Monday, November 28, 2005

a sashimi emergency

every weekend is different and unique in its own right.
even a weekend during which i decide to do absolutely nothing and stay up north and nurse my cold turns into a weekend worth sharing.
saturday i got up late and cleaned the house. Kelly called with an invite to join the crew for some exploring because the weather has given us a gift of sunshine. I declined, citing my cold and the fact that i hadn't been in my apartment for two weekends in a row and it really needed to get cleaned up.
I took a walk in Kijoka in the afternoon and expected to drive to Okuma for dinner and watch a movie on my laptop at night.
Nope. That didn't happen.
I got a call from Ben, who is my northern neighbor and lives on the other side of the island in a slightly more remote village than mine called Higashi-son.
He called to tell me that he had a sashimi emergency (and trust me, this sounds ten times better when said with a british accent such as Ben's).
Apparently, Ben had also taken a run/walk through his village in the afternoon and happened upon a woman who works at his Board of Education. She happened to be spending her afternoon cutting up small fish that her husband had caught earlier in the day. Ben joined in the sashimi cutting fun and spent a half hour learning how to properly clear the fish meat of bones and fins. The nice woman gave Ben a bag filled with the fish. And Ben now had a "sashimi emergency!" on his hands.
--btw, If you don't know or are not certain about the definition for sashimi, check out this wonderful site for answers.

Ben had also called David out of his Motobu hideaway, and the three of us cut up some tiny fish for sashimi and had a nice dinner with veggies, accompanied by Tom Waits, and complimented by Kirin and Orion beers and awamori later on. We watched two movies that evening: Dude Where Is My Car? and He Died with a Falafel in his Hand. The later one is an australian film that i would highly recommend. The first movie wasn't as bad as i thought it would be but not better than the second movie by the same director, Harold and Kumar go to White Castle .
I drove home that evening in order to get up early and call my sisters, which i did and it very nice to hear about what's been going on in their lives.

Sunday afternoon I decided to drive south to Chatan to perhaps catch the new Harry Potter movie, but on the way decided better of it and turned again towards Higashi-son.

I spent a wonderful couple of hours journaling and reading at Hiro's Coffee Farm.

A wonderful aroma of freshly roasted coffee beans fills the air around this house/farm/coffee shop and it was very relaxing sitting on a small veranda in the sunshine.
When i was leaving Hiro's, I gave Ben a call and found out that David and him were not too far away at an herb garden place.
I found them chilling in the living room/sales area of Meadow Greens , sipping iced green tea and chatting.

I joined them after taking a stroll through the fields and green house of this newly discovered business. David bought a rosemary plant and i got a few things for New Year's presents.
We then decided to look for a coffee shop that i heard about, north of Hiro's farm and deep in the jungle of Higashi-son.
We turned off the main road and followed the signs down a windy road that kept getting narrower and finally turned into an unpaved track wide enough for one car. At then end of it stood a house, surrounded by a green, lush jungle and a coffee shop was on the first floor of it. One of Ben's elementary students lives there but he hid from Ben the whole time, probably intimidated by the two other gaijin Ben brought with him.
The place was by far the best place I have been to in Okinawa so far. And that's saying a lot. It's a perfect getaway, chilling spot, and made all three of us wish that we could own a piece of jungle in the north of Okinawa so that we could open up one of these ourselves.

This is Ben checking out a somewhat pricey menu.

This is David and I enjoying our time.

And i wanted a picture of myself with a jungle backdrop.

More caffeine intake and we were once again on our way. This time south to Nago to join Ben C. and Aine for a dinner at an "all you can grill/eat for 90 minutes" place.

Aine is suspiciously eyeing Ben's serving of ice cream.

Ben is saddened by the prospects of the last piece of chicken on the grill.

At the end of Sunday I was fully loaded on caffeine, protein, and sugar. The drive home was a riot.

And tomorrow i am by myself in the classroom for the first time.


Friday, November 25, 2005

back to teaching

it's a great feeling i get when i walk out of a successful lesson.
and today i had two.
finally! i was back in the classroom after over a week long absense. Last week i was gone for the MYC and this week i wasn't needed on tues. and thur. and wednesday was a holiday. oh, and monday we had off because we "worked" on Sunday (we watched junior high school kids from the north perform).

wow. i just sneezed really loudly
and no one said "bless you" or "gesundheit". and that's still really weird to me.
not because they don't use English..i mean duh! but because nothing is said at all when someone sneezes. I come from two cultures that take that very seriously. My grandfather used to have a joke that whenever he sneezed and no one said anything, he would say, "Bud zdorov, Aron Isaikovich." Translated, "Be healthy, Aron Isaikovich"....Aaron was his get it? he used the saying himself to shame whoever was nearby, his granddaughters, to remember what they're supposed to say.
"bud' zdorov" is the russian equavalent to "gesundheit" a saying i use most often, partially due to the fact that i've lived in Milwaukee for so long.

ok.. off track
today, in the classroom i actually used something that they taught me in all those long and boring education classes at the university. I used multiple disciplines in the classroom. That is to say, creating as many connections to the material for kids as possible, so as to get everyone involved on one level or another.
my plan wasn't so intricate, but it never has to be. Sometimes all it takes is bringing in a map of a place you're reading abuot in a goofy story, or like what i did today, bringing paintings and photos to give examples of what is discussed.
Today, the 3rd graders were reviewing the pronoun, "that" and the construction, "This is a painting thatMonet painted."
To tell you the truth, it's a bit strained...i would personally forgoe the "that" in regular conversation, but nevemind that.
So i told them about Van Gogh's ear, and how to pronounce Monet, and Shakespeare's "Hamlet" and its prominance in movies, and i even brought in a new concept car from Nissan.
Turns out Elina is not just a talking English robot. Turns out, she actually knows other things. wow!

Anyways. It's quite a high coming out of a successful lesson.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

sensei to the rescue

kyou wa kayoubi desu.
today's tuesday.

and today i complited my first test for the CLAIR Japanese correspondance course. I cheated once when i changed one of the counting suffix answers. I didn't bother learning all of them, but the one i knew "-hon"--counter for long, thin things--i changed, 'cause i didn't notice that there was a number associated with the blank to be filled in.
So because it was 8 pencils.. the suffix change from -hon to -pon..
ok.. so this probably made sense to three people...but oh well..
i feel like i've accomplished something by taking the test, 'cause even though i am not yet speaking, i at least know things already and can start forming sentences in my head, and that's gotta count as a start.

another accomlishment of the day and the reason for today's title
-today we had a short day; after lunch and cleaning time the entire school went outside to pick the remaining shikwasas and to rake around the trees. At the beginning of the day i was feeling a bit useless. I have been gone exactly a week, and today i find out that two of my classes were cut because of the shikwasa picking activity and i don't have to attend the third class of the day, 'cause they'll just be getting the mid-term back and i am not needed.
a bit of a downer to tell you the truth.

but the redemption came when i went outside to help 3rd graders with the picking. As any teenagers will and these are no different from 13-4 year olds around the world, the kids kept getting off track; this mostly involved throwing the tiny, green fruit around in attempts to catch each other off guard.
I laugh it off and go on picking the bitter, lemon-like fruit. Half-hour into the picking process, a shriek explodes through the staunted, bush-like trees. I run to the source, a 3rd grade girl whose loud screams are attracting attention from her girlfriends and laughs from her male peers. She runs over towards me.. "sensei! sensei!!" and points toward the tree from under which she just ran off. I expect to see a teenage boy with a sheepish look on his face.
I put on my, "i'm a teacher, i'm concerned..what's wrong?" look and go towards the source of the problem.
The girl, however, did not encounter a thrown shikwasa but a spider, or it fell on her while she was rummaging through the prickly branches of the tree. The spider was now on the ground, large, yellowish and obviously disturbed by the prospect of having to climb back up to his web. I look around, see 3rd graders nodding to affirm that this 2 inch monster is indeed the source of the problem. I grab a leaf, allow the spider to climb aboard and take him towards the track field. After the problem has been rediposited, i check back on Aya, who is now talking frantically to one of her friends, indicating that she is back to normal and probably doing well. I ask if she's allright...if she needs water...she says she's "arigato!" and i move on to more shikwasa picking.
i am a hero! yeah!
i was indeed somewhat useful today.
also, at the moment, while everyone else is still picking shikwasa (alternate spelling, shiquasa) i am in the teachers' office because Noriko-san, our demure accountant, grabbed me on the way to the bathroom and asked if it would be allright for me to stay in the office, because she has to run off and everyone else is outside.
i am fulfilling an important role. i matter!
and tonight is the teachers' party in Nago and tomorrow being a national holiday it should be a good evening.

so i didn't mention how the Mid-year conference went. and it really would take almost too long to go into details.
To put it shortly, we had three days of workshops and speeches, which were decent and fun. We had four nights to carouse around Naha with lots of JETs. As i thought, most JETs stuck to the people they knew, so it was mostly the 1st years that hung out together, but there was some JET intermixing for ultimate frisbee on friday..talent show on wednesday..and of course, an evening at Paul & Mike's on friday....a visit to Naha without a stopover at that establishment is inconceivable to me right now.

interestingly enough, i met a german physicist who is visiting Okinawa for a few days and he read about Paul & Mike's in the Lonely Planet guide for Japan. cool, eh?
the other cool thing about him was that he is from Baden-Wuerttemburg and grew up near Stuttgart and went to school in Tuebingen. I thought it was neat that i met him because i spent 2 months in Baden-Wuerttemberg, lived near Stuttgart (and he actually heard of Mengen) and visited and loved Tuebingen. So we chatted about the famous, crazed poet from there.

the other coincidence of the night was finding out that a 2nd year JET who is originally from Hawaii attended Beloit college (in WI) and took a required writing course taught, at the time, by a first year Beloit professor who is also a very dear friend of mine.

the world is small
and today i am a hero in it

Beastie boys asking me "whatcha want?" in my ear...and at the moment...there's nothing i want.. i could say that i'm quite happy right now.


Sunday, November 20, 2005

a short one

yes...i'm around.
yes...i promise to write a longer post soon
tired now..and feeling a bit of a cold, so going to crash for a long night of sleep.
wanted to share a funny photo from this week.
On tuesday, i drove south to Naha to get a vaccination for Japanese encephalites (i have no idea how to spell that and do not feel like looking it up). The vaccine is a preventative measure for my December trip to India. More about that in a future post.
At the clinic an information screen was set up to show all sorts of interesting and uhmm....informative facts about possible threats lurking out there in Southeast of them, as you might know, is malaria..
So here is a bit of Engrish fun we noticed on that screen.....hope you catch it as well...

and to all of my friends in Israel who are reading this thanks to my mom who is also there at the moment: Ogromnii Privet!! Skuchau!!


Wednesday, November 09, 2005

like irony, only not

1st graders (7th graders) and i are on the same level in acquaring our perspective languages. Last week i learned how to ask and tell time. The next day, I was helping my 1st graders do the same thing and I could understand what they were saying in Japanese. I'd ask them to first say the answer in Japanese, and if it was correct, to translate it step by step into English. This week I'm tackling personal pronouns of all shapes and forms and we'll be on the same level at the end of the week.

The school is empty right now. Students are gone. 2nd graders went to their respective "on the job" internships. They're gone all week. 1st graders are gone today and tomorrow picking shikwasas and going to the factory where they're processesed. At least i think that's what they're doing. 3rd graders are at a home for the handicapped/old aged volunteering their time. A few weeks back they went to Naha for a day seminar on how to help the handicapped. On the computer next to me, a screensaver slideshow is actually showing the pictures of them from that day. They had to cover their eyes, hang things off of their limbs, walk with a cane (ala Harrison Bergeron) and help their friends who were put in wheelchairs or blindfolded.
Btw..if you haven't read that short story by Vonnegut, you really should.

I'm getting really good at putting together listening tests for students. Next week I won't be here during the day they will be taking their mid-terms, so I'll have to record the listening portion. I've just finished 1st and 2nd graders' tests...and I'm really good! wow.. he he

Listening to russian rock on my mp3 player. It's weird being in school with almost all teachers gone and no students. Empty halls, cloudy sky, sleepy art teacher, bored Elina....just not a good combination of elements.

Oh...the vice principal just dozzed off in his reclining computer chair.
He looks like a bear who's gone off into a lime green shirt.

The office lady and accountant just walked off together. Smiling. At the vice principal.

On Monday, when i was in Nago for a day to run some errands, I decided to look for a park our fearless blockhead, Ben, took us to in September for our first block game/initiation. He gave me directions and I only got lost once! It's a great park that's built around the site of the Nago castle ruins. The castle hasn't been functional since the 1700's; it's been only used as a prayer site. The park is in a mountain side with winding roads leading to different spots with benches; awesome kids' play areas; a huge soccer field; wonderful, secluded spots for reading; shrines hidden away in the shadows of trees; a bridge that leads from one section of the park to the other over a chasm filled with treetops.. and really nice views of Nago. I'll put up the few pics i took soon.
I drove around, checking out all the places, studied for a while at a table near the kids' playground, and then found the huge soccer field. Old men were playing "put put" (ok.. it looks like croquet..but is not) and then some kindergarteners showed up.....I was reading and all of a sudden two little boys came up to me and said in English "hello!" Then, one of them pointed to the other and said, "My name is Seito." and to himself, "My name is Daisaku" I was shocked!
So i asked how old they were... They understood the question but couldn't reply in English, so they did in Japanese, "rokku-sai"...good think i just learned that the suffix for counting ages is "sai".. :) so they were 6. A girl came up and also introduced herself. They giggled around me for a while and then went off to do their own thing on the jungle jims...

i love the coincidences...


Sunday, November 06, 2005


so happy Sunday to me
i'm at school right now, 'cause we have school today...'cause that's a normal thing to happen in a Japanese education system. There's some sort of a get together with parents at an elementary school and junior high school teachers will join the discussion in the afternoon, so we have a regularly scheduled day with morning classes cut slightly shorter to fit in an early lunch. We get Monday off, for being here today.
So my week has been like this:
Monday--taught two classes--Halloween--started writing "the novel" at a Kijoka cafe
Tuesday--taught three classes--one Halloween, two regular--drove to Nago to have dinner with Tracy and Jason at kaiten sushi (rotating sushi) restaurant; Ben and Ben joined us.
Wednesday--taught three classes--two Halloween, one regular--drove to Nago, met for dinner with Mike, Ben, Aine, Josh, Charlotte, and Mike's friend Hideko (who is hoping to go to UW Madison for MA in TESOL); drove to Kin to drop off a book for Tracy, drove to Kitanakagusuku to spend the night at Kelly's.
Thursday--Culture Day (holiday). Kelly and i got up around 11am, made it to Shuri castle area by 1pm, walked around for a good 4 hours; drove to Nishihara Jusco to meet for dinner with Julie, Chris, and Yasemin; drove Kelly home and drove home myself.
Friday--taught three classes--drove to Nago to meet up for a drive down in Gina's car to Chatan for the book club meeting. Got home around 11pm, watched "West Wing"
Saturday--got up at noon, cleaned, laundered, went to Okuma resort to swim and read on the beach; drove to Nago to drop off DVDs and met for dinner with Aine, Mike, Ben, Theresa and gf, Anna. Went to Sababa bar for a half hour; got home aruond 11:30
Sunday--at school, no classes to teach, working on putting together a poster about Milwaukee, wasting time by writing this blog and taking a new test for Kelly's entertainment.


Your Hat Personality Is A


Wednesday, November 02, 2005

my fire drill is better than your fire drill

monday i was a pirate and a fairly convincing one at that. with hand made sword, hat, and patch, a white shirt with rufles sticking out from under the sleeves of a black jacket, black pants, tall white thin socks, platform black loafers, and even a neckerchief to seal the deal. The kids ate it up. It was a lot of fun. I played Halloween games with two classes and it was the first time i gave out candy as prizes. Tuesday and Wednesday i played the same games with the three other classes along with regularly scheduled programming for the other ones. Things went really well. Tomorrow is a national holiday, yeah! for Japan and its random mid-week holidays. This one is called Culture Day, so presumingly i will be doing something to expand my cultural knowledge of Okinawa.

so about the fire drill.

Monday morning, after the meeting, my JTE comes up to me and says that we will have "starto fire," and i somehow deduce correctly that we will have a drill. He says that it will be at 2:45pm and the science teacher will "starto fire"....i say, "wha?!" that's right folks, at 2:47pm i heared the science teacher yelling something at the entrance on the first floor, everyone was where they were supposed to be, 5 teachers with their homeroom classes and everyone else variously occupied throughout the school. I wasn't given an escape plan (who cares about the ALT, right?) so i followed the accountant lady, Noriko-san, out of the teachers' office. I walked into smoke! Real smoke and then i understood what they meant by "starto fire." Noriko-san and i walked out onto the athletic field where i expected to see all the students gathered. It took students another 2-3 minutes to come out of the "burning" building, led by their teachers. They lined up in rows as usual and three people proceeded to tell them things. One of them is the village fire marshall who came along with an assistant in a small fire pick-up truck. He spoke as a man knowing that he has a captive audience in teenagers...and they were bored out of their minds...and they could understand the man! imagine me..standing there in my pirate outfit, drawing skull and bones on the field with my loafers. he he
So in order to spice things up, the assistant brought out a metal pan and 4 big spray canisters. Several kids practiced spraying water into the pan from a 5 m distance. Then he brought out lighter fluid, dumped some in the pan and lit it!
See that happenning in an MPS school anytime soon?!
The science teacher put it out with a fire extinguisher and it was lit again for a 3rd grade girl to put out. (don't forget that 3rd grade J.H.S. is equivalent to 9th grade) not a tiny kid, but still..quite impressive.
The kids were talked at a bit more, I found out that this is done once a year, and we all piled back into the building. On the way in, my JTE confessed that he and two other taechers made a mistake taking kids out of the building. They walked their classes right into the corridor where the wind was blowing smoke in their direction, so the kids would have burned or died of smoke inhalation. But that was the route indicated on the plan and they just didn't think about another option that would have led the kids outside via another way.
When that was over, i only had 30 more minutes of my day, so if i remember correctly, i spent them on the net. :)