Sunday, March 25, 2012

It just doesn't get better than this...

This week was packed with fun stuff. Usually we would post a bunch of pictures from all the different activities that have taken place this week, but we had too much fun and forgot to take pictures. Well, we didn't forget entirely, so I do have a few photos to share.

This was my last week of teaching for the school year. I was asked at one of my schools to prepare speeches for each of the three classes I was teaching that day. I thought to myself, what part of my sagacity could I possibly share with people who were maybe only 10 years younger than me. I thought back to a quote that I have always kept close to me, a sort of motto. "It's choice - not chance - that determines your future." Instead of "future," the real quote by Jean Nidetch, uses "destiny." However, I like using future better. I don't want to bore anyone with the details, so I'll sum it up as this... I used this quote as a basis for my speech to simply explain that the things we choose to do in this life shape our own future. 
Right before I left, the teachers had a special meeting where they gave me this bouquet of flowers to take home on the bus. Unfortunately, I will not be going back to this school to teach. I had such a blast at the Aizu Bange 2nd Junior High School!
On Tuesday, we had another holiday (I really love Japan for the amount of holidays we have), and took a branch trip down to the Tokyo Temple. It was our first time to do baptisms for the dead there and had a very nice time. We went home with the Takahashi family in our branch and stopped at Costco on the way. Although we had the usual fun of looking around at everything, but the most enjoyable part was sitting down and eating Costco pizza and ice cream. Yummy!!! 
This is a picture of some of the boys I taught after their graduation celebration. Once again, I found myself with a few tears despite trying to quell my emotions. So sad to see them go, but they can't stay in 6th grade forever!
Now that the school year is over and kids have started their spring breaks, Emily and I get to start our spring breaks too. Well, actually, Emily still has to go to work every day. I have to keep myself busy by finding fun things to do for the next 3 weeks. :D It's actually time for me start studying for reals for the GRE. Exciting? I suppose. After spring break ends, then we'll be taking our vacation down south to Fukuoka, so I'll be doing some planning for that as well.
Emily went to a Relief Society activity at church where they made these cute little key chains. Emily said although it was fun, it was a LOT of work and her fingers are still sore.
This is the Relief Society after church holding a party to celebrate the Relief Society's 70th birthday.
All in all, the week was a lot of fun, mostly because of the trip down to the temple and Costco. Now it's time for me to kick back, relax, and enjoy the next few weeks off... And of course by that I mean, time to start studying! We love you lots and wish you the best of weeks!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Japanese HS student + English class = Hilarity.

A few Japanese funnies worthy of a midweek post.

James and I have recently finished up the academic school year here in Japan. James received TONS of thank-you notes and cards from his classes and I did a final evaluation with some of my students. Some of the notes/responses we received were written in typical hilarious Japanglish, so I have documented a few below (unchanged from their original state) for your reading pleasure.

From my final class...

What does Emily sensei want to study in graduate school? (FYI, the correct answer is either mediation or conflict resolution.)

*Merition (close, but not quite)
*Teauch is English. Emily want to study in conflict and mediation.
*Meditional confict and resolution.
*Mediation conflict
*I want to mediation. (Meaning you want to study that also?! Or you need to go to mediation?)
*Conflict resellution and career
*She study conflict in graduate school. (Ha! Just to make it, not resolve it!)
*He want to study conflict resolution. (Right field, but try again on the gender.)
*She studied Japanese every day. but she thinks kanji is difficult. (That is very true, however...)
*TESOL = Teaching English to Speakiers off Other Languages (Confict Rezorution) (Hooked on phonics worked for me!)
*Japanise (Amazing answer, but no.)

What activities or lessons with Emily sensei did you enjoy most this year?

*I enjoyed the different games with Mr. Emily and classmate. (Again, we have some gender confusion...I'm starting to get worried. I'm definitely growing my hair out this year.)
*I went to go Hawai with her. (No, we did not take any field trips this year.)
*I enjoyed "Do you love neiver game!! (FYI, neiver = neighbor)
*I did enjoy all resson.
*All lessons enjoy!
*Your neighbor (This sounds like a bad "Yo Momma" joke.)
*Last speach (Like a peach?)
*I could enjoy learning English everytime with everyone and Emily sensei
*I enjoy most a school hours
*It's a this class.
*Valentain's speach.
*I always fun your activities and lessons.
*circle play game (heart) very interesting :D
*Rob chair.
*I enjoyed activities that my classmeat hide sharp. (No, none of our class activities involved sharp objects...just shapes.)
*Show me Emily sensei family picture.
*Finding mess takes
*Making ice cream. (I can only assume she is referring to our English club activity that went horribly wrong. We tried to make homemade ice cream in Ziplock bags, but it was an epic fail.After about an hour of freezing their hands off, all the English club girls had for a reward was cold sweet milk. Thank heaven for 7-11 and my hubby who provided us with some real ice cream.)

In your opinion, how can Emily sensei become a better teacher in the future?

*get more experience (ummm...I'm working on it.)
*keep now.
*smile and vigor!
*Rome was not built in a day. (Wow, maybe I'm doing better than I thought at this whole English-teaching business.)
*The important thing I think is never spares any effort.
*Don't shy!!
*You are enough good.
*Yes, I think so much. 
*Yes. Emily sensei can become a better teacher. (Then again, maybe not. Your vote of confidence is so assuring, but did you understand the question?)
*I think you talk with many people.
*You will become a beautiful teacher. (Why, thank you.)
*I think Mrs. Emily should go to Aspen Snowmass, CO. to ski best place!
*No cange in now
*Sure!! Because you're powerful and cute!! (kanji - laughing) Thank you!! (Powerful and cute at the same time, huh?)
*I think that now is better, so I don't went you to change.
*I think she masters various thing.
*Your smile is very cute. (Irrelevant, but nice.)
*Please keep the never give up mind
*Sorry. I can't Answer. (I plead the fifth!)
*Your teach is very interesting!!
*You have to know        scolding. (That big space was in the original answer...maybe a dramatic pause?)
*You can.
*Keep as you are. I LOVE YOU 
*Emily sensei can become cute teacher!
*Maybe, you have to eat "plain yogurt". (I told my students that the only Japanese food I really hate is plain yogurt. I think this student is implying that it may not be possible for me to become a better teacher.)
*I like Emily sensei's smile. Your smile make us happy. You always keep smile.
*I think Emily sensei more many Japanese people to speak.
*I don't know. It's yourself. (Is this like, "It's your life. Do with it what you want." or "Figure it out for yourself."?)
*I think that you keep what you is.

That, in short, is why I love my job.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

If I could describe the perfect date...

Last Monday was one of the best days I (Emily) have had since coming to Japan...and that is saying something because we have had a lot of fun days here. For Valentine's Day, James gave me a homemade coupon for a free ski trip, so I cashed it in this week and took a day off work to hit the slopes. Though the trip was far from free (wow - who knew hurdling yourself and two sharp metal poles down a hill with boards strapped dangerously tight to your feet could be so pricey?!), it was worth every cent...or yen. It was the first time for both of us, so it was a great adventure to take together.  

Skiing is a lot of work! My legs felt like Jell-O a few times during the day, but it was so fun that I didn't want to stop (and let's face it - even if I had wanted to stop, I didn't really know how!). Amazing day that I hope I remember forever. Here are a few videos and pictures from the perfect day.

There were not very many people there, which was probably a really good thing because we didn't really know what we were doing at first. Can you see the fresh powder?! So awesome!

All decked out and ready to go! Oh wait, how do you put the skis on?!

Gotta love him! He was so handsome in all his winter gear and made the day so perfect for me.

Probably my favorite picture of James...ever.

Probably James's favorite picture of me. No, this is not how I spent most of the day, but when I fell, it was EXTREMELY difficult to get back up...obviously. 

Yes, we are riding on two different lift chairs. Why? Because the first time we went up the lift, we tried to ride together and ended up with James smashed on top of me and a bent ski pole. That's why. We eventually mastered the lift and rode together. I swear that was the hardest part though...
The next night, we had the missionaries and a couple friends over for dinner. Tomomi, a teacher from my base school and probably one of my best friends here, came over to learn how to make pie crust. We experimented with real banana cream pie (only because I couldn't find pudding mix here!). You can find the recipe here. I strongly recommend it.

I had an end-of-year party this week with the teachers from one of my schools. This school was a "satellite" school that was evacuated from the west side of Japan last March after the earthquake/tsunami/nuclear meltdown disaster. After this month, this school is being disbanded and the students will integrate into surrounding schools in the area. That means that many of the teachers aren't sure what their jobs will be next year or where they will be living. Needless to say, this end-of-year party was a bit emotional. These teachers are great and I'm really going to miss them. The party was fun - can you see all the food?!! It didn't even all fit on the table!

And a couple other random goodies. James and I decided to make smores for date night. I don't know if we were too giddy about it or what, but it resulted in some pretty horrid pictures that I just had to post because I thought they were so funny.

And finally, The Grad School Update: I had a great interview with the University of Oregon this week. It just solidified my excitement for grad school in general, and made me even more excited about the possibility of grad school in Oregon! I should hear back in about three weeks, so keep your fingers crossed for me!!! I'm also applying for a couple graduate teaching fellowships which would be a huge blessing to get, so if you could send a few prayers this way, it would be much appreciated.

Love to all our family and friends! Thanks for your support!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

I Hate It When This Happens...

It's too hard to decide where to start for this week's adventures, but I guess the beginning would make sense. I had my last class with my other elementary school this week and it was sad. The school system in Japan is slightly different than the school system in America. First of all, the school year starts in April and finishes in March; that's why I'm finishing a lot of my schools right now. There is a pre-school/kindergarten type school that kids can go to followed by six years of elementary school (grades 1-6). After elementary school, there are three years in junior high school (they call them junior high 1, 2, and 3) and three years in high school (they call them high school 1, 2, and 3). In Japanese it's pretty easy to follow, but I still like the whole K-12 names a lot better. Anyways, the last grade of each school has a special graduation; Emily spoke about how they do things in high school in last week's post. I'll speak about some of the other graduations as I experience them. Just before the school year ends, the last grade hosts a meeting called a "shionkai," which is a special meeting where the last grade students (elementary sixth year, junior high third year, and high school third year students) give thanks to all of the teachers at the school. I had the opportunity to go to one of these shionkais at one of my elementary schools because I taught the sixth year students. Here are some highlights...
Each class prepared a game or activity. This video has the losers (5 teachers) and some students (to make the teachers feel better) dancing and lip-syncing to a famous girl band's song. It was pretty funny to watch, and I'm glad I didn't lose.
The first thing we did was eat. It may not look very appetizing because it's all still wrapped up in saran wrap, but it was awesome! We had fried chicken, oinari sushi, melon flavored bread (melon pan), fried potatoes, fried shrimp, yummy salad, fruit salad, and some other stuff. My table was the only table that ate all of their food including all of the parsley. We had a kid at our table that loved parsley... and it wasn't me. :P
These are some of my kids. They are so cute! Anyways, part of the game this class did was hold up a picture of the back of someone's head and we had to guess who's head it was out of two kids. One of the teachers who was almost bald stood up to answer and said, "that was me when I was in elementary school!"
Every Friday the missionaries hold a Family Home Evening at the Church for anyone that wants to come (members, investigators, etc.). We would go every week, but sometimes it conflicts with date night. :) Anyways, this past Friday they held a special Musical Family Home Evening which ended up being a musical talent show. Emily and I were asked to perform something. We played a really short song that was pretty goofy. Although our gig wasn't that great, Emily accompanied two of the other performances. It was a really fun night!
This is Emily accompanying Papa Haga. He played "I Know That My Redeemer Lives" on the sax. 
This is Emily accompanying a quartet singing "Nearer My God to Thee."
This was the last act in the Musical Talent Show. Steve played conductor and split up the crowd into three parts; the drums (clickity-clack-clack), the sopranos (m'm-toot-toot), and the basses (m'm-beef-stew). If you watch the video, you'll understand. ;)

We had some spare time on Saturday, so we decided to go window shopping. One of the shops we went to was a pet shop. We were walking around and I heard a voice say "ohaio" (means good morning). I looked around and the only person around was Emily and I know she didn't say anything. I told Emily, "I think this bird just said ohaio to me." She came over and we tried talking to it. It eventually responded "arigato." Emily was cracking up. (Emily's note: I swear that bird spoke better Japanese than I do...ridiculous.) We should have taken a video of it, but for some reason it escaped our minds. How cool would it be to own a bird that speaks Japanese?

This has nothing to do with our window shopping adventures, but I'm going to put it here anyways. This is March's bulletin board that Emily put together. She changes it every month at school. So pretty!
Today marks a year from the time Japan had the major earthquake and tsunami that devastated the Tohoku area of Japan. Since we live in the Tohoku area, we are constantly hearing about it. Today we were invited to a special Hawaiian and Hula Concert that was put on to help ease people's minds and hearts. As the concert started, we had a minute of silence for those that had passed on from the disaster a year ago. Here are some pictures and videos from the concert (sorry for the poor quality).
No, this is not Emily with an awesome tan. Just outside the concert hall were a bunch of booths set up with Hawaiian gear. This was one of the dresses that Emily really liked. 
The concert was about 2.5 hours long and featured local hula groups as well as some people from Hawaii like Makaha Sons, Jeri-Lynn Koko, Shadow Koko, and Anthony Kawenaulaokala Mann.
Short video of almost all the pros performing together. It's hard to see, but the Makaha Sons are singing and playing while Shadow and Jeri-Lynn Koko are dancing.

On the way home, it started hailing/sleeting/raining pretty heavily. We decided to bike home anyways holding our umbrellas in one hand. Although we were still getting a little wet and getting really cold, we hung in there... until... the wind destroyed Emily's beautiful umbrella. I tried offering my umbrella, but she said she was already soaked. By the time she answered, I was already soaked too, so we just rode home in the sleet and got drenched. I would say that it was fun, but it wasn't... :P We did make it home safely and all of our clothes are hanging up in front of the heater trying to dry.
I hate it when this happens... 
We love you all very much and hope that you will have a good week! Stay tuned for our upcoming adventures at the slopes!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Singing Ourselves Silly...or Sick

On Monday for Family Home Evening this week, James and I tried karaoke for the first time together. Wow, we have been missing out.

The karaoke bar we went to was in the basement of a very dingy, somewhat smelly, building and (thanks to my mother's germ phobia), I kept telling James, "Don't touch anything! There is disease everywhere here!" Turns out I was right, but I'll expound on that later. When I learned that there was all-you-can-drink hot chocolate for only 100yen, I forgot all about germs.

We had a blast serenading each other on what ironically was our year-and-a-half anniversary. (Yes, we are still newlyweds and can celebrate things like that.)

It took us about 20 minutes to figure out how to use the machine (all in Japanese) and to find the English songs. But once we did, there was no stopping us.

Hot chocolate!

Sorry, bad quality. Does it adequately capture his excitement? James was such a good sport. And a rather good singer, too.
Well, apparently the excitement of karaoke was too much for poor James (either that or he didn't obey my orders not to touch anything) because he came down with the flu a couple days later. It was...violent. I will spare you the gruesome details, but I have never seen my poor hubby so sick. I did think it was noble of him to cut down on our grocery bill by eating only applesauce for a couple days. Fortunately, he is feeling much better now.

This week was graduation at my base school. Graduation in Japan is an extremely solemn ceremony. There is a lot of standing up, bowing, sitting down. And the gym was FREEZING! Cheese whiz, sometimes I really wish there was such a thing as central heating...or any kind of heating. Anyway, below is a picture of one of my favorite students, Kana. She graduated this week. I will miss her a lot, but James will be teaching at her college, so hopefully we will stay in touch.

And a bit of random baking. These look really foul, but I promise they aren't too bad. They are called butterscotch haystacks. Chow mein noodles, peanuts, raisins, and chocolate chips coated with melted butterscotch chips and peanut butter. James says, "They're all right." Of course, if you asked James how he feels about his wife, he would probably say, "She's all right." I never really know what he means with that phrase...that's probably his tactic.

Anyway, here's wishing you a happy week. Love to all our family and friends!