Here and Now

I’m in Japan. In Toyama.

What seemed like a dream has become a reality and I’m still in a daze.

So my current status update is:
I’ve got a HUGE backlog of articles to write and publish
I’ve got a TON of housework to complete before I can get to writing
I’ve got to mark a STACK of student essays/letters to me
I’ve got to start cooking regularly
AAAAAAND I’ve got to get WI-FI in my apartment before I can post any of my fantastic pictures.

But for now, my school has been kind enough to allow me free use of a laptop with internet and since it’s Obon now, all the teachers are away and I’m free to do whatever I want (within reason).

S0 here and now in a nutshell:
1st August 2014-15th August 2014

Said goodbye to family,
took 7hr flight by JAL to Narita Airport,
took 2.5hr bus to Keio Plaza Hotel, in Shinjuku (#throwback),
went for dinner with karyn sempai on first night in Tokyo,
spent next 2 days in formal wear (luckily there was air-con),
went for Singapore Embassy dinner in Roppongi on last night in Tokyo,
panicked about overpacking  for my domestic flight to Toyama
woke up super super early, before sunrise (which is super early in Japan),
had amazing buffet breakfast on 40something th floor of Keio Plaza Hotel,
took bus to Haneda Airport,
realised that i didn’t have to show my passport for my local flights (amazing!)
was not kicked out of the flight for my borderline fat luggage,
and sat on a 40 minute ANA flight.


Then i landed in Toyama airport and saw mountains,
lots and lots of mountains,
and my supervisor and another JTE from my base school was there to recieve me,
and we went around Toyama getting my resident card,
registering myself,
introducing myself at school,
applying for a bank account,
signing for my house,
visiting my new home,
getting a train card,
visiting the nearest shopping centre…


and then it was a flurry of paper work,
and orientations,
and getting an iPhone C (finally)
and cleaning the house,
and finding my way to school and around the neighbourhood


And, oh how fabulous it was!
I wake up to see distant mountains and toy houses under the wide wide sky,
visited a shrine 5 minutes away,
took photos and talked to people,
met my neighbours,
added more people on facebook,
visited the tateyama castle,
ate honey cheese pizza,
AND i climbed a Tateyama!

i couldn’t breathe, seeing its beauty.

so green and large,
eveloping the what my eyes could see,
patches of snow remaining in the hot summer,
tall trees with trunks so very brown,
and clear clear water running down into streams.

I drank the water, and i doubt i can go back now.


and then i went for a school festival,
got unknowingly interviewed by the local press,
talked to kids about japan and culuture,
wore my pink yukata with zori that steph-chan gave
and attended my first obon,
ate street food,
played a game,
won the game,
and watched street dances,
took fabulous photos,
saw bonfires being lit to summon the dead back to the world of the living,
saw families light fires by the river,
and then it all came to a hush as fireworks were launched into the air,
and they bloomed like flowers….hanabi….flower fire…how apt.


so now i sit in my school’s staffroom,
managed to take a peek at the school’s baseball team,
occassionally talk to the odd student,
mark letters that have been written to me…reply to thier questions…
drink my tea….

How can I possibly pack all this into a nutshell?
So, every now and then, I take a deep breath, smile and say my thanks to the world for keeping me alive to experience this.

I’ll attempt to post a more detailed report later….but for now, i wait for my wifi to be installed. 😛



My linguistic journey.

In 2011 June, with just a smatter of 日本語, I set sail (ok no, I took a plane) to Japan. And everyone was praising me with, “日本語上手ですね〜”, and I was basking in all the praises and I came back thinking that I must be FANTASTIC at this.

On hindsight, I probably sounded like a neanderthal murdering the language with non-existant grammar and crappy vocabulary. Here’s a good example of what I might have said: “今、食べ物で行く” which probably translates to something like, “Now, I go food” OK….maybe not THAT bad….but I certainly didn’t know how to use any of the grammar rules at that time.

So after graduating from Lasalle, I admitted myself into Bunka Language School and I’ve never looked back. Ok so this isn’t advertising for them, but I’ve truly enjoyed learning Japanese with every teacher at Bunka. From a neanderthal, my Japanese improved enough to work as a surtitle operator for a theatre show. I could work as an Artist liaison  officer during the M1 Fringe Festival and best of all, I was able to communicate with Yukio Ninagawa who I wrote my thesis on. I was also able to read hiragana, katakana and some kanji within this short period.

All this within a year. It was amazing.

Owing to my freelance schedule that’s always changing, I’ve never really had one consistent teacher during my journey with Bunka. My Elementary 1 and 2 was with Ishii-sensei, my Elementary 3 was with Kobayashii-sensei, and Inter 1-4 was with Nakaya-sensei and now in pre-advanced 1, I’ve had both Takatsuka-sensei and Shida-sensei.

I’m very thankful to Nakaya-sensei in particular since she went out of her way and wrote a wonderful recommendation letter that helped me get in the the JET programme. She was also the teacher I learnt under the longest and her lessons were always full of hilarious jokes and easy to understand. 🙂

They’re all very different people with different characters. But I’ve always enjoyed their lessons and more importantly, I’ve never once felt stupid when I ask questions or make mistakes (especially in Kanji). As teachers, they’ve all been amazingly supportive and they’ve been a huge driving force behind my ambition to one day do translation and interpretation for the Arts.

The lesson structure between Elementary and Intermediate 4 is also absolutely fantastic. And because of the clarity of the structure, I was able to constantly revise my lessons and my grammar and vocabulary grew by leaps and bounds.

Now at Pre-Advance 1, I have to admit that Kanji is an uphill climb. At times, I feel like I’m lagging behind my classmates who have Chinese background in understanding the characters. But I also think that Kanji is something that is best mastered with constant usage. Which is why I’m so excited to be moving to Japan under the JET Programme come August. I’ll be in an atmosphere where Japanese will no longer be a choice but a necessity. When I return, I hope to do my teachers at Bunka proud with a greater understanding of this wonderful language. 🙂

So THANK YOU Bunka for giving me such a strong foundation in the Japanese Language!
I truly couldn’t have asked for more.
Happy 29th Birthday!