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!