Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Surviving winter in rural Japanese classrooms

I always know when I haven't been updated my blog often enough by the fact that I have to re-enter my log in details (which I have just done) and by the hints that come from family members (usually a sister who has nothing better to do at "work" than check every one's blogs!). So apologies yet again for not writing more lately.....
Yesterday I spent the entire day trying to clean up the house a bit so that I could hang up the Christmas decorations so they wouldn't just blend into the background of junk lying around all over the place. Yesterday the children also woke up early excited about opening their first present in the advent calendar Like last year the excitement kind of wore off quickly when they were rewarded with toothbrushes rather than the chocolate they were imagining. Today they were back to being happy though with two round chocolates... Little do they know that this year I have outdone myself and not only are there toothbrushes, toothpaste, chopsticks, straws (don't ask) in there, but there are also knickers and socks! Nothing like practical presents to start the Christmas celebrations!
Along with the Christmas preparations, December also represents the first of the cold months here in Japan. Frosts are regular now and although the days are really warm the nights are getting really cold. Because we have a wood burner this cold doesn't worry us too much, but going to school and teaching is a different matter! The room in the photo is my "English Classroom" that I get to use when I am teaching at one of the schools. As you can see we have no desks or chairs so that we can play lots of games and really get the kids moving around. If you look very closely you will also see that there is no warm radiator system running the length of the classroom to keep us warm. In fact there is no heating in this classroom at all - which is reasonably typical at country schools in Japan. Often they will bring out a kerosene "stove" later in the year, but for now all the students cram over to the side closest to the window in an attempt to warm themselves in the sun. Fortunately Japan has developed some other ways to keep warm in these situations, the most common is wearing your jacket all day - inside and out. Hats and gloves are also common.... Another great invention is the "hand warmer". For those that don't know about these it is a little pack of "something" that when you shake up and down a few times it causes some kind of chemical reaction (as you can see I really know the details of these things very well) that makes the contents heat up and stay hot for about 24 hours. Most of the children have them in their pockets and whenever the cold gets too much for them they just hold them for a bit and warm up their fingers. They now also have ones that are designed for putting in your shoes, ones with adhesive bits for sticking on your back etc. Great things - except when they burst in your trousers... which is what happened to one boy in class the other day! A big mess to clean up and a bit of scratching for the rest of the day.

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