Friday, 2 October 2009

Hello October

October has arrived and has brought with it the rain and a gusty wind. News has it that a typhoon is heading to South East Asia. Shikoku is situated in a cosy little spot down south, protected by the main island of Honshu and the calm Inland Sea. Apart from a few more bicycle falls as more people than usual haphazardly attempt to cycle with one hand whilst holding an umbrella in the other, Shikoku folk will be safe.

Last weekend was spent in Takamatsu visiting another British girl here, Gemma. Naoshima is an island in the Inland Sea which can be reached by ferry from Takamatsu. Naoshima is truly a treasure. It is an island devoted entirely to creativity. The island has many contemporary art galleries, and sculptures and installations are dotted all over the place. I didn't get to see all of the things that I wanted to see so I plan to go back. It was so beautiful and so inspiring.

A private beach for use by Naoshima hotel guests only....Gemma and I sneaked onto the beach. Getting back however proved to be difficult as the path back to the road was lined with the biggest crickets I have ever seen. There was a lot of screaming.

You can take a bus to all of the art galleries. I love Japanese transport design so much - it is so endearingly cute.

This pumpkin sculpture is a piece by Yayoi Kusama. I was utterly taken by her work and I have been reading about her a lot this week. Yayoi Kusama is an intriguing character and I think her art is incredible. She makes 'infinity rooms'; mirrored rooms filled with hanging coloured lights and polka dot shapes. I find them simultaneously comforting and unsettling. Kusama loves to wear different coloured wigs, oversized polka dot caftans and bright lipstick. I wish I had gone to see her work at the Walking Around In My Mind exhibition at the Southbank Centre back in the summer time.

On Sunday,Gemma and I continued on our quest for aesthetic satisfaction by visiting a Designers Flea Market down town. It was so beautiful and made me think of my market wanderings back home.

There have been some amusing incidents that have taken place at Maruko over the past few days. Speech contests are a really important part of school life here in Japan. Speech contests involve students memorising both famous speeches by iconic figures in history and self penned speeches. Speech contests take the form of a heat process; if a student wins the city heats,he/she will go on to the prefectural heats and from there, onto the national final. I was asked to help two students at Maruko for the prefectural contest next week.

One girl had written a speech about her father who works as a fisherman. It was a well written speech and she delivered it with such sincerity that I think she could score very highly. There is one problem...she has difficulty with the pronunciation of the word 'hook'. Her pronunciation of the word 'hook' sounds very like the word 'f**k'. Yesterday, whilst standing in front of me, with a beam on her face as she spoke about her beloved father, she uttered the dreaded sentence, the sentence I knew could end my position as a speech contest coach; 'Sometimes, my father 'f***ks' big fish'. I wanted to leave the room more than anything, I was trying so hard to quell my laughter, but I could feel an enormous laugh deep in the pit of my stomach, waiting to unleash itself. I managed to turn it into a pathetic sounding cough, then turned to my right where I saw Ohmiya-sensei guffawing, quite openly in front of the bewildered looking student.

Ohmiya-sensei is still retaining his spot as my favourite teacher. He is a particularly hearty eater and at lunch time, I can hear him express his appreciation for the contents of his bento box, each and every content, loudly and clearly. He takes a bite, chews, swallows and ends with a 'haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa' sort of contented hiss and a little chuckle. Williams-sensei hates when he does this and yesterday, turned around very abruptly, narrowed her eyes at him and told him ' I hate it when you do that. Please stop. You are ruining my lunch' Ha. Ohmiya-sensei loves food and next week, I am teaching a lesson entitled 'Dream Recipe' in which the students will have to use the new vocabulary I will teach them, to make up their dream recipe. I found some strange British recipes like bacon and egg icecream and deep fried chocolate bar. These pictures are intended to both disgust and inspire the students to create something equally as bizarre. Ohmiya-sensei on the other hand, asked me for the recipe for both...

I have to visit so many classes, so end up seeing each class only once a month. Lots of students have given me their e-mail addresses so that we can talk more but my contract states that I cannot contact the students outside of school hours. I love letters so much. Unlike an e-mail which can be rehashed and rewritten, a letter achieves permenancy straight away. I like seeing people's thoughts written in their own hand,I like seeing the crossings out and last minute addings of words, squeezed into the last available space. It is such a personal thing. I therefore suggested to the teachers that we set up an inhouse postal service whereby, the students can write me letters with questions and news and I can reply back to them. The teachers were really taken with this idea, especially Ohmiya-sensei who began yelling at the top of his voice 'mustu maku pooostuu boxxuuu' as he ran down the corridoor to the art room (unaware and probably unconcerned as to whether or not there was a class already taking place in the art room).

That reminds me; one thing that makes me laugh about life here is that Japanese people do a lot of running. When I go to the convenience store, the shop assistant will run from stacking shelves to the cash register. When I go to the post office to pick up parcels, the post sorter will sprint to the cubby hole to retrieve my post. At school, teachers run from one class to the next. I have even found myself breaking into an enthused run as I finish a lesson and head back to the teachers room. I like it.

This week, I have started reading about things to show my family when they come and visit me. I have never been so excited in my life; I can't wait to see my family <3 I took a slight diversion from researching ornate temples and shrines after I stumbled across this cafe in the Kansai Times. Neko no Jikan (Time for Cats) is a cafe in Osaka at which live eighteen cats. At this cafe, you can pay 1000 yen (about 6 pounds) for a coffee, cake and an hour of cat time. I miss my Alfie so much, I think a trip to Neko no Jikan will make me feel better!


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