An ordinary school week in Japan

13 mei

I think most of you are wondering how I spend my school week!

Every morning I get up at 6 am and get ready for school. I take the train at 7.24, which takes 35 minutes to Sapporo Eki, there I take the train to Kotoni and that only takes 2 minutes. Then I take my bike for a ride of approximately25 minutes. You ride the bike on the sidewalk, avoiding pedestrians, because there are no bicycle lanes and between the cars is too dangerous. I arrive school at 8.25.

Each school day, Monday until Friday, the class starts at 8.40 and ends at 15.30

On Monday I spent most of the time in my own classroom. I have English, Mathematics, Classical Japanese, private Japanese lessons (not in my own class room) and homeroom. Even though I have different classes, every hour I’m studying Japanese in my “Minna no Nihongo” (English study book for Japanese language) and the AFS books, which I mainly use to learn Kanji (Kanji is difficult Japanese writing, with all these special characters like Chinese yes!)

The lessons last 50 minutes and after each lesson we have a 10 minute break to eat, go to the toilet etc. You will also spend the whole day in the same room, the teachers change class rooms. I actually really like it this way because in the Netherlands the students change class rooms and sometimes it is so busy in the corridors that you are almost arrive too late in your next class!

When the teacher enters the class room the class president ‘screams’ that everyone must rise. Some teachers start with remarking that your school uniform skirt is too short or the boys tie is hanging loose. Next you  bend and the lesson  starts. I’m studying Japanese, and the rest of the class is listening to the teacher and write notes. Asking questions in the classroom is not done, you can do that you after the lessons, but generally you don’t ask questions in Japan.

Since both my calves hurt (probably got them injured when I slipped from the stairs), I did not join tennis on Monday. Everyone thinks the pain is due to playing tennis a lot, but I am 100% certain I have pain since I got the shoes for inside school.

After school, Rachel asked me to join her to visit Maruyama Park (円 山 公园) She wanted to watch the Sakura! Sakura lasts about two weeks and then the cherry blossoms will bloom. It is a real Japanese thing that you should see at least once. In the South of Japan, Sakura begins very early because it is very warm, but Sapporo is much colder, so Sapporo is about the last area to have Sakura. I took all pictures with my iPhone, I wish I had my canon with me

After an hour we went to Odori, which is a kind of shopping center near Sapporo Central, to buy tennis shoes. First I planned to go there by my self, but I was very glad that Rachel was with me. I wanted pink Yonex but apparently I have an intermediate size, and Yonex doesn’t have intermediate sizes. The Wilson’s were appropriate. But I seriously wanted pink with white and of course not too expensive. Finally, after fitting many shoes the shop employee gave me discount, just because I seriously wanted pink and did not want to pay too much (gosh, I feel very Dutch writing this).

Then I went back home, I arrived home at 9 PM, had dinner, took a shower and went to sleep!!

Tuesday I had Art for two hours, then two hours Japanese private lessons, classical Japanese and Care. With Art we had to draw shadows, just how light shines on an object. Art is one of my favorites in the Netherlands, so I’m happy to have art! When I have art Rachel has music. It’s ok that we sit apart sometimes, because it’s good (and fun) that I have the opportunity to talk with the Japanese class mates. Everyone liked my ‘drawing’ and said ‘WOW’ and ‘great’: P

On Wednesday I have English, two hours lab, Japanese private lessons and two hours in the library with Rachel or other exchange students.

English is very funny, my mentor is also the English teacher, and she quite often asks whether it is true what they say or write. This shows the level of English of the Japanese. And to know that in the first year of primary school (at the age of 6 years ) they already learn English words at school.

I have computer class with the first class, who are generally quite childish. The first two weeks I appeared to be in the wrong class and now am in the right class, the teacher speaks a little English. Because the previous class is the sports class everyone is very open to me, but because this is a normal class, everybody is rather shy. We had to study typing again. In the 10 minute break they all go to youtube and everyone acts like they just discovered it. Youtube is really hot in Japan.

The 5th and 6th hour we had some kind mentor class in the gym, together with the whole school. We got a sort of sermon that we must be careful with bikes and traffic. Then a man in uniform came to talk about drug abuse. We all received a booklet with explanation of how drugs look like and that they are strictly prohibited. Funny, because soft drugs  in the Netherlands is legal.

We also watched a movie about a girl and a bad boyfriend who gives her drugs and she becomes addicted after 1 time and eventually they are going crazy and she jumps out the window. Pretty weird to be honest. But it will be a good deterrent in Japan.

On Tuesday and Wednesday I played tennis. When school lessons are finished (15:30) you have half an hour break to eat, to dress, etc. At 4 o’clock the clubs start. In my school we have mainly sports clubs. The girls basketball (No. 1 in Japan) and volleyball are very high level. The boys play often rugby and the baseball team is no. 1 in Hokkaido. We also have badminton, judo, athletics (the Kenyan exchange student is doing athletics because he has a scholarship, and he is the fastest in Hokkaido! How cool!) Further more we have soft tennis (of course), basketball (boys) art-drama – English choral club and tea ceremony. Probably we have more clubs, but this is what I can remember right now.

On Thursday I start with two hours gym with the third years. We had to run, but because I could not run, I watched. We also have gym on the sports field next to the school, it is very large and 4 classes have gym on the field at the same time. The boys and girls are also apart, because the boys are much better in sports!

With the third years we will go playing golf next week! I will try to make some pictures!

After school we had English-speaking club. I did not join this before, but because my Mentor insisted to join I did. We played a card game with questions in English. It was rather … boring … There were only 4 Japanese students, Rachel and me. Luckily it was only an hour.

On Friday, I started again with two hours gym, this time with the second years, not with my own class by the way. That’s because it would not fit in my custom ‘exchange student’ roster.

Rachel was not there so she could not help with the language. Fortunately, the people were very nice at gym. There is a girl who listens to the same music I do and watches the same series. So I could finally share my fan moments with her! Another girl is obsessed with Miffy (Nijntje in Dutch), since I told her that Miffy is originally Dutch she wants to come to the Netherlands.

Actually everyone wants to come to the Netherlands, since they know me. And friends of my host parents also want to become host family because they see that it is so fun and goes so well. Of course every exchange student is different, but I’m glad that people like me so much!

The rest of the day I had private Japanese lessons, classical Japanese and two hours in the library. The first hour in the library I can always concentrate, but the second hour I’m so bored that I sometimes fall asleep, but that’s allowed 😛

After school I went together with Rachel to Sapporo Eki. I really wanted to buy a nice bag and score Rilakkuma (like Hello Kitty) goodies. Because the building is very difficult we did not really knew where to go. Finally we found the shop and I bought a notebook and pen, which I’m going to use as a Japanese diary in Japanese writing (in Japanese, yes, good exercise!)

I was bored quickly because I do not like to walk around without a purpose. And because I had two heavy bags with me and my legs hurt. Rachel has indeed complete different interests than me, making her a bit annoyed when I wanted to look somewhere. Next time I agreed with Erika (AFSer from Denmark) to go shopping because we like the same style and things like that! : D

Next week we have also other seats in class and this time I’m not next to Rachel. I’m between a very funny guy and a very sweet girl. I hope I can make a little more contact with them.

Saturday I went to tennis, I woke up  at 7 o’clock! We started at 9 AM and finished around two O’clock. This time we were split into two groups, one outside and the other in the gym. I went to the gym and I was very happy because was really cold outside and the wind is so strong in Sapporo, not normal.

It was not a very nice day, because everyone was a bit cranky. And I also, because I still have pain in my calves. Luckily I will go to the doctor on Tuesday to check if there is nothing wrong.

hereunder you find photos of school, art class, Rilakkuma book and pen, tennis in the gym, the library, my indoor shoes. AND FINALLY THE PICTURES OF MY SPEECH. The gym is so BIG!!!, really four times bigger than our gym in the Netherlands. And it was packed with students and teachers!

I have to admit that giving a speech for such a large group of people less scary than, for instance only the teachers.

It is now Sunday and today I finally went  with my family to see the Sakura (cherry blossoms)!

We had to drive pretty far to get to the park, I don’t know the name. It is apparently very popular because there were so many people. We first went to a playground for Yuna and Miyu and then quickly took pictures of the Sakura. Everything had to be done quick and we had to hurry. We went quickly to the next park where we went to see Ume blossom. It looks like Sakura (Sakura is generally white / very light pink) and Ume is very pink. Ume also smells really nice. In this park we only had about 10 minutes to look around. I felt sorry we had to do everything to rapidly, moreover because these parks are for relaxing and having fun. But I soon understood why we had to hurry, Okaa-san had to go to work. Afterwards I went with Otou-san and the girls to Mac Donald’s. I’m not a Mac addict, but it was really like heaven. I am missing french fries!

It is probably not done to take pictures of graves, but there were really a lot. I first thought that these were war graves, but Okaa-san told me these are for a particular religion, she did not know exactly.

Next Tuesday I go to the doctor to check my calves. For the rest, my school is not very spectacular, it’s fun and just goes the way it goes!

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