Friday, December 25, 2009

Off to the Happiest Place on Earth!

Hello faithful readers... I wish you all a very Merry Christmas! We made it to BC on the 22nd (Joisan loved that she got to live that day twice thanks to crossing the international date line!) and now we are all heading for Disney World. We are fairly tired but also very excited! Travelling with Ian has been great as there are special helpers and resources for people on crutches. We've borrowed a great wheelchair for Disney World and we are looking forward to some line priveleges there too!
I thought I might be coming back to BC earlier than Ian and the kids but it's looking like I might stay until the 4th with them so I'm hoping for the chance to catch up with all of you when I get back. My email is not functioning as well as I would like so I am sorry not to be emailing you all individually.
Love to all,

Friday, December 18, 2009

Ian wanted to join the "in" crowd

So aparently having two children on crutches wasn't enough for Ian - he wanted a turn too! I think we must really look like a crazy Canuck family - three out of the four of us have been damaged! I am watching my step very carefully now! Last night Ian was playing badminton and he ruptured his achillies tendon. The damage is about 3 inches above where the tendon attaches to the heel. I took him to Date (in the snow - winter has finally arrived in full force) to the hospital at 10pm last night and we were really lucky that their orthopedic guy had just come on shift. We hemmed and hawed for quite a while debating surgery vs. the conservative route. He said that they both have the same recovery speed and success rate after the first 6 months. Ian went for the conservative route and will now be in a cast for at least 3 months. Oh what fun! Anyway - we've cancelled the party tonight and I'm off to Date for some last minute shopping with the kids. I will be treading very carefully - I for one am not willing to miss any part of DisneyWorld!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The closer we get - the faster it goes!!

I feel a bit lame to have taken until today to update this but what can you do?? We had a busy weekend and the last few days have not slowed down at all! The bummer of it is that when I write so many days at once I end up writing a novel! Sorry in advance!

On Saturday we ventured to Sapporo for the day to do some shopping. It was snowing when we started off but it turned to rain before we got to Sapporo. We (read Ian and Phaedra) sang Christmas songs the whole way there. It got to be a challenge to come up with new ones that we hadn't sung yet! We found oatmeal and a few other treats and managed to get Joisan a pair of boots. We broke down and had McDonalds for lunch as it was convenient and both kids were happy with it. The McDonalds here has an ebi-burger which Joisan very much enjoyed. It was totally crazy though - we don't do McDonalds at home and here we are going to "Mickey-D's" in Japan! Brutal! Ian and I have just gotten really tired of the kids fighting about stuff ("I'm not going to eat here!" "They don't have anything I'll eat!") that it seemed like heaven to find somewhere we could sit down and eat together. Before leaving Sapporo we hit an amazing 100 yen shop where the kids racked up some serious debt.

We headed home where we unpacked and got organized before being picked up for dinner. We went to the home of one of the women in my adult conversation class. She (Mitsuko) and her daughter and son-in-law (Michiko and Satoshi) come regularly to the Wednesday beginner class and they are very nice. Michiko and Satoshi came up from Date City for the evening and made takoyaki for us. We also had cabbage rolls and yummy bread and there was a vegetable soup for Joisan. We played some card games after dinner and Mitsuko showed us the temple that is attached to her house. She works as a kind of spiritual helper to followers of her particular flavour of religion (still not sure what it is) and she has quite a beautiful temple. I took a few photos so I'll try and get them up on a photoshare this evening. We had a lovely evening - they are very nice people and we will play with them again.

Sunday we had Chinami (the school nurse) and her boys up from Date City for lunch. When they showed up the boys were in costume... the older boy (Yuhei) with reindeer antlers and the younger boy (Naoki) in a full Santa costume! They brought Taran and Joisan each a bag of candy and Chinami had brought some vegetarian sauces and things for Joisan! They also brought their Wii and all their games so the kids would have something to do. Ian made chicken nuggets and fries and we had a few ebi for Joisan as well. We made honey-mustard and a veggie tray with a garlic dip. It was a great lunch - we just kept eating and eating - and we thoroughly enjoyed the company. At one point we pulled the kids off the video games to play Pit and they really enjoyed that too! I am going to pick up a bunch of games when we're home to bring back - everyone really seems to enjoy playing games. Chinami told us that she is teaching the puberty classes this week so Joisan had hers yesterday and Taran will have his on Monday. I haven't heard yet whether they talk about the same type of stuff yet but Chinami was making her displays and asked me for the English words for a couple of things so I'm guessing they do much the same.

Monday I went to Tatsunan as usual. I have opted out of the lunches at Tatsunan because they are not very good. I definately feel spoiled with the food at Otaki Chu. It is amazing! Tatsunan not so much though so since Ian and I need some alone time anyway I've convinced him to come with me and go shopping while I teach and then the two of us will go out for lunch. So, last week we went to this little greasy spoon ramen (noodle) place and the food was AWFUL! We were both really disappointed in it. So, this we we picked up a bunch of sushi and nigiri and headed down to a lookout where we could see the ocean. It was sugoi (great) and we paid less than we had for the raman the week before!

As of Tuesday I began counting down my "last" classes before our holiday. I can hardly believe that we are already there! Disney World is coming fast!! Ian has been baking cookies for me to give out to the after school program kids and I've been doing a stained glass colouring craft with them. I decided that the Warashibe this week would be easier if I showed a movie so I showed them How The Grinch Stole Christmas. Some of them enjoyed it - but others just fell asleep.

Last night was the Christmas potluck dinner for the adult conversation class. There was an amazing array of food there, everything from KFC (yep - I couldn't believe it myself and Taran was THRILLED!) to Ian's Japanese Curry Rice. We over-ate and then played a few games. We did this really fun game where they all had to follow my (English) instructions to draw a picture - the catch being that the paper they were drawing on was on top of a book on their heads! It was totally fun!

Today was the Christmas lunch at school. Yuki (the dietitian) came to our house several weeks ago to cook a Christmas dinner with us and get some ideas for a Canadian Christmas dinner. She did an admirable job - today we had roast chicken, broccoli with cheese sauce and a sweet potato salad. There was also a corn chowder and special desserts which the students got to pick. It was Christmas dinner with a Japanese flair!

I have now finished all the stuff I have to plan and organize so all I have left is a couple of afterschool programs (game playing mostly) and Tatsunan on Monday. I feel almost free! We are having a bit of a shindig on Saturday - a potluck supper with any of the teachers / office workers and their families who are available. It's end of term here now so people are getting really busy and I'm not sure how many will actually show up.

I'll try to update a bit more often so that I don't have to write such a novel!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

From Joisan

It’s Friday, and my brain is a little dead. One more week to go!!!?? I am very very excited and I just can’t wait to go on a 10 hour plane ride.... NOT. I don’t quite remember what has happened this week... yet I am still forced to write this. It snowed one day, I can’t remember which. I think it was Saturday. We went to Mushroom Kingdom (a tourist place) on Saturday to pick up a few items I can’t name at the moment, but I promise to tell you next week... maybe. Monday was Monday, and Tuesday was Tuesday. But Wednesday was definantly not a normal Wednesday. Wednesday, we were due at the hospital, and it was also only a five period day. On five period days, if there are no meetings, or no clubs, then the students sometimes play something in the gym. Well there were no meetings, so they were going to play volleyball, when my teacher invited me to play, and I (regretfully) replied in Japanese. I had asked my dad a few weeks ago, what you would say for “I will go to the hospital”, and yes, it slipped. She made the biggest of deals, and the news that I had spoken Japanese was around the school in 3 minutes (no joke). Anyway, both Thursday and Friday, I spoke a teensy bit of Japanese, and each time, whoever I was with made a big deal of it. Hopefully, if they want me to continue to speak Japanese then they will tone it down a few notches. Anyway, of what I can remember, that is my week.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Time keeps on slippin' slippin' slippin'

I'm not kidding... these days are zooming by! I'm really just hoping I can put them on slow motion when we're back there visiting and playing at Disney World!

There's actually not much to tell. We're kind of coasting along. My classes are going well - I'm still struggling a bit with how to fill a whole hour at the Warashibe. I really wish they would take it back to the forty minutes it apparently used to be. I could do forty minutes easily but that last 20 minutes is a killer!

I've just come back from the elementary school where I taught them a new song and a bunch of Christmas vocabulary. It's my second favourite place to be - right behind the Chugakko where I spend most of my time. Today I was short one class at the Shogakko because H1N1 is making its rounds again. One of the classes at the Chugakko was out with the flu this week as well. We're doing our best to stay healthy so we don't miss a bunch our holiday with being sick.

We've got a busy weekend coming up so I'll be sure to update this when there's something more to tell...

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Sapporo is good for the soul...

Small town girl that I am, I would not have thought that the big city would make such an impact. Rianna (the AET from Date) stayed over on Wednesday night and Ian drove the two of us to Sapporo on Thursday morning. Ian had to go anyway and get the re-entry visas so that we could come back after we go home for Christmas.
Rianna and I got ourselves oriented and settled into the first session at the conference. I assumed that lunch would be provided but it wasn't so we had to go out and find food. Thankfully Rianna has two years of college level Japanese behind her so it made things easier. She's also been to Sapporo a few times before so she had some confidence in using the subways and getting around. After lunch we checked into the hotel and deposited our stuff in our rooms. I wish I'd remembered to take the camera because I'd have loved to have taken a photo of the room. It was small - very small - but it had everything necessary for one person. When I checked in there was an envelope for me from Ian with my paperwork for the re-entry permit. For some reason he had not been permitted to process mine so I needed to find some time to try and get to the government building to do it. When the afternoon session ended Rianna and I tried to go and deal with the permit paperwork. The person at the front desk of the hotel thought we wanted directions to the historical government museum building so we wound up far away from where we should be and as it turned out the office was already closed. We had a quick tour through the museum and then headed for the station to get some dinner.
The JR (Japan Rail) station in Sapporo is an amazing place. There are two or three large malls attached to the station and a ton of shops. We went up in the JR tower to the 11th floor and found a place to eat. I don't know what I ate but it was amazing! Afterwards we shopped our way down the tower before taking the subway back to the hotel and heading to bed.
Friday morning there were two workshops. One of mine was kind of lame but the other one was quite good. I connected with some other AET's and compared notes of work loads and accomodations. I realized that I'm quite lucky in the situation here with the house and the car and my work situation. Rianna and I went for lunch with a group of JET's from one of the northern areas. They were very nice - but young! It was actually a bit painful to look around the conference and know that I was the oldest one there! (If not actually the oldest then at least close to it!) I cut out of the afternoon session to go deal with the re-entry permit. I took the subway (by myself) and changed lines (by myself) and found the right building in the middle of Sapporo (by myself) and accomplished the task all by myself!!! (Are you hearing the pride?!?!) I found myself in the middle of the park in the centre of downtown Sapporo just marvelling that I am here. It still seems very unreal to me sometimes!
I made my way to the train station where I met Rianna and we caught the train to Date. Ian and the kids had been in Date for Taran's rehab anyway so they met us at the station and we grabbed some food and headed home.
We've had a pretty lazy weekend - Naoko came for dinner last night and we played a few games. It was a wildly windy night last night - we actually thought at times that the house was going to lift off the ground. It rained and stormed all night but around noon today it turned to snow so now we're getting a bit of a White Christmas thing going. The whole world is grey and white.
I forgot to mention that Ian's team came in second in the table tennis tournament on Thursday night - he really enjoyed the whole evening - I was sorry I missed it.

Friday, December 4, 2009

From Joisan

This week has been jammed packed with events. Last week, my parents were playing in a volleyball tournament. On the second night of the tournament, Ato-son invited my family to his mothers grand opening of her restarant. Ato-son's daughter is in my class, and he really wants us to get along and be good friends. After my dad was done his volleyball, we headed there to hang. Misuzu (his daughter) was there with her friend Chisato, who is in grade 8. They are both really nice, and I had fun. Somehow, my dad and Ato-son decided that Misuzu, Chisato, and Akari (the one I invited to NEW MOON) were going to come over the next night to have a sleepover. We left the party, my mom having arrived awhile back. We went home to bed, as we had to get up early the next morning to go to Chitose to see NEW MOON. I was sooo excited. I had been very jealous because all my friends saw it before me. We met Akari and her family in the parking lot of the movie theater. We killed a bit of time in the arcade next door, before going into the theater. It was surprising how few people were in the theater, but we didn't mind. :P After the movie we went shopping, then headed home. At around the time we were expecting our guests, the doorbell rang, but it wasn't any of the people we were expecting. It was the mail man! At 5:45, at our door! My mom went to go see what was up, and it turned out to be a package to me from Australia! It was from my (long lost JK) friend, Brody. It was full of candy!! :) So I have been loading up all week. The first people to arrive, were Akari, and her sisters. We didn't know they were going to come, but we were ok with it. All we pretty much did was play DS. Everyone had one. We also played a bit of cards. We had a really late night, but it was fun. I don't really feel like writing much. So, you can read what my mom has written of the past week. Gomen Nasai(sorry) >_< NOT THAT IM COUNTING BUT 19 DAYS TILL I GO ON A PLANE! ALSO... I <3 NEW MOON!!! :)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

I'm off to Sapporo!

Nothing too exciting to report but I'm counting on some stories from my trip to Sapporo. I'm a bit bagged tonight because I got up early this morning (6am) and did 40 minutes on the stationary bike before school and then I wound up riding the bike home (uphill all the way) because Ian took the car to take the kids to the hospital in Date. Joisan has been instructed to try running on her foot and Taran is improving too. Rianna (the AET from Date) came up tonight to go with us to Sapporo. She joined my conversation classes and we had a good time talking and playing Catch Phrase. We were given more cheese (yum!) and some fruit too! I had two new people join the class but we were missing several people so the numbers were still down. I'm off to bed in hopes that I can make myself get up and work out tomorrow too.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

It's December!!

It's hard to believe that it's December already! We are in the midst of a cold snap and freezing our little BC tails off! There's nothing too exciting happening - Taran is doing rehab 3 times per week. Joisan will see the Dr. about her ankle this afternoon and Ian is doing a lot of reading. I head to the ALT conference tomorrow and I'm excited to connect with everyone. Ian is going to drive me and then go arrange for permission for us to come back after Christmas. (We have to get a re-entry permit.)
The school is in a bit of a tizzy at the moment because Hiro is off with the flu right now and everyone is having to pick up some slack. She does a lot at the school and now we'll be doing without her until at least Monday.
So - that about wraps it up - no big excitement just happy life :)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Monday morning

Wow - that whole weekend got away from me! We are developing quite a social life and it's tons of fun!
On Friday afternoon I took Taran into Date for physio and wound up taking Hiro too as she was pretty sick and the school nurse wanted her to get checked out. They were both fine so we headed home in the pouring rain. After dinner Ian and Joisan and I headed for the volleyball tournament where I had to play a few extra games - just to confirm that we were indeed the worst team out there! Ian didn't end up having to play so he and Joisan headed over to Ato-san's mother's restaurant which was having it's grand opening that night. So that was Ian's second night of drinking with Ato-san (they went out after volleyball on Thursday too). There was a ton of food and good company so by the time Hiro and I got there they were both enjoying themselves. Ato-san's daughter Misuzu was there. She is in Joisan's class and he really wants them to become best buddies so he and Ian had cooked up some plans for a Saturday night dinner party and sleepover.
On Saturday we got up and headed toward Chitose (where the airport is) to go to the movies. We took the same road we came in on the night we arrived but this time we could see the incredible scenery. It is absolutely gorgeous here. There is a huge lake that we passed and it is surrounded by majestic mountains. I think it is mostly national park land but it still seems odd that there is no sign of human life at all. I just know at home that there would be countless houses and access for people to get at the lake. It was snowing a bit on our way to the movies but we had no difficulties getting there. We met Joisan's friend, Akari and her family and then went in and bought the tickets. We had a bit of time to kill so we popped into the 'mall' next door and played some arcade/prize games with Akari's family before they went off to shop and we went into the theatre. We had been a bit concerned about being able to get in without buying advance tickets (it being opening day here) but as it turned out it was not an issue. The five of us represented more than one third of the total number of people in the theatre! Joisan loved New Moon and I'm sure she'll get into all of that in her blog entry this week. Afterwards we did a quick shop before braving the snow that had accumulated to head home. We were expecting a number of people at our house for dinner and felt a bit of a push to get home and get ready.
Ian didn't feel like he had a clear picture of the dinner expectations from Ato-san the night before so he made a mountain of curry rice and a bunch of Gyoza's for the unknown number of people that were coming. When they all eventually showed up Ato-san brought with him at least $150 worth of sushi and a bunch of other stuff besides! Then Akari's family showed up with a bunch of food and drinks too! There was mountains to eat and we'll be having curry rice for at least a week!
The girls played card games and DSi games and ate junk food and generally had a good time. It was supposed to be just the Jr. High School girls but Akari's two little sisters were there too and really wanted to stay so I said they could. It's kind of neat here that the kids (at least at the Jr. High) are still really young. There's no pressure to grow up and be into things like makeup and boys so it's still okay to hang out with the little sisters too. I'm sure Joisan will give more details about her part of the gathering but ours finally ended when the adults left at 12:30am. The men were pretty drunk and Akari's dad was totally embarassing her trying to high five with Joisan all the time. It was a good wake-up for Joisan that other kids get embarassed by their parents too!
Yesterday was all about cleaning up. We did a good clean of the party stuff and the girls left about noon. Then Ian and I spent the majority of the afternoon trying to cleanup and organize the resources in the hall next door. I am really surprised by how disorganized it is. I hope to get it all cleared out and a good filing system in place before I leave here. We had (you guessed it!) curry rice for dinner and then cleaned up and headed to bed. The big deal this week is that I have the ALT conference in Sapporo on Thursday and Friday. Rianna (the Date ALT) is coming up on Wednesday night and Ian is going to take us to Sapporo on Thursday morning. We will come back to Date on the train on Friday. It should be fun!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Joisan's update

Friday night we went to a "soup party" and it went quite late. Taran and I were pretty bored the whole time (except when we were eating ‘Bali chocolate’ (which was Fererro Rocher). Saturday my mom and dad woke up early to go to the kindergarten performance thing, while I slept in! My mom was planning to go to Costco with Hiro, but the weather didn’t permit that. So we went just as far as Date to get our Christmas dinner. We (my mom, and dad) (I helped a little) spent Saturday preparing for the Christmas dinner. Originally it was going to be our family, Hiro, Naoko, my teacher (Kayo), and Yuki. Naoko was not able to make it because she had a friend in town, and Hiro was not feeling well, so it ended up being us, Yuki and Kayo. It went well, and the dinner was amazing (although I am still looking forward to our Christmas dinner on the 24!!). Monday was a completely do-nothing day. At least that’s what I remember. Tuesday we had school again, and in the evening we did a bit of research on New Moon, because we are planning to go see it Saturday YAY!!! FINALLY!! I decided that I was going to invite Akari to come see it with me, so Tuesday night I wrote a letter (that my very kind dad translated for me) in Japanese. On Wednesday I found out that she was actually going to come, so now we are still working out some details. That is mostly my week, nothing too exciting. I CANT WAIT FOR SATURDAY!! YAY YAY YAY YAY!! IM HAPPY!! :P (not that I’m counting or anything but 25 days till we fly home)!!! Oh and also, we received a package in the mail, (from my nana) and it contained an advent calendar!! Yay!! Thank you nana soooo much!! THIS ALSO MAKES ME HAPPY!!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thursday news

Ooops! I had intended to update yesterday but the evening got away from me :) Ian took Taran and Joisan to the hospital yesterday and Taran came back without a cast or a brace! He started physio right away and now has to go 3 times per week - he says it's feeling a bit painful and not very strong yet but he's enjoying the opportunity to shower! I will be taking Taran to Date tomorrow for his second physio appointment.
This evening there was a volleyball tournament at the Otaki Shogakko. Ian and I both joined a team from the Chugakko - Ian in the A league and I in the B league. It wasn't exactly the same as volleyball at home - it's called soft volleyball and they use a different ball - quite a bit bigger and - you guessed it! - soft. It's almost like those big red playground balls we have back in Canada - the ones that bounce really well - but it's white and not quite as bouncy. I had a lot of fun and despite a slow start my team managed to play well enough that we have to play again tomorrow. Ian doesn't know yet if he plays tomorrow or not.
It looks like we'll all be going to Sapporo on Saturday to go to the movies. Joisan is desperate to see New Moon which opens here on Saturday. She has invited her friend Akari to go with us so we're still trying to work that out. I think the tentative plan involves a 12:15 show and some shopping afterwards. I think it will be fun!
The tournament went a bit late tonight so it's already well past my bedtime. More tomorrow. (or the next day!)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Holiday Monday - four weeks and counting!

We were all a bit stunned to realize that four weeks from tomorrow we are going to be getting on a plane to Vancouver! This time has gone so quickly! We are excited about seeing everyone and going to DisneyWorld but we are a bit disappointed to be missing all the great stuff that will be happening here around New Years as it is one of the biggest celebration times here in Japan.

We've had a busy few days - lots of partying and playing. It's getting to be a Wednesday night trend at conversation class that I am given gifts of food. This week we were again given some yummy cheese made by a local farmer and I was given a bag with a large piece of meat in a paper bag. Natstumi asked if I'd ever eaten deer before and told me that this was a very fresh piece of deer meat. Ian was pretty stoked to cook it all up and it seemed a good opportunity to have someone over for dinner so I invited Hiro and Miss Miamaru (the Music and Art teacher). We had an awesome dinner of deer stew and home made biscuts. Ian even made an apple cake for dessert. We drank and visited and played games and had a great time!

On Friday night we were invited to Imai-san's house for a Nabe party. There was a big pot of soup that just kept getting added to. The big deal of it was the duck - which I'm guessing was put on especially for us. There was ground duck and duck slices. They were good - but the soup was wonderful and I'm sure whatever meat was in it would have been good. There was also a plate full of beautiful red strawberries which were reported to cost in the neighbourhood of $3 each! One of the Imai-san's (there are two brothers - one works in the Otaki office and one is the postmaster) had just returned from a trip to Bali and he opened a box of "Bali-chocolates" to share with us all and we made a good joke of it because they were Ferrero Rocher! We had a lovely visit and watched some movies of the other Imai-san's last trip to the Cowichan Valley in July of 2005. It was fun to see familiar sights mixed with the faces of some of the people we know here. The kids had quite an in-depth talk with iro-Hay and aoko-Nay (oh - did I mention that we taught Hiro pig latin on Thursday?!) and they told Hiro and Naoko all about their schools in Canada. They also learned a bit more about how things work here - for instance, if a teacher is sick and can't come to work then the other teachers just cover it as best they can. It's only in the case of an extended illness that there is any formal coverage done.

On Saturday Ian and I trudged through the snow to watch the kindergarten performance. We sat on the floor with all of the proud parents and thoroughly enjoyed it all. They sure do put on slick shows here - I can't imagine seeing anything of the same caliber from a daycare or preschool in Canada. The five year olds did a version of the Bremen Town Musicians and the four year olds did the Billy Goats Gruff. The show being over means that I now get to add the kindergarten back into my weekly routine.

I had hoped that we would be heading to Sapporo on Saturday afternoon to go to Costco with Hiro but the snowfall effectively nixed that plan, which meant that we had to head to Date for the supplies for our Sunday evening plans. About two weeks ago Yuki, the dietican at the Chugakko, had asked me about traditional Canadian Christmas dinners and I told her all about what we usually have. When I was trying to explain about it I came up with the bright idea to just have her over to cook a dinner with me. We had settled on this Sunday so by Saturday I was needing to gather the ingredients for our favourite holiday staples. It proved to be a bit more challenging than I would have thought but we made it work. We did manage to purchase a whole chicken (scrawny thing that it was) and we paid through the nose for it too! ($15 for a 1 kilo bird!) We never did find yams but I decided that sweet potatoes are close enough and the hunt for Campbells Creme of Mushroom soup never did prove fruitful so I had to make my own.
So Saturday evening was spent making pastry for the pies and making up a recipe for the mushroom soup.

On Sunday, Yuki came by about 1:20pm and we started cooking. I walked her through all the steps of pretty much everything and we managed to get everything cooked and baked - which was a feat considering the size of the oven here - it's like my microwave at home and is probably not supposed to have things stacked on top of eachother! Still, we managed to cook two pies, the stuffing, the chicken, the sweet potatoes, the mashed potatoes, the broccoli, the cheese sauce and the gravy all with one tiny oven and two burners! It was a feast! Joisan's teacher, Ms. Madokoro came to eat with us. Hiro was supposed to come too but she had a headache so she begged off. We had a wonderful Christmas dinner and we all ate too much! We played a few games and then called it a night.

Today has been a wonderful gift - another Japanese national holiday! We slept in and hung out and got to visit with my family on Skype while they were at Sunday dinner. I was totally excited to hear that my sister got her Bar Exam results - yay Aurora! We have yet to make the Skype thing work with Ian's mum and he's really hoping to do that soon. After all the hard work of laying around today I think it's off to get myself prepped and ready for the week now so more next time!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

From Joisan

Hey everybody. Again, nothing much has happened, so I will pretty much be telling what my mom said, but in my words. I don’t remember if we did anything Saturday, but Sunday was eventful. We were invited to Chinami (the nurse)’s house for lunch. On the way, Hiro had told us that one of Chinami’s sons, had invited a few of his friends, to play with Taran, and to make it less awkward. When we got there, there were a fair amount of boys, (Taran’s age) and they kept coming. They said I was “cute”,“beautiful”, and “gorgeous”. It was so so so soooo embarrassing. On Tuesday we got letters from Chinami’s sons, (12, and 15), saying thank you for coming to my house etc. Taran and I wrote back (in Japanese) and Chinami said we have very good Japanese (it was really our dad’s Japanese, our writing). Tuesday, we went to the hospital, and I got a brace. My ankle has been hurting really bad since, and I have four or five blisters on my foot because of the brace. I have been told to start walking on it, and I have tried, but it is really painful. That brings you mostly caught up in my life, and my brother wants on the computer, so I guess I’m done! PS. I really like the comments... they make me feel warm and fuzzy inside... SO PLEASE COMMENT!!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Snow Snow Snow Snow Snow

It won't be long before we're burried. I had hoped that this was just another come-and-go kind of snow but it's beginning to look more permanent. I'll work on getting some photos up on the photoshare soon - this world is very pretty all dressed in white! Ian had to go out and shovel this afternoon and the roads are pretty icy.
Other than the snow our biggest news is that Joisan is out of her splint and into a brace. She and Taran (still in a cast from ankle to thigh) are both supposed to begin putting weight on their foot so I guess things are improving! They both go back next Wednesday for a check up and Taran will likely get to switch his cast for a smaller one. I'm looking forward to the time when he has no cast on and can shower regularly again! Right now it's quite a production to get the cast covered properly.
Taran and Joisan each got a letter from Chinami's boys who we visited on Sunday. The boys wrote a good letter each and sent it to school with their mom. Taran was invited to come back and play video games again and soccer when his leg is healed and Joisan was told how cute she is (again!) and also invited back. They both wrote back to the boys in Japanese - with Ian's help. We have been working on learning the most basic Japanese letters - Hiragana and we're beginning to recognize some words as people are speaking around us. It's only been a month and a half and I think we're making some progress with the language (finally!) I have begun to use a book that my friend gave me (thank you Kim!) and I think it is really going to help me a lot.
I was up really late last night prepping for today so I'm going to cut this short and head for the bedtime routine (hot bath, lay out the bed and crawl in!)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

It's c-c-c-cold...

So it looks like winter is soon to hit for good - at least the temperature seems to have taken a permanant dive. We're still having plenty of rain and thankfully no major snow yet.
Thursday evening I went out with the teachers from the Chu gakko to say goodbye to the student teacher. We went to a restaurant and had an amazing dinner. The presentation was stunning and the food was out of this world! There were even some little butterflies made from carrot slices! I'm working on getting a copy of the photos that were taken of the food.
The system for teacher training is very different here. They go to school for four years but they only do one three or four week practicum just before their last 6 months. Then, when they graduate they have to take a big test and if they pass they get a job right away. During their first year of teaching they have a supervisor who visits them about 3 days a week. After that they are on their own. From what I hear - there is never an issue with getting a job - their first contract is for four years in the same school and after that the contracts are for 6 years. In some school districts the teachers are provided with some seriously subsidized housing too.
On Friday I went to the pro-d with the teachers here. They do some interesting things with the pro-d. All the schools except three (one elementary, one Jr. High and one Sr. High) have the day off. The other three schools have students for two hours and present lessons for all the teachers to go watch. I saw a Social Studies lesson and an English lesson. Of course being that it was all in Japanese (including the English lesson) I didn't understand very much of it! The English class made me realize that I am really lucky here in Otaki. Ms. Koizumi is working so hard to teach the class only using English and she really appreciates everything that I bring to the class. All of the instructions and explanations in the pro-d English class were in Japanese and I was totally surprised by the lack of English.
After the pro-d there was a welcome party for Ian and I in Date with the Mice Club. Ian had gone to Sapporo for the day and met me in Date afterward. The Mice Club were really welcoming. They had it partially catered (sushi and pizza) and brought some homemade stuff to supplement. It was fantastic! There were about 11 people there altogether and we played "2 Truths and a Lie". The Mice Club meets regularly to socialize and speak English. We are looking forward to the opportunity to get together with them again.
Yesterday I helped coach one of the grade nines for an oral exam she had to do today. After that Naoko stuck around for lunch and a visit. It was fun to have company. The rest of the day was a bit of a write-off - some computer time, some reading and some napping.
Today we were invited to the home of Chinami-san. She's the nurse at the Chu gakko and she has two sons the same age as Taran and Joisan. We picked up Hiro and headed for Date around 10:20 this morning. Chinami was busy prepping for the amazing lunch we had - sashimi and miso and make your own sushi and tempura. She had burgers for the kids (prawn burgers for Joisan) Wow! It was unending and spectacular! Her oldest son had a bunch of his soccer friends over and they were totally fun and friendly with Taran and Joisan. They played video games and Jenga and listened to music. A couple of the boys were very taken with Joisan and she felt a little embarassed with all the attention they paid to her. When we were ready to go Chinami packed up a bunch of leftovers for us to bring home so we ate really well all day! Things are good - we're happy and healthy and Joisan and Taran are going back to the hospital on Tuesday for another checkup.

Friday, November 13, 2009

From Joisan

Nothing happened Saturday, but Sunday was very interesting. We got to the hotel, and had to change into the ‘spa wear’. It was quite a hassle for me to change because I wore tight jeans. Eventually I was able to get them off with little pain caused. As my mom said, we had to wait during the first scene/shoot, because it was everyone entering the restraint. About halfway through the shooting, we were taken and sat at a table, to drink juice while waiting for the shoot to be over. Our ‘scene’ was pretty lame; we stood there while pretending to be super excited. We later did another scene shouting something... My mom and Hiro then went to the onsen, while Taran, my dad and I waited in the lobby. BOORRRINNNGGG!! I sat there, my brother reading his book (surprise surprise), and my dad attempting to read the paper. I didn’t bring a book or anything so I got to sit and complain for 2 hours. The buffet was AMAZING!! SOOO yummy!! There was lots of crab, and so many desserts. By the time I was done dessert, I literally felt like I was going to explode. But, my brother was able to convince me to have a jello eating contest (with chopsticks). We invited Akari and her two sisters to join us, (by the time we were ready to start, it was Taran, Akari, Asaka, and I). It was so much fun!
After school Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, I went with my mom to her after school programs, to avoid taking the bus (my bus stop is at the bottom of a big hill that is a challenge to climb with crutches).
This is going to be a challenge to explain, but I will do my best.
Tuesday at lunch (free time) I was sitting at my desk in my classroom with Akari, and Mari, I guess I was looking a little bored because Akari decided to try to entertain me. She walked out of the classroom, and walked back in as one of the teachers. She imitated all the teachers and it was hilarious!! Each time, she got me to guess who she was imitating, and it was pretty obvious each time.
(This is sort of a side story, but it comes into the other story). Most days after eating lunch (still in the lunch room) the vice principal comes up behind me, leans over my shoulder, so his face is beside mine (a little too close if you ask me) and says something along the lines of was it good, in Japanese.
Anyway, so my homeroom teacher came into the room and is doubled over laughing at Akari’s imitations. My teacher then decided that she was going to take a turn, so she comes up behind me, leans over my shoulder, (too close to my face) and in her best man voice says what the vice principal says. It was sooo funny!! :P Wednesday, the vice principal does the thing, and just after he left the room, Akari, my teacher, and I burst out laughing!!
Anyway, that was my highlight of the week, and I just thought I would share it with ‘yall.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Wow it's Wednesday!

We woke up to a white world this morning - not deep but a definate blanket of snow. It was quite cold and the hills have managed to hold onto their snow all day today, although everything down here in the town melted.
Clearly there's nothing too exciting happening here or the blog would be updated more often. I'm actually really enjoying the routine we've gotten into - although it would be a bit of a nicer routine if the kids weren't on crutches and could get themselves to the bus in the mornings. Then I'd have a bit more time for getting myself ready without bumping into them as they're getting ready. I've worked out twice this week - there's a stationary bicycle in the hall next door and I can stream a tv show while I ride. It almost makes it tolerable!
I have arranged for some boxes and bins for clearing out the mountains of resources that are stored next door. There is some stuff that dates waaayyy back to the first AET and I want to get it all weeded and boxed and organized so that anyone who comes will find things in a better state than I did. It's a big job - but it will also make a big difference to whoever comes next.
Ian took the kids to the hospital again today and had them checked. Taran was not really due to go until next Friday but he's been having some pain so it seemed wise to check it out. He's fine and still likely to be in his cast for several weeks. Joisan is supposed to go back next week to get fitted for a brace for her ankle. She still has to wear the splint and keep her weight off of it for another two weeks but after that she should be able to start to use it. They are saying that she tore the ligaments. I'm really doubting if she'll be dancing before the new year. Bummer.
Ian was also able to get me some medication which is good since I have only five days worth left. Our share of my medication costs was only ten dollars - man the healthcare plan is good here!
I am going out for a farewell celebration for the student teacher tomorrow and then I'm doing pro-d with the Chugakko teachers on Friday. I think Ian might be going to Sapporo for the day on Friday to explore some of his old haunts. We are finding ourselves getting invited out more regularly now and I'm excited to get to see people's homes and how others live. I feel like we're in a bit of a "Canadian zone" here at the guest house with little of the reality of Japanese life.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Busy Sunday

So I didn't write yesterday because nothing much happened. Joisan, Ian and I went to Date in the middle of the day but not for anything exciting. We did a bit of shopping and took a bit of a drive - looking at the ocean and checking out some of the residential areas.
Today was our filming day at the hotel in Kitayuzawa. We spent a bunch of time before we left worrying about what we were going to wear (Ian favoured a shirt and tie - the rest of us were a bit more casual) and it turned out when we got there that they were putting us in their 'spa-wear' anyway. Not exactly attractive stuff - kind of tan pajamas with green and orange sploches on them - so fabulous! (Not!)
Once we got changed they took us into the buffet restaurant and set up for the first shot. With the kids on crutches we missed the first shot because it was a movement one. They stood us up in the buffet line for the second shot and we pretended we were terribly excited by all the food. Then for the next shot we all crowded together and did a closing shot complete with us shouting something that translated to something along the lines of "the best of the best".
After we finished the filming they gave us some free time before dinner so Hiro and I went into the Onsen. It was great. I still find it a bit uncomfortable to bare my body but I'm getting better at it. Joisan didn't come with us but she said later that she thought about coming in which is progress. Taran said he would have gone in if it wasn't for his cast so we may actually get a family trip to the onsen sometime. Anyway, Hiro and I had a lovely bath and came out just in time to meet Ian and the kids and head up to the buffet.
The buffet was great - lots of variety and yummy stuff. Joisan was totally thrilled with the desserts and Taran was in heaven with the steak. My favourite was a toss-up between the steak and a yummy seafood, cheese and tomato salad. We sat with the family of one of Joisan's friends from school and when everyone was finished Taran and Joisan challenged Akari and her sister Asaka to a contest to see who could eat their jello with chopsticks the fastest. They had to keep one hand behind their back the whole time. Of course Akari won but Joisan came in second and it was a ton of fun to watch!
So, all in all it was a long day with some seriously boring patches in it but there was definately some fun there too.
We're all a bit tired and there is school tomorrow so it's off to bed.

Friday, November 6, 2009

notes from Ian and Joisan...

From Ian:
I had an interesting day today....I got a call this morning to make a commercial for a fancy hotel. Unfortunately, it was a non-speaking role. I didn't have to do very much but sit around naked for most of the morning. The hotel has a hotspring attached to it and the whole "shoot" was done in the Onsen (bath/hotspring). In Japan, you are not allowed to wear bathing suits in the communal bath houses. I had to sit in 40 degree hot water for up to 25 minutes at a time. We did that about three times before the shoot finished. I turned bright red and when I got out I was dizzy and my heart was pounding quite fast. It will be played on one of the Japanese TV networks all across the country. The whole family goes back on Sunday for another "shoot", but we'll be keeping our clothes on as it will be done in the restaurant.

From Joisan:
Nothing much happened this week... being on crutches equals a boring life! Saturday was the Warashibe festival. It was really boring because all the games were for the warashibe people (not that I would have been able to participate). My mom had made arrangements with the principal, so we got to leave early. We went back to the house to get ready for the Halloween party. The whole time I was at the party, I was thinking of what I could be doing (TRICK-OR-TREATING!), which was disappointing. Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday were completely do-nothing days... I did nothing. Wednesday, my father and I were scheduled to go see the ‘mice’ club, before going for my appointment. The ‘mice’ club is a group of housewives in Date who get together once a month and talk English. After that, we picked up some lunch, and went shopping. Then we were on our way to the hospital. I got X-rayed, and the doctor said it wasn’t the growth plate; it was probably just a ligament. YAY NO CAST!!! He said that I would wear the splint for another 2 weeks, and we would come back in one week. So no school again next Wednesday! I was sent to bed early Thursday night, so that’s why the post is late (I wasn’t being bad, I was just tired)! TTYL!!! XO.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

And the week is flying by!!

Wow! It's Thursday already! Tuesday was a holiday and I loved having the day off. I was supposed to go to Costco with Hiro but it snowed quite a bit that day so we didn't go. The way the snow was falling I had feared that I would not see the ground again until spring but things have warmed up and we've had a couple of nights of rain and the snow is completely gone. The only lasting effects of the blowy - snowy day is that the trees are all bare - all the leaves have completely disappeared. We're getting rain off and on but it's not a constant.
Last night were the adult conversation classes. We seem to have a consistent number for the beginner class - we're settling out around five, but the intermediate class numbers are fluctuating - we had ten last week and only two this week! I'm still trying to figure out what to do with each of the classes to best meet their needs. I was totally exhausted by the time we headed to bed.
Today Ms. Koizumi was away at a new teachers conference so her supervisor and I did the class. He planned it and I did a few extra things on top of what I usually do. I am finding that none of the students have a handle on the time thing so I did a quick mini-lesson on yesterday, today and tomorrow. I am going to make a calendar and do some regular practice with it. This afternoon I went to the elementary school where I rocked! I used a new song that I found online that the grade ones and twos loved! The older kids seemed to have lots of fun working with the alphabet and I'm getting lots of good laughs for the way I show them how to hold their mouth for certain letters! (I'm blowing lots of raspberries!)
I had the Kitayuzawa after school program this afternoon. I felt really badly because ballet was happening and I had to kick a whole bunch of parents out of the room I was supposed to use. They wound up sitting and sewing on the floor of the lobby. They were all working on costumes for the upcoming recital. There is another room but apparently the ceiling is falling in so it can't be used. Ugh. I hope I don't have to kick them out every week!
Ian got all domestic today and made a whole swack of pumpkin pies. He made one large pie for us and five small ones to give away. The pumpkin came from the ones we carved for Halloween. It froze right after they were carved so we pulled a couple in and cut them up and Ian cooked up the pumpkin. He made his own pastry - which turned out very well (but he says he'll never do pastry again). He even made his own evaporated milk since he couldn't find any here. We tested the big pie after dinner tonight and it definately passed muster so I'm not sure I want to give the little ones away!
Tomorrow is Friday already and I'm looking forward to the weekend. I need a couple of days to vegitate and get myself organized for next week. It's only forty-seven days until we fly home for Christmas!

Monday, November 2, 2009

A Quiet Day - Quick and Easy

Not much to tell today - other than the snow that was falling when I left for Tatsunan. There wasn't a ton of it but it was enough to make me a bit nervous setting out for work. As it turned out there was more here in Ootaki than there was anywhere else and by the time I was halfway to Tatsunan there was no sign of snow at all.
I was able to come right home after the morning at Tatsunan so that I could watch my Mum open her gifts at her birthday dinner. I was so glad I could be a part of that. Once I'd had a good long visit with my family and done some prep for the after school program I headed over to the community centre. There were only four kids today because the elementary school has had to close the grade one and grade three classes due to influenza. We did some simple games and that was it! Half an hour goes pretty fast!
It was pretty much a lounging day for Ian and the kids today and tomorrow probably will be too - which is good for both of the kids right now. I may (or may not) be headed to Sapporo tomorrow to go to Costco with Hiro. I hope it works but then again I could also use the day to plan the rest of my week.'s all folks!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Just a few days behind...

Sorry folks, things got a bit hectic and the first thing to go was my sanity - and then came the blog. So... we'll back up to Friday and I'll make it as short and sweet as possible.
Friday was the day that Taran was due for his one week check up for his knee. Ian took him from school and left Joisan and I to get ourselves home. Joisan took the bus and I used one of the bikes that Ian and Joisan left at the school last week. I did well - I made it in only 20 minutes and it's all up hill! I made sure that Joisan was home safely and then biked to the office. While I was there a mushroom farmer came in and brought me a bag full of shitake mushrooms! Yum! I managed to fill an hour with investigating more of the contents of the desk. It's a bit of a schmozle so it will likely take several more Friday mornings to get it sorted out. I rode the bike home (love the basket on the front to carry the mushrooms!) and started dinner 'cause Ian and Taran weren't back yet.
When they did get home it was with a full cast on Taran's leg. They took another 45cc's of blood from under his kneecap and imobilized him from his upper thigh to his ankle. They didn't quite know what to do about the fact that he's still bleeding under the knee so they cut a hole in the cast, right over the knee to allow room for it to swell. They put the part they cut out back in and wrapped it with a bandage to keep it in place.
After we ate and got cleaned up Ian and I started work on the stuff we needed to do for the Halloween party. I decorated the hall while Ian made cookies. It was a pretty late night as there was lots to do. I think we rolled into bed sometime after midnight.
Saturday was crazy hectic. I got up at 6am to ice the cookies Ian had made (can you say 'tired'?) We headed off to school - only 8 minutes late - and I used the time there to print off and prepare a game for the adult Halloween party. At the appropriate time everyone from the school went next door to the Warashibe for their festival. There was a mochi making demonstration. Mochi is the product of pounding rice in a mortar with wooden mallets. It is a two person job with one person doing the pounding and one person wetting the rice and turning it (and risking their hand!) I tried the pounding and managed to get a good rhythm going. There were a few games that the Jr. High students ran for the festival and I played (and lost) each one. There was an awesome lunch and the students from the Jr. High sang and played the Taiko drums. We had to leave a bit early to come home and get ready for the Halloween party.
Taran dressed up as a pirate and Joisan wore a piglet costume she bought in Date. I wore my best black clothes and a hat and cape and was a witch. Ian wore a pumpkin hat that we found here. The kids started arriving about 10 minutes to 3 - around the same time it started snowing! In all there were only 10 children but it was good because I was able to give everyone a costume prize. We carved pumpkins and played games and had fun! There was a bit of a lull toward the end because they went through the activities I had planned much faster than I thought they would. Everyone seemed to have a good time though.
When the kids left we had only a half hour to clean up and get ready for the adult party but thankfully we had help. In the end there were only 7 people who showed up for the supper but we had a good time anyway. We played a couple of games and talked and visited. It was fun.
Today we slept in and lazed around, watched a movie and basically did nothing. I got to have a couple of skype calls and we all just relaxed. The kids don't have school tomorrow because it's a day in lieu for going to school on Saturday, and Tuesday is a holiday so they're enjoying this gift of a three day 'weekend'! Unfortunately I have to work tomorrow so now that we're caught up I'm off to bed! Photos to be posted soon!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Joisan will now be posting once a week!!!

Due to certain “agreements” I have made, I will now be writing on the blog once a week. It will most likely be on Thursdays.... because of dance (well now I guess it doesn’t have to be Thursdays!)
So, my week went something like this....Monday I ventured to school on my own. It wasn’t much different with no Taran. Last Friday, our ‘jerseys’ arrived, part of the uniform... a tracksuit. You start the day off in the ‘formal uniform’, then when you have PE, art, woodwork or cooking, that’s when you change into the ‘jersey’. As I said, they arrived and I was really excited to wear it (it even says J. Fairwell (the Fairwell in Japanese))! For the past few weeks, I have just been changing into my own clothes, so when I put on the ‘jersey’ everyone ooed and awed! The rest of the day was just normal. Tuesday was a very horrible very very awful super-duper atrocious, evil day!!!! :(:(:(:(:(:(:(:(:(:(:( Everything was fine until lunch time. The cafeteria is not allowed to make anything special for me, and on Tuesday, salad was the only thing that I could eat, so I brought some veggies to eat. Unfortunately I forgot them in my backpack when I went down to the lunch room. I was then sent back up to get them. I grabbed them out of my bag, and I was on my way to eat. I was in a little bit of a hurry because I was really hungry. As I was going down the stairs, I started to fall. So I tried to catch myself but I was too late. My right foot went back and under, and I landed on it. CRACK! I waited for someone to find me because I didn’t know how much damage was done. Luckily the person who found me was the nurse. She looked at it and helped me to her office. My mom came looking for me shortly after and found me in the nurse’s office. The nurse looked at it some more, and then wrapped it. The principal is trained in ski first aid, and he made me a boot out of cardboard. Sadly it got taken apart and recycled before I could take a picture of it.
It was decided that if my foot was really sore the next morning, then we would go get it looked at. Tuesday night, there was another welcome party. For some of us it was lots of fun.... but for those hopping, not so great. Wednesday was a pretty lazy morning... I was not woken up to go to school. Taran and I watched some TV, and read our books while my dad slept. When he eventually got up, he made us lunch, then him and I headed to the hospital. I got an X-ray, and the doctor said that there was no break, but that he thought my growth plate was damaged (he didn’t know exactly what was wrong with it). He put a splint on the back, and under my foot, and wrapped it up, and gave me crutches. I am to go back to the hospital in one week. I don’t think that anyone knows HOW pissed off I am!! I also don’t think anyone knows how much I appreciate all the extra help from my parents, and school people! I am told that I may not dance until after X-mas!!! RAWR!! Thursday, I woke up and my mom drove my brother and me to school. We were about 7 minutes late, and then it took a few more minutes to get up the stairs!! I sat in my desk, and the nurse brought me a stool to “elevate” my leg. I hobbled around... and that was pretty much it! At school during the last block, the rain turned into a thunder and lightning storm... and then the power went out!! Only for 5 minutes though! There you have it folks, my week in detail!
Until next week... a very unhappy Joisan!! :(

Still tired...

So, here it is, 8:45 on Thursday evening and I'm ready for bed. Man, I'm bagged! We are trying to get organized for the Halloween party on Saturday and we're struggling a bit with finding fun things we can do with the adults. Ideas are welcome!
I drove the kids to school today and got organized for the classes I was teaching today. Miss Koizumi is still really focused on using only English in the class so we spent a bit of time going over strategies for ensuring comprehension. I was working this afternoon at the Sho gakko so I could only be there for the first two English classes. They went really well but when I came back to the school to pick up the kids Miss Koizumi was almost in tears. The third class, with the grade 8's didn't go as well. She was feeling quite overwhelmed about it. We're going to try again with them tomorrow.
After lunch I pulled my things together and headed for the Sho gakko (elementary school). I didn't do much in the way of differentiated planning for today. I just played 2 truths and a lie with them and answered questions about skydiving and the fact that Taran and Joisan are both on crutches. I have to get my act together and do some good planning for next week. They are short classes though so it won't be too difficult.
I had the third after school program today - only three students - but lots of enthusiasm and fun! I've now run the whole gamut and done at least one round with each group. It's all been good and now I'm far less nervous about it all. I feel settled.
Ian is still looking for any opportunity to volunteer and help around the community. For now he's being kept busy with running children back and forth to the hospital!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

It's the growth plate...

Apparantly Joisan has fragile growth plates. She broke one in her arm two years ago and that's what she damaged this time too. So, I have two children on crutches - a matched set! (photos to be posted soon!)
Today was a bit of a slow start kind of day. We were all really tired after the party last night. Joisan had been awake in the night with pain in her foot and Ian rolled in around 2:30am so between one thing and another I didn't get much sleep and neither did anyone else. It was Mum's birthday today so I got up and skyped with her and Phoebe for almost an hour. I managed to drag Ian out of bed to drive me to work and then he got to come home and crash again. Joisan didn't go to school today as she was heading for the hospital anyway so she was able to sleep in a bit too.
I taught two classes at the Chu gakko today. The first one went okay and the second one went really well! I'm not sure if I mentioned it already but the English teacher is a first year teacher and so she has a supervisor who comes about 10 days a month. After the first lesson he talked with Naoko about the value of only using English in the class and not giving explanations or instructions in Japanese at any point. So, she tried it for the 2nd lesson today and it was awesome! Naoko found it a little bit hard but she did very very well and the students learned more and paid more attention to the lesson. I am continually impressed by the teachers in this school - they make every effort to make the learning about the students. I don't know if it's just because it's easier with so few students or if this staff is progressive or what it is but it is not so much about the rote learning as I was led to expect. Yay!
So, I will just say right now that I wrote the first part of this last night with every intention of finishing it after the adult class but I was too wiped out and I completely forgot about it. So, I will post it now, this morning and then I will post another one tonight.
The first adult classes went very well last night. We just talked and carved pumpkins. I will get some more directed lessons happening at some point but for now it was a good place to start. There is far more I could tell but I'm at school now and will have to save it for later.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

It runs in the family...

It was another busy day in Ohtaki today. I was busy busy all morning getting set up for the Chu gakko Halloween party. The students made a ton of decorations and Naoko and I got them all up on the wall along with a few decorations that she bought at the 100 yen shop. It looked great! We gathered all the apples we needed as well as the ingredients for the toffee. I had to give the apples a good scrub as they seemed to be coated in wax and I was afraid the toffee wouldn't stick.
Today's lunch was really good but not Joisan-friendly so she ran upstairs to get her extra stuff from her bag. After a while I noticed that she hadn't come back to the cafeteria so I went looking for her. I found her heading to the nurses office - hopping on one foot. She was heading back from getting her lunch when she fell down the stairs and heard something go 'crack'. Her foot is pretty swollen and she can't put any weight on it so Ian gets to make another trip to the hospital tomorrow to get it x-rayed. Lucky him! Joisan really wants it to be fine but she's clearly in a lot of pain. There was a bit of teasing in the staffroom about the accident prone Fairwells! Anyway, the principal made her a 'boot' out of cardboard that helped to keep it stable.
During the last period we had the Halloween party. Joisan was a little 'ho-hum' about it because of course she's used to the pumpkin-carving thing, but the students loved it! They had a great time and got totally into it! Unfortunately the toffee didn't work as well as I'd hoped - it took a long time and never really got as candy-like as I wanted. The kids enjoyed doing it and I'm sure they'll enjoy eating them. I kept them in the Home Ec room overnight in hopes that when it cooled down it got harder. We'll see.
I had the second after school program this afternoon and with all the extra prep I did yesterday it went really well. We got through the whole craft and it went really well. I'm looking forward to the last one on Thursday and then I'll pick a new activity for next week. Tomorrow is the Warashibe again and then the first adult conversation classes.
Tonight was our official Welcome Party with the Friendship Club. Thankfully it was here at the guesthouse as there was a fair amount of drinking and I wouldn't have wanted to be driving! They had a bunch of sushi delivered and brought some other stuff to fill out the meal. There was about 20 or 25 people and it was a hoot! Hiro got totally drunk and was a riot! Ian wound up going with a couple of the men to sing Karaoke! He's still not back yet and may not actually come home! It sounded like they were 'borrowing' him for the night!
Anyway, it's late. It's my Mum's birthday today so I'm just going to give her a quick phone call and go to bed. Good night! Happy Birthday Mum!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Monday is laugh at Phaedra day!

So I went to the Tatsunan Junior High School this morning. It was the first time I have seen the 7th grade class so I was looking forward to it but they are a bunch of rotten kids! I was completely shocked by the behaviour that is accepted in the class - and in the school. There were kids hitting other kids and lots of calling out and talking back - I was completely exhausted by the time we were finished!
I got out of there as fast as I could and went to pick up a few things I needed for the Halloween party at the Chu gakko tomorrow. I stopped at the store and went to find sugar for the toffee apples we're going to make at the party. It took a few minutes but I found the sugar aisle and marvelled again at how difficult it is to buy anything in bulk here. I worked my way down the shelf looking at progressively bigger bags of sugar. I had settled on getting a few 1 kilo bags when I noticed a 5 kilo bag on the lowest shelf. I grabbed it and headed to the Chu gakko. Of course - when I proudly showed it to Naoko she burst out laughing and told me that I bought salt not sugar! Of course everyone who was in the staffroom had a good giggle at my expense. Naoko is going to pick up sugar tonight.
After school today I had the first afternoon program. It went really well - other than the fact that I went 45 minutes over the time I was supposed to keep them! I had a complicated craft planned - one that I would ordinarily have done over two sessions - but because it was a Halloween craft I was under a bit of a time crunch and needed to get it complete in one go. I have reflected upon the afternoon and made some big adjustments for tomorrows group. I have two more afternoon groups this week as well as the adult classes on Wednesday night. We still have some major planning and organizing to do for the Halloween party on Saturday and it seems like we won't get enough pumpkins. There are tons of the green, squash ones but it's been a bad year for the orange ones and we're having problems tracking some down. Oh well, it will all work out I'm sure. We'll just have to be resourseful.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Quiet Sunday

Not much to report today. Ian and I went for a lovely walk up the hill behind us. I'm posting a link to the photos and a panoramic video here on the blog. (upper right) I kept my Skype open most of the day and eventually got to talk to my mum. I guess everyone is pretty busy on Saturdays but I hope I'll be able to connect with some people tomorrow morning (your Sunday afternoon) before I head to Tatsunan.
The kids and Ian watched a couple of movies and I puttered around with some planning and organizing for the week. It was pretty quiet. Oh, and note to Sarah... I did find out that Canadian World has been closed for a few years now so we'll have to strike that one off the list. Bummer.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Super (busy) Saturday

We got up a bit early this morning so Joisan and I could be ready to go when Hiro got here. Hiro drove for us and got us where we were going without any difficulty. The route we took was one we haven't been on before and it was spectacular! I would love to have gone that way two weeks ago when the trees still had leaves. I'm sure that it will be gorgeous in the spring too! The road gets closed every winter. Hiro said that the government doesn't have enough money to keep it plowed and it is an unnecessary road since it is really just a shortcut. Beautiful, but just a shortcut.
The speech contest was really a recitation contest - the kids didn't write the speeches. The student from Tatsunan who I've been helping came in 2nd. She spoke well and clearly and she made some changes based on my coaching so I felt good about that. She will be going (along with the first place winner) to the next level of the contest in Sapporo in November so I guess I'll get to keep working with her. I've got to figure out how to get her to say 'year' instead of 'ear'. Ideas anyone?!?
After the contest we made a quick stop at a high school in Muroran where the English teacher (a man from Winnipeg) wanted to meet me. He seems very nice and I think there's a tentative plan for him to call us the next time he and his family are coming to Ohtaki which they apparantly do regularly. We then checked out a couple of shops in Muroran (which is much bigger than Date) before heading back to Date for a late lunch. We ate at a restaurant called Bocca which had the Japanese version of Italian food. It was yummy! We got Joisan to dance and Hiro and I went shopping for supplies for the Halloween party. We went for a quick grocery shop before heading back to pick up Joisan. The dance teacher wants Joisan to try the toe shoes they have here instead of the ones we brought. They are totally flat across the toe and she thinks it would be easier for Joisan to learn on them. I'm a little torn - I think it would be good for her to build the strength in her feet and ankles and doing it with "training wheels" may be better for now. On the other hand, it may be better in the long run for her to get used to the more advanced shoe right from the beginning. I'm thinking that one of the reasons they focus on getting the dancers on pointe so early is that they have these easier shoes to do it with. Anyway, in the long run I am sure that Joisan is going to learn so much! Three two hour classes per week with the dancers they have at the level that they're working is going to be soooo good for her!
When we got home Ian had everything all prepared for a yummy tempura dinner. He did squid and prawns and veggies and YUM! It took a while and he was cooking pretty much throughout the meal but it was really good. Hiro had picked up some desserts at the Posful and after the dishes were done we tucked into those. Afterwards we played a few games and then Hiro went home and the kids went to bed.
Tomorrow is a do-nothing day (at least at this point) and I'm looking forward to getting myself organized for the busy week to come. I will be keeping my Skype on as much as possible and hopefully will catch some of you for a chat.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Freaky Friday

Wow - another weird day. Last night I wound up giving Taran a couple of Ibuprofen to help him sleep so when I woke him up this morning his knee looked a bit better. Unfortunately, after he'd been up and around it swelled up again and looked messy. We decided that Ian was going to take Taran to the hospital but not until the afternoon so he went to school this morning - but not on the bus though. I went in early to take him and he spent the day in the wheel chair staying on the ground floor. He actually did some school work!
Part way through the morning we found out that two of Taran's classmates have the "new flu" which means that his class is cancelled until Thursday! Joisan's class is due to go back on Monday but if one more person in her class comes down with it or if two kids from the grade 8 class get it then the whole school will be closed for the week. Weird system.
So I did not go to the hospital today but I heard the story and it was enough - I didn't need to be there! Ian said it was a better doctor this time. He sent Taran for x-rays and they wound up taking 50cc's of blood out from under his knee cap. The doctor said he didn't tear the ligament - he stretched and crushed it though. (ooo ooo there go the shivers - I can just imagine how that feels!) He got a kind of splint / cast thing and a set of crutches and he is not allowed to put any weight on it at all for at least a week. Then he'll probably have to do some physio to get it back in shape. Anyway - he's pretty bummed about the whole thing - he's just aching to get into the sports and activities here.
Joisan and I have a big day tomorrow - we're going to watch an English speech contest in the morning and then an open house at a highschool in Muroran before we head to Joisan's ballet class in Date. Busy day so I'm heading off to bed.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

No clever names today...

It's been a bit of a rough day today. I did have the welcome ceremony at the Cho-gakko (elementary school) which was wonderful and fun, but the rest of the day has been a bit of a challenge. The funniest part of the ceremony was when they invited children from each class to ask me questions and one of them asked me what kind of furniture I like! I've never had that one before!
Taran hurt himself at school today. He was trying to participate - at least in a limited way - in PE this morning and he stepped forward onto his left foot and his knee went out. It is a situation that I am painfully familiar with and it give me the shivers just to think about it. His knee is all swollen and hot and bruised and it looks like Ian will be taking him to the hospital again. I hope it's not torn but I really think it might be. Ugh. Taran is so bummed about it - his back is feeling so much better that he was really looking forward to getting active again. Not good.
I have also heard about some stuff going on with one of my friends back home whose Dad just died. I'm feeling so far away and unable to comfort her or help her in any way. I also know that one of my friends is getting ready to move and must be feeling so overwhelmed. I wish I could be helping! This is definately the hardest part of being here.
I'm sorry to be so quick tonight but we're a little overwhelmed with all that is going on and I need to go help Taran. I'll let y'all know what's up with his knee tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Wacky Wednesday

The day started off quite normally - the kids got up and off to school. I tried to have my Wednesday morning skype call with my mother but I'm guessing she had a meeting or something 'cause we missed each other. :(
I went to the chugakko this morning and prepped for teaching both the grade 8's and the grade 7's. Ms. Koizumi's supervisor was there and he came in to the class and observed us both. After the class we talked about how it went and he commented that he liked my teaching style. It was nice to hear :)
Not long after the grade 8 class finished I was told that we wouldn't be teaching the grade 7's today as they were being sent home. It was quite a surprise but the story is that there were two students in that class who were home sick with influenza (not sure if it's the swine type or not) and they have cancelled grade 7 until Monday. Joisan is thrilled and looking forward to a couple of extra sleep-in days. Taran is feeling a bit hard-done-by but my bet is that if even one student in his class comes down with it his class will be given the same holiday. It seems a bit weird - at home if two kids in a class were home with the flu they would just carry on and here they are giving them a three day holiday!
After lunch I did a few things around the office and headed to the Warashibe for my lesson there. Today we reviewed the songs we've sung before and then played body parts Bingo. It was fun! After we finished with the bingo we went over a few Halloween words and played a quick game and that was all there was to it.
I had to take off fast after the Warashibe to go pick up Joisan from home and head to Date to pick up my money (payday today - yay!) They gave it all to me in cash. That's weird too - getting paid in cash - definately different! Joisan and I went shopping to find some pants for her since we had some time to kill before dance. We found two pair and were told about a couple of other stores to check out - maybe on Saturday. I don't know if we just lucked out in the store we went to or the sales they were having but I found the prices really good. Maybe it was just that I had 200000 yen burning a hole in my pocket!!
Joisan was a bit concerned about going to a restaurant without anyone who speaks or reads Japanese to help us with ordering so we picked up dinner from the supermarket deli section. We had a yummy octopus thing and some prawns and some squash tempura. Mmmm. We got to ballet in plenty of time and I paid for the October lessons and left her there while I went grocery shopping. It was pretty uneventful - other than on my way out of the store I thought I had hit the jackpot finding some brown bread at a specialty bakery counter. It was more expensive than the white we're buying but not horribly so. I bought some and found out afterwards that it is brown because of the sugar they use in it not because it's whole wheat. Oh well. Lesson learned!
These Wednesday evenings are going to be late - Joisan's ballet class is two hours - from 6:30 to 8:30 and then they clean up and we have a 40 minute drive home. Ugh. It's a good thing she gets to sleep in tomorrow! Unfortunately I don't so I'm off to bed now. Good night all!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Terriffic Tuesday

Despite the downpour of rain it was a good day today. I started by opening a bank account this morning. I don't have anything in it yet but payday is tomorrow so that should help things along. Ian went with me to the office and wound up making an appointment to have the winter tires put on the car. He dropped me off at the Chugakko and picked up some fruit and veggies before heading to get the tires changed.
I hung about the school for the day - not doing too much because it was a special day when all the grade 8's and 9's were out of the school doing work experience and the grade 7's focused on woodwork and home ec. They made a lunch for themselves and invited me to join them. It was yummy!
We came home right after school so Joisan and I could get ready and head to Date for her ballet class. It turned out that she was not the oldest one in the class - there was a 13 year old there too. It was a good class for her and she felt far more confident about herself and her ability to participate and communcate through a class. It is quite different from what we're used to - both in structure and style. Joisan needs to work hard at stretching in between classes and at developing the stamina to make it through the classes themselves - they are two hours long! I think that we've worked out a good balance for her classes - she'll be doing one basic pointe class with the younger group and the two strength and skills classes with the older group. They start pointe very early here - some as young as 7 or 8! Anyway, she thinks it will be a good balance for her and not make her feel too 'out of it'. She seemed pretty happy with it tonight so I'm hoping that the feeling holds.
Ian was out at badminton when we got home but Taran was home - still resting his back. He's looking forward to being able to do stuff again. Ian said there was the perfect number at badminton tonight - 8 of them - so they had two full courts. He came home all hot and sweaty and happy so that's all good!
Tomorrow is going to be a bit crazy - I need to pick up my pay in Date before 4pm and Joisan dances at 6:30 so we're leaving school at 3:00 and we'll just hang out in between - check out the shopping options! I promise to report any exciting finds!
I'm tired and cold now - off to shower and go to bed. More adventures tomorrow!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Monday Monday

We had a nice start to our day with the opportunity to have a quick visit on Skype with some of our family at their family dinner. It was a great way to start the day but unfortunately most of us had to disperse before the majority had gathered. Taran and Joisan even got to show off their uniforms to the family before they headed off to catch the bus.
I had to head to Tatsunan Chugakko today so I took off about 9. I takes almost a full hour to get there and I was a little worried that I would get lost - the only time I was there was two weeks ago and I had a guide then - but I didn't have any trouble at all. I spent the first half hour talking to the teacher and planning for the two classes today. I had the grade 9's first and then the grade 8's. I played 2 truths and a lie with the 8's and the teacher loved it so much she asked me to think of more things to do that with in the future. I don't know if I have that many things that are easily explainable! Today my truths were that I have been skydiving and that my sister is a lawyer. If anyone can think of interesting things about me I'd love to hear them - I don't quite know how I'll explain that I'm a Doula!!! I had lunch with the grade 8 students and realized how lucky the kids and I are in the lunch program at the Otaki Chugakko. The food is way better here and the lunchroom is way nicer than eating in the classrooms at Tatsunan.
After lunch I worked with a grade nine student who is participating in an English speaking contest. Saturday is the contest day and I'm trying to organize our life so that I can go. It's going to be a challenge since Joisan has ballet at 5pm and unless she comes with me I'll have to go to Date and then on to the town where the contest is and then come back to Otaki to get Joisan and go back to Date. Sounds like too much driving to me!
After I finished at the school I went to the city hall and picked up our resident alien cards as well as the money for the flights (which, unfortunately, I have to pass on to the man who booked and paid for them). Afterwards I went shopping for a few things and came home.
By all accounts the kids had a fine day. They had their first drumming class today and they both feel like they need more practice! Of course it need to be said that everyone else has had years of practice and this was their first go of it. It's pretty exciting to have all these first experiences!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Okonomiaki night

It was a pretty lazy day. We spent a fair amount of time playing on the computer and lazing in front of the tube. The kids cleaned their rooms and Ian and I prepped for dinner. I made one of the salad mixes I brought from home - it's bag had broken in transit so it can't be given away anyway and we thought we'd serve it up.
There was quite a bit of cutting up and organizing so we would be able to just cook it up when the company got here. Ian got all the bits and pieces done - cabbage, beef, onion, mushrooms. He even cleaned and cut up the squid. I washed up so that afterward there would be less dishes.
We had suggested that Hiro might want to bring a friend and she brought two of the staff from the Chugakko. Yuki is the dietition and Naoko is the English teacher. We played Pit and had some of that Japanese popcorn - which it turns out is actually popped beans! Unfortunately Yuki had to go to Date to get supplies for lunch tomorrow so she couldn't stay for dinner. After she left we got to cooking and had YUMMY okonomiaki! Taran even had squid in his! (no mushrooms though - apparently squid is more tolerable than mushrooms!)
After dinner we played Catch Phrase - which was interesting with two ESL players. I did bring it for the purpose of working on vocabulary with the adults so this was a good test to see how it works - I was pretty pleased. They had to skip several words each but they still got a fair number of them. I think it will be a fun thing to do with the adults as long as we keep it low-key. We may leave the timer out of it for a while.
After we finished with Catch Phrase, Hiro taught us a Japanese game called Yubisuma where everyone puts both hands in to the centre and takes a turn saying how many thumbs will be up. At the appropriate moment people raise their thumbs if they want to (or not if they don't). If the right number of thumbs are up then the person who called it can take one of their fists out of the circle and the play moves on. The goal is to be the first to take both your hands out. It all happens quickly and the thumbs go up on the same beat as the number is called. It's fast and fun. We also practiced a bit of Jun Ken Po (rock paper scissors) since it is used almost constantly around here for deciding everything from which team will serve first in badminton, to who has to wipe the table after lunch in the cafeteria. Joisan was not sure of the rhythm so we helped her figure it all out.
It was a school night tonight so it seemed appropriate to wind it down early. Naoko and Hiro were gone by about 8:30 and we cleaned up and headed for bed.
The kids have to catch their bus a few minutes earlier tomorrow and I have to take myself (by myself) to Date. Wow! That weekend went fast! It's hard to believe how quickly the time is going - one minute it seems like we just got here and the next it's like we've been here forever!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Busy Friday and Saturday

So, yesterday was the last day of school for the week and my first teaching day at the kindergarten. On Fridays I start the day at the city office and then go to the kindergarten and race to the chugakko. The office is pretty boring - not much to do there other than stamp my time sheet and cruise the internet. I have an email address there but I can only get the email there on Fridays so there's not much point in it. I can't access my webmail from there either so it's a bit of a communication black hole!
Anyway, the kindergarten was a ton of fun. I feel totally confident and able to do it - it's definately in my comfort zone! I did a half hour with the 3-4 year olds and a half hour with the 5 year olds. I stuck with the Happy and You Know It theme and they had a blast. Every one of them that I've seen since has come running and given me a hug!
After the kindergarten I went to the Chugakko and did two English classes. Ms. Koizumi and I are becoming a well-oiled machine! We spent some time planning the Halloween party too. It's going to be fun!
On Friday night we went back to the Chugakko for the Badminton tournament and Ian wound up playing although he hadn't intended to. He teamed up with Naomi and the two of them came second in the 'B' level. It was all really well organized and lots of fun! Ian played well and I played with some of the kids from the kindergarten.
I got up early today (Saturday) so that I could go to the Chogakko (Elementary School) production. It was a three hour event that involved each class doing multiple performances - music, drama and dance. I was really glad that I went - although I would have preferred it to start later so that I could have slept longer!
I spent a few minutes this afternoon looking through some of the supplies in the hall - getting things figured out for the Halloween Party. I found some stuff - but I'm still going to need to do a bit of shopping (darn!) After I got it all cleaned up I had a bit of a nap before dinner. I sure needed it! Ian and I went out to a choral concert this evening in Sobetsu. Ms. Koizumi's supervisor (she's a first year teacher and so she has a supervisor) was in it and he's the one who invited us and comped us the tickets. They did three sets of songs - the first one was fairly recognizable - some Brahms, Bach and Danny Boy were in there - and the second set was Japanese Pop songs. The third set was apparently some poems that had been set to music. It was really wonderful! They raffled off the plants they had for stage decor and I won one! Hiro went with us to the concert and she's coming for dinner tomorrow. We're going to make one of my favourite things - okonomiaki! Yum! She also told us about some farmers who will sell brown rice directly from the farm. We're hoping that we can make a connection to do that. It will likely be cheaper and it would be cool to get the rice right from the farm!
Anyway, you're all caught up now and despite the nap today I am really bagged so I'm off to bed! Today was my brother's birthday here - hope when it comes to your time zone it's a really great day Wyatt! Love you!

Thursday, October 15, 2009


First and foremost there is a new photoshare posted - complete with a photo of the kids in uniform so make sure to check it out! Taran and Joisan have done their paragraphs so I am going to let them tell their stories today...

Joisan's paragraph...
My first day of school here in Japan was like no other first day of school I have ever experienced. The day started off with the three of us (Mum, Taran and me) going into a ‘conference’ room. We sat there for awhile reading. Then we were called to go to the ceremony. My mum gave a speech, and some of the students played the traditional drums for us. I was then taken to my classroom by my home room teacher who also teaches social studies and home economics. All of the nine students in my class introduced themselves to me, and then I returned the favour. I don’t quite remember what happened then, as the whole day was very overwhelming and stressful. They have a different system with the classes here. What happens is there is one homeroom for each grade, and the teachers just come to you. So in math, English, Japanese, and social studies, the teacher comes to you to teach. For P.E., science, home ec., art and tech you go to a different room. It is very interesting and I like it. That day, I went to the grade 8 English class for a reason unknown, and did an English grammar test (talk about easy). The English teacher told me everyone’s name, and then expected me to remember all of them. At lunchtime, you wash your hands, and then head to the lunch room. As you arrive there, you use hand sanitizer (in case your hands aren’t already clean enough LOL)! After school there are clubs... badminton, track and field, and computers. I will most likely be joining badminton (although I’m no good). Yesterday was just a day of school, nothing exciting. After school I went to ballet, which was different. Seeing as I hadn’t danced in four months, I was very inflexible. Hiro had come with us, and she then took us to the dollar store so we could get some school chopsticks and a case. Hmmm... Guess what colour mine are... LOL. Today was by far the best day not only in school but in Japan! Today was the first day that I felt that I wasn’t just a foreign visitor, and that I really ‘belong’ (as in I felt that they were my friends and I felt included). I MADE BANANA CREPES TODAY!!! MMMMM....!!! We also have to brush our teeth at lunch... strange!! LOL! There were defiantly embarrassing parts of the day, but I managed! It’s off to bed for me, maybe tomorrow can be this good. Although, tomorrow will be weird because they are measuring our height, weight, eyesight, and telling us how to properly brush our teeth! xoxoxo Joisan <3

Taran's paragraph...just so u all know im writting this under duress school is wierd here cuz u have to wash the school at the end of everyday. its different having to wear a uniform and mine is sorta uncomfertable. people are really nice but have a hard time understanding what ur tryin to say sometimes.

Hey - at least I got something out of both of them. Taran went to the hospital in Date today because his back has gotten oh so much worse. He really wants to participate in all the cool activities that are available here and it hurts him just to move. They took x-rays of his back and took it all very seriously. I wanted him to get a referral to a physiotherapist but the doctor he saw said that it is muscular and he gave him a prescription and some medicated pads to wear on his back. He is not allowed to do anything for a week and then he's not allowed to do anything but the exercises he was given for another week. Hopefully this will help - and he will not do anything that he shouldn't. Time will tell. Goodnight all - I'm off to bed to be ready to tackle the kindergarten tomorrow. Should be fun!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Kendo and Ballet

I'm exhausted tonight so this is just a short note - more details to follow later, I promise! Taran and Joisan tried their activities tonight and both really enjoyed them. Taran is looking forward to getting his back better so that he can join Kendo. We are going to try and get an appointment for him tomorrow.
Joisan was a little cautious in ballet at first but she got into the class quickly and did really well. She is a bit intimidated by the fact that the dancers start on pointe very young here - much more so than at home. She really wants to do it though and so we are going to give it a try.
Sorry - no paragraph from the kids tonight but we will get on that tomorrow for sure!
I went to the Warashibe again today and it went reallly well! We reviewed all the stuff from last week and did colours and body parts as well (using songs of course!) and we're all ready to play body part bingo next week. The following week we will do some Halloween activities.
Halloween is definately not part of the Japanese culture but it is a North American holiday that they will happily adopt and participate in! The English teacher at the Chugakko is very excited to do a Halloween party for the students and we are going to be planning that next week.
Off to bed now.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

First Day of Junior High!

I am very tired after a long day. The kids and I started school today at the Chu-gakko. We started the day with a welcome ceremony where I said a speech in Japanese. I didn't understand anything that I said but apparently I said it well with good pronunciation!
I helped in an English class today (not my scheduled day) and I worked with the principal to try and get the program for the kids distance education downloaded and set-up. It took many tries and still did not work on their computers but we worked it out so the kids can take the computers we brought to school if they need to work on anything online. Whew! I am glad to have that dealt with. Taran and Joisan have promised to write a paragraph each about their first days of school but it is too late now so they will have to do it tomorrow.
After school today we went to the cable tv station and taped a segment for the local station that will be running for the next few days. They interviewed us and welcomed us to the community. It was lots of fun and we will likely be on again another day doing something else. Ian would like to do something regularly and I found some lesson plans in my desk for quick lessons for tv so we might do some conversation lessons for them.
After the tv station we came home and got the kids organized for their evening by themselves and Ian and I went out to the local hotel for the Ohtaki Jr. High welcome party. We ate some amazing food - including sashimi, squid, tempura, a local chop suey and oh so much more! We were soooo full! After much eating and drinking and speeches (every member of the staff welcomed us in English!) we went to relax in the Onsen (hot springs). It was amazing and scary and wonderful! It's amazing because it is so fabulously done - very spa-like, very posh; it's scary because it is just so weird to be naked around other people and it was a little uncomfortable at first (and second and third!) but it got easier; it was wonderful because it was just so lovely to be there together with the people who will be my friends and to relax and build the "naked relationship" (apparently they have a word for it in Japanese but nothing that translates well!) I will definately go back - it was fun!
We're just home now and need to head off to bed to ensure that we can be up at the appropriate time. We need to invest in an alarm clock so that I don't have to worry so much about getting up at the right time!
Goodnight all! Tomorrow is another big day - kendo and ballet - so we'll have some good stories I am sure!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving Monday!

We had to be up early-ish this morning to be ready for the festival. We had some time on Skype with my family at their Thanksgiving dinner. Unfortunately we didn't have nearly enough time for a good visit but a few minutes was better than none at all.
We went down to catch the bus to the festival but it may have been a few minutes early as we didn't see it. We wound up finding the festival on our own. It was a sports themed festival and we spent the morning playing Park Golf. It's a bit of a cross between golf and croquet (large ball, large club) and it was lots of fun! Taran's back is unfortunately causing him a great deal of pain so he suffered through the game. Joisan was done after eleven holes but we pushed on to do the full eighteen. Taran and I each won a prize - mine was house stuff (dish-soap, kleenex, plastic wrap) and Taran's was a bag of veggies.
After the prizes were all given out we got some yummy lunch - miso soup with weird fresh mushrooms and mushroom-rice balls wrapped in nori. Yum yum yum! We watched Hiro's Yosakoi group perform and then we went inside for the bingo. We only started off with one card but we were given two more so we managed to win three times! Unfortunately we did not win any of the big prizes (three tv's - one big screen and two smaller ones) but we did get another big bag of veggies and some mushrooms and some more foodstuffs. Our fridge is full!!!
After it was all finished we had time to get Ian and Taran home before I had to take Joisan for ballet. She was pretty nervous about the whole thing and decided that she was just going to watch. As it turned out the class was not the right one for Joisan - it was very much just for beginners. The teacher told us about three classes in Date that she will join. There is a pointe class on Tuesdays and two others on Wednesdays and Saturdays. It will be a challenge at first because the teachers don't speak any English and it is Russian-style ballet so Joisan will not be as familiar with the exercises. I really hope it works out because we have not been able to find an RAD teacher within a three-hour radius.
We got our bits and pieces for tomorrow all organized and ready. We have to be up early and at the school by 8am. I had lost my speach so I haven't practiced it enough yet but Ian found it for me and I'll be working on it before bed. I'm giving it in Japanese so I'm feeling a little out of my element... I'll let you all know how it goes!
Time to head for the bed now though - goodnight all, Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Birthday Katie!