There are times in Japan when I have the urge to run to the top of a mountain and scream “I LOVE MY JOB! I LOVE JAPAN! I LOVE MY LIFE! THANK YOU WORLD! Thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou!” at the top of my lungs. For fear of being mistaken as an insane lunatic I shall have to make do, alas, with a mere blog post. *I apologize in advance for only showing a few photos, for legal reasons I can not post any photos of my students*
Last Friday was my absolute favorite day of the school term; it was ensoku day! Ensoku is a school field trip. It’s the day when all the teachers and students take the day off from classes and learning/teaching to go do something fun together, enjoy the beautiful weather and deepen their class bond. It’s a day of magic, unicorns, rainbows, and no grading test papers! Yahoooo!
Last year, I went with 2 classes to the famous mountain in Fukui Ski Jam to have a BBQ and go kayaking. It was a blast, and I honestly can say I don’t think I’ve ever giggled and laughed that much in one single day in my whole life. I attribute this glee to being surrounded by 35 adorable Japanese school girls determined to ensure everyone had a wonderful time. I love my students! Working at an all-girls school means that I work with some of the sweetest young ladies in Fukui. I’m a lucky and very thankful ALT. I was expecting an expedition of a similar sort this year…
About a month ago I had a conversation with the homeroom teachers of the special group of girls I teach who study in NZ for a year, and therefore the students whom I work with most closely. (I work closely with 3 grades of the NZ exchange program students however, the 2nd year students are currently in NZ, so for ensoku it’s only the 1st graders and 3rd graders.) Our conversation went a little something like this:
Homeroom Teachers: Hello Jessica! Do you have a minute?
Me: Hello Ms. Y and Mrs. X! Of course! How can I help you?
Ms. Y: Jessica, have you heard about the class ensoku this year?
Me: No, I haven’t heard anything yet. Have the students decided where they would like to go?
Mrs. X: Yes they have! This year we’re going to the Higashiyama Zoo!
Me: OH!…..Ummmm……I didn’t know that Fukui had a zoo……
Ms. Y: Oh, the Higashiyama Zoo is a famous place in Nagoya.
Me: Oh, it’s in Nagoya *nodding in agreement*….wait a second!…..NAGOYA!? REALLY!?! (Nagoya is very far away from Fukui, about 3 hours by bus!)
Mrs. X: Yes! It’s exciting isn’t it! Would you like to come this year?
Me: I can come….with you…to Nagoya!
Ms. Y: Haha of course! We’d love for you to join us!
Me: Oh my gosh, I’m so excited! YES! Are you kidding, of course! I’d love to join you!
Ms. Y & Mrs. X: Ok, we’ll bring you more information soon. See you later!
After they left the office I put my hands to my head in disbelief, my mind was blown at how awesome my job was. I then proceeded to do a little jig at my desk. Was it a little crazy to bus 40 students 3 hours to Nagoya and back in one day? Probably, but it was going to be one hella-fun-whirlwind of a trip! I was getting paid to hang out with my favorite students at a zoo; I love my job!
Friday morning “Nants ingonyama bagithi Baba!!!!!” blaring from my iPhone I awoke with “The Circle of Life” from the Lion King (can you tell I was excited for this trip?). I bounded like a gazelle out of bed, attempted to brush my mane of humidity-frizzed hair into order so my students wouldn’t mistake me for a lion and headed out for my adventure.
Every teacher has moments when they are about ready to burst with pride. Two of my most adorable and sweet students came up to me while I was waiting outside the combini (convenience store) for the bus to depart and in very serious, uncharacteristically deep voices with crossed arms informed me of something very serious. “Jessica,” they said solemnly in perfect English “we must inform you there is a snack-toll for this bus.” I gasped in mock-horror and played along, asking my favorite little gansters, “Oh no, what’s a snack-toll?! Is it a snack that I must share with everyone?” They smiled identical little grins of mischief, high-fived each other and said “Yep! You got it! Preferably something with chocolate!” They scampered off quickly and left me laughing in their wake. Walking into the combini to buy some chocolate cookies for them I gave myself a little pat on the back. I’ve succesfullly taught my students enough English they can extort chocolate from their teachers, my job here is done!
First, we rode a bus for 3 hours playing games, chatting in English and Japanese (it was an excellent opportunity to practice my skills before I take the JLPT in July!) and enjoyed eating snacks.
As with any major tourist attraction in Japan there is inevitably a famous food that is a must try. Do I ever need an excuse to eat ice cream ? Nevaaah! This one was super adorable ice cream and my students and I simply couldn’t resist eating it as soon as we walked through the gate.
My other coworker bought the vanilla ice cream in the shape of an elephant in honor of the baby elephant. めちゃかわいい!!!!! (Mecha kawaii = hella cute!)
For many of my students and fellow Japanese coworkers it was their very first time to ever see some of the animals. I was spoiled rotten by my parents visiting the Calgary Zoo which is the second largest zoo in Canada. I took great pleasure in watching the students’ faces when they saw the animals for the first time.
These little guys were really difficult to get a photo of because they were still really shy and there were a LOT of people trying to do the exact same thing.
Other notable favourite animals were:
After a happy time spent wandering around the zoo oooooh-ing and exclaiming “Kawaii!!!” at the many animals it was time to hop back on the bus. We were all a little sunburned and tired but happy as clams the lot of us. After that I can’t tell you too much because I fell asleep the instant they turned off the lights to watch a DVD.