Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Shimanami Bike Tour

A quick update:
I am currently packing up all my things and preparing to return home! I've been crazy busy, so no blogs.

I wanted to share this little tidbit -- Last weekend I went on a 3 day camping/bike trip with my friends. The place where we rented the bikes took our picture and put it on their website :)

http://www.sunrise-itoyama.jp/index.html

Scroll to the bottom to see us with our mamacharis (bikes for moms and grandmas!)
See you soon!

Japanese phrase of the day:
Tadaima! I'm home!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Aack! Where did May go???

May has passed me by with such speed -- I completely forgot to write that mega update blog.
:-/ Sorry!

Here's a mini-update (minus pictures -- I may add them later).

March:
I went to Tokyo for a quick weekend trip the first weekend of March. We stayed in a youth hostel and wondered around Tokyo for about 2 days before I headed back to Amagasaki and the rest of the group went to a conference for returning JETs (I wasn't allowed to go because I've only been here for 1 year). While in Tokyo I also got to catch up with a sorority sister who works for GAP in Tokyo, which was pretty cool since I haven't seen her in years!

Later, my family came to visit for a week. We traveled all over and I got to show them where I "hang out". They also got to meet a bunch of my crazy friends and we all did puri kura together (sticker pictures). They're pretty hillarious. We went to Osaka, Kobe, Kyoto, Nara, Hiroshima... It was a pretty packed week! We also ate a lot of good food and I introduced them to the wonderful okonomiyaki!

As my family left to go back to the US, 3 friends and I went to South Korea! We stayed in Seoul and basically had a "girls' vacation" -- we shopped and spa-ed and a couple girls pierced their ears! We did try to do at least one cultural thing everyday. We went to one of the palaces, a Japanese atrocities museum (in an old prison - you can go in the cells and they have moving manaquins mimicing how Japanese soldiers tortured the Korean "patriotic ancestors"), ate spicy spicy spicy Korean food, and the most interesting: we went to the DMZ. The DMZ is the De-Militarized Zone between South and North Korea - a sort of no man's land. On the tour we actually got to go into the DMZ and ride (on a bus) around the buildings where North and South Korean governments have their discussions. Usually on the tour you are allowed to go into the meeting building, but it was "under going maintenence", which in military code means: the day before our tour there were protests on the North Korean side of the DMZ and it was deemed unsafe. That's my theory anyway -- there really were protests that day! Anyway, on the tour we also got to go into one of the tunnels that the North Korean army has dug underneath the DMZ, trying to invade South Korea. They have found 4 tunnels -- the most recent one was found within the last 20 years!! That was pretty cool. So, I got to see into North Korea, which was so so so interesting.

April:
School started April 8th with a new batch of first year students. It's so nice in the beginning because they are so well behaved. (Now they are not so well behaved.)

I also went to my first baseball game in Japan. The local team is the Hanshin Tigers and they are known for having the craziest and most loyal fans. (Side note: I thought Ichiro was from the Tigers, but actually he was on the Kobe team, the Blue Wave. Sorry to whoever I may have told that to.) The fans are pretty crazy! They get all dressed up and have these special plastic banging sticks that they make a lot of noise with! Each player on the team has a special chant or song... It's pretty wild.

May:
At school we had the first round of midterm exams. Always a hoot.

My friends and I had many many BBQs to take advantage of the spring weather before the rainy season (which has just started - early June).

Last weekend I was invited to go to Kyoto with one of my teachers. We went to Kiyomizudera temple, Ginkakujin temple (its supposed to be silver, but was never finished...so it's just normal, but famous for almost being covered in silver leaf), and an old samurai's hermitage -- this was my favorite. This samurai was the assistant to the shogun in Hiroshima about 900 years ago or so. When he retired, at the ripe old age of 33, he decided he wanted to study Chinese poetry. So he moved to Kyoto, built this beautiful house with a gorgeous garden where he could study. He became a master of Chinese poetry and had many students. He lived to be about 90 years old!! Now his house is open to the public and many famous people have visited there (there were pictures of Princess Diana and Prince Charles, a couple Japanese princes, etc.).

Oy! I think that's mostly everything. There's only 3 weeks of school until finals week and then I'm done with school! I'll be home before you know it! Actually, my flight is on August 5th!! Only 2 months away!!

I have to go - a student is patiently waiting for me to finish :)

Monday, April 28, 2008

A brief update

I promise to write March and April updates soon! Until then, here's a link to check out.

http://www.hyogo-c.ed.jp/~kabutoyama-hs/
I just discovered my school's website! It's all in Japanese, but you can see the view :)

Last Friday was the teachers' Welcome Party. Every school year, several teachers are transferred to different schools. Eight of our teachers were sent to different schools, so eight new teachers were transferred here. I don't understand who gets transferred or why, because the teachers have no say. The board of education just decides who goes where. It's very strange. But it's also an opportunity to have a party :) Our party was at the Takarazuka Hotel. The food was pretty good and there were many many many speeches (from new teachers, old teachers, the MC, principal, vice-principal, etc, etc). Teacher parties are hard for me because I think the teachers feel intimidated by me. So, I did my best to speak Japanese to get people to talk to me! After the party, I met up with some friends who live in Takarazuka and we stayed up talking and watching a movie (She's The Man, which is beautifully awful).

The first years are going to camp this week -- to learn school related stuff, like the school song -- which means no first year classes for me starting Wednesday! Woo! And tomorrow (Tuesday) and next Monday and Tuesday are national holidays! Yay!! I don't have any plans...yet.

I'm at school, so I should get back to work.

Japanese phrase of the day:
Ashita wa yasumi desu. Tomorrow is a holdiay.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Update: February

Sorry for the delay! Here's a quick update on what's been happening on this side of the world...

In February, I went to the northernmost island of Japan, Hokkaido, with a group of JETs to see the Yuki Matsuri (Snow Festival). The festival is in Sapporo, which you may know from the beer of the same name.

The Snow Festival was pretty awesome. They spend weeks sculpting snow and ice into these huge sculptures and stages. Here's one in progress:
I spent the majority of my time wondering the main park/festival, looking at the cool sculptures and enjoying yummy festival food like yakisoba and crab legs.


This one is of a famous castle in Hokkaido...I don't know it's story, but it was really impressive. The detail was incredible!
At night, they lit up the sculptures with different colored lights.


Here's a video of some J-Pop group performing in front of the sculpture of Sapporo Station. This guys are what most of my boy students try to look like... :)

video

(The dancing people in the crowd in the green coats are my friends who were really rocking out!)

Most of the other JETs went skiing or snowboarding. I opted to go snowmobiling instead. Watch out! It's dangerous!!

This was a really fun weekend trip -- definitely one of the highlights of Japan!

Japanese phrase of the day:
Abunai desu yo! That's dangerous!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Healthy!

I just remembered a funny "conversation" I had with a couple students the other day.

I was coming back from the vending machine (vending machines are EVERYWHERE and it is WONDERFUL) with a nice tall bottle of tea to soothe my aching throat when,

Student 1: Give me?
Me: No! No! Kaze desu! (= I'm sick!)
Student 1: Me too!
Student 2: Cold?
Me: Yes, I have a cold.
Student 2: Healthy!

This is a pretty typical "English conversation" that one might have with my students. I have another student that likes to ask me questions after class, but it's not so much a question as words said like a question...

"High School Musical?" (Points to himself, then me.)
--> I interpreted this as, "I have seen High School Musical, have you?" Last week the question was "Favorite movie?" (points to me). A couple weeks ago it was "America election? I like Obama." (Side note: apparently, all of Japan supports Obama but not for any real reason other than they like him.) I appreciate that he tries, but I don't know if he understands my answers!

Or you might run across one of the handful of students who are practically fluent. Then the conversation starts something like this:

"This school is very boring. It is too easy. I should have gone to a different school."

Or:

"Please only call on me today. Do not call on him (pointing to the only other student in class who volunteers answers). I want all the points. Please don't call on him."

Fun times at Kabutoyama High.

Japanese phrase of the day (part 2):
Odaijini! Take care of yourself! (Which is what that student might have meant by "Healthy!")

And the winner is....

In an attempt to update my blog, I'm going to write about the Inoshishi Matsuri I went to Jan 26th. (Sorry this is so late -- I've been super sick and had to write 2 final exams, both of which took several drafts to satisfy my JTEs...anyway).

Here they are, the inoshishi a.k.a. wild boars. Sasayama city is known for it's wild boars (apparently) and so the fine people decided to dedicate a day to the inoshishi as only Japanese people can do.

The main street was closed down and this interesting cage was sent up. At one end was a hole for the boar cage to butt up against (also the Start) and the other end had a Finish sign that the boars would rip as they ran through. There was a race every hour on the hour all morning.

There they are -- whizzing past! Actually, I thought the races were pretty sad. They used the same 3 boars for each race and they were pretty beat up by the last race. If you didn't already know, boars are kinda aggressive. Shocking, right? So the boars would race down to one end of the cage and then, with nothing else to do, would start running around attacking each other. Then the boar handlers would step in and push the boars, using a wooden board, back into the Start cage. By the last race, they were bleeding and one had a broken leg!! It was really sad and felt bad for them. The winning boar's name is "Shishi-Fire" and although they said they wouldn't eat the winner, seeing how bad of shape they were in, I doubt it.

Also at this festival was festival food. Not just any festival food, but festival food made from, you guessed it, boar meat! I enjoyed a shishi-burger and shishi-sausage. The flavor was a bit different. Gamey?

Yum!
There was also plenty of souvenirs to buy and a mascot to pose with. Here I am with my Sasayama friends and the friendly inoshishi:
It was quite an experience and I'm glad I went, even though I felt bad for the little boars. I think they're kind cute in an ugly kind of way. :)

Japanese phrase of the day:
Inoshishi no niku wa oishii desu! Wild boar meat is tasty!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Snow day

I have much to write about: Inoshishi Matusuri, Yuki Matsuri, and lots and lots of snow! Tonight I'm going to get all the pictures off my camera, so another mega-blog is on it's way!

In the mean time, today when I got on the bus to go to school, the bus driver said, "Nishinomiya Kabutoyama Koko? Kyo wa yasumi desu..." (Nishinomiya Kabutoyama High School? Today is a holiday) and some more Japanese I didn't understand. I said, "Yasumi? Wakarimasen!" (A holiday? I don't understand!). It's Wednesday, and there isn't a holiday today! Luckily there was another teacher on the bus and he explained to me that because of the snow, school was cancelled for the students....BUT not for teachers. So, I had to go to school anyway. Poo. Here I am, at school, with nothing to do. And most teachers didn't actually come to school today, so I think I'll sneak out early... :)