Sunday, November 30, 2008

Understanding Japanese

So I guess my listening comprehension really sucks. Usually when I talk to people it's one-on-one, and everyone is very kind and takes time to explain stuff I don't understand. Of course, most of the time I can use my dictionary too. Today though I went to a talk about brown (unpolished) rice health benefits, and I think from the two hours that the talk lasted I understand about 5%. Sure, the vocabulary was not everyday vocabulary, but still. So more motivation to study, I guess ^ ^.

The reason I went to the talk is because the owners of this small grocery store next to one of our schools in Shizuoka invited me. I always go there to buy food, and I guess they sell mostly organic stuff (but it costs cheaper than in the grocery store next to my house), and they are always very nice to me, so I was pretty excited about the talk. Too bad I couldn't understand much... I guess I can ask questions though next week when I go there to get my lunch.

After the presentation we got to try some rice too, and it was really good. The taste reminded me of something I ate when I was little, but I couldn't place what it was. I should ask my mom, I wonder if I can describe the taste.

Here's a picture of brown rice from a random website:

Waa, I am getting hungry now...

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Kendo Post ^ ^

Today one of the kendo sensei gave me a 2009 calendar. He gave me one last week too, from a bogu shop, but I was disappointed to find no pictures in it. This one though is amazing. It has absolutely beautiful kendo photographs. I am so happy! It also had the 剣道 calligraphy on the front page, so I cut that out and put it on my wall. I think before I go back to Canada I will definitely get a scroll that says 剣道, but anyways, that's later.

Today during practice the wait during motodachi geiko was particularly long, so I thought a lot about the difference between kendo in UofT and here. At UofT during jigeiko very often we practice with other students, but here I actually barely get to do that (even though I would like to, I want to practice with the junior high school students that we do drills with). Here there are so many sensei, that I almost always practice with different sensei. So I guess comparing Nanbu dojo kendo and UofT dojo kendo (minus the sensei kendo) is probably not fair, but anyways, I wanted to share what I think. It feels that Nanbu kendo is a lot more relxed. The sensei are very intense when they actually hit, but all the other time it feels that they are very relaxed and very confident. Last week, and today too actually, most of the comments I got were also about being more relaxed. Hogi-sensei always told me this too, I am sure those of you who talked to him know what I mean. Anyways, that's one of the things that are different about kendo itself. Of course, the club is run quite differently too, but that's because it's not a university dojo. Even though it's in a junior high school, it's a community dojo, and none of the sensei are Nanbu Junior High School teachers. The students are mostly from Nanbu though.
Today I talked to a girl who is from the same dojo as one of my English students. So students from other dojos come as well. That particular school has practices 6 days a week, for half a day during weekends (otherwise it's one hour or two, I can't remember). Crazy, no?

I guess this is another reason I want to get an ALT job, with a hope that at least one school will have a kendo dojo. If they do, I will likely be able to practice more often than just once a week, and I think I would like that. Right now I am glad I have work during the other kendo practice, because I'd feel guilty to skip practices otherwise, and I know I'd skip, because my days are already so long and I get so tired. An ALT schedule involves less wasting time on travel and breaks in the schedule, so I should be able to make more practices. *keeps fingers crossed for JET*.

Anyways, here's what I like about Nanbu practices. First, I am so happy I was allowed, and actually even invited to join the junior high school practices. Of course, it means my kendo sucks since I need to do basics, but then I am so grateful for this opportunity. The sensei that runs the junior high school practice is extra kind and always explains one more time what we are supposed to do if he sees I didn't understand. He also seems like a really nice person too, so I really enjoy practicing with the junior high school students. I don't talk to them as much as I'd like to, they aren't very talkative, and I guess I am only outgouing if the other people are outgoing. But I do talk to them once in a while, I try to make friends, so hopefully eventually I will. As for the adult practice, I also don't get a chance to meet too many people, but the ones I do meet are very kind, and especially the kendo moms, they are extra nice to me. The sensei too are very nice to me. Ah, anyways, back to the actual practice. During the adult practice it's jigeiko, and people who want can practice kata as well. So far about half of the sensei, depending on the day, would get me to do drills during at least part of the practice with them, and it's really good, because their comments are helping a lot. I wish I could tape my kendo, I wonder if it changed at all... I can't really tell myself yet in terms of the basics, especially since I still get a lot of comments about fixing my basics. It's really good though, I am getting so so many comments, I think more than during the UofT practice, because the number of students is about the same, but there are so many more sensei, so they have more opportunity to comment. So I am hoping I am improving.

I am so happy I found this dojo. I really hope next year I don't have to move too far, I'd really like to stay at this dojo. It's so close too, about 20 minutes on the bike. I remember Kaori told me once how she'd bike to the tournaments, with her bogu, and how my brother didn't believe me that she'd carry her bogu on her back, not strapped to the bike. Well, that's what I do now, so I get a little warm-up and cool-down on the way to and from the dojo. There is this pedestrian bridge thing too (it has a bike path), so it really is a small work-out. It's actually not all that bad, I'd rather bike with my bogu for 20 minutes than walk.

Here's roughly what the bridge looks like (it's some random picture from the internet, I am usually not around the bridge during the day to take a picture):

There is going to be a special practice on January 1st, at 10 AM. I really wish I could make it, but I will be in Osaka, celebrating New Year's day with my brother, so I have to miss it. I really really really wish I could go though... Maybe next year ^ ^.

If I go to Toronto for the JET interview in the end of February, I really wish I could go to practice at UofT. Of course, I don't know yet if I will be going to TO to start with, and I also don't know what day, and given I'll only be coming for two days or so, it's probably impossible (plus, I think my parents might want to kill me if I do that), but if by some super luck my interview falls on Thursday or Friday, maybe I'll try to go to the Thursday practice. Well, we'll see.

Anyways, I should go finish some stuff and then head to sleep, I have to wake up early.

Haha, sorry, those of you who expected more about kendo. I guess it's hard for me to explain the stuff about the actual kendo, so I will leave it at that for now.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Futon, Part 2

It was surprisingly very comfortable to sleep on the futon. My bed here is really hard anyway compared to the one I had in Canada, so I have gotten used to harder surfaces. I don't even have to worry about putting away my futon back into the closet, I just put it on top of my bed, with the blanket and everything, and it looks great, like it always belonged there.

Turns out I might not need to buy a coffee table after all. My school decided to let go one of the apartments at the end of this year, so my manager said I can take furniture from there if I need. I have to ask the girl who is living there now if she has a coffee table. If not, I just remembered of the small cheap coffee tables we had from Ikea in our Waterloo house with my friend back in third year. Of course there is no Ikea nearby, but I am sure they'd have something similar in the local stores too. Anyways, now I just have to live without a table until Christmas, but after that I'll have one.

On an unrelated note, I need to leave soon because I want to stop by the dollar store on my way and get some gloves. The temperature here is not that low, maybe about +5-7C, but it's windy, like in February in Toronto near the lake, so it would be nice to have some gloves. The ones I have now are for biking, with cut-off fingers, and I thought they should be ok, but it was a bit chilly this morning.

All right, off I go.


Today I've decided to abandon my somewhat softer bed in the bedroom for a not so soft futon, all because I am too lazy to drag the bed into the living room where the air conditioner (also a heat unit) is. If today's plan of sleeping here in the living room is a success, I will be spending the rest of my fall and winter in one room. It's more comfortable anyway...

Before I couldn't really sleep comfortably here because I had a coffee table that took up a lot of space. Due to a very stupid thing I did the other day though, my coffee table is no more, so now I have extra room. Well, technically I still have the table, but its glass top is broken, so I just stuffed the whole thing into my closet. Looks like I'll be making a trip to the furniture store in the near future (as soon as I get payed), because life without a coffee/kitchen/dining table is not so good. I have a desk, sort of, but I don't want to use it for eating, and I also need somewhere to put my laptop (I haven't been using my closet office recently). Although, on the second thought, I wonder how long I can survive without a table. It would be an interesting experiment. The only time I really need it is when I have guests, and I have at least one person over a week (my friend who is taking private lessons from me). Well, theoretically, it all depends on how much the table is. If it's not more than 3000 yen ($30), sure I'll get one, but if it's more, maybe I'll do the table-less experiment, because I'd much rather spend the money on traveling or clothes, than on a table that I will have to leave behind anyway. Heh, there is one thing I would like to get actually, a kotatsu, but the thing is probably really expensive, so I won't be able to afford one for a while... Anyways, guess I'll see. For now it's a good thing that the table is gone, I have so much more room.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Halloween Party and Other Pictures

On Saturday, October 25th, there was a big Halloween party organized by one of the foreigner guys in my city, and it was held at a restauraunt where many of the foreign guys hang out every week. So a lot of the people at the party were foreigners, but of course there were Japanese people too. I asked my two friends from Yamaha (my music school) to come, so the three of us went. It was really crowded, so I only enjoyed it because my friends were there too. My friends from work came too, but I didn't get to hang out with them because it was so crowded—guess I would have much rather spent time with all of my friends in a quieter place, but oh well. In any case, we didn't stay as late, because the next mornig I had to get up for the Halloween party at work. To be honest, I didn't like the summer pizza party or the BBQ camp too much, so I wasn't looking forward to this one either (especially since it was on my day off), but what can you do, it's work. As I thought, it wasn't that exciting, mainly because the rest of the teachers were not motivated either, and because the games we had on our list sucked... and also because only 4 of my students were there, out of the 25 kids, but dressing up was fun, and looking at the cute costumes that the kids had was also fun. I was a bit bored during some of the games, so I started running after kids and scaring them, and that was a lot of fun—and the kids were enjoying it too. It was easy for me to chase and scare them too, because I was wearing a cape.

Anyways, I don't have much more to say, so here are pictures:

The little guy I am holding wouldn't come into the circle with other kids, he was extra quiet and just stood in the corner, so I had to hold him for the first while. He is not my student, but I hear even during class he is really out there and isn't very sociable. Really cute kid though :D.

This is one of the other teachers that I hang out with—the two guys I work with are cool. He was joking how he is the big pumpkin, and one of my students (next picture) is the little pumpkin, and they match.

She is my cute two-year old. Her and another little boy are two of my most adorable students. Even her name is adorable, it's Momo :D (which means peach).

Well, no comment, really, I was asked to pose, so I couldn't think of a better Halloween face, hehe.

This is my manager's daughter, and my student. She was super cute :D.

This is my other adorable two-year old, Masato :D. His mom is so nice too. I always play with Momo and Masato after their lesson.

This is my student too. She isn't really a favourite, but hey :D. At least she is cute.

Group picture :D.

Rock Concert
A few weeks ago I went to a rock concert with one of my friends from work. It really was quite something. I've never been before, so I didn't know what to expect. Everyone was so excited, and dancing and singing along, it was great. The live house was quite small, maybe 50 people, and after the concert we went to the after-party with other people who came to watch and with the musicians. Ah, and of course I got my share of eye-candy :P. One of the bands I really liked is called Vision (check out the pictures on their website, hehe). The other band I really liked is called The Climax (their website seems to be down right now).

The pictures I took are not so great, in fact, they suck big time, since they are phone camera pictures, but I am posting them anyway.

This is the vocalist from Vision (go look at their myspace website above if you want to know what he looks like).

This is "The Climax" playing. I liked their music the best.

This band is called "Ryo and the Heartbreakers", and Ryo, the guy in the picture, is still in junior high school. They are pretty good though.

Toyohashi Matsuri
It seems that every city has a local festival, and Toyohashi is not an exception.
There was a lot of singing and dancing, and it was really fun to watch. Toyohashi has its own song (which I cannot find on youtube for some reason), and everyone was so excited about singing it... it kind of felt like Ukraininan New Year's Eve fireworks—the mood was very similar.

This lady with a flag smiled so much, and seemed like she was having so much fun, I really enjoyed watching her.

If you are wondering, "Is she really wearing what I think she is wearing on her head?" then the answer is yes, she is.

Random Pictures of Toyohashi
This poster says "Faith-Up" but it looks like a beauty salon if I read the katakana correctly. Go figure. I really don't get it, it makes me laugh all the time. I should ask my manager to explain...

This restauraunt is right next to the train station, so I pass it almost every day. The crab is cool, it moves. I've been wanting to take a picture for so long, and finally got around to doing it.

I took a crappy picture, but this is one of the iron dinosaurs outside of our school in Toyohashi. Our landlord, a really cool guy, made it with his friends. He has a ton of cool interesting things in his store, going there always reminds me of dad's garage. He keeps a bunch of computer chips, wires, lots of tools, bike parts, and other random things there. And he also makes the best cappuchino I've tried. I am getting addicted to the stuff, hehe. He's the same guy who keeps a pet pig outside of his store :D. I posted a picture some time ago.

These are some random purple berries in Toyokawa city (where I work twice a week). I always wanted to take a picture, but I was lazy to take out my phone.

On the Halloween week I was wearing a skull on my head one day, it was fun.

Tokyo's Designer's Week
Rie invited me to come to the design exhibition with her in Tokyo, and I did. I have to leave for work soon, so I am not going to write much right now, just look at the pictures. The exhibition was really interesting.

I took this picture because of the name of the company. I don't think their products had anything to do with cleanup.

This is Rie :D.

Rie's School Festival
That same weekend, November 1-2, we went to Rie's school festival in Osaka. Yes, I went to Tokyo one day and then to Osaka, it was some weekend.
Again, no time for descriptions, so just pictures. I loved the dances, the taiko performance, and the singing performances.

This guy played the guitar so so well.

These girls sang in English, if I remember correctly, and they had very nice voices.

These guys sang a lot of anime songs, and Rie was saying they are really big otaku.

More taiko.

These guys were funny :D. I don't really know how to classify their music, it was a mix of everything.

These guys were a rock band, and they were really funny.

More Random Pictures
One of my students in Toyokawa always stays a few minutes behind because his parents come a bit late. He's been fascinated with my iPhone, so last week he wanted to take a picture. I should remember to print it for him one of these days. Actually, I wish I took pictures with my kids on Halloween during the parties. We have Christmas parties coming up, so I'll take pictures then, I think. I like most of my kids, so it would be nice to have their pictures for the memories :D.

Ah this one was taken by the kid above. Not the greatest picture, but hey :D.