Same Same But Different!
Trip Start Jun 27, 2009
48Trip End Jun 25, 2011
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This past weekend was a 3-day weekend, so some of us decided to go sea kayaking/snorkeling! The town about 30 minutes away by car, Kushimoto (where Tony lives) is famous for it's surfing, and reefs for snorkeling and scuba diving. We booked a day island tour with a local company and met them bright and early Monday morning
At schools this month I've been mainly reviewing with my classes, since the last time I saw most of the kids was in June or early July. We are reviewing self-introductions (My name is...I'm ___ years old), weather, fruit, numbers, colors, animals and the question "Do you like ------?" with answers "Yes I do" and "No I don't." We've also been playing UNO in English, which the kids love.
All around Japan this month students from preschool to highschool age are practicing for the annual Sports Festival Day held at every school
The Sports Days feature some pretty uniquely Japanese events that you sure would never seen in America: unicycling while bouncing a basketball (one of my friends yesterday said he felt like he worked at a circus school!), traditional Japanese odori dancing with fans and taiko drums, obstacle courses, family 3-legged races, relay races, and pyramid making. Each student is put into a 'block' and the blocks compete against each other in competitions throughout the day. It's a huge deal, grandparents and other family members come and stake out a spot to watch all day, only taking a break for lunch.
OH! Last week I had such a pleasant surprise when I walked into my favorite school to find there were 2 new students, 2nd and 3rd grade girls...who speak FLUENT ENGLISH! Turns out their mom is from England and their dad is from Japan, but they live in Australia - crazy right? Well anyways, they are here visiting their grandparents in my town for their winter vacation, and the parents decided to put them in school to help their Japanese
After I found out about this I immediately went down to introduce myself, so happy at the thought of speaking English, and having never been so excited before in my life to hang out with a 7 and 8 year old! Amy and Mia were both so cute, and we immediately bonded over our similar situations..being different, and not understanding anyone (although I'll admit their Japanese was a little better than mine). We drew a huge crowd of onlookers in the hallway and classroom whispering things like "Wow.. listen!" "So cool, they're speaking only English!" "I don't understand anything!! Do you?"
I had the best day talking to them, teaching their classes, eating lunch with them and playing with them at recess. It felt, for a few shorts hours, like I was at home talking to some of my students at lunch, listening to their everlasting stories where they elaborate on every little detail that happened. It was great and obviously the students and teachers were all so amazed that we all could speak so much English. It amazes me, it's like the people I work with don't think I know ANY languages because I can't really speak Japanese. I'm not quiet by choice people! I just can't articulate myself in Japanese. I was happy Amy and Mia were there to show them that I actually CAN speak another language, just not theirs - haha
Recently at Tea Ceremony, our teacher Shibasaki Sensei (whom we receive free lessons from in exchange for helping her practice her English), decided that she would only speak to us in Japanese. She feels it would be a waste if we lived here for 2 years and left not speaking any Japanese! She has a good point, but it came as a surprise when we walked in that day...
It was really hard at first, because she can be much more strict in her first language, but I think in the long run it will be good for Lily and I. I came away from our last class with a few new vocabulary words, and a few grammar questions answered. It's also nice because she's not afraid to correct us when we make grammar mistakes (she tutors kids in English so is used to correcting mistakes), something not many Japanese people do. But now we have to worry about the million things we need to remember in tea ceremony and now understanding her Japanese instructions as we go. Meccha muzukashi!! (very difficult)
We also discovered a new restaurant in the next town over
There are countless local festivals (matsuri) in Japan because almost every shrine celebrates its own one. Most festivals are held annually and some last for several days. A matsuri is basically a symbolic act whereby participants enter a state of active communication with the gods in the form of feast and festival.
Festival floats or 'mikoshi' are an important element of Japanese festival processions
News in Japan...
After only taking office barely one year ago, the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe resigned last week. He claims his reason for resigning were due to 'stress and stomach related issues.' But everyone knows it's because his reign was ridden with financial scandal, maybe it's the stress related to that, Abe? One of his top cabinet members commit suicide and shortly after a few more resigned. His party had also recently lost control of the house and Abe's ratings plummeted to a year low. In his resignation speech he said, "The people need a leader whom they can support and trust." I'll say!
Here are some highlights from Abe's one year in power:
21 Dec: Head of a government tax panel, resigns amid reports he was living with a mistress in an apartment subsidized by taxpayers' money
27 Dec: The minister for administrative reform resigns amid allegations of irregular funding.
27 Jan 2007: Health minister calls women "breeding machines", leading to calls for his resignation and seriously embarrassing the prime minister.
5 March: Mr Abe says there is no proof that the Japanese army or government kidnapped women in World War II to act a sex slaves. He later tries to clarify the comments, but they still lead to outrage across Asia.
28 May: Agriculture Minister commits suicide over claims he had links to a political funding scandal.
3 July: Defence Minister resigns over controversial remarks about the US atomic bombings of Japan. He said the bombings "couldn't be helped".
1 Aug: Agriculture Minister steps down after being accused of financial irregularities.
3 Sept: Agriculture minister resigns only a week after being appointed. He admitted a farm group he heads was involved in illegal dealings.
In other news, Japan is said to have the largest population of centenarians in the world
OK a few more random things...
Top 5 Restaurants I Dream About (in no particular order):
1. Panera- tuna salad sandwich
2.California Pizza Kitchen-tostada pizza
3. Rio Grande/Cactus Cantina-shrimp fajita's and extra guacamole
4. Austin Grill-mexican brunch
5. Bittersweet Cafe-egg salad sandwich
Things I miss from America:
Drinks I Miss (that you can't find in Japan):
OK that's all I swear
Now it's time for some Entourage and bed. Lily is coming to school with me tomorrow to help me teach, so that will be fun. It's always nice to have her there. Then we have our adult english conversation class at night (oops I forgot to write about that, but it's going really well!)
Goodnight everyone :)
PS: If you have a computer, download SKYPE and we can talk for free!!
It's easy I swear. Right Ethel?