I ended my last update telling you about my apartment and giving you a teaser for the next post. Well, at that time I had NO IDEA that it would be so long between posts. Never fear, you don't have to hold your breath any longer. Here is some more about my apartment.
|This is the other side of the bathtub. On the wall is a control to turn on the hot water, choose the temperature, and to reheat the water in the bath.|
|This sink / vanity area is next to the shower room|
|My washing machine. Then I have to hang dry my clothes.|
|This is the inside of the door. There is an area to take off your shoes because you can't wear shoes past the entryway. This is the case virtually everywhere in Japan.|
|View through my apartment from the front door. The vanity and shower room are to the immediate left, behind the first wall is the stairway, then the washing machine, and my bedroom in the back.|
|Stairs to the upstairs. They're pretty steep, and curve once again like this.|
|This is my living room area. I've since moved the table and added more furniture. This room is to the left from the top of the stairs.|
|My kitchen. This is to the right of the top of the stairs.|
|My stove and oven. Yes, that small thing in the middle is my entire oven. Japanese people don't bake much, except perhaps fish.|
|My entire upstairs. I am standing against the wall in my living room. The first door frame is my stairs, the door frame after the cabinet is my fridge, and then my kitchen.|
|The view outside of my back door. I have no idea what this is, I don't think I've looked out there aside from when I took the picture.|
|A beautiful garden I walk past every day|
|Fun trinket. Bonus points to whoever comments and knows what it is!|
The week of December 5-10 I was in training for my job. I shadowed a man from the company that hired me, so I wasn't actually at my school. I observed his classes and did some other logistical things like completing my contract, applying for my foreign resident registration, and registering for the national health insurance.
I started work at my school, Lily Vale Primary School on Monday, December 12. Lily Vale is a Japanese shogakko, or elementary school, but it is modeled after a British school. The classrooms are in individual buildings, with courtyards in between. The buildings and 'streets' have English names, such as Chelsea Lane and the Great Hall.
The school has students from grades 1-6, and three classes in each grade, for a total of 18 classes. Each class has English twice a week. There are two Japanese English teachers, Ms. A and Mr. M that split the classes. There is also another AET, or Assistant English Teacher, at the school besides me, and he is from England. He has been sick since I arrived, though, so I have not met him yet. The past two weeks I worked with all ages of students and took over some of the other AET's classes since he was unable to attend. It made for a really busy schedule, but I enjoyed it a lot. I like to keep busy, and it helped me to be able to meet many students and get a feel for what the classes at different levels are like.
As an AET, I do not teach the classes, but work as an assistant to the Japanese English teacher. I help a lot with examples and pronunciations, as well as teaching them about western culture. There are so few foreigners in Japan (called gaijin) that non-Japanese people really stand out and are pretty uncommon in rural areas. People, especially children are shocked to see gaijin, and it is not uncommon for them to stare. The children are happy to get to know me, and are astonished by my height, my brown hair, and my green eyes. They love to ask me how old I am, if I have a boyfriend, and to just interact with me in general. This is a big part of my job. Between classes I go into the courtyard and interact with the students, engaging them as much as possible. I am not allowed to use any Japanese at the school (even basic Japanese, such as good morning or excuse me), which encourages the students to practice their English. Some times we have a difficult time communicating, but a smile and friendly demeanor truly do communicate across cultures.
In the morning, all of the teachers line up at the large wrought iron gates at the front of the school and welcome students as they come in. The students say おはよございます！(ohayo gozaimasu - good morning) and bow to each teacher. I great the students with a 'Good Morning', and they're expected to answer me back. I get to school by school bus though, and it seems that my bus is always the last to arrive. So, I get off the bus and say hello to the remaining students that come in, then go into the office, or to the weekly morning assembly, depending on the day of the week.
The schedule is divided into six periods, with home room in the morning and afternoon, and lunch after fourth period. Since I don't have a homeroom, my break time is during the homeroom times, and I attend classes all six periods. The teachers also eat lunch with the students. I eat the school lunch, which includes rice and miso (soybean) soup every day, in addition to some cooked veggies and a main course. We've had fish with some sort of fish gravy, curry, tonkatsu (fried pork cutlet), and some sort of egg. Everyone's surprised that I don't mind eating the school lunch.
Last week the students had a Christmas Assembly (recital) for the parents. There were three different plays, one for the 1st and 3rd graders, one for the 2nd and 4th graders, and one for the 5th and 6th graders. There were three performances, as well, because each play only consisted of two classes. Kind of confusing, but all in all there were 9 plays. We spent three days of the first week I worked rehearsing for the plays (one day for each performance), so those days we only had classes after lunch. The recital was that Saturday, and it went very well. The students did such a great job! The plays were entirely in Japanese, but they were fully costumed and choreographed, with mics, sets, and scene changes - even for the 1st graders! I was blown away.
Because the play was on a Sunday (the only day most people have off in Japan), the school was closed the following Monday. That Friday was a national holiday for the emperor's birthday, so my second week was only three days of classes. I was supposed to work Saturday, as well, but I twisted my ankle and was unable to work (it's mostly better now). Since then I've been on Christmas / New Years' vacation and will start back to school on January 10.
Hope this clarified some of your questions about my apartment and work! I've also been very busy with some activities, travels to Tokyo, football games, and of course, Christmas. I intend to fill you in on more of that soon. Til then, I hope all is well. Have a happy new year!