Monday, 24 March 2014

spring break and my hilarious students

The sun is out, the sakura are blossoming and Gabby is in Miyakonojo! I’m filling time at work and counting down the hours till I can go home and see him.

Gorgeous spring evening on Sunday as I went to pick Gabby up 

 Since the third graders graduated a few weeks ago, things have been winding down here at school for the spring holidays. Last week was tense, since the teachers found out who’ll be moving to another school: they only have about 7-14 days notice and some have to uproot their families to move to a new town after only 2 years. This situation isn’t made any better by the public and dramatic way the reappointments are announced, so everyone was rather on edge. This week the students only have some special classes, and the next will be full of teacher’s meetings and admin.

In my last lesson with many classes, we made time capsules to be opened at the same time next year. Students wrote about their favourite things, goals and memories, and reading them has certainly brightened up a quiet week. Even the band names they’ve written are kind of odd, favourites being Bump of Chicken, Rad Wimps and Goose House. How fowl-centric.

Sakura outside school! 

What will you be doing in 5 years’ time?

  •  I’ll be a nice lady!!! Smartness, interesting, lightness, and more…!!! If… crazy...
  • I will work hard to somewhere. Perhaps, I may hate my job. Don’t worry.
  • How do I look? Am I growing up? I can’t think so. I think that I don’t grow and be still child. The future that no one can look is very dreadful for me. But I am never content to be second best. I will make chagrin hope.
  • We will be bad boys together.
  • I will associate with girlfriends of big bust.
  • I will become a caria woman! [Why do my kids write with the accent of a Jewish woman from Brooklyn?]
  • I will sex. Every day so much sex!

Write a message for your friend to read in a year!

These ranged from the sweetly earnest…
  •       You will be a cool man. You will marry to a very beautiful woman. You will be rich. You will be a member of Exile. Then I will see you and get your sign. I believe that. You can do it! You are a good boy. Surely, you will succeed.
  •       You are a good boy and I know it.
  •       I hope that you will become beautiful woman. I hope that you will be slim. Fight!
  •       I love your body.
  •       I will search happy and reason. Alive and aliving.
  •       I was very surprised by your fantastic hair! 
  •       I hope you become a good human.
  •       Be careful not to catch a cold.
  •       You are a good boy! You are a fantastic boy! You are a very good boy!!
To the abusive…
  •       Your body is very weak.
  •       You are my servant forever.
  •       Fuck you! Oh. Misspell. Fack you. Fack you. Good!
  •       Your hair is like hard yakisoba.
  •      You look like Highland cow.
  •       I love you (lie! lie!) Your smile makes me bad condition.

 To the random…
  •  I love information.
  • You are god. You are god!! You are god!! You are god!!! YOU ARE THE GOD!!! 
  • Your shoulder is high. That’s all.
  • You should not touch the hips of others.
  • You are tissue.
  • You are one of my best friend, and you are a great mushroom.

To the worrying…
  •       I liked you. I like you. I bake you. I like you. I like you. I eat you.
  •       Help me!!!

And some spelling errors were more amusing than others…
  •      I love fiends.
  •    My favourite movie is Pilates of Caliban. [I’m imagining yummy mummies in yoga  pants performing The Tempest rather than Captain Jack Sparrow].

 And, finally, I now have my suspicions about where Doge speak comes from...
  •       Nacki is very kind. But sometimes he is fear.
  •     Many places is very surprise. Tokyo Disneyland is much enjoy. 

I'm pretty gutted to say goodbye to my classes and students, whose determination and dedication consistently blow me away. At least I can still see them around school after the holidays. (Although I won't lie, there are some wee buggers I'll be happy to see the back of!) I'll hear on the 1st April whether I'll teach the new influx of first years, or second years again, and will hopefully feel a lot less clueless than I did in August! 

PS. If any other ALTs or JETs out there are interested in the lesson plan or time capsule hand out, let me know in the comments or PM me, and I'll get in touch! 

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

hiroshima and miyajima

I've been somewhat lazy about blogging recently, so I'm getting my act together in preparation for a busy two weeks. After a long long loooong 5 month intermission, Gabby is visiting again on Sunday and I'm so excited!! We'll be going to Beppu, Nagasaki and Fukuoka, but I'm actually looking forward even more till next week when we'll just work and chill at home together. The every day things like cooking dinner and watching movies are what I miss the most and it'll be so great to show my life and friends here. Just 3 days to go!

I've been missing the UK and the comforts of home a fair bit recently. Particularly, sandwiches, the BBC, being able to run my own errands, daffodils everywhere, creme eggs, high street shops as opposed to monolithic malls, hot water taps - etc. But most of all I'm realising what an important influence my family are in my life and how much I miss spending time with them. So it was really good to look over these pictures again and remember the last leg of our Christmas trip

We spent 2 nights in Hiroshima and 1 on Miyajima, a nearby island. On our first afternoon we made our way to the Peace Memorial Museum and, of course, the Atomic Bomb Dome. 

Visiting this kind of historical place - one marking unbelievable tragedy and loss - is always a strange experience. Do you take pictures? If so, do you smile? (I've got to say I was a bit bewildered by the tourists making ecstatic faces and throwing up the peace sign in front of the dome or gruesome waxworks in the museum). In some ways it's a museum like any other with a gift shop, a place to eat your lunch, but its also so utterly loaded. The museum was thorough, balanced and absolutely unflinching. 

The Peace Park was full of symbols of hope and cooperation, and one display featured dozens and dozens of letters from Hiroshima to various nations, urging for nuclear disarmament.

Back at our hotel, we enjoyed some gorgeous sushi and sashimi. Our final course was, I thought, a creme brulee-type dessert, but turned out to be a warm, eggy jelly that tasted of brine. Lavly. 

Tired out by days of walking up to 14km, our second day in Hiroshima was wonderfully sunny and relaxed. We took the tram to Hiroshima Jo, often called Carp Castle (my cup runneth over!) and wandered through its museums and shinto shrine. 
Never turn down a chance to play dress-up. 

In the afternoon we proceeded to a gorgeous exhibition of Japanese painting, and wondered about the Uniqlo's taste in models. 

Lunch was of course the Hiroshima speciality, okonomiyaki. We ate at Okonomi-mura, a 3 floored place containing numerous separate okonomiyaki stalls and variations. Despite looking kind of run down and seedy from the outside, the food was fantastic. 

We had a quiet night of Sherlock and room service, and set off bright and early the next day for the last part of our trip: Miyajima. Only a train, ferry and taxi away, we found our treat of a ryokan nestled in the woods in the middle of the island. It was everything I'd always imagined about living in Japan! Like in Nara, tame deer grazed around the river and carp ponds and cedars made a rushing noise outside our windows. 

Cue disbelief and joy ^^ 

In some ways Miyajima is like an island-Nara, full of temples and shrines and delicious food stalls. 

The main event was, of course, Itsukushima Shrine, with its famous floating torii gate. 

Really, guys? Ah, modern love. 

This is pretty much my idea of paradise. 

We bought postcards from this grand old dame and warmed ourselves with a sweet soupy drink made from azuki beans, a Japanese winter favourite. 

As the light faded we journeyed up the hillside via winding paths and cable cars.

What awaited us at the top has got to be the best view I've seen in Japan so far - misty island receding into the horizon, cedars, slopes and sunset. 

But the view from our room wasn't too bad either :) 

We settled into enjoying our ryokan experience to the full. Naturally that meant posing for photographs like austere 19th century nobility. 

But they couldn't keep it up for long

Once changed into our very comfortable yukata, we were ushered into the next room by a lovely maid, and sat down to a ridiculously beautiful traditional Japanese meal. It was my first ever Michelin-starred meal I think, and as you can probably tell, we couldn't quite believe we were really there. 

We sat at our little desks and were served course after course, each one whisked away as soon as we finished eating. 

The second oyster I've ever had - the first being consumed at a rather inebriated Roman-style dinner party given by a Latin classmate in high school - and it was delicious! 

After a couple of hours, we felt indeed like extravagant Roman emperors and could only take a few small bites of the last course. Green tea and and recuperation were in order. We trooped down to the outdoor onsens, and came back to find our futon laid out for us. It was really the perfect, relaxing, traditional end to our trip, and something I'll never forget. 

Dad's architectural journal of the trip! 
Goodbye Miyajima!