Apple Country

Stories of rural life as an ALT in a northern Japanese fishing town.

Busy being happy


For some reason, since I can remember I’ve always associated October with the colour blue.  Maybe it’s a form of synesthesia?  All the other months have colours to me as well.  Just in case anyone can tell me why I perceive these colours in particular, here they are!

January, March, June, July and September are yellow

February and October are blue

April, August and December are green

May is dark pink

November is brown

Anyway it’s October now, so my thoughts are tinted blue.  Adverts for snow ploughs and electric heaters are cropping up on TV, and the students are transitioning from their summer uniforms to winter.  The boys look smart in their gakuran (a black button-up jacket derived from French army uniforms), but I still think the fact that they all have to wear white trainers ruins the look a bit.

I went to Okinawa with three friends for Silver Week (three national holidays in a row!) and it was a great chance to stock up on some Vitamin D before winter sets in.  I’ll post about that later when I’ve stolen some of Harrison’s photos (mine are alright but he took way more than me and also has a really nice camera!!).

Compared to last year I feel like I’m really on the ball and getting shit done, not just with school-related things but what I’m doing outside work too.  There are still some days where I have a floppy lesson (usually from last-minute preparations on my part or miscommunication with my JTE) but I now feel like I get how this teaching thing works.  When I first started, I had no idea what I was doing, had no teaching experience or qualifications, plus I had no idea what the Japanese school system was like, so it wasn’t particularly smooth sailing.  But now I know my students, I know what interests them, and lately I’ve been having a blast in class with them.  I played Fruit Basket with my third years yesterday after they’d been requesting it for a few weeks, and this time I persuaded my JTE to join in as he usually just watches us play.  It was a great way to end the day with everyone still giggling about it when class was over.  It also makes me feel ridiculously happy when a JTE tells me they liked my lesson or want me to repeat it with another class.  Yesterday at the same school, I did a lesson with the first years on “What’s this?” where I made a worksheet with pictures of various British things like a kilt, a badger, a robin, Marmite, porridge and a crumpet.  The students had to match the picture with what they thought was the correct description, then ask their friends what each picture was.  My JTE surprised me by saying he wanted to know more about British culture and could I do a full lesson on it next week.  I was really happy because he usually doesn’t give me any feedback after lessons, and of course I’ll take any opportunity to share my culture, cos that’s what I’m here for!

Aside from classes, I’m actually keeping myself busy enough that I don’t have time to stare into space anymore.  Hurrah!  That’s probably why I don’t blog so much anymore.  I go to English conversation club once or twice a week after work, I have my Tuesday dinner dates with the new ALT in Ajigasawa followed by Japanese practice with Toshiya, and I have an hour of Japanese on Skype once a week too.  I went to calligraphy practice yesterday for the first time since July, because I just got bored and fed up with the teacher not giving me any direction.  But I suddenly had an urge to do it again, and yeah it was okay even though I still find it about as frustrating as it is enjoyable.  And even though I’m disappointed I didn’t get asked to take part in the town hall taiko group again this year, at least I have other stuff to do.  I even sacrifice PS3 time so I can draw on my graphics tablet in the evenings or ride my bike… which reminds me, I do have a cartoon in progress but I’m still getting to grips with the tablet and it’s taking a little longer than I thought!

I’m keeping my weekends busy too, with the beef and garlic festival coming up this Saturday and a really cool craft fair on Sunday, which I also went to last year.  It still amazes me how willing I am to drive three hours to a place just to hang out with people.  Of course the garlic is also a huge incentive for me.  I’ll just make sure not to get too close to people the next day…

I’ve just finished planning a charity language exchange event that’s happening next week.  There will be two events happening simultaneously on either side of the prefecture, and I’m hosting the one in Hirosaki.  I’m excited but a bit nervous to be in charge of my own event!  This kind of work is something I’ve been interested in for a while, so if it goes well, I’ll keep organising them in case I decide to do some sort of events management as a career.

Japanese studies are going okay, I finally got round to paying for the exam so I’m officially taking N2 on 6th December.  With only two months to go, I’m feeling a little uncertain about how I’ll do as the grammar I have to learn is still a bit overwhelming and isn’t completely sticking in my head when I do the review tests in my textbook.  But the only real reason I’m taking it is to boost my CV, so honestly as long as I can just remember it on the day, I don’t care how useful it is in my daily life!!  Ahhh the futility of language exams.  I think I’m progressing though anyway.  It’s weird because if I’m caught off-guard and a teacher starts talking to me in Japanese when I’m not expecting it, my mind goes blank and I fluster and can’t say what I want to say properly.  I went out for dinner with some teachers the other week, and they made me make a speech out of the blue about nothing in particular.  I ended up accidentally thanking the vice-principal specifically for looking after me when I actually meant all the teachers in general… but by the time I realised what I said it was too late!  I told my JTE later what I meant and she laughed and said she’d tell the others.  I felt kinda knocked down though, like it was this realisation that I still wasn’t able to speak Japanese well.  My confidence constantly fluctuates though, and it wasn’t long until it got boosted up again.  Toshiya said that I’m creating complex sentences a lot more naturally and quickly than when we first started meeting.  I feel it too, and I still get those ‘a-ha!’ moments when I no longer have to pause and work out how to conjugate verbs a certain way, then decide on the best place in the sentence to say them.  I will not be beaten by the plateau!!

4 thoughts on “Busy being happy

  1. Really interesting to get details of your day to day activities. Great read!

  2. What’s a fruit basket game??

    • Sit in circle, remove one chair, one person says something and if you agree you have to stand up and swap chairs with someone else who stood up. Tres amusant!

  3. Thanks for sharing your day with us. Great reading. You should get some Marmite for them to try. Love it or hate it! x

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