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Archive for December, 2011

Winter is Coming

Sorry! I really do hate myself for the title, but truly felt compelled to use it. Anyways, it’s getting cold here. As of last week they finally decided to put kerosene heaters in the teacher’s room. I think the slight headache from the fumes is worth the respite from the cold.

When people hear that I’m from Canada, they assume that I’m used to the cold, and have dealt with much colder temperatures (it’s not even freezing yet in Ibara). That’s true, up to a point. The trouble is that in Japan people actually have to experience winter temperatures. In Canada, central heating will usually keep your home comfortable, and schools would certainly be climate controlled. Neither of those are the case here. I said that the teacher’s room has heaters, but the students aren’t so lucky yet. I’m told that at the start of the new year the classrooms will get heaters, but for the moment we all shiver in 8-10 degree (Celsius) rooms. I put far more thought into what I wear every morning from a comfort perspective than I ever did in Canada. Today I’m wearing long underwear, two pairs of socks, pants, undershirt, shirt, sweater-vest, and jacket to classes.

Classes are great, and I’m feeling particularly proud as I write this: last period my teacher informed me right before class that she couldn’t speak today, and that I would be running the whole class. This worried me a little, but I handled it super well. Class went perfectly and I think me teacher was both grateful and impressed. I have a special needs class next period that I’ve prepared what I hope will be an entertaining game for us all, and am feeling pretty good about my job performance this week. (Update: Special needs class was awesome, I love this job sometimes).

I’ve managed to wait an entire month between posts, so of course a lot has happened in the interim. The hike in Yakage that I mentioned back in November was great, and it turned out that 2 other ALTs came with us. It was a good 3-4 hours up and down, with a view so expansive we could see the Seto Inland Sea. That was with my people from my English conversation class, which is now finished. The class starts again in January, but with a different ALT as the instructor, so my job there is done. I’m really grateful for having one less weekly obligation, but I do kind of miss the students.

On the first weekend in December I took a day trip over to Himeji to meet a friend that’s staying in Japan for a few months. I was expecting to just meet up and wander around town together for a while, but it turned out his host family wanted to have me over for dinner. So after checking out the castle (which is under renovation for the next few years at least) and the nearby garden, we headed to his family’s place. The host dad took us hiking up a nearby mountain to see the (super-cool-amazing!) temple at the top. It was a great hike, probably lasting about 2.5hrs(?), and was quite dark by the time we got back. They treated me to a wonderful hotpot dinner, and then dropped me off at the station in time to catch my last train back. If you end up reading this blog for whatever reason: thanks again!

December 7th, 8th, 9th was the mid-year seminar in Okayama city. All the ALTs in the prefecture took the days off work to head into the city with one of our JTEs for the conference. Some of the workshops were actually good, and we good a bit better of an idea of how our Japanese counter-parts view us.

Last weekend I participated in a city wide relay race, and while I certainly underperformed, I didn’t completely disgrace myself and country (yay). One other ALT participated as well, and we ran for 2 of the city hall’s three teams, doing 2.6km each. Afterward we had a lunch party with hotpot and sushi, and far too much alcohol for 2:00 in the afternoon. Although we haven’t received our recontracting papers yet, I think several people around the Board of Education office were trying to guess my intentions, asking whether or not I wanted to run with them again next year. I was vague in my answers, but I think I probably do.

This weekend we have a BoE overnight trip to Kagoshima. I don’t really have a very good idea of what we’ll be doing, other than that it looks like it will involve quite a few buses. Two of the six ALTs will be missing out due to other travel plans, but it should still be a good time. The following weekend I’m off to Okinawa on my own for winter vacation, and am getting pretty excited about the trip. It looks like there should be some good hiking on the island, and I’m certainly looking forward to the warmer weather.

I’m already starting to think about what I want to do travel-wise in the new year. Pilgrimage routes in the Kumano mountain range are looking pretty intriguing…

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