This is my last blog!
August 3rd, 2010 was my last day as an ALT in Yakumo. I’m very sad to leave. I have really, really enjoyed the last two years. I have met many wonderful people and been to many fun festivals and parties. I had lots of fun teaching students English and talking about Australia. They are all very good students. Some students didn’t enjoy studying English (that’s OK), but they all enjoyed learning about Australia.
The new ALT has arrived, and I’ll quickly introduce her. Her name is Laura Le Cheminant. She is from London, England. This is her first time to Japan. She is very excited to meet everyone. Please say hello to her!
But, I’m also very excited about future plans. I am going to return to Australia for a short time (to change my visa). But, after Australia, I am coming back to Japan. My girlfriend and I are going to travel from Hokkaido to Okinawa. We are going to drive there slowly. I think it will take 2-3 months. I will keep a new blog here: http://pekoism.wordpress.com/
After we finish, we are going to live in Niseko! I am going to work as a photographer!! Niseko isn’t far from Yakumo, so I will come visit again. I promise!
A BIG thank-you to everyone that I have met. It was a wonderful experience living in Yakumo. I will NEVER forget. It’s a very beautiful town, surrounded by beautiful nature and full of kind people.
Last week, I went to HEC (Hokkaido English Challenge) Camp. The camp is for English students who do very well on the HEC Test. The test was in April, and there were many speaking/listening/reading questions. Eight students from Yakumo JHS did the test. Five students were asked to come to camp. Unfortunately, five is the maximum number of students from one school.
The camp is five days long. It is in Sunagawa’s Kodomo no Kuni campround. This year, 30 junior high school students, and 20 high school students went to camp. There were also 30 ALTs that went to camp.
Each day, there were many English activities. The first day, we played self-introduction games, sang songs and wrote letters to new friends.
The second day, we had a ‘scavenger hunt’. We went to Kodomo no Kuni and had to find many things. Each team had many challenges: make a human pyramid, hide in the forest, spell ‘apple’ with our body, make someone laugh in English etc. After lunch, we wrote letters to friends, and played games.
The third day, we played ‘Crazy Olympics’. Crazy Olympics was many fun games. In one game, teams had to make a long line, using their body and clothes! Another game, students had to put marshmallows in their mouth and say, “chubby bunny”! It was a lot of fun. That night, we had a dance party! A DJ played many fun English and Japanese songs. Everybody had fun dancing.
The fourth day, we could do many activities: Hiking, Arts & Crafts or Sports. I was the ‘hiking master’. We hiked up a small mountain called Ishi-yama. It was very hot, and there were many insects. But, the view on the top was very beautiful. That night, each team did a small performance (in English). They were all very funny! After the performance, we had a campfire. At the campfire, we ate roasted marshmallows, and sang songs. It was lots of fun.
The fifth day, we packed up our tents, and went home. The students were all very tired. They didn’t want to go home! They enjoyed speaking English to many ALTs and each other. I think they have confidence to speak English now.
We also ate foreign food every day. We ate Thai curry, Italian pasta, Mexican tacos, American hotdogs, Middle-Eastern felafel and couscous. It was so delicious!
I hope I can go again next year!
On Tuesday night, I played softball with teachers from Yakumo Junior High School (and one teacher from Yogo-gakko). We played in a Yakumo-town softball tournament.
I was nervous, because I haven’t played softball many times. We sometimes played softball in P.E. in high school in Australia. I haven’t played baseball many times either. It isn’t very popular in Australia. I made many mistakes with the rules, but I tried my hardest. I hit the ball a few times. It was easy, because a softball ball is very large! There were some very good players on our team. I was surprised!
We tried our hardest, but we didn’t win. I still enjoyed playing softball though. It was fun to play sport with the teachers. But sadly, because I am leaving Yakumo, I can’t play in other matches.
Vegemite is a very popular Australian food. It is black, and very salty. We eat it on bread or toast. It tastes very good with toast and cheese. Vegemite and cheese on toast is perfect for breakfast.
Vegemite is a ‘concentrated yeast extract’. It is a by-product of making beer! The yeast goes to the bottom of the beer tank. It is difficult to explain. Have a look at this webpage: http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/ベジマイト
Today at Kumaishi Daiichi JHS, the students/teachers tried Vegemite. Many people think that Vegemite looks like chocolate. They are very surprised when they taste it. Vegemite is very strong, so you only use a little when making a sandwich.
Because there are many Australians in Niseko, you can buy Vegemite from Lawsons in Hirafu. You can also buy Vegemite in some foreign food stores. But, remember, if you try Vegemite, be careful! Don't use too much!
This year was my third time. I was lucky, in 2008 the lantern parade was the first weekend in August (because of G8 summit in July 2008). The last blog post had information about making my lantern. This blog post is just about the festival!
On Friday night, some students from a Hokkaido University (北大) Yosakoi Team came. They helped me pull my lantern. They also did yosakoi dancing. I saw them dance at the Sapporo Yosakoi Soran Matsuri.
On Saturday night, many friends came to the festival. Most of them are Assistant Language Teachers (ALTs) in Hokkaido. They came from the south in Fukushima town, from the north in Ishikari City, from the east in Atsuma town and many towns and cities between. I think maybe 20 friends, from many countries came.
We joined the pre-festival party at the community hall (公民館). Afterwards, we walked to the town office and watched the dancing. There were cute kindergarten children dressed like playing cards, more cute children (and parents) dressed like Michael Jackson, Taiko and Yosakoi. It was a good start to the festival.
My supervisor, Mariko Sato, asked us to wear costumes. She asked me to wear my spider costume, so I did. My friends wore costumes too, sumo-suits, Santa suits, Canadian flags and other costumes. Mariko also asked us to perform a dance. We decided to do some famous, easy Western dances. We did the ‘Chicken Dance’ and the ‘Macarena’. We all had fun dancing. Some children/students danced with us too!
After the festival finished, my friends camped at Saranbe Park. On Sunday, we went to Harvester for breakfast. After a big breakfast, we went to Panorama Park to play in the playground. Some of my friends went to Kuma no Yu (my favourite onsen) and some other friends went to an onsen in Nodaoi.
I had a very good time. My friends did too. They want to come again next year.
It’s been several weeks since I last wrote on this blog. I’m sorry; I’ve been very busy recently. But, I have some free time again now.
A lot has happened here in Yakumo in the last few weeks. It’s summer now, and that means it is festival season. The first festival was the Yakumo Shrine Festival (八雲神社祭り), June 13-15th. Some second-year junior high students from Yakumo JHS asked me to join their tama-ire (玉入れ) team. The prize for first-place was ¥60,000!! We won the first round, but lost the second round. It was a lot of fun, even though we didn’t win first-place.
There were many games and events on the Monday night of the festival, it was fun. Though, I think the most popular thing was the food! I ate lots of food at the festival. On Sunday night, I ate kebab (ドネルサンド), yakitori, okonomiyaki, crepe, onigiri wrapped in meat and also some taiyaki. On Monday night I ate more food! I saw many, many students and friends at the festival. It was good fun!
The second big festival is the Yakumo Lantern Parade (八雲山車行列). I am lucky, this is my third Lantern Parade in two years, because in 2008 it was in August (because of the G8 Summit). This year is also the second time for me to make a lantern (山車). It is similar to last year’s, but with new designs. It is a hexagon (六角) with designs of the six main countries in the JET Programme; Japan, America, Canada, United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia. I had my friends help me design the lantern for their country. A friend from New Zealand (Simon Daly, Engaru ALT) designed New Zealand, a friend from Canada (John Nguyen, Yubetsu ALT) designed Canada, a friend from Scotland (Nikki Nairns, Sapporo ALT) designed United Kingdom and a friend from America (Maggie Savage, Sapporo ALT) helped design America. I did Australia and Japan (with some help from Robert Maxwell, Sapporo ALT). It was a very international lantern!
Painting the lantern took three-weeks. I was lucky, when I didn’t have classes, I worked on the lantern in the Community Hall (公民館). The lantern has 18 1x1m squares. It took a long time to paint! But, I enjoyed it very much.
After it was painted, Kikuchi-san, Hattori-san and Misaka-san helped me put the paintings onto the lantern that Sato-san’s husband built for me last year. Seeing the lantern at nighttime, after it was finished, felt very good! I was very proud of it.
This is something that I absolutely love doing in Japan. Hanami; a nice BBQ and some drinks underneath cherry blossom.
On Monday we had the Board of Education (教育員会) hanami party. But, this party wasn’t outside. No, this party was inside, in a shed. There was no cherry blossom to look at either!
Luckily there was LOTS of BBQ to eat, and lots to drink, so we all had a good time, even without cherry blossom!
It was a beautiful weekend again. On Saturday, I went to the Yakumo Elementary School sports day for a short time. I was very busy, so I didn’t watch for very long.
On Sunday, I thought staying inside cleaning and playing video games was a bad idea. So I went to the Otoshibe Azalea Festival (落部つつじ祭り). It was my first time to go to this festival and also the first time to Otoshibe Park. It’s very big, and there are lots of cherry blossoms and other flowers. I was surprised. It was very pretty.
At the festival, there was lots of delicious food to eat. I had a crab leg, some scallops (ホタテ) and some 焼き鳥. I ate too much for breakfast (I had banana pancakes, with ice-cream and maple syrup), so I wasn’t very hungry. The food smelt good, but I couldn’t eat any more.
One of the guests at the festival was a singer called Junko Ishihara (石原詢子). She had a beautiful and powerful voice. The people watching enjoyed her singing, and so did I.
It was another fun weekend relaxing in Yakumo.
Today I went to Nodaoi Junior High School. The first grade students were planting rice. I have never planted rice before. I really wanted to try! So, I asked if I could help. I was lucky, and they let me plant some rice too.
It was easy and fun. The mud felt really nice on my feet. Though, I think if I did it for a long time my back would be sore.
We planted a small area of the rice paddy by hand. Pushing 3-5 small seedlings by hand into the mud. It was difficult to make a straight line.
We got very dirty, but it was easy to clean afterwards. I think the students liked to play in the mud more than planting the rice.
I just wish that I could help to harvest the rice in October, but I won’t be in Yakumo. Oh well, しょうがない.
Recently, a girl from Finland came to visit. I hadn’t met her before. She and I use a website called ‘Couch Surfing’. This website lets you share your house with travellers for a night. She was travelling around Japan by train, and was staying in many places. It is an interesting way to meet different people, and an interesting way to travel.
But, it made me think. What are the interesting sights in Yakumo? Where is a good place to take visitors?
I decided to take her to Panorama Park and Kuma No Yu, my two favourite places in Yakumo. I like Panorama Park, because it’s fun to jump and play. It’s fun to play like a child.
I like Kuma No Yu, because it’s beautiful, serene and relaxing. I think Kuma No Yu is my favourite onsen. It feels like you are a part of nature, looking up at the trees, listening to the crashing waterfall and the sounds of birds/insects.
I also think the drive to Kumaishi from Yakumo is beautiful. I drive along the Unzeki Toge 3 or 4 times a month, and I always enjoy the scenery. Every week it’s a little different, but always beautiful.