Sorry for the very long space between updates. Life has been busy in a lot of ways. What has been happening?
I became the HAJET (Hokkaido JET) Librarian. Which means, about 1000 books arrived at my house and I've been working on getting them organized in such a way that when other members email me because they'd like to check out books, I can easily find them. Right now, there are about 600 books organized in my tiny apartment. This weekend I received more shelves to be able to organize more of what's still in my closet and waiting to be organized.
Being a part of the HAJET PC (Prefectural Council) means that I attended the retreat in early June, at this meeting we figured out a lot of the plans for the up coming year. We will be the running council until February of next year, when some old members will leave and new members will be voted in. If I don't decide to go home next year, I'll likely try to stay on as librarian for a second year. For the retreat, we stayed at Simon's house. Simon is the HAJET President and he lives in Engaru. It was an amazing weekend. Simon is also a first year JET, but he and his family are from New Zeland. Simon and his wife, Sara, and their amazing four kids hosted us. My favorite part of the weekend was probably talking to and playing with the adorable kids. They speak both English and are learning Japanese at school (their Japanese is amazing!). Their two year old answers "how old are you" with "ni-sai" (two years old in Japanese) and they all have amazing accents, which makes them fun to talk to.
Beyond talking to the kids, we spent that weekend figuring out lots of questions about being the new PC (most of us are newbies and don't know how everything works). I hadn't actually met everyone on the PC so it was good to get to connect with them. At our long Saturday meeting, we also discussed many things including how to get the rest of the shelves to the library, our plans for Sapporo Orientation (when we will get to meet all the newbies) and many other upcoming events. Simon was also a chef in his days in New Zeland, so he cooked us an amazing dinner of things that are harder to find in Japan (very tasty!). Sunday brought a trip to the free store (a store where people drop things off and everything is free!), a visit to a rock that overlooks all of Engaru and the long trip home.
The next weekend, I bought my car. Ironically, due to train issues, that trip took 5 hours. Luckily, it should never take me that long again (now that I have a car) as long as I don't make long stops on the way. But, it ended up being really good. I got to have dinner with a couple of good friends (one who lives super far away and we chat often, but don't often see one another).
That week was my 25th birthday. It was strange to celebrate so far from my family and friends. I got to eat lunch with one of my favorite elementary classes and had a few students say happy birthday. The evening was quiet. I went out to the lake and had a nice walk before coming back into town and going to the pizza place. It was a good dinner, but lacking in friends and family. I came home to open the package mom had sent me. It included some fun things, including an Oregon tee shirt.
Two weekends ago, I headed to Iwamizawa for their International festival. The countries that had booths included America (obviously), Australia, Canada (their booth was next to us), Britain, Mexico, Russia and many more. The kids made pinyatas, had their faces painted, there was dancing lessons and food being sold (including tacos and real chocolate chip cookies!). The weather was beautiful and warm. Afterward, we had an enkai at an Indian restaurant in Iwamizawa. The food was delicious, but as usual, the best part was the friends. For the first time in a few months I actually got to hang out with Heather (my friend from Britain who I did a lot with when I first arrived). I also met many other JETs who I hadn't met before.
This weekend we headed to Shinshinotsu for a HAJET meeting. We went camping. On Friday night Ros and I arrived late. Everyone stayed up pretty late chatting and hanging out. On Sunday, most of us were up around 6 because our tents were in the bright sunlight and very hot. (The sun rises here at about 3am this time of year, so 6am is like 8am heat at home, where the sun rises at about 5 in the summer). We got up and headed out for the meeting. First was the PC meeting where we discussed more of what we were going to do for orientation and the other events coming up. After that, we had the general meeting and had several members come. Saturday afternoon, we had workshops. I lead an ideas exchange workshop and both got and received some good ideas to hopefully use in the few classes I teach.
That afternoon, we had a BBQ and lots and lots of good food. Including hamburgers, tortilla chips, chips like you'd get at home and time with good friends (the best part!). At the end of the evening, we did a cake auction for HEC (Hokkaido English Challenge) to support the English camp we'll do at the end of next month. A couple of amazing a friends (one of whom has adopted me and decided she was my big sister, in the fall) bought a cheesecake for my birthday. It was pretty sweet (and very DELICIOUS!).
Sunday, we had a sale of stuff as old JETs wanted to get rid of stuff and some of us wanted to get it. Before that, I got the remaining HAJET Library bookshelves. I also bought a small set of drawers, a snowboard, and a few books for studying for the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test). When it was time to leave, my car was PACKED full of stuff. But I now own my very own snowboard (for about $30). I'll need to get some other gear, but that's one thing paid for now!
Also, I've been slowly getting better and better at Japanese. I can communicate so much more than I could when I arrive and I can understand a lot more, too. I finished the first Genki (Elementary Japanese) textbook and have started work on the second. In December, I'll be taking the JLPT N4 - there are 5 levels and N5 (new 5) is the easiest and N1 is the hardest. I probably was at a level N5 this last December and I think it will be possible to study and pass the N4 in December.