As you might know I am taking Japanese lessons to improve my Japanese. For that I am very lucky to live in Atsugi, since the rich city offers free Japanese lessons almost everyday.
Atsugi is a rich city, because it gets a lot money/rent from the American military base on its territory. Therefore the city has a good 福利厚生 (well fare system) and a lot of things you can do for free or very cheap. Every citizen in the city is aware of the government having much money and therefore exert a certain pressure through expectation to the city government. :)
Anyway I wanted to talk about the Japanese lessons I am attending. While being financed by the city, the teachers themselves are ボランティア (borantia, volunteers).
All of them are therefore really nice, friendly and motivated. You have already seen/read Rumi-sensei in one of my previous posts. She often joins us on occasions and accompanied me to the Megadeth concert in Shibuya (see previous posts). Yet another sensei, Kaneko-sensei, offered to take my friend Manu to Kamakura, while he was here and while I had to work.
Currently I am attending two lessons a week on Wednesday and Thursday. The first class is a little secret, since it does not appear on the city information sheet about Japanese classes. The reason for that is, that both the room and the number of teacher is smaller than on the rest of the lessons. But this secret has been passed on from intern generation to intern generation, so that most lesson taking interns go on that day. But me and others also told friends, intending of to learn the language of this class, so that apart from interns, there are also a lot of other foreigners :)
Since this class is as said a bit smaller, the teachers surprised us last time with a Christmas party. They bought a lot of handicraft resources which allowed us to make Christmas Wreathes together. Of course we also had cookies tea and juice :) It was a wonderful idea, I loved to create my own Christmas Wreath and the kindness of our teachers really touched my heart. Here are some pictures from that day.
our kind teachers, which had the Christmas Wreath handcrafting idea
from left to right: rumi-sensei, Ryan (Texas, USA), Hong Lun (Singapore)
Noppoi from Thailand
and me. I named my wreath: "Santa lost in the woods"
When we proceed one day we are at Thursday's class. It is in a bigger room and a lot more students attend. While Wednesday's class is fit for what the students want to learn, Thursday's class has a fixed program and groups sorted by skill level. Having had a top Japanese education in my University in Germany (Univeristy of Erlangen-Nuernberg), I am in the top class. However even the top class' level is still a little bit easy. Yet we cannot raise the level too much, since nice people like guitar hero Giovanni from Colombia couldn't follow the lesson like that. So the teachers thought of a nice compromise and let the top level group focus on conversation. Like that everybody can talk up to his own knowledge. And expressing oneself in a way that everyone in the group can understand you, is quite a challenging task. Also conversation is my biggest weakness in Japanese up to day :)
While other students and I were preparing for the JLPT, Wednesday class' teachers gave us special JLPT lessons, being able to adapt to students desires, on Thursdays however, having a fixed schedule, they couldn't. So one of Thursday's class teachers, 野村先生 Nomura-sensei offered me free private lessons at her home in the outskirts of Atsugi one day. I was really lucky!
Nomura-sensei is a retired teacher and married to a wonderful husband for a long time. However they are not able to get children, which is why they don't have any. So after retiring, they decided to teach young people for free in their home to get in touch with the young generations and teach them a bit of their knowledge :).
Apart from that Nomura-sensei's husband, Akira-sensei, has breast cancer and cannot leave the house. They are not able to heal the cancer and they can't tell him, how long he has left to live.
This is why Nomura-sensei decided to bring students to their home. It is the only way for Akira-sensei to see other people and have some conversation.
It was a bit hard for me at first, but soon I realized that it is just the best we can do, giving Akira-sensei a nice time, conversing about interesting topics and giving him the chancer to put his knowledge and intelligence to use. And both of them are so incredible warm and friendly! They really touched my heart, every time I visited them. Nomura-senei would usually cook for the three of us, always being careful to not include animals on my behalf =D We would have some tea and cookies, cake, Japanese sweets in the afternoon and thus spend a lot of days studying hard, but also in merry conversation.
I am really grateful that they gave me this wonderful time, and I hope they enjoyed our time as much as I did.
Now that the JLPT is over, we decided to give it a break until January having met once or even twice a week before the test. In January we will continue the lessons, but in exchange I promised to try and teach them a little bit of English. Their English is already very good and they have a huge vocabulary, which is quite impressive for their age! So I will see what I can do :)
Nomura-sensei and Akiko-sensei in fron of Mt. Fuji
Now you know a bit about "out of school" Japanese lessons in Japan, and culture, knowledge and kindness exchange between Japanese people and foreigners =)
P.S. Hong Lun and I decided to traditionally hang our Christmas Wreaths outside our apartment doors. Here's how they look like ^^
Hong Lun's Santa looking around searching his sleigh
and my scared and lost one