Wow, another year has flown by and a new one is about to begin. This year has been full of ups and downs, but all in all it was not a bad year. Before looking forward, I think I’ll first take the opportunity to look back at exactly what type of year it was (especially since I actually starting writing this blog back in February.
Jun and I started out 2009 in Kyoto. We were planning on going to a shrine right at midnight to celebrate things like proper Japanese people do, but the shrine nearest to the place we were staying was closed! We ended up doing our shrine pilgrimage the next day. The highlight of the Kyoto trip was visiting a mountain covered in monkeys! Jun proved to be an excellent navigator and we packed a lot into our 5 day stay.
Jun also turned the big 20. We went to a place called Namja Town – a theme park inside a mall that is all cat themed. I was tempted to try the “snake ice cream” in Ice Cream land…but chickened out.
In February Jun and I celebrated our 1 year anniversary by going to our favorite place (well, one of them anyway): Disney Sea. Our first trip to Disney Sea together proved to be full of Disney magic from start to finish (approximately 8 am to 11 pm). It was also the first time that Minnie gave me a hug *squee* In February it also snowed several times here in Kawagoe. Trust me, I was surprised to wake up and find a blanket of white and upset to know that I now had to walk to work instead of bike.
To kick off March I volunteered to represent the Jr. high school I (formally) worked at at a soccer festival held in Saitama Stadium. It was a lot of fun, but my legs gave out on me due to the cold and serious lack of intense exercise (all could have been avoided had I actually done some proper stretching) and Jun had to help me waddle around. In March I also saw my first group of students graduate and attended my first Jr. high school graduation ceremony and end of the year party. I also started translated 【夜回り先生】(the Night Patrol Teacher) and am still in the process of translating it. March also saw the birth of one of my blog’s monthly specials “This Month in 給食.”
April in Japan is where everything turns pink because of all the cherry blossoms. Jun and I did Hanami with some of my co-workers by a river lined with cherry blossom trees. Cesar and I made homemade Whoppers and drank some of Michael’s sangria. I also appeared in the local newspaper as what I like to call “The Foreigner of the Month.”
Mom came to visit for a few weeks starting at the end of April. Before she came to Japan, the new school year started and I was placed in a Jr high school and an elementary school. Problems dealing with sexual harassment started popping up at the Jr. high school.
So, despite the craziness that swine flu caused, my mom was able to get into the country fine. Jun and I organized a busy two weeks for her that included seeing Wicked! in Odaiba, taking a trip down to Hakone, and going to Disney Sea. I joined the teen aged girl fandom that is Twilight and read the entire four books in about two weeks with special thanks to Cesar for letting me borrow the books.
June is when my life got hectic in terms of Jr. high school and the sexual harassment escalating to extremes. My boss’s stance was that “I was not dressing appropriately” to which several of my co-workers nearly punched him in the face. I then told the school I refused to go to second year classes and informed my boss that he would be changing my schools. On the bright side, Jun and I celebrated another monthly anniversary by going to a small amusement park to see a garden of thousands of hydrangeas and then we
wasted money and saw Terminator Salvation in a theater that reacted to the sounds and made you feel like you were actually in the movie. There was also a reunion with all of my exchange student friends and it was great to see everyone.
July had a lot of fireworks festivals that Jun and I got all dressed up for in our respective yukata to celebrate. Although it was not visible here because of rain, there was also a total solar eclipse that had not been seen for 46 years. Wish I had actually been able to see it… Jun and I also visited his second home and went to Fuji Safari Park where I got to hold a baby lion.
August was spent mostly sitting at the main office doing nothing…except playing Mario Kart on the DS with my co-workers and teaching ridiculous seminars that have no purpose other than to make it look like us ALTs actually work. I felt a lot of stress during the summer (due to my boss) so Jun decided to take me on a bunch of spontaneous trips out to Odaiba, a aquarium in Ikebukuro, and a trip to Disney Land. I also turned 24 and to celebrate we went to Disney Sea.
September started off good in that I switched schools and my days at elementary school increased (as we all know, the new Jr. high is a cause of major stress). Hikari turned 1-years-old and I made her a cake. My new elementary school had it’s sport’s festival that I worked at and I went to my first party with the elementary school teachers. At the end of the month, Jun’s family took us to Kanazawa were we ate delicious French food and we did a lot of sightseeing.
In October my middle host brother turned 14-years-old and I had to judge a speech contest. From the speech contest it was clear that there is little to zero passion about learning English and that the speech contest was not taken seriously by most of the schools. Jun and I went to Disney Land to see the Halloween decorations (and I still have the songs stuck in my head) while in Kawagoe the yearly festival took place. Thanks to this festival, my blog was featured on the front page of WordPress.com!
In November I finished decorating my classroom at one of my elementary schools and I gave an example English lesson for all the teachers in Kawagoe to come and observe. Jun and I went to the Chrysanthemun festival at a nearby shrine as well as Disney Sea for the Candle Light Reflections Finale. Jun and I found turkey at Costco and threw a great Thanksgiving dinner party. My friend Kris came to stay with me for a few days before she went back to America and we invented a new food by mistake: apple-cinnamon egg rolls. We went to Ueno Zoo together and road on the Narita Express for the first time.
December was uneventful…until the end! I went to see Avatar in 3D with my co-workers and, despite the movie being a remake of Fern Gully meets Dances with Wolves in space, we were totally blown away by the graphics. Cesar and I got way too involved with the characters and the story and were brought to tears a few times. Christmas was amazing in Odaiba and I had my first Christmas cake. My oldest host brother, Ta, turned 17-years-old and when I asked him what he wanted for his birthday he said “10 cups of strawberry flavored pudding, please.” Easy to please. I made gingerbread men with my host siblings and Jun and I did お掃除 (osouji – cleaning the house before New Years).
Today is December 31st (in Japan) and it feels very strange that another year is coming to an end. One of my college friends is visiting Japan, so Jun and I are meeting up with him and his little brother to bring in the New Year. I hope this year that the local shrine is actually in operation!
See you all in 2010!