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.

Work work work

28 06 2009

It’s just been work work work and nothing interesting. There’s only a few weeks left until summer holidays so it’s a busy time – finishing topics, having elementary school parents come visit, writing end of term exams, writing reports, marking, setting holiday homework, writing tests for assessing the holiday homework, designing the newsletter to go home with reports, doing day duty again, finding out they will extend maths and science to senior high school so a new teacher will be employed next year…

The weather is warming up – high 20s and very humid. However, the airconditioners are on at school so in the office it actually feels cold.

There is a tune that plays every night at 6pm. It comes from speakers on the electricity poles. The city council plays the music to remind any children on the streets that they should be home by 6pm. Very community minded. Apparently at different times of the year the tune changes and the time is earlier in winter.

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.

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.

GIS and the Inter Students

1 05 2009

Today we finished school early for Golden Week mid-term holidays. Yay for holidays!

In one of the lessons this morning we went to the Chemistry Lab and did 5 experiments in 50 minutes – pop test, precipitation of silver chloride, combustion of magnesium, carbonate base with an acid and a displacement reaction with zinc and copper sulfate. Not bad considering the labs are old, barely used and with a poorly assorted mixture of chemicals half labelled in Japanese. Apart from the hydrochloric acid, all of the chemicals are solids which meant the students had to do some rough and ready making up of solutions – one spatula of compound + some water from the bucket + test tube = solution number 1. Amazingly, for all the dodgy-ness of the chemicals all of the experiments worked well. My only worry is that they don’t have any safety glasses that I can find anywhere…. must be labelled in Japanese if they have any…

Week One of Teaching: the highlights.

11 04 2009

The starts can be a little early – on the bus by 7.10 to be at school by 7.25am with the first lesson at 7.30am. At least it only takes around 10 minutes on the bus and the bus stop is 2 minutes walk away.

On days when I don’t have the first lesson (which is 3 days out of 6) I can catch the later bus at 8.05am which is a bus for elementary school students. The first time I caught the bus the little kids looked so cute with their berets, blazers and socks pulled high. The seats still had plastic covering on them so the kids were sliding around everywhere when the bus stopped. The elementary teacher quickly helped the students to put their seatbelts on so they didn’t fly out the window.

The work load is fairly easy – 20 lessons a week with 3-4 lessons to teach in a day. I only have 2 homeroom duties filling in for other teachers. So, that leaves a lot of preparation time. Also, the class sizes are 6, 9, 6 and 8 (for J-1, J-2, J-3 and H-1 respectively – equivalent to years 7, 8, 9  and 10)

During some of my lessons the principal or vice principal walked in and looked around – checking up on the new teacher I guess. That was a little intimidating but since they don’t speak English it probably didn’t matter what I said.

Benno made hot cross buns for Easter – not that we have any holidays for Good Friday or Easter Monday. In Japan Easter is not celebrated – we’ll have to wait until May 2-6 for Golden Week holidays.

Benno’s handmade hot cross buns.

On Friday after school Toshy came and we went to a local doctor for a pre-employment compulsory medical. The three new Inter teachers pee-ed in cups, had heart scans (involving about 12 sticky electrodes), had x-rays of our lungs, the doctor listened to our heart and took our blood pressure. My health was perfect (of course) so the school is happy to employ me. I have to pay compulsory health insurance anyway so I’m not sure what the big deal is. Every year teachers and students sit compulsory health checks, but I’m not sure if there are any consequences if you fail.

Working on a Saturday:

The first time I’ve had to work on a Saturday (apart from detention supervision, but that’s not actually teaching lessons). The school bus had me home by 2pm to enjoy the sunshine and be lazy for the rest of the day…we had roast vegetables and gravy for dinner followed by a strange not-dessert – black sesame and tofu japanese-pudding (that was fine on its own) with miso topping (bad addition – next time we’ll throw out the miso dressing and use straight sugar).


Starting school

6 04 2009

First teachers’ day at Gyosei. I had an introductory walk around the school before being introduced to all the other International faculty staff members. We sat in the staff room for over a hour listening to random Japanese from old men teachers (saying such things as ‘let’s keep the corridors clean’ and ‘our college admission numbers are dropping’). I got my timetable, keys, codes, textbooks, instructions etc before heading off to the whole staff lunch. I had to say an introductory statement for the third time, introducing myself to different gatherings of staff. The rest of the day was spent in preparation and international staff meetings. The 6 others seem to be a co-operative, collaborative bunch that work together to ensure the smooth running of the inter division. There are 3 females in total on the entire high school staff (with a few more in the elementary school) and very few young staff. The school includes such features as: only using chalk and blackboards, having labs that are basic with no lab techs, and a small cupboard of chemicals (apparently the labs are not used much- textbook science only!), the classrooms are unadorned rooms with individual wooden desks and chairs and there are 5 mops in each classroom for daily after school cleaning duties.

Dinner was spaghetti with a tomato sauce and adzuki icecreams for dessert.

We’ve Survived One Week in Japan.

3 04 2009

Toshy picked us up at 10am. I opened a bank account and filled in the forms for direct debit of the rent, gas and water (but not electricity yet). After endless red tape, paperwork and random forms, 90 minutes later I walked away with a Disney passbook/card and a Pooh face towel (a present for opening the account).

After lunch we went shopping for mobile phones. The bilingual phones that we got have internet and e-mail so we were able to check our e-mail when we arrived home…at a cost (Benno has already exceeded the internet limit but fortunately it is a capped cost). But it’s better than nothing especially when we will be without home internet for another couple of weeks at best…some things in Japan are so streamlined, and some things are like the dark-ages of red tape. I have a bright pink new model slide phone, and Benno has the same in black.

Toshy translated some of the school year calendar. My first lot of holidays is Golden Week from May 2 – 6 which is less than a month after I start. Then in June there are a few days holiday (12-16) and the main summer holidays July 24-September 1. Then October 3-7 followed by November 12-16. Not sure if there’s a real break for Christmas (students get 20th Dec to Jan 6th, but I have a feeling that teachers are required to stay behind longer), but February 10-14 is a holiday and the school year breaks up on March 20th (teachers probably finish 25th March and the new academic year starts 8th April 2010). So 6 short holidays and one long holiday. Time to start planning travel!

Roast vegetable (pumpkin, potato and steamed broccoli) pasta for dinner and chocolate pudding for dessert.

First Official Duties

1 04 2009

Toshy picked me up and we went to Gyosei wearing our “suits”. All the new teachers were invited to a little ceremony and a “party”. There were 2 new international staff – myself and a scottish primary teacher – and 6 new Japanese staff (a nurse, a senior maths teacher, some sports teachers/coaches and some elementary teachers). We had a cup of coffee in the waiting room (what’s with all the cups of coffee? I don’t like drinking the stuff). Then we went upstairs (changing into inside slippers) to a meeting hall/lounge where Father Tagawa and all the deputies met us. Our names were called and certificates given out, then we all had to say some words of introduction about ourselves. Toshy acted as my translator. Lots of “yoroshiku onegaishimasu” all round with lots of bowing and clapping.

Then we had our “party” which meant sitting at a long table with little cups of Japanese wine and having lunch of salad and rice brought out on ‘cafeteria trays’.

Toshy was busy for the rest of the day so the vice principal (of the elementary?) dropped me home. Benno stayed at home during the morning and awaited our fridge delivery. The delivery man got lost, came late, then left again (saying he needed a blanket so the floor didn’t get dirty) but came back instead with another man and together they lifted the fridge into the apartment.

It was raining a little today, but we can tell that the weather is generally warming up for spring…maybe…there was lightning and thunder in the evening along with more rain overnight.

We enjoyed a 4 course dinner (cooked by Benno) which included salty edamame (steamed green soy beans), udon stirfry with bean sprouts and aubergine, oven baked chips with heinz tomato sauce and adzuki bean ice creams. We found cheap broccoli, tofu and garlic (about $1 each) and strawberries were reasonable too (maybe $8 for 2 punnets). However the myth of the $100 rockmelon is true – perfectly round rockmelons are about $75 or over 4500 yen.


We’re moving!

1 02 2009

Yep, it’s all happening. We’re moving to Japan where we will live and work for a year. After threatening to do so for 4 years we are finally following through.

Lara has a one-year job contract teaching science in the English-speaking stream of an International School in Kisarazu City, Chiba Prefecture, Japan. She will be teaching grades 7-10 full time. The school is called Gyosei International School and is a private Catholic school that includes students from Kindergarten, Elementary, Junior High and Senior High School. (http://www.gis.ac.jp/english/index.html)

Benno will continue his business Transmogrifier E-Solutions; managing the programming work remotely by webcam and e-mail.

We’ll be flying out at the end of March, to start working in Japan on the 1st of April.

map_kisarazuWe will be here: across Tokyo Bay from Yokohama and about 1 hour from Toyko by train.