Sporadic Happiness (in Japan!)

(formerly) updated every Wednesday

Omake #12 – To continue or not to continue…

Hey everyone.  I know it’s been a while since my last post.

I actually had everything that’s been posted up until now saved up – I’d written them all while still in Japan, and just had them doled out in pieces – published one per week.

Since moving to Portland I’ve been very busy settling in.  Add to that, this week classes at my community college have started up and I suddenly find myself with a lot of things on my plate.

Not to mention the fact that I’m no longer in Japan.  Portland is a very cool place, yes, but does what I have to say about my life here interest the current readers of this blog?  Maybe and maybe not.

I am considering starting a different blog that will be more language-learning centered.  As a linguaphile and linguist, I study languages on my own all the time.  So I thought it’d be neat to write about what podcasts I listen to, what books I use, what dictionnaires are helpful, what websites I’ve stumbled upon, what TV shows I watch in a certain language…things like that.  Interested?

I’ll publish a link to that blog once it’s up and running.

Until then, read some of my archives if you haven’t yet.

Or, find another blog to follow.  Or do whatever it is you like to do!


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Omake #11: Personal Update – Leaving Japan Soon

I’ve said most of my goodbyes. I’ve had pretty much all of my goodbye assemblies and parties.

I have 2 more days left of work – the rest of today, and Monday. My contract is technically through Wednesday, July 25th, but I’m using my last two vacation days to take off the last 2 days (Tuesday and Wednesday), so I can have some more time to pack, clean up my apartment, and just laze around a bit before I go through the strenous endevaor of getting myself up to Kansai International Airport and then onto my flights home. I’ll be traveling first to Beijing to change planes and then on to Chicago. The first flight is 4 hours while the second is a whopping 13 1/2 hours. I’m going to be exhausted by the time I get back home to my mom in the Chicago suburbs, but I can’t wait to be back in the US again, arriving Saturday July 28th.

As for this blog, I still intend to post some things relating to Japan and Japanese culture. I still have a lot of ideas for posts so I hope you can continue to enjoy reading them.

I intend to gradually switch my focus from Japan onto my new life that will be in Portland, Oregon. After 2 weeks spent back in Illinois the first 2 weeks of August, I’ll be moving in with my boyfriend, soon to be fiance (we’re going to exchange rings the day I leave town when he sees me off, which will be a few days before he leaves as well). We’ll be living with his parents in their condo for about a month, and then they will go off to teach English in Costa Rica while we hold down the fort in their absence. His parents also have a cat and a cockatiel and I’ve been so pet deprieved that I’m really excited to have pets again. I’m also excited to go back to the West Coast since I think it’s a wonderful area and suits me much better than life in Illinois (with the exception of my time in college down in Urbana-Champaign which is a very vibrant community with people from all over the world and other parts of the USA as well). I think I will really like Portland, which is a very liberal, health-conscious, artsy, bohemian sort of city. Also after having lived in a tiny rural town of 7,000 people here in Japan (my island having only 2,000) and being very constrained by boat and ferry schedules, it will be a breath of fresh air to have access to all kinds of restaurants, to go see a movie or go shopping more easily, and to have more opportunities to meet and befriend people who speak English! There are many wonderful people living on these islands here in Japan, but there’s almost no one my age (26) except for those that are mothers and already have 2-3 kids and are thus quite busy with their family obligations. The younger (single) generation tends to flock to the big cities – Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe, Nagoya, etc – after graduating highschool and/or college. So I wasn’t able to make many friends this year, and am looking forward to actually having people to talk to besides my boyfriend and the occasional skype call to a friend back home.

Also, I’ll be going to Portland Community College (PCC) to study American Sign Language in the hopes of becoming an ASL interpreter. It seems like a long road ahead, and I do have my doubts about whether I’ll be good enough at it by the end of the program, having only become interested in ASL very recently, but I need a goal to work towards, and would love to have some job skills to use in the US, and studying and using foreign languages has always been a big passion of mine. I’m excited to swtich from being a teacher back to being a student and learning and using my mind more actively than I have in the past year, where I’ve often felt bored in English classes, and basically just killed time at home in the evenings.

Overall life has been good here in Japan. It’s certainly had its ups and downs – fantastic highs and devastating lows, but in the end I think it’s had a positive impact on me. I know myself a thousand times better than when I came in – my strenghts and weeknesses, my likes and dislikes, and have a better idea of how I want to spend my life from here on out. I’m thankful for my experiences here, and I’m also thankful for the good salary I was given and the low living expenses of my rural life that has allowed me to save enough money so I can go back to college and study some without having to find a job right away.

So, thank you JET Program. It’s been quite a ride. And now, a new chapter of my life unfolds…


Omake #9: A Typhoon is Coming – Yay!

I’m not at all being sarcastic about the title of this post. I am genuinely glad that a typhoon is coming.

Why? Well, it’s that special feeling in the air that something big is happening, as well as that relaxed feeling of “Awesome – life is put on hold for today.”

Starting a few days ago, people were watching the weather report like a hawk, seeing the progression of the typhoon. Usually when a typhoon is announced, it’s seen several days away from the coast Japan, and you can track it’s progress on the internet. The main place I’ve seen most of my teachers look is Yahoo Weather. When a typhoon is coming, there’s a special window on the right hand side showing the typhoon’s path and predicted path, marked with days and times so you can get an idea of what to expect.

Since the area I live in is pretty sheltered (the Seto Inland Sea) we don’t have to worry about tsunamis or any real big damage, since we’re shielded by Shikoku and mainland Japan (Honshu). Here’s a map found on the wikipedia article, that shows the area I’m living in.  I’m on an island towards the center of the inner strip of sea which you can see below:

Thus while other parts of Japan might have to be more concerned about damage from the wind or tsunamis, we don’t get too worked up about it.

But, of course strong winds and heavy rains can be dangerous, especially for young kids. When I came into the staff room this morning the TV was on and everyone was watching the warnings for our prefecture and keeping an eye on specific cities/towns. When it was announced, before school even started, that our town was put under a warning (警報・けいほう) which is apparently the “red category,” the principal and vice principal starting communicating with the middle school and the board of education, and it was decided that they would send everyone home from school as soon as possible. Special school buses were ordered up. Teachers ran around frantically checking in with their students, seeing if there would be an adult at home if they went home now, and making phone calls. The kids whose parents are believed to be out are kept at the school until probably their parents come pick them up, since the winds and rain will only get worse at this point and walking home might be a little treacherous. Most kids walk themselves to school, or take buses if they live farther away. Though in middle school, there are no buses, and even if kids live on the far end of the island, they have to bike to school, which could take a good half an hour or so.

The one thing that the adults and students on other nearby islands have to worry about in our area is when the boats stop running. Once the winds get even somewhat severe, the boats stop running for safety reasons. On my island, we rely entirely on boats. Some islands in the Seto Inland Sea are connected by bridges, but some, like mine, are more isolated. Thus the teachers that work on my island but live on another one, after corralling all of their students and sending them home, have to pay attention to when the last boat home will be so they make sure to catch it (or else remain stranded on my island and have to get a hotel room).

Those of us that live on the island we work on have to remain at work for our full allotted work hours, even if it means going home in treacherous conditions. I’ve walked outside in a typhoon before (having to go home after school during one last year) and the winds can get bad enough to blow around an adult. I felt like I really had to struggle against the wind, and it was a little trying, but I didn’t feel in any danger of being actually blown away.

I am thankful to not have to teach today though, since I was sick all last week and missed an entire week of school, and haven’t improved too much since then.  I had to go to the doctors twice – first to get regular cold medicine, and later to get antibiotics.  It was decided that I had “Mycoplasma” according to some blood test, which at first I thought they were saying “Microplasma” which made no sense to me.  I actually didn’t know what Mycoplasma was either and had to look it up.  Apparently it’s just some kind of bacteria?  Which has resulted in massive coughing fits for me, low to no appetite, and overall fatigue.

Anyway, I went into work yesterday, Monday, to make up my elementary day, and just ended up showing Doraemon VHSs and Anpanman DVDs for my classes, since my throat still hurt and I was too tired to flail around like I normally have to for elementary classes. To be fair though, they were VHSs and DVDs to teach English, so I wasn’t entirely slacking – the kids still got some English exposure.

But today I’m still not in good shape and I was supposed to have 4 classes, and I normally refer to such days as “hell days” because I usually teach 3 classes in a row, have lunch, then teach one more, all by myself, and it’s draining and my throat is wrecked afterwards. I certainly hope I don’t have to make up these classes, because my next 3 elementary days (my last ones – hooray!) are 3 classes, 4 classes, and 3 classes, so to sprinkle in an extra 4 amongst those would leave me with further “hell days” or, if teaching 5 classes, elevate it to “just kill me now” days. Maybe we can cancel the classes, or I can squirrel them onto the next ALT. Or maybe make it up on a different day – I usually go to the elementary school on Wednesdays for part of the day for planning and creating materials, so I’m technically available then too. I’ll save worrying about that for later though.

Now I will spend the rest of the day trying to look busy at my desk while coughing into my handkerchief (because I refuse to wear those dumb surgical masks that everyone wears here when sick, because they just make me feel worse and sort of feverish).

And that’s that.

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