Hello there lovely readers!
I am drafting this update on what is becoming a typical week-day evening here in Koshigaya. The miso soup is a-brewing, the air-con is a-whirring and my head is a-spinning with lesson ideas for the coming week. Before I get ahead of myself, however, I will tease apart my memory of the past week’s happenings for your entertainment and delight.
The Uni. Settling into life at Dokkyo University has been pretty painless, I must say. The campus atmosphere is very pleasant indeed – a decent amount of greenery (the main criterion by which I usually judge a new place), with generous amounts of land given over to wooded lunch areas, shrubbery and even an edible garden! Also due to the university’s historical ties with Germany, there is a whopping great dome right in the middle which everyone refers to as the Reichstag. Quite unexpected that!
Other plus points include the ease of the commute (45 minutes door to door), decent on-campus facilities (a 7-11, three canteens AND a Subway, would you believe!) and, most crucially, a free machine in the staff room dispensing 6 distinct varieties of green tea. BOOM.
The students. Man they are DREAMY! Super smiley, conscientious, interested and interesting… some were a little shy to begin with, and others struggle with some of the more creative tasks I set; I asked one lad to connect two pictures to make a story on Friday, and he looked as though I had just asked him to simultaneously rewrite Beethoven’s Ninth and reconstruct the Sagrada Familia.
But for the most part we are warming up and sussing each other out marvellously. After some difficulty, I am proud to say that I have successfully memorised everyone’s names – no mean feat when getting just a morning’s worth of them right involves not confusing Yuki with Yuka, Yuji, Yuya, Yuri, Yuta or Yoko.
A personal highlight, and one that anyone who has met my immediate family will especially appreciate, was when, on being asked what could be deduced about my Mum and Stepdad from a recent photo that I passed around, one student’s immediate response was “Ahh! Man like drink wine. Lady like drink tea.” Cried with laughter.
The weekend. Long hours and much acclimatising meant that I was definitely ready for Friday by the time it rolled round. My colleagues and I marked the achievement of having got through week one by visiting a nearby izakaya for after-work beers and eats. I lasted for an impressive single bev before sleep-walking home and conking out.
I rather surprised myself on Saturday by bounding out of bed, the week’s tiredness seemingly countered by a solid 8 hours on Friday night. I headed down to the Koshigaya Culture Centre to attend a Japanese class, the quality and usefulness of which a colleague had given cause to doubt. I thought I’d sniff it out anyway, however, and am so very glad I did, as there I befriended Yasuko and Kako, two volunteers whose patience with and gentle correction of my mish-mash beginner’s Japanese was frankly heroic. Going to a session like this is something I reckon all language teachers should do at least once in a while; it is so illuminating and empathy-fuelling to remember what it is really like to be a beginner again, to struggle with basic constructions, to butcher every utterance with inexpert pronunciation. However connected we are to our students, the risk of being impatient or dismissive is a real one, and one against which I will be especially on my guard after such a heart-warming experience. Gawd bless those girls.
The rest of the weekend was spent doing lots more poking about in Tokyo with Alaina – partner in crime and generally awesome chick. We did some excellent mooching around Asakusa on Saturday night, finding out our fortunes at Sensoji temple (watch the video here) , making more new friends during evening eats near Orenji Street (a group of student friends took a shine to us; lots of hilarious broken language exchange ensued), goofing about on the riverside, and even petting a resident of one of the bizarre owl cafes as we passed it on the street! Beautiful creature. Shame it has to work in an owl cafe for its keep.
Sunday saw us hitting the Imperial East Gardens in the baking sunshine (I know about Indian summers but didn’t know ‘Japanese summers’ were a thing? WHEN is the autumn coming?!) It was a scorcher, seriously. The gardens are sublime, the perfect idyll set against a backdrop of towering skyscrapers.
Last call of the day was at Tsujiki Fish Market. The main market was closed, but we were able to snoop around various sushi and general seafood sellers and munch on enough free samples to equate to a full meal as we went. Even on a quiet Sunday, the market hummed with activity and offered every type of marine produce imaginable, from giant salmon steaks to oysters the size of giraffe’s tongues (that’s what they reminded me of anyway). Alaina also got herself some sea urchin, which I sampled – frui-TY.
All in all a cracking week, I’d say. Coming up in my lesson plans this week are sessions on American vs British English, overcoming phobias and the power of dreams for students to get their noggins around, plus a weekend around Mt. Fuji (not a solid plan just yet, but I’m working on it!) STAY TUNED.
Wishing you all a smashing week 😀
Trina x x x