Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Laura made me blog this

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Mid-September feels like home

Hey hey hey!

So it is now mid-September in Fukui and we are starting to get more bearable weather. Jonathan is mourning the end of summer and I am rejoicing in the beginnings of fall. Now that the weather is getting a little more pleasant, we will be going out on bike rides and walks around town in the evenings and weekends. On the downside, it gets dark so much faster now! It is dark around 6:00 or so I believe. So our bike rides and walks will have to be done with flash lights and reflector sashes, lol.

I forgot to tell you that Jonathan successfully completed his summer beach challenge! He visited all 21 beaches in Takahama, Ohi, and Obama towns! Congratulations, Jonathan!

Well, school is school and work is work. One elementary school had their sports festival on Saturday the 11th, so I spent all day Saturday cheering on our 1st-6th graders and most of the evening relaxing with coworkers over some beers and food. My other elementary school has its sports day this coming Saturday the 18th. I get tomorrow off, then go in to work on Saturday, but get Sunday and Monday off. So it should be an interesting weekend. Monday and Thursday are national holidays, so I have a 3 day work week next week.

Jonathan is loving his new job. He enjoys working with adults and dealing with the unique challenges that come with having only 3 months to prepare workers in their 20s and 30s for life abroad. I am enjoying watching Battlestar Galactica, but I would rather be having dinner with Jonathan. I will have to see if he gets Monday and Thursday off too...

Jonathan and Grainne biked 45 km on Sunday morning. After that, Melissa and I met up with them at a beach in Oshima and we all had a picnic! Maybe when winter comes along and the newbies are more settled in we will see them a bit more, but for now we are happy to have each other and our good friends from last year. We miss you, Asa, Christine, and Felipe!

To our friends from high school and college who may be reading this blog - we love and miss you too! I hope that when we come home we can all meet up and talk and laugh and learn from each other like we always do.

Finally, to our families - We love you so much and wish we could be there for birthdays and holidays. We decided to seize this precious opportunity to live abroad and improve our language abilities, and it has opened up so many opportunities for both of us! But that does not mean that we do not wish we could be there with you and for you for the good times and the bad. Hopefully when we come home, we can make up for lost time.

I guess this was a more touchy-feely post than normal, but with birthdays coming up, I guess I just realized how much I miss you guys! We are going to miss Thanksgiving for the second year in a row, but we just cannot afford to come home as often as we would like. Send us an email or a facebook message or even a letter in the regular mail if you can! We have an Indiana area code phone number that you can call to leave us messages, so just let us know that you miss us or give us a call if you need to talk.

Love and peace,
Laura (and Jonathan!)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

September is here!

Hello folks!

September is here and work has started for both of us. Some days I teach 7 classes per day and others I only have 1! Which is not really any different from how things were last year, hahaha. I am only at 3 schools this semester, Ohi JHS on Mon, Tues, and Weds, Hongo Elementary on Thurs, and Natasho Elementary on Friday. This schedule suits me just fine. I teach an Eikaiwa (English conversation class) on Tuesday evenings, take Japanese lessons on Thursdays and fill my other evenings with language exchanges and dinners with friends.

Jonathan has started his new job, and he is liking it a lot! He works Mon, Weds, and Thursday teaching English to engineers in Obama, and he is keeping his old job tutoring kids at the Kumon center on Tuesdays and Fridays. So now when I come home from work, Jonathan is not home! :( I guess it is nice to have a little time to myself, but I do miss Jonathan. Up until now I had the early evening free on Tuesdays and Fridays, but now that I have 5 evenings per week to myself, I need to figure out something cool to do with my alone time. I have started watching Battlestar Galactica during my new free time since Jonathan does not want to watch it. Maybe I will start taking a nap! He will usually get home around 8PM, so we still get plenty of time together in the evening, and we both have the weekends off as well.

We had a mild typhoon pass through yesterday, but there was very little wind and rain. From what I hear, Tokyo got a lot of crazy wind and rain and we were spared most of the bad weather. This year's typhoon was nothing like last year's and I hope we don't have many more come through during the fall.

I cannot really think of anything new other than the fact that we are back to work. I will try to post at least 2 more times this month to keep you updated. Send us an email is you miss us!

Laura (and Jonathan)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Mid-Summer is for slow, lazy days

Hello all,

How have you been?
Jonathan and I are half-way through summer, and we are trying to get the things done we wanted to get done before it is too late. Jonathan wants to visit every beach from Takahama town to Obama city (there are 19). I think he is halfway done, but jellyfish season is coming up fast and he still has quite a bit of beaches to hit. Luckily, he has found some swimming/snorkeling buddies named Melissa and Dylan who live in Wakasa town. Hopefully they can spend a few good days at the beaches before they close in September.

I have been going in to work Monday through Friday 8:30-4:15, but I have taken a few vacation days. We took a 5 day weekend from Thursday to Monday this past week, and enjoyed lazing about at home and going to a few fireworks festivals with our friends and the new ALTs. We like the newbies a lot, and I think we will all fit in together quite well once everyone has settled in to our schedules.

I don't know if I had mentioned it yet or not, but Jonathan has a new job offer with an engineering company in Obama. It will just be a few more hours a week, but if he takes this job he will be working every evening Monday-Friday, so hopefully everything works out and he can start work in September.

I can't think of any other news, so take care of yourselves and send us an email or give us a call at our new US phone number (domestic phone charges will apply). The phone number is in my previous post.

I will hopefully post again soon!
Laura (and Jonathan)

Monday, August 9, 2010

Summer in Oi Town Means...


August in Japan means festivals, festivals, festivals! Hanabi (fireworks), lantern festivals, taiko (Japanese drums), odori (traditional dance), yukata (summer kimonos), and festival food! Last week, Jonathan and I bought cotton candy, shaved ice, corn on the cob, and small pancake balls that are very popular here at festivals. The word for festival in Japanese is matsuri, and we have been to many matsuri, and more to come!

Our local festival, Super Ogase, was this past Friday and Saturday. Friday night featured festival food, traditional dances, and a raffle! Saturday was the main event with taiko drums, the lighting on fire and spinning of a 20 meter (about 60 feet) tall leaf-shaped structure constructed of bamboo and possibly rice stalks (think bundles of hay), and finally an amazing fireworks show! We brought new ALTs out to view this amazing spectacle, and they were thoroughly wow-ed. I enjoyed it just as much this year as I did last year, which goes to show how impressive the festival actually is. Jonathan and I have been to a few festivals in our time here in Japan, but the Oi town organizers rightfully put the "Super" in Super Ogase.

This week is Obon, a kind of religious holiday in Japan revolving around family, food, and remembering of ancestors. It is similar to the Day of the Dead in Latin American culture, but obviously with many aspects unique to Japan. Hopefully we will be able to make a few more trips to the beach over the next few days to soak up the beautiful summer weather we are having. I have avoided severe sunburns and I will continue to take extreme precautions so that I am able to enjoy my summer as much as Jonathan is enjoying it. We bought him a swim suit and snorkeling gear, so he is having a grand time in the water.

We miss you and love you!

Laura (and Jonathan)

p.s. We purchased a Greenwood phone number from skype, so if you call 1 (317) 884 8459, you can call our computer from your American cell phone or land line! Exciting! If the computer is off or we are not home, we have voicemail, so just leave us a message and we will call you back. :)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Hello All!

I am back again for a quick post!

We really enjoyed our trip to Echizen Town last week for the Woodblock Printing workshop. It was a lot of work and a lot of fun. We worked from 9-12 every morning and 1-5 every afternoon. It was about 6-7 hours of carving and printing each day, but time does fly when you are having fun!

Last day of the workshop

We printed quite a few things and got the opportunity to try a marbling paper workshop!

Mr. Fukuda's marbling paper

We had no internet for 5 days, but we were having so much fun that it did not matter. All of the workshop attendees were amazing and the organizers were fantastic. Ever time I made a mistake, Ms. Yoshihiko would tell me "No, it's no problem. It is like a special effect. It gives the print a handmade quality!" She was very encouraging and I could not have asked for a better teacher.

Well that is all for now. We are happy, healthy and enjoying life right now. I am a bit tan (shock!) from our frequent trips to the beach, and we are sleeping better on our new bed (new to us, lol).

I will try to post again soon!

Laura (and Jonathan)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

お久しぶりです!It has been a long time!

Hello! You may have been wondering if we were ever going to post on this blog again, and I am here to tell you, "Yes! We will!"

It is July 23rd and we have been up to quite a lot these past 7 months. We are coming up on the 1 year mark this Sunday and it has been quite a year indeed. Where do I begin...

In the late winter, Jonathan and I began taking Japanese lessons every Thursday evening at the volunteer center in Obama town. Jonathan and I love our teachers, and our Japanese is improving quite a bit. We became fast friends with some of the foreigners living in Obama: Asa, Christine, and Felipe. They left this week and we are very sad to see them go. But Felipe lives in Toronto which is not so far away, and Asa and Christine live in one of those other northern flyover states (Wisconsin), so we will be seeing them again soon. They gave/ sold us a bunch of their stuff before they left, so we are surrounded by reminders of the many happy memories we made together.

On the bright side, we still have Melissa and Grainne living nearby! Grainne and I are the new FJET Southern Representatives in charge of all things fun in the Reinan Block (the southwestern section of Fukui Prefecture). Melissa and are are the Reinan Block Leaders, and we are in charge of taking care of the newbies flying in next week and the week after. We will do troubleshooting, soothing, counseling, and hand-holding until the fresh faces get adjusted to life in Japan (hahaha that never happens). As you can see, in my usual fashion I have taken on not one but two leadership positions. :)

We have also made friends with many Japanese people, mostly teachers. It is fun to befriend people who have little to no experience with English, and we can teach each other our native tongues.

Jonathan is loving his job, and so am I. We are getting some fresh talent in Oi town, two new ALTs who will visit our middle schools once a week or so. One from Takahama town to the south and one from Kaminaka town to the north. We are all still waiting to see how this will work out.

Next week, Jonathan and I are doing a week-long workshop on how to make woodblock prints in Echizen Town. The workshop will be a lot of fun and hard work, but we have been itching to do something artsy. Also, we get to keep the tools after the class so if we enjoyed it we can do it at home! Yay! I have posted a link below explaining the workshop. It is even in English! You are welcome!

Last but not least, I am thinking of making a career change. I love teaching, and I have definitely enjoyed my time here in Japan, but I am thinking of Med School when I get back to the States. I will have to do some post-bacc science classes, and I will probably do those at IUPUI in order to keep tuition costs down. For this reason, we are probably going to be returning to the US either next year or in 2012. We originally wanted to stay for at least 3 years in Japan, and we love our town, but I want to get cracking on those science classes if I want to finish med school before I am 40, lol.

Well that is all for now. I will try to post some pictures soon, but Jonathan has a lot of our Japan pictures posted on his facebook, so if you can access facebook please check them out.

Laura (and Jonathan)

I had made a small mistake when typing my address last year, so here is the correct one. I had spelled the name of my apartment building incorrectly, but it never caused any problems. I am posting the correct address below. Enjoy!

Laura Allen and Jonathan McKenzie
Kyoshokuinjutaku 201
46-21-1 Okata Oi Town,
Fukui Prefecture 919-2116

or in Japanese:
教職委員住宅 201
アレン ローラ様, マッケンジー ジョナサン様

Thursday, January 28, 2010

January in Fukui - Boring reflections on life

Hey folks, how's it going?

In regards to the last post, Jonathan's lost bag was delivered to our house only 2 days after he arrived. Everything was safely inside. Thank you, Japanese customer service!

Jonathan and I are doing alright here. Nothing interesting going on so far this month. Last Friday, we went out to dinner with Asa and Grainne. We went to one of those conveyor belt sushi places in Obama, and it was a lot of fun. I hung out with Asa for a bit before dinner, then after we ate we walked to the grocery to buy ice cream (in January, I know), then we poceeded to eat it outside! We are truly the best and the brightest that the foreign world has to offer to Japan. After making quite a scene standing/sitting outside of the grocery talking and laughing loudly in English and rudely informal Japanese, we then went to sit in my car and continue shouting and laughing for another half and hour or so. Asa and I uncovered a plot by Grainne where Grainne aspired to keep her friends from meeting with each other, thereby keeping us dependent on her for social interaction. The tricksy Irish lass kept the minorities (Asa and Felioe) together, and then me, Jonathan, and Melissa together so that we wouldn't discover the pleasure of one another's company which would then lessen her value as a friend. But when confronted, Gra vehemently denied any and all schemes to keep us apart, which in turn increased our suspicion. If I can get ahold of some sort of mind-reading device or possibly secret journals or letters to a confidant, we can crack this whole scheme wide open. Tune in next week for more details on this sordid conspiracy.

In other news,we went to Kyoto last weekend and saw a few temples, including 鈴虫寺 (suzumushi dera) which is a temple famous for its crickets that chirp year-round. The guy (I think he was a monk or an apprentice monk who looked to be in his 20s or early 30s) who gave us the talk was really funny, but he spoke pretty fast so I don't know exactly what he was saying. I caught a lot of his jokes about how you can buy and charm and pray for something to make you happy, and he prays for a cute girlfriend. Another joke was about how since they have over 5,000 crickets, some of them are boud to die, and when they do the monks grind them up and use them as ingredients in the little sweets we were eating at the time. It was pretty funny since there were little black flecks in the candy, that you might mistake as bits of cricket. I find that I also laugh at Japanese comedians or funny commercials a lot more than my foreign friends do, and I can explain why certain things are funny to them.

I realized yesterday that most of my friends, even the ones who are married to Japanese people do not speak as much Japanese as I do. I mean I am sure there are plenty of vocab words or grammar points that my friends know that I don't, but my listening is pretty high in comparison. It is kind of shocking to realize that out of the 100 JETs in Fukui, there are probably only a handful who speak Japanese as well as or better than I do. After being at the low end of my 4th year Japanese class as far as ability goes, it is weird to suddenly be at the top. And when I met up with my former classmates in December, my speaking had actually gotten significantly better. The 4th year class only had 6-8 people in it, and when 4 of us got together I went from being at the bottom of the class to being at least equal to them (only as far as speaking is concerned - they are way better at reading and writing I bet) after only 3 months. I guess I am really lucky that I work at elementary schools and my supervisor does not speak English, because if I was in an environment where there was always someone to translate for me or casually converse with me in English I would not have improved at all. Don't get me wrong, I do actively seek out friends and acquaintances who speak English, but the fact is I am forced to speak and listen to Japanese 7-8 hours a day Monday thru Friday. And then on the weekends I use tons of Japanese when we go out to eat, run errands, pay utility bills, go sightseeing etc.

Well, that's all for now. Take care and watch out for the Irish. They're tricksy!

Laura (and Jonathan!)

p.s. I'm just kidding about the whole 'Irish are tricksy' thing. You should really watch out for the Chinese (like Asa), since in matters related to vengance and pranks, they are stealthy, swift, and sure.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Happy New Year! 明けまして おめでとう ございます!

Happy New Year one and all!
Laura and I are both safely back in Japan now after a whirlwind winter holiday season. We're so glad we got to be with our families for the holidays and catch up with some of you. The weather here is 37.4 degrees F with light rain. The weather in this region of Japan is really interesting. When I flew in to Nagoya, it was cool and raining. At my transfer in Maibara, it was snowing heavily. When I arrived in Tsuruga it was really really snowing. We're talking clumps of snowflakes the size of cotton balls. As you may have heard from Laura, Japan doesn't know how to treat winter weather. Every six inches along the road there is a sprinkler that gushes water onto the roadway. Now, not only are there 13 inches of snow, there are 6 inches of water through which to navigate. However, only 40 minutes south, there was no snow and only a moderate drizzle.
However, this crazy weather was a happy ending to Laura's and my travel experiences. Backtracking...many hours which cannot be enumerated, my flight to Detroit was delayed because of "hydraulic problems." Hmm, what on the plane does not use hydraulics? What on the plane uses hydraulics and its failure causes a fiery fireball of fire upon landing? (Answers at the end of this post!)
After waiting in line for a couple hours, it was finally my turn for rebooking. Luckily, the plane is ready for boarding at this time, and no, I didn't need to be rebooked. The woman made this assessment was very lucky in her judgment; my flight arrived in Detroit at 3:15, and my flight to Japan was scheduled for departure at 3:25. Luckily for me, the gates were directly opposite each other on the concourse.
Thirteen hours, 4 depressing/cheesy movies, 2 awful curries (btw do NOT go with the Vegetarian/Asian/Spicy option,) 1 arthritic Filipino woman, and zero restroom visits later, I was in Nagoya Airport.
Jisaboke means "jet-lag," but it literally translates to "time difference stupidity." This is accurate. It was several minutes after a woman told me that all the bags had come up before I started to comprehend the situation. They had lost one of my bags. I wandered about stupidly before a woman helped me fill out the appropriate forms. Here was my first taste of that Japanese politeness that I was missing in America. She asked me what was in my lost bag, and I was able to remember I had "clothes, cereal, and toiletries," but it wasn't until five hours later that I remembered "computer." I'm a little unnerved that my brain put Lucky Charms before my $500 laptop and very expensive accessory. The train rides were easy, and each stop brought me closer to Oi. At the time, I felt nothing except an ache to see Laura, but in retrospect, I'm really glad they lost one of my bags because then I didn't have to lug two heavy suitcases up and down the stairs of various train stations.
Well, despite lost bags, days, time, and minds Laura and I are home now. Laura has started her new schedule, but the kids don't come back until Friday, when they have their opening ceremony. I don't work until Tuesday, which gives me a lot of time to catch up on laundry and finish unpacking.
Laura and Jonathan

(Answers: 1)Everything 2)Landing gear. Improperly stowed carry on baggage, as well as seat backs and tray tables not returned to their full and upright positions are not acceptable answers, but will count for half credit.)