Farewells

Omotesando PartyLast week began the farewells, as I said good-bye to my third-years at my other school for the last time. It took some coaxing to get them to understand that they won’t see me again, but once they got it, they were clearly really sad about it. And these guys would get a “good-bye” whether or not I was staying.

It’s been a lot harder than expected! I’m not one to cry, but I can feel my self getting emotional at the farewell parties for the students. They gave me those lovely flowers and a small board with notes from students saying how much fun they had with me. The kids were honestly the only reason I really loved teaching here. I like my schools and my company, but what made me smile, what made me love it, were the kids.    Continue reading

My Tiny Apartment a Year Later

From the doorThis post is more for pictures, but perhaps you read my post from about a year ago when I arrived in Japan. Now, I’ve definitely collected more… things. It’s going to be hard to decide what to take and what to leave. Clearly, there is a lot to choose from. I may have bought a few too many books, also. I better start getting picky!

Despite being a really small apartment, for my brief duration here, it definitely felt like home and I made it my own. I’ll be sad to leave all it’s crafty strorage spaces and easiness to clean. It’s been fun, Leo Palace. If only you were wired for fiber-optics, we could have been better friends.

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The Japanese “Conbini”

The Candy IsleEvery time I chat with friends, I always talk about the magical “conbini.” Even in Japanese, the word for convenience store is konbiniansu sutoa but they often shorten this to conbini. In typical Japanglish fashion, we native English speakers have also adopted this fashionably short word. Often, in Japanese, names of stores or restaurants are shortened to just a few syllables. For example: Starbucks becomes staabaa, McDonald’s becomes Makku, and my personal favorite, First Kitchen becomes fahkin (say it out loud).  Continue reading

My Magical Mira

MiraAs many of you read, I crashed my car last Monday in the big snow storm. Thankfully, I’ve been given a substitute car while my little Suzuki is in the shop. Another ALT in town, Lauren, has her car in the shop. She now has a substitute car, too. I got to see her car before seeing mine.

To give you an idea, it’s a really modern, light-weight car with blue dash lights, round handles, and one of those fancy keys that isn’t a key but it starts the car anyways. Needless to say, I was under the impression I too would get a nice, sleek car.

Wrong.  Continue reading

A Christmas Challenge, Party, and Cold

写真 H.24-12-13 20 18 23My apologies. Last week was absolutely insane, all through the weekend. It was fun, but insane. How insane? Well, I called out sick from work yesterday. In 7 years of employment, I’ve never once called out sick from an entire shift. Well, not that I can remember. Point is, I’ll come to work even if it could mean I perish mid-day. I slept half the day, and spent the rest of the day drinking all kinds of herbal teas in an attempt to clear up what I suspect is bronchitis.

I want to fill you in on all these great activities, so we’ll take it one day at a time. Of course, this Saturday, it’s off to Hokkaido for eight days of snowboarding and skiing! So much to do, so little time. Now where to start…

Giving Thanks in Japan

Last Thursday, after nearly a month of prep and organization, we finally had our big, ALT Thanksgiving. Naturally, anyone was welcome, and by the looks of it, our Japanese friends really enjoyed the cultural experience.

Especially the part when I had to carve a rotisserie chicken (they were sold out of turkey at CostCo). Apparently, this is something not many get to witness in Japan, so many ooo’s, aah’s, and pictures as I cut the chicken. For me, I was instantly transported back to my high school days working at Boston Market. It was a glamorous job.  Continue reading

Ichigo-ichie (一期一会): Once in a Lifetime

Becky and I!

From friend and reader Mr. Nakatani, I first heard the Japanese saying ichigo-ichie. He explained the word in a comment on my Momma Hakuba post. At that time, it was the first I’d heard of it. Since then, it has appeared more and more in my life, both literally and figuratively. The closest translation I know of this is “a once in a lifetime meeting.”

In a bit of history, the word is often associated with chado, traditional tea ceremony. It’s believed that the time the host and the guests spend with each other during the ceremony is a once in a lifetime opportunity that time should be cherished. For hundreds of years, this idea has been at the core of Japanese traditions and practices. It’s no wonder the Japanese are among the most gracious of hosts.  Continue reading

Japanese Fall Festivals

Between late September and mid-November, at schools all over Japan, Culture Festivals are held. Each school has their own spin on festivals, some doing bazaars, others (like mine) doing chorus contests.

At one school, the agenda was all singing, with a morning of competition (I’ll explain that in a minute) and the afternoon as an open mic sort of thing. Students put together dance routines, preformed as bands, or just did abstract performances. It was entertaining to say the least. The last number, was a band comprised entirely of teachers, with the head English teacher as singer. Naturally, he sang all 80’s rock music.  Continue reading

How Japan Does Halloween

In anticipation of Halloween tomorrow, I thought the western hemisphere might like to know how this eastern country does Halloween! As you may have guessed, they DO celebrate it here. In fact, they celebrate it nearly to the same extent that we do in America, with pumpkin flavored foods, candy, and costumes. The biggest difference, of course, is they don’t do trick-or-treating at all. In fact, they don’t really wear costumes. I mean, a lot a kids will wear costumes at Disney, or with friends, and they are available in stores, but it’s a lot more rare.  Continue reading

A Note on Translation

I’ve found that, here in Japan among my ALT friends, “finding yourself” is a reoccurring theme. I’m not sure how much closer I am to that goal, but I’ve already learned so much in the 6 months I’ve been here. I’ve also learned a lot from what others have figured out in their time here. Probably the biggest lesson learned so far is how to live in the now. I realize this is a bit of a cliché, but I find it a rather rare trait. So many people are too pre-occupied with tomorrow and yesterday, they are missing things happening right in front of them. I know I’m guilty of this, regularly.  Continue reading