Monday, April 30, 2012

That one time we had disrespectfully loud time

We threw a party. Not wanting to disturb our new neighbors, we made it an afternoon party. "It'll be over by 10. At the latest." It started at 4... and may or may not have lasted nearly twelve hours. Someone's shoes were stolen, birthday cake was had, and new friends were made. Twas epic. Team Pokemon style.

Anyways, here are some photos of the past few weeks. I'll try to keep this short. But no promises, because we all know I say that a lot.

Our trek in Iruma to find John's mystery school

I rewarded myself with a delicious bear doughnut.  Specifically for this picture

I <3 Costco, and the 477 yen PUMA jackets

Most adorable pastries ever from Ai-chan. 94372 points for her

Ai-chan made delicious dinner
The most decent picture of 50% of the group at Hourai

Lighting the birthday cake

I love this picture for so many reasons
Shizuka! The first friend I've legitimately made in Japan

Ai-chan and the GIANT amazing croissant she brought us! It's as big as her head!!!
PLUS awesome apple pie. Yayy Ai-chan!!!

Our first housewarming gift. So beautiful!!!!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

JaquieRin- sensei

It has a nice ring to it. Not going to lie, every time I hear "Jaquierin sensei!! Jaquierin sensei!!" in the halls (or every five feet on my walk home from school- living in the middle of Hanno means that I see at least 7 of my students everywhere...) it makes me smile. I love it.

So teaching in Japan is proving to be interesting. They teach English in Japanese... which means in [some of the] ENGLISH class[es], I have noooo idea what is being said/taught. Seems a little confusing, but I guess I hated it when I had my"full immersion" language Italian class. The teacher walked in, and it was a sink or swim kind of class. She didn't speak a lick of English, and it was Italian for like four hours a day. No joke. I hated life.

Now I am that teacher who doesn't speak a lick of the country's language. Oh how ironic. 

I have some fun times at school... even if I only laugh on the inside AND I'm the only one who thinks it's funny.
  • when writing numbers on the board, one of the Japanese English teachers proceeded to spell "two" "t-w-u". I cringed.
  • when instructing the students to count, one teacher made sure his voice was the loudest. Past #40, all the numbers went something like this "51, 52, 53, 54, 57, 59, 60!" At least three numbers were skipped every time. When his answer book said the answer should be "102" but he finished counting at #94... the look was priceless.
  • they sing their ABC's differently. And the ending goes "Happy, happy, I'm happy. I can sing my ABC's". I think I laughed out loud the first time I heard it. 
  • at the end of one of my classes, about 15 third-grade girls walked me back to the teacher's room, fighting over who gets to carry my papers and books. All the while, hanging onto my arms and telling me that I'm kawaiiii (cute). I pretty much felt like a rockstar
  • when I told John about lunch speed eating hour, his reply was "well, you eat kindaa slow". Usually everyone attributes my slow eating speed to the fact that I like to talk a lot. Well, rest assured, I do absolutely no talking during lunch. And I'm consistently the last one to finish. They freaking inhale their food here.
  • when you walk into a classroom, privacy ceases to exist. The kids mutter through my lesson plans, books, signs, and worksheets. It's still kind of baffling to me...  

**Sidenote, the current background noise are my roommates about who takes the most poops. It's freaking hilarious, I have to pause to vote for Robert.

So another plus to working at four different schools is that I have lunch at four different places each week. I've been super lucky so far (knock on wood) with semi-tasty lunches and some repeat lunches. I'm hoping that I will miss out on the gross lunches (John had octopus today for lunch. Serious yuck factor for me), and only get the tasty lunches! Buttt knowing my luck, I'll get slimy baby fishes four times in a week.

Until next time minions, here is a video as a treat for reading my blog.
In honor of being in Japan... with unagi (pardon the subtitles)

Saturday, April 21, 2012

You're a squid NUGGET

Hello Minions.

Yes, yes, I know. It's been a while. I'm sorry for my absence but lately, I can barely stay awake long enough to shower, much less blog.

So. First two weeks of school are ovaaa. That means I have survived ten school lunches.... none of which have been terribly disgusting. I was finally served the dreaded "baby fishes" that Robert warned us so desperately about. I will admit, there is something super strange and kind of creepy about lunch with eyes. And they are tiny, so there are like 387,439 eyes on you as you chomp down on it's friends and family. But there hasn't been anything that I couldn't get down.

I've finally been to all four of my schools. The upside to working at four different places in one week is that I can wear the same outfit four days in a row, and no one will know the difference. It is fantastic. The anti-girl part of me (awww man, what am I going to wear to work today??! Picking out my clothes? Not again...) loves it. Most of my lessons have included an introduction and a Q&A portion of class. Without fail, the same questions have been asked in all of my classes:
  1. How old are you? (My immediate reply: How old do you think I am? Japanese kids are better at guessing my age than American kids are)
  2. What is your favorite Japanese food? (Everyone goes crazy when I say gyudon)
  3. Do you have a boyfriend? (I always say "yes". When John is asked if he has a girlfriend, he says "Secret." Retrospectively, that may have been the smarter move)
Now there definitely were some questions that threw me for a loop, or had me rolling on the ground laughing
  1. Is your boyfriend rich like me?
  2. Do you kiss your boyfriend?
  3. Why aren't you married?
Yeah, seriously. Oh, and in case you're wondering, I didn't answer any of those questions. Mainly just laughed and danced around the subject and used my good 'ole USA training to turn the questions back on the kids. 

Some highlights from the past week...
  • John and I both got lost on the way to school (we work at different schools, but somehow both independently got lost). We had the exact same story of panic, five-minutes-to-get-to-school-on-time-oh (*&#^@ moment, and result of some kindhearted Japanese person DRIVING US TO SCHOOL. They seriously are the nicest here.
  • Some toilets are holes in the ground here. Definitely not a highlight, but something worth mentioning. They have the bullet train, heated toilet seats, escalators with sensors and yet at some places you have to squat to use the bathroom. Whaaaa?!? 
One of the many moving days
  •  We are officially all moved into our new apartment. Minus the toilet leaking some questionable brown stuff, everything is falling into place.
Our 3rd (??!? Idk, we both lost track) apartment together
  • Sakura bloomed EVERYWHERE. So beautiful, it takes my breath away. I could go on and on- I am now mildly obsessed with cherry blossoms. And then, just as quickly... it's gone. I cried on the inside when the beautiful blossoms were replaced by some new ugly red branches. 
My view on the way to school- well one of my schools

Oh sakura, I miss you so.
  •  Finally got my gaijin card. I'm now a legit resident of Japan.
School is getting easier. I use that term loosely because these past two weeks have royally kicked my butt. Struggling to communicate basic things to my co-workers is a headache and a half. On a daily basis, a teacher will spend about 38 minutes trying to tell me that it is rainy today. Or something like that. The conversation usually goes something like this:

"Jaquielyn sensei, it is....... eto......mmmmmm..........uhhhh........... chotto matte kudasai................. mmmm ...... something in Japanese .......... eehhhhhttoooeeeeee.................... mmmmmmm.............. ame?"
[Me] "It's rainy?"

Oh god. That is my life right now. I feel like the biggest idiot in the world for not learning Japanese BEFORE I got here. Everyone will speak English there, they said. Well, they don't FYI. Gah, seriously? I should have studied. But yes, as Robert predicted... Every day is an adventure.

Living with the Raney boys is daily entertainment. At least once a day, I laugh so hard I can't breathe. It's fantastic.

And because it's the freaking weekend yeahhhhh ee-aaah (Uh no, I did NOT just quote Rhianna with that), I'll leave you with a pic of 2/3 of Team Pokemon from last weekend. Maybe 1/3 was too cool to have fun with us.
I had to post this one. Proof Robert will make the perfect Brock for Halloween

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Salmon sushi rice and squid nugget

Day 2.

The day went a bit faster than yesterday... maybe it's because it was predictable. I wasn't in constant fear of randomly being asked to say something in Japanese in front of the entire school. I had my first experience with school lunch... I had been warned by many people about the possible disgustingness of Japanese school lunch. But it was delicious!!! It was sticky rice with bits of dried salmon in it (we all had great breath after lunch. The whole "bring a toothbrush to work" thing is starting to make more sense) with two crunchy fish nuggets. We had miso soup and a carton of milk (I'm lactose intolerant).

Now, besides the possibly mystery lunch aspect, I was also warned about the portion size. Japanese portion sizes= small. The people are small, they need less food to sustain themselves. It all makes logical sense. However, that was not the case today. The food was great! So amazing. And then I was super full. Could not stuff another bite of food down. BUT WAIT. There's still half my plate left. The bell rings, signaling the end of the lunch period. All the teachers stand up and put their plates, bowls and empty cartons on a food cart. Panic runs through me as I rapidly try to shovel as much food in my mouth as humanly possible. All of a sudden, the salmon rice isn't so delicious anymore. The seaweed in my miso soup is suffocating me and I have to concentrate on breathing and not upchucking my lunch everywhere.

Oh, and by the way EVERYONE (literally, every. single. person) has cleaned their plate. There is not a drop of miso soup or a grain of rice left on the dishes. A full ten minutes after everyone is back at their desk and the lunch lady was awkwardly staring at me (I muttered "gomenasai" between mouthfuls of food), there were three drops of miso soup left and maybe twelve grains of rice. I shamefully put my dishes on the rack.

After that, it was cleaning hour. We swept and mopped the floor, emptied the trash, and yes, I got down on my hands and knees to scrub the floor with the kids. I actually think its a good thing, most kids in the states throw trash on the ground because there is no responsibility or repercussions for littering. They seem to take a lot of pride in their school here and keep it in good condition.

Tomorrow will be day 3 for me, and then I have another "first day" at another school. I'm teaching at four schools so I have three more "first days" to go through. Yippeee.

Until next time minions. Love from Japan!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Yoroshiku onegaishimasu!!!

So first day of school. Over.

I'm officially exhausted. The excitement/anticipation/nerves (waking up at 6am after three months of sleeping in was a shocker too) definitely took a toll. So while I halfheartedly chomp down on a poor excuse for an ice cream bar, I'll fill you in.

We had the first day of work together (awww).
Suited up
I got to walk the death march to school... I'm seriously slightly worried about my life over the next year. All it's going to take is one little swerve from a driver and I'm pancaked up against the wall. Oh yeah, and I start biking tomorrow. It's about a 35 minute walk to my school (I have a further one that will be about a 45 minute walk on the same path).
The buses that came harrowingly close was quite a wake-up call
With each step, I got more and more nervous. I've never felt so unprepared for a job... Sure I've been through the training and working with kids for a million years butttt the whole not-knowing-the-language thing is kinddd of important. By the time I reached the teacher's lounge, I was shaking like a leaf.

A majority of the day was a struggle of communication errors. Did I want lunch? Yes, I like lunch. The result... me eating the rest of my breakfast pastry over my bag (so I wouldn't spill any crumbs). Go to the gym for opening ceremonies. Where should I sit? Sit anywhere! The result: me attempting to sit with the parents... sans the video recorder.

Andddd then I sat at a desk for seven hours. I am not joking. I read and re-read the textbooks (where I got upset over the Ueno Zoo WWII incident,) wrote a ridiculous and absurdly long letter to John, created three lesson plans for students I've never met or know their ability of English, and tried not to concentrate too hard on the clock.

At the morning assembly, I was in a constant state of fear. We were told we might have to give a speech in front of the entire school. I eventually found myself sitting behind the principal, vice principal and next to some strangers I've never met. Any moment now, the principal was going to announce that I would give a speech. I wouldn't understand and it would be sooo awkward. I was tensed up the entire two hours. Eventually, all the teachers were called to the stage (I think?). One by one, we bowed to the students and shouted "yoroshiku onegaishimasu!" It was freezing in the gym, which I credited to my insane trembling to. Funny how after my introduction... my body seemed to stop shaking. Weird.

This first week, I guess I'm not teaching at all. Teaching will start next week, which gives me seven days to become completely fluent in Japanese. Alright, now would be a good time to start sleeping on some Japanese books. Osmosis works like that, right?

Hopefully by this time tomorrow, I can write this from the comfort of our new apartment! John and I have been living there without internet while Robert is staying at the "old" place with the comfort of the interwebs. We make night treks over to stay connected with the world (and see all our red bubbles on facebook).

Alright all. I'm exhausted. Goodnight my minions. Thanks to all who have shown their support.... it seriously means the world.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

I will travel across the land, searching far and wide...

First trip to Tokyo (well for sightseeing) was epic.

We started off the day with an errand... Since Robert and I switched companies, we had the pleasure of spending nearly four hours at the immigration office. Jonathan was lucky enough to join us, and a majority of the time was spent like this (and I tried not to scream with the kids, which you can see on the left hand side of the picture. They screamed and ran around the whole office- made me real excited to start work on Monday). 

Hour #987397
Fake sakura and giant panda in the train station!
 Then we hit the street market in Ueno!! So much fun, chaos everywhere. Apparently, this is the more "Japanese" street market, not the touristy one. I loved it!!
Photo credit: Jonathan Raney
 This was pretty much the most delicious pineapple I've ever eaten. I dream of it now, it was soooo glorious
Fruit on a stick, or as Robert says "The original fruit by the foot"
 For dinner, we had "Donner Kabobs". Ok, I don't know about anyone else, but naming a meat based food after the group of pioneers who allegedly (c'mon Beth Reedy, we all know what happened) participated in cannibalism may or may not be the best idea. But it was delicious anyways!!!!

Mine is on the left, I got original (delicious amazingness). When John ordered his (mix chili), the guy warned him by saying "Spicy!" John replied with "daijobu" (it's ok). I chimed in with "Suki desu!" (which means "he likes!!"). The man responded by pouring extra "mix chili" on John's kabob. Apparently it tasted like "the core of the sun". Probably the closest I've ever seen John to crying. Whoops. SO... for future visitors: Do not order mix chili. Unless you want to taste the sun.
Delicousness and the core of the sun.

Random shrine amidst crazy street market

After enjoying some Dippin Dots (one of the highlights of my day), we made our way to the Japanese version of Balboa Park). The cherry blossoms bloom once a year, so it was a definite must to see the beautiful sakura. Since we were there around sunset, we were able to see the gorgeous lanterns come to life.

 After, we made our way to the anticipated POKEMON CENTER (click here for awesomeness).
On the skinniest escalator ever

Giant PIKACHU!!!

The Raney boys at their finest.
 And for kicks, I HAVE to add this video to share it with the world. We are obsessed with it.
I've pretty much seen it 38302 times. And we're all dressing up as characters for Halloween (I'll be Misty, John will be Ash, and Robert will be Brock<-- Robert's favorite).

To end, a shot of Tokyo tower. Which according to Robert is like the Eiffel Tower, but prettier.
School starts on Monday- John and I feeling a wee bit nervous. I'll let you know how it goes!

Until next time minions!!