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 (http://thomashayward5037.fotopic.net/), 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!