Tokyo Disney Land

25 02 2010

Today was a whole school excursion to Disney Land. All the kiddies packed onto buses for the 1 1/2 drive to DL. Once there, the kids scattered (wouldn’t want to be caught with their teachers – eww!) None of the other Inter teachers were interested in rides (or rollercoasters) so I went around with a Japanese teacher. Luckily he was a young English teacher so we were able to talk in a eigo/nihongo blend for most of the day.

Hopefully their identities have been obscured by the bows and glasses.

First up, a 2 hour queue for Space Mountain. The ride itself seemed so short after spending so long in line. But it was fun! After that we tried to ride on the other rollercoaster, Thunder Mountain, but it was temporarily closed due to technical difficulties. Splash Mountain and Pirates of the Carribean were already closed due to scheduled maintenance. So we went on the teacups at Alice’s Tea Party. We span really fast and it was so dizzzzzzy that I couldn’t see straight after the ride finished. We needed a sit down so had our bento. Then we went on a rather boring ride, It’s a small world after all. Australia was represented by 1 Kangaroo, 2 Platypuses and 3 Koalas. Time for some more fun and thrills. We went to Toon Town and lined up for 40 minutes for the Go-Coaster. We ran into several students also in line. Fun, but too short.

J1I on the Go-Coaster.

Then it was time to spend out Y1500 voucher. I bought a popcorn bucket as we always see girls with popcorn buckets on the train returning home from Disney Land. We decided to return to Thunder Mountain – it was running, but the parade was blocking the road and we had to wait for it to pass before we could cross. When we got to the other side there was a 140 minutes wait time for Thunder Mountain. Impossible! We only had 90 minutes until the bus left. So we went on the Tom Sawyer rafts across to an island and back, then found some foods, the other teachers, omiyage and took some photos of the students.

Popcorn - well, what else was I going to spend my voucher-money on?

I was surprised at how busy it was – the lines were quite long yet it was a normal weekday in winter. Do these people not go to school or work?

I’m so tired now. I’m disneyed-out.

Exam time

15 07 2009

It’s end of term exam time. While that means I’ve been super busy writing exams, photocopying and designing the Inter newsletter it also means that now I only have half-days at school. The students have exams block 1-4, then the bus leaves at 12.50pm. So I’m sitting at home doing some marking in between reading on the internet and getting distracted by the elementary school children walking home.

I feel a bit spoilt as mum send a parcel with new clothes. I wore the white skirt to school this week and it was nice and summery. Today I wore my new linen pants from UniQlo. I forgot to say that when you go to the changerooms you take off your shoes. While you are trying on clothes the shop assistants rotate your shoes so they are facing you when you exit the changeroom.

Recently we also received a backpack in the post that we got from ebay. It’s to make our Kansai travels easier – no way I want to be dragging a suitcase around the train stations!

In theory, I should know 42 verbs after working through the ‘Instant Japanese’ book. Let’s hope I can remember them.

Better get back to my marking…but first, have you ever seen a yellow watermelon?

Yellow and Red Watermelon. Available now at Apita.

Yellow and Red Watermelon. Available now at Apita.

Yet another strange movie

11 07 2009

Metro ni notte "Riding the Metro subway"
Yet another strange movie from Tsutaya video store that we watched. All the the movies that have English subtitles seem to be quite odd. Japanese movies/dramas are very slow, there is almost no conversation as it’s mostly monologue and the time-travel plot in this one was a little hard to piece together. Maybe Japanese understand the motives behind people’s actions without it being said, but I don’t understand at all why an unprovoked woman would throw her mother down a flight of stairs in order to kill herself in the womb in a time-travel moment.

I had after school dorm student study supervision duties today (yes, Saturday) so I was at school until 2.40pm. I went to catch the public bus as all the school buses had finished. I got on, tried to explain what stop I wanted, and I think the bus was actually an express to Tokyo that doesn’t stop in Kisarazu (although it does pick up as we catch it when we go to Tokyo). So, I couldn’t catch the bus home and had to walk instead. Benno met me halfway on his bike and we walked down the hill home. It only took about 50 minutes but I was pretty tired after starting teaching at 7.30am and I was disappointed that the public bus is no good. Had a few tears but then had a red-bean onigiri and a nap at home and was okay.

Dinners have been good this week – tofu and lentil shepherd’s pie, roast potatoes and gravy, coconut milk peanut satay sauce with battered tofu, blackbean sesame and broccoli udon, chickpea and sweet potato curry with brown rice, nasu-don (eggplant on udon).

The weather is not really warming up – it’s still around the mid 20s in terms of temperature- but the humidity is something else with 90-100% humidity most days. At least there’s often a breeze so it doesn’t feel so bad outside or inside.

Now after my 6 day work week it’s definitely time for bed! Only 6 more working days and I’ll be on school holidays. I have finished writing all my revision sheets and exams. On Monday I’ll photocopy the exams and Tuesday I’ll start writing the tests on the summer achievement homework that the students will take in week 1 of term 2. The work never ends!

I want to ride my bicycle

9 07 2009

I rode my 3 speed mama chari bicycle to school today for the first time. It took 35-40 minutes to struggle up the hill into the rice-paddy mountains to school and only 20 minutes to cruise down the hill (trying to avoid the trucks and buses).

Although it was fairly cool in the morning, the weather was still about 100% humidity (according to the weather website) and so when I arrived at school I was drenched in sweat. Fortunately I had a towel and a change of clothes but I wandered around with a pink face for the next lesson.

Here’s the view of the dam behind the school.

The view of the dam and surrounding greenery behind the school.

The view of the dam and surrounding greenery behind the school.

I don’t know how many more times I really want to ride up that hill, but it is fantastic exercise.

I’ve handed in my summer holiday homework, am half-way through the newsletter and have written half of the tests for the end of term exams. Most of my classes are now doing revision as their exams start next Wednesday. I feel on-track, even if the students haven’t figured out that it’s time to start studying.

Camera Alert

30 05 2009

I was wondering why there were people with cameras coming into my classes three times in the past week, and now I know why.

si_0905_lang001Lara teaching the H-1 class science.

bento happiness

24 05 2009

This week at school was busy with revision, followed by 3 days of mid-term exams. So I was writing tests, photocopying, supervising study lessons and exams, marking, calculating grades and getting ready for mid-term reports and newsletters.

Swine Flu is still on the front page everyday of The Japan Times newspaper that comes to the Inter department. The school called a 3 hour meeting for students on Saturday afternoon to go over the drills for a flu pandemic (and a flu outbreak coupled with a fire, and a flu outbreak with a lockdown etc). Luckily I wasn’t required to attend the meeting. I also got to go home early 3 days this week (on the days when there were exams- exams only went for the first 4 periods). They were much needed afternoon’s off!

During my afternoons off we went bento shopping (for my birthday).

My cute bento and accessories!

My cute bento and accessories!

We now have 2 triangle onigiri makers with stencils for the toppings (heart, star, music note, faces), animal sauce bottles, small cutters for fancy shapped vegetables etc, colourful animal picks for eating small fruits and my bento lid with the top section. Benno also has a large bento for his lunches. It is black and boring whereas the smaller lady-sized bento are cute and colourful.

My first attempt at making onigiri, ready in the second layer of my bento for lunch tomorrow.

My first attempt at making onigiri, ready in the second layer of my bento for lunch tomorrow. There's a heart, a smiley face and a star topping.

The weather has been all over the place – typical for spring. Wednesay was 26 degrees with 60% humidity while Sunday morning was dreary and pouring rain.

Saturday night we had dinner at Apita’s Italian restaurant with the other Inter staff. It was complementary, thanks to Kocho (the principal), except he wasn’t even there as he was in hospital this week with illness. We thought we had found a vegan option, the waitress said it was fine. The salad seemed ok, but the mushroom pasta was distinctly fishy. They must have added fish stock to the sauce. Bugger. The Japanese never seem to understand or even realise that fish stock (dashi) is not cool. However the grapefruit sorbet was delicious. After the meal we rode our bikes to a karaoke place where we sang some songs with the younger inter staff.

Sunday morning Benno got up and made pancakes while I did some marking of exams. We had red bean jam (adzuki bean paste) on some, maple syrup on some and lemon and sugar on the rest of the pancakes. Yum! Then Benno surprised me with birthday presents! He had snuck out of bed in the middle of the night and made a lemon and coconut mousse and a chocolate mousse in cute heart shaped dishes. We ate them after pancakes, and then he gave me a present of an oven-mit. So good, as I’ve burnt myself 3 times this week trying to remove things from our small convection microwave oven with a folded-up tea towel. So now I feel spoilt! I made cupcakes to take to school on Monday to celebrate my birthday with the other Inter staff. I hope they like them!

Lara's Birthday cupcakes. Fluffy white sponge cupcakes. Some made into butterfly cakes with red bean jam, some with lemon icing and strawberries and choc chips.

Lara's Birthday cupcakes. Fluffy white sponge cupcakes. Some made into butterfly cakes with red bean jam, some with lemon icing and strawberries and choc chips.

Vegan Strawberry Cupcake.

Vegan Strawberry Cupcake.

Inside the fluffy sponge cupcakes, showing the red bean jam inside.

Inside the fluffy sponge cupcakes, showing the red bean jam inside.

Indicator Time

16 05 2009

We’ve now been in Japan for 2 months! Time has gone by so quickly.

This week we experimented with miso in our cooking with some awesome miso eggplant and tofu. I entered our average daily food into and we seem to have almost ‘by the book’ nutrition – we consume 60% of our 1800 calories from carbohydrates, 30% from fat and 10% from protein.

At school we had 2 groups of prospectives come view lessons. On Thursday 40 5th and 6th grade elementary students came to watch my Senior High School lesson (on electromagnetism) as there were no Junior high lessons when they came – talk about bad timing! So my classroom was invaded and no work or teaching could be done for 10 minutes while noisy children gathered and looked around the rather boring room. Then on Saturday the 5th grade parents came. We had been told that they would come in block 4. So they came in block 3. My students were stunned into silence by the 20 parents in the room staring at them and with all the complicated science vocab on the board I’m sure they looked like the most diligent students that have ever graced this planet. How far from the truth!

I managed several experiments this week- an acid and base reactions practical; red cabbage, litmus and UI paper tests (where the students all brought something from the dorm like milk, soda, shampoo, washing liquid etc to test its acidity); density practical and lighting a bunsen burner with the J-1 kids. It’s more effort as I have to set up the prac and clean it up myself, but the students have so much fun it’s worth it.

The students have mid-term tests/exams next week so the teachers are busy with revision, supervising after school study sessions, writing test papers and preparing for reports. Also this week I had Day Duty for the first time- one teacher each day has to write in a school diary the weather and absentees then lock up the two high school buildings after 5.30pm, ensuring that windows are shut and lights are off.

There seems to be a desire to shorten English words that can’t be shortened. for example, a supermarket and home centre was called “Super and Home”. If you look at a hairdressers you will often find prices for a “sham and cut”. Also in Japanese is a tendency to use English words in ways that we don’t – for examples dresses are called a one-piece.

The end of Golden Week

8 05 2009

The spring weather that was so sunny and warm on Saturday, Sunday and Monday (excellent weather for our excursions) took a turn to the cold side for the rest of Golden Week. Tuesday and Wednesday it rained on and off for most of the day and it was cold. Perfect weather for baking and reading books and so we stayed inside wrapped in mofu (blankets).

Benno had bought some minature cookie cutters from the 100 yen shop – a dog, a car and a fish. So I made some spiced biscuits so I could try out the cutters.

The little spiced biscuits in the shape of a car (kuruma), a fish (sakana) and a dog (inu).

The little spiced biscuits in the shape of a car (kuruma), a fish (sakana) and a dog (inu).

We ate soup and had our new found dessert, zensai. A steaming bowl of sweet adzuki soup and mochi works great to warm you up.


It was back to school on Thursday. I went in early at 7.30am to organise myself for the week – why would I do any prep in my holiday time, now? It was still cold and rainy at night so that called for curry and rice pudding for dinner.

Friday was another normal day.. struggling to stay awake. I never felt tired or like I wanted to fall asleep at my desk in Australia – why am I so tired in Japan? Is it because the work day is from 7.30-4.30pm perhaps (I actually only work these hours on Mondays – other days are from 8.30-4.30pm or 7.30-3.30pm)? Time to put fat on the bones and eat chips with gravy and a side salad for dinner.

So, it was dreary and drizzly for the rest of the working week, warming up again on Saturday when we had parents enter the classrooms to observe and see if they want their children going to Gyosei high school. Unfortunately they were scheduled to visit during my science lesson with J-2 (that is, the class with the worst English skills and lacking most in motivation to do any work). Oh well. Good/Bad news is that they arrived late and completely missed my fantastically planned lesson and the parents didn’t enter any of my classes (they entered the poorly planned block 4 classes instead). One of the parents asked an English teacher “my child has buck teeth. Will she be able to learn English? The dentist said French would be okay, but she may not be able to learn English with buck teeth.” How do you reply to that!?

Here’s a picture one of the girls from that class drew for me. The person has blue eyes, so it’s obviously me.

Rina's drawing of me, for me...I think.

Rina's drawing of me, for me...I think.