Monday, 25 November 2013

status quo

Lucy has been in Japan the last 18 days - so Ive been very busy. I havent bothered posting much, because I know shes taken a whole loads of photographs, which I can steal once shes back home and uploads them. Its easy to remember all thats been going on once I have the visual aids to remind me. Reciting 2 weeks of fun is too much pressure for my slowly withering memory. due to a massive load of panic messages from my parents over the weekend - which has done nothing but stress me out - I apologise for the gap between this post and the last. As I tried to express in a previous post, the more I settle in here and life starts to feel very normal, it actually becomes harder to find things to write about. 

The things which seem so shocking and novel at first arrival really do start to become the mundane - so what I write about in this blog is now more anecdotal than observational. And unfortunately, for my parents, my life isnt exciting enough for there to always be a story to tell. My lack of blog updating is not because I have been kidnapped by Somalian pirates - more likely it means that Ive spent the last week working, studying and watching crap on tv. However, there is one thought I`d like to share. Turning 25 last month gave me a little panic. I feel that every birthday after 21 is bitter sweet. Now that Im not waiting to legally be allowed to do anything - birthdays really do just mean that I am getting older and should be that much more on track with my life. 

 I find it difficult to adopt the mentality that age is just a number and you should just take life as it comes. I started worrying about the future, "how long am I really going to be in Japan for? what am I really going to get out of this? do I need to be here? why am I here? What am I going to do next?" blablabla.... Sometimes it takes the advice of a stranger to give things a bit of perspective. I met a very optimistic 28 year old man over the weekend, a JET from Saitama, who told me his perspective on things and his back story. And now, somehow, I feel really great about it all. I am happy here - thats all that counts. I know Ill figure it all out - I just have to stop pressurising myself to do so. I just got here, so whats the rush to move onto the next thing?

Monday, 18 November 2013

Dead bird

About three weeks ago, after waking up on a Thursday morning, I opened the sliding door between my living room and kitchen. I was met by the scampering sound of an animal in distress. It was immediately apparent that there was something in my kitchen so I slammed the door back closed and then did that girly thing where you shake your hands in front of your petrified looking face repeating "ohMyGodOhMYGodOhMyGod". 

I waiting a few minutes before opening the door again- this time I opened it very softly and only by a fraction - enough for me to give the room a quick eyeball scan. I saw nothing. I heard nothing. I then banged loudly against the side of the door and in response the animal started again. I figured it was either the sound of a rat stuck somewhere (ewwww) or a bird - whatever it was I was horrified and didn't want something to spring out and attack me. Sneaking past the kitchen I got ready for school and left - I decided to pick up breakfast on the way in.

When I got home that evening I tried to see if the animal was still there- I banged a few times- but there was nothing, I knew that whatever it was had either found a way out or had died - either way the threat was temporarily gone. 

Fast forward to last week. By this point I had forgotten all about the animal in the kitchen. On Wednesday a teacher from my school came round to help me set up my heater - we had to go to the local hardware store and fill my oil container. When we got back the teacher showed me how to pump the oil into the heater - all very straightforward stuff. Anyway - after the job was done, he asked me where I would like to store the oil container- So I thought the space next to the side of my fridge would be best. There was a big box of cleaning products there- but I quickly sorted through them realising that most of them were empty and flattened the box. By clearing the space between my washing machine and fridge, I could now access a very small part of my kitchen which I was never able to do so before. Immediately, I moved into it and peered behind the fridge. And there I saw it, a dead sparrow. 

Suddenly everything made sense and I felt more relief than shock - I was fairly casual in announcing the presence of the animal to the teacher and Lucy (friend visiting at the moment). Of course they were much more surprised than I was. I was very glad that this all happened when a Japanese man was present - as courteous as they are - the teacher manned up and disposed of the thing.

Here's a snapchat that was sent out after the bird had made its way to the rubbish:

The bird was behind the fridge in my kitchen:

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

The new normal

It already feels like there is less for me to write about. At first everything was so novel and interesting – there were a million different things I wanted to write about – all the mini culture shocks seemed so exciting at first. But after only a few months I already feel rather settled into life here – and all those little things have blurred into the background and have become the norm. I’ve found that adapting to life here has been an easier and quicker process than I anticipated. It only takes a friend visiting from home to make you realise how much you’ve learnt. At the moment my friend Lucy is here visiting. We’ve been having fun – I’ll write about the stuff we’ve been up to after she’s gone (mainly so I can use her photos after she uploads them). I’m not denying that there are still a whole load of things I haven’t gotten my head around (like the language!) – but I would say that I have adapted to a lot of it. It has taken Lucy coming here and asking me questions about things I now find obvious and demystified to make me realise that I have come a long way.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Busy little bee

There’s absolutely no way I can complain about being bored here anymore.

I think the longer I stay here the busier it seems I will get. In every aspect – the longer I stay at this job the more responsibilities I take on – the more the teachers get to know and trust me, the more work they ask me to do. The amount of lesson planning and marking I have to do is increasing. I currently have a big pile of marking to do on my desk – and multiple upcoming lessons to prepare for. Also the more the students get to know me, the more they ask for my help – I currently stay after school most days of the week to help students for competitions, university interviews and English language tests. I really don’t mind, as working one-on-one with the students is one of my favourite parts of the job – I teach classes of 40 students – so it’s nice to get to know some of them on a more personal level. 

Studying Japanese takes up a lot of time too. On Thursday evenings I have one-to-one lessons at the Mito International Centre, which I must revise and prepare for. My main motivation is that I don’t want to let down my teacher, the lessons are free and he is a very sweet old man – 81 to be precise. As of two weeks ago, I am also now doing the JET programme language course – which means that I have to sit a test once a month, for the next 5 consecutive months, this is something that I must also study for. Although these two methods of learning are complimentary to one-another, the material covered is quite different, so it means I need to put aside a lot of extra study time to keep up with it all. I would ask my teacher to just go over the material from the language course, but there is a reason I won’t do this. The JET language beginner’s course is in Romanji (English alphabet). The text book I use with my teacher is completely in Japanese – (hiragana, katakana and kanji) – it seems like taking a step backwards not to learn Japanese in Japanese alphabets – seeing as I’ve spent a lot of time learning how to read them. 

The longer I stay here, the more people I meet, the more friends I make, the more time and energy I commit to my social life. My weeks are starting to fill up quickly, and it feels like I rarely have a day to myself. The evenings I have free are usually spent on Skype, Facebook and Whatsapp – keeping up with friends and family from home. I want to keep up this blog – but it’s hard to find the time. I also want to dedicate time to reading, knitting and watching Ally Mcbeal, but it’s becoming increasingly harder to juggle all these things.

However, this list of things I do to fill my time with is in no way a complaint. These are all things that are wonderful. Being bored is one of the worst things in life, and it is something which I was overly familiar with before I got here. Being unemployed, unproductive and lazy is a terrible way to spend your youth. Being busy gives you very little time to feel sorry for yourself. And for the first time in my life, I’ve slipped into a lifestyle where I feel that I can just finally get on with it.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Small accomplishments

Here are a two recent accomplishments in my job that I am proud about.

1.   1)     I trained two students for a speech competition who came first and second place. This won me a lot of points at my Tuesday school. I later found out that my friend Daniel had been the judge. He told me that he had been surprised that one of the students was speaking in a strong British accent. It’s amazing to think how much the way I speak must be rubbing off onto my students. I wonder if people in other parts of Japan will think I have an Ibaraki accent? (Although my Japanese is waaaaay too basic at this point).

Further, I met a JET this weekend at a culture festival who had won the same competition for the last three years in a row – and had not been able to figure out what went wrong this year. Zara came to town – that’s what.

2.   2)     One of the best prepared lesson I have done so far. This was a lesson on ‘direction language’. It was for my higher level school, so the students English goes far beyond “turn left, turn right and go straight”. Luckily I had Marc staying with me at the time, so I used him as a teaching resource.

I found a really great tourist map of London online, so I printed it off and customised it. I then wrote out a script with 5 conversations of people giving directions starting from the same point.  I was lucky to have found a microphone in my desk drawer at the start of term – to think I almost threw it out. With Marc, I recorded the script, we took turns to be the different characters – trying to change our voice a little each time. I burned it onto a CD, made an accompanying worksheet – and tapescript sheet. After testing it out on the teachers and making my last few adjustments I was ready for class. 

I was worried that the students would find it too difficult. However, it couldn’t have been more perfect! I played the CD twice, and then allowed the students to use the tapescript to check their answers. It went soooo well. I then had students write their own script in pairs to a landmark in London using the same map, and act their conversations out in front of the class.

The only thing which I didn’t enjoy about this lesson was having to hear my own voice recorded, which I ended up having to play in class 10 times in total. 

second Halloween

I had a great weekend in Tokyo. On Saturday night there was a Halloween party at a club called ‘Origami’ in Shinjuku. This resulted in us dressing up in our costumes again. I was actually invited to another Halloween party this weekend, but I’m glad I can’t go – I don’t think I could enthusiastically dress up as a convict for a third weekend in a row.  After doing a full day of Halloween-themed lessons on Thursday; I reckon I’ll be all Halloween-ed out for this year anyhow.

On the Saturday we journeyed down to Tokyo as a big group of Ibaraki JETS. We stayed at a capsule style hostel called “Shinjuku Ace” where we got ready for the party, munched down a quick tempura and played a few hands of poker. Daniel managed to bump into someone he knew from back in Toronto who gave us an entire bottle of Jack Daniels – I didn’t quite get why, but it certainly turned our game of poker into a rowdy one.

As a hyperactive and costumed posse; 10 of us took the train to Shinjuku. Within an hour or so at ‘Origami’ our group had more or less dispersed – I’m not sure what happened to the others, but I spent the night meeting and sharing stories with other gaijin resident to Japan. I befriended a Turkish girl called ‘Ezra’ – I took down her number, but I wonder if I’ll ever actually contact her? Probably not.

In the morning we re-grouped at the 11am check-out. We had all managed to make it back at various points in the night, apart from Tommy, who we later found out had fallen asleep on the train and had woken up 46 stops outside of Tokyo.  For brunch we went to an excellent little burrito place in Roppongi. When Tommy finally arrived he gulped down two massive burritos back-to-back.  We then wondered around the city for a few hours until it was time to get back on the train and back to another week of teaching high school students in Ibaraki.