Saturday, September 27, 2008

September 21-27 Week in Pictures

Here are some pictures I took this week and last week. Apologies for the poor quality—as you all know if you read my previous posts, my regular camera died, so I am using my phone camera, and of course I have no tripod for my iPhone, hence the blurriness, etc. I just wanted to show what my everyday life is like, to give a general idea, so these should be good enough, I hope ^ ^.

This is a shrine next to my house where I sometimes go to ask for someone I know to get better and healthy again ^ ^.

This is an animal clinic not too far from where I live. Click to enlarge, I thought the name of the hospital is funny.

This is bike parking. Almost every store has special bike parking areas, because so many people ride bikes here.
I had a flat tire on my bike since last Saturday (so for a week now), and no money to fix it (I just got payed on Thursday), so without a bike I felt like without hands. It's amazing how much you grow to rely on it... it's so convenient.

This always makes me laugh: some old ladies (and not so old too) buy these bicycle sleeves. It took me a while to figure out what these were for, but they are basically to protect your hands from the sun. Many women wear elbow-length gloves and hats for protection against the sun, and I've gotten used to the sight, but this just makes me laugh every time.

I took the next three pictures for my dad. He loves tools, so I wanted to show him what kind of stuff one can buy in a dollar store here. All of the stuff costs 105 yen, which is about $1.05, and I think these tools are pretty good quality too.
In general, the dollar stores are quite good here. Imagine Dollarama, only better. Usually the shops are smaller, but in terms of stationary, tools, and kitchenware you can get pretty amazing stuff here. Some dollar stores carry perishable food too, such as veggies.

This is a funny sign. Please click to enlarge and read the first line (on black). "Yakiniku", for those who don't know, means fried meat (table-cooking, Korean BBQ-style). This is a sign of a nearby yakiniku restauraunt.

This white bike *coughrustypieceofjunkcough* is the company bike I am using. Some of my co-workers got lucky but I had to endure until now. Today I went to check how much it is to fix a tire, and basically it cost half what a new bike would cost ($40 for a tire, $80 for a bike) so I bought a new bike instead. Now I just have to go to a dollar store and hope they carry WD-40 or a similar oil, and take care of my new precious baby ^ ^. I figured, I'd be here for a few years, I might as well. If I have to move, I can ship it easily. Once I go back to Canada, I will give it to Rie's sister or brother if they want it. I didn't take a picture of the new bike yet, I will soon.

My Apartment:

My favourite part of the kitchen: the ricecooker :D.

My living room:

I want to print more pictures of my friends and family and put them up in the living room :). I also started a card collection like Joanne has on her piano :D.

My bedroom:
I guess you can't really see too much, it's small so it was difficult to take a good picture with a camera phone, but maybe you'll get the idea anyway. I just have a closet-like thing, and then the bed which you can sort of see, and a small night-table-stand-like thing, and the hanging light (in the next picture). I like it that way, the living room has way too much stuff for my liking, but the bedroom is just perfect. It has tatami on the floor, and it's very bright because it faces the sunny side.

My bathroom:
It has a super fancy toilet, as you can see.

The "bathroom" consists of 3 areas. The toilet is separate and has a door, the shower is also separate, and then there is a sink outside (below), and the washing machine. This area doesn't really have a door, just a curtain hanging outside.

This is the bathtub:

This is the hallway, a view from my bedroom. I keep my kendo stuff there because the balcony gets wet if it rains a lot, and I don't like putting it in the closet. Plus it always reminds that I shouldn't be skipping practice if I don't need to.
On the wall I have a map of Toyohashi and surrounding areas, but I guess I don't need it as much now that I have the iPhone. I do use it occasionally though, it's nice to have a large map. Plus it has some English on it.

This is also my living room. I am too lazy to move these. This is my "closet office", where I keep my laptop (on the left), and the piano (on the right). It was a very bright day when I took these pictures, so I guess you can't see too well... Sorry :P. Now it's too dark to take pictures, so I can't re-take it.

This is my bookshelf and a part of my desk in the living room.

This is my balcony (pretty long), and the next picture is the view from my balcony :P. That's why it's dark in this room: because I live on the first floor, I have all the bushes blocking the view, but I don't mind, because it allows for privacy. Plus the juniper bushes smell very nice.
Oh, and as you can see I have a BBQ grill, so in theory, if I have wood or coals I can have a BBQ. One of these days I'll probably do it :D.

This is just a random street intersection in my neighbourhood.

This is a convenience store I go to sometimes. These places are amazing, you can get really cheep food there, and they have so much stuff in general. The drinks are pretty cheap too, and you can get alcohol there as well. I haven't bought any yet, but it's nice to know that I can. Many of the convenience stores are open 24/7.

You can't see too well but I was trying to take a picture of a guy in suit riding a bike. It's a very common sight, and I am still getting used to it. In Canada I always had this feeling that it's students and younger people who don't have much money who ride bikes. That or people who are concerned about the environment. Here though everyone bikes. I guess my rich students and their parents drive, so maybe it's similar to Canada, but still so many people bike it's amazing. 70-year-old grandmas and grandpas bike too, it's always so good to see.

This is my friend Eri, she came over for dinner. We are going to Nagoya tomorrow, for an orchestra concert.

These are pictures from Toyokawa, a city neighbouring Toyohashi. It's a small city, people say it's inaka, and I guess it is. I like it a lot, it's a small quiet town. One of our schools is there, so I go there two or three times a week. That's the same city where the big shrine is (from a few posts back).
The clock in the picture is broken, it always shows the same time, and the sight of it always makes me laugh.

This is a flower bed along the side-walk, and these flowers make me smile every time I pass by—they are just so beautiful. It's so nice actually, many people have flowers outside of their houses, right on the side-walk.

This is just some random house along the street on the way to work. Same for the picture below. Oh, actually the first picture might be a buddhist shrine with a cemetry, not a regular house. I can't see too well, but I think that's what I was trying to take a picture of.

This is what our school looks like from the outside.

And this is the inside of the classroom.

These are the flashcards all of the teachers and kids love *coughyeahrightcough*.

This picture didn't turn out well unfortunately, but this is a view from our school window, and the place next door is a fancy hair salon. They have this gorgeous chandelier hanging from the celing, and all the kids, together with me, always stare out of the window at the light once it gets dark outside. I forgot the full name of this hair salon, but I think it's called "Spice Heads". I could be wrong though, I can't recall what the second word is.

Back to Toyohashi:
This is the river next to my house. I walk or bike along it when I go to work in our Toyohashi school. This river flooded the surrounding houses a few weeks ago, after it rained for hours non-stop. People had to dry their stuff outside, and a lot of stuff got damaged. I was super lucky, because while my apartment is on the first floor, we have a small set of stairs we have to take to get to the first floor, so none of the residents here had any damage. People's cars got flooded though, the water was up to the waist level, I heard. There should be pictures of the flood on facebook somewhere, but I haven't found them yet.

This is a view from a pedestrian bridge, close to the city centre.

This is my $2 lunch from a convenience store. The juice is some veggie juice mix (it was good, and that's how I get my vitamins often these days, from juice). The burger is a teriyaki burger, and it's quite good. I usually don't eat that kind of stuff, but I got sick of eating onigiri (rice balls) for lunch, and this was the cheapest thing they had after onigiri. This was before the payday, so I was really short on money :P.

This didn't come out too well but basically it's a drinks machine. Guess you can't see too well due to the poor quality, but anyways, they have drinks like green tea, juice (orange, apple, peach, mango, etc.), different sodas (also random flavours like grape, tangerine, and melon), lemonade, sometimes cola (but not always), and there's often canned coffee. I know some people are picky about their coffee, but I am not too picky (although I can't stand airplane coffee), so I love canned coffee. Speaking of coffee, I need to go buy more, I ran out, and some mornings I really need it.
This is a cheap vending machine, most drinks are 100 yen ($1)—usually they have those next to stores, so it's kind of like a store promotion thing, I think.

This is all for today. Please stay tuned for more pictures next time. ^ ^

Hope everyone is doing well, and I miss you guys!


Just as planned, this morning I went to watch the junior high school kendo taikai (tournament—I have to figure out what the difference is between "shiai" and "taikai"). There were so many students that I was super lucky to just happen to run into my student, Kenta, who I went to watch. Lucky because I didn't know the kanji for his school name (that I could have asked someone about though), and I also did not know his last name, so looking for him once he put his men on would have been impossible. There were 4 courts too, and a whole bunch of parents, so I am very lucky indeed that I happened to be on the same court he was fighting on, and also that I wasn't late, because his fight was pretty early.

It was so interesting to watch. I always wondered what his kendo would be like, and I guess it's somewhat the way I expected it. Although I thought he'd be more agressive and attack more than he did. His kamae was really strong though, I thought. He didn't win his first fight, which is too bad, because I wanted to see more of his kendo.

Yesterday, during my junior high school lesson (that Kenta is in) we talked about everyone's daily schedule, and do you know how much Kenta practices kendo every week? He has 1.5-2 hour-long practices 6 times a week... O_o..... Yeah.... I want to play him some day, but I wonder if that's possible, seeing how we go to different dojos.

Today I was surprised how short he was. During class all of my students are sitting down so I never notice they are so small. Plus, compared to my 5-6-year old students, these guys seem so tall, so I sometimes forget they are still kids. I forgot how old he is, I think 12 or 13, but for some reason he looked like an elementary school student in his bogu (haha, of course I'll never tell him this). Anyways, he is a cool kid, and I am glad I woke up early today and went to see him play.

Here's a picture. I don't think you can see Kenta too well here—I don't have a zoom on my camera phone, but at least you can see my dojo ^ ^. This is where I practice every week.
Of the two people competing, Kenta is the one on the left, he was red (you can't see his tasuki, but you can see the other guy's is white). You have to click on the picture to see a bigger version.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Competitive Kids

I realized this week that kids are super competitive (ok, I knew that one), and that this can be used to my advantage when I teach.

I long since abandoned following the lesson plans that my boss wrote (heh, hopefully she doesn't read this). The thing is, I am supposed to cover certain vocabulary, but I try to introduce extra stuff if the kids can handle it, and instead of using flash cards I sometimes use other materials like toys. Anyways, the games I am supposed to play are often extra boring, so instead I make up my own games, and also I give kids colored pebbles when they get points in the game. I also give them pebbles when they answer vocabulary/grammar questions correctly. I am still working out the system, but anyways, it works magic. The kids get so excited about getting the questions right, because they can see easily how well they did. These colored pebbles are very pretty, by the way. I am 25 and I love playing with them. They are kind of like this:

So at the end of the class the one who gets the most pebbles gets extra stickers. They are just stickers, but hey, the kids are happy, because we are talking about 2-9 year old kids here ;).

Today I had my bad class, but these two 4-year old boys who usually misbehave were so good compared to their usual behaviour, I was shocked (in a good way). We laughed so much. It's weird, these two kids really misbehave, but I still love them. I guess that's because for one they are super cute, but also they play around and test my limits, but they don't do it in a malicious way.

My manager, a wonderful wonderful woman, told me something interesting this week. She has been working with children for many years, and she said the most important thing she learned was not to give up on kids, because their personalities really change as they grow. She was telling me today, one of my kids, who is really good at English, and who behaves, was really bad before. He'd hit other kids, and not listen. So this week when I had kids who were acting a bit crazy, whenever I started feeling something negative, I'd think back about what she said.

My dad asked me the other day if I have favourite kids, and kids I dislike. I guess I have two or three kids I dislike, and I have a few kids I really love (haha, the manager's son is my favourite :D, he is the cutest 6-year old I've ever met), but in general though, I mostly like everyone. It's hard not to. Sometimes they'd cry their eyes out, but then two minutes later they are smiling, and once they smile it's impossible not to like them. I always remind myself, if they misbehave, it's not because they are trying to be mean, it's because they don't know any better, they never learned how to behave, so really, it's my job to teach them, and if I get upset, I'll only waste a learning opportunity. That said, I really don't have too many behaviour issues in my classes. I have a few crazy classes, but the class size is small, so I can manage. Once the kids were really crazy and loud, so my manager had to come in and help me settle the kids down (parents were complaining outside). I think the kids got in trouble with parents that day though because they were great the following week (this Monday, yay).

All right, speaking of students, my junior high school student has a kendo tournament tomorrow, so I should go sleep soon, because I will be going to watch. I am glad he told me, because I wanted to see him play. The tournament is in my dojo too—I think they have many tournaments there because the gym is really big (like the UofT sports gym), so I am lucky, because I live close to that school.

I have a lot of stuff to do tomorrow, so I hope I can get everything done before the kendo practice in the evening (at 6:30). I got payed yesterday, so I need to buy some stuff, like a new pillow, food, etc. So I hope that my student will play early in the tournament, and that I can leave :D. Although, last time he got second place in the tournament, he told me, so if he keeps winning tomorrow, I don't think I'll leave, I will want to stay and cheer till the end, probably.

Ok, bed time!!


I was just going through my brother's old blog because I was looking for something, and I realized: man he actually blogged a lot when he was in Japan. It amazes me, I don't seem to find time and/or motivation... sigh. Ok, I shall blog a bit about this week, in a new post.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

New Phone

So I got a new phone. Yes, Katya, of all people, bought a phone, and not just any phone, but this baby:

It was expensive but I really can't get over the excitement of having internet on the phone. Really, that's why I got it... that and the fact that the keyboard input system is very nice. Also, it has a GPS, and that has proved very useful also, because I don't have a printer, and because it's quite easy to get lost around here, with no street names.
My camera died during Algonquin trip in July, so of course the phone camera has also been quite useful. The pictures come out really decent, and it's a 2 mega-pixel camera, which is not a lot, but for simple pictures on the spot it's perfect. So there, I am quite happy, now I just need to find some private students so I can pay off the phone :P.

Ah, and of course it has an ipod in it too, I forgot to mention that. You can also type, there is a notepad program, and you can download all sorts of software like dictionaries, etc. I am planning to do some big time downloading in the next few months ;). I could use a dictionary, that's for sure.

Some Pictures

Seeing how it doesn't look like I'll post my pictures in my gallery any time soon, I will post some pictures here for now.

Zoo Trip
These are from the zoo trip we went on in the middle of August.

The kids could hold these animals, I think they were guinea pigs.

This is "Team Yellow", the kids I was responsible for the day.
The girl in the middle is the niece of our managers. The two kids on the sides are the kids of one of our managers. They are my favourite kids in the school :D. I love the expressions they have—they are like, 'huh? Picture time?'

These are the other 3 teachers (one is missing, she had to stay back and train that day). All of these kids came to the zoo that day, but only two of them are my students (the second and third girls from the right).

Baby Class
This picture is from one of my classes. It's a baby class, meaning the moms are there with the kids. I keep forgetting how old the kids are, I think they are both 3. They are really adorable, although it's quite difficult to teach such small kids. During their lessons I keep thinking, thank goodness my boss did the lesson plans for us, I would have no clue what to do with these little guys.

BBQ Day Camp
The pictures below are from the BBQ outing that my school went on in the middle of September (a week ago). Some of you saw these already, sorry for double-posting.

Um, rock climbing? :P

The darling on the right is my student. He gives me a lot of grief but I love him anyway, he is a funny kid. The kid on the left and above is not my student, but I took a lot of pictures of him, because he is very friendly and is super excited about learning English. He can speak really well too and all the teachers love him.

The girl in the middle is my student, and she is also my manager's daughter. She is fun to teach and she sometimes says the weirdiest and funniest things. The one on the right is her brother and while I don't teach him, he is my most favourite kid in the entire school. He is just really outgoing and funny, and really sweet too. One of the teachers just got a DS, so now they are having an on-going challenge of who can beat who.

These two girls are not my students, but I love this picture.

...ditto... this is the same kid as in the first two pictures.

He is not my student but he was on my team during the BBQ party.

She is my student. She is a bit quiet, but a really nice girl.

This little guy is 5, I think, and I don't teach him, but he has quite a personality.

He is a brother of one of my students. He was showing me an acorn that he found.

This little guy is one of the cutest kids in our school. Him and his brother like climbing on the teachers :D, they always get piggy-back rides from all of us. How can you refuse a look like that?

Here, that's the older brother.

Water baloon fight: man, these kids really went at it. At first they were hesitant to throw the balloons but by the end everyone's feet were soaked, in the very least. I got soaked too, one of the teachers demonstrated the game with me and, well, I didn't catch my balloon, it exploded in my hands :P.

This is the group picture with everyone. You have to click on it to enlarge, since it's so small. The little monkey kid is getting a piggy-back from me :D. He really is like a monkey (in a good way), so funny.

This guy has worked at our school the longest and he has the most experience, so he had the youngest kids. These guys are 4-5 years old, I think.

It rained a bit in the afternoon, and of course I couldn't resist to take a picture with my かわいいせいと :D. Can you beat the yellow teddy-bear rain-jacket? I bet nobody can beat that.
I am so curious to see who these kids grow up to be. I would love to meet them again when they are in high school.

After the BBQ trip we went to the rotating sushi restauraunt with the staff and their kids:

That was a game of rock-paper-scissors.

And this was something yummy, that's for sure :D.

Um, special pose?

Toyokawa Inari
These pictures are from the trip to Toyokawa Inari (shrine).

These are my friends, waiting for the train to go to the shrine. We took a picture together, but I don't have the file yet. I wore a yukata that day too, my friend's mom let me borrow one and put it on for me. Man, it's difficult to walk in those, but it was a lot of fun. Very gaijin thing to do, ね? Haha, wasn't my idea, honest :P.

This is the giant bell in the shrine, although you can't see it too well.

This is Katya's poor attempt at photography, I got the torii gate cut off O_o... hehe, well, it was difficult to capture with the camera phone, that's my excuse. The thing above the roof is the moon by the way. It gets dark here really early, around 6:30 or so.