It's been a while, friends. This is the longest blog hiatus I have taken since last September, I think. I've just been super busy! 4 weeks ago I started wondering about the "study leave" provision in our JET contracts. Generally, when it's time to do something or make some kind of decision, my supervisor comes to me and tells me what is happening and when the deadline is. With this particular topic, I never heard anything, except a JET or two mentioning their plans regarding study leave. Finally, I brought it up to my supervisor, and she didn't really know about it. I went into turbo mode: On Monday, I got my school connected with my board of education supervisor, who clarified and affirmed the availability of study leave. On Tuesday, my friend and JET peer gave me the info for the school she chose in Osaka, and I contacted the Osaka school through 2 e-mails and a phone number. On Wednesday the school accepted me and secured me a hotel room, even though I was over a month past the sign up deadlines. On Thursday, after writing a report describing all aspects of the Japanese program at the YMCA school in Osaka and a "please, please, let me go" letter to the vice principal, I got formal permission to go from my school. After submitting my paperwork, sending a payment, collecting copies of my passport, and getting travel reservations (thanks Nichole), I was ready to go to Osaka. But before I could go, I had to get completely ready for a trip to Yufuin that I was leaving for two days after I returned from Osaka by shopping for a costume and choreographing an entire dance (with Alisha), and I had to pack. Finally, I left for Osaka on Saturday evening. My Osaka experience deserves a post of its own.
After two weeks of travel and school, I got back from Osaka on Saturday morning. I left on Monday morning to head to Yufuin for three nights. Every summer the prefecture holds the Yufuin English Summer Seminar where almost two hundred students come to have fun and speak only English for 3 days. The seminar is jam-packed with activities, ceremonies, skits, and a dance party (which might be the only dance party they ever attend, as they don't have prom or anything like that). JETs perform many duties and we are booked almost every minute of the day from 7am until our last meeting at 11pm, followed by a drinking party. Every night. Many of you may be aware that I am not a morning person, and no matter how early I get up, I'm ready to party into the wee hours. A slippery condition. These days, I generally make the responsible choice to go to bed despite my natural inclinations, but occasionally one must let loose. Also, I led morning exercises, which occurred right at 7am each morning. Luckily they happen outside, so I could wear sunglasses with no questions asked. On Thursday morning, I heard people calling my name, telling me to get up for the morning assembly. I had slept through the loud morning announcements and music used to get people out of bed. Ha! They'll have to do better than that to pierce Tiffany Hope's armor of sleep! I literally stood up, put on my sunglasses, and walked outside to the stage, where I led a pretty sweet set of wake up stretches, and even got the students excited with a rousing call of "Yufuin!!!!!" I'm not sure exactly why I am not a rock star. Some JETs are instructors of activities. Alisha and I were the dance instructors. We wore them out for sure, and ourselves. We danced almost six hours one day. We did a dance to Outkast's Hey Ya! Very high energy and super fun. We were exhausted.
What I will remember from this year's Yufuin seminar... Being an an adorable evil twin with Alisha in the skits, How crazy the onsen can get with 20 naked women (nothing too untoward, mind you), Wally wally wally world, the incredibly efficient system they have of cleaning up after lunch, Triple H's "suck it," Emma's vuvuzela and instruction on visiting South Africa, meeting the awesome new JETs for this year, What's up hamburger?, being a passport making machine, and of course, the kids - it's amazing the strides that can be made in a few days.
And, Yufuin is just gorgeous. Japan is gorgeous. The nature center we stay in, with its rock-hard bunk beds and smelly bathrooms, is set in a breath-takingly beautiful valley. The panoramic view of tree covered mountains is like something out of a dream vacation. I feel very fortunate to live here. This place is rich in so many ways.
I had been gone for almost three weeks, with only 2 days at home in the middle, and when I walked into the apartment, Knox was screaming and crying about something. I dropped all of my things and hurried into the bedroom. When Knox saw me, he stopped crying, smiled, and buried his happy face in the sheets. Then he gave me the best hugs and kisses ever, and quite an enthusiastic "I'm so glad Mommy is home" beating. You know how when a little boy likes a girl he pulls her hair and stuff? Yeah, like that. Knox loves to beat me up in the most affectionate way. I couldn't believe how much I missed his sweet face and laughter. I kissed him and tickled him a ton. I love my little boy. Knox had just gotten out of a bath when I got home, but he wanted to get back in to play with his water gun, so we took a play bath. Exhausted, we struggled through dinner and then just watched a movie until bed time.
I went to sleep around 6:30 or 7pm, got up a couple times to put Knox to bed and comfort him from what seemed like a bad dream, but for the most part, slept until 7am. And now, I'm back.