Shimanami Kaido: Day One

I haven’t posted about my final months in Japan mainly because of a combination of finishing grad school, getting a new job, and being lazy.  However, even after all this time, I want to record all of my fondest memories in the country (that is mainly why this blog was created). So let’s start catching up.

It’s been a year since I went on the Shimanami Kaido and I still think about that journey every once in awhile.  For those who are unaware, the Shimanami Kaido is a 70 km cycling path connecting the islands of Shikoku and the mainland Honshu through bridges.  The path itself has a designated cycling route the entire way so you won’t be fighting with cars as you traverse the roads; the route are also labeled properly (with a big blue line o) so it’s basically impossible getting lost as long as you are following it.  Since you are island-hopping with bikes, the sea will always be in your view, presenting wonderful scenery throughout the entire way.  I was really hesitant based on the length of the ride but it was my final year in Japan and I wanted to do at least one more adventure before heading back.  I convinced my friend who was visiting at the time to go and another friend who had done only a portion of it to go during the spring, the most ideal time to go.  Instead of choosing to do the entire route in a day, we opted to do it in two since we weren’t the most athletic bunch.

There are a couple of places one can start the Shimanami Kaido, mainly Onomichi (the Honshuu side) or Imabari (the Shikoku side).  Since we were coming from the east, it made sense to start from Onomichi and once we were done, hitch a bus back to our starting point.  We arrived in Onomichi at night by train and ate a nice meal at a local restaurant and slept early to start our first day.  The weather was looking cloudy with a chance to rain so we wanted to make sure we would get there before it started.

Luckily the rain had stopped by the time we had gotten our bikes and were waiting for the ferry to take us to the first island.  Another advantage of Onomichi is that the bike rental area is right where you begin the path.  There are a variety of bikes available but the cheapest one would be the mamachari bicicyle.  Mamacharis are essentially the station wagon of bikes that you see many people in Japan use in their everyday life.  Good for running errands and maybe a small grocery trip but for a 70 km ride?  Maybe not the greatest choice.  However, they come with a decent-sized basket on the front and knowing my back would be dead if I had my backpack on me the entire trip, I went with it.

My mamachari bike for the trip. I remember when I showed this to my students they gave me a “Really?” look.

After we got our bikes, we were on our way.  Our goal for the day was to reach Setoda, which was almost the halfway point of the journey. The forecast was rain in the late afternoon so we needed to get there before then.

The map layout you are presented with on the way out.

Checking the port out while we wait for the ferry.

Even though it was a cloudy day out, the ride was so scenic and gorgeous.  Just having the sea by your side the entire way and watching the small towns, boats, and bridges pass by made the trip really enjoyable.

In terms of difficulty, I would say it wasn’t too bad until you would approach a bridge to cross to the next island.  The Shiminami Kaido has you cross over six bridges throughout your time there and while crossing the bridge itself is a fun experience, getting up there is a pain in the ass.  To get onto most bridges, one has to go up some heavily inclined roads that include a lot of hairpins.  For the inexperienced cycler (aka us), this kills your legs and really wears you out.  It’s not recommended to get off because it’s even harder to start pedaling from scratch.  Of course, if you got a decent bike with a lot of gears, you can get through it.

Right after going up some slopes.

Under the bridge, in a specialized cycling road.

Crossing the bridge was always the fun part of the trip.

Throughout our ride, we had to take various pit stops just to take a break, refuel on water or grab a snack.  Luckily, Japan always seems to have a convenience store nearby so finding one was never an issue.  My advice is to bring lots of water, as you’ll need to hydrate yourself a lot while you cycle.  Also, make sure you pack as light as you can!  While the mamachari wasn’t the greatest ride in the world, I was able to stuff my backpack in the front which made my life a lot easier.  I just packed the bare minimum: change of clothes, snacks and water, camera, a charger and my 3DS.

After crossing several bridges, we were getting a bit tired.  We had finally hit Setoda though!  We heard there was a nice ice cream stop called Setoda Dolce before reaching our inn so we made sure to stop by and get some rest and delicious ice cream before heading out.  It was totally worth it.

Delicious.

Gotta beat that rain…

On the way to the inn, the rain had finally begun.  Luckily, it didn’t take too long to get to our destination after getting our ice cream.  We decided to dry everything off and just relax until we went out to go look for some lunch.  Unfortunately the rain was pretty bad at this point so we couldn’t’ wander around too much unless you wanted to get soaked.  The weather basically grounded us for the entire day and the small town closed everything fairly early.  In the end, we simply cycled back to the last convenience store we saw for dinner and called it a night.  Cycling at night around Setoda was a bit eerie and mysterious because there were next to no street lamps, so we had to rely on the lights on our bicycles.  The other islands surrounding us appeared as black blobs and the sky was a dark purple; the only sound that accompanied the darkness was the crash of the waves hitting the island.  Cycling through this strange yet peaceful scenery struck me as one of my favorite memories of the trip.  After getting some junk food, we called it a night.  The real fun began tomorrow.

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Race

My drive to write usually blows up whenever I’m upset.  The urge to voice my thoughts and feelings that never transcribe well when I am speaking but somehow come out okay when I put them on paper.  Usually, this leads to creative writing but today won’t be that case.

So let’s talk about race and racism, from my perspective.

Racism is alive and well.  It never went away.  If you thought it did, you’re probably not a person of color (POC).  That’s all there is to it.  It’s been around me my entire childhood, through my adolescence and into adulthood.  It’s sadly a way of life that many POCs have to deal with and combat with.

It was there when my brother and I were looked oddly by authorities when I was a kid.

It was there when I presented my pro-immigration stance in a mock class debate for English in high school.  I remember a white teenager ignoring my reasoning by simply saying “We don’t want you or other Mexicans here, go back home.”  The worst part is the teenager’s mother was present and basically agreed with her son.  The uncomfortable silence only reminded me that having no supporting voice is a scary and disappointing thing.

It was there when some of my white “friends” joked around me being a drug cartel member who was supply drugs to everyone in high school because I was from Peru.  Fighting it on my own only lasted so long.  And just like the people who were quiet in that mock class debate, I simply chose to ignore it.  A frightening decision.  Not attending my five-year high school reunion?  A good decision.

It was there when I walked through a high-end shopping mall with my white girlfriend during my college days and we could not enjoy ourselves simply because we were getting looks from every white person there.  She expressed how shocked she was because she never saw me the way some white people do.  That cheered me up but still, it was just another reminder how simply the color of my skin can lead to such disapproval.

It was there in Japan where certain taxi drivers refused to pick us up because we weren’t Japanese or watching friends being stopped randomly by police to confirm they were not illegal aliens.  The twist there though is that all non-Japanese residents seem to go through their moment of racism, white people included.  My white friend’s shocked expressions, their disgust at how simply their background led to a situation where they were being persecuted.  I was perplexed at how angry they were.

Why?  Because, it’s been happening to me throughout my life.  It’s nothing new.

My POC friends in Japan and I eventually figured it out.  These situations where race came into play (in this case, not being Japanese) were probably the first instances of racism our white friends experienced.  It was a slap to the face to them.  But for me, it was just an elbow to the side saying “Oh, hey, it’s racism.  I see you’re still around.”  I was more surprised to see my white friend’s reactions, the amount of anger it led them to experience, followed by sorrow and disbelief.  For me though, these feelings have always been within me, dormant, but ever so present.

Part of me wonders how white America would view racism if they all had these experiences scattered throughout their lives, like I did.  If they lived in a country where they were not the privileged.  Instead, white America chooses to ignore it because it doesn’t affect them.  And if it doesn’t affect them, who the hell cares, right?

Some white people are unaware of how much hatred is out there, they haven’t personally experienced it. These poor people believe things are dandy because it doesn’t seem like anything is going wrong in their bubble, where they are not harassed or looked down upon or grouped up with negative images.  These people would probably be acting the same way as some of my friends who were experiencing discrimination in Japan.  They’re nice, friendly people but just ignorant.  To these people, I have to say this:

Open your eyes.  Get out of that bubble or you are part of the problem.  You’re the equivalent of those quiet students who did not say anything in my mock debate but I could tell you wanted to.  You were just afraid.  Silence is a scarier thing though.

Racism is something people of color in America experience to this day.  And that’s why POC are in fear of what’s to come.  This fear or hatred towards someone who does not share the same skin color as yours has shaped into a disgusting form of one person that will soon be the most powerful man in the country.  Sure, racism is not the only problem in this country.  However, when a man who embodies such hatred and disgust gets elected by the majority of people who voted in this election, it just sends a message to POC that we do not matter.

But I don’t believe that.  I refuse to believe that because I have met so many wonderful people in the U.S.  People who stand up for what POCs endure even if may have not experienced racism themselves.  People who fight with us, combat this crazy, bizarre hatred.  You may not know it, but it is you who keep me hold my faith in humanity and what drives me to stay positive, even in the darkest of times.  We need more people like you and join the fight against racism.  We need more people to open their eyes and step out of that bubble.  We need all the help that we can get right now.

I’m a stubborn person at heart. I blame my parents and thank them at the same time.  No matter how many times I get knocked down, I will still stand up and keep fighting for what I believe in, and for my happiness.

Today is no exception.

Shikoku

In February I was invited to visit Shikoku, a small island in the south that contains four prefectures.  I haven’t explored much of Shikoku so I gladly went along.  Because another friend was planning on tagging along, we played the trip very much by ear, something I’m honestly not used to.

Our first stop was Ehime Prefecture.  We went there because Peach (a very cheap airline) had flights in the area. Ehime is famous for their mikans, one of my favorite fruits in Japan.  It’s so well known that one of their mascots is Michan, a bear that looks like a mikan. Like most prefectural mascots, he was plastered everywhere.

A cute little mascot if I say so myself.

A cute little mascot if I say so myself.

Our first day in Ehime involved biking around and visiting Matsuyama Castle.  I forgot how much I enjoyed riding a bike around places.

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Visiting castles never gets old.

Next up was Dogo Onsen.  The bathhouse in Spirited Away  was based on it; it’s sort of funny that I have been visiting sites related to that movie accidentally.  I’m not a big onsen person but I enjoyed my time there. I guess that says something for a hot springs that has been around for over 1000 years.

Dogo Onsen.

Dogo Onsen.

Kitty visiting a shrine area.

Kitty visiting a shrine area.

This had just about every local delicacy in Ehime.

This had just about every local delicacy in Ehime.

After a nice dip in the onsen and eating some of the delicacies, I had to head back early because I still had grad school stuff to do.  One thing I have had to get used to is balancing traveling and homework, something that I will be doing until I leave the country. :\ Our friend was still up in the air so rather than just waiting for him, we decided to go to Kochi for our last day and a half.

The next day was pretty mediocre, due to the unforgiving weather.  We took a bus to Kochi because it was cheaper and more reliable than trains.  Oddly enough, Shikoku isn’t very friendly towards trains and you are better off taking the local public transportation there.  When we arrived to Kochi, it was downpouring.  Getting to the hotel in itself was a trek.  After dropping our stuff off, we checked out Kochi Castle.  The rain had stopped a little by then and I was hoping it would last.

Here we go...

Here we go…

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I was wrong though.  After getting out of Kochi Castle, the downpour continued.  By the time we got to dining area, I was completely soaked.  This killed my mood a lot so we decided to kill time and grabbed some dinner.  There are various restaurants but I highly recommend checking out the Hirome Ichiba, a market/dining area rolled up into one.  It’s basically a giant food court with many food stalls and restaurants that also has markets selling all sorts of ingredients.  When it comes to seating though, for most places you just have to grab what you ordered and try to find a place to sit. As a result, the atmosphere was cozy.  The Kochi locals were very friendly and we ended up chatting with a few of them.  My favorite dish in Kochi ended up be katsuo tataki.  I could’ve eaten that all day.

Hirome Ichiba, was a great dining experience.  Note: I took this the next day, hence the sun.

Hirome Ichiba, was a great dining experience. Note: I took this the next day, hence the sun.

Inside.  Finding a seat can be rough.

Inside. Finding a seat can be rough.

Katsuo tataki was amazing.

Katsuo tataki was amazing.

 

Despite killing a lot of time, it was still pouring heavily.  After stopping for a drink at a bar, I decided to call it quits (I was tired of being in soaked clothes for half a day) and head back while my friend continued his evening.  I ended up blow-drying my clothes and finishing up more grad school homework until it was time to crash.

Our last day in Kochi was greeted by excellent weather.  Even though it was February, it felt like spring.  Because it was Sunday, we decided to check out the farmer’s market by the city.  Every Sunday there is a huge farmer’s market that spans several blocks and contains at least a hundred stalls.

The farmer's market.

The farmer’s market.

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One thing I noticed was that these stalls were very family-oriented.  Almost every one of them had a high school/junior high school student helping out their parents, which I thought was very cool.  A couple of high school girls even stopped us and tried their best to pitch their wares to us in English.  It was cute.

After visiting the farmer’s market, we had time to visit the Chikurin-ji Temple, one of the temples included in the 88 temple pilgrimage.  It was a lovely temple, I had memories of Mt. Koya while I was walking around it.

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By the temple was a great overview of the city as well.

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Unfortunately we had to head back early because our plane was flying out of Ehime Prefecutre, a 2-hour bus ride away!  We finally met our friend who had just arrived to Ehime when we returned.  A very laid-back hostel owner, he shrugged off missing us and was planning on staying a few days later than us.  He told us the very least he could do was drop us off at the airport.  I was a little bummed out that he couldn’t come with because I could tell he was a cool guy just by the short conversation we had on the ride over there.

Although the time was short, I enjoyed Shikoku and wish I had more time to explore more stuff.   Even with the crappy weather in the middle of it, it was a nice little mini trip.  I need to see as much as I can of Japan before I leave!

Taiwan: Jiufen and Keelung

While I was out on my own in Taipei, my friend contacted and let me know that a friend of his wanted to show us around Jiufen and Keelung.  This was great news because Jiufen was my top destination for this trip but I was a little concerned about getting around since it’s out in the mountains and I wasn’t too sure how to get there.

We met with Chi early in the morning the next day and took a bus to Jiufen.  I was a little worried because the weather was showing that it was going to rain the entire day.  Chi reassured me though that it almost always rains in Jiufen and it’s “not really as bad as you think”.  She was right, despite the rain, it wasn’t too bad so I wouldn’t let that stop you if wanted to go there.

Our first stop was the Gold Museum. Other than being known for being an inspired location from “Spirited Away”, Jiufen was known to be a gold mining city back in the day.  The museum itself was pretty interesting and had a lot of cool displays.

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A preview of what’s to come.

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The designs in the museum were really nice.

When we got out, it had begun to rain again.  However, I didn’t mind it because the clouds and mist the rain brought out gave Jiufen a mysterious atmosphere.  By the time we got to the top of the area, it gave this feeling that we were above the clouds, in some mysterious land surrounded by mountains.  I took tons of photos, the ever-changing clouds made it feel like I was in a new area every time.

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Jiufen is also well-known for its teahouses.  While it was a little expensive, I felt that chatting and drinking tea while looking at the great view from the window would be a great way to pass the time.  It was worth every penny; just relaxing and watching the sky has become one of my favorite travel memories.

Wee, teahouses.

Wee, teahouses.

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After we rested, we checked out the rest of Jiufen, which is an area that has lots of tiny knickknack shops, souvenirs and food.  It’s pretty crowded so you will be fighting crowds trying to get in to places.   If you like shopping and eating, you will enjoy it here but I was pretty much done after eating a few things to eat.  There is a lot of stuff but I hate being in crowded places.

Finally we decided to head to Keelung.  We were supposed to go to another area but because we had relaxed in Jiufen for so long, we wouldn’t have enough time .  I didn’t mind.  We continued our day by visiting the famous Keelung market and getting bullied by Chi and her friend to eat some stinky tofu, a local delicacy.  Honestly, it tasted normal and because my nose is usually stuffy, the smell wasn’t bothering me much.  Needless to say, the two were bored at my reaction.

Keelung night market.

Keelung night market.

The port is nice too.

The port is nice too.

After hanging around and eating, it was time to head back to Taipei.  We finally parted ways with Chi and I was a little sad; she was great to hang around with and was very helpful in showing us places most people wouldn’t be aware of.  Taiwanese people are so friendly!  I could see what my friends who had visited Taiwan before were talking about after today.

Jiufen was definitely the highlight of my trip to Taiwan.  Although it is crowded and will probably take you most of the day to explore, it is worth it.  Don’t let the rain drive you away either.

Thanks for a great trip guys!

Thanks for a great trip guys!

Taiwan: Taipei

Winter break was one of the rare moments where I was actually on break. Because of grad school, even though I might get some time off of work, grad school classes will still be in session, leaving me to study throughout the days.  Last winter break though, I was completely free from both work and school.  As usual, a lot of people left the country, leaving me wondering what to do.  Remembering that my friend invited me to let him stay with him in Taiwan whenever, I quickly planned a trip to Taiwan.

I flew into Taipei on New Year’s Eve.  I was a little nervous at first because A) this was my first international trip alone and B) I was meeting my friend at his house, which meant I had to travel for 1.5 hours relying on just myself.  Getting to his place was surprisingly smooth though, and the train staff was extremely helpful.

As soon as I met up with my friend, we were off to see the festivities in Taipei.  Taipei 101, the country’s famed skyscraper/observation tower has fireworks launching from the top when the New Year rolls in.  My friend suggested that we watch it from a local park due to it the amount of people that would be in the building’s area.  The park itself was interesting—people were grilling and launching their own fireworks while there was an outside event which basically was a club under a bridge.  I chatted with a lot of Taiwanese people and random people throughout the night.  It’s been awhile since I encountered people who were so friendly and outgoing.  This was to be a reoccurring theme throughout the trip.

The following day I suggested we go to Elephant Mountain, a “mountain” (but really, just a long set of stairs) that is right outside Taipei 101 and gives a view of the entire city.  While walked towards the mountain, I couldn’t help but enjoy the spring-like weather in December as well as the palm trees scattered throughout the parks.  I don’t know why, but it reminded me a lot of Peru, my home country.

The climb itself wasn’t too hard, just time-consuming and crowded.  We headed up around sunset to get the best view.  It was the right decision.  I could’ve been up there forever.

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Afterwards my friend showed me the various night markets around the city.  Night markets were definitely one of my favorite moments of the trip.  There is just an abundance of different kinds of food everywhere and it’s cheap.  We ate there just about every evening.  One of my favorites was chunks of blowtorched meat.

During the trip I had a day to myself.  I basically went to all the famous spots in Taipei.  Getting around is really easy because of their awesome subway system.  Also, every station has free Wi-Fi and charging stations.  Stuff like this really blew my mind because even though I was on my own, it was really easy to navigate around thanks to these things.

One of my first stops was The National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall.  Apparently every hour there is a changing of the guard which is very detailed to the point.  I stuck around to take a video:

 

Outside was nice too:

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A closeup of the statue.

I caught some other landmarks along the way:

Temples here are really beautiful.

Temples here are really beautiful.

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While I was walking by, I noticed there was another ceremony of raising the flag down so I stopped by to have a look:

Next time I’ll talk about my unforgettable visit to Jiufen.

Soni Kogen

As usual, grad school has been consuming my life so I haven’t had much time to update this recently.  Don’t worry though, I have plenty of things to write about which I plan to post whenever I have free time.  Things like this!

Last November I decided to go to Soni Kogen with a friend.  Soni Kogen is a huge field in Nara filled with pampas grass surrounded by hills and mountains.  Late fall is the time to visit it due to the pampas grass being out in full force.

Getting there is a big pain though if you don’t drive.  If you are in that situation, I recommend getting up as early as possible and making your way to the station because there are about only 2 or 3 buses that go to the fields in a day. So basically if you miss the bus, you are going to be waiting a long time for the next one.  Not to mention the last bus back is around 4!

We got there really early so we had plenty of time to walk around the fields and climb some hills.  It was cloudy but really beautiful.  If you are a sucker for scenery, I’d recommend it!

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Wrapping up School

There’s already only less than a month of the final semester of the school year.  This is my the final full year that I will be teaching at my schools—I will stick around only for the first semester of the next school year until I finally part ways with them.  It’s kind of crazy to think about and I’m sure I will be looking back even more when the time to leave draws near.

This past year has been pretty good overall for a final full year.  While it’s not the best one (and honestly, it would take a lot to trump over the last two years in certain schools), I’m definitely at a point where I am comfortable and able to deal with just about anything that comes at me at work.  I used to not look forward to going to certain bad classes to the point where I would just feel ill.  Nowadays though I just grin and bear it.  I think my past experiences with some of the worst classes at my Friday school last year and the entire 6th grade at my Monday/Tuesday school two years ago helped with that.  So I guess that’s a good thing…?

Anyways, most schools have been turning for the better.  My Monday/Tuesday school continues to be my favorite school, mainly because of the great staff there.  I have been there long enough that I’m comfortable with everyone and can start small talk with just about anyone.  I know this sounds really dumb but it’s something you take for granted when you can achieve it somewhat easier back home.  Mondays are probably my least favorite days of the week because the 3rd/4th grade students I have to deal with can be a pain.  Luckily I’m used to dealing with them so I can get by with minor issues. Let’s not talk about this past Monday though.

Tuesdays are my favorite days of the week because of my 5th graders.  While they and the teachers I have aren’t as good as last year’s (but frankly, that’s a hard act to follow), they are great in general.  All of my teachers but one were promoted to 6th grade teachers but I still have a great batch.  Goto-sensei has his kids under control and is happy to participate, even though he knows when I’m unsure about certain complex questions.  It keeps me on my toes!  And I finally get to teach with Naka-sensei, the short, casual-wearing, overly apologetic yet funny teacher.  My friend told me she had a great time teaching with her in the past and I can see why; things just always flow so well when I’m teaching with her.  Also my students are awesome.  I think ever since I started reading and writing back comments to every kid’s reflection sheets last year (keep in mind, that’s about 140 sheets in a day), my interactions with them have been great.  I learn a lot about them as well as they do me and everyone seems to enjoy class.  I’m calling the shots and control everything so it really makes me happy to see that I’m doing something right.

Recently I attended the final Winter Festival at that school.  I’m really going to miss them because I just loved going from room to room and playing different themed games that were created by the students.  It was the closest I was ever going to get to attending a Cultural Festival.

Wednesdays have been okay but it’s definitely past the Golden Age when I had the greatest teachers and students.  Now a lot of them have transferred out and the students are now in my junior high school.  I do a lot more work now and there is less conversation going on in the staff room between me and others.  I guess it’s a shadow of its former self.  That’s not the say it’s a bad school, I’m just a little bummed out that things are no longer like they were when I first came here.  It’s kind of weird to think that it used to be my favorite school for my first three years here.  I suppose all good things come to an end though.

My junior high school is doing as fine as ever.  I still enjoy my chats with the librarian when I have a break.  The new, young JTE is no longer a rookie and is getting more comfortable coming up with ideas and teaching the class; it’s like almost looking at me when I first started and started getting accustomed to school life.  One of my favorite batch of students graduated last year so I’m not having as much fun as I used to but I’m still really enjoying it.  My first years are an energetic bunch, even if they aren’t the greatest in English.  My second years continue to be as genki as ever.  My third years, the kids I have been with since the 5th grade are approaching graduation.  Hell, my last class with them is this Thursday.  It’s kind of funny thinking about them because we’ve had quite a roller coaster ride when it comes to our relationship.  I loved them when they were young but I wanted to strangle them when they hit those awkward teenage years and yet in the end, we’re all chums again although with a different light to it.  I guess that’s called maturity?  I suppose it’s only fitting that I leave not too long after they do.

Finally, Fridays are a lot better than last year.  While I enjoyed experiencing firsthand how an elementary school operates by assisting Hiro (the Peruvian boy who could only speak Spanish), I’m a little relieved that I no longer have to worry about translating tons of homework for him, especially now that I have homework of my own to deal with.  My fifth graders this year are a mixed bag but my teachers this year decided to take the reins and lead the class while I assist.  It’s the change I have been wanting for years.  I’m fine with leading classes but if the kids are awful, it’s really hard to control anything.  That’s when the homeroom teacher steps in.

I’m lucky to have Yama-sensei, a new transferee who loves languages and is super gung-ho on teaching English and only using it in class!  G-sensei is cool and really nerdy but his kids are really awful.  I could only imagine an alternate reality where his kids were awesome and we would have the most hilarious classes.  Alas, it was never meant to be and so we usually just have a mediocre class.  Sadly, I think it’s because of his teaching style because last week Yama-sensei was subbing for him and I was wondering how she was going to react to such an awful environment.  Instead, she threw me for a loop when she taught the kids the same way she taught hers and it was the best class I had ever had with them.  Even the kids noticed the difference with a different teacher present.

Now my greatest obstacle on Fridays is not falling asleep in the staff office as I only really have an hour of a half of work.   Finding stuff to do can be really hard.  Fun fact:  Fridays are usually the days I get all these blog posts written.  Now that grad school has started up again though, I end up spending all the free time working on my studies so it’s actually a good thing to have a bunch of free time.

Recently I had a New Year party with the staff members of my Friday school.  It was the first time I was invited to a party there and because one of my English coworkers was coming, I decided to tag along.  I was really surprised at how much fun I had.  I already knew this but I was once again reminded how much people come out of their shells when they leave the workplace.  The clerk that is usually quiet but sometimes makes a quick joke was quite the jokester during the party.  The new nurse who seems friendly was hilarious and they quickly established the table we were sitting at was going to be the “English table” where only English was spoken.  Needless to say, this led to many amusing situations where people couldn’t word exactly what they wanted to say but tried their damn best.  I really wish I was invited to these earlier because they might be my new favorite parties.

Well, that’s school life this past year in a nutshell.   As the end of the year approaches, I wonder how much things will change with teachers possibly transferring.  It’s always a nerve-wracking event but I can’t help but think that in July, I will be that teacher transferring out.  It makes me wonder if others will remember fondly as I do them.