Alright, onto September! (Inwardly cringing since it’s November already but whatevskis…)
September was a blur! It started off with my first days of school at each of my schools, and opening ceremonies. At one of my opening ceremonies I spoke only in English, but at my local school, I spoke each sentence in both English and Japanese (with a script of course!). I had the English teachers help me translate, which was a lot of fun! I spent a lot of time practicing and freaking out about not being understood, but I managed to make my student assembly laugh in the very beginning, which made me feel better.
Those assemblies were really intense for me. It was my first time meeting the students I would be seeing everyday at each school, and their first impression of me. I tried to be as real as I could, which included fumbling with the microphone when I realized it wasn’t on, and doing a little wave at them from the podium (which some students returned!). At my visiting school, the students in my English club were sitting in the front row so it was nice to see them.
One thing about assemblies that kind of blew my mind were that students just sat on the floor of the gym. I don’t really remember how it was back home but I think the janitors would either set up chairs, we would sit in the bleachers, or we would all sit in the theater of our high school, but we would never just sit on the floor. Anyway, the teachers sat or stood along the edges of the gym, and I was standing with them looking at all the students and trying not to be distracting.
My first day of classes at each of my schools were September 2nd for visiting school and September 3rd for my home school and I survived!! Some classes went better than others, but for the most part I did OK. I wish I had written a little more when I first started teaching so that I’d have a real look at how I felt in the beginning and how I feel now, but I think I remember not feeing as good as I do now. I was a little uncomfortable with my students and didn’t really know how to connect with them. It’s going a lot better now, which is a reminder that sometimes time is really the only answer. It takes me a while to warm up and get comfortable in places as well, which can be really frustrating in beginnings.
Here are some pictures of my classroom before my first class ever! I am the only in-use classroom on my floor and I can decorate my room, I just found out!
The next few weeks were me basically trying to get settled and adjust to my life here. I took it easy with trips and stayed in the area, exploring restaurants with my friends, exploring my town on my bike, and trying to cook. I met some other English teachers in the area on Friday September 4th, and on the 6th, we had our first Taiko drum lesson! I will make another post about our performance where I will explain more about what Taiko drumming is, but that was the first of our weekly Sunday lessons, and I’m happy I joined! I also experienced my first typhoon on September 9th, and ended up coming to work soaked and miserable. On the 19th, my students at my visiting school took part in an English speech contest, which was a lot of fun to watch. Two of my students placed and cried when they got their awards. So cute. :’) On Sunday the 20th, I went to a bar in Yokkaichi to watch the Japanese singers I met on the street a few weeks prior (Chummy, and if you want to check them out, they have a facebook page here). The following days I had off from work; Japan has a holiday called Silver Week, which is three days off (September 21-23rd this year).
Anyway, here are some photo highlights from September!
|View of the city of Yokkaichi from a little bit up the mountain on a bike ride!|
|We had a few pizza nights at my apartment, but nothing beats Dominos in my heart. I didn’t have a table yet at this point so we took the boxes that my bike came in and used them as a table. :’D|
|Some of my favorite parts of September were lesson planning with Justin or Ashley in cafes and restaurants. (: This was Starbucks, and I was trying to write letters… Which I still haven’t sent omg.|
|These colorful trains on my line are the best! Justin said he saw people playing guitar and singing and walking through them but I have yet to see this. D:<|
|We went to this adorable café called Snug Café or Café Snug, I forgot. But the atmosphere was great ahhh, and the décor was right up my alley. It’s only open on certain days but I will have to go back.|
|Flowers at the train station!|
|Aaaaaand many of you have seen this, but this is how cooking usually goes. I scraped the burnt part off though and enjoyed my egg and cheese sandwich the best I could. D:|
|My vacuum cleaner broke and my coworker let me borrow his… And this is how you carry a vacuum home if you don’t have a car and only have a bike. I made it!|
The last bit of September I wanted to talk about was a moon festival that my friend Justin and I went to in his neighborhood. I’m not sure what it was called, and we weren’t even sure where it was for the longest time and decided to yolo and walk over to the shrine near the train station. Lo and behold, there it was! It was nighttime and he shrine was really beautifully lit up. There was a kind of hushed atmosphere when we entered, and there were chairs set up in rows facing the shrine. We sat with the people and what came next was just so beautiful! According to the programs, a man named Tatsuya Koumazaki was to perform with a group called PANGEA (from what I understand). He played the guitar and sometimes these chime-like instruments, with a man on what I think were drums backing him up, as well as a woman on a Japanese stringed instrument called the koto. Meanwhile, there was a woman in white robes who symbolized the moon, who at first slowly walked past them into the shrine, and then came out and performed a very slow and careful dance movement. I guess that is what I would call it, a slow movement, since “dance” strikes me as too intense for what she did. It’s so hard to put into words but there were moments where the wind would pick up and you would hear the trees rustling, the full moon was shining down really bright and clear, and the music just… hit the right spot. I got chills over and over!
If you want to get an idea of what it was like, this is one of the songs that was played (not my recording, just found on YouTube):
During intermission, they all gave us little pieces of potatoes and tea, and they also gave most people sake, but for some reason we were skipped. :'( Regardless, this was all free! Then, when we left, they gave us little charms. We have no idea what they are for but it was the sweetest gesture! Such a beautiful night! It was my first really emotionally charged “Holy crap, I am in Japan,” moment that I had had in a while.