Jul 21, 2018

3 Years in Japan - Update!

It's been a whole year since I last made an update. A lot has changed, though many things have stayed the same as well. I visited home, had friends visit, changed schools, and moved! Life has been even busier as I took on a new and much more challenging role as an ALT, but I'm so pleased with how things have been going for me here in Japan.

Here is a big long update post, but as I have mentioned before, I highly recommend you check out the links along the side bar for where to find more frequent updates about my life in Japan on the JET programme!

Since my last post was at the start of August 2017, I'll start my updates from then. 

August is always a busy month for JETs in Kobe - We have various job training days as well as English summer school and events to help the new ALTs who come in the summer. Not to mention many festivals and fireworks that happen in August as well.

Arima natsu-matsuri

But always my favorite event of the summer is Summer Sonic. 

It was a so-so year for bands, so we only went one day out of the two, but we still got to see some great bands and had an amazing time. I went with H (boyfriend) and two of his friends whom I had met previously.

Performance highlights for me were definitely CL, 5SOS, DAOKO, UVERworld, Black Eyed Peas, JUSTICE, and Calvin Harris.

Me and H also went on a small trip to Okayama (checking that prefecture off my list!). We visited Kurshiki as well as Manabe-shima - not THE cat island, but A popular cat island (another check off my bucket list!). The trip was fun - me and H don't usually get a lot of days off together, him hardly getting any days off.. but we try to take small trips a couple times a year.

At the end of August I went back to Canada for a visit. But, it was all a big surprise for my mom, who had no idea until she showed up to what she thought was dinner and drinks with my sister.

I stayed for about two weeks, and I was able to visit both my family in Edmonton and my friends in Kamloops. Although the Kamloops portion was short, just two days, it was great to see my friends in person again. And of course I was happy to see my mom again. I'm pretty independent from my family, even her, but its always special to spend time together.

After the two weeks I was all recharged and ready to head into my third year as an ALT in Japan.
Fall went as usual in Japan - work kept me busy but still tried to remain social.
H's family took me out for an early birthday dinner, and H took my out for my birthday. I didn't really have a birthday with my friends, but I did see everyone at our annual Canadian thanksgiving party.
Dinner with H's family

In November my best friend since I was like 10 came to visit me in Japan for a week! Her and her boyfriend were visiting family in the Philippines and decided to stop over in Japan for a short visit. 

It went by way too fast but we had a lot of fun touring Kobe, Osaka, Kyoto, and spending a few days in Tokyo, including a day at Disneyland. I even got to go to the new official Sailor Moon store! 

It was a really busy week but well worth the exhaustion.

December was normal. Me and H went to luminare as usual, and spend Chistmas together with a home-cooked dinner.

New years eve was spent just me and H, but New Years day was once again spent with H's extended family. It was much less awkward this year, now that I know most members of the family now. His cousins and very nice, and especially his Uncle and grandmother love me.

During the day and afternoon we all gathered for traditional food and drinking, and chatting. 

At one point old family albums were brought out and everyone looked at old pictures. H's grandfather was quite the amateur model when he was younger - so many pictures of him in suits and looking quite dapper and cool were included. His grandfather was very much into fashion, and owned fashion boutiques most of his life as his career, so I guess it makes sense that he was so fashionable and model-like. After, some went to H's uncles house for a smaller after party. 

Once again, I was so amazed at how lucky I am and how welcoming H's family is. They have never once treated me as just some random foreign girl and really take care to include me. I am really truly so lucky!

After new years with his family, H and I went on another small trip - this time to Mie prefecture (check!) to visit Ise-shrine. Ise Shrine is one of the most important shrines in all Japan and is dedicated to the sun goddess, Amaterasu.

It was really amazing to go there, but also insanely busy due to everyone wanting to visit there for Hatsumode (first shrine visit of the year). Over 2.5 million people visit Ise Shrine during the hatsumode period (usually Jan 1-10th or so) to give you an idea of how crazy busy it is. We went a bit later in the hatsumode period but it was still very crowded

Naiku - inner shrine of Ise

Shopping street leading up to the Naiku of Ise Shrine
We didn't just go to the shrine though - we also visited Toba Aquarium which was very cool and fun. We stayed at an great small hotel that had an amazing dinner with super fresh seafood. My lobster was literally still moving his arms as I ate portions of his lower body raw.

After the trip work was busy getting ready for the end of the school year.

With it being my 3rd year at the same JHS, the students graduating were students that I had been teaching since I arrived. It was really sad to see them graduate, and I cried so much at the ceremony. .

Each class made message books for their teachers - I know I'll treasure mine forever

It was especially bitter-sweet because I had learned that I was to leave my JHS that spring. 

In February all ALTs in Kobe do an interview to determine if they will recontact. At that interview I expressed my desire to transfer to a senior high school in Kobe - one in particular that has a large English program and gives ALTs a lot of responsibilities and duties - much much more than the average school. I loved my JHS and my elementary schools, but after 2.5 years I was ready for a new challenge in order to improve my skills and get new experiences.

There was a lot of mixed feelings when I got word that I was approved for my transfer. I knew I would miss my JHS so much - especially the 2nd grade students who I had also been teaching since they were in elementary school. But, I plan to go and see their graduation in the spring of 2019 so I knew it wasn't a 'forever' goodbye.

Spring was fun but busy. I was not only adjusting to a new school, but in April me and H also moved in together in a new apartment much closer to downtown. Moving was stressful, but living in a much more urban area has been great. Daily life is so much easier, and I'm closer to work as well. It has been good for our relationship too. Because H works so much, when I lived where I did it was hard to see each other because there was either a 1 hour train transit, or a 30-40 minute drive between us, even though we were technically in the same city. When he isn't finished work until 8 or even 11 at night, 6-7 days a week... we just would go a week or more without seeing each other once. Now of course, even if he works super late we get some time together nearly every day. 

During spring of course I also went to various Hanami events! Hanami parties are always the best part of spring. Even if life is stressful, nothing beats enjoying beautiful weather and flowers with food and drinks.

Technically these are ume (plum) not sakura (cherry) blossoms.. but still beautiful!

Spring worked its way into summer, and not too much has been happening in my life. 
Work has been crazy busy. I was expecting to have more responsibilities, but it really is a new and big challenge to keep up at work. But I do feel I am doing well, even if at least at first, my social life has been suffering a bit. 

I did go on another family trip with H's family during golden week to Shiga to visit Taga Taisha Shine (another prefecture off the list!!), and also had a BBQ on awaji island with a bunch of H's childhood friends.

I also went to see the Sailor Moon show and event items at USJ! I no joke cried I was so happy and bought sooooo much stuff.

Now I've just started my summer holidays - wrapping up work last week with a huge 4 continents summit with a number of sister schools, as well as the school speech contest which was just yesterday (the students I coached got 1st and 3rd!).

While I do feel my social life isn't 100% where I would like it - I still find it hard to make and keep friends, and to actually spend time with people and go to events - overall I really like where I am right now.

I have a job that I love and that challenges me, while teaching me so much about being an educator. I'm living with someone I love, and who loves me, and I am so lucky to be welcomed warmly not only by his close friends but his family too. I know I have a few close friends myself that I can turn to when I am in need - even if they aren't here in Kobe with me.

I'm ready to start my 4th year on the JET programme, and look forward to what changes will happen over the next year.