Monday, February 13, 2006

This has to be the longest period that anyone has not posted on their blog! It's over 3 months ago. I am so lazy

Well today I finally have an afternoon of school when I'm absolutely free and don't need to worry about what I have to do tomorrow or anything! This afternoon the teachers are all in a meeting, so I have been left alone in the office. But it's good cos it means I can catch up on all this! Also tomorrow I am completely free so it will give me a chance to tidy my desk and do 1 or 2 boring admin things before coming back on here! The funny thing is that the very day I should be using Valentine's Day in the lessons, I have nothing to do. Oh well, such is life.

Well the last time I posted was Nov 6th 2005. Since then we had the Mid-Year Conference for Nagano-ken ALTs here in Shiojiri, then it was a hectic 3 or 4 weeks of school before I went on holiday to Thailand on 21st December until 8th January. That was a fantastic vacation and it was a thoroughly deserved break. It was starting to get really cold in Japan, but Thailand was hot and sunny all the time I was there.

However I came back from Thailand and 2 days later I was back to work. No consideration was given to the fact that I had been away for 2 and a half weeks, and the first couple of weeks were really busy! My to do list after the first day back was 2 pages long!! Not only was there school stuff to do, but I'm also having to get myself a Japanese driving license, sort out a way to send money back to the UK and get some stuff to keep my flat warm (by now it was a lot colder than when I left in December). I was very lucky not to have frozen/burst pipes though, as this can often happen if you leave during winter for a long time. Fortunately my advisor Tad switched my water off and drained the pipes, so I had no such problems! I wasn't too happy to come back and find that a box of things sent from home (including Christmas presents) had been searched by customs in Tokyo and all the gifts had been ripped open! It didn't feel too much like Christmas after that!

Now it's the middle of February and the cold is due to last until the end of March. Joy!! I have had ice regularly forming on the inside of my doorway overnight, and on a couple of occasions (including today) the boiler refuses to heat up any hot water in the morning so I can't have a shower. My apartment is in the bottom corner of the block, so I was informed today that it is colder than the other apartments. I have also joined a gym (that was quite amusing using my limited Japanese and a receptionist who can't use English - body language is seriously the best form of communication!). It's a little expensive (about 9,500 yen a month, or £50), but it's well equipped and has a pool, spa, jacuzzi and sauna, with loads of classes as well, and it's open late. The fitness gym itself isn't so big so it can be crowded but I try to go there as soon as I finish work before the hordes of Brazilians arrive at 8pm.
Well what else can I tell you about? I guess one quite important fact is that I am recontracting to be an ALT in 2006-07. So I will be in Japan until at least July 07! Everyone is welcome to come and visit!

I also had my birthday a few weeks ago, and the day before (28th Jan) myself and a group of friends went up to Hakuba Goryu where many of us tried snowboarding for the first time. It was an excellent day. The conditions were perfect as it had snowed quite heavily the night before (this didn't make for such an entertaining drive up, but anyway). The skies were blue and the sun shone down on us. After a bit of difficulty at first and a lot of falling, most of us were taking our first tentative slides down the beginners' slope. Unfortunately April fell awkwardly and hurt her arm and wrist. She and Dec left us to go to a hospital in Matsumoto, but fortunately she didn't break anything. She did chip some bone off her elbow though, which to me sounds really painful.
After a really great day (well, afternoon!) on the slopes (thank you Ben for teaching us and giving up your day!), we went to a Mexican restaurant at the bottom of Happone, where we met up with Sarah, the Scottish ALT in Hakuba, and a professional level skier! The food and company were both great!
Then we set out on the long drive back to Shiojiri. It was 11pm before I got back home, and I was exhausted after getting up at 6am (on a Saturday!!) but I had really enjoyed the day. The next day I could barely move though because I was in so much pain, so I restricted myself to running errands like laundry and shopping on my birthday. Tad had invited me to dinner that evening, which was really kind of him! We had sukiyaki (a mixture of fried beef, tofu and veggies which you dip in raw egg - it sounds kind of gross but I assure you it was delicious).

Life is going on as normal. On Saturday evening I went to Sonic in Matsumoto for their rock and indie night, which was a blast - the best night I've had at Sonic so far. The first time I went there I got so plastered that I really don't remember too much! The second time I went I was absolutely shattered. This time was excellent. It was Jo's birthday, so she and a bunch of the Ina crowd had come up. It was great to see them as I don't see them as often as I should/could. There was also the usual Matsumoto crowd, and many more Japanese people than I remember seeing there before. I got home at 4.30am (thanks for the lift Lou!) and crashed. Sunday wasn't a write-off but was definitely less productive. However I did get my 3 weeks worth of ironing finished and cleaned my place up a bit, so something came out of it. I skipped my 3pm gym appointment as my headache was still throbbing away at the back of my head at that point.

Right, that's my update for now. There is still so much to look forward to here in the next few months that I'm sure it's going to fly by!
1. The snowboarding season
2. Nagano Talent Contest
3. International pop star (thank you Mervin for organising that)
4. A possible trip for me at the end of March to visit Nagasaki, and then either the island of Kyushu or Hiroshima/Kobe/Himeji/Osaka. Decisions, decisions
5. The start of the sakura (cherry blossom)
6. End of year parties, start of year parties
7. 3rd graders graduation, new 1st graders
8. The parents coming to visit at the end of April until the end of Golden Week.
9. Warmer weather!
10. Trying to organise a trip for Wind Orchestra and Brass Soc to visit Japan next year as their Summer tour.

I will definitely try to put up some more photos on my website (, but it's running out of memory, so I will let you know if I create another one. Watch this space!

I promise to write about my trip to Thailand and all my other random trips at some other point. For now, that's all folks!

Sunday, November 06, 2005

right, its about time for an update!

I have no more excuses! I have an excellent internet connection in my apartment, so I should have posted on here more recently, but such is life. You get to read this now instead!

Things have taken a turn to the chillier side since the last time I posted. Then I was in summer gear - but now the shorts have been packed away and replaced with thick jumpers, gloves and a winter coat (and probably long johns and vests before too long!). My apartment manages to hold the heat quite well, so I don't feel so cold in the mornings, but Tom & April's houses are beginning to feel like ice boxes! The long winter has set in! I'm debating whether I should get one of those covers to put over my car overnight so I don't have to spend ages scraping the windscreen in the morning as it can get down to -20 degrees here! I'm a little wary of buying a kerosene heater, as they can be dangerous if your place isn't properly ventilated. I will see how the others do first, but for now I will use my electric heater and my kotatsu (electrically heated table). We've also been told that bubble wrap on the windows is quite a good way of keeping the heat in - maybe I'll do that, and buy several draught excluders. I'm also stocking up on supplies of hot drinks (green tea and coffee being the main ones), and trying to extend my cooking beyond pasta and stir fry so I don't have to go to the restaurants to eat out all the time! Although they'd be warmer so definitely a positive thing.

However life trundles on as normal here - Matt came for a short holiday recently and we had a fantastic time. We spent the first weekend discovering the lights, chaos and excitement of Tokyo which was amazing. Every time I go there, I always discover something new - it's a fantastic city. We stayed in a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) in Minowa in the northern part of the city (I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone travelling to Tokyo on a budget: - 8190 yen per room per night, free internet, very clean and modern and no curfew!)

After coming back to Shiojiri, Matt came with me to school one day and there was gossip and pointing in the corridors as we walked between lessons! They couldn't believe it, and at one point the noise was pretty deafening as they were shouting and screaming in amazement and delight! I got Matt to Matsumoto the next day so he could see the castle and enjoy the fantastic cosmopolitan city that it is!
I had taken 3 days of leave (nenkyuu) so that we could take a short trip to Kyoto, and this was a really enjoyable few days! We travelled to Nagoya by train, and then changed to take the short shinkansen (bullet train) ride between Nagoya and Kyoto (only 36-7 minutes!). This was a fantastic experience, and was definitely a highlight of the trip. We had both been really looking forward to it and it didn't disappoint - the bullet trains really are the most fantastic inventions on this Earth!
We stayed in a guesthouse in Kyoto which was OK, but not the nicest place in the world. The owner was very friendly though, spoke good english and gave us some handy tips of places to eat and where we should go to spot the geisha and maiko girls, which we did that very evening. We decided to take in a few of the sights that afternoon so we headed up to the Kankuji (Golden Pavillion) which was nice, but about 3 school groups arrived just as we got there so the place was pretty crowded. We were hoping that the leaves would be red, but they had only just started to turn. In any case, it was still a spectacular sight. Some of the students tried their English out on us, but the conversation never got much further than them saying they liked David Beckham and asking if we liked Victoria! Obsessive or what??

We then walked along the road to the zen garden at the rouanji (? I think that's the name) temple. There will be pictures of all these on my photo website soon. It's just a garden with 15 rocks and the rest of the area is covered with white gravel. After heading back to the downtown area, we sought out the back streets of Gion to catch a glimpse of the geisha girls, who were something else! We then had a few drinks in the Asahi brewery beer cellar followed by a meal in the Musasashi sushi restaurant chain - I'd been to one before, but this was Matt's first experience of a sushi restaurant with a conveyor belt and everything. After this, we wandered the streets a bit, checking out a few bars, coffee shops and arcades to while away the time before heading back home to bed.

By the end of the second day, I was starting to feel "templed out", but we visited Kiyomizu-dera which has a fantastic view of Kyoto, as well as Nanzen-ji, the Heian shrine and Chionin. These were all amazing places, especially Chionin where everything is of massive proportions! In the morning, we also visited Sanjusangendo temple, where there are 1001 Buddhas; a fantastic sight! That evening we ate at a Japanese izakaya, which was really good food and reasonable prices and had a few drinks before heading back to the guesthouse.

Our last day in Kyoto was similarly exciting. After checking out of the guesthouse, we dumped our bags at Kyoto station (a building which is so modern and does a good contrast with the traditional suroundings), and we then went to see the Fushimi Inari shrine, one of Japan's most popular shrines with a long path covered with the typical red shrine gates. It really was a sight to behold. After some lunch we decided to visit Nijo-jo (Nijo castle), and while we were there, we fell upon a modern art exhibition where high pitched sounds are projected in a very dark room and this somehow creates light images. It went "whoooosh" straight over my head but made a nice break from being out in the sun all the time. The castle itself was well laid out and made an interesting visit.
We decided soon after to head back to Shiojiri, as we were hot and didn't fancy getting back too late. A fast zip down to Nagoya and we just made our connection running onto the platform where the train was due to leave for Shio!

My job continues as busy as ever! Most of my fellow ALT's don't seem to be as busy as I do; maybe that's me poorly managing my time, but I find myself busy during all my free class periods. The school want me to do exactly the same amount of work as my predecessor did but with one and a half days less than she had! This means that, per week, I have 8 periods of regular 2nd/3rd grade elective classes (Language Lab x2, Foreign Studies and News English), 3/4 periods of 1st year oral communication classes, French x2 and Teachers' English Conversation classes x2, English Club twice a week and trying to fit in oral homework for the language lab students during breaks and after school, as well as preparing for my lessons in Koyo. It doesn't leave me a lot of spare time, and I'm sure it won't be too long before I ask my school to reduce my timetable a little! I have around 3/4 lessons a day at Shiojiri Shigakukan SHS (out of 6), and I visit Shimosuwa Koyo SHS on Tuesday afternoons and Wednesdays, where I tend to have between 2/3 lessons. Life isn't so hectic there and I'm able to take a breather in the beautiful surroundings that the school is set in (granted, it's at the top of a steep hill, but it is surrounded by trees, including several cherry blossom trees which, at the moment, are a deep red colour and should look fantastic in April/May). I have FINALLY been granted permission to drive to Koyo (and my 3rd visit school, Kiso Special Education School, but as I'm writing this I haven't actually been there yet!), as this took ages to get. I have a story to tell about that, but I'll save it for some other time when I want to spout my anger at the Japanese education system.

My visits to Tokyo have provided me with so many memories, but I'll tell you about those another time - right now I'm off to bed.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Okaya Minami English Camp, 16/09 - 17/09

Here's my journal of the English Camp I went on recently. Once again apologies for not posting, but I now have internet at my apartment so I don't have any more excuses!


JTEs: Takada-sensei, Hanazawa-sensei, Matsuda-sensei (Okaya Minami)

AETs: Kevin (Okaya Minami SHS), Sara (Okaya Minami SHS), Sean (Okaya Higashi SHS), Tom (Shiojiri Shigakukan SHS), Craig (Suwa Futaba SHS), Spencer (Nagano Koyo [Technical] SHS), Andrew (Nagano SHS), Tonya (Takato JHS), Ian (Akaho SHS [Komagane])

Friday 16th

An early start from Okaya station (8.30 am). Spencer was late so we left without him – the coach took about 1 hour 15 mins to reach the Takato camping ground which would be our home for the next 30 hours or so!

We unloaded the coach and then messed the students around a bit by doing a fake check-in and security check. I was doing the check-in, and asking them stupid questions like “Do you have a reservation?”, “would you like electricity? OK, that’ll be extra”, “how would you like to pay? Cash? Credit card?” and “Smoking or non-smoking room?”.

They then had their bags taken by Sean, Sara and Kevin while they were checking in so that some other guys round the corner could plant some stuff in their bags (fags, alcohol, bra, underpants [men’s and ladies’]). One girl got a fake bomb planted in her bag, and she was so angry and upset about it that she cried and kicked her bag. Andrew, who was checking her bag, felt so bad about it that he went and bought her some chocolates afterwards to make up!

With check-in and mess around done, we were shown our room which we would share between the 12 of us. It was great! 10 beds, and a huge raised tatami section in the centre with 5 futons on it. We also had toilets (western-style thank god) and basins, and a bathroom down the corridor which had a huge public bath. We were really lucky, and it was hardly the roughing it that I had come to expect at first.

We then had the opening ceremony, which involved all the AETs introducing themselves. I told them I was special because one of my teachers at SSSHS said I was a “superior man”, and that got a laugh. Kevin presented us each with a water gun as an honorary gift.
We were then assigned to our teams by lottery. I had team 8, which consisted of Masatake, Miki, Yuka and Saki. They were a nice group but a bit quiet, and I had to do most of the talking! We called ourselves Scorpion, and had a lame slogan of “We’re orange, and we sting. Feel the pain!”. Orange because we had orange bandanas. After introducing ourselves to everyone else, we did a good icebreaker called fruit. We were divided up into 3 groups, called bananas, strawberries and apples. If one name was said, we had to change position in that group, 2 names and the 2 groups had to swap over, all fruit and everyone changes. We soon changed the names to beer, whiskey and harutakei (which I still don’t know what it is). After that wore off, we went to lunch, which was the same as dinner that evening, and breakfast & lunch the following day. By the end of it, I got sick of cooked fish and rice!

After lunch we did some fun English activities. Craig’s counting game was first. In our teams, we did it to determine the winner of our team who would go to the grand final. You have to go “one, ni, three, yon, five, roku….” Alternating English and and Japanese up to 25, then start again. If you make a mistake or hesitate then you’re out. The funniest was when Saki said “ni” straight after Yuka’s “ichi”. Miki won for our team, but didn’t win the grand final! Musical chairs was next on the agenda – I got down to the last 5, and I was the last AET playing before I got forced out. We then went outside and played twister for a while between teams. Then came Simon says, which was really funny and again I was one of the last standing.

Then came some time to discuss our movies in groups. My group wanted to do an adaptation of Cinderella, making Cinderella bad. I didn’t really understand it at first, but with a little guidance we got it right. We didn’t start filming, but we got the scripts done no problem.

After this we had a water fight. We had prepared bags of water balloons, and got the students to play catch, before starting some chaos. It got to the stage where the students were filling plastic bags with water and chucking them over each other. It was quite funny to watch. Tonya got a water balloon thrown really hard on her ass but it didn’t pop. She was in quite a bit of pain!

With the students thoroughly soaked, we went up to the science centre on the other side of the campsite and watched Supersize Me, which only heightened my desire for a Big Mac! After this, we went back for dinner, and then we went up to campfire. This was probably the most fun part of camp, where we got to sing songs round a roaring fire (all in English of course). We sang it’s a small world, what do we do with a drunken sailor, the hokey-cokey, kum ba yah (natto sucks my lord, we want beer my lord and other good lyrics), row row row the boat, edelweiss, itsy bitsy spider, and then we cooked marshmallows and ate smores – put some chocolate and melted marshmallow between 2 sweet biscuits (Graham crackers). Really nice!! Tanaka sensei told the students to “Shut the f*** up” at least once which was really funny. He said it with exactly the right amount of stress and emotion!

Then came the highlight of the day – drinking! We had loads and loads of beer, wine, sake and rum and one of the Japanese language teachers at okaya minami turned up later with more beer which was a little strange as he didn’t stay! He just came and went. We also had loads of snacks. In the middle of this, the students wanted us to come to a pillow fight which was good, but they seemed totally unprepared for it despite inviting us to one.
The most memorable moment was having 2 of the students come along later and tell Tanaka-sensei to “shut the f*** up”, and then have Tanaka roll around on the floor in laughter.
Needless to say we got to bed quite late, and I wasn’t feeling my best in the morning. Kevin, Ian and Tonya all went for an onsen in the middle of the night, which they enjoyed!

Saturday 17th
An early rise which was hard! We cleared up the room, and got our luggage to the tenryu room. Breakfast then followed, after which we did some yoga with Sarah in the bright sunshine which got the muscles going and the brain working. Then we had to bang out our movies. We managed to get our version of Cinderella done in the time limit, including a cameo appearance by Kevin as the prince! He did a great job. After this we did the team challenge event, where each team had to go to a station, manned by a different AET and do a challenge. I got the spelling bee event, where the students had to spell their names backwards. The others were a 4/5 person push-up, guess the mystery object, a relay race, skipping, doing a jigsaw puzzle, who can down coke the quickest and guessing the celebrity. Some of the students looked pretty ill after downing coke!

After lunch, we all got together at the science centre, where Tanaka-sensei informed me that he had felt shitty this morning. What a surprise. We got the result of the team competition and then watched the movies – some of them were so funny! Our movie got the most laughs, and everyone said that it was really good! We then did a bit of killing time while the judging went on. The AETs then did a skit, where we showed different drunken attitudes (angry, bickering couple, clumsy [I’ll never forget the look on the girls faces when Ian fell over suddenly right in front of them], sappy happy, nauseous, sleazy, depressive and passed out) and the kids had to put names to the adjectives on the board. They got most of them right.

Then came the awards ceremony – I had to present best costume and best actress and I’m happy to say that my boy Cinderella got best actress! Tanaka gave the award for shittiest film (best film), or at least that’s how he announced it. Then we gave out the “Campy” awards for best team and best boy and girl. After a group photo outside, it was time to pack up and go home.

My first English camp in Japan – had a wicked time, great people, fun students and I hope it isn’t my last English camp!

I'll post about my time in Tokyo soon, I promise! I went there the next day for 2 and a half days.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Shiojiri, the city of the salty arse!

As usual, it's been a long time since I posted on here due to being quite a busy ALT (teaching English and French), having to go to 2 schools regularly, not having internet in my apartment and having to only use the internet at work for "English-language teaching purposes". But I'm writing this at work now, so we'll see what happens...

Well, it's been just over a month since I arrived bleary-eyed and smelly at Tokyo's Narita airport. And a lot has happened since then! We've had 2 typhoons (the second one is due to hit us tomorrow morning which should make my bike ride to the station interesting...), festivals, free Japanese lessons every Sunday, and I've got myself my first car! how exciting. It's a 7 year old blue Toyota Starlet, with CD, air-con, electric windows and a snowboard rack as Karina, the girl who sold it to me, was a fan of the slopes! I'm reluctant to take it off as apparently it's a b****rd to put back on, but I can't see myself buying a snowboard anytime soon, but who knows? The car cost me just over 200,000 yen (that sounds so expensive doesn't it?), but it's only £1050, and that includes a 2 year Japanese MOT equivalent called shakken, which can be quite expensive. I'll get some pics of the car, apartment, schools and general ones of Shiojiri soon - maybe Sunday after the International Party in Matsumoto on Saturday. All you can eat, all you can drink with promises of striptease twister... should be a laugh! Then we're going to a club called Sonic for their Britpop/Indie night, so that should keep the homesickness at bay. Apparently the DJ for this event has lived in Liverpool for 7 years, so I'm looking forward to hearing his thick scouse mixed with Japanese!

I was told at the pre-departure orientation before I left the UK that Shiojiri means "salty bottom". I just thought the Japanese teacher was having a laugh, but it is in fact true! I live in the salty arse city! Now there's something not everyone can say. It`s only called a city because that`s the best translation, but to be honest it's not really a city - only about 60,000 people live there, so it's still big enough for there to be enough going on. I live right over the road from a massive pachinko parlour, a 24 hour supermarket, a huge elctronics store, a furniture store which sells food as well, a video rental store, a petrol station and a coin laundry, so I'm quite well placed. It's not very convenient to get to school (about 15 minutes by bike on an incline, so I always arrive sweating at 8.15!), but it's ok. The city is also full of Brazilians, so occasionally I can read some official documents which have a Portuguese translation rather than trying to understand the kanji and Japanese script!

In school, the kids have been keeping me amused all day, not least with some of their questions, and the answers to their questions. As part of my self-introduction, I get the kids to ask me some questions about myself. So far I've had: "What is your blood type?", "How tall are you?","Do you have a steady girlfriend?", "Do you like Victoria Beckham?" and "What is the church like in the UK?". All slightly random, but typical Japanese questions apparently!
I'm also questioning the geography teaching in this country. I asked the students if they could name the four countries of the UK. I wasn't really expecting them to get any further than England, but when they started coming out with answers like Sweden and Iceland I did start to wonder what was going on in this country. Also, the most famous British person that they know seems to be James Bond, 007!

All in all though I love it here - the music that is piped over the speakers on one of the streets in Shimosuwa is really funny, and instead of having a beeping sound at pelican crossings, they play a nice synthesised tune instead! Another favourite of mine is when you arrive at Matsumoto train station and the speakers shout "Matsumotooooooo...!" . It always makes me laugh.

Right that's probably enough for now - I have to go and set up a classroom so I can project some photos from my laptop - I'm doing 3 classes today in Shimosuwa, and they're all 50 minute self-introductions! Great!


Thursday, August 04, 2005

Post-arrival in Japan

I haven`t posted on here for ages, so thought I would share with you all what`s going on with me here in hot and humid Japan.

Well I got to Heathrow with plenty of time to spare on Sat 30th. Managed to get through the huge check-in queue ok (they let me on with 27kg, so thank you Virgin Atlantic and Richard Branson!). I had only got 22kg at first, but they made me check in my (admittedly quite heavy) suit carrier. But anyway... Also managed to send on a couple of suitcases with a forwarding company.
breezed through security and passport control without any problems. It was hard saying goodbye to Mum, Dad and Matthew, but it`s not forever and I`ll look forward to their visits during the course of my time here.

Left LHR late (don`t know why), but all the JETs were seated in economy class. I was in the middle 4 seats, and was lucky enough to have an empty seat beside me. The other side of me and there was Jack, an Oxford English graduate (but I can`t remember what prefecture - somewhere on Kyushu I think, maybe Fukuoka or Kagoshima). Flight was about 11 hours, and I managed to get a couple of hours sleep. Watched Madagascar, Valiant and some Little Britain to while away the time.
Arrived just before 9am (local time), so the night sort of passed us by. Then got transferred to the Keio Plaza Hotel in the Shinjuku district of central Tokyo. A very nice, swanky hotel but some of the decor was stuck in the 70s. Still, we weren't complaining! Explored Shinjuku for a bit of the afternoon (having lunch at a ramen bar), and then went out with 5 others for some sushi in the evening. It was a great place with huge bits of sushi, but you wouldn't know it was there. It's on the 4th floor of the building opposite the entrance to the Yodobashi camera store in Shinjuku. Finished up the night in the Skybar on top of the Keio Plaza with a drink overlooking the fantastic view of Tokyo by night.

Next day (Monday) was full of meetings, workshops by AJET, speeches by various bigwigs and a welcome reception in the evening. We then headed out as a prefecture (NAGANO!!!!!) to a bar called Heaven & Hell. We were obviously seated in hell (for our sins!), drank pitchers and chatted away. The singing urinal which pretended to take your photo provided some entertainment. Karaoke was next on the agenda. Having been put under immense peer pressure by the Kiwis ;) , we went to one of the many Big Echo chains in Shinjuku and did 2/3 hours of karaoke with all you can drink. A great night, with many people showing their talents under the effects of alcohol, and didn`t get to bed till after 3am. I'll be posting photos on my fotopic website as soon as I get organised with my internet connection at home.

Tuesday, and more workshops and the Nagano prefectural meeting. The morning was pretty much a blur as I had a stinking hangover, and this showed itself during the lesson that was being deomnstrated to us when I was asked a question as to what I would do if I had sharp claws. If you want to know what I said then ask!
British embassy night in the evening, which was made better with the appearance of the embassy taiko drumming team. Great bunch of guys. Went to bed earlyish that night as had a fairly early start the next morning.

Set off to Nagano-ken on Wednesday morning, stopping for lunch at a service station with a fantastic view over Lake Suwa. Was met at Matsumoto by the head of languages at my school who does english and french so I was able to converse in both languages. We made lots of small talk, and he took me to my apartment before taking me to meet the principal and vice-principal. The first teacher also teaches vinification (the wine making process) to the students as the school used to be an agricultural school and has its own vineyard. They also have their own bottles of wine! I will hopefully try and get one before I leave!
Met my caretaker (Tad Yanagisawa) who's my main point of contact at the school and he sorted some things out at my apartment (gas, water, telephone). He also took me out for a meal with his family that evening, which was really nice. Got to bed quite late as I was doing my unpacking and trying to make my place look reasonable.
Got given the day off today which was quite nice (didn:t have to take leave), so I have been shopping and now need to go and do my laundry, ironing and give the apartment a spring clean.

Will try and keep this updated as much as I can, but it will depend if I can get an internet connection at my apartment.
Until the next time...

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

preparations for Japan

These are going slowly but surely, but tomorrow I'm off to London for 4 days as I'm going to a reception at the Japanese Embassy on Friday, which should be fun! Been feeling like a tourist the past week as I've been buying a lot of gifts and mingling with all the foreigners in the tourist tat shops in Bath. Still, I have managed to buy lots of postcards, keyrings, pencils, tea bags, tea towels and some nice books about England & Bath. Still looking for those miniature bottles of whisky....

Had to buy 3 new sets of shoes yesterday as I have to wear different shoes indoors for Japanese schools. Great! I also bought a bunch of magazines about football, music and cars that I thought might be interesting for the children.
Only a week and a half to go!! And I'm struggling with packing to go away for 4 days!! This should be fun....

Wednesday, July 13, 2005


A long, tiring but really enjoyable day. I had my graduation ceremony at the University of Warwick to receive my BSc (Hons) International Business degree, class 2.i ! Very hot weather, and after initially having a few problems with traffic when getting up to the M4 from Bath, we got there with time to spare.
Looked good in the gown (even though I say so myself), and we had a free lunch buffet provided by the Business School in a marquee overlooking the lake by the Scarman Road building. Ceremony was good, just the right length with a nice music programme, the Chancellor giving a short speech and Simon Mayo being awarded with an honorary degree (and a funny speech after that included a description of a few of his antics when he was a student of History & Politics at Warwick).
Photos in the piazza afterwards while chucking our mortarboards, and then all too soon it was time to leave with all the clobber we had collected during the day!
Went back a slightly strange route as part of the Fosseway was closed, but we ended up finding a really nice pub called the Kilkenny quite unexpectedly just as we pulled up next to a T-junction. Stopped for a light supper in the garden of the pub, which was just right and very relaxing.
Got back home just after 10, unfortunately discovering that my grandmother had had a chest pain episode and had been taken to hospital. She went back home with my uncle though which was fortunate!

Right as it's so ridiculously late, I'm going to bed!
Night all!

Sunday, July 10, 2005

pub lunch with Jo

Very hot day today, but had made plans to go and see Joseph for lunch over in Bristol. Went to a nice pub called the Highbury Vaults in Clifton and had a cheese ploughmans, washed down with a pint of Waggledancer. I miss good pub grub! Don't have it enough. Took an hour to get to Bristol though cos there was loads of traffic in Brislington and some traffic lights were stuck on red which held us up for ages. Joseph lives in a very nice flat with 2 girls just up from the BRI, and I have to say I was very envious of it. Not fair, especially as he was only paying £70 a week for it!!! Apparently, one of the flats in the block was bought for Euan Blair but he didn't live there in the end cos of all the controversy surrounding the sale of the flat - still, he ended up on the waterfront instead, again not bad!

Gonna sit outside now and enjoy the rest of the sunshine. Have a good Sunday everyone!

Saturday, July 09, 2005

photo sharing

it appears that this blog doesn't like uploading photos, so I have created the account below to host photos
one day I'll figure out what technology is

i might have to send you an email so that you can view them, once I've figured out how all this works

My first post on my new blog! how exciting

Hello whoever is going to read this! So this is my first post on my new blog of thoughts, photos and general randomness. The main idea of this is to keep a written and photo record of my time in Japan on the JET programme ( as I'm going to be an Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) in the city of Shiojiri in Nagano prefecture from 30th July! Flying BA, Virgin or Japan Airlines (JAL), but don't know yet. Only 3 weeks to go, which is quite scary. Lots to do before then.

Went to JET pre-departure orientation at Brunel University on Wednesday & Thursday (6th & 7th July), and we were lucky to miss the bombings in London on the Thursday morning. Some people had to stay a further night as they couldn't get back to central London.
I managed to get a lift with a group of girls (Julie, Karla & Vicky) to Leamington, then a train to Birmingham as I had previously arranged to stay overnight with my friend Zoe. Friday we then went to Warwick uni to pick up the tickets for our graduation (Tuesday 12th July, 3pm for me!!), so I'll be in my robes next week chucking my mortar board in the air.

I'm hoping that this blog is gonna allow me to upload loads of pictures. If not, I will try to find another site and post the details up in due course.

See you all soon, and good luck with whatever you're up to. My email address is: so there's no excuse for not keeping in touch.

I will probably send you my address in Japan (and the UK for those who may not know it), rather than posting it here for all and sundry to read and bombard me with junk.