Kobe Days

34.6911° N, 135.1973° E

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JET 20 Questions

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything, and since I found this on a fellow JET’s blog, I thought I’d answer them and see if there are any further changes when I actually leave the programme 😉

Name: Ryn

Prefecture Placement: Kobe City

Prefecture Requests: Suburb, no specific requests
If you’re kaypoh enough to want to know more…



So hard to say goodbye

The thing about JET is that you really don’t know where you end up after you get accepted. Take me, for example. I had asked for a sub-urban placement with no preferences for prefectures, and I ended up in one of the most urban placements right next to where I had lived the previous year.

Kobe, as a designated city, is like a mini prefecture. Over 100 ALTs are spread out over 9 SHS, 82 JHS and 166 ES, and you don’t really have a choice where you go. One of the ALTs said that school placement is like an arranged marriage. You don’t know what you’re getting into, but all you can do is try and make things work with the other party. She’s not wrong.

I was placed in a really large JHS with 3 ALTs (anyone would tell you that this is really uncommon). Besides taking one grade of students (over 300 of them), I also took on the task of teaching at a mammoth ES. In order to meet requirements, I had to spend 2 days every week at there, sometimes teaching 6 straight classes a day. For someone without teaching experience with children, I can tell you that it was not an easy task.

But with the hard work came the most friendly environment an ALT can have. The principal had taught overseas himself, and is a firm advocate of English in elementary schools. The vice-principal is a friendly, fatherly man who would answer my numerous questions about Japanese school culture and kept an interest in what I was doing. The school nutritionist would join in our conversations and kept me fed with all kinds of sweets and tidbits.

The school had a great system for planning classes. Each grade had a teacher in charge of English, with one of them my overall contact for the school. Every time I was due to teach a new grade, I would sit down with that teacher and discuss the next lesson. It’s easy for me to do so because I speak pretty fluent Japanese, but the teachers themselves are mostly younger teachers, and they are happy to listen to my ideas and discuss my plans, which makes lesson planning a joy.

When I received my new posting for the new school year, I was both happy and sad. Happy because I was moving to a high-level SHS, something that I’d worked towards as part of my own professional development, but sad because I was going to have to leave my ES. I loved the school – it was the only reason I stayed in my current JHS despite having a terrible first year (the second year was great).

On my last day, the principal congratulated me on being transferred to the SHS, saying that my hard work has been recognised. He has always been a firm supporter of my work, and I know that he often spoke of me to the BOE. He made the announcement of my leaving to the school at the morning meeting, and the looks of surprise on the teachers’ faces made me tear up again. I cried so hard when I made my leaving speech, something I didn’t think I would do, but I was grateful, so grateful for having been placed in such a supportive and nurturing school for my first ALT experience that I couldn’t help myself.

So many teachers came up to me to congratulate me and encourage me after that. A couple of them got their classes to write goodbye notes to me, and I was beset upon by a class of 4th years after school, thanking me for teaching them. I hung around after working hours, helping out with graduation prep just so I didn’t have to leave, and I found myself tearing up again as I handed in my staff pass to the vice-principal. “I’ll hold it for you for the next time you come back,” he said.

Thank you, IBKH ES, for being my home for the past 1.5 years. I don’t believe there can be any placement more welcoming that you were. I’ll miss you so, so much.

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(as told by my 6th graders.)

“Um…turtle…(looks at friend) いじめられるは何だって?”
“Boy…(pretends to beat up his friend acting as a turtle)”
“Taro…turtle rescue!”
(Bonus points for ‘rescue’!)
“Taro turtle ride. Go Ryugujo.”
What’s Ryugujo?
Ah. Then?
“Dancing fish!”
“Um…box! Present!”
“Go home! Father, mother, no!”
“Box open, smoke! じいさんって何? Grandfather!”
Grandfather comes out of the box?
“No!! Um…Taro! Grandfather!”

Best story ever.
Non-ESL teachers can click here for the full story. (^▽^)

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Breaking the silence

So for the past 3 weeks I’ve been very uninspired to blog. The thing about being on JET is that after a while, it’s just a job. Sure, you’re in the land of the rising sun, everything is different from home and VS Arashi is just a click away, but in the end, it’s a place where you spend 7 hours trying to get some knowledge of English grammar into a bunch of kids’ heads 5 days a week and then spend the other 2 days recovering from that before doing it all over again.


Can you tell I've been working too hard lately?

I love my job…most of the time. I make it a personal challenge to come up with lessons that not only allow my kids to practise grammar (and make their teachers happy), but also allow them to learn while having fun. That's why I spend half my day or all my non-teaching hours designing tasks to do both. But sometimes, just sometimes, I wonder if I'm really making any difference at all.


Anyway, no other news to report for now. I've not been inspired to post, partly because FB's "super-awesome" photo uploading tool has been a pain in the tushie, and I'm not ready to face it with my 800-odd photos left of my Kyushu trip. Which is a sad thing because if I don't do it soon, I'm going to start to forget. Ugh.

In other news, I've been poking my nose into the affairs of the 2013 Singaporean batch of JETs, accumulating more data for analysis. It seems that most Singaporeans are posted to the usual spots, but there have been a couple of surprises, such as Okinawa. I had never come across any information about Singaporeans in Okinawa before this, so I assume that this would be the first time a Singaporean JET is sent there.

I've been thinking about words of wisdom I can impart to them, but so far, the only thing I can think of is this.

“Leave the chicken rice paste at home. If you are really going to cook chicken rice, bring the dark soy sauce. That's the one that's hard to find here.”


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In which I got extremely well-acquainted with 筋肉痛

I’ll admit that I’ve had very little interaction with snow. I’ve lived my whole life in a sunny tropical island and had never visited anywhere that was covered with white. (I suspect that’s because my dad hates that stuff.) Even in Japan, both my previous home and current home are situated in warm places.

So when Peach had a sale and we ended up heading to Sapporo for a March snowboard getaway, I found myself somewhere between excitement and dread. Lots of snow! Freezing temperatures! And snowboarding…something I have no idea if I actually can do without injuring myself. (It didn’t help that an acquaintance broke her wrist while snowboarding a couple of weeks before my own attempt.)

Our trip up north started on the Thursday before school actually ended, which meant I had to miss my ES graduation. I was gutted, but consoled myself with a message to be placed on their congratulations board. I knew I would still see most of them (minus those heading for private junior high schools), but they would no longer be “my” kids…and I really loved them.

Ah, well. しょうがない。 Back to the main story.

Click to read long yarn…

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Good morning, Mother Nature

At 5.33am Japan time, JETs all over Kobe, many sleeping off the effects of enkais, were given a not very gentle wake-up call by Mother Nature.

スクリーンショット(2013-04-13 16.03.51)

A magnitude 6.3 earthquake hit Awaji Island just south of Kobe, and it could be felt in Kobe at magnitude 3~4. I opened my eyes a few seconds before the shaking started, so I had the privilege of experiencing the whole thing from beginning to end.

Now, I wouldn’t call myself a stranger to tremors, having experienced a few small ones when I was in Kyoto, but those were at magnitude 2 max. This one was longer and more powerful. Doors rattled and a couple of bottles toppled over in the kitchen while I laid in my futon, wondering why it was taking so long to stop.

Once it had, I crawled out of bed and grabbed my phone to see messages from my fellow Singaporeans staying upstairs. After assuring ourselves that there were no major damages, I opened up Facebook.


Needless to say, pretty much everyone else had been shaken awake and had started posting on Facebook. It was nice having a community compare notes and provide information links, but one of my fellow JETs summed it up nicely by posting the above on our Facebook page.

After ascertaining that there were no more aftershocks (there was a small one a few minutes after), I sent a quick message to my family letting them know I was safe before disappearing back into lalaland. (3 hours of drinking at an enkai would do that to you.)

I woke up hours later to find an email from the Singapore embassy checking about my status. So, guys, always remember to e-register when you go overseas. You never know when something like this might happen, so it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

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Only in Japan…

Today was moving day! Basically, there’s a tradition in Japanese schools. Teachers sit according to the grade they teach, so every April, when the new teachers arrive at their new school, the whole school turns up to move their tables. For example, the 3年生 teachers generally become 1年生 teachers and their tables are moved accordingly.

Some schools make it easier for the teachers by having them move just their drawers. Mine did the whole caboodle and had everyone do the great move-around. Tip: bad idea to wear black when moving tables in Japanese schools. Sand gets everywhere. ><

On another note, congrats to all the new Singaporean JETs who got their results! You guys got lucky this year, being the first country(?) to get confirmation. Maybe they're making up for us being one of the last last year. (=.= at remembering the stress from waiting…) Wish I had applied to be TOA, but I'm doing orientation in Kobe instead. I'm still happy to answer questions and give advice, so leave comments if you need someone to talk to 😀

(Btw, 2 of the applicants I gave SOP advice to made it in. Looks like I really can think about opening that JET application prep class! X3)