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Merry Christmas!

December 25, 2012

Right now I’m in snowy Sapporo enjoying a very VERY white Christmas with Jess. Yesterday (Christmas Eve) we treated ourselves to seeing The Hobbit and today we spent the afternoon in Otaru, a city forty minutes from Sapporo famous for its glass. There will be a future blog post on all of that, but I wanted to drop in to leave a few things my fifth grade students asked from Santa this year for Christmas.

In the last week of school before our two-week winter break, English class consisted of writing letters to Santa using the following Target Language:

Dear Santa,
I want ___________.
Thank you,
[name]

So, without further ado, here are my favorites of what my kids wrote to Santa for.

I want…

a Nintendo 3DS (this and 3DS games were the most common answers)
hamsters
a library card
a UFO catcher (those claw games that take away all of your quarters)
a camera
Doraemon (info here)
Santa himself
a dog
money
a soccer jersey
Indian curry with rice
and my absolute favorite, a lot of books

Happy holidays everyone! Keep an eye out for some upcoming posts. For now, here’s a picture of a small Santa and a 100 yen Christmas card in the shape of a tree taken by the manga camera application on my American phone. 🙂

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Thanksgiving in Koga-shi

December 12, 2012

Though Christmas is just around the corner and Thanksgiving is now only an event in recent memory I thought I’d share a bit of how we celebrated the holiday here in Koga!

Everything began in October, when Jess and I were sitting in Room’z (see previous post to learn more!) chatting with Yukari-san, one of the owners. We were discussing Halloween, when one of us mentioned that as soon as Halloween finished we’d have to look immediately into planning Thanksgiving. That prompted explaining to Yukari-san which holiday we were talking about, and somehow the topic of conversation turned to the location of where we ALTs would get together. Jess and I agreed that our apartments would be way too small to host such a gathering, especially since we wouldn’t have a place to put all of the food. Yukari-san was silent for a moment, before saying, “Well, why don’t you have it here?”

There was silence for a split second before we ventured to ask, “Would that really be okay?” Yukari-san told us that it would be no problem, grabbed her calendar, and wrote on November 22nd that we would be holding Thanksgiving at the café.

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Room’z: A Place for Good Coffee and Good Conversation

December 6, 2012

One fun part about living in Koga is finding the places you become a regular at. They are the places where you go to relax, eat, drink, and (in my case, at least) practice your Japanese. For me, that place is a café called Room’z, which is located right next to TES (Tuesday Elementary School). It’s owned by a husband and wife team who also run the place every day, except for Wednesdays. The café is called Room’z because the building used to be a two-story house, and just about the entire thing was converted. Therefore, there are several rooms you can choose to sit in while you’re there.

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The Ashikaga Wine Festival

December 3, 2012

Every year in the city of Ashikaga, Coco Farm and Winery holds a gigantic festival on its grounds, aptly called the Ashikaga Wine Festival. The festival lasts two days (Saturday and Sunday), and draws hundreds of people from all over Japan. Since arriving in Japan, I had heard about the wine festival from Eric and Rob, who had lived and taught in Ashikaga before being moved to Koga. After eight months of hearing so many sung praises, the wine festival finally arrived.

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Ponies, Fire Trucks, and Seeing Eye Dogs, Oh My!

November 29, 2012

Recently, I was lucky enough to spend one of my Saturdays attending my Monday Elementary School’s culture festival. More specifically, the 若竹際 (wakatakesai) or “Young Bamboo Festival.” A culture festival is when a school opens its doors to the public to engage in a variety of activities that the students plan, from games to crafts to running around the school searching for fifth graders representing different holidays — Halloween, Christmas, et cetera — and getting them to stamp a sheet of paper within a certain time frame. For my elementary school’s case, it meant for the students’ families. Usually as students get older and start attending separate schools, they use culture festivals as excuses to visit each other.

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Happy Belated Thanksgiving!

November 26, 2012

Well, that time of year to stop and think about all of the things that you’re grateful for has come and passed. While my post regarding Thanksgiving in Koga is forthcoming, I thought I’d quickly post a belated list of what I’m thankful for. Since Thanksgiving fell on the 22nd this year, I decided to come up with twenty-two things I’m thankful for. These are all things that I’m just pulling off the top of my head, so it probably will be pretty easy to spot what’s been kicking around in my head lately.

Without further ado… The List

1) My (huge!) family
2) Old friends
3) New friends
4) Those I teach
5) Those who teach me
6) The insulated tumbler I recently bought at Starbucks
7) No-bake pie recipes
8) My electronic dictionary
9) Taking chances, making mistakes, and getting messy (bonus points if you get the reference)
10) Studying Japanese through language immersion
11) A lack of sprained ankles in the past year (excuse me while I go knock on wood)
12) Chocolate
13) Peanut butter
14) The combination of chocolate and peanut butter
15) Being fluent in English (kudos to Jess for pointing this one out!)
16) Heated toilet seats
17) Skype
18) Music
19) Living in Japan
20) Hot Tea
21) The section in Maruzen bookstore that has books written in English
22) A job that I’m (usually) happy to wake up in the morning for.
Happy Belated Thanksgiving!

Costumes Make For Good Motivation

November 5, 2012

Happy belated Halloween!

Well, Halloween has come and gone, meaning a week of Halloween lessons at all of my schools. Earlier in October I was silly and asked all of my schools what they wanted me to do for a special Halloween lesson, and obviously there wouldn’t be any way that they would want similar things. This meant I ended up with six separate lessons to plan. It wasn’t a complete terror, though, because while some schools had specific things they wanted me to teach, others like THES (Thursday Elementary School) only gave me vague instructions that I was allowed to interpret as broadly as I want.

With those vague instructions in hand, I ended up planning a lesson in which I issued a challenge to all of my sixth grade classes. Currently they are learning how to say, “Where do you want to go?” and “I want to go to [insert country here],” so after playing Pumpkin, Black Cat, Spider (the Halloween version of Rock, Paper, Scissors, courtesy of a fellow ALT named Lauren) I told each class that if two of the three classes could pass a plastic pumpkin while saying the Target Language all within a minute, I would put on my Halloween costume, which was a 着ぐるみ (kigurumi) — something that looks like an adult version of footie pajamas usually styled as a cartoon character — and wear it for all of sixth period. My costume was of ドラえもん (Doraemon), who has to be one of the most well-known characters in all of Japan.

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