Wednesday, August 29, 2007

photos galore

once again, a ton of photos for you to enjoy, this time from my new cell phone and some of edel's as well.
but first, a bit of a re-cap: Last week I had to give my welcome speech to the whole school, about 500 kids. I was suprisingly not nervous, and apparently it was so good (?) they had me do it twice. The school is big and very modern, only built 3 years ago. The kids wear a kind of sailor uniform and are all pretty friendly. That same night I had my staff welcome party. This is where I first experienced several very Japanese things - like having your glass constantly refilled by other people - I think the rate was about once every 30 seconds. Also the fact that the only English EVERY japanese person knows is the awkward conversation: "A: Good morning/afternoon/evening. B: (same) A: How are you? B: I am fine thank you and you? A: I am fine, too." and also, "What is your hobby?". I've never had so many adults ask me what my singular hobby was. These are the things which I said which illicited riotous laughter from the rest of the teaching staff at the party:
  • the slang term for school cafeteria staff member in America is "lunch lady"
  • at my previous employer we had just one party a year and it was a lunch (I think most schools here have at least 5 staff parties per year, at which heavy drinking is mandatory)
  • I prefer Japanese beer to American beer (Asahi v. Budweiser? no contest.)
  • In NYC there is a "Hideki Matsui Day" in honor of the Japanese YankeeIn America
  • "Kampai!" is "Cheers!" (although this devolved into "chuuu!" over the course of the night, due to pronunciation difficulties)
On Saturday, me and the ALT gang went to omagari, a town about an hour away from honjo, for the all-japan fireworks competition. as I've previously mentioned, they truly love their fireworks here. we got there quite early to secure a spot and spent the day lounging around picinic-ing. there were some 'daytime fireworks' but these were actually quite unimpressive, more like colored smoke. Once sun set, it was a 3-hour feast for the eyes, it was amazing to be that close as well because you could lay back and they would seemingly fill the sky above you. quite a night.

back to my first day teaching. all my lessons today were my 'self-introduction' - a powerpoint presentation I made of everything you could ever want to know about me, and new york. at a nursery school english level. so, basically, it was pictures. but i really fine-tuned the animations to make it as interesting as possible - the favorite slides were most definitely the ones of all my (18) aunts and uncles, and of me rowing on the river here. it is amazing how different class dynamics can be. i taught 3 ichinenseis (7th graders) today, and 1 sanensei (9th graders). The 9th graders were quite impressive, were able to come up with plenty of questions to ask me. Favorite questions: Do you like natto (fermented soybeans that smell like a horse stable)? What do you eat for breakfast??? The ichinenseis were a bit more timid. My celebrity status at higashi is quite enjoyable, i get plenty of overexcited "HELLO!!!!!! HELLO! HELLO!"'s in the halls. All in all it was a great day, but without further ado, here are the pics:

come on to my house, my house-a-come on:

the entry to my apt

my apt building (which for some reason is called BEAMS21) and my street

the shrine caddycorner from my apt building

same shrine

my bike! they call these "mama cherry"s - pretty much only old ladies and children ride them

the entryway in my apt - shoes off!

my living room

my favorite part of the apt - the balcony

my tiny but efficient kitchen

sliding door into my bedroom


another view of the bedroom

my impressive vanity mirror, and washing machine - the first one i've ever had!

the bath room - also an enclosed shower. the idea is to take a quick shower washing up and then soak in the nice deep tub for a while.

my commute to honjo higashi junior high school (about 7 minutes by bike):

left at the (yellow and gray) "House Rose"

right at "Repose Wing" (you'll have to believe me that's the name of the building)

straight through the rice paddies

and you've arrived on time for the morning staff meeting! which you must attend, even if you do not understand a word, as of course it involves important mandatory bowing and speaking in unison

the staff room at higashi

my desk, with an excellent view

also nearby - Ozaki Elementary School - where I will teach once every two weeks

the Honjo Board of Education office (love the crazy architecture, it even has glass floors inside), where I spent most of my time this August

something I contemplating having for lunch one day, based on cuteness factor alone

back at that park:

the top of the hill in this park reminds me of tall pines at chingachgook...makes me feel at home

random honjo:

sunset over honjo

edel and i went on a long bike ride down these wonderful bike paths that run along the river and through the rice paddies, and seem to go on for miles

honjo's koyoshi river, near where we row

owen and amelie on the beach

canadian jeff-san

some silhouettes - owen, jeff, and edel

me enjoying my new keitai, now complete with charm chain and sparkle stick-on gems

omagari fireworks:

cathy and i chilling out picnic-ing

tasmanian david bought this fireworks bomb for an ichiman...probably dangerous?

the crowd was immense

doug from north dakota

edel and i with our cheesy smiles

owen, me, amelie, and jeff

the fireworks!

Monday, August 27, 2007

i heart honjo, joy and joy

first of all, the subject of this entry is the real name/slogan of a some sort of business establishment in hopefully to come. secondly, this post is to express my love for honjo, but more particularly for honjo higashi junior high school, my main school where I will be teaching, where they just hooked my laptop up to the internet, power, printer, and EVEN installed Microsoft Office on it for me!!!! I was overcome with joy at this - there was plenty of deep bowing and arigato gozaimasing going on from me. Of course, everyone takes our technical advancements for granted until you're suddenly stranded in another country without them. As Ben Kweller has said: "The server's down, and I'm in tears..."

now all i have to do is get internet at home, and i'll be set. i'm also in line to get a cable for my phone so that i can download all the pictures i've taken on it onto my computer for your viewing pleasure. for now, you'll have to settle for a picture of the folks from that intensive japanese class that i took a while back, courtesy of jeff. the teacher, sato-san, was probably the genkiest person i've ever met. genki means healthy, energetic but i've found it is also used for a variety of adjectives as well - outgoing, fun, friendly.

clockwise from top left that's phil, jeff, sato-san, owen, juls, terry, kaydene, edel, me, cathy, and tricia

in other news, a fundraising intiative has called my name, and i answered, it's called Everest of Apples, volunteer-run by akita jets, i've gotten myself involved and am now the Fundraising Coordinator! hurrah! Here's the link:

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

row row row your boat

so, I`ve started an ALT crew team with the help of the board of ed people to compete in a local regatta on september 2nd, and apparently this is newsworthy. namely, someone from the rowing club has been covertly taking pictures of us practicing and taking notes on the drills and such we`ve been doing. and...this has appeared in the club`s newsletter with exact accounts of our practices. This morning, it was raining, and the newsletter included a written dialogue of our conversation in deciding whether or not to row (the answer of course, was yes). I suspect espionnage, they`re probably trying to steal our strategies to ensure the gaijins don`t win their race! here`s some pics from the secret shooter that appeared in the newsletter.

that`s owen, me, edel, cathy, and amelie bringing it in to the dock

superior docking job, captured via long angle lens

Monday, August 20, 2007


I know, I has been too long. On the plus side, I was waiting till I had PICTURES to share with you all to post again! It has of course been quite busy here in Japanland. Since I last wrote I met all the other new JETs in the area (there are really a heck of a lot of us), went to an intensive Japanese class, attended another JET orientation (this one just for Akita), started rowing practice, biked all over the place, ate a whole lot of sushi, and got a cell phone! This week I will be finally visiting my schools to meet my teachers and will start working there full time, and also will hopefully get closer to getting internet set up at my apartment, so that I can post with more ease and frequency. Without further ado, here are some photos! (thanks to edel and jeff for sharing) PS. I also have some of my apartment and neighborhood that I will hopefully be able to post tomorrow. Enjoy!

tokyo orientation:

newly united akitaites at the izekaya

me cooking up a storm

cathy and edel, the 2 irish ladies in honjo, upholding cultural stereotypes

owen, doing the same

the plane we rode from tokyo to akita (jk, but it was in the next gate over)


sunset over the river

view of honjo from edel`s highrise (re: 4th floor) apt

the honjo "marina" aka beach, home of favorite JET pasttime nightswimming. ALMOST everyone involved has been stung by jellyfish. also, people are constantly shooting off fireworks here, sometimes making us believe we are "under attack" and must take cover. until we realize the shooter is a 5 year old girl.

my new favorite park in honjo, with a set of red torii leading up to a small shrine and a nice overlook over what seems like miles of wilderness with sparse (cedar maybe?) trees

around honjo:

"big buddha" in a shrine in a rural area a little ways out of town

a pretty amazing waterfall near big buddha

owen, amelie, and me frolicking in said waterfall

honjo dance festival down the main street

more ladies dancing

they just can`t get enough!

kanto festival in akita city:

this little guy is a logo for the sports competitions going on this time of year, he`s everywhere!

owen and i enduring the ever-present drizzle

our gracious hosts - yumiko-san, masaka-san, and yonemochi-san, folks from my board of education (aka the ppl who call me kawaii)

walking with the lattices of lanterns

the balancing act begins

on the hip!

a close up. i love that in japan there is a festival for balancing giant lattices of lanterns on your hip.


ladies taiko drumming and fluting on a float

akita jet orientation:

tatami party

phil the brit

cathy and edel looking glamorous

me contemplating my beloved bike (only 3 minor accidents so far!):

also, check out my new keitai (i got the blue one):