Thursday, July 13, 2006
During playground time (8-10 am), I met many of the little kids and was personally lead by many to the swings, the tunnels, the monkey bars, the turtles, and the sandpit to name a few☺. I was very surprised how many times the kids change. They come to school in their button-up shirts and overall uniforms, and then change into gym clothes for playground time. They also have street clothes for after school nursery time (which I think is optional). There is a.m. school and p.m. daycare I think. I helped with both. At 10 o'clock, class began with songs and changing back into uniforms... which takes a while with toddlers. Many get bored so you have a lot of them playing tag with only underwear on, haha. After songs and circle time, it was time for a field trip. This was a surprise to me. We all filed into the busses and went one block away to a community center which had a large activities yard... of course, made of gravel. It was dance time. The students all put their containers of ocha on picnic mats and got into lines. Colored pompoms were passed out, a stereo set up, and it is was time for dance (or syncronized pompom waving... whatever you want to call it). There were four lines... and 3 teachers... surprise... I was expected to be the leader of the 4th group. Poor kids. The toddlers all rely on their teacher for the movements. So my group relied on me... who was relying on the other teachers, haha. It worked out okay. After arriving back at school, there was coloring, different games, and singing, and then time to go. They all line up to say sayonara to the teacher individually as they leave... and well, I was a "sensei" today... so I got some hugs, high fives, and questions if I was returning tomorrow, haha. After school let out, it was daycare time. I met Erika and her friend, and we went to a different part of the school. At the daycare, there were many kids, some of which who were in my class, getting changed into street clothes. After everyone was changed, it was obento lunch time! It was cute... I had to get down to the toddler size tables to eat my lunch... and they thought it was comical. Next, I got to play with the kids during their free time. Many colored or played with blocks. I discovered that they loved the ABC's and wanted to sing it with me over and over again. After all that energy, it was time for naps. We unrolled tatami mats and blankets for all the kids. During nap time, almost half of the kids were picked up by their parents. The rest woke up to snack time. At 4 o'clock it was time for us to leave. As we were leaving, the kids were getting ready for pool time. I had a great time with the kids. They were so full of energy and excitement. I am looking forward to going back tomorrow. The pics are of the front of the school, and the busses!
At this time of the year, Ryukoku students are getting opportunities to experience different jobs by participating in community service. This Thursday and Friday, many students are learning about various jobs within and around Saga on an individual basis. I am going with Erika and one of her classmates to work at the children's preschool/nursery, Shoku Bataiken. I was very excited to attend. The school is new and very nice. The classrooms are all connected to an open roof courtyard with a playground. It has a gym and even a small, shallow pool! There is also a large playfield with more playground sets and a covered pond with pet turtles. I really liked the set up. We rode our bikes to the school and arived at 8 o'clock. We were separated to our own classrooms and met our room's teachers. I learned that from 8 -10 was free playground time, and that the students all arive during that time frame. There were already a few kids entering and I was able to meet them. The class I was in were 4 year olds. They weren't shy at all! They were so lively and cute! They don't know English, but they did immediately comprehend that I wasn't from Japan. They asked if I was American and spoke English. I was very impressed with their observations. They also surprised me that they knew the phrase "hello my name is ...". They introduced themselves to me in both languages! Of course we couldn't fully communicate, but I was able to converse with the toddlers very easily. They refered to me only as sensei, haha. (well, shenshei if you want their cute toddler accent). They couldn't grasp Chris. Kurisu (as it is phonetically) just made them giggle and say, "Haha, KURISUMASU!" (Haha, CHRISTMAS!) Like all toddlers, each one attaches to you as a "best friend". So many times during the time on the playground, a new toddler just grabbed my hand (and I didn't even know them) and just lead me to their fun activity. I really liked helping out at the preschool! The pictures are of some students going to pompom dance ( I'll explain in the next post) I am in the momo (peach blossom) class, (each class is a different flower) so my class wears pink hats. The second picture is the classroom and an excited early arrival, and the last picture is the large playground and the turtle pond.
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
For some of my meals here in Japan, I have been able to try many different varieties of Japanese noodles.
Somen noodles are thin wheat flower noodles, usually eaten cold with a dipping sauce. Udon noodles are just like somen, except they are very thick and usually in soups. Soba noodles are buckwheat noodles eaten in either way listed above. Ramen is native to China, but is found to be totally different and unique in Japanese cuisine. It is extremely popular, since it is a cheap and fast meal, and there are aisles of the dried packages in stores! I have been able to try the fresh, or should I say "real" stuff, if you will, and it was delicious. Yakisoba are noodles fried with sauces and vegetables in a Chinese style. Sorry if I sound like an encyclopedia... this really is stuff I am learning. My host mom has prepared each of these on different occasions! She really loves to cook, and I really enjoy learning about the food, as well as the preparation of the food. Oh, and I love to eat what she cooks! Eating the noodles is the fun part. In Japan, slurping your noodles is accepted, and even an expected practice. It shows that you are enjoying the texture and flavors. I still find it so awkward to do; I feel so impolite and silly, haha. If you have noodles with a dipping sauce, dip away and SHUOoOoP! If you have a bowl with soup, get right up to the edge of the bowl, grab some noodles and SHUOoOoP. My host family members are champs. It may seem funny, but it is actually difficult for me to do! These noodle dishes have been turning out do be some of the most delicious, and noisiest meals that I am having here in Japan. The picture is of some cold somen noodles we had for dinner tonight. It is delicious on a hot day with a dipping sauce of shoyu ( a blend of soysauce and other ingredients)
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
Ok. I had to make this a post on its own! Today at school, a few of the grade levels were escorted out to the gland. Everyone was formed into large lines, with teachers and administrators at the beginning. All the students were being checked randomly to see if they were following dress code. I'm not sure if this was in any relation to the 3 girls yesterday... it may be a coincidence. As for dress code, I mean shirt, pants, correct shoes, no jewlery or makeup, proper hair length ( I think it is no longer than neck length for boys, and no longer than shoulder length for girls) and correct undershirt ( that means either no undershirt, or a white 0ne. No other colors). Now I laugh at the fact that I have seen many boys wearing yellow, red, and blue under their shirts. I first wondered why they did it, since it didn't match, but now I know they wanted that "daredevil" persona of breaking the rules! I have seen that girls love to put on as much jewelry and make up that they can get away with. That, and of course skirt rolling, haha. In addition to that, some girls were getting in trouble for having their eyebrows plucked too thin... as a matter of fact some girls at school have no eyebrows at all... apparently it is a fashion statement (or they are trying to make it one to shave off their eyebrows... I have only seen like 5 girls have this though). I don't like the look of it haha, it is hen-des (very weird)! In the inspection lines, the teachers and administrators would watch students individually walk by, and yell, HAI (yes) if they were free to go. There were checklists of names, so I'm sure there was no way out of the check!
I guess every school, and country for that matter, has its own form of punishment. In America, it could mean detention or suspension. As for Japan as a nation, I am not quite sure what the standard disciplinary action is, but for Ryukoku at least, it is very unique. Before lunch, I was walking in the main hall and saw 3 girls kneeling in the hallway. I didn't think anything of it, just said, "hello". After lunch, I seen them in the same place. I asked them why they were kneeling in the main hallway. Well, it turns out they were being punished! They were caught with their skirts rolled up too high! (Well, I suppose that it doesn't matter which country you go to... the kids will always push the dress code to its limits, haha) They had to kneel in the main hallway for everyone to see them right outside the main office! I guess it is supposed to be a form of public humiliation. They were there until the end of the school day. That was over 4 hours! It is funny to mention that they weren't ashamed of their punishment. They proudly stated that they were in trouble for their skirt length. I now recall a week ago seeing two boys kneeling outside the office... they weren't as happy though! Ironically the next day was a random school uniform check... but that is another post! The girls were very friendly, and even let me take a picture of them for my "Japan studies", haha.
Every Sunday and Tuesday, Erika has dance at night. She is learning hip-hop dance. This past Sunday, a few hours before dance class, two of Erika's friends stopped by to hang out before class. I got to meet them and hang out with them too. The two girls were nice, very giggly, and wore unique Japanese style fashions. The girls listened to music, watched MTV, ate snacks... I guess not too much different from America, haha. They had a great time with the jelly bellies too, and actually were the first people to like Sour Skittles! It was a nice time. The pics are of me with the girls ( I can't tell you why she is covering her mouth with a towel... she isnt the first girl here in Japan who has done that in a picture either!), and the second is Erika and her friends outside with Jhon!
The internet is back up! I'll try to get right back on track. On Saturday morning, Erika had an English proficiency test. After that, I found out were were going to pick up a family friend to spend the afternoon with. The first place that we went to was a clothing store called UniQlo. There are actually two in Saga, one near my house, and one in downtown. The store is very popular from what I hear. Japanese clothing, especially trendy or traditional clothing, is very expensive. UniQlo offers popular styles in casual wear and and traditional wear (kimono and summer yukata robes) for very reasonable prices. I think the name is clever. My guess is that it is the combination of Unique Clothes, UniQlo, which I think is a neat name for a clothes store. I really liked looking around the store at all of the clothes. Some of the T-Shirts really lived up to "crazy Japanese fashion" that I have heard about! There are many shirts with absurd English slogans that usually go along with a goofy picture or product ad. Interestingly enough there was a style of shirt that said, property of Michigan University! I thought that was so cool that it was a part of Japanese fashion! There were a lot of bright colors, unique patterns, and even army camo pants and shirts. After browsing through the clothing store, we went out for coffee and sweets... of course at a nice wagashi shop... that was styled like a french confectionary shop! The name of the shop was Ishimura and it sold traditional Japanese rice sweets, and also French cakes and puddings...mmm. On top of that, free coffee, hot or iced... I love free stuff if you haven't noticed yet, haha. It turned out to be a very nice afternoon. The pics are of UniQlo, and me with Erika's friend, Takuya.
I am sorry for the sudden stop of posting for the blog this past weekend. A typhoon has just recently passed through this region of Asia, by way of the Sea of Japan. The typhoon was on the morning news reports because there were speculations that it would directly hit southern Japan (actually school was tentatively cancelled for Monday). The storm changed paths, and headed straight for S. Korea (school was back on... bummer... I got to explain to them what a snow day is though for Michiganders, and how that was similar, haha). As you can see by the map, only the outskirts of the storm had hit southern Japan. However, that still resulted in lots of rain and very strong winds, but nothing severe, and no damage. The school has internet, (which is where I am writing this post), but as of now, my home's internet is down. I am safe, and will get back to posting about my weekend and other events ASAP. I am very behind, so you have something to look forward to . I was very surprised how little coverage the typhoon had on TV. It came on only sparingly, and the reports were very calm. I guess thats what happens when tropical storm weather is an annual thing!