more recently, though (yesterday), i had my first day teaching at elementary school. they were so much fun, i left the school euphoric. the day started with a bang - at my welcome ceremony each grade sang me a song/performed a dance/or did a chopstick and red bean challenge for my entertainment. The third graders' song included lyrics such as "We are active boys and pretty girls", "I like basketball", and "Please teach English". The 6th graders chopstick challenge was fun, they were surprised that I almost beat their best chopstick afficionado at moving red beans from one bowl to the next. (sidebar: i wonder if this is a montessori "work". natalie - if not, i highly recommend it) the next great thing that i enjoyed was that i was given total autonomy in the classroom, which did involve quite a bit of planning work but was well worth it.
before i went, i was most worried about them not being able to understand anything, as most of the teachers have no English as well, but they caught on to games, activities, and songs (yes, i sang songs with small children), so quickly and enthusiastically, i was questioning whether their English ability was actually better than my junior high kids. I think it must be that they are just less inhibited, which just works better for learning languages. At my first classes at junior high, i would always have "question time" after my self-introduction, and this was always a little awkward and forced. at the elementary school, there were so many questions, kids stayed after class to ask them. or they stayed after to stand really close to me and stare at me, or shake my hand. after school, i was attempting to leave on my bike but was swarmed by children who wanted to tell me things (in japanese) like "my aunt is an english teacher in tokyo", "i have a dog", or "do you like koalas?". they also wanted to touch each and every one of my quite numerous panda stickers on my bike. in the end i had to say goodbye about 75 times just for them to allow me to leave the parking lot. looking forward to my next visit!
so, back to my fun-filled weekend. on Friday after japanese class, my fellow honjo ALTs and i finally made it to the "Cha Cha Cha" izekaya, a place recommended to me by almost every japanese person i've asked. It was quite friendly, and they even gave us free pears when we left! on saturday, Everest of Apples had organized a camping trip to Lake Tazawa, so I rode up there and we had a nice big barbecue, campfire on the beach, sleeping in tents...my kind of scene. The lake is gorgeous, and on sunday morning we rented swan paddle boats to explore. Someone had heard from their students that the lake was poisonous, so you should not swim in it, but I figure they just meant it is acidic, because there was nothing growing in it. anyway a few people did some nightswimming and are still alive. after the boating and such, one of the longtime ALTs brought a few of us to my first onsen (hot spring bath)! apparently it is one of the most famous in the area. it had warm milky colored water, as the spring was slightly sulphuric. it was outside, surrounded by the beautiful mountainside and the bottom of the pool was loose stones. quite an experience, very relaxing.
after that i headed off to sendai, the biggest city in tohoku (northern main island japan). I was excited for some city life. there was quite a large group of us traveling, (maybe like 20+?), which i was not such a fan of, so I broke off with a smaller group and we had a lovely evening doing big city things such as eating at a mexican restaurant, window shopping, and going out dancing. i really liked sendai, it had a cool "dirty" vibe to it, with plenty of young fashionable people running around. all the people my age tend to flee to the cities in japan. Monday morning we met up with the big group again in Matsushima Bay, which is filled with dramatic looking pine islands. after a fun boat tour and a visit to a temple, we headed on the long drive home.
that night, owen suggested we attempt mount chokai again the next day. i agreed. we headed out despite foreboding weather forecasts and made excellent time on our way up, but were met near the top by fierce winds, but thankfully, a few fleeting views, inlcuding above the cloud cover. the peak was basically a giant pile of boulders that you had to scramble up. I spent most of the time hugging the rocks for dear life, scared of getting blown off the mountain! but we made it, although with only a few low-quality keitai pics to prove it. Our way down was rough, with freezing rain and wind, so we followed it up with a much-needed onsen, this time an indoor one with burning hot water. the hike took us 8 hours and today i learned chokai-san is 2,236 m tall!
all in all, quite the autumnal equinox.
this is a pic of the inside from the internet
chokai-san, attempt #2: great success!
a fleeting view above the clouds
getting to know some boulders intimately