Sunday, October 19, 2008

Family Rules

A little excerpt from the grade 9 textbook:

I asked my host father about time-outs. He said that time-outs are used when small children behave badly or get too excited. The children are taken away from the activity and put somewhere in the house alone.
In Japan, many parents used to lock their children outside the house for discipline.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Autumn in Akita

These past few weeks have been really insane. School started almost a month ago and, MY GOD…it felt so weird to have to follow a set school schedule again! For the past four years, I’ve been getting used to the mid-week sleep-ins, late classes and three day weekends. But…the rest of the adult working world has been getting up early and coming home late aaaaaaand I’ve officially become a part of that world. It’s still really mind boggling….when the question, “Occupation?” comes up on any kind of official form…I’ve gotten so used to saying, “student”. The early mornings were pretty hard to get used to (my bus, which is also the only one that goes to my school and the last one to run during rush hour…leaves at 7:28 am). I know, right?! How am I dealing, right now. Coffee is my saving grace…that and my insanely loud alarm clock. But since it’s been a while since I’ve updated this thing…I’ll try to give a break down of some of the major events that took place.
Omagari Hanabi Festival

The weekend before we started teaching was our trip to the Omagari Fireworks Festival. While most would wonder why the Japanese would travel, literally, thousands of miles to see fireworks, it is supposedly the biggest of its kind in Japan. Upon our arrival to the sleepy town of Omagari (which is normally pretty boring throughout the year), I didn’t really see what the big fuss was about. It was only when we made our way to the fireworks viewing area that I realized how big a deal it was. THERE WERE THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE THERE. It seemed as if all of Japan up and left their homes and landed right in Omagari. And they weren’t kidding around. They brought trailors, hibachi BBQs, tarps, umbrellas, chairs, tents and other weird Japanesey items you could think of. There was even an area that you could book and reserve in advance…for a price, of course.

SOOO it started shitting rain the moment we got there. There were already quite a few other JETs who had saved a spot for us, so we didn’t have to go searching for a place to sit. And what a relief, cause it didn’t look like we were going to find a spot very easily. For the first few hours….it was awful. My friend Mark and I even went as far as saying that it was the For serious. We had tarps to sit on, but the water would collect in little pockets and your entire bottom half would get soaked. Everyone was wet, freezing cold and miserable. We could only see one way to resolve our situation…..heavy drinking. The minute we started in on our beers and chuhai (Japanese mixed drink coolers) ..the night got infinitely more fun and exciting. But then, it got awful again, because we had to wait in line for the train for 1 hour and then another hour standing on the way home. An event that attracts 600,000 people a year is bound to encounter logistical problems…but wouldn’t the planning committee arrange it so that there wasn’t only one train every hour or so? The waiting was excruciatingly awful.
Overall, I don’t think I would make the trip again. While the fireworks were really beautiful to watch, they almost seemed like the mediocre entertainment for a really bad party. Aaaand, as elaborate and well planned as they were, fireworks just seem to be the same everywhere you go. At least now I can say that I’ve been!
Melting Pot JET Welcome Party
As we all settle in our own little corners of Akita Prefecture, we forget just how many JETs there are in our region of Japan. In Akita City, alone, we have 18 ALTs. The welcome party brought a lot of the new and re-contracting JETs from all over Akita Prefecture together for an evening of drunken dancing and mingling. Held at Savina (a soup curry place in the city), this get-to-know-you shindig was a successful shit show. Our fellow ALTs were on the 1’s and 2’s spinning a varied mix of electro, rock and house/techno. The only thing that would have made the party better would have been some hip hop and r'n'b! didn't seem to be a fave amongst the other JETs..the I danced on!
Speech Contest
An annual part of an ALTs job is the coaching of a speech contest student. A student who’s keen to learn and speak English often takes the initiative and enrols to either recite an already set speech (speech’s like “I Have a Dream”…no joke) or an original script of their making. The girl I was coaching , Nanami, was really easy to get along with and was willing to compete in the category filled with mainly 9th graders or 三年生(she was only in 7th grade or 一年生 ). Her speech was called “Forever My Osaka Mindset” and was about her recent family trip to Osaksa. (Yeah, I know it’s a little weird and a little Engrish-y but she was really keen on the title) . It was light hearted and you could really hear her own input within the speech. In my opinion, she was the most natural and fun loving of the bunch. Despite forgetting her words half way through the speech, it looked as if she was on the road to victory. Alas, she did not place, but she didn’t compete without a fight! She was crushed, but I assured her that she did an amazing job.
Iijima School Festival
The first few weeks at school had been dedicated to the preparation and eventual execution of the Iijima School Festival. It’s basically like a parent teacher night, only they do it on the weekend… and it’s ALL DAY. One of the amazing parts of the Japanese school system is that they really emphasize the idea of responsibility and that ‘nothing gets done if you don’t do it yourself’. From the students cleaning their own classrooms and staffroom down to the making of decorations and collecting of garbage around the food stands….it prepares the students to be mindful of their environment and their actions.
One of the more particular parts of the festival was the chorus competition. Now, back home, we have a similar tradition in the Kiwanis Music Festival, but this particular competition is particularly particular in that they make all the students compete as a class. Sooooo basically it’s a competition of kids who really don’t want to sing. But they practice everyday

Akita City Junior High School Rookie Sports Tournament
This past weekend was a full on sports bonanza and we got the chance to experience life outside the classroom. …well, sort of. From 9 am till 5 pm, games were happening all over the city and in all different kinds of sports. Thankfully, a bunch of us live really close to one of the bigger sports complexes, so I got to see my girls volleyball team and my boys soccer team…. without waking up at an ungodly hour. The next day was the basketball semi finals and my boys actually made it to the final…despite being a school known for basketball. In the end, my school won boys volleyball, boys soccer and got 2nd in boys basketball. For a school that’s a little slower than the rest, well, in pretty much was really great to see them come out on top!

SOOOooooo that's a rough summary of what has been happeneing here for the past month or so. More to come....the adventure continues!