Wednesday, November 16, 2011

You know it's a good day at work when it includes a round of Mario Kart and a game of Quidditch.

The Muggles even won.

As for the group that chose to be team Voldemort...they are either the coolest or most evil students I have. It's a fine line.

We actually played "quidditch" now in both of my 3rd-year classes, thanks to a section of the textbook in which Yuki, one of the characters, goes to London and gushes about her love for Harry Potter. "Harry is so cool, isn't he?"

I just loved being able to legitimately say "10 points for Slytherin", in English class. As well as asking them "What time will Snape go to bed tonight?" as a review question.

The game involved dividing the students into six teams and outlining three quidditch hoops on the blackboard. I asked the students a series of review questions to practice the grammar point, and after discussing with their team members, the first to raise their hand was called on to answer. If they were correct, they got a chance to throw a ball at the board in hopes of scoring on one of the hoops.

The game took a surprising twist when the golden snitch made an appearance after the final question was answered.

And in another character-themed review activity, Donkey Kong (me) pulled into the lead in Mario Kart thanks to pulling a star item card after trailing the whole game. Success.

This game is similar; teams choose a character, who moves forward on the track when they are able to successfully answer an English question. They roll the dice to determine the number of spaces, and also choose an item card which allows them to do any number of things, including roll again, move forward another space, send all the other players back 3, or cruise into first place (as in the case of Donkey Kong).

I think I have just as much fun preparing and playing these games as the students do.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Road trip in pictures

For one of the long weekends in September, a road trip seemed like a good idea. I think it was. We went from Yokote, to a small town in Yamagata that I can't pronounce to pick up Jackie, a failed attempt at going to Mt. Zao, and onto Miyagi - including Akiu waterfall, Sendai, Ishinomaki, and Matsushima Bay - aaaand home again.

"Road or Not-A-Road?" Game I often play in Japan. This was probably not a road.

Fantastic ramen shop in Sendai. We made our selections at a vending machine, which gave us a ticket to present to the chefs. Service was pretty speedy.

We saw some of the damaged coast from the tsunami in Ishinomaki and Matsushima. This was an entirely sobering and haunting experience, but also helpful in grounding in my mind the reality of what happened in this part of the country not even a year ago. It's easy to forget, living in an area that hasn't been so directly and obviously affected.

But it was weird, being there and not being able to do anything. I'd like to find more ways to help instead of just knowing what it's like there.

I should mention that Ishinomaki is famous for a certain manga comic. Thus we saw these characters all over town.

Well-wishes from the world.

Matsushima Bay
Mountains of rubble still to be cleaned up.
Finally, we said goodbye to all five of our couchsurfing hosts. Three of them did tricks. Guess which ones.
Yes I realize that was cheesy.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Favourite Places in Akita, part 1

It's unfortunate that Akita, being more removed from the main tourist areas of Japan, is a prefecture that will seldom be visited by many who come to this country (even many living within its borders). There is a lot of beauty to be missed by not making the trek up north to Tohoku.

Lake Tazawa - the deepest lake in Japan (also remarkably blue on a sunny day)

Oyasu steam gorge. A short trail through a gorge where the rocks are bursting with volcanic gases and you can feel the heat rising from the blue-green water. Pretty incredible place.

Mt. Kurikoma. This is partly in Akita, partly in Iwate; as you hike you pass a sign marking the border of the two prefectures. In autumn this place is absolutely vibrant.

Steamy hot water, being pumped from the mountain to the onsen at its base...

At the Akita/Iwate border.

I should mention that the day we did this hike, the weather kept switching from freakishly threatening and rainy to brilliantly sunny. The temperature also dropped several degrees as we ascended; I got a little confused about what season it actually was.

The lake to the right is a sulphur lake. It smelled strongly of eggs as we approached this section of the mountain. I think it was at this point that I started thinking about ramen for some reason and became rather hungry (possibly because all of the best bowls of ramen come with an egg? or maybe just because we had been on a chilly hike for several hours and hadn't eaten).
The "peak"
Jeffy, and some sweet leaves.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The one where I show you my apartment.

So, this is my new home. It actually is starting to feel like home. I maybe cleaned it just for these pictures.

Front door; note the lovely representation of my apparent patriotism draped above it.

Down the hallway... my room.

Awesomely large closet.

Heading back to the kitchen...

bathroom-ish (minus the toilet, which is in a separate room across the hall), laundry...

...little shower. intended for people who are not tall.

Note all the yellow in my apartment, which I love. Most of it was here, conveniently, when I moved in.

Tiny kitchen. Everything is slightly miniature. It feels like one of those play kitchens that every girl had as a child. No? Well I did.

For example, that fridge is a lot shorter than I am. Speaking of the fridge, you just might find yourself on it.

Tiny table, tiny chairs. But lots of space.

It's not a bad little place.