Thursday, August 04, 2005

russian musings

bit of a lag in posts, i'm afraid.
got back from the south sunday, vacuumed up some roaches, and stayed up late into the night finishing Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Good book, btw, if anyone's interested. Very saddened by the ending.

my apartment is still bare but i have most of the big essentials. On monday picked up a washing machine and a rice cooker at a resale shop for 1000 Yen. (the U.S. dollar right now is at 112 Yen). now i just need to unpack my luggage and buy some storage bins to put it all into.

last night went down to Naha to meet the group B JETs. Actually i just wanted to go to the party that evening for all JETs but had to come down earlier with our Block's leader, Ben (check out for explanation of the Block system...i'm in Block 1). Don't think i mentioned that it's traditional to hand an arriving JET an Okinawan beer, Orion, as soon as they walk through the arrival gates. Everyone gets one whether you drink or not. So Ben and I handed some out, and I had one as well. NOt the best beer but doable. All the new JETs were whisked away by their supervisors, as I was the previous week, and Ben and I drove into Naha to check out an underground Naval base that the Japanese marine units fought Americans out of. Close to two hundred of them died "honorably" in the end, which in Japanese means they committed suicide as I'm sure some of you know is required of a soldier/samurai.

The shindig was held in a huge hall called appropriately "The Beer Dome"--another all you can eat and drink festivity. Lots of JETs came, old and new. I spent the evenings chatting with my group's JETs, catching up on the exciting first week's experiences. When JET programme people say "every situation is different" they really aren't kidding. Not one story is the same. Some people had homestays with supervisors. Some are sharing apartments. Some live in posh places, some are on secluded islands. Some have started teachind already, others, like me, have only been to the school once or twice. But the stories are good and fun to hear. And everyone has picked up some important Okinawan words: "dajobu" and "sugoi"...the first one has many meanings, but mostly means "all's good" "allright"...and the second one means, "excellent"....

ah. perhaps you're wondering why the post is called, "russian musings"...well, my dear is because i experienced something entirely surreal on Tuesday.
I met most of the teacher that day, they invited me to go kayking with them. Fun! A very chill way to meet the staff of my new school. My JTE (japanese teacher of english) and I were partners in a was his first time and we chatted a bit about this and that. He seems very nice and his English is decent. All the teachers were super nice and excited to see me. Most have some English ability and we were able to communicate with gestures and facial experessions.
In the evening I was invited to their little get together .. i think the reason for it was to thank all the teachers for their hardwork during the first term and to look forward to the second term (the school year here starts in March/April, so even though the summer vacation is long, its end does not indicate the start of a new year, only the start of a new term in the middle of september).
It is traditional at these get togethers to order numerous plates and then share them by passing them around the tables. I'm glad Gabrielle and I stopped by to have a bit to eat at an Okinawan restaurant, 'cause the portions at the party were small.
The principal was getting slightly tipsy and we talked and he found out that I speak Russian, and am in fact from the former Soviet Union. So all of a sudden he starts humming an old russian tune...and then another one...and then a third one...and i'm sitting across from him with my mouth open wide in amazement. what is going on?!!?
hillarious, right? turns out, russian music and culture were very popular on okinawa a couple of decades back and some Okinawans learned russian music in junior high schools. The music teacher at the table also new a bunch of songs and composers. And then i asked if the principal knew the song "katusha," the only older russian song i could remember the words to..and lo and behold.. he is directing the whole table of teachers into singing "katusha" in i'm singing along in russian....
that's pretty sweet!...and funny..and really unique, i think.. so i have a total "in" with the principal now...they love that I eat anything, drink almost anything.. 'cause Gabrielle is a vegan who doesn't drink, so she has a hard time eating when they're all out..but it seems that they've gotten quite used to it after three years..
knowing sushi terms has been very helpful as well. at least i can order a dish and know that i'll get something i like.

wow.. long post. lots going on.
my car is in front of my apartment..but the paperwork has not been completed as of yet, so i can't drive it.
today the phone company was supposed to stop by to install my new ISDN phone line, but because of the approaching typhoon canceled the appointment. So next week i'll have more time on the net.
Right now i'm at Camp Shwab and the computer here is not allowing me to log into the mail servers.
Next week i'll also get a "ketai" (a cell phone)...and they're very cool here. can take video, pictures, download different media files..just lots of cool stuff.. i'll probably get the cheapest one available which would still be more high tech then my little Nokia at home.. :)
the typhoon is bypassing Okinawa; it hit some islands to the south and is heading for Taiwan. It's windy here and has been raining on and off, but not a real typhoon by any means. Ogimi village is holding a welcome party for me tonight and it's at a restaurant right on the ocean with a patio, so hopefully the rain will subside and we can be outside for it....i'll take pictures.

oh..and i had a question come in, so i'll answer it here. The question was from Rosemary, and she asked if i was the tallest among little people.
The answer is that i am as tall as some men..and taller then most women. Okinawan people are not Japanese for the most part..they look a bit different and some men are quite tall....but boy oh boy..the women here are extremely tiny...i've never seen so many petite here is going to do a lot of harm to my self-image.. :)) i'm a "LL" or "extra large" in most's quite funny actually. and i'll never be medium..'cause medium here is size 2 or 4.
it is amusing though to see people like Ben (our blockhead) stroll through town. He's gotta be at least 6'5'' so he towers over everyone! at the underground naval facility he had to bend in half in order to walk through the tunnels.... :))
i should have taken a photo of him doing it.
and i've noticed how the japanese will stare up at his height. very amuzed.

So thanx to Rosemary for the question..keep 'em coming.

hope all's "dajobu" with you'all..


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