My first holiday season abroad was different but not sad in any way. Of course I miss my family and would have liked to enjoy the holiday with them, but I’m grateful for the community here in Japan that made the holiday season welcoming. For thanksgiving I went out with some friends to Warabi, an izikaya-all you can drink for an hour, and just hung out.
The FJet group in Fukui organizes a holiday potluck. All ALTs are invited and people can invite JTEs, host families, and any community members. It cost 500 yen and a dish to share. I made eggnog and a vegetarian chili. The cost goes towards the community center building where the event was held and the turkeys (which I don’t eat). Several ALTs volunteered to cook the turkeys. The food everyone brought was good and a change from Japanese food. There were plenty of salads and mashed potatoes, as well as stews, breads, and desserts. It was fun to just hangout with everyone and catch up.
One ALT, Rose, has a host family in Sabae who own a coffee and bakery near Nishiyama Park. The bread is real and delicious there compared to the thick white breads frond in Japanese grocery stores. They invited her and a group of us for a holiday/birthday lunch potluck. Rose made a creamy potato soup, Kalen brought a rotisserie chicken, her host family made bread, salad, and a roast pork. I made a lentil potato salad and Theresa brought mikans. Everything was delicious and it was nice to hangout before the last days of school before break.
Other holiday events included karaoke and holiday movie watching.
I attended a Harry Potter/holiday themed high school winter seminar for one of my volunteer events. Harriet and Nick at Fukusho Senior High School organized the seminar that takes place yearly. Many ALTs have volunteered several times at this seminar and the rest of us were all first years. On Friday afternoon we had an opening ceremony, met our groups, played some name games, and started the skit. The theme for the skits was that Santa me kocho sensei of Fukusho but then Voldermort is trying to take over and a battle has begun. We had to finish the story in our groups. After some time to work on the skit, we watched presentations about cultures and holidays in other countries. The students had worked in these for a while. I took the tram the second morning because Gustavo stayed in the city. On the way there I noticed a student from the school because of the uniform. We ended up talking the whole walk to school because I didn’t know the way. Her English was gray and she was really sweet. On the second day, we all met together and played a charade game before beginning workshops. Gustavo and I led a cooking workshop called Advanced Potions III and Household Herbology. We made a polyjuice potion and pumpkin pasties( kabocha and potato latkes). The students in our group were really great and seemed to enjoy everything. After the workshop we had lunch. We didn’t eat with the students and we were all given a personal pizza from Texas Hands, a local pizza chain with fluffy crust like dominoes. It’s not amazing pizza like I’m used to from growing up on the east coast but it’s good for Japan. After lunch we met with our main groups and had time to finish and practice our skits before the performances. Our group decided to not have a battle but had Santa and Voldemort agree to go get ramen together and then a turn of events led to the ramen shop owner becoming the new principal. Each group performed and then there was a closing ceremony and awards for the student presentations. It was a fun seminar and the students were really great. Afterwards, I went to a tea shop in Fukui City before heading home. I bought a delicious caramel milk tea.
Lastly, On December 22nd, my school had an end of the year/term party at an onsen hotel. We took a bus there and back and some people opted to spend the night. The evening began with an hour or so to relax in a room or to take a bath in the onsen. No one is my room went so I wasn’t sure where to go or what to do. I just stayed in the room and talked to the other teachers. Before taking a seat, everyone picked a card with their random seat number. The seats were arranged with a walkway in between the people in front of you so that waitresses could get through and so we could walk around and pour drinks for each other. During the night I talked to different teachers, practiced that tradition of going around and pouring drinks for other people, and played some games that were organized by the second year teachers in charge of this party. One game was a janken game where everyone was given a 100 yen coin on a necklace. You found a pair, played janken, and the winner kept the coin. By the end, one teacher had about 50 coins or about 45 dollars. The evening ended with karaoke.