This week in Tokoro

Sorry if this is a little dry but I wrote them up during my office time.

August 6th - 8th

This weekend proved wonderful!

First of all on Friday we had a heat wave! Tokoro (part of Kitami) was the hottest city in Japan! I got messages from people in Niigata asking if I was ok. It was all over the news that we were the hottest. That day in the office it was just my supervisor and I so we just flopped around with our uchiwa complaining about the heat and gossiping.
At one point in the day the principal of Tokoro nursery school came to the office to prepare for the small school's festival taking place that evening. He invited me to go it was really exciting. I went home and got changed (not easy in the heat). Upon arriving the kids were all in yukata dancing in a circle. I got to eat a lot of festival food and play with the kids. Everyone was so friendly. One little girl was really pleased to meet me and talked to me a lot! I got 3 yo-yo balloons from the kids and one frog bag from the prize table. They had me introduce myself with a microphone and let me tell you there is nothing like a large group of hyper little kids yelling “Yoroshiku onegaishimasu”. If that doesn't make you feel welcome nothing will. We then went outside after one of the mothers sprayed me with bug spray. There was a small fireworks display during which some of the little girls held my hands. It was really nice to spend that time with them before teaching them.
Saturday I slept in a bit and then arranged with Kori to come over that night after her festival. While I waited for her I went out walking as the weather was nicer. I headed down to the beach. The water was an amazing temperature Kori and I will go swimming next weekend. After wading in the water a little I headed to the beach side cafe 'Cafe Shaberitai' for some drift ice soda! The cafe is really cute and rustic. When I left I introduced myself to them and talked to them briefly. I got caught in the rain after trying to get some grocery shopping done. I still managed to get some nice pictures of the temple.
Later that night after I cleaned and unpacked a lot Kori arrived.
Kori and I headed out to Ble to have dinner. It was amazing we each had a gratin, basil buns, and milk tea. We took dessert home. They closed around us and talked to me a little about where I'm from and where I had lived in Japan previously. After we left we greeted the group of people having an enkai in a tent and went on our way to Seico mart.
We stayed up way too late talking, watching videos and fiddling around on the internet. After finally getting to bed we woke up the next day and made pancakes with sausages and eggs. After that we headed down to the beach and played around in the water a little. Afterwards we went to the cafe together where everyone was really friendly. As we were about to leave they started talking to us and introduced us to some young men from the area who were having lunch together. They had brought omiyage which the owner promptly shared with us and we sat down again. They then gave us some complimentary tea to go with the cake. It was lovely! Kori and I slipped out and hurried home grabbing some nice gifts from Canada (and stickers for the guys) before returning to give them out. The atmosphere at the cafe is really great.
The two of us then headed out to Abashiri to go shopping! First we went to Basic Food Master and got some interesting food. It took us quite awhile to find where we were going after that but we finally made it to Daiso and Coop. It was starting to get late so we headed to pizza hut for a quick dinner and then she drove me home. I felt bad that she had to drive the whole way home but I am so happy she came.
Next weekend she will be coming back for my town's festival. My supervisor is going to put both of us into yukatas! I'm really looking forward to it.

August 9th - 10th

So here I am in my office again worrying about the future. I've had my first classes and other than my body still hating humidity in an embarrassing way they went well. You would think after 2 years my body would adjust, but no.
I had my first After School Club and now I understand what they want of me there. It was really quite enjoyable. We talked about me for a bit and then we moved on to learning how to say where they're from. We practiced this playing hot potato, which they loved. There were 13 of them and I didn't feel intimidated at all, it was a relief. They reacted well to my inherited teacher humour and overall seemed to be glad they came.
Today I was even more worried because I had my first nursery school. So I drove there and made it in good time with little stress. I'm actually realizing I missed driving. That alone time in the car is kind of nice. So I arrive and they say hello and I'm whisked off into the classroom without any further greeting. We just dive right in. Much shorter introduction today. I found out their names and favourite colour and then we went right into 'I'm from...'. We played duck, duck, goose with Canada, Canada, Tokoro and they loved it. I played too even though it was embarrassing due to my heat problems. Ask me in private about this teacher. So then we switched to hot potato to practice the 'I'm from' part. The kids seemed to really like it though sometimes the ball escaped them. Then as quickly as it started I said goodbye and was out the door. It was fast and unceremonious. I hope the teacher liked it. I have no idea...
So now I'm back in my office fretting about the next first class later today.
Off the topic of schools, I went to the pool again yesterday. This time I took my supervisor's advice and it was much better. I really enjoyed it and I can already feel the swimming muscles waking up. I was able to swim longer without taking breaks and I felt myself getting back into the groove.
I finally feel I am starting to settle in. We shall see how the rest of the day goes.

August 11th

Again I am sitting in the office trying to figure out what I should be doing. I have read and in some cases re-read so many of the books on this desk. I've sorted through the flashcards and come up with a basic outline for a curriculum for my nursery schools. I'm so grateful for all the materials left behind for me. I am also grateful to see that many of the things the books instruct you to do I already do. I am feeling a bit sick of sitting here though. I almost wish I could have done all of my intro lessons and then had this down time. I would be able to get so much accomplished.
As of now I'm starting to run out of ideas of what to do at work. I don't want to just slack off and ask to go use the internet but the two BOE days I have coming up are seeming pretty daunting right now. My office is full of amazing people but I don't want to bother them by just gossiping with them.
I'm also starting to feel stressed about the elementary schools beyond my intro lessons. I haven't met any of my teachers that I will be working with. I want to know what they want from me and from the time I have with their students. The high school and junior high school have been so clear in what they want and the nursery schools seem quite straight forward. I want to get ahead and plan for my elementary classes but I have no idea what to make. I also have a lot of really good flashcards pre-made it seems a waste to make too many new ones if these ones are still good. I need to just get started but then I worry I won't have time to do these things.
Today I have another nursery school class, it's a little cooler today, I'm hopeful.

August 12th

It's raining today. It's raining hard. More on that later.
Yesterday I had my first class with Kamome nursery school. Again, I had the privilege of having snack time with them. It's such a strangely wonderful experience to sit in tiny little chairs at tiny little tables eating small snacks with a small drink and listening to the little kids talk. They talk to me, about me and about many other things. Kamome was much less shy during snack time than Tokoro was. It helped that one of the girls there is one of my coworkers' daughters. She is a bright girl full of confidence and energy. The class was really fun though they had no concept of what Japan was. They thought it meant Hokkaido. When I tried to explain it was bigger than Hokkaido they said “Osaka”.
After returning, by car, to work my supervisor promptly led me back out to pick up my inkanshomeishou with my crazy new hanko. It says Nicholls in katakana but you wouldn't know it. It makes me happy that they made it cool. So after picking that up I will now be able to buy a car. Though at the moment I'm not sure which car as the one I picked made strange noises and so Ross decided against it.
I slipped out to the pool where I swam laps for 30 minutes. All my muscles are waking up again and it feels good! One of the lifeguards actually timed me and I did 100 meters in 50 seconds! I hope to get faster before the pool closes for the winter. I might try to go to the Kitami pool once a week over the winter if possible. It feels so good to do that and so relaxing too.
When I got home I showered and made corn stew. It was really, really good. It made tons so I will be having corn stew for the rest of the week.
Back to today. It's still raining. I woke up and it was pouring. I had to leave for work a bit early because I wasn't sure if I should walk or ride my bike to work. I ended up doing half and half because I was getting wetter walking than riding my bike.
I have been studying kanji all morning. Well reviewing mainly. Shirahata has been checking it over. It is interesting how excited they are to see that I can use kanji. I really want to work hard for my next test. I would be so disappointed if I don't make it.
Everyone has been really friendly and talkative today. We've talked about music, my shodou, Shibata, Anpanman and much much more.
At lunch time, guess what, it was still raining! My boss Suzuki was kind enough to drive me home and pick me up again for lunch. I was really grateful. So here I am back at the office. I wrote a letter to Masako and am now working on my kanji again.
Sometimes I ponder the significance of my not drinking beer but remind myself I drink and eat a lot of other things that make up for it to most Japanese people. Though when given a beer drink ticket today everyone was hoping I would have at least one this weekend we'll see.
Oh quick addition to yesterday, the lunch man came over and after talking to me, he's really funny, decided I will get cup ramen and onigiri for school lunch every time.

August 13th

Another office day. Today this one is very relaxing. Suzuki is on holidays and the other two men are out of the office so it's just us three women. The atmosphere is very chill and calm. For awhile this morning we didn't have power while an electrician was working on the wires. There were also a group of people working on something for the festival tomorrow. I got to use the computer lab for a bit and talk to Kim. She's a little fuzzy right now due to her teeth having been pulled and taking T3.
I headed home for lunch and relaxed for a bit before coming back to work and working on my kanji some more. It's really fun to work on it at work, everyone is so encouraging and interested in what I'm doing. Shirahata always checks my work and it is such good practice.
Tabuchi and I then headed out to the bank and got my address changed as well as arranging for my rent and school lunches to come out of my bank account.
Now we're mostly just sitting around talking and enjoying each others company. Holidays are fun.
This evening I'm planning to go to the pool but it's sounding less and less likely. It's kind of bothering me but I'll make it work I guess. Kori is coming around 8 and June is coming around 5:30 to pick up some wings so I don't know if I'll still be able to fit the pool and dinner in there.

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