March 02, 2010

Eigo no hito kitta!

The posting-once-a-week plan has gone into array because my life was taken over by the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics in the past two weeks. Instead, I am posting something I wrote a little over a year ago on February 11, 2009:

This weekend, I visited the Saki no Yu onsen, which is in the next town over. An onsen is a hot spring (aka heaven) and Japan has thousands of them scattered all over the country. Onsens are kind of awkward because you're naked with a bunch of strangers, but it's so amazing that you're willing to overlook the nakedness.

Saki no Yu is one of the more famous onsens because it is situated right beside the Pacific Ocean. The onsens I've been to so far have been really nice, where they had an indoor change room and shower stations with soap and shampoo to wash yourself with before you submerge yourself into the actual onsen (as per onsen etiquette). Saki no Yu, however, was literally just an outdoor shack with a couple of lockers to store your stuff. The onsen, however, was fantastic. The view was beyond incredible and to hear the Pacific Ocean splashing against the rocks as you're soaking in the water is the epitome of relaxation. Think taking a bath while listening to a cd with ocean waves, but a gazillion times better.

On the other side of the rocks to the left are three onsen baths. I wasn't kidding when I said it was right by the ocean.

I teach at junior high and elementary schools (it stills cracks me up that I am now some sort of role model - WHAT) and I bike to all of my schools with the exception of two that are up in the mountains. They're too far to bike to (plus it's uphill, which is brutal), so I resort to taking the infrequent local buses. My prefecture (equivalent to a province or state) is known for producing a large amount of umeboshi (pickled plums) and right now, the ume trees are in blossom. Yesterday, as I was on the bus to one of my schools and passing by all the ume tree, I felt like I was in another reality.

Ume trees everywhere.

A close up of the ume blossoms.

Once or twice a semester, I get to visit a kindergarten school and it basically makes my week. I get attacked by hugs and the kids try to have Very Serious Conversations with me, which of course I barely understand since it's all in Japanese. I get to sing and dance and tell them stories and at the end of the day, when their parents come pick them up, I get to shake their hands and say goodbye in English (which I think is hilarious because seriously, a handshake?)

Today was that day.

The kids are playing 'rock-papers-scissors' ('jan-ken-pon'), which is basically the best thing ever because it resolves any kind of disputes. If the kids lose in janken, they will take the lost as if it's fair and square, even if they disagree with the result.

A video of the kids singing their goodbye song. ADORABLE. (Can we also talk about why the kids are wearing shorts?! It's effing cold out, and yet kids will come to school or walk around town in shorts and knee socks. I don't understand the fashion statement, but then again, I rather be warm and covered up.)


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