Wednesday, April 26, 2006

A Whale of a Good Time

As I mentioned in my previous post, I surprised Dave by taking him to the Nagoya Port Acquarium. He had no idea where we were going and when we finally got there, he still couldn't figure it out. But when he put two and two together, he went from man to boy in about half a second. And his excitement was contagious. It was our first time visiting an acquarium and I've never seen a whale or a dolphin before. It was AWESOME. Even though everything was in Japanese, it was still fascinating. The dolphins were amazingly cute and were total show boats. But seeing the Orca was the coolest thing for me. It was just so huge and it didn't seem real. There are usually shows featuring the whale and dolphins but due to the inadequate information found on the English portion of the official web site, we didn't get to see them perform. But it was still exciting nonetheless.

There were loads and loads of sea life including this ugly bad boy: the spider crab.
He was one ugly MF. I think just his body was about 2 feet long. His legs were super long and I just got shivers the entire time it was in my sight.

We also saw octopi upclose. I've eaten many an octopus on many an ocassion, but I believe this may have been my first time seeing one this big (it wasn't even that big). Again, shiver.

Of course, there were loads of fish, we saw a few beluga whales and I got to see penguins. They were so cute and funny, but since my camera died, I unfortunately don't have any pictures.
But it was an awesome day. After running around the acquarium (we arrived a little late and only had 1.5 hours) we took the subway to Sakae and went to the Outback Steakhouse. I've never been to Outback but it was just what we needed after our eventful day. We had calamari as appetizers (I know, I know, so cruel) and ribs as our main, and it hit the spot. After dinner, we walked around and had ice cream, and for the day, it felt like we weren't even in Japan, which was nice. Sigh. It was a good day.

I just remebered a funny thing that happened in class the other day. We were playing the "What am I" guessing game, and I was feeding the students clues (I was an airplane). One of the kids asked "can I touch you?" My JTE shook his head and said no. But after a moment, he said "you can touch her on the inside". He looked at me, asking me with his eyes to repeat what he just said. And I did. "Yes kids, you can touch me on the inside." I'm a dirty bastard.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Fun and Games

The last week or so has been awesome at school. Things have settled down and I've gotten into a routine at both schools. I'm having a lot more fun in the classes, smiling and laughing more, and basically being my usual happy self. My relationships with my kids have been blossoming and my JHS students are trying their damndest to communicate with me in English. I was seriously floored when a couple of ninenseis (grade 8 students) who had previously never even spoken to me in English were actually putting in some effort to communicate with me. They'd call me over with a wave of their hand and string some words together trying to find the best way to say something. This was WHOA for me and I loved it. I think part of this can be attributed to my new JTE, Murachi-sensei. He's young (29), energetic and forces his kids to communicate in English. He's implemented a twice weekly diary submission, English-Japanese dictionaries in the classrooms, phonics training for the ichinenseis (grade 7) and constant English communication. This is by far a superior Japanese teacher of English. We communicate well together inside and outside of the classroom.

JHS has been brillant and the elementary school has improved a lot, too. It's warmer now so I join th kids outside during recess or after lunch. We had an earthquake and fire drill and I had my second go around in the earthquake simulator:

I felt a little quesy afterwards and held it together. I hope to God we never experience a serious earthquake. I shudder thinking about it. The picture at the top is the "helmet" the kids and teachers are supposed to wear in the event of an earthquake. It's like a seat pad and just as sexy. Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to turn the camera on to myself. Too bad, so sad.

On Saturday, I had to work, which always blows, but I had a good day nonetheless. Parents were invited to sit in on classes and we had a good number of folks during my ninensei class. These kids aren't very fluent yet but they try their best, which goes a long way with me. Our class centred around show and tell, with each kid bringing in and talking about their "treasure". Here are pics of my kids getting ready for their big day:

After work, all the teachers and members of the PTA went out for an enkai (eating and drinking party). Since it was Saturday night, everyone got right sloshed and fear of sounding silly in our non-native language vanished. The food was good but the sake and beer were the main attractions. Mmmm, warm sake. The conversations were flowing and my JTE and I had an awesome discission about the differences in work ethics between the Japanese and Canadians. I told him frankly that I didn't agree in the rampant workaholicism that is prevalent all over the country and he confessed that he wished the Japanese would have a more foreign (i.e. Canadian) attitude towards work. He told me that most teachers only take 3-4 days off a year even though they are entitled to around 20...keep in mind that summer vacation here lasts about 5 weeks. I don't understand. Working in a school is hard work - you need time to mentally and physically recoup. I boldy told him that I'm entitled to 20 and he could be sure that I will be taking every day. Though we agreed on most points, I was a little sad to hear that he has to miss out on some cool things due to the stringent work culture in many Japanese schools. He told me that his friends are going to Seattle and he wants to go badly but he probably won't because of the unwritten rules. Kawaiso - it's a pity. Fortunately, that discussion didn't put a damper on the evening and after the enkai ended, we made our way down the street to the after party. There was more drinking and a lot of karaoke, but I decided to switch to water, much to the horror of the increasingly rowdy parents. We were soon joined by David and Jeffrey and my drunken self was ready to turn in around midnight, so after a soulful rendition of Sexual Healing, we bounced. It was definitely a fun time.

On Sunday, I surprised Dave by taking him to the Nagoya Port Acquarium and it was so damn cool. I haven't uploaded my pics, but I'll blog about it in my next post.

For some time, I've had the sneaking suspicision of whining about my time here. This blog has become a cathartic release for me. I like talking about the highs and lows and I'm not going to apologize for using this blog as an outlet for bitching and moaning, but I feel like I'm back on track with so much to look forward to in the coming 5 months. I'm happy with my decision to stay another year. But it's good to get a reality check from a friend once in a while:

"Hey Kakita,

Hope you are well. Just read your blogger. How can you be down in the dumps over there. Is it because you just left Montreal and are missing your family already. Don’t whine about it. Like you said, you’re there for 14 months so you might as well make the best of it. That hobby thing sounds really good. Pick something unusual that you probably won’t be able to do in Montreal. Master it and then when you come back, you can give classes. Start a whole new business. I don’t think I have to remind you that you are doing such a courageous thing. Going over there and teaching these kids. Not many people would actually do it. They may talk about it, but you are actually living your dream. You should just stop and think about that. In your old age (many years from now) you’ll be telling your grandkids about this adventure. It is so amazing sometimes, I think you don’t realize just how amazing you are."

I received this email from a friend and ex-coworker. Yeah, I feel pretty fucking amazing right now...

By the way, here the link to hair progress site: My hair is growing! Yatta!

May promises to be a busy month. We have 3 consecutive days off in May (Golden Week) and David and I will be going to Tokyo. My birthday will be spent in Okinawa and David's bday will be at the end of the month. Tanoshimi yo! (I'm looking forward to it). A bientot.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Trying to start fresh...

It's April, marking the start of a new school year here in Japan. With this comes new teachers, new styles, new routines and simply put, new beginnings. With all this new-ness, I'm trying to develop a new attitude. I'm been stuck in a negative headspace for a little while - maybe a couple of months. I've been feeling like I don't want to be here anymore and that I'm wasting time. My Chinese sign is Horse so I always feel the need to gallop to greener pastures when the mood strikes. So that's what I'm feeling now. I'm not being challenged enough and feel like I gotta move on in order to find some sense of fullfillment during the approx. 8 hours I spend on the job.
Now, I've been going around and around in my own head on how to make things better on me mentally during my time here. I've thought about not caring at all and just giving the minimum effort each day (it sucks, it's so not me to do things half assed, and when I try, I get realllly cranky). I've thought about running away and joining the circus (not feasible and financially bad as I'll have to pay god knows what to my contracting organization). I've tried to stop and smell the flowers and get joy in the mundane and the everyday. I've stressed, I've thought way too much, I've cried and I've given up. I'm here for another 14 months. There is nothing I can do to change this cold, hard fact.
So I'm going to have to get busy, get occupied and improve my attitude at school. I gotta thank Shiloh for this because she really made me see that I need to get out there, have fun and get active. Since it will be getting warmer, I need to get out more. Either for walks/runs or going to the movies or visiting friends nearby. I also need to develop an interest. It's sad but true, but I'm a grown woman with very few interests. I don't really have some hobbies that I can work on. True, I knit, I love reading and watching movies, but I don't have anything that I could hone some skills on. So over the next little while, I'm going to check out some options that have recently come available to me. I'll update you in the near future.

Anyway, I haven't been updating as much as I should because I've been pretty busy. So I'm going to dazzle you with pictures.

Todd came to Japan with me at the beginning of April and has been all over the place. We didn't actually hang out too much, but we did a couple of things. Last Saturday, Todd, Dave and I drove 3 hours to Takayama for the annual matsuri (festival).

We missed the floats but we caught some processions, made our way around town, had some street food and enjoyed the sights.

Unfortunately, we were unable to enjoy the much hyped Hida beef and had to settle for ramen instead.

My first sakura (cherry blossom) season has come and gone and I must admit that I was a tad underwhelmed (I must be the only person in Japan with such treacherous feelings). It was a sucky season due to the long winter, heavy snowfall and rainy days during viewings. Up close and in clusters they are beautiful and they have definitely livened up the school yards and the views from the river, but I found that autumn was much more spectacular But I welcome it's addition to the already beautiful landscape, no matter how brief it's stay. I've posted some pictures at the beginning of this post, but here are a few more:

Ok, that's all you get for now. I'll be posting a flurry of new pictures againg soon.

Mata ne.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Redefining Home

It's been a spell, hasn't it? Going to MTL and returning to Japan has turned my emotions and my body upside down over the past 2.5 weeks (that's it??!?). Returning to my home city was brillant and exceeded all of my carefully constructed expectations. I was overcome with happiness by laying eyes on my family and my best friends. I re-settled effortlessly into my temporarily vacated roles as big sister/daughter/friend and found that though everyone was living their lives like they're golden, I am irreplaceable and well missed. I'm still jet lagged and while I wish to go over my 9 days in la belle province in minute detail, I'm going to keep it brief.

My second stop after going to my mother's home was visiting my godson. It would be our first meeting. He was beautiful. I fell in love. He took a shine to me immediately. The rest is history (those are his feet up there).

I fell in back in step with the girls and felt so amazed by their sheer beauty and their love for me. "It's like you never left." Such sweet words were honey to my ears.

I stood up as godmother at the baptism of Shauna's son, I met the apple of Ayanna's eye, I crossed the border to Burlington to buy the essential unmentionables and skin care products that have not yet made their way to Canada. I ate A LOT, and had a Dining Diva reunion at delish Bouchon de Liege and caught up with La Filipinas over much desired pizza, amuse bouches and Rockaberry Pie. I managed to squeeze in dishes from Ghana, the West Indies, Vietnam, France. The fancy schmancy and the ordinary. My gastronomical wishes were fulfilled and I was satiated.

The days flew by too quickly as I had to squeeze in quality time with the girls, with my sisters, with my mom, uncle and cousin. Many phone calls were made and even more were missed. I let people down but such is the nature of the visiting beast. I didn't cry upon depature as I know I'll be back in September for a wedding. But my throat did get tight as it does when I have to say goodbye.

And the big surprise is I cut my hair. All off it. I've decided to go natural and embrace the authentic me free of chemicals. This was not a hasty decision; I've been mulling it over for the past 6 months, ever since it took 4 hours to get my hair did in a Japanese salon here. I'm so over putting chemicals in my hair to get that "look" that wasn't authentic at all. I wasn't born with straight hair. It's a process, one that is to be repeated every 6 weeks. One that would entail having a stinky assed "relaxer" slathered on my dome, leaving limp hair, scalp scabs and that distinct processed smell. Don't get me wrong - approximately a week after the process, I'd be loving my hair - so shiny, so bouncy, so straight, so fake. But the process itself, along with the financial and mental expenses, proved to be to formidable for me to maintain in the land of the rising sun.

So here I am: free and nappy. I've decided to follow my progress as my hair grows providing an outlet for my frustrations and triumphs (and to save my loved ones from hearing me bitch and moan). I'm bringing it public and I'll announce the URL soon. Watch this space for updates...

As my title mentioned, I'm in the process of redefining home. I'm currently in a bit of a limbo. Montreal will forever be the city of my heart, while Japan will never be home. My mind is currently bombarded by too many thoughts, but I'm taking comfort in something a very amazing man said to me recently: "People can be home." In this time of personal confusion and uncertainy, I find solace in his words.