Looking ahead and behind

Heh, it’s been a while. I can’t really remember what I’ve done over the past week; I just remember last week feeling really long, which is a bit unusual.

The biggest thing, though, was that I turned in my recontracting papers on Thursday, while sitting at my desk in the community office, when my boss called me into the board of education office to dig into some awesome Mr. Donuts-brand donuts that a friend of the Kacho had brought by for us. She was visibly relieved and pleased to see that I was staying–I did tell her that it was a difficult decision for me, which she seemed to understand.

I also talked to my landlord–there’ll be a bigger apartment opening up in my building in April (one of the elementary school teachers I work with currently lives there–interesting), and I’ll probably end up switching into there. To be honest, though, having a smaller apartment does have its advantages…it’s easier to keep it warm during winter, for one thing. My apartment was also in better condition than Lindsay’s and Hannah’s when I moved in. And the apartments on that side had roaches and other bugs when the weather was warmer, when I had pretty much nothing except what accidentally made it in when I left my back screen door open. But…the prospect of having room for a desk with a chair, and a lot more storage space, and a window in my kitchen, as well as place for a kitchen table there–I think those are good enough factors to want to switch.

Hmm, what else…musical practice on Saturday. It was a much longer day than I realized–I caught an 8:30 AM train and carpooled in with some friends for a 6-hour meet-up. Afterwards, I was planning on going home and vegging out, but there wasn’t a train that got me back in time to make it to a supermarket before it closed, so I hung out with people, and we ordered in pizza and watched Bridget Jones’s Diary, which I’d never seen before and really enjoyed. But back to the musical…I’m really glad I’m involved, because it’s going to be a lot of fun.

We have three weekends of shows in March, and two rehearsals before the dress rehearsal. The first weekend’s shows are pretty close together. The second, though…ugh. The first show (Saturday) is in Hiwasa, almost as far southeast in the prefecture as you can go, and the second (the following day) is in Mikamo, just 3-4 train stops from me, here in the northwest corner of the prefecture. There are no train lines or expressways that cut diagonally across the prefecture…the only feasible way is to go north and then west, and it’s at least 3 hours by car. It’s going to be crazy.

In other news…I rented the first volume of the original Bishoujo Senshi Sailormoon anime tonight, just as a refresher. And it’s surprisingly charming and refreshing, maybe in part because of how absolutely crappy animation on Japanese TV is right now. It’s still popularly referenced on TV and elsewhere, and I’ve realized more and more how much anime today is influenced/inspired by Sailormoon. I was a big BSSM obsessee in high school (my favorites were Mercury, Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune, and Pluto, if anyone was interested), then a big anti-BSSM person in college, and now I’m kind of settling on a grudgingly fond-memory-laden middle ground. Lucky for me, my video store has all of season 1, and a smattering of seasons 2 and 3.

(I also rented American Beauty, which I’ve never seen–I realized recently, though, that I usually end up liking films that have scores written by composers I’m a fan of. I’ve heard wonderful things about this film, and it’s scored by Thomas Newman, who’s a favorite of mine. Our video store has an interesting selection–it still catches me off-guard to realize that there isn’t really a separate p.orn section and that quite a few adult films are mixed in with the rest–but it’s big enough that I’m hoping to catch up on a lot of movies I just never really got around to watching while at home.

Crap, it’s 1 AM–how do I keep staying up so late?


Six months, almost exactly. We landed around 5 PM on July 24th and made it out of customs and to baggage claim and into the custody of the waiting JET volunteers around 6 PM, and we were probably on our way to the Keio Plaza around now. (Yeah, I’m a nerd and like being really precise about my anniversaries.)

Half a year’s gone by. Half a year. I really should do some kind of “what have I learned?” retrospective, so I can look back in another 6 months and see how much has changed.

Recontracting is the biggest and most life-impacting decision with the most uncertainty to it that I’ve ever made. (Well, I guess coming to Japan itself was a huge and uncertain decision as well, but I was more excited than anything else–not counting the pre-departure full-blown panic, but I just sort of shoved through it and made it work somehow, or I wouldn’t be here right now.) The prospect of planning all these classes for another year and a half, instead of just another 6 months, really makes me nervous–I’m not good at it and I really feel like it’s sheer luck that makes some of these classes succeed. Maybe I’ll learn the trick with time.

Anyway, that’s all for now. Six months. Whew. I really don’t know where I thought I’d be at this point when I was leaving for Japan–a couple of years ago I never, ever would have expected to be here–but I don’t think I really could have had any clue, you know? This is unlike anything else I’ve ever done, and I’m kind of in a daze that I’ve actually made it this far. To consider everything this entails…when you’re in the middle of it, it doesn’t seem like a big deal, because it’s just your life and your routine, but at the same time, it’s all kind of dizzying and overwhelming.

Long weekend

I got three “gaikokujin da!”-type comments, all from little kids, in the space of 3 days–one on Wednesday, when leaving my elementary school, and two on Saturday, one at the Kawashima Community Center and one at the Ishii McDonald’s. I’d never gotten a single one before, and then out of the blue, three! And the second one–whew. Bessie and I had arrived at the Community Center for musical practice, where Joe and Jordan came down to meet us, and as we went up the stairs, we passed these kids who were leaving with their mothers. One boy was talking to Joe–evidently about his hat–but then he looked at me, I smiled and said hello, and he SHRIEKED, and started screaming, “Gaikokujin no hito! Gaikokujin da!”

We think it was my hair. I hadn’t gotten a chance to blow-dry it that morning, so it was pretty frizzy and poofy, and it gave me away, in this land of petite, flat-haired young women.

So it’s been a busy 4 days–on Wednesday night I headed into the city to crash at Tracy’s place, where I met her friend Mari. Thursday and Friday were the Tokushima Mid-Year Conference, and every single JET ALT in the ken was there, so I finally was able to put more names to faces and meet some new people. Julie and Bessie came to also stay at Tracy’s place Thursday night, and we all ended up staying overnight Friday as well. I was going to go home Friday evening and freshen up and get my stuff together before the musical rehearsal and Burns’ Supper, but it would’ve been too much hassle, and we were out really late on Friday night anyway, having a night on the town. (I finally went to Ingrid’s new karaoke place, which is seriously much nicer than her old one was–it’s amazing how good she is with names, because I’ve barely ever talked to her but she’s so awesome to me whenever we do talk.)

The musical…it was my first rehearsal, and it was a blast. We’re doing Peter Pan this year. I, like many others, have a bit part, as the Anime Otaku Lost Kid, so I get to throw around fun anime references and probably do silly stuff on stage. At the read/walk-through in Kawashima, not everyone was there, so I got to read for Captain Hook, and that was a lot of fun. I was trying to channel a bit of Bloth because I’m a dork.

And Burns’ Supper was a lot of fun, too–good poetry, good company, good food (Christine, Kirsten, Noam, and I all went in on makings for sandwiches…there was also pasta, mashed potatoes, and a good spread of veg-friendly food, including vegetarian haggis!)…we introduced everyone to the wonders of Duck Missile, and the Miyoshi-gun folks made our own Scottish contribution by singing “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles).” I read a Shel Silverstein poem. We stayed up pretty late, just hanging out.

And I came back today and conked out for 3 hours under my kotatsu. I’m still exhausted.

It was good, though–I got to see a lot of people I usually don’t hang out with…Tracy, Bessie, Christine, Kirsten, Rob, Christian (briefly), Noam, Andrew D., Brittany, Ben and Julia, Kelly, Diane, Jeff, and a bunch of others.

I also think that I’ve decided to stay a second year. I think. Not 100% there, and I have under 2 weeks left to decide, but…yeah. We’ll see. A lot of people are leaving, and it’ll be so strange when summer comes around and those of us staying will be left to act as “the knowledgeable ones”–I’ll be the only veteran ALT in Ikeda, so I’ll be assuming Lindsay’s “big sister” position, too. But maybe it’ll make us realize that we know more than we think, and since the beginning of this year was just too hectic to get all my stuff together to start applying for grad programs, if I start early, I’ll be right on track for fall of 2007. I’m meeting Louise in Tokyo for a weekend next month so we can both take the GRE–I’ve got a lot of hard-core vocab-cramming to do for that, but it’ll give me something to keep my mind sharp.

All right, I should go do chores and eat something and drag myself through the laziness into a semi-functional state now…

A sort of quick one

It’s been a while–I need to go make dinner and get back to figuring out the second half of my Double-Length Class Of Doom (and therefore next week’s lesson plan, since the Midyear Conference and Burns’ Supper will eat up Thurs-Sun) for tomorrow.

Went to two enkais–junior high staffroom on Friday (they went out of their way to make sure I had a full veg menu–still tough to make conversation, but I did my best), and the Ikeda International Society enkai on Saturday (no immediately apparent veg food–bright-red boiled crabs staring at me when I sat down, actually–but they soon changed that), which was a pleasant surprise, and I got to meet more people and discover all these amazing English speakers I had no idea existed, as well as see several of my eikaiwa ladies and marvel at the gorgeous kimono two of them were wearing.

(I also spread the Pirates of Dark Water “gospel” a bit more this weekend. Lindsay liked, though I’m not sure she didn’t say that just to placate my rabid fandom; Nate was really excited to get a chance to see it, and was tempted to air it that night when a bunch of snowball fight team members were crashing at his place, thus doing my “evangelism” work for me (this is the kind of missionary work I wholeheartedly agree with, you see), but I haven’t heard his verdict yet.)

I also got kind of homesick and miserable last night. I guess it’s that downswing that all JETs apparently go through, now that we’re back at work after seeing friends/family and it’s cold and miserable and unfamiliar. It’s not making my under-3-weeks-away recontracting decision any easier to figure out, though.

Got back into my regular routine today, and it was strange to be back, honestly. It was nice to be back at my Monday morning shougakkou, though–but their usual teacher was sick and only made it into school as my taxi was pulling out, so I actually taught the class completely unsupervised. (Mwahahaha!) And I did a decent job at keeping them in line, too–granted, I’d already had two trial runs of this lesson, and it did go well. I was still a bit quiet at my junior high, but it’s just tough to be involved when my Japanese is still suffering a bit from my lack of regular usage in December. (It still startles me sometimes that I’m conducting classes completely in another language.) I’m trying my hardest to be more social, though, and try to get more involved with my junior high kids.

Louise called me tonight, and we talked for at least an hour…she had to battle her way through some snow (she’s in the prefecture next to one of the two they consistently refer to as “one of the hardest-hit by snow”) just to get to her apartment and up the stairs and into her door, only to find that the old laptop her boyfriend gifted her with has now died. Anyway, we’re now considering taking a long weekend in Tokyo next month, so we can hang out, hopefully catch a few classical acts, and take the GRE together.

Okay, and I really do go need to make something now. And figure out what music-related games I can play with my kids tomorrow that’ll make a class revolving around nothing but music fun and engaging. (Why does this school always have to be my guinea pig school? Sheesh…)

The recap, at long last

I should have known I’d have nothing to worry about–the India lesson went off without a hitch. I psyched the kids up by having one person from each team race up to tag the place I named (they nearly ripped the map off the board, they were so into it–I had to ask them to slow down because that map has to make it through five more classes!), and then talked about India by asking them, “What’s Japanese ___ like?” and having them respond, and then telling them the Indian equivalent. They also loved the smattering of Tamil and Hindi words I taught them, and really giggled over a few of them, because they had close Japanese equivalents that gave the words interesting meanings.

It also helps that my two Thursday classes (only one today, though–yay for easing me back into the class routine) are particularly genki and with it and bright. Thursday and Monday are my best kids, I think. Wednesday would be good, but the class is so huge (29 kids); Friday’s the quiet 13-girls-and-3-boys class; Tuesday’s my double-length class of doom.

I also got tons of compliments on my (kind of rumpled) salwar (the new green one, Mom). It wasn’t that great at keeping out the cold, but at least it looked good! I have 3 here with me, and I’ll be alternating them through Wednesday, when I should be done with all my lessons. (Oh–except for the Thursday school that doesn’t start for another 2 weeks. Whoops!)

Anyway, on with the recap now…though you know, it’s really not that climactic. I met my family at Kansai Airport on the 24th, we headed to our hotel (in Izumisano, much closer to the airport than to Osaka), spent a couple of days wandering around and saw Osaka-jo, came back to Ikeda and unwound, went to Kyoto for the new year (absolutely gorgeous–totally my kind of city, if not for having major problems finding anything vegetarian besides McDonald’s, where we ate 3 meals). We didn’t actually celebrate the new year, though; we just hung out in the hotel. And then we came back to Ikeda, where my parents totally redeemed my reputation in the eyes of Gasping Woman at the restaurant across the street, fell in love with the ¥100 store, bought me stuff for my kitchen, reorganized my apartment, and went to my Friday eikaiwa classes.

And then it snowed Friday night and we all sort of panicked about whether the trains and buses would run, because they were flying back home the next day. So we woke up at freaking 4:30 AM to catch an early train into Tokushima, and they caught an earlier bus to the airport, in case the bus was at all delayed.

I did cry when they left–it really was nice to have them here for a while. And I felt pretty homesick for the rest of the weekend. I’m okay, though–it’s just tough, knowing that every single one of my close friends was back in Atlanta for the holidays and I was the only one who couldn’t be there. It’s also tough knowing that they can get together a lot more than I’ll get to see them. If I recontract, I’ll go home next December.

And to be honest, that’s all I can really think of. See? Anticlimactic update, but at least it’s done. I’m off to go make dinner and (whoops) change out of the salwar. Maybe I’ll make french toast, since I got my nightly.net Secret Santa gift (you rock, Stephanie! Thank you so much!), inside which was a can of fresh Quebec maple syrup. Rock on!


I wrote a really long recap-of-the-last-month post yesterday, only to have Blogger freaking eat it.

I really need to be prepping for my first Indian culture lesson tomorrow–I have so much to do! The huge world map I blew up and pieced together isn’t finished (the piecing together is, as is the outlining of the continents–it got me major brownie points with my bosses and superintendent at the BOE today, woohoo–but I have to figure out which countries I think are important enough to point out, as well as label in major cities, like Chennai and Atlanta, and write the names in katakana for all these things), I have to figure out what I want to say and how I want to say it and maybe find images to attempt to print out before my class (as well as coloring sheets if I finish early–I found Diwali coloring sheets; why couldn’t I have found them in October?), I have to dig out and go through the music CDs I brought with me from India (or maybe I’ll just bring in Shankar/Menuhin and leave it running to give them some mood music)…oh, I have to figure out how to stay warm, since I’m wearing a salwar to work tomorrow!

This is just venting and whining. I’ve been doing a lot of that lately, due to the massive stress of the looming recontracting deadline (February 3rd). At least I’m not the only one who’s really undecided–a lot of people are, which is comforting. As I posted on the Tokushima JET forum, the major things on my mind have been recontracting, homesickness, and remembering how to teach–thanks to my being sick during the last two days of class immediately after returning from India, tomorrow will be my first time in an actual classroom in over a month.

This is going to be an expensive week, too–Julie was in Ikeda, so she and Hannah and I went out for dinner, and I have my junior high’s start-of-term enkai (drinking dinner party) on Friday night (the last one was quite expensive, as enkais are wont to be sometimes, but…ugh), as well as an international society new years enkai on Saturday night. I’m actually kind of looking forward to the junior high enkai–I haven’t seen these teachers in over a month. My JTE today, when she called to tell me about it, told me she’s looking forward to seeing me again (she’s picking me up, actually), and I saw my really sweet and constantly cheerful school secretary at the BOE, and we had a pretty friendly exchange.

And yeah, this isn’t a recap…yet. But soon! Maybe tomorrow. If I can plan my Friday eikaiwa classes and the second half of my West Mountain Elementary School class for next week during the day tomorrow (I’m hoping to make my next lesson international music–woo, Irish fiddling), then I’ll write a really fleshed-out entry tomorrow night. And I’ll save a copy in Notepad, to make sure it gets posted this time.

(ooh, the BlogThis! window ate it again. Luckily, I made a copy and am going straight to the source to make sure this goes up this time!)

Hey there

Just checking in to let you know that I’m alive. My family’s here, which means that I’m spending all my time with them and none replying letters or e-mails. I apologize for all the e-mails I haven’t responded to over the past 2-ish months, and all the IM conversations I’ve sort of abandoned–I swear I’ll catch up soon. I have a long weekend coming up before the semester starts, and lots of photos to post and lots of things to write about…maybe I can get started then.