Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Spring ... Break?

In the Japanese school system, teachers often work when everyone else is on vacation. It's a sad state of affairs considering that a major bonus of being a teacher, in the western mind, is getting all of those extended vacations: summer vacation, Christmas vacation, spring break... heaven!

Not so for the Japanese teacher.

This week is, technically speaking, Spring Break. Students of all ages have thrown aside their school uniforms and their heavy backpacks, are sleeping in past 6 a.m. (gasp!), and are enjoying this stunning spring weather on their bikes, in their neighborhoods, on the beach... Meanwhile, I sit at my desk from 9-5 with no energetic students to make my day more bearable, surrounded by busy coworkers rushing about frantically. I can't for the life of me figure out what is keeping them so busy, however. Every day I rack my brain for projects to keep me busy, and still end up with more down time than is physically healthy.
The insane look in my eyes can testify to that fact.
Yesterday, for example, I watched as the old teachers prepared for transfer by packing up their desks, some current teachers moved to a different desk, and a couple new teachers arrived to place their belongings into a empty desk. Feeling left out of all the hubbub without a new desk to move to, I decided to take everything off and out of my desk anyways and clean every nook and cranny, clean out the old archives of lesson plans that I never touch anyway, and start fresh for the year. I even gave the tatami room a quick vacuum. However, those tasks barely lasted me until lunch.

Clean, organized, redecorated, yay!

While technically, I could take nenkyuu (paid leave) and go frolic in the sun with my students, I am a little low on spare days after my Seattle trip (we get 10 per semester) and need to save them for visiting friends. Soooo.. I am finding small ways to make this week feel like spring break, even though it really ... isn't.

On Saturday, my darling friend Neave came to the main island from her little, far-away island and brought a friend along for the adventure. So, on Sunday, I packed the two girls into my car and whisked them away for a day of fun.

First stop: breakfast! There is only one place on the island (outside of the military bases) to get a real, big, American breakfast: the Rose Garden. Yummmmmmmm....  Since it was a Sunday morning, we had to wait about 20 minutes to be seated, but it was totally worth it.

Check out the size of those bacon strips!
We then continued to the middle of the island where drove across the long sea road to a bundle of small islands all connected by bridges. We started with my favorite island, Hamahiga Jima, where we spent most of the day exploring shrines, caves, beaches, and the jungle. It.was.wonderful.

We also drove along two other islands and explored some underground hut-like structures on Ikei Jima where people lived 2000 plus years ago. Awesome.

At the end of the day, the three of us ate a yummy Okinawan meal, drove to my apartment, and snuggled up for a movie, tea, and cookies. Feeling of Spring Break: Achieved.

The next morning, being Monday morning, I had to wake up early and go to work. However, my college roommate, Sarah, and her boyfriend, Ben, were visiting from Chiba, Japan, so I took a half-day and set off for another adventure!  Our first order of business was lunch. On a hunger scale from 1-10, Sarah was a 6 while Ben was about a 7. Time to eat! We tried two cafes, the "pig cafe" and the "cow cafe," which were both closed; so we set off on a slightly longer drive for the "hill cafe" which was, thankfully, open.
You can't tell, but there's a really nice view behind us.

Oh, there it is!
Yama no Chaya is the sister cafe to Hamabe no Chaya, the cafe with the lovely ocean views which I  have posted about on a few occasions. It also boasts delightful views, just from a farther perspective. :) This cafe also serves up some scrumptious Okinawan dishes. Yum!

After a long, leisurely lunch, Sarah, Ben, and I headed for the Peace Park. They toured the museum while I took a relaxing break with a book. Then we all met up and walked around the park. The Peace Park is very extensive, full of sobering shrines and tombs, and boasting numerous uplifting views. We walked from one end to the other and ended up at the locally dubbed "Ghost Beach" for it's less-than-lively occupants. ;)  When dinner time approached, we finished off a lovely day at another favorite local eatery: Paradise Cafe. Cashew nut chicken, for the win!

Sarah showed me around Tokyo when I visited last summer, and I was so glad to return the favor. It was really wonderful to see Sarah again and show her my new home here. I hope that wherever we go in the world, we can always meet up for adventures and a few good laughs.

As you can see, though I may have to work through most of Spring "Break," I am finding little ways to enjoy my spare time. In fact, I am about to enjoy a leisurely, sunny lunch. My stomach says: It's time! Here's to more adventures this week, and a fast approaching weekend!


  1. Hi ReBekha

    Your eyes! LoL
    I didn't know teachers in Japan must work during holidays. And I didn't know my English teachers might have thought in the same way as you. haha

    At least you have many friends around you to hang out ;)

    I want to try that huge breakfast and okinawan dishes. Yummy!!!

  2. private ALTs get time off when there are breaks, but they don't get paid during that time so i dunno which is better

  3. And unless you're a teacher or a student here in the US, you never get any breaks ever, especially when you work at a hotel. ;)

    Gotta say it, but I'm jealous of your Okinawan sunshine. :) LOVE you!