One cool thing about teaching

8 Jun

One thing I love about teaching is that you get to explore and use every aspect of your personality. There are so many, dramatically different personalities in a classroom, and it’s your job to connect with every one of them. So with some students you draw on your sweet, loving side; with others you can indulge in your weird side, or your silly side; and other times you pull out your controlling side or your chill side.

And not only do you get to use all of those aspects of yourself on a daily basis – you have to use them, in order to reach the students. It’s pretty cool.

The convenient thing about this is that the students will feed you the energy to do it. No matter how tired you feel, or how tired they are, once you get in front of them it ceases to matter. Some weird scientific principle comes into play, where the students funnel all this energy towards you. I used to wonder how elementary teachers could teach all day long, but now I see it. They receive this practically-tangible energy from their students. And that makes it possible.

It’s pretty amazing!

So here, have a picture of sakura:

(I didn’t post any pics this year because I really didn’t get any good ones, sadly! But I like this shot of some blossoms near my house.)


Stuff wot I made

6 Jun

In this entry, I’ll share a bunch of things that I’ve made recently! Including some of my ikebana arrangements. (I’ve been taking lessons for the past few months)

First, this little purse I knitted for a friend (the one pictured in the last entry). I bought the little flowers, but otherwise put the whole thing together myself:

It was pretty simple, and you can see the pattern here.

Next, my spring bulletin board. I’m pretty proud of this one! The flowers on the bottom right are for students to write on. They’re supposed to unscramble the word on the leaf, and then write it on that flower.

I put it up a month ago, and they’ve now completed the whole thing!

And finally, here are a bunch of my ikebana flower arrangements!

Oh and last lastly! How could I forget?

Hee! I had fun making that. I found the logo (with eyes) online*, and put the rest of it together.

That’s all for now!


*through Google image search, of course!

Town festival

20 May

Almost 2 years ago, I mentioned that my town was most famous for its really big tree. But it turns out I got the wrong tree! The real one is much more exciting.

This is the tree Kurogi is famous for:

There are actually over a dozen wisteria trees all gathered around a shrine, some over 600 years old! The branches are supported by a huge network of overhead trellises, which you can take a stroll or picnic under. The flowers dangle down 3 or 4 feet long, and smell amazing.

Here’s another shot, of me and a local friend:

And some more pretty pics:

And on the weekends, there’s a wacky town festival to go along with the flowers:

Kurogi gets a lot of well-deserved press for its wisteria festival. If you’re ever in the middle of the Yame mountains in the heart of Fukuoka prefecture, around the end of April, I highly recommend it! 😉

PS: Sorry about the hiatus!! My time in Japan is swiftly drawing to an end, and I’ve been doing lots of preparation / job-hunting stuff. I’ll be returning to the NYC at the end of July…. only 2.5 months away!!

Better late than never…

4 Apr

Remember those pictures I posted of the red spider lilies? They grow on the edge of rice fields in the fall.

Well, I finally found out the Japanese name – higanbana (彼岸花) – aka Lycoris Radiata. Here is some information from the wikipedia entry on this flower:

The bulbs of Lycoris radiata are very poisonous. These are mostly used in Japan, to surround their paddies and houses to keep pests and mice away…. In Japan the Red Spider Lily signals the arrival of fall…. They plant them on graves because it shows a tribute to the dead. People believe that since the Red Spider Lily is mostly associated with death that one should never give a bouquet of these flowers.

The entry has a lot more information on myths surrounding the higanbana, especially in its connection to funerals, partings, and the afterlife. I found it all really lovely and fascinating. Check it out!

ALSO, on a totally different topic: It seems like someone’s complaints about Japan really touched a nerve at the Japan Times! Today they have run 2 more columns detailing what people like about Japan and Japanese people. They are really excellent: the first, one guys opinion on why Japanese people are awesome, and the second, interviews with random gaijin in Tokyo on what they like about the Japanese.

A typical conversation

4 Apr

(held in Japanese)

Japanese friend: Did you have school today?

Me: Yes. The students are on vacation right now, but I still go into work.

Japanese friend: Oh, that must be very boring.

Me: Yes, a little, but I am preparing for the new school year.

J friend: When do the new students arrive?

Me: I think we have the new student ceremony on Friday.

J friend: Don’t you have the school’s opening ceremony on Friday?

Me: Oh, that’s right.

J friend: Do the new students arrive on Monday?

Me: Yes, that’s right, it’s on Monday.


…. Sometimes I think that the entire country is just humoring my presence here.

They’re coming….

28 Mar

See ’em? The sakura are finally starting to come out! According to the news, they are only 4 days behind last year’s schedule, but it feels much later!

I’ll have more photos, of course, as the trees really start to blossom. Until then, here’s one more of the buds outside my building….

A special visit

19 Mar

As usual, I biked to Mt. Kiyomizu on Sunday. Even though it was a little rainy, I wanted to spend some quiet time in my favorite temple. Sadly, I climbed the wet mountain only to find that the temple was closed! And yet… it was my best visit yet.

A man wearing geta  and simple, loose clothing arrived at the temple at the same time as I did, and we shared our disappointment at finding it closed. He had come all the way from Aso, in a prefecture south of Fukuoka, just to see it. Two or three times a year, he travels to Mt. Kiyomizu to play the shaku-hachi while gazing at the temple’s beautiful garden.

Since the temple was closed and it was raining, we sat on the entrance steps. Then he unwrapped the cloth that covered his shaku-hachi, and began to play. He improvised the tune, meditating on the tall trees, plum blossoms, and rain before us.

You can listen to him play the shaku-hachi for yourself! Here is one of his videos on YouTube:

We parted ways and I continued up to the top of the mountain, where the other part of the temple is. Here I found out why the first building was closed. On the 18th of every month, people flock here to offer prayers to Kannon (the bodhisattva I am named after – known as Tara in Tibet). I watched as a train of older people descended from a mountain trail, rang the temple bell, and went inside to be blessed by the monks.

The temple also offered a vegetarian meal on that day, an example of shojin ryori – Buddhist monks’ cuisine.  I was too timid to join in the train of pilgrims, but I went upstairs into the restaurant for an early lunch.

To my surprise, I was seated at a table with the shaku-hachi player! A friend from Aso had joined him, and as we shared the meal, we talked about our backgrounds, Buddhist sects, the history of the Kiyomizu temple, and more. His friend spoke excellent English, having spent a year in Montana teaching Buddhism and befriending Mormons. The two of them were truly lovely people, and I learned more about Buddhism in that one conversation than I have been able to in the past year and a half! They, in turn, were very surprised to learn about my father’s Buddhist career, and to hear about the different kinds of temples in New York City.

We exchanged email addresses and I continued on my hike down the mountain. The rain was gone, rabbits bounded across my path, and the plum blossoms brightened the landscape. I biked home a thoroughly happy gal.