And in Japan, the best indicator of that is the multitude of sakura (cherry blossoms). I'm so excited for spring and I finally understand the reasoning behind hanami (flower viewing) -- you really do just want to sit under the trees and gaze! It's that beautiful!! Meg and I did that twice yesterday, but first a little bit about last weekend.
Zara, Jesse (Zara's friend in for a visit), Meg, and I went to Nodake park up in the hills of Omura. We played on the playground and took a long walk around the whole park (which included a small lake). It was a gorgeous day, especially on the shaded path (from Cedar, no less):
Fun with my shadow:
Ok, now on to yesterday! Omura Park is THE place to come to enjoy sakura in these parts. Our park has some 2,000 cherry blossom trees!! Since Meg and I are leaving today for our trip, we had to make sure to experience the festivities. We went to the store, bought a bento (packed lunch), and went to the park to eat it under the trees. When we got there, we witnesses all kinds of vendors (food, trinkets, pottery, etc) and lots of people everywhere! We found a table and sat down to enjoy our lunch and talk about our trip. A couple of older ladies ended sitting on the other side of the table and they gave us some of their food. We were already stuffed, so they insisted that we take it home and "share it with our friends." That was very nice of them! Time to show you some of the beauty of the park!
A line of trees down the main entrance to the castle.
Meg enjoying Hanami near some of the vendors.
Want a mask? :)
Me by the water! I saw a lady wearing my exact same outfit as me...what are the odds?!
Me and some of my students who were there to eat lunch after their basketball practice (yes, on a Saturday). They were SO excited to see me, haha.
More sakura! :D
Then, we went back last night and did the very Japanese thing to go -- drank a chuhai (although we will make sure to try some sake at some point), and walked around to see the trees at night. I got some really cool shots:
A group of friends enjoying the sakura late into the night.
We had to go back last night because people were out and about doing stuff past 6pm...were we really still in Omura? Amazing!! :) Oh, and it was free, so it was even better! Now that it's warm, I want to start spending more time outside (especially with the sakura!)
In about an hour, I will be leaving to go to Nagasaki for YOSAKOI!! I've been practicing with the Omura group since the end of January, but only learned this dance in the past few weeks. I'm so excited and will definitely have pictures to post later! Later tonight Meg and I will begin our long (yet comfortable ride because we are taking the shinkansen - bullet train) trip to Kyoto! We will be there and Hiroshima for a whole week! I couldn't be more excited!! Forgive the lack of posts for this coming week, but I will have more than enough to post when I get back! :)
Everyone have a great week! And, HAPPY SPRING!!! :)
It's 12:30 in the morning and I should have been in bed at least an hour ago, but instead I find myself writing poems and haiku about the weather and kotastu. Goodness, how very...Japanese...
It all started when I was talking to Ana. She decided to boil eggs at midnight and I said,
"The night easily slips from our hands"
She said it was pretty poetic and urged me to continue, so I did. (This is just silly stuff from me...thought I would share though. haha)
The cool air of late winter finds it's way through the cracks of my doors and chills my toes. How I long for the soft warmth of the spring, the heat of the sun on my back and the wind gently blowing my air. (I think I will attempt at writing poetry under the sakura (cherry blossom) trees when they bloom...a lot of haikus are made that way (especially b/c they usually have to do with nature).
And now my tribute to my kotatsu:
Oh kotatsu, How
do you manage to capture my very being every night? Your warmth, your
comfort, your proximity to the soft glow of the computer screen. My
body needs sleep, but you pull me under, further and further until my
eyes cannot stay open and my head starts to fall ever so slightly...
In haiku form:
KOTATSU Not able to let go your warmth brings me such comfort in such a cold world
And now I will fight the urge to stay under the warmth of the kotatsu and find the warmth of my bed. Good night, moon!
Hello!! It is cold in Omura today...high of 44 F (6 C) -- which is hard to adjust to after a weekend of weather in the 70s. Okinawa was so wonderful and I promise I will blog on it very soon, but for now I want to tell you about the construction on my school.
When there is construction on a building, they put up massive structures that allow the workers to work on the building (like at home); but as an added precaution, they also put this tarp (in this situation, a gray one) around the building as well. This tarp doesn't allow sunshine in, so you can imagine how cold and dark it is inside. Yuk.
Today in the hallway, they are replacing the window panes, which means that there are huge holes in the wall to let cold air blow through. I'm just glad my students don't have to be here today for that! (There is achievement testing all this week, so they don't have to be here...and I, in turn, do not have classes at all this week -- boy was I surprised to see that on the calendar this morning!)
Also, what I don't understand is how students can be in a productive learning environment when there is drilling, hammering, and talking RIGHT outside their windows. On Friday, I had to teach one of my classes by myself. Luckily we were just playing a game, so once they understood the directions, they didn't have to strain to hear me. The drilling was so loud I literally had trouble hearing myself. How can anyone have class in that kind of situation? My supervisor said she had to stop talking and just write everything on the board.
This week's weather has been so pleasant (60s and sunny) and Meg and I took a walk just about everyday. On Monday we were gone for over an hour exploring a part of town that we hadn't been to before. I brought my camera along and was glad I did. Enjoy!!
UME (Plum) blossoms!!!
I LEAVE FOR OKINAWA TOMORROW (Saturday)!!!! YAY!!! I will come back with plenty of pictures and stories I am sure! :) Until then, friends. Enjoy the coming of spring! :D
Riding my bike to school this morning was so much fun -- little white snowflakes were flying around everywhere and the sun was still out shining down on us. Then, right before first period and about half way through, the snow really coming down -- and I mean big, consistent flakes falling. It melted once it hit the road, but stuck around on other things not associated with the ground. I was SO excited watching it fall!!! And it's still coming down -- little white flurries everywhere! I know this isn't a big deal for most of you, but in Texas, we don't get snow like this. If we do get snow, it's either at night where you can't see it well or it's not as thick and consistent. It's so cool to watch -- it's totally making my day! =) And I get to go back out in it soon because I get to go play with the young kids at the handicap school. Oh what a day!
And, Meg was right. Even though the temperature is half of what it was yesterday, it doesn't feel as cold outside with the snow. I'd rather it be snow than rain, that's for sure!!
The nice Japanese teacher was telling me about when it snowed when she was in High School (at Omura High School, in fact) 40 years ago. The snow ended up being about 3 inches or so and she said that the whole school was outside throwing snowballs at each other. How cool would that be? =)
More to come later -- and maybe some pictures this weekend if I can get my camera today. Woohoo!
Because I will go to school whether through sun, wind, rain, or snow. And today, I went through them all! This morning I had classes at the deaf school, which requires a 25-30 minute bike ride across town. There was a light rain all the way there, so I got somewhat wet, but luckily my rain coat kept my upper body dry. On the way back, it stopped raining and the sun came out a little, but the temperature had dropped, the wind picked up, and when I was going up the hill back to my base school, it started to snow! Other than cold fingers and toes, though, I was fine.
Tonight Meg and I went to ZEN for dinner. We did really well...and 4 hours later I am STILL full! We had an elaborate salad with fried strips (fried nothing, haha) on top, cream cheese with fish flakes on top and onion on bottom (interesting), koroke (fried balls with different things in it), "healthy steak" which ended up being really good tofu with a mushroom sauce, and a beef/potato/cheese dish. Yes, it WAS more food than we expected, but it was exquisite! :D
Oh, and on a very exciting note -- I am getting a new camera TOMORROW. Ya! I will have picture and movie capabilities once again. =) Stay tuned for that!
This morning my alarm went off and I stuck my hand out from my mountain of blankets to turn it off. My arm was back under my covers so fast -- it was COLD! Last night I forgot to put on my sweatshirt, but I didn't have a problem until this morning. My futon is arranged kinda like a sandwich. On the bottom are two futons, followed by me, and then my UT blanket, a heated blanket, a thick cotton blanket, a thick blanket, and then a huge fluffy blanket. It's so warm and I am very grateful to have so many layers to keep me warm. It was even better than my kotatsu this morning! On to the point.
When I was waiting to cross the road this morning on my way to school, a man decided to go after the point of no return, but luckily my students and I weren't moving yet. It happens...especially in rush hour traffic. But the interesting thing was that this man was shaving and driving at the same time. And people say women drivers are bad. He had his electric razor and was shaving...while running red lights. Shame shame! Mataku!
Remember me talking about how strict they are about uniforms here? Well, this month is like constant uniform check month. They got two of the youngest teachers (one being my JTE) to wear the uniforms properly and improperly. They have pictures of them all over the place! It's so funny to see them in uniforms. They also have what they call "KANI KIPPU" or "KANI TICKET" which I think is like a pink slip for not wearing your uniform correctly. From what I can gather, the teacher who is the head guy on uniform naziness always wears a cap that says "KANI" -- so it must be just a Jonan thing. For other ALTs, do your students get slips of paper concerning their uniform? Technically, "kani" means "crab," but I'm wondering if it stands for anything else? Although we had strict rules in Catholic schools, it never went this far. I still feel sorry for my students -- especially the girls because it's freezing and they still have to wear skirts.
This week has flown by! Tomorrow I might go to Nagasaki with the girls and I am going to attempt to get my hair trimmed/re-layered. Any suggestions?! =)
Now, I am a Texan girl, born and raised. I won't say that it never gets cold in Texas, because it does sometimes. Granted, it doesn't often stay below freezing if it gets that cold and if it snows, it won't be around by morning if it sticks at all...but at least in Texas (and in the States, for that matter), you can get away from the cold outside by being inside. I am talking about central heating and insulation, of course. [Then again, I say all this and for the next few days, there is going to be freezing rain and sleet in Texas. Ah! Please be careful, yall!]
In Japan, things are a bit different. I will admit that this winter does seem pretty mild and I am lucky to be in Kyushu and not Hokkaido. But, even my friends from New York and Canada are not in favor of the weather...only because it is usually as cold as it is inside as it is outside (and sometimes colder inside!). At home, I have no desire to use my kerosene heater because I don't want to deal with the gas OR the smell. The AC costs a lot to run as a "heater," so I use my kotatsu instead. Now, especially after buying my chair, once I'm under that thing, I am toasty warm and completely content. The problem is that I end up not moving for hours because it's too cold to climb out from under it. Overall, the kotatsu is an amazing thing and I want one back at home -- it would cut down on heating bills, that's for sure. I have indeed become a kotatsu potato, Zara. =)
The reason I got online and decided to blog about this is because of what I saw when I walked outside the warm staff room into the freezing hall to go to the restroom. On my way downstairs, I noticed a class of at least 40 girls standing around the flag poles, dressed in their summer PE outfits. I'm talking shorts and short sleeved shirts. They have jackets and pants...but most of them were taken off and hanging on the rails. WHY?! I'm not sure what they were about to go do, but I could tell they were cold just by looking at them out there... It doesn't stop there, though. Most girls ride their bikes to school, but I just don't understand how they can deal with the cold wind hitting them while wearing their uniforms, consisting of a button down shirt, sweater, school jacket (not a warm one), a skirt, and socks that go up to their knees. I feel bad riding my bike by them...here I am, wearing long socks, long spats under my slacks, a shirt, a fleece pull-over, a warm jacket, a beanie, and thick gloves. Ah! The only part of me that was hurting this morning was my hands because they were freezing...but that's usually the case for me anyway...
Also, the staff room is heated by using kerosene heaters called suto-bu (stoves). It's smelly, but it does keep it nice and warm. The students aren't as lucky...but somehow the rooms stay warm enough -- it's just the hallways that are really cold.
I'm not trying to complain...I just want to tell you my experience. Plus, I have it much better than even my students -- which makes me feel sorry for them!
Except, you might not know what spats are. Well, at least...I didn't know until I saw them here. Basically they are long underwear, or if you layer them, pants that can be worn during the winter. Even though I am from Texas, I wish I would have had these a long time ago because I am usually cold all the time. Speaking of Texas weather, it was in the 30s (as in freezing) last week, but this week is supposed to be sunny and up in the 70s! What the?! Ahhh Texas weather. How I miss thee!
Yesterday I had some Christmas lessons and for my smaller class (13 students), I brought in some gingerbread (soft) cookies I made the night before (thanks to my Mom for sending me the mix!). I don't think they liked them very much, though. Gingerbread IS a strong cookie and I suppose it is an acquired taste for some. Ah well, at least I tried! I liked them, though and they will be used at the pot luck / Bad Santa party I am having tonight with my girls. Shiyes!
Tomorrow Meg and I are going to check out this cute (and said to be very delicious) restaurant for my birthday. After that I think I will treat myself to some Starbucks and get some studying done. Friday I am teaching 5 classes (busy day!), but partying it up at night for the Birthday/Christmas bash that will be happening from 8-11. Sweet. But, I'm most excited about this weekend because I will be going to a ryokan (Japanese Inn) to enjoy awesome food, onsen, and great company. Is it the weekend yet??? =)
Hope everyone is having a good week. To all my friends who are taking finals: GANBATTE! Do your best, you are almost there!!!