Monday, June 30, 2008

Japanese Pachinko vs Alice Springs Grog shop

Okay so when i would ride to school in Japan, i was always perplexed by the lines outside the Pachinko (gambling, like pokies) palour at 8am in the morning. A nice neat and straight line. It was amazing at that time of the morning. Perhaps it is my naive upbringing (with regards to gambling) in Alice Springs or maybe it is a Japanese thing. Anyway, i was always amazed.

Then the other day i was driving home on my lunch break which is about 1pm and i noticed that there were about 25 Indigenous Aussies standing outside Todd Tavern (Pub). I guess they were waiting for the grog shop to open. Now, I was in Japan when the intervention began and so i haven't seen many of the changes that have been made in and around Alice Springs. I thought as I drove past how it reminded me about the Japanese lining up for the Pachinko palours. I was shocked to see both these Japanese people and these Australian waiting so early for these two places to open. And i realised that I was reacting to something that one year ago would not have been a big deal. It is amazing what one year in another country can do to your perspective. And i guess that is the point of this post. That life as i knew it is not there anymore and i am different and so is Alice Springs. I look forward to many more experiences that makes me think like this.

Reverse culture shock

So here i am back in Alice Springs. The centre of Australia. A desert town with only 27,000 people. Only one cinema, two supermarkets, K-mart and Target on its way. When i left Japan i knew that i would miss having everything so close to me. Let's face it, I was 40 mins from Tokyo and only a short bike ride from two huge shopping malls. So i thought that i would have some adjustment problems. But all i really miss is Krispy Kream (spelling) donuts and my bike.

There have been a few times since i got back that can be classed as reverse culture shock. I was driving home from a mate's place at 10pm on a saturday night and the town was deserted. It was amazing. I remember thinking that it was strange that there was no one around and realised that i had grown used to the busy life that is Japan, and especially Tokyo. As i thought about it i realised that when i take the last train home on a saturday night in Saitama or Tokyo, that some people are only just going home from work. And i thought to myself that this must be what they meant about reverse culture shock. It was quite a strange feeling.

Another example of my re-adjustment included arriving home on saturday the 7th of June and then going to work at Alice Springs High School on the Tuesday. I had a blast working there but the first day they put me in the Indigenious Transition Unit. Which is for Aboriginal students who aren't quite ready for mainstream. This could be because of literacy, numeracy, behaviour or emotional probs. Anyway, it is a high energy and very emotional space. All day I felt like i had been hit over the head. I was in shock and i think it must have shown on my face. It is a team teaching classroom so the other teachers kept asking if i was okay. It was crazy, the back chatting and the way that the kids treated me - lack of respect i mean. I couldnt get them to sit down and work and they just bounced off the walls. That said i think part of my shock was just that i had been in a Japanese senior high school for one year. Where students sit quietly and work. I may never know. But it was definately a baptism of fire. I enjoyed it but felt very drained at the end.

Last day in Japan

Last day at my school in Japan

My last day at school in Japan was a good one. I was kinda cranky at first though cause two days before Gomi sensei ordered me to write a speak and give it in the teacher's morning meeting. She could have at least asked but that is not her way. Anyway, i wrote it and then my friend Kim and also a teacher from school checked it for me. So my day started with me standing at the front of the room where the principal directed me while everyone looked at me. I stood till someone felt sorry for me and pulled a seat over for me. So then i gave my speech and headed off to do my normal routine at work - which is nothing....thats right nothing at all usually. I did get some really nice presents that day though. I got a pink scarf from some of the English teachers, dont know who cause there was no card. And Kim sensei said that she had chosen it and was disappointed that Moriya sensei didnt give it to me in front of all the staff. Very strange country and school. Kim sensei understands me very well because she had lived in America and Britain. So it was nice for the last part of my time in Japan to have someone to help me. Then the prinicipal asked me to come down to see him. Actually, he sent someone up to get me and take me down. So he gave me this beautiful tea cup as a thankyou. It was so beautiful. And it was very nice of him to do that.

The last thing i did for the day was attend Kim Sensei's class for the year 12s. It was an extra class and i wish i had more chances to participate in these sorts of classes throughout the year. We played games and one student gave me a farewell card and another gave me a farewell shell from Okinawa. It was the perfect way to end my last day at school.

Then Kim sensei and i went home. And it just happened that the prinicipal and vp were standing at the door when i was leaving so we had a photo taken and then they stood and waved and watched me leave. Except that it was raining so Kim went to get the car and so they were standing there for ages and eventually just left. I dont think they knew what to do with themselves. We couldn't keep bowing forever and it did seem like forever.

My last night in Japan

Last book club

My final book club was amazing just cause of all the books that people brought have a look.

Japanese way of walking to school - like ducks in a row

When i am riding to school, i often see the elementary school students walking to school. And i am always amazed at how much like ducks they look. There is always one older student who walks at the front with a flag and then the rest just follow. It is like a mother duck with her babies following. So cute. So before i left i had to get a photo of it. So here it is...............these are in the danchi.

Kim Henne Craziness

My farewell at the George and the Hub

Because i was leaving early, i thought it was a good idea to have a farewell so that i could say bye to as many people as possible. So it was meant to be at the King George Pub but we first ended up at the Hub. Then headed to the George later. It was a really nice evening and one that i thought the photos could speak for.

Dinner with Kim Sensei's family

Final day of the Sumo

Cutting ones finger nails on the train - YUCK

Okay so i think i said this on facebook as well. Why is it okay to cut your finger nails on the train but not talk on your mobile phone. I just dont understand. So here is the story. I was standing on the train and this lady was standing next to me. She turned towards the wall as the Japanese tend to do. I guess cause staring at the wall is more fun than people watching. Anyway, then she got out her nail clippers and started cutting her finger nails. This was not the first time i had seen this. A teenage boy had sat next to me and done it and i watched a mum cut her little girl's finger nails. But both of those times, they took the nails with them. This GROSS lady just left them on the floor. I wanted to vomit and it still makes my skin crawl. I took some photos and i think she was onto me because she turned away at one point. But i got them and here they are.

Saizeriya with Amy - true Japanese experience

Okay so you haven't had the real Japanese experience till you have eaten at Saizeriya. I thought that i hadn't been there before so Amy and i agreed it was a must before i left the country. So i took the train to her station - musashi urawa and we headed off to educate me on the ways of Saizeriya. It is an Italian resturant that Amy and Shane love cause the wine in cheap and the food is not too bad. Turns out i did got to Saizeriya with my Gramps and some family friends but all good. I got to go again. So we ordered up a feast and Amy started to get drunk on the $2.00 wine. Yeah i dont know if it is that cheap but it is cheap and she says it tastes okay so there you have it. Then Chris joined us and we had a good old laugh. Def one place to visit if you go to Japan. Tasty, CHEAP and good fun for all.

Omiya Koen with Keiko

So one of the things i really wanted to do before i left was to go to Omiya Park and see this really pretty red bridge and its reflection on the water. So a family friend of ours took me to see it as a farewell. And it was beautiful. We also had yakiniku for lunch or korean bbq. And I got to do some Japanese crafts and learn a Japanese kids game. It was a good day.

Visiting my Japanese parents

I wanted to go and see my host parents from 2006 one more time before i left Japan. So i headed off early in the day and took three trains to get to Tsurugashima. Now the most important thing about this day was not just seeing my Japanese parents but also that i would have to speak Japanese all day. Mama san speaks a few words of English but Papa san speaks none. So we went in the car to the Saitama Craft Centre. They had taken me there when i visited them in 2006 and i really wanted to go again before i left to go home. I really wanted to make some more Japanese paper. It is done in the traditional way of scooping the fragments of the paper and flattening them out by shaking the tray. Then you can decorate them with flowers. So pretty once they are dried. It was awesome.

First we went and had some lunch at a noodle place. They had soba and i had udon. It was very much like last time. There was tempura with it and the biggest serve of noodles ever. It was a nice last Japanese meal for me.

Then it was into the craft centre. I think i will let the photos of my work speak for themselves. I had a really good time though.

While we were in there, a school group were on an excursion so they all stared at me of course and then listened intently when i spoke Japanese to my parents. I dont know if they were amazed that i could do it or that my Japanese was so bad that they were just listening to try and understand me. Anyway, they came and watched me decorate my paper and one girl even did one of my postcards for me. They were so cute and just loved watching me. The joys of being a gaijin (foreigner) in Japan.

Then we headed home for some nice relaxing time. We had afternoon tea and i had the most awesome homemade strawberry ice cream. Mama san makes the best food, we had grapefruit jelly that was set in the grapefruit skin. Who knows how she did that. And then the presents came out. I gave them some more stuff from Australia and in true Japanese style they gave me some things too. It was very fun!!!!!!! Papa san also wanted to buy me some things at the craft centre so i picked a few cheaper things because i didnt want them to spend too much money but they just kept sending me back for more. I think he ended up spending like $80 on me. So once it arrives in the post at home i will be able to send them a photo of it in my house.

Then because i said that i love Yakiniku, they took me out for dinner. I was going to miss Korean bbq when i went home and was glad to eat it again in 12 hours. Once with Keiko in Omiya and now with my host parents. I tried to offer to pay some money but Papa san said no cause he is my dad. How sweet is that. I was really sad the leave them but hopefully i will get to go back and see them soon.

Trying on the Ichiritsu school uniform

A couple year 12 students that i befriended in the first half of my year in Japan, came over for dinner and brought with them a surprise for me.

It was awesome. I said that i wanted to try on the school uniform so they brought their old uniforms with them. They graduated in April so the uniforms had become what is known as 'cos play' or dress up clothes. So here are the photos of me being a Japanese school girl.

Kanamara Festival (Fertility Festival)






So i knew that my time in Japan was coming to an end and i still hadnt seen any sumo. So i booked a tour with Hato Bus and off i went. It was awesome. I didnt really think that i would like it but the atmosphere was awesome. And after that i always watched it on TV.

First, we took the train to the sumo arena and then we went into the museum. Which was tiny compared to how i thought it would be. It said that you could go in for free and no wonder cause it was tiny. I would be pissed if i had to pay to go in there. Then we went to find our seats which took awhile cause our guide was abit strange and not really all there i think. He was very scatterbrain and we even had to wait for him at the gate cause he couldnt find his tour guide pass. Stupid!!!!!!!!!!!

While we waited for him, we took photos at the huge murals on the outside of the building. Once in our seats we watched some of the newer sumo. Then came the entering the ring ceremony. There is a defensive and an offensive side and they enter the ring at different times. And each has a different signature pose or movement that four of them do. It was very interesting.

Then began the real bouts. The ones that end in one sumo becoming the grandmaster. The atmosphere was amazing and i loved every minute of it. And after the last fight the people sitting right near the ring threw their zabuton up in the air it was so fun.

Then i waited outside the gates for the sumo to leave. I waited and waited and finally got to see some of them leave. The most famous one was Ama, who is the last one to leave so that was pretty cool. The girls went crazy for him. He has a pimply face and is not very attractive at all but there you have it. I will put a photo on here of him.

Then i headed home. I think the most amazing thing for me was that i actually loved a wrestling sport. I am so glad that i made the effort to go. I would love to see it on TV here.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Engrish anyone????

So i was marking some 1st year (grade 10) exams the other day and i found some amazing new ways to spell some English words. I thought i would share them with you.

Apologised became acorozied
Sold became salled (not bad)
Persuaded became parseaded

I can only imagine what my Japanese must look like to a native speaker.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Waiting around in the school gym

So in Japan, each employer and school provides a health check each year. This includes weight and height checks, x-ray and a range of other check ups. It is a good idea i think. But on the otherhand, they arent given immunisations at schools here. So they have to get them from the doctor. I think a happy medium would be having both in Australia schools.
I helped out by checking weights. It was amazing how heavy some of them are and how light others were. THere were girls who are in grade 11 who were 80kgs and others who were 32kgs. The girls were so proud if they lost weight and not so happy when they didnt. I was abit worried that it made them focus too much on weight and if this were part of school life in Australia, that we would have more problems with eating disorders.

The things i see when i am riding to school and my meetings

This is the bridge that i have to ride up each time i go to MH for a meeting with my supervisor. It may not look so steep but it is when you are riding a bike with no gears.
Elvis had an apartment in JAPAN?????
Talk about fitting houses wherever they can. These houses have driveways that stretch across the river.

Love Hotels - a Japanese original

Love Hotels are the another wonderful cultural adventure in Japan. Because so many young people live with their parents till they get married, these hotels have sprung up everywhere. Many of the websites that i have looked at also say they are used for men who want to meet their mistresses. Because the divorce rate is low here and Japanese just suffer through bad marriage (this is what one website said), these hotels are very useful.

Love hotels are also famous for their themed rooms. One of them has a playboy theme and others have hello kitty theme or knights theme. U name it, you can probably find it.

I love this one. It says HOTEL A MAN. HAVE A GOOD you get it?

Many of the love hotels are in the shape of European castles.

I love this one too. A castle with a sign that says HOTEL FOCUS!!!!! That's right, FOCUS on what you are doing.

The Japanese love ceremonies........

There are ceremonies for everything here in Japan. At the start of each of the three terms, there is an opening ceremony and then at the end there is a closing ceremony. They are actually really boring but are a part of the culture so we all do it. These photos are from the closing ceremony in March.

I actually find the students to be abit rude in these ceremonies. Often they talk while the person on the stage is talking. And usually the teachers do nothing about this. The students at my school in Australia would never get away with that.

Unlike in western school, the students face the person presenting them with the award. And not just when they are being handed to them. They stand there while the award is being announced. It is very different to my school in Australia.
Such a learning curve!!!!!!!!!!

Random school stuff

The front school gate that was locked after the principal was arrested

The shoe lockers. The students wear black formal shoes to school and then change them over to tennis shoes when they arrive at school. Here is where they switch them.

Some of the student's cleaning stuff. They clean each afternoon

These are to organise classes. They dont use computers like we do. It was quite strange. Each teacher gets a ring of these with their class names on there. And then the department uses them to work out the class schedule.

Craziness of Harajuku

These kids come to Harajuku to express break out of the chains of looking like everyone else and having to conform.

Random Festival that was going on near the station when i arrived. You should have seen the dancing horse. I actually felt sorry for it. And those old ladies that were dancing.... you should have seen the sexy hip moves and the bunny hops. It was so strange.

Kawaguchi Ichiritsu Brass Band performs at Kawaguchi Station

Yeah, with the Saitama mascot. The little kid was so afraid of him.
Warming up
Some more of my students
They were awesome

So the Brass Band from my school were asked to perform at the first promotion of the this huge sports festival that is happening in Saitama in August. And so i went along to support them.

Please do it at home.........

What was your first thought??? I thought immediatly of the sexy thing that you
should do only at home in private.......but it is talking about putting makeup on while on the train. I guess people have poked their eyes out or something. Seems abit strange to me.......

Fishing metropolitan style

I guess you just rent a place in here and then you can fish to your hearts content. This was right across from a train station in Tokyo.

Perfect English..........hmmmmmmmmmm

After a blow up with my teachers over me leaving early, which included cancelling my classes for the whole month that i had left in Japan, this is the sign one of them put on the computers. I spent the whole day on there doing emails etc. And they didnt like it. Even though that was what the principal told me to do because i didnt have anything else to do cause classes cancelled. I think it is meant to mean Dont use it for personal reasons if someone wants to use it for test making. But who really knows. And i actually think it is abit rude. Why couldnt they just talk to me about it.......rather than post a stupid sign that makes no sense.

Aussie fun in a 3rd year class at school (year 12)

TV screen in the car

So one of my teachers came to pick me up in May when we had a typhoon and the train system had stopped. And while we drove to school we watched TV and when she reversed the screen showed the view behind the car. It was really cool!!!!!!! I have never seen this in Aussie cars.....

Its amazing what pollution does to a sunset.....


Taken from 10th floor of my building in May. Very beautiful!