Sunday, September 30, 2007

New Things Make Mama Happy

September has completely disappeared on me, I don't know where the time has gone. Every week goes by pretty quickly for me, thanks in part to my awesome schedule. Mondays I start at 1:15 and usually teach at one of five elementary schools in the afternoon. After I teach I go home and grab a bite to eat, then I go to Pal Park to teach my adult eikaiwa class. I'm usually done around 8:30. Tuesdays and Wednesdays I go to Hirabayashi JHS, with an Elm. school visit on Wednesday afternoon. Thursday and Friday I go to Kanno JHS, with an Elm. school visit on Friday afternoon. Because I do something different every single day of the week, I don't really get bored (at least not yet), which definitely rocks.

My weekends go by incredibly quickly (too quickly) as well. Every weekend of September I've gone into Niigata for shopping and/or going out with friends. I should probably cut back, seeing as its a little expensive to commute back and forth on the train each week, and I seem to have a nasty habit of spending way too much money every time I go. Between shopping, restaurants and bars, its easy to drop $150 at every go.

Which brings me to the point of this newest post: the wonderful things I spend my money on. First off, I bought a beautiful beautiful snowboard:

The Rossignol Zena all-mountain freestyle board. Yesssssssss. Sick board with killer graphics. I can't wait for it to snow!! I also purchased some beautiful black Sessions pants and dark red Sessions jacket, both of which will facilitate some serious steezin' on the slopes this year. I put up a pic once I have the whole ensemble (still need goggles, gloves, etc.).

Second, I NOW HAVE A CAR!!!!!! Behold:

The Hannahmobile!!!!

This beauty is a 2000 Subaru Pleo. It's whats known as a "k-car" here in Japan, which means that its under a certain weight class, so it gets to wear a flashy yellow license plate, which saves me a ton of money come time for yearly car tax payment and car inspection (two things that can cost literally THOUSANDS of dollars here). I love the car. Its extremely tiny and thus super easy to maneuver. Its definitely taken some time to get used to driving on the left side of the road and being seated on the right side of the car (I still often walk to the wrong side of the car to get in). On top of all this, the car has a stick shift, so I'm now shifting with my left hand which totally blows my mind. Another plus -- the car is super cheap. I pay about $150 dollars a month, which includes both the car payment and my insurance. This leaves me more money to spend on snowboarding gear and various crap I probably don't need. I love this place :-)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Pictures to Fill the Holes in Your Heart

Okay, so again, I suck. I've been super busy and/or exhausted over here, so I haven't taken the time lately to let y'all know how things are going, which is a travesty. So, to make it up to you I have posted 19 pictures so you all can see for yourselves how wonderful my job/life is in Japan.

To get things started right, let's begin with a bit of Engrish:

Mmmmm. Tasty Goo.

Moving on to more meaningful things, I'd like to announce that school is wonderful so far. I have somehow duped my kids into thinking I'm actually cool, which I'm guessing is going to last all of a month. I'm eating up every bit of the attention though until my time is up. The elementary school kids will always think I'm cool though, which absolutely rocks. They ate up every bit of my powerpoint introduction and laughed at all the right places. God I love little kids and their immature sense of humor (the only kind of humor I can generate). Here are some of my 6th grade cuties:

JHS also started out well. I really like my kids and I think they'll be fun to work with. The third years are getting into that "too cool for school" stage that everyone hits in 8th grade, but they still seem to like me since I'm (duh) totally awesome.

Here I am in action, molding their young, malleable minds to my will. Muhahaha. Unfortunately the second picture was taken during the one slide in my presentation that didn't work (due to the computer at school running an ancient version of powerpoint). Oh well. Check out my sweet outline of NC, best state ever. That outline took me about 10 minutes to complete.

This boy is adorable. I don't know his name, but he follows me around and tries to talk to me in the most unintelligible, fast, slurred Japanese ever. I never understand him, but he still always tries. I've gotten to where I generally try to avoid him. Is that terrible? I'm not sure...

This is the bingo game the kids played after my self introduction. Some of the words in katakana include Franklin Street, Michael Jordan, the Beatles, concert, Daft Punk, basketball, Raleigh, and reggae. Nice.

I had to work this past Sunday, because both of my JHSs had Taikusai or Sports Day. Basically its like elementary school field day, except that students are divided into teams and compete against each other in different relays. Sports day is a really big deal here -- even high schools hold them and families come out to watch and at times participate.

On Saturday I was really annoyed that I had to get up early Sunday morning to go sit in the sun all day. But much to my surprise, Taikusai turned out to be really fun. I wish both of my schools hadn't held the event on the same day, cause I only got to see half of each, so I missed some of the cooler games.

Kocho-sensei (Principal) addressing the students. He was my partner for one of the relays, and although he's in his 60's, hes faster than me. :-(

The event started with a cheering competition. Notice the well-balanced, beautiful stage picture. My students are perfect.

The PTA played the largest game of tug-of-war I've ever seen.

A four-legged race is much harder than three.

My favorite game (the name of which escapes me now) involved the boys climbing on to each other's backs, and having to grab the headband of the other team. The boys really loved this.

This relay involved the students running from either side, and grabbing as many tires as possible and taking them back to their "home base" line. Different size tires were worth different points.

After the games were done at Kanno JHS, a closing ceremony was held and awards were given out to the winning team and the star players. Then, the kids released paper balloons (which are friendly to nature) into the sky with their wishes written on them. Apparently, if towns people find the balloons they will write to the school, and pray for the children's wishes to come true. This was so sweet I nearly cried...

And for the finish, more Engrish from home. I have nothing but love for these beautiful people and their liberal use of the English language. I hope all of their dleams come tlue :-).

Monday, September 3, 2007

My Sincere Apologies to My Dear Fans

Hello all! I'm sorry the posts have been non-existent for the last week and a half. Not to worry though -- I have not fallen into the jellyfish-infested sea. Last week was just really busy. And when I wasn't busy, I was really lazy and sat on my butt (or laid on my butt in my futon, as the case may be). Anywho, this past week was really quite fun, as I had my first enkai, or "office party" as we might call them back home. Basically, this is a party you have with your coworkers which involves eating a lot of delicious and expensive japanese food and drinking even more delicious and expensive beer (or sake, whichever you prefer). You never pour your own drink, someone always does it for you. After they pour, you reciprocate. What results is an eternally full glass of beverage for all involved. Needless to say it is a wonderful time. I wish I had pictures to show you, although I was hesitant to take any, as I've heard from other JETs that the rule at enkais is generally "What happens at the enkai stays at the enkai." After the official enkai we went on to nikai (2nd party) at the local karaoke spot. Very fun, but I'm sad to report that Japanese people don't know as many English songs as Westerners assume. I figured they know tons, but they really don't. At least people in the inaka (country) don't appear to. Which brings me to my next point, I need to learn a few popular Japanese songs, stat. I guess I'll start with SMAP. It's as good a starting point as any, in this pop-infested pit of saccharine sound.

I also had my first eikaiwa (English Conversation) class tonight with about 10 adults at Paru Park (this giant sports complex in Kamihayashi). I think it went well, although I did most of the talking, which I need to remedy. I didn't have a good idea of where to start, given that I went into this with no knowledge of my student's speaking ability. Now that I've met them, I have an idea of where to begin, although I've also realized that challenging each one of them is going to be a bit tricky. A few students in the class are very good at speaking, while others are literally just beginning. I'll have to figure out how to successfully teach both simple grammar points (which I think will be good review for the high-level students) and more advanced grammar in the same class period. I want everyone's English to improve!

Okay, sorry for the short post, but I am exhausted and I'm ready to write out my Japanese self-introduction (which I will present at Hirabayashi JHS tomorrow) and pass out. I promise I'll update y'all on my progress later this week. kthxbi.