Blog Layout

Hi everyone!

I’ve spent some time today getting to know WordPress and formatting my blog. For some reason, I can’t see this home page in the editor, so I haven’t been able to spruce it up.

I’ve not done anything fancy, but if you would like a slightly smoother experience while reading my blog, please head to the Blog page.

~ Gabby, 6/18

Week 3 (6/26 – 7/2)

Monday, 6/26
Today at work I decided to start taking pictures of my lunches. They are always very healthy, and I have been surprised by how delicious they are! The cooks are very talented. I’ve gathered from the other teachers that SOLTILO is a bit pricey, so they must be able to afford to spend money on quality ingredients.

We had a new but not, student in class today. Ellie (fake name) was gone all last week so she is new to me but obviously not to everyone else. I still mix up two of the boys, their fake names are Scott and Simon, but in real life they both have S-names that sound alike. Another pair of similar names are Ellie’s and Ella’s, (fake names but they sound just as similar as Ellie and Ella in real life). However, because I got to know Ella for a week separately from Ellie, I had no trouble telling them apart.

Tuesday, 6/27
After work today I stopped by a mall to buy a new shirt. All of my shirts are serviceable but very hot in the humid weather. They also take a bit longer to dry when doing laundry (there is a fast spin cycle after the wash, and then clothes go outside to dry) so I am hoping that this new shirt will be practical in a few ways.

Wednesday, 6/28
Today at work it was a student’s last day. Apparently his family is moving to a different prefecture. Robby (made up name) was very sweet and energetic. However, he would sometimes get mad and snap which usually ended with some other kid being pinched or scratched when a teacher’s back was turned (even if only for a few seconds!). Children have different phases and stages of growth with their emotional regulation, but it is a bit of a relief that we will no longer have to spare a teacher to sit right next to Robby at all times.

Thursday, 6/29
I felt like I have finally found my groove at SOLTILO. I know all of the kids faces and names, whose water bottle and backpack is whose, etc. Being familiar with my environment has helped me to feel more comfortable, now that I am not constantly learning new information about the children or schedule etc..
Something I didn’t expect to appreciate was of the kids’ different personalities. I worked a bit with kids in the past, but I only saw them for a few hours at a time once or twice a week. Being with the same class every day I have really gotten to know each child individually. What will make one laugh will make another one cry so it has been very valuable information haha.

For example, we have this one student Tina (fake name) who lives in an apartment building close by. Whenever we have sport time at a specific soccer court she can see the building and will get sad and cry. However, she absolutely does not want a hug or any sort of affection for a solid 5 or 10 minutes. Trying to comfort her (beyond just sitting next to her) will make her cry even harder. Another student, Sammy (fake name), will crawl into your lap, lay down, sprawl out, squirm around, wiggle like a puppy, at the soonest opportunity any time you sit down and is even clingier if sad.

Friday, 6/30
Yesterday was Nathalie’s birthday so today after work everyone who was free went to conveyer belt sushi together. At this specific chain of restaurants (Kura sushi) every 5 plates you eat and slid into a slot, a video will play and you have the opportunity to win a little prize. Out of the 4 times a video played we got 1 prize (I uploaded 2 videos of our unsuccessful attempts here).

Saturday, 7/1
I slept in a bit today which was a nice treat. My host-family and I went to Ippudo and ate tonkotsu ramen for lunch. It was very good!

Somehow my host-father, Nari, and I ended up talking about personal property tax. It was actually an interesting conversation! Apparently, in Japan, the older your car gets taxed more the older it is because of safety concerns. I didn’t know anything about car taxes in the U.S., but according to some googling it seems like different states have different rules about taxing cars as a part of your personal property. In the states that do tax cars the rates seemed to be based on the cars value (more expensive car, higher tax, etc.). I don’t know exactly if that information is correct, but it was fun just making conversation.

When we were first getting to know each other at the beginning of my time in Japan, Yoko was excited to learn that I would be having my birthday. She made plans for a nice buffet dinner and wanted me to wear yukata. Due to my sickness all of those events were rescheduled for this weekend instead! So, after lunch, Yoko and I went to a beauty salon to have someone help us put the yukata on. It’s complicated!

After getting our yukata on we met back up with Nari and Yukino and drove back to the Mi-Hamaen Japanese Garden to take pictures. Next, we drove to a hotel were we would be having a buffet dinner with Yoko’s parents. At this point Yoko and I were both a little uncomfortable from the tightness of the waistband (obi) and decided to change before eating. Dinner was delicious! I enjoyed all of the food, and especially the desserts. Yoko surprised me with a fancy juice drink that came with flowers in it! It was yummy, and tasted just like SweeTarts. (side note: I thought the candy was called sweet tarts, not sweetarts haha!)

Sunday, 7/2
Today was another day where I didn’t have to worry about waking up at a certain time. My professor (Chisato Kojima, the Japanese language prof. at IWU) wanted to have lunch with me and two of my (past) classmates who are also a part of Freeman Asia while we were all in Japan (Henry Moore & Alexis Aranda-Hernandez). Also in our party was Prof. Kojima’s mom and uncle! We went to a monjya restaurant on monjya street together. Although we went there to eat monjya, I forgot to take any pictures of it! (also not pictured is udon)
<– okonomiyaki <– yakisoba

After lunch we parted ways with Prof. Kojima’s uncle (who very generously gave Henry, Alexis, and I a bag full of Japanese snacks each!) and traveled to Tsuruya Yoshinobu for desert. We were able to watch the confectioner make the deserts in front of us. It was cool to see the different ways the different confections were made!

Week 2 (6/19-6/25)

Monday, 6/19
It’s back to work with me! Nearby SOLTILO there is a grocery store called “AEON STYLE Makuhari Bay Park”. AEON is a large chain of malls, while it is not a mall this grocery store is owned by AEON. I’ve google map-ed it and there are other AEON Styles in other places, their names are essentially ‘AEON Style X-place’. Anyways, I stopped by AEON style and bought a soda to cool down. I’ve decided that I’m allowed to get little snacks/treats before or after work to be able to explore new foods and drinks. My drink today was ‘C.C. Lemon’ and it advertised itself as providing 70 lemons worth of vitamin C. I’m not sure why anyone would need 70 lemons of vitamin C, but it was tasty!

Work was par for the course. Today one of the kids was especially cranky and kept trying to run away when we were outside. I definitely got my steps in chasing after her! I have also discovered that lunch time is the worst! There are obviously some foods that are tastier than others. We are supposed to encourage the kids to eat everything because leaving food on the plate is wasteful. However, while we obviously don’t force children to eat when they are refusing to, the kids aren’t allowed to leave their seats and go play without trying a bite or two of whatever they don’t want to eat. This leads to a lot of time every day spent convincing or coercing 3 and 4 year olds to take 2 tiny bites of food. I don’t mind it, but it is a little hard sometimes figuring out the right thing to say and tires me out more quickly than chasing after runaways!

Tuesday, 6/20
I went by AEON Style again, this time after work, and found a sitting area. I bought a 100 (less than a buck) coffee and was able to sit down and enjoy the air conditioning.

Later in the evening, the phone I ordered from arrived. I was able to get the SIM card in it, and have the phone up and running in only a few short hours! My guess is that the phone’s very old OS is what was causing me issues and forcing me to start over again and again.

Wednesday, 6/21
On my first day of work I was given a test to take so that they could check my intestines for diseases or parasites. I was officially cleared today and now I can help serve food to the kids at snack time and lunchtime. The results of the test coming in today was good timing, Ms. K (the teacher of the K3 class) was out sick today after feeling a bit under the weather yesterday. So I was able to work with Ms. Y (K3’s support teacher) and help with everything.

Thursday, 6/22
Today, we sent 2 kids them home early because they had fevers. Ms. K was out sick again too, I think she must have caught it from the kids! After work I tried Calpis soda, I hadn’t heard of it before so I was a bit surprised by the yoghurty flavor. It was alright, but definitely not my favorite.

Friday, 6/23
I woke up today with a massive headache and a sore throat. I didn’t have a fever, so after breakfast I walked to SOLTILO and asked if it was ok for me to be working. My boss was a bit concerned that I showed up lol, but he said I was alright to work if I wanted because I was wearing mask and didn’t have a fever. Unfortunately, even after taking medicine all day my headache just got worse, and I eventually left early just after lunch. When I got home I took my temperature again and I had developed a fever! I spent the rest of my evening asleep haha.

Yoko was very thoughtful and had cooked a birthday dinner for me! I enjoyed it a lot, and after opening some surprise presents from the family and next-door neighbors I went to back to bed.

Saturday, 6/24
After the loads of sleep I got on the 23rd I was feeling very refreshed in the morning. I lost my fever sometime in the night, and was back to a normal temperature.
My host family and I enjoyed a nice cold soba lunch and then biked to the Mi-Hamaen Japanese Garden.

The garden was beautiful and I really enjoyed the koi’s cute ginormous mouths, which I had never seen before!

Afterwards we cooled down with some ice coffee and visited a nearby 100Y store. Dinner was delicious! We went to an okonomiyaki / monja restaurant.

Sunday, 6/25
Today was primarily a trip to Yoyogi Park with Natalie, Joelle, & Farah. Most of the afternoon was at Yoyogi, followed by some shopping (mostly window shopping haha). I left early in the evening as I was feeling a bit tired and had work the next day.
I took lots of photos, here is a link!

Week 1! (6/11-6/18)

I can’t believe it’s been a week already! So many things have happened that the time just flew right by.
If you are interested, all of the embedded photos will bring you to categorized photo galleries. Additionally, I have included some links to provide extra recourses and information for anyone curious!

Note: for the life of me I have not been able to figure out how to indent text! I have decided to publish now, and try to figure out this formatting issue later. If this note is no longer on this post then hopefully I have figured out how to indent and deleted it!

Sunday, 6/11 & Monday, 6/12
My plane left from O’Hare on Sunday at 7AM so I was at the airport around 3:30AM. There is such a thing as too early! The baggage check area was closed until 4 so there wasn’t much to do except wait. My trip had two legs, first a short 1.5 hr flight to Washington Duells, and next a 14 hr across North America and the Pacific to Japan. I was slightly nervous the entire time I was traveling, as I have a medicine that needs to be refrigerated and my travel case was acting up, but everything turned out alright. No issues at TSA or later at customs and I was able to connect with the IES representative at the airport right away.
I landed in Japan on the 12th around 3:30PM Japanese time. After taking a relatively quick (1 hr) bus ride to my hotel (Hotel Francs) I tried to stay awake for a few hours but eventually fell asleep at 7.

Tuesday, 6/13
Breakfast was very fancy compared to the typical hotel breakfasts I’ve had in the past. It was a buffet but there was someone to show you to your seat and all of the food seemed to be freshly made and high quality. I did mistake the basket of eggs on a table to be hardboiled (they were raw) but luckily I caught my mistake before cracking the egg! The room itself was beautiful but slightly intimidating and would have had a nice view of the ocean if it weren’t for some fog.
Later, around 9, I met up with the other IES interns (Farah, Joelle, & Nathalie) and the IES Tokyo Center Director Caleb Foale. We walked over to the IES Tokyo Center and on our way got a lovely introduction to Chiba, as well as Japan generally, from Caleb. Once at the center, we had an orientation with a break for lunch at Tofuro Kaihinmakuhari.

After orientation, we met and went home with our host families (Joelle, Nathalie, & I) or headed off to a dorm (Farah). I was fairly nervous about meeting my family for the first time, but my host mom (Yoko Watanabe) had reached out to me on Facebook Messenger so I knew that they would be friendly. The Watanabe family lives on the 7th floor of an apartment building that is only 15 minutes by walking from the IES Center. My host mom told me to call her Yoko, and her husband (Yasunari) Nari. The Watanabes have an 11yr old daughter, Yukino, and no pets. I got to know Yoko and Yukino through some souvenirs I brought with me from Bloomington-Normal, and was introduced to Nari over dinner after he came home from work.

Wednesday, 6/14
I met with Caleb at IES after breakfast to walk together to SOLTILO GSA International Preschool. I was planning to have my first day of work, but it was more convenient for SOLTILO from a planning standpoint if I started on Thursday instead. This was nice as it allowed me to learn how to get to work (with no Google Maps unfortunately, I had set up an emergency international phone plan for calls, but hadn’t bought a SIM card to use for data yet) and take an extra day to get accustomed to the new time zone.
On my walk home from SOLTILO, I was able to pick up a small lunch at a 7/11 and was surprised at how cheap the food was there. I believe the 8oz milk tea and pickled plum onigiri was ¥327 ($2.30).

Thursday, 6/15
I had a wonderful breakfast with my host family and then left to walk to work at 9. I am slated to work 10-4, M-F. In Japan, there is an unwritten but strongly followed rule to arrive no more and no less than 10 minutes early to events. Luckily, both Caleb and my boss at SOLTILO let me know about this ahead of time so I didn’t make any bad impressions by showing up at 9:55 or 10 instead of the correct time, 9:50. While I have worked with children in the past, I had an even spread of ages from 4 to 11 in a group ranging from 5 to 15 students. I also only had students for about 2 hours at a time. So working with 3-year-olds for 6 hours at a time was a little different. I get a lunch break for a generous 45 minutes and eat my lunches at the preschool. I bought my lunches from the school kitchen at ¥5000 ($35.22) for 1 month which is an insanely low price to me for the amount and high quality of the food provided.
I discovered that while IES is 20 minutes from my host family’s apartment, and SOLTILO is 20 minutes from IES, going to the apartment from SOLTILO is a slightly shorter 30 minutes. I could take a bus for part of the way to cut down on some walking, but it’s more convenient for me to have the freedom to check out shops along the way and not worry about the bus schedule. Additionally, it’s a great way to relax after herding toddlers.

Friday, 6/16
On my second day of work, I felt slightly less out of my depth with the kids. However, while I knew the names of the vocal children and troublemakers I still didn’t know about half of the 15-person class. By the end of the day I was more confident and can truthfully say I knew all the student’s names except for this one trio of boys I kept confusing with each other.
Also on Friday, I got a more accurate feel for what the classroom schedule looks like. Roughly, I arrive at 10 when the children are starting their (English) phonics exercise. The curriculum at SOLTILO emphasizes children learning letter sounds first, and being able to read short words by using their letter sounds and blending them together, over learning the alphabet. So no singing the ABCs! Next, (after a potty break) we either go to a park and have free play time, or go to the nearby Honda Football Area. SOLTILO’s founder, Keisuke Honda, is a famous professional football manager and former player. So the children will do age-appropriate soccer drills and games to develop their gross motor skills.
After another potty break, it is time for the Japanese lesson. Which at the 3-year-old level means storytime! Next is lunchtime, followed by an arts & crafts activity, a small snack, and playtime. There is an official schedule on SOLTILO’s website which we do follow, but as anyone who has been around young children knows, flexibility is important. What that looks like in the classroom is letting children who have finished their lunch early play, or a teacher reading a storybook or two when the class finishes their phonics or craft early, etc…
My route home takes me through Kanda University’s campus, where I like to try a new soda from the vending machine when I pass it at the end of the day.

Saturday, 6/17
I had a relaxing morning and left at 12 to head to Kaihimakuhari Station to meet with Joelle & Natalie to go to Tokyo. I had ordered a Japanese SIM card a few days prior and needed to pick it up in person at Tokyo Station. I believe Farah did the same, so it made great sense for us two to pick up the SIM cards and then enjoy an afternoon out as a group. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize my phone was network locked! I have ordered a cheap $50 phone off of which should arrive on 6/20 and work nicely as plan B. Side note, Tokyo Station is MASSIVE! maybe the all-caps are overkill, but I felt very lost trying to find the right exit. For some reason, I didn’t realize that Tokyo Station would be like a mini airport despite being a very central train station.
Kitte is a mall very close to Tokyo Station so we went there after picking up the SIM cards. Lunch was at Sushi Ginzo, and was very good, I especially liked the shaved gourd roll (3rd from left). Most of the stores at Kitte are very expensive and out of my price range. I did find this Mt. Fuji hand towel for a good price that I think will make a good gift to someone.

Additionally, there is a nice rooftop area where I took some pictures of Tokyo Station and the surrounding buildings.
We walked to the Imperial Palace next, hoping to be able to see the buildings, but we were too late and arrived after all of the tours had closed. The front garden had some cool trees and we saw a swan in the water on our way out.
Along the way back to Tokyo Station we stopped at Wakadura Fountain Park, which was very pretty! While walking to and from the station we noticed 4 separate bridal wedding photo shoots which was interesting to see. The dresses were all so beautiful!

Sunday, 6/18
Originally, I had planned to bike to a Japanese garden with my host family around lunchtime but my host mom woke up sick with a cold! Luckily she didn’t have a fever and is feeling alright but we all decided to stay home instead of going without her. However, because Yoko is the one who cooks meals Nari went out to 7/11 to grab us lunch and we had Italian for dinner.
I was able to use that downtime to do some cross stitch (a hobby I use to relax and stay off of my phone in my downtime) as well as explore WordPress a bit and start to set up my blog. I also went to AEON mall to grab sunscreen which was a dangerous trip! I was very tempted to buy lots of souvenirs to make Christmas gifts and did end up buying some stationary items for myself.
Later in the evening, I had a Zoom meeting with my advisor, Chisato Kojima, where we talked about a number of things including this blog post!


Overall, this first week went by so quickly! It was a great start to my internship, and my time in Japan. I am excited to learn even more in the future!

First Post!

My first blog post! I’m so excited to be a part of Freeman Asia this summer.