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.