March in Japan means the end of the third trimester and, thus, the end of the school year. Graduation season is in! For some JETs, this means one, maybe two ceremonies they will attend. For me, it means three. I have one high school, and the third years already graduated (March 1st). Very touching. I had seven students in that grade whom I had taught for a year and a half, and they were all so sweet. I’ll really miss them.
This Friday – (yep, the 13th) – are the middle school graduations. In Japan (or at least my area), all the middle schools graduate on the same day, and then all the elementary schools graduate on the same day, this year on the 18th. While on the one hand I’m glad because it means I don’t sit through six graduation ceremonies – (three is more than enough most days) – I’m also sad because I won’t get to see all my students graduate. For elementary schoolers, it’s not a big issue. I’ll see them next year, unless they transfer schools.
For my middle school kids, though, it’s time to go off to high school. This requires a bit of background information. In Japan, school is mandatory through middle school. Elementary starts in the 1st grade, when kids are about 7 years old. They go through six years, then three of middle school, meaning they finish around the age of 14 or 15. In America, that’s roughly high school freshman age. At least it was for me.
Though high school isn’t mandatory, it’s essentially a social obligation (just like going on to college), so there’s a lot of pressure to continue on. Of course, some kids will go on to trade schools or start jobs, but that’s a slim part of the population. That means the middle schoolers are all cramming and studying for the tests into high school. They aim for the school they want, kind of like we do for university, and then they take the tests. So the kids I teach may not go to the one high school in our town but off to a neighboring town and live or commute for high school. It’s not unusual. Then they repeat this process for university.
I go through that lengthy educational bit to say that I don’t get to see one of my favorite group of middle school kids graduate this year, and one girl in particular has gotten into a high school in a nearby city. I’m proud of her, and we may continue to talk in emails, but I won’t physically see her unless by chance. That said, at the high school, I only teach one class of second years and one of third years, so I only see the first years in the hallways. Still, it’s better than nothing.
I got some end-of-the-year and hinamatsuri (Girls’ Festival) gifts. The hinamatsuri one is the image for today, and it shows dolls, which people put up for this festival. A song is written on it, and the two adults and two middle school kids at my first night class all sang it for my friend and I. Beautiful! From the student I mentioned above who is going to a school in the next city, I also got a cell phone strap of a clear piece of plastic, like a frame, and a small plant inside it. I’ll post that soon.
Alright, I could go on and on about graduation and ceremonies and the start and end of the school year (which is only about two weeks apart, and teachers get maybe a couple days break between then), but I’ll switch gears and talk about my travel plans.
April 29th through May 8th (9th by the time I get home) I plan to visit Australia – specifically the Gold Coast. I’ve got a friend I want to see, and I figured that since this may be as close as I ever get to Australia, I should hit it up while I have the time and funds to do so. Most of the plans are underway. I have a hotel ready to book and a plane ticket to buy, and I’ve checked out online some places to visit while I’m there. I’m looking to take it easy, though.
Apparently some bit of advice for anyone flying through Sydney and transferring anywhere: it’s best to allow at least 3 hours between the flights. So say my friend and her family. Something about crowds and security and everything that sounds like it’s much more of a hassle than it should be. Anyway, make note of that, and thanks to them for telling me. Now I just have to get that ticket canceled, pay a fee, and get an entirely new flight through Singapore instead.
In a similar vein, my plans for Korea are shaping up and yet at the same time causing me a bit of grief. My original plan was to head down around July 19th and stay until about the 31st. My classes end on the 17th (my birthday! That’s gonna be an awfully sad week.), and my contract for the year ends around August 5th. That’s when I have to be out of my apartment for the next JET to come in and live. Sure. Fine. Not an issue. I can even fly from Seoul to Tokyo to America and have most (or all?) of that paid for by JET, which is part of the deal we get for this job.
After speaking with my supervisor, I’m looking at pushing everything back one week so I can take care of closing my bank account, returning my car, and all of that fun business. I had two friends, too, who were potentially going to join me for this adventure, but money constraints and other travel plans have caused one to politely back out. I hope he has a great Christmas!! Now to see if my other friend will join or not. I may end up in Korea alone for two weeks. Won’t that be fun?
Anyway, I’m not planning to go up to Korea around July 25th or 26th and stay until August 9th or 10th, give or take some time. I believe that I have a month’s leeway between the end of my contract and the last day I can fly home where the JET Program will still pay for the flight.
My plans for Korea are a little less detailed at present but a lot more involved than my ones for Australia. Partly because I’m being influenced by my RP characters (many of whom are from or based in Seoul), I have places in the country I want to see for backstory or pure intrigue. Anyone who knows or lives in the areas and can give me advice, anything and everything is welcome!! So far, my vague plans consist of, in order:
- Fly to Incheon Airport.
- Head in to Seoul
- Check out a couple districts, still looking at what options I have. Some may be based purely around characters.
- Visit Daejeon (a character’s fault) – day trip?
- Visit Incheon (another character’s fault) – day trip?
- Visit Jeju – maybe take a week and chill out there? I really want to see it.
- Go back to the airport and fly to Tokyo and then the States!
Finally, I want to update people on my language studies and my writing.
First, my Korean. It’s not going so well. Rather, for what I’m studying, it’s not that bad, but I’m behind in my schedule. February was supposed to see me knowing the alphabet, basic greetings and introductions, and numbers at a basic level. March was dedicated to travel then a few days of review. Alas, my forgetful brain totally slipped up and spent about a week not remembering I even had Korean to study, and then the pressure to know Korean isn’t quite on yet since the trip is still a bit away, so I haven’t been forcing myself to learn it at any hasty speed.
Right now, I’ve gotten to numbers and have done 1 through 19 of the Korean numbers (not the ones from China) down to the point where I can write the Korean for the numbers or match the Korean to the numbers. I still have a long way to go, but I may skip over numbers and move on to travel soon since it’s more important over all. Besides, I’ll have my pocket travel dictionary thing with me during the trip, so I can use it for numbers or travel phrases or anything, really. (Look at me, finding reasons I can slack off.)
My writing fluctuates, too. I got a ton of roleplay posts done on Saturday morning, and I’ve added a couple pieces of information to a story series I want to write. My scroll jar efforts, however, are paused for now. Rather, I keep saying I’m going to do it, and then I don’t.
Also, the original intent with those was to draw a word, sit down, think for a moment, then write. It could be a story, a poem, some word art, a freewriting piece – anything as long as I wrote then and there and based it off the word I drew.
That hasn’t been happening – not completely, at least. The last piece or two I let stew for days while I tried to think of something “creative” or “fitting”. Not quite the point, but as long as I’m writing, I guess.
Okay, I think that’s all I can think of for now. Plus, I have my next class in ten minutes, so I don’t have any more time anyway.