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I got in the car, ready to set off for this journey it should have been simple just two routes really…but yep I managed to get lost about 10 mins after I left my house. In real Vicky fashion I managed to go without a map also. So I pulled over at a gas station and asked for help in my oh so bad Japanese – they laughed at me when I said I have no map and I’m going on a three hour journey to Nagano. After they talked for about 10 mins insisting that I couldn’t get there that way they finally told me the way to Chuo Expressway. I got there in the end fine, Rus and I grabbed some food, drank reallly bad FAKE BEER (Ta Rus) so woke up with bad hang overs for the local festival the following day. It was really cool and gorgeous at the local park but a little chilly and the headache didn’t help either. We bumped into other ALT’s and ended up having Hanami with them, I’m too tired from doing these rushed posts so to find out what Hanami is please look it up on the net. Basically we sat there and ate food under blossom trees. They go mad for Hanami in Japan but I can understand why now, its basically sitting there, drinking, eating and relaxing under cherry blossom trees.

That night we headed out to a party at one of the guys from Nagano ALT group. It was fun meeting the others there and I think I am heading out with them lot for the America vs England world cup match. The following day Rus and I headed out to a fantastic park where we really did Hanami, we took food and just sat in the sun talking to other people and a Japanese couple who had actually lived in London! wow the first Japanese people I had met who had not ranted about America and had actually lived LIVED I TELL YOU in London. Such an ace day, fantastic, then before I knew it I had to head off home. The drive back was stunning, I was so tired so I popped into a 7/11 – even in the mountains if you go more than 10 mins on a drive without seeing a 7/11 then you are probably not in Japan. I bought two cans of Lattes and then buzzing I drove with my music blasting. I went up into the mountains and as I was passing through it the mist on the tops of the mountains covered a large proportion of their tops but just to the right was the shiloette of the rocks with the sun going to sleep behind them. The sky beamed a beautiful orange and then I looked over to my left and there in the distance just behind the city lights lay Mount Fuji, with clouds gathering around his base the rest of him stood there. It was great to finally see the top of Fuji San, I had been here for a month and not seen all of him but tonight he came out from the clouds. That drive home really gave me some of the most stunning views I have ever seen in my life, I only wish someone else was there with me to appreciate it and to take a photo at least.

I am off for Golden Week tomorrow so the next post will be more detailed and less rushed I promise, I just hate spending time on the computer when I have such a limited time here.

Catch up soon : )

Sams Birthday bash!

It was Sams birthday so Hannah, Pete and myself headed to Sams to celebrate, it was all the way across tokyo to the other side and about another hour and a half out of Tokyo. I got there, it was great to see Hannah, Pete and Sam again! We went to the beautiful park in the town – soooooooooo many photos and then we headed out to the Karaoke bar, we got drunk – I made TOO many YOUR MUM jokes at people I had only just met and then we got some lovely food. The food was from a place where you select what you want from a machine and then you hand over your ticket to which you get your food served very quickly indeed. It was a great night out although the room they put us in was very small for the amount of people in there!

The next day Sam drove us the beach, really lovely weather so he decided that surely that means the sea is warm too?”?””?!?!?! NO, BIG MISTAKE SAM, BIG MISTAKE. He was in the water for about 30 mins and so Pete decided to go join him, turns out that he was only out there for that long because the water had ripped off his pants so he had been stranded in the freezing water all that time. HAHAHA! So of course I had my camera and had to abuse the situation. It was so funny!

He shook for about two hours after he got out of the water, I even felt sympathy for him – I NEVER FEEL SORRY FOR ANYONE – Poor so and so, I gave him my scarf and posed for a photo with the freak:

So after that weekend it was time for home, I was tired and wanted my bed. I got home and really started to feel settled here. Every day I was feeling so much happier and free! To not feel tied down after so long was such a great feeling. I was doing this all on my own, no one had to know what I was doing all the time, I didn’t have to answer to anyone (except for the law but hey there are ways around that)

I was loving being in Japan and couldn’t wait to see what else it had in store for me…

Kofu Festival

So there is a festival once a year in Kofu, the capital of the Yamanashi Prefecture, my mate Rus came down for the festival. Marcus (a drunkard Marcus at that) and I met Rus from the station and we then headed home to down a load of beer with a home made beer bong. God what a night, we ended up staying up till about 5:30 in the morning to which we suffered the next day. A LOT.

We headed into Kofu with bad hangovers, got there, there were Samurai walking the streets, some even had their Keitai’s (mobiles) out, wow and there was me thinking that they were only about for the last 20 years.  The whole day was amazing, we walked around the local shops, we ate, A LOT, Rus had a fish stick – which was just what is sounds like – a fish with a stick poked through it from end to end. Then we headed towards the main square and relaxed under the Sakura (blossom) one gush of wind came past and the blossom started to fall, it was gorgeous – just like snow. In the distance we could see Mount Fuji. So nice to chill out on the grass with a beer, so relaxing. Then we headed to the samurai parade which was really cool and after that we went for something to eat. We were really tired from the previous night though and then we came across an amazing Jazz bar, we sat and listened to the Jazz band playing mellow music and then headed back. We made sure that if we were going to get stares from the Japanese that it would be for good reason so we bought a box of Pocky sticks and abused them with our faces.

Fantastic weekend, I had started to get into the flow of school, I was able to talk to all my mates now also and my house was more of a home. It was great, lovely sakura, lovely weather and fantastic company. So funny though, there were quite a few westerners out that day but you don’t want to be associated with them because this is your experience and you are here to be away from others like you….really strange to put into words. You just don’t want to be classed as part of the mass I guess, in a way you get a big head thinking its kind of cool to be the odd one out. Traveling Wankeritus is hard to resist.

So here I was, talking on skype to my mum and lisa, I was moody, I was tired, I was so so many things that morning.

I was really scared about meeting the principals (Kocho sensai’s) of my schools but hey it had to be done. I went into the schools, sat down not knowing if I bowed down low enough or for long enough, introduced myself in my terrible broken Japanese and then tried to break up the broken awquard silences by saying how pretty Japan was and how the doileys looked really nice on the chairs.

It wasn’t half as bad as I thought it would be and by the end of that day of introductions I felt a lot better. However, my first day of teaching was coming up – it turned out that I wouldn’t teach but instead I would be attending the opening ceremony, again I was really nervous and wishing I was back home but I had to remind myself that it would be no fun if it wasn’t a challenge. I had been back in London just doing the norm for so long that I had forgotten what it was like to be scared about a challenge. I went to the school, the teachers cant speak much english but the one teacher was really good at it. I went into the gym, the little 1st graders were SO cute and I had to introduce myself infront of everyone. I helped them clear the gym up after and had my first load of kids waving at me and giggling if I tried to talk to them, some just looked at me like ”meh, another one’ but on the whole I felt a little like the circus had come to town and I was the one thing that everyone had come to point and laugh at. Not in a bad way really, I was fine with it, Iknew that the kids were just being enquisative and it was really interesting. I finished that day on a high and went back, got a beer and went out into the mountains with Marcus for a drive (drank the beer after the drive obviously). So a great great day! Just the actual teaching to get done now.

So my first load of lessons went alright, I soon learnt that the introduction would only last for about 15 mins so thank god I was semi awake during training and that Jeff next door had given me a load of flash cards to use. I managed to survive the first load of lessons and soon got to know what schools were at what level. For example one of my schools has a total of 28 pupils (its my favourite school) and others have classes of about 30 (that is mainly Saruhashi Elt. which I’m not too keen on). I had to adapt my lessons for varying class sizes and oh god the cutest little 1st graders I taught (only 2 in that grade and one boy from 2nd grade takes the lessons with them) I went into the room and they were all quiet, by the time I had fnished the lesson they were jumping around and screaming. FUN! However, there have been classes where the kids just are not interested and you can only do so much to try and get them involved. Again it’s a learning curve so I have to work on the classes as they might want to work differently to others. On the whole the classes are fun but god do I get tired, at some points I feel like a performing clown who has to smile everytime a child goes past. Over the last week though I have really started to be myself in the classroom and I’m finding my own teaching style. The troublesome kid at one of my schools warmed up to me the other day when I started talking with the other children and the girls got all excited when I said that I thought one of the boys from the magazine was good looking, then the loud mouth boy came over asking for my opinion on his comic book. So after that I went and played basket ball with them. I think with a lot of the kids you just have to make extra effort to show you are interested in them not just teaching the lesson.

There are a couple of schools I really love and when you go outside to play with them at lunch its great, its the first time I’ve had people argue to actually have me on their team. I thought ‘god last time I was at school I would usually be one of the last ones standing to be picked. But hey! Look now its that girl! HAHA!’ The kids on the whole are really sweet and they come up to give you hugs and they want to hi-5 you or shake your hands. One day I was leaning out of the staff room window talking to the kids outside when they wanted to shake my hands, this little 5 year old then reached up to shake my hand – he had just been picking his nose which had snot crust all around it – with a screwed up face I shook it then went and washed it with acid.

So school, god there is just so much to talk about and on what has happened – I have appeared in two of the schools newsletters, I have started to learn how to build up my lesson plans, I love working with the kids so long as they have energy and are not moody – then I get really tired from being their monkey, there are funny stories like a kid who came into the staff room and started to cry to appologise to me for wanting to hold the money in class I was showing them without saying ‘Please’. It is great. I love it here.

So I had been in Saruhashi for about a week now, I had seen some of the area but not much, it had been pretty cold most days with snow making an unwelcome appearance from time to time. I wanted the internet but at least had a phone. I wanted to know how my friends were doing but wouldn’t find that out for another couple of days yet.

I heard about the new ALT coming to town PLEASE LET THEM BE FUN AND YOUNG!! Then after saying I would be up by 12 midday to help them move in and say hi, I actually slept in, too used to doing that – I needed routine. Anyway ‘DING DONG’ Oh crap so I got up, usual chocolate smeared face and wild hair. I opened the door to reveal YES SOMEONE YOUNG AND HE HAS A HAT, A HAT – SURELY ONLY COOL PEOPLE WEAR TRILBY HATS WITH A CARDIGAN! I said ‘Hi I’m Vicky, sorry I’m not dressed, I was er, cleaning…’ Marcus is the name of the new ALT, he is from NZ and had piercings and a goaty, I think I have found my new drinking buddy. I closed the door, god shone his light onto me and I shouted ‘Hurrah! I dont have to stay locked up in here any more!’ well i said it in my head – Jeff and his family were still living next door at the time so I didn’t want him thinking I was too crazy. I jumped in the shower, popped round to see Marcus and then later when he had finished his stuff I went round for a beer and a chat. The following day I knocked on his door and asked him if he wanted to come out in the car with me as I was going to try find my schools. So we went off into a local mountain about a 3 min drive from my house. It was so lovely up there, I was starting to realise where I was and that instead of snubbing the differences from what I am used to I should really grab hold of them and appreciate it.

For so long I would look out of the window at work and just see a concrete building, I would leave work and go home seeing nothing but pavements and crazy people shouting, I would get home, switch on the TV and watch Eastenders. On a Wedsnesday I would be like ‘hmm no Eastenders, maybe I should just go to sleep’ Now here I was in the middle of the mountains, Mount Fuji one side of me and Tokyo on the other. Starting to settle. Here is a photo of me in the playground Marcus and I found – by the way they have the BEST slide there so if anyone comes to visit me we are deffo making a trip up the mountain just for that if anything. Fun day! We even drove up to where one of my schools were, oh and we went in search of Sakura which we found lots of and then some lovely blossom turned out to be by Saruhashi bridge – a 3min walk  from my house.

So now I had gotten over the following:

1. Being apart from anyone that I know

2. Traveling outside in the car and finding my way around the town

3. Setting up the house and having it cleaned

4. Finding out that there was more going on here than I had thought

But now – I had the schools to really worry about…..my thoughts at the time?….”Crap, crap, crap….ummm….yeah crap!”

Right, I woke up, my first morning in Saruhashi, the house was cold, it was dirty and I had only got half of my luggage with me. There were scattered Dairy Milk bar wrappers and I felt disgusting…(dramatic music to be inserted here please)

I really missed my friends I had made at Narita and although it had only been a week we had all been in the same boat. I wanted to talk to them and just confirm that I wasn’t the only one in this horrible depressed mood. I wanted to speak to my mum and get some assurance from my family. So many things I wanted but I couldnt get. I would have to wait. Then ‘knock, knock’ at the door, I got out of bed, chocolate smeared down my pajamas, I opened the front door ‘HELLO!’ It was Laura who lived here before me. Wow god she really helped me out on that first day! I got ready and we headed into town for anything else I might need, she showed me where the local supermarket was so I bought some real food as she helped me understand what certain food was. We went out into Ostuki town for something to eat and then she dropped me off home. That day was a big help, I hadn’t got my car yet so I was pretty much stuck at home as I didn’t know where my local train station was at that point.

I still fell into a mood later that evening though, as I was all alone again, however the next day I went into town with my IC where we set up my forms with the City Office and I got my mobile!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! So straight away I was emailing home and I was really struggling with living here still.

A couple of days later Laura popped around and took me to a local city Hachiyoji where I was pulled out of my slump ‘WOW THERE IS A SHOPPING MALL HERE! WOW THERE ARE LIGHTS AND TONNES OF PEOPLE!!’ But that was only about 30 mins on the train, so I guess I wasn’t as out in the sticks as I had first thought then! I had a look around the hyaku en shop and then I sat in the cafe place at the station and filled out my book with what had happened so far. It was great, this was a big turning point for me. I had gotten over the first initial shock – being left alone and not knowing anything. Today however I had learnt where my train station was (a 5 min walk from my house) and that if I want to go shopping its only half hour away!

So I slept for 12 hours, I had no car still and I woke up thinking ‘OH GOD I HAVE THE CAR TODAY, THAT MEANS I HAVE TO DRIVE IT’ crap!

I got up, felt moody but as soon as I stepped outside the cold weather had lifted and it was warm! WARMTH! So I got in the car and drove to the supermarket, I bought some milk. I BOUGHT MILK ON MY OWN. I know, I know, amazing isn’t it. I emailed Lisa ‘LISA I JUST DROVE TO THE SUPERMARKET’ I think I should have been more widley congratulated on this but I am modest so it’s ok. After this I felt very dangerous, so dangerous that – meh screw it I thought ‘I shall drive to Fujiyoshida!’. So I started up the engine and drove down the 139 for about 35 – 40 mins, then in the distance there it was, Mount Fuji, however I could only see its base because it was cloudy all the way up there. No matter, I had gotten over another one of my fears now, I had driven out on my own without a map or anything and just gone for it. I came across a temple so I went back and walked around, took some photos, it was great! I wanted to run up to people and say ‘If you had seen me about 24 hours ago you probably would have shot me in pitty but now look at me! I’m unstoppable ‘(to which point my head might have exploded from pure Traveling Wankeritus or they would have actaully got the gun in the end). So I got back in my car, went home, put the heater on, made a cuppa and went to sleep happy for the first time since getting here. Maybe I hadn’t made such a big mistake? But oh god, I still have the schools to think about. HOW CAN I EMPART MY WISDOM UPON OTHERS? Do I even know how to speak English? Hang on……don’t I have an inter hatred for children that runs deep to my evil soul? CRAP!

Right so in brief – I was sitting on the train going out of the busyness that is central Tokyo, how nice I thought, ah very nice, very green, very very green, ooh whats that? Another mountain? Um ok, right one road, we are going alongside one road. Whats that? We have been on this train for about 15 mins of greenery….

Yes Vicky started to panic, I am used to living in London and my only experience of Japan prior to this was when I was surrounded by concrete and lights so it wasn’t really out of my comfort zone. This however, this was entirely different, this was……………….CULTURE SHOCK. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH!

Yes Culture Shock has snuck up on me, placed a cloth over my face and kicked me in the back. ‘Oh god what have I done’ struck my mind, along with ‘Oh god I am too stuburn to step down from this challenge though, I’m sure its not THAT out of the way’

I arrived at my station where the IC picked me up, I knew it was here I had to meet as she was the only Japanese person to wear blue eye contacts and looked like she had actually stepped outside her Japanese lifestyle at some point in her life. We got into her car, I was tired, it was cold and we were in the car to my new home. It was the first time that she had done this job (The IC is a local resident who helps you move into your house and shows you the local town) so I thought, great if anything goes wrong it will go wrong with me then!

We drove for about 4 mins and then we were outside a lovely looking house ‘wow’ I said, then she carried on another 10 meters to reveal an old 70’s murder victims looking set of houses. Yup, greeeeeeeat, now I understand the cheap rent. Turns out though that they weren’t flats but in fact houses, so I get a house! Cool! We went in the house, it was very very cold and needed a lot of cleaning up. I stood there and then the gas man came around, I had my shoes on as I hadn’t quite grasped the taking your shoes off thing yet. My IC started to drive me into town and then all of a sudden my stomach turned ‘WOW IS THAT MOUNT FUJI!?’ It was so beautiful and then she just turned around and said ‘Huh? Oh yeah, I just don’t notice it now I guess’ stunning, that really lifted my spirits. So beautiful.

I bought all the necessary things in order to ‘survive’ then we headed back, I said bye to her, I was then left standing in this cold old house on my own, no internet, no phone. This was the most depressing night for me. I just stood there and cried like a wuss! So I got my video camera out and started to film the house, upstairs there was no bed, there were only tanami mats so I would sleep on the floor. I decided to put all the photos of my friends and family up which helped a little but sadly I got through most of my dairy milk bars that night. I lay there and watched the Simpsons and shivered due to the cold. I slept ok but was really starting to wish I hadn’t left home, I had made the wrong decision in leaving home. What the hell had I done?