Friday, 27 April 2012

Enkai and Eikiwa

Osaka tomorrow!

Three days in a row, a sports day. Tonosho then Shodoshima then Tonosho.

One of the above, not to be mentioned for privacy reasons, invited me to an Enkai (a drinking and eating party) after the sports festivities. Before we get to that, the sports festivals themselves, wow. So Japanese people are efficient at working together and these festivities seem to highlight and exude this fact. Most of the games/contests involved team work. No wait I think they all did. Tug of war: the students had tournaments then the winners played the teachers (me included) and we won, in both schools the teachers triumphed. My hands and arms ache a fair bit now (along with the legs, back and every other old man part); mass skipping, a whole class skipping with one rope. That was fun and impressive to watch, less fun when I had a go with all the teachers and it was me that the rope snagged on. I think it snagged on someone else the second time, but our score, either way, was zero. The highest the students managed was somewhere in gojuu, fifty... or was it sixty? no it was sixty. Anyway, there was also the three man four legs race (三人四脚) or in Romanji San'nin'yonkyaku, which I got to take part in and I didn't do badly! Me, fuke sensei and hamamoto sensei had a go. I feel sorry for Fuke sensei as she was in the middle and not remotely in control of her feet. (like three legged race, but three people not two). There was also giant balls, loads of tiny balls being thrown up into the air, toddlers, toddler's bikes, ridden by teenagers, bread dangling from ropes, an ordinary relay, an eccentric and very much for fun relay, lots of speeches, a lot of bowing, a priceless expression by the head of the winning team when he almost dropped the trophy he was awarded, it was a mix of horror and shame, he looked like he might have felt a little sick. Poor dab. There were hellos all day from students, thank yous for my help doing any menial task and goodbyes as I drove away in the evenings doing my best not to run over any stray students. The Enkai was so new and so different. Drinks, lots and lots of refills, and food, enough to feed and army and have doggybags left over to have for lunch the next day. There was outrageous sceaming and strange hand gestures in the middle of comedic sketches which I found funny but only for their outrageousness, what the teachers were saying was completely lost on me. I learnt how to type Kawa which means river and Shita which means Down. Kawashita Riverdown. I showed off my Kana skills and taught someone how to say my middle names while also begging everyone to constantly tell me their names. We moved to another place where there was a constant stream of snacks and alcohol with no money being transferred, I asked one of the english teachers (who by this point was very red eyes, which I kept gleefully pointing out to him) how it worked and he said he wasn't too sure but he thought the bill came to the school afterwards. I better pay when I'm next there! It was nice having alone time with a few teachers to get them to talk, their confidence with english is very low in a group but individually they are willing to try.

Speaking of English, I had my first Eikiwa too on Sunday (an english class for adults) and it was in a really really beautiful temple. Very traditional Japanese style, low doors, incense, statues, ornate gardens insight, tapestries, floor seatings with cushions, everything ridiculously beautiful. I was given a sweet snack too. I showed them photos from home and Swansea and a ridiculously extensive collection of photos of my paintings then two parts of Under My Umbrella. Oh dear, they loved it. What have I done?

The teachers at the Enkai ensured I had my glass full at all times and I explained to the aforementioned English teacher the meaning of Tea Total and it's etymology to the best of my knowledge, he was drunk and nodded along. There was much nodding, gesturing, miming and smiling along and clapping, not to mention copious bows. I also sung Barbie Girl. Oh dear, yes I did, didn't I? With the english teacher though. He got the Ken part. I volunteered my voice-acting skills to go as Barbie. Oh cringe, it was fun. Osaka, bed time.

Oh and I just realised I missed out the Folk dance = priceless fun, I laughed at myself so much. I've done several of them about four times now. Three days in a row and the other week as well. One of them's kind of catchy and the little grubby hands I have to hold to do these dances. The shy ones, the loud ones, the sticky ones. Ahh it's fun. The warm up exercise was great too, really cute child like music telling us to bend, stretch, spin and touch our toes (well I think that's what it was saying, it was all in a camp, childlike voice in Japanese) I just did my best to copy and not look like a bumbling buffoon. Did the same and probably failed just as much when the school song came on and the National Anthem too! Wait, in fact, I'm constantly trying to copy and look natural and failing miserably. It's brilliant.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Thoughts of the week

Hmmm I think we should turn around. OH CRAP.

Hmmm I wonder how good Japanese kids are at Badminton. HOLY CRAP. Maybe I won't join the club.

What? They want me? Oh god, not another introduction speech.... phew not that, so what is it? They want me out of the teacher's room? I'm being escorted to a small room and told to stay there. Why? "It's a secret." Ooooo :o

How do all these kids know my name? I'm pretty sure I've not taught these ones.

Oh god they're herding this way... ahhh kids!

Pretend you know which bin to put it in, act decisive. Oh god but if I get the wrong one...

What's her name again?

What's his name?

"Full tank please". Points at fuel gauge, "F" "Full." "Chotto matte" ...  looks up the Japanese for full.

Dean is so Mrs Elton.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Mountain roads and volley balls

The other day I played volleyball (the students were having a tournament instead of field trip due to rain and they had some time between the matches and one kid called out my name for me to join in so I did and though i was terrible, I loved it and better still they seemed really glad I was joining in) I also had to do a folk dance thing with all the students, which involved holding their teeny hands and dancing with them. I was so bad, it was brilliant. I loved it. I love how many new experiences there are every day. Today me and Stephanie almost died. We were driving up a mountain along an increasingly narrow lane and we decided at a fork in the road that it was best to turn around and go back (may possibly have been my stupid idea), by going down one fork and reversing up the other. We got to a point where we were halfway into the manoeuvre, I was outside directing and I paniced as did Stephanie, the car had started tipping, I grabbed it and tried to weigh it down, but boy was it scary, the one wheel, maybe two, were off the ground. We decided to stop and stay there and try to think of a way out of it. I phoned the emergency contact with Interac that I have, he got my coordinator lady (who is japanese and helped me set up bank account and took me to my place and my schools etc) (who i really should have thought to call initially, before them) but in the mean time, I went down the slope, leaving steph with her foot on the brake as it would roll/tip if she lifted it off, and with her phone (as mine's battery was dying, so she put it to charge in the ciggarrette lighter) and using google translate on her phone I found help. An old man, the nearest house. I pointed him up the slope and showed him what was going on, he grabbed a rope and a metal clampy thing and set off with his car. He didn't say anything, he was very efficient but silent all the while. I grabbed a hiker and asked for his help too (he was nice and my age) and the old man's daughter and granddaugher (who was clutching two oranges the whole time) came to help too and between us we managed to tie the rope around the back of the car, leaning on it all the while and shift the car backwards, towed by the old man's car. Stephanie got replaced in the driver's seat by the hiker and the car was straightened out, with a few gasp-worthy tilts and wobbles and rolls in the mean time, but eventually it all got sorted. The four of them did all of the work, Stephanie and I didn't know what their plan was as they barely spoke any English but they seemed to know what to do and we thanked them as much as we could and were so grateful and relieved when the hiker let the car down the hill to a point where the parking break was sufficient to keep the car still then we headed back to the flat lands. Lesson learnt: Climb mountains or find big sturdy roads to drive up them, don't find any old lane and decide it's a good idea to drive up. 

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Today's Main Thoughts

Oh Jesus I'm going to die... oh no phew, the driver pulled back in.

Wait, is this lycra? Oh crap I can see my nipples.

Please be able to speak English, please be able to speak English... "Wakarimasuka" Crap.

If you bark one more time, I'm going to...

Someone put your hand up, please. Oh please. Maybe if I pretend one of them has, they'll think they have...

Hehe, that was an innuendo and he doesn't even realise.

Hehe and another one.

Or maybe he does realise, oooohh

Please no personal questions, please no personal questions, "Yes, ask anything!" Please no personal questions.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Really quickly, there can't be any editing or for that matter any full stops, so here goes, at a jogging pace, the weekend was full, chockablock completely full, like a crushed cube of cherry blossom, not the best of metaphors, but hey, drinks on friday, with Lorianne and her charming friend Kaori, someone got lost in the dark, some umeshu or  梅酒  or plum wine if you'd prefer, was drunk, a chair was found, a stumbling wanderer was born and yes that sums it up nicely. Oh hell a full stop. Saturday gave me a nice twelve hours of sleep, think the week of teaching (the kids are awesome, but it takes a lot of energy and voice out of you giving them lessons) may have zonked me, and then in the afternoon I caught a ferry to Takamatsu and met up with Stephanie (yay she picked me up :) ) and we hanamied it up with David in the cherryblossom-flooded Ritsurin park. David brought a blanket, I brought some snacks and more   梅酒  and Stephanie and I shared some sushi surrounded by a thousand cooling blossom petals. We psyched ourselves up for actually talking to some of the people we didn't know around us. It took a while and in fact we didn't really do much leg work, we just positioned ourselves near the biggest group of foreigners (yes I know in Japan, talking to foreigners, typical! but hey the story's not over yet!) and we eventually got chattting to a fair few of the mostly JET people. drinks...drunk else, chatting with a Japanese man, talking to a selection of japanese students, who found out we were teachers and immediately backed off, free tequila shots, strangely expensive drinks, throwing peanuts on the floor. Uh oh blog has degenerated into a list, ahh deal with it. drunken stumbling for David's car, okay, maybe just me stumbling, conversation with manisha on skype at ungodly-hour. Stayed at Stephanie's, went to shopping centre (youmetown) and bought a full length mirror and a godsend, something to tie the lights in the apartment higher, yay I don't have to duck!!! missed one ferry, went to the castle for lunch, chatted to some kids, some adults, one turned out to be the sister of one of my english teachers. got given sweets, got taken over to the parents' of aforementioned kids, was offered alcohol, sat down (and politely declined) felt surreal and amazing, sitting surrounded by strangers who were eager to know who we were and to practice their own english. It was absolutely lovely and so many people spoke to us. It's tricky to know whether to greet in english or japanese, because i want to practice, but i know they do too.

Okay, i'm almost done, i promise. after running (again!) to catch the ferry and making it this time and failing to find a seat, we sat upstairs on the roof of the ferry and watched the waves. On shodoshima, we drove near the school in shodo (which i've got tomorrow, yay!) and found a sign which pointed us to a mountain and followed it. The scenery wasn't just beautiful, it was breathtaking, we just kept rounding corners and gasping. It's good the roads were empty because we kept stopping to take photos. Stephanie virtually jumped out before i'd stopped the car to run into one of the temples. that was really nice that place, so sunny, temples which eerily were lit and rattled a bit and had a buzzing bumble bee in it but no sign of anyone. Stephanie rang a very big bell. tut tut. we took way too many photos and then hurried on in search for the peak. we found monkeys but not the peak. we got told to shut the car door in case a monkey came in by a japanese man and his friend. we chased monkeys, almost ran over monkeys, gasped at pheasents and hoped the monkeys would move off the road and carried on. so many nice views, topped by a beautiful sunset. Here:

Tuesday, 10 April 2012


Drove to Shodoshima high school today, well, I tried to. I allowed an hour for a 30 minute journey and used almost all of that hour asking for directions and refusing to believe I was not where I thought I was. So the stereotype about men is true. Pah.

I made it with five minutes to spare and managed to find my way to the staff room where I just walked in until I found the desk they'd allocated me, (my memory is shit remember, thankfully I didn't sit at the principle's desk by mistake). I am still not sure which is the principle and who the other english teachers. My ability to remember names, especially when they're in a language I'm not fluent in, is next to none.

So I made the staff room, I recognise about two people, after introducing myself in Japanese (with a lot of erms and one apology for saying the wrong word order/making up shizzle), I settled down to prepare for my lesson, then found out that it was assembly time, well really it was more like "this way, come." I nodded and smiled of course. I was introduced to the school, sitting on the stage with about 6 other new teachers before the curtains went up, that was surprisingly sweat-inducing, especially in the palm and bottom region (okay I lie, my bum didn't sweat, but it's creative licencing okay?).  This is going to be one lengthy blog, so the school has a lot of announcements, or did have this morning anyway and it had sort of a club fair, where a few members of each society/club would come up and explain/advertise their clubs. A lot of them I guessed (as the words are the same in english, Badminton, (which I may join) and Sumo (not so likely to join),) but some were completely alien to me and it felt a little like a guessing game, one I wasn't very good at. The archery was impressive, that's for sure. There's a name for it... I thought it was a type of martial art (well maybe it is, but not the kind I thought it was before hand). Okay, so I hovered near two other new teachers, which I managed to ask whether they were "atarashi" (new) as well and they nodded and then I asked their names (can't remember either :( ) and then I managed to ask what they taught, one was a nurse and the other a chemistry teacher. Their miming of the nurse made me think she was someone who punched people in the stomach/a midwife at first. At first they seemed horrified that I was standing near them (all the while wearing slippers of course) but they engaged and though they spoke very little english (which was a bit disconcerting as I wondered how much the kids would know at that point) they were friendly and tried and I butchered their language trying to reply!

The Archery club launched arrows with bows bigger than the kids into targets (the first one made me jump, god darn it and I knew it was coming). The comedy club (I assume, everyone definitely laughed) made jokes. The badminton, tennis and lots others didn't do a huge amount, merely carried their equipment, thank god, as that was my only visual aid.

After several hours standing (some of the teachers sat, but could I? Who knows, I didn't want to make any terrible impressions so I did my best not to yawn, one of the new guys did constantly, I want to speak to him, just to talk to another new and not look like a dirty gaijin coming onto women) and about a million bows and clapping, lots of clapping and lots of jokes that went over my head (think kilometres above, not centimetres), it became clear things were over (yes, no one directly told me), I just stumbled/fumbled around a bit, trying to figure out where to go and what to do and one of the english teachers eventually took pity on me and told me I could go back to the staff room now (which btw is essentially an office, with a LOT of paperwork throughout it, sprawled and stacked). I also had an awkward moment (one of 33,002,103) where I didn't know what to do with the slippers they'd given me. The students were wearing just socks and I had exited in the mass of students, not with any similarly-slippered teachers. Found someone (for all I know, and in fact I kind of think it was, the headmaster/principle) to take them off me and went back to the teacher's room. Sat at my desk alone and in practical silence, I did talk to Fujihara, the guy next to me a lot and asked his name twice and did my best to memorise it, his son's my age and working in Tokyo. I told him about going to Angel Road and he asked with who and I said alone and he looked a bit surprised and said next time I should take my... he strains for the word (I think boyfriend, boyfriend, boyfriend,) but he says girl. Woman. Love. Well love could be male.

My first lesson came around quite quickly. Ai was the Japanese teacher of English in the class with me. She was nice, her english good. She led me to the classroom after the strange chiming which seems to go on for quite a long time and gives the place an oddly harry potter like nature, and I was nervous, but the classroom was small (22 students) and I'd already asked her not to introduce me, in order for my game about guessing my name later to work a bit. Gosh I'm hungry, may have to pause this ramble... nahh. The students were lovely, they were hesitant and shy but some of them came out of their shells pretty quickly and they did seem to like the alphabet and number relay when it was their turn, but they got a bit bored when not, may have to tweak that one, make it a little more competitive, also, definitely need a stopwatch as timing anything without it is rubbish, especially without a wrist watch! So yea, I asked everyone's names and managed to mangle most of them in reciting, which amused the students. They did laugh at a few things, including me! which I guess is good. I enjoyed it, but I ran out of time before I'd finished all the questions and there was definitely a   bit of boredom here and there from the front rows and some chatting and the JTE spoke a bit more than I was expecting, but she was helpful and I'm glad she was there. The students liked Pikachu and Harry Potter coming up and I think they laughed at a few of my gags, about my mum being the queen of england and they were all surprised that I wasn't from England (I bet the introduction in the gym said I was, but I was too nervous about bowing and doing that right to hear it at the time, so we'll never know) Oh crap is that a mosquitto.

The rest of the day was spent idly flicking through books. I made notes on what I need to do to improve for the next class and discussed it with my JTE, also managed to photocopy the worksheet several hundred times, which is always nice, as it cost about 1000 yen photocopying it last night, frantically in Takamatsu, before the last ferry left. Gosh wasn't that a fun evening. Okay my stomach's growling and I think there may be a chance that I can have free Bento boxes at school as the viceprinciple (or was it Fujihara?! they kind of look similar) said everything on the table was free and I could help myself, but he grabbed a biscuit from a tin, the next person grabbed a Bento Box. Boy do I hope they're inclusive in the free, I don't think there's enough for everyone though so I assume it's a once a week take it, who knows. I'll ask someone next time.

Oh and I got pink chalk all over me in the lesson, boy that stuff gets everywhere.

So apart from the fact that I didn't know when it was cleaning time or lunch time or anytime at all and felt a little like a lost sheep, while everyone else left me to it, it was fun and I'm just going to have to throw myself into the fray again and engage with as many of the other teachers as possible, oh and buy a damn stop watch! Should have gotten one this evening if I'd thought about it. Time to change out of my suit and post this damn essay. Oh yes, if you've read this much, you're awesome/a stalker :) xx

PS I neglected to mention the toilets. (I had to ask where they were, they don't seem big on information here). They were squatting ones, oh lordie. I'm not sure if I'll use them or not... I'll try. It's nicely alien.

P.P.S I also neglected to mention the inspection of each and every student's hair and uniform, from appropriate lengths of skirts to having the right hair cut. I liked it, for its difference, but also its thoroughness. I wasn't expecting it, but it was interesting.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

A Phrase A Day

Monday: Watashi wa anata no atarashi rinjin desu: I am your new neighbour

Tuesday: Koko ni anata no tame no sasayakana purezento desu: Here is a little present for you.

Wednesday: Shitsurei shimasu: Pardon the intrusion
 and              shitsurei shimashita: Past tense of above.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Is it possible to assemble a desk with Japanese instructions?

(When you don't speak Japanese)

Here goes:

Three pieces together so far! Following pictures, ignoring writing.

Uh oh, which piece is the picture referring to, the big white slab, or the slightly smaller big white slab?
Really? You want me to use that massive screw in that tiny hole? No. No I won't do it. It's wrong.

An extra hand or two really would be useful right now.

Ignoring some pieces and instructions is pretty reasonable. It's a new country. Things are bound to be unnecessary.

Okay I'll go back to those steps, but I'm pretty sure it'd be okay without them.

May need to pause until I have a screwdriver. Darn it. Scissors and knife, which is a better screwdriver? Scissors so far.

Oh I wish I hadn't skipped those steps. There are screws I should have added, which are now really hard to add. But it looks like a desk. Hmmm if I take the top bit off, the scissors are working well enough, I can do this, I can get to those damn screws!

Almost there!

All but one screw completely screwed in. Scew the last one. Screw it.

My tools and my desk. Not too shabby.

Dos and Don'ts in a storm.

I'm pretty sure my umbrella is busted now.

Things I shouldn't have done today, but did anyway:

Go to the beach in Typhoon-strength gales.
Walk to the edge of the sea and almost get blown over.
Drive back to beach ten minutes later with a camera and an umbrella.
Open said umbrella on beach in gales.
Watch serenely as large pieces of debris soar towards my car.
Smile merrily all the while.

Things that could well have happened.

Death by drowning,
Death by being shredded by a million flying shells.
Death by shattered glass
Death by cardboard box
Death by lightning.

I'm glad none of those happened today, but hey, it's only 15.35!

Monday, 2 April 2012

Part Six of Under My Umbrella will be airing at midnight tomorrow, Japanese time

Japanese Thoughts.

Questions/thoughts that ran through my head in the last few days:

What does that button do...? Oooooo gollly!
Is that cooking oil or bleach?
I hope it was plastic bags I bought earlier... damn it's clingfilm.
I don't think that was butter.
Why's my white sauce brown?
How the hell do you eat sweetcorn with chopsticks?
Where's that beeping coming from?
Hmm, I'll signal left. SHIT, pressed window wipers.
Hmm, I'll signal right. DOUBLE CRAP, pressed window wipers again.
I hope that's not a stop sign.
Why's the car struggling. Oh, the parking break...
*Man speaks Japanese to me* If I just nod and smile, he'll stop eventually.
I hope I'm going to the right island.
Uh oh I'm breaking the rules.
Mustn't walk and eat.
Mustn't think about walking and eating.

Thoughts as I got the ferry for the first time:

Oooo my island, gosh it's tiny. Oh it's not that one. Oooo I bet it's that tiny one with the pretty beach. Nope not that one. *carries on for half an hour* Oh there it is. Wow, it's big (that's what she said)

Oh and a final thought:

It's not cheating if I use a knife is it...