Tuesday, September 27, 2005

I'm so knackered...

but for good reason - today was a great day! I got out of bed on time this morning, and just attacked the day. I got to school 30 minutes early because I knew I had to prepare for my second period 3rd grade class. The lesson of the day was the name of buildings, e.g. hospital, school, etc. Due to the lack of suitable resources online, I took it upon myself to take my own photos, plus I thought the kids would get a kick out of seeing local buildings. Taking the photos were easy, but printing them was very difficult. After about 45 minutes of trying by myself on 2 computers, I finally made headway on Microsoft Photo Editior. Keep in mind that the Windows environment is entirely in Japanese, and since I'm not that proficient in Editor, I had to try a few things, but it finally worked. I was a couple of minutes late for class, but the sensei was impressed by my flicks. And the kids loved them too because I got a whole lot of "ehhhhhhhhh!" when I showed them, especially when I pointed out my apartment! But this class had one downside - an eight legged downside! There was a huge spider crawling on the ceiling, which freaked me and the kids out. We did the hokey pokey to warm up, but everyone, including me, kept looking up. God, it was a fast son of a bitch. I'm not a spider expert by any stretch of the imagination, but it looked like a brown recluse to me. I don't think they're poisonous (the sensei concurred), but I think their bites are painful, and THEY ARE HUGE!

Ok, here are a few buildings in my neighborhood:

One of my fave restaurants.

My apartment - I live on the 3rd floor

My post office - I'm lucky that one of the workers speaks fairly decent English!

The next period was a lesson on fruits for the ichinensei (1st graders). They were enthusiastic, as always, and we played a couple of games and the lesson just flew by! The sensei is an amazing team teacher and I feel that we are both working together for the common interest of the children. She's a dream, and such a lovely woman. She always chats me up and tells me what a good job I'm doing. We take breaks together and she's always giving me little treats or a sports drink. Today she brought me persimmons. I've only had a persimmon once, so it should be a treat!

After my class was done, I asked her what she was teaching next. When she told me it was Japanese, I told her I'd be right back! I got my notebook and she gave me a textbook and I had a seat next to Anika-chan. The kids were so impressed and so happy and kept saying "Tsugoi!" (Awesome!) One girl, who is especially bright, screamed "gambarre kudasai!" (please try your best!) and they also kept saying "arigato". Today we learned numbers and counting and it is damn hard. I think there are 5 different ways to express numbers. I think I'll only need to learn two, but I gave my best effort anyway. I practiced the numbers in hiragana and kanji, and the kids were hella impressed. So was I, since the only hiragana I know are the syllables for my name and I've never touched kanji. I've borrowed the text to study hiragana because it has stroke pattern, so I expect to learn it fairly quickly.

When that class was over, the sensei invited me to eat lunch with her class. Normally, the whole school congregates in the cafetaria for kushokku (school lunch), but the lunch providers had a holiday so all the teachers ordered a bento (which was delicious). I did so gladly and the kids were just so happy and yappy and I had to sit in the middle of the class to make all of them happy. What I hope they realized is that they made me really happy as well.

My last class was with the gonensei (5th grade) who are older, but still cool. They've really warmed up to me, which makes me happy. And their sensei is a trip. We had a blast, and I stayed past my time to teach some of them common items in English.

I also had a bit of time to prepare for Thursday's lessons and do some research on my trip to Takamatsu (Kagawa-ken) to visit Mel next weekend. It looks like I have to choose between taking a very expensive but very fast shinkansen ride, taking the JR train part way then taking a ferry, or taking the JR train part way then take a bus. I'm looking at a potential price difference of nearly 200$, but I may be willing to pay for the convenience.

Anyway, tonight is badminton, say I gotta eat and jet.


Sunday, September 25, 2005

Contentment covers me like a cashmere blanket...

I am happy. I am happy to wake up and pull back my curtains and find the point where the heavens and the earth meet. I am content to lie on my back on my bed and watch the fluffy clouds glide past the green peaks. I take pleasure in listening to my own breathing and feeling the wind on my skin and the tatami under my feet. I think of God and my path and my future and want to weep because I'm happy and sing because I'm free...I'm in love with myself and find peace in unexpected places. I'm letting go of old fears and trying to live in the now of each day. It is beautiful and I am happy...


I've been pretty busy for the past week. They day after the JHS sports day, Sunday, I went to Gifu City for my hair appointment with Tomomi. I was pretty nervous and irritable because of her lack of experience and my monthly visitor, but when everything was said and done, my hair looked fab. I mean, it was trying, and I nearly started to cry a couple of times, but she and her assistant did a great job, with my help. I was really missing Andre, my stylist, at this point, and after repeated shocked looks by incoming customers and an array of nice compliments from a lady, I just wanted to disappear. On top of that, my whole day was shot because I spent nearly 4 hours in the salon (I think a record for me) which meant that I couldn't go to Nagoya like I'd plan. But, there was a BBQ happening nearby and after some phone calls, I went to Nishi-Gifu station to meet Christina. Unfortunately, Christina missed her bus and told me that it would probably take her 20 minutes to get to me. At that point, I just broke down. I called Melissa but she was driving and I didn't want her to get in an accident on account of me, so I waited for Christina, and my tears came without shame or pride.

After the tears, I felt much better and Ed and Jeff picked us up from the train station and we met our JET family under the bridge. It was great to see a lot friendly faces and laughed and talked in our native language. We had dinner then a bunch of us made our way to a reggae club. I had quite a bit to drink, but I was a good girl for the most part. I crashed at Ed's place and we slept like babies.

The next day, Monday, Ed, Jeff and I went to Masa 21 Department Store to window shop and fantasize on how we were going to blow our next pay cheque. Jeff wanted to see my village, so they came over and Jeff was impressed with the scenery. Dave and Shouichi also came over, so it was a full house at my place. It was fun, but I was happy to fall in bed and had a deep, dreamless sleep.

On Tuesday, I went back to the badminton court because I've been MIA for the past 3 weeks, due to my cut finger. It looks much better now, but I can't fully close the finger and it is partially numb around the cut. But I did fairly well. I did lose all my games, but I had a good excuse and it was nice to be sweating from physical activity again.

On Wednesday, I had my english conversation class in my home and it was really nice to talk with the little ladies. They are so cute and energetic - exactly what I want to be when I'm that age.

On Thursday, Dave came over to download Microsoft Office and chat. I made dinner for us and just enjoyed the evening.

Friday was a holiday and was also sports day at the shogakko (elementary school). I had an amazing time and realized that even though I don't have anyone *special* in my life right now, I have 78 cuties who have my heart.

One of the things that I really enjoyed during sports day was to see so many parents participating. I realized that I missed having a few things in my own childhood, but I take comfort in the idea of what kind of a presence I would be in my own child(ren)'s life.

After the fun, it was time for the senseis to party. We went to a nice resto and had a 3 hour meal. I ate way too much, but they just kept bringing out food. Plus I drank beer, so I felt really full. We played games and kocho sensei (principal) drank so much that he started crawling around on the floor with his tongue hanging out! After dinner, a bunch of us went to karaoke where I, who cannot sing a note, sang two songs: Waiting in Vain by Bob Marley and I Just Called to Say I Love You by Stevie Wonder. After a few songs, everyone broke out and I met Dave to hang out then crash at his house. We had a great conversation on relationship dynamics and if it is possible for girls and boys to be just friends. Based on that conversation, I decided that being friends with a boy is possible but does require effort on both their parts. He gave me something to think about.

On Saturday, I left Dave and met up with Ed. We had a ball and I am grateful that someone I genuinely like and whose company that I really enjoy lives so close to me. He's a great guy and had me laughing the whole time we were together. The only downside of our outing yesterday is that we spent too much money. I did buy two pairs of shoes that I needed, and they were on special, but still...Money goes so quickly here!

I came home and just enjoyed my company. I took a bath, listened to music, did pilates, and just chilled. Today I made spaghetti sauce that came out quite well, did some laundry and cleaned up my place. I feel like taking a little nap now.

I've been trying to upload pictures on my blog, but it doesn't seem like it wants to work, and I don't feel like fighting it. Sorry guys, you'll just have to use your imagination.

Sumo wrestling rocks!

Mata ne! (Later!)

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Fun in the sun...

Today was the Neo Chugakko (JHS) sports fest and though I've been working at the school for nearly 2 months, I was invited as a guest and got to sit in the guess tent. But I couldn't sit still for too long. I was chatting it up with other esteemed guests, the teachers, the students from both my schools, their parents and various folks. I participated in the games (it's official, I suck at every sport known to man, except badminton, which they didn't have), I won a couple of prices, I ate my bento with the 3rd grade class and had a kickass time. The day really reminded me of what we did as kids at the elementary and high school sports days, but without the Japanese. I'll let the pics say the words:

The students were so happy and we had such great weather. It was a blissful day and I felt blessed.

So, I have to confess something - I have become addicted to watching sumo wrestling on t.v. Whenever it's on, I get sucked into the matches and am awestruck. The huge, gluttonous thighs of the wrestlers are mesmerizing. It's weird that all the slapping, tugging, hugging and throwing is mildly homoerotic and revolting at the same time.

Anyway, apparently I will be going to a reggae party tomorrow tonight so we'll see how that goes! Updatcha soon!

P.S. I love, love, love the tatami floors in my apartment. I'm looking into how much it would cost to install them in my apartment when I move back to Canada and buy some property. LOVE IT!!!

Friday, September 16, 2005

big booty ho...

So, I've been feeling a little heavy lately and I've noticed that my pants are a bit more snug on my hips..it may just be the side effects of PMS but when I stepped on the scale, there was a difference. I know, a couple of pounds is nothing, especially since I've made such a big move and adjusting, and blah the fuck blah. But I have to be vigilant! I have to stay focused! If not, I"ll end up with the 15 pounds I lost a year and a half ago! So today, I borrowed a skipping rope from the JHS and got started! After that cardio, I got on the mat and did some pilates! Then I had a delicious meal of steak, veggies, a salad and tofu.

The school lunches are delish, and though carbs and I are acquaintances, we are not friends! I eat every last grain of rice at lunch, but I gotta take it easy after school. And being at work is like every workplace I've ever worked at in the fact that there are goodies everywhere. A co-worker gave me gift of fine chocolates. Ohmigod, they were scrumptious. Then she let me sample ruffled potato chips covered in chocolate. I was skepitical at first, but oh. my. god. When she told me that they would be in the fridge and I could help myself, help myself I did! Never mind the beer and gyozas I've been indulging in lately...I love food, but I gotta get a grip!!!!

I had a good day at school today. The lessons went smoothly, I occupied myself in my free time, and I helped the kids and teachers set up for the Sports Festival tomorrow. And one of my 2nd grade students gave me a hug!!!!! I don't know if you know this about Japanese people, but from what I've heard and seen, they are notoriously shy with their emotions and with physical contact. And this girl just opened her arms to me and hugged me. It was a bit distant, there was a space between us, but it was really nice. It really made me smile...

I just finished watching The Office this evening and it was everything that I hoped it would be. It was biting, satirical, uncomfortable, hilarious, witty, politically incorrect, crass and satisfying. BUY THIS DVD. YOU WILL NOT BE SORRY! For me, this series (only 2 seasons and a Christmas special) ranks right up there with my faves The Simpsons and Sex and the City.

Last night, I saw my first nearly full moon in Japan and it was beautiful:

Something about a full moon always makes me both hopeful and wistful.

Though tomorrow is Saturday, I have to go to school for the Sports Fest. It's a long weekend so it's all good. However, since I've been invited as a guest, I won't be working and won't have a compensatory day off. But whatever. It will be the same story next weekend...

On Sunday, I will be heading to Gifu to get my hair did in a Japanese salon. Stay tuned for the before and after pics!

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

September 13, 2005

I love teaching at the elementary school. I love seeing the children's faces when we play a game, or sing a song, or when they meet me in the hallway. They are just so full of exuberance and excitement. I was beat today, but seeing their little faces brought my energy level right up. It was as hot as Hades, one of my lessons nearly flopped, and I thought I was going to fall asleep standing up after lunch, but their energy. Gets a girl to thinkin...

I have a kid with Downs Syndrome in one of my classes. He often spends a lot of time with his head down and his hands over his ears, but when we make a connection, I feel so proud. His special ed. teacher (he's the only one) is with him nearly 24/7 and since he's not used to me, she took a picture of me which she brings to class to help him associate. Because he doesn't really participate with the oral part of the lessons, the homeroom teacher gives him the job of putting the pictures on the board. He absolutely loves doing it.

So far, so good. Some classes are more challenging than others, but it really keeps me on my toes. How can I ever be a desk jockey/paper pusher again????

I am also in awe of the teachers. It is hard work to keep little minds and bodies occupied ALL DAY. I have always respected teachers and education (I was always a hardcore nerd - my report cards can attest to that), but seeing the blood and guts of it all really makes me marvel at their sheer awesomeness (duh, i'm a engrish teacher). Dal, teachers everywhere, I tip my hat to you...

I am throughly enjoying the BBC series The Office, which I recently purchased. I am often cringing, slapping my forehead or laughing out loud when watching it. It brings back some harsh memories of the white collar office world. Again, how could I ever go back to that????

School lunches - sometimes a hit and mess affair. Most of the time, I love my lunch and am ever so pleased. There are times, however, when I act unprofessionally and give away my lunch. Like yesterday, when we were served fish that were filled with tiny fish eggs. It was just gross. I gave away 2/3 fishies. Shudder...

Cheryl, thanks for calling me last night! You made my week.

The Dirty Dozen is on. That's pretty hot.

Random thoughts. Random thoughts.

Monday, September 12, 2005

September 12, 2005

I'm discovering that I like a lot of Japanese things, such as:

The fact that I am expected to eat lunch with the students everyday.
The fact that there are specific times for cleaning up the school and that everybody, including the vice principal is expected to participate.
That when you buy something cool, it is wrapped up for you (J'aime les cadeaux!!)
That everyone is really encouraging of my attempts to speak Japanese.
That when you go to someone's home, even your own home, you have to take off your shoes.

This list will grow as time passes and I will continuously add to it.

There are also somethings that I don't like. For example:

I don't like...ok, I spent 2 minutes on this one and I can't think of anything yet. I can't even think of anything that I find mildly annoying...I'll have to come back to that one. It would be awesome if I didn't have to though.

Not much new from the last post. I am planning on going to a Japanese hair dresser in Gifu City to get my hair relaxed. I'm a little nervous because I have only been to Black hair salons, but I am desperate. By the time that I go, it will be 9 weeks since I got my hair permed...It's breaking like mad. I know you may ask, "Kaki, why don't you perm it your damn self?" Well, because it's too far gone. It needs a professional's touch, even if she is Japanese. But those of you who know me well know that I researched her ass and made her feel like a quiz show contestant - "Who Wants to Straighten Kaki's Hair?" If she is good, I'll give her enough business to retire early!

Ok, I thought of something that I don't like about Japan: it's too far away from Montreal! I'm totally joking, but I'm really missing my friends and family. Shauna had her baby shower on Saturday and it looked like so much fun. If I was home, I would have had a hand in the organization, but all I could do was give her a gift before I left...

A few shot outs today - Shauna, you looked amazing. Your hair, your form, your everything. You really had that glow. I know that you're super busy with the baby coming, and the gospel show and all, but thanks for making time for me and I am really proud of you. And great job on putting those pics up so quick! Props! And tell Russ that his fade looked great.

Nurse Cheryl, thanks for calling me from Narita and then talking to me when you just got home even though you were dead tired. I miss our long conversations and the occasional disagreements. And damn, you looked great (per usual). Your hair looks beautiful. I can't wait to see your face again...

Aya, damn, did you really just have a baby? The pics of you at the shower were really great. Thanks for chatting it up with me for long periods of time, even though you had K in one hand, eating a meal with another, and still being humourous and constant when you were talking to lil ole me.

Neigie - CONGRATULATIONS!!!! I miss your exuberance and your optimism. I will call you again soon!

To my girls, I miss you so much! Cheers to us!

Sunday, September 11, 2005

September 11,2005

I had a good weekend - Christina came up from Nishi-Gifu and brought a bunch of movies with her. I am now the proud owner of Star Wars Episode 1 & 2, Ocean's Eleven, Shrek 2, and Meet Joe Black. She bought them at the video store for 480-580 yen each. The Star Wars tapes were a real coup because they were 580 yen for the pair. I didn't particularly like Episode 1, but I saw it French, and that may have had something to do with it. I will try it again because heck, I've got the time. She also rented Cold Mountain (loved it!), What's the Worst That Could Happen (watching this movie was the worst that could have happened), and Practical Magic, which practically sucked. I'm not going to rant about the latter two, but damn, that's 3 hours of my life that I'll never have back...

Before Chris and I settled in for the night with the movies, edamame, gyozas and a bottle of red, we went to the onsen on the mountain. I thought that it was walkable, but unfortunately, my poor sense of direction came to Japan with me (dammit!). We started walking up one mountain then I was getting the vibe that we were going the wrong way. Luckily, there were a couple of people nearby so I asked them for directions. We were told that the onsen was really far and not walkable, so the 2 ladies offered us a lift, which was what I was hoping for, but was sweet nonetheless. As it turned out, the onsen was fucking far away, and though I suppose you could walk it if you were in the mood, it would have been quite the hike. The oddysey was worth it, however, and Chris and I proceeded to get nekkid. It was my second time at this onsen and I have no nudity qualms, so I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Christina, who is blessed with more assets than me, was a little self conscious at first, but the soothing/scalding waters lulled away any discomfort. Things did get a little uncomfortable for me though, when I saw a couple of my elementary kids. Though they are cute as heck, I didn't need for them to see me in the buff. To make matters even more stressful, I had to ensure that they didn't catch a glimpse of my body art. But it was sweet when they ran up to me and screamed "Kaki-sensei" when I was sitting in a tub. Ahhh well...

Chris and I also ate at the onsen's resto and I thoroughly enjoyed my meal. The only drawback to the whole evening was when we were trying to get a rub down in a really cool massage chair, and no less than five kids surrounded me saying "Kaki-sensei this, and Kaki-sensei that..." Eventually, I had to sing the "Head and Shoulders" song to calm them down. But all in all, it was a great night.

On Sunday, after Chris left, I went shopping with Kasuga-san and her daughter Honami, who I teach at the JHS. Honestly speaking, Honami is the prettiest teenager in this whole damn town. She has a lovely smile, beautiful eyes and enough charm to melt an emperor. She is the sweetest kid and speaks English very well, with little accent. Anyway, we went to the Hyaku-yen store, Daiso, and this super mall, Rio World, and I spent a lot of coin. I must confess - I have a bit of a fetish/sickness: I need to feel that I have enough food/supplies in my home in order to be comfortable. Check ca:

The food should last me about 5-6 weeks, and there was a special on frozen food, so how could I resist? I'm lucky enough to have quite a bit of disposable income, so I shouldn't feel guilty, but I got that familiar sick feeling when I calculated my receipts at the end of the night...

A bientot mes chers...

Friday, September 09, 2005

September 9, 2005

Hey! My finger is feeling much better and I don't have to go to the hospital for daily bandage changes anymore. Yay! The last few days have cast a long and focused spotlight on me and my finger - from the teachers, to the students, to the shopkeepers and the other patients at the hospital, people want to know "daijoubou?" (Are you alright?), then inevitably, how did it happen? Inquiring minds in such a small town really want to know...

Besides from that traumatic personal episode, life has been good in Neo-mura. Here's a quick recap of my week:

Monday: I had 2 classes and tried to coax the JHS kids out of their nervous shells. But the big story that day is what happened to Kaki-sensei's finger...I was bummed because I couldn't play indiaka and probably spent too many hours on the computer.

Tuesday: I had my first lessons with the elementary school kids and it was awesome!!! They were so cute and I totally fell in love with the first graders. They were hanging off each incomprehensible word, and were speaking to me in super fast Japanese, but they loved it, especially when I broke out musical chairs!! Whoever was left standing had to stand up and introduce themselves. Kawaii des ne!! I fell in love over and over again. And they were so well behaved...And all of the teachers were so involved and the classes were a snap. Here is me with the 5th graders:

They were initially too cool for school, but soon got over that once we played musical chairs! By the way, the soundtrack for the day was Karma Chameleon and Girls Just Wanna Have Fun. Tons-o-fun.

Tuesday was also the beginning of typhoon #14. The sky turned gray and became thick with clouds:
The teachers told me that the typhoon was coming and was expected to be raging. It was already deadly in Kyshu, and though it was losing some of its strength, it was still a serious threat.

Wednesday: I was awoken several times by the furious winds and heavy rain beating down on my village. The trees bent at their middle and the rain was sideways. It was so bad that classes were cancelled and I didn't have to go in. I went to the hospital for a check up and came home and lounged and MSN'ed for a few hours. I got an invite for lunch and hung out with a Japanese dude for a few hours. We ate and went to the liquor store where I bought some booze in anticipation of Christina's upcoming visit. I returned home in time for my eigo conversation class and ny neighbor joined in the fun.

Thursday: This was a difficult day. I was so lethargic and down that I was afraid that my anemia is returning. To make matters worse, my first class was SO DIFFICULT. The teacher could have been wax figure and the kids (4th graders) had low comprehension and trying to get them to participate was like trying to slowly pull off a bandaid. But good ole musical chairs got them excited. And they were absolutely mesmerized by my skin. I was seriously pawed down. It was a nice change to be touched by curious kids rather than skanky dudes.

I also met my 2nd graders. Great kids and sweet as pie. Here are a few of them (I love, love, love the girl in the middle...

I got pretty sad when I missed a phone call from my gurl Cheryl, who had a layover at Narita. She was en route to MTL from Korea and I wished I could have spoken to her. I was near tears. But the kids found me and dragged me all over the place getting me to play with them and really lifted my spirits the way only kids can...

The kids practiced for sports day which I found out will be held on Sept 23, which is a holiday, which is the weekend that I wanted to go to Tokyo and pamper myself...That probably won't be happening anymore, and I was bummed. I guess I'm going to have to burn some money closer to home...The good thing about sports day is that the teachers can pig out and drink after.

Today: I had 3 really good classes and let it be known that the JTE was not doing any favours by feeding the kids their words. We had classes where it was like: "I - I" "like - like" "to - to" "play - play"...I wanted to rip open my wound!!! But overall, a good, but mildly tiring day. Lunch was especially good today. We had dumplings, rice, veggies, a delish pasta soup and a Japanese pear. The shitty thing though, was there was a collision between students and a whole pot of soup fell on the floor. Kuso!

The JHS kids were also planning for sports day which will be held on Sept. 17, which is a Saturday! Kuso again! The good thing is that there will be a delicious bento, and Monday is a national holiday. I must escape and get my hair permed. It's breaking and I haven't washed it this week because of the finger...

So that was my week in a very big nutshell! Christina will be coming tomorrow and we are going to celebrate her bday Neo style: with a trip to the onsen, a nice meal, alcohol and videos. Whoop whoop!

Ok, this post is pretty long and I almost lost it, so I'm going to end on this note:

I received a reply email from an ex-coworker and he told me to enjoy my quiet life here. You know what? I AM enjoying my quiet life here - immensely! I am having the time of my life and I don't wear a watch anymore. I enjoy hearing the 12:00 and 5:00 songs broadcast on the loud speakers. I like having to be forced to walk or bike everywhere. I like that everyone says hi to me on the street. I like that my mind isn't overloaded with to do lists and stupid problems. Don't get me wrong - I miss my friends and fam, but I am content and settled here. I don't think too much in the future and I don't waste as much time thinking about the past. I love the easy going pace of my new life. I know that winter will be tough, but I am just focusing on the today, everyday.

Ok, that's it. Visit this link: http://www.flickr.com/photos/21985393@N00/ I've posted as it is my online photo album. A big shout out to all you non-spammers who have posted on my blog. Kisses and ja ne!

Monday, September 05, 2005

September 5, 2005

This is going to be a short post because of this:

A cracked glass, an Alicia Keys CD, and a distracted minute led to the WORST PAIN OF MY LIFE. There was a lot of blood, some lightheadness and a prayer not to lose any nerves in my finger. I had the presence of mind to dress, get my medicare card and some extra cash to go seek some medical attention. Then I realized - it's 9 p.m. and the hospital is probably closed. So, with my hand wrapped in a white hand towel, I walked over to my neighbor's apartment and asked for a first aid kit in Japanese. She only hand some band aids and ointment, which didn't exactly staunch the bleeding, so I had a nuit blanche last night. This morning was not pretty, and when I got to school, the fun started. Stay tuned for an update real soon!

Sunday, September 04, 2005

September 4, 2005

It's raining outside and I love the sound and smell of it. It's so clean and so soft, like a shower for my soul. That sounds a bit gay, but I feel so content. The past couple of days have been lovely, in a quiet sort of way.

I spent that last little while with a really nice, sweet, down to earth guy named Dave from Australia. He is my predecessor who lives a few towns away from me. I visited yesterday, and we spent the day chatting and eating and getting comfortable in our new friendship. It felt like putting on a new sweatshirt that instantly reminded you of your old, hole-y one. We decided to go bowling, which I haven't played for a while, and I miraculously beat him - I somehow managed to bowl 4 strikes in a row in our first game. However, the second game was just embarrassing for the both of us, and we had to retire because Dave received a sports injury from all the excitement (!).

After bowling, we rented a movie (Spy Game) and decided that we'd buy some beer and have a sleepover, rather than Dave driving me home. The movie was great, the beer was great and the company was great, and I slept like a baby in oversized clothes.

After a light breakfast that including the disgusting spread Veggiemart on some bread, I got on Ol' Faithful, my one car train, and came home to the mountains. When I leave it, even for the night, I'm not sad to leave, but I am happy to return. I was feeling a little adventurous so I decided to go for a walk and explore. I took a few photos and got wrapped up in my own thoughts and was pleased to realize that I had been walking around for an hour. There is so much to explore around here, but I know I have time to do it.

Luckily, I got back before the downpour and I am starting on dinner. I have also been thinking about my first day teaching. It was actually more like an introduction to me, but it went so well. My first class was with the 2nd grade JHS students, who are around 12/13 years old. Their English was really good and I gave them an enthusiastic and colourful speech about who I am and where I come from. I held their interest and then quizzed them on my life. I felt so...outside of myself. It's hard to explain. I turned into a different person in the classroom and I liked how I felt. I didn't care how I looked or sounded, I just wanted the kids to understand me and to feel good about their new eigo-sensei. According to K-sensei, I did a good job.

My second class was a little bit more difficult because their listening comprehension ain't so hot. The 1st grades got a lot of prompting from K-sensei and explanations in Japanese, which doesn't really help them in the long run (I feel), so that 's something we are going to need to work on. But they were enthusiastic and bright eyed, and since I've seen quite a few of them before, the class went well.

I realize that there are going to be bumps in the road and yadda yadda yadda, but I like a challenge and the kids are good, so I know that I can work through the rough spots.

On to other things: I just got my Lonely Planet China the other day and have started to pour over the mammoth paper beast. It looks like the trip will be comprised of visiting Shanghai and Beijing and everything in between...

I learned that my shoe size in centremetres is 24. Gotta remember that when I go bowling again...

I like that people in my town always wave, nod, bow and smile at me, even if I don't have the foggiest idea who the fook they are...

Coming to Japan was one of the best things I have done in my life. We'll see if I'll be humming the same tune in the middle of February, but I feel something indescribable within myself...

English has become a bit troublesome for me. I feel like I am losing my ability to spell properly. Last week, one of the ladies I am tutoring pointed out that the way I had spelled "aisle" looked a little funny. I'm a little worried...

The BBC series, "The Office" is brillant, sick, cringe-worthy and worth ever penny. However, it makes me never want to step into a white collor office again...

A Shot Out to...

From time to time, I will send shout outs to people who have helped me out in some way or another. I stole this idea from Dan in Japan, who in turn stole it from someone else, who ultimately stole it from The Simpsons (I MISS THAT SHOW). Swel (or whoever can answer this question), which seasons are the best ones to buy? Anyways, here goes...

I want to send a shot out to MTL Mel, who has been my anchor here in Japan. With her sultry mix of good looks, salty wit and blunt attitude, she reminds me of everything I love about Montreal, strong females and reliable friends. She tells me the truth and encourages me to tell her when she's retarded. She was the catalyst for my recent groundshaking realization and for that, I will be eternally grateful. So to you Mel, I lift my sake glass and give your a heartfelt "Whoop whoop!"

Oh yes, one last thing: HAPPY BDAY NEIGIE!!! I'm sorry I'm not there, but I love and miss you. A big hug to you and give one to Dixx for me! MUAH!!!

Thursday, September 01, 2005

September 1, 2005

It's been over a month since we arrived in this strange, wonderful place, and it was a little bit difficult to turn the page of my calenders today. September signals the end of summer and the beginning of school/real work. It also signals the beginning of my favourite season - autumn!!! The crisp air, the vibrant colours, the smell of endings and the whispers of beginnings..c'est l'amour pour moi!

Today also kicked off the beginning of the second semester at school. I had to give my introductory speech in English and Japanese to 78 expectant and open Japanese faces...(Yes, my elementary school has only 78 kids in the entire school. My JHS has 42! Oui, je sais. J'suis vraiment chanceuse...) The gym was unexpectedly cool and I was happy for my suit, but the warmth in my heart warmed my body. The children...Jeez, I don't know how to explain it. I've never been a fan of young children, but seeing their faces today, and hearing their high pitched cries of "Kaki-sensei/Eigo sensei"...something just stirred within. It may also have had something to do with the happenings of the past few days, but they stirred something within me...

Let's see - well the last few days have been full of good tidings, gifts, and plenty of good vibes. One of my kocho senseis (principals) gave me a beautiful wooden fan with a painting of Fuji-san on it. Then my JTE gave me these really cool wooden ear cleaning thingys...I was just thinking to myself the other day, "where, oh where, can I buy one of those really cool wooden ear cleaning thingys?" For those who don't know, it's like a long, wooden Q-tip. Then T-sensei, who I simply adore, came over to my apato after work, in the rain, to give me 3 bags of vegetables. I wanted to cry. The next day (yesterday), he came to my other school to give me a fruit gift box filled with grapes. Again, I wanted to cry. I mean, he took me into his house, fed me, helped me buy a bed, delivered the bed to my place, made me laugh, treated me like one of the fam, and I gave him a lil' sumpin sumpin' to say gracias (a book for him and a cell phone holder for his wife - get your mind out of the gutters) and he showers me with fruits and veggies...Yeesh.

This leads me to a question: Is it the norm in Japanese society for people to give thank you gifts after they receive gifts? Is it a non-ending cycle of gift giving? It is my second time encountering this here...j'ai aucune idee...But whatever.

Also, last night I had my first Eikaiwa (English conversatoin) class with a couple of old biddies. One is my mom's age, and the other could be my grandmother's age. But they were super genki (energetic) and the grandmother had excellent English - she studied English lit. at Gifu University and was an TEFL teacher in primary schools. They are really sweet, and guess what I got in return??? That's right, fruits and vegetables. Sweet old biddies.

Ok, I'm off. It will be a easy going weekend as the last few weeks of drinking, nuits blanches and stressful communication has started to take it's toll. The doctor says to take two hours in the onsen and call him in the morning! Thanks to everyone who has posted comments and keep 'em coming!!