Saturday, 20 July 2013

Oshima Island

We origionally actually went on the boat just to go for the ride, and to be out on the water where it wasn't too hot. Instead, we had about forty minutes until the boat headed back to Hagi. So, we decided a good walk was in order. There isn't actually much on Oshima - it primarily relies on fishing, and very small
scale fishing too, so there are no big tourism sites. We took a walk along the marina, which was filled with all these little boats. I really liked the boats there, because they looked so hodge podge and held together. We attempted to find the convenience store, but couldnt, and instead settled
for a nice cold drink on our walk. Of course, this being Japan, there were vending machines. No matter how rural it is, there are always vending machines! The centre of the island is all mountains, so we tried to walk around them, and stick to the water, which is near where we found
some amazing rice paddies. Rice paddies are the Japanese standard really, but surprisingly, on a day to day basis, I dont see them in the centre of the little town I live in. These onces were absolutely beautiful! We walked around a little more, and found the little beach where some of the kids
were swimming, before heading back around the harbor. We stopped and sat briefly, but the concrete was so, so hot I almost couldn't stand it! We had to make sure we were back in time for the last ferry home! Hagi wasn't really very far away, so we finished our trip with some ice cream from Baskin Robbins!

On the boat to Oshima

This weekend is my final week in Japan, and my very last weekend in Hagi. On Friday, I had my leaving ceremony at school, which was pretty sad. Now, I have to work on cleaning up my house, packing, and getting ready to leave! On Saturday, I spent all morning cleaning up,
and preparing bags to go to the recycling centre. Calvin came about lunchtime and helped me pack all 30 bags into his car, and take them there! Its a far drive, and I never would have made it without him! Thank goodness for that! After that, the weather was so good that we
decided to do something outside with the weather. Calvin wanted to take a boat, so we headed to the island of Oshima. I've never been there, but some of the elementary school teachers in Hagi get to go there every week to teach the kids there. For high school though,
they have to come to the mainland. So off we went, on our half hour boat ride. It was nice and hot, and the views were great, but when we didnt fancy that any more, there were sleeping rooms and sitting rooms, with cute little pillows and a TV with very, very off Japanese TV shows. Makes me very glad I don't own a TV here!

Purikura with my favourite class

My last day at Hagi Shoko was really sad - all of the students had made Josh and I "Happy Engagement" cards, and the teacher put on music and they each came up in turn to give me a card and a little message. Most of them said "Happy Ever After", which I thought was adorable, and I very nearly cried. They had all written something beautiful in them and lots of them had drawn little pictures of me in a wedding gown! After the class, some of my students asked if we could do Purikura together. A week later, I met them and we did purikura together and got yummy crepes! It was nice to get to know them more, and see what they were like outside of school! I wish I had hung out with them more before!

Goodbye Nago

I had five schools, and as one of them, Nago is a school where I kinda have mixed feelings. This year was much better than the last, as I discovered the History teacher who sits next to me happens to speak English! The kids here are funny and genki, and actually, here, I get
to run the entire lesson, with worksheets and speeches and games, and so it's really fun. The kids know what to expect and behave accordingly! The school is really close to a beach, and last year, Wayne, who works at the elementary school next door, and I would go down to the pier with our lunch and
sit and watch the ocean as we ate. It's not often that I actually spend any time at the sea, considering I live so darn close to it! So, it being my last visit to Nago, at lunchtime, we grabbed some inari sushi (my favourite) and headed down to the pier. The sea is just SO blue here. Not always clear, but just a really rich blue, and sometimes it's just nice to sit and watch it.

My ESS Club

Tuesday was the last day I really got to spend with my students, as Friday was going to be cancelled mainly because of a closing ceremony. So, it was the last time I would get to spend with my ESS club. I dont see them every week, but they are very sweet! I went and got Mister Donut for them after school, and we all sat around and chatted and ate donuts all afternoon. Theyre all really nice kids, who like to practice their English and I'll miss them!

Russ and Sophie's Wedding!

The Orian Makeup Style thing was done on the Saturday, and thankfully my last weekend in Kansai happened to be a long weeekend, meaning we had Monday off for Marine Day. So, on Sunday, Russ and Sophie were getting married! Back in May, we went to Disney with them,
and it was at Tokyo Disney Sea that Russ proposed. In the morning, we got up and headed into Osaka for their church service. I got to wear a nice blue dress and Josh wore his suit and a lovely tie. It was really fun to get dressed up after so long! Sophie was so beautiful, and I took some cute photos of her getting ready, and happened to catch Russ on the stairs getting ready too! The rehersal was done that morning, which was great, and then the real thing began. They were surrounded by 50 of their church family and JET friends,
and it was so nice. They even had the little Disney Wedding bears holding the rings! During the service, everything was translated from Japanese and English, so everyone could enjoy it. I almost cried, as I am prone to do, but managed to survive until the end without tears!
It was so beautiful and they looked so happy! Afterwards, we took some group photos, and also some of the boys all showing some leg, acting like girls, and big group hug of Sophie! One of my favourite photos I took all day was of Russ hugging Josh, just after Russ had gotten married. Russ and Sophie were our "engagement buddies", here in Japan as the only other engaged couple who we hung out with. It was so lovely to see the boys so happy, and I know Josh was really honored, as was I that they had chosen us to stand up with them!
I got to meet a lot more of the Nara JETs at the wedding, since both Russ and Sophie were JETs in Nara, although only Sophie is now. Some of them I hadn't seen since January, when we went to Nagashima Spa Land, so it was really nice to get to spend some time with them again!
They are really a bunch of lovely, kind people that have been really welcoming to me! After we took all the photos, we headed over to the reception location in taxis. That was fun, as we werent quite sure where we were going, but we found it! Josh was the MC of the night, and he was so excited about that! There was good food, some funny dancing from the wedding
party and even some games played by the Bride and Groom! Sophie had changed too, into an adorable reception dress which I just loved! One funny thing from the night was that Josh got to wear his "party shirt". It's a bit crazy, but the shirt was handmade by his tailor in Hong Kong, and he just loves is. I love this photo of him wearing it. I may not like it, but I love it if it makes him this happy! He did a great job keeping the reception going!

Back again to be a Maiko (Oiran Style)

When we did the Maiko dress up experience, we saw that they also had another way to dress up called the Oiran style. It's a bit more raunchy, and doesn't involve so much makeup, as well as a lot more bright colours. We were lucky to get in in my very last weekend in Kansai, and this time, Allison joined me to do it, with Katie Weller coming to take photos. In the end, our friend Sophie joined us, the day before her wedding! Since the price was altered, Katie decided to join us, and we got to dress up, all together.
This time, we wore the basic undershift again, but with no tabi socks! Then, we had our hair done. Allison and Katie have pretty short hair, so they got to wear the wig style, while Sophie and I got to have our hair stsyled. It was pretty cool how high and large they made my hair with the help of some hair gel
and a wig! They did us all individually, so I had to chose my kimono all alone - it was so hard to chose! I finally chose a bright pink! They dont use any under layers while they put this type of kimono on. Its a much lighter kimono, and the bow goes in the front instead. My bow was a pretty neon yellow, which seems a little strange, but was very pretty as it was hand tied, which was pretty incredible. Then, we got some professional photos taken, but a few less this time, and we even got a photo taken all together.
Then, we got to play in the spare room and take lots of hillarious photos. The best part was Allison telling us to pose hillariously! We had so much fun, taking cute photos with the balls and umbreallas they had for us to use! Since it was Sophie's wedding the next day, Allison has brought a white board for us to write messages on. I, in turn, wrote one for Josh, which I now use as my profile photo on Facebook! I think its pretty adorable! We had such a nice time all together,
and after changing into our every day clothes, and surviving the rain, we headed to Kyoto Station, to get some lunch. We had some lovely italian food, and the Katie and I went and bought me some Croc shoes-perfect for the wet weather!

Goodbye Tokusa

Tokusa High School is one of my absolute favourites. The school is really far away, and is almost on the border with Shimane Prefecture. It takes about one and a half hours to get there. I am really thankful to get picked up and taken there, but it does mean I get up really early!
Ive learnt to sleep in the car on the way there, because my teacher who drives drives like a madman! Of all my 5 schools, it is the one I was most nervous about when I started, because it was so far away, and the school really is in the middle of nowhere. However, the isolated nature
means in winter its really cold and they get tons and tons of snow, and in summer, its not nearly as warm as it is down in the towns. The mountains surrounding it are really beautiful. I spent so many days in spring hanging out in a temple nearby, or wandering this pretty path that was covered with trees.
It really is one of the more beautiful places I have visited in Yamaguchi, its one of those places that you really wouldnt go without knowing specifically about it. The two English teachers there were amazing, both spoke really great English, and always helped me out with things. For several months running,
the lovely female teacher brought me her second hand English newspapers, and I loved them! It was at this school I got to play all my fun classroom games, including my quiz games, and pictionary, and a funny egg and spoon game for Easter lessons.
I came to really enjoy the long bus ride home (apart from the one time I got absolutely drenched in a typhoon), - I would just put my headphones in and watch the beautiful scenery go by. The students were really amazing too. They may not have been the smartest students academically, but they really tried, and that's so important! Their teachers worked really hard on conversational skills, and they all did great in their English speaking tests which they had every 3 months.
I remember being so pleased when they did well in those, even in those freezing classrooms, where I sat so close to the kerosene heater that I burned my legs! The class sizes were really small too, so I knew most of the students. Every time I arrived at the school, they all came up and said hello, came out of their classrooms to talk to me,
and generally were just excited to see me! The third years were some of my favourites, and I was really sad to see them graduate in April. Way back in September 2011, the sunflowers were in bloom, and they were some of the prettiest I've seen. I was so excited to see that on my very last trip, in July 2013, they were there again.

We finally went to Hard Rock

When I'm in Tokyo, my go-to restaurant is Hard Rock Cafe in Roppongi. I love it, and I never realised there was one in Osaka too. We wanted to do something for the 4th of July, so we decided it was a good time to actually try it! We were joined by our lovely friends, Russ and Sophie, and ate ribs and nachos and yummy brownie sundaes. We also got up and danced the conga, the YMCA and best of all, the Macarena!

Dressing up like Maiko

The Maiko dress up thing is really something I have wanted to do for ages. I was running out of weekends. Thankfully, right before I left, Allison, the PA for Nara arranged it! I was really excited, as Josh and Katie Weller were going to do it too! We listened to a lot about the photo and preparation process, before we got to go get ready. First, we got changed into a slip type kimono, and then got to choose our kimonos. Choosing our kimonos was really hard, because there were so many beautiful ones! Katie chose a really beautiful blue one which matched her eyes,
and after a lot of deciding, I chose a gold and red one. Then, we had to get our makeup done! It took a long time, because we had the white base layer, a bunch of pretty red eye makeup, and the bright red lipstick! It got all over our teeth, which was really funny! Then, we had to get dressed.
There was several base layers, which were all very pretty, as well as a lovely under kimono, which was also red and gold, which was for when you lift the main kimono up, what you can see underneath. It was pretty tight! Then, they put on the main kimono, tie it all up, and then add the big Obi.
The big long tail at the back is thankfully not hand tied, and actually pretty heavy! Lastly, we got to put our wigs on, which were incredibly heavy! But really very beautiful! Thankfully, they had made my eye brows really dark, so they didnt look too terrible with my hair! Then, we headed into the studio.
We had twenty photos taken by the proffesional photographer, which were great. I felt like I shouldnt smile, because white teeth between the red lips look really bad! Instead, I didn't seem to smile enough! But it was really fun! Even better, was that Allison had come along to
take photos of all of us in our Kimono. So she took awesome photos of Josh, who was dressed up in the traditional wedding kimono. It was so lovely on him and he looked really handsome! She took lots of cute ones of us together, and some adorable ones of me and Josh together! We were really lucky, in that there was a special discount for foreigners. We were able to dress up, and then we got all of our photos on a CD later.

A little walk through Gion

Since I have been in Japan, I've really wanted to do the Gion dress up thing where you dress up like a Maiko. Nara JETs do it quite often, but recenly, I met the new Prefectural Advisor for Nara, and she organised a trip for me, Josh and another friend of ours, Katie Weller to do it.
So, we all met in Gion. I really haven't been into Gion much, apart from when we had our engagement photos taken. It was really, really hot (as the rainy season had finally finished). It was wayyyyyyy too hot to spend much time outside, so we really didnt spend long there, and went on to the location where we were getting dressed up! Gion is really lovely, and I really wanted to walk around and take photos, but Japanese summers really arent good for walking around , and sightseeing!

Horyuji Station

After the big Kencho meeting, we filled in some forms, and then took some fun photos outside the building. I then said goodbye to Amariah, Helena, Jackie and Corbin. It was really sad, because though we all lived far away, we were all JETs together. Amariah and I even came to Japan together!Then, I caught a slow train to Shin Yamaguchi, riding with all the cute elementary school kids, until I got to the station to take a Shinkansen stationto see Josh.
I realised that there aren't going to be too many more long trips in Japan to see Josh, and that upsets me so greatly. I spend so much time riding the trains, and shinkansen, and visiting Josh, that this year it has become so much a part of me. The trains in Japan are awesome. Always on time, incredibly clean and just a really nice place. I will miss the transport systems a lot here!

Leaver's ceremony at Kencho

It was finally July, and it was getting hotter, and all of the leaving Prefectural ALTs, who work in high school had to go to Kencho and have a formal farewell ceremony. It was really formal, lots of bowing and speeches, but it was very nice. Helena gave a really lovely speech which I
really enjoyed, and she told the superintendant a littl bit about each of us. We also recieved our money for our flights home as well as those cute round charachters from Yamaguchi City. It was really the start of "going home!"

Another day rowing in the Park

Way back in November, we went out rowing on the little late in Nara Park, but I havent really been back since. It had been a while since Josh and I had been to feed the deer - and actually June was pretty slow because I didnt take my camera anywhere with me!
It was starting to get pretty hot, so we decided to go and row again around the park! Last time, Josh did most of the rowing, but I loved it so much that I did it this time. People found it pretty funny that I was doing the rowing, but I loved it! Afterwards, we went around and fed the deer, and then went to a random Octoberfest being held in the park. It was nice to see Josh enjoying German food before we head to Germany in the summer!