Spring in Japan

Last week was peak cherry blossom season in Fukuoka. I hadn’t really had the chance to do proper hanami (cherry blossom viewing) before this year, so naturally I did it three times to make up for all the years I’ve missed. I must say, nothing beats hanami season in Japan, especially when the weather is nice. Everyone packs up their tarps and barbeque pits, prepares food and drink to share, and heads out to the parks around Japan to soak up the beauty of the cherry trees blossoming flowers. I like to think people do hanami because they want to be one with nature and treasure this fleeting flower, but I think most people do it so they can get drunk in public in the afternoon. Either way, it’s my favorite season in Japan, and I am so glad I finally got to experience it in full.

 

By the way, I uploaded a cherry blossom vlog to my brother and my channel, Kori & Philip.

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Girl’s day

June has been good to me. Though it’s now rainy season and sunlight has been rare, I am definitely enjoying my final months here with my lovely friends.

I was invited out to Miyakonojo for lunch and a rock bath/sauna trip with two of the coolest ladies I know. We went to a restaurant called SLF and had an amazing four course meal. The salad was covered in local veggies and a perfectly paired blueberry dressing. For the main, I went with margarita pizza and it also did not disappoint. I ate the soup too quickly to take a picture. I’m sorry, it was pumpkin and delicious. Finally, I had a cappuccino and coconut gelato. Ahh, it was the perfect lunch.

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After we headed to Miyakonojo Green Hotel for their stone sauna (岩盤浴). I had never been to a place like this before, and I am so glad the girls invited me. You change into a provided cover-up, drink some water, then lie down on the hot slab of rocks in a dark room that’s about 40 C (104 F). First you lie on your stomach for five minutes, then switch to your back for ten. They play light instrumental music, so it’s extremely relaxing, but staying in past 15 minutes isn’t recommended this time of year because you can easily overheat. In-between sessions, you can a break in an air-conditioned room and rehydrate. We did three times total and each time there was more and more sweat. But each time I felt lighter and lighter, like all the impurities and tension were leaving me. Afterwards you can shower, and they have necessary products like shampoo and body wash available. It’s said to have a lot of health benefits, and there were quite a few positive testimonials displayed in the lobby. It was an amazing experience, I highly recommend it if you feel like you need a detox or just want to relax.

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I’m trying so hard to save money for my future move, but I can’t pass up opportunities to see my friends and experience new things. I’m considering this day justifiable because of its therapeutic nature. I feel amazing! Make sure to check out these spots if you’re ever in the area!

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I think I had the busiest week of my career here last week. All of the sudden everyone I work with/for needed my help AND I had so many plans!

Around this time every year, I conduct an interview for students hoping to study in America. The program is run through my board of education, and they always ask me to help out with the English portion. It’s pretty simple; I just have to make sure the kids have decent communication skills so they don’t faint or something the first time they interact with an American in America. I knew about the date and time way before, but five of the students hoping to go this year are students at my junior high and a few of them asked me to help them prepare for the interview. We met up a few times last week, and I gauged their attitudes and skills. One girl in particular wants to go so bad, that she’s been visiting me every week after lunch or after school since the beginning of term. I love when my students are motivated and passionate, no matter what it’s about, but when it’s about English…and they want to talk to ME, I get super excited. So even though I haven’t had a break at work since March, I’m pretty happy.

The actual interview was Wednesday. There is also a high school program, and one of my favorite students from two years ago was there! I haven’t heard the results for the high school interviews yet, but I hope he gets to go to America. He is such a kind kid, and I know he’ll do great. (I did get results from the JH interview and all of my 8th grade girls are going to America! I am so proud!)

In addition to this interview’s prep, I’ve been helping students with English test prep as well. The test, called Eiken, has a speaking component from level 3 to level 1, and one of the students didn’t have an idea how to do it. I helped again during my “break time,” and I feel confident she is going to do well!

Okay, let’s go back to Tuesday. I’ve been applying to some jobs online, and I got an interview for a school in Fukuoka. The interview was via Skype so I didn’t have to go anywhere, but I was surprisingly nervous. Talking to a stranger via a computer screen is really odd. I think it went pretty well though. Even if I don’t get the job or even a second interview, talking about myself really helps me put my thoughts and dreams into perspective. I’m really starting to get a good idea of what exactly it is I want to do with my future.

I also had to practice music a ton this week because, the band and I had a show on Sunday. We messed up super super bad on one song (I blame the sound guy ha), but we performed all of our originals and had a good time. Some friends came to watch, and I saw some people I haven’t seen in a while. That’s always a treat. Anyway, I really think our sound is coming together nicely. We even finished recording some songs and sold a few copies of our single. Baby steps guys! Baby steps.

Other than that, I hung out with my friend Kina and some new friends. I’m a pretty shy person, but I’m getting better at talking to new people. BABY STEPS.

Although it was a hectic week, and I literally slept all day Saturday to make up for it, it was wonderful. Being busy with things you enjoy is certainly a good thing, and when it’s all over and you take a breath, you can look back on it and feel accomplished. Yea, I definitely feel good about last week.

party with my girl!

party with my girl!

show time

show time

Quarter of a Century

bday outfit

bday outfit

I recently celebrated my 25th birthday!! Yay! OK, so birthdays in the third world really aren’t huge achievements until you’re 85 or so, but 25 feels big. I’m a real adult now, all fully grown and perfectly me. It feels amazing.

I’ve heard from some people in this country that 25 is the age by which you should be married…or at least seriously thinking about it (totally BS btw…who actually believes that?). If you know me at all, you’ve never really expected me to get married any time soon. Up until a year and a half ago (estimate), I was certain I would never get married. Now I’m open to the idea, but I’ll also be okay if it never happens. Which is great because I haven’t been on a date in FOREVER.

I am about 90% okay with that though. I’m 25 and awesome, and I really don’t think I need a man to tell me that. Unless it’s my dad. Dad, I need you to say I’m awesome. Anyway, I have some time left before my eggs shrivel up and die, so I can patiently wait for all the cute romantic things to happen again. I’m not stressing.

So, back to my actual birthday. I spent my birthday eve with my favorite people in the eastern hemisphere, and we had a great time. There was a moose and a golf game involved. And horrible karaoke singing. And lots of hugs. It was magical, and I am so lucky to have such kind, amazing people in my life. And almost no one important to me forgot to wish me a happy birthday! I do wish I could have seen my family and friends from the US too, but overall it was a great time. I am so excited to see what 25 holds for me!
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presents!

presents!

dinner AND golf

dinner AND golf

Where have you been?

I’ve been pretty MIA recently, and I apologize. I’ve been super busy. The old school year has finished and another has begun, so I’ve been wrapped up in planning new lessons for new classes and getting used to all the teacher changes. Let me say that I am very excited to start the non-ALT part of my life, because dealing with some of the teachers at my elementary schools is a nightmare. All but maybe two or three of them speak zero English, and yet half of them insist on controlling the lesson (but not their students) and I frankly can’t take it anymore. My junior high remains a very exciting and interesting place, and some of the new teachers seem really cool as well…so no complaints there. BUT ELEMENTARY SCHOOL! I love the kids though. In the next couple of days, I’ll definitely be posting about some of the crazy and cute things they say.

new school year opening ceremony

new school year opening ceremony

In addition to all that I’ve had a lot more social gatherings planned because of the beautiful change in weather. It’s like all the bears have come out of hibernation and are ready to go fishing. Everyone is doing something. I also can’t really complain about this; being busy with fun is never a bad thing. Although I wish I had a few more days to myself, it’s been great to see most of my local friends and catch up!

we wet to a rock festival at Sakurajima (volcano)

we went to a rock festival at Sakurajima (volcano)

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Tesla wa nakanai–pianist

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Tesla doesn't know how to cry's singer and the gang

Tesla doesn’t know how to cry’s singer and the gang

a little jazz concert in a temple

a little jazz concert in a temple

had an amazing friend date with one of my favorite people

had an amazing friend date with one of my favorite people

monthly international party in Shibushi

monthly international party in Shibushi

The biggest consumer of my time, though, has definitely been the band. We’ve been really focusing on polishing our original songs and getting ready for shows. We had one today at Kanoya Earth Day, and we should play at least one next month as well. I am so into this band, and I’m super excited to play live more. Creating music is definitely a challenge, especially when you’re writing personal lyrics and all that, but it is so rewarding when it all comes together. If we get some good videos or recordings done, I’ll be sure to share them on my other blog!

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the boys of Ashfall

the whole band and a friend

More adventures and pictures to come!

Junior High School Stories: Kids are so Weird

I haven’t written about my students in a while, and I feel like they know it because they’ve been giving me a lot of great material lately. Cute, but mostly creepy material. (NOTE: some student comments are translated from Japanese.)

 

1.

My 8th graders have been studying infinitives and what expressions to use them with. Things like “I like to play soccer” or “I want to go to the movies.” So one day at lunch, I asked some students what they want to do in the future.

The young lady sitting across from me said, “I want to marry a rich, handsome man so I can sit on the couch watching TV and eating potato chips all day.”

To which I replied, “You want to do nothing but sit and eat? that’s not very healthy.”

And she said, “Oh we’ll have a pool. And three mini poodles. It’ll be fine!”

Okay sweetie, what a wonderful dream!

The boy next to her said the opposite. Apparently his dream is to marry an ugly, poor woman. I just don’t even know where they get this.

 

2.

Soon after that conversation, one of my most adoring students came over to poke me and ask me weird questions. I ignored her and asked her the same question as above instead. Her answer? To be my boyfriend. She meant boyfriend. When she was in 7th grade she wrote “I Love KORI!” on her arm and told everyone she was my boyfriend. Hmmm….::concerned face::

 

3.

That same day, during 5th period, I asked a young man where his workbook was, because he was supposed to be working in it.

He said, “It went home.”

“It went home? What?” Because I thought he meant it was at home.

“Oh, yea, it went home. By foot!”

 

4.

Another day, I was walking back to the 7th grade teachers’ room after a lesson. I walked by a group of three girls, and as I passed, I could feel them stop and face me. I turned to see one girl sniffing my shoulder.

“What are you doing!?”

“YOU SMELL GOOOOOD!”

 

5.

Almost everyday, someone (usually a boy) will scream, “I DON’T SPEAK ENGLISH!” in English. Why?!

 

6.

One day I caught a boy copying the answers for the workbook page he was supposed to be doing from the answer book. I grabbed the answer book, playfully tapped his head with it, and then erased all of his answers. He laughed nervously, and then actually did the workbook page correctly. It was a rewarding day for us both.

 

7.

Recently the 9th grade upper level English students were writing group essays. Their teacher was absent this particular day, so I went to the lessons by myself and helped the kids with their grammar and word choice. Easy stuff, you know. I’m helping one group write something about kimono or something, when one boy starts yelling “BEE! BEE! A BIG BEE!”I freaked out, because for once the students knew the correct English word for such an animal and because our school had been having a problem with giant hornets that are apparently vicious and painful. I did not want to stick around to find out what it felt like to be stung by one, and with all the children flailing around like drunk donkeys, that bee was probably peeved enough to stick his little stinger right into my face. Before I could calm anyone down, or breathe for that matter, the tiniest girl in class had run to the teachers’ room, fetched a bug spray gun, and begun (trying) to kill the little insect. She was way too short to reach the bee, who was flying close to the ceiling like any smart bee would, so all she managed to do was douse the classroom in a very obnoxious fume cloud. We all had a good laugh at her futile attempt to murder the poor thing, and then a much taller boy yanked the canister from her hand. He gave that hornet the lethal dose every student was hoping for, and  the little bug buzzed his little way down to the floor where he perished in a puddle of poison.

I felt so weird. This little bug had the ability to scare 20 teenagers with just the flap of his wings, and yet he died so easily at a few breaths of poisonous air. I didn’t know what else to do, so I made the kids have a little funeral for him. We all said “Sorry. Goodbye Mr. Bee.” and threw him into the “general waste” bag.

 

8.

Every Tuesday I help the 7th graders clean the teachers’ room, mostly because I like to look busy, but also because I like to make them speak English. A while back, I taught them the words “dustpan” and “broom.” Now, every week without fail, a boy who could easily pass as an American 3rd grader comes to my desk and exclaims, “Kori! Clean time!” It’s so cute, I have to clean. He is also “dustpan” boy, so whenever someone yells, “DUSTPAN!” he promptly scurries over to them, not unlike a mouse, and provides his dustpan-steadying skills. Tuesday is probably my favorite day of the week because of Dustpan (his loving new name).

 

9.

My favorite thing about my job, by far, is watching students’ faces when they randomly blurt out an answer and it’s right. They’ll say it happily, and if you don’t immediately congratulate them on their answer, they doubt it and try to retract it. That’s when you say, “THAT’S RIGHT!” and their faces light up like the sky on (American) New Year’s. It’s more beautiful than the most beautiful fireworks display, really, and it’s why I do what I do. Slowly, these kids are picking up English and enjoying it. And maybe English itself isn’t so important big picture-wise, but being bilingual is correlated with higher intelligence right? And it means they can talk to me more, because Kori-sensei does not speak Japanese at school without good reason. No sir.

 

Thanks for reading! Let me know if you enjoy this kind of post. I certainly enjoyed writing it! Until next time!

Third Year

My oh my! It has been over a month since I’ve last posted. I guess I’ve been a bit busy. Sorry >-<

 

I have started my third year as an ALT after all. The originally plan was to only stay in Kagoshima for 2 years and then try to get a different job or go back to school. Life has a funny way of hardly ever doing what you want it to. Oh well, it’s best not to dwell in the past I’ve been told. Actually, I’m not that upset I’m still here. I do occasionally wish I had moved on sooner and left, but there are some things to still be happy about.

Last summer I took the level 2 Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) and passed! So I’m one step closer to being fluent (on paper)! My spoken Japanese is getting better too though. I’ve shed most of my fears of daily life in Japan, and because of this have been able to communicate with those around me better. Not only does this mean I get more stuff done and understand the world I live in better, I’ve also gotten pretty good at speaking Japanese. Not to toot my own horn or anything, it’s just Japanese is really hard, and it’s nice to be sort of good at something!

In addition to being able to serve my sass in a foreign tongue, I’ve also gotten a lot better at teaching. I think. I really get to shine at elementary schools where few other people speak English, and I can actually teach whole classes by myself. Not a huge accomplishment maybe, but getting 60 seven-year-old monsters to listen to you speak in their language is pretty big for me. Plus, the longer I’m around, the more my kids grow to like me (or put up with me…however you want to look at it). Well, I mean, kids tell me they love me, so I’m doing something right, right? I do love my students, and most of the teachers and staff I work with are lovely as well. In fact, the nurse at one of my elementary schools is so excited when I’m at the school that she pats my head and nearly hugs me every time. It’s a bit odd, I’ll admit, but I’ll take it.

Finally, I have friends. I know, crazy. Friends are hard, but somehow I’ve manage to make a few who really like me (or again, put up with me). Two of my friends recently got married, and I wish it wasn’t weird for me to hug them both for 5 minutes every time I see them. I just love their love that much.

Actually, that brings me to one major reason I wish I wasn’t living here anymore. Most of my friends, especially the ones who are physically close to me, are in relationships. Long-term, committed, beautiful relationships. I don’t wish anything else for them. In fact, I love talking about relationships and love and all that gross stuff. It just always makes me remember the main reason I am still living in Shibushi; at the time I decided to re-sign my contract, I had a future with someone else to look forward to. I do wish sometimes I could escape to a big city and never look back, but a big part of me knows that I needed this place. I needed that experience. I needed to know what it was like to part with someone. And I know there’s a reason I’m still living here. I’m not done with this place. Everyday I go to bed wishing that I could up and leave, but every morning I wake up alive and happy and ready for my next mini adventure in Kagoshima.

I also think I’m still here because I have no money, and it’s really hard to move to somewhere like Fukuoka or Tokyo without a little clank in your pocket. I do miss my friends and family back in the states, but I’m not ready to go back. I’ve come this far haven’t I? So next year, I’m planning to start my big city Japan life. If I can find someone who wants to hire me.

 

Until next time, take care!