Saturday, May 29, 2010

"Be my guest, be my guest..."

I've had a great weekend so far entertaining friends at my apartment. (or "apato" as we say in Japanese) :)

I love having people over! But entertaining at home is something that's not as common in Japanese culture; most people go out to meet up for meals.

On Friday night, Hatsumi and Kyoko came for dinner.
I made fried rice, and they brought side dishes and drinks. Afterwards, I helped them book domestic tickets for when they visit America in September.

They were so amazed by my nifty apple slicer from America (Thanks, Mom)...


Then today, I had lunch & watched a movie (English w/ Japanese subtitles) with my friends Sachi and Yuka.

I thought that we were going to make lunch together, but they came over carrying a fully prepared pasta meal and some really nice dishes... I got out my nice cocktail glasses for the occasion. :)

Next time they come over, it'll be my turn to cook for them, that's for sure!

Yuka made a strawberry cake for dessert, and it was pretty as a picture, so I took a picture...

I told Yuka, "This looks delicious!" But she shook her head and got out her electronic dictionary to search for an English word to describe her feelings about the cake. When she'd found the word, she showed me her dictionary and is said FAILURE.

"What!? Aww...I'm sure it's not a failure!" And it wasn't at all. It was a total scrumptious success.

And speaking (err, writing) of total scrumptious successes...

These were the delightful desserts we had on Tuesday at my English conversation class.

I have quite the collection of "sweet photos." To think that before I came to Japan, I was concerned that the desserts wouldn't be sweet enough. (I was thinking of the bland "sweets" at Chinese buffets.) Definitely no need to worry though. :)

Well, it's bedtime for me. I'm getting up early tomorrow to dance in Morioka with my dance team. Stay tuned.

Sweet dreams!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

You know it's undokai (Sports Day) time when...

you see banners of children running, and all the sports drinks are on sale at the grocery store.

And the chips and snack foods are on sale, too, in their own special section.

Shrimp chips and green tea corn puffs. Only in Japan.

I'd never had the green tea Cheeto-type star-shaped puffs before, so I bought some to try. (Why not? They're on sale.) It turns out that they're sweet! And quite addictive, surprisingly. I'll be back for more.

You see, Sports Day--and this time of year, in general--is a time for picnics. Like this...

This is the bulletin board at the preschool where I volunteer once a month.

What does a Japanese picnic consist of?

Rice balls called onigiri, fruits & veggies, some meat on a stick, and of course no picnic is complete without a little orange octopus (??).

Oh, and shimp chips & green tea corn puffs, too. :)

Monday, May 24, 2010

"We'll keep on fighting 'til the end..."

I can't be sure, but there's definitely a chance that a record was broken in Kuji over the weekend:

The most foreigners this place has seen at one time!

We had a big group of ALT friends (around 30) and some Japanese friends come up for our very own Sports Day, just like all the schools here have. I had a lot of Kuji pride, and a great time hosting friends in my apartment and showing off my town.

We had four teams compete in the afternoon events. Just like at the schools, we did some fun relays...

Like run with a ball in between you and your partner.

Two people from each team competed in "the cardboard box game." The point of the game was to bend over and pick up a box with your mouth. After each round, the box was ripped shorter and shorter, until it was just a piece of cardboard.

It was quite entertaining to watch...

Go Bruce!

Success! Well done, Zuto. He made it look easy!

The final round...

...was intense!

In addition to the wacky competitions, we also *played soccer and whiffle ball.

* or in some cases, attempted to play

YEAH TEAM YELLOW!! (I no longer have much of a voice due to screaming. And from singing my heart out at karaoke later on that night.)

Chillin' out on the playground in between events.

It was really great hanging out with everyone, and I'm looking forward to the next big ALT gathering -- the sayonara party in July.

Friday, May 21, 2010

"Domo arigatou, Mr. Roboto..."

I remember having a project in third grade in which I had to make something out of things that would usually be thrown away or recycled.

While I can't remember exactly what I ended up making (and I've been sitting here thinking real hard about it!), whatever it was probably wasn't as cool as what my students created...

Robot warriors!! (That's what these are, right?)

I like the American flag on the one made with Coke bottles. The irony. Although Mr. America has the height advantage, I think Mr. Angry Corn Chips has enough rage pent up inside him to win the battle.

But this fella has upside-down (Chip) Star power, so maybe he has a leg up!

And then there's "the adorable peacemaker"...

Eggcellent work! (The origami crane -- which is, coincidentally, a symbol of peace -- is a nice touch.)

I've written before about how amazed I am by the artistic talent of my students, especially when it comes to drawing. Check out the work of this second grade student...

I'm not sure how this little guy sat still long enough to draw this because I couldn't get him to sit still for a photo!

A couple of weeks ago, Tomoki challenged me to draw some abstract art -- something I'd never really tried before. (I made sure this wasn't his homework before accepting the challenge!) I wasn't sure if I could pull it off, but feeling inspired by my creative students, I had fun creating a music-themed drawing. I actually got pretty into it...

Um, as you can kind of tell.

I enjoyed it so much that this kind of abstract style of drawing has become a new hobby for me -- something to do while watching TV or waiting around. Here are a few pieces I've done in the last couple of weeks -- using a pencil, then pen, then markers...

What I really like about doing this kind of art is that it's hard to mess up since anything goes! :)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Ms. Communication

One of my favorite things in life is having conversations with people. Just call me Ms. Communication. :)

But. I don't always communicate correctly. So miscommunication applies to me, too.

The other day, one of my students gave her self-introduction in English, and afterwards I said, "Haruka, I didn't know that your mother is Mexican!" I'd spent most of her speech trying real hard to find the Mexican resemblance. Hmm, she looks Japanese to me.

The English teacher looked at me, and was like, "What?? She didn't say that." So we had Haruka give her speech again. Turns out that if it's not enunciated correctly, "My birthday is May second" sounds A LOT like "My mother is Mexican." Who knew?

So. I don't always understand English -- let alone Japanese! While my Japanese has gotten gradually better over the past two years and I can have basic conversations & understand quite a bit, talking with kids is a different story.

I teach some of the most adorable elementary school students you've ever seen, I really do. Here, let me prove it...

Love the skirt/red bow t-shirt outfit!

Yellow hats. :)

Hello there.

You'd think that conversations with kids would be the easiest. However, they almost always have a lot to tell me. And they almost always say it reallysuperfastbecause they'reexcited!

I try my very best to understand. But all I get sometimes is Danasenseiwasorokaraaisukinagonanisawogaohijodas desu ka??

(The "desu ka" at the end makes it a question. Which means they're looking for an answer. Which means I'm in trouble.)

I usually reply with, "Let's play!" :) Or "yes." But that could be dangerous.

It really bothers me that I don't understand everything they say because I just KNOW that it's something funny/cute.

Like the boy who told me that his favorite phrase in English is...

"This is pen, this is a pen!" which he said over and over as he walked down the hall. Ha.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Let's go! Let's go!

This morning I went to Okawame Junior High's Sports Day, where there was a lot of school spirit(s)...

The red team and white team competed in all kinds of different relay races and fun events.

Such as this "spin around the bat a few times before running" relay.

However, the real action was in the cheering sections! Both teams had great support, but I must say that I'm biased toward the white team. They saw that I was wearing a white shirt underneath my jacket, and they invited me to cheer with them. :) (I guess I should have put on some red, too, when I got dressed this morning, but I didn't think about it.)

Fellow white team cheerleaders.

"Shiro" is Japanese for "white." So one of the cheers they (we) did was, "Let's go, Shiro!!"

Cheering with fans instead of pom poms. (which came into play later on)

Here's a video of some spirited cheering...

This is Hanoko, my pom pom buddy. I love this girl! I worked with her last fall when she competed in the English speech contest, and she's greeted me with hugs ever since. :)

Although it was windy out, it was nice and sunny -- for the first time this week! So it was a good day to have an outdoor event. I biked to and from Okawame, and on the way back took a bunch of pictures of the countryside. I posted them as "Spring in Rural Japan," which you can find under "My Photos" on the right side.

Well, time for me to go! (Go!) :)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Some more flower photos to share

After all, 'tis the season, and I've taken a lot of pictures of budding beauties in recent days. :)

Last week, I took a lovely nighttime stroll in the park behind my apartment. Lights were shining on all the cherry blossom trees, illuminating the petals. I tried my best to catch the beauty on camera...

The entrance up to the park, which sits on a hill overlooking Kuji.

"Kirei desu, ne?" (Pretty, huh?)

Here are a couple of non-flower photos from Golden Week...

May 5th--in addition to being Cinco de Mayo--was Children's Day in Japan. I wrote last year about seeing "fish flags" (more specifically, carp flags) for the holiday last year. I saw just as many this year, including some fish flag artwork at one of my schools...

And to end on a flower note, this is a picture I took today on my way to Yamane Jr. High. The bright pink really stood out on such a rainy, dreary day...

I'm also including this picture to show you a grass roof building in the country. I don't see these too often, but they're definitely fascinating. (and cold inside, I'm sure!)

That's all for now. Have a lovely day!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Fun & flowers

It's been a fun-filled weekend, starting with Friday night when I went out to eat with some teachers.

They were excited when I told them my plans to go to the tulip festival in Karumai, and we took a couple of photos doing "the tulip pose," haha...

Junko (who I taught with at Mugyo Jr. High before it closed) and Kenji (the super outgoing teacher I used to work with at Yamane Elementary. I really miss teaching with him.) He told the other teachers that I'm "ichiban (#1) crazy," but that's a lie. He is most definitely "ichiban crazy!"

But I admit that he does bring out the crazy in me. :)

My friend Georgia is part of a Japanese drum ("taiko") group, which performed at the tulip festival today.

Here's a video I took of the performance:

Other groups played after Georgia's group, but I was a bit distracted by the adorable kid sitting in front of me, who kept trying to hide from my camera. It became a game...

What a cutiepie! (Notice the interesting flannel shirt with skulls on it. The front of it said "A Man of Great Vitality.")

The boys would get really excited when the drumming intensified and start drumming their laps. :)

After the concert, Liz, Derek, Janine and I walked (and sat) amongst the tulips...

I couldn't help but take tons of pictures; there were so many photo-ops! There's a "Tulip Festival Album" on the right side under "My Photo Albums" to check out all the photos. But here are a few of my favorites...

"One of these things is not like the other..."

According to Janine--who lives in Karumai--the windmill and tulips were a gift to Karumai from the Netherlands. I felt like I was in the Netherlands!

The cherry blossom trees were late blooming this year, so it's unusual/special to have both cherry blossoms & tulips for the tulip festival. (And I saw a few daffodils, too. Bonus!)

Pretty pink. :)

We ended our time at the tulip festival by taking advantage of the open space in the park and throwing a Frisbee.

Derek kept trying to catch it in his mouth! Nice.

But this is hands-down my favorite Frisbee photo...

Get it, Janine!

Ah, good times. :)

* * *
To read a Mother's Day post in my "Keep Shining" blog, click here.