Friday, August 31, 2007

Gomen Ne!

So this week was fairly routine...but it was also busy! (did you really expect any different?) Primarily, this was because the teachers and I were busy preparing for today. Government officials and English teachers from all over Hokkaido descended on Shikaoi to study our method of teaching English. So of course, the teachers were incredibly nervous, and had extremely well-prepared classes, with a huge amount of special materials. My contribution was to photoshop up a number of posters that said things like, "Smile," "No Japanese," "Eye Contact," etc. It was actually kind of fun, and really got me a lot more into the teaching thing here. Turns out all those skills I picked up in university might not be so useless after all! With all the prep, the classes themselves went great, and were actually alot of fun to do.

I found that when I was under pressure to perform, I became a much better teacher. On the other hand, I still haven't finished editing any of the videos that I've been meaning to, which is weighing heavily on my conscience. (Though not too heavily. ;)

In other news, I climbed one last mountain last Sunday, but have otherwise been pretty lazy. I'd like to try kendo, but I am nervous as to whether I can make the time commitment, as it takes place on Wednesday and Friday (why friday??) nights. Tonight I'm going to my Junior High's enkai, and tomorrow I think I will drive to Obihiro to do a little shopping, before making my way to Urahoro ( a small town) to meet up with Gwendolyn whom I met last week and do a little partying. Sunday, maybe I'll go to an onsen, as I still haven't been to one! All in all, it's a pretty ordinary weekend in Shikaoi! Hell, if I can pull myself away from Bioshock (best game since HL2 by the way) maybe I'll even have to time to post some photos or finish a video. If a picture says a thousand words, then a 30 sec video would say at least 900 000 words! Damn thats a long blog post!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Back to School Business

So with the end of the Bon Odori holiday weekend, I've become exceedingly busy. I was in Sapporo from the 18th to the 22nd, for my Hokkaido Orientation, and the day after I got back I started teaching. On top of all that, I had an office party on Friday, and JET's from all over Hokkaido in town on Saturday and Sunday. This week should be a little more routine, so hopefully I will be able to catch up on all my small projects, (like this blog!) and you'll get to see all the great videos I've got in the pipeline.

Which reminds me, I haven't filmed anything in a week and a half! Time to get out into the beautiful summer sun!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Summer Lull

Today it is above 30 C for the third straight day, and work in the office has pretty much ground to an ice-cream induced halt. Of 12 workers in the office, 9 of them are away on vacation, including all of the management staff, so I don't think anything has been done today. Of course, this being Japan, I must still come in and dutifully sit at my desk anyways, rather than enjoying the weather outside while it lasts. I've been sitting on my computer, internet window shopping and watching youtube...anything more productive threatens to overheat my brain.

It's also a wonderful respite from the busyness of the last few days. With 2 busy days at work, an enkai, 2 karaoke/drinking parties (one of which nearly destroyed me,) a hike, and Bon Odori all in the space of 4 days, I'm really not complaining about the quiet. I have tonight to get some sleep and do my laundry, and then it seems as if I will once again be running around!

On the video front, I've got footage of the hike and Bon Odori, which I promise will shock and amaze you! Hopefully, I can get this up by the end of the week, but I've also got to work on my Japanese and my video about Calgary. (I've done none of those things today, so I really have to get on it.) On a more positive note, Episode 1 is FINALLY available in HD. You can find the link on the right side, but I recommend saving it to your computer rather than trying to watch it in your web browser. You'll need Quicktime, or FFDShow with a good media player like Media Player Classic in order to watch them. As I've said previously, hopefully in time I'll be able to offer streaming HD for those of you with beefy connections. Jaa Mata!

Friday, August 10, 2007

The Best Cure for too much drinking is actually a long walk!

Japan continues to astound and amaze! Just now, a man in uniform walked into the office, shoved a long pole with a suction mechanism and an aerosol can up to the ceiling and proceeded to clean (?) disinfect (?) reset (?) all the (what I think) are smoke alarms. Of course, this was not interesting in the slightest for the rest of the office staff, but I looked on with an almost child-like wonderment.

In terms of actual news, I've gone from being incredibly bored in the weekday evenings, to incredibly busy, and all it took was rampant alcoholism and a steady determination to meet people. Last night was my second enkai (welcome party,) this time hosted by many of the English teachers of Shikaoi. I drank lots of beer, ate sashimi, fried chicken, onigiri (rice balls...mine had cod eggs,) french fries, and green tea hagen dazs. It seems to be the prevailing wisdom here that it is better to just take your favourite foods and eat them all at once, rather than messing around with a menu, or genre of food. It's certainly enjoyable when your drinking too! Eventually (when the restaurant kicked us out) we made our way to one of the two karaoke places in town, stumbling home around 2:30. I fell asleep with my contacts in, which made waking up at 8:00 AM to drag my carcass to work particularly painful.

Tonight, the festivities continue, as I am driving to Obihiro-shi, the largest city around, to meet up with a number of other foreign English teachers. We are going to tabehodai, (all you can eat) which I've heard is particularly popular due to its cotton candy machine. I'll be staying the night, and tomorrow I'll be doing some hiking around a local Shinto shrine.

I still have nothing to do at the office, which on a day like today is a godsend, so I've finally been able to finish the first episode of Tokachi Terebi! I filmed it last sunday after the typhoon from Kyushu passed us by, and we were finally able to see the sun. It's a little retrospective and slow, but so are evening walks. I'm also still experimenting with how best to put my videos online, so while there will always be a copy on Youtube, I'm hoping to be able to do HD flash videos soon. It's very very new technology, so no promises. When I get the chance I'll post the HD version of this one up.

Episode 1: An Evening Walk

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

First week in Shikaoi-cho

Well I've been here almost a week now, (today is Day 7) and so far, I'm really coming to like Shikaoi. It's alot like the small towns described in all those endless pre-departure orientations; small, quiet, and friendly. But I think what I (and probably others) forget is that it's a new experience only for you. The people in my town have seen plenty of other ALT's come and go before me, and they take a lot in stride. I don't even get that many "jozuu nihongo desu" or "Austin wa takai desu."'s. They have their own lives, and unlike other towns I've heard of, expect me to have my own too. After the mad socializing in Tokyo, this comes as bit of a surprise, but it's probably good for my long term sanity. Mostly, I'm just starving for the company of people under the age of 35, local or no and for some good after work activities. The only people who really seem to stare are little children and old women...maybe everyone else is just being polite. (So much for "celebrity status")

But I think that's kind of perfect, and once summer vacation is over and everyone comes back to the town I am really looking forward to being part of the atmosphere here.

On the subject of atmosphere, I was out with the camera Sunday night taking various "atmospheric" shots of the nearby area, so I'll hurry up and post that soon. (And a little walkthrough of my apartment.)