Friday, September 30, 2005

To every thing there is a season

I've said it before and I'll say it again: one of my favourite experiences to have is to be walking to or from somewhere and think: the season is changing! As I stepped out of school this afternoon the sun was casting down its rays upon Myohoji giving a deep golden tint to everything it touched. It is the late summer sun, large and warm, though not hot. The custodial staff at school are clearing many of the flower pots from the gardens and the smell of dying leaves is tinging the air, which is itself already just a bit crisper. I think back to last Thanksgiving, a weekend that saw many of us head to the haven called Gilmore... I think back to countless years of Thanksgiving walks through Presqu'ille or the Frink centre with my family.... I am happy that I am in a country where I can still experience this change in nature. It is a gentle and yet needed reminder that time is indeed passing and God's faithfulness remains.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Thre rest of the story: as promised

As I sit here on the floor at my computer, I have a glass of Kobe Blueberry Wine at my side and a pillow on my feet, warming my toes. Warming, you say? Isn't it already warm enough there in the land of 38 degree days? One would think that might be the case, but gone are the days of 38 degrees, and arrived are the days of 26 degrees and nights of 18 degrees. Goosebumps in 18 degree weather? It's certainly possible. Consider the fact that in the past month, the temperature has dropped 20 degrees. I'd like to see you maintain your proper body temperature in 18 degree weather when it became acclimated to 38 degree weather. At any rate, I wore a 3/4 sleeve sweater to work today. And it was needed.
I've been informed by those to whom I talk with regulary on the phone that my account of my time here via blog and my account of my time here via conversation have been two seperate versions of the story. And tonight I seek to make ammends to that.
First off: have I been lying in either of my versions of my experience? No, I certainly haven't. I believe that it is more of a case of 'selective portrayal.' Some of this has been done purposefully, as this is a public blog and I am very aware of the fact that anyone in my company here in Japan that should search my name would find this site rather instantly and I prefer to have my private life private from my employers.
As many of you know, August was very exciting because I was in a new country and I did such things as hook up with Tina Koopmans in kyoto and go to traditional festivals. However, it was also extremely hard on me because I was left with a month of empty days on my hands. What to fill them with? Going to school, though required, certainly wasn't fulfilling as I found myself sitting at my desk in the empty staffroom, drumming my fingers on the surface in front of me. My evenings were equally dull. I developed a harsh heat rash that lasted for two weeks and made the heat and humidity seem all that much more potent and unbearable. I found a church to go to, but while the congregation was heart-warmingly welcoming to me on Sundays, I had no contact with any of them throughout the week, with the exception of the pastor and his wife.
September came along and life seemed to be looking up. My job would soon begin and my Redeemer friends would arrive-- the days would be busier and I would have more extra-curricular activity to look forward to. My days did get a bit busier, there were more students around the halls, but I still only taught two hours a day. The Redeemer folk are great to visit, but when I get home my apartment is empty and dark.
I could stretch this out and make it much more drawn out but I won't, there are some things I'd rather not share with the entire population of blog readers. If I know you well enough that you think I would tell you the rest of the story, ask someone who you think will know and they'll fill you in.
As it is, I must say that I am glad that I'm here. There are so many positive things that have come about because of this adventure. I am, however, looking forward to flying home for Christmas.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Thre rest of the story: the good, the bad and the ugly

will be coming soon, I keep getting distracted by shiny things whenever I try to blog. Ooh look, something shiny!

Saturday, September 24, 2005

3 months

and it will be Christmas Eve. Sigh. I broke down today and listened to a few Christmas songs. I think that it's such a shame that people relegate that music to such a short season of the year, a lot of it really is quality stuff!

Some memories from last year....

Brian promised me that we'd make olibollen and croquetten when I come home. I'm so excited!!

Friday, September 23, 2005

Email from a student...

I got an email on my phone this afternoon from one of my students, I had taken my picture with four san-nensei girls and emailed it to them.... This was a response from one:

HELLO☆picture Thank you. Today is very tired.I give you my favorit picture.This picture is travel time.present for you.Good bye. Looking forward to seeing you again. have a good weekend!

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Thursday, September 22, 2005

The past week

Another week has come and gone, and so has my first visit to the house of the Redeemer Men in Japan. Last Friday night I had the second of my third enkais, this one was with the Ichi-nensei staff (first year teachers). I had Kobe Beef for the second week in a row- and it's fantastic! We sat in our own little room at this restaurant, on the floor on cushions-- but the floor was hollowed out under the table so it was like sitting on a bench. Anyhow, the food. Cast iron platters of thinly sliced raw beef was presented to us. On the tables in front of us we had two cast iron pots of boiling water (there were elements built into the table) in which we were to "shoop, shoop, shoop" the beef. Think fondue. But instead of little spears, you're using chopsticks. And instead frying the meat in oil, you're boiling it in water. Once there was a bit of white on the meat, the idea was to dip it in sauce of some sort and then enjoy! It was another fantastic dining experience. Such good food, too!

On Saturday morning I got up bright and early and missed my first train so I was a bit late in reaching the boys, but I did indeed make it all the way to Takarazuka and met up with Kenny and Nate at the train station. The other two boys met us at the door as we entered into their beautiful apartment, and a fantastic weekend ensued. Movies were watched, euchre was played, and the 100yen store was explored. And much talk was had.

Monday morning, the three boys and Kenny and I jumped on the train and headed to Osaka-- the boys to begin their training and Kenny and I to try and score tickets to the Cirque de Soleil. Which we did. And it was amazing. I don't think that I'd have ever gone in Canada, but as we were saying, it's a lot easier to spend money to go to these things when you're not in Canada. If you've never seen Cirque, I recommend you seek it out and go to a performance, even if it is in Canada! It's more than worth the money.

This week, school has been filled with yet more practicing for sports day. Tuesday afternoon was practice, All day Wednesday was practice, and this afternoon was set-up. All day tomorrow will be devoted to Sports Day and the clean up there-of. I have to run in a relay race. I dislike running. I'm supposed to not run as fast as I can cause we're racing against the students, but they're such crazy runners that even if I ran my fastest I couldn't beat them. Once sports day is finished, we have two weeks of normal classes before practicing for School Festival that will take place in late October. I was looking at my schedule and I have only 9 Mondays on which I have to be at school teaching before I come back for Christmas. That's really not a lot, because I only have my Monday classes once a week, so I only have the first year students 9 more times. I'm trying to plan lessons for the next two ni-nensei classes that I have, and the second lesson is going to be for Thanksgiving. I can't believe that I'm already planning for a thanksgiving lesson! Oy. Then again, this is also the last weekend in September. I've been gone from Ontario almost two months. And it feels like it.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Well ain't that the cat's meow....

I'm almost sorry to direct your attention to this. I'm sorry, Dan, I know this will make you sad. It was just too bizarre to let it slip by unnoticed...

I'm lovin' it

I'm ashamed to admit it, but tonight I made my weekly visit to McDonalds. Yep, I go to McDonalds once a week here in this eastern country. If I might defend myself, the food tastes better than it does in Canada, and they put a pepper mayonaise on the crispy chicken burgers. And you can get 2 crispy chicken burgers for a mere Y200. It's a pretty cheap meal in this country. And fresh. They make it when you order it.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

How many countries is your blog viewed from?

I just thought it was cool.

Gone with the wind

So it's been a windy day today, at it seems as if these sandy school yards are perhaps not such a good idea. As I watched from my desk at lunch, I saw half of the school yard picked up and tossed around by the wind as if it was nothing but a feather. I thought it was quite unkind. As if the wind had read my thoughts earlier, as I stepped out of the school to make my way home this afternoon I felt as though I just had a hand full of sand and dust thrown at my head. I looked around and sure enough, I saw a guilty look in the wind. I feel as though I should take a shower right now and get all of this grime off of myself, but that would be procrastinating-- it's half way through this week and I have yet to update last weekend.

Partying with the JTEs (Japanese Teachers of English)
On Friday afternoon I came back from school around 5pm only to head out the door again by 6. I was headed to "Ito", a teppanyaki restaurant in Sannomiya. Costly, but was it ever worth it! We had our own private room and our own private chef who proceded to cook our entire meal on the grill in front of us. He was better than a dancing bear. He threw around knives, lit alcohol on fire, and grilled the best steak that I've ever had in my life (although it could have also been fantastic because it was the infamous Kobe Beef). If you want entertainment for supper, go out and find a teppanyaki restaraunt! (be prepared to pay for the entertainment... pay dearly...) Down side: he fried everything. Even my lettuce. Greasy warm lettuce is really not all it's cracked up to be... kinda slimey..

Go west young (wo)man
Early Saturday morning I hopped on the subway and caught a transfer train which brought me to Himeji, the city of those wonderful folks such as Josh Baxter and Rod and Bec Snoek! It was *so* good to see the little redhead and her husband again-- words really can't describe how good it was... Apparently Bec was pretty excited, too, by the looks of it!

Kenny and I spent the day at the Snoek residence (absolutely beautiful place) relaxing, catching up with the couple and playing Dominoes- mexican train. I miss playing games! In the evening we went out for a liesurly supper with Mr Baxter and afterwards walked around the outskirts of Himeji Castle.
Early sunday afternoon (spent the morning just lazing around) we headed out the castle for the afternoon and this time gained admission as well as an English-speaking tour guide, who was fabulous. We learned the history and the stories of the castle and roamed the beautiful grounds, both Kenny and I wishing that we lived in a town that had such a beautiful castle that we could visit every weekend.

A good time was had by all.

As of today....

There are right now three new resident aliens in our midst-- Mr Nate Martin, Mr Jared Wilms and Mr Rob Joustra. And I get to see them on Saturday!!!! The should have arrived in Osaka this afternoon and I can only presume that they shall be settling into their new place this evening... gambate to those folks with the jet lag, I look forward to seeing you bright and early Saturday morning! I'll bring breakfast though, k? I have discovered that they are not far away from me and also that they are not expensive to reach. I take the subway into Sannomiya, our Kobe city centre, and from there take the Hanku line to their train station. All for $6!! And 60 minutes! Boyz, I am hereby announcing my intent to crash your apartment some days after school...
I think that it should be another great weekend.

Monday, September 12, 2005

have fun stormin the castle!

So I wrote a post about this weekend but my computer swallowed it. Anyhow, I downloaded about a hundred more pics onto my online photo album. Check out the new albums on the side, including "Himeji Castle," "Himeji folks," "various pics" and "summer school."

Sunday, September 11, 2005


Fantastic weekend of food, friends and fun this past two days in Himeji. More to come after school tomorrow.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

I'm free!

Or rather, my computer is. Thanks to the most dashingly handsome Nerd in the world (even these Japanese super nerds have nothin on him), I now have a functional wireless router in my apartment! This, of course, means that I can run my vonage (hamilton) line at the same time that my computer is online. So. Just so y'all know, if for some reason you get an inkling to call me, you can call me for the price of calling Hamilton (which for many of you is free)! Take care that most of the time the call isn't in the middle of my night, but for friendly voices I shall skip a little sleep, I think. Merry Christmas and Happy New Years!

Night swimming

K so maybe I'm not exactly swimming but it definitely is a quiet night. And a happy one. Here's some photos of the sky last night and tonight from my balcony.

The moon looks like a night light tonight. I've never seen it like this before.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

All is calm, all is bright.

Weather has returned to normal and all signs of the typhoon have passed, though this afternoon I witnessed some rather unique clouds that made me imagine that I could actually see part of what the satellite pictures of the typhoon look like. I didn't blow away on the way to school, which I was pretty happy with, and I came to the conclusion that the wind sounded worse than it was for me all night due to the fact that I'm on the fourth floor of an apartment building and I have the corner apartment, so I am the windbreaker on three out of four sides of my apartment.
The air has a touch of something in it today. If I was educated in Japanese weather I might say that there's a touch of fall in the air, but it's a hard call to make when it's still 31 degrees out. I have no idea what a Japan fall looks like, so I suppose all that I can say is that there's something different in the air today. The sky and the sun right now remind me of the type of calm blue sky and bright late-afternoon sun you see when you're camping and starting to think about making supper on the propane camp stove. It's calming. I like it.
Wednesday is now finished and I have taught all grades at school now, though not all classes in the grades. I believe that I have now taught 8 of the 15 classes, which means that I am halfway through my self introductions. I hope that I don't have to talk as loud and as long for the rest of the classes this semester or I shall return to Canada at Christmas quite voice-less. The students all seem to be excited at the new gaigin in their midst, and I can't begin to explain how strange it is to hear mumble mumble mumble mumble JENNYFER mumble mumble mumble in the halls everywhere I go. Some students got confused with my name today, so it is my suspicion that amongst the ni-nenseis I shall be referred to as "Jeffanie". Could be worse. At least I know that it's not a rude name.
I find it peculiar to walk up to students and start conversations- I am never sure of the level of their learning. It is generally quickly obvious after we exchange "Hello!" "Hello!" I then say, "How are you doing?" (this is a stock phrase, one of the first english expressions the Japanese seem to learn.) If I am answered back with "How are you doing!" then I know it's a moot conversation. The problem is getting out of those conversations, it's always so awkward. If I can't find a way to end the conversation, I am stuck in an echo for about five minutes. "I am good, how are you?" "I am good, how are you!" Anyhow, it makes the day interesting.
This afternoon due to the poor sleep I got last night, I snuck off to the library (which is never used) and took a nap at the back of the room on a few stacks of chairs... I finished teaching all of my classes by noon so there wasn't much to do after that until 4:15 anyhow.
Two more school days to go through, and tomorrow after school I'm (according to our Kocho Sensei) joining the PTA choir for the School Festival in October or November. Friday night I have the first of three Enkais (welcome parties) for my school-- this is with my co-english teachers. And then-- And then!! On Saturday I shall rise bright and early, hop on the train bound for Himeji and meet up with the newly wed Snoek couple! Words can't convey my excitement!

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Typhoon update

The typhoon is not passing over us as originally predicted, instead it is sneaking through the pass between Japan and Korea. This means that we don't get much of the rain, but do we ever have strong winds right now. I wasn't able to sleep for much of last night due to the rattling of my doors and windows, but thanks to the prayers of some good people I did sleep a little bit. I'd better be off now, I have four classes to teach today.

Monday, September 05, 2005

I never knew

I never knew that my feel could have so many blisters and raw spots on them as they do right now. For some reason here in Japan, every pair of footwear that I set my feet into gives me blisters or rubs away layers upon layers of skin. Even shoes that I've worn often before. Right now between the two feet I can count 12 owwies. It's making it hard to choose which pair of shoes to wear to school in the morning, it's hard to find a pair that doesn't rub against one of the exposed sores. I'm curious, how does being in a different country affect the relationship between my feet and my shoes?
Anyhow now that I've told the world about my feet I'll move on to more pressing issues... A typhoon is coming, and it's headed for the Kansai region, which is where Kobe (and Fukuchiyama) are located. Now, for all those who have been bombarded for the past weeks with images of Hurricane Katrina, you can settle down, a situation like that isn't likely to happen, for several reasons: 1)the centre of the typhoon is not supposed to hit this area 2)Kobe is definitely built above sea-level and 3)Japan is a country of national disasters. They're routine here. The buildings are built to withstain gale-force winds and survive earthquakes, so there really isn't a whole lot of risk involved. And, not only do I get to witness my first natural disaster but I get to enjoy the cool weather that it has brought along! I am pleased, actually downright extatic, to let you know that the temperature is hovering around the 25 degree Celcius mark. Isn't that fantastic? Even with the humidex it's only 27 degrees. After a month of intense heat and thick humidity, temperatures roaming around the 35 degree mark (with the "feels like" around 38 or 40), I gladly embrace this change in weather.

(and on another very happy note I got more mail today... two letters! yay!! One postmarked Aug31/Sept01, the other marked Sept 01/02. It's only the 5th today. And there was a weekend in there-- that's pretty quick!)

Saturday, September 03, 2005

And so it begins.

The pace of life is slowly beginning to pick up speed. On Thursday September 1 my Jr High School opened its doors to the students for term 2 of the school year. I made an introduction speech to a group of 500 students and twenty staff members at the opening assembaly and then introduced myself in Japanese to the staff once we returned to the staff room. I then proceeded to sit at my desk for the remainder of the work day, which was six hours, with nothing to do. On Friday I arrived at school, finished setting up my slide show and by 9am was prepared for my 1:20 class. So I sat around for a while. I ate lunch with some students and then proceeded to the library to teach my first ever lesson, although it was more of a presentation. The children were far less genki than I had expected them to be, which was a bit of a disappointment as there wasn't a lot of class participation. When all was said and done, the 50 min passed by very quickly and in the end I think that the kids had fun. The rest of the day passed by quickly and before I knew it I was in Sannomiya meeting up with fellow Redeemer Alumnus Josh Baxter. A very tasty meal at a Brazilian restaurant followed and the next time I looked at my watch it was already 9:15pm. It was my first time in Harbourland at night, it really is beautiful there, and quite a good night-- good food, good company, good conversation-- the first of many Redeemer Alumni-in-Japan reunions to take place this year, I believe. Mr and Mrs Snoek will be arriving next week, with Mr Joustra, Mr Wilms and Mr Martin following closely behind the week after.

Ever wondered where the terms "board game," "board meeting," and "room and board" came from?

Ever wonder about the origin of words, phrases or crazy ideas? Check out this page for the answers to all of your random questions. Post your own questions and see where it goes. After all, you learn something new every day, might as well make it something you've always wanted to know!