Wednesday, December 28, 2005

the many faces of india

there's a small picture of a deity on top of the harddrive. it's gilded and has many hands and many's sitting on top of a dove...i've just been told that she's Gaity and is a goddess of the Brahmin.

do the untouchbles have a goddess? i don't know yet.

we're in Panskura right now. a small town near Kolkata. it's a rural looking place. the streets are not paved, every place one looks, there is trash...
but the people are beautiful. fantastic. kind. and their spirits override the way we might perceive their lives as westerners.
it's hard being here. it's overwhelming.

one day Ben and i took a walk. a man came up to us. he told us to follow him through the fields. we did. we were hesitant. we didn't want to end up in his house and have to refuse his hospitality/food..which we would have to so that we wouldn't get sick.. but the man took us to another large field where men and young guys were playing criquet. once the match was done, a man came up to us and told us that we would be given wreaths of marygolds and they would represent respect and honor given to us as guests of these people. Marygolds were draped over our heads and i held back tears.
these people who have nothing....have so much. so much more than i've ever had.

a week to go. i won't ever be able to tell you all about it in words.
but i'll try.


Thursday, December 22, 2005

dehli air

the night of the 21st
i have a t-shirt that shelley gave to me
it says, "Wisconsin: Smell the dairy air"
ha ha
funny, right?

in Dehli..
well..can't smell too much right now 'cause am a bit sick
but also 'cause it's very smoggy
as we landed, the captain said that there are clear skies over Dehli, but that we won't see them because of the heavy smog.
Chinese Airlines are awesome. Highly recommend them for international flights. Great food and service.
Staying one night in Dehli, then off to West Bengal on a 16 hour train ride.
Will walk around tomorrow and try and see a few things before we leave at 3pm.

As we were driving, the taxi driver put in a tape. Before the music was playing, the whole thing seemed like a crazy movie set i had just wondered on....but with the music and the smog and the traffic horns and the lack of road demarcation and the cow in front of the hit me
i'm in India

mid-day on the 22nd

ate on the roof of the hotel last night. good food. so problems.
met a couple of women from Uzbekistan..the owner goes there on business..the owner offered us the whiskey from his table.

this morning walked around for a bit.
if it wasn't for the white haze of the smog, i'm sure we'd see the sun.
words fail for description.
lots of people...and much energy...
i like it.
a lot


Tuesday, December 20, 2005

S Nastupaushim Novim Godom!

greetings, cheers, and salutations.
The line above is one of my favorite phrases in the russian language. Not because it is particularly deep or unique. The literal translation is a bit difficult, "Happy Upcoming New Years!" is what it means.
However, it carries with it feelings and thoughts of a winter season filled with anticipation for a cheerful holiday, full of fun, laughter, presents, and most importantly time with family and friends. I love New Years. The last couple of years i spent it with my sisters and Shelley...dancing. I will miss that this year, along with many other things.
I will try and find a place to dance at this New Years Eve in Kolkata, if that's where we end up on the 31st. Hopefully, my new friends and I will spend it together, and it somewhat doesn't matter where (well.. almost doesn't... :) )

I leave tomorrow. My friends already there have e-mailed updates and some are already sick and all are bewildered by the experience. So i can't wait to see what they've been seeing...although hopefully i'll skip out on the getting sick part of it.

We fly from Naha to Taipei and then to New Dehli. The next day we take an overnight train to Kolkata. That part i'm really looking forward to... Love trains!! or at least, i loved them when i was kid and we took days long journeys from Kazakhstan to Russia and Ukraine..

please hold me to this. When my JET experience is over, i will take a trip on the Tran-Siberian..from Beijing to Moscow...really looking forward to that..

but that's for another day...
tomorrow... it's the land of the Ganges and Gandhi...


Thursday, December 15, 2005

with a tootsie pop

after lunch
students are "cleaning"
i think they are...most of the time all i hear are screaming girls running through the halls and see boys clustered in packs outside.
so yeah. cleaning
i like tootsie pops.
i'm glad i can buy american candy sometimes.
it's bad mostly 'cause i eat it, but i got the pops to offer to anyone who donates to my "India Box" of school supplies.
i am going to India on the 21st of December. the trip was organized by the awesome Lauren, Cory (mainland JETs) and our very own Elvira. It is set up through G.O.M.A.D. (Go out and make a difference) NGO...and is Lauren's baby, as far as i understand it.
The idea caught the attention of several first year JETs, so there are 9 Okinawan JETs going as well a friend of Yasemine's, Reyhan, who is a teacher at a base elementary school.
The bulk of the group will be going to Dehli on the 16th and we will all meet up at the orphanage in West Bengal. The plan is to volunteer our natural ability to speak English and teach it. The orphanage organized a week-long language camp for their kids and for kids from the community. There are 20 volunteers in total (mainlanders as well as Okinawans) and possibly over 200 kids of elementary school age.
After the camp we are on our own until we fly back all together this time to Oki-land on the 4th of January, getting into Naha on the 5th.
I plan on spending the time after the camp exploring West Bengal. I will probably stay in Kolkatta (formerly Calcutta) for a couple of nights.

i am going to India

in honor of our trip, a really nice friend of JETs on Okinawa, Shore, organized a dinner party at his parents' house last night.
Shore's parents are originally from Bombay but have been living on Okinawan for over 30 years.
His mother cooked traditional food and made us wonderful coconut dessert. It was great. The dinner guests were very diverse: JETs, military, Okinawans. It truly felt like i was a part of an "internationalization" effort. Although that's what I'm supposed to be providing to the students, I am in fact being internationalized myself more frequently.

here's a pic from a little while ago.
it's a funny one

i thought i'd share it..
kelly got a kid's meal one night at a restaurant..and to play along, Chris suggested that i pretend to feed her.
the pic cracks me up every time.


Wednesday, December 07, 2005

check this out

Update: Block one is awesome! and i'm not just saying that 'cause it's my Block. We kicked a** in the third round of the Block Games, 3000 points ahead of the next team.
End of Update

so you're probably wondering what it is that JETs do during their hardworking days on the island? Yes, we party seemingly all the time on the weekends, but what about those week days when we are working hard at school and come home exhausted and ready to pass out? How do we keep ourselves entertained and retain our sanity in the sea of never ending confusion created by living here?

Seriously, though. There's a new Okinawa JET game in town and you, as an outside observer, can actually step inside our life on Okinawa and feel like you're a part of the adventure. Or just look at some silly pictures.

The Keitai Photo Blitz ( keitai means cell phone) started on Monday December 5th. All rules are explained on the page and pics are posted daily for the entrees. I've taken a couple already and you'll see my name hopefully a few times as Block 1 will cruise to be the winner of this challenge as well. (we came in second in the 1st event of the Block Games and easily won the second one). So deffinately check out all the Block 1 pics, and perhaps other blocks' pics might be worth a peek at. Phil's toilet dress would have been hillarious had his keitai taken a bigger pic of it, but it's still pretty good.

new photos are up on the fotki page with full explanations.
And now counting 16 days to India.


Friday, December 02, 2005

getting stood up

last night i got stood up on a date. i went to bed in tears, my tortured being completely crushed and not wanting to see the next sunrise. oh the misery!

so how about a weekly recap? i think it's about time i do it.. and it's almost not a coincidence that today is friday and i'm done teaching for the week.

Monday--find out that my JTE's wife gave birth to a baby girl, Riko. Everything went fine, this happened Sunday, and she's in the hospital with the baby. I team-teach one class, the other one is 2nd graders and they're getting ready for a prefectural test on Thursday, so it's just review of grammar and taking tests from last year all week for them and i'm not needed.

Tuesday--on my own! JTE had to go and hang out with his toddler because he was driving his wife nuts in the hospital. I have three classes scheduled, two of them are 2nd graders, so no real hassle, i just give them pre-tests and they quietly work on them the whole class period. Oh yeah! That's right! quietly! the 3rd class is first grade class and they're my favorite. I love their energy and pure enthusiasm. Ok, so not all of them are angels who want nothing more than to know English better today than yesterday, but most of them are, so that's enough for a really good class. I planned out a lesson for new grammar and it went reasonably well. Surprizingly enough I actually have enough Japanese now that i can eliminate most confusion when it comes to directions. Gestures, broken Japanese, and help from the advanced students and we had a good time.
Tuesday night Ben, David and I go for our first karate lesson in Nago. The sensei is great. Most students are kids ranging in age from 4 to 15 and there are three to four moms. I love it! I am in so much pain!

Wednesday--JTE is back. Classes go well. In the evening i go to the hospital to visit JTE's wife. That's right, she's still in the hospital. She's actually not due to check out until Friday and that's quite normal--she is in perfect health. The hospital is small, must be specifically for new moms. It looks like a hotel, feels nice and warm, the rooms have tatami flooring and there are Christmas decorations everywhere! The baby is tiny and adorable.

Thursday--more classes, more karate. i can barely walk, and one of the ladies at the dojo told us that she's been coming for 4 months and for the first three, her legs were in pain. Great! the only state that is good for me is the one of rest. Getting up, sitting down, standing, moving.. it all hurts. Raising arms hurts as well, but not as much.
oh, yeah. and i got stood up! I went home straight from karate (well.. excepting a stop at MaxValue for some boxed sashimi and squid salad) to meet Kelly on Skype for our well planned date. It was so well planned, in fact, that we had a pre-meeting meeting two days prior. Does she show? no! she doesn't! she breaks my heart instead.
and comes up with some lame excuse about falling asleep for 5 hours. Whatever!
Kelly and I need to start planning our lessons for India--we'll be team teaching.

Friday--on my own!! Two classes. Both classes i planned on my own. One was 2nd graders and they had just taken their tests, so games was the name of the game. First i gave back their prefectural test and they got to check it against the master sheet. They do this on their own; sometimes it's nice how completely institutionalized these kids are. Then we play a game. It's based on "hot potato"..Two objects, one is for question, the other is for answer. While the music is playing the objects are passed around, when the music stops, the kid with the "question" item gets to reach into a little bag of questions i prepared. He asks, she answers, music starts again. Worked like a charm! Of course there was cheating, and item tossing/throwing and a few kids had to be basically told what to say, but they liked it and it got them to speak ENglish at the same time.
The next period are 3rd graders. I came up with an activity for a grammar point. There are 6 cards around the room with clues written on them. Cards are big, colorful with lots of clipart. The clues are written using the grammar point, "that" pronoun. Kids team up in max groups of 3 and walk around from card to card, writing down their guesses on sheets of paper made for that purpose. Most kids were involved in it, some boys were letting their friends do most of the work, but no real problems (there never are). The game goes swimmingly, kids learn a few new things: Russia is the largest country in the world, Elina is from Russia, tiger is the biggest cat, soccer requires 11 players per team, etc. With 10 minutes left of the class, we play "hot potato" and it goes well once again. It goes so well in fact, that the very last question picked and asked is "when are you going to Kyushu?" and as the bell sounds, the student answers, "Tomorrow!"
Yeah. I know. I want to go too.
Instead I'm going to Itoman...i guess that'll do.