Thursday, March 30, 2006

the news

i have personalized my Google start page. i get the random headlines from Googlenews and from BBC. Sometimes i click on the items, and most of the time the news i check deals with elections in various countries, riots in France, Israel/Palestine issues. I very rarely will click on a news item that deals with Iraq or Iran. I am not certain that what i'll read will reflect a truth--and then i wonder whose truth am i looking to find.
What's been happenning in Iraq the past four years is difficult to define and describe--especially for someone like me, so far politically and geographically removed from the situation.
Recently, however, i came across a blog written by a young woman from Iraq.
Reading her blog has given me a hold onto what might be happenning in that country--not based on what is being reported on, but on what someone is actually observing. There are probably other sources like this out there, I haven't looked. Hers is overwhelming enough.
I will put up the link to her blog as a permanent addition to my list.
Baghdad Burning is the name of it.

I haven't watched televised news in i don't even know how long. Probably a couple of months. The last news i remember watching was the whale story out of London that i caught when at Josh's apartment in Nago. So i haven't followed the debate going on right now in the United States, and perhaps elsewhere, about what is being reported on in Iraq and what should be reported on.
I have a feeling that most newsorganizations are not inclined to show indepth analysis of what is happenning in Iraq and would rather flash between quick stories and debates. Jason sent me a link of how one reporter sees what is happenning in Iraq and how she views the attacks brought on against her and others' coverage of the situation.
Watch it here

i know. not the most uplifting of blogs.
i feel that i am more inclined now to read the news and ignore it at the same time. that sentence makes sense to me, so no worries if it doesn't to you.

it's quiet in school right now. most teachers have taken their vacation days today. and am sure tomorrow i'll be the only one here. maybe the accountant will show up. so it should be easy enough to skip out half day tomorrow.
today, i came in a bit late, but am staying 'til. 5. sorted out some vocabularly flashcards, chatted on google, had lunch, read. now gonna take a walk and then study.

i have my very first karate belt test tonight. David, Ben, and i are pretty nervous and excited about it. Wish us luck!


Monday, March 27, 2006

Thursday, March 23, 2006

on a rainy thursday

listening to: Vanessa Mae

the end of the school is upon us. tomorrow morning we will have a closing ceremony and the students will be free to roam the village streets for 2 weeks. i expect that some of them will come play at the school during the break. the school will be open because the teachers are required to be here during that time. this vacation time is used for staff rehauling. at our school we are only losing one person--the vice principal. and that's sad, 'cause he's wonderful. a really smart man with a really warm personality. when i first got here Gabrielle pointed him out and said, "doesn't he look like a giant teddy bear?" and that image has stuck with me and is right on the money. the new vice principal will be arriving from the island of Iheya, and i hope he's as computer savvy as Kamayama-san is.
on Saturday, OgimiChu's teachers and administritators will be partying in Naha city as a way to say "goodbye" to the departing staff members (singular in our case). The party is a big deal and all schools have them. Other ALTs have been torn between several parties from all their schools, but i have it easy--one little school, one party.

it's been hard to sit down and start this blog. i've been recently contimplating the reasons why i came here and whether any of them have been justified so far.
i am not complaining or regretting--far from it. just trying to take stock of all that has happened in the last 7 months. and it really has been that long already and it's really hard for me to believe it. feels like i just started here. actually it feels like that every day.
so i always have the dilemma of what to write about. i form entries as i drive from one side of the island to another, but they don't always make it here. like my recent fascination with the Japanese phenomenon of high suicide rates and child self-seclusion known as hikikomori . If you're interested for more info Google it .
am still reading up on it, but it does not seem to be a prevalent phenomena on Okinawa. would be hard to know for sure, though, because of its shameful implications for the families.

yesterday was taken out to dinner by Mr. Taira with my supervisor, Mr. Miyagi, and an office lady from the BOE, Keiko-san. Mr. Taira took us to the same sushiya we went to last time.
Once again i had an incredible meal.....i don't believe i could ever not like sushi and sashimi. there were new tastes last night: i tried an octopus from Hokkaido, a milky soup with a giant oyster, sea urchin, and i finally ate the giant clam (mirugai) and it was fantastic. i've seen the sushi guys cut up the mirugai at Hama and it always looked so strange and smelled a bit off, so i've never braved it. it was worth the wait to have it last night, at a first-class sushiya, delivered fresh from mainland Japan.

mr. taira and mr. miyagi are already talking about me staying here for five years. i would have to take a test to be able to teach elementary school after Gabrielle leaves. as appealing as that sounds, i really don't see myself doing it. some days are really difficult.
like today when i stood in front of the classroom and recited 20 words in a row because the JTE decided to cram two lessons worth of material into the very last English class. the kids were ready to fall out of their desks and i don't blame them. how boring to have their last English class be filled with material that is overwhelming, poorly taught, and mostly useless and/or repeat of stuff they should have already learned.
i am seriously considering starting an English club for the next school year. gonna work on the proposal during spring break.
if i am to believe that i am accomplishing something while i am here that is along the lines of what JET Programme anticipates then i need to start doing things outside of the classroom with the students. i won't be able to change the teaching style in use at the moment by the JTE--although i will not stop trying, but they need more genuine interaction in English, especially the ones that seems to have taken a liking to the language.

thanx to the wonderful planning of ms. Yasemine, a few of us got a chance to see whales off the coast of Okinawa on Tuesday. it was a national holiday and we stayed at Yasemine's monday night to get up early for an 8:30am boarding at a port in Naha. it was a windy three-hour-tour and we followed three whales for 2 out of those 3 hours. we saw one of them make two beautiful jumps. they played very close to the 5 boats that followed them. at one point, one of them came up for air within 5 meters of our boat. extraordinary sight. slightly unreal to experience a sight so natural and yet so rarely observed by humans. am so lucky. and yet i wonder if it doesn't bother them to be in such close vicinity to the boats. although, they didn't seem to mind that much because they didn't stray very far from the boats.
for a much more eloquent and informed account of the experience, please check out Kelly's blog--where she turns her historical skills to nature.

i didn't take too many pics, wouldn't have done justice to the experience but both Kelly and Yasemine lucked out and captured on video the jumps. i will post the photos i have and also from the weekend when Kelly, Chiye and i went to Katsuren castle.

we also went out for pizza last weekend at the famous Motobu restaurant at the top of a mountain.
it's one of those interesting things about Okinawa that a restaurant whose menu offers three food items: an appetizer, a giant salad, and pizza should be on the of the most famous on the island. granted, the view is wonderful and the pizza is well done.


Tuesday, March 14, 2006


that was one of the vocabulary words today in my 2nd grade classes.
appropriately enough the 3rd graders have left, are leaving, are yet to leave. Don't know which tense to use.
They graduated on Friday. It was a beautiful ceremony filled with cheers, songs, and tears. The whole affair is surprisingly different from any other graduation ceremony i have ever experienced. In the states it seems that we are happy when we pass from one place of schooling to another. We are cheered on and teachers are glad to be "rid of us"...not in any mean spirited way of course, but it is seen as yet another step to something else, something better and more important. In Japan, every step is as important as the one before it or the one ahead of it. Of course, i am generalizing here, but judging from the graduation ceremonies, i might not be far off. students are saddened to leave their junior high school. teachers are sad to let go. the homeroom teacher cried as he called out the names of his 27 students, and they yelled to him to be strong and keep going. The girls shed tears, the boys stayed strong and laughed; one of them cried, though, and it was as surprising to me as to others around him. but no one laughed at him. he was crying and it was understood why, and no one could reproach him of his emotion.
The teachers sang a song to the students, i was one of them, and i didn't cry but sympathetic tears did crawl forward as the homeroom teacher spoke to his students.
They gave growing trees to their mothers and fathers; they walked out of the gym through a passageway made up of cheering underclassmen and teary teachers. They were showered with paper conffeti and given presents and words of encouragement.
it was dramatic and over the top. but it made sense.
School is everything here. it is not just a place for education, it is a place where the primary group resides. students see their teachers and peers more during the week than they see their families. it's not surprising then that they are hesitant to let go.

so much so, that half of the 3rd grade class is right now at school. They are here today because the results of the high school entrance exams came out this morning. unfortunately two students did not get into the high schools of their choice. yet, one student got into the number one high school in Okinawa. so lots to cheer for, and everyone is thrilled for them. In between classes, all i hear are screams of 2nd and 1st grade girls as they encounter a new 3rd grader to congratulate.

i wonder if some of them will come back to school tomorrow and every day until the end of term. i wouldn't be surprised if they did.

Today is also "White Day," the opposite of Valentine's Day in Japan. On White Day women are to receive back the presents they gave their husbands and boyfriends on VDay. As a rule, i am told, men are usually forgetful of all the presents they have received from not only their co-workers but wives as well, and women don't expect much on White Day. Yet this morning all the female teachers at Ogimi Chu found a nicely wrapped box of chocolates on their desks. We don't know who they're from, but we're guessing that the vice principal is behind it.

The weekend was good.
The India crew did a great job for the India fundraiser--thanx to everyone who showed up at Paul and Mike's or gave us contrubutions but couldn't make it. It was a fun night for all and we raised a good amount of money to pass onto the Ananda Marga chapter in West Bengal, India. Thanx, again.

I saw the film, Narnia , on Sunday and loved it. Walked away with a warm feeling of wonder. A good story well told.

and last night watched once again, "He died with a felafel in his hand" and i would highly highly recommend it to anyone who appreciates quirky Australian humor.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

International Women's Day

International Women's Day

Happy International Women's Day!!!

S Prazdnikom Vosmogo Marta vsex jenshin i devushek!!

yes.. i know. most of you will say, "huh?!" when reading this. of course, those of you with any connection at all to the former soviet union won't have to worry--it's been engraved into your brain, along with songs from "Cheburashka" (surprizingly popular in Japan) and a belief that Russian history is unshackably the best.

in other news, photos will be up because i solved the technical problem standing in my way.
i also discovered i am a decent cook.


Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Kin youbi kara

that says, i think, "from Friday.."
so let's start there.
Friday was a special day. Both nationally and locally. Nationally, it was the day of the Hina Matsuri or the Doll Festival. It is a festival that these days is meant to celebrate the daughters of the family and to ensure their happiness and future success in marriage. Beautiful dolls are displayed prominently in a family's home, they are usually dressed in Heian-era (794-1185AD) costumes and can be quite costly (a full set of 15 dolls can get to be as much as $25,000). It used to be that the dolls were made out of paper and were used to transfer into all the illness and misfortune that might have befallen a family and then tossed into the river or brook near the house that way assurring a healthy year for the family. But traditions change and currently the festival is a day to celebrate daughters, and to make sure that there is nothing standing in the way of them being married succesfully it is believed that the doll display must be taken down and stored away the day after the matsuri, thus preventing any procrastination.
Click here for more on Hina Matsuri .
The 3rd of March is also connected with Peach Blossoms. These flowering blooms come second on Okinawa after cherry blossoms, whereas on mainland they will appear first. So some families may display a twig of blossoming peach next to the dolls.

Locally, friday was special because it was the last day that 3rd graders attended a full day of school at Ogimi Junior High School. In the morning we had classes as usual but in the afternoon we had a unique PE class. The boys played soccer against each other outside, and girls prepared for a dance show in the gym. The girls were split either by class (the entire 1-2 class performed together) or they were split among friends, so 2-1 and 2-2 girls mixed. The performances were hillarious and spirited and were all done in good fun and to cheer up the 3rd graders.
I have photos up in a separate School Folder on the Fotki site--check them out. The biggest surprise for me was the win of 1-2 boys over 3-1 boys. I was sure that the older boys would win, after all they are two years older, taller, stronger...but the 1st graders surprized me scoring 2:1 and winning that match. Pretty cool.

So Friday night I got together with Kelly and we went to hang out at Keri's. It was a good night of girls hanging out and even though a TV was brought up to watch a movie, we never quite got around to it. The next morning Kelly and i went for an American style breakfast buffet at Awase golf course, and i drove down to Itoman.
That evening I had the pleasure of attending with Yasemine and Ayse, the Itoman HS Brass Band concert. It was an incredibly well performed concert. The band performed several numbers as a whole, then individual performers were showcased, and the same students also sang two songs (one of them a hymnal in English and Latin). In the third portion of the concert we were treated to a full band performance of "Take the A Train," "Star Wars" main theme, and "Sing Sing Sing." And of course it was awesome to see our very own Chris Madole perform those numbers along side his students. Chris played two different saxophones and did a solo with two other sax players during one of the numbers. It was a great concert and also an emotional one for 3rd graders of Itoman HS. Before the last song was played, all 3rd graders came out front and center and were given flowers and special words, written by 1st and 2nd graders were read about each one of them.

Sunday, we got to watch Ayse participate in a kayak race on the beach near Chris' place, had a late breakfast of delicious banana and chocolate chip pancakes and Chris and i headed off to do some exporing in the southeast of the island.
Will have photos from that and the concert up in the next two days-still working out the technical difficulties.

But the coolest thing taht happened this weekend was being invited into the home of Chris' neighbors when we were coming back to his place later Sunday. The family was hosting a dinner for one of Chris' neighbors who is from Hokkaido and will be leaving on the 2nd of April to go back home. We were given food and drink and actually managed to talk to them for nearly 2 hours. It was really fun and between the two of us Chris and i decided that we speak Japanese well enough to be understood. I was actually surprised by how much i could say and understand--it was good knowing that all the studying and attempts are not going by wayside and some things are actually remaining inside my head.

I drove home after and got in around 1am.

The weekend was so eventful and tiring that i had to take a Monday off. The best decision ever! I had a day to clean, call family, launder, figure out the clothes line situation (now i don't have one at all), and to take a walk in Okuma, study there and have dinner.

I also watched "Some Girl" a 1998 film with Giovanni Ribisi, his twin sister Marissa, Michael Rappaport, and Juliette Lewis. I enjoyed it.

So now back in school. This Friday we will have the graduation ceremony for 3rd graders; on Thursday there will be rehearsals and cleaning all day. So tomorrow will be the last day to teach for this week.

oh. and hooray for Japanese scientists who have found a way to extract gasoline from cow dung!! Not only that, apparently it is also a source of fragrance. Check it out!