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!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Lazy Sunday

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! We had a very lazy day today - slept late, watched movies on tv and played on the internet. Joisan even had a long nap! I had a nice skype call with some family and I even got to read a bedtime story to my niece! How cool is this technology thing?!
I had hoped that we would possibly get outside for a bike ride today but it poured almost continuously all day today. I hope it clears up for the festival tomorrow. Thanks to some quality nagging by my loving husband I did manage to get my exercise for the day by going into the hall next door with my Tae-Bo and Yoga videos. It was certainly cold in there to start but I warmed up quite quickly. I hope I can make myself do it regularly.
Anyway, th-th-th-that's all folks! Another fun filled festival tomorrow so no doubt there will be more news then.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving everyone. Ian and I are thankful to be here and enjoying new and exciting experiences. Taran is thankful for hamburgers made from deer and Joisan is thankful for all the kind people here.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Super Saturday

We had a great sleep-in morning today. Getting up so late put us into a bit of a push to get ready in time to meet Hiro to go to the festival. Ian cooked up some hot cereal for us this morning but it turned out that what we thought was oatmeal was probably barley. Not quite the way to start the day!!
We got to the festival and Hiro started introducing us around. The festival was held at what we think is a seniors home. Mr. Imai kept taking pictures of us throughout the festival. We will see if we can get our hands on any of them and post them on the blog. Mr. Imai also gave us coupons for food at the festival. We got a whole bunch of fresh sushi that was made right in front of us. Then we checked out the rooms where they had stuff for sale. Some of it was stuff that the residents made - some weaving, woodwork, pottery, etc. - and some was garage sale type stuff. Joisan got a dance bag and a gift for one of her friends.
Hiro continued to introduce us around and one of the people she introduced us to was busy cooking up some burgers - which interested Taran greatly! He gave us each a burger (except Joisan) and then told us that they were deer burgers. He goes up north and gets the deer and brings them to his farm where he feeds them and keeps them until they're ready to slaughter. They were fantastic burgers! We all enjoyed them and Taran went and bought two more! We found some noodles for Joisan and all sat down and enjoyed our lunch. To finish it off we had a sample of some Japanese popcorn that we were given - it's a little different that what we're used to in looks and taste and most definately in preparation. Ian and Taran saw them making it and I'm not sure of the process exactly but whatever the lead-up, some part of the process included a big BOOM! and a bit of steam or smoke at the final moment of creation. Bizarre! One man came over to us with five bags for us! We were totally full at that point but they will make good snacks for the next little while. Yum!
We sat and ate and listened to the elementary school choir sing and then Hiro's Yosakoi group performed. Afterward there was a bingo game. I had purchased one card and Joisan had purchased one. Ian got talking with a man who wanted us to sit with him during the bingo game and he wanted Joisan to take care of his cards for him. It was a pretty neat set-up with an electronic board that selected and displayed the numbers. They had a whole bunch of prizes and we went home with three of them. Joisan got a Hello Kitty towel, and a bag of veggies (on one of the mans cards) and I got a strange, fish-shaped container that apparently holds mosquito coils. Weird. Anyway, there's more to come at the next festival on Monday. I've already been given a bingo card for that!
We stopped in at what was supposed to be another festival afterward but it turned out to be a bit of a lame market. Afterward we came home and had some vegging time. It was all very boring until the lightning and thunder started. The first flash lit the whole house and the thunder shook the house! It continued for a little while but moved further away and then it started pouring. Right in the middle of it all, while I was working on the computer in Joisan's room, and Ian was making dinner, we had an earthquake! It wasn't very big - in fact I was the only one who felt it. The others didn't believe me until we got a call from Gerhard (our travel arranger) in Sapporo who confirmed that I'm not crazy.
The weather here is remarkable for its changability. When I went to take the compost out after dinner the sky was clear and the stars were out. Then, just about a half-hour ago, we got another dump of rain and we lost power! It was only out for about 2 minutes or so but still - a big exciting day! I'll attempt to get the latest photos downloaded tomorrow. Thanks again everyone for all the comments and emails. It's great to hear from all of you!

Friday, October 9, 2009

It's Friday and We're Tired

It wasn't exactly a taxing day today but we are all a little tired. I got up and went into the office this morning. I read a book on teaching English in Japan and made some notes of suggestions for games and activities. I cruised the internet a bit and I finally got my work email set up so I can send files to myself if I need to. I came home at noon and after lunch we went into Date to do some grocery shopping. We are getting a better handle on the shopping thing. The ultimate goal is to get ourselves into a routine where we can do one big shop a week when I'm going into Date anyway.
After the grocery shopping we took some time to look around the rest of the Posful - a large department store. They have pretty much anything you could want - from bicycles to clothing; from stationary and books to housewares. It was all a bit overwhelming and by the time we got out of there we were exhausted and hungry. The kids had each picked up some treats at the grocery store and snacked happily all the way home.
We were in a bit of a time crunch when we got home because we wanted to get to badminton tonight. Ian threw together a quick supper of noodles with veggies and chicken. We got cleaned up and headed down to the community centre and had a fun evening of whacking birdies around. Ian and Taran played hard and well. Joisan and I feel more than a bit outclassed but we enjoyed a couple of games nonetheless.
There will likely be more news and photos over the weekend - we are attending several festivals and events. If we had been here longer I might try and do something for Thanksgiving on Monday but I'm not feeling quite settled enough yet.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

A Quiet Thursday

Not a lot of news today - it was a pretty quiet day. We all slept in a bit and I did a bit of work on the computer here before I went into the office. I made a poster for the Halloween party we're hosting and then I spent a bit of time going through files on the computer. There was some good stuff there that I'll be able to use later so it was time well spent. I came home about noon and we spent some of the afternoon organizing stuff here at the house and some of the time lazing around with our book and our computers.
I was told at the office today that there's a typhoon heading our way this evening. Ian went online and found that it hit the main island pretty hard. There were two people killed there. Anyway, it's raining pretty hard and it's a bit windy but nothing too much as yet.
So, that's it - the extent of our exciting day. We have the English movie channel on - it's playing Tootsie - a timeless classic even with Japanese subtitles!
Don't forget to check out the photoshare - we're going to get some more photos this weekend and get them posted right away. Thanks for the emails friends - it's so nice to hear from you all!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Wednesday October 7

I was up very late last night sewing the ribbons and elastics into Joisan's toe shoes. We thought that she was going to be starting ballet tomorrow and she needed to have time to break them in beforehand. We found out today though that they are on a break this week (due to the performance last weekend) and it turns out that I didn't need to have stayed up until 1am this morning. Oh well. I had some quality time with myself and a chance to chat with a friend on Skype so I guess it was worthwhile!
After Skyping with Mum and Phoebe this morning I went off to do some planning at the city office. I spent about an hour on the computer and organizing the desk trying to get a handle on what I was going to do at the Warashibe this afternoon. I went to the Chugakko to meet with the English teacher this morning to work on the speach I have to give on Tuesday morning. I wrote a very brief message and she translated it for me so that I can attempt to give it in Japanese. I practiced and practiced today and I will have to keep practicing so that I can give it without totally embarassing myself on Tuesday. When we were finished I came home for lunch with Ian and the kids and worked on some supplies for the class this afternoon.
I was a little nervous about the first class today with the people at the Warashibe so Ian and Hiro came with me. I wasn't sure about what activities I should be doing with them or what I should be aiming to accomplish. I ended up planning to focus on the If You're Happy and You Know It song. I made faces to represent the verses in the song with the word under them. We sang the song and played some games and I thought it all went very well. It turns out though that my focus was a little off. I was told afterward that I'm not really meant to be directly teaching them - more just leading fun activities and exposing them to English on the side. There is quite a variety of capabilities in the group - everything from unresponsive and confined to a wheelchair to mostly mobile and highly functional. I'm not sure where I'm going to go from here so if anyone has any bright ideas for me I would really appreciate hearing them!
On the way home we stopped at the office and arranged for a couple of desks to be brought to the house for the kids to work at. We also made some plans for a Halloween party we will host here at the hall on Halloween. I have to do a bit of organizing for that tomorrow and make a poster. I will also start planning for some of the elementary and kindergarten classes as well as the after-school programs. We've got a busy weekend coming - there are three festivals we will be attending and then Tuesday is the first day for the kids to go to school.
I have uploaded our first batch of photos onto a photoshare. I have linked to the photoshare from the top of the menu on the right - there are far too many photos there - sorry!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Tuesday adventures

We had a lazy start to the day as there was no need to be anywhere until 1pm. Once we were all up and relatively functional we had a family meeting to sort through a few things that needed to be addressed. We came up with some plans for dealing with food better and we laid out jobs that need to be done and who will be responsible for them.
Ian and the kids dropped me off at the Chugakko (Jr. High School) and headed to Date to go shopping. I met with the English teacher and we worked through how I would be of support to her. Afterward, Hiro and Kabara-san and I went around to the other places I will be working to introduce me and figure out when I will start.
We went back to the Chugakko to have a meeting about Taran and Joisan and how things will work for them. It turns out that they don't have to wear the uniforms if they don't want to - but they might anyway - we'll take pictures and post them! We got all the particulars straightened out - the school fees that need to be paid, the timetable, what they need to bring (a toothbrush!) and how they will get back and forth (bus).
After dinner this evening we walked down to the community centre to join the badminton that happens every Tuesday and Friday. We all played hard and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Taran's back is still really bothering him and we're trying some exercises to help it.
Tomorrow I will be preparing for and doing my first class by myself at the Warashibe which is the special needs facility. I have to plan for an hour's worth of stuff to do so we'll see how far I get and how it goes!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Off and running!

So today I drove - on the wrong side of the rode - all the way to Date City and back! I signaled with my wipers only once and managed to always turn into the correct lane - I deserve a medal!!! Yay me!!! I had (quiet) company all the way there and back as Kabara-san accompanied me to show me the way (and check on my driving!) Unfortunately he does not speak much English and I was fairly focused on the driving so there was not a lot of communicating going on except the occasional "left (pointing right) and "right" (pointing left)!
We got to the school and I met the principal and the teachers and then got right down to work -planning the class with the English teacher. She was very nice and encouraging. For the class I did a quick introduction of myself and talked about my family - mum, Wyatt and Aurora, you featured prominently in my introduction! After I finished speaking, the teacher asked the class (grade 9) comprehension questions and then set them to work making a question to ask me. They then had to introduce themselves and ask me their question. It was pretty fun and I enjoyed the process a lot. I hope the rest of my "first" classes go as well! After class finished the teacher asked me if I would listen to one of the students do a recitation she has been practicing for a contest. She already won the local level and is now preparing for the regionals and wanted some help with pronunciation. That was totally fun and right up my alley!
I got back to Ohtaki in time to have lunch with Ian and the kids. Then I was expected at the Ohtaki office at 2pm although I wasn't sure what I was going to be doing there. I arrived and they parked me at my desk with my computer and no idea how to spend my time. I poked around on the computer for a bit - looking at the files left by the previous AET and then got into the drawers where there is lots of stuff to go through. Hiro showed up to help me go through the paperwork that Kabara-san had for me and we got everything sorted out. He gave me the signature stamp that was ordered for me and I booked my Christmas holiday with him. Tomorrow I will be going around to the other schools / programs I will be working at and getting a handle on what I will be doing.
Tonight for dinner we had leftovers from our feast last night as well as some unidentified fish that Ian cooked. Yummy. Joisan had a bit of a pout though and slept through dinner - clearly jet lag is still an issue! Taran is also a bit testy tonight - in part perhaps because he is tired but also because of the pressure of having to do school work. This is going to be interesting!
Hopefully photos will come soon - Joisan is in control of the camera at the moment so we have to wait for her to be willing to do the upload.
More excitement tomorrow I'm sure. Take care all!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Sunday Fun-Day

It was a long day today but tons of fun!! We got up early today to go with Hiro to Toyora (sp?) for their festival. Hiro was dancing with her Yosakoi group and invited us to come and watch. There were several performers at the festival and we enjoyed watching some traditional Japanese drummers and the dancers. There was a raffle that Hiro bought us tickets for - they were raffling off cases of potatos, bags of rice and whole, fresh salmon. Hiro won a box of potatos and Phaedra won a big salmon! It was probably 20lbs! We were able to get it cleaned and cut up while we were there and gave half of it to Hiro since she bought the tickets.
We were a little concerned when we got there because we were pretty sure it was going to go over lunch time and we are completely out of money from our shopping trip yesterday but there was free lunch! There was a soup made from fish, tofu and vegetables and another dish with salmon and onion and eggplant - fantastic! Just at the end of the festival they had an event where they brought in two containers of live salmon and released them into a make-shift rectangular wading pool. People then got in and waded around trying to catch them - if you caught one you got to keep it. It looked like fun - but very wet too and the fish were looking a little close to the end - they reminded us very much of the fish we would see at Goldstream right about now - all purpleish and tired. Joisan tried to have a go but she needed to have gotten a ticket earlier and they wouldn't let her without one even though there were fish left. We got home in time to have a visit on Skype with Phaedra's mum before she went to bed and we all really enjoyed that.
This evening there was a small welcome party for us - a potluck supper. It was fabulous food and awesome fun! We really felt like honoured guests and enjoyed watching all of the interplay between the people who were there. There were about 20 people altogether and enough food for 30! We ended up bringing lots home for breakfast and lunch. Funny highlights included meeting Hidenori who is quite a character and arm wrestled with Taran and wanted to sing to Phaedra. Ian got teased a bit about his name - which can be pronounced in a way that sounds like what the Japanese say when something is distasteful. Kyokucho (the postmaster) and Kimiko and Sanae were all very keen on finding out which Karaoke songs we would sing for them next time. Kimiko and Sanae agreed to give Ian cooking lessons and we are all going to play badminton on Tuesday and Friday nights at the community centre. We had a marvelous time today and we're looking forward to what will happen next! We'll keep you posted - Phaedra starts work in Date tomorrow!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Saturday's Adventures

Before we actually start on Saturday, we should finish up with Friday. Joisan and Phaedra were invited to a ballet of Don Quixote in Date City last night. It was quite a big deal 'round these parts as it was to celebrate 30 years of business for the woman who owns many of the ballet schools in this area. She brought a few male dancers in from Russia to support her own cast and with one exception (Phaedra was not impressed with one of the principal ballerinas) everyone was quite wonderful. The theatre was huge and totally full. When Masako stopped to pick Phaedra and Joisan up they felt a little over-dressed since they had worn their Sunday best but once they got there though they felt much better and not too over-dressed at all (except in the sense that they had clothes on at all as the theatre was rediculously over-heated as with all public buildings we have found). Masako brought her 4 year old daughter Chena and everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves - although Joisan and Phaedra were both fading by the time the third act began. Masako speaks fantastic English and seems very nice and lots of fun but unfortunately she and her family are moving to Fairbanks, Alaska so we will miss the opportunity to get to know them better. Bed was the order of the day when they got home around 10pm so no blogging last night.
Today dawned beautiful and sunny. We had arranged with Phaedra's boss Kabara-san (?) to get some bicycles this morning and he brought his 7 year old grandson to help get us organized. We ended up with one tandem and two regular bikes and set off for an explore. The bike trail is lovely and wide and paved. It goes almost from our doorstep for at least 7km. It goes past the Chugakko (Jr. High School) and past the elementary school too! On fair weather days without snow it will be a very pleasant ride to school and in winter it will be a great cross country ski trail! Unfortunately, today was not as fair-weather as we thought and we were caught in an absolute downpour!! Thankfully it was a lovely, warm rain so we were not totally miserable. It was a wonderful family time and we all thoroughly enjoyed it. In total we rode about 8 or 9 km. The kids have expressed an interest in riding their bikes to school when the time comes. We'll see!
Once we were all home and dry, we had a bit of a lay-around. Ian is not feeling 100% - he thinks he's getting a cold. Hopefully he'll keep it to himself! We played on the computer and managed to have a visit with some fellow Skype-ers.
We've been having some power struggles with access to the internet due to the fact that there is only one connection spot for the LAN line. As a result Ian and Phaedra decided to make a computer store one of their stops for their shopping trip to Date this afternoon. Joisan and Taran opted to stay home and Ian and Phaedra adventured out to see if they could find their own way to the city. It didn't go too badly - we did eventually get where we wanted to go, however we did get there via the long route. We were impressed and proud of ourselves that not only did we get where we wanted to and get home again, but we also managed to indentify and purchase a wireless router that will hopefully (when we've had some help to read the Japanese instructions and hook it up) resolve many of the issues that have arisen thus far.
The other part of the shopping trip was an attempt to fill the larder so we spent far too long in a grocery store trying to pick nutritious and delectable food for the coming days. Unfortunately, once we got to the till we found that they did not take VISA and we had limited cash so we had to put back several items that cost us painful time in the grocery store. We have noticed that the Japanese people seem not to be bothered at all by things that we find increadibly annoying... there were multiple noise making devices (ghetto blasters) throughout the grocery store that were playing an increadibly annoying loop that got totally excited by whatever it was trying to draw your attention to and no one else seemed to even notice. We could not get out of there fast enough! We did manage to get some different kinds of fish and once Ian did the translation we discovered that we were having flounder for dinner tonight - yummy!
We got back home and put the rice on to cook and while Ian tried to deal with cleaning and prepping the flounder (he didn't realize they were whole when we bought them) Phaedra attempted to get the wireless router working. She did her best but found herself stuck so she was very grateful when Hiro showed up and offered some help. Unfortunately Hiro was confounded too so she called a friend who will be able to help set it up tomorrow evening. So, another day with only one connection. Hiro also brought us more corn - it is most delicious. She will be picking us up tomorrow morning to take us with her to Toyoka where there is a dance festival she will be dancing in. We are looking forward to seeing that! There is also a small welcome party for us tomorrow evening and we are looking forward to that too. For now, we are heading to bed - though it is only 8pm. Everyone is still tired and we want to be bright eyed and bushy tailed for Hiro at 9. Good night all!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Getting more settled...

So, picking up where we left off... we slept very well the first night - owing no doubt to the fact that we were all completely wrecked!

On Thursday morning we got up and had our frosted flakes and sandwiches for breakfast. We then explored the house a bit. There are three tatami rooms - only one of them having a real bed so the rest of us use the traditional sleeping mats while Taran took the bed.

We suspect that the bed was acquired because the Canadian tendancy is to not put the mats away every day and the tatami mats will mildew when the bedding is left out. Joisan has solved the problem of putting her bedding away every day by setting it up on the shelf and sleeping in the closet! She does like her small spaces. Ian and Phaedra still have to set up and take down their bed every day :(

By lunch time on Thursday we were pretty much unpacked and the luggage was stowed. We still have little piles of mess here and there but we're pretty close to done. Ian made grilled cheese sandwiches and noodles for lunch and we got ready to go to Date City to meet the mayor. We were picked up by the same two gentlemen from the night before and they ferried us to Date with a few stops on the way - at the Jr. High School and at a roadside fruit stand. In Date we first went to the Board of Education office where we met the Date AET. Her name is Rianna and she has been here for only three months but because she studied Japanese before she came she was able to do much of the translating for us. After a visit and a cup of tea we walked over to the muncipal office and had our meeting with the mayor and then did some official paperwork and applied for our alien registration cards. It was all very official.

Before we headed back to Ohtaki we were taken to the local supermarket. We picked up a few more groceries - still not enough to keep us going but what we needed for the immediate short term - and then headed back home. We were deposited here about 6pm and Ian started supper right away. Joisan fell asleep before dinner was ready but was happy to be woken up to eat. We had salmon and rice and carrots with some special sauce for the rice that we got from the fridge -next door. Yummy! After dinner we pretty much headed right to bed - after a bit of computer time.

We didn't sleep quite as well the second night - these beds are going to take some getting used to! Ian was up quite early and couldn't get back to sleep and Phaedra is really missing her Tempur Pedic mattress! After breakfast and showers we were picked up to do some driving practice and sightseeing. Ian did all the driving today and he did really well with only a few minor flubs (turning on the wipers instead of the turn signal).

We were taken to Mushroom Country - a tourist attraction devoted to the mushrooms that are grown in this area. We tasted a few mushroom preserves and had a sample of the mushroom tea. Joisan and Taran didn't much care for it but Ian and Phaedra liked it. We also stopped at a farm market and picked up some very small bananas that seemed to be a good price.

We were then taken to a park office where they were displaying the entries from a pottery or ceramics contest. We were impressed with many of the pieces but were puzzled by the winners - it was not clear what the criterea were for the contest - they certainly were not our choices. The park we were in was called "Totem Pole Hill" and displayed many totems from Cowichan. We went just a little way up the street and stopped again at Ohtaki Niagra - a waterfall. Phaedra and Joisan took a few photos - we'll post a couple today if we can figure it out.

Next we went to the Jr. High School and the principal took us for a tour. The school is easily big enough to accomodate two hundred students or more but there are only 21 students in the whole school! Taran has 4 classmates and Joisan has 9!! It is a very interesting set-up and one that Phaedra would very much like to have in BC. Most of the teachers were working on prep when we arrived - only three teachers were actually teaching at the time. Each teacher has his/her own desk in the staffroom, which is connected to the principals office. There is a school nurse and a school nutritionist and hot lunch every day. Phaedra will be eating lunch with the kids every day except Monday.

For lunch we were led to a local restaurant for Ramen (noodles) and Gyoza. It was filling and very good! Afterwards we were set free and Ian drove around a little bit but it was raining and we were a bit tired so we came back to the house. Joisan and Phaedra have been invited to a ballet performance in Date City this evening. The local ballet class is in a Russian style and we are hoping that it will meet Joisan's needs for her training.

We are now pretty much caught up to the present and we will try to keep on top of the blogging every night. They will hopefully be shorter since we will only be blogging one day at a time. We strongly encourage everyone to get Skype and add us to your contacts... we are fireball.fairwells It is so fantastic to be able to talk to people and see them too!!! We have been able to connect with several people today and we will keep ourselves signed on whenever we are at home so if we show as "on" then please feel free to call! The house is small enough that we will be able to hear it from anywhere!

If you promise to remember the 16 hour time difference please feel free to call the phone too - our home phone number is 81-142-68-6834.

Our address is : 91 Hongo-cho, Otaki-ku, Date-shi, Hokkaido 052-0311 (we don't know the last digit but will post it on here as soon as we figure it out.)

Love to all...

The Fireball Fairwells

Recap of the last few days...

Where to begin?? Our last few days in Canada were a little hectic and busy. What we had been procrastinating on for so long had to finally be accomplished, so by 6 days to liftoff we were pretty focused on getting stuff done.
We also started to do our goodbye visits. On Thursday (the 24th) we took the Suburban down to Victoria to our friends Dianne and Ernie who were willing to store it for us and we had dinner and a nice visit before we headed over to say our goodbyes to Fei and Fang.
On Friday Phaedra popped in to say goodbye to her friends at Discovery and on Friday night Carole and Vic had us over for a fantastic dinner and some good cards (the girls won!!)
On Saturday, Phaedra's mum Susan hosted a going away potluck dinner party for us and we all had a fabulous time visiting with our friends and eating the awesome food that was brought. The kids were totally excited because Susan arranged for them to be able to use the schoolhouse at the property where she lives to have their friends stay over with them. We had quite the crowd! There were a few people we missed at the party (you know who you are!) but it was lovely to be able to visit with everyone who could come!
Sunday was great - the packing was getting closer to complete and Ian powered through a bunch of things while Phaedra and Joisan went for some girl time at the spa!
Monday was all about the cleaning and the final packing of last minute bits and pieces and we couldn't have completed it without the support of one very special person! Thanks to Erin we were able to get it all finished and thanks to Phaedra's dad Bill we got us and all our bags over to Susan's house by 6:15! Once we finished dinner and Bill took Ian back to the house to find his wallet, we weighed and adjusted all our checked luggage to make sure each bag was under 50 lbs. This is no small task either - luckily Susan is a master packer and all the bags appeared to be around the proper number.
In the morning we did a few last minute things like cancel the car insurance and we headed for the airport. We were going to take the Brentwood ferry over but Mill Bay Road was closed by the police and we were turned away at Noowick Road and had to go around by the highway. We still haven't heard what was up but whatever it was it delayed us enough that we missed the ferry by a minute! We still had plenty of time though and we made it to the airport and were all pleasantly surprised that our hard work with the bathroom scale was all pretty accurate! We only had one bag that was over and it was only over by .8 of a pound! Whew! Massive overage costs averted!
We had about a half hour at the airport to visit with Mum and Dad (who had to both drive to get all of us and our luggage down there). Mum worked out some of her issues with some retail therapy and she and dad bought us each a nice neck pillow for the plane ride. We said our goodbyes and our timing was perfect - we walked through security and right onto the plane.
By the time we got into the terminal in Vancouver and made our way to the departure gate we only had about 20 minutes before boarding. Phaedra stopped at a duty free shop and picked up two bottles of Canadian Club for gifts. It was great that we didn't have to wait around in the Vancouver airport but unfortunately there was some "passenger adjustments" needed so they ended up opening the plane up again and we waited at the gate for 1/2 hour before leaving.
The flight was fairly uneventful. Joisan and Phaedra discovered that you don't have to be in first class to get your meals first - just order a special meal and you get it way before anyone else! The food was good - the electronic entertainment was unending and there were cards to play if you got bored of the movies. Paradise! Ian got 1/2 hour of sleep but no one else did.
We arrived in Tokyo late (due to that 1/2 hour delay and some serious headwinds) so we didn't have as much time as we thought we would in the airport. With the time it took to go through immigration and customs and then check in for our next flight we actually had only about 45 minutes of leasure time. We were all pretty fried by this point but we hung in there. The plane from Tokyo to Chitose was only an hour and a half and had minimal services. Joisan fell asleep almost instantly which was good as she was looking a little fragile.
When we got down to pick up our bags in Chitose we could see our welcoming party waiting for us outside the baggage area. There were two official gentlemen (still not sure of names) and Hiro (Taran's teacher who Phaedra has been corresponding with) and Gerhard (the man who takes care of the travel arrangements). They waited patiently while we collected our things and then ushered us onto a school bus. We will post photos of a Japanese school bus at some time in the future - they are nothing like what we are used to!
We were driven here to Ohtaki and there was a small delegation of people waiting to welcome us - complete with a colourful sign! Again, photos to come. They had a small party ready for us with food and drink - we stayed long enough to toast and then they could clearly see that we were much the worse for having had 20 hours of travel! They sent us off to bed and promised to connect with us the next afternoon. And that, dear friends and family, is where we will leave you today - we have had a busy day and are all in much need of rest. We will continue the saga tomorrow. Good night!