Sunday, November 28, 2010

10 Favorite Experiences...So Far

(In no particular order)

1. Student Responses at School

What I am referring to is how students react when they see me.  Due to the absence of diversity and the abundance of American movies, I am a minority (albeit one that happens to look like a Hollywood actress in the students’ minds).  I make the Hollywood comparison because that’s how I cope with the exaggerated reactions that I often get from the students.  Because of the rarity of non-Japanese people in this area of Japan, I often get double-takes from those I walk by in the grocery store, but students are the most vocal. 

I learned “kawaii” (cute)  immediately because that’s the first thing students often say to me when they see me.  I’ve had at least five boys from various schools shout “I love you!” across the hallway, and in one class the girls don’t say goodbye when I leave, they say “love you!” to which I reply, “love you too!” and the class cracks up.  Last week, a few different classes asked me if I have a boyfriend, and when I said no, two different boys in different classes said, “I have a chance!” (which I was amazed mostly that they remembered the “a” in that sentence).  I’ve been told that I have a nice body, am beautiful, have gold hair, and (to quote a student’s written response) “Kimu cuter than Biyonse.”  Girls have lined up for hugs, I’ve been surrounded and stopped in the hallways between classes by excited students, I’ve been asked to take a picture with students on multiple occasions, and I always surprise students if it’s a situation where they turn around to see me there. 

Students recognize me everywhere, and since I’ve been to six different schools now and technically have met hundreds and hundreds of different students, I frequently do not recognize them.  I’ve got to be careful because it’s likely that a student of mine, or a parent of a student, works at almost every store that I visit, is in every club that I attend, or frequents the same restaurants and shops as me.  I stand out, so I can’t count on privacy if I make a mistake or have problems in public.  Sometimes, to cope, I just pretend that I’m a celebrity.  It doesn’t really bother me too much yet because I find their responses just too entertaining.  How can I get upset at being called cute or beautiful so often?

2. Japanese Wedding (September 11th – see Wedding blog post)

This was a blast, and definitely an interesting cultural experience that I was lucky enough to experience within my first month in Japan.  I talked about the wedding in a lot of detail in my post on the Japanese Wedding, but I can’t leave it out of the top 10 favorite experiences!

3.  Bihoro Toge (October 16th

Myself and three local ALTs (Assistant Language Teachers) took an afternoon road trip on a Saturday in October to look at the scenery in one of the last fall weekends of the year.  The changing colors of the leaves weren’t as spectacular as we had hoped for, but it was a gorgeous day with a terrific view of Lake Kussharo.  You just can’t help but be happy when you’re outside, with friends, on a wonderful day with a spectacular view of the lake!

4.  Tsubetsu Toge (October 17th)

The day after the Bihoro Toge, myself, my tutor’s other two students, and two Chinese friends went to the Bihoro Toge on a road trip, also with the intent of seeing the beautiful fall leaves.  We went to the Tsubetsu Toge, which overlooks the same lake as the Bihoro Toge, but the Tsubetsu Toge is at a much higher elevation!  It was another beautiful day to go out and look at the views.  

At the top of the Tsubetsu Togue, apart from a terrific view, was an old man who claimed to be able to read palms, and he volunteered to read mine for me.  I had both of my tutor’s students help translate, but it was a bit difficult to do.  Basically, from what I remember, the predictions go something like this:

-          I will live a long life, probably to age 85 years
-          My heart is a weak point
-          I will get married late
-          I will have a long and successful career
-          I will make a lot of money toward the middle and end of my career
-          “I have sexy” (that’s the translation that I got, not sure what it means)
-          I am very determined and independent
-          I have confidence
-          I think logically and directly
-          Cooking is a challenge for me

Not sure how much to believe it, but Chi said she believes that palm readings have some truth behind them.  We’ll see!

5. Road Trip to Abashiri (September 20th)

I also did a blog entry on this one, though it was mostly pictorial.  It was me, my tutor, and her two students – Goro (a Japanese man learning English) and Chi (a Chinese student learning Japanese) – who went to Abashiri.  It was great to see the town and see the views of Eastern Hokkaido.  Once again we were lucky to have beautiful fall weather to see the scenery. 

6. Pizza Parties! 

I’ve had two pizza parties now – one with local ALTs and some of their friends, and one with a teacher’s family.  In both cases, my pizza cravings were satisfied.  At my teacher’s house, his wife showed me how she makes pizza (it’s way too complicated for me to ever try on my own again), and his kids were entertaining with all of their hyperactive-ness.  At the other pizza party, I had a great time meeting and talking with a lot of local English teachers and young Japanese people who can speak some English.  
The photo on the top is of me and my teacher's wife and her pizza party, and the one on the bottom is at a local ALT's pizza party.  The "peace sign" thing is a really popular thing to do in pictures.  I'm not quite sure why yet.

7.  Shochu and Wine Tasting Events in Rubeshibe

These events have been hosted in a local small town near Kitami named Rubeshibe.  I have a good friend who lives there and has invited me and a few others to join in on the local events…but mostly the events hosted by the liquor store in town.  For a set amount, we get a nomihodai and a tabehodai for the duration of the event.  A tabehodai is like an all-you-can-eat buffet, so a nomihodai  is an alcoholic version of that.  Nomihodais are quite popular here in Japan and can be found in almost every restaurant and ever bar.

Usually, we’re the only non-Japanese people at these events which sometimes can attract a little attention.  However, that doesn’t help us win the door prizes!

8. Taiko

Last month, I joined a local Taiko community group.  Taiko is a traditional Japanese form of drums.  The drums and sticks are large, and taiko is performed using the entire body to produce the right sounds.  It’s fun to watch, and it’s fun to play!  And it’s an amazing arm, ab, and leg workout.  I'd suggest going to YouTube to find a clip of it because it's hard to describe if you've never seen it before. 
9. Halloween 

Japan doesn’t traditionally celebrate Halloween, although there are sometimes special events in the community since local ALTs often organize events or lesson plans around Halloween.  For Halloween, myself and several other ALTs drove to Asahikawa – the second largest city on the island.  There, we joined up with dozens of other ALTs, gaijin (foreigners), and some Japanese people to celebrate Halloween with a nomihodai at a bar with a DJ, followed by dancing.  

I went as a cavewoman, for the second year in a row, but still got compliments on my outfit.  Some people totally got into it though!  

10. Speech Contests   

So far, I’ve been privileged to be a judge at two different speech contests.  It’s fun because the kids who participate have enthusiasm for English, plus it breaks up my usual weekly schedule.  At the most recent English competition, my student won first place!  It was a blast to see her perform so well and get a chance to advance to the next round.  

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