Here’s my addition to the spate of spring weather reports that have been making the email rounds. First, the short version for those of you with no time. It’s spring here, too—later than last year—and very welcome after a surprisingly cold winter.
If you’re just here for the photos, click here.
Now that we’ve gotten rid of the visual folks, here’s the long weather report:
It’s warming up, though the cherry blossoms are a bit late this year—they’re only just starting to bloom. We’ve had sunshine, condensing mist, rain, hail, severe wind, thunderstorms and more. All in the last week. In fact, all of it on the weekend. I had to wear my winter jacket for errands Sunday, but wore shorts on the balcony when hanging up laundry on Saturday. I’m biking to work, but have been all year. There’s no snow on the ground, but there was only one day this winter when it stayed for longer than 8 hours. We still use the space heaters in the evenings but more for comfort than survival.
Spring means a new school year. Right now it’s spring vacation so we don’t have any classes. But the new school year is just about to begin. We will have opening ceremonies on Wednesday or Thursday this week, as does Jarrod. Last week there were teacher transfers at all the schools. My school lost 3 English teachers and gained 2, for a net loss of 1 teacher. One of the new English teachers came from Lia’s school, so I already know him. I’m not sure how the other departments fared but we’ve got about 10 new faces in total at my school.
Even though there are no classes, students still come to school. Some come to study, others come for club activities—the brass band and rugby team have been practicing daily (not together), as have the kyuudo (Japanese archery) club, kendo (Japanese fencing) club, and many of the other sports clubs. Most of the teachers are still coming to work as well. I think the average per-person vacation leave taken by teachers my school last year was 3 days. In the entire school year. This despite the fact that their contracts entitle them to 40 vacation days annually. Plus they teach at least every other Saturday. Plus the so-called extra-curricular lessons in the mornings. And occasional extra lessons after school. In fact, the 3rd-year students had full-day exams all weekend. Before the beginning of the term! Before they’ve been taught anything! But I digress.
With the new school year we’ll get a new crop of first-year students. That’s the equivalent of Canadian Grade 10. They’ll spend a few weeks getting accustomed to the new rules, new uniforms, and extremely heavy workload. I will undoubtedly spend a lot of time talking at them about maple syrup, moose, and the great Canadian outdoors.
Jarrod had his final karate class last Thursday. He passed his exam last week so he’s earned his orange belt. He used to go twice a week but we found the combination of karate and loads of homework wasn’t leaving enough time for rest. Or English—18 months with a phonetic language has left him with negligible spelling skills. So we’re using Monday and Thursday evenings to work on his English. Eliminating the supper rush and two-and-a-half hour karate class seems to have reduced his stress level significantly. Plus he’s really excited about the English project I’m helping him with: his blog.
Right now he’s on spring vacation, which means he’s been spending a lot of time at daycare. It’s become a bit more interesting for him socially with the influx of kids that will be starting Grade 1 this week. For most of them it will be their first contact with a foreigner and probably their only contact with a foreign child. In any case, Jarrod also has a pile of vacation homework just in case he starts having too much fun. I’ve never really understood why it’s necessary to give daily vacation homework to 9-year-olds. Especially between grades. Oh well, I suppose I’ll just chalk it up to cultural differences.
Here’s a picture of last year’s cherry blossoms, taken in Kyoto where spring comes about a week later than it does here in Kitakyushu. I took it almost exactly a year ago, at 8:30pm on April 4, 2004:
Another, at twilight, in a park near the Gion district in Kyoto (9pm, April 3, 2004):
Kyomizu-dera (Kyomizu Temple) is one of the major attractions in Kyoto, and was especially crowded because there was a big festival that day. They had a big parade, with a Chinese-style dragon and a costumed procession of people giving blessings to the crowd.
Steps up to the Kyomizu-dera temple complex in Kyoto:
And here’s a crowd shot at Kyomizu-dera, just after they announced that the festival would be starting soon: