Monday, January 10, 2005

Recap for November 2004

OK - I’m gonna update y’all on a few of the happenings from the last two months of 2004 that I haven’t mentioned yet. These entries are as much for me, so a year from now I can remember what I was doing back in 2004.

So we’ll start with random happenings from November.

On the 11th and 12th I attended the 2-day Mid Year Seminar for all Shimane ALTs. It was workshops and seminars, and while some of it was helpful, much of it was time that could have been better spent. I did get this nifty lesson plan book, that I contributed to, so that was good. I also learned how to play a Japanese card game called karuta. And I got to see a bunch of the JETs from other parts of Shimane that I rarely see, so that was nice. Since the event took place in Hirata, which is only about 45 minutes away by car, Lisa, Rusty and I carpooled, so I missed out on the poker game that night at the lodge where everyone from farther away was staying. I really miss playing cards, especially poker.

That Saturday, the 13th, was the speech contest for three of my san nen sei girls. I’ve already posted a pic of us holding the trophy from last year. My girls all did well, but not perfect, so they came in 2nd overall as a team. None got individual prizes, which was disappointing, but they all had fun practicing, and I feel like i know the three of them better than just about any of my other 9th graders. I’ll be a bit sad in April at graduation to see some of them move on to High School, as just as I’m getting to know many of them they’ll be gone.

Thursday, the 18th, was the other speech contest in Gotsu. I was supposed to accompany two girls, one 8th grader and one 9th grader, but the 9th grader had been very sick for about a week, so she couldn’t go. One of my JTEs (Ms. Hama) and I boarded the southbound JR train in Izumo with my ni nen sei, Asuka. It was about a two-hour train ride down to Gotsu, where we congregated at Gotsu Sr. High, where Koren is the ALT. I was very happy with Asuka’s performance, as this contest featured longer pieces, and Asuka’s selection, about a young hemophiliac with HIV, was a difficult piece that she recited well. But alas, no prize for her either. I’m hoping that despite the passing of Ishitobi-sensei, who was the JTE that really pushed students to enter these contests, that my school will continue to enter these contests. I really enjoy helping the students prepare, and practices are a great way for me to get to know some of my students beyond the classroom.

Friday the 19th was International Day at Sada Jr. High, a school where a JET friend, Rob, is the ALT. Since I’m simply “American,” which I guess isn’t very exotic, I was asked to run the room where the teams of students came to play Baseball Trivia. Now this is not trivia questions about the game of baseball, but rather random questions that I asked two competitors, facing off “Family Feud” style, in English on a variety of topics. But if they got the question right they rolled a dice and that determined if they got a single, double, triple, home run or an out. So two teams competed to score runs and be the winner. It was great fun and well suited to my abilities - but my voice was hoarse by the end of the day from all the talking and cheering and shouting. Some of the other, more exotic ALTs held mini seminars on their home countries, so the kids got to learn about Ireland, Scotland, Romania, Hawaii, and Finland. And at the break after lunch I got to teach the kids how to play competitive four-square, one of my all-time favorite playground games. Rob put on a great event for his school of about 100 kids, and I hope to go back next year.

Sunday, November 21st, was a fun day and night. My local shrine, IzumoTaisha, was having a big festival for the arrival of the Gods in Shimane, which happens every November. The shrine priests started out down on the beach, welcoming the Gods ashore and then walked through my town up to the shrine, where they did some more rituals involving prays and parades. Lots of people turned out and it was a festive atmosphere only dampened a bit by the intermittent rain and encroaching cold. I walked from my aparto to the shrine with two ALTs who arrived to check it all out, Emily (U.S.) and Rebecca (U.K.). We saw other JETs at the shrine, and I felt a bit sheepish, since it’s my town but I don’t really know it all that well in terms of where to park, what was going on, or where to go for food when it was all done. There isn’t much in Taisha, and much of the shops, bars, and restaurants are barely signposted - you just have to know they’re there. I’m getting better at knowing my way around, but when the weather warms up I really need to just take some time and have a good walk ‘round the whole town.

That Tuesday, the 23rd, was a holiday for the Japanese version of Thanksgiving, where they celebrate the harvest. So I took the Monday off to have a 4-day weekend, which was nice. After a short 3-day work week, it was the weekend already and that Sunday, the 28th, I was invited by my smallest shoogakkoo (Usagi Elementary) to their town festival. So I got a ride with my Jr. High school Kocho Sensei (Principal) and we arrived in Usagi at about 9 am for food and dancing and presentations by the 8 students of Usagi Sho. It was great fun, and I even sampled some of the local delicacies, like tasty, homemade Udon noodles, although I passed on the “squid pancakes” they offered. I also got to see the local community and some of the students perform a ritual dance involving rhythmic drumming and Oni (demon gods) costumes and waving sticks around. Some of the older women in the audience were tearing up during the performance, but I have to admit that the relevance was lost on me.

The next day, Monday the 29th, was a busy day as I had to head by bus up to my 2nd smallest shoogakkoo, Hinomisaki, and teach some classes in the morning. In the afternoon, my supervisor, Utani-san, came and picked me up in a cramped BoE car, and we headed into Izumo for an opinion sharing session with the JET PAs (prefectural advisors). Basically it was just a shoot-the-shit table discussion with about a dozen of the other local ALTs and CIRs. Our supervisors had their own meeting upstairs. I really wish I could get some feedback, positive and negative, from my superiors and teachers, but none is offered. I would like to think that means I’m doing a good job, but I think that Japanese modesty would prevent many of my co-workers from ever saying anything negative, even if it were warranted.

So that was the parts of November 2004, not already covered in other previous posts, in brief synopsis. I’ll post a similar synopsis for December soon.


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