Monday, November 27, 2006

november has zoomed past. honestly, i have no idea what happened to the month. it was busy, and it's not quite over with. On the 3rd of the December i am taking the 4th level of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test. Quite a few JETs are taking it, but most of them are levels above me. 3rd and 2nd levels are quite popular. I'm nowhere near that stage. But then again, unlike most of the folks taking 2nd level JLPT, i haven't studied Japanese for 2 to 3 years prior to coming here.
Other brave JETs will be running the Naha City Marathon on the same day. We shall have an "otsukaresamadeshita" dinner/party after to be sure.

I'll make this post a photo blog. Will be easier to fill in the holes, and also organize my thoughts about this fast fleeting month.

am sure you're curious as to what the wander crab looked like. Here he is after his initial capture by 3rd year boys.

a couple of weekends ago, Ben, JingJing and I went to the Ada falls. My first time back in a year. They're gorgeous in the fall but i didn't even think of swimming. Ben, on the other hand only had the swim in mind. Here is JingJing taking a photo of him dancing on the stones after coming out of the freezing water.

During the MidYearConference for all Okinawan ALTs, we had several fun activities planned. One of them was a block photo scavanger hunt. Only three blocks participated and true to last year's spirit, Block 1 won. Here is one of the photos where we had to capture a Kokusaidori sign. Liz and Thai Bui are 1st years in our block.

MYC also saw the spectacular return of the Color Rangers. This is my favorite photo from the night they showed up in their infamous tracksuits, in white t-shirts with colorcoordinated markers for signing.

After the MYC i rushed home for a sunday afternoon of concert watching and seeing artwork made my Junior High school students of Yonbaru. Here are some of Ogimi boys checking out bobbinghead dolls.

A very international thanksgiving gang at Okuma buffet. Should have taken the pic when we had just got there and filled our plates with all the yummy food. But was too busy eating.

Harleys!! on Gate2 Street in Okinawa City. Was wondering about the area and stumbled on a Harley fest of sorts. Lots of riders on the island, Japanese and American. Impressive bike display. For a second felt like i was on Brady street, the only things missing were the bars lining the streets with their tables on the sidewalk and their customers.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


as all stories that involve children and animals that are not meant to be touched by children end in sadness, ours is no different.
the story of a crab who went too far is not an inspiring one. it is sad and also truly revealing of the human nature's cruel, though unintentionally so, side.
but it's really not all so bad. the crab came into our lives a healthy specimen of an otherworldness; a creature thriving for experience. we learned from him and hopefully before his spirit passed on to crab heaven he also pondered about the various new things he came across.
the last i left the story of the crab, he had stealthily escaped his confinement and was constructing a masterplan that would lead to his eventual escape from the starkly white confines of the teachers' office. his plan worked, but he got distracted. he noticed the joy of basketball gaming and went towards the noise. he wanted to get in on the game. so it was because of his curiousity that he was found Saturday afternoon in the school's gym, instead of making his way towards the ocean (although how the poor thing would have crossed the road unharmed remains a mystery and a flaw in his original plan). By the time he was found in the gym, however, he had already used up most of his energy, poor creature and was deemed unhealthy enough to be released into the wild. not genky enough to be free or to be eaten, he was back again in the original glass cage. He was given a banana to keep him occupied as well as several roots and twigs. But when a spirit is thwarted so is the will to carry on. It is with sadness that i report the demise of the crab, today (time unknown but sometime after 3rd period and before lunch ended) Tuesday October 14th.

i was going to write in more detail about the educational curiousities i have encountered in the last week, but i am sad enough at the moment. if i start talking about JTE's demonstration class from last week, or the English teachers meeting, or the student teacher's last day, i might just start crying.

but for all those with an educational experience, i will say this. Japan does not have grade specific, subject specific standards. I learned this information from a University professor on Friday. He came to observe his student's (my student teacher's) last class, and we had a meeting after it. He is attempting to work the standards into the Japanese system but it is a slow going process. Bureaucracy ain't pretty here.
Once again, dear readers. There are no standards. There are no behavior specific goals. There is nothing that can guide a teacher except a textbook, and how textbooks are written without standards is a complete mystery to me.
There are general objectives, however. So for example, students after completing several years of English education are expected to be able to make a speech.
Want more specific instructions? Goodluck!

sadder than the crab story?
to me it is.


Friday, November 10, 2006

i'm in danger. not in any imminent kind. but i am. actually, it'll be more accurate to say that my feet are. in danger of being snapped at by a giant crab while i sit here typing away at the school's computer. am not kidding either. A giant crab is on the loose in the teacher's office. although right now it's probably snoozing away in a dark corner under some boxes, waiting for his chance to sneak away undiscovered under the cover of darkness. poor thing doesn't yet know that the office doors will be locked over the weekend and he might have to spend three days running around amongst chairs, tables, boxes and books to no avail.
how did this come about, you might ask. or if you've taught in a japanese school system, you might not ask--you'll probably just laugh.
well. what happened was. a 3rd grade student found a giant crab. and by giant, i mean its claws are about 10cm long. so this beast sat in a cardboard box while everyone looked amused and asked whether it will or should be eaten. then it was transfered to a fish tank with nothing to keep it company. it was left in the teacher's office overnight with heavy books and a box covering up the tank. it was given a mikan (a citrus fruit) to keep it from starving. the room was locked and during the night the crab pulled itself up, pushed aside the books and the box and crawled out of his confinement. this was discovered in the morning and ever since then, every once in a while a teacher or two will "search" the room with a concerned look on their face. i did my bit. i pushed some boxes and looked under some shelves. right now two 3rd grade girls have taken upon themselves to find the poor bastard. so far, no luck. the search continues and my feet are still in danger.

lots of things happened. i'll try to give them to you in short snippets.

went to a wedding last Sunday. It was a wonderful event. Lovely and happy. I have pictures from it on the fotki page in the November album. What i found interesting was that the ceremony took place at a catholic style church adjacent to a giant hotel. Only close friends and family were present at the ceremony and others were invited to celebrate at a reception after. Round tables were set up in a large banquet hall. It was very western style, even a giant cake was present. I did notice later that the cake was entirely fake and there was a premade slit in it where the couple held the knife pretending to cut the cake. But in a very Japanese fashion, the first person to give a toast was the bride's boss. The family actually didn't give any toasts. His was the only toast before dinner and other events. Congrutulations were shown through dances and skits. I along with all the teachers from Ogimi Chuu performed a dance skit during which the couple was called out onto the stage and made to kiss. The groom's sisters also danced and so did the girls basketball team made up entirely of 3rd graders. The whole reception was a lot of fun and the food was delicious. At the end, people piled out and personally congratulated the parents and the newlyweds. We gave our money envelopes in the beginning and all were given a nice present in return. I found it amusing that it was cookies and cakes made in traditional Pennsylvania Dutch family style.
When driving back, I asked about the ceremony taking place in a church, whether the couple was Christian. I was told that most likely they are not. It's just a current style for young women to be married in a church after the couple is officially married at a city hall. They think the churches are beautiful and they like the way the ceremony looks. So then i asked how the marriages were performed on Okinawa before. Turns out the ceremony was done at home in front of the groom's family's shrine. A person of rank who knew both the groom and bride would officiate. The bride was also given a dowry and moved into the groom's house. But before the ceremony at the groom's house, a ceremony of giving the daughter away was performed at the bride's family. I was told that some people may still chose to do it that way. Mainland is different because of Shinto, of course. I saw a wedding ceremony performed at a Shinto shrine when i was in Fukuoka. The bride was dressed in a very traditional wedding kimono. The bride at the wedding i went to wore the same dress the entire time, whereas i heard that if the bride wore a traditional dress for the ceremony she would change at least once for the reception. Some of my friends have been to weddings like that in Okinawa.
whew. that took longer than expected, and i've yet a few things to share. but it's time to go home, so perhaps i'll pick up here sometime during the weekend.


Thursday, November 02, 2006

there's nothing like a bit of schedule manipulation to get one going in the morning. schedule changes are certainly nothing to marvel at after 15 months at a Japanese JHS. i am deffinately used to the idea of classes being "cut" and schedules shifted for multiple reasons and purposes. This week, however, has been a wonderful exercise in keeping teachers on their toes. Tuesday, Halloween day, 5th and 6th period were meant to be cut for shiquasa picking. By this point, dear reader of blog, you should have an idea what shiquasa is and its importance as a prominent citrus in my stories. but if you don't, here's what wiki has to say about it. Spellings are different. hmm. maybe i should expand on that stub?
anyways. we have lots of shikwasa bearing trees all around the school and twice a year students pick them. They are quite ripe now, the skin is actually starting to turn yellow. But the weather turned sour at the start of the week; it's been rainy since monday and so the picking had be canceled and 5th and 6th period reinstated on Tuesday. That meant that student teacher and i had 3 Halloween lessons that day and one regular lesson. Wednesday, the weather didn't improve and all classes stayed on schedule. Then i accidently overheard that 1st period would be canceled on Thursday. That meant a 2nd grade class had to go. When a class is cut, all others move "down" so i knew we'd have 3-2 2nd period and 2-2 3rd. So in the morning, i confirm that schedule with JTE and look at what will have to be taught--am also assuming that student teacher has planned at least an outline of a lesson plan. 10 minutes later, head teacher changes the schedule and cancels 2nd period as well. That's right folks. Now 3-2 is 1st period of the day and we have 25 minutes before it starts and student teacher is with her homeroom class, and i have no idea if she actually prepared anything.
so i look at the lesson, get an idea for an activity to do for practicing new grammar and make up the worksheet. student teacher comes to the office, 15 min before class starts, realizes she has two classes in a row starting NOW and is visibly frazzled. poor thing. fortunately, she did plan for it a bit; made up a worksheet with grammar explanation. so i went through the lesson plan with her and we went to class. and it went well.
next class. uhm. not so much. but ya know. we had to prep for it in 10 minutes and she did well enough.
so there you go. the beauties of a japanese scheduling system. anything goes!

it's now sunny but windy and actually....colder. ouch. anything but that! oh the grayness of Okinawa winters; how sad i'll be to see the sun go.
anyways. the students are out there picking shikwasa or making it look like they are. Nearly 30 students are however training for an eikiden race on Saturday. I think it's 20km. Don't know if i'll be going, as there might be an ultimate frisbee game in the works for Saturday afternoon in Okinawa City.

oh. and tomorrow is Culture Day, which means day off, which means i get to sleep in and call Shelley and those are two very wonderful things to have to look forward to.

also, i must say that the new Tropicana Dark Cherry Juice is a lovely addition to the convenient store's selection of juices. I've only tried it once and was a bit uncertain of it. It's deffinately a cherry flavor but there's something odd about it. Will have to try again to make sure my preference.

I am told there is a 5 storey 100Yen store in Tokyo. It's owned by the Daiso company, which i believe owns most of the really nice 100Yen stores. I am very curious indeed.

Oh, and am very excited for a chance to experience my first Japanese wedding this Sunday. Most of my friends on Okinawa have been to at least one and i was starting to feel left out but that will change on Sunday. yipee.

ok. enough randomness.