Date: 31st August - 19th September
Before I continue from where I left off last time (preparing for my introduction speech to the assembly) I will first make comment on one of japans greatest achievements (tho I'm now thinking maybe its china...not sure) that seems to go unnoticed. Anyway, wherever they are from, the variety of Cup of Noodles on offer here is breath taking!! It's truly a beautiful thing the way the art of making yummy cups of noodles has been totally perfected here... perhaps even more so than making an authentic cup of tea! ... and that's saying something!
In continuation from the goodness of the noodles here I must confess what a huge fan of chopsticks I have become! I'll admit I was a sceptic before I came here, never having a problem using them just not seeing the point... but they really are a great invention and make eating so many things that much easier and better! Salad for instance is so much easier and better with chopsticks. As is the great 'cup of noodles'. I must also say I have become somewhat of a master as of late with my 'edwood scissor hand fingers' as I like to think of them. Wont be long before I'm catching flies with them.
Now getting back to where I left off last time. No I didn't make a fool of myself! My translation for the speech in assembly was fine and the students seemed to really like it and even found bits funny... hmm bit concerned though as there were no jokes in it! ... in fact I'm thinking the laughing was most definitely aimed at me as opposed to with me... guess my pronunciation of Japanese words can be rather comical for some.
I had my first experience of crazy Japanese logic one Saturday when I, along with the rest of the school, spent the beautiful sunny day not as per usual, amusing ourselves at home or wherever we chose to be on a Saturday but instead stuck at school for a 'normal' school day!! Having the Wednesday before off as compensation hardly felt even. Upon asking numerous English speaking teachers why we had Wednesday off and Saturday as the sports day practice no one could give me a proper answer. From what I saw there was no reason at all why the same practice and things couldn't have been done on Wednesday. The reason most often given (following about five minutes of confusion as to what I was actually asking) was "no, you are hear today because you had Wednesday off..." "yeah I know I said, but why have Wednesday off? Why couldn't we have done what we are doing today on Wednesday instead?" "No, but you had Wednesday off... that is why we are here today" ... hmmm I know have five stiches on my forehead from banging it against a wall too many times!!
Following up on the Saturday of school I along with the other gaijin (foreigners) in town gathered at a flat to celebrate a fellow ALTs birthday! The night consisted of drink, cake and of course....KARAOKE! (I've come to the conclusion that it's virtually impossible to go longer than a couple of weeks without doing karaoke in this country... don't take that as a complaint though. I love sharing my special talent with everyone... just not sure they welcome it)
The next day, Sunday, proved to be a highly eventful day for the wrong reasons. The day began so well with myself, Tan, Rumi, Emi, Jayne and Adam (kiwi ALT) all cruising past the massive Fukuoka to a huge American shop called Costco. I had been assured it was massive and had everything in bulk. The reports I can confirm were 100% on the money. It was awesome!! Was also so cool being able to walk round and read labels in English for a change! You can buy washing powder with confidence that what you are going to wash your clothes in isn't going to cause you to break out three days later with a red rash around the nether region... Was very weird seeing so other foreigners around though.
So yeah we hit up the massive shop. Spent way too much money and then all headed to Tosu to see our local Saga district football team SaganTosu play against Fukuoka in a J-league Second division clash. I must say I was giddy like a girl with excitement at the prospect of my first Japanese football match LIVE! Upon arriving at the stadium I was very impressed with the fans and the size of the venue. Turns out I had seriously underestimated the popularity of this team and the fellowship they have!! Made me think I was going to a game in England or something (I say "think" as I have not actually been to a game in England. Alas, I am a poor supporter of the English football team and I bring shame on my families' good name). So we staked out some mean seats behind the home goal with all the rowdy fans. Went and bought some t-shirts to really show our support for our team (colours are blue and pink by the way! Awesome combo!) and settled down to watch the match.
Good fortune, however, was not with us...or should I say was not with poor Rumi! Five minutes before kick off a ball being used to warm up the goal keeper by the coach went flying wide and high and sped straight into Rumi's face smashing her camera she was looking through into her nose and mouth! The scene was disturbingly slow for the rest of us who were a couple or rows back and saw everything before it happened as is often the case in accident type situations. Needless to say Rumi went down for the count and ended up being taken to the doctors area by staff where she stayed for a while before being taken to the Saga hospital for a check-up. She had received a broken nose and some repairable damage to the right eye. We obviously left the game early as the mood and atmosphere we had been soaking up upon our arrival had somewhat been tainted. The upshot of it all though now is that rumi is fine, she has been visited by the manager, coach etc from the team and they have bought here a new digital camera and given her 10 premium tickets to a game!! We will be going to another game soon I think, Just got to track down an ice hockey helmet for Rumi first...
The next Tuesday I experienced my first Takeo typhoon. Was rather excited at the prospect of it all. Had my food prepared, got about three movies out to watch and locked myself in for a day. However, I was most disappointed to find that, in Takeo at least, the worse of it was nothing more than Wellington during winter! Think I'm too far inland to get any proper force from a typhoon here.
Friday at school was cultural day. Pretty much the equivalent of a talent quest in New Zealand. The main difference though is that here there is no actual talent... Haha just kidding. Na, the difference is that here there is no competition or winner. It's all for fun and most of the skits were done by last year students. There were a scary number or skits involving boys dressed up in skirts dancing round the stage as cheerleaders... I am sure this is the actual main reason for the holding of such an event. To give the male students a chance to relieve their burning desire to wear women's clothes! Brilliant if you ask me. If only we'd had a similar thing in NZ I wouldn't have had to resort to walking the streets every full moon in a skirt and crop top and knee-highs... ackhem... yeah so anyway... the event was fantastic. The kids here are really talented and produced some amazing skits. The costumes and everything they made themselves were great. The afternoon at school was free time for the students (and that means me too!! My job rocks!) there were some student bands performing in the gym and also there was a green tea ceremony room in action so I headed there for my first ceremony.
The next day was Takeoseiryo (my base school) sports day. Japanese sports day is nothing like the usual NZ track and field sports day. The ones here have the 100m event but that's it for similar events. Everything else is random games! Games I say, not "sports" as such. But the result is everyone having a great time and really enjoying the day. The games consisted of things such as one where the students in their houses stood in a circle and had to throw small tennis ball size bean bags into a basket high up a pole in the middle (harder than you think). Or the 'centipede' relay! Four people with their feet tied to the person in front run round to pass the baton on to the next group. So many groups falling over and all falling on top of the person in front!! Another game, that I did involved running to a skipping rope, skipping to baseball bats, running round them with our forehead on the end 10 times, running to a bowl of water, dipping face in it, then in flower while "dunking" for a sweet, then running to get a card that tells you how you are to go to the finish with your partner that should now be up to the same stage as you. I got to skip to the end and myself and my partner finished first!!
The most drastic difference between the Japanese sports day and those in western countries is the cultural side they have. The students all performed so many different dances and things in their respective houses dressed in full amazing costume. The students designed all the dances and costumes themselves. The end result was fantastic. Enough good simply cannot be said.
Following the sports day was my first work enkai! (dinner/drinks with your work mates is called an enkai). It was held in a typical Japanese tatami room with everyone (bout 40 of us) seated at tables on the floor (aka tatami mats). Upon entering everyone picked a piece of paper with a number on it. Mine sat me next to the school caretaker, the nurse and a couple of other random teachers, all of whom speak no English!! Meanwhile Lisa was sitting next to three English teachers!! So not fair. The night was a load of fun though as it actually provided the enjoyable challenge of trying to hold a conversation through pretty much actions only! Kinda getting used to it now and think when I next see you all you'll laugh at how I do actions for everything I say.
The remainder of the night was spent at Merryland (our Saturday hangout) with the ALTs and Rumi for her birthday. We "played" on the photo machines taking hilarious posed pictures and things!! The machines here are amazing. Its crazy how advanced they are and the different things you can do with them. I'm definitely hooked.
This week just gone was my first actual classroom school. On Monday I was at Arita technical high school. This specific technical school has four main courses the students specialise in. Mechanics, Electronics, Design and Ceramics. The English ability of the students is a bit lower than my base school but that just means I get to play more games with the students so I'm not complaining!! My classes all week at all my schools have only been self introduction lessons where I talk to them about NZ and myself for 50 minutes.. I know I know draining for them but needs to be done still! The other schools I teach at are Seiryo (my base school) and Shiroishi High School. At Shiroishi on Friday I spent all my down time cruising the playgrounds playing sport with the students. Bit of tennis, softball and table tennis. Pretty much took the table tennis club girls to school and showed them how us westerners play!! Softball turns out not to be my thing after I stuck our from three clean miss swings off a young girls underarm pitching!! Pathetic.
Over the weekend I was busy getting everything in the flat cleaned and sorted in preparation for Karen's arrival in tomorrow!! (Wednesday!). I'm so unbelievably excited its crazy. Can't believe I'm now finally at the end of the two months since I left and last saw Karen. She has picked the perfect time to arrive too as this week I'm only working one day (today) so we will have about five days to settle her in and maybe take a trip somewhere. I tell ya this Japanese lifestyle is the shizzle! Well I better log off now as I have to ... umm... oh no I got no plans. Hmm... Think I'll chuck on my gym gear though and go play some sport with the kids. I'm thinking basketball today...