What do you say?

2016 was difficult.

It probably began on 18th Feb when one of my elderly students at an English chat group that I volunteer at, collapsed before me. She passed on the next day.

One moment laughing, the next moment gone. That was it.

Over the course of one year, I think I dealt more with death than I ever have. It was extremely emotionally draining mostly because of the shock…both mentally and physically.

2 students died at my spcial needs school.
Ninagwa Yukio, a director I’d written my thesis on, and even had the luck to meet at an after party, passed away.
My cousin’s grandfather.
Yet another director.

Then, during the spring  break this year, meeting with a teacher from my special school, I was told that Fav-kun might not make it to high school as his condition attacks his muscles and would eventually reach his heart and internal organs.

At age 9, Fav-kun, is my favoritest student of all times. There’s a reason he’s my favorite, and I know what people say about teachers having favorites, but he has so much life, spark and wit in him, it’s hard NOT to like him. It helps that he has an extremely high level of interest in English.

If I’m not mistaken, he has a form of muscular dystrophy. I’d been told before that I was seeing him at his healthiest. I even did my research on his condition and reading the stuff that I did, I had my suspicions. But, being told directly that him dying was a real possibility, gutted me.

I went home and broke down.

A part of this feels selfish. There are people who must be feeling so much more pain. The individuals themselves, the parents, the siblings, the family, his friends, his teachers who see him every single day…in comparison, I myself, am honestly, nothing. And no matter what people might tell me about how it’s ok for me to feel this way, I still struggle with what to feel or do.

Some time ago, Fav-kun started making mentions of death. His face wouldn’t reveal anything and neither would he talk about himself. He’d make mentions of death in English. Grammatically broken, but he wanted to communicate it to me any way.

This year however, it seems he’d begun talking about this more often. Yesterday, during lunch time, we were talking about how I couldn’t eat meat and fish. He seemed really interested to know if I could be hospitalised if I accidentally ate it. I reassured him that I’d feel a little ill, but nothing too extreme.

He then began asking when he could start eating (he has a feeding tube at the moment). The teachers said the request was being considered, but couldn’t give him an answer. It was an uncomfortable conversation for everyone, because EVERYONE in that room wanted nothing more than  for Fav-kun to eat whatever he wanted without thinking twice. At this point though, there are safety concerns and even if he did eat, it would have to be stuff put through the food processor.

He then looks at the teachers who’re eating their lunch with him and asks, “Does your fish taste good?” Felt like a punch in the gut. Really, what do you say?

Some time later, I showed him a video from the Pixar movie, UP, because he’d done a grand job during my English lesson and because he kept bugging me about “Carl Ojii-san”. The video showed perhaps the most emotional scene of why Carl did what he did. It showed the scene where him and his wife couldn’t have a child and how his wife died just as he got them tickets for their trip.

After we watched the video, I was explaining to him that Carl set out on his crazy journey to fulfill the dream that him and his wife had. But, Fav-kun seemed fixated on the death of Carl’s wife. He asked me why she died, and how she died and suddenly had a dizzy spell. We got a little worried for him and while his homeroom teacher went to get a wheelchair.

So while she was gone, I talked to the boy. Asked him what was on his mind. He asked me why the lady had died, and I replied that she’d died because it was her time to go. He asked if she was sick and I replied, “maybe a little.” He asked me what happened to Carl, and I said, “well, he went on his journey didn’t he?” but he pressed on, wanting to know if Carl had also died. I told him, “Well, we all die, no one goes on forever… Carl probably died eventually. I mean, if you try living forever, you’ll become like the bad guy from Harry Potter! You don’t want that do you?” He seemed to perk up a little. “You mean the one with the turban?”, he asked. “Yea, a person who tries living forever won’t be human anymore!”, I replied.

The teacher came back and we helped him onto his wheelchair.

He had my hand in a tight grip as his teacher wheeled him to his homeroom. “Why couldn’t they have children?”, he asked as we were leaving the room. “Well, she had some medical complications. Some people can’t have children.”, I explained. “She died first. Carl Ojii-san must be sad.”, he said.

At this point, I really had NO clue what to say to make anything  better. “mmm, death is sad isn’t it? But you know, we all have bad things that happen to us throughout our lives. We just need to stay positive or our entire lives will be sad! I have sad things happen to me ALL the time!”

“Oh, what kind of sad things happen to you?”, he pressed.

“Well, just this month, I was sick, my laptop broke down and my iPhone was stolen!”, I went on telling him some shitty stuff that had happened in my life and was telling him how I felt devastated when MY grandpa had passed away.

“Oh, you have your grandma?”, he asked.

“mmhmm” I replied, as we entered his homeroom.

A nurse was waiting for him to clear out the phlegm in his throat/lungs. As she did whatever she had to do, I quietly apologised to his homeroom teacher for triggering this reaction in him, but she whispered that it wasn’t my fault and that this was somewhat a daily occurance these days and that he had just reached a stage where the concept of death was setting in.

When the nurse fisnished helping him, we lifted him off his wheelchair to get him to lie down and rest. For the HUGE personality he supports, his frame really looked small and fragile in that moment, leaning heavily on me and his homeroom teacher.

He continued asking me more questions and even as I told him I needed to go to my next class, he asked “what class do you need to be at?” I always have a feeling that he knows  full and well that asking questions keeps people with him. Leaving him is always so difficult because I feel like I have to cut him off and physically remove myself.
By the end of the day, he seemed to have cheered up just a little although he still looked extremely tired. We took him to his day service van and chatted for a while. I even managed to tease him about being a “smelly pineapple” to bait him into squaking “NO!!!!” at me.

Before he was driven off to the day service, he said his signature line “I’ll be back!”

His homeroom teacher and I chatted after he’d left for the day. She’s glad I’m there to talk to him and said that I’m a big help. It’s a little heart warming, and for just a bit, I felt that my presense in the school was worth it. I’m extremely grateful that my special school doesn’t stop me from talking to this boy or think of me as intrusive. In fact, they’ve done nothing but encourage and support me whenever I try to teach new things to the children.

I can’t help feel anxious though. I visit this school once a week. I’m an obvious outsider. I know NOTHING about the kind of troubles these teachers must go through on a daily basis both physically and emotionally to help these amazing children. I worry about overr-stepping bounderies and saying the wrong thing.

At the same time, I’ll do pretty much anything for these people if it means I can help them even a little.

So here I am. This unplesant feeling sits in my chest and I don’t really know what I’m doing. The teachers at my special school always comment on how much energy I have, but the truth is, I get it all from the amazing children. I can smile and do crazy things because I’m met with equal enthusiam and response from my students. And, that’s the least I can give if it makes at least one person’s day better.

Did I think teaching at a special school would come to this? Not at all. But, these children really have taught me to chrish life a lot more than I would have thought possible. And, there’s no way teaching can happen if we look at the students like they’ve got the Reaper standing over them. So, when Tuesday comes around again, I’ll go back in there with all the smiles in the world and give it my 1million percent.




English and Special Needs Education

Recently, I had the privilege of being allowed to teach phonics to some of my students at my special needs school. I can’t express how elated I am now.

One of my students has started reading some of his very first words. ALL BY HIMSELF. Not perfect, but OH GOD does it feel like a miracle.

I also use phonics as a way of oral therapy. Some of my students can’t really speak much, so using phonics is a great way to introduced new sounds to them even if they may be incapable of producing some of the sounds I teach.

Teaching phonics has been so enlightening. I now know how difficult it is to create sounds. I don’t take it for granted anymore and had to go allll the way back to the start and relearn the phonics for myself so that I could teach the material in Japanese.

And then, there are the confusing sounds that I’d long taken for granted. E makes a kind of “eh” sound but at the end of Snake you dont say Snak”eh”. It’s silent. Or the “OO” sound. Moon and book. So different.

How do I teach it to students who study English long after getting used to Japanese which has very standard pronunciations?

I’m coming to terms with all this while teaching at sepcial needs while questioning all I ever learnt as a child. The more I teach, the more I’m in awe of children.

So, at this point, the teachers and I have come up with a phonics dvd. Hardly professional, but better than Katakana English anyday. Honestly, I wish I were more qualified for this… so I try to do research on my end. We’ve called it “Phonics for Life” and it’s meant to have 7 parts to it…with each level teaching a different set of phonics. In between though, we create some “Let’s Read” episodes where I piece together the phonics they’ve learnt, to create words. This way, we feel, the students will start seeing that they have the ability to read more things once they start using phonics!

Slooow and steady.
The risk, at this point, is my desire to teach as much as possible to these students who don’t get much time with me. It’s a risk because, if rushed, students tend to forget the sounds they learnt earlier. So, often times, I have to slow myself down to make sure the basics aren’t forgotten.

All this is increadibly scary. We’re making these 1-take videos filled with my improvisations.  In one “episode” I dropped my pointer and did a little hum to myself. Apparently, this set off a huge outburst of laughter in one of my students who wouldn’t stop trying to imitate it for a LONG time. He asked me about it, the next time he saw me.

“What was THAT all about???” he asked me.
“What was WHAT all about???” I asked, confused.
“That hum thing you did when you dropped the pointer!” he said, accusingly.
“Oh, that! That was all improvised! I mean, come on, give me a break!” I replied to my dissatisfied client.

Sometimes, I try to make-up some funny explanations for the pronunciations. For example, NG. I’ve gone done the unspeakable by introducing toilet humor into pronunciation work with Elementry students. NG, I’ve explained, is the sound one makes when they’re constipated and want to take a dump. Not sure I wanna know how they’ll react after watching it. Apparently, though, some of my students enjoy repeating what I teach them throughout the hallways for an entire week. ._. sorry…it just HAD to be done.

Soon after staging the charity play last year, one of the JTEs at my school approched me and suggested that we could try doing them with some of the Junior High students. The first play we did was fairly simple. The students (2 of them) requested me to write about arm-wrestling and I created a 3 or 4 page drama. Rehearsing it though, took a long time.

Taking things for granted has become a bit of a running theme in my life, these days.

Saying a line should be a quick 5 second job, right?
One of my students battles extreme tiredness in class and has speech difficulties (A-kun) while the other can’t talk verbally and doesn’t have full control of her hands (B-san). Both are also wheelchair users.

So, everything that might take 2 minutes in a professional rehearsal space takes an entire lesson here.

How we tackle this is taking things step by step.
First, we explain the story to the students, line by line.
Then we record my voice and B-san practices selecting the lines on cue.
With A-kun, we practice and try to film him before he sleeps.
Finally, I take the video clips and try to piece them together as nicely as possible. TRY.

With the high school devision, we began a new ‘business’ English plan. I was talking to my JTE one day and was asking him about possibly teaching English that was more practical for them. Most will go on to work in factories, convenience stores or small shops.

He seemed to be really interested in this idea, so we embarked on our project to teach students shop/customer service lingo.

Is it a more stressfull lesson for students? Yes.

Is it also more practical? Most definitely.

I see them push themselves a lot more now and in return my JTE and I try to take the lessons slow.

We show them practical usage of what we teach by doing mock-up shop playacting. The JTE and I are customers and the students take on the role of shop staff.

We’re currently in the process of teaching them how to identify ingredients or what a  product is made of. It’s incredibly satisfying.

Special Needs is not easy. My energy levels shift throughout the day…some Tuesdays are a million times better (or worse) than other Tuesdays. Teaching here however has been most educational and eye-opening and I count myself extremely lucky.

One Year On (and then some)

Somehow, I’ve survived an ENTIRE year of living alone without tripping over a stray wire and slamming my head into the corner of some random block of tofu lying around the kitchen and killing myself (this is an actual Japanese saying: go hit your head on the corner of a block of Tofu and die). I’m pretty proud. And to commemorate and celebrate the pride I have in myself, imma post about it! YEAH!!!

So here’s what I’m super happy to have done in this past year:

Taught at a high school and a special needs school.
I’d never done either prior to this. The experience has just been so rewarding and I’m infinately thankful to both my schools which have just been super supportive of me. I’ve never once felt like an idiot working here even though I’ve made numerous mistakes. Despite being the youngest in the English department in both schools, my suggestions and ideas are taken seriously and discussed. They don’t agree with me all the time and I don’t expect or want them to do so, but taking me seriously drives me to give more ideas and suggestions without the worry of failing/sounding like an idiot.

Also, my schools are super kind. When I embark on something outside the school, like the charity show I did, or when I go travelling…they always have something nice to say/ask about what I’m up to and I’m able to communicate how much I truly appreciate being in Japan. It’s super nice.

Met new people from all around the world who had done SO many different things.
Doing theatre in Singapore was great, and the people I met were also very very amazing people. However, I met very few people outside the theatre community and I rarely met people whose countries I couldn’t really place on a map. This sounds terrible, but what I mean to say is that while I DID meet a lot of foreigners, they were usually from very standard countries that I’d always heard/known about. People from other Asian countries, Australia, America, UK….a feeeew Europeans…and that was about it…

I relish meeting/seeing people that I don’t know much about. I enjoy this because, I find the size of the world I live in widening and getting bigger. I enjoy not knowing because this means there’s so much more to see and learn and ask.

Coming here, living in my “foreigner” apartment complex, I’ve learnt SO much and met SO many new people. It’s extremely humbling.

Travelled. This is such a huge thing for me.
1. Toyama:
Tateyama, Gokayama, Kamiichi, Takaoka, Ushidake, Toga Village, Etchuu-Yatsuo, Shogawa, Kureha, Kurobe, Amaharashi Beach, Ikuji, Iwakuraji, Tonami, Shin-Takaoka(AEON Mall), Nyuzen, Namerikawa, Uozu…still counting.

2. Nagano: Kamikochi

3. Ishikawa: Kanazawa

4. Kyoto: Kyoto city, Uji

5. Osaka: Ishinha show place, Osaka Aquarium, Dotonbori, Shitennouji, USJ

6. Tokyo: Ghibli…Akiba…Shibuya…Harajuku…Shinjuku…Shimokitazawa…Meiji Jingu…Asakusa…Nakano-Sakaue…Nerima-Kasugacho…Ikebukuro…Senkawa…Ueno…Ginza…Tokyo’s pretty difficult, cuz I’ve visited at least 5 times…So, I’ve seen quite a bit of it I guess?

7. Chiba: Fukuda Denshi Arena and Disney Land.

8. Nara: Unebigoryomae

9. Gifu: Hida-Takayama, Furukawa

10. Aichi: Nagoya City, Meiji Mura (Inuyama)

11. Mie: Ise City

12. Hokkaido:
Chitose, Sapporo, Furano Winery+Tomita Farm+Furano Cheese Factory (Furano), Biei, Akan (Kushiro City), Shiretoko, Shari, Lake Kussharo, Lake Mashu, Kami no Ko Pond

13. Niigata: Sado Island (this one’s a HUUUUUGE thing off my bucket list)

Along with visiting all these places, I’ve also taken care of booking my own lodging for the first time in my life. I’ve stayed in super cheap business hotels, hostels, spartan tents and even in a car. I’ve also had to arrange my own transportation at times, including busses, trains, flights and ferries. It’s super nerve-wrecking….like I keep panicking…WHAT IF I BOOK WRONGLY, IS THIS REALLY THE CHEAPEST DEAL, WILL MY LEAVE BE APPROVED, WHAT IF EVERYTHING’S BOOKED UP?!?!?!

Buuut, so far, I’ve been fine….in fact, I’ve learnt to go with the flow a lot! Flowing to the point of getting hitch hikes from old people and freinds I meet in carparks while feeling a little desperate to get somewhere.

Seen nature at it’s best and not so best.
Wanted to say worst, but that would definitely be a lie. Before coming here, I heard horror stories about the heavy snow and super hot summers. The winter IS cold…and the summer IS hot….but not unbearable.

Despite the difficulties, nature has shown me some beautiful beautiful sights that will be embedded in my memory. Never had I imagined the world to look so stunning…and every time, I can only think that all the money I spend on travelling is 100% worth it.

Gone for festivals
Many many matsuris and recently, I didn’t just watch one, I even participated in pulling a float at the Tatemon Matsuri.

Started taking photos
It’s not that I’ve never done this before…I was just never very conscious about taking a good one. Recently, after being around so many good photographers *coughKaicough*, it struck me that I wanted to understand framing better.

I’ve begun to experiment with trying to frame what my eyes see with my camera when something catches my eye. I’ve been trying to understand how light works and how the camera captures it…

Mind, I don’t do this professionally at all…It’s just a sort of hobby that I’ve picked up, hoping that it would improve my eye for things onstage.

I’m real glad that coming here wasn’t the end of my theatre work. I’ve managed to watch shows all over the place. I won’t say that I enjoyed EVERYTHING…but experience is always valuable. My year started with my trip to  Toga for the SCOT theatre festival and I’ll be heading there again today…and in between, I’ve directed a local charity show, watched a decent number of performances and attended a lot of festivals that have street performance as a huge element. Some of these street performances really inspire me. 

I’m still reflecting, and more things have started to click for me…So, for the year ahead, I aim to solidify my ideas and aesthetics based on what I’ve seen and learnt.

Improved my Japanese
The photocopying lady at school who I’m close to (and a couple of my students) said my Japanese had gotten a lot better. I cannot express how happy this comment made me.

It’s fairly common for people to tell me that my Japanese is good when they first meet me. While it’s nice to hear that, it’s a totally different thing to hear someone who’s known you for a while, tell you that your skills have improved.

It’s particularly nice to hear this from Photocopy-san who knows how serious Japanese learning is for me.

Hopefully, this is gonna help me in my N3 JLPT test in December. Ugh, the pressure. Stomach ache.

Finding myself and what I stand for.
Maybe living alone makes you stand up for what you believe in a lot more. You have less of a family to fall back to…and I guess my already thick skin grew a little thicker.

From my vegetarianism to my zero tolerance for racism to the way I handle a lot of bs that inevitably comes my way…I’ve learnt how to just be straight about it. I guess it won’t make me Miss Congeniality any time soon, but I get the immense satisfaction for standing my ground on these matters.

A part of me has also come to really really love home. I sometimes catch myself tearing up or outright crying when I think of home. Mind, I’m not a sentimental person who goes about missing laksa or prata on a daily basis…but sometimes, living away really makes me appreciate the small small things I always had at home and took for granted. Sometimes, I see Singapore from afar through a video and feel so proud of what it is and can be and how far it has come.

Simei to Toyama…it always wows me.

Living alone
Like I said at the start, I’m surprised I haven’t killed myself…considering how clumsy I am. I kid not…I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve dropped my knife near my foot.

There’s also the fact that I’m paying for my own utilities and haven’t relied on mum’s driving services in over a year. I’ve also been cooking for myself…and cleaning (let’s use this word in it’s LOOSEST sense)…

Just 2 years ago, I wouldn’t have seen myself doing any of this. In the past, these felt like such ADULT responsibilities, but here I am.

I’v probably done a LOT more than this, but these are the big ones that stand out. Call it blowing my own horn or boasting or whatever. 😛 I just call it reflective documentation for future reference.

ja ne till next time.

卒業Graduation and other happenings of March and April 2015: MAY UPDATE


I had a really bad writer’s block for this one.

March is the time for teary farewells apparently….and unlike the farewells I remember from my JC days (which I can’t really), it seems like a bigger affair here. All the teachers wear formal black clothes and the women teachers add a little something (white flower brooches)…some male teachers, who I thought lived in their track suits, suddenly came in formal clothes…very surreal.

First there was the rehearsal. The students had to practice standing, sitting and bowing in unison without extra/unwanted fidgeting. Then, they rehearsed the National Anthem (Kimi Ga Yo), the School Song and the bye bye farewell song, which I’ve attached below (NOT the Vitamin C song).

My school’s graduation was held on March 3rd, which was also the day of Hinamatsuri (doll’s festival) which is the Girls’ festival here in Japan. I love this festival and I enjoy telling people about how similar it is to Navarathri Golu that South Indians keep.

I got this really pretty doll set at the tea shop I frequent...and if you don't put them back in at the end of the festival....you'll never get married and will have to be content with cats.

I got this really pretty set at the tea shop I frequent…and if you don’t put them back in at the end of the festival….you’ll never get married and will have to be content with cats.

Anw, back to the topic of Grad, it really was quite a touching ceremony…you could see some of the parents and students sniffling and after the main ceremony was over, the students had a goodbye thing with their homeroom teachers and then they went outside where they were sent off by the entire school. Complete with brass band. wao.

There was much hugging and flower giving and presents and selfies.

And even though I never really taught this bunch of students, I found myself missing them quite a bit as one of them yelled “Hey! Yagu! I WON’T remember you! Yea! hahahahahahah!”

TAT “I’ll miss you too kiddo!”

I also found out that the first (and only) kid that I coached for Eiken (a private English proficiency test like TOEFL) passed his Level 2.5 test!!!!! Yay!!!!!!!! I turned some heads when I screamed “yattaaaa!!!” in the staffroom. 😛 But really, I’m super proud of the boy.

At my special needs school too, we had the grad ceremony for the elementary, junior high and high school students. It was a very emotional event especially for a number of parents. I saw them crying as their children went up to reciece their certificates one by one (this was a difference from my base school where only one representitive got a cert). They also got a grand send off at the school hall. Going outside would have been waay too cold especially for some of the wheelchair bound students.

I found myself extremely happy and proud of these kids.

Also, end of March, staff changes were announced.
Teachers who were retiring…
Teachers who were moving schools…
Goodbye parties…

Amidst this, the founding PM of Singapore, Mr Lee Kuan Yew also passed away.
I have so much to say on this topic, but when I try to type it out…I realise there’s really nothing to say about this because SO MUCH has already been said and done. But I remember that late March day being particulary cold and it snowed unexpectedly as my Singaporean friend and I went out for a quiet dinner.

And, as if I wasn’t busy enough, I’d also planned my trip to Osaka, Uji (Kyoto) and Nara.

It was mad.

Don’t get me wrong, I had an AMAZING trip. I visited USJ, met friends, ticked things off my bucket list and had a ton of fun.  But, it was overwhelming.

And there really was no rest to things.

Just as suddenly, when I returned to Toyama, the new teachers arrived.
I found out who I’d be teaching with.
New students filed into the school.
I got a new schedule.
Sakuras burst into existance.
And not even a week later, my parents and cousin landed in Toyama.
We did Hanami at the castle park.
We visited Gokaya and Shirakawa-go.
Sakuras fluttered away giving way to fresh green leaves.
Dad and Cousin left Toyama
Mum and I visited Takayama and Furukawa (Gifu Prefecture) where we watched the Furukawa Matsuri.
We hosted my teachers and some of my friends at home…AMAZING indian veg food for all.
We went to to the Tonami Tulip Fair.
Then, Mum left (right after the Tulip Fair)
Golden Week happened and I went  to Nagoya, Inuyama (Aichi Prefecture) and Ise (Mie Prefecture).
Yesterday was Mothers’ Day…I visited SOL, a vegetarian restaurant, with some of my new friends…
Bought some plants for a balcony garden that I’m trying to start…Lavenders, Tomatos and Basil…
And I’m here now.

It’s hard to believe that just a little more 2 months have passed between now and then.
Now being May, then being March.
Which is why I guess this post was particularly hard to update on.
Everytime I came to it, something else happened.

But that’s what life is like here. Something always happens.
That’s also one reason why I’m so glad to be staying on for another year…
How could I possibly digest everything in a year?

So yea….I just take a deep breath and stare at the sky a lot.

Yaguzilla and Late realizations

So, this is gonna be a bit of a 2 in 1 post.
It’s a mix of a request from my brother and something that hit a nerve in me recently.


Back in 2014, I watched and participated in Zeitgeber, which was a performance about caregiving for people with severe disabilities.
I was asked to play a woman who could only move her eyes. Throughout the play, the actor playing the caregiver would move me around the “house”. In one scene, he had to “change” my clothes and I remember being rolled to my side. Of course, this was just mimed onstage.
At that time, I had a lot of thoughts about the play. The way this caregiver spoke to the person…telling this person what he was doing at every point. “Tanaka-san, I’m changing your clothes”. “Tanaka-san, I’m lifting your leg a little”.
I wondered, why. This person would never respond. Could only move her eyes. What was the point?
Fastforward to the present.
As mentioned several times now, I work at a special needs school every Tuesday.
I particularly like the Elementary divison. So, even though I don’t get many classes with them, I try to pay them a visit and help out every now and then. The students in this particualar class need help with everyday activities and need wheelchair assistance.

And, this Tuesday, when I went for my weekly visit, the teacher was in the middle of helping one of the boys change into his gym clothes. And the teacher was informing the boy of whatever she was doing and I was struck by the action. I really wonder if the students understand us. And does whatever we inform them…register?

I don’t say this in any mocking sense.
I don’t look down on or pity these lovely children.
I’m not even agaisnt the action.
If anything, I feel like informing the student of what you’re doing for them, is profoundly respectful.

But I genuinely wonder…How is this perceived in thier minds?
What’s happening in their world?
What do they hear?
What do they see?

And I thought back to the performance. And back to the students.
I still don’t have answers and am in fact left with more questions.

So, I’m leaving this up here as a kind of reflection of mine.
Life really does seem to run in spirals though…and sometimes, something echoing your past experiences seems to pop-up out of nowhere like a weird deja vu.


Yaguzilla is probably how most of my students view me sometimes….
Some fire-breathing  English monster out to force everyone to speak English….
Yaguzilla gives weird class assignments and comes up with embaressing penalty games.
Yaguzilla tries to bribe kids with chocolates and hankos.

Sometimes students wonder if Yaguzilla has a social life.
Does Yaguzilla have any friends?
Yaguzilla has a family??!
What does Yaguzilla do for food?
Yaguzilla cooks??
What?? Yaguzilla is VEGETARIAN??? NO meat or fish???

And Yaguzilla has never seen snow??
Yaguzilla wears UNIQLO???
Yaguzilla also has a weird whale shark hanging off her bag and obsesses over Macha.
This odd creature tries to talk to everyone randomly with apparently no shame whatsoever.

So of course, the natural reaction for most students, when they see Yaguzilla is to run the other way.

But then, gradually, Yaguzilla is accepted by the general school community…
And students stop trying to run away.
Every now and then, Yaguzilla gets “hallo!” or “good morning!” on the way to school.
And, if Yaguzilla is lucky, her students have a chat with her.
This makes Yaguzilla’s day.

In the staffroom, Yaguzilla reads works by her students and laughs out loud.
But Yaguzilla isn’t mocking them.
Yaguzilla just loves reading the creative things that her students give her.
Although, by doing this, Yaguzilla is convinced that her collegues think she might be slightly crazy.

Yaguzilla is happy.

The End.



Oasis in a Desert and Packing my life into a box.

5th June 2014

The BOE got in contact with me!
And for the next year or so, I’ll be in Toyama City.
I’ll teaching at 1 senior high school which will be my base school, and I’ll be visiting 1 special needs school once a week.

I don’t think I’ve ever taught students of senior high school level (sec 4-JC 2 level) and I just feel incredibly honoured to be trusted to work at a special needs school. I’ve worked with children with special needs before and even attended a one day training on how to take care of a girl with severe developmental disorder…but I’ve never done anything like this and I see this as a great learning opportunity. Here’s a part of the e-mail I got, I’ve XXX-ed some of the details but you get a general idea of what the e-mail looked like:

This email is to notify you that I will send the same official
documents attached to this email to your permanent address by express
airmail (EMS) this week.
 The four attached files are as follows:
   1. Notice of Appointment
   2. Terms & Conditions
   3. Statement of Agreement
   4. Welcome Letters

 I hope you will receive an airmail package with the enclosed documents
listed, in a week or so.

 You’ve probably heard about “base” schools and “visiting” schools from
JET materials you’ve received. I’d like to give you some information
about the school you will work for:
 Base School: XXX Senior High School (SHS) in Toyama city
 Supervisor: XXX
 Current ALT: XXX
 Visiting School: XXX School ( Special Need School, one
day a week)

 The current ALT (your predecessor) or your supervisor will give you
further information after June 11th about the schools where you will
work, and your apartment including the rent, key money, security
deposit, etc. after you accept this job offer.

On a slightly unrelated note, I’ll be in India from 8th June-14th June to visit my grandparents before I fly off. So I informed the person from the BOE that I might be not be contactable for a week. I also took the opportunity to inform her of my vegetarianism. Her reply was super understanding and warm and on the whole reassuring.

Again, I went back to googling up more information and the locations of my 2 schools.
For privacy’s sake, I won’t be putting up any addresses or school names for now…but I’ve got some neat pictures. Imma be surrounded by MOUNTAINS!  Hyukhyuk!

Senior High School

Senior High School

Special Needs School

Special Needs School

I also found the Toyama City Global Site:

I’ve google mapped everything, and it seems like both my schools are about 40-50 minutes away from my house by train. So that’s another great thing…cuz I don’t drive and I love trains. : P

Reality vs Reality
So the packing began.
My life is being packed into boxes.
Walls are being stripped down.
As a semi-hoarder, I’m in awe.
And I feel amazingly liberated.

As one reality takes shape in Toyama city, my reality here is beginning to slowly fade away. I checked out the winter clothes that I own to see if they were still in working condition….surprisingly, they are.

The number of people I meet online everyday just keeps increasing and I’ve bumped into my predecessor on facebook too…and the more I hear about Toyama, the more Toyama begins to look like a real place in my head…

7th June 2014 (today), marks my last day at work with TNS on their latest show….so now I’ve truly got nothing left to do here except get ready to leave.

Yet, I feel nothing but relief. The desire to let go, and jump into the unknown has been bubbling under the surface of my mind for so long. Not that I won’t miss Singapore….but 2014 called for some change in life, some change in pace, a little something different.

Now all I need is a packing list…

Cheers to that. 🙂