Monday, September 20, 2010

Jennifer's Very Busy Day 9-15-10

This is a photo of the "Shinkansen Goods" (Bullet Train Goods) I bought recently: Bullet Train Chopsticks, Bullet Train Playing Cards and a Bullet Train Tape Measure with all of the stations along the way spelled out for you! These things will always remind me of my recent, VERY busy day: September 15th, 2010.

6:30~8:00 a.m.: Overslept, finally woke up, said a little prayer for my brother-in-law Perry who passed away recently and whose memorial service was later in the day (actually, the next day, Seattle time),took shower, hung up clothes stranded in the washing machine overnight, tried to finish packing for trip to Kofu city, gave up, slurped a hurried and weak cup of tea while my piece of toast toasted, slabbed some peanut butter on it and dashed out the door to get to work just in time.

8:15~8:30: Cooled off using my personal fan on my desk at school while listening to the Principal and VP’s give us the morning news....went up to 4th floor to teach 1st class.

8:40~9:30: Taught a joint-class with my friend Mrs. Eguchi, to give our 11th Graders a chance to ask any last questions they might have on the articles they have been reading in “Girls’ Life” magazine before the test. Slow bunch...there were not many questions!

9:40~10:30: Taught 7th Graders all about prepositions of place and reviewed the gestures we made up for them: On= hand on your head. Above= Hand above your head, In= finger pointing in mouth, etc. Gave them a quiz and sang “There were 10 in the Bed” song.

10:40~11:30: Went to observe one of our student teacher’s classes (she is also a former student of the school). The content was about Hawaiian and she started the class with “Aloha”. Things get blurry in the class after that, as my mind was racing ahead in the day...

11:30~12:20: Finished printing, collating, stapling together and folding the prints I needed for the talk I was giving in Kofu city the next day. I finished just as the chime rang for the end of the hour.

12:20~ 1:10: I raced home and finished packing for my trip to Kofu city (two hours away in another prefecture of Japan). I ate a popsicle for “lunch” and sat under my air conditioning for ten minutes because it is still grotesquely hot here...Rolled my suitcase back to school, stuffed it in the womens’ locker room and dashed back upstairs for 5th hour class.

1:15~2:05: Taught the 10th grade South class about making and replying to requests and had them tell me about their summer vacations in three sentences in front of the class. When they finished, one of their friends had to ask them a question. Fun for all (and easy for a tired teacher..).

2:15~ 3:05: Used nearly the same exact lesson plan for the 10th grade East had been a very long time since I had seen them, though, and so spent even longer on summer speeches.

3:15~3:45: Changed in to a T-shirt, jeans and apron to supervise (and help) 12 girls do “Chu-Soji” which means “Medium Cleaning” in the auditorium before our school festival this coming weekend. They had to sweep between seats for 1500, wipe down the wooden arm rests (not ALL 1500 though...) and sweep the stage. We found a pair of shorts in the aisles and had a good laugh about who forgot them there...various teachers names were offered...literally whistling while we worked (the auditorium has great acoustics), cleaning went by pleasantly.

3:46: Realized I had forgotten to pack the ONE shirt I wanted to wear for my presentation...changed back in to teacher clothes.

3:50~4:30: Practiced with a student who is participating in the Prefectural English Speech Contest soon....she speaks well but needs some more practice with her gestures and timing.

4:35: Dashed home ONCE MORE for the forgotten shirt...doused my body with a cooling powder spray, then dashed back to school.

4:55: Grabbed my suitcase from the womens’ locker room and met another teacher I was traveling with in front of the school to wait for our taxi.

5:00: Watched (no, in this heat, I MARVELED) as several girls from the cross country team came running back through the school gate from a long run in the park....

5:05: Got in the taxi, rode to the station.

5:15: Bought some bottled water, a newspaper, and some VERY CUTE “Shinkansen (bullet train) Goods” which I had JUST read about in the newspaper (and which are pictured above). Thought briefly about getting something to eat for dinner but decided to wait—surely there would be something on the train.

5:40~... There was nothing on the train. About half way through the two hour train trip I find some old Tic-Tacs I have in my bag and snack on those to tide me over.

7:10~ The other teacher is snoozing and I am listening to a Wait, Wait, Don’t tell Me podcast when WHAM! There is a horrible, horrible noise that comes from the train and the tracks below us. Immediately everyone is wide awake, big-eyed, and silent. We are all looking at one another for some kind of explanation but there isn’t one. As the train screeches to a halt, I realized I was bracing myself to by hit by another train (gruesome thought, I know!). Luckily, the conductor came on to say that we had hit an animal on the track. I was relieved that there wasn’t going to be another train involved, but I couldn’t imagine what kind of animal it was. We were half an hour late and our Principal, who had gone up earlier in the day, called to ask where we were...he was waiting for us at the station.

8:15 p.m. It is now nearly 8 hours since my pathetic popsicle lunch and the Tic-Tacs are doing nothing to stop the growling sounds my stomach is making. We decided to go to an Italian place in the station and ordered some local wine- the area is famous for it. Without that wine and my raging appetite, I don’t think I would have eaten most of that food...what is it about fake Italian places thinking they can fool people with ketchup in place of tomato sauce?! I was too tired and hungry to care though.

9:15: We checked in to the Royal Garden Hotel (not “royal” at all and no “garden” in sight!) and said our goodnights. I started peeling out of my clothes as I was locking the door and stood in the shower for 25 minutes.

9:45: It wasn’t until I was out of the shower that I realized the room was like an ice I spent about ten minutes searching for the controls. I had no luck and of course I was wide awake after the long shower, so I watched weird game shows and a mesmerizing documentary about people who have brains with “total recall”...I couldn’t turn it off!

12:00: The brain documentary ended and so did my energy- I plopped in to bed and reached above my head to turn off the room lights- happily discovering the air conditioning controls right next to them. The last thought I had was, “How could I have missed those earlier?!”.

The next morning the newspapers told us that our train had hit an Inoshishi (ee-no-she-she) which is WILD BOAR in Japanese!
And, just in case you were wondering, my presentation went well. The other teacher and I absconded somewhat early from the conference to visit a winery and then a hot-spring, which advertised a wine-bath! It was heaven- just what I needed to relax and forget the crazy-busy previous day.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

From the sweaty end of summer

Hello has been far too long since I have written. Busy summer, as many of you know. It all started out on the 4th of July...I chaperoned 18 students to Lennoxville, Canada (two hours southeast of Montreal) for an English language camp. No- I take that back- it was an English language camp with a whole lot of French thrown in! Mon Dieu! Upon arrival we were treated to the hottest heat wave that part of Canada has ever experienced-- between 95 and 100 for the first week, and NO air conditioning! It wasn't as humid as Japan, but still it was miserable. Zut alor! (Alors? I scraped the bottom of the barrel for my high school French while talking with the French-only nurse at the head still hurts). The girls eventually figured out when English was being spoken and when their teachers switched to French. Only a few became homesick, so that was good.

My principal told me I could have some free time-- but of course still had to be available in case of an emergency-- in the middle of the month. So, I visited my friend Amy in New York. It was just wonderful--- Amy let me use her apartment, WITH AIR CONDITIONING-- and showed me some fantastic restaurants, etc. It was very important that she had air conditioning because New York was ALSO having a heat wave...worse than usual I was told. Still, I went to lots of museums, saw some very impressive views, cried at the 9/11 memorial (more exactly at the church right next to Ground Zero), visited with a former student, and in general got a very large dose of Americana, which I sorely needed. I traveled from Montreal to New York (and back) on the Adirondack line for a mere $62 each way. Having only ridden on the West coast version of Amtrak, I was VERY pleasantly surprised, and highly recommend this train to anyone who wants a break from flying in to New York. Granted, it did take nearly 11 hours...thanks to Homeland Security having to do an on-board check of passports, etc., but I just snapped photos and read my books until we were back on track.

I stayed the last few days of the camp with my students and escorted them back to took 50 hours (!!) bed to bed because of the last-day Farewell Dance and the fact that we were scheduled to leave the school at 3:30 a.m.! The students didn't even get back to their dorms until 12:30. We had a loooong layover in Vancouver because our scheduled pilot was ill and it took them a while to find a replacement. Still- I am thankful that nobody was ill or got hurt on the trip. I had all of two nights in Japan before taking off for Seattle, and spent the second night with my friend Mary, from Ireland, and Kod, singing karaoke! It is something of a tradition for Mary and I...I think we sang every ABBA song ever written, plus a few other gems.

Visiting everyone at home was just what I needed. Unfortunately, all of the planes and trains and buses I had been on finally caught up with me: I caught a doozy of a cold that settled in my throat. I couldn't speak at all for three days and my throat is still weak! I have to give a presentation this coming Thursday in front of 60 people, so I am trying to rest my voice before then...

The worst part of the summer was that my brother-in-law passed away...we knew he was sick but hoped that he had longer to live. I am so glad my niece and nephew were there to support my sister. I just wish I could have stayed a little longer for the memorial which is this coming weekend.

At the moment I am sitting directly in front of a fan-- the only air-conditioner I have is upstairs-- feeling a little guilty for writing this blog when I should be working on my presentation...but it was about 102 degrees today and is still in the high 80's now, and still huuuuuuuumid. I am tired of every single surface I come in to contact with (including my own arms and legs) feeling slightly sticky. I hope it is more pleasant where you are. Wish me luck.