Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Hello Holidays

Today was my last day of 2009 at Maruko. I played the Mariah Carey Christmas song for the 10000th and final time...I never want to hear that song again. Ohmiya-sensei was only too happy to take said CD home with him for the Christmas season; in our classes, not only did he insist on repeating the song five times for the 'fill in the blanks activity' (no one needs to listen to Mariah five times) but he would press the play button at sporadic points in the lesson, including the parts at which I was trying to explain things to the students...

Here are my favourite students from class 2-3;

They made me Christmas cards with the loveliest, sweetest, most heartfelt messages inside.

And so begins the task of making ones in return. I'll drop them off on my way to Josei on Thursday morning.

Today's thoughts and happenings; I really want to start exercising in the New Year. I'm going to pluck up the courage to buy aesthetically ugly 'sporty' clothes and go running or join the gym.
I want to become a better teacher.
I missed someone;we made lovely January plans. I received a really lovely message from a friend.
I really like persimmons but I think I eat too many of them. Is it bad to eat five a day?
Sushi is possibly one of my favourite things to eat.
Why do I stay up late into the midnight hours despite the fact that I am always tired in the mornings?
I am bursting with happiness at the thought of having a new girl friend in Marugame.
I am craving new reading material.
I can't wait to see my family.


Friday, 18 December 2009

Why I should stay...

Winter is here in my little town; I love wrapping up warm in lovely winter clothes. My morning cycles have become increasingly quicker as I pedal twice as hard against the sharp winds to get into the warmth. I am becoming quite accustomed to the purplish/red colour my cold hands assume in the mornings due to being gloveless on my bike - ah,I am missing those beautifully chic gloves adorned with little red buttons to match my coat (what a pity these gloves only exist in my mind...)

I haven't written in a long time. Things have changed...wonderfully so. So wonderfully in fact, that I have had a complete change of heart about the future. I think that I want to stay here for longer. I have a funny feeling in my heart telling me that to leave in March is just too soon.

I can't put into words this feeling I have so I am going to talk about the things that have made me blissfully happy lately...

Here I am with my colleagues from Josei; Matsamura-sensei, Suzuki-sensei and Kishikawa-sensei. (I think I look a bit manic in this photograph, it makes me laugh)A few weeks ago, they invited me for a girly night out. Only Suzuki-sensei can speak English so I left my apartment with a Japanese/English dictionary and a fresh pad of paper so that I could try to express myself with silly doodles, I had the loveliest night; I was silly and girly and had a fun time.I felt like I was out with my girl friends. It was the nicest feeling.

Last Saturday morning, I taught an unusual class at Maruko

Apologies for the slightly crumpled looking poster!

I taught a baking class, in English, to a group of thirty students and a handful of colleagues. If someone suggested this to me three months ago, I would never have thought it within my capabilities. I am still a little awkward and bumbling in my lessons but I am becoming more and more confident as I get to know my students better each day. I was so proud of myself that Saturday; we baked some beautiful things and spending time outside of a classroom context, with a small cross section of this tiny community I live in made me glow with happiness. I have so much love for my students and colleagues. I will never ever forget this day.

I turned 23 on Monday and was made a real fuss of at school. I was given a plant from my colleagues at Maruko (which I am determined to care for well, though its beauty is somewhat questionable...) and all kinds of trinkets and treasures from the students; handmade cards, CDs, photographs, sweets. Incidentally, lots of fruit from various students' grandmothers' - persimmons are always welcome :-)

One of my students, Yuki made me this card to tell me about her favourite band, Arashii. Look at how much thought has gone into it. I couldn't get a clear photograph of it, but some of the descriptions of the band memebers are very funny, my favourite being the description of Matsumoto Jun; "Matsumoto Jun - Isabel, you must know, he is sobriety itself!"

On Wednesday, the girls at Josei threw me a belated birthday party...I have eaten so much cake this week.

Thank you to everyone from back home, Ireland and America who sent me gifts and birthday wishes - thank you cards coming soon <3

This evening, I went to Maruko's Bonenkai. A bonenkai is a special party that takes place at the end of the year to forget about (the bad things that have happened in) the year and to welcome in a new year. Here I am with Kishishita-sensei, Taoka-sensei and O-Hira-sensei. Everyone at the party got presents; I wanted O-Hira-sensei's present so that I can make lovely warm comfort food for the winter time but I had to make do with something uselessly ridiculous!

I've been teaching Christmas lessons at school for the past couple of weeks. One of the activities we do is to listen to Christmas songs and do a 'fill in the blanks' game. I am too sentimental; the first Christmas lesson I taught made me get tears in my eyes. Seeing forty studious kids, most wearing the facemasks (that I find oh so sinister),bobbing their heads,tapping their feet and mouthing the words was the most endearing thing ever to see.

Even though I mentioned the beginnings of my happiness a few entries ago, I truly feel myself now. I feel like I am living here rather than simply existing. I have friends here; I can pick up my phone, drop someone an e-mail and a cycle ride/train ride later, be in company over a cup of coffee or a cosy dinner. I love my students; I know names and personalities, I have a favourite class. I am so lucky to have such wonderful and caring colleagues; they are my Japan parents as well as people I work with. I feel that there is so much yet to see, do and experience that to leave in March would really be cutting it short. I wish I could put into words exactly what I experienced in my first few months of being here. As dramatic as it seems, I felt like I was losing part of myself; like I was living in some kind of bubble. I felt tentative, unsettled,kind of empty and aimless. I feel that though it has been a painfully slow process,I have come a long way since August.

I am going to turn over a new leaf next year. Now that I am settled, I want to start my adventure anew;
<3 I am going to apply myself to studying Japanese with more enthusiasm. Being unable to speak Japanese is a source of frustration every day. It makes me feel powerless. I have started learning ten Kanji each day; Kanji is a logographic writing system - Kanji are symbols that represent words and I find them both beautiful and fascinating. The Kanji for bengoshi (lawyer) is an interesting one;it is made up of three Kanji; eloquence, protection and expert. Nice eh?
<3 I want to read more; I miss the comforting feeling of curling up with a good book. I haven't read much since I arrived which has made me kind of sad as back home, I devoured books.
<3 I am going to eat more healthily; I will put more thought into cooking. I will buy nice cooking things.
<3 Take more pictures
<3 Be more adventurous
<3 Make more friends
<3 I am going to make my apartment a home.
<3 I am going to make more things.
<3 I am going to explore Marugame more.

Oh, a really strange thing has happened which is too strange to go unmentioned. When Nicolas lived in Montreal, he had two friends called Aaron and Vivian who I met when I visited him. Vivian is now living here in Marugame, teaching English too! It's such a small world. I am so happy for a girly friend here in this town. I can't wait for cafe and cake trips :-)