My students begin their final exams next week, and I've been scurrying to grade all assignments and write up review sheets and such. Grading can be a hoot sometimes. In particular, I gave one activity for our "shopping" lesson in which the students had to complete a conversation between a salesperson and a customer, starting with "I'm looking for ___ for my ___."
Example 1: The student clearly understands what she is writing; the content itself is funny.
Customer: I'm looking for a soccer ball for my boyfriend.
Salesperson: What color do you want?
...Only in Japan...
Example 2: It's hard to decide whether the student understands what she is writing and is trying to be funny, made a spelling error, or doesn't understand the vocabulary.
Customer: I'm looking for a skirt for my father.
Example 3: This student clearly has no clue what she is writing.
Customer: I'm looking for a teddy bear for my sister.
Salesperson: What size do you wear?
Anyway, as the year (and my contract) draws to a close, I am now starting to panic about my future plans. The end of March used to seem so far away! I still can't decide whether I want to take a trip to Australia before going home, and I'm running out of time to make reservations. I don't have a clue what I'm going to do with all the STUFF in my apartment, since I won't have anyone staying there after me. It costs a lot of money to dispose of things like televisions and refrigerators, since you can't just stick them out in the trash.
On the bright side, I am told that if I fly directly back to America when my contract ends, the city will pay for my ticket. (That's standard procedure with JET, but I wasn't sure how it would be handled here.) That means I can't go Japan → Australia → America though, if I decide on the trip.
Another thing I did in preparation for leaving is send in my passport for renewal. Since I am applying from overseas, I had to pay the fee by way of an international postal money order. (The US Embassy in Tokyo doesn't accept personal checks. After my experience trying to cash a check in Japan, I don't blame them.) I was dismayed to discover that the privatization of the post office caused the fee for a money order to go from 300 yen (as it was last year) to 2000 yen. Youch. I noticed that ATM usage (which used to be free) now has a 100 yen fee during business hours, 200 during extended hours.
Also, the brochure I picked up states that there are now 16, count them, SIXTEEN machines in the entire country that operate 24 hours a day on an experimental basis. For Japan, this is progress. Another ten years and we MAY get weekend banking hours.
So, total cost of passport renewal: $67 (fee) + $20 (money order) + $5 (self-addressed express envelope) + $12 (photos) + $1 (padded envelope) = $105. It's a good thing I only have to do this once every 10 years.
As a final note, considering the population of my friends list, I want to recommend the game Once Upon a Time. The game consists of two decks of cards, one with story prompts, one with story endings, and the object is to use the prompts to make up a story that reaches the ending in your hand. I bought the game to play with my visitors over the holiday, and we had a blast with it (though we did add our own special rules). We wound up playing for the sake of creating a fun story, rather than for the sake of winning, but the point is to enjoy yourself anyway.