Monday, August 31, 2009

English Conversation 2

This last Tuesday marked the last session of my second Eikaiwa (English Conversation) class. This session was a bit more sporadic, a lot less students who showed up every week, which made it a bit harder to plan. Below are some of my students, though the class technically had around 15 adults. For our last class we had a "potluck" party, and went out for coffee after. It was a good time. I'll probably be hanging out with some of these guys outside of class in the near future, so more to come :) Next session they moved my class to Thursdays, so I can actually take the Japanese class that my city offers on Tuesdays now. I'm excited for that and hope it will inspire me to study a bit more on my own as well

Sayonara Hachi Gatsu

Goodbye August! The other day I was driving home from work, passing by some trees with random flowers on them. In Japan it seems, everything has a season -- strawberry season, cherry blossoms season, hydrangea season, even seasonal foods in stores and restaurants. You can't escape it. So looking at these trees, somehow my brain made the connection that I might not see these trees bloom again -- it is quite possibly my last August in Japan. I haven't decided 100% that this will be my last year in Japan, but if it is, I want to savor each moment and season as they come! I am sure each month is going to pass faster and faster. In September we have a big public holiday and I'm going away to the beach with friends. In October Dawna is coming to visit for a little over a week. In November my sister might visit (still crossing my fingers!) By then it will be December with another big holiday at work (new year's) and with January will come time for me to make the official decision about staying or going. The decision time comes long before I'll be able to apply or know if I'll be able to find a job back in the US, so it's a very nerve-racking decision to make so early!

Either way, I need cherish each moment here and remember to take risks. I've fallen into a comfort zone in the past 6 months. That in itself is amazing when living in a foreign country, but at the same time I want to keep bettering my experience here in Japan. Live the experience to the best it can possibly be by going out of my comfort zone. And by doing that, the first time might be going out of the comfort zone, but each time after that is just expanding the boundaries and making my comfort bubble bigger and bigger and in the end, the experience that much better. I realize that was a really vague paragraph and somewhat cliche, but is true for me. So, here's to the next 11 months in Japan -- cheers!

Friday, August 28, 2009

They really know how to do fireworks in Japan...

This past Sunday I went to a beach day and fireworks in a city about an hour away. It was a fabulous day of fun in the sun! Here's me and Kel enjoying the sun:


The fireworks are amazing. I'm not sure I can ever come back to small town America and watch fireworks without being dissapointed. Yes, this is the finale, but seriously. In America they shoot off fireworks one, maybe two at a time. In Japan, they shoot them off at least 5 at a time, for a solid half hour, sometimes up to an hour. It's intense. Check it out :)

video

And here's another, really short, but they did these a few times in the show, sooo cool. It looks like a fountain, and I'm kinda a sucker for fountains. And fireworks. So of course I loved em!


Kari and I got a chance to catch up, we hadn't seen each other in a few weeks! Hopefully I'll be seeing more of her in the coming weeks!


Overall, a great day had by all! The only thing that could have made it better was having some of you guys there!! Love you and miss you all lots!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Earthquake

I just survived the biggest earthquake of my life as of yet. I realize being from Minnesota doesn't say a whole lot, but it was a 5+ on the seismic scale, which is pretty big. I was startled awake at 5 am with hardcore shaking. Grabbed the robe by my bed and ran to the doorway (which I have found since moving here, actually isn't the best place to go, but I was quite groggy and didn't make it under the table). It went for a good 10 seconds I would say, long enough to freak me out and make me shaky. Interesting adjective I know. Nothing fell in my apartment surprisingly, but I have heard from a lot of other ALTs that stuff fell off their shelves and such. Just a small report to you guys from early this morning, since I am not sure I can fall back asleep for another hour. A 1/2 meter tsunami is expected, though you can hardly call that much more than a big wave, but it's sorta a wake-up call to where I live. Survival kit...check. Here's a link to the first article being put out about the quake.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Whirlwind Weekend

Wow, what a whirlwind of a weekend! We had a welcome party for the new teachers that arrived, just the same as last years. I was much better prepared for the party this year, and it seems crazy that it was a whole year ago since I was in the same place as this year's new crowd. It's been really interesting to meet all the new teachers. They are a good bunch of people. It has been really interesting to watch and observe though, and it's weird to think that I probably acted just like them too. It's eye opening to see just how far I have come and how comfortable I am with everything and how un-new it all is to me now. I still encounter new things every day and feel uncomfortable about at least one thing every day...and yet, looking at these shell-shocked newbies, I can see just how many strides I have made toward settling into life here. I hope that it also reminds me to seize every day and to notice and enjoy the little things I have started to take for granted.

(Veteran ladies at the welcome party: Kari, Kelly, Chrissy, Me)

Another highlight of the weekend was checking out a few bars in Fuji City. When we go out as a big "foreigner" group, we tend to all go to Numazu (ie 45 minutes away) or always go to the same Australian bar in Fuji, so we set out to explore a few others. We went to one bar called "Oldeis" (yes, spelled incorrectly). It was decorated sorta oldies/old American style with lots of cool signs and such, including the quite puzzling one below. I got to play some darts with my friend Kelly while the guys played pool. They played a lot of Elvis, and I thought of my auntie Carol the whole time :) We also found another pretty cool bar with a huge selection of liquors, so we just may have to go back for cocktails someday. It was nice spending so much time with friends. In the second half of last year I sorta scaled back on the social scene, but it was nice to get back to it. Hopefully the weekend spree will continue!

(questionable sign in Japanese bar...)

I'm headed out of town Wednesday-Friday to orientate the newbies, here's to hoping I don't bore them too much! Miss everyone at home lots since getting back; drop me a line and let me know what's going on at home!


Thursday, August 6, 2009

Welcome to August

Since I came back to Japan, time has been flying by. I celebrated my 1 year anniversary in Japan, and now am on to the countdown already. I have been going through stages of appreciation for this opportunity to live abroad and in Japan specifically as well as stages of homesickness and a bit of culture shock all over again. I suppose I knew I was subjecting myself to this when I left in the middle to go back to the US, but it really doesn't make it all that easier. I did jump pretty much back into things however, and am keeping busy with helping for our new teachers' orientation, festivals and catching up with friends here.

I came back when rainy season was in full gear, and I really just wanted to see the sun for days!! It went from moments where it was just water hanging in the air like below, to downpour to a little bit of blue skies, to cloudy, to downpour again. It was insane!



I also had to say goodbye to more friends after coming back, and also here you can see what the humidity does to my poor hair! Compare to the extremely straight and flat hair from the my USA entries!! haha!


It's also festival season in Japan, so last weekennd I hit up some fireworks on the Izu Peninsula with some friends. The fireworks would have been pretty cool, but there wasn't any wind to carry the smoke away, so some of them you couldn't see through the smoke. Overall it was still good though.


I think that rainy season has officially ended the past few days as we have actually seen Mt. Fuji again and the skies are becoming more and more blue each day. Along with the end of the rain however, is the beginning of the heat (don't worry the humidity is still there even though the rain is gone!) and no AC. Last night was officially the first night I couldn't sleep with a blanket, only my sheet and I still woke up hot a few times. It might be a long August :)

On that note, I have some stuff to do yet for Orientation next week, and will be helping an English Club student with the speech contest today...in addition to filling out stupid paperwork because I got sick the last two days when I was supposed to help with English Camp. That meant Japanese doctor visit #2 which resulted in a diagnosis of food poisoning. Though I disagree with the the diagnosis, I got medicine and thankfully am feeling 90% better...now if I had only remembered to bring my lunch with me this morning! Will have to take a long lunch break ;)