Fun in the Sun

June and July have been a blast! So much beach time and Matsuri festivals going on! It’s so hard to keep up with everything!

I’ll try to keep this brief.

Key word; TRY!  ;))

In July it was the end of term one at the high schools.  I was working on final lessons and term end listening tests. The students study a lot during this time and the club activities, other than sports clubs, get postponed till after the term tests. The students on the sports teams were all sent to Nagasaki Area to compete in the Nagasaki Prefectural sports tournament! These of pictures from the TV at school as we watched them march into the field! I also signed up for the TEFL course to help improve my understanding of teaching English as a foreign language. I applied for a grant through CLAIR and received the grant. One thing I learned from this is always to check the authenticity of the site before you use it on your application because once I went to pay for it, there was no purchase course page. So I had to ask for permission to change the course in order to keep the grant. But luckily they let me switch courses and I was able to begin my lessons! I also got invited to join the cooking club in making a traditional Japanese dish called Yogoshi, with pumpkin, soy bean paste, sesame, soy sauce, Iki (squid) and a jelly agar Japanese people eat in the summer. We steamed and boiled some of the ingredients and then mashed them all together into a mush. It was delicious! despite the look! I think the point was to look bad and taste great lol.  Oh and Iki got its second Family Mart convenience store! So much fun! Apparently, we’re scheduled to have 5 in total, one in each main town and on in Yunamoto, the onsen town!

I also got my Japanese drivers license!  I took a day in June that I had off because of sports day on the weekend (substitute holiday) and flew into Oumra to the driving center. I spent the whole day in a cafe with a Japanese girl who studied English in Australia because it was raining. Then I walked to the center and began the interview to compare my Canadian test and license to the Japanese one. Once they confirmed the details (all in English too!) and approved it I was issued my license!  It’s such a cool picture too!!

June 11th was the Ajisai matsuri! (Hydrangea festival). My Taiko group was going to perform first on the program. The day before we helped set up the hydrangea displays in the front of the building. We also helped others set up paintings and tables. Then we donned our new yellow (awful colour….sorry to those who like yellow. It’s my least favourite colour.) Taiko group shirts! And we get to keep them! We performed our really long, 3 part song and I got some great pictures from one of the guests. I don’t have the video recording yet, but when I do, I’ll upload it to Youtube and the link will appear at the top of the main page and here for you to view it later!

The next weekend, I participated again in the JET webinar. This time it was “How do I prepare for my move to Japan!” Everything you need to know about packing and setting up life in Japan! It’s really great being able to share advice from your experiences to help others get prepared! I’ve posted the link above and you can click the title to view the recorded interview! The ALT’s also went to Minatoya, the only hostel on Iki! We’re good friends with the owners who moved to Iki last year! Now the wife has her first baby girl!  We had a home made sushi party where we got to make the sushi! It was great!  Jesse, Graeme and I also participated in a Katsumoto Sake Rice planting event! We planted the rice stalks and in the fall we’ll get the Sake harvested from the rice we planted! We all went in bare foot, the traditional way, and it took a week to get the mud out from under my toes. And that was WITH scrubbing!

June on Iki is supposed to be the rainy season, however this year, we got hardly any rain. At Eikaiwa (English conversation club) we talked about the rainy season and what it’s like around the world. This year, we got no rain until the end of June and we had 2 very strong rain storms a week apart!  According to the stats, we had 1.3 times more rain in 2 storms than we do over the entire regular rainy season. June was sunny and warm and we were on the verge of a drought. Jully began with heavy rain, mud slides, floods and high winds. The lightening was soo bright it was like foot ball field lights were outside my room and the thunder was so loud I felt the ground shake and I could not sleep. I was very exhausted at work lol. And through it all the Japanese don’t cancel work or school… sometimes I wonder about the how determined the Japanese people are to work through everything! We had so much rain that it caused numerous land slides across the island. Some pictures below can show slides that blocked the roads. Some are still not completely fixed yet. We weren’t affected as much as main land Kyushuu but it was pretty bad. One day on my way to work, I started to get out of my driveway and noticed smaller roads leading to the main road were like rivers of water. Even the main road was covered in water like a stream! I had my wipers on max power and I could barely see, and as I drove at only 30km/h Huge waves of water were created with my car on either side! It was so scary I was laughing hysterically in my car with disbelief! I could not believe this much rain could fall and that I was still required to go to work! I guess I could have taken a sacred Nenkyuu (paid holiday), but I didn’t want to waste it on the weather! Looking back, it was quite the experience!

July is an important month for many reasons!  Canada Day, my birthday and CAMP NANOWRIMO! lol.  Yes I started editing my novel a lot in June and with the story fresh in my head and a new map all drawn out I was ready to begin crash writing with a cabin of random folks from around the world who also wanted to write a lot! So I joined a cabin online and posted the working chapters in a google doc and started sharing my work with my new friends! It was great! I wrote 60 pages during the month of July and I got to read their stories too! I got a lot of feed back and tips and I am so much closer now to finishing the first draft of my novel. I am so happy I completed my goal. It’s really helped to motivate me to complete the book one day and get it published! I also got in touch with an old friend who’s also getting back into writing and his work collaboration can be read on his blog DWAGNER Writing!

For Canada day I bought some fireworks at the life store and, after attending a surfers bbq, we set them off on the beach. I did not know about the cool fireworks festival in Fukuoka, but if I had I think I would have preferred to go there. July 7th was also Star day or Tanabata. The story goes, the daughter of a guy used to weave a lot and she was really good but she was lonely so her dad set her up with the son of a farmer (these are all stars btw in the milky way galaxy). They got married but they both never did their work anymore so they were forbidden to see each other. But then the daughter was soo lonely that she begged to see her husband on the other side of the river. So her father said ok but only for one day a year. And that was the start of the wishing festival. On this day, people write their wishes or prayers on a strip of paper and tie it to a bamboo tree that hangs in a particular way. It is believed the stars will grant your wishes on this day when they cross the river. So at work, I wrote the kanji of my wish on a paper and hung it on the office bamboo tree!!

 

2017-07-07 17.52.06
This is the tanabata bamboo tree at work! Mine is the one you can clearly read! It says; I wish to finish writing my novel and publish it!

 

July became a busy month of events. My friend Becky was packing to move away as she left the JET Programme. We were scheduled to get 2 new JETs, an ALT and a CIR and my predecessor came to visit for vacation! We also had the Iki beach party on the weekend of Sea day (July 15-17th!)  We had about 41 JETs from around Japan come to Iki!  We camped on the beach for 3 days and BBQed and swam the whole time! It was a lot of fun.

The following weekend of the 23rd, was the Yamakasa matsuri, Iki’s biggest festival of the summer!  In this festival, guys wear white and carry these really heavy shrines around town and visit all the shrines and drink sake. They ever had to carry them up the stairs! It was cool and crazy at the same time. In the evening we went to the festival grounds and I ran into many of my students! It was a lot of fun! I met up with my Japanese and JET friends to go to the festival. We got these cool Denki sodas (light bulb shaped soda). It was cool because they lit up the bottle with a little LED light.

Then my friend Jessica, whom I met in Kobe but is a JET from Tomoya prefecture, came to Iki for 2 days!  I picked her up at the airport on the 23rd and we went to a Hula dancing concert competition near Tsutsukihama beach that involved dancers all the way from Tokyo! Then we joined my friends at the Yamakasa festival. She stayed until the afternoon of the 24th and I took a holiday to show her around Iki. We visited Dragon island (Tatsu no Shima) and monkey rock (Saruiwa), the mini village near Yunamoto and hung out with Rachel! It was a blast! I had an amazing sushi dinner with Selena, my predecessor on Tuesday the 25th after Jessica left, and had lunch with her and my commercial high school’s teachers on the 26th. She is so cool and I really wished we could have worked together. I hope one day I can visit her in New Zealand!

During this week, our new ALT, Emi, arrived on Wednesday the 26th from South California and Becky from North California moved out on Friday the 28th. We took Emi out to dinner the day she arrived and capped off the night with a karaoke trip! It was really fun! The next day we had a farewell movie party for Becky and watched Ant Man and ate tacos! It was really fun and messy and hanging out was really great. Rachel and I made her a photo album of all our memories on Iki together and we got her friends to sign messages too.  On Becky’s last day, the 28th, I took holiday and we swam at Nishiki beach to snorkel with the fish!  I got a pretty bad sunburn too. Then we had lunch at Chips with Kanako, our Japanese friend and took Becky to the port. It was really sad to see her go. I will miss Becky a lot but I hope she is successful in her new job in Japan!

The weekend of the 29th was really fun. I’d signed up for a Bonsai workshop in Omura city. I took the Jetfoil and a bus down from Fukuoka and arrived a couple hours early. The workshop was led by a famous Bonsai expert and translated for us. We got to choose between a Japanese maple; Momiji, and a Juniper. I took tons of notes on how to care for the Bonsai properly too. During the class, we trimmed our bonsais and shaped them with wire. Then we transplanted them and got to take them home! I really hope I can bring it home with me! All this for only 2000yen!  Then I spent the night with some Omura JETs and had a tabenomihoudai (all you can eat and drink). It was really fun! Ran into my Toronto JET friend Alex and ate way too much! I stayed the night with Lisanne, a super cool JET from South Africa! I also ran into her in Okinawa at Christmas so it was really fun getting to see her again and see her cool house! She was really fun to talk to and even took me to the airport the next morning to catch my plane back to Iki!

 

When I returned to Iki on the 30th, I met up with Rachel, Emi and Jesse and we all spent the day at Kuyushihama beach for the Natsu no Yume Matsuri! (Summer dream festival) We tried surfing with a few instructors! (soo fun!) and fishing for puffer fish! (Fugu). We swam in the wavey ocean and went down this water slide they’d set up to land in the ocean! We ate Iki gyuu (beef) burgers and this awesome matcha milk shaved ice thing! We even tried to compete in the flag race with the kids and the true or false (Maru Batsu) contest for gift card prizes. Unfortunately, even if we understood Japanese really well… we couldn’t answer the questions. It was all guess.

The next day was … drum roll, please… MY BIRTHDAY!!! This year I turned 27 and took the day off to spend it at the dragon island beach! I made a picnic lunch and packed up all my new beach gear and headed for the ferry in town. For my bday, I got a wonderful water colour pencil sketching kit which I took with me to the beach and attempted to draw the life guard and land slide. About an hour in, Emi joined me and we drank Ramune and swam around the beach being chased by a bee! We ended up being the last people to leave. For some reason, the guards were trying to rush us even though there was plenty of time for me to pack up before the boat left. Then we met Rachel and Jesse at Mocha Java and had burgers!  After, they surprised me with a fruit cheese cake with Edward Elric painted on top in chocolate! It was delicious and awesome!! Also, Becky and Rachel had gone in and got me a bonsai asparagus! It’s soo cute! His name is Harry lol because he’s so fuzzy!

I also got a wonderful small parcel from my family with many wonderful gifts inside including Kubo and the Two Strings, Rogue One and the 150 Canada coin set! A really cool Tardis Dr Who shirt I can wear to work and an elastic loomed dragon from my cousin Olivia! Thank you, everyone, for your birthday wishes and cards! It was lovely to read them when I got home!

On August 1st, my friends I met in Kobe from Fukui, came to Iki for 2 days! They are a married couple so I made sure I set up my room for they had a privacy curtain! I picked them up first thing in the morning on Tuesday and brought them back home to change and relax and show them a map of Iki. Later, we traveled around Katsumoto and saw Dolphin park and the feeding time play time show, we had lunch at Mocha Java and we also swam at Dragon Island (for me again!  Now I’d been to the beach 3 days in a row! and to Dragon Island 7 times this year alone!) It was really fun using my gear again and showing them my town! After swimming, we drove down to Ishida and had dinner with Emi and Rachel at Tenryuu sushi! OMG it was soo fresh and delicious!! And I just happened to want to try all the expensive food… so I was a little sad afterward.

On Wednesday we did a U of Iki and started with an amazing breakfast made by yours truly! Eggs and Toast and Cream of wheat!  (we had different tastes in the morning lol). Then we drove down to the Museum and took the tour and saw the really cool comic art of the demons of ancient Japan! We toured Haru no Tsuji (the Ikikoku village) ((because back in the day Iki used to be it’s own country about 2000 years ago!)). Then we ate lunch at chips and said hi to my friend Kanako! We all got the pizza lunch special and then drove down to one of the 7 shochu distilleries for a tour! At the distillery, you can taste all the local shochu and then buy the one you like! They had alcohol percentages ranges from 15 to 43%!!!! It was goooood! ;p

Other things I did this month relate to lessons!  I got to take the Koto home for the month of July and practice! It was so fun and I wish I could keep it longer because I loved practicing and playing at home in front of my window!  I also officially started shoudo lessons with Ozeki-san!  The other two ladies I see at shoudo lessons encouraged me to take lessons because they thought my writing was really good! So I thought I’d give it a go!  With lessons, we have to practice different writings each month and hand in a good copy at the end which they grade! I don’t have a level in shoudo yet because I’ve never been graded, but soon we will find out what level the pros think I’m at!!

Well, that’s the jist of Summer until August’s post! Hope you guys are enjoying your summer too!! I miss you all terribly but it’s way too costly to come home, so I’ll continue to update you through my blog!  Feel free to Facebook or email me! Or even contact me through line or the comments at th ebottom of the blog! I’d love to hear from you!

 

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