Sunday, January 27, 2008

Sara-Need a tutor?

Though I don't know much about expensive private tutors, you can get free private tutoring at the Aiina international center. (I'm sorry if this was posted before, I just can't remember at the moment) You have to fill out a form that you get at Aiina and you can fill it out in either English or Japanese. You write a little bit about how much you've studied, what you want to focus on, and when and where you would like the lessons. They will then find a teacher for you and get back to you. It usually takes between one or two weeks.

Aiina got back to me within a week, so now I will meet my teacher on Feb. 13th and I will report back on that. :)

Sara-Things to do other than study in Japan

Since it is the New Year, I decided that I have too much free time and that I can't stand sitting around doing nothing after school. So, I took out the binder that I got during our orientation in August and flipped to the page that had information on the various cultural centers in Morioka. Unfortunately some of the information was wrong, and there were no addresses. Luckily, one of my teachers(the assistant PE teacher) knew where one place was, and I remembered Japan's Yellow pages. It's called Town pages and you can find them in Aiina which is the international center. One B&W copy of a page is 10yen and color is about 50. However, you can't just pay and copy. You have to go to the librarian, ask to copy the page, and they will hand you a form to fill out. I learned then that it's better to find ALL the pages you want first before going to them.

The town pages were not easy to navigate through, but after a while, I sort of had an idea as to how it was organized. I found the cultural centers, ballroom studios, Traditional Japanese Dance classes, and calligraphy schools for Paul.

These are the three that were in the book:

JEUGIA- This center is in the new AEON mall. It's the furthest from me but, it is easy to get to because you can take a bus there for a cheep price from the train station. The classes here are not too expensive, many are for 4,200yen, and you pay only for the month so it is easier to quit classes. I plan on taking Flamenco here.

NHK Bunka Center (Bunka means Culture)-This is a cultural center that is close to where I live. It's in the downtown but it's not really easy to find because it is a small building. However, they have many classes both in the building and outside. They are more expensive, and the classes are not for one month. Many are spread out, so you would take 6 classes in 3 months(2 classes per month).

Terebi (T.V) Iwate Academy-This is a small school and they don't have many classes, but this is next to the city hall and in the downtown.

Town pages website-

But the cultural centers and the town pages were not my only resource. My kyotosensei's (Vice Principal's) wife knows many people. She introduced me to her tea ceremony teacher (and so now I take classes there) and when she heard from her husband that I was looking for a Traditional Japanese Dance school, she introduced me to her friend's mother who is a teacher. In other words, teacher's at the schools probably know many more people in the city you live in than you, the centers, and the town pages.

And aside from knowing people, they are very friendly here and they like and want to help me. When I asked my third grade English teacher about how to make a polite phone call to see a ballroom dance class but not make any commitments, he quickly said "Oh don't worry, I'll call for you." I then said that I didn't want to trouble him etc. he just laughed and said "Really, don't worry. I enjoy calling people and I don't get to do it enough."

So, with all that said and done, you can look at the various pages for the centers and look at the various pictures for the classes. And the really nice thing is that whether you want to take a class at a cultural center, or at a private school,studio,etc. you can and probably should ask to just go in a see a class. The teachers are all very nice about it and you can easily bow out by saying "Thank you, and I will think about it. I just don't know what my schedule at my school will be for this year."

Friday, January 11, 2008

Catherine-Long Catch Up Blog

Dear all,
Sorry I have not posted in a really long time. The quick version is that three days after our Thanksgiving extravaganza I broke my wrist in an accident and so I haven't written. Here is the list of things that I need to tell you about: my school's staff trip to Hakodate, the broken wrist itself and all the connected hospital goodness, the winter here, my new computer AKA major electronics purchase in Japan, the New Year, and the transfer in and out of two American girls to and from my school.


Hakodate is a port city in the southern part of Hokaido. It is a beautiful city and I really enjoyed my visit there a lot. We went up to Hakodate-yama and saw the night view which is one the three most famous in the world.

While in Hakodate I also did a lot of shopping. I even bought a fish. The hotel we stayed in was very nice and we were in Japanese style rooms with tatami mats and futon. The hotel also had a nice salt/sea water bath with really nice views. I got to spend a lot of time with members of the staff other than the English teachers and after this trip I felt like I knew them all a little better and that we had a better relationship.
Also I got to ride on the shinkansen there and back which I love.

Broken Wrist

I broke my wrist, as stated above, four days after Thanksgiving and the day after I got back from Hakodate. It was a Sunday so I had to go to the emergency hospital because none of the others were open. I was riding down the hill in front of my apartment when a car sped out of a parking lot. I tried to stop so I wouldn't hit the car and I flipped over. I landed on my wrist and my bike landed on top of me. When I got up the car was gone and I had to call my friend for help. Apparently Japanese people really don't want to get involved in things so no one stopped to help. At the emergency hospital I first had to wait while they put a folder together for me. Then I waited in at #2 for a while and I was asked a few questions. Then I was sent to wait at #4 where I got some x-rays taken. It hurt a lot. Not so much as an ice pack was offered to ease my suffering. I was sent back to #2 to wait some more then I got called in to see the doctor. She put me in a temporary cast, told me I had to have surgery, and asked me if I wanted the medicine that you can drink or the kind you "use from the back." As you might have guessed I went for the drinkable kind. I got referred to a second hospital where they were going to do the surgery. My school was called and the next day bright and early my Kyoto sensei and the head English teacher, Nakano sensei, met up with me at the hospital to wish me good luck.
Hospital number two had a similar process to the first one. We gave them the referral and they made a folder for me. Then we waited some more. Then they cut the temporary cast off and took some x-rays with a significant period of waiting between those two things. Then we waited again to see the doctor. This doctor was amazing and worth the wait because he told me I didn't have to have surgery and he found the second break in my wrist. Thus began my four week long cast adventure. It is off now in case you are too lazy to count. Add in three more doctor's visits( all the waiting included), a lot of inconvenience, some pain, and a terrible need to wash my arm and you have the whole story. Here's a picture.Winter in Morioka

In a word, horrid. It's cold. There's a lot snow and a lot ice. It drops below freezing almost as soon as the sun goes down. I have been told by several people that this is the coldest winter in Morioka's recent history. I have gotten so used to being cold that my room seems warm when it's fifty degrees F inside. Sixty-five is positively balmy. I have slipped and fallen on the ice twice already and I have a sneaking suspicion that I am not done. I'd put up a picture here but there's no need to be depressing.

New Computer

So I had been saving for five months to buy a new computer and I saw one on sale at a good price so I got my friend and fellow AET Paul to come have a look at it. He used to be a CS major need I say more. It had all the whizzes, bangs, and whirls it was supposed to so I bought it. I relaunched the OS into English and everything has worked out great for me since. This was a fairly bloodless process for me. I have to say though that I am not technically minded and have a very limited range of needs from a computer so that probably helped. Also I got Paul who one understands computers and two speaks better Japanese than me to talk to the sales guy. If you are like me when it comes to computers and you have a Paul you'll be fine. Something to note though is that electronics here are much more expensive than in the states and I actually got a good deal on my computer because I took advantage of a New Year's sale.

New Year's or oshogatsu

In Japan oshogatsu is the major holiday. Think of Christmas in the states as example of the fellow feeling and rigmarole. There are sales in shops for the days before and after. The country practically closes for five days. There are special foods made and eaten, families are visited, and everyone makes a visit to the shrine for luck, good wishes, and to buy new omamori(protection charms). I did all of these things. I visited the relatives of a teacher at my school and I ate a lot of really good food. His mother-in-law is an amazing cook. I went to the Sakurajima jinja to make my New Year's wishes and to buy new omamori with my two friends.
Later on that day we went to the public bathes and then went out partying to celebrate oshogatsu. We went to dinner and drank a lot. We went to karaoke and drank a lot. We then went to an after hours bar and drank a lot more. It was a lot fun and I feel we did oshogatsu proud.

Two American Girls

This pair of sisters came to Morioka and my school about a month. They are nice girls and very smart. Their mom is Japanese and their father was an American. They lived in Japan when they were very young but neither one of them had ever been to school here. The older went to yoichien only. Their coming was a big surprise and caused a lot of concern in the teacher's room because we knew very little about the girls. Only their names and that they didn't speak Japanese. I was surprised myself and worried and glad that I was there to help them transition all at once. They were at the school a little over two full weeks before winer vacation began. I began giving them basic Japanese lessons to start with and Kyoto sensei was able to set up extra Japanese lessons for them three times a week. I found myself acting as a homeroom teacher to these girls. The other teachers came to talk to me about their progress in classes and their concerns for the girls' welfare. I also gave them guidance and pushed for keeping them in the classroom with the other students despite their lack of Japanese ability. When the social studies teacher wanted to start catching them up on their work I found English language articles of the same information and made worksheets asking after important information and teaching related Japanese keywords. I gave them daily Japanese assignments and did my best to help them. I really enjoyed that but I have to confess that I was glad when break came because it gave me a chance to slow down and deal with the stress. Now the girls are moving again to Chiba and today they came to school to exchange the last few papers, return the uniforms, and say goodbye to class mates. I will miss them. I was both glad to help them and pleased to be considered capable of doing it. At the same time I'm not sure I was ready for the responsibility. Their leaving has taken the uncertainty away. I won't have to go up to the other teachers and admit it was too much for me but I now no longer have the chance to prove that I could do it. I don't know if I am more disappointed or relieved. I am can certainly say that it has been a learning experience and has pushed the boundaries of my inventiveness more than a few times. Wonderfully enough they have been expanded.

Well you are now all officially caught up on the major events.

Best of,