next decade. I may get a few grey hairs by the end of it, but there are just so many things to look forward to! A new baby, a new job at some point, paying off my student loan, furthering my studies, developing a closer relationship with both my wife and present daughter. And that just scratches the surface of this wonderful gem called life.

Praise God he has blessed us with so much to look forward to in the decade to come!



Tuesday, 15 December 2009

On the Second Day of Christmas

I read an interesting article today:

It's about changes in the Japanese language because of modern times and the way that English has somewhat taken over.

I've been getting a lot of headaches recently. It could be because of the cold weather, but whatever the cause, it makes it hard to get through the day whenever I do have a throbbing head.

The preschool had a Christmas presentation last week. The kids put in a lot of effort to perform songs and plays.

On the weekend, we were quite busy. I went to Nakamura to do some Christmas shopping while Mika dressed Eddi up in a kimono and had her hair styled. She had some photos taken, which I will try and put up on Facebook to show people.

On Sunday, we all went into Kochi city to do more shopping. I have finished getting all the Christmas presents I need to for people. I posted off my family's presents last week, after having bought them all the weekend before last.

I have been trying to do Christmas themed lessons but haven't really done anything exciting. Hopefully I will be able to do some nice Christmas stuff with the kids at school tomorrow.



Thursday, 3 December 2009


Did I mention Thanksgiving? You know, that American holiday that happens near the end of November every year? I guess not.

We had a Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday night. There was turkey and gravy, stuffing and pie -- both pumpkin and custard creme. We invited Mikey, Candice, Brittany and our Friday night student, Mei-chan. All in all, it was a really nice time.

This week has been pretty slow. On Monday there was a very boring meeting at a school. A workshop of sorts, but it was all in Japanese. The only thing I got out of it was a big headache. Japanese meetings are just so lifeless.

On Tuesday there was no school. I think there were too many cases of influenza, or something.

Yesterday, I only had a single class at shougakkou. I'm not entirely sure why, but it may have been related to the flu as well.

Today, I didn't have any classes, but I did spend the entire morning at school. We planned the questions for next week's interview tests with the students, and I did some Japanese study.

Speaking of which, I am still working through my textbook and trying to use Japanese both in emails to my wife and when we talk at home. It's still very slow going and I struggle to remember anything, but with continued practice, I know that I will improve. I may even actually be ready for the level 3 JLPT when it rolls around next year. Or at least sit it, regardless.

This coming weekend we plan on doing some Christmas shopping in Kochi city. We need to get some decorations so that we can set up our Xmas tree. That will be fun. ^^



Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Infrequent Updates

I'm not sure what it is, but I just don't fell like blogging these days. Even when I find myself with free time, it is difficult to sit down and do anything like this. And the more time that goes by, the more I have to try and pack everything into one entry -- or at least remember the notable things that have happened since last writing.

The photos are coming, as soon as I can find the time to work out how to get them from my phone to my computer at home.

School is school, and sitting in the office hasn't changed. I am still studying Japanese and living each day as per normal. Everyone is gearing up for Christmas and this month has gone pretty fast. Just over a month and we will be in the next decade. Contemplate that for a minute.

Mika and I went for a walk yesterday, and I kept coming back to the issue of learning Japanese. It has been a real struggle for me to motivate myself to actually study effectively or consistently. has been a great help, as it is an interesting way to see what I remember. The way it is set up, where it tracks your review progress, is interesting enough to keep me coming back regularly.

Reviewing vocab -- the English meaning, kanji characters and pronunciation -- is about the highlight of my Japanese study. Sure, I delve into whichever chapter I am currently studying, from time to time; but I just feel as if I am not getting anywhere. It's been an uphill struggle the entire time since I began studying 14 months ago (from September last year, when my first JET-based study book arrived).

Part of me really wants to improve and be able to have a conversation in Japanese, if not be able to read and speak to people to improve more and more as I absorb more of the language. But the difficulty of it all, and having to read things over and over, only to not have them make sense or see how to utilise them, or even remember how they should be used or what they mean, has dissuaded me from getting enthusiastic enough about learning the language to really make good progression.

Things just do not make sense. The whole structure of it is so alien and the thinking behind how to say things doesn't even make sense to me. But I will keep trying and keep slowly making my way through my textbook, and keep coming back to review words and their kanji and what they mean.

I don't do enough speaking or listening practice. I think that's pretty obvious. It's not that I don't want to, it's that I don't ever see the opportunity to. Japanese TV? It's really boring and pointless. What they show on TV doesn't interest me. It all seems so foreign and uninteresting and doesn't make sense at all.

Speaking to people? I try to do this, but if they ever respond -- which of course is a pretty normal thing to do -- my brain freezes as I struggle to pick out the words that I know. And even recognising words doesn't really help, as I don't know the form, the tense, or the context within which they are being used. Not to mention that I have absolutely nothing to say to people to begin a conversation -- and blurting out random sentences from a textbook would only make people think I've lost my mind, I think.

That said, there have been the occasional times when I've been able to involve people in what I am struggling to grasp. And I do ask people -- especially JTEs at the junior high schools I teach at -- to explain things to me, or to check my attempts at Japanese sentences, or even to just try and elicit a response from them so that I can better understand what it is that I'm learning and practising and trying to embed into the language centre of my brain.

It's not all negative. I don't want this to be a gripe post about the near impossibility of learning the Japanese language. Perhaps I am just not happy with how seldom I tend to practise speaking and/or listening to the language. When you live in a country where the language is different to your own, you are supposed to have more opportunity to learn the language. But that just hasn't been the case here. After 15 months, there is so much beginner stuff that I just don't know, and it is frustrating week after week to not make any progress, or to make progress and then realise that I've forgotten what I should have learned, or don't fully understand it.

There was a festival in Nakamura from Sunday. Why it wasn't happening on Saturday didn't really make sense to us, but we found out that it hadn't started when we went into the city then. It was nice to go over and do some shopping, though.

Yesterday was a public holiday. We just stayed at home while Eddi's grandparents took her over to the festival. It was simply a lazy day for us. I even baked cookies from some cookie dough I had made the previous day. :)

So we have a four day week, I don't have Taisho chuugakkou today because Kitazoe-sensei is away, and I don't have any school on Friday. It's a good week!

Well, back to my headache-inducing studies / internet browsing. ;)



Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Christmas is Coming

It's been a struggle to submit regular entries here. I don't want this blog to turn into simply a reflection of my diary, but to keep it relevant to my experiences in Japan. Perhaps being married to a Japanese national and somewhat settling down has desensitised me to the wonder that Japan once held. Or maybe I've just become complacent and haven't put in the effort that I should have.

I've wanted to put up a set of photos for quite a while, but wasn't able to find my micro-SD reader. After church on Sunday, I bought a new micro-SD card that came with a reader, but upon inserting my cellphone's card into my laptop, it wasn't able to read it. Go figure. So, I'm still working on getting the photos from my cellphone to the computer so that they can in turn be put up here. Whew.

I had a flu shot yesterday. It meant I had to drive through the pouring rain, to and from K-town. The hospital was very busy and there were no parks. So I prayed, drove around again, went down to the end of the carpark and took the single, last one that God had provided for me. So you see, he always comes through when we need little things like that!

Mika baked an apple pie on Monday night. Half of it is gone already (although one quarter went with Eddi to her kindergarten), and we should be able to finish it off tonight when we go to Mika's parents' for dinner. Her mum has been at her grandma's for the last week or so, looking after the old lady. We have had Mika's dad around for dinner once, and so tonight it is our turn to go there and eat with him.

The flu is going around -- or at least, that is the fear that many people have. They are so serious about health and getting sick here that I wonder how much of it can be attributed to this overshadowing fear of getting sick and passing sickness onto others. On Monday at shougakkou (primary school), every single person -- teachers and students alike -- was wearing one of those face masks. And apparently there were ten students away sick that day.

Some classes have been cancelled this month. We were supposed to have an upcoming class on the 18th where a whole lot of teachers would come to observe the proceedings, but that has been cancelled. A couple of junior high days have had their classes cancelled, but this is mostly due to JTE activities, not sickness. Still, there have been some complete school cancellations because of the influenza that is "going around" right now -- such as this coming Friday, which I will now spend in the office twiddli- erm, taking care of important documents.

There was a festival in K-town on Sunday. So after buying my new micro-SD, we checked it out. It wasn't that impressive, but there was a whole lot of shiny farm equipment (should have taken pictures, doh!), the meat-on-a-stick was yummy (o)()(o) and they had a huge bingo game. We had four cards but only got a couple of "reaches" (one square short of bingo). Seems that I have no problem with Japanese numbers. ;)

Christmas is coming up. We went into K-city on Saturday to do some shopping. It was a very long, tiring ordeal, but we all got new clothes and it was fun looking at Christmas stuff. The atmosphere is definitely festive, and Christmas is taking on more of a tangible presence here. It will be a great opportunity for me to share with the kids at school about why we celebrate Christmas. Any opportunity to tell them about Jesus should be snatched up without restraint!

Move over Santa, Jesus is King and he's the Real Thing.

My Japanese study is going well. I may not see much progress, but I know that one day I will be fluent enough to improve exponentially, as I listen, speak, read and write regularly. As I continue to struggle through each thing to learn, it's encouraging to know that somewhere down the track, something will click and the things I have learned will begin to make sense and will take shape in my mind. So far, very little makes sense and remembering words and structure has been very, very difficult. But I will speak it one day, and knowing that is what keeps me going! is a great Japanese study review website. Even though I haven't specifically studied for the JLPT level 4, I have included the entire thing in my review schedule. This way, as I encounter words that I am unfamiliar with, either from a meaning perspective or even kanji pronunciation, I will eventually get to know everything. Also, as I continue to progress through my Genki I textbook, I can add the chapters to my schedule as well. So far, I have studied up to chapter 8, which I am working through when the mood strikes (ie. when I have free periods at school).

My aim is to finish Genki I and to get through all of Genki II -- or at least its equivalent -- by the time the JLPT rolls around in June next year. I may not make it that far, but I still intend to sit the level 3 during the next JLPT intake, prepared or not.

Today, I will no doubt continue both study and vocabulary practice. I don't make many opportunities to flex my conversation skills, but this is mostly due to not being able to think of anything to say. It's not a fear of getting things wrong, as I do that all the time in writing. It's being unable to express myself adequately, and not understanding what people say to me whenever I have to use Japanese. But I try!



Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Life After The B.O.E

I just came across this webcomic today. Go, have a chuckle. It's free.


Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Is it a Boy or a Girl?

Suffice to say, life has definitely been busy. Between school and family, I switched blog entry priority to low. Now that I have an hour left in the office this morning, it's high time I updated this thing. Life in Japan is hard... >.<

A few Saturdays ago, I had to go to K-town hospital to get the prescription for my second of three courses of antibiotics. Another half-day wasted, but it wasn't as bad as the previous time.

That week wore on, with chuugakkou classes pretty much as regular as usual, and some time spent in the office. The annual English speech competition is coming up, so I have had a small hand to play in preparation so far -- mostly just editing and proofreading stories and speeches.

On the technology front, I reinstalled Windows Vista on my laptop a couple of weeks ago. It more or less fixed the Internet connection issues I was having, but the connection is still not as consistent as I would like.

My wife and I were able to take a break two weeks ago. We had Eddi babysat and went out for dinner together, before taking a walk. How necessarily romantic. ;)

I've been doing a little Japanese study, on and off. My progress is still slow and I continue to struggle, but the more I do it, the more I will understand and remember, right?

The weekend before last was more or less relaxing. We went to a park on the Saturday, up in Ehime prefecture. It was also tsukimi, which means "moongazing", and we had a fun time of it that night, eating dango that Eddi and Mika made.

The week came and went, with me buying my wife a rose on Monday and receiving Eddi's set of bunks; starting a new series called FlashForward on Tuesday; having dinner at the in-laws on Wednesday night; going for a walk on Thursday evening; and getting our brand new double bed and table on Friday!

And I've got to say, it is wonderful to have a proper bed, and great to be able to eat at a table! Unfortunately, the table top is slightly cracked, so we are waiting for them to replace it.

On Friday we also dropped Eddi at her grandparents' to stay for the night. Turns out we didn't tutor Mei-chan that night either, so Mika and I watched a movie together. W00t.

Saturday was a lazy day. I even took a much needed nap in the afternoon. See, life in Japan really is hard. I had to sleep on our brand new soft mattress for a couple of hours, eat a yummy curry and play on my computer a bit. /yawn

Eddi's undoukai (sports day) was at her youchien (kindergarten) on Sunday morning, so we were unable to attend church. We managed to film everything that our daughter was involved with, which added up to an hour of footage. Perhaps I will sift through and edit it sometime.

After the undoukai, we ate leftover curry and packed up the car with all our camping gear. We headed out to a place called Kashiwajima. Shima/Jima means "island", but it was an island that is connected by a land bridge. The area is a hotspot for scuba diving and fishing, even though the shore is terribly polluted. I wouldn't recommend going there if you don't like the sight of garbage. They really should clean the place up, because it is a quaint little town and the surrounding area is incredibly beautiful (I have photos, but can't upload anything until I find my Micro-SD converter).

Camping was great. We weren't completely organised, but it all worked out anyway. The nights are getting colder, but with blankets we were quite comfortable in our tent together.

After a nice walk on Monday -- which was a public holiday, and hence why we were able to go out camping -- we drove to a cliff trail and walked up to have a look at the view. After that, we went to a nearby monkey park, and saw a whole lot of monkeys. There was also a great lookout on the promontory, which afforded us a view of the entire surrounding area, with islands dotting the sea and the sun glinting off the water. We could clearly make out the beach we had camped at overnight, too. The weather on Monday was perfect.

Lunch and icecreams on the way to Nakamura, and then in the city we visited the onsen, paying for a private family bath. We got 50% extra free (1 1/2 hours instead of just one), as it was our first visit. Even being naked can be enjoyable. Guess Japan really is changing me. :)

MacDonald's for dinner, a little shopping and then the drive back home via our regular route through Iejigawa. Tired? Yup, but Tuesday is always an early start, so no time to think about sleeping in.

That brings us to yesterday. I spent the entire day at Taisho chuu, as my classes were spread out to period 6. Kitazoe sensei was away. The students mostly did work out of their workbooks, which wasn't very fun at all. And the extra class I oversaw was disappointing, as the kids obviously didn't want to be there. Sometimes you just have bad days, and yesterday wasn't one of the better school days I've had. But you just move on, huh. Every day is a new and wonderful day that God has created!

Today, I finish at 11.30am. I am taking this afternoon off so that Mika and I can have lunch together and then visit K-town hospital. She has an OB appointment and I want to be there for once to see our baby on the monitor during the scan. We believe that today we will find out our child's gender, too! Exciting. ;)

Going out for dinner tonight, too, which will be great. So all in all, today is a huge step up from yesterday. We have been anticipating this Wednesday for quite a while.



Thursday, 24 September 2009

This Week Had A Silver Lining

I've probably said this before, but a lot of things in Japan are undersized. Except bugs. Everything from spiders to cockroaches and wasps are huge here. I love what spiders do: they keep down the insect population. But some of the spiders here are just plain huge and scary. I just saw a spider the size of my palm in the toilet at work this morning. Eight-legged freaks indeed.

This weekend, a number of schools around my area had their undokai (sports day). Mika had to work on both Saturday and Sunday. She gets daikyuu (time in lieu) next week on Monday and Tuesday.

Eddi stayed with her cousin from Friday night until last night (Wednesday). On Saturday, I spent the day at home. We finally had the last of the airconditioning installed, and I managed to clear out the living room (lounge) closet and rearrange some things. Since then, we have cleaned up a few more things, including our bedrooms upstairs. There is still a space issue and a number of items don't yet have homes, but progress has definitely been made.

I baked a carrot cake on Saturday night and iced it in the morning. We had our monthly birthday lunch at church, where we also paid respect to the elderly. My cake was a real hit. I was proud of how it turned out; it was as yummy as it looked. I stopped in at Kitanokawa chuugakkou on my way home to see Mika.

As a reflection of May's Golden Week, we had Silver Week from Saturday to Wednesday. It was nice to be able to spend a full three days with my wife and no work. We were able to relax without worrying about rushing around, trying to get things done by a certain time.

On Tuesday night, we went camping out by a beach near Nakamura. We wanted to take our daughter, but she wanted to stay another night at her cousin's. We had a great time, with a starlit walk along the beach and sitting around a campfire in the cool Autumn night air. Even the steaks that we barbecued for dinner were delicious, as I had marinated them earlier in the day.

Yesterday, after packing up and visiting the beach once more -- and a ham and egg English muffin breakfast -- we took off for Kochi city. It was time to buy some furniture, and we finally purchased both a dining table and a double bed for ourselves. We are going to get Eddi a set of bunks this weekend. Our new furniture will be delivered next month on the 9th.

We picked up Eddi from Aki-chan's house in the afternoon, and drove back home at a reasonable time. Both Mika and I were very tired by the time we got back, but we managed to get everything away, and she even cooked a proper meal.

Suffice to say, we had a fairly early night last night. I'm glad that I have no classes today. Yay for no school. ;)



Monday, 14 September 2009

Sometimes it is Free

The week before last isn't really worth noting, save for the fact that it was my first week back at school. That weekend, the only thing of note was that we went into Nakamura to do some shopping; items for the house and all that.

Then came last week, half of which I was out of commission. I felt very weak on Monday, and the last period at Tokawa shougakkou was very difficult. Once I got home, I went straight to bed. Turns out I had a bit of a fever, and my body ached all over.

The following day, I called in sick and went to see the doctor. After a battery of tests and two hours spent at the medical clinic, they diagnosed me with tonsilitis and gave me a prescription for antibiotics. I took the Wednesday off as well, but wasn't able to get it off as sick leave; rather, I took a day in annual leave.

The rest of last week was ok. I am not sure just how serious my sickness was, but Tuesday was the worst day of the three. Once the weekend came around, things were pretty much back to normal.

On Saturday, we went into Kochi city, as planned. Mika had to get her two-year shakken (car warrant of fitness), and we borrowed a courtesy car to go to Aeon mall while that was taking place. After a little shopping we went to Yamada Denki and I got a wireless router so we can set up the network at home.

We got my wife's car back and went to her brother's house to have dinner together. As is usual with going into the city, we got home rather late.

Yesterday, we went to a town in Ehime, between here and Uwajima (out on the west coast). We have visited the aquarium there before, but this time we went to the onsen (hot spring). I'm not quite Japanese enough to go full monty, so I took my laptop to watch an episode of Stargate SG-1. I had a massage in one of the chairs there and spent the rest of the time dipping my feet in a hot pool and reading a book.

On our way to the town, we had grabbed some drinks from a vending machine. 60 yen for a can of Aquarius -- with an extra 150g! So not only was it the cheapest I have ever seen a drink from a vending machine, but it was one of those special, oversized drinks too. Bonus!

We went for a walk and let Eddi play before heading to a restaurant for dinner. She fell asleep on our way home, so we put her straight to bed. Mika shopped online while we watched a movie.

And that brings us up to date. Today, I only had classes this morning, after which they invited me to eat the school lunch. So yes, sometimes there is such a thing as a free lunch.

Here in Japan, people are not big on turning on their headlights. Whether it be overcast or raining, driving under a canopy of trees or getting darker because the sun has gone down, it seems to be the norm to brave the elements (and oncoming traffic) and keep your lights off. And woe betide any driver who has their lights on at the slightest hint of light in the sky. For he shall be flashed by oncoming traffic as a reminder that, "Hey mate, what have you got your lights on for? It's not pitch black yet!".

Then there is the issue of MLS*. It turns out that it is indeed a global phenomenon. I'll bet it's illegal to not have two working headlights here, too. But there isn't much opportunity to find out, considering the somewhat fanatic aversion to switching them on at the threat of appearing weak.

*Mono-Light Syndrome. See my original blog post on the subject.

But hey, let's not generalise. I'm sure that just as there must be people who won't go to onsen, there must also be people who switch their lights on at the first sign of lower visibility. Perhaps the two are connected somehow...



Monday, 31 August 2009

The Great Move: Success!

The shifting may be over but the settling in has only just begun.

I had all of last week off (marriage leave), which gave me a chance to finish filling and painting the new place and start moving stuff in. Mika also took time off work -- between a whole lot of pre-term* meetings -- so that we could get everything shifted.

*The new school term starts tomorrow. Yay for real work!

Everything was out of my old apartment by the end of Wednesday and we had shifted quite a bit of stuff from Mika's place. On Thursday I went to Nakamura to get some organisational things for our rooms and cupboards. I went back again on Friday to return some things and find alternative means of arranging everything to fit into our limited space.

Eddi came with me on Friday. We stopped at the beach on the way. It was really nice. We also popped into the furniture store for a little while. We want to get real beds some time soon. I took her to MacDonald's for lunch, we shopped at a hardware store and we had ice creams on the way home. ^^

Over the weekend we continued shifting things out of Mika's place -- when we weren't waiting at the hospital. Saturday was a bit of a waste of a day because we went to the hospital in K-town so that I could get my ingrown toenails sorted out. After a lot of waiting and going to see two different doctors, the only thing I got out of it was a prescription for another toenail issue and the recommendation not to get surgery on my toes.

Which means that after all that we have to go and see another doctor (probably in the city) to sort out getting my feet fixed for good. Yay for stubborn Japanese medical professionals. At least we managed to slip in some much needed shopping.

Yesterday was possibly the most difficult day for us, in terms of shifting. We still had a lot of Mika's possessions to move. But now that it is all over and done with, there is merely the task of unpacking our hundreds of boxes and bags and finding room for everything. It seems that things have been non-stop since the wedding. :/

A guy came and installed an air conditioning unit, too, removing the old, decrepit one from the lounge. He also removed the one from my old place but we can't get that installed until next weekend. Oh, and it was raining yesterday, which made things interesting.

At least things should become somewhat normal now. We have a place to live, summer holidays are over and we have schedules to follow. We can get into a good pattern of living as we work our way through everything at the house and accustom ourselves to the new environment. Bring on the next few weeks of settling in...



Friday, 14 August 2009

A Year In Review

My experience here in Japan seems to differ somewhat from other people's. Not only am I in a rather isolated place, but culture shock has never been an issue for me. Sure, I have been surprised at some of the things that I encountered here, but nothing really life-changing -- in the sense of cultural differences and adjustments -- has occurred. Getting married within a year of coming to Japan was pretty huge (and unexpected), but that's beside the point. :p

And in reverse, I really can't see myself having to readjust to life in New Zealand, if we move there in future. If culture shock was the boredom of not having a laptop on arrival or experiencing a very chilly Christmas, then reverse culture shock will be surprise at petrol costs or how cheap milk from Pak 'n Save is.

When I write a book about my experiences in Japan, I'll have to exaggerate everything, including my sudden plunge into Japanese society. But the truth is, I don't feel as if I interact with Japanese culture enough for it to really affect me. All of this bowing and being polite hasn't really rubbed off on me yet; and I have passed the one year mark.

Mind you, the language sure is taking its time to sink in. You'd think that after a year I would be highly motivated to dive into my books and really focus on shoving Japanese into my head so that I could communicate. But without the dire need to converse in Japanese, the motivation just hasn't come. But I'll get there -- I know I will...

So yes, it has been over a year. Which means that life will begin to repeat itself. This last week was Kochi's infamous Yosakoi festival again. I, however, didn't see any coverage of it. I did see some people practising when my family were here, though.

Then, of course, is the upcoming Ayu festival, which takes place around these parts. And then we will be graced with various summer fireworks displays. This year, we plan on seeing a bigger display than Nakamura can offer.

Mika and I still have two houses between us; we will hopefully be able to paint Mikey's old place next week. She is back at work on Monday so it might have to wait until the weekend. I just want to be done with this whole split between two houses arrangement that we have going on. We are both still paying rent plus all of the utilities that come with having a place -- twice. So, the sooner the better for us, both financially and as a family.

Yesterday, I had a migraine, so was resigned to take a day off and suffer in pain. My head actually started hurting on Wednesday afternoon, so I finished work an hour early and went home to bed. Mika was away for Tuesday and Wednesday nights, staying with her brother's family at their new house in K-city. I didn't eat between Tuesday and Wednesday lunchtimes, but after talking to my wife on the phone, she encouraged (read: ordered) me to go to her house and make something to eat. Which I did, despite the agonising pain in my head. It was also good to get out and about, and I was able to recover enough to not have to go back to bed after returning home.

It's no wonder I suffer like this, though, sitting for so long in front of a computer screen. I should be dividing my time between browsing, learning and preparing. It would actually be quite wise to get onto more preparation for the new term, as I may not have as much free time during the week to prepare shougakkou lessons. It seems that I have a more permanent schedule after summer, teaching at four shougakkou consistently and an extra chuugakkou (Taisho). Because now that Michael has gone, they need me to fill in at least some of the gap -- the new ALT is living in K-town, which makes teaching all the way out here too difficult, I guess.

On a final note, the weekend is upon us -- well, pretty much. Mika doesn't want to do any driving this weekend, after all the driving she has done this week. I am going to assume that that means no long-distance travelling, which puts the idea of looking for a bed and/or table out of the question; at least for now.

What's most important for us at this stage is getting the go ahead to paint up the place we are moving into so that we can begin moving our stuff in. My biggest issue is getting rid of these JCF library books. We are still looking for a replacement librarian. Hopefully it will be someone in this prefecture, as that would save a whole lot on courier fees (if I were able to take the boxes somewhere myself).

Here's to continued beautiful weather!



Monday, 10 August 2009

The Wild River

I went to the river after work and took some footage on my phone. Filmed about two minutes' drive from my town, from a bridge by the local michinoeki (rest stop). This is the Shimanto River (shimantogawa) after some serious rain. It is also very foggy up here in the mountains, as you can see from the video. Enjoy!

The Shimanto River Rages


Changes Forthcoming

On the matter of updating the style and appearance of The Japan Journey: I fully intend to implement some very noticeable changes. In fact, a complete overhaul is in the works. However, until everything is settled and our lives are back into a standard rhythm, I can't conceptualise or implement any real changes to the blog.

Stay tuned.


It's Raining, It's Pouring

Rainy season is supposed to be over, and yet we have had a rather incredible spell of rain that saw the river rise immensely and the local trains brought to a halt. There was a lot of lightning last night and yesterday the river was simply amazing (and very brown) to look at, with the choppy water flowing rapidly between its very wide banks.

Today, sun showers have kicked in, although the clouds may very well extricate themselves of their last vestige of super-soaker solution tonight on a slightly grander scale. Then again, considering how much precipitation has actually fallen, we may have seen the last of it for a good while yet.

Now the real heat begins.

Let's take a step back though, shall we? Although Mika and I have yet to move into our very own house -- we are still split between our two respective places -- our living arrangement hasn't been all bad. Sure, we are still paying rent for two houses, one of which is seldom visited (mine), but things haven't quite been worked out yet regarding our shift. And so we shuffle back and forth on occasion, trying to live a normal married life.

It's not always easy at first; especially with all of the changes that take place. Our intentions are good, though, and we do have goals in sight. One step at a time will see me get my PS3 slim us happily settled and ready to focus on building a life as a family and getting involved with whatever pastimes and activities we can spare the time to pursue.

The Friday before last (we need a word for this, much like oxt is used for the week(end) after this one -- maybe axt?)... So, axt Friday, I spent the day in the office. Yes, this is August. This is my summer routine.

Well, as with every August office day, it passed without much ado. Just your usual Facebook and Google Reader activity. I installed Windows 7 on my laptop that night. How this relates to ninjas is beyond me, but I'm talking about it anyway. After all, if ninjas knew where I lived, do you think I could continue to write so freely?

Ah, so, I spent a long time that evening fiddling with my display settings, but finally managed to get everything working fine. And no ninja attacks, either. Whew!

It also turns out that we are not tutoring Mei-chan this month, which is yet another relief as we try and get to the point where we can settle into our new life. Because until we have shifted into our new place, things just won't be settled.

Axt Saturday, we went to Tosa-shi to do some shopping. We had left Eddi with her grandparents. We followed Tosa up with a visit to Mika's brother's new house. It's-a very nai-su. :o

After a MacDonald's lunch, we looked around the lovely house and even set up their flash new dining table. We took Aki off Mai's hands and went to get an oil change. Worst oil change ever, as it took around two hours. Why?! Well, at least we went to Mr. Donut...

That night, we dropped Aki off at her grandparents' to stay over with Eddi. Yay for an evening to ourselves. ;)

After church the next day, we paid off some of our outstanding wedding expenses. We ate with Mika's parents that night: yakiniku! For some reason, the girls stayed over for a second night. Lucky!

Last week's Monday through Wednesday isn't really worth mentioning. We had Tuesday night to ourselves again and so watched a movie at my place. A/C is very nice to have, too.

On Thursday, I took nenkyuu. We had planned to go to Nakamura but in the morning I cut my finger quite seriously, having to get stitches, and so we spent most of the morning at home.

We did, however, manage to get out to K-town, which was good. We paid the last of our wedding expenses and did some good old-fashioned grocery shopping. Also, the Board of Education in K-town gave us two wedding gifts! How nice of them.

The custom here in Japan is that you return more than just a thank you card to those that gave you a wedding gift (although money is very common to give / receive too -- we actually received quit a large sum altogether). It is customary to go to the effort of using some of the money that you recived to buy gifts and give them in return. It seems like a strange thing to do -- after all, I instinctually want to use all of the money that we received to help us set up our new life together.

But that isn't how things work here. I now see that it is actually very nice to buy gifts for everyone -- although the effort that you have to go to is just as tiring as most other such things around here. Because honouring custom is more important than how you might feel about something. And because everyone does the same thing, you can actually expect things to happen in a certain way, which I guess gives people extra security. Because knowledge is power? Something like that, anyway. ;)

The weekend came and went. I met Mika's uncle and aunt on Saturday night. They recently travelled to China, and showed us pictures of the Great Wall and other places that they went.

My Japanese has not progressed in the last few months. I just need to find the motivation to delve back into my textbook or to pick up some kanji cards and go over (and over and over) the vocabulary. Without the drive to actually do something I sit in a perpetual zone of language frustration. Until something pushes me into a mode of actually wanting to learn rather than grinding my teeth at not being able to express myself or understand anything that is vocalised around me, I will continue to simmer in this hiatus.

I reflect on this part of my Japanese life from time to time. But reflection is not enough to download understanding into my brain. Learning a language is a very slow process and one that takes dedication and opportunity. It's enforcing that dedication and grasping those opportunities that results in progression.

It is actually my hope that once we have settled our lives somewhat and we are back into the swing of things -- when school starts up and lesson preparation is obligatory rather than a sidelined event -- I will find those opportunities to practise and break out those materials again.

Something akin to Japanese Wednesdays would be a good starter, as would consistently shoving vocabulary into my head and then using it at random times. Perhaps it is the summer heat. Perhaps it is the lax office attitude. Or perhaps I am still whirling somewhat from the stresses involved with all of our wedding planning and implementation.

Whatever the case, the day will come where I get focused and get serious about language learning again. I do have all my life to learn my wife's language; but why take an entire lifetime to learn something when you could spend that time enjoying the benefits of knowing and using it?

We shall see when August comes to a close. Here's hoping that we will move, settle and get into a good weekly routine that benefits not just us as a family but our own individual lives and the lives of others around us.



Thursday, 30 July 2009

The Wedding Bells Have Gone Silent

What a fortnight! The time leading up to our wedding was pretty hectic, and since then I have hardly had a chance to sit down at any computer for more than a few minutes. Now that I am back in the office, I have all day to do whatever crosses my path; and that includes writing a full blog update.

Since coming to Japan, this is definitely the longest I have gone without writing an entry. But weddings only happen once. I could never have foreseen that in three months I would propose, and that we would plan and implement a wedding; not to mention see most of my family again, within a year of coming here.

The days leading up to when my family began arriving are a bit of a blur. We were definitely busy and under a little (ie. a lot of) stress. It was a relief to get everything finalised and see everything through to the end; but even now there are still things to sort out.

Mum, dad and the two youngest -- Amy and Simon -- travelled from their city in China (Shenyang) to Incheon (Seoul, South Korea) and then over here, to Okayama, on Saturday the 18th. We had organised for them to stay overnight at a hotel and then to travel by bus to Kochi.

The next day, I drove into K-city and met my family at the station. We went out for dinner at Masala and then drove back here to Taisho. Mika was excited to meet them. They brought out my suit and her dress, which they had got last weekend for us, and it was a good time of introductions, presents and settling in. Dad and Simon came back to my apartment to stay with me.

The following day -- Monday, the 19th -- we all went into the city to do some shopping. We stopped in Tosa to get a few things from Daiso 100-yen store and shopped at Aeon in K-city. It was a pretty full day, and we got back kind of late.

On Tuesday, I had to work. I inroduced my family to my office workmates in the morning. I could have written a blog entry but the thought didn't even cross my mind that day. It was google reader all the way. ;)

I finished work an hour early and went back to my place to sort some things out. Dad was there, working on his sermon for the coming Sunday morning service. He spent a lot of time on my computer last week preparing that.

We had dinner with Mika's parents that night. Her mother took my wedding suit to hem the pants and she measured Mika's dress or whatever to adjust that for the wedding. Dad, Simon and I watched a movie after getting back to my place.

On Wednesday, we went to Nakamura to do some shopping. We also travelled out to Ashizuri cape, which was nice. We got some good photos, too. We ate a very late dinner after getting home. Dad, Simon and I watched another movie before bed.

It turned out that because Nick's flight from NZ to Syndey was delayed, he and Lish missed their flight to Tokyo. They were put up in a hotel in Sydney and were able to spend Thursday checking out the city, but it meant that we had to book a new domestic flight here, between Haneda and Kochi airports. Mottainai. I hope that Qantas will reimburse me for their incompetence that resulted in spending another 50,000 yen. Well, at least they made it in time!

Because of Qantas's stubbornness, we had to change our plans around. Instead of travelling to the airport on Thursday, we set up the church, wedding style. It turned out very nice! I left the sound system for Saturday, but everything else was prepared. However, we couldn't have a proper planned rehearsal without Nick and Lish.

Friday came and went. Ok, so there was more to it than that. We all went into the city, to Aeon mall. Mika, mum and dad went shopping (with Eddi) while I took Amy and Simon out to the airport to meet our brother and sister. We picked them up and came back to the mall. It was a touching moment for mum and Lish to see each other. Why couldn't she have cried when she saw her oldest son after a year? :p

We came back to Taisho (again -- sheesh, I did a lot of travelling last week), and got everyone settled in. We had a fairly late meal before the boys came to my place and we had my bachelor party. Mikey came around with his PS3 and we watched Die Hard 4 and ate junk food. Simon had to stay at Mika's with everyone else, with Nick staying at my place. So I took him back after our little get-together.

Saturday was the big day. I was rushing around all morning, finalising stuff: ironing, printing, organising lunch for the "boys". I got to the church with very little time to set up the sound system, and jumped into my suit at the last minute. I still had to cut my wedding vow flashcards out, too!

Mika was absolutely stunning. The whole ceremony went so well, praise God. Simon even did a good job of the music. We had a whole lot of photos taken by our good friend, Narae; especially afterwards, with all different compositions (parents, various family members, the pastor and his wife, etc etc). It was exciting to be the highlight of the day with my beautiful bride!

I don't have any photos to put up here on my blog, but I will definitely link to various facebook albums as they get put up.

The reception was great. Everyone was happy, the food was good and our cake was amazing. Mika and I had changed from our wedding clothes into different clothes for the occasion: from white to black. It made for some nice photos.

Afterwards, we made sure everyone left safely and then drove to a hotel in Susaki to spend our first married night together.

Skip ahead to the next day... ;)

My whole family (well, those that were here in Japan, which was everyone save Leah and Jonny) were at church on Sunday morning. Dad preached and we had a wedding lunch afterwards.

It got quite late in the afternoon and we had to get back so that mum and dad could pack for leaving in the morning. We all spent some time together at Mika's house before dad, Nick and I crashed at my place. Nick and I stayed up for a bit finalising some file copying (movies and TV shows for my old external HDD which I gave to dad and the kids).

Monday rolled around and we saw mum and dad off at the station in K-city. We said our goodbyes and then the six of us (we had Aki with us, because she and Eddi had spent the night at their grandparents') spent the day in the city. We went to Masala for lunch and looked around Obiyamachi, before heading to Aeon. We gave Aki back to her parents and left the city.

Monday night was pretty uneventful. I decided to stay with my wife while Nick had my apartment all to himself.

On Tuesday, we wanted to go somewhere, but Eddi was finishing yochien early, so we merely went to the stone windmill and its surrounding area, opposite the nearby michinoeki. Lish and Nick were able to take some nice photos.

I had a rest after we picked up Eddi -- Mika had a nap, too. I guess we were all pretty tired. We had dinner with Mika's parents that evening. Nick made a good impression, drinking sake with Mika's dad and doing his best with his anime-learned Japanese. I think her dad was also impressed that I drank a bit of sake with them, as he just assumed that because I don't drink beer every day, I don't drink sake. Nommunication, people. :o

Nick and I watched most of Aliens before bed. It was before 12am when we finished up, with less than an hour to go, but we were both just too tired to continue.

Mika had to work yesterday, so I took Nick and Lish to the airport by myself. It was funny, because the first group of JETs were arriving at the same time. I wasn't aware of this until Candice called me and asked if I was at the airport, because she had just seen my brother. I went downstairs, and she and Laurel were standing there, haha. It seems that a number of our fellow Kochi JETs had shown up to meet the new JETs coming in; even Michael was there with a sign.

We ate lunch at the aiport and then I saw my big sis and little bro off. That was the last of the family to leave. I drove back home and had a rest because I was really tired.

We went out for dinner last night in K-town. It was the last time we will see Laurel before she leaves, and was a good way to get introduced to Michael's replacement, Brittany. She is being placed in the K-town BOE rather than in my office here in Taisho. Michael will be spending his last few days with our BOE over there as well, I guess, as he is no longer here in the office.

So now things have quietened down. I am waiting for both my Birth Certificate and a Certificate of No Impediment from Births, Deaths and Marriages, so that Mika and I can be officially married. We still have wedding stuff to pay off and will be moving into Michael's old apartment as soon as he has completely moved out.

I'm sure there are other things to sort out, such as trying to make Qantas cough up some form of reimbursement for having delayed my siblings and forced the procuring of another domestic flight, not to mention the grief cause for us having to change our plans around just before the wedding.

But all is well in Taisho on this beautiful Thursday morning. The wedding bells have gone silent but a life of marriage has only just begun.



Thursday, 16 July 2009

The Power of His Love

Nine days to go. Three until mum, dad and the youngest siblings arrive; seven days until the other two do.

So what has happened since last I wrote? School finished. Wedding planning continued. And it's hot.

Last weekend, my parents got my suit and Mika's dress from a huge mall about an hour from where they live in China. Meanwhile, we sorted out details for the reception, the cake and the flower arranging.

After the weekend, it was back to business. School this week has been very slow. There were no classes on Tuesday or today at the respective chuugakkou. However, I travelled to Tokawa on Tuesday afternoon to receive a wedding present that they wanted to give us; and today, I went to Shouwa before being told that there would be no English class at all. Which meant a day in the office!

Did I mention that it's hot?

With school over for the summer, all I will be able to do for the next month and a half is scan google reader, play on Facebook and prepare resources. I guess I could throw in some Japanese study from time to time. Oh, and I have next week off to spend with my family. After all, I'm getting married next weekend. :o

As far as planning goes, we still need to work out some decoration details for both the ceremony at the church and the reception at the restaurant we have booked. Aside from that, it is now just a matter of getting through the rehearsal this weekend and finding accommodation for my family.

We also need to find a new house. So far nothing has shown up on our radar. But since God has taken care of everything so well so far, this is a minor issue that will be taken care of pretty quickly and easily.

Here's to the weekend~ ^^


Ps. I will get around to making the stylistic changes. I'd like to get married first and focus on more important things than playing around with blog colours. :p


Friday, 10 July 2009

Something About Ninjas

Friday, Friday, Friday. The weekend is here! Two more weeks until we get married. Just over a week until I get to see my parents and two youngest siblings, and then a few more days after that my brother and older sister. It's going to be great!

Last Sunday, we went to church in Kochi city. We spent some time at a wedding hire place, trying on respective suits and dresses. We decided not to hire anything from there. Neither of us has our wedding costume yet, but we still have two weeks, right? Actually, my parents are going to find a suit for me tomorrow, at a mall in their city in China.

We did some further shopping, at Aeon, where we also ate. Got home pretty late, especially for a "school night".

I taught at Tokawa shougakkou on both Monday and Wednesday. Spent some time trying to sort out domestic travel for my brother and older sister, but we didn't get anything finalised that night. We did, however, get a good deal a couple of days later. One less burden, huh. Still trying to sort out accommodation for my parents for when they stop in Okayama, both on the way here and back.

There was a crazy rainstorm on Tuesday afternoon. I came back to the office because I didn't have afternoon periods at Tokawa chuu, and the heavy rainclouds came over and just dumped their water onto Taisho in one huge torrent.

On Tuesday night, we went out to K-town to see the Book of Hope class that Laurel takes every Tuesday night. I am probably going to take over when she leaves. I also brought my home theatre system and tested my speakers in the church. Sounds good, so we should be using that setup for the music for the wedding.

On Wednesday night we ate at Mika's parents' house. It was yakiniku, and was very nice.

We spent some time at Mika's afterwards looking up wedding clothes online, but didn't make a definite decision about anything.

Last night, we went out for dinner at a local place, while Ps. Taniguchi used the house to take a small bible study with a couple of local high school students. We went for a walk afterwards, which was nice.

We still haven't found a photographer for the wedding. Going to take it easy this weekend -- at least, that's the plan. There are still things to work out, such as Mika's dress and finalising the order of events for the ceremony itself; but everything will be sorted by the day.

Oh, and God is good. ;)

Finally, expect changes to my blog sometime in the not too distant future. I have some ideas about what I want to do, so keep an eye out for that! (It will be pretty obvious when ninjas jump out and throw shuriken at your face).



Saturday, 4 July 2009

Frenetic Fast-paced Formulating

To be honest, even now I don't feel like writing a blog entry. I guess the whole week has been pretty taxing. But I have free time now and it has been just over a week since my last entry. So here goes nothing.

We did go into Kochi city last Saturday. We took a picnic lunch and went to One-park to eat and to let Eddi run around for a bit. After that, we made the obligatory Aeon mall stop. We found the ideal pair of wedding rings, which we will be getting resized before the wedding. We also did some shopping; I got some new clothes (T-shirts and shorts).

A visit to the 100-yen store saw me acquiring a whole lot of useful organisational stuff for my teaching resources in the office. We ate before coming home.

On Sunday it was a regular morning at church. We were, however, invited to eat lunch with our pastor and his wife, which was very nice. We did some grocery shopping before heading back to Taisho. Started to feel the stress of wedding planning. We prayed together that night, which was a little relieving.

I had my meeting at the Kaizen centre in K-town on Monday morning. It went well. They just wanted to make sure I would be extra careful about checking the times for scheduled classes. They also wished me omedetou gozaimasu -- congratulations -- for the recent engagement. ;)

After work, Mika and I headed back to K-town together to try and sort out this Docomo bill issue that I had. We managed to sort out getting access to a detailed bill online but that deadended when we actually tried it on Wednesday night. However, that night, Mika was kind enough to spend over an hour on the phone for me, getting them to agree to a refund on certain costs; and she also had my plan changed so that I should be paying less each month for my keitai!

Anyway, back to Tuesday (since nothing else out worth mentioning happened on Monday). I taught at Tokawa chuugakkou, as usual. I told Igei-sensei about my engagement. She gave a similar reaction to everyone, showing complete surprise. It was fun telling the students that I am getting married very soon, haha.

We ate okonomiyaki that night. Started working on the wedding invitations. I had got some materials from Ryubi in K-town after work. We decided we would hand-make the invitations for everyone that we are giving them to. It ended up taking us until very late Thursday night to get them finished, so I posted off the ones to my various family members in both China and New Zealand yesterday after work.

So we entered July. The month of our wedding! 25th, here we come!

I was at Yoneoku shougakkou from first period on Wednesday morning, which meant a very early start for me. The school is about 40 minutes from here.

We had an awesome little storm on Wednesday evening. It poured really hard for a while and there was thunder rumbling across the sky. As I mentioned, Mika sorted out my Docomo stuff. I cooked dinner while she did that and we watched The Wedding Singer. I didn't see most of the first part because of preparing dinner, but I've seen the movie more than once, so meh.

We also worked on the invitations that night, but were both pretty tired and couldn't get much done. It was good to space it out and take until Thursday night to get them finished -- but it also meant that we both stayed up very late that night. :/

There was no school on Thursday, so I spent the day on Facebook and Wikipedia and resource prep. (printing, laminating, etc.). I managed to keep pretty busy. ^^

We had dinner at an Italian restaurant about five minutes past K-town, called Kitchen Yano. We intend to have the wedding reception there. The food was nice, and the atmosphere is nice too. We think it is an appropriate place. We have a meeting to discuss details next Saturday afternoon (the 11th).

Getting the invitations finished that night was relieving, even though I didn't get to bed until about 1.30am. :/

Had two shougakkou on Friday, which, added to all the other stress so far this week, really tired me out. In the morning, I taught ichi-nensei at Kubokawa shougakkou and in the afternoon it was my regular Shouwa visit. I say regular because I go there often; but the time changes from week to week and I am not scheduled to visit every single week.

We tutored Mei-chan, our Taisho ni-nensei student. She is very clever and is very interested in English, so it is great to see her getting through the exercises that I prepare and really put an effort into learning and improving her English. Now, if only every student in this entire region was as diligent and motivated!

Orally tested students at Tokawa chuu on Tuesday. I was quite disappointed with the san-nensei especially. Their level of English should allow for answering the most basic of questions, but not one could answer "How was your weekend?", a first grade level question, without assistance. :(

Now it is Saturday. We had our first pre-marital counselling session this morning at our church in K-town with Taniguchi-sensei, our pastor. We ate some delicious soba ramen for lunch before coming home. I had a headache and felt very tired so came home to rest. It was good to take a break from everything. Spent time online and just relaxing.

However, back to the fast-paced madhouse that is wedding planning tomorrow. Not much rest for those on a tight schedule!

As a final note, my recent submission to was front-paged yesterday. ^.^



Friday, 26 June 2009

Full Speed Ahead

Things aren't really that hectic yet. We have decided to tackle one thing at once, when it comes to wedding planning. This week has been more about family and telling people about our engagement than anything else. Next week we will probably organise things that need to be done asap, such as booking a photographer and finding out about wedding clothes.

As far as school is concerned, I have been building up my resources. Some of the A4 sheets I have laminated need to be redone, because I didn't back them properly. I can use what I have for each of those topics but by the end of Summer I should have replaced them all as well as built up some new sets.

I have also been making bingo cards, and spent some time laminating and cutting out some bingo tokens that I made to go with them. I got some stickers on the weekend that I can give out to kids. Apparently I should expect tears at some point once I start introducing stickers to my classes. Awesome!

In the last two weeks I have been late for school. And not just a few minutes late, either. I'm talking missing entire periods. And both times I have no excuse save that the schedule was different than usual and I failed to read the differences. It was simply misreading what I should have double checked.

And so on Monday I have to meet with Supreme Commander White-hair in Kubokawa (that would be the section chief "head honcho" of the Shimanto Board of Education). I guess I will get something along the lines of a lecture on punctuality and ensuring that I understand my shougakkou schedules and how important it is to abide by my contract, etc etc.

Not that I would ever excuse negligence. But this could have happened to anyone who had curve balls thrown at them when they weren't expecting them.

Let's look at what went wrong:
Ok, so my shougakkou schedules consist of a cover sheet that has periods 1-6 with the periods I will be teaching in containing summarised information regarding those lessons. Then there are individual sheets for each period with more detailed information regarding what I will be teaching.

The first time I missed a period at a school I was supposed to be at, they had omitted period 6 from the summary sheet and scheduled me to teach in periods 4 (before lunch) and 5 (after lunch). Since I failed to notice that they had anomalised the summary sheet, my brain registered the schedule as being periods 5 and 6 -- the last two periods.

Firstly, I wasn't expecting them to split classes with lunch-time. Secondly, this was the only time that the summary sheet had ever been reduced to 5 periods rather than 6; regardless of when classes are. So from that I learned to be more vigilant in double checking exactly which periods I should be teaching in at school.

The second time I was late, I didn't even realise it until the end of the lesson -- which came just 20-odd minutes after I arrived. It took me by surprise, because until that point I thought that I had somehow managed to be a couple of minutes late and the teacher had gone ahead and started without me. Not the case.

My afternoon classes always start at either 2pm or 2.05pm. This is when period 5 starts at every shougakkou. Except on Wednesday. They decided that they would begin at 1.35pm. It was written on my summary sheet, so I have no excuse for coming to school halfway through a period I was supposed to be teaching in. I once again simply failed to see the changes from the norm.

As I said: this could easily have happened to anyone. I have now learned to read and re-read my schedules before the day, on the day and before school. Any anomalies or divergence from the normal flow of events and I need to know about it -- and prepare accordingly.

But I still have to face the music on Monday morning. So be it.

Last night was intense. Mika and I met Michael's twin brothers and his auntie who are here in Japan for a holiday and currently staying with him. We also had planned to go and see Mika's parents together, for the first time. Our food took too long to come (we were at Yamagoya) and so we had to leave. But then, Mika's dad was late anyway, so we sort of rushed for nothing.

I talked to her parents about where we stand in terms of getting married. We survived; that's all I can say. And today, Mika is in a much better mood. It is as if a burden was lifted from her shoulders. Like I said: we are doing one thing at a time. And going to see her parents was the biggest hurdle so far, and I know it was weighing her down a lot. Having got that out of the way -- for now -- we are free to move onto the next step of our journey.

Still, I will definitely continue to pray for her parents, both in terms of acceptance -- that they will be assured that our getting married is very good for us and for Eddi -- and for their eventual salvation. In time they will both get to know who I am -- language barrier aside -- and will see the strength that Mika and I possess in our relationship.

Tomorrow: K-city and wedding rings?



Monday, 22 June 2009

The Rules of Engagement

And boy, was it a life-changing week!

As mentioned in my last entry -- all that time ago -- Michael and I went out shooting. We travelled around a lot, as far afield as Nakamura and beyond, and finally settled on a random soccer field in a small town in the middle of nowhere, to take pot shots at cans.

That night -- Saturday -- we watched a movie at my place.

The Sunday was totally uneventful. I missed Mika because she and Eddi were in Osaka, if you remember. Little did I know that our lives were about to change.

Last Monday, I had both Iejigawa and Tokawa shougakkou. We didn't go for a run that evening, as Mika had to come home late. They were tired from their Osaka trip anyway, so we didn't really do much that evening.

I got paid on Tuesday, which was a relief. I had a bit of a cough last week and needed to get some throat lozenges. I also got my car insured, which was great because it meant I could finally drive it!

Had my usual prayer and Bible study group that night, but it was just me and the leader, as everyone else was away. Still, nice time of prayer. I went to see Mika afterwards to spend time with her. ;)

Did more resource preparation in the office on Wednesday and had school that afternoon. We managed to go for a run as we had a really nice spell of fine weather last week; quite odd for rainy season, but good for us. Didn't do any Japanese study that evening, though.

Showed the kids at Shouwa chuugakkou my car on Thursday. Went to see the dentist after work. Talked to dad on Skype at my place after dinner. We were meant to talk to mum but she wasn't there, so we decided to meet again on Friday night.

Friday itself was a normal day -- office and school. I spent time in the office preparing for Mei's lesson that night.

We did a short run, had dinner, tutored Mei and put Eddi to bed. After that, we connected to my family on Skype. Mika and I had decided that we want to get married, but she had no idea mum was going to suggest that I propose right then and there. Which I did! So now Mika and I are engaged! And we did it in front of my parents, which was a very special time. ^^

After some serious talking and prayer, I went home. What a night!

Mika went to see her parents on Saturday morning. I went on Facebook, cleaned and prayed for her while she was there. We just chilled at my place for the rest of the afternoon while Eddi stayed with her grandparents. We were both very tired. All in all it was actually a very stressful week for Mika, and she needed to just rest.

I watched a movie on Satuday night, So I Married an Axe Murderer. >.>

We talked to our pastor after church on Sunday and settled on a wedding date: Saturday, 25th of July. Very soon, I know, but it will work best. It is better to move quickly than wait and press fate, right? We also decided on three pre-marital counselling sessions with him.

After lunch and some shopping in K-town, we came home and talked to Nick on Skype. After which, we took a walk down to the river, where Eddi went swimming. We saw a lone duck swimming around down there.

Eddi and the duck

He was a friendly chap

And the water was more tepid than we thought. It is very hot at the moment, and has been quite muggy these past two days. So no wonder the river is very inviting! I also skimmed a stone across the water that did 15 skips. My record :)

Last night I made scones and soup for dinner for us. After Eddi went to bed, Mika and I talked to her spiritual parents -- Eddi's American grandparents -- through video on MSN Messenger. It was my first meeting with them and we had a nice chat. They are very happy for the both of us and for Eddi.

Now it is Monday again and I have been in the office all day. I really must get some Japanese study done. I really haven't made much progress at all in my 10 months here. I'm just really bad at languages and have trouble remembering things. I hope that with enough repitition I will be able to recall the vocabulary -- but it is so much more than that, and that is where I have problems. Being able to put things together just isn't making any sense to me. It seems that I will never be able to communicate in Japanese, but I know that that isn't true. With enough time and study I will eventually be able to do more than say hello to people. ;)



Saturday, 13 June 2009

SiR-T and Last Week

Time goes so fast. We're already almost halfway through the year. It's hard to keep up with everything. But I am finally writing this overdue blog entry.

Last weekend, we went into Kochi city, together with Michael. We went to see Terminator Salvation at the movies after eating lunch at Aeon mall. Afterwards, Mika got her hair cut and Michael and I walked around for a bit. We met up with Katsu and family, who had had Eddi for the day, and we all ate together at a restaurant.

Sunday was pretty normal. We had a picnic lunch at the park after church and came back to make some pizza for dinner.

The week went by pretty quickly with school, sending in my car documentation, preparing resources in the office and making and sharing a huge carrot cake, complete with cream cheese lemon frosting, which we baked early in the week. :o

I went to Kochi city on Wednesday afternoon by train. I picked up my car and drove it home through the heavy rain. I'm really happy to finally have my car. I am unable to get it insured until Tuesday next week, so until then I am not going to drive it. I did, however, take Mika and Eddi out for a drive when I got home that day.

There she is

Gonna chrome cap the mufflers eventually

Side-angle + wheels

From the front

Now it is Saturday. Mika and Eddi went to Osaka with their family to see the newest member: Mika's younger brother's baby boy, who must be over a month old by now. Michael and I are planning on taking our guns out today to do a bit of target practice in Nakamura. We will probably watch a movie tonight.

Next week is next week.



Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Driving Me Wild

I have a car! Well, not exactly. But I bought a car. There is still some paperwork to get back from the police station and then send off to the car dealer from whom I purchased it. Change of ownership and all that. Then there will be the matter of insurance, which I will take care of when I pick it up from Kochi station in about a week.

Honda Torneo Sir-T 2.0L. Colour: white. Year: 1999. Distance: ~76,000 Km. Total cost: ¥410000 (NZ$6,514). Yes, I got a good deal. I pray that it runs well!

We went to Takamatsu on Saturday. Mika's brother Katsu and his family came over as well. He and I both test drove the car (funfun) and I decided then and there that I would buy it. As an answer to prayer, I paid exactly what I had brought with me. In the morning, I had withdrawn 400,000 and was carrying 10,000 already in my wallet. I told Mika that God would sort out the rest. And he did! It's fun to do things like that, where you listen to the voice of God and he works everything out. Because as it says in Romans 8:28: "We know that all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them." This includes, but is not limited to, listening to God's wee nudges and obeying them. Goodgood.

After forking over my entire bank account's contents, we tracked down an udon place for lunch. Kagawa prefecture is supposedly known for its variety and regular consumption of udon. We ate late because of all the car paperwork.

The rest of the afternoon was spent shopping at an Aeon mall outside of the city, in a nearby town. We travelled back to Kochi and did a little grocery shopping before stopping in at Katsu's place to eat. Then, back to Taisho, where we arrived pretty late. But all in all, it was a good Saturday. I bought a car!

Aaanyway, we had a lunch on Sunday after church. Mika made Mexican food and I made a lolly cake. I ate way too much and was unable to eat dinner that night. We baked brownies in the afternoon with Mikey and he came around again for dinner -- which I couldn't eat.

It has been raining a bit. I guess we are getting into rainy season. At least it was fine on Monday. I had taught at Tokawa shougakkou. That and Shouwa are my regular places to teach. Guess I shou up there a lot. >.>

Yesterday was a normal day for me at Tokawa chuu. I was exhausted though, and went to bed after getting home. I couldn't even get up to eat later, and missed my usual Bible study. I'm not sure if it's because I stayed late at Mika's the night before or if my body just needed extra sleep.

Today, I had to get up early and head to Maruyama shougakkou. It is about 10 mins past K-town. Yet another small school. It was my first time there and I guess it went well enough. Nothing really exciting, but it wasn't bad or anything.

So now I wait to see when I will be getting my car. There is a lot I want to do to it, but there are more important things to spend my money on. For now, I'm broke. So I just have to bear with it until pay day, and do my best to conserve money for those important things.

Movies I want to watch:
Star Trek
X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Transformers 2
Terminator Salvation



Friday, 29 May 2009

The Legend of Pocky

My couch arrived today. Yay! My beautiful, black leather 3-seater. Mika and I are going to test it out later tonight (watching a movie, of course).

At Tokawa chuu on Tuesday, classes were as normal in the morning, but in the afternoon, the students from both chuugakkou and shougakkou cleaned the pool. I think I was supposed to join them but no one really communicated with me properly and I read a book in the office for a while...

On Wednesday, I was taken to Shiwa shougakkou, which is very small. The town itself is about 25 mins past K-town, and some of the road is very windy, downhill and narrow (ie. a normal Kochi mountain road). Shiwa is a coastal village and the area is quite beautiful. The classes themselves were fun. I stayed through lunch (with my obento) and took a combined class in the afternoon: of all eight students.

That night, I started working on a two-page Pocky comic strip. I finished it last night.

--Click to enlarge--

Page 001

Page 002

Who knows; it could turn into a regular thing. Imagine: a webcomic about a Pocky ninja (the Pocky Ninja). ^.^

Yesterday was just an average day at Shouwa chuu. I hadn't been there in three weeks, so it was good to see everyone. Nakaoka sensei and I refused to speak any Japanese in our ninensei class. It made things really interesting; especially since the girls were trying to trick me into speaking Japanese. >.<

This morning, I taught gonensei at K-town shou. Afterwards, I was able to do some quick shopping while in town before heading back. I'm going to make a lolly cake for Sunday. We have a lunch at church and Mika is making tacos. XD

Well, now that my couch is here, all that is left for me to get is my car. I am still unsure as to whether I will be going into Takamatsu tomorrow (the dealer won't transfer the car to Kochi, but it is still in the lot). We haven't heard back from Katsu to see if he is free to go there with us. I really need his expertise and input if I'm to make a decision regarding buying this Torneo. So yeah, it is still on the table. More time to pray about it, too. :)

Peace. (Eat Pocky).


Monday, 25 May 2009

Go Kart, Go!

For the second week in a row, I had no school on Thursday. Some sports day or something. We went out for yakiniku in Tokawa that evening.

I taught at two shougakkou on Friday: one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Friday evening saw us go for a great run in the wonderful sun. I cooked some sort of Italian dish for dinner and we tutored Mika's student, Mei. Baked a chocolate cake after Eddi went to bed, and just chilled out like a normal Friday night.

On Saturday, we went to a go-kart track somewhere between Nishitosa and Nakamura City. Mika's brother Katsu has a go-kart. We had fun driving around the track on it. I must have got up to 70km/h.

Ready to go

Tight corner


Saturday afternoon saw us enjoy a late pizza lunch in the city, followed by donuts, and then we did some shopping and furniture browsing. That night was similar to Friday night, except we iced the cake before relaxing in each other's company.

Church on Sunday. Okonomiyaki for lunch, and a little time in the park. We visited Mika's grandparents at the hospital. I went home for a little while before joining Mika for dinner.

And that was last night. So now I have been sitting in the office all day again, intending to do Japanese study but spending time on Facebook and not really making any sort of worthwhile contribution to the world or my life.

More information on my car buying progress when it is available. For now, I am waiting to see if the Takamatsu dealer can transfer the car to a dealer in Kochi. If all goes well, I won't have to travel so far to test drive it and make a buying decision.