Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Back to School

It was like my first day at Maiko. I was excited but also a little nervous. I caught a taxi to school and this time entered through the visitors' entrance and waved to the office ladies at the front. They were so cute. Kurisu! Hei?? I don't think anyone but a few teachers and the principal knew I was coming. They took me into their office and brought me hot tea. I was so overwhelmed I couldn't help but give them hugs. Especially the lady who always helped me when I came into the office. It was so emotional.

Then I ventured into the staffroom and I could feel the tears again. I was just so happy to be there. Many of the teachers were so surprised and Koucho-sensei made me do a speech. I also finally got to meet Kara, my successor. She's also from Perth and it was so good to chat to her and talk about the good and bad things about our jobs.

The graduations ceremony was like every other graduation ceremony but it was so funny to see all my kids again and she how much they've grown and changed. I took heaps of photos and chatted to the graduating students to see what they were going to do after school. It made me feel so proud when they told me they had passed their exams and were going to study English in college so they could travel abroad and speak English fluently. Some even wanted to be English teachers! I remember before I left Japan I taught a lesson about 'What I want to do after I finish high school' and they had to do an English oral presentation about their goals and future aspirations, and now it was really happening to them.

It was such an amazing feeling. As corny as it sounds, it was so satisfying to know that I had a real positive influence on them and that I was able to do my job and help in the development of these kids. Hearing English coming from their mouths and seeing their smiling faces, being thanked by them and even their parents for helping teach them English and taking the time to tutor them after school was rewarding enough.

I was even given my own special bento lunch!

I nearly spent the whole day at Maiko. Even though my Japanese was appalling, I spent time talking to all the teachers and catching up.
On the way back I dropped by the grocery store to buy some stuff to make dinner. I was so surprised when I bumped into Mika-san! (the lady I would meet on the bus or walking on my way to and from school) It was so lovely to see her and I was so glad I had the change to meet her again because I had forgotten to get her contact details when I left last year.
All my other nights had been more or less booked up and so I decided to cook dinner for Cheryl since she was equally as busy. Chicken and corn soup is one of my comfort foods and hot soup is perfect for Japanese winters. We chatted, we ate, we laughed and then she told me about a new onsen opened up next to Porto Bazar. A new onsen in my own (ex)neighbourhood! It was decided and off we went. It's similar to Tatsu no yu at Asagiri station, as in it has a nice outdoor onsen which has a nice night view of the Akashi Bridge.
*sigh* I miss onsens. Ain't nothing better than getting naked, squeaky clean and then soaking in hot baths under a clear night...then buying a milk drink from the high-tech vending machines and dropping by Mister Donut or the 7/11 for snacks.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Back to Wonderland

My name is Christine and I’m a Japanoholic. It’s been 6 months since my last taste and I still can’t get it out of my system. I’ve tried going cold-turkey and blocking it out of my mind but everything I do and see reminds me of Japan and what I miss about it. The smells, the colours, the smiles, the efficiency, the service, the food – the everything. I can’t even look through my photos without tears starting in my eyes. I hate not being there.

I remember crying all the way home in the car when I came back in August. I never thought I’d be someone who would get depressed. How can someone get depressed? It’s an emotional thing. Depression is for losers. Well turns out I’m the biggest loser of them all, with a capital L.

Perth is simply depressing. Yes, this city is beautiful with nice weather and a wide, starry sky each night but it has nothing on Japan. Housing prices have gone ridiculous and I’ll probably have to live at home till I’m 50 before I can afford my own place, public transport is unreliable and inefficient (not to mention dirty and leaky), stores close before the sun sets, good service is a rarity and you’ll be lucky if you find a good restaurant open after 9pm on a week night. Gasp! Need I say more?

I wasn’t the best company either. I feel sorry for Brendon, my family and friends who had to put up with my sulking.

Finally I couldn’t take it anymore and I had to get out, go back and get some closure. So I booked a plane ticket back to Japan for a two week ‘therapy’ session. The timing was perfect as it coincided with my students’ graduation ceremony. These students were my 1st year high school students when I first started working in Japan and now they were graduating.

I was so excited I couldn’t wait to get on that plane. I arrived in Osaka early in the morning and made my way to Cheryl’s place. Everything was so familiar yet it felt strange. It was so good to be ‘home’ but I realised my Japanese had deteriorated fast. I’d never felt so excited to get on that JR train to Tarumi. I had a shower and a nap back at Cheryl’s place before heading into Tarumi to get reacquainted with my Japanese neighbourhood.

This is a new shop that opened up down the street

It was so good to see Cheryl again and catch up with what’s been happening in the last 6 months. First thing on my list with Cheryl was to head to our beloved local Thai/Viet restaurant for dinner.

Friday, February 23, 2007

JETAA Quiz Night

A few of us joined forces to form Team Shichi for the JETAA Quiz Night.

We didn't win but we got some nice goodies, especially my bottle of shochu for my red origami kangaroo.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Lazy afternoons

Soaring a kite high into the sky is relaxing.

Throwing sticks, gum nuts and shoes into a tree to release a stuck remote-control helicopter while dodging bees and nearby traffic, is not.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Happy Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year Reunion dinner in my grandma's backyard.

My aunties always cook up a storm and us kids always look forward to the CNY spread.

And now that there are more married couples around, that means more ang pows for us single cousins - woo hoo!

My nephew Alex - so cute and placid

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Chinese New Year cookies

An annual family tradition involves my mum, aunties and my grandma getting together to make their own Chinese New Year cookies.

I remember sitting around with my sister and cousins when we were little, helping them make these little treats - rolling peanut balls, brushing on egg glaze, filling pineapple tarts, folding little peanut puffs and banging out those white powdery cookies out of the moulds.

Now everyone has grown up, living and working elsewhere and looking after families of their own. I haven't done it for a while and it was fun to re-learn the skills (rather, my lack of!) and then sit back with a cup of tea while they cook in the oven and smell out the whole house.

Peanut puffs - can you spot the ones I made? hahaha

Peanut cookies straight out of the oven - hmmm buttery goodness

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Early CNY dinner

Marina and Michael invited a few of us over for chinese new year dinner. Many of us were going to be away during the real chinese new year period so we decided to celebrate early.

What Marina said would be a 'simple chicken rice dinner' turned out, as always, to be a massive feast of deliciousness.

The traditional low hei-ing of the yee sang

Our hostess even made spring rolls and boiled egg with sambal for entree, various types of dipping and chilli sauces and even take away goodie boxes. Respect.

Our lovely hosts - Thanks guys!

My chocolate brownie - not very CNYish and too early for V day

Marina's colourful dessert

Friday, February 02, 2007

Catalano's seafood platter

Catalano's Cafe in Victoria Park - great for families and students.

Don't forget to make a booking - they can get really packed out. Not amazingly delicious but the servings are big and definitely good value. Will be back again to try more of the pastas.