Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Fall Festivals

Culture Festival and Teacher’s Trip

With fall comes cooler weather and many school festivals. Most recently we had our culture festival, which consisted of each club and grade coming up with a something to sell as a way to raise money. Some clubs sold food or drinks, others sold things they had made. Needless to say I shelled out way more money than I wanted as I was cornered every few seconds and begged to buy either something plastic or something edible. Our culture festival was followed by another enkai, and we all know how much I like those! 

Our Principal in the background looks at this
super cool street performer!
The performer was like that for hours.
This time it was an over night enkai, the idea being that we eat dinner and have a drinking party and sleep where we eat. That way, no one has to take the train or drive afterwards. The drinking and driving laws here are much stricter than in the US. There is absolutely zero tolerance. If you have one drink, you do not drive. No exceptions. That being said, these drinking/sleeping places have come about to fill this niche.

Asakusa in Tokyo
So our little weekend trip consisted of quite the agenda! We meet at the local train station on a Sunday around noon. There was a chartered bus waiting for us, and we drove to a neat little part of Tokyo that I had yet to visit, so I for one was quite excited! Upon arriving we had amazing sushi for lunch, and my ability to use chopsticks was again discussed. My fondness of wasabi was also added to the list of discussion topics that swirl around me. Then we had a few hours to walk around and explore. Saw some temples and amazinggggg shops. Then it was back to the bus and off to see Blue Man Group. I was SO excited! I had wanted to see the show in Vegas, but we didn’t get tickets in time, so I was really excited to see it here! And being that there is such a language barrier, it was the perfect show to me to watch with them.
We got fortunes!
My was the best one possible, hers was the worst.
If you receive one that is not good you tie it to designated area, so as to leave the bad luck behind.

Namiko, one of my fave JTEs and I,
at the temple.

Temple in Asakusa
VP on the far left, next to him is
the teacher who was selected to
During the show I scoped it out, and it was official, I was the only non-Japanese person, which surprised be being that we were right in Tokyo. When the blue men made their way into the audience I saw them do a double take when they got to be. Namiko was next to me, and we both wondered if they were going to play off that fact, but they didn’t. Though they did select one of our teachers to join them on stage, she was perfect for the role. We called her Blue Woman for the rest of the evening. Oh! And we even got take a picture with them at the end!
A Blue Man!

Then it was off to the enkai place where dinner was UNBELIEVEABLE and we continued to drink and laugh into night. I’ve said it before but I really, really love the teachers I work with. It is so fun to have them in this setting where they can just be themselves, and we can enjoy each others company without the stress and traditional rules of the work place. 

The following morning, Monday, we headed back to little Kamagaya and enjoyed a day off. We had off that Monday to compensate for working on the previous Saturday at the culture festival.

Chorus Festival
Each class in the school, for a total of 13, have been practicing songs to sing at this years chorus festival. They are competing against each other for one of four trophies, best class per grade and best overall. I have been hearing them practice after school as they have been staying late and coming early to squeeze in extra practice. All the students were very excited about it, so I was eager to hear what they had prepared!

Last Friday we all gathered into the FREEZING cold gym. Evidently Japan does not believe in insulation, so the temp inside mirrors the outside temperatures year round. All the students were seated in their class rows and each class went up to sing two songs. Parents were gathered in the background and teachers were seated along the sides to keep order.

The first class went up and began singing. It was the song I had been hearing throughout the halls. Oh, so this is the class I’ve been hearing, I thought! I bopped along, watching the piano player and conductor, each class had appointed someone for the jobs. The first class then switched to their second song, which was lovely, and finally were off the stage. Time for the next class, which opened with the same song the first class had started with, the one I had been hearing throughout the halls. No. Way. I thought. No way is each class going to sing this same song. That means we would hear it a total of 13 times. You’ve got to be kidding me.

I starred at my program more intensely, looking for patterns with the Kanji and deduced that that was exactly what was going to happened. And indeed it was. I heard that song a total of 15 times that day, as they sang it together as a school twice at the end. Wow. I get the logic behind it, having some type of base line for the judges to judge them off of, but WOW.

Students wait for their turn, parents look on and
we all listen to the same song 15 times.
Just like on sports day in the beginning of the year, there were tears from just about everyone when the winners were announced. Boys, girls, parents and teachers. I was too perplexed to cry. It seemed the kids who won cried harder then those that lost. It was a few minutes before the groups went up to get their trophies and in that time I was trying to gage what type of tears I was looking at.

All in all everyone had a great day! And it was a nice change of pace. The kids loved it, and sounded amazing I must say!!

Guide Dog Assembly

This was in no way a festival but I had to add it in, it was just too cute. Yesterday we had a unique assembly where a blind man and his guide dog, Romeo, came to GoChuu to talk to the kids basically about what his day to day life is like. We watched a short video and he demonstrated how he communicates with Romeo, the yellow lab.

I know how crazy this is going to sound, but when the dog walked in, I felt an odd bond toward him, as we were the only two in about a 10 miles radius, with hair that could be classified as dirty blonde. And as I would soon find out, we both understood English! All Romeos commands were in English as the Japanese words for sit, down and come are about twice as long. A few times I had to chuckle when the man told Romeo to sit, and he just looked at him, or at one point went completely down. I have no idea if anyone else picked up on it, but it made me smile.

The students also got a chance to put on a blind fold and walk, guided by another student in an L shape, just to get a taste of what it is like to be blind. I served as guide for a few students, talking to them mostly in English with a little Japanese, and being that I recently added left and right to my Japanese vocabulary, I was eager to let them know that it was time to turn hidari.

Things are still going great! I am loving it here, and cannot believe how fast these three and a half months have gone by. It’s unbelievable! I get really sad when I think about my time here being over, leading me to believe that I will most likely be here at least 2 years. We don’t re-contract until the spring, so I have until then to make my final decision.

This past weekend, I went to Tokyo to meet up with some other JETs who were town just for the weekend and captured this lovely photo while at a random zoo. I also have to add that this zoo had squirrels and guinea pigs in captivity, what rare creatures! Just wanted to share. 

I love fall.
Up Next:

A trip to India for Christmas! I am officially going! I will be building houses in a small town for a about a week and traveling for a few days after. I have my flight and my visa such a relief.  I am getting excited!! More details to come!

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