Ok, so I have been a little bit slack on the blog front. I figure it’s about time that I make a little update. It’s been over 6 months since my last post… funny how time flies and you forget things. Text heavy and no photos this time because I’m writing this from work.
Start of school. It’s difficult to remember how things actually played out but the first week of September was rehearsals for the Sports Festival at the end of the week. I was lucky enough to be asked to dance with the girls in the Yosakoi Dance. My body however was less thrilled to be forced to dance for hours every afternoon in hot, non-air-conditioned classrooms on the third floor of the main building.
After what felt like weeks Saturday came and so did the Sports Festival. The boys made rather high human pyramids, the girls did their dance, each year level did various races and games (tug of war, something that resembled a three-legged race and giant games of rope skipping). Because my school has more boys than girls, when they did the folk dance after lunch they needed a few of the female teachers to make the numbers even. The crowd was so into it that we did three encores, meaning that I danced with every boy in the school, to the rest of the staff’s amusement and my embarrassment. My body managed to hold out until the festival had finished, but my ankle was what really suffered. In the end it was worth it and the day went off without a hitch.
There was an enaki or a work party, later that night where I learned; the dangerous of all you can drink, that sweet fruit Japanese cocktails can easily be confused with soda and of course how bizarre Japanese food really can be. I would later need to relearn these lessons at the next two enkais.
I visited the Tottori sand dunes which is just under two hours away from my town. Honestly, it was like being in an actual desert. Being that I have spent most of my life in New Zealand, I had never really had a chance to experience true desert heat. I have to say, that hiking up and down giant sand dunes in bare feet with a sprained ankle was not the best idea. The view of the dunes and the breeze that greeted me at the top, made the short climb worth it.
I also lived a dream of mine that I’ve had for over 10 years. I finally got to see a Japanese baseball game live (even though I normally am not interested in baseball at all). It was so much fun, the atmosphere was indescribable. I’d love to see more games in 2015.
I had a pretty quiet October. The temperature began to noticeably drop from swelteringly hot to a lovely warm temperature. There was a short two-day conference on Awaji Island, that I had to attend along with all of the other Assistant Language Teachers from the whole of the Hyogo Prefecture. I think there were around 500 of us in total, plus the Japanese Teachers of English who decided to come along too. It was very busy and ultimately very eye-opening in the way that I became more aware of how rural I truly am. Awaji Island is a really nice place, I would like to spend more time on the Island one day.
Just before the end of October I started to sort out hiring a car from a local dealer called Wataki Motors. I highly recommend them. So as November came around, I found myself with the freedom of having a car again. Biking everywhere was fun and healthy, but biking to the train station in the heat and then catching the train into Toyooka or Osaka… no matter where I went I would be gross and sweaty for most of the day. When it gets warmer in March I hope to start biking around Kehi again.
I went down to Okayama City in Okayama Prefecture to visit a friend of mine from New Zealand, who is a new ALT like me. It was really good to see a familiar face and to see a little more of Japan. The first day I was there we explored around Kurashiki and Okayama City. The gardens, near Okayama castle were beautiful. It rained the second day so we weren’t able to see a whole lot, I hope to visit again when the weathers a bit better.
Then came something that I would never have expected. While driving into Toyooka, along the riverside, a motorbike slid across the centerline and collided with my car, hitting the driver side. It was a total shock and I am still rather apprehensive about driving anywhere. The biker was unhurt, which to this day surprises me and I suffered bruising along my collarbone and severe whiplash. Her bike was destroyed and my car was damaged a lot. I spent about 4 hours with the Japanese police on the side of the road, creating a massive traffic jam, going over the details of the crash. Luckily I had been going slower than the speed limit, around 10km under, so the impact wasn’t as bad as it could have been.
The staff at Wataki motors are a godsend and as soon as the police had been called I called them and they came to help me. I am eternally grateful for that as I might not have been able to attempt to talk to the police in Japanese as I was in shock. Fortunately for me, the police concluded that the biker was responsible for the crash and her insurance covered the repairs. Or so I thought. Turns out my car needed to be written off, as it was more expensive to repair it than the car was worth. In the end I had to get a new car that was slightly more expensive to rent than my old car.
Trying to put the crash behind me, I set my sights on a white Christmas. The first snowfall was around the 17th and the white Christmas seemed to be on track. It was heavy and learning to drive in the snow after having a crash was a huge adjustment.
On the evening of the 22nd, my school had its bouenkai or end of year party at a place just down the coast, about a 40 minute drive from Kehi. Around half of the teachers stayed the night there as I did, it turned out to be a really fun night. Although yet again it made think about my Japanese ability. It has improved but I really need to work on it more.
The next day was a public holiday so I met up with a friend who lives in Muraoka and went skiing at Ojiro Ski field for the first time in perhaps 12 years( I think?). It was so much fun although going up the gondola with a slight hangover was not the best idea. We were so high up in the mountains, the view was breathtaking. No injuries too, so that was awesome.
The school had its closing ceremony on the 24th, so there was a brief assembly in the gym… a brief freezing assembly. Then everyone cleaned the school for around half an hour, the kids then disappeared home before lunch to start the two weeks of holidays that I know they deserve. Unsurprisingly Christmas isn’t a holiday here, so while I could have taken the day off, it would have been to stay at home. Most people around Toyooka had either gone back to their home countries, gone overseas or had family visiting. So I worked the whole week like normal. Except without any classes. There was a small amount of snow on the ground but it was mostly melted. No white Christmas.
From the 27th I had a week off, all of the teachers did. Work started again on January 5th. For New Years Eve, I went with another local ALT, also from NZ, to Kobe. About a 2.5 hour drive from Toyooka. We saw the last Hobbit movie, in English with Japanese subtitles and then walked around Kobe Habourland waiting for midnight. After it stopped being 2014 and started being 2015, we drove back up to Toyooka. Protip for the future – road tolls are much cheaper after midnight. I dropped my friend off at her house in south Toyooka and continued on home(still around 40 minutes away). Slowly battling the snow-covered roads as the heaviest snow so far hit hard.
The roads were thick with snow and there were no cars around because it was around 3am, I drove slowly in the centre of the road. Mostly to avoid sliding into the deep ditches on the sides of the road or as everyone calls them “gaijin (foreigner) traps”. Arriving at Kinosaki, about 5km from my house, there were variously abandoned cars covered in deep snow along the sides of the road with skid marks all over the road. I lost control a couple of times, but was only going around 5kmph so I wasn’t in any danger of sliding off the road or hitting anything. Definitely learned a lot that night.
The holiday ended quickly and soon I was back at work. Bring on term three. I went skiing a couple more times at different ski fields. It turns out I rather enjoy going dangerously fast down the mountain. Also tried night skiing for the first time ever too. It started out a nightmare as the snow had iced over and the course was steeper than I thought it was but after the ploughs went down the course, the snow was much easier to ski on. This was also the night where one of my friends became much more confident in her skiing ability, she hadn’t skied before coming to Japan and now wants to ski every weekend. Towards the end of the month I went with a small group of JETs to Osaka for the day. We visited the waterfall in the South Gate Building of Umeda station, an Owl café, the Osaka Pokémon centre and Shinsaibashi. It was a good trip, I really need to spend more than a day in Osaka.
I experienced my first proper illness in Japan this month. I woke early in the morning on a Saturday and couldn’t stop vomiting for around 12 hours. I spent the whole weekend resting and managed to pull myself together for work on Monday. However when I told one of the teachers that I work with that I had spent the whole weekend sick, that’s when things got intense. They wrapped me in a blanket, made me wear a mask and increased my water intake by about 50 times. Even though I was feeling better, I had a fever that was fluctuating so I was off to the doctor. Escorted by the school nurse and one of my Japanese teachers of English, we made the short trip across the river to the doctors near one of my Elementary schools. After being poked, prodded and generally manhandled a bit, I was given a drip of medicine, plopped in front of a heater, wrapped in another blanket and left alone for 40 minutes in a comfy chair. After that my teachers came and picked me up, we got my prescription for the strangest medicine that I have ever seen and back to school we went. Strange as the medicine was, I was feeling almost completely normal again the next day.
I had a quick day trip to Kyoto on the 11th and visited a couple of places. Unfortunately, Kiyomizu Dera, a famous temple on the hillside that over looks Kyoto city was being restored(apparently it will be for the next few years). It had scaffolding around parts of the buildings, a little bit disappointing. But I enjoyed the visit.
And that’s most of what has happened in the last couple of months. Hopefully it won’t take me as long to update in the future, but then again I’m lazy and unreliable. Good luck to those who had interviews for JET this month, hopefully April rolls around quick and you find out if you got in 🙂
A big thank you to everyone who is still reading or has commented on this blog so far. I promise I will be better at responding to comments in the future 🙂