Sunday, March 30, 2008

Getting to know the Niigata Prefecture and Tsubame/Sanjo

This is Tsubame Station! This is where I'll be going everymorning during the week to get to work and different schools. YAY! Doesn't it look fun. I like trains!

Enjoy your cyber tour of Tsubame area!

Here are a few pictures of houses (and mee-mee in a phone booth). The houses vary quite a bit but for the most part thy still have those cool Japanese arch. roofing. The neighborhoods here are really cute, tight-knit and friendly feeling. Biking is also very popular here.

Here's a few shots form the bridge! Check out the mountains in the wayyyy background!

A few shots of the city. As you can see some of the streets are realllly small. The main roads are ok but outside those they get really narrow.

I love the old little streets full of flowers anywhere they fit! In the city where there isn't alot of land for flowers and growing, there are alot of little potted plants everywhere. I even found a cumquat plant!

Getting out of the city toward where I live everyone has little gardens! The Japanese are very handy/industrious and busy people. Even if the land is 3 feet by 4 they've made something beautiful out of it. There are these beautiful little Japanese landscaped gardens all over the neighborhood. I love going on walks to see them! Plus there is alot of (food)gardening here as well. Further out of the city the people may have a little more land and they really get into the gardening. I mean green houses and all. It's really cool, everyone gardens! And they garden anywhere they can too. I've seen some pretty creative ones.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Well it's been a couple days. Thanks are going well. I've gotten settled in and learned a little more about Japan and the necessary navigations.

Banking is kinda cool and different here. Most peole bank at their local post office. Which sounds wierd to most of us who usually bank at a bank. But you can do all of your banking at the post office as well as pay bills there. You can also do that at 711 (You can't swing a cat without hitting a 711 here)It's also kinda cool because when you set up your account you get a little record book to which acts like a bank card as well and when you insert it into an atm and make a transaction the transaction is directly recorded to your little book by machine so that you don't have to go back and do it your self later, or pile up transaction reciepts. It's cool. Plus you can deposit or take out any amount of money. Yesterday I deposited 300yen and took out 61 yen (which is mere change in coins)Usually in the states you can't take out a lower amount than $20.

Well I've been checking out the maps, stations and busses. I actually bought a map yesterday. It's in Japanese of course but I recognise the areas based on their relative location. It's good though because I have another that matches up the same areas with transportaion. So now when I look up online things to do and what events are comming up I know where the town/city is and can easily look up how to get there. It's exciting. I took a look at some event comming up here.

Mid April-Cherry blossom celebrations and festivities
Endish April-Tulip show (fields and fields worth)
It's either June or July there's a big firework show in Nagaoka (which is pretty close...about 40 min by bus, south westish)Nagaoka is famous all over Japan for it's fireworks!
End of June-There's a huge music, Rock festival in Niigata city (40min North)The Fuji music festival.

I'm really excited to get better aquainted with the area. I'm soooooo lucky there's good transportaion here. Plus with so many close sister cities I can get around all over the prefecture at a pretty good price too. YAY! Plus school will be starting here soon. I get more and more excited as it gets closer. ^___^

My Japanese is makings small improvements. At least I'm starting to recognise the few words I know in a conversation....well sometimes, not everytime. It'll get better too as I practice but even just being here the past couple days and pretty much only listening a few things are starting to click. It's funny though because as I was talking to myself as I always do I said: arways instead of always. Oh no! Oops!

Well it's going great here. The more I meander and explore this area the more beautiful it is. I'll admit that at first I thought it was nice enough. Now that I explore I really am loving it more. It's growing on me fast. I love to look out over the bridges and I love all the little gardens all over the place and little rice fields here and there, and this cute little lady I met at the bakery.It's very nice I'm enjoying it more and more. I'll remember to take my camera next time on my journey so that you all can enjoy some of the views here as well. A gran tour perhaps.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


Monday was grocery food guessing game. Just because it has a picture on the package doesn't mean that's what it is...and vice versa...just because there isn't a fish on the package doesn't mean they don't try to slip it in there. I think I did pretty well with the exception of soy sauce. There are too many choices of dark liquids that could be soy sauce. I had to have someone find it for me. Not bad for a gaijin. Then I got home are realised all the instructions are in Japanese as well....Oh crud!

Today was explore the area day. I went eastish. I encountered berry flavored kit kats in celebration of the cherry blossom festivals comming up, bike shops, books stores up the wazooooo, and kitchen/cutlery place, a mall, a grocery store, the drycleaners(always good to know) and a craft store (with uber cute fabric of course) and a 100 yen store and a walmart-ish type place with a little of everything, and the fish market ( stores). For the record I didn't get lost and managed to do all that with out any knowledge of the Japanese launguage. All you need is arms and a face to get around, but it helps to know "please" and "thank you". ^_____^ My nose got too much sun and now it's pinky.

Yesterday I started my illustrated version of my journal. I know time will be tighter once school starts but it's fun recording the adventure this way...if I ever find a scanner somewhere I'll post a few of the pages. It has been enjoyable. I usually never have time like this to draw and piddle around. Plus, Mom would be proud to know that I got lots of veggies and have actually done some cooking. Last night I made Egg-fu-young...well it was my take and variation on it because I couldn't remember how to make it really. It was good ^____^ I'm also scouting out the best treats of course too.

Before I came to Japan people said that others would stare. I think I stare more at them than them at me. However today while I was looking dumbfounded at the Train station map, two high schooler girls where giggling and taking pictures of me with their cell phones.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Nalgene bottle story

OH, I have a kinda funny story. I use my nalgene bottle while I'm here because the water cups they give out here in Japan are so small. Water bottles themselves are quite small. If you go to a resturant or any place where they may give water, it is done so in 6oz water glasses. No joke (You can find the same complaint in "Japan-Ai". It really is like that! So there's never enough water, I lug my nalgene.
Ok, so I went to the 'bento' down stairs in the hotel and set the nalgene on the counter while I purchased some batteries. The cashier in oh-so Japanese tone, exclaimed: "eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeehhhhhhhhhhhhhhh" (the eh sound accends in tone) "waaaaaaaaaaaater"..."eeeeeeeehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh"..."water to driiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiink" (in same 'eh' tone) So of course her reaction cause other curious customers to look wide eyed at my nalegen bottle as well, and several gathered around to see it.
Later on I was taking a drink while seated, waiting for someone in the lobby. I got a lot of stares and head turns to watch me guzzle from the bottle. It made me laugh, they looked at me as if it where alcohol or something. It bewildered them terribly.


Wow! Training is done! We cramed classes till Thursday and where given our teaching assignments. We where partnered up to teach a 50 minute lesson. We got our topics Thusrday night and I worked with my partner/co-teacher Dave (from North London)for several hours. We had great ideas. It really helps to be able to bounce around ideas. It seems some of the best come from the passing around of ideas and makeing small tweaks to them. Anyhoo, we crammed and colored, made charades and worksheets. Phew! Then Friday we were split up in groups and gave our lessons. I got some really good, actually alot of really good ideas from everyone and even though I was totaly nervous, I suppose it all played out really well. We did our lesson, got a pretty good critique, and I left near immediatley for the mall to brows 'Book Off' and get a Strawberry Crepe. ^____^ But first I had to have a check in with my trainer Jodi. I love Jodi. Now initially I thought that my weeks training score would not be high and just moderate or average. I thought this mainly because when we got our assessment score back mine wasn't so good. So I was nervous and a little reluctant to go right in and talk to Jodi but I did. I was a little surprised to hear that I had gotten a 'Superior' rating and was only 2 participation points away from making it a 'Master', only 5-6 'Master' ratings where given out to the 250-300 of us. Also on my skills assessment test I got a 100%, a grade that only 4 other people got. I was impressed. Then he told me that I was a good listener. (A compliment I don't hear often...usually I'm not really high in my listening skill). Needless to say I was quite pleased with the out come. ^_____^

My Group: This is about half of us.

After the big lesson I returned to pack and do laundry and get ready for the big day the next day. We where to meet in the lobby at 7:50. I finished packing and brought it down to the front desk where the 'Post' service is. The POST service is fabulous, it's like mail for luggage and other big things you can't easily tote around, you can send it anywhere in Japan uber cheap. (For those of you who have seen Aimee Majors book "Japan Ai" this is the service with the logo of a mother cat carrying her kitten). So wheather you don't want to carry your golf clubs on the bus because it's a nausance, post it. Luggage, post it. It gets there in a day or two. I sent mine off Friday night at about 10 at night. We left for Tokyo at 8 Sat. morning.
At my stop off the bullet train, Ms Komazawa my IC picked me up and took me to my apartment, got gas turned on, and internet set up to work in 24 hours. She also took me around to pick up a few things: Futon, dishes, laundry stuff and a few other odds and ends.

100 yen store is my best friend. (the dollar store)

This morning I got quite a bit of reading done while airing out my apartment. Japanese seem to smoke alot and I kinda knew my apt. would be a smokey one, my hotel room was too. It'w been very nice. It was really nice to sleep in too.

I meandered around for while to check out the area. I didn't want to go too far because I was expecting my luggage from POST to come. So I just went on a little walk, came home, did a little more reading and airing out the place. I decided I would take a little nap for an hour and heard a knock at the door, YES!!!!! My luggage, whooot woot! So, now I'm unpacked and ready to go.

Tomorrow Ms. Komazawa comes to get me to run more errands: immigration cards/bank/and to get a phone so that I can be in contact with interac.

A side note about Interac. At first I have to admit that in my mind it would be some old random guy to come and get me and that this would be kind of an out of the back of a truck buisness, maybe sketchy...I had my nervous thoughts especially because of what happened with the NOVA program here in Japan. But INTERAC is great! Training has been amazing! We've meet a ton of people in the company and they are all super awesome and GENKI like you've never seen a person their age. I am pleased to say that I am really excited about not only being in Japan but working under INTERAC. They have been very thurough in training and proceedure and preparing us for such a different culture. Giving us oppurtunities to teach and learn so much. The leadership in the company is strong and open. I feel comfortable talking to my MC or any of my area schedulers if I need anything and feel confident that they are there for me in quick reaction. This seems like a great company and I'm really excited to be teaching. I still have alot of my nerves about teaching especially High school but I'm sure they will smooth out in time.

Training has also been really neet in the sense of getting to know people from all over I love having classes with the mixed humor from around the world, and faces and accents. I've already made friends from all over. It's really fun.

Well here's a little apartment tour:

It's cute, I sleep in a little loft. ^_____^ I really like it.

I took some pictures of the pretty and festive Japanese food so you all can see what it looks like. Such presentation!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The scoop!

Well tomorrow is finally Wednesday! Things are going so awesome here but at the same time I feel like I've been here forever! We've got classes for about 8 hours a day and then usually finish it off with a little trip to the mall at the end of the day.

Wow, where do I start.

Sunday we had policy classes.
Monday we confirmed assignments, met branch and team members (The people that take care of us!) got housing contracts and even paid for my first month and a half of rent. I also got hanken (A little stamp of my last name, it works like a signature). Then for dinner drank this mysterious tapioca peach drink.

it wasn't bad but it wasn't good either.

Tuesday went over class material. We did practice simulations teaching and drills and games.

This could all potentially be pretty boring but this is a fabulous place and company to be working with. Class it's self is practically stand up comedy! Jody our entertainer, I mean trainer, it awesome, not only funny but is really preparing us well for the real little Japanese world out there and I'm feeling more and more confident that despite all the social rules, I might have a chance. =^____^=

Funny thing about speaking Japanese because as you all know I don't know Japanese but more than a small handful of words which my mind has seemed to store under the "other language" portion of my brain, causing the problem of speaking Spanish on an occasion when naturally Japanese is more appropriate. However even then I may not even use the correct words at all.
For example: I went to pick up my key for my room, I did well to start with and even remembered to receive it with both hands and a bow, but then I opening my yapper and said loudly, "Gracias, ohayo gosai mas" (I'm sure I butchered the spelling but you all know what I said.) Now, in this circumstance the correct phrase would be thank you but no, I said "thank you" in Spanish and then said "hello, good morning" (greeting). It made no sense according to the situation. Latter that day again Gracias slipped when I got off the bus.

It's beautiful and amazing to be here! I'm stoked to get to my area. Apparently I'm just out side Niigata City but still in the prefect of Niigata and just on the verge of the country side. The ocean is just over the hill from my apartment. It all seams so beautiful and exciting and can't wait to explore and meet the kids!

Just as an ending note I feel quite fine here and safe and confident in the company to take care of me while I'm here.

One of the coolest things here that I have also enjoyed is meeting people from all over the world. My roommate Jessica is from London and so is out neighbor that I sometimes hang out with. We've got Australians, Irish, Scottish, British, American, there may be another European country. Anyhoo, it's really neet!

Well, I'm all in good health here and hope to hear that you all are also doing well. I'll write with more info later on training.

Saturday I leave at 7am for my area.

I love and miss you all


This is the hotel where we are staying. I've also included a few odd signs and stuff I've seen too. The dragon water thing is where you wash your hands with the holy sacred water before intering into the Narita Temple. ^__^

This is the Narita Japanese temple in the dusk-evening. ^____^ Enjoy!