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Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Of buses, new students and PFC

So yesterday I went to my faraway school and I had to take the bus. Japan declared a recession 2 weeks ago, and already the bus fare has gone up. For my trip (3 bus stops) the fare is now 240 yen as opposed to its previous fare of 170 yen. In USD that is about $2.40. The bus fare is about 75c US at home in Barbados. Sigh! But of course I made about half as much doing the same job so it evens out.

On my way back into town we saw a woman about 200m from the bus stop running towards it. Now the JR (Japan Rail) buses are not supposed to stop anywhere but bus stops. So the driver went down to the lowest speed he could possibly go to, dragging the bus to the bus stop. Then the man that was actually at the bus stop watch the woman running and take like 2 minutes to get on to give the woman time. And when the woman get in she apologise about 60 times. The niceties of Japan!

This morning at Junior High we got a new student. On a Tuesday. In the second last week of school. His whole family came to the morning meeting and he had to do a little speech with his name, age, and stuff. I have already forgotten it all, and what he looks like :) Anyhow, I asked a teacher, he told me that the boy's father had been transfred to our town for his job, but then he added "Maybe he had problems at his old school." Flashing red lights! Japanese always say everything 10 million times softer than they mean. For example if a Japanese tells you you "should" go to the school festival, that translates to "absolutely do not miss it, if you in hospital catch an ambulance, if you dead hitch a hearse." SO for him to say that must mean the boy has somethign dubious about him. Looking forward to the upcoming excitement.

I walked home via the main street tonight, which is somethign I don't normally do. I think the top road is a little shorter. Plus if you walk the main road, you have to climb a fairly steep hill right at the end, as opposed to coming downhill from the top road. So I went to the ho store. The name of the store is maruho but the ho is in a circle by itself. Clearly it is the ho store. Dying with laughter!

Anyhow after the ho store I walked down the road and saw the PFC truck parked outside the lady's house. PFC is Ponta's Fried Chicken. It is sooooo yummy and way healthier than KFC. I can not resist PFC so even though I know I had food in my fridge. I bought 2 PFC fillets, and the lady threw one in for free.

And while we on random acts of kindness, Japanese have this way of randomly bring stuff to work and giving some to every body in the office. Little indivually wrapped chocolated, sweets, cakes, whatever. Lately I find myself in the supermarket picking out snacks for my teachers. I wonder how I will readjust to Western life! Any how last week I was walking to my main elementary school and I passed a lady at the bus stop and told her "Ohayou Gozaimasu" (Good morning ) and the lady flex out two sweeties and give me. I tried to take one and she insist I take both. That would so not be kosher in the West, but out here is all good. I love Japan!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A day at JHS: laugh til ya cry

I don’t know what happened today. Maybe it’s just the mood that I’ve been in for the last few days. But today was the most hilarious day ever. There wasn’t much to do this morning. But when I got to school I found Crazy Pink Shirt (the gym teacher whose name I don’t know and even if I did, would still call him Crazy Pink Shirt) in a fluorescent (I kid you not) orange pants, a lighter orange sweatshirt and a bright yellow shirt underneath. So just for today, Crazy Pink Shirt was Crazy Orange Pants.

After lunch it all went downhill. I had class in 1.1 with Sawada-sensei. The students had to write their answers on the board. Now the spacing between words in Japanese is no different from the spacing between characters, so Japanese kids don’t get how important spacing is in English. So this boy walks up to the board and writes:
Whose penis this? –It’s mine.

I’m in the back choking, coughing, spluttering and all but dying in an attempt not to cackle.
Later on in class the same boy asks me if I went to Osaka last night and I am like (to myself) Are you a goat, Osaka is like 8 hours train ride from here (on a bullet train!). So I reply no, and he is like I saw you. Then I realise he meant Osaka the restaurant in my town and not Osaka prefecture, which I unfortunately said out loud and caused all my students to laugh at me.
Then it was off to 3.2 with Baba sensei. 3.2 is the form with the Nothing-kid. He does NOTHING! Well, occasionally he will make a dart board and play darts on the floor, and he is apparently in the band, but obviously neither of these things affect his grades. He seems like he’s pretty smart if he half-tries, but he doesn’t. He’s just the sort of person who ent doing it if he ent interested. Of course, that don’t fly by me and I go and stand over him and make him do the work while his friends giggle. Baba-sensei might let him get away with it, but on my watch he will at least pretend to work.

Anyhow Baba-sensei asks Mr. Nothing in Japanese (because if you’re going to ask him a question you might as well ask him the only question that requires no knowledge of Japanese).

“Kansetsu no hantai wa?”
English: What is the opposite of kansetsu?

He looks back at Baba-sensei and with a complete deadpan face, replies:
“Kansetsu ja nai.”
English: not kansetsu.

So it wasn’t just me. The whole class erupted. And Claire gagged, spluttered and choked her way through the rest of the day. Apart from all the laughs today was a good day. I did some studying and I managed to explain stuff to my kids in Japanese. But I did the head thing that bugs me about how they teach English here. I explained to the kids in Japanese before I tried them English. Will try to be a better foreigner next time.

Torigoe Olympics

On Monday, I went to my Monday school. I know it sounds obvious, but I call it my Monday school because most JETs are at their offices on Monday and not teaching, and because my other two schools I am at for four days a week, as opposed to just the one at Torigoe.

Anyhow, the English Activity Coordinator told me that something was happening in 3rd period and I should come. She explained it in English, so I had no clue what she said. Seriously there are some people out here that I understand so much better in Japanese. Lol!

So I go to the gym at 3rd period, like I am supposed to, and lo and behold, it’s the Torigoe Olympics or “oh-ree-n-pee-ku” as they say in Japanese. And I left my camera in the staff room! So the whole school (all like 36 students-lol) are in teams, and they all have bands around their heads to represent the colour of their team. Now the Torigoe Olympics is not like a Sports Day, they already had Sports last term. The Olympics is just some random madness. But the thing is that in every event in the Olympics, is team competition.
There were four events. In the first event, it was a janken (rock-paper-scissors) relay. You had to run cross the gym, janken against a teacher. If you win, you run back and tag the next body in line, if you lose the whole team gotta run cross the gym, before the next body could start. The men put me as one of the teachers to play Janken. I am the worst: I lost to every student except the very last. (Embarassment!) The yellow team, which I went up against came second in that game. Red won.
The next event was Team skip. Two people from the team turned a skipping rope while the entire rest of the team skipped tp see what number they could get to. Red won again, amassing an incredible 35 jumps in a row. (I can not even get 35 by myself, but then I just suck at skipping.
After that, there was the three-legged race, hilarity in any culture, this time I think Green won, and red cam dead last. The final event was the most hilarious thing I ever see in Sports History. They broke the school into seniors and juniors. Grades 1 to 3 compete together as did 4 to 6. You had to take the band off your head and hang it out the back of your pants, like a tail. Then you had a minute to run around inside the area of the basketball court, trying to steal as many tails as you could! If your tail got stolen, you had to go off the court and sit down. At the end of the two rounds, every single time had 6 points.
The final score: Red won, Yellow second, Green third and then Blue. That works for me since Red and Yellow were my primary school and secondary school houses.
I hope this is an annual event and not every 4 years like the real Olympics, really need to get pictures of it!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Correcting the Japanese on Japanese!

It always amazes my kids, elementary or JHS, when I do something with Japanese, like speak it or write it. I think my Ichinohe Elementary School kids are used to me writing in Hiragana, since I teach them on my own . They were amazed the first few times, but now it’s set in that I know hiragana and some Kanji. Unfortunately, it means they often assume that I speak Japanese, which I really don’t. So they’ll rattle on and on about God only knows what.
Since I have a JTE (Japanese Teacher of English) always with me when I am at Junior High, I never need to write on the board or explain anything in Japanese so they are still shocked when I do. Anyhow at the front of all the classrooms is a board where they write up which subject is in which period (the schedule is not constant) and any notes. So I have a part-time JTE at my JHS, and so when she is coming to class they write that up in the notes. Since I have so much time when I am not doing anything in class, I read (attempt to read) all the stuff on the walls. So I glanced at the board today. First I was surprised that they had written “Sensei” (master/teacher) in hiragana (syllables) instead of Kanji (先生). As far as I concerned, if I know it, 3rd grade JHS students (15/16 years old) should also know it. But to top it off they had written -, which was wrong for two reasons, first off the dash is used to represent a double vowel sound, making it sensee, secondly, the dash is only used in katakana (the alphabet used to represent foreign words), in hiragana, the letter is just added so it should have been , even if it was a double e. So I quietly took up a piece of chalk, erased the dash and wroteい , while the JTE was teaching. The students near me all gasped in amazement, and the other JTE who had just showed up with a video camera laughed.
Way to teach the J-kids how to spell in their own language. Yatta!
P.s. afterwards it occurred to me that it could have been the form teacher that wrote it. Then I would feel bad for showing him up. He’s a cool guy and he got married on Sunday.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Bunkasai (School festival)

So it's been a while since my last post. ( a month and a day to be exact, I am so ashamed). I've pretty much settles in and there are so many other ways to keep entertained other than blogging and I've been neglecting it. But I am back now.

So this weekend is my school's festival. Actually both of my main schools, an elementary and a junior high, have their festivals this weekend. Saturday I will be at the Junior High and Sunday at the elementary. So I am basically working all weekend, but I don't mind. Because I get to take 2 weekdays off! And weekdays are so much more useful.

anyhow today was spent in preparation for the school festival and there were no actual classes all day. My English teacher told me to come to the gym at 2.20 to help the English recitation speakers and then ran off. So a day of nothing to do, but you get used to them here in Japan.

Earlier in the week I got to prepare two huge sheets of card about Barbados (yay!) so that now half of Ichinohe will know where my country is and a bit about it. The poor Japanese don't have a clue about anything in the Caribbean other than Jamaica, but then neither does half of America! AT least they are interested though.

Anyhow, I am really looking forward to school festival. I feel like I hit the jackpot with my job and my placement. I love my town, my schools, my kids, my teachers. Happy, happy!!!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


The enkai is a drinking party with your workmates. It is a traditional and apparently unavoidable part of Japanese life. One does not neccessarily have to drink at an enkai and there is no pressure to. There will always be other people who are not drinking, since in Japan, there is a 0 tolerance for drunk driving. By this I mean that if you have one drop of alcohol in your blood you are not legal to drive.

Anyhow on Friday I had my welcome enkai. It was also the farewell enkai for an assistant teacher who was doing an internship at the school. She is still in university. They sat me next to Yamamoto-sensai and Tairo-sensai was accross from him. These are the school's two best English speakers (supposedly, although I know that Chiba-sensai, the female six grade teacher and the third grade teacher always understand everything I say). The principal sat across from me and the teacher that was leaving was next to me. I guess these were the seats of honour. They made a bunch of speeches. Tairo-sensai had to make one since his swimming team did well recently and the Tashikawa-sensai ( the teacher leaving) had to make one, and the teacher she works with had to make one. All this time, the table laden down with food that calling my name. Japan is bare formalities. Can't touch the food til the toast. So then, the toast. Yay!

The spread included fried chicken, fried pork, salad with some really nice sauce, Japanese pizza (aka salad quesadilla), steak and sashimi. Sashimi is raw fish. The difference between sashimi and sushi is that sushi has been prepared- i.e. is raw fish with maybe lime on it, stuck onto rice. Sashimi is just a slice of raw fish. I had octupus, salmon and tuna. I actually tried the tuna and the salmon. The principal saved me from having to finish them. Afterwards, I realise thta you're not actually supposed to bite them. Maybe I will try again, or maybe not. I know I am not touching any octopus!

As for drinks, I had beer, which is not as weak as American beer and sake (which I love) and reggae punch, which is iced tea and lemon and some alcohol, and is the only way I like iced tea.

It's like the song says, "after the party, is the after-party". Of course I was completely pooped and ready to go home. Yamamoto-sensai was sending me home with Hayashida-sensai, but Chiba-sensai grabbed my arm and next thing I know I am on the way to another restaurant. It was way past my bed time. They ordered some food and I ordered an Apple Juice IN JAPANESE!!! Of course they got me steak. Never make the mistake of telling a Japanese that you like something. They will give it to you at every available chance! lol! At 11.40 Tashikawa-sensai said she had to leave (Yay- I was so about to fall into the plate with the sleep!) and she took me home.

It was an enjoyable experience!

Karumai Festival- September 12-15

It is so easy not to blog when you're living the good life in Japan. I am a week behind on everything. Oh well, anyhow.

Last weekend was Karumai festival. Janine came and got us from Ichinohe around midday on Saturday and took us back to Karumai. We hung out her place while she went to the Town hall (yakuba) to get all yukata'd up. A yukata or kimono is not something a female can put on by herself. They involve some complicated knots, and tying off and thing, and in Janine's case, stitching -lol. It is also not something you can take off by yourself. Anyhow, afterwards Janine came back and got us to head over to where her neighbourhood's float was starting.

There were a lot of really tiny kids in traditional Japanese wear and they were really cute. I don't remember seeing any at my festival, but this may be because I worked one day of the festival, had to perform at the second and slept through the third. Next thing we know, Dan is in one of the overcoat shirt things that looks somewhere between a Bermuda shirt and a yukata and we can see that they are going to drag us into the festival. Lol!

But they only ask Dan to pull the float. Funny enough, Janine is the only one in a yukata pulling. The other girls are playing the flute to complement the taiko. And the ladies who are pulling are wearing the same thing as Dan. For some reason the pulled the float up a ridiculous hill and parked. There were 2 more floats, 1 in front and one behind us, which went up the hill and also 2 more which parked in the gas station at the base of the hill instead.

The float for the other ALT's community had a cermonial sake breaking and we had sake to drink. Then a float came down the hill, which was from Hachinohe. This float is the coolest I have ever seen. It can expand. Characters can come out of the top and the sides, making it absolutely humongous. After that float went down, we went back down the hill. This time they asked me and Tyler to pull too. We were joined by some dancers, doing what I assume to be the Karumai dance. Seems every town in Iwate has its own summer dance.

At some point, Dan, Tyler and I deserted to go get some festival food. Festival food is one of the best things about Japan. We went back to Janine. I had yakitori (Barbecued chicken on a stick! Yay!) and sausage on a stick. Tyler and Dan also got a barbecued tofu! The Japanese do any and everything to tofu. The people in the float brought us drinks as well. No one can fault Japanese hospitality. At this point there were a total of 6 floats parked in a lot near a shrine.

The Hachinohe float left first followed by a Ninohe one, then Brett (the other ALT), then another, then us, and then the last. When we got back to the intersection near the yakuba, they parked our float and Brett's float came back and there was a taiko drum-off. They invited me and Janine to join in a dance with the girls from Brett's float. Of course we didn't know the dance so it was fairly hilarious but it was definitely fun.

At exactly 7 p.m, the scheduled end of the festival, they stopped and the float behind us parked where we had been. Brett's community tried to pull their float up the ridiculous hill next to the yakuba. It rolled back for a bit and we worried that there was going to be an accident, but they got it up in the end. Then they pulled our float towards the hill. I thought to myself that there was no way we were going to get up that hill, but then they hooked the float up to an SUV. Yay, for working smarter and not harder!

On Sunday morning, there was a parade. We didn't know what it would be like til we got there. But it was the Fire Volunteer Corps. From the number of people on parade, it pretty much looked like every single man in Karumai was in the Corps. There were some ladies who went in a seperate section. I am not sure if they were FVC or not and there were also some kids, who looked kinda like Boy Scout, Girl Guide equivalent. Then there was an eternal line of fire trucks. I have never seen so many fire vehicles in one place. And they all belong to Karumai. They all went down to the riverside. 24 of the fire trucks drove down into the riverbank. There were steps leading down into the river and we were the farthest ones forward. Clearly whatever was happening, we were going to get wet. They all hooked up to the river and then made an arch of water 50 feet in the air. Then they put dye in the hoses and had a rainbow arch. It is by far the coolest thing I've ever seen fire trucks do.

After that there was a memorial ceremony. Apparently, 7 years ago there was a flood in Karumai and many people on the riverfront lost everything. I think a few people also died. After the ceremony (excessively long- since it's Japan) they packed up and left... We went and had multicoloured, slush puppies in ice cream cones. This is another way cool thing about Japan. Everything is very cute. Lot's of pink. Lot's of cute characters like Miffy and Minny and Mickey Mouse and Pooh and Stitch and Hello Kitty. So if there is a place in the world for a white, blue, pink and orange slush puppy on a pink cone it would be Japan.

Anyhow after that we headed back, because I had a Japanese lesson to go to in Ninohe and Dan and Tyler had to meet the Ninohe/Kunohe lot the following day.

Festivals in Japan are great! If you're ever in Japan try to visit one!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Last weekend- Ninohe, Hachinohe, Taneichi, Misawa

Last weekend, we went to Ninohe Matsuri (Festival) on Friday night. We watched a little of the festival and then we went to House of Picnic for Ribs. We met up with the Ninohe and Kunohe ALT's there and some ALT friends. We didn't leave til almost 1 a.m. Janine stayed by my house, rather than driving back to Karumai, because Ichinohe is closer.

Saturday morning, Janine piled us all in her car and we went up to Hachinohe for a shopping trip. The best thing about Hachinohe is that you stand a better chance of getting foreigner sized stuff, because there is an Air Base in neighbouring town, Misawa. I got a pair of pink and white Adidas- happy, happy camper. I also found some nice earrings and a pink Snoopy Bag and an Engrish T-shirt. I was able to find where the movie theatre was, which means I don't need to go to Morioka to watch something on the big screen. The only problem I have with Hachinohe is that it's really spread out so it's more difficult to get around on foot. Oh well, Itll save me $10 US over going to Morioka. The cinema here is really expensive too. Up to $20 US so I can't go every weekend anyhow. Maybe every other month... We'll see.

After Cino (the first shopping centre) we went to a mall. We went to the electronics store there. I got a couple of DVD's - Xmen, the Last Stand and Anastasia- I love Anastasia. Then we went to Toys R' Us. I saw some really cool puzzles. My boyfriend loves puzzles. He's always trying to kill me for buying him a really difficult one. Oh, temptation. Then we went into the main mall block and went to a Sports store. I got a sleeping bag. Considering how cold Ichinohe gets, and the fact that the houses aren't insulated this is excellent. this is also where I actually got my Adidas. Then we had McDonalds for lunch. I am not a fan of McDonalds but I relish everything that's not Japanese. It's great to get away once in a while.

Then we went to another mall to go to Uniqlo, a clothing store. Janine and Tyler are 8 million sizes smaller thna me and they had to get larges. I don't expect to ever purchase a piece of clothing for the lower body in Japan. Then we went into the grocery to get some meat for the Nu-B-Q. I also picked up some Johnnie Walker.

We got to the beach about 6.30. There was a serious fog starting up. Obviously we weren't getting anywhere going in the sea. Oh well. I have sea at home. And it's the best sea in the world. We barbecued and hung out. Most people went to Ra's at midnight. We stayed on the beach. The rest wanted to sleep there. The fog had gotten thicker (you could take pictures of it!) and it was cold so I slept in the car. In the morning I took a picture of the tsunami wall. It's wierd to think that I am in a place where earthquakes are so prevalent they'd bother to spend millions of dollars to put up a tsunami wall.

After just a few hours of sleep, we headed to Janine's to get ready for Misawa. I saw my first accident in Japan. I took a shower and got ready. Then we set off. The traffic was horrible getting off the expressway and coming up to where the roads were closed off. It was like a half hour walk to the base. We stopped at the food court to have brunch and pigged out on Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, and Subway since we hadn't seen much Western food in the last month. Then we walked to the air field- another ten minutes. The first plane we saw was the F4- painted with "Last Flight 2008". Shortly after we got there they did a firefighting demo with a helicopter, then a rescue demo. We walked along the stalls and Janine and Tyler got chocolate covered bananas- ew! Then they brought out the blue angels, but they just drove around the runway and gunned their engines. We took some pictures with airmen, in an F-350 and in a helicopter, then we looked at some missiles. Then we talked to some airmen and they told us that there was lightning above the clouds and that was why the planes weren't actually flying. That we should come to the show next year. lol. Then a Japan Airlines flight came down the runway and took off. Seems the airbase shares it's runway with the Misawa Airport. The F4 came out and it actually flew. I think it had to. It would suck to have your last flight ever be cancelled.

After the F4 we went back to the food court and I got a foot long at Subway but only ate half. We tried to buy stuff at the Air Force Exchange but it turned out you had to have a military ID or be an authorised user. (Misawa airmen message me-lol.) It was getting dark when I got back to Ichinohe and I went straight to sleep.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Torigoe- this is from last Monday

Torigoe (1 Sep)
Today is my first day at Torigoe, my twice a month elementary. I got here very early because I overestimated how much time it would take to walk to the bus stop and ended up on the 7.38 bus instead of the 7.58 bus. The bus cost 170 yen! That’s about $1.70 US, which is really expensive for me. It cost 75 cents US at home. Anyhow, the way the bus works is that you take a ticket when you get in. And a board at the front of the bus displays your number and the price you pay, which goes up as you travel. I think next week I will walk to the bus stop by the high school and see if I can save 30 cents. Or not.
Any how, once I got here, I went to assembly. Assembly was weird. The principal did Maths!!! After she introduced myself in English and Japanese to the students. We exited to music!!! Next was the morning meeting. I introduced myself in Japanese and the staff freaked out. They introduced themselves and I promptly forgot all their names. I did, however, remember which forms they taught. Some of the forms here are combined. Like 3rd and 4th grade and 5th and 6th. The whole school is the same size as my smallest class at Ichinohe Chugakko, 33 students. Or at least that is how many I counted at assembly. Today I went to ninensei first (second graders). There were only 4 of them. The second grade teacher is the English activity coordinator so she had a lesson plan done out. Then back to the staff room during the random 10 minute break between everything at schools in Japan. In second period I had 3.4. There was no lesson plan there. I did my introduction, then I had the students introduce themselves, then I did “I like” with some random foods and then we play concentration with foods in either English or Japanese. Then it was break time. I went back to the staff room and the lady across from me offered em coffee and I said yes. For what reason I do not know since I don’t like coffee. The English coordinator gave me some sheets to draw my introduction on the bulletin board. I think I had too much fun with it. I wrote in all the harder words in Katakana and Hiragana, except the word for capital which I don’t know. The teacher who sits next to me freaked about me writing in Japanese. She struck up a conversation and I actually understood most of what she said. She asked what we eat in Barbados and I told her rice, chicken, spaghetti, flying fish. I didn’t tell her about coucou. It is hard enough to explain in English, far less in Japanese.
After I finished designing my introduction billboard I wrote a poem about my Japanese.
Today I said Konnichiwa to someone I didn’t know
They asked me a question
And suddenly it flowed
Coming from my lips was a steady stream
Of Japanese and where it came from I can’t begin to dream
But come it did and understood it was nonetheless
Despite my intermittent cries of “Nihongo heta des-“
“I am bad at Japanese”, even though at the time
My mouth was making my truth sound very like a lie
The responses came “Iie, Jouzu desu” and “Subarashii”
“No, you are very good,” and “It’s wonderful” they said to me.
I bowed and smiled as I turned my back
Why must my mouth tell lies on me, without a modicum of tact?
Or maybe I am learning Japanese, maybe I can speak well
Only time and the next conversation can truly tell!

It’s how I feel today because I understand most of what is going on. Lunch time came and I ate in the staff room with the Principal, Vice Principal, the lady across from me who puts out the food and who I assume is the janitor-ish, maid-ish thing (this position is hard to define in Japan because they do very different things from the ones in the Western world). The principal freaked out that I was eating with chopsticks, but that was what I found in Scott’s drawer. It was either that or fingers! Lol! As usual lunch was a very strange medley: tofu and fish soup (drank the soup- ate one piece of tofu for good measure, some mixed veg thing, which I tried to no avail to pick the carrot out of, rice, and a tempura thing ( I wish I could explain tempura, it looks like a hairy nugget, but it can be shrimp, meat or vegetable).
The principal was walking by when I started with my kanji practice and stood over me talking about how brilliant I was to be writing Kanji, so the Vice Principal walked over. Looking my computer and my shirt, he asked me if I liked pink. I said yes. He said that pink and purple are his favourite colours! Same as mine. If he was a Westerner everyone would think him gay for liking these colours.
One of my 3rd.4th graders appeared to tell me she was writing a letter for me. I would have understood her but she said “Romaji o mimasu ka,” which is like “Do you look at romanji, instead of can you read romaji?” Then two of the ninensei (2nd grade) came and said “Join us!” in English! And dragged me off to the library and asked me what half the pictures in the book were called in English.
The bell saved me, and they ran off to clean. The International coordinator came over to give me the list of staff names I had asked her to do for me. Turns out the lady sitting next to me with the face mask on (because Japanese don’t stay home when they’re sick ) is the health teacher. There is some cruel irony in the health teacher bringing her sick self to school. The coordinator gave me the curriculum and showed me where each grade was on it. After cleaning was 5thperiod and I had the 5.6 grade. We did pretty much the same thing I did for 3.4. But in this class the Principal came along to take pictures. I had a lot of fun with the kids today. It’s a pity I only see this school twice a month. Oh well!

Friday, September 5, 2008

I Love my Library

No, I am not a total geek, but the Ichinohe Toshokan is by far the coolest place in Ichinohe. Obviously you can borrow books. As many as you like for 2 weeks at a time. You can use Internet for free here. Yay! Since I have none at home. You can rent tapes and Dvds, which is way cool since I would rather watch English movies in Japanese than watch public tv. Although NHK isn't that bad, no matter how depressing Alex claims it to be. The cool thing about iit though is that I can find a ridiculous range. Movies that came out last year, back to Casablanca. Since I came to Japan, I watched West Side Story, which I had never seen and would probably never find in Barbados. Today I am taking home Wizard of Oz. I also found Ben Hur and Dream Girls. I think that's what I'll get next week. Damn the 2 tape/ DVD limit.

Random Japanese madness

You hear and see the strangest things in Japan. I got a note yesterday from my Deputy Head at School. My English Activity Coordinator has wondered off on study leave and left the staff room at a loss about how to communicate with me. Now the Deputy head seems to speak the 3rd least English in the office, behind him are only the Headmaster and the Gardener/ food putter outter (I don't know his official piost, but that's what he does). Anyhow, the note read 'Please end the start at about 9.45 in the class of the first grader of the second hour at about 10.10' which in normal English might read ' Please end the first graders' second period class at 10.10'. I strongly believe he used an online translator since he printed it. Online translators are bad in any language, but translating from Japanese they are disastrous. The verbs are at the end of the sentence in Japanese and there is no singular and plural, which means translation requires a brain, which machines don't have.

The next really funny thing I saw today was this woman driving with a baby in one of those backpack carry things attached to her back. I had to laugh. But when I though about it, There is a large possibilith that isn't illegal. The law probably says that the baby has to be restrained in an approved child carrier. And it is. And she had on a seatbelt. Thinking about it, he might be safer there than in a carseat! Lol!

Thursday, September 4, 2008


I am exhausted- fuzz clean out. Elementary English Activity takes a lot of energy. First you have to plan the activity, then you spend all night, colouring and cutting out stuff and then you have to run around with the kids in class. Teaching back home was a million times easier than this. I don't have much to say today. I am exhausted. I planned on going home to sleep but I found out I have ajisai tomorrow. It's also been on my schedule and I assumed it was some assmbly thign or something. It seems to actually be a special ed class. I have no idea how to approach. Which is why I am at ICO (shopping centre) about to go looking for materials for them.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Fool proof way to learn a new language

Ah ha! After hours of research and testing I have finally discovered it, the absolutely foolproof way to learn a new language. Are you ready for this? It's pretty radical. The bast and maybe quickest way to learn a new language is (drum roll please) to hang out with 3 to 7 year olds. I am now teaching in my elementary schools and today I made the mistake of leaving school early- by early I mean, at the time I am supposed to leave, but when there are still students around. Some how as I went through the door I accumulated 5 or 6 little kids trailing behind me, saying Goodness knows what to me in Japanese. Occasionally I managed to ask a question they asked. They took me right up to the library driveway.

Some lady that was walking by told me my Japanese was good, to which I wholeheartedly disagreed. I have a long ways to go. Which reminds me, I signed up for JLPT level 3 (Japanese Language Proficiency Test). 4 is the easiest and I know I could pass that with flying colours. Why I signed up for 3? Who knows? I must be psychotic. Now I have to spend every waking minute in thenext 3 months, when I am not making stuff for the kids I teach, studying Japanese. Oh well. It'll cut a year off my time in Japan. I hope.

Omagari fireworks and Morioka Orientation

Wow! It's been a while. Between having no internet at home and the fact that I have started teaching I can:t find the time. So here I am writing about two weekends ago. Morioka Orientation was great. I was proud of myself for being the next best thing at Japanese after Alex, who is millions of light years ahead. The best thing about the Morioka Orientation was of course, being in Morioka. 4 of the 5 new ALTs are up North in the semi-hickies. Sarah is lucky. She's in a 'city' but then it takes here almost 3 hours to get to Morioka and it's only an hour by train for me. By the way, the reason I put city in quotes is because some of these cities really aren't. It's defined by population and lately Iwate has been mergin some of the really small towns, so that a 'city' might really be 20 small towns.

Any how the first night we went out to dinner with AJET and then we went to Roundup. Round up is a 6 floor sports and entertainment complex. We had a blast. On my suggestion, we went skating. It's funny as hell since I am the world's worst skater. I've decided I need to go back and practice though.

The second evening we went for cell phones, but I chose not to get one since they want to take like 600 US from my credit card. I will try again next month. Then we went to Bryan's, played Guitar Hero and then headed back out for Italian Dinner. Dan, Tyler and Jen joined us and after we went to Karaoke. As you may or may not know, Karaoke is a Japanese thing, so it's all over. We went to a new place and got our own booth. The selection is crazy. I want to go back. Then we went to Faces. If you've read my earlier posts, you'll know I saw black people there! lol! I also discovered my new fave liqueur- the Peach Fizz! Wee left at 3 in the a.m. It was hell getting up in the a.m. to make our train for Omagari. Then the bus was late and we had to catch a cab. The buses are enver late in Japan. That should have been an indication that the 50% rain prediction was going to come true. It rained from about 1 p.m. straight through to 5. I hid in Ken's car. When we got back for the fireworks, the rest were ready to go, but ended up staying til like 8.30. The best stuff was in the last two shows though.

Leaving was hell. It took like 20 minutes to get out. 600 000 people up 2 staircases isn't easy. I overnighted at Ken's (because I satyed for all the fireworks and the others left) and then me and Dean took the train for Morioka in the morning. I got in in time for the 2.10 train but I decided to wait another hour so I could get some lunch and walk around the train station. I found a CD store and got myself a Rihanna, a Sean Kingston and the old Natasha Bedingfield. Happy, happy camper. Then it was back to Ichinohe.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

I see black people

I went to Morioka over the weekend and we went to a club called Faces. So I was chilling with Janine and I turned around and the DJ was black!!! I freaked. I ran over and introduced myself. Turns out that he's also a JET. He's from Akita, thew prefecture to the west of us. Then lo and behold another black guy appears. Bryan tells me he's the club owner. Way cool. I went over to say hi and he runs over and gives me a hug. Who knows when's the last time he saw a black person. I haven't seen one since my predecessor left 3 weeks ago.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Japanese Language

The Japanese language is good, bad and ugly. In and of itself it isn't a bad thing. In fact I think that universally speaking, it's a pretty easy language to learn, but I think that that knowing English may be my biggest obstacle to learning Japanese. In the Japanese language the verbs come at the end of the sentence so for instance, "I a cat have." There are no articles or singular and plurals so it would be " I cat have" but then they usually leave out the subject if it's been mentioned already or is obvious so it would be "Cat have." Lol!

Not conjugating verbs means I don't have to add to the million verb endings I already know between English, French, Spanish and Italian. They only things the do to verbs is make them negative and put them into past tense. So a verb has 4 forms: non-past affirmative, non-past negative, past affirmative, past negative. But there are also different ways of speaking, for different levels of politeness, so there a four endings in each of the forms (plain, polite, and business are all that I know of).

The adjectives also have similar "conjugations", and there are a lot of rules of what you need to do with adjectives. There are even two types of adjectives and the rule differs according to type. You can't usually tell the type right off, you just have to memorise them.

Then there are the counters. In Japanese the suffix you use for counting depends on what you are counting, so for floors you'd use one, for people another, animals another, Long thin things another, round things another, etc. Counters suck!

Something else I guess most people know about Japanese is the way the language is written, the Kanji. Apart from the Kanji there are two syllabic writing systems, the Hiragana and the Katakana. The Hiragana is used for Japanese words and to fill in any spaces that the Kanji don't cover and the Katakana is used to imitate foreign loan words. The Katakana is hilarious as hell. Most of the words come from English and those that don't generally come from Spanish or French, which I speak, yet I can never figure out Katakana words. The problem is that the Katakana only uses syllables that are represented in Japanese. The only consonant that can come next to another in Japanese is n. So any other consonant ends up getting a vowel stuck onto it which is why ice cream is "aa-su-ku-ri-mu." Then there are the letters that don't exist like v, f (although there is fu), and l (although hthe Japanese r sounds like an l anyway so really it's the r that doesn't exist). You can't get "si" or "je" in Japanese either so you get stuff like shi-ru-wa-zo-n. Alex laughed at me for not being able to figure it out. It's Silver Zone. It's the old people crossing. Yes we have an old people crossing. That should tell you something about my town's demographic.

Despite all this, my Japanese is still making some progress.Although I need to get in 25 hours thoretical study time every week to pass the exam I want to do in December. Lol! I'll get there because I am me, and languages and I have an understanding. (I hope!) Anyhow as I just said, I have a lot to cover so I need to get to some studying.

This weekend I head down to Morioka for yet another orientation. Who knows when I'll be online next. Janine and I are staying over in Morioka on Friday night to head out to Akita on Saturday for the most competitive, impressive and biggest fireworks festival in Japan, so I probably won't get back to Ichinohe until some time Sunday evening.

Small triumphs

Whoever first said it's the little things that count is one of the most brilliant minds the world has ever seen. Yesterday I had two little things happen that just made me smile. First off, we continued on our school tour. We were at Ichinohe Shougakkou, which is one of my elementary schools, and the principal asked my supervisor if we spoke Japanese. He replied Alex san speaks fluently and Claire san speaks a little!!! Yay!!! Japanese fluency, here I come.

After work I went to the itty-bitty store around the corner from me. I am out of juice and don't feel like walking all the way to ICO, the plaza where JOIS, the grocery store, is. The lady in the shop is under 4 feet tall. She is so cute. She said to me "Kaminoke wa kawaii desu", which for those of you who speak less Japanese than me means "Your hair is cute." Triumph 1: the fact that I understood what the hell she was saying. Triumph 2: the cutesy little old lady around the corner thinks my hair is cute!!! I am buying everything I possibly can in her shop from now on. In fact, I'm going there this afternoon for tomatoes.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Olympics in Japan

Yes I know the olympics is in China, but I am in Japan, which means I have the Japanese perspective on the Olympics. At home in Barbados, we get our Olympic coverage from a US or Canadian network and we always laugh about how streamlined the coverage is toward their own country's athletes. Generally coverage is of track, swimming, or gymnastics. If none of these is on, they just pick a random sport or somethign. Here in Japan, I have been seeing the stragnest sports. For the first time in my life, I have seen Olympic Soccer, Olympic Baseball, Olympic Field Hockey, Women's Archery, Judo, Freesytle Wrestling and Greco-Roman wrestling. AND I discovered that Trampoline is an Olympic Sport (funnily translated into Japanese as "jumping").

SO I have all sorts of new revelations. For one, all the top women's archers are Asian. Secondly, Freestlye wrestling is cool beans. Trampoline is harder than it look. I blight a woman. After about 4 participants I wondered aloud what was so hard about trampoline. The woman promptly land on her mouth. I laughed at the way Japan got beat in baseball by Korea (the national sport here is Baseball) and then beat Canada. Japan is apparently really good in Woman's Softball. They beat Canada, but were defeated by USA. Soccer has been fun too, Japan got beat in every single one of their men's matches, even by Holland, who only managed to draw against the USA and and Nigeria. The Japan women's team is really good too. They beat everybody but the US on their way onto the semifinals. Then they had to play the US in the semifinal. They lost 4-2. Well, at least I think they should beat Germany. In the other semifinal which I watched Brazil rinse out Germany. 4-1. Funnily enough both of the losing teams scored first. Women's soccer is funny. But there are occasionally some women who are great. The funniest thing of it all is the Japanese woman with an afro! She and her hairdresser deserve a Nobel Hair Prize or something.

School- It's why we're here

Sometimes I think my town is really small, then something happens to remind me that it isn't, like when Janine comes through and goes "Blimey, you've got a mall!" at the half a shopping centre. (Smaller than Dacosta's Mall.) Yesterday we went out into the Netherworld of Ichinohe. See, I live in Central Ichinohe, where all the life of Ichinohe is (lol). The "mall" is here, the fire station, the police station is here, most of the shops are here. So we went out Okunakayama, which is like 30 minutes drive away from where we work to visit two of Alex's schools and get introduced to the Principal and staff, then we went to Ichinohe Minami, another of Alex's schools which is here in town at the edge. Then we went up to Chokkain Elementary, in the valley up the mountain I started to run up the other day. (Imagine that there is life up there.) And the village there has literally nothing to do. Except for joining the Self Defence Force which is Japan's version of an army. Apparently after World War 2, America wrote Japan a Constitution which does not allow them a standing army. Sound familiar. 50 plus years later nothing has changed. Anyhow, after Chokkai we went to Torigoe, (Tori-go-ey) which is one of my schools. It's a bit far and I am supposed to catch the bus but it'll only be like 10 minuttes.I think it's only about a 40-50 minute walk, and I think the bus is expensive although I haven't checked, but I am seriously considering hoofing it. One thing that was common throughout, the kids seem really nice (but then they always do). In case you're wondering why the kids are even at school, it appears that the Japanese hyperactive, overworking attitude starts from young and in the summer the kids go to their clubs at school.

We just got back from more school tours. We went back up to Chokkai for Dan's Junior High, then we came down to my two Ichinohe Schools. My schools are big as hell!!! They're the biggest of all the schools we've seen, but then they're the down town schools. The Ichinohe schools will be my main schools 4 days a week, every other week. I am only at Torigoe twice a month. After we went to Kozuya to Dan's 2 remaining schools, one of which is under construction. It seems nobody speaks English at Kozuya Sho-gakko- (elementary) so Dan is a bit worried. No one speaks English at Torigoe either, but I am not at all worried. My Japanese is coming along slowly. I actually understood all of what my Supervisor was saying in our introductions today!!! For some strange reason there is an English teacher at Ichinohe Elementary (normally there are only English teachers from Junior High and up) and my other school is Junior High so I only really need to worrry about Japanese twice a month anyhow.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Chronicles of Farnia- The Temple, the Mayor and the Cave

Well, yesterday I started to write out my Saturday adventures but somehow I erased it all. So here goes nothing again. I went touring with Janine on Saturday. Her coworker, Fumiko drove us down to the south of the prefecture to a town whose name I have already totally forgotten. Fumiko's son, Hiroki also came with us. We had to leave my town at 7 a.m. But it paid off to be there early.

On the way down south, we passed Iwate san, which is a mountain in the centre of the prefecture of Iwate. I assume that's where the prefecturee got its name. It's funny to me that they call the mountains san, which is the respectful title you add after someone's name.

It took about 2 and a half hours to get to Chusonji Temple. There we had to trek up a mountain (seems like everything around here is up a mountain. The first house we passed was Benkeido, where Benkei lived. Benkei was like 6 ft tall, gargantuan for a Japanese. He had a master he served who was stronger than he was. Between the two of them they supposedly defeated entire armies. Benkei died when he stood in front of his master and flexed and took a bunch of arrows to protect him. His master died young. There was a little box in front of the house. You could throw in a coin and take off your shoes and go up the stps and pray. There was also a little machine fortune teller. Hiroki got an excellent fortune. When Janine did hers, the lady came back without a fortune, then she got a fortune and it wouldn't drop in the box. Then when she finally got it, it was not a good fortune. It was like the little machine lady was trying to stop her from getting it. Anyhow, when you get a bd fortune, you're supposed to tie it on a nearby line.

There was also a big hall where you could also pray and pull fortunes from a box. I pulled a fortune from one of the box ones. It was a good one. It told me that the man I am thinking of is the right one, but not to marry him this year. Lol! There were also water fountains that were supposed to purify the body as well as an incense well, the smoke from which was supposed to be healing. We passed several more temples before we got to the Golden Temple. You had to pay an 800 yen fee to get in. Apparently the temple used to be all gold, but it isn't now. It seems Iwate used to have so much gold that Tokyo went to war with them over it. Then we went to this other temple where there was a bell to ring which would rid you of guilt. There were also little bells for each of the signs of the Chinese horoscope. I am a Rooster. After that we went to a museum of sorts and saw all manner of things from the 12 century.

When we left there we went over to the Geibi Gorge (after a short lunch intermission with the saltiest ramen I have ever tasted). At the Geibi Gorge, you get in these gondola-esque boats that hold about 25 people and this guide pushes it with a stick thing while explaining what you are seeing all the way. When we were coming back we saw a guy on a nother boat in a tie. I turned to Janine, laughing, and asks who goes on these little boats in a tie. Turns out he was the mayor!

Afterwords we had icecream because Fumiko had coupons for a discount. Then she had to look for Hiroki again, who spent the large majority of his day disappearing. Then we headed out to Yugenda Cave. It was a walk through cave. It's not that impressive to me, because Barbados has one of the most well-developed and famous cave attractions in the world. The only thing that put it up on Harrison's Cave was that there were some fossils in it. That plus the amazing number of times you can nearly decapitate yourself on stalactites.

It was only 3 o clock when we finished but we decided to head back up North because we were exhausted. We stopped at the smaller Aeon Mall in Morioka so that Hiroki could play video games. There is a Gap, Sports Authority, Starbucks and Tower Records there. The Sports Authority has some of the sexiest Adidas I've ever seen. I also found some Kanji flsh cards in the Bookstore. The Bookstore by the way, claims to have an English section. It consists of one rotary kiosk, about 20 titles. Lol! But they have Tolkien and Sophia Kinsell so I am a very happy camper. I am trying to figure out who I need to off to get to move down to Morioka. Love it! Lol!

We got back to Ichinohe at about 7. I gave Fumiko a Mount Gay miniature and some guava cheese as a thank you. Both she and Janine were amazed at my house. It's great having some of the best houses on JET.

I was so fuzzed when I got back, I just ate, showered and jumped into bed.

Saturday, August 16, 2008


I just got word that someone clsoe to one of my best friends has died. And I can`t be there! This is one of the few reasons I hate being on the other side of the world!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

My actual JOB

Okay, I talk about everything under the sun except the JOB I am actually paid for. So here goes.
I am on the JET programme. (Japan Exchange and Teaching) It:s a collaboration between CLAIR and 3 Japanese ministries and brings people from all over the world (41 countries this year) to serve in 3 roles. 1. CIR- Coordinator of International Resources, SEA- Sports Exchange Administrator and ALT- Assistant Language Teacher. I am an ALT.

School is actually on summer vacation. That doesn`t mean I don`t go to work. It just means I actually have nothing to do. I spend my time at the Board of Education (BOE) learning Japanese and reading about lesson planning. I hope to be fluent enough by the time school starts in a week and a half to introduce myself in Japanese to my kids. Finger crossed.

I have the Ichinohe schools. I think this is great for two reasons. Firstly my schools are in town so I can walk. Although the Junior High does seem to be a ways off, the Elementary is jus accross the street from the Library. I guess I can come over here every day after school if I want to. The second perk is that all my kids will be from Ichinohe, so unlike Alex and Dan I get to run into my kids on the road (running at the slowest pace ever) , in the supermarket, at the festivals, etc.

I have one other school that I go to on Mondays, ;pretty much every other week. It sounds like it`s far but I not worried. It`s not often.


When you are in a foreign country you are refered to as an alien. Here in Japan when you are from somewhere else you truly are an alien.

Japan is the most homogoneous society in the world. For those of you who don:t know that means that the people are as much alike as a people can be. Not only do they look alike, but they`re supposed to act alike and everything. So when you are not Japanese you stick out like a sore thumb. Dan, Tyler, Alex and I have been having a ball with out. I suppose Alex and I stick out more. Alex has red hair and I am black. Some people are cool about it. Kids are the most fun though. . Sometimes they just stop and their mouth drops open like `Oh my goodness! Mummy, what is that?` Some mornings when I run on Main Street everybody comes out to watch. Not sure if it`s because I am black or because I am the slowest runner in the world. Tuesday was the best. I ran past a group of high-schoolers and they tried to pretend they didn`t see. This one chick nearly broke her face when she tripped. All her friends died of laughter!!!

It`s cute now I suppose it will get annoying some day.

The world`s slowest runner

Drumroll please, and the title of the world`s slowest runner goes to... me!!!

I mean I really suck!!! Today I went up the mountain. It was of course a complete accident. I mean I live near the foot of a mountain, so it`s har d to do anything without a little incline but today I really WENT UP THE MOUNTAIN. To the part where the road actually starts to wind around and on one side all you have is trees and the next side tress in gully. Never again. I ran a new route. Actually since I have been here I haven`t run the same route twice. When I reached my office I was supposed to turn left in an effort to go to the fire station which is on the edge of town, but a silly little voice said keep straight and I did, past the back of the BOE and up the mountain. I know there should be at least two roads on the left to bring me back down, one will come out by ESSO and one by the train station, but I just couldn`t figure which road to pick so I stayed on the main and ran out of choices and ended up on the mountain. It occurred to me, looking over to my right that I would never find a road coming down through hthat gully so eventually I turned around.

I will go back out there and challenge the mountain again--- in May. Because I am not going to be ready for it before November, and nobody, not even Elvis Presley culd convince me to go up a mountain in the winter. And since Iwate winter is more forever than diamonds, I won`t risk it til May. Hold me to it peoples, Mountain in May. I may run back over that way though. The last left before the mountain is a sports centre and I would like to go over there and check it out.

Still I suppose the mountain was a good thing. I heard the town song from up there and it felt like a scene from Narnia, like the trees were singing. There was nothing up there other than a random shanty (Jah ras all over the world- lol) but people do live at the top of it. Rumour has it there`s an old lady who lives up there that comes down in the winter to live in the currently uninhabited house next door. Plus, I got in a 40 minute run, whoich would probably have taken 20 for normal people. This iis good because I didn:t run yesterday or day before and sinc e I`ll be going with Janine to Golden Temple tomorrow, running would mean being up at like 5. I have to meet here at the Library at 7 and it`s a 20 minute walk... But I plan to run every day next week because I know I will miss Friday and Saturday since I will be in Morioka and then hopefully at the Akita Fireworks festival.

Random note about fireworks. It amazes me the things you can do and not do in Japan. I don:t have my Alien Registration card yet so I can`t buy a cell phone. However, kids can go and set off fireworks every night in the pasture behind Gaijin (Foreigner) Row- the nickname for my street. Oh the irony!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Rain, sweet rain

The rain has been pouring all day long, whis is excellent. It was actually pretty hot yesterday. I decided to walk through the rain to come to the librarym where I am using the internet and will shortly borrow another children`s book to practice reading since I am the most retarded Japanese reader. Then I will go over to the supermarket and by some oil. Cooking oil is my staple. None of the three of us new ALTs can figure out the grill or how to use the microwave as an oven so oil is really useful. So far I have managed to eat only one particularly weird thing. I:ll let you know what it was as soon as I find out.

On Saturday, Janine and I, another ALT from a neighbouring town will be going to the golden temple with a co-worker of hers. I have no idea where the golden temple is or any of its history, but I am excited. For one, I:ll be getting out of Ichinohe. There isnt much to do here. It doesn:t bother me yet, but it will eventually.

I signed up for a language course with the people who run this programme. I decided to take Hughar`s advice and not even bother with the beginner`s course and apply for intermediate. Dan found the beginner`s course in his house so I am looking through it. Not very thoroughly. I need to get back to my JLPT study. Plus, I want to be able to speak enough Japanese to introduce myself to my kids in Japanese. That gives em less than two weeks! Gambatte! (Good Luck!)

In case you wonder about the completely random punctuation, I can:t figure out how to get an apostrrophe on the library computer.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Service in Japan

The service in Japan is something else. When we were in the hotel we were constantly impressed. I had a sore throat and I went to the CLAIR office and asked for a lozenge but all their lozenges had medicine in them so they told me to ask the hotel staff. The lady we asked took us down to the 2nd floor to the Convienience store and picked out the lozenges for us. And then picked out chap stick for another girl.

Then when we came to Ichinohe and the gas station attendant actually went out into the road to stop traffic for my supervisor to get out. Not that there was any traffic anyhow.



That's the name of my district. It's really small. I originally thought there was only one blinking street light, but I have so far uncovered 3 on the main road. I've taken to running each morning and moreso than excerise it's become a way for me to meet the people in the neighbourhood. It's so funny how they react. Today I almost kill a teenager. Most people I meet just say "Ohayoo gozaimasu." Good morning. Sometimes people like to pretend they don't see me and look up in the sky. So this group of teenagers was walking by, pretending not to see me and this gurl is looking up in the sky and tripped over a rock. It was funny as hell. Took all my willpower not to laugh at the poor thing but her friends sisn't hold back at all.

My district is pretty small. There's a minimart on my corner which we never succed in buying anything from, because we can never find the person who works there even though the store is open! We live about 20 minutes walk from a shopping complex with a home store, stationery, flower shop, grocery store etc. It's not that far but you have to plan your shopping really well, because you've got to walk 20 minutes with it, so I never take more than I can put in my backpack. The library is on the same compound. I have so far borrowed two books, children's books in Japanese. My Japanese is coming along slowly. The library is cool, because you canalso borrow tapes and DVD's. Promise to try the DVD's and see if any have English voice or subtitles. You can also use internet there.

There's a train station to go out to Ninohe, the neighbouring city/town. I haven't gone up there yet, although the other two ALT's have. We have Obon from tomorrow. Three days off for summer. So maybe we'll go out there or out to Hachinohe, which is an even biggeer city. Next week is two-day Morioka Orientation, so we get to go back to the capital. The BOE is only sending us down the same day and bringin us back up the same night so we only have the first night to run around Morioka. Oh well. Free trip from nowhere land.

Actually I don't mind nowhere land too much. Living sooo far from the grocery store means I don't overspend on groceries and having not much distractions means I have lots of time to study Japanese. My Japanese really sucks!!!! But not for long!!!

Thursday, August 7, 2008


So I have finally reached Ichinohe. I got here yesterday. Takes about an hour and a half from Morioka. I am going to be down there every other weekend. Morioka is the capital of my prefecture Ichinohe. We got there by Shinkansen (bullet train) on Wednesday. I have a post to put up about that but it's on my laptop and I'm on the office computer, so I can't get it up until Monday the earliest. Last night, Alex and Dan, my two JET neighbours took me to the "mall" . There's a library over there and a grocery store, home goods, fruits, etc. I picked up some groceries and went home. Watched some Japanese tv (lol-very useful), cooked spaghetti and some horrible Osaka sausage that I am really beginning to think is made of some strange meat other than cow. I started to unpack and then I went to bed.

We left for work this morning at like 8.10 . It's only about 10 minutes walk. We have nothing to do today so I'm practicing my writing Japanese and making lesson plans. We're going to go home for lunch. Maybe I'll bring my laptop up after lunch and work from that.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Out on the town

Today we had workshops specific to our teaching level. I went to a Junior High School one and it was pretty informative. Then I went to an Independent Japanese learnign workshop which was conducted by my TOA, and which I found interesting. That was followed by my prefectural meetign where I met my PA, and the Japanese PA who'll be taking the train with us. I also got my itinerary. I have to be in Morioka til Thursday. Ack! I really want to get home and relax. Well I guess I need to meet the people who pay the bills. Afeter that the final workshop I went to was Managing Expectations. Didn't teach me a whole lot I didn't alredy know but the handout may come in handy.

Tonight we had an "embassy" night. Well, actually Barbados is administered by the British Embassy because we don't have our own and normally we just got to their night and half the stuff is not applicable. So instead the Trinidadian TOA organised a night out for us with some Japanese people with Trinidadian connections and other "friends" of Trinidad.

We went to a little restaurant not too far away and I succeeded in not eating anythign that would itch me til next week. I also met lots of people. By far the most interesting was a guy who had once been a JET but who was now running an international school here in Tokyo. Super cool. I also got to meet some people who I'd seen on the facebook group. Afterwards most of the new JETs wandered off to take in Japan or shop. Stores normally open til 10. I just went back to the hotel. I am tired and I have a headache. The only reason I am blogging is because I don't know what my internet situation will be like after I leave the hotel. I can't believe, it will be over a week from when I left home until when I get to my new one!

Monday, August 4, 2008

It's a small world after all

So this guy just came up to me in the elevator and asked me if it took me 3 days to get here. I said yes, how did you know and he told me he had sat next to someone from my country (our country is on our nametag). So another guy asks how long it took him and he says from the time he got into a taxi to the time he got the hotel was 24 hours. So the other guy gets out of the lift and I ask guy 1 where he's from. He says Massachussetts and asks if I've been there. I tell him that I had when I used to live in Connecticutt. So he asks where I went and I say the Coast Guard and he says reall, my brother went there. Class of 2003. And I say I was class of 2004. It turns out his sister in law who also went to the academy was my class president!!! Small world.

Last night I told a guy I was from Barabados and he freaked out. He's from San Francisco and apparently went to UWI for year abroad.

Imagine meeting people who know people you know in Japan!!!

JET lagged

It is nearly 6 in the morning and I have been up for like 3 hours! Ugh! Yesterday I almost died of sleep deprivation. I think it may have been then boringness of the lectures as much as the 12 hour flight the day before.

The Welcoming ceremony wasn't bad. The ministry dudes were cool. And the CLAIR PC's gave some good advice. The feature speech on Culture Shock was excellent. Not just informative but fun. We had to sit by prefecture. My prefecture only had 4 new JETs for this orientation, and one dropped out! Landmass we are the biggest on this island- the main island of Japan. To show you how few my prefecture has, Hokkaido has like 50 in all. The workshops I pretty much slept through. Travelling for 4 days (and losing one) is not easy.

In the evening, there was a Reception for the new JETs. In Japan when you go to a formal reception you can't do anything with the food or drink until someone makes the speech and the toast. So all 800 of us, plus the Tokyo Orientation Assistants (TOAa) plus the Programme Coordinators (PCs), Ministry staff, CLAIR staff, etc, are packed into this room staring at this huge feast and we can't touch it. Then the Education Ministry gauy, Mr. Suzuki, makes the toast and everyone digs in. But at the same time the TOA from my prefecture wanders over and starts talking, so I didn't get to the food for a while. Then, when we finally go to eat, a girl who used to be in our prefecture who now works for CLAIR offers to introduce us to the Chairman. CLAIR is the office that runs JET. So we met him. He spoke to us through an interpreter, but I was fussy because I understood when he asked where we came from and answered him in Japanese. Yay me! When we finally got to the food all the dessert was gone but it didn't bother me, because I don't like most things people eat for dessert and there was still lots of fruit, which I love. I am soooo going to itch for weeks from all the fruits I ate. Fruit is great here. The chicken was awesome. It was in some white sauce and had berries on top. Yummy!!!

I also met a Jamaican who had been a CIR for 5 years and is now working with CLAIR. He wanted to meet the other Bajans. I couldn't find them but I did find 2 Trinis to introduce him to. The Akita TOA came over and invited us lonely Iwate JETs (all 2 of us since the CIR had wandered off) to come out with them. I told him I wasn't sure because I was tired. They shut the thing down at 8 and I went upstairs. The moment I go to my room I knew I wasn't going to be going back down at 10 to meet anyone and it was off to bed. I wokoe up at like 2 unfortunately. Oh well!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

BOEING 777 and Tokyo

So today our flight was scheduled for departure at 12.50 Chicago time. We were early and checkin was uneventful. We went into the concourse and had mexican food for lunch. Steak quesadilla!!! Yeah!

When we got to the gate, the plane was a BOEING 777!!! This is the sexiest thing ever invented by man... I had to take a picture. Of course my camera battery decided to die right then. Great timing!

The inside of the plane is even cooler. The overhead bins pull down instead of just opening. And every one has their own personal tv screen and can select movies, tv shows, etc to watch or you can track the flight onscreen in real time. Somehow in the 12 hour flight I only slept half hour. Oh, and we crossed the International Date line and lost a day. Way cool.

I love Narita Airport. Its really organised and the lines have signs to tell you how long you should expect to wait in Immigration. When we came out of Customs, as expected there were like 8 million people in bright yellow shirts marked JET, directing us, smiling and waving. It was fairly embarrasing quite frankly, especially combined with the fact that we had on large white stickers marked JET. We went outside, mailed our luggage and waited for the bus. Tokyo is deathly hot. 35 degrees today with ridiculous humidity. Our Tokyo Orientation Assistant (TOA) on the bus was Allan, a Trini. He gave us lots of info about orientation and Japan. Then he told us it was alright to sleep. And I didn't hear a word after that. Apparently they played games and stuff on the bus, but I was out cold.

Keio plaza is a way cool hotel. I have so many pics. I'll be putting them on my facebook soon. We registered, got our JET Id's and room keys and headed in. Then we went back down to change money and go out to eat. It's amazing how organised the hotel staff are. We went to Subway but it was closed despite what the sign said, so we walked the other way to Sizzler. Our waitress spoke no English and I was the only body at the table who had bothered to study Japanese. It was interesting. I even had to ask where the bathroom was for someone. I think I did it in perfect Japanese too.

After lots of bowing and thanking we went back to the hotel and bought international cards for callin home since the phone that Cable and Wireless said would roam isn't. The room is so cool, but I'll describe tomorrow- I hope. Loving Japan so far. And I am wearing a complimentary KIMONO!!!

Friday, August 1, 2008

MIA defeated- at last

Today was the second leg of the trip. My cell phone had a spasm and woke us up a n hour early at 2. We left the hotel at 3.30 and got to the airport before 4 for our 7.15 flight. For some reason they put me on standby. Barely got on the flight. We watched the Spiderwick chronicles and Penelope on board. I love Penelope. I mean it is really stereotypical hollywood but I loved it.

Miami was hell. We took forever through immigration but they opened new lines and I got through. Then luggage pickup, customs, hand in luggage and security. But since I was on standby they didn't ticket me for Chicago and they sent me back to the check in. It was 1.00 and the flight was 1.15 so I schowed this crewmember and she told me to do a self service check in at a machine. Since I live in Barbados I had no idea how to use the machine. Then my passport wouldn't read. Luckily the thing they gave me in T n T had on the E ticket number and I used that. Also got to put in my AA number that I suddenly remembered.

The gate was so far. I barely made it in time. The travel agent with us was already making flight arrangements on another flight when I got there. Four JETs missed the flight and the travel agent stayed with them.

But I made it. For the first time in my life I got out of Miami at the time I was scheduled to on the plane I was supposed to be on. Turns out they had set up the plane for transcontinental travel so we got free earphoones. The movie was 21 but the audio was poor.

When we got into Chicago some fo the luggage was missing so some of us waited for the luggage and the remaining JETs and some went shopping. When the JETs came we found out how they had all missed the flight. One girl\s immigration agent decide to make oodles of small talk with her, the guy was mistaken for a criminal because he shared a name and birthday with one, another girl went to the bathroom.

The bags that were missing didn't come on that flight so the girl filed for lost luggage and the AA lady ASSURED her it would be here before we leave for Japan in the morning. Finally we came to the hotel. The others were already at the mall. And we had dinner at the Italian Steakhouse. 23 oz Porterhouse Steak. WHOOOOOO!!!

Hmmm. Tomorrow, Japan!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Trinidad and Tobago- the first leg

Well, I left my wonderful home in Barbados this morning aty 9. No tears at the airport, but I felt funny. My Mom, Dad, son, boyfriend and ex-boyfriend saw me off. My girlfriend slept at my place and said her goodbyes before heading out to work. I spent the whole night cleaning my room and didn't go to sleep til 4 am.

The flight to Trinidad was pretty uneventful. I slept most of the way through it. We split the taxi fare five ways so it only cost like $12 US for a 40 minute ride. Had something called Chicke Marsala for lunch. The highlight of the day however was finally meeting the Trini JETs. I feel like I already know some of them. We've gone back and forth so much on facebook. Since I was the only Bajan on for so long, everybody came and said " You're the Bajans. Who's Claire?" Laurence even remembered to bring me the copy of a Japanese learning software that I asked for. And Adele invited us all up to Hokkaido for Snow Festival. Yay!!!

There was a reception at the ambassador's house. All the press was there. One guy took a pic of me eating with my chopsticks. Lol! There was sushi there. I tried some, but now my skin itches. No more sushi for me :(

Tomorrow we leave for Miami. Flight is 7.15, check-in is 4.15. We leave the hotel at 3.30. Ick! I am going to sleep. Between the itchy skin, the lack of sleep last night, the early flight and the fact that my allergies are acting up, I have no desire to be up at all. Hopefully when I get to Chicago there'll be an opportunity to post a bit.

And the Japanese public relations officer asked me a question and I answered in Japanese. Granted the answer was "seven" or "shichi" but he was quite shocked, as was the Japanese travel agent, and I am proud. It seems I have mastered more Japanese than the rest of the Bajans. 3-kyu in December, anyone?
I'm off to conquer the world!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Not so last minute preparations

So the travel agent’s finally told us when we leave for Trinidad. (Have to stop over there before I make my way to Japan.) On July 31st at some ungodly hour of morning I will be at the airport. Between the early morning check-ins and the jet lag, I think they trying to kill me. Then the million hour Tokyo Marathon – um I mean Orientation at the end??? “I say a likkle prayer for me!”

Right now I am trying to get prepped. I was on track and then I got a job marking papers for CXC- which is the Caribbean’s equivalent of SAT or Cambridge exams. It’s only til the end of the week, but when you only have 2 weeks and a few days, a week is a long time. Plus considering I have known where I was going and what I would need since May, I really should be completely ready and packed at this stage. I am not! I have thrown some stuff in my suitcase- underwear and about 2 T-shirts, deoderant, cream, and toothpaste. Clearly that is not all I need to survive a year in Japan.

So today I went and bought some cloth to make a suit and a dress - for a grand total of 2 suits and 1 dress. Lol! Yeah, I know I really making progress towards a whole year of clothing right? I got some stickers for my kids too, because my predecessor on the program said that the kids love it when they get stickers for stuff. I have 2 packs of 270, maybe I should get more. On the upside I really don’t need to buy that much stuff. I am sure I am mostly covered clotheswise, if I would actually take the time to go through my closet. I don’t want to take too much summer clothes, since my town is fall and winter 10 months of the year.

I also need to pick up my hello presents for my Supervisor and my Principal. It seems that this is a time-honoured JET tradition born out of a perversion of Japanese culture. But since it’s been done by my predecessor, heaven forbid I turn up as the only new JET since Adam with no hello presents. I want to get a combination of something nice out of mahogany, a bottle of Mount Gay (which is a Barbadian Rum and also the oldest brand in the world) and a Rihanna CD (also Bajan). For the teachers I’ll work with I am thinking sugar cakes and guava cheese (Bajan sweets) but I want to wait til a later closer to the time to get food stuffs. Oh and I have to get something nfor the neighbours. Probably some snacks as well but I'd like to get them something of substance too.

Despite the fact that I am pretty prepared, I still somehow feel a bit- um stressed??? Like I’ll run out of time or something. It’s hard to believe I’ll only have a week to say goodbye to friends and family. This JET programme is harder on the mind than anything else.


So we had our "informal" talk on Tuesday. The Consul General and wife hosted, and we were "informed" by the first JET from my country. We haven't been in the programme very long. The funny thing is I am on the JET programme forum, on Ithinkimlost, on a Caribbean JET facebook group, and I have a couple friends currently on JET. So while this talk may have been news to some, it was just a recap to me. The great thing about it is that it's the first time that all the Barbados JETs have been in the same place at the same time and it was an excellent opportunity to lime (socialise) and find out some more about one another. Funnily enough, I already know all 4 other JETs from different places. But it was still good to talk to them. There are some experiences that your friends will never understand and only the other people in the same situation can identify. JET is one of those things.

Now it occurs to me that I still have a pre-departure orientation to attend at the Embassy in Trinidad and the Tokyo Orientation. But there isn't really any general JET information that anyone can offer me that will be news to me. I really just want to get to my prefectural meeting and orientation. So right now I am feeling a bit over-oriented and there is more to come.

Oh, and we just got the orientation schedule for Tokyo. 9.00/9.30 until 8.00 at night. Hmmm, one day after I've spent 3 days in planes and crossed 9 time zones! Does this seem like the best idea to anyone else? I have the best of intentions, but if I am awake 50% of the time it will be some sort of miracle!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Disaster -- Naturally

So there was an earthquake last month in Japan. And it was in Iwate, my soon to be prefecture! It wasn't exceptionally deadly as earthquakes go, but still it WAS and earthquake, right where I am headed.

I mean going to Japan you have to expect these things. It is on the biggest fault line in the world. But even thinking about earthquakes is difficult for me.

Let me put it into context. I am from Barbados, in the Caribbean. We don't get earthquakes. Which is some sort of amazing, considering we are right above a fault line as well. In fact the whole Caribbean chain was created by movements of the Atlantic and Caribbean plates. All the other islands were made by divergence and volcanoes. Barbados is the only made by convergence, i.e. Earthquakes. Our neighbour to the South, Trinidad, gets Earthquakes all the time. No one can explain why we don't.

In fact, people are constantly joking that God is a Bajan (slang for Barbadian) because we never get natural disasters. Not even the scourge of the Caribbean- hurricanes. Islands and countries and states get devasted every year and somehow the last time Barbados had a direct hit from a hurricane was Hurricane Janet in 1955!!!

As a result, Barbadians may quite possibly be the most disaster-retarded people of the world. I remember a stopry told to me by a friend from another island, St Kitts. He had just come to Barbados to study at the university here and we had a hurricane warning in effect for Ivan. Hurricane warning means that the Met office predicts that there will be hurricane conditions in less than 24 hours. In Dominica and St Kitts and St Lucia and St Vincent, people were running into stores trying to get last minute supplies and barricading windows. His landlord, here in Barbados, decided that since he had the day off it would be a good idea to paint the house!

Last year Barbados had its first earthquake in memory. It happened on November 29th, the day before our Independence. I think it was like a 5 on the Richter at the epicenter in Martinique and did some serious damage there and in Dominica. Here in Barbados we felt a 3. To show you how weak that is, I was driving in a car and didn't even know anything was wrong until all the radio stations went off air, and all the telephone networks jammed. (Another silly Barbadian habit, as soon as something happens, everyone picks up the phone.) Most people had no idea it was an earthquake at first, they just felt disoriented and woozy. When they did realise what it was everyone freaked out, got in their cars and went home, at like 3 in the afternoon. The media was ridiculous about it too. You know how you see those post-hurricane scenes with people being interviewed about how they were affected and stuff, Yep they did that. Another friend from St Kitts laughed at us for weeks. All of them had just come out of the buildings and gone back in afterwards. The following day was a Friday and a holiday but some Barbadians didn't even bother with work the Monday because they were so traumatised.

There was a small aftershock in St Lucia the next week and some one called in a hoax at the radio station WITH A TIME!!! Come on people, no one can say at 10 o' clock, there will be an earthquake at 2.30!!! Nonetheless, the disaster-retarded responded and wide spread panic set in. I was working at a school at the time and some one called their mother from the pay phone to ask them something and found out about it, and suddenly the whole school was in an uproar: kids having panic attacks, asthma attacks, throwing up. Parents turning up for their kids and the teachers running around trying to control the scene like headless chickens. Clearly, lessons were done for the day since the children wouldn't go near the buildings.

So all of that is to say this, while I don't consider myself disaster-retarded, I have never been through a full force hurricane and the only earthquake I've ever been in I didn't even feel! I am going into this thing completely blind. I'll just have to err on the side of caution. Make up an earthquake kit with all the stuff advised and do as I am told. And pray that God really is a Bajan and will watch over me in Iwate-ken, Japan.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Culture Shock

So I keep hearing about the horrors of culture shock and the truth is that no matter how close or far you may think you are with the target culture, you will still experience culture shock.

For example, I am from Barbados, a little island in the Caribbean and I think that I'll have more in common with Japanes than the mainstream US, UK and Canada types. For example, I think that we are more conservative when it comes to voicing opinions for example. I think we are also more into the group mentality, but time will tell.

Even though it's called culture shock, it also has some ties with homesickness. So it's a combination of "if one more person bows at me I am gonna slap them" and "I miss my Mommy"!

I've lived away from home for two years already and here are some of my suggestions about dealing with culture shock.

1. Bring your comfort stuff.

You may not be too eager to admit that you sleep with a stuffed bunny in public, but that same stuffed bunny will help you get through the dark "OMG-what the hell am I doing in Japan" nights. For me it's a favourite lounge-at-home/sleep-in T-shirt.

2. Bring things you're used to at home.

For example, you might want to bring up a box of your favourite cereal, or some ingredients that you won't be able to get in Japan to make your favourite food. We Bajans (Barbadians is the proper term) always walk with our own seasonings.

3. Music.

Even if you don't think that you're all that much of a music fan, you may want to get some CD's of some familiar stuff so that when it all starts to get to you, you can turn to something familiar. In my case, my country is associated with a very specific type of music difficult to find outside of the Caribbean. So I'll be bringing my own. On the upside, you don't have to travel with physical CD's if you're bringing a laptop or an ipod, just upload it all.

4. Make Japanese friends

Here I mean people in Japan, whether or not, they are natives of Japan or fellow gaijins (foreigners). They won't replace your friends and family at home, but culture shock feeds on loneliness. So the less lonely you are the better off you'll be. Plus you'll save lots on phonecalls.

5. Find an activity

By the same token, if you find an activity that gets you out of the house and interacting with others, you will spend less time thinking about the fact that you're not at home.

6. Break it down

When you think of it as a whole year it seems really long and it seems like you've got this huge mountain to climb. But a week is not so bad. Try not to count down how much more time you have left until you can go home. It really does nothing but depress and when you spend all your time worrying about time, it moves slower than ever. A friend of mine used to say, "The days take forever, but the weeks fly by." It's kind of like how in December you're like "Wow, can you believe it was just January?"

7. Routine

Establish a routine. It doesn't have to be anythign set in stone, but when you have hours upon hours just lounging around, it's easier to think about the issue at hand. Make appointments with yourself to study your Japanese, watch a favourite show, read a book, listen to music, learn something new about Japan, etc.

8. Reward yourself

Treat yourself when you accomplish milestones. If you go through a day at the office where you suddenly understand most of the Japanese you heard or if you finish your study by your personal deadline or complete all your lesson plans, take yourself out for a drink or buy yourself something new. Even a well-deserved break can serve as a reward. When you concentrate on the positive, it's harder for the negative to creep in.

9. Attitude, attitude, attitude

Try to stay positive. About 10% of our lives is what actually happened and the other 90% is how we feel about it. Don't think of it as 6 more months til I can escape Japan and see my family, think of it as 6 months to improve my Japanese, or turn around X at my school, or really make an impact on the ninansei (2nd years) etc. Always see the glass as half full. Misery is a snowball rolling downhill. There is just no stopping it and before you know it, you're dealing with an avalanche.

10. Communicate

No one can be a substitute for the mom and dad, kids, boyfriend/girlfriend, best friend, friends and even acquaintances you leave behind. So as soon as possible get yourself online. Write a blog, download messenger, sign up for Skype. Stay in touch with the people back at home as a support not a crutch.

Well, those are my thoughts on culture shock and how to minimise it. Come August 3rd, I'll be looking back here to make sure I do everything in my power not to succumb to it. Good luck to all of you who are just starting out as well.

One month til orientation! Yatta!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Language Barrier

For the first time ever in my life I am worried about the language barrier. I speak English, French, Spanish and Italian and I have never in my life been somewhere that I could not communicate with the people around me. Even in Portugal I spoke some sort of mixed up Spanish and was perfectly understood.

I have started learning Japanese but it's so far from any of the other languages I know (which are admittedly very yclose to one another) that I wonder how I'll get through it.

I also think I want to get more out of the language than your average JET. Because I am a language lover I don't see the point in coming away from JET with anything short of a near perfect command of the Japanese language - that's just me. So I've all psyched up to do the Japanese language proficiencyy test in December. I am tempted to skip the first level (4) and just jump right to 3. I guess it will depend on how much Japanese I know by the end of August.

Today, I tell myself I should study, but all I have done with the Japanese for JETs text is move it from my bedroom to the table in the family room. I really do want to get through it though because I want to get back to the Japanese course I was doing before which had stuff that I thought was relevant to moving to Japan that I don't see in my JFJ book.

I am kinda on revision break right now. Going over the previous chapters and trying to make sure that everything is sticking that should be.

Time will tell how good I get.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The journey to JET

Oh my goodness. It all started 7 months ago. I sent in my application for the JET program. Almost missed the deadline because I only heard about the program 3 weeks before and UWI held me up forever trynna get a transcript. I Fed Ex-ed the application two days before the deadline and it get there the morning of the deadline. But it get there.

Then February was the interview. I drove myself crazy with the wait, because they give you this whole list of deadlines and it says that the interviews will be in January/ February so coming on to the end of February, I was about to have a heart attack. Then I was almost late for the interview but barely made it in time. I felt that I was decent afterwards but I wasn't sure if I shone enough.

Then in May, I got an email from a predecessor??? He said that there were 3 JETs there and they were all leaving so there'd be 3 New JETs in the coming year. He said he wasn't sure who would have whose post or whose house, but he did know that we were all going to Iwate-ken Ichinohe-machi (Iwate Prefecture, Ichinohe town). He told us about our town. How it's large but very small, population wise. How it's very country -inaka, the best ever word I've heard for rural- the nearest McDonald's is 100 km away. But it's nice. Schools are small and that means you can really concentrate on individual students. He gave me a whole list of things to bring and not to bring and lots of advice. He also provided me with the other new JETs emails and a female JET for female info. All in all Scott was very helpful and I think one of the biggest reasons that I am not more freaked out than I am about leaving is because of Scott.

June was a flurry of activity. I got my Fed Ex fromt he Embassy with the General Information hand book - about a 1/4 of the size of a phone book full of info in English and Japanese, and the Japanese for JETs book and Cd's . Also I received my package from my contracting organisation, Ichinohe-machi, the welcome letter, the terms and conditions, and a brochure on my town. And suddenly it was real- I AM GOING TO JAPAN!!! And on top of all that, I got into it online. A JET friend from Trinidad invited me to a facebook group for JETs from the Caribbean and the forums I found there and in other JET groups on facebook. And then I got into I think I'm lost and the official Jet website and Mel's Adventures in Japan and now I am so psyched.

So it's the 1st of July. In exactly one month I leave from Trinidad to get to Japan. I am due to arrive there the 3rd and my Orientation starts the 4th! Oh my goodness. In a month! AAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHH!!!
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