Dillon and I were going through the photos he has been taking on his phone during our time in Osaka – we hope you like them!
Yesterday morning, Dillon and I took the train north from Umeda out into the rural, mountainous suburbs of Osaka. We hiked from Minoo Station along a trail past woodwork shops to a temple and then up to a viewing platform at the top of the forest. It was a crisp autumn day, the leaves were beginning to change colour, and the sound of running water and the fall of leaves could be heard everywhere. My favourite place in Japan so far!
We will go back to Minoo Park in late November to see the autumn colours at their peak, and to visit the insect museum and waterfall, which were closed due to it being a Tuesday, and damage caused by Typhoons Lam and Saola respectively.
I’ve let updating my blog slip, which I always hate. I’m one of those people who prefers to do something properly or not at all. I can’t stand the idea of having unfinished projects or loose ends still to be worked on, which means I often start something with a burst of energy and then get rid of it completely when I can’t keep up that level of commitment. I have high expectations of myself and I’m a perfectionist on top of that (“The perfectionist’s perfectionist” is how I described it to someone who asked recently). It’s a double-edged sword, because I am known to be efficient, effective and highly productive, but ultimately I can’t deny that it is driven by my faulty mental wiring that simply will not allow me to be anything other than that.
Sometimes that itch of feeling myself to be not being good enough makes me think that I would rather delete this blog entirely than allow myself a few weeks off before writing a new post. I have definitely deleted multiple blogs and archived posts when I used to be on social media, and even before then I used to rip up diaries a page at a time when I was in school, because I couldn’t bear the idea that I would have to keep something around me where I had made a mistake on one page. Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a wasteful condition, not just environmentally but the amount of wasteful energy it forces one to waste on stress and anxiety about literally anything it can. So I’m not going to apologise for this lull, because I think instead I need to give myself a break (“give myself grace”, as one of my favourite YouTubers, Allyson Faber, likes to say), and just do the best that I can in the circumstances.
Here’s what has been going on with me lately:
We have now booked our flights to Germany. We will be leaving Osaka in mid-December, and I have decided to hand in my notice earlier than I had previously intended, so that we will have time in November to visit Kyoto and Nara, and so I can generally have a bit of a rest before I start my new job in Berlin in January. We have done a lot of the administrative work for our move now, and Dillon has received his visa, so all we need to do now is to organise our accommodation in Berlin, which we are planning to do over the coming week.
Dillon and I have been making real progress with our transition to zero waste. We have cut down on the amount of plastic we consume by cutting out plastic bottles as much as is possible, and buying fruit fresh rather than pre-cut. We have set up four recycling stations in our storage closet: plastic bottles, glass and metals; other plastics; paper and cardboard; and textile recycling. The only waste going into our kitchen bin now is food waste, as we are not currently in the position to set up a composting station. We are excited to begin vermicomposting in Berlin.
I am considering setting up a YouTube channel alongisde this blog, where I would focus on topics including minimalism, veganism, zero waste and sustainable living. I have an idea to adapt Courtney Carver’s Project 333 into something like a Project 12-21 as one of my New Year’s resolutions for 2018, which I would like to revolve around long-term ethical choices and sustainable changes in my life. I have been learning a great deal about the fast fashion industry, and thinking about changes I want to make in order for my life to reflect my values towards these issues.
Something I did not expect when I read ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up’ by Marie Kondo, and then began listening to the weekly Minimalists podcast, was how open and flexible I would become to making significant and sustained change in my life. Minimalism led me to veganism, which got me interested in zero waste, which began forcing me to ask questions about sustainable consumption, and now I am learning more about environmental ethics and thinking about plans for the future that include some kind of project to help learning disabled children learn or traumatised children recover through learning centred around caring for animals.
I am glad to be moving to Germany soon so that we can be closer to our family. If you are inclined to do so, please keep my mum in your thoughts, as she is currently resting and recovering, and I hope I am able to talk to her on Skype soon xx
Dillon and I visited Umeda Sky Building today, where I took this photo from the rooftop observatory. We were over 150m high and could see the whole city as well as the mountains that surround Osaka and out to the sea. We still have not visited Abeno Harukas, the tallest building in Japan at 300m tall, but we will go there in early December to visit an exhibition on Studio Ghibli, so hopefully we will get a chance to take some more photographs of Osaka from above then too. In the gift shop, I managed to find some beautiful handmade Japanese craft items, including some handkerchiefs, hand towels, and body towels, all with lovely traditional designs. I also bought a little pouch in the shape of a rabbit to keep the smaller items in, as well as a kanji keychain for us both. I have been looking for items to bring back from Japan, but I have some criteria that they must fit into first:
1) The item is light, and will not take up much room in our suitcases
2) The item is handmade in Japan, and meaningful to our experience in Japan
3) The item is something I have already been looking for because we need it
We also visited Grand Front Osaka, a huge shopping mall with a whole floor dedicated to gorgeous stationery and specialist stores. I have never seen anything like it, and I don’t think there is anything like it in the UK that I can think of. I often find it is too difficult to buy anything when I visit those places, because there is so much choice, and everything is so special, so I just enjoy walking around and looking at different things instead. It is giving me lots of ideas for nearer the time when we leave Japan and I will be looking for some gifts to get people, though.
Finally, an update on our move to Germany: after going back and forth trying to get the right documentation, I have managed to set up an account to transfer money from Japan to the UK, so we will be able to pay for things like our plane tickets and deposit on a new apartment now. Secondly, I have completed the work documentation necessary for me to begin working in Germany, and we are lucky enough that the relocation agency who are helping us to move have said they will organise all appointments needed and provide translation services whenever required as part of their service. Lastly, we have sent a copy of our marriage certificate to the UK to get an apostille, and once we have received that we will be able to continue with the visa process for Dillon. We are a lot further along now than we were two weeks ago, or even last weekend, so I am feeling more relaxed about the situation now.
I’ve taken a break from blogging over my summer vacation, but I’ve just completed my prep week back at work, and the Autumn term begins tomorrow, so I’m going back to weekly updates from today.
Both Dillon and I had a bad cold over the summer, so we spent the first few days of my holiday resting and getting over our illness. We went for a walk around one of the local shopping malls, Namba Parks, and sat up on the rooftop garden admiring Osaka from above. Something I really like about this city is that despite it being so busy and there being countless things to do, there are lots of quiet spaces interspersed throughout it, where it stays peaceful and you can enjoy some peace and quiet. For my 26th birthday we went bowling at Round 1 in Namba, where I did surprisingly well considering there were no bumpers, and the Japanese guys in the alley next to us who were on their twentieth game applauded Dillon’s strikes and my spares! We also went out for soy burgers (this Friday marked one month since Dillon and I adopted a wholly plant-based diet). We went back to Round 1 later in the holiday to play pool, and we also visited an amusement park in Misaki Koen, outside of Osaka on the coastline.
This week at work was a preparation week, spent mostly in meetings. I met a new student who will be joining some of the classes I teach and did some assessment with work him. I also had some time to complete my planning and resourcing for the new term. Thursday and Friday were spent in a workshop focusing on teaching the Primary Years Programme (PYP) for the IB. The lady who ran it reminded me a lot of my PGCE tutors and I was pleasantly surprised at how interesting and helpful the workshop was – it’s always great to come away from something like that feeling as though I’ve learned lots of new things.
Today we went to Nagai Botanical Garden, an incredible natural space in the centre of the city, full of flowers, herbs, bamboo trees and areas of ancient forest. We saw turtles, huge koi and other fish in the lake, dragonflies, butterflies, and even some Japanese beetles in the roses.
I also have some big news! Dillon and I have wanted to move to Europe for some time, and once term broke up in July, I had some time to put together application materials to submit, and I saw an advertisement for a position similar to a SENCO (Special Educational Needs Co-Ordinator), which is a role I always aspired to take up in Britain, had our circumstances been different. The position is at another international school, this time in Berlin. As well as leading SEN provision for the Primary School, I will have some responsibility for EAL support. The job starts in January, so Dillon and I will be leaving Osaka in December and travelling to Germany. The school are covering my flight and our relocation costs, and we have been put in touch with their relocation service, which is brilliant and very reassuring. Until then, our plan now is to enjoy our last few months in Japan as much as we can, before beginning our next chapter in Berlin!
(It is also our second wedding anniversary today, and next week will mark three years since Dillon and I met in York for the first time ♥)
Four weeks after the official end of term, Summer School is finally over. I have experienced very mixed feelings about Summer School over this last month. It’s true that some of my favourite kids were there (even though you’re not supposed to have favourite kids, but anyway), and it was a really nice experience to be able to spend some time actually teaching them rather than just chatting to them briefly or supervising them at lunchtime, as they are in different grade classes to the ones I teach. I can’t pretend that it wasn’t lovely to receive daily drawings and notes from these students, either, and you can see a selection here:
However, I couldn’t get past the psychological block that ultimately I believe it’s not appropriate to offer or send kids to Summer School. They work hard enough during school hours, and the summer should be for playing, having fun, relaxing, seeing family, or whatever else they want to do outside of school. My other problem with Summer School is that it was a glorified daycare service, because all the teachers were too exhausted to do much of any educational value. I think I would have preferred it being officially called summer daycare, because then at least we could have done fun activities without feeling guilty about doing so, and we could have planned outdoor activities and trips to make it a more enjoyable experience for the students.
Between Summer School, Dillon and I went to the ATC Hall in the Osaka Bay area to see the Mega Dinosaurs Exhibition, which was very impressive. It was right at the end of the subway line, at a stop called Cosmo Square, which is one of my favourite names. We also went to a music venue called Zepp Namba, about a ten minute walk away from where we live, to see Sigur Ros live. I’ve caught a summer cold, but we bought some cold medication today and it has cleared up in a couple of hours, so I think over-the-counter medicine is quite strong in Japan compared to the UK!
The temperature is still in the mid-30s every day with high humidity, making it feel like low 40s, so I’m not planning to over-do things in the couple of weeks that I have off for summer vacation. However, I am hopeful that we can go back to the Tempozan area of Osaka to ride the ferris wheel and visit the animal petting zoo; there are a couple of exhibitions on at one of the art galleries that we would like to see; and there is an amusement park just outside of the city with lots of water rides that I would like to go to. It’s also my birthday next week, so hopefully we can go bowling and then to our favourite burger place for lunch.
We have been meaning to visit Shitennoji Temple for a long time, as it is very close to where we live, but we have been saving it for this weekend as there was also a market taking place on the same day. The pond was full of turtles, and we decided to go early in the morning so that we didn’t get too exhausted by the heat – not much luck there!
The temperature has been close to 40°C this week, and hotter with the humidity factored in, so we’ve been trying hard to stay anywhere indoors with air conditioning. We have been experiencing walking around the neighbourhood underground, by making use of the subterranean Namba Walks shopping arcade complex, which is like a whole new city underground, and takes us from the subway station at the top of our street to the local cinema, our favourite restaurant, and beyond. We visited the Studio Ghibli shop, where I resisted buying a bit of everything there(!), but I think I will probably end up getting a rucksack bag before we leave Japan to take wherever we go next.
I have also applied for a position in Berlin, teaching primary-level Special Educational Needs classes. I’ve really missed the SEN aspect of my role, and I have always hoped to live and work in Europe, so hopefully I will hear back from them in September when the school re-opens after the summer vacation. It’s still a bit early to be expecting positions to be advertised for when I need one, but I will have a quick look every weekend to see what comes up. Right now I’ve completed one week out of four of summer school, which, although I feel better about it at the end of the first week than I did at the beginning, I still have extremely mixed feelings about.
This week Dillon went to Tokyo to organise renewing his passport. After his successful lecture at Kansai University, he has also had some more good news – one of his essays is going to be published in an exciting new academic journal! The book with another one of his essays published in it will also be released next month. I’m hoping that when I have some vacation time in October, we can visit Tokyo again to go to the Hayao Miyazaki Studio Ghibli museum. Last weekend we went to watch the new Pirates of the Caribbean film, and during the week we caught the last showing of Beauty and the Beast too. I really enjoy going to the cinema so I’m glad that lots of films are shown here locally. The only problem is that the anime films are all in Japanese of course, but without any subtitles! Maybe one day we will live somewhere that has the best of both worlds.