Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Final week at Higashi!

As my six month contract at my middle school is drawing to a close, I am slowly saying goodbye to all my five hundred students. I feel extremely lucky to have been able to work at Higash, my work friends are incredibly kind and fun to work with and my students are lovely, funny and willing to share time with me and play Onigoko!

Naturally, some students made some leaving cards, letters and pictures for me. The pictures I have featured are from my second graders, who are about 13 years old. I love all the little pictures they drew of me, I think the one pictured above captures my genkiness perfectly!
Some kids drew me with thick eyebrows and spiky teeth though D:

The messages they left really did make me happy though; especially the ones that said I made English fun for them and that they wanted to study harder now. I think English is very important to the future of Japan which is why the ALT system is needed. Kids need to be able to play with "gaijin" and see how similar we are in some ways and different in others and actually make them want to explore other cultures. It made me so happy to see how well my students know me, they drew little alpacas on my cards because they know that alpacas are my favourite animals.
One of my cheekier students wrote "Katie should see a dentist" HA! We just covered that topic in class so I thought it was hilarious, it's amazing how you come to know and love all their individual personalities and sense of humors! Although I am leaving in two days, I will never forget my students and work friends and I will return sometimes for events and bukatsu!
Now, onwards to Shinjuku!

Monday, 24 February 2014

Super Kawaii Snow Sculptures in Shibuya!

Everyone know's the story of Hachi - the dog who waited years for his owner to return from work, sitting diligently outside of Shibuya station, unaware that his owner had died at work. Which is why this particular statue is so heartwarming, they created a little friend or wife for Hachi and added a tiny shiba puppy in the backround, like a little shiba family!
I don't quite understand the story behind Hachi's hat though....I guess it protected him from the snow? 

Outside an Izakaya in Centagai, Shibuya the biggest snow man I have ever seen was sat and it ended up being my favourite ghibli character! I guess the Izakaya workers made it to bring in business, I think the sculpting was perfect apart from the creepy bog eyes!

It's a shame the snow is melting, I wanted to find more cute sculptures...Next year I will visit the Yuki Matsuri in Hokkaido and see the professionals at work <3

Oh and finally; for this outing I wore a new dress I bought from Glavil in Shibuya 109 and Emi wore hime-gyaru. Then as usual we continued our antics at club Camelot in Shibuya, I guess the night got pretty wild because we were posted to Gyaru secrets hahah!
Apparently I got in a fight and stripped some man on the dance floor, it wasn't quite that interesting a night unfortunately, but nice to know I'm becoming infamous ;D

When I read this comment, I laughed so hard I actually fell on the floor >-<

But this is the Puri from that day anyways - 

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Kyuushoku - Japanese lunch in middle school!

Kyuushoku - School Lunch

Lunch time is an interesting time at middle schools; there are no "dinner ladies" as the children put on cute little aprons and bandannas and dish the food out to their peers themselves and the broadcasting club airs cute jingles over the tannoy. They even play anime songs sometimes!
If there is food left you are welcome to help yourself, but if supplies are limited you have to Janken (rock,paper, scissors) for it!

Usually you will get a big bowl with some kind of meat or fish dish and another bowl with rice or soup. You will either get a dessert such as a tart or jelly or a big croissant or bread portion. 

The most common combinations I have encountered are:
Teriyaki Mackerel with Rice and salad.
Cream pasta with rice and bread
Frankfurt with salad and bread.
Beef on rice with soup.

You always get a little carton of milk; our one has the adorable Saitama mascot on, I think It's a pigeon?

Today we ate mince pork on rice with miso and shiitake soup, with a chocolate muffin. It was one of the more delicious options I think.
I always ask my students what's for lunch that day and they usually come out with something adorable like "pig soup".
I get allotted a class to eat with and during lunch we chat about our favourite movies and such, it is my favourite part of the day.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Blizzard clubbing!

In case you haven't seen the news; a snow storm has hit Japan and 7 people have been recorded dead, as well as over 1000 injured. Me and Emi decided to go clubbing on this fateful night.

Many trains were cancelled, and most of the Taxi's were busy, but somehow I made it to my house from Saitama without delay. On the way back I passed the temple by house, which ended up being one of the most beautiful sights I've ever seen. It was completely silent apart from the pitter patter of the snow and a solitary crow nestling in a tree causing a mini-avalanche. I can't believe that something so tranquil can be found in the heart of the city, this is why Tokyo is my favourite city in the world.

The snow continued the whole day so it became pretty deep:

Apparently it's the most snow that Japan has had for 78 years, so I feel pretty lucky to have been able to witness it. Even if it took us an extra twenty minutes to get anywhere.

Me and Emi dressed fairly casual in comparison to our usual fashion, the bad weather made us lazy:

We trudged through the snow to take the train to Shibuya and it was FREEZING, our feet got completely soaked and the wind was so strong that it broke Emi's umbrella and made me drop my Chu-hi. Shibuya was fairly deserted considering that it was a Saturday night, but the atmosphere was so charming; everyone was skating around on the ice and playfully throwing snowballs at each other, even if they were complete strangers. Look how empty Scramble crossing was! you can just make out how icy the roads were, it looks so dangerous...

We didn't forget to greet Hachi, although the poor thing looked a little cold:

From there we met our friends and went to our favourite drinking place in Shibuya; It's an izakaya in Centergai that is opposite the Sega Center and does two hour nomihoudai for only 800 yen! The food is really good too and most dishes are 270yen. Emi ate only pizza >-<

Then we headed to Club Camelot, our favourite club. We visit there so frequently that we have become friends for the staff so often we can get in for free. As usual we met a lot of great new people, drank tequila sunrise and danced on the podiums all night. It was well worth the treacherous hike in the snow to get there!

We rolled out of the club at 5am but because of the snow, our train was severely delayed and all the taxi's were busy, so we ended up spending an hour in Mc Donald's and not getting home until past 7am! So as you can imagine we slept most of Sunday...

On the way back to Saitama, I found someone on the train who looked more exhausted than I though.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

A little bit more about my job; Setsubun and SNOW!

This is my messy desk at work.
It has everything I need:

- Papers to be marked
- Stationary
- English to Japanese and Japanese to English dictionaries,
- Time sheet to get my hours stamped.
- Grades 1,2 and 3 text books.
- Draws filled with hidden Oyatsu such as Pocky.
- Schedule for the term.
- Whiteboard for memo's and revision.
- Mask I made for Setsubun.

If you become an ALT it is most likely that you will have a desk like this, It's made out of metal so if you leave your phone in the draw and it vibrates, you're going to hear a BIG NOISE.

You will have four draws, filled to the brim with all the crap that the previous ALT left behind, which you will end up salvaging for parts like a rabid raccoon. Everyone's desks are in rows, so everyone can see each other. Which is hilarious because everyone finds all sorts of sneaky ways to fall asleep at their desk. Everyone has a laptop but the ALT, which seems unfair but there are computers available and the other teacher's laptops have all the good sites blocked anyways - even Hotmail!

This is just outside my school, you'll notice it's snowing - this is the first time I've seen snow in Japan so I actually got super excited. The students were mature about it and stayed inside, while I ran around in it outside like a nutcase, trying to catch snowflakes on my tongue.

My school is a middle school so I teach the ages 11-15, which means a ton of ego and stroppy teenagers, but also students you can actually converse with and have their own little sense of humour. I love this age group so much, although I want to teach High School in future. You need a year's experience at a Middle School before you can work in a High School; so I have six months left!

Saitama is supposed to be the warmest prefecture  around Tokyo so I think we only got a light dusting here in Koshigaya, which is good because It's already bloody freezing and as I have to take a bus AND a train to work, the likelihood of one of them being delayed due to weather conditions is pretty high.

Oh and finally; Yesterday was Setsubun!
Setsubun is the festival in Japan in which a member of the house hold dresses up as an "Oni" and the rest of the family pelt them with dry beans. This symbolizes bad luck going out and good luck coming in. That's also where the flashy mask came from that's on my desk; we got to make them in my Special ED class. Usually Oni's are red or green, so the students found my one hilarious....
At lunch time one of the teachers said "Hey Katie don't go throwing your lunch at people". I didn't quite know what he meant until I saw we had a small bag of dry beans served with our lunch with a little Oni on the packet.

"SEEEEEEEEEEEETTTTTTTTTTSSSSSSSSSSSUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUBBBBBBUUUUUUUUUUUNNNNNNN" I shouted, hurling it at the nearest student and starting a pre-preemptive bean war. Best lunch time in ages.

Monday, 3 February 2014

International Kawaii Collective and events!

After working with NHK on Kawaii.i, some of the producers thought it would be a good idea if I made a fashion group for International English speakers who model Japanese fashion; that way we could be used for events and promotions.
I created the group on Facebook and we recently hit 45 members; so far we have gotten free tickets to see a Visual Kei band, went to a "secret girls" model party and I actually got someone work for a Visual Kei music video. Next I will be planning to arrange group photo shoots so some of our members can put together a portfolio.

The prerequisites are:

 - You live in Japan
 - You have a interest in Japanese fashion
 - You would like to model Japanese fashion or do promotion work!

If you are interested in joining then just shoot me a message or request to join our page.

Moving on~

Our first official "meet" was to see my friends Band ”Ancient Myth" play at Shibuya crawl!

Their performance was amazing; the music I would describe as symphony rock, with really technical  guitar solos fused with soft classical melodies. The singer "Michal" put on an incredible performance, almost like a marionette doll come to life. I even caught the guitarist's guitar pick!
Their style was pretty unusual too, Michal wore a gorgeous mauve asymmetrical tutu, the top half was black lace and the sleeves were kimono-esque. The bassist seemed to be wearing a gothic outfit with Steampunk influences, the brown straps around his chest reminded me of Shingeki no Kyoujin!

I think everyone had a great time and I'm sure we will go to see Ancient Myth perform in the future for another electric performance!

For the gig, everyone's styles were a little different: I opted for Gothic Lolita, Emi and Eleanor wore Rokku Gyaru and Rachel chose a mature Oneegyaru style.
It didn't matter because we all got covered in sweat at the gig anyways >-<

Second event

The second event was for a party I was invited to by the Kawaii.i producers in Omotesando at a club called Origami.

It was a "Secret girls" model event, although I didn't really get the point of the event, it was free Nomihoudai and we got free false eyelashes, glue, soap and chocolate.

The drinks were all cocktails and came in quirky little plastic bubbles with red glowing ice cubes, so you couldn't lose your drink!

I got to met a few of the new members of the group that night and we got to make a lot of connections at the event.

My co-ord for that night was a pastel space theme, with a pink fluffy jumper with holographic chameleons from Galaxxxy on and my Onespo fluffy pink winged shoes.

I can't wait to see where the next event will take us!

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Moving to Shinjuku with my best friend!

I have been living in Koshigaya for about five months now and although It`s a very convenient place, there's little to do here and most of the people who live in my area are ancient.
I would suggest to anyone who wants to be an ALT, after your first contract expires you should look for another job. The likelihood being that once you have your visa, the working world is your oyster and you can get much better pay or better working conditions.

I'm in the process of being interviewed for a company that teaches through drama methods and teaches actors for television shows and movies. I'm going to miss my students and work friends so much but...In my current position there is 0 chance for promotion.

Thus me and Emi decided to split an apartment in Shinjuku; everyone says that Shinjuku is one of the most expensive places to live but if you shop around enough and go betsu betsu with a friend you can actually get a sweet deal.
Emi is someone who I have spent a lot of time with since being in Japan, we have only really known eachother about six months but, when you're completely alone in a foreign country you will notice that relationships develop a lot faster. We have both been there for each other when the other needed it and we have had some truly crazy times in Tokyo. I am so looking forward to our adventures living together in Shinjuku!

Our first night in our new apartment was hilarious. Emi had caught the flu so I went clubbing without her; I rolled out of Club Camelot at about 5:30am and then remembered I didn't know where our new apartment was, so frantically LINE called Emi. Once I realized she was asleep I then drunkenly decided to take a taxi from Shibuya to our apartment. I had the address of our apartment in Japanese and knew the driver could read it but....I forgot how extorionate the taxi fare would be!
I still remember Emi's surprise when I turned up at the door, completely wrecked wearing a big sparkly lizard jumper. After a long sleep and some recovery Mc Donalds we explored the area a little then returned home to watch Despicable Me 2 and a documentary about Hosts.
It felt so good staying with Emi because although I live in a sharehouse, the people I live with are all Japanese and therefore most of them are very distant so it can be incredibly lonely sometimes.

This is my new bedroom:

One of the big u psides of me and Emi living together is that EVERYTHING we own is pink; even the frying pans!

For now I'm returning to Koshigaya until my work finishes on the 28th, but then I can come back to Shinjuku and this will be my new home!<3

Back to Blogging!

I finally bought a laptop so I can blog again!

I since my last post I have been living in Japan for about five months, so I have a lot to update you on. There have been some massive highs and of course, a few lows.

I have been working at a middle school in Koshigaya since I arrived and it has been one of the most memorable and life changing experiences of my life!

I will shortly make a video of this but firstly, I'll do a day in the life of me, on a working day.

6:30 : Wake up, check E-mails,, put on music and get ready for work.
7:10 : Leave my house and walk to the Seven Eleven, buy lethal doses of coffee and Pocky and then head to the station.
7:24 : Arrive at the station, get on the train to work,
7:35 : Get on the train, the station I need is two stops away.
7:40: Arrive at the station and walk to the bus stop.
7:45 Get on the bus to work, usually I have to stand up the whole journey. A woman I work with always gets the same bus, she doesn't speak any English but we chat for the duration of the journey. Two or three students get on the bus from the special Ed class too, they are always genki in the mornings.
7:55 : Arrive at the bus stop, walk towards work and engaging any students I meet in small talk about the weather or what they had for breakfast.
8:00 : Enter the building, put my "inside" shoes on and sit at my desk after announcing "ohayou gozaimasu" to as many people as I can. Me and Oba-chan sit at our desks which are conveniently next to each other. I drink my coffee and prepare for my classes.
8:15 : The teachers meeting begins, they take it in turns to discuss the business of the day, I pick up on important things such as "such and such has influenza" or "this particular class is cancelled" but as my Japanese is not fluent, I usually just draw unicorns on my white board and drink my coffee.
The meeting lasts about ten minutes.
8:35: The other teachers have already scrambled off to their homerooms or other engagements, so I sit at my desk until the students arrive for cleaning. Me and my Kyoutou-sensei (Vice Principle) greet the students, bow and begin to clean. Cleaning is just using brooms to clean under people's desks (which get ridiculously dusty) and emptying the waste paper baskets. Then I just sign the form that says they've completed it and sit back at my desk, prepare some more lessons and drink my coffee.
9:00 First lesson starts, I grab my text book and the papers I need and walk to class. On the way to class dozens of excited students shout "Good morning" so I try and engage as many in conversation as I can, they usually give up after "how are you?" "I'm fine thank you, and you?"
9:05 : Class begins, the students bow and sit down, I say my greetings, ask them how the weather is, get them to spell it and then, unless I have arranged a game,  pass them to the JT for their lesson.
This is where my day becomes different, as it completely depends on which JT I'm working with to how the lesson will be. Some JT's and I play a lot of games and interact a lot more with the children, while others just get the children to memorize text and have me repeating words over and over to them.
Usually I will read the "new words" and text to the students and have them repeat it and then I will try to help them with their pronunciation, we will have an activity using the television where the students have to guess the words and then finally, some kind of work sheet that they have to fill in or take notes. As boring as that sounds, lessons are always fun when the JT and I engage more with the students, play games or tell them stories.
There are four periods before lunch, each period is fifty minutes long. Usually I will have three classes before lunch, the free period I just study at my desk and drink coffee.
1:00 : Lunch time!
Students will knock on the teachers room and try to ask me in English if I will eat lunch with them, I don't join them unless they say "Katie-sensei, let's eat lunch together" which can sometimes take a long time.....
I sit at the table I've been assigned to and talk to the students in English; usually we chat about the games they like, the anime their watching or which teacher they think is the coolest!
The students are the ones that dish out the food to everyone and they wear cute little aprons and bandannas - it's adorable!
School lunch is usually;  A meat dish such as chicken karaage, a bowl of rice and some form of soup, sometimes there is a dessert such as jelly it's accompanied with a carton of milk. Usually it's delicious and often very varied. The only problem I have is the days that we have bread to dip in the soup they give you like two massive buns and it's far too much.
After eating we clear our plates and Rock Paper Scissors for who will clean the table. I always cheat at it because the students find it hilarious!
2:00 : After lunch I have one more class, or more often than not a free period in which I just eat pocky and study. I need to fill out my timesheet and get my Kyoutou sensei to stamp it with his hanko and then I am free to leave at 3:20.
3:20 Take the bus and train home, return to my Sharehouse and have a nice long nap!
4:00 : After work usually I have dinner with a friend, but about twice a week I will travel to Tokyo and meet with friends to play 'Taiko no Tatsujin'.

Thursdays I also teach a hospital class, this is my favourite class as I have full control and only teach about 5 students. I get to make up themed classes, give out stickers and I even held a Halloween part for us!

Aren't my students adorable?!?!

Here's a photo of the hospital I work at:

Sorry for the extremely boring first post, I thought it would be useful to see what I actually do at work.