Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Goodbye, Hitsujigaoka

Yesterday was my final day at Hitsujigaoka. I have to admit, I didn't think leaving this school was going to be as hard as it was. I had been told that the school was a little bit lower academically than Hokuyo, and it took much longer for the students to warm up to me. But once the students got used to having me in the classroom, and I got used to their personalities, it became a joy to work with them every day. It was hard telling all the students goodbye at the closing ceremony, with all of them waving as I walked out of the gym. I told them in Japanese that I would miss them and that I'm coming back for their school festival in September. And I meant it.

As much as I enjoyed all the students at the school, I have to admit that I had some favorites, mainly in class 2-1 (picture above). I loved this class. Lots of big personalities, and they weren't afraid to speak English and go out of their comfort zones. I'd make excuses to come visit their classroom, and they'd ask everyday if I could eat lunch with them. One day last week, their homeroom teacher asked if I'd come by and take a class photo with them. Then on the last day, they gave me a copy of it with messages from each students (in English, no less!).

There was also a boy in this class who apparently had a huge crush on me, and everyone - even teachers - knew about it except me. He never talked to me outside the class like other kids do, but I did notice that whenever I had conversation practice with him during class, everyone would get so quiet and just watch. Finally, one of the teachers told me that he was in love with me but he was too shy to talk. Haha, young love is hard...

Below is more pictures of that class:

Musashi posing for the camera. He made me laugh every day.

The boy on the right is Yuuki. I gave him the nickname Mameshiba.
The girl on the far left is Riko, and she was one of Nathan's students at Mary School. One of the sweetest personalities I've ever met. She cried when she told me goodbye, it brought tears to my eyes!

The rest of these pictures I took on my last two days:
Ichi nensei (7th grade) girls. The one on the left spoke really great English, and was learning French as well. We'd speak in both languages together!

This is Shun. Everyday he'd say to me, "Good Afternoon", no matter what time of day it was!

San nensei (9th grade) was a difficult group to get to know. Class 3-5 was the exception, and these girls were so friendly. They sang me a song last Friday as my going away present.

Another one of my favorite ni nensei classes. Daisuke, the boy next to me, would thumb wrestle with me every day. We did this almost every day for the three months I was at the school. We had our final match yesterday, and I won. He was also the pitcher for the baseball team and would tell me about his games. Gonna miss him.

More ni nensei boys. The short one in the middle I nicknamed Crazy Boy, because on my first day, he came up to me jumping and screaming saying, "I'm crazy!!"

Two cute ni nensei girls. Can you tell ni nensei was my favorite? Although ichi nensei comes close...

I was given some really sweet goodbye gifts as well. 8-kumi (the special education class), gave me a tea cup and saucer that the students hand made. Really, really beautiful. I'll treasure it always.

Several students gave me letters, origami, and other little trinkets. As I was leaving, one girl came up to me and put this in my hand:

A card-sized picture of Ninomiya Kazunari - Nino for short - a member of the J-Pop band, Arashi. When you teach JHS, it's inevitable that a student is going to ask you if you like Arashi, and which member you like best. I've chosen to like Nino, mainly because he's the only one I'm slightly familiar with (he was in the Clint Eastwood film, "Letters from Iwojima"). I guess this student had remembered that I'd said he was my favorite. Now that's a thoughtful gift!

I tried to say goodbye and hug as many students as I could, but when you've taught 600 students, you're bound to miss a few. I just hope that I made as much of an impact on them as they did on me. "Lower" school or not, I found the students to be bright, energetic, and friendly. With maybe just a little wildness thrown in there, but that keeps things exciting!

Goodbye, Hitsujigaoka. I'll miss you!!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

167 days to go...

Day 191: This is what Japan humidity does to my hair. I've given up even trying to straighten it. My students think I got a perm, haha.

Day 192: Ethan's latest foray into adolescence. Didn't we all have one of these signs on our bedroom doors?

Day 193: Should I be concerned that this is in the corner of the teacher's room?

Day 194: Three of my cute ichi nensei students.

Day 195: Reach for the stars, kid.

Day 196: My pretty houseplants.
Day 197: Clock in the courtyard of our apartment complex.


  • This is my last full week at Hitsujigaoka. This has prompted some of the ni nensei boys to profess their love for me. It's a little hard to conduct a class when the only English they'll say is, "You are beautiful". Nice pick-me-up, though!
  • I love riding my bike. Riding to the subway train in the morning gives me such joy. And I've made friends with the old men who work at the station guarding/putting the bikes in order. I started telling them good morning about a month ago, and now it seems as if they wait for me every morning.
  • I feel like I've hit a wall in learning Japanese. Sometimes it seems like I've learned so much, and then other day I'll have no idea what anyone is trying to tell me, and it feels like I'm back to square one. I am confidant in my reading/writing of hiragana and katakana, and I've started learning some kanji. I guess I shouldn't be so hard on myself.


Saturday, July 16, 2011

How does your garden grow?

Gardening has always been therapeutic for me - there's just something about getting your hands in the dirt, pulling weeds, and planting things. My dream has always been to have one of those country gardens - the ones that look a little wild, with my cottage-style house in the background. When Nathan and I rented our first house in Canyon, one of my first goals was making a flower garden, which as everyone in West Texas knows, is not easy. Nate and I tilled an area along the house in the front, and a larger area in the back yard. With the help of some zinnia seeds given to me by Nathan's dad, I had a rather substantial flower garden. When we moved, the next tenants pulled up all the daisies I had growing in the front yard, and they parked their trucks in the grass I had lovingly cared for for four years.

While we were living in New Jersey, we never really had enough space for a garden, so I devoted myself to potted plants, which are now living with my mom and mother-in-law.

And when we came to Japan last summer (Gosh, had it been that long?), I knew I wanted to try a balcony garden. Another ALT had told me she was successful with growing things, so when spring came around, it was time to start planting.

I started off with a couple of herbs: basil, sage, Italian parsley, rosemary, apple mint and oregano, two tomato plants, and some seeds for zinnias and a lettuce greens mix. I planted in May and kept my fingers crossed.

And behold....

Look at the size of those tomato plants! And even better, they now have lots of little baby tomatoes! The parsley and basil have really taken off as well, and it looks like the zinnias are going to bloom in the next week or so. My lettuce, however, did not turn out so good. Some aphids got to them a few weeks ago, so Ethan and I sprayed an oil/soap mix on it to kill them, but this week I'm battling these tiny caterpillars who've eaten half of my crop already. So I'm about ready to call it quits with the lettuce.

Sometimes I just sit out on the balcony at night, and smell the basil and tomato leaves (I love both of those smells so much). Hey, it may not be that cottage garden, but it'll do for now.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

174 days to go...

Day 185: Nate and Ethan playing Wii

Day 186: Four-leaf clover given to me by a student.

Day 187: The tiniest sparkler. Leftovers from 4th of July.

Day 188: This one the next night was a little bigger.

Day 189: Band playing at the Hiragishi High School Festival. This brought back good memories of watching my Randall High students play in their bands...

Day 190: I don't think it was quite Sunday when this picture was taken, but I love it so much I had to include it. Kele, Adrienne, me, and Tim. We all came here together last year, and proud to call them my friends. Here's to another great year!


  • It's been hot around these parts lately. I mean, it's not 100 degrees or anything, but it's the humidity that makes it feel so gross.
  • Blame it on the 4th of July, but lately I've really been missing the US. Maybe not so much the US (although I'd give anything for some good Tex-Mex), but the people there. I wish we could afford to fly there this summer!!
  • I have about two more weeks left at Hitsujigaoka, and I must say, those students have grown on me. Many of the students have finally come out of their shell, and are comfortable talking with me. I'll especially miss kids like Daisuke, who plays thumb war with me every day, and I always win. Sometimes I think he just lets me win...

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Pass the Baton

I love the concept of this really cool store in Tokyo. Someday, maybe I can visit it. Anybody wanna come?

Monday, July 4, 2011

Celebrating the 4th in Japan

Since the 4th of July is on a Monday, and we obviously don't get off, all the JETs got together for a 3rd of July BBQ. And what the heck, we'll throw in Canadian Independence Day for good measure! It was a beautiful, albeit windy, afternoon, but as the evening came, the wind died down and the fireworks came out. You can buy fireworks everywhere in Japan, although they're not that powerful. But they're pretty! Hanging out with friends, eating, and fireworks - it's what I love about the 4th, even if we aren't in the US of A!

Scarlett showing her love for America (she's from New Zealand). I brought this flag, and it passed around quite a bit throughout the night, and now I can't find it, haha.

Sparkler time!!

Sparklers require prancing.

181 days to go...

Day 178: Playing around with new film. My kokeshi collection

Day 179: Arimasen. I was too busy playing hookie from work and hanging out with Ethan!

Day 180: Grading ni nensei reports, I came across this gem.

Day 181: Another gem. I wonder if a love animal is like a power animal.

Day 182: So proud of my little balcony garden.

Day 183: Geraniums and baby zinnias

Day 184; Watching Hokuyo perform with some other junior highs at the Kitara Concert Hall