To Oshima Camp We Go!

English Camp: Exhilarating, exciting and really exhausting.

English camp is three sleep-away days jam-packed with English activities, games and competitions. It’s all led by JTEs (Japanese English teachers) and ALTs. This particular camp where our story takes place is tucked away on the third largest island in the Seto Inland Sea: Oshima.

The view of Oshima walking towards Toshima Windpark, where camp was held.

The view of Oshima walking towards Tachibana Windpark, where camp was held.

View of Oshima from the beach... actually, I think I took this while in the water. I love the mountains in the distance!

View of Oshima from the beach... actually, I think I took this while in the water. I love the mountains in the distance!

I can’t find much information about Oshima Island except that 80% of Japan’s orange production comes from it and it became its own district (Oshima District) in 2004.

What I lack in factual information, I can certainly fill in with subjective story telling.

On Sunday, August 23, I arrived at Tachibana Windpark, in the center of the island, with 12 other ALTs. We met 13 excited junior high school students ready to use three days of their summer to practice English.*

First, we divided into “families.” Each family decided on a family name: After an excruciating time of trying to get my students to talk (trick – have them write instead!), we decided on “Black Ninjas.” Our family was as fierce as our name.

The "Black Ninjas" family! From the left: Mai-ninja, JTE-ninja, JTE-ninja, Cyndi-ninja (me), Koji-ninja, can't-remember-her-name-ninja, Sarah-ninja

The "Black Ninjas" family! From the left: Mai-ninja, JTE-ninja, JTE-ninja, Cyndi-ninja (me), Koji-ninja, can't-remember-her-name-ninja, Sarah-ninja

We each had a speech partner; mine was a very shy boy named Kota. He’s a great athlete and eager to learn English but too nervous to speak it much.

My speech partner Kota and me. We made coasters - ours says Oshima English Camp 2009 - and it's a picture of us jumping off the pier at the beach!

My speech partner Kota and me. We made coasters - ours says Oshima English Camp 2009 - and it's a picture of us jumping off the pier at the beach!

For English activities we made posters, did a scavenger hunt, presented speeches (ALTs in Japanese, students in English!), and put together family skits. During breaks and free time, we taught the kids dodgeball, played volleyball and went to the beach. We even cooked together! We made fajitas with the kids; it was really fun to see the Japanese teachers and students uncomfortable and nervous about strange food for once!

The pier we climbed to jump. There were two walls to climb with ropes hanging down from both. This is the bigger one - this is ALT Mike helping ALT Tiff get to the top.

The pier we climbed to jump. There were two walls to climb with ropes hanging down from both. This is the bigger one - this is ALT Mike helping ALT Tiff get to the top.

Me, jumping off the pier!! I love this picture - the shadow is awesome. I don't know what exactly that pose is about, though.... haha

Me, jumping off the pier!! I love this picture - the shadow is awesome. I don't know what exactly that pose is about, though.... haha

This is my favorite of the jumping pictures!! This is Chris and Isaac. Somehow they both did the same pose, and I managed to catch it mid-air!

This is my favorite of the jumping pictures!! This is Chris and Isaac. Somehow they both did the same pose, and I managed to catch it mid-air!

Smashing watermelons! You are blindfolded, have to spin five times and take directions from everyone else to the watermelon. ALT Mike started things, and the kids finished it off!

Smashing watermelons! You are blindfolded, have to spin five times and take directions from everyone else to the watermelon. ALT Mike started things, and the kids finished it off!

Some of the women ALTs! From the left: Erin, Sarah, Tiff, me, Kris

Some of the women ALTs! From the left: Erin, Sarah, Tiff, me, Kris

And jumping back to food, I can’t do this post justice if I do not describe a Japanese breakfast….

Both nights of camp, the JTEs brought alcohol and snacks, and we all bonded. The first night I was, well, an appropriate level of really tipsy. I woke up dehydrated and tired. I drank water and looked forward to breakfast to perk me up.

I walked into the dining room, and what awaited me was a tray with rice, miso soup, a whole fish (eyes… bones… the whole… fish), a raw egg, seaweed, yogurt and soy sauce. Mmmmmmm!! Yummy!

“Can this be happening?” I thought. I stared, in shock and partial awe, as it dawned on me that everyone around me was actually eating this. I cooked the egg on a small grill, had a few bites of rice, a sip of soup and some yogurt and called it a morning. I pawned the rest on my kids, and it never looked like I was an awful, rude American not eating their food. (Sorry, I didn’t think to take a picture of it!)

That said, we had as many delicious meals as terrifying ones. Besides the fajitas, we had yakiniku on the last night (Korean bbq). And then, there were the s’mores.

Whitney and Tiff, the two ALTs on Oshima, suggested that we teach the kids s’mores. They told the JTEs what ingredients were needed, and after the fires began to cool and our meals were finished… the JTEs excitedly announced, “SMORES TIME!” and brought out –

Marshmellows (marsh marrows, as they wrote it!)
and Ritz crackers.

ALTs Brooke and Sarah enjoying ritz cracker smores with a few of the students!

ALTs Brooke and Sarah enjoying ritz cracker smores with a few of the students!

We laughed a lot and struggled to explain why it was funny, but in the end the joke was on us: they were pretty tasty!

And finally, on the last day, we presented our skits. The theme was Disney, and the kids in my family decided they wanted a horror story.

Here was our skit (I’m still sad I didn’t think to record it!):

**SCENE**

–Mickey and Minnie enter to the rest of the family singing the Mickey Mouse song.
(They are adorable.)
–Mickey and Minnie sit down to eat. “I love you Mickey!” “I love you Minnie!”
–Goofy lays behind them (me).
–Jasmine comes flying in on her magic carpet – the family sings, “A Whole New World”
–The song ends abruptly, as Jasmine sneaks in behind Mickey and Minnie and exclaims, “I AM EVIL JASMINE!”
–She proceeds to kill Mickey and Minnie, as Goofy calls Nemo the fish to come help.
–Nemo swims in and tries to help but is killed.
–In the process, Hercules flies in on a bird and helps Jasmine kill.
–Goofy calls Black Ninja to help.
–Goofy is killed.
–Black Ninja arrives and kills evil Jasmine and Hercules.
–The whole family, except Evil Jasmine, gets together and yells, “BLACK NINJA POWER” and ends in a Ninja pose.

**END SCENE**

We somehow did not win the skit competition. I am fully certain that there was an error in point counting. IT WAS SO GOOD.

Mickey (Koji) and Minnie (Mai) in our Disney Horror Story Skit. See?! They're adorable! Now you believe me that we should have won, don't you?!

Mickey (Koji) and Minnie (Mai) in our Disney Horror Story Skit. See?! They're adorable! Now you believe me that we should have won, don't you?!

And those were the highlights of my great, great three days at English Camp. Besides thoroughly enjoying the kids, it was wonderful to get to know the other ALTs near me. We seem to be a fun, really social group of newbie’s, as we’re called. It’s going to be an incredible year!

All of English camp! -JTEs, ALTs and students!

All of English camp! -JTEs, ALTs and students!

The ALTs -back row: Al, Whitney, Isaac, Sarah, Chris, me; Middle row: Kris, Erin, Tiff; Front row: Mike, Sarah

The ALTs -back row: Al, Whitney, Isaac, Sarah, Chris, me; Middle row: Kris, Erin, Tiff; Front row: Mike, Sarah

The ALTs on the beach... it wasn't posed; I looked up and saw everyone sitting there so perfectly. I love this picture!

The ALTs on the beach... it wasn't posed; I looked up and saw everyone sitting there so perfectly. I love this picture!

Next post: Either “On Cars and Japan” or “Callie’s Birthday Beach Bash”

Some mini-posts… remind me to post on these if I forget!! 1) I had a request for a post on my apartment. 2) I finally got a car! The story on that is… interesting. 3)  I have started karate classes; my ninja training is finally beginning! Thursday this week will be my second class.

*On a site note, students don’t really have summer “vacation.” In Japan they come to school most every day for classes or extracurricular activities. Crazy!

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~ by C on September 2, 2009.

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