Monday, December 21, 2009

Sendai in pictures

When one of my co-workers asked me a few weeks ago if I'd like to go on the office trip to Sendai, I said, "Sure! Sign me up!"

I'd heard that Sendai is a beautiful city to visit during the Christmas season because of all the lights. I wasn't disappointed because it was most definitely gorgeous...

Christmas lights + snow = magical.

Yuka, my "date" for the romantic stroll in the big city.

Futamata-san, the planner/leader of the Sendai trip.

Standing under the trees, looking up.

These days Santa drives a red pickup truck instead of a sleigh. Who knew?

Big Christmas tree in the middle of the outlet mall.

In addition to admiring lights and doing some window shopping, we did some sightseeing on Saturday and Sunday.

Our first stop was the Matsushima islands, a half an hour outside of Sendai. We went to a museum about a famous samurai from Sendai -- Masamune...

...who bared an uncanny resemblance to Nate. ;)

While in Matsushima, we crossed a very long bridge to Fukuura Island...

Yuka and Sachi, friends from the Board of Education office.

I couldn't help but sing, "Walking through a winter wonderland..."

We visited temples and shrines...

You draw a fortune, and if your fortune is bad, you tie it to the fence. If it's good, you get to keep it.


This cute little boy couldn't take his eyes off of the dancing dragon. :)

We went to a nice overlook of the city, where there was a statue of Masamune, the samurai.

Sendai is the biggest city in northern Japan, and is about a five-hour drive from Kuji -- about halfway to Tokyo.

The last thing we did before heading back to Kuji was eat lunch -- a Sendai special...

...cow tongue. Tasty, but a little chewy.

It was a nice little weekend trip, and I'm glad I went. Tomorrow night, I'm leaving for a tropical weather trip, and I'm excited!

See you in a few weeks...
Have a Merry Christmas!!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas outside the classrooms

Last time I wrote about doing Christmas lessons at the elementary and junior high schools.

But I've been spreading some holiday cheer in other ways, too. :)

Last Saturday, Harriet and I made our monthly preschool visit, where we played a few simple Christmas games and some coloring...

Each child traced his/her hand on a piece of green construction paper, and we made a wreath out of them...

...which I thought turned out quite nicely. :)

On Tuesday night, I had a little Christmas gathering at my apartment for members of my Japanese dance team -- just like I did last year.

This is what your entryway looks like when you have a party in Japan. A shoe convention!

Ayaka walked in carrying a gorgeous gingerbread house, and of course I had to get pictures...

Almost too pretty to eat! Almost.

Saya and Ayaka -- two of my sweetest Japanese friends -- eating sweets. :)

About an hour after the party was over I got the following text (in English!) from Saya...

Thank you today. I was very happy. Thank you for a good memory today. The encounter with you is a treasure. I love you.

Aww. :) What a sweetheart!

On Wednesday night, I had a "let's celebrate the end of the year" dinner with my English conversation class, and afterwards we went to karaoke and sang a bunch of Christmas songs...

And tonight, Liz is having a Christmas dinner at her place, and afterwards we're doing Christmas karaoke!

I'm looking forward to belting out Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas is You."
Oh yeah. :)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas in the classrooms

Hello...ho ho ho! I've been wearing a Santa hat all day today and I'm in a downright jolly mood. :D

The main reason I wore the hat was to spread some Christmas cheer. (I think it worked! Folks lit up when they saw it.) Aaaand the other main reason for the hat was to hide my kinda greasy hair, but shh, that's our secret. ;)

Anyway, let me tell you about my day! And a couple of other days I've had recently...

I had a two-hour (!) Christmas lesson this morning at Yamane Jr. High School. What do you do when you're told you can have two hours to do Christmas activities?? Well, for one thing...

You bake Christmas cookies! They turned out beautifully and were quite yummy -- if I do say so myself. :)

Here are a couple of photos of the cookie making process...

The guys. And...

the gals. Notice the snowy winter wonderland in the background. Yay!

We also made some Christmas cards, sang some carols, and I taught them some Christmas vocab words.

On Monday at Osanai Elementary School, we did a Christmas word Bingo game...

We played this game in all five classes, and I wrote "Merry Christmas" at the top of every single student's paper (at least 150!). Have mercy.

Although I didn't do a Christmas lesson at Samuraihama Elementary last week, I noticed some wreaths hanging in the second grade classroom. So I got out my camera to snap a picture of the decorations/crafts, and inevitably some adorable kids jumped into the photo...

...which of course is just fine with me. :)

At Yamane Elementary School last Wednesday, I ended up having a Christmas photo shoot, haha. It started with this picture of the sixth grade teacher and his class...

If the teacher looks like he's a bit of a goofball, that's because he is...

He is one of my most outgoing, goofiest people I've ever met, and I love it!

And then there's this silly kid...

who put the wreath on his head and proclaimed, "Lion King!!" Brilliant.

Well, that's all the silliness for now.
No. Wait. What do angry mice send to each other at Christmas???
Cross mouse cards!!
hehe :)

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Click here to read my latest post in "Keep Shining."

Monday, December 14, 2009

"'Cause this is thriller!..."

For the last couple of weeks, I've been walking/dancing around with Michael Jackson songs in my head (in addition to Christmas tunes, of course).

Last year around this time, I was constantly humming songs from Grease.

Flashback to last year's performance at the variety show/fundraiser in Kuji...

This year, we had more members, including a couple of ALTs (assistant language teachers) from nearby towns. Even though none of us do the moon walk well, we decided to dance to a Michael Jackson medley in order to strike a chord with our audience--which was quite large, as you can tell in this next video.

Lights. Camera. Disco ball. (Just for us. Just like last year, haha.) Action...

We had a blast putting this dance together and practicing it! You can tell how much fun we had--and can better see what's going on--in a video of one of last week's rehearsals. We used the video to help us practice, so that's why it's taken from the back. This rehearsal was the same day I took the big Japanese test, so that might explain why I completely spaced out during the beginning, haha...

I have one last video to share. After we were done with our performance yesterday, we watched another group's dress rehearsal. I thought this bell choir sounded pretty good with their Christmas medley, so I took a little video of it...

By the way, I'm in such a Christmas mood right now! I had five Christmas lessons in a row today at Osanai Elementary.

More about Christmas lessons next time. Stay tuned. :)

Friday, December 11, 2009

A different version of a classic carol

Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree...

How lovely are your bows.

Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree...

Your lights stream down in rows.

You are so blue. You are so high.
Everyone sees you as they drive by.

Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree...

Why are you deadbolted to the sidewalk!?!?

The End.

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To read my latest post in "Keep Shining" click here.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Test.

Well, the good news is it's over.

No more cramming lists of Japanese vocab words and grammar rules into my hurting brain.

Study strategy: Make flashcards of the 100 kanji (complicated characters) I have to know, and write the most difficult vocab words -- of the 800 I need to memorize! -- five times each.

Study fuel: tea, lots of tea. They took good care of me at Samuraihama E.S. on Friday, where I had time to study since two of my six classes were cancelled. They gave me a face mask to wear so I won't get the dreaded influenza (bless them), and poured me cup after cup of different flavors of tea, including one with an aroma so lovely that it made me wonder if that's what heaven smells like. No joke. I'm sure I looked like a big weirdo sniffing my cup for 15 minutes straight, but that's okay.

Aaaanyway, back to the test...

As a reminder to myself, the reason I thought it was a good idea in the first place to take level 4 of the JLPT -- Japanese Language Proficiency Test -- was to be motivated to learn Japanese and to be challenged.

Well, it was most definitely a challenge. I'll say that about it.

The test started at 9:45 a.m. and ended just before 2 p.m. There were three sections: Writing & Vocabulary; Listening; Grammar & Reading. Every single word was written in Japanese, including all of the directions.

As Jarlath said afterwards, "All I needed was another hour...and a Japanese-English dictionary!" Haha.

I really need to work on getting my reading up to speed since I didn't even make it to the last two pages of the reading section. :( Oh well.

This was by far the best part of the day in Morioka (about 2.5 hours away)...

Meeting up with friends and fellow test takers afterwards and eating ice cream at Baskin Robbins!! (or "31" as it's called here).

Good luck to my Franklin friends who are studying for final exams!
I feel your pain.

Saturday, December 5, 2009


That's all I really have to say about some of the things around here.

Sometimes I see things that make me "ooh" and "aah" -- like the teeny tiny origami crane I mentioned last time. Other times I see things that make me "eww" or things that make me "aww." And then there are the things that I just don't quite know what sound to make about them.

Like in the case of the random garden of animal bushes that I pass on the drive from Kuji to Noda...

Hmm, not sure. Kinda cute? A little odd? A tad creepy? (That bear is staring right at me!) Definitely quirky.

I tell you what, there is all kinds of quirkiness to be found in the stores...

Like the giant insect repellent bottle hanging from the ceiling in addition to a display of cardboard pigs -- with noses that look like lollipops -- that appear to be running around with nets and also swinging. Peculiar.

There are also some peculiar things being sold.

Exhibit A: Diet pills called Jesus Body!

The fine print on the box says:

New discovery to be kept secret from others.
The discovery is a secret.
I can try it down because I am correct.
We will not make you sorry.
Pleasure to have the real thing.
I really longed for this.

Exhibit B: Bread that is the shape and color of corn, and has a corn-flavored cream inside.

A whole new kind of corn bread. I bought it to try because I was curious. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't really good, either.

On Wednesday at my English conversation class, Emiko brought an...umm...unusual snack to share...


The dried critters made each of us squirm and "eww" a little bit, especially me. (And I'm usually pretty brave about trying different foods...and "foods.")

Tomoki wasn't so sure about them, either...

One word for what they were like: Crunchy.

Well, that's all the oddness for now. I'm, uh, hopping (bad, I know) off the computer to do some last minute studying for tomorrow's Japanese test. Sayonara!