Aaaaaannnd we're BACK!

Hey TGH International fans. We've returned for another year of fun and games and of course, plenty of studying in between at Tokiwagi High School in Sendai. This year's big news is the number of new students that enrolled in our program- 35! That's about double the usual number- I guess good word is spreading of our little program.

One of the first things we do here is take advantage of the Cherry Blossom season to get out to our nearest park for a Hanami meet and greet. Thanks to my fairly new iphone5, you can check it out in this live action movie. I've added some Sakuraesque effects that I hope complement the loveliness of the moment. Enjoy!


Halloween At Tokiwagi

It was Halloween yesterday :^) which means I must start taking down all the decorations in my classroom today :^( but before I do, I think I'll capture a few images for you to enjoy. Excuse me if my typing goes crazy every now and then- I'm on a sugar rush from consuming all the leftover candy corns that my students rejected (why don't people like candy corns?). Here we go...
There's my Jack-O-Lantern which doesn't look too bad for the short amount of time I had to spend on it. As you can see, all it takes to make me happy is to be up to my wrist in pumpkin brains. The fellow in the bottom right corner is a new addition to my display and is the grossest decoration I own, the severed arm in the panel to the left of him is a close second.
Those glasses in the top left panel are great for creeping people out. The Halloween tree and gravestone are also new arrivals from California sent by my awesome older sister- thanks Stacey. A couple of TGH witches are casting the peace sign spell in the top right.
There's the old Grim Reaper hiding behind some cobwebs, a trio of pumpkins decorating the piano keyboard  and some lovely wall art from Miyuki Sensei's sister. In the top right are some skeleton banners of Miyuki's which I thought were crazily overpriced but once I unravelled them I noticed they were handmade from Mexico and beautiful.
Some more lovely TGH witches from the Chinese conversation club. In the top right is our keyboard, adorned with eyeballs, severed fingers and assorted creepy crawlies. Another gravestone, a warning sign and mama spider- the biggest in the family likes to loom over the students' kanji results, perhaps threatening to leap on any girl who attempts to put a failing star up. 


Let the Games Begin!

Well, last week the first year International class competed in the ball games sports day at TGH  and were... less than awesome! Let's just say one of the important new English phrases I taught them which was used often that day was "straight sets".

We started out stretching to Radjio Taiso- a traditional, supererogatory stretching exercise that originated probably around the same time as radio itself. Our girls held their own in the stretching area and its unfortunate that prizes aren't awarded for it because I suspect we would have walked away with a bronze.
So, on to dodgeball, where we fought to a draw with our first opponents but lost out in the overtime clinching rock-paper-scissors battle (maybe they should practice that in their next PE class). We were relegated to the sidelines while our victorious opponents proceeded to beat up on other teams and claim glory.

Volleyball has changed this year from normal volleyballs to "soft" volleyballs as you can see from the opening picture; not that it helped us much. We went down in the first round before time ran out- I noticed that our strategy was basically "hope the ball they serve to us lands out of play" since this is how we accumulated the bulk of our points.

Finally, Basketball- my least favorite of the ball sports. Lots of clawing, scratching, screaming, biting, pulling of hair and crying- then my co-homeroom teacher Miyuki told me too chill out because the game hadn't even started yet. When it did, we lost. Then we played another game and we also lost that too... oh wait a second- we won! Yes, in our second (sympathy) round match we were getting knocked around and stomped over through the first three quarters. With about 3 minutes to go we were down 10-2 and then a miracle happened! Our best player Karen (she of the universal thumbs-up gesture in the picture) sprained her ankle! As she hobbled around the court I guess she must have inspired her teammates and maybe thrown our opponents off their game plan, because our Inter-One girls started dishing her the ball and she started finding the net. "Swish" 4, "Swish" 8, "Swish" 10 and then with about a dozen seconds to play "SWISH" 12! Storybook ending as our last game ends in our only victory.


A Mid-Summer Afternoon's Dreamy Digest...

Hey folks, things have been slow and lazy this summer, with only the more serious club-going girls wandering the hallways of TGH the past week (and next). I'm headed out the door for a week-long holiday soon (whoop!) but I thought I'd check in and cover some things that have gone down in the last couple of weeks.
The last weeks of school were crazybusy with a lot happening, and then when the bell rang to let us know that "School's Out For Summer!" the International 1st & 2nd year classes immediately began our Summer Camp Extravaganza-za-za... za ..za .. (echo) . .  .! We played games, had a barbecue, ate too much, set off fire works (Safety Ministry Approved of course), watched a scary movie (Cloverfield - mixed reactions) and late at night we Skyped with a school in the U.S. The Skyping went from 12 until 1:30 AM though, so I'm going to check if we can get that changed to a more reasonable time next year.
The second day of our camp we played some more games, including a closely contested soccer match, and I introduced everyone to the fine art of making peanut butter, jelly and banana sandwiches. We kept things pretty chilled as many of the girls were groggy from the night before. All in all I think everyone had a pretty good time, but don't take my word for it, you can judge for yourself- cue the montage!
Two of our Second year girls- Mizuki and Sumire, have just headed off to the U.S. for a 1 year homestay (sniffle, sniffle. cry, cry) We'll miss you girls! Don't forget to come back when your year is finished! Sumire might be smart enough to take over the world someday and Mizuki will probably be in the next Olympics; bringing home a gold medal in speed-walking, which she'll win through her superior stamina, determination and steady diet of Peanut Butter, Jelly and Banana sandwiches.  The next big event here at Tokiwagi will be the school festival at the end of this month. The first year international class is now intensively working on a performance that's going to blow the roof off the place (which will be really hard since the stage is outside). I can't let the cat out of the bag about it yet, as I've been sworn to secrecy, but let me just tell you the words 'EPIC!', 'AMAZINGLY-AWESOME!!!' and 'VERY INTERESTING!!!' will not do it's description justice. Stay cool and Stay tuned ;^)



Our good friends from Hornby High School in Christ Church New Zealand have been visiting Tokiwagi for the past week and taking in an overdose of Japanese culture. So far, everyone seems to be having a jolly old time with only some minor problems arising (lost socks and whatnot). Here's a montage of the Hornby High Schoolers getting their names adapted into kanji with the help of the 1st year Inter girls:

Yesterday I helped to chaperone the Hornby kids on an excursion to beautiful Matsushima. "ahh Matsushima" as a famous poet once said. But how exactly did he say it? What was the context? Was it "ahh Matsushima (your beauty is beyond words)!" or was it "ahh Matsushima (where my one true love broke my heart and stomped all over the pieces until it was pulp)!" or maybe it might have been "ahh Matsushima (where I narrowly avoided getting my brain eaten by a horde of zombies)!" Anyway, here's a rare non-montaged pic of the folks from New Zealand taking in this National treasure in all its splendor (also, they sell Coke in cartons there... weird).


Head For The Hills!

It's that time of year again, when the 1st year international class sets off for the wonder and splendor of British Hills in the mountains of Fukushima. We returned yesterday and the girls all get to chill out at home, along with the rest of the 1st year Tokiwagi students who went to the mountains of Oze. While they're busy chillin' I've put together a montage or two of images from the trip.

We had beautiful weather the entire time and I'm sporting a well-sunburned dome to prove it.

The trip went off without a hitch except for one missing shoe. So, if you happen to be in the neighborhood of British Hills and see a single shoe kicking around looking sad and ownerless, please mail it to Tokiwagi care of Kurumi, who will be hopping around on one foot in PE class for the next few weeks.
Thanks British Hills, same time next year?


The Wide, Wide World Of Sports

So, a few weeks ago we had our all-Miyagi intermural High School sports weekend, where students and teachers must go out and cheer on our TGH girls while aiming the occasional boo or raspberry at their opponents. Before that, there was a ceremony where all the sports girls introduced their club teams. Here's a montage I put together of that event. I'm not going to write out the title of each team, but if you're interested in them then we can play a little game where you message me your best guesses and I'll tell you how many you got correct. Sounds like fun, right?

As expected, we kicked butt in most events. Our soccer girls crushed their opponents in the final 9 to zip. There was also alot of noise buzzing about the success of our tennis team, which has greatly improved. I went to three events- Basketball on Saturday, Table Tennis on Sunday and Softball on Monday. Tokiwagi's basketball team is one of the best- guided by the steady coaching of Mr. Ushiwata (the King of Basketball!) and his assistant coaches- Iori and Nakama (the princes of Basketball!). But Saturday's game against a skillfull team from Shoukei almost ended in an upsetting shock, eh! TGH was leading fairly comfortably throughout the match but in the last quarter their opponents nailed a rapid succession of 3-pointers and pulled in front by about 5 points with a few minutes to go! Mr. Ushiwata brought out the big guns and they pulled the team's fat out of the fire by coming back with some huge blocks, interceptions and lay-ups in the last minute. The balcony full of the TGH player's mothers exhaled in relief.

Just so I can connect this post to the international class, there are three of our girls supporting the squad in the pic below. Also, four international girls actually play for the team so there's that too.

The next day I went to table tennis- many sweaty teenage boys taking ping pong very seriously- that is all.

On Monday, my co-homeroom teacher and I drove an hour to the outskirts of Nakanida for an event I was actually really psyched about watching. Only a few years ago TGH's softball team didn't have enough members to compete in an actual game, but then they got a new coach- Kana, who works in our office and is an ex-JSDF (Japan Self Defence Force) officer. She whipped the girls in to shape and the club's enrollment leapt. They may not be champions yet but I'd say they're the overall most-improved sports club at TGH in the last 5 years. Also, I've personally found them to be some of the politest, friendliest, funniest and most cheerful girls around school; which is what made watching what happened in the game that much tougher.
Tokiwagi was playing a seasoned and disciplined Rifu team that are annual favorites to win and were no doubt eager to put our upstart squad in its place. They even brought what appeared to be half the school, as well as their boy's team with horns and huge drums to bash away the school songs. Our supporting side consisted of the team's family members, 3 teachers, our school custodians and 1 student.
Unphased by the drums and chants, our girls got on base on the 1st swing and got a run in the 1st inning! The teams exchanged chances back and forth- singles, doubles, pop flys, grounders, walks, slides, strikes... out after out, inning after inning, eventually scoring one more run each before the final inning. This is where I wondered to myself if this might be the greatest game of softball ever played anywhere at any time, and yes- I undoubtedly believed it was.
It was 2-1 for us. Tokiwagi was up last, so Rifu was at bat. The first girl grounded out to first and we were two outs away from winning. The second girl popped up to shallow outfield and we were now one out away from Tokiwagi's greatest ever softball victory. The opposing army of supporters had fallen silent. What everyone believed to be the last opponent stepped up to bat. I'm not sure what the count was but she eventually hit it to the deep outfield, gaining a double. And that is when our pitching suddenly disappeared completely. Walk, Walk, Walk. 2-2 with the bases loaded. The pitcher was changed but to say our relief pitcher struggled to find the strike zone would be an understatement. After 4 or 5 more walks, a Rifu girl was eventually given a pitch good enough to hit. She grounded out and the agony stopped.
Then something happened that I would compare to the Grinch's revelation on Mount Crumpet when his heart grew 3 sizes in reaction to. Even though Tokiwagi had one more at bat, everyone watching knew the game was over: their families, the teary-eyed custodians, we three sunburned teachers and most certainly everyone on the opposition's side- who had gone from cricket-chirping silence to boisterous revelry in the past 20 minutes.
Everyone that is, except Tokiwagi's baseball team itself. As they ran in from the field I could not see one ounce of disappointment in their faces. They shouted encouragement to each other, made jokes and cheerfully warmed up for their final chance. Without a doubt, their hearts were breaking and everyone knew it, but they refused to crack. Anyone who happened to be dropping in on the game at that moment could be forgiven for thinking it was the top of the 1st inning, 0-0.
They didn't get any more runs, and lost, officially. They politely saluted the opposition and the officials, came over and bowed to us and thanked us for our support, and THEN, collapsed in a cloud of dirt and tears and bawling and wailing. I hate watching my students whimper and whine after a defeat at the hands of a better opponent. Almost every year I see it happen and I think to myself- "You were ranked 4th, you came in 4th- what's the deal?" But this time I wholeheartedly agreed with their reaction. They were the slighty better team through the course of the entire game and, aside from the pitchers, even as they were helplessly watching the game slowly melt away from them. But they played a great game. It was no longer the greatest game but IT WAS A GREAT GAME! So cry girls- its justified. But hold your heads high as well- and that's justified too.
Like I wrote before- they lost the game, officially...  officially.