So in Japan, the school year ends in March. Between the end of school and the beginning of the new school year, kids have about two weeks off. That`s kids only though, not teachers.
Since school ended, I`ve gone to Girl Scouts, hung out with other ALTs, went out with a friend, and went to a BBQ to help kids learn more English.
Girl Scouts was two weekends ago, at this point, and was in the next town over; the main thing that they were doing was bridging up. But not all of them bridged up, and they did it rather quickly. It wasn`t a major ceremony, though it did have a semi-ceremonial feel to it. To bridge them up, the leader merely tied the new scarf around their necks.
To explain that, in Japan, Girl Scout uniforms all have kerchiefs around their necks. Each color is for a different level. So when they bridge up, they take off the old one, and receive one in the new color instead. It makes it a nice, simple ceremony.
Last week, the mom of a couple of my elementary school students contacted me and asked if I`d have time to go have tea or coffee. I sort of consider her a friend, since we keep getting together, and chatting. Mostly in Japanese, though she`s trying to learn English, so there`s a bit of that mixed in too.
Anyway, so after school one day last week we met at a nearby restaurant. The restaurant is called Coco`s, and one thing I like about it is that they have a drink bar. Usually I end up with a coupon for the drink bar, but even if I didn`t have one, it`s about ￥３００ (about $3) for unlimited drinks. They usually have some special dessert for the season too, which is always really good. This time it was berry crepes:
We sat and talked a while, and while we were, a couple of teachers from one of my elementary schools came in! So I got to say hi to them too. ^_^
Last week was also the leaver`s party for my Junior High. In Japan, teachers can get switched around to different schools every year. It doesn`t always happen, but it can. This year, 8 teachers and an office staff person left, although if I understood right, two of them were retiring. They don`t necessarily even stay in the same town though…one was headed to a Junior High all the way across the prefecture!
The leaver`s party is expensive (around $80) but they give you so much fancy food, and it`s all you can drink for two hours, so I guess it makes sense. It just hurts my wallet a little…I tend to immediately say `yes, I can go!` and then ask the price after. Partially because I can currently afford to, even if I maybe shouldn`t, and secondly because it`s a very good chance to talk to the teachers when I know they aren`t too busy to talk.
Usually, because I`m focusing on trying to talk to people, my phone stays in my purse. But I couldn`t resist taking a picture of the fish dish (and yup, you may have already seen that picture on my instagram).
Last weekend, on Saturday, a bunch of ALTs got together for a beach picnic. My only problem with that was that I don`t actually like the beach. I`m not sure if it`s because I went too often when I was little, or if it`s that beach air always seems to aggravate allergies, or just the sand, which is enough in and of itself to put me off. But I went anyway, since it was a good chance for doll photos, and a good chance to actually get out of my apartment, which is something that I don`t do enough, I know.
At the beach, I mentioned to one of the other ALTs that I don`t actually like the beach all that much, mostly because of the sand, and her response was “I don`t know anyone who says `oh, the best part of the beach is definitely the sand`!” So of course another ALT chips in with “The best part of the beach is the sand!” And she truly meant it, so it was a bit funny.
After the picnic part, we wandered around the rest of the park, and ran into a bunch of kids at the playground. They all stared at us, since we were this group of foreigners, and for a little bit, we heard them whispering, but they didn`t approach. Some of the things I heard were “The doll is scary!” and “Should we say `hello`?” (They were speaking Japanese, of course).
I put Zane on the bench to take a picture, which actually came out really awesome because of the lighting, and when one of the kids ran past staring at me, in Japanese, I said it was my hobby to collect dolls. The kid kinda froze and was like, “You speak Japanese!” And after that I was mobbed by kids who wanted to see the doll, curious, and not scared anymore because they didn`t have to try to speak English. Though a couple of them did introduce themselves with a “My name is…” in English, which was cute. After, one of the other ALTs said that he`d asked the parents and all of the kids were only in kindergarten.
This was the best picture:
Although this one wasn`t bad either, since I`d been wanting a picture of a doll trying to get a drink from a vending machine. I did have to have help for that one though…there was no way to hold the doll and take the picture at the same time! One thing that`s interesting about Japanese vending machines too, is that in it aren`t all the same type of thing. That is, as you can see in the picture, there are bottles and cans in the same machine; there`s water, juice, soda and coffee! Sometimes they even have hot and cold drinks in the same machine as well, though this particular one was all cold drinks.
Then, Sunday, all the way down in Iwaki was an English BBQ for junior high students there. So a couple of us from Minamisoma went down to help out. It was fun, overall. I learned that there are little pink burnable packets of some kind of gel that light a fire pretty fast (which really, seems like cheating when you`re building a fire, but whatever). We prompted the kids to talk in English a little, though of course a couple were more outspoken than others. I brought Ilya, partially because I wanted to, and partially because I`ve found that the dolls are good conversation starters.
I got some good pictures of the nature in the area. Since I can`t share the pictures of the kids, I thought I`d share those instead.
And then, last night was the welcome party for the new teachers. ^_^ Despite expenses, it always makes me happy that they invite me; it shows to some extent that they do feel I`m part of the workplace too. And, as I mentioned, it`s a great chance to talk to them when they aren`t quite so busy.
I ended up at the nijikai (second party) last night too. Some of the teachers know me by now…when we were looking at the menu of what food to order, one of them said, “Oh, there`s gyoza!” and immediately ordered it for me. XD They know that gyoza is my favorite food…and even better, this was fried gyoza. They also had fried cream cheese with maple syrup to pour on top, and that was really good too. ^_^
Then, tomorrow is the opening ceremony for school after spring break; after that the schedule is back to normal!