Monday, 22 March 2010

Weekend in March

Despite the fact that I did not venture very far this weekend, lots of things happened; I went cafe hopping and treasure hunting at the vintage shops with Ayako, I made marmalade, I went to an art market with Kentarou,I sat in a tree house at the art market, I ate lots of good food, I attended a premature Hanami party, my cold hands joined lots of others trying to get some warmth, I fell asleep at the kotatsu, I did a book swap,I went for a long bike ride to the beach, I played frisbee,I cried so much I wanted to go home, I laughed until my sides hurt, I hope you had a lovely weekend.

Ken and I at the art market.

Ken's friends made takoyaki (octopus dumplings). I had tried them once before in Osaka and didn't like them much. This time, they were amazing. Maybe even as good as okonomiyaki (my favourite Japanese food).

Isn't it beautiful?


Thursday, 18 March 2010

Goodbye lovelies :-)

The school year in Japan runs from April to March, and this week is the final week of the academic year. At Josei, with the exception of a second year Conversational English class, I only teach the first year. This week, I had my final classes with my six first year classes. My friends both here in Japan and back home know that at times, I have found this job difficult and it seems that when I think about all the classes I've taught since September, the unsuccessful/so-so classes far outnumber the ones that have been a success. It was therefore only when it came to saying goodbye to my students that I realised just how fond of them I have become.

When I look at these photos, I can name every single student. Not only that, I can recall a funny quirk or endearing little thing about each one of them. I am really sad to have to say goodbye to them. (You can click on these photos to make them bigger, they are just a sea of faces when they're little)

(some funny faces)

These two photographs are of class 1-3 (they are split into two for team teaching classes). Class 1-3 are my absolute favourite class. Their enthusiasm and happiness is infectious. I love their seasonal confusion syndrome; despite the fact that it is now March, the four boys to my right in the top photo, Ryosuke, Junta, Naohira and Sone continue to greet me with 'Happy New Year!' I will miss 1-3 so much.

This is my favourite student, Sachiko.

I love these two sweeties from 1-3 too. I will remember them most from the class we did on 'What do you want to be in future?' After a stream of the usual responses, I was really amused when these two chimed in with 'The only thing we want is to be rich girls.'

This is my smartest class, class 1-1. We always get through the material in each class really quickly so our classes were more conversational than team teaching ones. This was really nice as I got to know lots about them all. 1-1 were my final first year class today. I cried so much at the end. This set off not only all the girls but Shingo, the little guy directly above me too. Shingo is a magician and aspiring doctor who gives chocolates to girls (me!) for White Day :-)

I will never forget my first year students.


Monday, 15 March 2010

Cycling a go-go

On Sunday, I visited the island of Shodoshima (小豆島)with Yumi, Ed and Sean. It was such a beautiful day, so we rented some bicycles and set off on the biggest bicycle ride I have ever been on. We cycled over thirty kilometres and a lot of it was uphill. It was all worth it for the not so gruelling return journey where we whizzed down hills without having to peddle at all. Cycling is the simplest of pleasures, I love it.

Shodoshima smelt beautiful.I couldn't quite pinpoint the smell but olives are grown there, so perhaps it was that. Whatever it was, it was lovely.

Little olive house, big olive trees

We cycled to Kankakei Ropeway where we took the cable car through the gorge. Ahh, it was lovely. My favourite part was when one of the elderly passengers in the cable car spotted a deer on the mountain. Within seconds, news of the deer had spread throughout the small cable car. Cameras were a-clicking and there were shrieks of excitment, with everyone clambering to the windows of the car. I never knew deer were so popular here...

Here we are at the top of the gorge.

The bicycle ride back to the port in the early evening sunshine was so beautiful. I liked feeling the wind blowing through my hair! We stopped off at the beach, missed the curfew for returning our bicycles (the owner of the shop was not so impressed but we said a quick sayonara and made a quick getaway before he could fine us) and fell asleep on the boat ride back to Takamatsu.

My name in hiragana, by Yumi.

It was such a lovely day. In April, we plan to cycle the Shimanami Kaido bridge - a forty kilometre bridge that connects Shikoku to Hiroshima.

I'm feeling both apprehensive and wildly excited about my solo jaunt to Vietnam in a couple of weeks time. I also feel a deep sense of relief after having made the decision to finish up here in Japan in August. I am enjoying myself, but I feel curious to see more of the world. Recently, I have been devoting less time to worrying about my classes, in favour of planning the next part of my adventure; my head has been stuck in various Lonely Planets for the past couple of weeks. Last week, I read loads about Angkor and the Khmer Empire in medieval Cambodia. Researchers have concluded that Angkor was the largest preindustrial city in the world. Its decline is both mysterious and fascinating - I want to go there so much.

Five months is not a lot of time, but it will force me to squeeze in all of the things left on my list that I want to see and do before I leave.