Friday, October 28, 2005

kasu for me

at first i thought they said "kashu" and that would have meant an incredibly improbable language borrowing, but then it turned out that they were not refering to one of my lunch dishes with a russian word, meaning porridge...

ok.. so lunches this week have been...uhmm.. interesting. not bad or anything, just really different. well..allright.. they're always different, but i thought that after eating them for 2 months, there has got to come a point where i recognize a lunch dish every day of the week. nope. not so much. this week's special ingredient was seaweed. It was in pretty much everything and of all kinds. I have no problem with seaweed. I like seaweed. Yesterday there was something that looked like a falafel only slightly bigger, it sort of smelled like it too, which made me want fallafel; instead i got something that was filled with porridge like substance, mixed with seaweed and the outside crust, which resembled fallafel, smelled more like fish.

today, it was called "kasu" and looked weird...i mean, i don't know how to describe it.. i looked up the word in the dictionary and got back, "dregs" "impose" "loan" and "scum." great! but then it was explained to me, mostly with hand gestures, that "kasu" is made from putting tofu in a sack, squeezing all the water out and using the remaining substance. The "kasu" at lunch was mixed with peas, carrots, some meat-like looking cubes, and you guessed it.. seaweed! it wasn't all that bad, really..just kind of on the dry spot. I thought perhaps baking it with a sauce, or just dumping a bunch of barbeque sauce on top would have really done the trick.
The other side dish today was salty fish, not quite dry, not quite raw...little sardines, if you will. I had a couple then gave up. Some days it's easy to cut down on the food intake around here, although the dessert this week has been great--fruit all week. I've eaten more apple this week than i've eaten in the last 3 months on this island. And in case i haven't mentioned the reason for my lack of apple consumption, it's that an individual apple here costs anywhere from 1 to 2 dollars. They look great, though! Oh, and i'm not a huge apple fan, so it's no big.

It's kin-youbi...Friday!
Yesterday made a Halloween poster that every teacher commented on in the passing--they think i'm awfully creative...and i think i'm just glueing things together for kids to stare at in-between classes. It turned out well, though, i think. I'll have a pic of it on the fotki site sometime soon.

Oh, and here's an interesting little bit of fun i did.
Took another test, just to see if i can find something fun for Kelly ('cause, truly, anything i do during the day is for Kelly's enjoyment)...and i took "what language you should learn" test...and ...yep.. it's Japanese...i'm so glad i'm here and not in France!

You Should Learn Japanese

You're cutting edge, and you are ready to delve into wacky Japanese culture.
From Engrish to eating contests, you're born to be a crazy gaijin. Saiko!


Wednesday, October 26, 2005


home from school. had a really good day of doing pretty much nothing. The JTE is gone for three days and i don't have to teach any classes--they rearranged the entire schedule for the week. In the morning, I studied Japanese and worked on India papers, but in the afternoon I got invited to join the 1-2 class on an excursion to make shisas. If i haven't mentioned shisas, i'm sorry, they are very traditional Okinawan lions that sit in front of people's houses or any other place that people could enter, such as bridges, restaurants, malls, etc...They are almost always in pairs and one of the lions brings in the good energy and the other one blows out the bad. They're usually made out of ceramics, and so today we went to a woman's house who has her own pottery workshop in the village. The drive was into the hills and fun, as usual and her house was fantastic. She has a beautiful two story place surrounded by an overgrown yard with dogs and one chicken and little paths that lead to garden patches...just really nice stuff...she even showed me her workshop and her kiln and invited me over whenever.
The students and i got to make shisas by using something akin to clay but not quite, have no idea what the mixture is called but when it dries, it kind of looks halway between clay and cement. We got to use shells, sea glass, broken bits of ceramics and roof tile to put together our shisa. I only had my cellphone camera with me, so i'm sorry i won't have any pics to put up until the dried shisas are delivered to the school sometime in the future.
It was a lot of fun, though--a nice break from the routine and the kids loved it.

so now, i'm home and i was putzing around on the net and took a short test that was supposed to tell me how old i act...and it spit back at me that i act exactly my age.
i'm sure if anyone else takes it, it won't do the same thing--that is, guess your exact age.. but it's fairly interesting that it did that for me.
I don't feel my age here, but i know i act it sometimes, and then i don't. And what does it mean, anyways to act 27? :))

You Are 27 Years Old

Under 12: You are a kid at heart. You still have an optimistic life view - and you look at the world with awe.

13-19: You are a teenager at heart. You question authority and are still trying to find your place in this world.

20-29: You are a twentysomething at heart. You feel excited about what's to come... love, work, and new experiences.

30-39: You are a thirtysomething at heart. You've had a taste of success and true love, but you want more!

40+: You are a mature adult. You've been through most of the ups and downs of life already. Now you get to sit back and relax.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

serious fun

another wonderful Okinawa weekend behind me and lots of new memories, thoughts, discoveries, misunderstandings, opinions, ideas, and Engrish fun to add to the book of my experiences, but for now, here's just a bit of fun.

This weekend i noticed that Craig and Kelly have very similar, beautiful eyes. Kelly claims hers are better, Craig believes his take the cake. So here are two shots for your consideration. We'll label the ones on the right, A, and the ones on the left, B. You may vote for your favorite by leaving a comment on the blog or by e-mailing me directly. Thanx for participating, we hope to resolve this argument with your help. :)

___Earlier, this post experienced what in some circles is known as a "faux pas" or in others, more correct circles is known as "Elina is not very bright and should double check things instead of pressing buttons as quickly as possible" now that that has been fixed, although it did taint the earlier polling results, i hope it doesn't stop some of you from voting, nonetheless.

oh, and some pics are up from this weekend, and if you need the password for locked ones, please e-mail me.


Friday, October 21, 2005


that's the katakana for "title"

wanted to do a quick update, so as people don't think i'm melancholy all the time.

my jambalaya was very well received. they liked it and i even got to explain that it's a cajun dish, which means a mixture of culture and they get that here, 'cause Okinawa is a mix of cultures.. and they even use that word for a dish that's very traditionally Okinawan, called "champuru"...that literally means, "a mix" and there are four standard kinds: goya champuru, tofu champuru, fu champuru, and vegetable champuru (if i'm lying on this one, guys, please correct me).
The female teachers even asked me to explain the process of making the dish, so i had to admit that i use the spices from a packet and don't know what's in them.. but they really didn't care...and Hisako-san asked me to bring it again the next day...and good thing she did, 'cause i had plenty left over and was not planning on eating today being Friday, my jambalaya has been fully devoured at lunch and my fridge is empty once again.

i had three classes today. With the 3rd graders we chatted about different gestures and some of them really got into it and were mimicking the gestures i was making. And i wanted to share with them a gesture from a different culture (it's all about internationalization, right?) so i commented on how "wait" is shown similarly in Japan and the States.. but in Israel it's a completely different gesture..and they loved that.. although there are chances that it means something in Japan and i just don't know what it is.. but i did show it to my JTE before doing it in class, and he didn't react in any alarming way, so i think i'm ok on that one..
("wait" or "rega" in Israel is shown by putting together the tips of the thumb, the index and middle fingers, turning the hand palm up and slightly raising it.)

the second graders were introduced to the "enjoy + -ing" grammar...example: I enjoy typing up these blogs.
Although how grammar can be introduced and explained in 2 minutes is beyond me.. but i'm not the teacher, right?
so we had a worksheet to have them practice the concept. they had walk around and ask their friends and me whether we enjoyed doing different things..and they had to create their own original question. and of course, i got simple stuff, such as "do you enjoy playing baseball/basketball/tennis/soccer" but everyonce in a while, a student would come up with "do you enjoy cycling"..."do you enjoying studying (and studying Japanese)"
i never thought i'd be so excited over hearing "do you enjoy reading books?"

the first graders as always were a treat. i did a mini self-introduction by putting together some photos and pictures of things i like and don't like, such as mexican food, strawberries, traveling (i had photos of me in DC, New York, and Israel), my hobbies...and then i wrote it up on a poster board as they could look at the writing as i was saying it..and it acted as an example when we then asked them to start creating their own self-introduction..
they worked in groups and put their desks together and actaully wrote down ideas and asked me questions..which is also making me realize how many words i've learned so far.. i can actually say a few things to clarify directions for them.. it's pretty cool...and they get a total kick out of me saying "sumimasen" ("excuse me") if i disturb their work space by walking was such pleasure observing a class full of students absorbed in an activity and making progress and seemingly enjoying it...
no matter what my day is like before or after.. moments like these are totally worth it
so their homework for the weekend is to put together a poster like mine, with pictures, cutouts, drawings of things about them...
i'm looking forward to the results...
it's fun doing things like that with the first graders because they had positive experiences with English in elemantary schools, thanx to Gabrielle's enthusiasm of the last three years...and they're not jaded to it like 3rd graders are ..and i can try different things and instill expectations in them that are above the ones asked of them now..and work with that for the next two'll be great to see them as 3rd graders...

so things are good.. they're really good...
and i discovered that i can rent episodes of "the west wing" and that just totally made my night last night..
i know..
i'm a geek..
but Josh Lyman is such a sexy character, especially when he gets angry at something...

oh, and speaking of politics.. yesterday i said to one of the teachers who was asking me about my religion, "politics and religion are difficult...everything else is easy".. i kind of made that up on the spot..but i think i really believe that now--you try explaining to someone who barely speaks English in dictionary-Japanese the difference between being Jewish religiously or culturally..


Tuesday, October 18, 2005

tao for you

been feeling a bit moody the last few days.
It's nothing serious, just your regular, disgruntled stuff. Here it just seems all emotions are hightened, because all the usual ways of dealing with them are gone--i can't just go and walk Molly in the park, or call Shelley, or lay on the couch at mom's, or drink coffee at grandma's with Anna and Sofya. Those comforts, which somehow allay the feelings of depressions or nostalgia, or whatever other moodiness is happenning are not within reach, and so it is up to me to create new ones. Will it be taking a drive after school down an unknown road? Will it be watching an episode of "lost" and eating jambalaya? Or will it be driving to Nago to hang out with crazy Block 1 crew--who are, btw, the winners of the recent block game challenge--yeah yeah!!

i did cook a jambalaya.. and yes, it was done with the help of a Zatarain's box..but i added stuff, and it's better than the box, and tasted wonderfull and i will take a bit of it to school tomorrow to share with the teachers. It is customary to bring in boxed cookies and treats, especially if one goes on trips, but every once in a while a teacher will bring in a dish, or will have for lunch a bit of something students made in home economics (and it's actually good). So i thought i'd show off my knowledge of things cajun and have them try something a bit spicy, 'cause most lunch dishes are fairly dull as far as spices are concerned.

Today i got stuck in a ditch on the road, while i was driving around, looking for nothing in particular. The ditches here are about 15cm wide and 30cm deep and run along the roads on both sides...some sort of drainage system, i'm sure. well, i was Y-turning and miscalculated and the left front wheel went inside the ditch. And i was stuck in the middle of a country road with no knowledge of where i was (well.. i was somewhere between Ogimi and Higashi, north of Nago and south of Kunigami..but that wouldn't help anyone)...i can't speak Japanese, even if i were to call someone, and Ben, who lives in Higashi and can speak Japanese, would have no way of finding me. Oh, and my car was basically at the top of a hill, so anyone driving up would have hit me because they wouldn't have had enough time to stop. Brilliant! I know.
sorry, mom.
Well, i figured out that i can turn the wheel and put the car in drive and let the wheel drive onto to the other side of the ditch and then quickly back up. It worked, i'm safe, it's all good.. but i was a bit worried there for a sec. ;)

Today at lunch we had curry and talked music. The music teacher commented on my playing the piano, i think she said i was good, so that's cool, and practicing the piano has been a really good moment in my school days.

The monster post was just for fun.

Here's what i really wanted to share because it goes along with my mood.
This is from a postcard i bought before i came here.
I'm not sure if i'm getting everything i'm supposed to from this passage, but with all things, the meanings we get out of them change depending on who we are when we read them. So right now it rings differently to me then when it did when i first got it; i wonder what it will mean to me in a year or two.

Do you think you can take over the universe and improve it?
I do not believe it can be done.

The universe is sacred.

You cannot improve it.
If you try to change it, you will ruin it.
If you try to hold it, you will lose it.

So sometimes things are ahead
and sometimes they are behind;
sometimes breathing is hard, sometimes it comes easily;
sometimes there is strength and sometimes weakness;
sometimes one is up and sometimes down.

Therefore the sage avoids
extremes, excesses and complacency.

Text by Lao Tsu, from Tao Te Ching, Chapter 29


Blogthings - What's Your Monster Name?

Blogthings - What's Your Monster Name?: "

Your Monster Profile

Creepy Gaze

You Feast On: Pickles

You Lurk Around In: The Alamo

You Especially Like to Torment: Groupies


Tuesday, October 11, 2005

the tug weekend

This was yet another long weekend with the Monday off and we took full advantage. But first, on Friday night, I was taken out to a real sushi restaurant by my supervisor and the superindendent, aka my best buddy at the Board of Education. What a wonderful meal! Mr. Taira (the superindendant) reserved three spots at the sushi counter and we had a fantastic meal. I tried natto, which is some sort of a bean curd goo. It's really not pleasant--it has a very strong, pungent smell, and it oozes and stretches when it's picked. My students have been asking me since day 1 if i liked natto and now i can finally answer that i've tried it and no! i don't like it at all. But everything else during the meal was fantastic. We had some escargot from Kyushu, some tiny grilled fish that were eaten whole and best when with cold sake. So good times.

Saturday i drove to Kin and picked up Tracy, then we picked up a TV and a stand for Kerri from a marine kid, and then Kerri proceeded to drop the tv stand on her toe and we should have called for a refund, except the stand came free with the TV. On the upside, Kerri can now watch DVDs and we enjoyed that fact later in the weekend.
Saturday night was the fundraiser for the hurricaine Katrina at Paul and Mike's with lots of fun JETs and locals and DJing provided by Amul.
Sunday was the Naha matsuri, which involves the biggest rope in the world being pulled by hundreds (maybe thousands) of people on either side.
It was a very spirited and beautiful event and even the slight rain didn't dampen our spirits. We pulled and tug and crashed into our rope neighbors and our side (the west side) came out victorious.
I should probably let Kelly handle the historical aspects of the event, but I will mention that the tug of war has been around in the Okinawan tradition since the 1600s and is a part of the harvest festival. The rope, in its present, 40ton shape has existed since the 1997 when it was entered into the Guiness Book of Records. Every year the rope is remade because it is a symbol of good luck to take away a part of the rope, and people go all out.
We all walked away with a little bit of the Okinawan spirit in our hands and headed for the second portion of the festivities, The Orion Beer Paradise!
Chris, Kerri, Tracy, and I headed back to Kerri's to chill with a couple of bottles of Chianti and a movie. Kelly, Matt, and Yasemin (in a spectacular entrance) joined us later in the night, and we stayed up listening to Chris' guitar playing and chatting into the early morning hours.

The next day was spent drinking coffee at a Chatan Starbucks and lazing around on the beach. The weekend was capped off with a wonderful italian meal and Tracy and I headed north giddy from coffee and sweets and a feeling of yet another weekend well spent.


UWM: School of Education: New Teacher Blogs

ok..there's lots of things going on and today i hope to put up photos from the big Naha festival aka "the biggest tug of war in the world" so check the Fotki page in a few hours, but this is a link that was sent to me through UWM. Kevin and I are featured in the EdLine magazine and the links to our blogs have been put up at the UWM site. I guess I'll have to start talking about actual teaching in these posts soon. :) Too bad this week is the fall vacation and all I'm going to do is take care of business for the India trip and do some exploring down South.


Monday, October 03, 2005

what Okinawa is made of

i'm sure this topic can and will be covered in several blogs
if not in every one in one way or another

my days are filled with slight melancholy for things i knew and extreme giddiness for the things i've yet to discover. Finding a balance seems to be the growing experience everyone talks about.
I can play the piano on the second floor of the Junior high school. I'm learning new japanese songs and looking at the wall covered with pictures of composers i learned about as a kid but whose names i now can't read.
Even though katakana is used to write foreign words in japanese, knowing it(which hoooray! i do now) does not guarantee comprehension. Something written as "kohee" in katakana..means coffee. but that's almost too simple. names of composers are near impossible to figure out. but i'm working on it. still looking for tschakoivsky; that should be the most amuzing one.

watched my students compete in the Track & Field event. It was a very hot day but an enjoyable one. Every school was represented by a cheering crowd of supporters who relentlessly screamed, danced, whistled, and moved to show their athletes they were there for them.

My students did allright. A 3rd grader took a third place in high jump and a few girls took 4th and 5th places in 100m, 400m, and 400m relay. I walked around the field a lot and spend time chatting with other ALTs.

later that evening i drove south to Yasmine's apartment in Nakagusuku and had a wonderful time hanging out with Chris, Kelly, Martin, Priya and Yasmine. Yasmine is from Turkey and so she had the ingredients for me to make turkish coffee and even pretend i knew anything about fortune telling. (although, i did surprise myself and was able to see a few things and talk about them) and really missed my grandmother at that moment.
but that's the balance.

we played a game i brought from the states called catchphrase and it was a hit. The game uses a lot of American expressions and it was fun watching Yasmine try and explain them literally. stayed up way too late and had a late start but made it out to see yet another gorgeous castle in Nakagusuku, called appropriately, Nakagusuku-jo.
The road from the castle lead to the ruins of a hotel that was abandoned years ago because of hauntings and rumors and no wonder, there are tombs within the hotel grounds and it's next to a massive castle with shrines on every corner.
Okinawa is a deeply spiritual place; there is energy at work here the likes of which i've only felt in Israel; so i'm not surprised that the hotel had to be left behind, even though it looks like it was very near completion.

these are some thoughts i wrote down earlier when i was looking at the pics of the hotel.

[walking through the abandoned building, an eerie feeling crept through me. whether it was because i knew the hotel was left to squaters because it was haunted or because it was such a contrast between the castle ruins i had just strolled through. we expect to see something that is 700 years old on the brink of collapse..seeing a modern building in the same type collapsed state is onerous and near disturbing, although also very fascinating and exciting. Fascinating because things like this do not exist in the realities of most people. There are buildings like these out there some people call home, and the society doesn't think of them as people worth considering. Even though the building has been abandoned by those who would pay to stay in it and enjoy all the amenities it should have offered; it is still very much in use by teenagers, drunks, punks, partiers, and americans. However, the one things that disturbed me more than the haunted feeling was a swastika with an SS sign painted in one of the rooms. Yes, the hotel was covered in vulgar graffiti, but to have that in addition to everything else was sickening.]

So we went from the ruins of the old that are being rebuilt to the abandoned construction of the modern that has been left to ruin.

and that's the stuff of Okinawa.
that and the great people i meet here.
they make the balance happen painlessly and harmonously.

and for some reason i'm considering running. gabrielle has insisted that she'll get me to run soon enough, and i didn't believe her. although this is still just the thinking process, the fact that i'm thinking about it should put a few people who know me on alert.