Sunday, December 07, 2008

Of Yanbaru Kuina and Goodbye

Hai Sai!

This will be the final blog entry for this "Elina in Japan" blog. It was three years in the making, and I hope some of it was interesting to read. The blogging experience has been a great one for keeping the memories of my time in Okinawa fresh in my mind, for being a collection of moments that I might forget but now will have a tangible place to recall, and also a wonderful exercise in public writing.
The last entry will be a lengthy one because it is an article I wrote for the July issue of the YAK (Okinawa JET publication). I feel that it's a good way to close the blog and to share again a little about Okinawa with anyone who might happen to pop into this place through a search. And if you've happened upon my blog because you were searching specifically about the Okinawan Kuina, please please please, leave me a note. :)
I left Okinawa at the end of July and from there traveled through parts of Asia, Russia, Eastern Europe, Turkey, Greece and finally the UK. I'm considering putting up some of the thoughts from the trip in a separate blog as a start to a new space where I'll be sharing some thoughts about my life back in the United States. So stay tuned for that. The link to it will appear here once it's up and running.

And so without further commentary, here's the article, hope you enjoy it!

Of Yanbaru Kuina and Goodbye

Until recently one thing has repeatedly eluded me on this island—meeting the one and only Yanbaru Kuina. Ever since coming to Okinawa three years ago, I have heard about this unique creature that lives in the jungles near my home. But for three years I haven’t been able to get a glimpse of the tiny, black bird, and so I started doubting its existence. Maybe it was just a hoax created by the tourist hungry Yanbaru authorities. A way to justify building a giant Kuina-shaped outlook at the northernmost cape of the island, or a reason to order and sell cute Kuina Hello Kitty merchandise, or a lure for unsuspecting tourists into the jungle cafes of northern Okinawa. Any of these and numerous other clever schemes could be perpetrated in the name of a defenseless, flightless bird. And yet the evidence showed otherwise. For one, I have seen plenty of photos of the bird to convince me that it is not a fictional creature of the north. And secondly, a friend told me he saw one on the road between Ogimi and Higashi a few weeks back and my hopes for catching a glimpse of the bird after years of fruitless driving around the windy, northern roads have been rejuvenated. But before I speak of my success—and as you might have guessed I did get to see this beautiful creature with my very own eyes—a little bit about the hero of this piece.

Yanbaru Kuina’s full name is Gallirallus okinawae and it’s known in English as Okinawa rail. It’s in the Rallidae family of birds and its only habitat is the Yanbaru area of Okinawa’s main island. In the Yanbaru it is primarily confined to the area around Mt. Yonaha. And even though large portions of Kunigami-son were officially designated as a national park in 1996, Kuina’s numbers have been on a decline and in 2006 it was put on the Red List as an endangered species. It is mostly flightless and feeds off the ground floor. It also builds nests on the ground and lays 2 to 3 eggs in the spring. Kuina’s numbers have been decreasing for several reasons, including loss of habitat to logging and dam construction, road and golf course building, as well as attacks by mongoose which are foreign to Okinawa and were brought to the island in 1910. Speeding drivers are also responsible for a small number of birds being killed every year but because there are so few birds already—less than a thousand by recent estimates—even a few birds a year killed by drivers is a significant loss to the overall population. So if you come north in search of this tiny black bird with a red beak and red matching legs, please remember to drive slowly on the 70 north of Higashi and on any of the roads in Kunigami that link the west side with the east.

Which brings me to the logical conclusion of this tale.
One sunny Okinawan day in late May, I went to a beach on the east coast of Kunigami-son. To get there I drove on the 70 north from Higashi for twenty minutes or so and as you guessed, a Kuina bird ran across the road in front of my car, forcing me to slam on my breaks and my mouth to hang open in disbelief. I sat there for a few seconds savoring the moment of pure happiness at finally having seen my query! But that was not the end of my perfect day. Two more Kuinas graced me with their presence on the same day, on the same road. The second one I saw as I was walking from the beach to my car. It simply walked out in front of me to the middle of the road, stood there for a moment looking around and walked back into the jungle. The third bird startled me on the drive back from the beach as it nearly flew across the road but slowed down enough for me to catch a glimpse of it walking into the forest as I slowly drove past. Three Kuina sightings in one day! Three beautiful birds for the three amazing years I have been lucky to spend on this gorgeous island.

Okinawa has opened up itself to me in more ways than I could have possibly imagined when I first stepped off the plane in Naha. I don't think I’ll ever be able to fully describe what living here has meant to me, but I will say that you absolutely must explore this prefecture and let its islands open up a little bit of their soul to you. Just like those Kuina did for me on that brilliant May day.

And if I may, in conclusion, also thank all the fantastic people who have become my friends during the last three years on Okinawa. Without them, this island, as beautiful as it is, would not have become the best place for me to be. It has been an absolute pleasure sharing my Okinawa time with the people I am lucky to call friends and I hope our paths cross many times again and we can find some Orion beer and reminisce about our time in paradise.

Monday, June 30, 2008

i just had an outstanding week on Okinawa and because it's one of my last few and i don't want to forget it, and most definitely want to share it it's getting written up.
As i'm sure it'll take you a week to read it, enjoy!

So this will be an attempt at a brief recap of my week starting on Monday June 23 and ending with Sunday June 29.

Well. I guess it's best to start with the fact that on Saturday 21st, my 3rd grade student took first place at the Kunigami (northern area) English Story contest which most definitely colored the rest of the days in a very positive light. It's certainly a very nice high note to leave the professional JET experience on, amongst others.

So, Monday was an Okinawan Memorial Day which
commemorates the victims of the Battle of Okinawa and is a day off in the prefecture for work and school. It was a lovely, sunny day but as I spent the weekend doing various things and not taking care of my home, I decided to do a little bit of that. But a few JETs from the south called me up and said they were coming to my neighbrohood, so I of course offered a quick tour of Kijoka with a stop at the waterfalls near my house. We had a lovely stroll, Meaghan caught some bugs, a lizard jumped on me trying to escape her net, and I got some sun--a perfect afternoon all together. I took it easy the rest of the day and went to karate in the evening.

Tuesday was school day, first one since story contest, which i didn't realize and was quite pleasantly surprised by shouts of congratulations after the compulsory "morning" greetings from all the teachers. The giddiness over having a student place first carried the principal so far as to say a few nice words in English during the morning meeting which i really appreciated. :) First time i actually fully understood what was being said at a morning meeting. Nice.
The rest of the day went easy enough. I think I had one class that day and spent the rest of the time on trip details and leaving prep.
Eisa practice in the evening followed by some reading.

I took a day off well in advance because Chiye, Yasemin and I had planned a day out to the Hiji waterfalls north of me. No day is without drama of course and Yasemin had plenty for all of us that day with her diving suit disappearing off her 2nd story balcony that morning. But she regained composure and decided to drive up to hang out with me and Chiye anyways. The morning started out clear and sunny but by the time Chiye and i finished lunch the sky was clouding over in a very threatening way. After some turkish coffee and a dark chocolate snack at my place to regain energy, the three of us set off for the waterfalls. It was a good half hour hike through a very windy but well built trail with lots of stairs and even a suspension bridge. The jungle was hot and muggy and I was regretting the decision not to swim at the waterfalls, but not to fear! the weather had decided we all should have a nice shower that day. With a few minutes to go to the waterfalls it had started to drizzle and by the time we reached it, it was pouring. So we just stood there in the rain, gazing up at the water gushing down from the rocks while buckets of rain water fell on our heads. It was an incredibly beautiful and refreshing experience.

The rain had subsided by the time we made it back to the car and had stopped all together when i got back home. :)
After a warm shower, I was off to karate to be drenched all over again, this time in sweat. Lovely.

Thursday, I took another day off work so that i could take care of some leaving stuff in Nago and Okinawa city. Also i knew that because all the students were off on their "job" experiences that day, there were no classes to be had. Everything got sorted that needed to be and i drove home in early afternoon and took a very long nap. In the evening it was off to eisa practice. That night i practiced at Kijoka's community center with some of my students actually and a few people who live in Kijoka that don't regularly do eisa. Reason is that next week there will be a small traditional festival in my little part of Ogimi and they've asked some regular eisa members who are from Kijoka to organize a performance for the festival. It was a nice practice even though the mosquitoes were aplenty, and i think i lost more blood than sweat that evening. When i got home, I decided to do some laundry but must have been overly tired because i made a big blunder. I washed a pair of pants from India (that i could have sworn i've washed several times previously so the following shouldn't have happened) with my karate gi. Guess what? Yep! Yellow stains all over my gi. >.< And my last belt test in two days! Can you say, "freak out session"? I doused the gi with stain remover and threw it in the wash again. Didn't work well at all, so i spent the rest of the night getting very bad sleep and worrying about it.

Friday was back to school but a small surprise awaited me there. Instead of two scheduled classes, I had none, and so could take it easy after a sleepless night. I told the office lady and librarian my sob story of yellow gi and bleach was quickly produced. I was told to just go home and take care of it while no one was about, and so I did. The yellow faded a bit but i could still see it and didn't feel much better about the prospect of showing up in front of sensei in my destroyed gi.
But the afternoon brought some surprising relief in form of farm animals.
A few of the students were doing their "internship" at a cow and goat farm in Ogimi and one of them didn't show up. They were meant to be making some butter that afternoon and the woman who runs the place asked if anyone wanted to join the students. I volunteered.
Making of butter wasn't at all what I imagined--no churning was involved. Well maybe a little. We were given small jars with milk and cream in them and were told to shake them as hard as we could for about a minute after which we had apparently made butter! Cool, eh? We got to try it with a bit of salt and fresh baked buns. It was fantastic, though eating hot buns on a muggy day wasn't necessarily the most pleasant experience. There was more talk of butter and cows and then we played an interesting karuta game which involved matching parts of Okinawan songs with hiragana cards on the floor. I even got a few right, so that was nice. After this I fed a three day old baby goat some milk from a bottle and petted a mini pig's belly. Couldn't have asked for more on a Friday afternoon.
So in a much more cheerful mood, I went home to discover that my gi wasn't as bad as I thought and i spent the next couple of hours reading my hefty book (only 400 more pages to go!) That evening I went to a teachers party but didn't stay long because of the karate test the following morning.

Which brings me to Saturday. Incredibly nervous going into the karate test, I was made even more so when i was told that i'd be doing it all by myself in front of others. The previous tests I've done with one or two other people by my side going through the same motions which is very comforting, but because I was a level or two ahead of others, my punches and kicks had to be different for the next level and I had one extra kata to perform. So I was the last one and at one point I thought I was going to hyperventilate and sensei kept telling me to breathe. :) But I think it went mostly well--at least I feel good about my effort.
After a well deserved lunch of delicious hamburgers for everyone, Vaughn and i took off for the south where we joined Yasemin and friends at a free concert organized by THE Okinawan band, Begin. A free outdoor concert at a gorgeous venue near a beach, with a giant stage, lights and a big screen TV. With festival tents set up with all sorts of goodies and staff members all around, unobtrusively making sure that things run smoothly. AND! the music was fantastic! 6 highly professional and fairly famous bands paved the way for the kings of the night, Begin! These guys are synonymous with Okinawa. Even before I knew anything there was to know about living here, I knew the tune to "Shimanchu nu Takara" and it's been an anthem of sorts for myself and am sure many others during our life here on Okinawa. So to finally see them live for me was major and I enjoyed every second of it. :)
But the night of music did not finish there! Oh no! We were off to Naha for some karaoke fun and of course the first few songs were by Begin. Good times!

Sunday started about hot and sweaty in Yasemin's apartment but quickly improved with a stroll through the Haebaru mall and a lunch with miss Kitty. I even ran into three of my students which surprised us all. After buying a present and a couple of things for myself (gasp!) I was off to Ogimi by late afternoon with a watermelon in tow. That evening, my Sunday night conversation class was throwing me a goodbye party and the watermelon was my contribution. The party was wonderful. The meat was grilled over an open fire pit, there was a paella made with squid ink, homemade granola cookies, presents, speeches and watermelon. And even though I didn't quite see them coming when they did, I shed my first goodbye tears in front of others. But I left the party in very high spirits and with new heartwarming memories as gifts in tow.

That was last week.
Today was the start of the first week of the last month.
And here's a quick preview for this one:
English story practice, eisa, karate, sweating, lots of showers, plenty of coffee, lots more typing for new ALT, light stressing over trip details, heavy stressing over packing for the trip, start of apartment clean out, the English story contest, Peaceful Rock Festival, David!, Kijoka festival, my first and last festival eisa performance of the year.


Friday, June 20, 2008

today during lunch we were chatting about me leaving and the new JET and somehow the conversation turned to the first JET in Ogimi, O'Neill. The young teacher sitting next to me graduated from Ogimi Junior High School and O'Neill was actually her ALT. She remembered him fondly but said he was difficult to understand because he had a very heavy dialect in his American. Apparently he was from rural Nevada but I honestly don't know why that would be difficult but that fact was very memorable to her. The librarian and the office lady also remembered him well and they exchanged a few quick stories about him with each other. I thought how nice it was that there is such a community in this school and in this village. Of course it might be annoying to some how much people know of each other's business here, but I never felt that it was a malignant thing. People seem to actually care and don't seem to use the information they know to speak badly of others. Not to me in any case. :)

Anyways, I just thought about the ALTs before me and the ALTs after me and how we've all impacted this community in one way or another and what a unique experience it must be for the students. I don't know if I've ever sat down to reflect on the "internationalization" aspect of my job as an ALT and how much I've done to make sure that my being here hasn't just been about teaching English but also about sharing the cultures that I come from. All right. Note to self--reflect before leaving. :D

Speaking of leaving. It's been absolutely crazy and it's only about to get even more busy and so forgive me if this might be the last entry before the very last entry. I hope to take the time and fill you in on what is happening as I go through the process of wrapping up my life here, but the actual process might be too time demanding to allow for blogging. Hopefully not.

Tomorrow is my very last English story contest. We've worked hard this year and the two students I've been practicing with have been an absolutely pleasure, and I'm really looking forward to their performances tomorrow. Though it is going to be quite a long day in the process with 31 students signed up for the contest. >.<

Next week is my final karate belt test. Speaking of which. Two things. My story contest student also does karate but at a different dojo in Nago. He told me today that his father won't be able to watch him tomorrow because he'll be going directly to Naha because Sunday night he has a belt test--he'll be going for 3-dan. Cool, eh?
And secondly, wanted to mention that I watched the inter-junior high school karate competition last weekend to see how my story contest student did as he was the only one representing my school. I also went to see the junior high school kids that study at my dojo. The Ogimi student did great--he advanced into the final round and was the only green belt surrounded by brown and black belts. In the boys competition however it was quite obvious that the students from my dojo would be unchallenged. The three places went to them. The girls from my dojo took 1st and 3rd place. It was so wonderful to sit with the mothers and the elementary school kids and to cheer them on.
Here are a couple of photos I really like from that day.

This is a 3rd grader from Yabu JHS who trains at my dojo. He took 2nd place.

These girls were practicing for the 3 person kata competition which followed the individual competition. The girl in front is a 3rd grader from Nago JHS and also trains at my dojo and has taken first place in Kunigami for the last three years.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

the last few days were quite interesting and a few of the happenings are worth mentioning i think..

On the amusement side there was my phone call to the Mongolian Airlines office in Korea. For those who might not know, I'm planning a Trans-Siberian train trip and starting it in Ulaanbaatar, so David and I decided to fly from Seoul to UB and there are two airlines that make it possible: Korean Air and Mongolian Airlines. I called Mongolian Air's office in Japan and was told to contact the Seoul office directly. My phone call went like this:
".....blah blah blah foreign language something something"
"Is this Mongolian Airlines?"
"I would like to reserve a ticket from Seoul to UB"
"(silence) Waiting please"
"Excuse me?" (i didn't hear her clearly)
"Waiting please!"
"Ah ok. Thank you"
(on the other side I am not actually put on hold and i hear keyboard keys typing away and two women conversing about something in Mongolian, at this point I realize that she didn't ask me the dates and am not sure what the hell she is looking up)
(less than a minute of listening to keyboard keys)
"Excuse me?"
"Yes. Waiting please!"
(i wait. and listen to keyboard keys and realize that perhaps this is a way for them to get rid of a pesky english speaking customer so that they don't add extra stress to their data entering day)
"Excuse me?"
(nothing but there's still background noise of people doing something, so i decide to let them have this victory over the customer and hang up)

Next phone call was to Korean Air in Seoul. Both the airline's websites btw are not able to process reservations at the moment. Actually on the Mongolian Air's site nothing happens when you click the search button after entering the dates and locations; the Korean Air will give the flight details but will show an error page when trying to find a price or reserve and that's the reason for resorting to phone calls. So Seoul's office in Korea can't help me and they tell me to call the Japanese one. Japan's Korean Air office is super helpful, likes my american credit card and is ready to do business. I will most definitely miss this country!

On Sunday I learned how to make gyoza and spring rolls at the house of one of my Sunday adult conversation students. She lives in Higashi and has a lovely but small house with a pretty backyard and a great view of the ocean. She has been talking about teaching me and K-san's daughter how to make gyoza for months now and finally we arranged it. It was a wonderful experience and even though I'm really not that good at making gyoza, I really enjoyed spending time doing it. I brought a russian salad to the potluck dinner and had a great time eating, talking, sharing, learning, and generally being very pampered by my students.

One of the topics that evening was the amount of time Ogimi students spend playing sports. K-san's daughter is my 3rd grade student and she plays tennis. The tennis team meets at 7am for morning practice before school and they practice for 2 to 3 hours after school. Other clubs don't meet in the morning but practice for 3-4 hours after school. There's a big inter-JHS tournament coming up next week and so the students are practicing more these days and basketball teams are at school sometimes until 8pm. This is not ok with quite a few parents who find their kids exhausted at the end of the day without any energy left over for studying when they get home. Some parents have brought this up to teachers, but teachers just shrug and do as they like. It's a big deal to have your school place high in the tournaments--it's a big pride and I'm sure teachers are highly commended on their work if the team is in the top 4 and so they place more value on the sports and insist that kids like to practice and so it's not a problem. But what kind of a decision can a junior high school student make when placed with a choice of study or playing sports with friends?
It's ridiculous to push the kids this far and it's really no wonder that no one learns anything at school and the only kids that are academically successful are those who place more value on the studies and are intrinsically motivated to do so.
The kids practice so hard that they hurt themselves as well. In the last week three students sprained their ankles. That's just crazy to me.

Another thing that I'll never understand is the student teaching experience for future teachers in Japan. Two English student teachers are coming to the school next week. They'll be here for 3 weeks and so they'll each teach maybe two to four classes during that time because some classes will be cut because the sport tourney is coming up and schedule is amended to give practice more time. So two student teachers will be sharing student teaching time during one of the busiest times for JHS (another busy time is around Sports Day in September and guess what? that's also when student teachers are placed into schools). Of course, this timing is not up to the school but has to do with university scheduling and I don't know enough about Japanese universities to guess as to why this time is chosen over any other time in the school year and also why 3 weeks in the classroom is considered sufficient to prepare someone to teach on their own in a few months time.


that's all i got on that.

Time to wrap up a varied and long post.
Oh yeah. It's officially Atsui, desu ne? ("Hot, isn't it?") season, but the AC is not yet on and so am slowly melting at my desk. (not really, but will definitely soon)


Friday, May 23, 2008

it's been a long week.
and yes, the Hokkaido blog is not up and no, it probably won't be.
Will say that
a) Hokkaido is amazing and if you're even slightly considering a trip there, let me push you to book the tickets, 'cause the nature is grand, the sea food is the best i have ever had and the people are kind and speak with a great, sharp, rude-sounding-but-not dialect.

b) Japanese fashion is hilarious and it's been proven to us yet again while wandering aimlessly through the upscale supermarkets of Sapporo. On a floor filled with unaffordable boutiques, Ralph Loren, Gucci, Chanel, etc we came across a bag shop and on one of its shelves several canvas bags were displayed. The bags had bright, shiny english lettering all over them and one said plainly in big, sparkly print, "I heart (as in the symbol) crap" Sofya picked up the bag and we looked at it for a little while making sure that we didn't miss the sentiment it so obviously was putting worth. We both assumed that there's a designer out there still laughing his/her pants off that their design is being sold for hundreds of dollars while at the same time poking fun at the consumers themselves. I had a feeling the Japanese love for English lettering just for the sake of it will eventually get them into some kind of trouble and irony is not very prevalent in Japanese culture (or so i've learned) they're in much greater danger of being toyed with by clever designers. :)
And the next day, we spotted a young kid waiting for the subway with his gf in Sapporo. He had on very trendy looking jeans that sagged just enough to expose his Calvin Kleins. Out of his back pocket, a Louis Vuitton pocketbook stuck out just ever so nonchalantly; he was wearing a very cool looking black jacket and had on brand new Adidas shoes. The black cap on his head was seemingly too big for his head and swung off just enough to designate the owner a hip-hop fan. It proclaimed in big, silver letters, "Fashion is Dead" and well.. i don't have to tell you that even though the irony was entirely lost on the kid, Sofya and I enjoyed it for our entire ride in the same car with this fashion king.

I have been practicing for the English story contest for a month now with two very bright Ogimi kids. We have another month to go and they're doing pretty well and am happy with the progress. Yesterday, made a hilarious mistake and we both got a kick out of it, but it made me giggle so much every time we came across the sentence that we couldn't practice that paragraph and had to concentrate our energies elsewhere. The sentence read, "..and the entire family was scared." He was reciting the story from memory and without stopping or hesitating said, "...and the entire family was pregnant." I lost it; he got the mistake right away. We laughed. I'm still laughing.

I have new glasses. They're tres kawaii. Well, i think so anyways
Picked them up this week at a shop in Nago. Vaughn and I went together to support each other in decision making process--I don't think I would have picked out a pair on my own, but somehow it's easier making a decision like that with someone else's opinion readily available. So on Saturday we picked out our pairs and had free eye exams right then and there and yesterday went to the shop to get our glasses. The world now has a sharpness to it I hadn't noticed in years! ha ha
I wore them to school today and surprised all the kids and though most of them gave me positive feedback on the change, one student was entirely against my new accessory. He even came up later to once again lodge his complaint with the newly learned "no good fit" vocabulary. I'm assuming he's just not happy about change in general and it's really not because they're a bad fit. At least I hope not. It could be that everyone else is politely lying to my face and he's the only brave soul who decided to speak up and tell it to me like it is.

This week was very long but nonetheless pretty good. It started off on Monday with interviews for the home stay program in Minnesota that Ogimi kids will participate in for the first time and finished off with a successful English Elective letter writing class. Today is Friday, humid, and all the teachers are in a meeting--most of them visibly ready to get it over with and go play basketball with the boys' basketball team. We played with the girls a couple of days ago to encourage them in their practice for the big JHS tournament next month. Today, it's boys basketball who'll get to laugh at the teachers as they easily beat them; and next week it'll be the baseball and soft tennis teams' turns to be encouraged by a fun game against the staff.

I'm off through Monday, so hope it doesn't rain too much this weekend, although it's about time the rainy season started; i've been ready for weeks.

and here's me on a friday afternoon with hair entirely too long and new glasses.


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

last Sunday I took my usual walk around Kijoka. It's one of my favorite things to do and inevitably something happens that makes me smile--whether it's meeting my current or former students, being followed by a cute little dog, seeing new flowers bloom or watching seniors play "put put." This Sunday, I wasn't even going on a long walk--just to the local store for some onions, but on the way i spotted a dark mess of crushed fruits on the ground. I recognized them as mulberries (тутовник) and looked up in hopes of getting some off the tree. But the branches are up way too high and so i just stood there, wanting the sweet fruit and not having any means of getting at it. Past goes a little white truck and an old man sticks his head out and tells me what the fruit is called in Okinawan language and that they're delicious.
Yes, i know they're delicious, I tell him, smile, and continue on my walk. He drives slowly around the corner, stops, runs over a piece of wood that was just cut down inside his yard, and beckons me to join him on the porch of his house. He's got the cutest little garden and two of his friends were cutting down trees near the entrance so it was hard to hear him over the din but we chatted for a bit. His daughter brought green tea and spicy chips and he asked me questions and I think i mostly understood everything he said. I don't know how old he is, but he did tell me that he has 6 grown children, only three live in Okinawa. His wife passed away 10 years ago and he mostly lives by himself but his daughter stops by sometimes. He told me he drinks in the morning and likes to play the sanshin with his friends. He asked if i was by myself and when i told him, yes, he said that we should hang out, 'cause it's much better to be with company than alone and i agreed. I promised to stop by, and I actually think I will, bid him farewell, and walked to the store smiling. The onions were old and so I walked away buying nothing, but am really glad i went for that walk and met this cool grandpa.

I have been wearing a wrist wrap thingie since Saturday, 'cause apparently i sleep funny and no one's laughing, least of all my sprained wrist. Whenever my wrist has hurt like this in the past, i always attributed it to karate, but it was always the left wrist for some reason. After two weeks of no karate and a week of traveling on mainland, my wrist flared up again after the first night back home; and because i'm all for seeing less of doctors and doing more of nothing, i decided to stick in the middle and buy the wrist thingie at the drug store to at least remind me not to bend my wrist for a while to make sure it heals. Interesting side note--at school only one teacher (my JTE) and one student have so far asked me what's wrong with my wrist.
Kind of strange. I guess people don't like to pry. Don't know.
Although i did tell all my 1st graders that i got into a fight with Sofya, punched her and sprained my wrist.

I started reading the new book for book club called "The Yiddish Policemen's Union" by Michael Chabon. It's the first book that I nominated to be picked this year in book club and I'm glad it's this one. I'm loving the read and would recommend it.
Here's the premise. It's a murder investigation taking place in Alaska, but here's the catch, the novel is set in alternate history and in this history, the Jews were resettled in Alaska after WWII instead of Israel. If that just put a smile on your face, then I suggest you pick up the book and read it.

yes yes
I know. this post should have been about my and Sofya's trip to mainland, primarily Hokkaido. that post is coming. end of the week, perhaps? If you're on Facebook, i've put up a few photos. Otherwise, stayed tuned.


Friday, April 18, 2008

this week on tuesday a dog followed some students to the school. Where the dog came from, no one knew. He had a collar on and seemed a very friendly little puppy. He was entirely white except for a few pink spots on his curious little nose, and was immediately dubbed yagi (goat). He was tied up to a water hose that morning to prevent him from walking into the school and that's how i met him when i walked towards the main entrance. He spent the morning tied up with the water hose, which must not have been all that comfortable and wined whenever no one was around him. At lunch we chatted about little goat and how he was probably abandoned by someone from the south. Apparently it's a common thing for people in the south to bring their unwanted dogs and cats to the jungles of the north and leave them here to fend for themselves. During Golden Week when people have time off in the beginning of May this happens quite often. This explains the large number of strays that mingle all around the northern area and make convenience stores their homes.
I asked what was going to happen to the little goat and was told that school will call the village office to take care of it. I asked why people just dumped the animals--isn't there a proper facility to leave them at? A shelter? Turns out there's one in Nago near us but sometimes when it's full people get turned away when they bring their pets in. I then asked if it was usual for people to get their pets from a shelter, and most teachers sort of shrugged unknowingly but the librarian told me that she actually adopted a dog from a shelter years ago. I wonder if there's much awareness about animals in shelters here. The little goat was taken away, but not by the village office. He spent the night at the school and the next morning followed the school's bus driver into the hills. I guess we proved not to care as much for the poor bastard as the people that dumped him. I brought him milk during the day when he was tied up to a different spot--didn't seem to have been fed all day. I wish I could have taken him, but his second morning at school it was decided that he would definitely not remain at the school by the office lady. The vice principal seemed open to the possibility but she rejected the idea right out. I don't blame her. In the end, the responsibility of taking care of it would fall to her, and a dog is not like fish or a little bird that we already have at the school.
So i hope the little goat has been picked up by someone who thought a white, friendly puppy would add happiness to their lives.

In other news, I walked into a glass door at the Nago library because it was cleaned too well and i thought there was no door. Also it is entirely my fault for not paying attention and not looking where i was going. Classic. The best part was, though, when i walked away dazed from the impact and then came back to the same glass door to properly walk through it, i noticed a half face imprint on the glass.
It's like the movies but real and every time i visualize what it must have looked like--me, distracted by something on the left, walking straight into a clean glass door with the right side of my face, i laugh. A lot. Surprised it didn't leave too noticeable of a bruise.
Don't you wish you saw it?
ha ha