Thursday, June 28, 2007

Guess what!!

I have plans for Obon week! I'M GOING HOME!!!!!!!!!!!! Yes yes yes yes yes!! After a dissapointing call to the local travel agency this afternoon, I was almost convinced it was impossible to find a flight out of Japan for Obon week. But I don't quickly give up so I spent some time online here in the internet cafe and found a flight to Frankfurt! And I booked it! With the help of the world's best boyfriend! Ow my god Yasu, you're so awesome! My sweet boyfriend has lent me the money for the flight because I haven't yet gathered the amount of money it needs to fly to Europe in Obon week. It's quite pricey but cheaper than I expected! In euros its about a 1000, in yen it's about 200,000. Too bad I'll be earning the money to pay Yasu back in Japan, but it's so totally worth it! So I'll be leaving here on August 9 on a Lufthansa flight straight to Frankfurt and I'll be back in Nagoya on the 15th. Sure it's a short week, but my birthday falls in that week and now I'll be spending it at home! Jippie! I'm so happy!!!! Even kids lessons and the whole garbage drama won't be able to get me down anymore! I am going to dance home now! See you soon land of Ducthies! :):):):)

Last weekend

Originally I was going to go to Osaka last weekend to visit my lovely boyfriend, but I had to work last Sunday so I rescheduled that visit to coming weekend! That's right this Saturday will be my first trip on the Shinkansen and then Yasu and I will spend two days in his parent's cottage in the mountains :)!

Sunday we had a kid's party at AEON and I was in charge of decorating puddings with the little monsters at our school. Fortunately they came in groups of 6, so it was kind of doable at times. Some kids were really cute and sweet, others threw spoons covered in pudding at me...

The kids here are sometimes too young to know what is going on, but they are all perfectly conditioned to make the peacesign whenever a camera appears. Good girl!

My mom requested some pictures of the rain here in Japan, because I told her how unbelievable it can be at times. This picture doesn't even begin to show what it can be like during rainy season in Japan, but it's all I've got. The other day I walked the 300 meters to the internet cafe with an umbrella and my clothes were soaked so badly that it looked like I had just gone swimming. But I dried up nicely in the internet cafe so no water puddles in my apartment.

On Monday, Adrik and Eric came down to Inuyama from Nagoya and brought Katie & Jen (also AEON teachers) and Maiko (AEON student) with them. We were heading for Monkey Park in the monorail and excited about seeing some monkeys and riding some rollercoasters.

We didn't ride any rollercoasters as most of the attractions simply looked to rusty to convince us that we would survive a trip on one, but as you can see the others did find some humongous bugs and dogs to ride. Simply hilarious :).

All AEON teachers have their own reasons for coming to Japan, and Adrik's was to visit Pokemon amusement park in Nagoya. Much to his dismay the park started moving around in Japan once he got here (and he has no idea where it is right now), but he found his version of heaven in Monkey Park: a Pokemon exhibition with Pikachu! Meeting Pikachu for Adrik is like meeting Jon Bon Jovi for me, so I was very happy for him.

Of course there were also monkeys at Monkey Park and here you can see Eric (a.k.a. Buck) enjoying a chat with one of them.

And in a park of monkeys the most interesting species will always be the homo sapiens a.k.a. human. See how the Katie-monkey is helping the Adrik-monkey get rid off his flees, aren't monkeys considerate? This was seriously the funniest and best attraction in the whole park!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

My school in Inuyama

So I took it upon myself to make some pictures of the school this week, because I thought some of you might be curious about what it looks like. These are all pictures made with my cell phone and I haven’t figured out yet how to make good pictures with it, but my phone is so much more compact and light than my digital camera and it does the trick.

This is our lobby and yes the fourth picture from the left is me, I really don’t like that picture! I was extremely pissed (with the whole garbage thing) when they took the picture so the smile on that picture is so fake and my face is all red with frustration. But it’s up there now and it’ll stay there until the day I leave this school…

And as you can see, that bad picture is not only on the lobby wall, a mini version of it is on the door to my classroom as well. So this is my classroom and the best thing about it is that is has air conditioning! It’s just wonderful to cool down in my room after leaving the Japanese heat at the door.

Every week one of the foreign teachers teaches a lesson to the Japanese teachers, Honbu called it one of the perks of being a Japanese teacher at AEON. This week it was my turn (next week too) and I made a picture of the teachers (from left to right: Noriko, Megumi & Aiko) while they were filling out a worksheet I made for them. There is one more Japanese teacher at the school, Kana, but she couldn’t make it to class.

These are pictures made in the tiny staff room. Moe (assistant manager) is sitting at the computer and Jo (the other foreign teacher) is using the copier. The copy machine is very old and gives off so much heat that it always feels like a Japanese summer day in there.

I made some other pictures in Inuyama yesterday, like this garage that is so small that the car doesn’t even fit in it completely, I see it everyday and it goes to show that not only the apartments are small in Japan.

And tada they have a Baskin & Robbins right here in Inuyama! When we were on our American road trip last year, we kept trying to get some ice-cream at Baskin & Robbins but we could never find an open store. I didn’t even know they had shops here in Japan, where they call it 31 because they sell 31 different flavors of ice-cream. And the best thing is that you can taste everything before you buy it, too bad I don’t know how to ask for a sample in Japanese.

I bought the new Bon Jovi album last week in Nagoya and I have been enjoying it while planning my numerous lessons. Minke told me that they’ll be touring Japan in January and February, I just hope I get to go to at least one concert, it’ll be weird going to a concert without my Bon Jovi buddies, but it will be interesting to finally experience Bon Jovi in Japan! Perhaps I’ll get lucky and get to see my usual 4 to 5 concerts, but let’s not count on it though, I’m a working lady now.

Right now I’m in the internet café in my street and talking to my parents via msn and skype (they both stop working after a while so we switch). Last week I already spent about three hours talking to my mother and it was great! It felt like I was sitting at home enjoying a cup of tea with my mom, gossiping away, and for a moment I almost forgot I was in Japan. In a few weeks she’ll be leaving on her honeymoon with her husband (my wonderful and crazy step dad) to Rome, naturally she’s very excited about it. I can’t wait to hear their stories and see their pictures. I miss them so much and I really wanted to go home for Obon (a week off in the middle of August) but it seems to be way too expensive to get to a plane ticket in the week that everybody in Japan wants to travel abroad L. My birthday is that week and Yasu’ll be in the States during for some seminar, so it would be awesome to just be home for a couple of days. But the airlines don’t seem to be willing to let me fly to the Netherlands for less than 100,000 yen…
Well, I’m just trying not to think about home to much and it helps to keep busy. Tomorrow, Adrik and Eric (from my training group) are coming to Inuyama, and we’re going to Monkey Park, some kind of rollercoaster park with monkeys (I guess). So, that should be fun!

Monday, June 18, 2007

Life in Inuyama so far

Finally a decent update from me on this blog! So I am here at my final destination: Inuyama in Japan. I have been teaching at the school for 10 days so far and have many more ahead of me. The people at the school are very nice and they help me a lot, especially Jo (the other foreign teacher) has been helping me so much and it’s necessary. I have been lesson planning until 5 AM some days last week and I can’t wait until I get better and faster at it! Surprisingly I prefer teaching adults over teaching kids, beforehand I was really looking forward to teaching those cute Japanese kids, but they have way too much energy (logically they’re kids) and are hard to keep under control. The adults on the other hand are so cute (!) and I really enjoy teaching them! But in a couple of weeks I should get better at everything and then I can pay more attention to the kids and less to my cheat sheet during the lessons, which will make it easier to keep the kids under control.
My apartment is in a building named Pearl Hills, but it doesn’t look as fancy as it sounds. But I am very happy with it nonetheless! It’s fairly big for Japanese standards and I have lots of windows, a huge closet, a reasonably modern washer, a fridge with a freezer, a small and cute rice cooker and the toilet room and shower room are pretty big. The kitchen is extremely small but it’s doable and I wish I had a decent place to dry my clothes, because I dry them in my living room / bedroom and it’s looks so messy, but after the rainy season is over I can start drying stuff on my balcony, so that’ll free space up in my big room.
Getting used to the Japanese garbage system is really frustrating, they have these posters with like 11 different groups of garbage and everything needs to be sorted accordingly, only the groups make no sense to me (for example paper is in 3 different categories) and I’m not sure of the pickup place in my neighborhood anymore (after I tried to dispose of my burnable garbage last night and there was no trash of my neighbors to be found at the spot Glenn (the teacher who lived here before me) pointed out to me. I did see a big cage with garbage near the spot, but the cage was locked and I couldn’t put my stuff in it. And I have no idea whether I put the right stuff in the burnable garbage because I just don’t understand the system, but I’m afraid to make a mistake because Megan (one of the trainers in Nagoya who used to teach and live in Inuyama) once made a mistake and they dragged her to city hall to make her separate her trash the correct way in front of the city and the manager of her school.
Another frustrating experience is going to the grocery store, I just don’t know what the packages say and the stuff in it looks so weird! I tried to buy stuff for dinner yesterday but after browsing the aisles for about 40 minutes I came out with just apple juice and ice-cream. What I wouldn’t give for an Albert Heijn (Dutch grocery store) around the corner. Yasu will need to teach me a lot about cooking and grocery shopping, unfortunately I will not see him until June 30th, so I’m not sure what I’ll do the next two weeks.
These frustrations and not seeing Yasu this weekend made me a bit depressed yesterday, I suddenly had an urgent yearning for my sweet mother, brother, and stepfather. Yeah, it is inevitable when you move to the other side of the world that you’ll miss what you leave behind sooner or later, and during training we were told that severe homesickness kicks in around the third month, so I am not looking forward to that at all. I remember how terrible I felt in Atlanta during my homesickness and frustration with everything American, but I was there for only four months… I’m planning on staying here permanently, I wonder how tough the culture shock and homesickness will be here.
What is nice is the 100 yen shop next to my apartment building, where you can buy almost anything for 105 yen (tax included) or about 80 Euro cents. I have bought baskets, plates, glasses, utensils, chopsticks, rice bowls, an umbrella, post-its, 40 clothes hangers, a cutting board, towels, rice bowls and much more there! It’s really cheap! There is an internet café in my street as well, where you all sit in booths (like I am right now) and use the computer (or plug in your laptop) for a couple of hours while enjoying some dinner or drinks. It’s so close but unfortunately I don’t have enough time to go there, but today is one of my weekend days so here I am! Also my street is kind of dark and once again I am afraid to go outside in the dark again… But the sun comes up at 4 AM here (no daylight savings time in Japan) so like last night I could dump my garbage in the middle of the night but still with the sun shining down on me, yeah it’s pretty freaky.
By the way as you can imagine, Yasu and I have been using our phones a lot! I can’t wait to see him in two weeks, when I take the shinkansen (bullet train) to Osaka and we’ll be spending the weekend in his parent’s cottage in the mountains!


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Quick update

Sorry guys, I don't have an internet connection yet and I'm so busy preparing lessons (which I hope to get faster at real soon) but I just wanted to let you know everything is going great here in Inuyama. My apartment is really nice, the school is great and yesterday Yasu and I bought cellphones (of course mine is a hot pink one) and now we can call eachother whenever and wherever we want for free with video! Japanese cellphones rule! Gotta get back to lesson preparing but I promise to update a.s.a.p. with pictures! Hope everybody is doing well!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

It's over!

Finally, training is over! It was a hard day at training again today with having to fight sleep and preparing another lesson on the spot. Teaching itself was fun and luckily we had friendly, fun and most of all helpful trainers (see pictures) who helped us wherever they could. But I am happy it's over. Tomorrow morning I hop on a local train to Inuyama to meet my coworkers, work at my school and move into my apartment! I can't wait to see my apartment and unpack my stuff for real. I hope all the boxes I sent from the Netherlands arrived safely and that I have enough space in my apartment to store it all. I won't have internet at my apartment for a long time, so my blogging will not be as frequent as it has been during training, but I'll try to make a stop at the internet cafe as often as I can. Tonight we are going to Sakae (downtown Nagoya I've been told) to have some dinner and drinks and relax! Adrik will join us and hopefully have some fun stories about his work at Meiki school, as he has been working for two days already.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Relax

So today was a pretty active day with all the lessons being taught and all of us pretending to be kids. Which made it much easier for me to actually stay awake and absorb what was going on today. I haven't been feeling much better today but luckily the scary cramps have dissapeared, now I am just coping with a severe cold and that's nothing new. It's just inconvenient when you're in the middle of a week of intense training. I've actually gone slightly deaf, due to a pair of clogged ears, which makes life very peaceful :). And our trainer Angie actually gave us some really good news today: we don't have to prepare a lesson for tomorrow!! We just have to do a little bit of reading, which should be done quickly and that's it! This does mean that tomorrow's lesson won't be that active though, which means I'll probably fall asleep a lot again. Although I really want to learn about how to teach kids, because so far it has been much harder than teaching adults... But at least tonight I can just relax a little in my tiny hotel room (see picture) and try to get better. I might watch some Friends or a movie tonight hmmm sounds good!

Monday, June 04, 2007

Tough day

Today was the toughest day sofar. I started to feel ill yesterday but I thought it was just the stress of having to read 51 pages. Today it (whatever it is) full on hit my system, my stomach has been cramping up all day, my ears and nose are totally clogged up and my glands are all swollen. I almost cried in class when a couple of huge cramps attacked my stomach while we were singing some silly kids songs in class. I tried a painkiller and gingerale, because that is supposed to calm down an upset stomach. So I'm not feeling that comfortable today. The trainer offered to take me to some clinic this week if things don't get better... I'm a bit weary of going to a Japanese doctor though, but at least it isn't a dentist. But I think I'll just try to wait it out a little. Also I think my jetlag doesn't seem to want to part with me. Today I actually fell asleep while writing in class a couple of times and I don't remember anything we covered in class today. We did end the day with an excellent dinner at some restaurant we tried to get into for four times already, but they never had a table for us because our group was always to big. Today Warren and Steve left Nagoya to travel to their schools because they're not doing kids training, so it was just us kids trainees (Jen, Eric and myself) and Adrik whose apartment is really closeby. I had some Korean kimchidish and Nagoyan chicken and salad, it was delicious! Now let's get back to some serious lesson planning... Tomorrow we're teaching two lessons but unfortunately we won't have any Japanese kids to practice on so we are going to pretend to be a couple of Japanese kids ourselves.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

A day off

So today was our day off (not really because I have to read more than 50 pages for tomorrow's kids training and do some assignments), but at least we didn't have to go to the head office wearing those wretched suits and uncomfortable shoes. Yasu came to Nagoya by car and brought me some honey cake and something which he called shoecake or something from Shotani in Amagasaki... what a nice boyfriend! Yasu took the 6 of us to Nagoya Castle for some sightseeing. We went to lunch at a restaurant next to the castle grounds and I ordered some kind of eel dish (see picture) with lots of interesting extras, like Nagoya's noodle specialty kishimen and some kind of clear cold noodles (which tasted kind of like plastic) to be dipped in some honey sauce. It was really good and it was very much! It was impossible to finish. Yasu helped all of us order our food and it is quite nice to have a translator at the table who can help us communicate with the waitress and give us some idea of what you're actually ordering. Before we went to the castle we went to a big department store to order our hankos (a.k.a. inkan) which are stamps that you use as a signature in Japan. We all had to have our name (in Japanese) carved into it, and Yasu helped all of us get the right information on the stamp. I have no idea how we would have done it without him.
After our big lunch (see picture) we quickly went into Nagoya Castle as it was about to close and got a quick peek at Nagoya from the top of the tower and did some further sightseeing and crazy stuff, like Jen and Adrik posing as Japanese princesses or something (see picture). It was fun to see something more Japanese than the inside of AEON head office. And after our castle trip Yasu drove us to a local supermarket where we all stocked up on fruit! It is almost impossible to find fruit here in the business district and if you do find it is ridiculously overpriced. Since my arrival I haven't eaten any fruit... Maybe that's why I'm starting to feel ill a bit, but I bought 4 huge apples at the supermarket and they are going to be my breakfast for the rest of training.
After all that fun in a Japanese high-tech minivan he dropped everybody of at the hotel and went back to Amagasaki (which is like 2.5 hours away by car). We went to dinner at some izakaya (Japanese bar) around the corner and had some great yakitori and fried squid, before having to jump back into training mode. 3 more days and I get to move to Inuyama into my own (tiny 8 tatami-mat) apartment. I'm very curious what it will be like and it will be great to really unpack and have a washer and closet for my clothes!



Saturday, June 02, 2007

Graduation

So today was the last day of adults training! We all had fun teaching our full lesson to a big group of Japanese students (they are so cute, even the 48-year-old ones) in the afternoon and the rest of the hours spent at training were very lighthearted and so much laughing! We were so giggly and anything and everything made us start laughing again. I got a lot of information about my school in Inuyama and about life in Japan. At night we had a tiny graduation ceremony where we all received our AEON pins (to wear on our jackets while teaching) and our business cards! That's right, I got my own business cards now! How cool is that?!
After training we (all of us except Adrik who had to go to his school's welcome party) went on a little adventure through Nagoya station to find the right trainline to Fushimi (somewhere in Nagoya) to go to a genuine gaijin (foreigner) bar there. It took us a while to get on the right train and actually find the gaijin bar named Shooters, but we succeeded! The place was packed with foreigners and Japanese people and there was some big misunderstanding about a basketball game on TV which made Warren very unhappy, but the free tequila shots they gave us to sooth the pain made us all happy! We had some delicious burgers and a fair amount of alcohol and basically celebrated our night off! I just came back from a solo adventure on the train from Fushimi back to Nagoya, because I have to get up in time tomorrow (Yasu'll be here in the morning). But Jen, Eric, Steve and Warren went clubbing somewhere in Nagoya and they might just stay out until 6 A.M. because that's when the trains start running again.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Otsukare sama lunch

So today we went to lunch with Tanaka Kacho (see picture) and our three trainers Megan from the U.K. and Andy and Angie (see picture) from the States. I think it was kind of a fancy place for Japanese standards, but I really enjoy the atmosphere in the cheaper places, because they just seem more Japanese to me. I didn't really enjoy the food so much because most of it was covered in the kind of sauces we have in Europe too with either cream or tomato in it which I really don't like. Normally I would just try to scrape it of with some napkin, but when you're at lunch with the big boss that would just be rude, so I ate it. I did have a good time talking to Andy who has been living here for four years, got married to his Japanese wife two years ago and has one kid and one on the way. I found out a lot about how people get married and give birth in Japan, you never know when that information will come in handy ;). Apparently the guests at a wedding have to pay a hefty entrance fee and the couple has to host 3 parties, and the first week of his son's life he could only look at him through a glass window for 30 minutes each day, because he got of work after hospital visiting hours and they would not let him hold his own son outside of those visiting hours... I don't know how obedient I would have been in that case, but here they think shoganai (shit happens).
Check out the view from our training room on the ninth floor of the IMON building (see picture)! Today I taught another part of a lesson again, this time in front of two American fellow trainees. Things went well and I keep amazing myself at how calm I feel when I am teaching, none of those nerves that used to bug me during business presentations seem to bug anymore :). Tomorrow I have to teach a full 50 minute lesson to 4 Japanese AEON students (I have to start preparing soon) and tomorrow is my last day at adults training, on Monday 3 days of kids training will start and that should be fun! I also received a fax from the school in Inuyama today, wishing me all the best and letting me know they are looking forward to meeting me! So now I am going to run out to buy some bubblegum soda (sounds gross I know, but it is excellent) at the konbini across the street to enjoy during lesson planning. Yeah apparently I don't feel afraid to walk the streets at night in Nagoya, it's the weirdest thing!