Thursday, 14 February 2008

Well, it's mid-February and winter is closer to its end than its beginning. Which is awesome, because winter in general sucks, although this year hasn't seemed nearly as bad as last year. Maybe because I'm used to it, maybe because I always wear 5 layers, or maybe because I never leave my kotatsu, but I kind of like it. Of course, my house doesn't, as I use the winter as an excuse to live like a freshman frat boy, with garbage and clothes in places that they shouldn't be. Spring cleaning, bring it!

Since December, I went to Indonesia and came back. There's not much else to say, and I don't know if that says more about me or about Indonesia. It took a couple of weeks to readjust to work and life. Those weeks cemented my decision not to stay here another year, although ever since I handed in my papers I've been experiencing pangs of nostalgia without having left yet. In my usual way of dealing with it, I've been eating a lot of Japanese food (mmmm niku-udon, mmm okonomiyaki, mmm school lunch) and watching a lot of Japanese television. Well, although my Jgo has improved a ton, I'm hardly fluent so I tend to watch Japanese doramas that I download from the internet with English subtitles. Mostly shojou manga-based ones, since I'm really a 12 year old girl at heart. And they're all awesome. I love Japanese television. Doramas are great because unlike their American one hour drama equivalent, they have a definite short runtime. Usually no more then 12 episodes, there are four seasons a year. Yay lots of TV, yay lack of long term attention span!

Tuesday, 18 December 2007


First off, apologies for not updating in over two months. Not much but a lot has happened. I will keep this short since I can't write a lot and I should be sleeping now anyways.

1. My town is no longer. On December 1st, Chiran officially amalgamated with two neighbouring towns, Kawanabe and Ei into Minami Kyushu Shi. The Board of Education has moved from originally in the annex of city hall to the third floor of the town library to a dusty corner in the busy main room. Everyone who was in the office when I first moved here is now either in the main branch in Kawanabe or in a different section. I don't really like it since I'm stubborn against change but since I only am there a few hours a week I can't complain.

2. I can't remember. Over the last few months there have been several festivals and activities that I have taken part it. My school had their Culture Day Festival. Kagoshima City had the Ohara Festival. I went to dragon boats on the southern end of the other peninsula, though I didn't actually race. I went to an open-mike benefit for an orphanage Christmas party. I went to the orphanage Christmas party. I went to Fukuoka to take the JLPT - Japanese Language Proficiency test. I'm pretty sure I failed said test, but I got to go to Fukuoka and see friends I hadn't seen in a while. My friend Tim came to visit from Hyogo Prefecture. And throughout I continued with work.

3. Weather. How could I not talk about the weather? It's gotten cold, but I'm better prepared for it this year. I turned on my electric carpet at the end of November and sleeping is a dream. The office bought me a kotatsu cord and I bought some blankets so I often fall asleep under it. A kotatsu is basically a table with an electric heater under it. The top comes off and you put a comforter underneath it, turn the thing on and sit and keep warm. It's nice, although like all my heating equipments here, seems to be a pretty big fire hazard. Ha! Just kidding Papa!

Okay, now I must go to sleep. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, here's my novel:
Out and About

Sunday, 14 October 2007

New blog

Update your bookmarks! I changed the url of my blog to


Saturday, 13 October 2007


The thing that's really awesome about Japanese schools is that although they're in session for much too long of the year, the kids get to do all these different awesome activities. Like rice planting in June, sports day in September, Culture Day in November, and rice harvesting in October. On Thursday I showed up at my biggest elementary school to discuss the next day's lessons. However, when I got there I was told that classes were canceled, and the kids were doing inekari - rice harvesting/cutting. I put on a sad face and was all 'Can I come too?' like that old woman on that episode of the Simpsons and luckily the school said yes. The next day I showed up in my tracks pants and long sleeved shirt and hat, not really knowing what to expect (of course, this is Japan). For some reason I assumed we'd be boarding buses and driving to a far off field to cut some rice. Not taking into consideration that the kids all walk upwards of one hour to and from school everyday, and that we live in a rural farming district.

After a twenty-odd minute walk spent listening and not understanding the one-sided conversations a bunch of eight-year olds tried to have with me, we arrived in a large clearing with hundred of dragonflies flying around. I'm not really going to bother describing it, since I uploaded a picture album that showcases better than my descriptions could. But you can't see any of the dragonflies, or the kids chasing frogs and the girls screaming 'Kimochi-warui!' which I think literally means 'Bad feeling!'. I also didn't get a picture of any of the three kids that cut themselves on their scythes in the first 10 minutes of being in the fields.

I have no idea if I was supposed to actually do anything. One of the teachers gave me a pair of gloves, and I had a water bottle, but basically I wandered around and the teachers all frantically yelled orders left and right while some of the kids half-heartedly listened to them and others just ran around trying to catch lizards. I guess the novelty of harvesting rice wears off when your parents do it all the time.

Rice Harvesting - 知覧小の稲刈り

Thursday, 11 October 2007

A typical lesson plan...

So I teach at 7 different elementary schools in the town. The driving distance from the northernmost to the southernmost school is about 45 minutes. I don't often go visit the schools before the day of the lessons since I usually get lesson plans in advance and by now I've figured out the gist of how these classes work. Although at the beginning, it was quite stressful. Besides not really having an idea of how to teach, or to communicate with the kids, the lesson plans I'd receive scared the shit out of me. Just try to decipher this, the lesson plan I got today:

Period for integrated study "blue sky thyme"
Monday October 15, 2007 five schools time
{name redacted} Elementary School
5.6 years life (17 people)
Leader {name redacted}

[An Aim]
I get close to how to say moon through the game that I used a number for.

Main learning activity:
1. I hold greetings of ones beginnings.
2. I sing a song of two "BINGO". [I can sing to rhythm happily.]*
3. I say numbers from 31 to 100 in English. (The review until the last time.)
4. I will know how to say April. [Because there are many words that I usually use, I pay attention to pronunciation and an accent enough.]*
5. I practice about how to say May.
6. I practice about way of hearing and how to answer six birthdays. [I devise a blackboard demonstration to understand a way of hearing and way of answering.]*
7. I do bingo on the birthday when I spent July.
i. I put a favorite number to 1-31 in 5*5 Masuno.
ii. I ask a friend a birthday one by one.
iii. I say one's birthday in English, and the asked child makes entry of the number of days to a bingo card together.
iv. I turn it one after another and continue until bingo appears.
[I write a number on the blackboard after having pronounced it and can participate in bingo although the child whom I was not able to hear is a pleasure.]*
8. I hold greetings of eight end.

A CD/a bingo card of BINGO

*These four square brackets refer to "A point to keep in mind in the guidance". In the actual paper lesson plan it's arranged in two columns, but I don't know nor care to figure out how to do that here.

So that's word for word the lesson plan I got. It's fairly typical.

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Oh god my full name is now associated with this blog...

I'm currently uploading pictures online. I'm being stupid and making it public, but it's easiest that way for now. There are as of yet no captions. It's way too late for me to be doing this, but I'm procrastinating life right now. Most of the pictures are in some way school or town related, although most of them have been taken in the last month with my newly bought and newly fixed camera.

Sora Yoi -空よい

Taiiku taikai - 体育大会

Chiran Sho Sept 10 and Josh in Maku -知覧小学校 九月十日;枕崎にジョシュアです


My house and stuff - 家とか車とか...

Monday, 24 September 2007

For Papa

Well, my dad's been on my case to update the blog, so here it goes. I went to Sapporo, which was awesome. I ate a lot of Hokkaido soft cream (how the Japanese say soft ice cream) and I rented a bike and rode it everywhere. Once I hit someone by accident and he crumpled to the ground. I apologized profusely, he was okay, but I still got a ton of dirty looks. I liked biking in Sapporo because you don't have to wear a helmet, you can bike on the sidewalk and the city is much flatter than anywhere in Chiran (I've only attempted biking twice here way last year before I had my car, but as I live on the middle of a hill I soon stopped).

I studied Japanese for two weeks. I was put in a bit of a higher level than I thought, so it was a challenge but I gambarimashita(ed). Gambaru is the dictionary form of the verb that doesn't have a direct English translation. It kind of means 'do your best' or 'fight' or I don't know. During Sports Festival (which I will talk about, maybe) the announcer would always tell the lagging runner in the relay race to 'gambatte kudasai' - please gambaru. I know if someone said the English translation to me I would want to punch them in the face for being patronizing, but in Japanese it's okay.

So, funny story. I had this awesome Japanese teacher in Sapporo named Ozawa-sensei. She only taught the first week at the school because her real job is as a Turkish translator. She mentioned that she would be coming to Kagoshima in September and told me to email her but being busy since returning I kind of forgot. But then last week I was in the city on Monday night looking for a photo booth to take a passport like photo for my Japanese test application, when I hear a random shriek and there is Ozawa sensei. I told her I would email her later in the week and we would meet up. Then on Wednesday, I went to the Chiran Peace/Kamikaze museum to help the English-speaking tour guide with translations of pilot-written letters, when I hear another shriek and it's Ozawa sensei again! It was so random running into her once, but then seeing her again was out of this world. We ended up meeting on Friday and it was really nice to catch up. Which reminds me, I need to email her.

That weekend was also the first long weekend since July. So of course, there was a typhoon warning in effect. That Sunday the junior high school's Taiiku taikai (Sports Festival) was scheduled. Last year it was postponed because of an actual typhoon. This year thankfully the weather held out long enough for the marching and the track races and the cool fan dances. I took some pictures of the cooler stuff which I will post sometime soon. If you want to know more about Taiiku taikai email and pester me. Otherwise I won't bother since right now I'm tired. I was supposed to partake in a teachers' relay race, but by the afternoon the rain started falling, and so thankfully it was cancelled. There was a tradition at the junior high for the ALT to run the 1500m with the male students, but as I am neither a runner nor male, I opted out. Maybe my successor will be a better sport enthusiast. I personally enjoy watching from the sidelines and hanging out with the other klutzes.

This weekend was all the elementary schools' sports days. As I have seven schools, and as it was Sunday so waking up very early is out of the question, I only managed to go to a few of the schools. I figured this was better as I actually had a chance to talk to students and enjoy watching the events. While the Junior High's sports day seemed very formal and regimented, the primary schools' were more relaxed and community oriented. Many of the junior high students were at their alma maters helping out, although some begrudgingly. There were all sorts of hilarious relays, like the 'Big Pants' where the student and their parent wear one leg of the same giant pair of polyester pants and then run a relay. Some parents were so into it they were almost dragging their little son/daughter behind. At my big primary school, the PTA mothers did a dance with fans to the Shochu jingle from a TV commercial. At least that's how I recognized the tune; for all I know it's a famous traditional song though I'd rather think of it as the Fat Man Shochu song.