Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Halloween in Japan

This country doesn't really celebrate Halloween. There might be a couple decorations here and there but it isn't anything like the US. I was able to bring a little Halloween spirit to my kids thru classes and costumes throughout the week. My costume run down is as follows...

Monday- Black cat
Tuesday- Baby Minnie Mouse
Wednesday and Thursday I had observations so I didn't think it would be a good idea for the boss.
Friday- Real Minnie Mouse

Friday morning there was an observation as another AETs school, Heather Worsham. They involve the community in that kids get to walk up and down a street "trick-or-treating" to the shop keepers for stamps as well as roaming AETs for stickers. They have the English conversation which sounds like this...

Student- Trick-or-treat
AET- Who are you?
Student- I'm a witch/pumpkin/black cat (these were the main three) but others include Death and a Samarii.
Sticker please.
AET- Here you are. Happy Halloween!

The kids really enjoyed it and I loved it! I felt like I was Minnie Mouse at Disneyland because I had a line of kids for most of the hour lined up waiting to talk to me as well as parents and random shoppers stopping me for pictures. It was so much fun! Plus the kids were able to practice their English with many foreigners which is great exposure.

After the observation I got to head back to my school and pass out candy to all my kids during lunch time. Normal Japanese schools frown upon giving candy or food of any kind (besides lunch) to the kids but my school is awesome so I handed out 333 dum dums to kids and teachers! It was so much to share the US tradition of Halloween to kids in Japan!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The BIG decision...

Every November all the AETs have to decide if they want to sign up for another year or return home in April. This decision has been weighing on me SINCE I got here basically and its good to have it finally decided. I have decided to RETURN to the States after this one year. It was a really tough decision and one that didn't go without much prayer, tears and talking it over with just about everyone and their dog.

I am at peace with my decision. God has provided that for me. There are days that I wonder if I made the right decision but I am learning to trust God and allow Him to work in my life. I plan on returning home for a while until I move to Edmond for the time being. I am looking into taking the pre reqs for PT or PTA school. I haven't decided which yet. I am excited about the road that God has put in front of me and I hope that you all will keep me in your prayers as I finish out a great year in Japan and adjust back to American life. Thanks so much for your support!

Happy Birthday to me!

My friends were gracious enough to plan my birthday for me which was great but also decided it would be a surprise. That didn't really work out that well because they asked one of my Japanese teachers to come along and forgot to tell him it was a surprise so he told me prematurally but thats ok because they requested I be ready at 6:30am and for those that know me...I'm not quite a morning person so it was good I knew.

So my schedule for the day...
6:30am- Picked up by Port and Cole
7:15- Finally leaving Mito City
11:00- Arrive at DISNEY SEA! So what was suppose to take an hour and a half took almost 4 hours because of traffic. It was not such a good start to my birthday!

I had been to Disney Sea once before when on Pac Rim with my host family but visiting again w/ the friends I had made here was a good day. Obviously when I do these things, the highlights of my day is the food that I get to eat so...

  • I started with Mexican food for lunch which wasn't that good.
  • We then got to ride the little tea cups in Ariels Underground Cove. (Disney does an AMAZING job at creating the environment and makes it the "happiest place on earth!"
  • I was told to have a "gouza dog" while I was there so I had that for dinner. It was different and ok but nothing exciting really.
  • Throughout the night, we hunted down every popcorn stand in the place to try the different flavors. They had milk tea (decent), black pepper (really good and normal tasting), chocolate (fine), curry (didn't try it but fittingly in the Arabian Nights section, and carmel (favorite and hardest to find!)
  • We were able to watch several random shows through the day and catch a couple rides. Because we arrived later in the day we weren't able to get out "fast passes" for all the rides. (I was really fine with it really though.)
We didn't arrive home until after 1am but it was a great birthday. I enjoyed being outside all day. Thanks God for good weather!
This is my second birthday celebrated in Japan and it was another good one!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Today I was playing around with one of my kids and swatted a name tag from his hand and it magically poked a girl in the eye! She cried and the boy blamed it on me...it was really funny!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

She's stuck and crying really loud...

A girl on the playground yesterday got stuck on the jungle gym thing. Now the thing wasn't set up very well because its either climb down on these ladder sets that aren't very easy or walk across either set of monkey bars. Now I realize that she would have had to do one of these to get where she was but there was no discussing that once she was scared out of her mind.

I was the first to "arrive on scene" with her crying her eyes out. I climbed up in my dress (bad decision obviously) and tried to just climb her down. She wouldn't have it. Then my head English teacher,who is also this girls teacher, comes out and tries to talk her down from the ground. I am up there sitting next to her at this point. Then my VP comes out and just watches. Obviously its hard for me to comfort and reassure her because I can't speak Japanese. I was really frustrated but she was scared out of her mind. Yamazaki sensei brings out a ladder and my VP climbs up but she won't let go of the pole she has a hold of. It takes all 3 of us reassuring and prying hands away to get her to come down. Whats funny is that she probably finally came down the most unsafe way possible. I was holding her top half from the top and Yamazaki sensei and my VP had a hold of her feet trying to place them on each ladder rung. It was awful but also really funny at the same time. Poor girl.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The big event!

This starts the blog of my best day so far in Japan!

There is no way to explain the excitement that this event contains for my kids. There is so much preparation that you can't help to excited whether you really are or just want it to be over. My day was suppose to start off at 6:30am to get ready and have a good breakfast to be at school at 7 but that didn't happen. I woke up at 6:52 with no alarm and rushed out the door to arrive at 7:15. My VP gave me a hard time about it but it was fine. I was placed on the set up crew for each event. The beautiful of this Japanese culture is that they allow the children to do everything. So of course they had practiced each events set up several times and so the teachers really had nothing to do. Not that I could actually do anything because I didn't understand what needed to be done. I was the best cheerleader ever today!

My friend Emily came to watch a little and cheer me on, not that I did anything. I cheered as relays and races took place and I watched and cheered as every grade did their dances. As it turns out, I got to learn most of everyones dances because I had so much free time in the weeks before this. I want to be able to explain every event to you in detail but I realize thats boring so I'll let the pictures and videos do the talking.

They will pass this ball all the way around the field. One ball for each team (red and white). It's really funny to watch the first graders get it, they get killed.

Apart of the 5th and 6th grade dance, they also do mounting. 3 tiers is the highest they go but its pretty impressive.

Some of the best 5th graders ever! We have secret handshakes!

I got to help with a couple of the games. This game is called "What color do you like?" and I picked the color that got to bypass the obstacles.

She's the sweetest ever!

Even these pictures don't do it justice so I tried to take some videos to show you exactly how it was.

1st video is of 1st graders playing a game. They are shaking pom poms from their shorts. It was something I hadn't seen before so it was really cute.
2nd video was me getting prepared for my one and only duty of the day.

This is the 5th and 6th grade dance. The sun was at a bad angle but I thought maybe Gamma could use some of these moves for Spring Sing next year. There is no way to get you to fully portray this day. There was so much going on, most of which I had no idea about, that I could only get so much on video without looking like a tourist. One more video. This one is of me dancing the Japanese traditional dance that all the kids learned in the gym one day. Everyone was quite surprised that the foreigner could do it.

This day made me love Japan even more. It got me closer to my kids and my teachers. Afterwards, the teachers always have a party to celebrate Undokai being over so I got to be apart of that. All of these things are helping me bond and get to know me teachers so much better which is helpful when I teach with them every week. So far this was my favorite cultural experience and I'm not sure another can contest with it but we'll have to wait and see. Let me leave you with the 1st and 2nd grade dance. Its a long video and the same thing over and over but I love it. Love you all!!

All pictures and videos needed to be removed. Sorry!

I'm a firewoman!

I wasn't able to help with much for Undokai because honestly, its easier for the teachers to do it themselves then it is to explain it to me. The language barrier has never been so frustrating because I know there are things to do and I have no classes so I have nothing to do but I don't know what to do. The one job they did give me was to water the field. It was sooo hot the first week of practice and the field was so dry. With all the marching and running around they do on it everyday it needed a little moisture to keep the dust down. Well that is a pretty brainless job so they gave it to me.

On Monday of Undokai week, they decided to up the stakes. They pulled out the fire hose and got the whole field in one swoop. Those things are sooo powerful! The youngest teacher, Yuya, and I took turns as we were both getting soaked by the wind spray. I was looking forward to using that for the rest of the week to make things easier but turns out that this fire hose doesn't seal very well and tends to leak all the way down the hallway. This is fine if there is actually a fire-the more water the better but when you are only doing something like watering the dirt...its not so good. So it was discontinued just as the fun was being started but that one day I was quite the firewoman!

Kawawada Army...

Undokai is a big deal here. It translates as sports festival and they are quite serious about it. Ours was on September 11 and so the first 2 weeks of school consisted of cancelled classes and practicing marching, events, dances and more. I've never seen so much preparation done for a one day event. I was having fun NOT teaching class and watching the kids being tortured out in the sun, day in and day out. The first day of practice, the teachers had the kids outside practicing the opening ceremonies in which the kids have to march for quite a long time. To prepare for this, the kids marched out on the dusty field for almost an hour. My VP asked me to watch for white faces and fatigue and boy did we find that. We had kids left and right coming over holding their stomachs, white as a sheet. It was quite funny actually. Some were faking, of course, but others definitely were sick. We even had one throw up on his way to the nurse's office. As they started their like 12th time marching to the same song, my VP leans over to me and says, "Welcome to the Kawawada Army!" and thats exactly what it reminded me of.

Student teacher

Why are earth would anyone consider sending me a student teacher? I was never trained to be a teacher nor do I have any idea what I'm doing. But right after summer break my Vice Principal told me to expect a student teacher from Ibaraki University for a couple days out of the month of September. What he also told me turned out to be quite funny. He said since me and this student teacher were the same age that he HAS to have a pretty face. He had never met this student teacher but since he is in college it was assumed. The first time I met Yuma he just came in for a meeting to make a schedule for when he would come in. I started laughing to myself because I assumed that my VP had actually seen Yuma and telling me he had a cute face. Yuma is the first person I have seen with severe acne. He's not bad looking but not quite my type. What was funny was when Yuma left my VP, my principal, my head English teacher and I all walked him out to the lobby. After he had walked out the door my VP turns to me and says, "Sorry, no pretty face!"

So now it turns out Yuma will be with me for the WHOLE month of September. I would rather not have a student teacher only because I change things up from class to class that someone that is there with me all the time can see the changes and mistakes I make. He also speaks Japanese and so for the 4 days that he has been there...he knows more about the drama and works of that school than I do after being there 5 months!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Coming soon....

Soooo much to write but this week is super crazy with my sports festival on Saturday. A typhoon is coming in today which has cooled things down but hopefully it will have past before Saturday. Some great stories coming your way soon!!!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Summer vacation to Korea

For summer vacation, Emily and Luke Martin and myself took 2 weeks to go to South Korea. It was as warm as it is here and a bit similar but in many ways very different. We concluded that Korea is a mix of China and Japan along with their own little twist. It was quite interesting. We were able to visit palaces and markets in our first week in Seoul. We also watched the Korean soccer team practice as well as visited North Korea on a tour. There was just enough relaxing mixed with exploration. We had Korean food as well as all the Western food we could find. Korea is more exposed to the western culture which is why we were able to eat Outback, On the Boarder and Taco Bell. Most Korean food is quite spicy and cooked in front on you on a grill like a barbeque. We were able to meet up with Emilys friend one night who father is stationed in Seoul as well as a Korean friend that I know. Those were helpful interactions in that it gave us a better feel of what life in Korea was actually like.

Next we went to Jeju Island. They call it the Korean Hawaii and I can see why. It was a beautiful island. I flew in by myself because Emily and Lukes flight was full so I went a day early. It was sunny and hot when I got there and I was looking forward to several days on the beach. I explored close to my hostel which included walking around another small island close by. It was beautiful. They arrived the next morning and we went straight to the beach. I was thankful we did because after that a HUGE typhoon rolled in and we didn’t see the sun again until the day we left. We were able to keep ourselves busy with exploring lava tubes and waterfalls despite the wind and rain. All in all the vacation was a success. I was able to experience another culture but also relax a little bit after a long semester with my kids. I am looking towards this semester hoping that it will be as good if not better than the last.

Teachers trip

Quite some time ago I was asked by my teachers if I would like to go on their teachers trip with them. I had heard about others getting a chance to go on theirs and I didn:t want to miss out on mine so I said yes before they could even tell me what it was. It ended up being a bus tour to Nasu. Now I wasn:t really sure where Nasu was nor was I sure that I knew what we would do there but I wanted a chance to get to know my teachers outside the classroom and here it was.
Sunday morning, we all arrived at school about the same time that school would actually start. The first shock of the day was that everyone was in normal clothes. Of course, Japanese fashion allowed the women to look similar to school clothes but it started the day off right because everyone was more relaxed. My favorite was the youngest teacher I teach with, he just finished college so we are the same age. I had always seen him in suits or sports clothes and never pictured him in street clothes but he surprised me with him trendy outfit.

So we get on this big tour bus and somehow I get shoved in the back with all the men. My vice principal, who speaks the most English, a 5th grade teacher and this young teacher…all of us in the back. It ended up being really fun but at first I was skeptical, these men ended up being my buddies for the day. We played Bingo on the drive which was good because that’s something I could do. It lightened the mood and allowed me to relax. We stopped at a dessert shop, what looked like a European church and then the Cheesecake factory. Japanese cheesecake is not the same as American I come to find out which was a bit disappointing but still good. Lastly, we went to an outlet mall for a couple of hours. The best part of the day was that these men really did follow me around. Yuya, my youngest teacher, didn’t leave my side. It was quite funny since we can hardly communicate. He can understand more English but harder to speak it. It was an interesting day but so beneficial to really get to know these teachers and what they are like outside the classroom.

Taco making...

I wanted to do something nice for my teachers for being so sweet to me so I decided I would make them tacos. I had my mom send over taco seasoning and I set the date. It was diffifult to explain that I wanted to make them food but eventually they got the picture. Tortillas are difficult to get here because they are so expensive so Emily and I went to town learning how to make them ourselves. On our second try we dominated them and so made several for my upcoming dinner date with all my teachers. I cooked the meat in the little kitchen near the teachers room and cut up all the toppings. Throughout the process, teachers poked their head in to see how and what I was doing. I brought everything out for them and explained how to make them. I watched as they all went thru the line and loaded up their tacos. They were thrilled. They all seemed to love them and even if they didnt I would never know because Japanese culture is to fake it. It was a fun little experiment to show them my graditude for being so kind to me as I fumbled through my first semester as an English teacher.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Japanese Summer Vacation

Starting this week, the schools here in Japan are on summer vacation. The vacation lasts from the end of July to the end of August. Not only is the time shortened in Japan but the role of the teachers are different as well. The teachers don’t really get a summer vacation. If they want one then they have to take off. We all come to school everyday even though the kids don’t have to. The Japanese culture is to be or look busy so that you look like you are a good worker, EVEN if you have NOTHING to do! That is me. I have nothing to do because the AET before me left great lesson plans and there are only so many decorations I can make. There is only AC in the teachers room and outside this room its about 90 degrees everywhere else in the school so needless to say, everyone spends most of their time in the teachers room. The problem with that is you must look busy and well I have nothing to do and I’m not good at doodling and I’m not a writer of any kind so I’m out of luck. There is some socializing while in the teachers room but the problem with that is I can’t speak Japanese so not many people talk to me and if they do then its just quick little things. Its tougher then it sounds. Going a whole day not having one real conversation with a person while you are surrounded by people all day is depressing. It has only been a week of summer vacation and I can hardly stand it.

Luckily, next week we have summer training with all the AETs. The two weeks following training an AET couple (Luke and Emily Martin) and I are going to South Korea! It will be the vacation we need! I am pretty excited! Sometimes I think I’m being dramatic about dealing with my situation but sometimes it just wears on you. Things will get better with a vacation. They always do!

Monday, July 5, 2010


....just in case you want to send me something! :)

Chelsea Baker
Matsuyama Haitsu B-102
3-144-5 Migawa
Mito, Japan 310-0912

Love and miss you all!!!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Rainbow Trout!

Yesterday was quite the Japanese cultural experience! 2 of my Japanese friends, Erisa and Hitomi, asked me to go fishing with them in the town close by and me being quite the fishermen decided it would be a good chance to show them my skills! So despite the fact I was low on sleep I got up and met them.

What I didn't realize is that fishing at this festival is not quite the fishing I'm used to. When we showed up, all the kids were in swim suits and everyone had nets and bags looking at a shallow pool of water. From what I gathered, we were expected to wade into this pool of water that had been stocked with TONS of HUGE rainbow trout! So Hitomi and I wading out in our chacos ready to try to catch fish with our HANDS!!! Now here's the problem, the water is cloudy, you can't see the fish but they are brushing up against your legs. I couldn't handle it. I was always the kid that hated swimming in the lake because there was a possibility that a fish might brush my leg and here I was in knee deep water stocked with TONS of fish! We did a lot of screaming as the fish taunted us by swimming by us.

I wish that I could explain to you the amount of people that were here to fish with their hands and how skilled they were at it. These fish were soooo big and sooo fast but some people were excellent at catching them!! Allen Thompson, another AET, came along and he made the trip. He went all out and ended up sitting in the water and waiting for the fish which was the common thing to do. We never ended up catching even one but walked away with about 12 fish. It's funny how we acquired them, all thanks to Allen...

1 fish from an old man with a net catching them right and left gave one to Allen. I think he felt back for the foreigner that couldn't catch any but was trying sooo hard.
1 fish from the people who ran the event. After most of the fish were caught they used a net to catch the rest of them and handed them out to the kids. Of course Allen got in that line as well.
2 HUGE ones and 4 small ones were given to Allen by a family with a cooler full of them. He was trying to give our 2 fish away because we decided we weren't going to eat them and they ended up giving us some of theirs. It was a very confusing exchange even with a translator.
4 more were given to Allen after he went BACK to get his other shorts that he shed after getting soaked. Some people wanted to interview the foreigner on why he was there and where he was from so they gave him more fish as a thanks. We ended up with more fish that we could eat!

We decided to go back to Erisa's house and try to cook them so after passing some of the out to people we saw in the next hour we went and fried/grilled/boiled the fish. We had so much food that we had to invite more AETs to come join us for the feast! It was an amazing day and the best part was the whole day was FREE!!!

Koke's a monkey!

This is a little boy that is super crazy and tends to wonder around school a lot. He ends up in my English room a lot of times and will do things like this!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The beauty of a routine

I remember mom always getting so upset when our routine got messed up when I was a kid and I never understood why. Watching as I have grown up, babysat and experienced for myself the beauty of a routine is irreplaceable. As I look back at these last 3 months of being in Japan I realize that is what made me so upset those first few weeks. I didn't have a routine nor did I know what it should look like. Now after 3 months, I have a routine and it keeps me pretty darn busy!

School obviously dominates a lot of my time but Tuesdays I go to Japanese class at the church. Wednesday is church again and then Thursday I play volleyball at my school gym with some foreigners but mostly Japanese. It is quite interesting playing with a majority speaking a different language but they are all great and so much fun.

Weekends vary from week to week but normally Saturday goes too fast and on Sunday church eats up most of the day. Needless to say the weeks have been flying by and I have enjoyed it. There is something to say about a routine!

Thursday, June 10, 2010


The onsen is part of the Japanese culture that is also on my list of things that would probably not work in the states but I have come to love it. It was quite an odd experience at first but now I have embraced it for what it is! For those of you that don't know what an onsen is, it is a public bath. Normally separated into the 2 sexes, you are able to relax in pools of different tempatures, some with bubbles, some scented and some extremely cold! Some of these places are even perched up on a hill overlooking the ocean. The kicker for most people is that in these public bathes, everyone is completely naked. Now before you completely nix the idea, let me explain how great it is.

Let me just tell you, it is extremely awkward to walk into the locker room seeing many Japanese women in varies stages of clothing. It's hard not to turn right around and walk straight out of the building. Understanding that this is a cultural experience is the only thing that keeps me there. No matter how awkward this might seem to us Americans, the Japanese find it quite relaxing and once you can get over the nakedness it really is! Being able to move from one pool to the next of different temperatures is like having several hot tubs at your finger tips. If you like bubbles, you are welcome to find that pool. If you like the sauna, there is one of those too. There is also what is called a salt room. So many options to enjoy.

Something that I have concluded after accepting and finally loving the onsen is that everyone has something they don't like about their bodies. God made us all quite different and thats OK! If we are able to be comfortable in our skin then I think that our self-confidence would skyrocket. Especially in America, we are so focused on how we look and what we wear that we forget that those people we want to be like are just people too and they also have imperfections. The onsen is quite the experience but I would love to share the experience with several in the States. My first victim is Mary when she comes to visit me in November. I've already given her the heads up and am excited to see how she likes it.

Monday, May 31, 2010

A revelation...

As I was reading today I came across Revelation 7. It begins with the 144,000 that are sealed before the world is destroyed but then it starts to talk about the multitude in white robes. As I continued reading I stubbled on what is now something that I'm really looking forward to and something that is going to help me continue on this mission I'm on. Revelation 7:9 says "After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count,
from every NATION, TRIBE, PEOPLE and LANGUAGE, standing before the throne.
Then a few verses down it explains what they are saying.

"Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb."

Then on down along with the angels...
Praise and glory
and wisdom and thanks and honor
and power and strength
be to our God for ever and ever.

Not only do these verses remind me of the song "Salvation Belongs to our God" but also how great worship can be. We can be singing the words of the Bible and not even know. I had no idea that the words to that song are word for word the Word of God. It is so exciting to me. The biggest thing that hit me though is the fact that he felt it important to write that every tribe and nation will be there. Every language will be represented. Being in a country where speaking the language is a struggle for me everyday...this is exciting! Exciting to know that I will be able to see all of these people that I meet here whether I see them again in this life or not. Not only will there be my family and Americans but every Nation!!! This shows me exactly what my mission is. I've always known it but sometimes I forget...to show these people that I come into contact with how great it will be to be apart of the multitude. And when that day comes...I'll be able to understand them. Just a little excitement I thought I'd share with you.

Here's the link to the song I was talking about if you've never heard it. Enjoy!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Things that would never work in the US!

There are so many things in the Japanese culture that when compared to the US are quite different. When I think about some of these characteristics in a US environment I laugh. I'm not saying that all of these are bad but things that would never work in America. Most of them are school related because that is where I get most of the culture I have been exposed to but there aren't. So here we go...

  • Kids wondering around school all the time. (This isn't the case with most of them but there are a few kids at my school that I see around the school at times when they should be in class. Sometimes they even come hang out with me in the English room.)
  • School lunch for everyone! Everyone eats school lunch unlike the pack or buy dilemma that we always deal with. Also the kids serve each other. Their classes lunch is delivered to their door and then they pull it out and make an assembly line for everyone to get their food.
  • Indoor/outdoor shoes. The kids have shoes that they where inside and they are all identical but then they have their tennis shoes for outside.
  • 4 outfits a day: school uniforms to school, normal clothes once they get there, gym clothes, lunch clothes and they where aprons for recess and cleaning.
  • Cleaning the school. The Japanese schools don't hire janitorial staff but have the kids do it. So everyday after recess they all have their assignments and so they clean (or act like they do) Normally the school is more dirty after they are finished cleaning.
  • Studying a foreign language in nursery school and elementary schools. I realize that English is the international language but this is prime time for kids to learn a 2nd language and we don't take advantage of that.
  • No central heat or air.
  • Riding bikes to school or anywhere for that matter, especially in the rain! This would never work for America as a whole.
  • Airing out mattresses or futons. Things mold here quickly because of the humidity so everything must be aired out frequently to keep that from happening.
  • There are about 12 different types of recycling. Ok maybe thats an exaggeration but it feels like it. Burnable and Non-burnable are the 2 main categories.
  • Omiage is when you bring gifts back after a trip. Not only for those close family members but for your coworkers and such as well.
  • Chonco! This has only happened to me recently but it is when a child will basically stick their finger up your butt. It's really awkward and odd but they do it to each other all the time and some of my little kids did it to me the other day. Weirdest thing ever!
These are only a few and I realize that these things are just different. Most of them aren't bad they are just things that I'm not used to. I find it interesting things that you learn only from living in the culture. I didn't know half of this stuff when visiting Japan before but this is a chance to learn something new while I'm here.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

It's been a while...

So it's been a while since I've posted anything so I'll give you a quick update. I am working on a great entry but it's not quite finished so this can be an intermediate one. A quick update...

  • I have been playing volleyball on Thursday nights with both Japanese and foreigners which is so fun. I think most of the Japanese would rather us not be there but we have fun anyway.
  • I bought a bed!!!
  • I started at my nursery school today which is teaching 4 and 5 year olds. It's quite interesting but I know that they are like sponges so I'm trying to make English fun to make them want to learn it.
  • I've decided I wish everyone had a blog because I hate not knowing about peoples lives!
  • I'm trying to live in the present HERE in JAPAN instead of the States. It's tough but I'm working on it.
  • Plans for weekend trips are popping up all throughout June so that is exciting!!
  • Simon and Mary are making plans to come visit. Any one else interested??? :)
  • Communication with my teachers is getting better and better. It's a big step!
Thats the short of it! Things are going well and I'm excited for whats to come!!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

It's not all fun and games...

I have been trying to portray a fun image of my life here in Japan for the first few entries but it's not always that fun and exciting. In fact a huge struggle that I think I'll be working on throughout my stay here is the loneliness. I am here with 24 other AETs and we all try to see each other quite a lot throughout the week, which is great, but no matter how much I hang out with people...I will always return to my empty apartment. Don't get me wrong, there are some days that I am so thankful for a place of my own but then there are other days where I just want the apartment to be packed with people!

Emily and Luke are the couple that I have grown closest to from the beginning. They are from the west coast and went to Cascade College instead of OC, which is a change of pace from all the others. We all get along quite well and I am so thankful for them and how they have taken me in as the official 3rd wheel.

Kendon, lives 2 doors down from me and is on his 4th year here in Japan. He is official my buddy in the AET program and has been showing me the ropes. Since we are so close, we often hang out after work and catch up on American tv shows such as 24.

Both of these are good options which I take advantage of quite often but there is always that something missing that only my closet friends can make up for. I believe these people will become close but it has only been a month and the bond is different at this point. I miss being able to pick up the phone and call my family or call my best friends and talk to them. I hate having to always convert the time into Eastern time and plan my morning around it. I realize that I am only one month into a year commitment but I want to express some of the difficulties that I'm facing. If you are reading this, if you could say a quick prayer that I can look to my God to be my best friend and the one that is always there. I know that He is there in my head but sometimes I forget to reach out.

Despite that depressing realization, things have begun to pick up and have been more busy. I started Japanese class at the church and one of my first grade teachers offered for me to sit in on the 1st grade Japanese lesson so my 1st graders, where I am teaching them English, they are helping me with Japanese. I feel like its a fair trade, despite the fact that I feel like a big dumb idiot! Class has become smoother and I'm beginning to enjoy the times with the kids. I thank God for all these new and fun things!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A typical day at Kawawada Shogakko

Kawawada Elementary is my main school where I go 3 and a half days out of the week. So this school actually claims me as their official AET. Just like all other schools, the schedule is different everyday so my M, T, F are all different.

Special things about Japanese schools:
  • They have 2 recesses. One short one in the morning and then one after lunch.
  • None of the schools have a janitorial staff so the kids have cleaning duties everyday. It is quite funny because the school looks more dirty after cleaning time then before but the kids have fun with it.
  • Everyone eats school lunch. You will always have a meat of some kind, a salad/veggie type thing, a soup and milk. Sometimes you will have dessert. (I will write a whole post on lunch!)

M- I have the 5th and 6th graders. There are 2 classes of each so I have 4 classes, all in the morning. I eat lunch with in a classroom. Recess and cleaning are after lunch and then I have my whole afternoon to do an assortment of things. I don't leave until 4:40pm so I will work on decorations for my English room, study Japanese, or just act like I'm busy. The kids will leave sporadically from 2-4 and I like to be outside and say goodbye to them so that eats up a lot of my time.

Tuesday- I have class ALL day. I start 1st and 2nd period with 2nd grade, then 2 1st grade classes. This morning is pretty crazy because most of the time I am teaching the kids a BRAND new thing that they have NEVER heard before so sometimes it's a challenge. After lunch, cleaning and recess I have 2 3rd grade classes. By the time I say goodbye to everyone I'm exhausted but it's normally pretty close to leaving time by then.

Friday- I only have 2 4th grade classes. Friday is a day that I normally just wander around and look for things to do. Last week I was making all different flags to hang up in my room and I broke the laminator so I spent most of my day making flags, breaking the laminator and ruining my flags back to making them again. The Japanese put a lot of emphasis in LOOKING busy. If you look busy then you are doing what you are suppose to so I'm perfecting that!

Wednesday I'm at Akatsuka Elementary for just the one day. I don't normally plan any lessons just follow along with what the teachers have planned. I have been teaching 5th and 6th grade but I am now moving to 1st and 2nd. There is another AET splitting his time at Akatsuka so this school gets 2 of us.

Thursday I have at nursery schools. I have 2 different ones and I will alternate between them. In the afternoon I'll return to Kawawada. I haven't been to one of these yet but I'm excited to see what it's like. I never thought I would enjoy teaching but so far it has been fun. The best is when it finally clicks in the kid's heads at what they keep repeating. The kids are super cute too! I'll post pictures of the kids and my English room soon! LOVE YOU ALL!!!!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Golden Week

This 3 day holiday we just had is called Golden week. It came right as we were getting started but also gave us a little break to get a handle on our new lives here. I'll give a little summary of what I did each day. Lots of old AETs went traveling but we didn't have time to prepare a trip so we stayed in Mito and explored.

Monday- We went to the lake again and had a picnic and played soccer, volleyball and frisbee. Allen Thompson was with us so we obviously met people while we were there. We met a family where the dad was from Iran and he has lived in Japan for 21 years. His wife is Japanese and they had one fireball little girl. We took turns running around with her and she wore us all out. After the park a group of us...me being the 5th wheel like always, went to do karaoke. Now karaoke in Japan is different from karaoke in the States. Here you are put in a room with all the equipment and go at it. You only have to preform for those in your party and you can buy food and drinks and make a night of it...unless you don't know Japanese and then you only stay for an hour and then go eat. (That was us!!) But it's so much fun!!

Tuesday- There is a new missionary to Mito Church whos brother is the one who is the one that interviewed me for this job. Joel has been in Japan for almost 8 years but only in Mito for 2 weeks longer then we have. He shares a house with an intern, Sasha, and their Japanese friend Gaku. They are fantastic people and invited us new people over to the house where we had lunch and went to the grocery store and learned what exactly we were buying. Basic things like this become very difficult when you can't read any of the labels. This day was very relaxing and helpful to be able to talk through how our experience has been so far.

Wednesday- Joel and Sasha had invited us to go out with the Tsunekis (the preacher and his family) and them to Hitatchi Seaside park. I wasn't sure what this was but Mari, the mom, had emailed me and asked me if I was coming so I couldn't say no. I was looking forward to getting a chance to spend time with a Japanese family and someone from the church so I could get plugged in. I fit right in with the family of 6 and loved the fact that they had lived in the US for a time and the oldest 2 knew English well and the younger ones understood most of it. The only problem is I tend to be like my dad in that I like to pester the kids until they strike back, just in fun of course. Mom tends to see and I get them in trouble. It's even worst when you can't understand most of the lecture the parents are giving to the crying boy. I'll work on it. It was a fun day of riding carnival rides, a ferris wheel, looking at thousands of tulips and a hillside of blue. It's amazing how God can be so creative with the colors and the styles of the same flower. He is quite the artist and He reminded me of that today. The park is right on the ocean so it was a GREAT view from the ferris wheel. Being my last day of holiday I was exhausted when I got home and was excited to go to sleep.

Sorry...long post but there is my week in a nutshell. Of course the kids nor the teachers wanted to return Thursday and Friday so we were all a bit run down and exhausted but we had fun. Thanks for reading. You guys are amazing and I hope you have a good weekend!!

Friday, April 30, 2010

My first holiday

Yesterday, Thursday, was a holiday. Don't ask me what for or which one because I have no idea. I just accepted it and went on. I was planning on going to the only mexican place around with a bunch of the AETs for lunch. I woke up late and was just wondering around my apartment looking for something to do (which doesn't take long because its not that big) when I get a knock on my door. Now lets be honest in saying that I haven't made many friends here yet so I normally don't know who is knocking at my door. It turns out it is my landlord who lives in the house next door and is a really nice old man. His wife and daughter went to Tokyo for the day and just thought that since Kendon isn't around he would take me to lunch. REALLY sweet except I already had plans but I couldn't say no. So I went to lunch with my landlord and during that time they dropped by to pick me up and I got left. It was fine because I didn't want them to wait on me but I was a little disappointed.
I then get a call from another group of AETs that are going on a scooter adventure. Now I love food but I love an adventure more so I hopped on my scooter and zipped over to their house. We took off to Kasama which is famous for pottery but it was so nice out we just wondered the mountain roads on scooter. We were passed by many a car and tried to scooter up a hiking trail but didn't quite work. We stopped at azalea hill known for the blooming of TONS of azalea bushes. The hill turns pink when they all bloom but unfortunately we were about a week too early. Some blooms were out but most needed just a little bit more time. The day went by quickly but it was a good day. I can't tell you how fun it is to scooter around. To have the wind blowing everywhere and the smells of creation surround you. It's amazing!!! We stopped by a random coffee shop that was in a old train car with creative artwork and shoes being sold nearby. You never know what you will find in Kasama, Japan! As we scootered home at dusk it started to get chilly so we stopped and grabbed the car for dinner.
There were several moments yesterday where I thought about how crazy it was that I was riding scooters in Japan. Not only that but the fact that I am living the Japan for the next year. There have been times in the last two weeks I have been tempted to count how many days until I get to go home but yesterday wasn't one of them. I did think, however, of how I would describe the day on my blog so that all the people I love could be apart of it. There is nothing that I would want more then to have all of you share in my adventure here with me. I think of you often and wish that you could be here with me! But until then...I'll keep writing and keep describing the best I can!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


It has been raining all week so you know what that means!?!? I am in my rain suit everyday riding my bike to school. Why do they call it riding when you have to do all the work? That's not riding at all! I will be glad that I have my bike and that I actually ride it because what I eat after school is not quite that healthy! The burning in my legs every morning and night are probably for the best!!!!
Today (Wednesday) it downpoured ALL day from 8-3! I watched it come down all day from the teachers room in awe. Normally in the States it will let up sometimes but not here. It is CONTINUOUS! So my Kocho sensei (Principal) called me to his desk today after class and showed me his computer. He was looking at the weather and explained in his broken English that they were expecting 3mm of rain from 3pm-6pm so he wanted me to go home at 3. I sure wasn't going to complain so I said thank you and sat back in my desk. When he left, in Japanese, he was sure to tell me to be careful on my way home. He was really worried! SO at 3, I left. Now today I rode my scooter to work because I wasn't feeling great. So I was driving home and came to part of the road that was completely covered in water. I decided this time wasn't a great time to test out my scooter surfing skills...don't worry mom! I made it home safely and a friend is coming to pick me up for church tonight! :)

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Bike Issues

The second day of Souken I woke up because of jet lag pretty early so I was able to talk to people back home for a while. When it was time to go I went outside only to find that I couldn't remember the code to my bike lock. I was getting really angry at myself because when Kendon told me the code I told myself to go inside and write it down but clearly I did not! Of course, just my luck, my landlord was standing outside this day and saw that I was struggling. He discovered the problem and offered to drive me to my school but I didn't really want to walk back at the end of the day so I refused. He then proceeds into his house and comes out w/ a saw! He wants to CUT OFF MY LOCK!!!! I couldn't believe he wanted to do and was sure that I could remember the code! I felt like a big dumb idiot! As time passed, it was getting later and later. He then went back into his house and came out with an unopened, dusty, new bike lock and offered it to me. With this now he asked again to cut it off and I had to agree because I had to get to work! So he just sawed off my lock and I went about my day. Very embarrassing!!

Second story--I went to the train station to catch the train and I parked my bike alongside all the other bikes. When I got back I found a note on my bike but couldn't read it because it was in Japanese so I just thought I would go about my way. NOPE! There was another lock on my bike which was not mine chaining it to the bike rack. I then had to gather that this note I had was telling me that you had to pay to park YOUR BIKE! HOW SILLY!!! So I had to go talk to the 3 old men in the booth and explain to them that I didn't speak/read Japanese which they gathered quickly when they spoke to me in Japanese and I just looked at them. That pretty much sums up my life here so far!!! My bike and I have had many stories to share already and its only the first week. More to come I'm sure!!!!

First week mistakes...

I know that you all have things to do and don't need to read 12 pages written about my life so my goal is to keep these stories as short as possible for quick reads.

First- this week was a week of training at Souken (which is the Board of Education for English basically) It is required at Souken to wear suits so everyday this week I had a suit on which is weird to begin with. Secondly all of the suits that I bought are skirt suits and until my school approves it I have to ride my bike to Souken and to school. SO everyday this week I have to ride to Souken with track pants on and then when I get there I have to change into my suit. If that isn't dumb enough the first day I decide I would look good with heels so picture me riding my bike 15 mins with track pants, suit jacket and heels!!! Needless to say I'm so hot when I get there. BUT not as hot as when you have to wear your rain suit because its raining!!! Those things don't breathe AT ALL! The thing is...the japanese people give you rain suits to wear on your bike but they won't wear them. They would rather walk in their normal clothes with an umbrella instead. They just allow me to look like an idiot which is typical for me I think!

Monday, April 19, 2010

The scooter adventure!

So I needed to get to church and so Kendon allowed me to take his second scooter (which he sold to me later.) He was very nervous about me taking it but don't worry Simon and I rode them in Rome and if I can survive that I can survive anything...right?

Well....about the second turn I almost didn't make it. I was following him and didn't realize he was turning and so by the time I got my scooter to turn I almost ran into a pole...but no worries I didn't! The ride to the church after this incident went well. We scootered all around Mito to introduce me to the roads and to get adjusted to riding the scooter. And then Monday on my first day of work...when at City Hall getting my aliens visitor card I also officially changed the scooter into my name. So I am now the proud owner of a scooter!

First day of training was good. We spent the majority of the day at city hall filling out paperwork but boy did I look good in my suit! Suits everyday this week while at Souken. woo!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

I finally made it...

So I finally made it to my apartment and finally got to go to sleep. After my 13 hour flight, we had to wait at the airport for everyone to arrive and then took a 2 hour bus ride to Mito City. We got off the bus only to find it about 35 degrees and raining. I hadn't expected it to be freeeeezing outside so I was quite cold in my toms and t-shirt.

I have a buddy named Kendon who has been in Japan for 3 years and lives right down the way from me. He picked me up and hauled all my junk to my apartment for me. Now I've already told you that I was self conscious about how much I packed and now I'm looking at my apartment and regretting bringing so much! Hopefully it all fits. Kendon has been a great help to me already. Saturday after I tried to sleep in but then woke up at 7am I started to unpack and then we went on our tour of Mito.

We went to sushi with some of the other AETs, then went to the supermarket right down from my apartment. After that we went furniture shopping for a bed for me. Now I have futons **which are mattresses** but not a bed frame. I'm working on doing some research on the best one for me. He has been great giving me advice and showing me the things that I need to know for when I am let lose on my own when he travels to America in a couple of days. Great! I'm getting my wings so early...I'm not sure if I'm ready. I'll keep you updated!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The beginning...

So I'm sitting in my room in Ohio 4 days before I take off on this adventure and I'm wondering what in the world did I get myself into? How could I think this was a good idea? Going to Japan for a year, by myself, to teach little asian kids??? Am I crazy??? As I make preparations and say my goodbyes I'm second guessing every thought of how this was what I needed to do. I always said that I wanted to live overseas for a while and when this opportunity came up I thought that this was it...but now I'm not so sure. I know that God will be there every step of the way, my issue right now is all the people that I love won't be. Sure they will be as close as skype can get us but I'm doing this all on my own which is scary. 

Now don't get my wrong I'm super pumped about this. I know that I am going to grow in ways I never thought possible and hopefully come back better for it but it is just harder then I expected! And so I am trying my best to first get all my junk packed in my bags (which doesn't look good at the moment) and everything prepared for April 15th to start this new adventure!!