Tuesday, July 31, 2007

I'm straight

Kristen, the new teacher, is still observing Jo's classes, which are now being taught by Megan (one of the trainers at Honbu), but she's really anxious to start teaching herself. Her first class will be on Thursday and it's a kids class... good luck Kris!
Last night and tonight, I went out to dinner with her. She's still quite immobile due to her back problems, so we chose restaurants near her apartment, which I fine because I can just zoom home on my cool orange bike! Yesterday, we talked about almost anything we could think of and tonight she mainly tried to teach me black American slang, which was so much fun! I probably won't be able to remember most of it tomorrow, but that's ok because 'I'm straight' (I'm cool).

Monday, July 30, 2007

Bye bye Jo

Saturday was Jo's last day of teaching at AEON Inuyama. Like every Saturday it was a busy day, but it was weird to imagine that it would the last time I would see her running around the school in between classes. I really enjoyed working with her and I hope she tought me enough to survive without her. Jo's moving out of her apartment today and leaving the country tomorrow.

One last picture with Jo in her classroom

Saturday was also the day we finally got to meet Kristin from Cincinnatti. She was supposed to arrive on Thursday and have three days of crossover with Jo, but she slipped a disk in her back and couldn't even walk on Wednesday so her arrival was delayed to give her some time to rest. She is doing much better now and Megan (trainer from Honbu who used to teach in Inuyama) will come to Inuyama next week to help Kristin out with her first week of classes.

The new foreign teachers at Inuyama, Kristin and myself

Saturday night was the big farewell/welcome party. A lot of students gathered in the lobby to go to Al Centro with us and enjoy some Italian food and a lot of alcoholic drinks. It was a lot of fun because I already knew a lot of the students and I got to meet a lot of Jo's students who I had never spoken to before but were really fun people.

Takamasa, Takayuki, Wataru and Kana-sensei

Later in the evening, Wataru was so shocked by something I told him about life in the Netherlands that he knocked over his huge full glass of beer and the beer spilled all over the table right into my lap! So the whole evening I must have smelled the most drunk, without even drinking a sip of beer! He felt very guilty, but I told him not to worry about it: shoganai (shit happens)!

Maiko, me, Minoru, Yama and Takayuki

Maiko and Minoru are actually two of my students. Maiko is a new student and arrived at the school at the same time as I did, so she had no idea I was a new teacher until she found my name on the welcome party poster. I also had no idea she was a new student, because I was meeting new people every hour.

Shirokiya karaoke room

After the party at Al Centro a couple of the students went to karaoke with Jo and me at Shirokiya down the street. We all squeezed into a rather small room (which is normal for Karaoke rooms), ordered some more drinks and more food and started singing. Unfortunately they did not have a book of sung arranged by the English alphabet, like most karaoke rooms do, so Jo and I had a hard time to find some songs to sing. But with the help of our Japanese friends we managed just fine.

A very popular and very crazy English teacher

Of course, I couldn't resist making some movies of all the singing in the karaoke room:

Everybody singing Yesterday by the Beatles

Wataru and Jo beautifully performing Celine Dion's My Heart Will Go On ;)

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Jo's last week

This week is Joanne's last week in AEON Inuyama :(. Which is why I interupted my Harry Potter reading marathon to go to dinner with her and her boyfriend Dave (who is also leaving AEON at the same time) at Outback in Nagoya. Here they are:

Next Wednesday, they're getting on a plane for a short vacation in Malaysia, after which they'll be heading for Ireland and the States. I'm going to miss Jo a lot, she has helped me sooo much with about everything related to AEON and Japan, even before I got here. And besides that she is just a wonderful person and a great coworker, I'm sad to see her go. I hope she has a great tip and a safe journey home and into her future, she surely will be missed at AEON Inuyama.

Tomorrow night after work we will have a big going-away party for Jo, which at the same time is a welcome party for the new teacher Kristin (which will arrive tomorrow) and myself (as I am also still quite new here). It will basically be an all-you-can-eat-and-drink-party at the Italian restaurant next to AEON. I never really used to like Italian food, but after two months in Japan, anything European tastes awesome, so I'm really looking forward to it! Afterwards we'll turn into Japanese mode again and go for some karaoke.

And as you can see the city of Inuyama has decorated the streets in honor of our big party tomorrow with these beatiful flowerballs and streamers :P. Not really, these decorations are for the upcoming summer festivals, but they sure make the streets look festive!

Monday, July 23, 2007

It's me. I'm extremely famous.

That's my favorite quote from the book, read on the very last page of the very last Harry Potter book! That's right I finally finished the book after a weekend of almost non-stop reading! And it was an awesome read! And this quote really made me laugh.
There are so many things I would love to say about this book, but I don't want to spoil the fun for any of you who haven't finished the book yet. Finally, I have all the answers and I am pleased to find out that most of my theories about how the story would end turned out to be right :). But I am a little sad that the book is over... Well, once I buy all 7 books I will just reread everything again!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

I'm connected, yet otherwise occupied...

So here we are finally online in my small apartment in Inuyama! My internet connection came through two days ago, but my modem was undeliverable because I was at work. My manager tried to have them deliver it AEON the next day, but apparently when you want to change the delivery address it takes an extra day to drive the 4 blocks from my apartment to my school. So today they delivered my modem at AEON and 5 minutes after I got home I got connected!
But my modem wasn't the only that arrived at AEON today... Joanne pre-ordered Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (American version) and today was the big day! Joanne ordered the book to read on her flight back home next week, I didn't order it due to a lack of money and due to the fact that I want to buy a box with contains all 7 British books (I sold my old copies before I left for Japan), but that won't be out until autumn.
But very lucky for me Joanne is a true Potter fan/freak (like myself) and it's impossible for her to not read the book when it's just sitting there in her apartment... So she gave it to me for safekeeping! I am not to return to book until she actually leaves, even if I finish it beforehand I cannot tell her about it. So even though I am connected once again, I don't plan on spending much time online this week, instead I'll be browsing through Potter-land!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Harry Potter, typhoon, earthquakes and lots of food

Saturdaynight, I hurried to the train station after work so that I could catch the Shinkansen out of Nagoya to Osaka, to spend the weekend with my boyfriend and his friends and relatives. This weekend some typhoon was going to hit Japan, so I was a bit nervous about sitting in a bullet train with some kind of Japanese hurricane blowing outside, but obviously nothing happened and I am still perfectly fine. Later I heard that the typhoon hit the Osaka area around midnight, when Yasu and I were safely enjoying Harry Potter 5 in a movie theater. The movie was great and it was cool to be able to watch a movie until 3 AM.
And.... I felt my first earthquake today! I was at Yasu's house talking to my mother on Skype when all of sudden the house started shaking and after a few waves it was perfectly still again. But I was still freaked out of my mind, of course! In the morning there had been a big earthquake in the North-West of Japan, but we slept through it, although Yasu's mom did feel it. The one I felt was just a small after shock... But hey at least I have that first earthquake (and first typhoon, although I didn't really notice that) behind me!

This is how the sky looked at Carrefour a day after the typhoon, very cloudy but a very pretty sight. On Sunday we slept in late and hung around Yasu's place for a long time before heading out to do some clothes shopping for Yasu at Uniqlo. It's a cheap but quite trendy shop and Yasu loves to save money so it was perfect for him. After that we went to pick up 5 of Yasu's friends (who are all very fluent in English, yay!) at the trainstation. Yasu has been talking me up to his friends for a long time and they all wanted to finally meet me to find out if I really was as nice as he told them ;).

Here we are with Teru, one of Yasu's best friends from college. I've actually already met him once 2.5 years ago when I visited Yasu in Japan. Teru works as an in-the-field cameraman for NHK news, must be a very exciting job! We went for dinner at a Yakiniku (Korean BBQ) restaurant in Amagasaki, and the food was really great!

These cute girls are Kei, Eri and Mari (from left to right). Kei works as a planner at a graphics design store, I'm so jealous. Eri works as a promoter for a cosmetics company, so she gets to try out lots of nice Japanese cosmetics, and Mari works as an office lady at her (and Yasu's) university, and she will become an aunt to her brother's soon to be born babygirl. Yasu and his friends treated me to this wonderful dinner, so thanks guys, it was great!

Here, we all are outside a Japanese Denny's after dessert. I wanted the do-it-yourself-group-picture another go, and I think it worked out, kind off... :)! It was really nice to meet Yasu's friends! They are all so fluent in English, so for once communicating wasn't hard and it's great to meet the people I've heard Yasu talk about for a long time!

This is a picture from the cake display at Amagasaki's Shotani Cake Shop. It looks and sounds like a fairytale in there, with the nice music and lovely cakes and pastries they sell there. Yasu wanted to buy a nice cake for his family to celebrate the fact that he got his first bonus at his job!

Then tonight Yasu parents took us and Hiromasa (Yasu's younger brother) out to dinner at a restaurant we refer to as the dirty aprin place because I have seen pictures of dinner there before and the teppanyaki cook's aprin isn't particularly clean :). But let me tell you, the food is freaking awesome there! They served way too much food but it was too good to pass up, so we all left there with more than full stomachs! Especially the steak with huge chunks of garlic was delicious!

For dessert (lovely sweet fruits) and a bowl of rice with salmon, seaweed and green tea (in the bowl with the rice) and coffee they escorted us to a room in the back which also had a karaoke machine! Of course we all had to sing a song! Here you can see Yasu's parents singing a Japanese song together, they were very cute.

And here you can see Hiromasa in action, who didn't really want to sing but we all managed to persuade him to sing a song! Yasu and I sang Have A Nice Day by Bon Jovi (who else) but I thought I would spare you guys that awful picture :):)! Yasu is leaving for the States soon for some seminar in Califronia, so I'm not going to see him for 6 weeks, I'm going to miss him so much! But in the meantime I'm going home for a few days so that'll be so awesome!

Monday, July 09, 2007

Immigration, puddle of water, robots and sushi.

Work at AEON is going smoother and quicker these days, haven't had any lesson preparation sessions until 5 A.M. recently:). Instead I've been enjoying my evenings with doing none-work-related-stuff, like watching movies or studying Japanese and it's great! Saturdaynight, Yasu was back in Inuyama and picked me up from work. He met my coworkers and saw the school, and it was pretty weird and distracting to have him there, but it was fun to show him where I spend most of my time.
Today, we went to Nagoya to get me a re-entry permit at the immigration office. Foreigners living and working in Japan on a visa need to get such a permit if they want to travel abroad and be allowed back into the country afterwards. It's very important, because if you don't get one they really won't let you back in and that effectively ends your job and life in Japan. And as I am very eager to go home for Obon week but not willing to say goodbye to my Japanese life just yet, I needed to get one. I was prepared to do a couple hours of waiting in a stale government's office, but it turned out to be very quick and we were done in about 20 minutes! The office was stale and sticky though...

After the necessary stuff was done we set out to enjoy a day in Sakae, Nagoya's shopping district. At first we couldn't really find something enjoyable to do, so we were prepared to give up and catch a 1800 yen movie in some cinema. But we couldn't find one because apparently there aren't any cinemas in Sakae. Finally the nice ladies at the Sakae Station information booth gave us some alternative things to do. We spend a fair amount of time at the roof of the station where they have a big puddle (as Yasu put it) of water with fake whales sprouting water and a nice view of Sakae's version of the Eiffel Tower. It was very relaxing to hang out there and enjoy the music coming from the station underneath.

We also went to what they called a robot museum, but looked more like a robot shop to me, nonetheless it was still fun to see the different kind of the robots on display there. Of course, they had the famous vacuuming robot and also a big boombox ball for your iPod which will dance and roll around your apartment.

All men have little boys inside of them, and so does Yasu. He really enjoyed playing with these puzzle-like building blocks and afterwards he proudly showed me the face he made. Aren't little boys cute?!

We also found these cute little guys somewhere in the robotshop, who all peacefully moved their heads from one side to the other. At first the whole sight came across as a little creepy, but after looking at them for a while we decided they were very relaxing to look at... Of course my favorite was the pink one, which apparently brings you luck in love, well I'm pretty lucky in that area already :).

Just before Yasu had to catch his shinkansen back to Osaka, we had dinner at a kaiten sushi (a.k.a. conveyor belt sushi) place! Believe it or not this is the first time since my arrival in Japan that I had sushi (I've had some loads of sashimi though)! The sushi was pretty good and not too expensive, but Yasu is still planning to take me to Sushiro, a kaiten sushi in Amagasaki which is supposed to amazing and incredibly cheap. Well, perhaps we'll try that next week. The coming two weekends I'm going to Osaka to spend some time with Yasu's friends and family, but most importantly to spend time with him before he departs on his month-long-trip to San Francisco! My favorite city in the States, yes I am slightly jealous! But hey I get to go home for Obon and my birthday, what could be better than that?!

And I have been cooking on a regular basis too! After Yasu introduced me to his version of yakiniku (Korean BBQ) during our weekend in Rurikei, I have been copying it all week. Japanese sesame dressing makes every salad taste awesome and the yakiniku tare (sauce) adds a great taste to any meat or vegetable cooked in my new grilling pan!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

De-stressing in Rurikei

I had such an awesome weekend! I took the Shinkansen to Osaka and from there a local train to Amagsaki, the hometown of my lovely boyfriend. He picked me up at the station and drove us straight to his parents' lovely cottage somewhere in the mountains of Rurikei.

Here you can see my boyfriend waving at me from the deck surrounding the front of the house.

This is the view we got to wake up to two wonderful mornings last weekend, it's so peaceful and beautiful. It's certainly very different from the small highway I get to stare at from my apartment in Inuyama. The only noise you can hear in Rurikei is the water streaming through the mountains and some birds in the morning. Imagine that!

This is what relaxed looks like!

The happy couple enjoying a relaxing weekend without any kind of stress or obligations, mmm wonderful! It was such a nice break from my busy life of lesson planning in my tiny apartment or even tinier classroom. On Sunday morning Yasu made us a wondeful breakfast consisting of numerous fresh fruits and freshly squeezed grapefruit juice squeezed by Mr. Kotera himself. What more does a girl want? He totally spoiled me! We spent the rest of the day driving around (it was raining so we couldn't walk around), watching a movie and relaxing even more at the local spa, where we enjoyed a jacuzzi, back massagers in the form of a waterfall, a herbal bath, a sauna, a steambath, a foot massager, and of course the famous onsens! Lucky for me, these were onsens where you could wear a swimsuit (I am not quite used to the whole naked thing yet) and it was not seperated by gender, so Yasu and I could enjoy it together. It was great sitting in an almost boiling onsen while it was pouring cold rain on our heads, it kind of felt like an old romantic Japanese movie (not that I have seen any, but that is what I imagine such a movie would be like).

Monday morning we went back to Amagaski because Yasu and his father had a business meeting that afternoon. Here they are enjoying a pre-meeting ramen lunch in a tiny restaurant. The ramen was really good and restored my appetite for ramen, after I lost it in Nagoya due to particularly tasteless bowl of ramen, during my training week. While Yasu and his dad were having a very succesful business meeting downtown Osaka, I spent my time searching the streets of Osaka for a stationary store called The Loft. I had been there in 2004, but we didn't have enought time back then to really do some decent shopping. I finally found it after 45 minutes of walking up and down the same streets again and again, and being unable the understand the Japanese directions of friendly strangers who tried to help a lost foreigner. But I ended up buying basically nothing, as I seem to have lost the art of shopping for stationary ;). After having to sell all my stuff (mostly unused because I considered it too fancy to be used) before my big move to Japan, I just can't seem to convince myself anymore that I need all kinds of beautiful paper and pens in all colors available. Ow well... another small fortune of yen saved!

After his meeting, my boyfriend the businessman picked me up at The Loft, because I wasn't sure whether I would find my way back. We enjoyed a nice Caramel Machiato and Caramel Frappucino at Starbucks before we did some windowshopping in Osaka, after which we headed back to Amagasaki.

Yasu's mother cooked us a lovely Sukiyaki nabe dinner right at the table, which was simply delicious, and it was really nice being able to speak (or rather somehow communicate) with Yasu's parents, after all the last time I saw them was about 2.5 years ago. After dinner Yasu brought me back to Amagasaki station and we said goodbye for only five days, because on Saturday he will be back in Nagoya!

P.S. My own parents are currently enjoying their 2-week-honeymoon in Rome, Italy! How romantic! I hope they are having the time of their lives!