Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Christmas and new year in Japan

Japanesy stuff.

In Japan when you cross a street you use a crossing point. You may have to walk an extra 50 metres up an empty road but a large majority of the populace will do so and wait for anything up to three minutes until the green man says it is ok to cross the empty road.

Sleepless in Japan. Your average Japanesey sleeps about 6 hours max. Ask virtually anyone what time they go to be and it will be after 12am and they will be up by 6. You would think that they would all looked utterly shagged out but no. They look great and full of vigour and are ever ready to put in incredibly long hours working in jobs that fill their lives.

At the airport. As the plane starts to pull away from the loading place. The ground crew who have been loading bags, fuel, waving ping-pong bats and, because of irregularly worn ear protectors, looking like Mickey Mouse all stand in a line and wave good bye to the plane. Initial feelings were "Awww! Thats so Japanesy". Although there was a slight concern over other reasons they could be waving!

Big department stores have pedestrian traffic wardens corralling the shoppers into orderly queues so as to not impede others from getting to bargains. The obligatory white gloves and light batons waving everyone to their correct places.

Other stuff

So another two months have passed and they have been filled with interesting stuff. Lets start with work.

my paragraph (Rachel). teaching in the Junior High School was a new experience for me and i was surprised how sad i was to leave. i spent most of my lunchtimes with the special education class who were always smiling and happy. I'd eat my weird combinations of lunch (curry, cabbage and tofu and a carton of milk!) whilst listening to them all laughing and chattering away in Japanese. After a while I was actually starting to understand what some of these foreign sounds meant! And then there's the elementary grade two class were the sweetest and sang the most spectacular songs for me at christmas and when I left. Gave me leaky eyes both times. Japanese teachers work ridiculous hours but probably because they feel they have to be seen to be there and so don't necessarily work the smartest way. sorry japanese teachers.

(back to Chris) For me things have been quite rewarding. I got fed up of just being a voice box and about 3 months ago i started teaching a self devised phonics (pronunciation) course which i was teaching using powerpoint for a little while in some lessons. This was well received and after talking to the principal this was rolled out to all my lessons and so for the last two months i have taught this in all my lessons most of the time. The Japanese teachers help with translation when necessary but these  lessons are effectively just me teaching. Its been brilliant and the feedback I got from both the students and the teachers was brilliant. All that has now however come to an end and our contracts have come to an end. So am writing this whilst sitting by the pool in a posh hotel in Bali where we are on holiday before we return to Japan in 10 days to resume new jobs with a different company in Hiroshima. The culmination of both our schools was the last week where we had crying children saying goodbyes, both of us being highly praised as the best ALTs the teachers had worked with, bouquets and hundreds (for me 473) notes of goodbye from our students. We were both moved but proud of what we had achieved and that we had done something that made us stand out from the crowd.

Christmas build up in Japan is a time of present buying, glittering displays and amazing Christmas lights. Although the whole birth of baby Jesus is not really celebrated the opportunity to shop is. The shops got ever more crowded with Santa's and such like adorning most window displays and as the cold started to kick in with snow flurries dusting the roofs the locals could be seen with hundreds of bags filled with goodies. Strange really since most of them are working on the actual Christmas day!

Korean Barbecue - Osaka
Over christmas we had two weeks off and rather than stay in Kumagaya took up a very kind offer from Mitsi (the woman whom we did a workaway thing for) to come and spend it with her. Wonderful.  We took an overnight (and overheated) coach on Christmas night and on a overly bright and beautiful Christmas morning were met from the ferry port (Shodoshima is an island a few miles off of the mainland) by Mitsi. We cooked a magnificent traditional dinner in her kitchen and along with Phyllis and Yoshi (two friends of Mitsi's) had a lovely
day playing with the boys, opening presents, drinking wine and talking to whoever would speak to us on Skype. Not quite like spending it at home but this is our third Christmas in other places - Singapore, Borneo and now Japan - so we were grateful and had a great time all the same. Santa even came to everyones surprise.

After a couple of days Mitsi and her boys went off to Osaka to be with her parents and kindly left us her house and car so we could relax and spend sunny winter days exploring the island and neighbouring island. Time passed so quickly and before we knew it we were off

to Osaka where the second part of our Christmas break was spent  at Mitsi's parents home. Amazing hosts, good company and fun to be with. Mitsi's dad whose English is about as good as our Japanese, even taking us out for a wander around various bars in Osaka - Just the three of us!

The Morikawa's
Christmas over we returned to our final month in Kumagaya and have spent most of the month in a combination of going to the gym and job hunting. Its been interesting with offers from various companies. Getting to a shortlist for two amazing jobs but then being offered work in Hiroshima in the biggest kindergarten there. We have decided to limit work to 4 days a week so when Rachel was offered three days earning nearly as much as before and I was offered a few hours too we decided to bite the bullet and accept.

Life in kumagaya has been good but felt a little like a holding pattern since our flat was tiny, we had no car and it was only ever going to be a few months long. We met some lovely people and no doubt our list of friends has been increased and enriched by them.

So from beautiful Bali, where Rachel says "there is an overwhelming smell of loveliness", I will leave you for now.

Next stop Hiroshima!!