times they are a’changin’

A lot happened yesterday, but I think that the most important thing was at the very end: the long discussion Evan and I had about our future. We have both decided that I will not be re-contracting with the Japanese Exchange Teaching Program (JET) for a fifth year, and so we will be leaving Fukuoka in August 2018.

Right now I feel a little bit like a goldfish that’s become too big for it’s bowl, and I need more space to swim around in. My role as Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) is beginning to plateau. I don’t feel like there’s anything left for me to learn as an ALT. These days I simply pass the time and get through work until my next big trip abroad or new experience here in Japan. Now that all those places and experiences on my list have been getting crossed out though… What do I have to look forward to? And is there anything actually tying me to this place any more?

After close to three years of teaching English as a Second Language (ESL), Evan and I are both able to say that it is not where our passions lie. It isn’t that we don’t love the people or the kids, or that we’ve grown tired of Japan, and we aren’t jaded exactly. We’ve just both come to realize that we have more to give to the world, and that we want more in return as well. What do I mean by “more”? Neither of us are really sure.

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busy busy

Hello to the few people who read this blog! Long time, no update.

Things have been busy busy these days for me. There have been lots of strange middle of the week holidays and weekend workdays which result in replacement days off during the week which have been totally throwing my schedule off and giving me fits when it comes to trying to plan and reschedule my lessons with the five different teachers I work with between two different schools. Scheduling problems have led to me having to work late, work weekends, and even wake up at 5:30 to make up for lost time before school starts too. For all that the struggle though, I must admit that the lessons I have been making feel like they have been hitting the mark recently though. More and more often I have felt like my activities have gone (more or less) smoothly and that their goals have been precise and successful. Maybe things have been better because my relationship with my students has really improved over the course of the year, or maybe I am getting just a little better at this, or maybe a bit of both. Regardless, I hope this positive classroom momentum keeps up through Spring and into the new school year!

I recently did a lesson that was pretty fun. I wish I could take all the credit for it, but I got the idea from another blogger over on Tumblr called Readysetgaikokujin. It is basically Halloween Taboo. First I had a worksheet on which they had to match the picture with the corresponding vocabulary word. It takes them 3~5 minutes. Most of the words I chose were pretty easy, but that’s okay because for Taboo you have to talk around them anyway. While checking the answers I like to make sure everyone is on the same page about the lore of the monsters by seeing that they know the Japanese names for everything as well as some trivia. For example: Who is the most famous vampire? (Dracula.) Where do mummies come from? (Egypt.) What does R.I.P. mean? (Rest In Peace.) And etcetera. I also like to mention that some people are buried in America, and not always cremated. This always shocks students and is an interesting cultural point. Also, Japanese people really don’t know much about zombies, so I have had to explain what they are and what they eat, which is fun.

Next I break the room in half into the Werewolf Team and the Vampire Team. I give each team their worksheet (as seen below), and in pairs or as a team they think about words or phrases to describe each vocabulary word without using the ones mentioned on the sheet. They can also color the pictures if they want to help pass the time, as long as they are also picking out key words and making helpful hint phrases. I give them about 10~15 minutes, depending on how they are doing.img_5421-1Lastly, a Werewolf and a Vampire make a pair and finally play Taboo! The time can vary on this part pretty greatly, depending on your kids’ level of engagement and English ability. Generally it take between 10 and 20 minutes though. It is kind of funny, because they don’t suspect that each team could possibly have been given different vocab words on their worksheets, so when it dawns on them it’s a pretty laughable moment. The students are able to self-direct this activity by taking turns once their partner has guessed the word correctly, and I just sort of wander around giving small hints here and there as necessary. It really tests their English vocabulary and creative skills, which is great. And I get to draw really cute pictures for the worksheet, so it’s a win win!

summer ramblings

It’s a slow summer day in the teachers’ room. It’s blissfully air conditioned in here, and I am thinking about what to blog… I fear that anything I write about will basically be self-indulgent rambling, but I am bored af so I guess that’s just how it’s going to be.

Anyway. Here goes nothing:

  1. I started reading Infinite Jest, a task I made for myself on my 30 before 30 list. The book itself has 981 pages, but if you add in the footnotes it has a grand total of 1079. Currently I am on page 60. I decided to read Infinite Jest with absolutely zero prior knowledge about its content or author (David Foster Wallace) other than the fact that he committed suicide at a rather young age and that there are those out in the world who consider this book to be his opus, a modern masterpiece and required reading. My thoughts on it so far is that is it really dense and really dark. Wallace is incredibly adept at getting into the minds of the characters he created. Sometimes his words are so natural I feel as though he is speaking directly to me, and other times I am slogging through overly difficult prose. I am coming to like the push/pull of the accessibilty versus inaccessibilty, and I am happy for the chance to stretch my super out-of-use brain muscles. This won’t be an easy read though.
  2. Pokemon Go has officially become part of my life.  This is my first time playing any kind of Pokemon game. I do have these incredibly vague memories of perhaps starting one a long time ago on Gameboy but making no progress whatsoever… Oh well. I feel that one flaw of the game is its vagueness when you first begin. You sort of just muck about making mistakes (in terms of evolving, transferring, using items, etcetera) without realizing it because you really don’t have enough information. It really wasn’t until my character reached level 7 that I realized a lot of the errors I was making. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want the game to hold my hand, but I still feel like it could throw me a bone somehow… On top of that, logging in with Pokemon Trainer has been really problematic. There have been days when it just refuses to authenticate so I can’t play at all, and my friend Vicki has been locked out completely with no way to create a new password. And so I decided to scrap my Pokemon Trainer character and start a new one with my Google sign-in. I am hoping things go more smoothly this time around.
  3. Riley got his plane tickets and he is officially coming to Japan! I am so excited to see that guy; it’s been two years! Evan and I are going to meet up with him in Kamakura, travel to Nikko and Hakone to explore, then hit Himeiji-jo on the way home to Fukuoka. It is going to be really nice showing him around Chikugo too, but I am worried about how he is going to fare in this intense heat/humidity after so much time in Washington state. It was pretty tough on Rachel and Arlo, so I think Riley’s going to have it tough too.
  4. Summer festivals have been cropping up everywhere and I love it. I have already enjoyed dragon floats, fireworks, food stands, day beers, fields of sunflowers, and light projection shows. And there are still more to come! This Friday I am very excited to watch the Chikugo-Gawa Fireworks Festival from Ayame-san’s beautiful 33rd floor apartment overlooking the the river in Kurume. It is going to be a potluck party, and Vicki and Fiona will be coming as well! The very next day Vicki, Mikayla, Johnny, Evan and I are all going to Kitakyushu for the Wasshoi Yosakoi Festival. I am really excited for this one because all of us are going to wear yukata together, and none of us have been to Kitakyushu before!
  5. The new JETs have arrived and moved into their apartments. Their names are Cheyanne and Brian, and both happen to be from in and around Chicago. Last night we had a welcome dinner for them at Yagura across from Sunlive. I am glad to have fresh faces in the Jutaku this year, and I am really hoping to make some connections with them as time passes. I especially hope that Evan is able to become friends with Brian, our apartment-mate who moved in right across the hall from us. I know that Evan has been aching for some guy time with someone he can speak fluently with, so maybe this is his chance for bro-mance.

All right, I suppose that is enough for now! Later tonight I plan on going through the pictures that I took over the weekend and posting a gallery here. じゃまってね!