Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Goodbye Yamanote

Another month, another school. For the month of May, I worked at Yamanote Special Support School, which is a school for the physically and mentally handicapped. Although most public schools have special education classes, families are given a choice to send their child to this school if they feel it would be best. It's elementary through high school, and very small - about 70 students in all - and I have to admit, it was nice being in a small school again. With sometimes only 2 students in a class, it gave me Higashi Yonesato flashbacks!

The first week was spent with the Junior High. They were extremely bright - most of them only having physical disabilities which I'm sure made it difficult to function in a regular classroom. Some in wheelchairs, another not able to speak because of a tracheotomy, but all excited to speak English with me. Well, that is, except a couple of third graders, who like to mock me during class. But I didn't let it bother me, that's typical junior high stuff.

I spent the first two days of the second week with the elementary school students, and what a joy that was! After I ate lunch with them the first day, they asked me if I wanted to play soccer with them, which meant kicking a ball at a few of the kids who were deemed goalies. They were so interested in me, and wanted to ask me all sorts of questions, so it was good Japanese practice for me, and I don't get as nervous speaking Japanese with little kids. One boy in particular stole my heart completely. His name was Ren, a fifth grader, and he was a regular energetic boys except for this machine attached to him that he had to roll around with him at all times. I'm not sure what his disability is, but it certainly didn't stop him from doing the things he loved, namely soccer. One day, after we played, he put his arm around me and told me in Japanese how much he enjoyed playing with me. He also wrote me a letter (all the fifth grader did), and although it's in hiragana, I'm lovingly translating every word. Being around those kids was truly the highlight of my month!
The rest of this month was spent with the High School, which I figured would be good practice for me, since I start at Keihoku HS in August. I loved teaching in the high school, mainly because the JTEs (Japanese Teachers of English) I worked with really gave me a lot of work. I truly felt like I was team teaching, and not merely a tape recorder. I'd plan out games and other extra activities. They even asked me if I would present a theater class to the students last week, which I excitedly agreed to. And the kids' English was good - it was nice to actually have English conversations with them.

And yet as always, the month went by too quickly, and I've once again gotten too attached. The high schoolers asked me to come back in July for their school festival, and of course I agreed (it's on a Saturday), so I'm excited to see them all again. I'm also going to miss the crossing guard I saw every day on my way to school - an older gentleman who always talked to me in English - and all the other faces I've grown accustomed to on my subway and bus ride. It's back to Hitsujigaoka JHS, where my spiky-haired and short-skirted friends are waiting for me. I wonder if they missed me?

Monday, May 30, 2011

What's ham got to do with baseball?

My current school gave me a special present a couple weeks ago - three free tickets to see the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters. The Fighters are the professional baseball team of Hokkaido, and when I first arrived in Sapporo, I was baffled by their name. Why "Ham" Fighters. Was this some kind of Japanese phrase I wasn't aware of? Come to find out later that Nippon Ham is the sponsor of the team, and has nothing to do with any ancient pork warriors.

I'd been wanting to go to a Fightes game for some time now, and was so excited to finally visit the Sapporo Dome yesterday afternoon. They were playing the Hiroshima Carp, and boy, was the Carp's fans fired up!

No, that's not a UFO, that's the Sapporo Dome!

A small band of HIroshima fans. They were fired up nonetheless.

Now, I've been to a few American baseball games in my day, and I must say that Japanese baseball fans are very different. For one, all the cheering is very organized - songs, chants, and cheers are all done together. And I noticed a lack of drunken yelling as well. To tell you the truth, I didn't hear any negative yells or boos at all. Respect all the way. And speaking of the cheers, they were awesome. Here's one I recorded after the Fighters made a run.

We all had a great time, and in the end, the Fighters won 1-0. I think I just might have become a baseball fan!

Monday, May 16, 2011

229 days to go...

Day 130: Mother's Day ramen
Day 131: He is the "Terminator".

Day 132: My birthday presents! Macaroons from my lovely friend Scarlett, little trinkets from my lovely students, and Ray-Bans (!) from my lovely husband.

Day 133: A huge bonsai tree on the way to my school.

Day 134: On Friday, I received a package from my family, filled with goodies and this sparkly packaging. Fun to open, not fun to clean up!!

Day 135: Hehe, it says liqueer..... At an Italian restaurant in Sumikawa.

Day 136: Beautiful temple in our neighborhood park.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Only in Japan: Hanami

So spring is creeping its way toward Sapporo, even though I'm still wearing long sleeved shirt and jackets. Perhaps the most noticeable sign of spring is the Sakura blossoms, which first bloom in Okinawa in February, and work their way up north. Sakura, or cherry blossoms, are synonymous with Japan, and I was excited to see them slowly blooming over the last week. However, I did not know about "Hanami" which is a celebration of spring and sakura by having a picnic outside under the sakura blossoms. Apparently it's quite a big deal, with some hanami parties lasting late into the night.

We were lucky enough to have a sunny day today, which was a perfect opportunity for me and the boys to go out and enjoy the sakura. We walked to a park close to the apartments, sat on the grass, and enjoyed the beautiful spring day.

A great way to spend a Sunday afternoon, I'd say.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

236 days to go....

Day 123: Another shot of the living room. I just really loved the light.

Day 124 and 125: My photos were lost during these days, because my phone broke. But all's well now.
Day 126: Celebrating Golden Week with a new plant.

Day 127: Maze made of cardboard at a shopping mall.

Day 128: Sign at a dry cleaners.

Day 129: Kanae "driving" home after my birthday party at Jacksonville.


This week, I started my month visit to Yamanote Special Needs School. Lots to say about this place, but I'll dedicate that to it's own post later in the week.

For the next 10 days starting tomorrow, we're going to be the dorm parents at Hokkaido Int'l School's dorm, while our friends are away. That should prove interesting....I'll let you all know how that goes.

This cloudy and rainy May has been making me depressed. I need sun! And temps above 45 degrees please!! Please Sapporo, don't skip spring, it's my favorite season!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Awesomeness and Foodliness

Wow, is it May already?

Apparently Sapporo hasn't gotten that memo, because it's still cloudy and cold around these parts. In fact, it's so unlike May around here that it's hard to believe that it is time for my birthday. Frankly, I wouldn't have minded forgetting, seeing as how I'm turning *31* this year, a number I'd like to avoid. But time moves on, whether you want it to or not. We're actually going to be the dorm parents for the HIS dorm during my birthday (the 11th), so Nathan organized a little get-together with some friends last night at our favorite hamburger joint, Jacksonville.

It was a great time with good friends, and we packed the place, as usual. In addition to the sparkly sundae Seichii (the owner of Jacksonville) made for me, Ariel made a yummy lemon cake. I have the best friends!

After Jacksonville, it was off to karaoke, and I was super excited about this, since Ethan and Nate hadn't experienced karaoke in Japan yet. Ethan said earlier in the evening that he wasn't going to sing at all, but by the end of the night, he not only sung a couple of song, but he was choosing songs all on his own!

And to top off all the celebration, today was Mother's Day! My boys got me a beautiful bike.
Isn't she pretty? Now I can bike to the subway station every morning. Yippee!! And Ethan wrote me the sweetest letter:

Each petal says a thing he loves about me. My personal favorite is, "always wears clothes that make her look European." And check out what he wrote at the bottom:

This is some pretty deep stuff right here. And where in the world did Ethan learn a Carl Sagan quote? I have such an exceptional son! Here's what he wrote under the quote: "Mom has invented my universe by being a Mom of awesomeness and foodliness.

Yes. Awesomeness and Foodliness. I think that's two pretty cool things to be! Happy Mother's Day everyone!!

Monday, May 2, 2011

243 days to go...

Day 116: Various rice snacks at the supermarket.

Day 117: Oops

Day 118: Usually, I'm not too impressed by the English "sayings" on Japanese products. But I like this bag.

Day 119: The first blooms I've seen this Spring. Hoping for more to come...

Day 120: Friday was a holiday, and I had told the Hitsujigaoka baseball team that I'd come see their game. Imagine my surprise when I see the Hokuyo 2nd year basketball team at Fukuzumi station. I think they were pretty surprised as well! I miss these boys!

Day 121: The beginning of my humble balcony garden. I have basil, sage, parsley, mint (for my herb garden), two tomato plants, and I bought seeds for some lettuce greens and even some zinnias (my favorite flower). Let's just hope it grows!

Day 122: The last of the snow. Not so pretty anymore.


This week was the beginning of "Golden Week" in Japan, a series of holidays that includes Children's Day this Thursday. So I'm off this whole week, which is nice, if the weather will cooperate! Saturday was absolutely beautiful, and spurred me and Nate to make a trip to Homac and buy all my gardening supplies. But today was ridiculously windy and rainy, and it forced me to stay indoors. Seriously, I haven't seen wind like this since I lived in the Panhandle of Texas! So I feel like today was kind of a waste, but I guess it's OK to have days like that every once in a while. After the holidays, I'll be starting my month-long visit to Yamanote Special Education School, which I'm excited about. In June, it'll be back to Hitsujigaoka, which is getting better every day. In fact, it was just this past week that I was beginning to form some really close bonds with some of the students. Hopefully I won't have to start all over with those kids when I return. Tell you the truth, I'm gonna miss those crazy kids. Why do I always get so attached?