Wednesday, August 31, 2005

My heros for the week

The lovely Ms Shannon Marcus (Bowmanville's newest french teacher) and newly-wed Mrs Snoek (but don't worry, becs, you'll always be "rbarnho"!) are my newest heros. They both sent me mail this past week. Shannon's letter was the first piece of mail in romaji that I received, and it was even more a plesant surprise because apparently, we get mail delivered to us on Saturdays! Who knew? Becs sent me a beautiful photo of the couple that will soon (very very very soon!) be arriving in my neck of the woods. (Should anyone else desire to be my hero, my mailing addy was in that mass email I sent out three weeks ago, but if you've lost it, lemme know! I can definitely help you get ahold of it again! hint, hint!)

Monday, August 29, 2005

Ewww

I just killed my first centipede. Unfortunately, it was in my apartment. Which means there's more of them. In case you haven't heard, centipedes are more than just discustingly ugly here in Japan-- they bite and they're poisonous.

I am so smrt

I had a smrt day today. I left my egg salad sandwhich on the kitchen counter when I left for school. When I was on the train home at the end of the day it occurred to me that I left my watch and my cell phone in my desk drawer. Fantastic Monday!

Sunday, August 28, 2005



Last night a group of us went to Seishinchuou to the Kobe Winery for a festival. I wore my yukata and the other girls borrowed them from the festival. The day kicked off with a bingo game-- big deal, right? it is when the prizes are bottles of wine! --and then came the dancing. Fortunately two of the dances that we did were ones that I had learned in Toronto at the Japanese Cultural Centre, so I didn't so much look like a fool for those dances-- but there were nine other dances that I tried to pick up. It was a fantastic time, and cost us next to nothing!

Friday, August 26, 2005

On my shopping bag




A little wordy, wouldn't you say?

Another week

I had my most fulfilling and satisfying days of the past month this week. On Monday and Tuesday, all of the Kobe Jets (there's 65 of us) gathered together in Kenchomae (another one of the endless suburbs of Kobe) at Amanda's Jr High. We split into our native home countries and then were grouped into rooms: America in one room, the UK in a second, Oceanic countries in a third (NZ, Australia, South Africa) and finally Canada, Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobego in the fourth. Sixty students (they were different on monday and tuesday) were divided into three groups and were sent to explore the countries of the world. When they arrived at our room they were greeted with bilingual signs at the door, "Bienvenue au Canada," "Welcome to Canada!" (Canadians made up the majority of the population in our room) We introduced ourselves to the children and stated our game plan for the session:
"HI! MY name is JENN. I come from ONTARIO, a province of CANADA. In ONTARIO I live beside a BIG LAKE, and my city is HAMILTON. (No point in talking about belleville, it didn't mean anything to any of the other canadians even) It's nice to meet you!"

"Today, you are going to learn about CANADA. You are going to LISTEN to MUSIC from CANADA, JAMAICA, and TRINIDAD & TOBEGO. After, you are going to learn how to PLAY HOCKEY! YAY!"





Once we divided the group into two, we sent one half out to learn hockey and the others were left in the room to be bombarded with Canadian music. We had clips of songs in sets of three, and asked them to find the Canadian artist. It was decently hard for some of the Canadians, so any that the kids got right was either pure luck or they've got very good observation skills-- whichever artists were canadians, we tended to dance a little more to-- Avril, BNL, GBS, etc. With exception of Bob Marley, I had no idea which singers were Jamaican or Trinidadian.

Outside in the "hockey rink" we handed out broomsticks to the kids-- Hockey sticks aren't readily available! We explained that in Canada it's cold (brrr!) so we play on ice-- but in Kobe it's very hot (atsui, desu ne) so we have to use the regular floor. The rules explained, we brought the kids to the centre for the puck drop, pushed play on the cd player (We thought it only appropriate to expose them to the theme of Hockey Night in Canada, The Good Old Hockey Game, the TML goal song, and many other such ditties) and watched them go at it. Some groups were more.... forceful than others-- in one group of eight we had only one boy, and the poor guy almost got a bloody nose less than a minute into the first period. At the end of the day in our mass recap/closing ceremony session when asked which country they enjoyed the most, you'll be proud to know that every child said "Canada!". We even had Americans skipping out on their own presentations to come watch the hockey games and cheer for the kids.





At the end of the day, we were divided up into groups once more, this time in much smaller portions. Each child had been assigned to bring something for Show and Tell, which ranged from sharing their Club activities and hobbies to showing us how to make paper cranes or tie an Obi on a yukata. On Monday I was lucky enough to be placed in a group with a young lady who translated my name into Kanji for me and wrote it in calligraphy.



It was so fantastic to finally be DOing something instead of sitting in training and orientation. The kids that were there were of course the ones who were more genki about english to begin with, most of them belonged to the English club at their school, so it was fantastic to play games and have fun with these kids who were so curious about interacting with gaijin. I'm excited to start my classes in a week and a half, though I know that it won't be as exciting as these two days of summer school. I really do wish that we could just travel around from school to school and do it year round. That would be an incredible amount of fun. At any rate, it'll be good to get to know the kids at my school this term (I change schools in January and again in April). I wish that I could say that the rest of my week was *this* satisfying and exciting!



Sunday, August 21, 2005

Reconciling new with old

Life in Kobe is good. I really can't complain. I just got paid for a month of work in which I did nothing, I'm living in a city that is home to numerous international restaurants (like Italian and Indian), I found a church that has practically yanked me in to their congregation in no more than two Sundays, and I live in an apartment complex filled with 35 gaijin ALTs. Not bad, eh?
So why, then, do I so frequently feel such an ache to be in Ontario? I've been well aware of it for quite a long time now, but this past week really brought this to the forefront in my thoughts: God has given me a phenomenal group of friends back home. I've been spoiled by the number and the depth of friendships that I've been able to experience in my life. Life is different here with people. It seems reminiscent to first year of Redeemer when anyone who was anyone was talking about which party they were going to on the weekend or who puked where in the dorm (or in who's shoes and backpack). These folks don't just go out for a drink at a pub, they don't just go to someone's place for a few drinks, they drink to get smashed. And they do, less than an hour after they arrive. I know that I've lived a pretty sheltered and tame life, so I probably sound a little naive. But seriously-- I wish that there were some here who knew how to drink with class. I got a little tired last night being tripped over by numerous folks who spent the whole night loudly insisting that they weren't drunk. I love going out for drinks with friends back home, playing euchre or whathaveyou at the Judge. I wish there were more here that felt the same way. Anyhow, all that to say that I have fantastic friends back home.
Yet, there are prospects of good friends here, too. The church that I attended this morning for the second time this month, Shinkou Reformed Church, is pastored by a man that Dr Goheen taught at Calvin Sem. The service is entirely in Japanese but they sing hymns to the same tunes as those that we sing at First. They've asked a retired Professor of English from Kobe University (who is a member of the church) to translate parts of the service for me-- though all he did was tell me when we were saying the apostle's creed, the ten commandments and the Lord's prayer. Everything else was left up to me to decipher. He's a very friendly man, Sho Kina-san, and he has very beautiful grandchildren. The majority of the congregation speaks english very well, and they are all very eager to have a chance to speak with me. They eat lunch together every sunday but it takes me such a long time to eat because I have to answer so many questions from so many people. There are several young people at the church, though I have absolutely NO idea how old they are. Japanese people, I am figuring out very quickly, seem to age very slowly. One girl asked me how old I thought her brother was, and I was about to say 19 when she told me that he was 29. No kidding. Anyhow, they're also very welcoming and do their best to welcome me.
I've had so many blessings in my life that it's hard to leave the ones that I've already received. I know perfectly well that God will bless me here as he did in Hamilton, because he did the same thing when I was in BC and in England. I just find it ever so difficult to "miss out" (so to speak) on the events back home. I want to be there for my nephew's baptism, and I don't want to miss the first four months of the next baby's life. I also don't want to take my time here for granted and miss out on realizing the blessings that God is providing. It's a fine line, as far as I can see.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Do you ever feel like you're backwards?


I don't really feel backwards right now but I am very intrigued by different html codes that I've been looking at. I believe that this is the most exciting one that I've come across to date. Some day I'll learn the language of html and make something really cool. The last two summers I've tried to learn bits of it but I always get side-tracked. Since I have so much time this year maybe I'll finally learn it.

More pics

Find them here. There's a link on the right hand side bar. Check it out from time to time, I'll be posting pics periodically.

I think I'm turning Japanese I think I'm turning Japanese I really think so....

I purchased a Yukata today from three incredibly friendly and kind women in our shopping plaza. They got such a kick out of a geyjin (sp?) dressed up in a yukata, it was pretty sweet. I think I made their day.



Monday, August 15, 2005

Life at school

Goodafternoon, or goodevening I suppose I should say to most of you. I am at school today with my kocho-sensei (the Principal) and the phys-ed teacher. Neither of them speak english so it has been a very quiet morning.
I decided to make thirty-some cue-cards with the canada flag on the front of them, which I will use for an introduction game. I`ll write different `Canadian` names on the backs of them, and have two of each name. I*ll hand them out to the students and then make them introduce themselves to eachother until they find the other person who has the same name as them. This has been keeping me very occupied today which makes me happy. The day passes much more quickly when you*re not sitting doing nothing. The one unexpected hitch has been that the marker that I*m using is permanent, so I*m getting to be quite fuzzy-headed. And I have also realized that I*m a terrible artist, I can*t draw a maple leaf to save my life.
This evening I might be travelling to Kyoto to see some fireworks and fun stuff such as that.
I*m considering setting up a blog for my 3rd level class (the grade 9*s) and asking them to write about something once in a while, it would be good practice for their english. That means that y*all would have to read the blog and then comment on it for them!
Anyhow. I must take my leave of the computer now and see if I can improve my maple leaf. Cheers!

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Today is a happy day!

I'm sitting in my livingroom on my futon/couch, smelling the dinner that one of my neighbours is cooking mixed with the damp smell of fresh rain. I'm listening to the cars driving past on the highway next to my building, but every now and again there's a huge crack of thunder that erupts from the surprisingly light clouds. And I'm connected to the internet on my own connection! My Yahoo box was dropped off today, but only after a rather interesting phone call. I came home from getting groceries only to find another slip of paper in my door saying that I missed another delivery of a package. I gathered up my nerve and phoned the number.

"Eego-ga wakadimaska?" Says I.
"Iie. Eego-ga wakadimassen."
"Ah, so desu. Nihongo-ga wakadimassen."

We're at a standstill. He doesn't understand English and I don't understand Japanese. Not beaten yet, and driven by the desire to have my internet connected today, I read out the package numbers in Japanese on my paper (thank goodness I learned the numbers 1-10 this week!) and say,
"today?"
"Now."

Five minutes later there is a knock on my door and my YahooBB equipment is in my hands. I'm a very happy camper today here in Gakuentoshi.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Online photos

Greetings one and all! I shall be starting an online photoalbum in which to chronicle my journey in Japan. You can find it located at http://www.flickr.com/photos/jennvb. I've not yet posted any pictures from Japan, just those weeks leading up to my departure. More to come soon! (thanks to the hottest Nerd for helping me find the site...)

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Time has passed much more quickly since I moved to Kobe. The first week in Japan seemed to last a month-- this week has only seemed like two weeks. At this rate by September my weeks will be going by in what will seem like days!
I've found a very good friend in a girl named Kim. Kim's from Hawaii, so I'm pretty excited about going to visit her sometime in the coming years! She and her fiancee just finished building their house, so she has welcomed me to it. Can't wait! She's not entirely sure on staying for the whole year, but I'm certainly praying that she sticks it out with me! There are some other nice folk who are also first year JETs but they live a little bit farther than Kim so I don't see them entirely often. Other than that the company occasionally leaves a bit to be desired, a lot of the JETs like to drink and apparently can't handle their drink well so that's less than fun. I can't wait to see Laura again, it's been too long.
It was another day of sitting around the staffroom at my desk doing nothing today, my butt is incredibly numb and sore. I"m incredibly bored so I think that I"ll ask my JTE if I can leave now. Sayonnara!

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Moving party!

This is my apartment before we started moving...


I decorated my fridge and everything!


This is how it looks at present.


But I have a couch now and the closest that I'll get to a real bed in the next year!

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

What a long day this has been. I didn't work hard today or accomplish a whole lot but it has been long nonetheless. Today was supposed to be my first full day at school. So, like the good employee I am I left my house fifteen minutes earlier than necessary and set out on my way to school. It's not a long way; five minutes to the trainstation, ten minutes to my stop, ten minutes to my school and I'm there. I'm just amazed at how much this country makes me sweat though: my ten minute walk (up hill) had me sweating more profusely than I have ever sweated before, even when running 5K for gym class in high school. I learned one thing important this morning: never walk to school in the shirt that I have to wear all day. Anyhow, by lunch I set up the majority of my slideshow that I'm going to use for my self-intro. Which left me with NOTHING to do for the next four hours. My Kyoto-sensei (VP) seemed to be afraid that I'd overwork myself so he sent me home at 2:30 and told me that for the rest of the summer 11am-2pm is good enough. Ok. Suits me fine. But that's only another six days. The rest of my school days will be taken up by Japanese lessons, summer school and training. I will only be at this school for one term, which ends at the end of December, and then I move on to the next school. I cringe to think of how many self-intros I'll be doing-- I have fifteen classes to teach at this school, which means fifteen intros. They will be varied a little to suit either first year, second year or third year, but I'll be doing three first year intros a day for two days, three second year intros for one day and three third year intros a day for two days. The kids seem to be fantastic-- they're so adorable. If I say "hello" to them, their first reaction is to say "hello" back-- and then they realize that they just spoke english to an english teacher and they get self-conscious and giggly and ignore me.
It's raining right now outside. My fan is sitting by my balcony door blowing the rainy air straight at me and it smells so inviting. I love the smell of rain. An hour earlier there was a bit of a lightning show to the west of Gak, but there has been nothing for quite some time. I"m not yet used to the time that dusk settles or that the sun rises at, but that will soon change hopefully.
This Sunday I hope to head to a reformed church in the area, I think it's about a 45 min trip away. The pastor is a former student of Dr Goheen so the pastor knows the whole Goheen family, but then again, who in this world doesn't? ;) It's a comfort to know that I have a pastor in the area that's willing to take care of me a bit-- he and his wife want to have me to their house for dinner at some point in the coming weeks and have given me their phone number in case I encounter anything for which I might need their help. I'm excited about going to the church, even if it's not in english (I'm not sure yet if it is or isn't), I haven't been to church now in two weeks and I think that's part of the reason why it feels like the time that I've been here so far has dragged a bit.
Anyhow, that's about all I have to say for now, except to Meijer, Harskamp, James and Brian: have fun at Ben Folds tonight, I am SO incredibly jealous of y'all!! Let me know if they're as fabulous in concert as they are on my cd!

Friday, August 05, 2005

New things

This week has, obviously, been a week of new things. My city, for one, is new. As is my apartment, my cell phone, and my furniture. It's basically a new life, or a completely different one than before.
Here's a few pictures of my place:



Coming in the front door.



My sink/washing machine area (I have yet to purchase a washing machine)



My tiny bathtub and the showering room.



Walking into my main room (I"m still in a state of unpacking)...



My "kitchen"....



The view from my balcony into Gakuentoshi.



The view from my balcony into my apartment....



My pretty new phone. It was the free model, cause it's only got a 1.3 megapixel camera.... What can I say? I didn't want to buy a phone that had a better camera than my digicam....

Thursday, August 04, 2005


On Tuesday evening in Tokyo we went to the Canadian Embassy for a welcome reception and they gave us free sandwiches, moosehead beer and chips to accompany several very long speeches that noone paid any attention to. Thus my first visit back to Canada (well, Canadian soil) since last Saturday. I think that I would have appreciated it much more if I had've already been in Japan for several months. As it was, it was just another reception and just a lot more standing around.






Many different sights along the way to Kobe reminded me of those back home and those yet to arrive... It's comforting to know that you can't get too far away from people you love, even in Japan!



I just can't help but think of some people when I see food booths such as this one....

More details on Gakuentoshi and Kobe-shi to follow.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Hi! How are you?
I'm fine thank you, and you?
I am fine as well, thank you for asking.

Apparently this is the dialogue that all Japanese children memorize very early on in life, and if you ask anyone how they're doing, this'll be the response.
This has been the first day of orientation that has actually felt productive. I spent the morning in seminars that introduced us to lesson planning and team teaching. I just can't get over the fact that this would be so much easier if I had been to teacher's college first-- about half of the JETs here at the orientation have already done teacher's college and most of them have had a few years of experience. Ah well, you learn something new every day, and this year I'll get paid to learn how to teach. Not bad!
Last night I went to an iskiah (sp?) --a pub-- for drinks and food with my fellow Kobe teachers. There are 12 of us at this orientation and there was 18 at the orientation last week, and in total, new and old JETs, there are 65 of us in the Kobe area. Not bad! It was a fun evening, I got to know a bunch of the girls that will be in the area and I had a fun-looking drink-- they have pictures of everything on the menu which is fantastic-- so my drink was orange on the bottom half and blue on the top half-- it ended up just being green when I stirred it. Tasted a little funny too, but not bad.

I think that I'm almost over my jet-lag, although I'm still really worn out at the moment. I had a lot of energy this morning though, which was awesome. The time difference thing is just strange to think about-- I talked to Brian this afternoon after lunch and for him it was almost midnight. He was still on his holiday monday and I was half finished my Tuesday! I can understand the concept of BC vs ON time, or ON vs Eng time, but thirteen hours is really just confusing! It gets dark pretty early here, or at least earlier than in Ontario. It seemed to me yesterday that dusk was creeping in already at 6pm, though I could be wrong. I haven't spent much time outside.
I met with my Board of Education supervisor this afternoon and he seems to be a kind enough man. The most exciting thing that I learned is that I get 20 days of paid vacation during the school year and 5 days during summer break-- which means that already in my first month of my contract I can take five days off! that's a whole week! However, they said that I can use some of it next summer at the end of my contract, so that inbetween July 21 and August 3 next summer I can take a few days off to pack up my stuff or spend a few last days sightseeing before heading back to Canada. 25 days of paid vacation-- how fantastic!
I'm currently skipping out on one of the seminars that I'm supposed to be at, but it is so nice to sit in my hotel room and relax and enjoy the quiet. Maybe I should take a little nap now.