Thursday 1 November 2012

Hiroshima

Ok, so it's been a while! I can never be bothered to do this when I'm fully awake, I normally remember just before bed so I'm forcing myself to do it now.
I'm going to write about my long weekend trip to Hiroshima. I went with 3 of my friends from the Interac group.



The main reason for heading down that way was to attend a sake matsuri in Saijo (basically as much sake as you can drink for about £15 and a free cup!)

I took about 3 hours and 3 trains to get there but we arrived early afternoon and spent a good few hours becoming true sake connoisseurs (getting drunk).


The atmosphere was amazing. There were a lot of other gaijin around who were nice to chat to but the hammered Japanese were the best. Everyone was ridiculously friendly and always willing to pass on a sake recommendation.
I would have liked to stay longer than we did but we had another 2 trains to catch to our hotel so we left relatively early. Checking into the hotel we met a New Zealander  named Gareth and his parents. Gareth joined us for the night which we spent sat on a fairly industrial piece of coast chatting and listening to music.


Up bright and early the next morning to check out and change hotels. We left our stuff in lockers at Hiroshima station ( I locked the right one this time) and headed for the Peace Memorial Park, museum and A Bomb dome. I've been before but it's still a pretty shocking afternoon.


The museum is very interesting though and the Peace Park, very relaxing and beautiful. The longer you spend in Hiroshima the more you feel you could be in Paris. The architecture, especially around the river, is very similar.
We ate Okonomiyaki for lunch.
 Totemo oishii!!
After a brief wander around the shopping district and a glance at some wannabe 'idoru' we were ready to head home and primp for a night out. Like most places in Japan most of the bars were the size of a decent sized living room but there did seem to be more actual clubs here than I've seen elsewhere. Another night spent talking to lovely , drunk Japanese people.
The next day came and we were all tired, hungover or both so a relaxing day was needed. We boarded yet another train and headed for Miyajima Island. 

As before, the views were stunning, the deer were intrusive and the tourists were out in full force. We did manage to get a couple of rocks with an amazing view of the floating shrine and were content to sit there for an hour or so.



We took the Shinkansen home (45 minutes instead of 3 hours) and had a well needed early night.
It was nice to finally see Hiroshima City properly but I have in no way seen all that I want to. Hiroshima has a  really welcoming atmosphere and I hope to head back soon and see more of the city itself
It wouldn't have been as epic were it not for the company though. I loved the fairly random assortment of folks I went with and if the next few months are as awesome then it's going to be one hell of a trip!








Saturday 29 September 2012

Enkai!!!

On Friday night I experienced my first enkai with my JHS teachers.
It was awesome!!
Enkai is basically a staff party but maybe with more drinking and certain etiquette. For example, you don't pour your own drink. Either wait for someone to do it for you or offer a re-fill to someone else who will then re-fill your glass in return.
As I entered my enkai I was asked to pick a card to determine where to sit. I ended up sitting with the other English teachers, some of whom I sit with every day anyway, but there were some new faces. The school councillor, who I time-share a desk with and who left me this.....


....was sat next to me and she was lovely!!! I am very sad that I don't actually get to work with her.
There was also a slide show of the sports festival (which I missed), lots of food and a song to end the evening. 
We then headed over to karaoke, lead by the principal who is apparently a karaoke addict. Admittedly a lot of the songs were Japanese and although I can now read hiragana I can't read it at speed to a tune. However, I did bond with one teacher over Blondie and Journey, and with another over Barbie Girl.
I think my favourite part of the night was just speaking to the other teachers. I don't think there is a bad one in the bunch. Lots made the effort to come and speak to me but one in particular surprised me. He's technically a Japanese teacher and although he says his English is not good, he lies. It's awesome! He's also into rock climbing so I'm hoping he can suggest somewhere to climb (just need  to find someone to belay now!). He made sure I had someone to chat to all night and I felt included throughout. He also tried to teach me some Japanese which was greatly appreciated. So all in all enkai was awesome. Even if all this bonding is completely forgotten/ignored on Monday, it was nice to see all the teachers out of school.

On a separate note, and because this is also a form of diary for me, isn't it weird how quickly you can do a complete 180 flip on your opinion of someone?
I saw something on facebook the other day and it made me realise just how self-orientated some people really are. I've been on the receiving end of this, from the same person and only last week in fact, and I'm so happy I can see clearly now. Some people really do just need to always be the best and always be right and that equals a pretty insecure person. There is no need to highlight other peoples flaws to make yourself feel good, especially if it's completely out of the blue. Any way, it appears that like attracts like and I just hope I'm not around witness this too much.
I'm a pretty quiet person; I don't enjoy people that have to be the centre of attention but unfortunately the world is full of these creatures. Oh well, I'm pretty happy in the knowledge that I know who I am and I don't feel the need to be loud or adapt my life to suit others.

Saturday 22 September 2012

Discipline in Japan

I've been in Japan over a month....how weird is that!?

Primarily here, I want to share a bit about Japanese schools.


My main issue with this place is the intense lack of discipline. I know most people's assumption is that Japan would be either really strict on discipline or that the kids would be so polite and well behaved that discipline wasn't particularly needed.....neither of these points are true.
Admittedly discipline doesn't seem to be needed a lot because Japanese students are generally fairly conplient however, not every student is up for education. This can go one of two ways. Some students get to class, put their heads on their desks and literally go to sleep. Can you imagine what would happen if you decided to do this in the UK!? In Japan the teachers gently prod the student awake, maybe ruffle their hair a bit and move on. Queue student promptly falling straight back to sleep. WTF???
Way two generally involves the student becoming a 'Yanki': dyed hair, lack of uniform, no respect for rules. I am very lucky that the only Yanki kids my school has are really young and not fully fledged yet. I have heard from less-fortunate ALTs though, that their kids wander around the school, no uniform, doing whatever they want, occasionally stopping by the teachers lounge for a chat and a smoke. I don't think they're even particularly nasty, they just don't want to be there. By this point in the UK these kids would been excluded, maybe expelled and would probably be out harassing pensioners on the streets. The Japanese education system does not particularly do exclusion/expulsion for precisely these reasons. It's all about not making the children feel excluded and singled out so, although it's great for social harmony, it's not amazing for teachers. The Japanese Sensei is seen as 'the third parent' and with the amount of time the children spend in school you can see why.
Luckily, my schools are generally pretty lovely. A lot of this is down to some amazing teachers who can manage their classes without shouting or threats; the perfect teaching in my eyes. However, some classes just don't respond well to this and need a more strong-handed approach which some teachers just refuse to give. Again, in the UK this would end in anarchy but in Japan it just makes for fairly loud disinterest, The thing is, all it would take to remedy this is a routine, maybe a way of keeping the kids on their toes with random selection rather than skipping them out if they don't feel like answering. (This is just my naive opinion anyway.)
Going by UK standards, I'd singled out the kids I thought were going to be trouble makers in my classes but it hasn't been the case. The popular guys here who shave their heads and do kendo are all really loud but in a good way. Maybe they are being obnoxious in shouting out answers but at least they're the right answers! And so far my wannabe Yanki's have either sat there looking bored but not causing an issue, or tried really hard to give answers whilst still trying to look disinterested.
It's hard to give a proper opinion as I'm still just doing intro lessons so they're vaguely more stimulating than the kids are used to but so far no disasters! I have all first grade JHS tomorrow with a teacher who constantly tells me how scared she is of them...I am not excited!

On a different note, feeling a bit homesick.

A lot of interesting things are happening back in Leeds and I miss all my friends. I feel like I have to work so hard to keep friends here and be included. Don't get me wrong, I'm good at being on my own but not all the time. I don't want to feel like I'm making a nuisance of myself where I'm not wanted but sometimes I feel a bit like I'm forcing myself on other people's plans.
Maybe I'm over-thinking this and taking everything a bit personally. I'm still enjoying myself, I just don't really know where I fit yet......

Monday 10 September 2012

Okayama so far....

Ok, so I haven't updated this since I got to Japan....like a month ago!


The Flight - absolutely fine because I had Stef with me all the way. Plain sailing, apart from the very unhelpful and monumentally strange Lufthansa information people at Frankfurt airport.


Arrival - It was HOT!! And neither of us had had that much sleep. we were 'met (we had to find him) by a rep from Interac (who had just quit the company and clearly didn't actually care about us). Luckily, all the other prospective ALTs that turned up were lovely and we managed to find a bus to take us to Okayama (longest 4 hours of my life!).


Training - Helpful, although now that I'm on the job some of it was fairly redundant.
The first day was terrifying. The scariest person ever was training us; I very nearly gave up there and then! Luckily he 'niced' up (a bit) on the second day and, apart from having to deliver a pretend 25 minute lesson on the last day, training went pretty smoothly.
A lot of the things they told us haven't been particularly relevant to me but I suppose they have to cover their backs and at least training helped to prepare me mentally.


Okayama - Okayama is nice. It's not huge so it's a good substitute for Leeds. It has most of the things you could need - an arcade, BTSSB, AP, many other excellent shops, a castle, swan peddle boats, nice places to eat and plenty of places to drink. Our resident haunt is the Aussie Bar (of course). Most places here are tiny and some of them turn into mini clubs at about 11. There are some actual clubs but I have yet to check them out.
The river here is swimable and flows tight by Koraku-en Gardens which are beautiful.

Living - So after a week in a hotel with many new friends at my beck and call, the time came to move to our new apartments. They're not as small as I was expecting and slightly more modern than I was expecting. I'm happy with my tiny apartment. I'm not near enough to walk to anyone else but it's fairly easy to just get a train. I'll also hopefully get myself a bike soon too!


Schools - Very brief over-view for now.
Luckily, both of my schools are fine (so far). My JHS is terrifying but I haven't had a horrendous class yet. I introduce myself and then stand around and read what the JTE tells me to. My kids have actually starting saying hi to me now too.
Elementary school is amazing. The teachers are all lovely, speak a lot more English than I was expecting and help a lot with the lessons. The kids are adorable. Pretty much always up for games and none have been rebellious. Tbh, the teaching style here is completely different to the UK but it seems to work for them.


I'll do better posts at some point but there's an over-view of the past month.
Now I'm here, part of me feels like I should've been doing more with my free time but then I have to check myself. I've moved half way around the world to do a job I've never done before. That's pretty full on already. Who cares if I don't city-hop every weekend just yet? For me, this is already a huge step.
I'm glad that I have an English speaking cohort behind me, even if it is splitting up from what it was that first week (which makes me sad). I appreciate that friendship groups will form but I'm hoping it doesn't lead to cliques. I'm happy enough for now in my new life, and in time I'll find out who my true friends are within the group but for now I'm happy to take life as it comes. Eventually I will stop comparing myself to others. I am so proud of myself for doing this; anyone who knows me knows how hard I find it to be sociable and talk to new people. I have been out of my comfort zone so many times I've lost count but I'm surviving and I'm enjoying it.
Douzo yoroshiku onegaishimasu

Monday 6 August 2012

EEEEEPPPP!!!!!!!!


I LEAVE IN LESS THAN A WEEK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I'm so unprepared, and it doesn't help that I've only just been able to go apply for my visa. I won't actually get it until Thursday and I fly on Saturday!! WTF!? 
I've spent a couple of days with Stef who I'm travelling with and is also in Okayama with me and luckily we got on (from my pov anyway! :p). Her boyfriend is already out there and seems to be enjoying it, although he's a trained teacher so it's not quite as challenging for him.... ho hum. (I am currently very tired and emotional so maybe I won't dwell on this or I'll get myself in a right state again!)
Anyways, I have lots to do this week including lesson planning, last minute panic buying, laminating, packing and seeing all the people I haven't yet managed to see. It's manic!
 Luckily, last week was slightly calmer. Lots of friend-seeing and good times. Not being at work has given me full days off so I've just been using them to make the most of my time in the country. Possibly imbibing in a tad too much alcohol too... :s. But I've ended up with some amazing memories to take into my new life, although some have just been a bit of a mind-fuck!

Massively loving Bastille at the moment though. They're wonderfully melancholly. This song seems to hit some sort of chord with my current train of thought. 



But if anything is coming from this entire experience it's to grab life with both hands, and I'm really trying to. Not doing this would have been the biggest regret of my life, and I have a few other little things I don't want to regret before I go. I'm leaving the country, what better time to just go for things!?

Monday 23 July 2012

My First Cosplay!


Firstly, I'd just like to say that cosplaying is FUN!!
 I've always fancied it and with my imminent departure I figured Manchester MCM Expo would be my last chance in a while.
I chose Grell because, as I think I have made quite clear, I LOVE GRELL! (plus it seemed like a fairly easy start, even if I do have a degree in costume design.)


I was pretty happy with my final outcome. I made my waistcoat, coat and neck-tie from scratch and I was really happy that I managed to get the right fabrics (especially the stripes). I think the wig could do with being styled slightly more but tbh, I'm not a serious cosplayer so this will do for now.


I stole Michaela's scissors as I forgot mine!

I did get quite a lot of attention but it was really different to what you get when you're in loli. In Lolita, people take photos because you're exciting or exotic or prettty and it's purely aesthetic. Cosplayers get photographed by 'fans'. Literally, I had young girls 'fangirling' over me and I've never been asked for hugs from strangers so much in my life! It's so nice when people know who you are and compliment your outfit but after a while you do feel a pressure to become the character.
I don't have the right attitude to be Grell and my acting abilities don't quite cover it so maybe I'll work up to that but I would definitely cosplay again!




All photos courtesy of the wonderful Intrinsically Florrie







Monday 16 July 2012

One does not simply walk to Zombie School. Oh, wait.....

On  slightly happier, less TEFL note I attended Zombie School yesterday. SUCH FUN!!!!!!!!!

Has anyone else heard of the game 2.8 Hours Later? This involves running around a live city late at night trying to reach certain check points without being attacked by a horde of blood thirsty zombies. Sounds pretty epic yet amazingly terrifying at the same time!
I've never actually played but I was in Leeds City Centre one night last year when it was being played and man, did it look fun! So this year I applied to be a zombie and surprisingly I got an invite to Zombie School.

I don't want to wreck the fa├žade for people who are playing but safe to say that that zombies get fully trained!! I now know various zombie walking styles, how to turn corners, how to run whilst screaming and how to balance a lemon on a wooden spoon whilst zombi-ing! Most importantly however, ZOMBIES DO NOT RUN IN THE ROAD!!
I am massively excited for the actual event. I'll hopefully be doing the Thursday and Friday (and then off to a battle royale themed night out on Saturday - fake blood galore!) so it's going to be a tiring couple of days but worth it!

So if you're in Leeds City Centre on the 24th, 25th, 26th and 27th of July between 5-11.30, just be careful!