March Madness

お久しぶりです!Long time no see!

I can’t believe that it’s March 31 already. This month flew by!

Remember my Ultimate Baking Extravaganza? Well, it was a huge success! I baked 207 cookies (and probably ate just as many in raw cookie dough form) to distribute to my students and teachers and they loved them! I had wonderful last classes with the 3nensei and I was so sad to see them graduate on Sunday, March 9.

 

The final result of my Baking Extravaganza, packed and ready to bring to school!

The final result of my Baking Extravaganza, packed and ready to bring to school!

That’s right – in Japan, students graduate in March! The 3nensei wrote their high school entrance exams before graduation and no longer had any classes, so they didn’t come to school for most of the month. School felt so empty without them! The 1nensei and 2nensei still had classes until March 19, although the daily schedule was shortened and the atmosphere felt more relaxed than usual.

I got to teach a special lesson to all of the 1nensei classes about Grade 9 and Grade 12 graduation in Canada. Turns out our graduations are very different – Japan’s is very formal and ceremonial, whereas Canada’s is much more celebratory, IMO. The differences were so interesting, and I might make a blog post on it someday…

But it turns out that the 3nensei wouldn’t be the only ones not returning to my school for the new school year. In Japan, it’s customary for teachers to get shuffled around every April. From what I’ve heard, teachers usually spend 3-5 years at one school before they get transferred to another. On March 20, the day that we found out who would stay and who would go, every teacher was called into the Principal’s office one by one. I found out that I would be losing two of my four JTEs and twelve other familiar faces. I was (and still am) sad, but I’m looking forward to meeting all of the new teachers from April 1!

Friday, March 21, was the Spring Equinox national holiday. We had the day off school, so Marsha and I hopped on a bus and spent the long weekend in Sendai! Sendai is the largest city in Tohoku with a population of around 1 million people, so it was a big change from our little city of 50,000. We spent the three days taking pictures, shopping, eating, taking pictures, sightseeing, shopping, taking more pictures, and enjoying the sunshine (even if it was unseasonably cold – 5 degrees C, brr! ;)). It was a wonderful escape for a weekend and I can’t wait to go to Sendai again! (Given that it’s only 4.5 hours by bus and 7000yen return, another trip to Sendai will definitely happen!)

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The view of Sendai from the Site of Sendai Castle!

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The view outside Sendai Station! It’s like a mini-Tokyo.

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POKEMON CENTER!

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Sendai, as seen from the AER Lookout Terrace

My birthday was last week, and although it started out a little sad (waking up all alone in an empty apartment, on the opposite side of the Earth from all of your family and most of your friends…), it picked up very quickly when I got to school. My JTE and other teachers around my desk sang and clapped Happy Birthday to me (twice!) and gave me presents and sweets. Later that day, we had a tea party for the leaving female teachers, and they surprised me with my own mini cake! It was adorable and so sweet of them. That night, a few of the ALTs in the city took me out for supper at my favourite restaurant and then to a night of karaoke. They bought me an ice cream cake from Baskin Robbins, too! In the end, it turned out to be a wonderful birthday.

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Flowers and gifts from my parents and teachers, respectively!

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My ice cream cake! <3

In true Japanese fashion, although classes have ended for the school year, all of the school clubs still have practice so most of the students are still at school every day. Teachers, too, are required to be at school – including me! The teachers in Japan don’t get a break like they do in Canada. As well, the students have homework(!) to complete over the spring break to get them ready for the next grade. Homework!! Can you imagine if teachers assigned homework to students over the two month summer break back home in Canada?!

After a short two-week spring “break,” school starts up again next week with opening ceremonies on Tuesday, April 8. The teachers have all switched desks (what a flurry of an afternoon that was!), I’ve spent the last week organizing mine, and everyone is getting ready to welcome the new school year. On top of all of this, we’ve been kept busy with more ceremonies and enkais than you can count!

Enkais have the BEST food!!

Enkais have the BEST food!! Featured: a Dolce Pizza.

With all of this going on, it’s no wonder that March flew by!

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