Thursday, July 20, 2006

a bit at a loss here. too many things to mention.
let's start with the more pressing and annoying--the getting of Japanese Drivers License.
ok. so after a year of driving with the International Drivers License, Japanese government requests that foreigners change their license to the Japanese one. Easy, right? not so much. For most nationals this would require a trip (or two) to Okinawa's capitol, Naha, standing in a couple of lines, filling out paperwork, paying nearly 70$, standing in a couple of more lines, waiting for a couple of hours, and then coming back on another day to receive a brand new japanese license!
for Americans, as well as Brazilians, South Africans, and a handful of other nationals the process is a wee bit more dragged out. We actually have to take the written and practical tests to receive the coveted piece of plastic. No big, you'd think. Make an appointment, show up, fill out paperwork, take the tests. Easy.
Ah, but what's the rush, my friend? Why not go once to fill out the paperwork. Second time (and only on a wednesday) to take a 10 question T/F test, come back again (again only on a Wednesday) and take the driving test. Pass?! Great! Come back again, mon ami, watch a video and get your license. Four trips to the capital..if you're lucky. More than likely, you will fail the driving test and will have to come back again and again to retake it. It is actually recommended that foreigners pay 50$ to go to a driving school for an afternoon to better their chances of passing the test. But why is it so hard? you might ask. I've been driving in Okinawa for a year and I've been driving in my home country far longer than that, what's the difficulty in passing a test, one that doesn't even require parallel parking?
A few. First, please be sure to check under the car for animals and children, then readjust the mirrors several times, don't forget to look over your shoulder a few times as you drive on a encloased course with no other cars, also when you speed up to the required 40km/hr and then have to turn right, please drop your speed within seconds to below 20km/hr in order to take the turn. When deciding to change lanes, first check your blind spot then turn on blinker then proceed to move (i've been trying to practice that while driving and always fail. am i wrong or must one first turn on blinker then check blindspot?)...and so on and so forth.
So i've been down to Naha twice already; took the paper test which was a complete joke and more aggrivating that it was so easy because i had to spend 4 hours in the car to get there and back. I can't take the driving test until i get back from the States, so wish me luck then. Hopefully i'll pass but more than likely not. Nearly 100$ spent already and counting.

In other news. Summer vacation has arrived! Today was last day of classes and students cleared out their desks and classroom nooks. That used to be my favorite part of finishing a school semester or year--going through all the paper and tossing 90% of them out. Ok, lying. I have tons of papers, but some came in handy. For instance, i kept my notebook from 9th grade U.S. history and used the outlines from it when i taught the same class last year at Bayview HS.

Last week we watched fireworks in Motobu at Ocean Expo Park. This was the 30th year of the fireworks and instead of the usual 5,000, 10,000 fireworks were shot from two locations off the coast. The first part of the show was done in sync to music and the second, more spectacular part was only accompanied by the "ooohs" and "aaaahs" of the enchanted crowd. They were truly the best fireworks i have ever seen.

I've signed the new contract for the upcoming JET year! Something ritualistic about that.

I am missing out on several festivals when i go home next week to visit family and friends. The most dissapointing will be the Ogimi festival; it's nowhere near the biggest or coolest but it's our own and it would have been cooler this year 'cause i actually know many more people and over a hundred kids by name.

Happy Birthday yesterday to David Crennen. I hosted a small dinner party and made mashpotatoes, a japanese style salad, and we each cooked our own Aussie steaks. 'twas delicious and then the three of us watched, "Run Lola Run." Good times. The cake was great too, as it should be, as i am the best cakegetter.

Saw "Superman Returns" the other day on base. Not bad, actually. i don't know much about the whole Superman saga. Just that he's super but as any hero has a weak spot...for a certain lady. nah, kryptonite.
Am really looking forward to the Pirates film which will be at Schwab on Monday.

I went to DFS yesterday. It's a store in Naha where one can only shop with an airplane ticket as it is all duty free. Well, not all, there's a small shop with local gifts and that's where i went. But i had to walk through the rest of the complex to get there. Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Burberry, BLVGARI all fancy shmancy cosmetic lines, Rolex, Cartier, Tiffany & co. and so on and so forth. Clean, fancy, sophisticated and way too rich for my blood, of course. It was a world of magazine covers and impecable dress. It was too much and yet I was drawn to the lights, the flare, the colors. Why do we need items to reaffirm status, or better yet, why would someone who intellectually can reason through a need for a status item can still be drawn by it. How much are we affected by advertising and glitter, and why even awareness of the gimmick can't protect us from it?
I tried on a pair of Oakleys, and i actually really wanted to buy them. A practical purchase on a island with blaring sun. But my international ticket was no good; i had to have one that first made a stop on mainland Japan. Foiled again.
the DFS in Okinawa also has a Food Colloseum which is a cool spot.

So many things to do before leaving. I have to pack and clean my aparto. People might be staying there while visiting the north. on Saturday I am going to Ie island with some teachers and parents and then in the evening there is the Block 1 goodbye party in Nago. Sunday i am driving south again to work at the examination of future high school English teachers. Monday i have to transfer the gold fish from my apartment to the school so that Noriko-san can take care of them while i'm away....and a few other little things, like changing money and paying bills.

Perhaps i'll write a blog while visiting home. wouldn't exactly be fitting with the title of the blog but hey.


Wednesday, July 05, 2006

This week's grammar in 2nd grade:
"what do you want to be?" "what do you want to do?" the key words are "want" and "do". please don't forget the little tiny "to" as it makes all the difference.
been thinking about that question this past week. what is it that i want to do? what is it that i wanted to accomplish while here? it's nearing a year; people are coming and going. they're starting something new and i am staying here another year. so what happens when i'm done? what do i want to be when i grow up? funny question, i know. at my age i should know right? it should be clear and yet it was only clear when i was young. i wanted to be an archaeologist since i was 12. oh yes, i also wanted to be a movie director. those are the only two i remember clearly wanting. i went for the first one because i lack any three dimensional creativity.
so i did that. i was one. it was great. chose another path, walking a new road. what do i want to be when i grow up?
usually this type of thinking would depress me just slightly. sometimes greatly. but right now, i'm ok. here. right now. i am ok. i feel that i am doing what i want. i am achieving what i came to achieve. and i'm also finding all sorts of gems i never forethought.
mostly--they're my students.

yesterday in the 1st grade class we were playing a game i haven't tried until now called "whispers". i whisper a sentence to a student in the back of a row and it gets passed along to the front through whispers and the student at the front writes it on the board. worked well with the 3rd graders but created a bit of confusion in the 1st grade class. After the first round i was asking the kids to switch--front students to the back and rest move up. One kid, Kaito, a hillarious little menace who flat out told me a month ago that he doesn't like English (but at least he likes me), was trying to get his friend to move to the back as i had instructed. I think he just wanted to be in the front. So i came up to sort out the confusion and Kaito looks at me and says in English while pointing at his friend, "Technical foul. What's the penalty?"
I had to laugh and out loud, and then i pointed at the friend and in a serious voice told him that the penalty is to go to the back. Kaito agreed. And that's a gem.
In 3rd grade class today, i said "Stand up" and one of the girls sang it Eminem style, "please stand up, please stand up" and so i joined in with the hand gestures. made her laugh. after class it was, "Elina sensei...Eminem? like?" he he. yeah. i guess i did at one point. and then she sang a bit of, "My name is...My name is..." and "chikachika" is in my head still.

My English Club girls were asking me on Friday whether they could have penpals from America. They are specifically wanting to correspond with teenage boys. :)

Yuu took 2nd place at the All Okinawa story contest on Monday. I was surprised but not really. The competition was tough, some of the students spoke near fluently, the one who took first place spent 10 years (of her 15) in the states. But Yuu was at his best. He had never told it as well as he told it that day, and even though i know the story by heart, i was laughing along with everyone. I was so proud of him. He's an awesome kid.

They see me in the hall and shout "hellos"; they wave goodbyes when i pull out the parking lot. They stop by my desk between classes and try to talk. A kid in the 3rd grade who is a very low student in all classes but has a warm personality stops by to "chat" every other day. And we do chat. I, with my broken Japanese, and he with his collection of random English utterances. He says, "Elina, Serina" and i say, "Tsubasa, Mikasa" (yeah i know it means "my house" in Spanish, i've seen Pulp Fiction, but it was the first thing that came to my mind when he first shouted my new nickname and he doesn't understand it, so no harm done, right?) :)
The JTE and i had a long conversation about some of the students on the ride back from the story contest. I brought up my concern with a 3rd grader in 3-1 who has grown more reluctant to participate, acts arrogantly, and draws other low achieving students to him. When he is in class and dissinclined to participate, i have 5 boys who don't participate and sometimes blatantly ignore my attempts. The JTE usually does nothing, i have to make it point to ask them to stop talking, i stop talking myself or call on them to answer a question. So during the ride, I mentioned the student to the JTE and he told me that the student lives with his mother who works all day and he is by himself until 9 or 10pm on weekdays. We talked about other students and some of family problems they might be having. How students behave at school is usually influenced by their home situation. It's true for Milwaukee, it's true for Ogimi. When i first met Tsubasa, Gabrielle warned me that he was one of her worst students. She said that his father commited suicide a year before and Tsubasa has grown more reluctant to participate and behave. Right now he is one of my favorite students and either he decided for himself or it was decided for him, but he does not associate with the other rudely rebellious 3rd grade boys, and i'm glad.
I am here for the students and some days i'm tired of being in the school but they always cheer me up.

I wrote most of the above on Wednesday. It's Saturday now and the rest will be a photo blog. Enjoy.

Yuu with his awards at the All Okinawa Story Contest on July 3rd.

July 7th was the Tanabata holiday in Okinawa. It is a Japanese holiday of wish making. Girls of different grades hung up their wishes on the tree. I wrote up a piece of paper as well.

Boys read the wish messages written by girls the day before Tanabata.

At the JET goodbye party in Onna, Julie and Anna.

and here's a link i got from Erik. It entertained Brett and I greatly Friday night.