Tuesday, September 27, 2005

so, Dave, what's up with that gas flap?

it's been a long weekend. a really long weekend. and it was a really good one in all sorts of ways. but i'm not going to tell you about anything that happened to me. I am going to share with you David's story.
There's a couple of things you need to know before i proceed. First, David is a wonderful 22 year old guy who is a new JET and came in with my group to Okinawa and now lives in Motobu, about a half hour drive from me. Second, in Okinawa, and i'm going to assume, in the rest of Japan as well, gas stations are full service. All you need to know is on which side the gas tank is on and where the trigger is to open the gas flap. Oh, and it would help to know that when they're asking you something, they're probably asking you for garbage that they could help you get rid of.
So last night, Chris, Ben and I met David for dinner in Nago. On the way to my favorite izakaya, David called saying something about car trouble and that he was at a gas station and that he doesn't think he'll be too late but just to give us a heads up that he will be. I was a bit worried and told him to call us should he need anything.
We head to the izakaya, and by the time we get the table (the place was packed), David shows up and we proceed to order food, 'cause i don't know about David, but the three of us were starved.
So, of course, i ask David what was wrong with his car, and he's reluctant to tell us but finally he gives up the coyness and tells us that he broke off the flap door to his gas tank, so now we're really curious and he shares with us a truly "david crennen" type of story.
David was driving from Motobu into Nago, he decided to stop for gas at a gas station near the izakaya. He asks for a 1000 Yen worth of gas and flips open the gas flap. He watches as the gas attendant puts in the hose and then waits for him to finish, pay his bill and leave. As David explained, he waited for a good period of time considering that he always gets 2000 Yen worth of gas, and this was taking longer than usual. So the man comes around and David hands him the money (David.. maybe he was asking you for garbage..i just thought of that); happily to be on his way, David drives off. What David doesn't realize at this moment, is that the man was not finished filling him up and the hose has not been pulled out of his gas tank so David's car (also known as the "Exciting version") is dragging a long piece of gas hose that has been yanked off the top of the gas pump and there's gas spouting out of it and gas attendants running behind him.
David stops immediately, gets out of the car, by this point (to everyone's relief) the gas has stopped pouring out, and David is a bit more releaved, so without knowing what else to do at that exact moment, he shrugs his shoulders and says, "gomenasai," which means sorry.. :)
I'm assuming Chris will attempt to retell this story through his words, but i don't think there's a good way to sharing it without you knowing David and how he tells stories.
The point being, the gas flap was the monumental cap off to the whole thing.
After we've been laughing for a while, and David has told us that his supervisor was on the phone with the attendants, and through laughter told David to get to school in the morning where everything would be sorted out, i decided to ask what did actually happen to the gas flap with which David has so intriguingly started his tale.
"Well, you know, how in some action movies, when a car blows up, there's usually a hubcap that spins out of the blast and turns on itself with slowed momentum?" "Yeah."
"Well, when i looked back at the gas pump, i saw my gas flap doing that very thing, i don't know how it was able to spin on the ground like that, but it was doing it and i just stood there and watched for a few seconds before it stopped."

So there ya go.

And here's a picture to prove it.
After that we heard a couple of other stories, one of them involved David flattening three out of four tires in one go, but it's best when he tells it.

Oh, and my weekend, once again was beautiful.

My students didn't take a place in the story contest, which is complete rubbish, but it was a learning experience for them and me, too bad that i get to try again next year with new students, but because they're third graders, this was their last chance..although they could try again in high school i suppose.
MCing was fun, and i'm told i did a wonderful job.
I have a few pics up from the speech contest, and i'll have more pics up for the weekend, as soon i figure out a way to get them from Chris.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

this will not be brief

so i've been slacking on updating this place. my apologies to those of you anxiously waiting for any and all news on my life here. Please stop biting your finger nails and listen here.
So i've been busy and i figure that's how it's going to be for a while, until i decide to stop spending money and start doing things that are closer to home and don't cost much.
If you've checked the fotki page, then you might have noticed several new additions, including a special folder for events that necessitate separate albums because there are too many photos involved.
So i'll start in the beginning, then, shall i?
Last week thursday, i got a call from my supervisor who urged to leave my apartment, where i was about to cook some chow, and walk across the street to the community center. His english is not that good, but i did make out "turtles" and "ocean." When i get there, i see a party of several children and adults who are checking plastic bins filled with tiny sea turtles. Apparently, they were rescued from the beach as they hatched by a local enthusiast prior to the typhoon of two weeks ago. He let them grow up a bit and decided to organize a "releasing of the turtles" party. He wasn't the only one who had collected them off the beach near my apartment. Several other people had buckets of turtles that they brought with them when we all gathered on the beach.
Here's what a week old sea turtle looks like.

So that was a very unique experience and i'm very thankful to my supervisor for remembering to invite me. It was fun seeing a bunch of villagers gathered around these tiny creatures and the kids were just having a blast, picking them up and running down to the ocean to set them down and watch them scramble their way towards the water.

Friday was an all day rehearsal for the sports fest at my school. I have created a separate album for the sports fest, including pics from the rehearsal and then the execution on Sunday.
The kids worked incredibly hard; i haven't been a part of such a communal experience in a really long time, if ever, really. All the kids' parents were there to watch and quite a few participated in relay races. The PTA was involved in organizing some fun races, and even the high school students came in to volunteer with the background stuff, such as serving the important men and women tea and buiscuits and cleaning up after the event.
I think my favorite part was the Ogimi female dance. I didn't know it was about to happen, but all of a sudden, i was being called to dance with 40 or so women. These were mothers, sisters, aunts of the students and they gathered in a large circle and there were 10 or so who knew the dance very well and the rest of us just watched them as the music played and tried to follow along. It was a very enjoyable experience; the people here are so giving in all kinds of ways that it just makes me wonder how they are this way and how come so many others around the world aren't.
The sports fest was a great time, and i even got to participate by running in a relay and dancing in a folk dance with the 3rd graders group. I am told that i ran very fast, but i keep joking that those 200 meters were all i could run.
The students were exhausted by the end of the day; and some 3rd graders were teary eyed at the closing ceremony because they worked really hard organizing the whole event and this was their last sports festival.
Oh yeah, forgot to mention that students basically ran the whole thing. There were several leaders chosen during the summer to organize the events; teachers were of course in charge of the overall planning, but the lead students were the ones teaching others the events, such as Eisa dancing, Bo fighting, folk dancing, female dance, etc. And during the races, students kept track of the scores, fired the starting guns, and told everyone where to be and where to go at specific times.
So that was very impressive to me, and certainly added a very special charm to the events. Class 2-1 won the entire competition and have a small trophy now in their classroom that will stay there until next year's sports fest.
Here's one of my favorite photos from the fest.

OK. After the sports fest, i drove south, picked up Kelly and Chiye and we headed for Naha by way of stopping at Kerri's in Urosoe, dropping off my car and taking the metro to the Kokusaidori (main drag in Naha). The islanders, Andy, Brett, and Craig, organized this crazy get together and provided a wonderful drink called, habusho sake, which involves putting a live venomous snake into a bottle of sake, sealing it up, watching the snake die and release its poison into the drink. This makes the sake have that very special power of turning a gang of happy JETs into a roudy bunch of gaijin who won't stop at anything to have a bloody good time. There was some dancing, some dancing on the bar, some dancing on the tables, some more drinking, chatting, laughing, picture taking, and just general, crazy time.

Here's a sneak peek at a locked album, if you're a JET reading this, e-mail me for the password.

The rest of the weekend went like this. Saturday, Kelly, Chiye and I checked out the main castle of the Ryukyu kindgom, the Shurijo. For a more detailed description of the history and to look at pics from that day, check out Kelly's site from the links on the right. We got a yearly pass, so i'll be back, when the weather is not so hot and i'm not so hung over.
Sunday, Ben from Higashi-son (he's from Manchester originally) and I went to a castle in the north, called Nakijin-jo (jo stands for "castle") and i have some pics up from that day. Whereas Shuri castle has been mostly reconstructed, the Nakijin castle is basically ruins that have been partially excavated. The outer wall is still intact and very impressive. THe inner grounds have several shrines and a nice paths to walk. It was nice seeing archaeogical digs "in process," they were covered up by tarps and looked like they haven't been touched in a week or two.
Sunday night was the fest at the Okuma resort 15 minute drive north from me. It's a military resort, but once a year they open it up to the whole island and have games, shows, and an Okinawan band. A bunch of ALTs were there and so were almost all of my students, who kept asking if any of the guy ALTs were my boyfriends.

Ok. I'll stop right here, and just say that i had a monday off, and taught on tuesday and wednesday, which went well. Thursday (today) we have off as well, and tomorrow is the speech contest, which i'm MCing..and i'll be sure to tell what happens. So keep your fingers crossed for my two students who have been practicing for this thing for over a month.


Tuesday, September 13, 2005

sunset boulevard

These were both taken tonight, two minutes apart. I'm perplexed by the dramatic difference the zoom made. And this view is only a 3 minute walk from my apartment building.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium

This is a link to the map of the Ocean Expo Park and the Churaumi Aquarium.
Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium map

Kelly, David and I were there this Sunday after a night of partying at Tracy's apartment in Kintown. The Aquarium is in Motobu, which is the pertrusion on the west coast of the Okinawa main island (if you've ever seen a map of Okinawa main island, that would make sense). David lives and works in Motobu, and I live about a 40 min drive north from him. This was Kelly's first venture to the north of the island, as she is one of them southern city folk. We started off at the South Gate, if you're looking at the Aquarium map, and wandered all the way to the Central Gate to see the dolphin show at the Dolphin Studio. The walk was wonderful. The place is filled with botanical wonders of Okinawa. We walked at a leisurely pace, stopped often and took pics. What this map doesn't show is the abundance of bathrooms at the Expo Park. I swear that there is a bathroom house every 500 meters or so, and they're all nice and clean, as most public bathrooms on Okinawa are.
It doesn't cost a yenni to explore the Expo park, this includes the manatee house, the dolphin show, the dolphin lagoon, the native okinawan village. The small museums cost 600 to 800 yen and the main Aquarium is 1800 yen or a yearly pass for 3600. We didn't pay any money on sunday (well, except for purchasing ice cream snacks) and spent three wonderful hours at the Expo Park. The dolphin show was great, as were the manatees and the sea turtles. You've got to check out my fotki page to see the funniest sign we encountered that day; it supposedly explained about the turtle birthing rituals, but that's just a guess.
I'm deffinately going back to check out the actual aquarium; it is the 2nd largest in the world and might be worth a yearly pass.

It's difficult to go back to school after a relaxing weekend spent amongst JETs; the weekends here are deffinately always filled with some goings on, so much so sometimes, that one has to pick and choose as to what to do.
However, school is also fun. Today, for instance, I got to jump rope with 2nd graders, and got to try a game out in a 2nd grade classroom as well. So it's all good, and I'm happy to be here every day that I am.
And for lunch today, we had egg drop soup and a vegetable stir fry. As always, i gave away my school milk to an eager student. And played junken over who would clean up the lunch trays. I'm happy to say that I won.


Thursday, September 08, 2005

a "typical" school day

and none have been this week, 'cause the students are getting ready for the "Undokai," which, if i'm undersstanding this correctly, is a sports show. All over the northern area the schools will be showing off their sports ability. This, however, only includes track and field as the sport, but students will also be performing an Eisa drum dance, some sort of a karate show, and a folk dance. The preparations started in earnest on Monday and will continue until next week Friday, when there will be a major rehearsal all day and the Undokai is on that Sunday (the 18th). Preparation means that there are no classes after lunch. Starting at 2pm, students and teachers take off for the gym or the outside or both and start getting ready. On Monday, we watched a group of students show the rest of the school the Eisa dance they prepared and which the rest of the students will learn. On TUesday, students were outside practicing the karate show with long sticks; yesterday, they were outside again working on the Eisa and today we started on the folk dancing and Eisa again. Today, was the first day I joined in the activities. To me, the practice times mean that i have to stay in school until 6pm every day, because the two students i'm prepping for the English speech contest can't practice that until they're done with the Undokai stuff, so i see them after 4:30.
Today was special for two reasons. I got to try a game activity in the 1st grade classroom and i joined in with the Undokai prep outside.
My JTE told me in the morning that he wanted to take the 1st graders to the computer lab to play on the GenkiEnglish.com site. "Genki" btw is a very very popular word and it basically means "excited" or "pumped up" or "in a good mood"..well..you get it.. if elementary school kids run their heads off all day for no reason, that just means they're very "genki"....and being "genki" is important.
So this website is put together by some former JETs and it's very resourceful and they've basically turned it into a business, supplying English teachers in japan with loads of activities, CD-Roms, games, worksheets, etc. Of course, most of it has to be ordered, but the website does offer some neat games for the kids to try. Most are geared towards the younger students, so perfect for the 1st graders who are still having trouble with the alphabet.
But that fell through, and i'm almost glad it did, 'cause he didn't have anything prepared for it; i actually went on the website and made a quick worksheet for an activity i thought we'd have them do, in case we did get in.
He apparently, didn't clear us using the comp. lab with the vice principal, so we were back to square one and he had nothing planned for the classroom either.
So i jumped at the opportunity to push for a game. I changed up the "scattegories" game we were introduced to at the Naha conference and it worked beautifully. The kids were very "genki" about it and i gave out prizes to the winners and my JTE said, "they liked it, ne?"...and i was pleased, 'cause that means that maybe next time i suggest a game for a class, it might go through.. yeah!! one little victory on behalf of the little people.

The folk dancing was hillarious. I was asked to join 'cause the 3rd grader boys didn't have enough partners in their own grade. So four of us, my JTE, the head teacher (she's the math teacher), the student teacher and I, stepped in as the partners. Now, don't go thinking that the folk dancing was Japanese.. nothing of the sort. It was some sort of simplified version of a very generic European dance. I don' tknow where they got it, or what is the origin of the music, but it reminded me of all the folk dancing i've done when i was a part of a dance group back home. THe boys were shy having to dance with their teachers, but most of them knew the steps and it went swimmingly. Of course, i was sweating buckets, 'cause i wasn't prepared to spend two hours in the sun and did not have a hat, or appropriate footwear (sorry, mom). But it was fun and hopefully they'll ask me to dance during the Undokai, 'cause at least i'll be somehow involved and won't just spend hours watching from the sidelines.
After the "folk" dancing we had a short break and it was onto the Eisa practice. I joined that as well and am happy to say that i'm doing well with all of the three parts of the dance. Unfortunately, it's difficult to explain what that means.
Basically, a typical Eisa drum dance will have several repeating dances. The music changes and so do the steps. Each musical number will go on for 3-5 minutes and then it will shift and we do another dance repeatedly for 3-5 minutes and so on. The adult groups do 5 or 6 different dances, which can be very streneous, so the kids are only doing 3, but they're complex enough, so it'll take me a few practices to get it right.
after that, there was speech contest prep and that's going well; very proud of the two girls, i think they'll do well ... (i'm mentally spitting behind my left shoulder right now) :)

and as a lesson for the day:
do not leave a box of Mentos in an "empty" box, if you're not planning on finding it for over a month, because the ants will.
yep. that's the lesson.


Monday, September 05, 2005

back to NOLA

of all the cities that I've visited in the United States, New Orleans, was the most charming, the most peculiar, the most spirited, the most unusual, spiritual, weird, historical, stunning, yummy, and depressing. Honestly. I loved every moment i spent in that city both times i was there; and now i realize how lucky i was to have been there for Mardi Gras--i saw NOLA at its finest and and its worst, simulteneously...and at its worst, it still kept the humor and ease it's famous for.

I'm not surprised by what happened in the aftermath of the hurricaine there; I am not surprised at the level of ineffeciency and misconduct shown by the local and federal authorities towards a large population of people. I am not even surprised that it was in a BBC report that I first actually read the words, "The majority of those in most desperate need of relief were impoverished black people who may not have had the means to leave the affected area ahead of Hurricane Katrina."
But i am surprised by the amount of violence that has erupted in that city and at how merciless people can be in a time of absolute and dire need. How can we possibly expect a population that is capable of such acts of violence to stand up for itself and give support to any other part of the world. We can't help ourselves, how can we help others? I am stunned, as I'm sure most of you are by the reports of shooting at rescue workers and contractors; who are these people that strike against a fellow humans whose only purpose is to help, whose life is as precious as the lives of those who perished in the disaster.
sorry. I'll stop. just extremely upset and i thought that things like that wouldn't phase me now. they do. they should touch and unnerve and disturb everyone. they are disturbing.
a few days ago i posted a link to a blog being kept by a group of very dedicated people keeping track of things in NOLA and posting about what they see on an hourly basis. please, check it out.
and i just wanted to include what the writer wrote about politics, in case you don't read that specific post. He makes a very good point and I believe it should be shared.

From Interdictor : So yeah, I'm not going to support or condemn anyone specific for what's going on here.

And another thing to think about when we start pointing fingers is this. The government is never equipped to handle a crisis like this. There's too much bureaucracy -- initiative-stifling bureaucracy which prevents swift, effective action. I would like to hear from government employees on this. The nature of that bureaucracy is such that you have very specific guidelines to follow for even the most minute tasks. You need approval for just about everything, and the person you need approval from usually needs approval to give you the approval.

It's not as easy as say rounding up 4 of your co-workers and saying, "We've got someone at such and such an address, let's go grab her and get her out of there." Now add a destroyed or disabled command and control center to that bureaucracy and you've got a total and complete mess.

You (as a civilian) don't need "Approved" stamped on 3 different forms before you can run into your neighbor's house and pull them out. I hope this makes sense.

Anyway, I'm sure there's been human error in this catastrophe. How could there not be? But what I'm saying is that I've come to expect poor decision making and a total lack of initiative from government. They can't even balance a budget, at the federal, state, or local levels. I could balance my checkbook and spend within my means when I was a teenager. But I'm not gonna point fingers and get into the blame game. If you want me to blame something besides the storm herself, I blame the nature of government in the first place. It's too big, it's too slow, it's too inefficient, it's too bloated, and it's too intiative-stifling to be effective in normal circumstances, much less in a disaster. It's a systemic issue, more than an issue of individual people in government.

Ok, that being said, I see more civilians on the street now -- although many of them appear to be journalist types.

Hope everyone is well out there.
Miss you all.


Sunday, September 04, 2005

my buddy typhoon

in the midst of a typhoon Nabi, i'm learning that staying in my apartment for a while can be a good time to do things i've put off for weeks now..such as decorating my living room and going through my "scary room" of stuff from packages and tokyo orientation giveaways.

"Nabi" means butterfly in Korean. i don't know why a typhoon would get such a pretty name but it did. It was a level 5 two days ago and now as it's hitting Okinawa it's reduced to 3. The winds are strong and the power went out briefly three times so far. I don't know if we're getting the worst of it now, or the worst is yet to come. If the wind doesn't drop below 25 knots per hour by morning, school might be canceled and i'll have one more day of doing stuff at home; although at this point i'm running out of things to do. i suppose i can always read and write these blogs. :)

school lunch:
it happens like this. After 4th hour, which could be at 12:25pm if it's a "B" schedule day or almost at 1pm if it's an A schedule, all homerooms get lunch. students each lunch in their homerooms; there are students assigned to getting lunches from the cart and bringing them into the classroom and then those same students set up trays and serve their peers lunch. Lunch for teachers works the same way; we get the same food as students and someone needs to set it up for everyone. It usually involves a couple of office ladies and a couple of female teachers doing it. On friday, I helped out, because only one woman was setting it up. There are usually three dishes at lunch and dessert. Everythign has to be served out of large pots and square dishes. So on friday we got rice and thin grilled beef, as well as a vegetable soup, a salad, a fruit medley, and a quarter of an orange. I helped pour soup for everyone and put the beef pieces on top of rice bowls. THen when i was setting out the trays in front of chairs, a teacher pulled me aside and told me that i set up the trays wrong.. she wasn't mean about, she was being helpful. She explained that rice is always put on the left of the tray and in front. soup, if there is one, is always on the right and in front; placement of everything else doesn't really matter, but chopsticks have to be in the front and easily accessed by the right hand. The reasoning is that Japanese eat with a bowl of rice in their left hand and then pick at everything else on the tray. This is not only for school lunches. As she was explaining this, i thought of all the meals i've had on Okinawa so far and realized that everytime i got a "set" meal, rice has always been on the left and soup has always been on the right. It is customary to be served everything at once in Japan. There are usually several dishes to be picked at and sampled. At my favorite izakaya (a small restaurant) a set consists of the main dish, a miso soup, a rice and five other little dishes ranging from salad, to broccoli, to seaweed to melon pieces. those five dishes vary from time to time; so onetime we got a potato salad and another time, there was an okra salad.

Once lunch is eaten, everyone picks up after themselves and clears their trays of dishes. Students do the same. In their classrooms they have their toothbrushes and five minutes is allowed on the schedule for everyone in the school to brush their teeth. Then students proceed to cleaning of various areas of the school for about 25 minutes, then they have 20 minutes or so to finish up and to do whatever else and at 1:50pm the 5th period starts. It's a very communal system and reinforces the idea that school is like a second home and teachers are like surrogate parents. It also forces students to take ownership of their environment and to take care of the "house" they learn in. Or at least that's the idea.

Over the last two days i've also been learning about bit torrent system of downloading things; so that's also been fascinating and taking up some time during this bad weather period. Although it was clear enough yesterday night for me to drive to Nago and go to an Eisa festival there, which was wonderful. I absolutely love Eisa drumming. i can't explain this draw to it that i've developed by it's beautiful, and unique only to Okinawa and so forceful in its spirit and enthusiasm.
If you're ever in Washington DC area in April, find out when the Cherry Blossom festival takes place and where; an Okinawan Eisa dancing group is sent every year. It must be a fantastic show to see; 'cause it's gotta be the best group from the islands and that would be tough to decide; the groups i saw last night were fantastic.

i'm debating whether i should go to sleep at a timely fashion, since tomorrow i might have to go to school, or to stay up for a while, since i might not. :)) difficult decisions.


Saturday, September 03, 2005

Thursday, September 01, 2005

the village of Shioya

The last two days, the village of Shioya was celebrating the Ungami festival; this translates to "seagod," and is a time for celebrating the fall harvest/season. Shioya is a part of Ogimi but like Kijoka where I live and the smaller village of Ogimi is a separate entity as far as people who live here are concerned. The three small villages are united by one infrastructure of the Ogimi village office but were historically separate even though they are all right next to each other. Shioya is actually comprised of three distinct little neighbrohoods whose names i don't remember now. I learned all of this because of the Ungami celebrations. On the first day of the Ungami, a boat race takes place. The three boats represent the three small villages of Shioya and female priestesses (females of families of those villages) stand in the waters of the Shioya bay and encourage their men who are in the boats to steer harder and win the race. They beat drums and sing and wave colorful cloth. The three groups of women wear distinct colors as do the men in the boats. Once the boats reach the shore, the men lift up one of the main priestess from their group and bring her onto the shore.
--Unfortunately i did not witness the carrying of the priestesses because I had to go home to let two guys into my apartment to install the airconditioner; by the time i got back the priestesses were on shore and the men were carrying away the boats--

This is all very traditional and unique to Shioya because it is the only village that has females preforming all the important tasks of devotion and offerings to the shrine. These are very loose details and I apologize for that. All of my Okinawa books are at the school and I will insert more detailed information tomorrow or next week when I get my hands on them.

After the boat race, the Shioya village hosts sumo wrestling match. A stage is set up where all the important men of Ogimi sit, among them the mayor, the former mayor, the principals of schools and others. Of course, as the new "prom queen," (as Gabrielle refers to me) I was asked to sit on the stage as well. My whole school came out to the event, so I have photos of my students on the site, as well as some teachers. The sumo matches start at the elementary school level and move up through the young adults and finish with a big guy from Ogimi who is always the winner.

--ONce again, the installation of my airconditioner prevented me from seeing the entire sumo event and I had to leave when they were finished working in my apartment, which was around the time my junior high students were competing--

Today (Thursday) I came to the school, and even though i should have been in four classes, I instead spent the morning and early afternoon constructing final exams for the 1st Term for all three grades. At two o'clock i took off for Shioya once again to watch various traditional dances. Some of my students participated and i recognized some women from the village and my school's "office lady." The dancers were beautiful and very precise in their movements. It's hard to have you just look at the pics knowing that you won't know what the accompiniment is. They danced to the beat of the drums and the singing of older women. The drum beats were slower for more regal dancers and slightly faster for the "peasant" dancers. THat's the distinction I'm making but i think it's visible enough that some dancers are wearing more expansive looking outfits while others are dressed more plainly.
--this might seem like it doesn't connect...and it really doesn't, 'cause i just inserted the whole bit about the dancing after having written the rest of the blog...sorry--

It's a difficult task constructing exams for material one did not teach, but I was given old exams to look at and the textbooks which students use to figure out what to include in my versions. I am only responsible for constructing the "Listening Test," and the JTE makes up the grammar portion of the exam. My part is only worth 20% but i put in 2 days of work and i'm very proud of it, i might add. I made it colorful with clipart and photos from milwaukee and postcards of wisconsin. The old tests are similarly filled with random images; Gabrielle's logic is that it would make the students regard English with a bit of warmth rather than complete hate at having to sit through tests filled with nothing but grammar. I feel for them; it's quite boring. I don't remember how i learned German, really, but i do remember putting together sketches, making some sort of posters, reading stories and even a novel. These kids are not doing any of it; they can barely speak the language and that's by third year of instruction. It makes me wonder what is considered acceptable in the Japanese language instruction. Yet i'm here to entertain and speak English so i won't be stirring up waters just yet. But i do hope to push through some activities by mid year.

So i started in Shioya and finished on a ramble about school. Check out my fotki page; there are pics up from the Ungami celebrations; there are no descriptions as of yet, but this weekend, with a big typhoon coming, i should have plenty of time to sit on-line and give you all more details about the intricacies of Okinawan culture, including a bit about its beautiful textiles which you could see from the photos of the dancers.
The picture above was taken as i was leaving Shioya today. I meant to catch a group of girls as they sat by that wall on the left but by the time i got my camera ready, they all got up to leave and i just caught the tail end. I still think it's a good shot.