I’m getting old… 23!

Hey hey hey!
It’s been exactly a month since i wrote! Wow, this time time has gone by reasonably quickly.

First of all, I have received an offer from Nottingham to study biological photography and I have officially accepted the offer. It seems strange thinking that I am leaving this place. I have never had a very short-term attitude (nor a long-term attitude) but now with people learning that I will be leaving they keep on reminding me that I only have 5 months left. And that makes me really sad. In fact, I was so sad that I considered staying and going to Tokyo for a year of fun before starting the masters. However, I’ve come to realize that, knowing myself fairly well, I would be bored with so much free time and that I’m not leaving Japan because I dislike it here, or because I miss my friends and family; but that studying this masters is fun and I am so excited about it! Hopefully, someday I can also win the wildlife photographer of the year competition (http://www.nhm.ac.uk/visit-us/whats-on/temporary-exhibitions/wpy/onlineGallery.do)

There’s 2 public holidays in Japan this month: the 3rd of November (which was cultural day or something) and the 23rd. For the one at the end of October, a Japanese friend and I went to Hamanako, the 10th biggest lake in Japan in the prefecture just north of Aichi (where Nagoya is located). We had great weather and it was very pretty. It was one of the last few places i still want to visit in this area! Photos are up under ‘Nagoya’.

I relaxed on the first one in November, last week. Actually, I prepared a science lesson for a public high school – one of the top ones in Nagoya.
The slightly twisted way in which the school system works in Japan is that everyone gets graded based on standardised test scores. This happens from a very early age, and how you do on those tests will determine how far you can go in life. If you don’t do well, you can’t get into the top junior high schools. Which then means you can’t get into one of the top high schools. Which means you will never get into Tokyo or Kyoto University. Which means you won’t get hired for the best jobs in the best companies.
The school I went to teach at was one that sends a lot of students to Tokyo and Kyoto university, so it was A LOT of fun teaching kids who are genuinely interested and motivated! Their reading skills are higher than their listening skills which are higher than their speaking skills, so I guessed their level a little bit too high. That made me really sad because if it’d been easier maybe they may have enjoyed it more (what do you expect if you tell me you want a native-level science class!). But i had a discussion at the end where i split them into groups, and they had to say why their team should win, and they tried to come up with good reasons and there was always at least 1 volunteer for saying it in English, so I was extremely happy about that, and I think the school too! I will hear (i hope) on friday how it went. Hopefully I can get another shot at it next term (i’m keeping my fingers crossed).

On saturday i had a little ‘do’ for my birthday – first I went for some pre-drinks at the very classy establishment of the marriot’s sky lounge on the 52nd floor of the station building (they heard it was my birthday and brought me free cake!). Then some friends and I went to take some purikura photos (i recently learned this stands for picture club) – purikura is a photobooth where you can choose the background, and choose the mode in which it takes photos (most japanese like to have enlarged eyes etc which can make you look about 10 years younger) and then when you finish taking the pictures (it’s all very very speedy) you can draw on them before getting them printed – which comes in the form of small stickers that school kids will put all over their notebooks. It’s actually very fun! That, along with karaoke, are some of my favourite habits picked up in Japan.
After purikura we met the other folks at yamachan (a restaurant with nagoya’s famous spicy chicken wings, de-lish) which was great, a lot of people didn’t know each other well at all! Finally the toughies stuck around to go to my friend’s club and everyone ended up having a good time I think. I certainly did! I felt very special.

Hangover avoided on Sunday morning, in the evening I hopped on an overnight bus with another Japanese friend and we went to Tokyo Disney Sea!
Tokyo Disneyland is the only one around the world not actually owned by the Disney company. So in 2002 or so, they were making a lot of money (I think Japanese go to disneyland more than anyone else, and spend a LOT on souvenirs), and decided to build a 2nd park called Disney Sea. It’s themed in different areas based on different stories (like a mermaid area and an akraba area for aladdin) so it’s a little bit more mature than the others. I decided to go for Sea rather than Land, and it was REALLY FUN! I hadn’t been to a disney park since going to Eurodisney when i was 6, and despite the lack of sleep from the bus journey, i fully enjoyed going on the rides (even queueing for an hour was do-able), eating the interesting food (curry and pepper-flavoured popcorn!) and seeing the light and fireworks battle between water and fire. It was QUITE magical, and i loved the sceneries with the mediterranean villages and the American villages. Check out the photos. The best word to describe it: FUN!

I have to say, not a disappointing 23rd bday celebration so far!!

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