A trip to Furano

14 07 2010

This weekend I have two awesome friends coming to visit, since neither one has a car and they both have decently long journeys, I decided I wanted to be able to provide towels for the two of them. Owning two towels already, I needed another.

After school, I set out for Furano to hit up their Homac and grab a towel and a few other things I wanted to have on hand before I have friends visit.

On the way to Furano, I have to pass through two tiny towns, not big enough to have memorable names, but big enough to slow down for, as well as Yamabe, which is big enough to have two combinis (hear the jealousy in my voice?).

Just before I reached Yamabe (I was about 3/4 of the way there), I reached into my purse for something (probably a music player of some sort) and realized I hadn’t brought my wallet.

Living in Japan that not only means I didn’t have money to buy the items I wanted, but I was driving illegally (no license), was illegally just being (we’re supposed to carry our gaijin/foreigner card EVERYWHERE), and I didn’t have my insurance card. All big no-no’s.

So half an hour into my drive, I turned around to do it again. I got home, grabbed my wallet from my backpack (when did it escape from my purse to my backpack?) and turned around to go back to Furano.

It all turned out ok in the end. I even decided on the second trip in to stop and try and capture the beauty of the sky. While that picture wasn’t so interesting, this one was:


Aloe Yogurt Kit-Kat

13 07 2010

That’s right. You read correctly. I just finished eating a Aloe Yogurt Kit-Kat.

How was it? A little strange. But aren’t most of Japan’s Kit-kat flavors strange?

It’s my personal goal to try every strange flavored kit-kat I’ve run into. So far, my favorite is Sakura-Green Tea. Soo good! Also, Maple was yummy.

What will happen next year?

12 07 2010

Interestingly enough, with all the cutbacks being made world-wide, JET is rumored to now on the chopping block as well. The only real article about it is here, and it doesn’t even to have any real, solid facts.

Regardless, it makes me wonder what will happen if they just up and drop JET. I’ll have some notice, because they wouldn’t be able to do it until the end of a contract year (a year from August, at the soonest).

In my town, it would mean they don’t have to “deal” with having someone who can’t speak the language around. At the same time, they’d miss out on realizing that not everyone speaks Japanese, that my culture has me thinking about things entirely different sometimes.

In general, it would mean there would be less of us causing a ruckus whenever we end up in a giant group (which isn’t too often). There will be way less foreigners to practice English with on the trains, sneakily snap photos of and be generally confused by.

Less foreigners would be able to come over knowing that they have this amazing support system that JET provides for us.

For me, it would mean I’ll be thrown into a crazy dash to find jobs in Japan (should I want to stay) or the insanity of teaching jobs being cut at home.

I know that God will lead and provide wherever he leads, but it has me very curious to see what the future looks like for both Japan (including these people I care about), my JET friends and myself.

A general update

28 06 2010

Sorry for the very long space between updates. Life has been busy in a lot of ways. What has been happening?

I became the HAJET (Hokkaido JET) Librarian. Which means, about 1000 books arrived at my house and I’ve been working on getting them organized in such a way that when other members email me because they’d like to check out books, I can easily find them. Right now, there are about 600 books organized in my tiny apartment. This weekend I received more shelves to be able to organize more of what’s still in my closet and waiting to be organized.

Being a part of the HAJET PC (Prefectural Council) means that I attended the retreat in early June, at this meeting we figured out a lot of the plans for the up coming year. We will be the running council until February of next year, when some old members will leave and new members will be voted in. If I don’t decide to go home next year, I’ll likely try to stay on as librarian for a second year. For the retreat, we stayed at Simon’s house. Simon is the HAJET President and he lives in Engaru. It was an amazing weekend. Simon is also a first year JET, but he and his family are from New Zeland. Simon and his wife, Sara, and their amazing four kids hosted us. My favorite part of the weekend was probably talking to and playing with the adorable kids. They speak both English and are learning Japanese at school (their Japanese is amazing!). Their two year old answers “how old are you” with “ni-sai” (two years old in Japanese) and they all have amazing accents, which makes them fun to talk to.

Beyond talking to the kids, we spent that weekend figuring out lots of questions about being the new PC (most of us are newbies and don’t know how everything works). I hadn’t actually met everyone on the PC so it was good to get to connect with them. At our long Saturday meeting, we also discussed many things including how to get the rest of the shelves to the library, our plans for Sapporo Orientation (when we will get to meet all the newbies) and many other upcoming events. Simon was also a chef in his days in New Zeland, so he cooked us an amazing dinner of things that are harder to find in Japan (very tasty!). Sunday brought a trip to the free store (a store where people drop things off and everything is free!), a visit to a rock that overlooks all of Engaru and the long trip home.

The next weekend, I bought my car. Ironically, due to train issues, that trip took 5 hours. Luckily, it should never take me that long again (now that I have a car) as long as I don’t make long stops on the way. But, it ended up being really good. I got to have dinner with a couple of good friends (one who lives super far away and we chat often, but don’t often see one another).

That week was my 25th birthday. It was strange to celebrate so far from my family and friends. I got to eat lunch with one of my favorite elementary classes and had a few students say happy birthday. The evening was quiet. I went out to the lake and had a nice walk before coming back into town and going to the pizza place. It was a good dinner, but lacking in friends and family. I came home to open the package mom had sent me. It included some fun things, including an Oregon tee shirt.

Two weekends ago, I headed to Iwamizawa for their International festival. The countries that had booths included America (obviously), Australia, Canada (their booth was next to us), Britain, Mexico, Russia and many more. The kids made pinyatas, had their faces painted, there was dancing lessons and food being sold (including tacos and real chocolate chip cookies!). The weather was beautiful and warm. Afterward, we had an enkai at an Indian restaurant in Iwamizawa. The food was delicious, but as usual, the best part was the friends. For the first time in a few months I actually got to hang out with Heather (my friend from Britain who I did a lot with when I first arrived). I also met many other JETs who I hadn’t met before.

This weekend we headed to Shinshinotsu for a HAJET meeting. We went camping. On Friday night Ros and I arrived late. Everyone stayed up pretty late chatting and hanging out. On Sunday, most of us were up around 6 because our tents were in the bright sunlight and very hot. (The sun rises here at about 3am this time of year, so 6am is like 8am heat at home, where the sun rises at about 5 in the summer). We got up and headed out for the meeting. First was the PC meeting where we discussed more of what we were going to do for orientation and the other events coming up. After that, we had the general meeting and had several members come. Saturday afternoon, we had workshops. I lead an ideas exchange workshop and both got and received some good ideas to hopefully use in the few classes I teach.

That afternoon, we had a BBQ and lots and lots of good food. Including hamburgers, tortilla chips, chips like you’d get at home and time with good friends (the best part!). At the end of the evening, we did a cake auction for HEC (Hokkaido English Challenge) to support the English camp we’ll do at the end of next month. A couple of amazing a friends (one of whom has adopted me and decided she was my big sister, in the fall) bought a cheesecake for my birthday. It was pretty sweet (and very DELICIOUS!).

Sunday, we had a sale of stuff as old JETs wanted to get rid of stuff and some of us wanted to get it. Before that, I got the remaining HAJET Library bookshelves. I also bought a small set of drawers, a snowboard, and a few books for studying for the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test). When it was time to leave, my car was PACKED full of stuff. But I now own my very own snowboard (for about $30). I’ll need to get some other gear, but that’s one thing paid for now!

Also, I’ve been slowly getting better and better at Japanese. I can communicate so much more than I could when I arrive and I can understand a lot more, too. I finished the first Genki (Elementary Japanese) textbook and have started work on the second. In December, I’ll be taking the JLPT N4 – there are 5 levels and N5 (new 5) is the easiest and N1 is the hardest. I probably was at a level N5 this last December and I think it will be possible to study and pass the N4 in December.

I think it’s been a while since I posted

10 06 2010

Currently I feel a bit like this:

Why you ask?

Well, the other day my “.” key was sticking. So I popped it off to clean under it (previously I had a bit of dust under another key and it didn’t work quite right.

I cleaned under the key and attempted to pop it back on. Apparently, with this computer if you pop a key off wrong, you can’t get it back on. Subsequently, I’ve put the key back on to no avail. Still the key comes back off. Today, I think I hit the end of getting it back on, when I broke another bit of a prong that was holding it down (in trying to put it on again).

Boo! Now my keyboard looks something like this:

(Hopefully I’ll have a real update soon).

UPDATE: I ordered and received a new keyboard key. My keyboard is now fixed and I no longer feel like my pencil is broken.

Three Cups of Tea

14 05 2010

I just finished reading Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson.

Greg is a climber who failed at climbing the second tallest mountain in the world, K2 in Pakistan, and on the way back down he discovered a town where the children go to school outside in a courtyard, most of the time with no teacher because they have to share her with another town.

He pledges to get them a school. And he does. Then he brings more schools to Pakistan and then to Afghanistan. At one point he attends something that teaches him that the best way to improve life in a community is to educate the girls, because they will usually reinvest their education in their world.

After finishing the book (maybe an hour ago), I went on the site to find out what has been happening since the book was written. It appears that work has continued and there are now several schools in Afghanistan as well. But what caught my eye the most was the link that brought me to this video:

A new word

13 05 2010

I was driving to work today and I spotted the following kanji on a flag: 山火事注意

I knew all the kanji, but not what they meant together. The last two (注意 – Chuui) mean caution and are currently my favorite kanji because I can read them and find them everywhere*. The three before them mean: mountain (山), fire (火), and thing (事). So be cautious of mountain fire things?

While I liked that translation, I was quite sure it was wrong and very much wanted to know what they had paired with my favorite kanji.

Giving it my own translation seemed to work well because when I made it to the office and sat down at a computer, I was able to look it up. I typed in the readings for all of those things to get each kanji within the word (it’s like a compound word in English – textbook, crossroad, backpack, etc).

What did it say? According to jisho.org, it means brushfire. So be cautious of brushfires. Makes sense.

Today I learned a new word and all because I gave it some crazy translation to remember it long enough to get to a dictionary to find it. Both definitions are now stuck in my head.

Guess what happened on the way home from work this time? That’s right, I found it on several more signs, but I previously hadn’t known what it was.

I like learning new words.

*Everywhere in this case includes (but is not limited to): my shower door handle, my toilet seat, my microwave, my stove, train doors, road signs and warning labels. It’s fun because I see these two hard kanji that I’d probably make a mess of if I tried to write them and I can read them!