Saturday, October 30, 2010

I hate goodbyes.

This past week was my last one at Higashi Yonesato elementary/Junior High School. I honestly didn't think the two months would go by so fast, but man, did it ever fly! For my final days we had lots of activities with the kids - it's always nice to end on a really high note.

So Thursday we had a Halloween Party.

We made pumpkins out of clay.

And put on costumes

And played games.

The party was a great success, and we all had tons of fun. The next day was my last day, I was dreading it, mainly because I was going to miss all the students and teachers I was working with. But also, this meant the end of my routine. My very comfortable routine, and if you've read my blog in the past, you know how feel about that.

Every morning at 8:30, the entire staff was a morning meeting, and this morning's meeting started with the principal telling everyone about my last day. Harada sensei, my JTE, translated for me, and told me that he said that I was very kind to the students that this school would always be my home. Wow. I was not expecting that. And then it was my turn to say something to everyone, which was difficult, as I was still a little thrown off with the home comment. I wish I could've told them in Japanese how much I respected them and how much I enjoyed teaching with them, but I settled with telling them in English, and I think they got the gist of what I said.

The rest of the day's classes went by too fast, and at the end of the day, the nine students of the school brought me into a classroom and each one - even the elementary students - told me a message in English. They then gave me a photo album with photos of me and the students along with messages from each one of them.

I have to admit, I got a little choked up. I promised all of them that I'd come visit them sometime very soon.

And as if the day couldn't even more sweet, I was given a little bag from my 3rd grader JHS student, Yumi. When I got home and opened it, it contained this -

a little white felted bear. You see, about a month and a half ago, Yumi and I were looking in a needle felt craft book, and I told her how cute I thought that bear was. "Oh, it's very hard to make", she said, "but I will make it for you." I told her she didn't have to do that, and I had completely forgotten about it, until I opened the little bag yesterday. She'd probably been working on it all these months I'd been at the school. When I finally left the school that afternoon, all the teachers walked me out and told me goodbye. I can't exactly remember what I said, something like, "I'll see you again sometime!"

I'm sure I will make great memories at all the other schools I'm going to visit while I'm here in Sapporo, but Higashi Yonesato will always hold a special place in my heart. Having this school as my first teaching experience overseas was such a blessing. I couldn't have asked to work with a better group of people, and have a sweeter bunch of students.

Monday, October 25, 2010

School Festival

Higashi Yonesato held its school festival yesterday. Every school might be different, but I'm under the impression that every junior high (and high school?) has a school festival every year, and to me it seems to be more of a showcase of the arts more than anything else. At my school, the students' art was displayed, the classes performed plays and played in the band. We had a great turnout - great for a school of 9 kids anyway, and I was really proud of the students' performances. I only have 4 more days at the school, man I'm gonna miss those kids.

The junior high kids performed a play they'd written themselves about friendship, and the elementary school kids performed some kind of a fable, I think. Something about birds who'd flown out of their cage and into the forest, each one finding its own way. I didn't really need to know the story, it was the cuteness that I loved. I mean, check them out:

Monday, October 18, 2010

It was a good weekend

What a wonderful, busy weekend we had!

Saturday was the Fall Festival at Hokkaido International School, which Nate and I were part of the planning committee. We were in charge of tickets, and since apparently Japan doesn't have those rolls of tickets, we had to print over 2,000 of them and cut them out by hand. But we got them cut, and I think that the Festival was a success!

As you can see, lots of people showed up which meant lots of cute Japanese kids in costumes. I mean, look at that Mario! I asked Ethan if he wanted to dress up, but in true pre-teen fashion, he said no. And yes, that is Ethan in a "jail" of some kind. You could pay one ticket to have someone put in jail for 5 minutes. Sweet revenge.

Saturday was Nate's birthday, but since we were at the school all day that day, I decided to have a party for him on Sunday. I invited some of our extended family to eat with us at Jacksonville Burgers, which is without a doubt the BEST burgers I have ever tasted in my life! So our little party of 15 or so took up the entire place for about 2 and a half hours. Even my JTE and her new husband came!

After we had our fill of burgers and shakes, everyone came to our house for cake. Ethan entertained us with the latest song he learned in his guitar lessons:

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Odd Man Out

Let me start off by saying that so far I have loved living in Japan. They warned us that someday the "honeymoon phase" would end, and there would come a time when we'd hit the low of our culture shock. While I have certainly experienced culture shock in many forms, it hasn't diminished my enjoyment of this country. Honestly, I've been waiting for "the other shoe to drop" as it were, but so far it hasn't. The people are friendly, I love where I work, and I have lived comfortably for the last 2 months.

But it is certainly different, and where this is most apparent is at work. I am currently working at a very small school with about 8 teachers. All of them are extremely friendly, and most try to talk to me with the limited English they know. But Japan is a very homogenous society, and as much as I try to be a part of the faculty, I'm still the English speaking outsider. Not that they treat me badly. It's more like I'm this cute pet they have around. I'm interesting, they like having me around, and so they tolerate me with general amusement. I don't have too many classes during the day, so I frequently visit other classes - Art, Music, Japanese class. I enjoy watching the other teachers teach, even if I don't know what they're saying most of the time. I love visiting the elementary class, and Mr. Yamanaka, their teacher said I can visit any time I like. So I go by once a day, and the kids always welcome me with waves and smiles. Mr. Yamanaka is a great teacher, and tries to use English in his class whenever I'm around.

So what's the problem? The problem for me is that I want to talk with these people! I enjoy watching them teach, and want to know more about them - how long they've been teaching, are they from Sapporo, do they have any kids - but I can tell that most get nervous when I speak to them. There's also lots going on at the school right now with the School Festival just a week and a half away. All the teachers and students are scrambling to prepare their music/theater/performances, and I can do little but watch. I've offered my services to help in any way, but I just get a smile and a nod. The theater teacher in me is going crazy right now - watching all the students prepare their shows and I'm not even helping!

So I help when I can. Usually just putting myself out there and offereing whenever I see something that needs to be done. And they seem to appreciate it. But it's frustrating when, try as you might, you're never gonna really be part of the group. I could probably live here for 20 years and speak fluent Japanese, but I'd still be a "gaijin". I think I should just embrace my gaijin-ness - I've never really minded standing out in a crowd anyway.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Rose Garden and Museum of National Treasures

Today was National Sports and Fitness Day, so we spent it at the Botanical Gardens. Is looking at flowers considered a sport?

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The last few weeks in pictures (and video)

You can definitely feel fall in the air around here. The whole day has been terribly drab and chilly, and I've only left the apartment once to get some bread at the grocery store. It's just one of those lazy days - and it doesn't help that the sun starts going down now at a little after 5 now. To pass the time today I've been organizing our photos, and realized I haven't shown most of the photos I've taken in the last month. So here they are:

  • Me, Ethan, and the ladies of Higashi Yonesato School
  • Some performers slow motion walking in Odori Park
  • Who needs a grill when you can cook your own meat at the restaurant?
  • A shrine in Nakajima Koen (Park)
  • And now, a little amateur J-pop we saw performing at the Sapporo Fall Festival: