I’m back!

皆さん、久しぶり!
明けましておめでとうござます!今年もよろしくお願いします!
元気ですか?クリスマスはどうでしたか?
Long time no see!
Happy New Year!
how are you all my lovelies? Were all your Christmas’s alright?
I’m sorry I’ve been so inactive, I’ve had a lot of things going on and I’ve been worried. Like a fishbowl filled with far too many energetic goldfish (if goldfish can even be energetic that is), all fighting for food, my brain has been full of worries and thoughts, and my blog has had to be put on the back-burner. Despite writing for my on amusement, I’ve been almost scared to go near my blog, unable to even open the tab. But, I’m back! and more determined than ever to turn my blog into something I can be proud of!
I’m still debating on how much of my personal life I want to share, especially when it comes to things such as my love life and my trials and errors. What do you guys think? When it comes to a blog, is less more? Or is more better?
I’m still trying to find my ‘blog voice’ or whatever the more educated term for it would be, so bare with me while I stumble along this bumpy road of self discovery!
I will say, however, I have re-contracted! Another year in the wonderfully eclectic city of Nagasaki! While I do feel a lot of anxiety towards my decision for reasons that call me home, I’m very excited to spend more time with my friends, visit the rest of Japan, get to know my students better and drink tea at my favourite cafes.
Well, that’s all I’m going to say for this post, I plan to get out a few more today, perhaps!
またね!

Ganbaranba! Part 1#

Every year in Japan, a national premier sporting event known as the, National Sports Festival of Japan or the 国民体育大会 (Kokumin Taiiku Taikai) In Japanese, (or often abbreviated as 国体(Kokutai) is held. It is a competition in which anyone over the age of third year junior high student can enter. Even foreigners are now able to enter the competition if they are permanent residents of Japan (Although the final decision still comes down to the chairman of each sport). The competition started in 1946, hosted by Kyoto, Kobe and Osaka, and is held in a different prefecture every year. It is an event which is much looked forward to and in which many participate and attend. The hosting prefecture that year is even left in charge of choosing a name for the competition. The first time Nagasaki ever hosted the Kokutai was in 1969, during its 24th years running. They called it the創造国体 (Souzou Kokutai) and gave it the slogan あすをひらく創造国体 (Asu wo Hiraku Souzou Kokutai).

24 1969 Nagasaki 創造国体 (Souzou Kokutai) あすをひらく創造国体 (Asu wo Hiraku Souzou Kokutai)

More than 40 years has passed since Nagasaki hosted this National event, and be it fate or just dumb luck, I happen to move here the year we are hosting it again. Ever since I arrived, the pictures of the mascots have been plastered on every surface possible, the name written on every buildbord, and everyone just going crazy about it. A few weeks ago, the athletes’ started arriving, and let me tell you, it is not unpleasant. Everywhere I look there are people dressed up in their sports outfit, the name of their prefecture plastered across their back or arms. I always feel energized when I see them, and then a little jealous. Why didn’t I try harder at anything when I was younger. Oh well, too late to dwell on that now; that’s a post for another time.

With time ticking on, I was a little worried that I would not be able to see any matches, and I began to wonder how I could go about getting tickets. I then found out that the first and second years of my base school were going to watch a basketball match. This was my chance! With only one class on that day anyway, I went to one of my JTE’s and asked if I could join. They would be leaving during second period and my only class was first period anyway! She agreed it would be a good experience and convinced the Kouchou Sensei to let me go! YES! I was in, and about to experience Nagasaki’s second time holding the kokutai.

This year, the event is called 長崎がんばらんば国体 (Nagasaki Ganbaranba Kokutai), Ganbaranba being the Nagasaki Dialect for “Ganbatte”. It will be the 69th year of the competition and I am sooo stoked to be apart of it.

Ganba-kun and Ranba-chan

I had never seen a Basketball game before, seeing as its not a national sport in Britain, so I was really excited to be able to see something new for me. There were two games in the hall in which we were sitting, but we got seated right in-front of the Okinawa v. Yamagata game. Despite their height, they were in fact High schoolers, which I think made the girls a little more eager to watch the sports. At the start I really wanted Yamagata to win, deciding I liked the simple white of their uniform. That is, however, until I was told that Okinawa was a part of Kyushu. Up until then, for some reason, I had always disassociated Okinawa with Kyushu, seeing it as its own area, but this new piece of information changed things for me. I suddenly wanted Okinawa to win with a burning passion, and soon I was sucked into the world of Basketball. My heart was pounding the entire time, my butt precariously situated on the edge of my seat. I wanted nothing more than for Okinawa to win, and I felt I would die if they didn’t. Sadly they didn’t win, but luckily, I didn’t die. The game was close until the very end, and it  made me realize just how precious each second was in the world of sports. I guess that applies for other areas of life too, but that’s getting o deep for a post about sports. Both teams played amazingly, and I wish both could have one.

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The day was also a great chance for me to speak with Teachers I had not yet had much change to speak to, bond better with some, and have a more of a casual chat with my students. I found that some of them actually spoke to me more. I had been hopeful that this would make them more confident to speak to me during school time, but sadly that’s not the case. Its as if the grounds of the school contain a confidence draining property, that leaves my students shy- for the most part.

Why the constant questions?

Why can’t be brain just be at ease? Why can’t I just look at my life in the here and now and be satisfied enough to live in it free of future worries. I have only been in this job for around three months, and already am I thinking about what the future holds. Before coming to Japan on JET, I had been so sure that I would do the full five years, living it up in Nagasaki like a pro teacher, satisfied and pro active everyday. Maybe I had my expectations raised too high. After just a couple of months I realized that I was only in this for the mid way hall, thinking I’m going to do around 2 or 3 years, depending on various factors of course, one being future job prospects. Knowing that teaching is now off the cards as a permanent job, I’m left with the bone crushing question ‘So, what are you going to do then?’.

I can’t stop thinking about it, it’s almost become obsessive. Like a cat chasing a lazer light, sometimes I feel like I’ve almost got the answer, my hands hovering over the key to my future happiness, when it evades me once more. It’s frustrating, and results in a messy apartment that reflects my currently disorganization state of mind. I long for a job where I am jumping for joy most mornings, excited for the day ahead. Don’t get me wrong, I do love my job, and I especially love my students. I must admit though, on the days where I go to my Inaka school, I do have that twinge of excitement, the mental image of all my favorite students easing me into a state of complacency which is almost enjoyable.

Perhaps it’s the environment? Confined to wearing certain clothes, I find it impossible to express myself in the way I wish I could,  my creativity stamped out by the rules and regulations of the education system. After finishing my work sheets for the next lesson or so, I’m always left with time spare. My hands are always itching to write or draw. Even now, when I’m sure my teachers think I’m working hard on this lovely Tuesday morning, all I’m really doing is writing up a blog about how their job is just not right for me. I do feel guilty, looking for a job while at another. The teachers here work so hard and admirably for their students that my feelings, if known, would be somewhat of an insult I’m sure.

There are so many paths I want to take, so many things I want to do with my life and I foolishly feel, at twenty-three, like I’m running out of time. If I told my mother or grandparents this I’m sure they would laugh and tell me to ‘Shut up’ and not to ‘be so silly’, but the truth is, I honestly feel the sands of time are flowing far too quickly in the wrong direction.

In my desperation for some sort of direction in which to head, my head uncomfortably full of the endless possibilities, like too many goldfish crammed in a bowl, I searched for the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator quiz. Sadly, I can’t remember which version I took, and I did only take the one quiz, but the results were so outstandingly accurate ( to a certain degree of course) that I felt no need to search elsewhere.

My result was INFJ, a role categorized as the Counselor, by David Keirsey in his Keirsey Temperament sorter. It’s all very interesting and I may make a more detailed post about it later if you’re interested!

It shocks me how human beings feel the need to categorize ourselves. Be in by gender, sexuality, or personality type, we as human beings more often than not, in my opinion, enjoy belonging somewhere, even if its just a simple category that means next to nothing at all.

I promise more posts about actual Japan soon!

The infurating rigidity of the Japanese Education System

The rigidity to which JTEs (Japanese Teachers of English) stick to their English textbooks is sometimes frightening. With the second years away on their annual trip to Kyoto – a trip which I really would have loved to go on- the school is quiet, and the desks around me empty. The JTE who sits to my right has left me to stew in silence, with no second years to teach, and no third year classes to speak of, I am left with the first years. Ah, darling middle school first years. Children who are trying so hard to fit into adult clothing and bearing the weight of a uniform for the first time. I find the attitude of the first years to have the largest variation, in this school anyway. Despite my initial fear of teaching them, I always feel happy after my classes, especially now that I can recall some of them by their faces, knowing who they outside of the classroom. With no classes yesterday afternoon and just two classes today in 5th and 6th period, I decided to plan a fun sort of game for them which practices ‘he/she/I/we/they’ etc. So the task goes like this; they all write their names on a scrap of paper, mix them together and then pull a name out of a hat, and by hat, I mean the tote bag I use to carry my lunch and files to school. Once they have a name of a classmate, they write three things about them; a descriptive fact, a like of theirs and a random fact to finish. When their name is called, the student will stand and present these facts while rest of the class do their best to guess who the person is describing. It’s a pretty simple task, exercising their writing, speaking and listening skills. I even put a cute little clip art on their worksheet. I always take their level into consideration, not wanting to stress them out by doing tasks  that are far so out of their reach they loose confidence. And so, considering they are already half way through their first year, I felt like this was a nice,easy task which I could help with if they hit a snag.

The JTE who teaches the first years, however, makes me nervous. During one of our recently classes together she would repeat words after me in a more american accent when we were going over vocabulary, like my accent wasn’t valid, before stopping me form participating in the task all together. I wanted to cry and leave the room I was so angry. Not only was she silently telling me that my accent was neither desirable nor correct, but it also made me look like an idiot in front of the students, and I’m worried its lowered their confidence in me as someone who can help them with English. I want to be seen as a strong role model, as someone who can travel to a new country and find a job, making them feel like its something they could do to. That, and it kicked me right in my Welsh pride, which is something I am not okay with. So undermining me in front of the students was not something I was happy about. Anyway, back to topic.

So, as we were printing out the worksheets out for the students, my teacher gave a nervous laugh and said, “Oh, this may be a little hard though, when using like.”

I blinked over at her “They can’t use like? I’m sure they’ve used it before?”.

“Oh yes, they know ‘I like’ but not ‘He likes.”

Now, for one, they don’t really need to use ‘He/She likes’ for this one, but the conversation was spinning me out.

“They don’t learn that until next week” she laughed lightly, but I could only stare.

If they are learning it next week, isn’t this the perfect opportunity to introduce this grammar point? Even if they don’t feel confident enough to use it, we could briefly explain that when ‘he’ or ‘she’ is used, then ‘like’ because ‘likes’. I watched her walk away with an expression that could only be described as befuddlement, my body racked with frustration. Following the textbook can be important, the chapters acting as a good checklist. However, within the chapters, the work is all interchangeable, so what difference would it make to introduce something a class earlier than its ‘scheduled’. I have a lot of good things to say about the Japanese education system, but also a lot of bad.

There’s a running ‘stubbornness’ in Japanese culture that I’ve seen not only within the education system, but in other areas of life too, such as Japanese transportation. For example, During the Christmas break when I was doing my year abroad in Japan, I booked my night bus for the wrong day, so when I turned up at 11pm with my friends to go to Osaka and the middle aged, stoic faces bus driver told me I had to wait until tomorrow, thus travelling the full nine hours alone, I was near tears. With the bus looking empty, I asked “Is there no way I could go today?” You know, since I’ve paid already and everything. He just shook his head regrettably. Even the young bus driver, clearly fairly new to his job,  looked at me with pity in his eyes, whispering something similar to his co-worker, saying there was room. “No, there is no room, you will have to come back tomorrow.” The night resulted in me dragging my suitcase back to my apartment and getting drunk on leftover Christmas wine, only to find out that my debit card had been blocked and watching half of atonement. My friends told me the next day that the bus had been practically empty the entire way from Kyushu to Osaka.

Now, I’m not a person who likes to judge or pass comments on the cultures of others, knowing I would not like others to do so to mine, but in these instances, the rigidity and lack of give that Japanese people oversize in certain situations really makes me want to punch a biscuit.

Oh, now I get it

So for a while I’ve been doing this horrible thing, where I lay down and I wake up around 8 hours later. At first, it was somewhat amusing, but int he last month it’s been getting more frequent, and I don’t enjoy it.

My mood has also been fluctuating, bringing me so low, that I was wondering if I was beginning to worry I was depressed. My apartment insnt as clean as I would like it to be, and I feel more anxious and tired than usual. I was a bit confused as to why this was until, Ding Ding, I’m probably anemic. Despite being a Vegetarian, I never really suffered from Anemia back home in Britain, but since coming to Japan my diet has consisted of Combini bought bread and various rice foods, topped off with a store bought snack, and the occasional tofu and kimchi binges.  I think I worried my friends last night while we spoke about it over beer and good food at an Izakaya. I had never seen three people look more serious in my life. I felt bad for worrying them, but at the same time, a little warm inside, knowing that the people around me actually cared about things like my eating habits. Luckily for me, they are all amazing at cooking, and they promised to teach me. With this in mind, I promised to eat better and told myself I would go to the doctors if it got worse.

It did get worse. Just like many times before, I lay down when I got home and fell asleep, only to wake up at 8:15 am. I’m supposed to be in work at 8:15. Now, if I was in my base school, I could have made it there by about 8:45, making me only 15 minutes late (since my shift actually starts at 8:30 am). However, unluckily for me, today I’m placed at my inaka JHS, which takes about an hour on the bus to get to in the mornings. So, slapping on only foundation, I ran for the shop, grabbed another unhealthy bread and rice based meal and hailed a taxi. I arrived at around 9:15, making me only 45 minutes late ( which was good, considering the school is a fair old trek away) and 3,460円 down.

Everyone was overly kind when I arrived to school, making me feel horrid. My JTE’s were wonderful about it, with one of them printing off a list of foods that contained Iron, after I told her what the problem might be. My Kouchou Sensei told me it was alright and not to push myself to hard, while my Kyoto sensei told me not to worry and to put my health first. Hell, even the Taxi driver was kind, giving me a small can of Coffee, which I drank some of, even though I hate it. It was the nicest coffee I’ve ever tasted.

While this even was horrid and I feel so unprofessional and just plain terrible for letting myself do something so stupid, I feel it needed to happen. I think I needed this wake up call to help me realize that I don’t take care of myself enough and that I need to start taking things like health and work more seriously.

That being said, I really hope this never happens again.

P.s If anyone is interested in knowing some Japanese foods with loads of Iron, comment down below and maybe I will make a post with a few of the more common foods!

If you made it this far, thanks for reading!

The Dreaded Christmas cake

The majority of woman, especially those in Japan, will probably know what I mean when I mention Christmas cake.

All over the world, woman are perceived as ticking time bombs, rushing about to get married before their looks deteriorate, because obviously, when our looks are gone we have nothing else to offer [end sarcastic tone]. It is a pressure many woman, regardless of age and nationality feel, myself included. But how do I know when is too late? How old should I be when I marry? Society is quick to shake its head and scold me in various forms of awkward smiles and ‘helpful’ advice, but no one will actually give me a date by which I should marry. Japan, however, comes to the rescue.

The one thing I absolutely adore about the Japanese, is that they have a word, or a phrase for everything! For example,  積ん読 (Tsundoku), meaning, to buy books and leave them unread. This is a personal favorite of mine, and in looking up more words for this blog, I found many others which I shall put in another post later for you to enjoy and marvel at! 

In Japanese, nothing is left unexplained in some wondrous way, and unmarried woman over the age of 25 are no exception. Yup, you got it, In my title, I’m not actually referring to a cake, but to a single woman. The concept has much less weight than previous years, for the most part in this day and age, with many woman in Japan leaving marriage until later in their lives and receiving no stigma for it. However, it is not absent.

But, why a Christmas cake you ask? Well, no one buys Christmas cakes after the 25th right? Well, in the same way, this is used to describe how no one will want to ‘buy’ a woman who is over the age of 25. It’s honestly a depressing and more than a little degrading. But, oh well, It’s not like I can travel back in time and bitch slap whoever decided to create this phrase. (But how satisfying would it be if I could!)

However, this does not mean that the ingrained belief that a woman should marry young is not still heavily ingrained into the mentality of many Japanese people. Now, don’t misunderstand me, I personally believe that this is a mentality shared with many countries all over the world, but. I’m just talking about Japan today due to the fact that 1.This is my current home, and 2. I’m going to tell you a little story.

Yes, just yesterday me and a few friends were talking about the concept, and how pressuring it could be for us woman who are nearing the age of 25. I mean, the Christmas cake thing aside, so many other parts of society tell us that romance and marriage in the younger years is really the best option, especially for woman. In many movies and books, romance is often portrayed between young people, often those in their late teens and early twenties. I often feel that, as a single person in her early twenties, that I’m missing out on some amazing passionate romance, when in fact, all I’m probably missing out on is gaining weight thanks to the various pizza nights and many squabbles over god knows what. (Let me stew in my bitter pessimism for a moment here, it helps me sleep at night). So, if you take that, and the fact that men generally prefer younger woman over those their own age, we don’t really have many odds in our favor, especially when you bring in this Christmas cake business.

As I said before, despite the fact that this generation, for the most part, have able to escape the dreaded Christmas cake curse, I do still think it is in the back of everyone’s minds, especially where the older generation is concerned. My proof? Let me tell you a little bit about my morning.

So, I was pushing it for time this morning, and in my dazed state, decided that getting a taxi to the bus terminal was the best choice.  Considering that if I missed my bus I would be in a world of trouble. So, greeting good morning to the Taxi driver outside of 7/11, along with his taxi driver friend, an elderly man which I knew from other taxi times, I got in and gave my directions to the bus terminal. We chatted a little, and it was pleasant. “You’re very pretty” The old man said to me with a kind smile in the mirror. “Oh gosh, no not really, but thank you” I smiled, waving my hand in an attempt to be humble but not ungreatful for his kind words. “Are you married then?” he asked. I get this a lot for some reason. “Oh, no!” I laughed lightly. “I see, I see” he laughed back “A boyfriend then?” he asked curiously, my destination nearing. “Nope”, I smiled, getting my money ready. “Oh, so how old are you? 22? 23?” He glanced up in the mirror, nothing but kindness on his face. “I’m 23” I smiled back. “Ah, as I thought” he began “Well, you still have some time then!” He breathed out in what could only be described as some what of a relieved tone.

Still have time? Was I running out? I faltered for a moment, but my destination had saved me, allowing me to pay, thank him and wish him a good day. I wonder how he would have reacted if I had said 25? ‘Better get your game on girl!’, or how about 26! ‘That’s a shame, but if you push yourself, I’m sure you can find someone!’.

There was no harm in him, and I’m not offended, or even sad, just curious and a little bit perplexed. However, it does bring to light this perception everyone harbors about woman and the social expectations placed upon them. I always promised  myself that I would never make a decision as a result of social pressures, but やっぱり, sometimes its hard to ignore them.

With that being said, it seems like I should get off the PC and go find me a husband! I mean, I only have 673 days, 14 days and 37 hours left!

久しぶり皆さん!!

So, long time no see! How are you all?

I’m sorry it has taken me so long to blog about anything. I’ve only got internet in the last few weeks, and I guess I just haven’t had the energy! But I’m slowly getting used to my new life in Nagasaki and feel its time to get back on the blogging wagon!

So, Nagasaki City. It’s so wonderful! Like truly, there is so much here to see, I feel so lucky living here. There was also no exaggeration made I was told that it was a culturally rich prefecture! From Japanese, to Chinese, to Dutch, Nagasaki has so may interesting things to learn and experience! (That and there is an amazing cafe that sells a mean pumpkin soup).

My house is in a pretty sweet location, and my apartment- despite the gross carpet which I’ve managed to burn with my iron- is really lovely! Although, I do have a mini fridge….just a mini fridge, with half a shelf for my freezer….They must know I can’t cook! I truly do like it though, and despite being pretty central, my street is relatively quiet and whenever I am disturbed, its by wonderful sounds such as monks from the monastery nearby.

My schools are also pretty wonderful! The bus Journey to Junior high B, as I will now call it, forcing me to get up at a ridiculous time while being worth it, is pretty wonderful. Its a little far from my house, but I honestly enjoy the bus ride there, especially when I get a window seat. I alternate between a sea view and a mountainous view, and I always feel spoiled for choice in the mornings. Like watching a film, I get to drive along side the Ocean, half expecting Ponyo to pop out and start riding them waves! (This has not happened yet, but I will be patient).

Hearing the tales from everyone else’s adventures in Japan makes me both Jealous and excited! Some prefectures really got their shit together and seem to have done a lot for the ALT’s, especially in regards to making sure thy experience japan.

When I’m not so tired, I will put up a post about arriving in Japan, and the few crazy days that followed.

Well, I’m off to watch Buzzer Beat and curl up with tea and cake! Have a nice evening, expect to hear from me soooooon!

またね~