Sunday, July 31, 2011

Christmas in July

The best way I know how to say good-bye is through photography (in the form of personalized photo books for everyone):

...and food (a little good ol' Kansas City BBQ sauce, anyone?):

The fact that Japan is such a gifting culture probably means that the reciprocity of these will result in a plethora of return gifts guaranteed not to fit in our suitcases, but it's totally worth it!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

House & Hood

Before heading overseas to Japan, I remember completely preparing myself for a life smashed into a one room, teeny apartment with paper-thin walls and nothing but a house plant to serve as a yard. Needless to say, we got pretty lucky with our three-bedroom house complete with yard for barbecuing! Now as we get ready to completely start packing up our life here, it's time for me to get super-sentimental and offer up one last photo tour of our home and neighborhood here in Japan. Hey, it was our home for the past three years! Now, please excuse me while I try to hold on just a little longer!

The king of our house with his sweet preferred mode of transport:

Our living room and joined kitchen/vanity/laundry room:

Our bedroom:

The guest room, host to many a Couchsurfer and friend:

Jacob's "man-cave":

Our bus stop, just outside of the high school:

Our most favorite sushi restaurant, just 10 minutes from our place (of course leading to weekly jaunts to fill our bellies with delicious, raw fish):

The historic farm on the corner across from the 7-Eleven, the Big House (our grocery store), and the sushi restaurant. Always a pleasure to see the pretty little ponies out grazing:

The huge, and very welcomed, open field of green! Sapporo has quite a few of these designated "green spaces" in which nothing can be built or paved...brilliant!

Typical street of Hokkaido houses:

Would love to come back to this area in about 10 years and see how it all has changed!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Sad & Sweet School Sayonara

The inevitable saddest part about leaving Japan happened last week as I had to say good-bye to my students and Sapporo Intercultural and Technological High School. I wasn't prepared for the amount of heartfelt and thoughtful goodbyes from the students themselves, but it made it all the more special and brought about all the more tears.

Many of my last classes held parties or did special activities for me, which was so fun and touching. A couple of highlights of this included a full-on gospel rendition of "Oh Happy Day," followed by a lovely campfire-esque version of "You Are My Sunshine" (coincidentally, one of my favorite songs)!

The amount of wonderful letters, cards, photo albums, gifts, and flowers from the students was just so, so amazing! Aside from the flowers, every last one of those things is getting crammed into my already stuffed luggage somehow!

Hanging out in the teachers' room on the last day of classes before summer vacation:

The last day of school before vacay brings about a huge, important (super sweaty and hot) assembly in the gym...just look at them all lined up:

And with it, my farewell speech in both English AND Japanese!

And, cue the tears and hugs:

The principal and I with my sweet reward

More parting school-slash-gift shots:

See that gorgeous fan above? It was a gift from the English teachers and is a pretty darn expensive way to cool yourself! It's hand-painted silk with Japanese washi (handmade paper) as a backing and all folded up onto bamboo pieces. Just lovely:

This whole "sayonara" thing isn't getting any easier, especially with folks as awesome as the young adults at S.I.T., but it seems as if we're necessarily crossing them off of our lists, one at a time. A huge ありがとうございます to all of the students and teachers for the wonderful, sweet send-offs!