Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Snow : (

It is Wednesday, April 28th today and it is snowing. I heard the wind start up last night but I had no idea that it was going to bring white stuff. I'm feeling a bit disheartened since I really thought that we'd seen the last of the snow. Yesterday was beautiful and warm. Ian even rode his bike to the seniors centre to do his class! Maybe if I chant a nice rhythm... I do believe in spring. I do believe in spring.

For those who are not on facebook regularly and have not seen Taran's status update, he is back to using crutches again. (I think he referred to them as "underarm chopsticks"!) Anyone who is reading the blog regularly will recall that two weeks ago Taran hurt his knee again while stretching for club. He rested and iced it for more than a week and then felt that with my knee brace he could go back to some activities. Then last Friday during gym he said it felt like it went "out" several times although he was wearing the brace. On Saturday he had his legs up on the couch and he relaxed and he said that something did something (good explanation eh?!) and then it not only hurt in his knee but also all down his calf. He limped around for the rest of the weekend and we took him into the hospital on Monday morning. He goes back on Friday for another check and I think we're going to ask about seeing a specialist at that point.

Nothing else of much note - Golden Week is coming - several holidays in a row next week. We're going to do a few day trips and check some stuff out. I'll try and keep it updated! No photos today - sorry!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Trying for a new posting format...

So I saw someone else's blog where they just embeded the photos and videos into the blog posts and I thought I'd try it. Unfortunately the videos didn't upload at all. I've posted them on Facebook though so check them out! There's one of Taran speaking Japanese at the welcome party for the new grade ones a couple of weeks ago. The second one is pretty cool - Taran's class did a bit of a dance to Thriller!
I have just uploaded a couple of new photo shares too so check them out!

Last week Taran made a new invention... I think that Apple will be after him for the rights to it any day now! He has to walk to the school on Wednesday nights for soccer so he built a contraption that would hold his iPod in front of his face so he could watch a movie while he walks! Here are some photos... (I think we'll call it the iWatch!)

The movie night on Friday was fun. We had some time to kill while Joisan was at her dance class so Ian and I did a bit of poking around in various shops in Muroran. We left Taran and Saya at the "mall" to have a chance to be without the parents for a bit. After we picked up Joisan from her ballet class we headed for the movie theatre. Here are a couple of photos of Taran and Saya at the theatre...

Yesterday I went into Date for the adult conversation class that has just been started. It was our second meeting and although it was less of a structured class than I think they really want, I was quite comfortable with it. They are a really nice group of women and I enjoyed talking with them very much.

The end of next week is the start of Golden Week here and we're still deliberating about what we're going to do... there are many interesting things that are close enough to make day trips but I'm also interested in the possiblity of going somewhat further afield. We'll see. No matter what we'll take some good photos and keep as up to date here as we can.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Off to Wonderland...

Taran's got a date!!! Okay - he has to bring the family along but still... he's invited Saya to go to the movies with us tonight and she said yes!!!
We have to go into Muroran for Joisan's ballet tonight anyway so it seemed like a good time to check out Alice In Wonderland. Unfortunately, Saya's high school finishes quite early today so it's going to be a bit of a push to get ourselves to Date and not keep her waiting too long. On the plus side it should mean that we have lots of time to get Joisan to her dance on time. Not like last night...
It was inspection day yesterday so they took my car to Date to check the transmission and all that stuff. They told me I could pick it up at the office at five which would have just given me 5 minutes to inhale some dinner and then head out. When I got there right at five there was no sign of my car. I expressed some concern for the time and they made contact with the Toyota guy who said it would be ten more minutes. So, I sat down to wait... and wait... and wait. By 20 after when he had still not showed up I was getting agitated. They called again and found it would still be ten more minutes! (Man - the original definition of ten minutes was way off!!) Long story short (or not so short - sorry!) it was past 5:30 before I got the car back and by that point there was no way that we would be able to get there for the full lesson. I was fairly choked - as was Joisan - but there was nothing I could do about it.
There has not been any decisions made for sure about my going to Date Chugakko so I will be going to Tatsunan again this week and we'll see what happens from there. There's no ballet in Muroran tomorrow but I wound up booking myself to do an advanced adult class so I'll be going in anyway. My goal is to post more photos and some video this weekend so check back for that.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Rough Weekend

So, it was a good thing that our weekend was scheduled to be low-key anyway as we got some difficult news. Our cat Minuet (who is living in Mill Bay with my mother) was not doing well. She has been ailing on and off for more than a year and we were actually a little surprised when she lived through last summer and even made it to Christmas. This time though she was clearly on her way out.
On Saturday Mum held her in front of the computer for us so we could tell her how much we loved her and say goodbye. She seemed to be a little zoned out at the time but she didn't appear to be in any pain. On Sunday she was a bit more with-it and seemed to respond when we talked to her. Monday morning (Sunday afternoon in Canada) Mum reported that she wasn't in any pain but couldn't walk and wouldn't eat - though she was still holding on - but just at dinner time at the weekly Sunday dinner when all the family was there Minuet died. It was just after lunch time on Monday here when I got the email and I was a big mess. It made for a rough start to the week. My mum is awesome. She took such good care of Minuet and then she took her and burried her at our house. It's still a little unreal to know that she's gone. And I feel really guilty for not being able to be there with her. I'm sure Brody (Joisan's cat) is having some difficulty adjusting but I know that Mum is loading lots of love and attention on him.
Monday night I was feeling quite down so I decided I needed a pick-me-up. While Joisan did ballet in Date Naoko and I met with Mayu (the translator from City Hall) and one of her friends and we went to a Karaoke place. We got our own little room with a karaoke machine and for one price we could choose what we wanted to eat and drink and we could play in there for two hours! It was lots of fun! Just what I needed.
This week Joisan is participating in a sort of Master Class for ballet. There is a Russian teacher who has come for the week and she is doing daily classes in Muroran. Joisan has opted to only do four classes rather than the full slot of six and she has decided to do just the classical class not the character as well but it is still going to keep us hopping all week! Muroran is about 20 minutes past Date so I'm really glad she's not doing the character because it would be 10:30pm or later before we would get home! It's going to be a looong week!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Wow! I'm honoured! (I think!)

So, we've had more snow this week and the most amazing winds! I was woken up several times over two or three nights with the sound of the wind so strong that I thought we might be on our way to Oz. I could almost hear the witches theme in my head! (do do do do do do, do do do do do do)... we've also had some torrential rain and some gorgeous sunshine so it's been a bit of a potpouri!
The kids seem to have settled back into the routines of school - they both managed to hurt themselves this week! They've started the clubs after school now and on Monday Taran put his knee out (though not quite so badly as before). He was just doing the warm up stretches and one of them required a bit of a twist... On Tuesday Joisan did something to her ankle but it wasn't so bad either and she was able to dance the next day.
The information gap is still a problem - I showed up to do the kindergarten last week and the Shogakko this week and both times I was told (when I was already planned and there) that English won't start until May. Oh well, I'm just trying to roll with it all.
This afternoon as I was trying to leave the Chugakko there was a call from a teacher at Date Chu. He didn't know yet that I am coming to work there but he was happy to hear it. He was calling to ask if I would be willing to make a presentation to all the English teachers in the area about team teaching. I am not sure what makes me such an expert but it would appear that I will be speaking on June 2nd at the English teachers Pro-D day. With great (ha) authority! You're all invited!
We have no major plans for this weekend to tell you about so I'll finish up now with a renewed promise for some new videos and photos soon... really! I promise!
Also - a quick shout out to my favorite sister... happy birthday Aurora!!!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Zzzoooom! That week went fast!

I'm struggling with getting enough time to do all the things I think I should be doing - including getting this blog done!
Last week was a bit busy with the welcome ceremonies and parties and general beginning of the year stuff. We started on Tuesday morning with the opening ceremony for the school year where the new staff was welcomed. In the afternoon the new grade 1's arrived for their induction and welcome ceremony. I find it quite facinating to watch the formalities that are observed here. It was almost as big a deal as the graduation ceremony had been. It was on Tuesday that I really began to miss Hiro in ernest. She was the one who kept me informed about everything and made sure I knew what was expected of me. I know that Naoko is now a classroom teacher and has many things on her mind but there were some bits and pieces slipping through the cracks. Taran and Joisan missed the bus on Tuesday morning because we were not told that it would be 20 minutes early. I didn't know what to say during an important part of the welcome ceremony because no one told me that there was a point at which I'd have to speak. Anyway, I'm sure it will get better but I was really depressed about it at the time.
On Wednesday I went to the Shogakko (elementary school) and watched the welcome ceremony there as well as the induction of all the new grade ones. I had taught all but one of them at the kindergarten so it was really cool to see the ceremony. It was also interesting to note that all of the students sat quietly and respectfully throughout the ceremony. The school culture here is definately different than in BC in terms of what is demanded in the way of student behaviour.
On Wednesday afternoon the principal of the Jr. High informed me that a meeting had been arranged for Friday afternoon when I would meet with some representatives of the Date School Board. They wanted to ask me to take on some more work - to add another Chugakko to my list of duties. I was not thrilled about the idea but at least I had time to think about it.
So, we had the meeting and they want me to do two days a week at Date Chu. It had over 1500 students and 4 English teachers. It is a bit overwhelming to think about but I figured that it's worth a try. I told them I would do it but they would have to give me some extra gas. (I wanted to ask for more money too but I didn't quite know how to go about that!)
I won't be going to Tatsunan after next week which is a bit of a bummer since I really liked some of those students and was looking forward to having them from the beginning to the end of the school year!
We had a few sunny days that made me think that spring was on its way but the weather patterns here are a little fickle and now I'm not so sure!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

School starts tomorrow...

So, as of tomorrow Joisan will be in grade 8 and Taran will be hanging with the grade 9's again. They have both been working on their correspondence courses over the break so I think they are both feeling fairly motivated right now.
All the students at the Chugakko are going to be visiting Cowichan in October for the first part of the exchange program. Students from Cowichan will be coming here in January or February. Joisan has been working on her powers of positive thinking and she's really hoping that the definition of ALL the students will include her and Taran. I'm really not seeing the educational value in them visiting Cowichan for a week but since it's really up to the Board of Education here (they pay for the trip for everyone) I'm not getting my knickers in a knot over it. We'll let you know how powerful Joisan's positive thoughts really are!
We did manage to get the snowboarding trip organized for Saturday. Joisan and her friend Misuzu and Taran were going and then at the last minute Naoko decided to go too. I drove them all to the mountain (only 1/2 hour away - skiers take note for a potential winter vacation!!!) and they snowboarded all day while I sat in the cafeteria and worked on my computer. It was not very busy - probably because the snow was not very good anymore. The kids said the mountain they were on in the morning was very icy and not very good but the one they were on in the afternoon was better.
Misuzu's family came for dinner on Saturday and Naoko stayed as well. Ian made curry rice and salad. Ato san (Misuzu's dad) brought some crabs and we had an impromptu crab party before dinner. It was fun but the kids were all pretty tired from their long day.
On Easter Sunday - (I forgot that it was Easter until I heard from people at home) we had grand plans to use the last of the arcade coupons with Chinami and her boys. We went into Date in time to do some shopping before Naoki's (the younger boy) drum concert. Taran and Joisan both got new runners and we got some much needed groceries. On a side note... it is a challenge to find shoes big enough for our giant children. They both have larger feet than typical Japanese people. Of course back home they are probably both average with Taran at a size 11 and Joisan at a size 8. Anyway, after shopping we went to the recital. It was held in a small (130 people) theatre on the second floor of an office building. The remarkable part is that it was very well laid out and equiped. It had a raked audience and a proper stage with legs and blacks and curtains and a full set of lights with what appeared to be a fully functional booth. It was very impressive - and just what Duncan needs!
The concert itself was good. They had supporting players and a singer for all the drummers. It got a bit loud though so I was grateful that I happened to have a set of earplugs in my purse. Ian left before the end because it was bothering his almost 44 year old ears!) Naoki played the Beatles' Lady Madonna and he did really well. Afterwards we went to the park at the cultural centre rather than to the arcade since I had managed to leave the arcade coupons at home by accident. We tried to fly a kite that Chinami had in her car but there was no wind. The boys played soccer in the muddy fields for a bit and I had to yell at Ian to stop when he joined in since he's not supposed to be doing anything more than walking until June.
We went to Chinami's house for dinner again but this time we brought dinner. I had made a tomato sauce which I added some clams to and we had spaghetti and garlic bread. Taran and Joisan both enjoyed the time there where they can play video games and lego. It was a struggle to get them to leave!
That's about it for today. Don't get too attached to these more frequent updates since I will have to start back to a regular schedule this week too!
Happy Easter everyone!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Visitors Please....

It's only been a few days since my last post and nothing much has happened. The old teachers have left and the new ones have started. I met everyone today. I'm still not sure if any of them speak any English but they all seem really nice. All three of the new staff are men so the balance has been tipped the other way. We now only have 6 women on staff and 9 men rather than 8 women and 7 men. The custom here appears to be that the staff who are leaving all give a goodbye gift to everyone and then the new staff all give a gift to everyone when they are coming so now I'm loaded up on cookies, cakes and treats for quite a while!
The teachers are all completely focused on prepping for the new school year but it's interesting to watch them because there seems to be varying degrees of efficiency being practiced. Many teachers stay very late but it seems to be more for visiting than working!
We had planned for Taran and Joisan to go snowboarding with friends on Monday (their last day of freedom!) but I have just found out that the mountain closes for the season on Sunday :( I'm working on some alternate arrangements for tomorrow (hopefully) but at least one of the friends won't be able to come. Bummer.
We are really looking forward to having some visitors... (HINT HINT!) We have rumours of a couple of possible sightings sometime in the undefined future but we would all like it to be known that we would like to see some familiar faces here in the land of the rising sun.
Speaking of the rising sun - we are all having some issues with it right now. None of the windows in our house have black out curtains and there is no daylight savings here so the early sunrise seems to be disturbing all of our sleep. We're working on some make-shift curtains from large towels and I've started wearing a sleeping mask but we'll have to see what other measures we can take. Not that I am complaining about the sun mind you. I am very much appreciating the warm days we've had. I'm welcoming the rain and the sun and whatever else comes to help get rid of the snow!
Oh! I almost forgot! We had an earthquake at the beginning of the week. It registered 5.8 and was centred in the Sea of Japan. I felt it here at the school but none of the other teachers did. The kids felt it at the house but Ian didn't. I did not hear any reports of damage at all so I'm guessing everything was fine.