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Missing Mira

This week seemed really long, and yet when I woke up on Friday I was utterly convinced it was only Wednesday and shocked to discover it was really the last day of the week. I guess my time moves a bit differently right now, since I’m still getting used to a new routine and living alone…the days seem to blend together.

Still, being able to talk to everyone on Skype is so great. Compared to my friends with family in the northern hemisphere, I feel a bit spoiled that I can come home after work and turn Skype on and find everyone online thanks to the minimal time difference. If I wanted I could spend all my evenings just chatting away and get nothing done at all!

I took these of my neice just before I left so I would have some recent (for a while, anyway) photos to remember her…but she’s growing so fast that they won’t be up to date for long. Can’t wait until you visit, guys ♥

I especially miss the deafening, ear-piercing squeals of joy accompanied by that nose scrunch:)

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Awa Odori, yattosa!

I had a ridiculously busy weekend, but it was also a really incredible weekend. After spending 2 days at English camp, exhausted after attempting to be genki for 14 hours a day, all us new ALTs were taken to Tokushima City for the Awa Odori (dance festival). It would guess this is Tokushima’s most famous event, probably it’s most famous ANYTHING, and the city’s population explodes for a few days! The entire city is filled with people dancing everywhere. You can read a little more about it here if you’re interested!

After being given a quick crash course in this style of dancing, we joined a dance group called Awasora Ren. There are over 200 people in this group, so a few extra foreigners making fools of themselves is fairly acceptable. The dance looks deceptively simple, but of course there is an art to it (which we definitely had not acquired in our 10 minutes of dance rehearsal). Luckily there was safety in numbers!

We met this hilariously awesome pair in our hotel — the guy didn’t speak much English, but he was so excited to talk with us, and everything he said came out at full volume! “OKAAAAAY!!” They actually ended up coming out to a bar with us later. Apparently they are med students so look out Osaka, these party animals could be your local GP in a few years!

I wasn’t able to take my camera during the dancing in Tokushima City, but luckily my local Awa Odori festival was held on Sunday and Monday nights so I got to see it all over again on a slightly smaller scale:

This was my favourite group, their grand finale involved whipping their fans open and sending blossoms swirling around the stage! Beautiful to watch. Incidentally, one of my speech contest students is part of this group, and her speech is actually about learning Awa Odori over the years — so being able to watch her perform it was especially interesting.

The traditional female dancers were amazing. They were so incredibly graceful — look at how they balance on the tips of their shoes!

There are two styles of dance, one for men and one for women. The women’s dance is very graceful and the arms are held high above the head, with smaller kicks (because traditionally the women were wearing kimonos) but higher steps. The men’s dance has become more unisex, and it is the usual style that younger women and kids dance — the arms are more in front of the head rather than high above, and the movements are a bit sharper and slightly less smooth. However, sometimes I did see guys break out into these amazing bursts of dance — much more energetic and unrestrained than the usual dance, almost like capoeira. Really cool to watch.

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Redecorating with Nitori

It stated with my quest for a double bed. Many Japanese, especially out here in the sticks, prefer futons to beds — but it’s still very common for couples to sleep on two separate futons. I do love futons, but after my mukade encounter, I could see definite advantages to being off the ground!

On my first day at school, I mentioned that I would be looking for a new bed since the semi-double that came with my apartment is literally being held up by the wall on one side, and a very thick novel acting as a temporary bed leg. (And being very desperate for a physical book to read, believe me, I would like to get my hands on that book!) All the teachers struggled and did the “ka naaaaaa…” thing that Japanese people do when they are either thinking very hard, or politely disguising the fact that they think your idea is stupid. However, the adorable and amazing Okamoto-sensei — who does not teach English but speaks it very well — popped up with her calendar and offered to take me to a store in Kamojima that might sell double beds!

As it turns out she was doing me a super SUPER huge favour, because she drove 30 minutes west to pick me up, 40 minutes back east to go to Kamojima, and then it turned out the shop was closed. Damn random rest days!

We ended up driving all the way east to Tokushima City — only 48 kms away from where I live, but thanks to the 50km/h speed limit it takes quite a while to get there. Once we were there we (eventually) found the NITORI STORE. Nitori is basically a slightly smaller version of Ikea and you know how much I love Ikea! I was like a kid in a candy store, racing from curtains to bed covers and back again to compare colours. Poor patient Okamoto-sensei…she deserves something AMAZING to say thankyou for putting up with me that day.

Not only did I find a bed (being delivered on the 28th) but also indulged in some other stuff too. New sheets! New bed covers! New pillows! Oh the excitement.

One of the things I was most excited about was finally replacing the ratty, moth-eaten BROWN curtains that were ruining my view from the kitchen window.

I wanted things that were bright and cheerful. My apartment is finally starting to look a bit more like MY apartment:)

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Big fat rain

Last night it BUCKETED DOWN. I drove back from the next town (my third visit to Softbank but not my last) and the mountains just disappeared behind a curtain of rain. For the first time I felt that the max 50km speed limit was actually appropriate, it was quite a scary drive home!

It rained all night and I woke up to beautiful moody clouds hanging low over the hill beyond the graveyard:)

(Of course, by this afternoon the blue skies were back with a vengeance and it was once again a steamy, muggy 35 degrees.)

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Welcome back to Junior High

Today was my first day at work/school – Sadamitsu Junior Highschool.

Much to my horror, they called a school assembly (yes, in the middle of summer break) and I had to introduce myself to the school. I had butterflies but I felt like I was on top of it since I’d sat down and painstakingly, with my terrible rusty Japanese, written out a short introduction. Unfortunately one of my JTEs (Japanese teacher of English) happened to glance at it and quickly dashed a few corrections on which threw me a little bit!

The school files into the gym, which is about a million degrees inside. Imagine my panic when I am given a lone seat on one side of the students while all the other teachers form a nice orderly row waaaay over the other side of the gym. To make matters worse, when the other teachers talk to introduce me and welcome the students, they are just standing to one side with the microphone…on the other hand, when it’s my time to talk I am directed up onto the stage to stand at the lecture. I manage to deliver my speech without too many blunders but then instead of being allowed to race to the relative refuge of the teachers’ seating, I am directed to sit at yet another single seat…on the stage…completely isolated. A student recites a welcome note to me in Japanese, and then after a stern prompt from his English teacher he reluctantly mutters a translation and finally I am allowed to flee the stage.

So that little traumatising moment aside (what’s one more in my life?) the day went quite well. Many of the teachers and even the vice-principals are really nice and between their English and my Japanese we can talk about the big issues in life, like why we love iphones even though we hate Apple. The art teacher sitting one seat away from me turns out to have fantastic English and she makes the incredibly generous offer to take me bed shopping, even though she already works two jobs — I am stoked and immediately start thinking of ways to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of the lifelong friendship we are no doubt about to develop. I go out to lunch with some other teachers, and to my overwhelming delight arrive back to find the broken aircon has been fixed and is pumping out subzero temperatures, JOY! I spend the afternoon helping one of my JTEs go over the summer homework with some hilarious second-year girls and cross my fingers all the kids are this easy to be around. The icing on the cake — I drive my gigantic tank of a car home and manage to park it even though some jerk across the road is totally blocking my way and interrupting my enormous turning circle. A day full of win all around!

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