Thursday, December 27, 2007

Writing to you from Ayuthaya, the ancient capitol of Thailand or Siam as it was once known. We spent one night here after two in Kanchanaburi and one in Nakhon Pathom before that. Today we will make our way back to Bangkok and then almost immediately will be on a train down to Trang to start the "island" part of our journey. We're all very excited for the overnight train trip because we had to purchase 1st class tickets and will now have two compartments to ourselves. we purchased first class because all other s were sold out but i'm glad. I think it will be a fun train journey. The island adventure will start off in Ko Lanta and from there plans are yet uncertain. But we didn't have specific plans for the first part of the trip and things worked out just fine.
It's still very hot, though nice and cool in the early mornings and evenings. Wonder what the south will be like.

Most things on the trip have been fantastic so far. The food, the people, the places we're staying have all so far been exceptional, surprising, and enjoyable. Highlights so far include the visit to the Tiger Temple, the thai massage, the ruins in Ayuthaya and near Kanchanaburi, and in Bangkok our stay at Suk 11, a fantastic place!
Thanx again, Kelly and Craig for planning parts of our journey for us. :) We loved Chakumvit market Bangkok.
More later, i'm sure!


Friday, December 21, 2007

am in Thailand! Having a really good time so far. Shelley and Thomas surprised me by showing up a day earlier than they told me they would and that was definitely a good surprise to get!
Today we did a lot of walking and booked our tickets for a train south next week. Tomorrow we&ll go check out the market scene and do more walking around until of course we decide not to and just collapse somewhere in front of a Wat and stare at the sky.
The weather's a balmy 30degrees Celsius and certainly quite a change from my Okinawa weather of late and Shelley and Thomas' weather from Colorado. We're enjoying, though being sweaty and stinky again is not all that pleasant.
Going to be in Bangkok until 23rd at which time we'll venture a bit north, then a bit east and then finally way down south.

hope everyone are having great holidays!
Happy New Year!

Monday, December 17, 2007

this weekend seems to have been all about food. And delicious food at that. I think i've gained several pounds just from eating the last three days. That's definitely not a good thing, but the food has been fantastic, as has the company!
Friday night, I went to the Board of Education's Year End Party 忘年会. The party was held at a giant beer hall in Nago and we had a separate room. Four tables were set up and on top of which were two heaters, one with a metallic pan for sukiyaki and one with a clay pot for nabe and it was my first time for both. I guess that's a bit surprising since i've been here nearly 2 and a half years, but both dishes are commonly eaten only in fall and winter months and also they are a mainland staple rather than an Okinawan one. Both are fantastic dishes and you must try if ever presented with the opportunity. Sukiyaki is eaten by dipping into raw egg and it was actually quite tasty. And our nabe that evening was seafood.
And here's a nice little Wiki article about nabemono in Japan. The end of the year party was quite fun, actually. Everyone made a speech, even Cliff and I. I wrote mine in advance, as last year and had it double checked at school, but in the rush to leave the house on time left it at home. I remembered most of it and did a decent job, I think. After speeches, the head of the office came in dancing to Jingle Bells dressed as Santa with a sack full of presents. Everyone got something fun and useful and two lucky ladies got underwear. But actually because they were the ones who randomly received giant, white underwear they received a beautiful and somewhat expensive piece of jewelry each. Lucky!
After 忘年会 it was off to karaoke which was quite hillarious with office chief dancing like a maniac and doing pretend striptese to me singing "Dancing Queen" ha ha

The next day, I took it easy and during the day went to see how normal people live by enjoying the zooming speed of wireless on my Mac at an internet cafe. It was a very nice and relaxing 3 hours spent downloading podcasts at (to me) unbelievable speeds, watching re-runs of the "Daily Show" (it's all new to me), and some KBH on YouTube. Plus the internet cafe has an open drinks bar that includes juices, teas, coffees and ice cream. All drinks are of course machine-made, but decent enough.
That evening Brett and i talked about having our second Russian lesson and he invited me over to his place for some.... nabe! Brilliant! Him and his lovely gf cooked up a nabe fit for sumo wrestlers and i brought cake. We threw Russian words around the dinner table and then learned some more alphabet and later watched a Christmas movie that I had rented for my English Elective kids. The movie was "Surviving Christmas" with Ben Afflec and James Gandolfini and was actually quite funny! If you're looking for a light Christmas movie without Tim Allen in it, I'd recommend that one.
Sunday was cleaning and cooking day. I made a russian salad, oliv'e, for the potluck dinner at my Sunday night adult class. More food! All beautiful, home-made, healthy, delicious food! Even pizza! It was a fantastic, relaxing evening of good conversation and yummy food. My salad went over well, even though i had to subsitute corn for sweet peas, 'cause apparently Japan hasn't heard of "sweet" peas yet.
So that's my full stomach weekend. Today i'm dieting! Which is gonna prove impossible once i get home because i was given quite a few leftovers last night plus a slice of home-made cheesecake that i didn't get to try last night due to being overly stuffed already. *sigh*
Tough life, eh?


Friday, December 07, 2007

the last few weeks have been busy and uneventful all the same time. how's that possible? not sure, really, but seems to be.
most of november i concentrated on studying for the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) level 3. Last year i passed 4 th level and thought i'd take it again this year. 3rd level was definitely a challenge since i hadn't done any serious studying for it until late September; i'd only been studying kanji. So the last couple of months have been semi-intense japanese study and the i think i did all right on the test this past sunday, the 2nd. At least it's over and i do think i've learned quite a bit, hopefully i can retain it and keep up at least half the studying pace. The listening portion was the toughest by far during the test, which proves that a) i should listen to more Japanese by watching TV and talking to people and b) that standard spoken Japanese is entirely different and much faster than the Okinawan dialect i've come to know and appreciate. Though of course it is only possible to understand middle aged women on Okinawa, who speak slowly and clearly. The men speak a language i can't even begin to understand, and it's not as if they're speaking hogen, i know they're not, but sometimes it's like i've never studied any japanese and have just stepped of the plane and been thrown into the midst of an unknown, inarticulate, hurried, and full of jargon language. it's tiring but amusing.

this week has been slow at school. 2nd graders (8th grade equivalent) have been preparing for standardized tests in japanese, math, and english, which has meant practice of past year's tests and no need for me in the classroom for last 2 weeks. They finally took the test on thursday and i fear probably didn't do so good. Undoubtedly there are a handful of students in the class that aced the test, but a large majority is average or lower. which is sad.
3rd graders were on a school trip this week. It's a traditional trip that happens annually for 3rd graders, and from Okinawa all 3rd graders seem to go only to Kyushu on a pretty standard itinerary of Fukuoka, Dazaifu, Nagasaki, Mitsui Greenland (an amusement park), Mt. Aso, etc. They get back today around 6pm to the school and will be greeted by steaming hot soba and onigiri. Every day of their trip we have received faxes of their experiences. Students have made out sheets where they would write little comments from the day's experience, mention how cold it was (and they lucked out, it was cold and even snowed!), there was even a sheet mentioning all the december birthdays they celebrated while away. The librarian has been coloring the faxes and posting them up on bulletin boards for 1st and 2nd graders to read. Fun.

This week i also managed to catch, fight and win over a cold. It wasn't anything bad, but i was afraid i'd turn into the dreaded influenza that we get scared with every once in a while. I seem to be over it and feel good enough to go to karate tonight.

After the JLPT on Sunday i had the pleasure of meeting a russian speaking woman that lives in Naha. After 2+ years, i finally meet a genuine Russian! Very exciting! She's been living here for five years, has an Okinawan husband and an adorable son. We met for a quick meal and had a pleasant chat. She says there are a few other Russian speakers on the island that she knows of, so maybe i'll get to meet some of them through her as well. That'd be fun.
And on the Russian note, i started teaching Russian to a friend here. So far we've had one lesson, but it went well. Think we'll have one more before winter trips and then pick up after that. It's strange thinking of ways to teach the language i didn't have to think much to learn myself. I don't remember much from school, only a few simple spelling rules but the grammar will be tougher. There are quite a few good sources on the internet, i've discovered, so with their help we're gonna attempt these teaching sessions.

The rest of the time the last week has been occupied by planning for trip to Thailand. Going there with the lovely Shelley and and we're gonna have a fantastic time, as we usually do when traveling together. Nothing's set in stone yet, which somewhat worries me, but i have accommodation for the first time in Bangkok and the next day Shelley and her bf fly in, so we'll take it from there together.

Started watching the 2nd season of "Heroes" and 4th season of Bravo's "Project Runway". "Heroes" is not as good as last year, but still entertaining enough and i am really enjoying Project Runway--haven't watched it in two years and i think it's even better than 1st season.

well. think that's enough blabbering for now. hopefully will have more to write before i leave for Thailand.


Monday, November 19, 2007

In my 3rd year here everything i do has the sense of being the last time i see and do it. All the school events and JET events are the third and last ones. This last week was the MYC. A gathering for the JETs on Okinawa to learn from each other new games and techniques for the classroom; to share with each other their frustrations and successes. I presented a seminar about English Clubs and helped Yasemine with her seminar about getting more engaged within the Okinawan community. They both went really well as did the MYC itself. We missed our friends, however, and being there was somewhat bitter sweet.

Saturday and Sunday after the MYC i stayed in the north and enjoyed music and dance performances. On saturday night at the Ogimi community center, the village held its 13th annual
"Evening of Island Entertainment". All the performers were from Ogimi, some of them included my and Cliff's students, people who work at the Board of Education and the village office. On Sunday, Ogimi JHS participated in the annual northern JHS arts cultural performances. The morning was filled with Okinawan dances and songs, as well as a very cool marching band. In the afternoon, the JHS choirs performed. This is the 3rd time I've attended it, and the students still sing the same songs for the choir portion. But the morning performances were wonderful. A couple of the kids from my karate dojo performed katas and it was great to see them up on the stage.
So i'll stop blabbering and show you some of the photos from the weekend's entertainment. :)
A performance of traditional Okinawan songs. Men play sanshin and sing.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Living here, things become so familiar that I don’t notice the differences between the Okinawan society and my own background as often as I did before. Every once in a while they do strike me, but I tend to forget to write them down or don’t think about them much, shuffling them off into a pile of unexplainable and inconsequential. Friday, however, I participated in a cultural experience that at its root shares similarities with both American and Russian cultures I know, but has very revealing differences.

On Friday, I was invited to celebrate the 100-day birthday of my supervisor’s son. First, and most obviously, of course is that fact that I’ve never been to a party celebrating 100 days since birth of a baby. Baby showers, I’ve heard of (somehow haven’t made it to one yet) and of course celebrated yearly birthday parties of people I know, but the tradition of celebrating 100 days is very new to me. I haven’t researched it and so don’t know whether it has ties to any Chinese traditions that might have come to Okinawa from there, or whether it is a Japanese tradition brought here a couple of hundred years ago or is uniquely Okinawan.
Prior to the party, birthday celebrations in Okinawa came up in a couple of conversations. Most recently, a teacher shared a story of a JHS student who confused the date of his birth with another number. I asked why that would happen and was told that in Okinawa some families don’t celebrate birthdays as we do in the West, every year. While the child is young, his birthday might be an event, but as children get older it ceases to be so important (it might have happened due to poverty Okinawans have been subjected to after WWII and nowadays younger parents tend to follow the “Western” way of celebrating birthday).
Yet there are other birthdays that are considered worth celebrating here. For example, turning 13 in Okinawa for boys and girls is an important coming of age that is celebrated with family. Likewise, when young adults in a community turn 20 in the same year, their birthdays are celebrated in a colorful fashion on a specific date in January. 88th birthday and 98th birthdays are also marked as important, as I believe is the 60th, but I’ll have to double check. So 100-day birthday seems to fall into that same category of specific birthday events.

When the baby turns 100 days, the family “introduces” him or her to the world at large. Relatives, friends, co-workers, etc, are invited to the family home to celebrate the arrival of a new member into their society. Since my supervisor’s baby’s birthday is the only one of this kind I have been to, I will not presume that all other 100-day birthday parties are held in the same fashion, though at its core, I’m sure they all are.
A flier announcing the party has been at the school for a couple of weeks, and my supervisor has mentioned it to me a couple of times himself. What first tipped me off that this party was going to be a bit different from birthday parties I’m used to was the lack of time mention on the flier. I asked what time I am supposed to arrive and was told that anytime after work hours up until 9pm would be all right. I asked whether I should bring money or buy a present, and was told that if it were someone I didn’t know too well, money would be preferred, but in this case present would be fine. I like shopping for presents, and so decided to go that route. Cliff and I went together around 6:30pm. The party was held at my supervisor’s parents’ house in Ogimi. Outside their house in an empty lot, tables were set up under tents. We went into the house with our presents. Inside, the mother and father were fussing over the baby, presenting him to others who came in. I noticed a basket set up in the middle of the room with lots of envelopes inside. I handed my present to my supervisor and noticed that ours were the only present bags in the room that didn’t look alike. These other, identical presents, were intended for the guests. Everyone, after congratulating the parents and grandparents, were given two bags of presents. There must have been a couple of hundred of these identical packages stacked along the living room wall. In the altar room of the house very important people, like the superintendent ate and chatted. All others sat outside.

After we received our “return” presents, we went outside and sat down. A lady followed us with trays of food. Each tray contained a giant bento box with homemade and store bought delicacies, a bowl of pig intestine soup, brown sugar coated Okinawan mochi, a mikan, and even a plastic bag to take what you don’t finish of the bento home with you. Outside, under a separate tent, a man was stirring and pouring goat soup. This was my first time trying it, and it wasn’t so bad, though some pieces in the mix of unidentifiable parts seemed way to suspicious for me to try. As we sat and ate and chatted with our neighbors, I noticed that people that were there when we first arrived were leaving or had already left and more people were coming into the house and then taking their seats at the outside tables. It was a constant coming and going of people. They all walked into the house, ate outside, chatted, went back inside to say “goodbye” and left. I realized that it was an expected behavior and felt that I shouldn’t sit too long, lest there isn’t room for newcomers. Cliff stayed to enjoy more conversations with the men at our table, and I went home after saying “goodbye” to the family. My visit lasted an hour at the most.
And so where do I begin with the differences? I guess most are quite obvious from the telling. The visits of people were erratic and the time they showed up depended entirely on their own schedule and not on any agreed upon time. Of course, showing up too late would have been a faux pas, though the office lady told me today that she went there just a little before my supervisor, his wife, and baby left the parents’ house for their own home around 10pm. The party was still going on, she said, with people drinking and partying until midnight or so. Of course the receiving back of presents is an unusual thing that I have to date only encountered in the Japanese society. Receiving of a present after giving my own was not new to me at this party, though the fact that it was a sizable cake as well as towels was impressive. But the gifts that are “returned” are usually worth about half the value of the expected present, so I felt bad that I didn’t spend as much money as was in each individual envelope lying in the basket. Oh well.

During the party what I was struck by as the difference in celebrating this birthday and the ones of all my Russian-speaking friends and relatives. There were no toasts! Granted I haven’t been to that many celebrations here, but so far only at the one wedding were there any toasts given by the guests, and those were only from the father of the bride and her best friend. At the parties I’m used to, people would all sit together, drink and eat and every once in a while during the festivities a toast would be made to the person whose birth/marriage/anniversary/new house/new job/home coming, etc (ok so Russians like to celebrate for many reasons) was being celebrated. And that aspect was entirely lacking. Congratulations were given individually and people came and went to allow for more people to take their turn with the baby and at the table. This way has the benefit of allowing for a greater amount of people to visit the family and to celebrate with them. In order to accommodate the number of people that must have came to the family that night, they would have had to rent a giant hall. The amount of food might have been greater, though the bentos were quite substantial… and now I’m rambling.

I was going to add a couple of other things that have occurred, but they’re of less consequence. I really wanted to write about this birthday party, so I hope I didn’t bore anyone with the details. It turned out be much longer than anticipated.


Monday, November 05, 2007

Here are a few images from last week's Halloween.

I revived my pirate costume from two years ago, but updated it with a sword to the stomach, eye make up and a for the 1st grader's class, a mask. The pumpkin next to me is one of 5 carved by the English Elective students.
The witch eats lunch, and apparently enjoys it. :) The office lady, the accountant, the librarian all turned into witches the morning of Halloween. It was quite fun.
The first grade students posing in the masks they made during their Halloween lesson. They came to trick-or-treat, but got asked to pose. :)

This weekend i was one of the judges for the All Okinawa High School English Debate Contest. It was my first time and I signed up just to see what an English debate in a non-native language is like and also I really wanted to be impressed by students' English abilities. And was I ever! Those kids are amazing. I chatted with a few of them, and they all could hold a pretty relaxed English conversation. The ones I talked to all studied in an English speaking country for a year and are now continuing their studied at academic schools, some of which are immersion. Some of the debates were tough to judge because I was constantly being impressed with their ability to think on their feet in English during Question/Answer sessions and wasn't sure where I was supposed to take off points, if any. My fellow ALT's team from an immersion high school took first place, and we even took one of the team members out to dinner and ice cream after. He is a wonderful kid with a great sense of humor whose goal in life is to be rich. ha ha :)

I think that'll be it for this post. Am off to bed, as I feel that I am getting sick and I really shouldn't be considering how much vitamin C i've been eating.


Friday, November 02, 2007

couple of things quickly.
i've updated the Fotki album for October and I've even put up some commentary for the Tokyo trip and the rest. In case you were wondering when i was gonna get to that.
Also, please check out Craig's blog. If only 'cause a whole post has been written just for me, and that's just very special. :) Also informative and fun to read.

the Halloween week has gone great! Did pumpkin carving on Tuesday with the English Elective girls. Wednesday had all day classes and played games with 2nd and 3rd graders and made masks with 1st graders. All activities were enjoyed and I had enough candy, that being the most important part of the holiday. Thursday during English Elective class, had a Halloween party with the girls. We pinned warts on a witch, watched Charlie Brown's Halloween and ate lots of snacks and candy. Fun was had.

But it is said, that with Halloween comes the end of the most gorgeous month on Okinawa and it is wind and gray skies from now on. Though, as I'm writing now, the sun peeked out and it's a bit nice outside again. :)

Am judging the high school debate contest this weekend, so hopefully will have some impressions to report from it. Am really curious and not quite sure what to expect. Hope I'm a good judge. I've never done debate myself.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

last weekend was the Northern Youth Group festival. やんばる青年祭り and even though the weather wasn't the greatest, i think it was a success. This is the third time the festival has been held and the first time it was held in my village of Ogimi. I went to the festival in its first and second year and looked somewhat jealously at the young men and women who walked around wearing "staff" shirts and were busy with the organization of the fest. This year, I got to wear the shirt and look important in it! I went to help set up on friday night, but there didn't seem to be much work, so most of us just hung around and chatted and any time a job came up we'd rush to do it. At the evening's end we had food and drinks. Saturday, before the festival, we started set up at around 1pm and once again not much work was actually needed from a large group of people but we all tried to look as though we were just moments away from doing something helpful. I guess that's just how it works for most things. There are a few people who know exactly what needs to be done and do it and other that stand around until they are told what needs to be done. That was me. Standing around. But feeling pretty good about it nonetheless. My job for the fest was to help make popcorn for sale at a booth, but there was a lot of time to just walk around and watch the festival. During the day there was a hip hop group, elementary school kids danced, a jazz band performed and after 6pm it was all eisa groups from the northern villages and towns. Our eisa group performed last and that was probably my last time performing eisa. It was good times, and I'm really glad i joined the group to participate in these events.

The evening was cold, though. The wind blew from the sea and kept tossing sand in every direction. But people stuck around and a large enough crowd was there through the end. When most of the take down was finished around 11pm, the guys and some girls sat around in a large circle in the middle of the field and made speeches, ate and drank. Sunday was the rest of the clean-up which was done by mostly our group and when finished, we had barbeque and played volleyball. It was a gorgeous day, the morning of which i spent driving around new roads. I was trying to find a way from Kijoka to Higashi and also was hoping to catch a glimpse of the illusive kuina, the endangered flightless bird that lives exclusively in the jungles of northern Okinawa. I did find a way to Higashi but no kuina was sighted.

The week went well. The schedule has been through all sorts of permutations this week. Today for example this was the schedule (火曜日these kanji means Tueday and 木曜日these kanji means Thursday so 火2means Tuesday's regular second period)
crazy, really. this whole week has been like that. some of it for teacher's being absent but mostly because we were picking shiquawasa and it had to be done this week because the company paying the school for it was only going to pay full price until the end of this week. The kids (and teachers helped) picked over a ton of shiquawasa between Friday and Tuesday. Pretty cool.

Today, during lunch time a package arrived for me at the school. I thought it was the next book club book from Amazon so was surprised to see a large box. In it, to my utter amazement and amusement, I found an instant ramen set and then some! I completely forgot that about two months ago I entered my name and address into a ramen set giveaway advertised on some JET website. Somehow, I actually won it! I think they were drawing 10 names a month or something, and so I lucked out, which is amazing 'cause I never win anything.
The set is awesome. It has portable chopsticks, a cup and small burner to heat up water, a cooler sack, some cups of instant ramen and even three water bottles. There's also a wet paper towel, and a lighter to light the burner.
Here are the pics. Sorry they're tiny, I had to use my cell phone camera 'cause my digital camera is out of commission. Actually a bit irritating that. Only bought it a few months ago and the shutter stopped working last week. But since it's semi-new the warranty still covers it and the fixing should be free. So much for getting a Cannon. I've had my Minolta for over two years and have dropped countless times and it still works, but this new Cannon has already crapped out on me. :(

anyways, here are the pics. and i'm off to watch the first episode of the new season of "Heroes"! Yipee!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The most exciting thing happened tonight! We had an earthquake! An actual honest to goodness, the building was shaking for more than ten seconds and i jumped to stand in the doorway, earthquake!! I've felt a couple here before and slept through a couple I'm told, but this one was something else. It started shaking and it didn't stop, it got stronger and the walls were moving in front of my eyes and I even waited a few seconds before i jumped up and went for the doorway, laughing all the way. And thanx to a friend on the island, I have a link to prove it. A couple of the dots seem to be hovering right over my village, so no wonder it was strong enough to make the dogs go mad barking for minutes after it stopped.
Here's the link. Fun times!

Tokyo was also fun times, but to keep the blog short, I'll try to say it all through photos. They will be few in number, as I have a few of them up with comments on Facebook and all of them will be up on Fotki site with comments by the weekend. I'm assuming there are only a couple of you out there eager to see the whole bunch (hi, mom!) so hope couple of days wait won't be a problem.

Here are some of my favorites from the trip.
Btw, if you'll be in Tokyo, I highly recommend you stay the Oak Hotel in Asakusa. They have singles, doubles and small dorm rooms for very reasonable prices. The staff are helpful and nice and they internet, small kitchen, common room, and tons of info. Plus a convenient location.

These tablets are hung up at temples and their writers usually ask for travel protection or safety of their loved ones.
The walk up to the Sensou temple in Asakusa. One of the most visited, if not the most visited temple in Tokyo, even at night.
The back of the gate with the famous, giant, lantern
Peek inside the Asakusa shrine. A shinto shrine quietly hidden behind the overwhelming Sensou-ji
What do you think? 20kg?
A cigarette break next to shoe polishers. All over Tokyo, I saw special corners set up for smokers with ash trays with messages to keep Tokyo clean.
A hat store in the fancy Isetan department store. With an even fancier clientèle.
"Piss Alley" in Shinjuku
Entering the teenage crazy zone, Harajuku
Style blending. And yes, that is one building and not a camera trick of superimposition. I like this one.
And of course, what we all came here to see, the Harajuku kids. I only caught a few of them as i came to Harajuku too early. These two were just getting set up but kept getting interrupted by the camera clicking tourists. After snapping that photo I had to rush directly to the airport. Glad i caught them.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

it's my last night in Tokyo and with all that's been going on here and the pics i'll be posting later from the trip, i don't think i'll have time to tell you all about my last weekend sooooo
i propose you check out Kevin's blog and read his post from Okinawa. I have been coded as the "friend" in the post. I think you can figure it out.
Things are good. I do like Tokyo, but i am ready to get back to the casual pace of life in Okinawa. It's too hectic here. Too fashion driven, too many stores and too many pretty people. They make me concerned about my appearance. I don't like that.
I was so worried about my slightly dirty flip flops that i went out and bought a new pair of shoes. Ha ha. i love them though. I'll post a pic of them.. They're tres kawaii. if i do say so myself.
and worth every penny.

time for last night sleep in Tokyo


Tuesday, October 09, 2007

oh no! the blogger is in japanese and the space bar keeps getting stuck! hmm.. not sure how long i'll be able to type in these conditions. ha ha

had in mind to sit down and type about last weekend, but can't. way too tired. i think i've had a combined 10 hours of sleep in the last three night so brain is on very rapid shutdown. hoping to write down today's events, sign some postcards and crash early.

am in Tokyo, btw. staying at a nice hotel in asakusa area, not far from Ueno station, if you're familiar. Got here early this morning. Left Okinawa on what was promising to be a gorgeous sunny day and stepped out into a chilly drizzle in Tokyo. but did get a single room for one night at the hotel. not sure why exactly, figured they saw how tired i looked and decided that instead of 4 nights in a small dorm i should only spend three there and one night resting fully on my own. yipee!
i walked around quite a bit today. walked into a soba shop for late lunch and was seated with a nice elderly salaryman. apparently at these small places it's customary to put solitary costomers together to accommodate all. makes sense. most of them looked like local workers in for a quick bite. so i got to try out my japanese on an unsuspecting tokyoite (sp?) and we had apleasant chat. he claims to be a Packers fan but says he's dissapointed with this year's performance. since i haven't watchef ootball in over two years, i just nodded and said that favre must be getting tired.
sorry for all the types. the comp is acting very strangely. there's alag of 5 seconds between me typing and the words showing up on the screen which makes it hard to go back and correct typos. so now you can see how many i actually make while i type and you'll be glad to know that i try really hard to clean up my posts before exposing you to them. but not this one 'cause i'm lacking for patience on this comp already and will finish here.

hopefully am genki enough tomorrow to sit down and write up about last weekend 'cause it really deserves an entry. quite something.

wherever you are, hope you're having a lovely day


Sunday, September 30, 2007

my eyes are stinging a bit today. must be from all the sun and the swimming in the salty water of the sea. yep. just another late september day. i think late september and october are basically the best months on Okinawa. just calm, sunny with a light breeze and cool water. paradise, indeed.

went to two of Ogimi's four elementary school undoukais today. All four schools hold their sports day on the same day but making it to all four would have been quite a task. Plus i sort of slept in so only showed up to Kijoka's (my village) undoukai around 11am. Walked there with hopes of getting a free lunch but those hopes weren't too high. Walked to the pitch, a sweet woman who works at the BOE and always looks after me walked me over to the tables under the shady tents, pointed to a chair, brought me a cup of cool tea. Just as i was sitting down, a junior high school student was passing out the bento lunches to everyone seated under the tent. K-san motioned for the student to place a bento in front of me as well. I looked shocked but inside happy that my plan worked out perfectly. :) ha ha seems rather shallow, eh? but really this is just how it works and after two years of these events i know what to expect. but there is no such thing as a free lunch in japan either and so after watching a relay of parents and their elementary school kids, i was invited to participate in the rope pulling event: men vs. women, though they politely referred to us as team "red" and "white." The women won the first time, then we switched sides and the men won the second time. The whole thing was quite fun. After lunch the kids performed a beautifully choreographed and brilliantly executed eisa routine. Junior high kids from Kijoka helped out as well as the fathers who were dressed in Ogimi's eisa costumes and were dancing with the poll of Kijoka. If you live here or have lived here that might make sense, if not. sorry. it's hard to explain. but i'll post pics later on.

I went to Ogimi elem. school's undoukai after Kijoka's eisa. Got there just in time to watch adult vs. elem. kids vs. junior high school kids relays. Kids won out every time. Then it was the finishing the dance with everyone on the pitch, including me. Then it was off home to grab beach stuff and go lounge about for a couple of hours after a refreshing dip in the sea. The water is perfect right now. Chilly at first but under the blazing sun, a welcoming sensation on the sweaty skin.

Yesterday I joined two hundred people or so from Ogimi village in the protest against the proposed changes to the Japanese history textbooks. The protest took place at the park near the Ginowan Convention center in the south of the island. Hordes of people were walking to the sight with placards and signs. It was my first such gathering--not counting the anti-war protest Shelly and i walked into while in New York...and quickly walked out of.
I walked with the superintendent of Ogimi schools and he explained to me the situation, so i'll relate it to you hear as i understand it. During the battle of Okinawa numerous atrocities against the peaceful Okinawan civilians took place and most of them were perpetrated by the Japanese military that came and occupied the island drawing American forces away from mainland Japan and to this tiny chain of islands. One of the atrocities that are well documented was the forceful way in which Japanese military encouraged Okinawan citizens to commit suicide if the arrival of American troupes was imminent. Men and women were given grenades to use on themselves and their families in case the Americans landed on their islands. This happened on Zamami and Tokashiki island and hundreds of people died. This fact is currently written in the Japanese textbook but sometime last year the Ministry of Education proposed to cut out the part of the history which paints Japanese soldiers in the bad light. The bit will be re-written so that suicides are mentioned but the role the Japanese military played in those suicides is not. And that outraged many on Okinawa, an island that is still dealing with occupation of American forces and feels that Japan still treats them as second-rate citizens whose opinion is not worth knowing.
The protest has been in the works for 4 months. Village, town and cities governments were asked to send people to represent themselves at the gathering. 120,000 people were at the park yesterday and the sight was awesome! I didn't understand every word of the speeches but I understood the feeling behind them. My favorite speech, though, was by two senior high school students. I did understand their shouts of "We want to learn the truth, so write the truth!!"
The whole two hour event was seemed really powerful to me so I really hope it causes a few heads to turn in the Japanese Ministry of Education and the proposed changes are abandoned.

i'll finish here.
but here's a BBC article i got after googleing "okinawa and textbook and protest"
Huge Japan protest against textbook
am sure you can find more if you have time. i'm off to my adult conversation class. ta ta


Friday, September 14, 2007

on the agenda:
the lack of posting
my addiction to green mikan
the typhoon threatening to tear down my curtains and flood my balcony
studying Japanese
needing the school to block Facebook

so where should i begin? the Facebook issue. all right. that's a bit of a disaster zone. i am hooked on the walls and the "home" updates and adding and deleting of applications (thought i've gotten much better about that by just not adding any), and the instant notifications in inbox. Maybe that's what i should irradicate. Perhaps if i politely ask the Facebook system to stop sending me e-mails any time someone signs my wall or comments on one of my photos, i'd be less likely to spend twenty to thirty minutes (ahem hours) nosing about in there and would just go through my inbox and get off the school computer as i'm sure most teachers would want me to do.

mikans are the wonderful citrus fruit that is like a tangerine but slightly more tart. They'll ripen in winter months, but right now they are sold green and i'm addicted. i love the sourness that just overwhelms the budding sweetness within. you might ask, what is so wrong with being addicted to mikan, a fruit jam-packed with vitamin C and other unknown beneficial substances, but what will i do when the season of the green mikan is over? or worse yet, what if i develop an allergy by eating too many and won't be able to enjoy them again?
my addiction is not being helped by the generous presents of principals from neighboring schools who in lieu of the upcoming undoukai (sports day) have gifted boxes of these delicious, green, juicy, little fruits. We've also been given a box of giant apple/pears that are quite expensive and the former principal who is now at one of Higashi's schools has brought enough pineapple to share with the whole student body at lunch for dessert. Undoukai. Craziness itself.

Which brings me to the typhoon that is quite inconveniently ruining the undoukai plans for the weekend. That and also most likely canceling the Okuma festival, second year running. It will be rescheduled, i'm sure, but i doubt the same acts will show up and the crowds will be much fewer, as was the case last year. But the biggest concern for the school is of course the sports fest on Sunday. It's Friday night now and the typhoon is supposed to touch down in a couple of hours; it's a not very strong one but i'm certain it will rain all night and most of the day tomorrow. The hope is that it'll miraculously stop overnight Saturday to Sunday, the school field will dry up and we'll be able to set up without a problem early Sunday morning and have a wonderful display of student and teachers' 2 months worth of planning and preparation.
This being my last undoukai, i'm quite sentimental going into. It was almost like the other two, but this year I was able to jump in and help with eisa practices and that felt really good. Nice to be involved from the inside and not always as a welcomed outsider.

I haven't posted in a while 'cause it's been busy and every night when i come home and think I should write post, i instead watch a movie or read and then only have an hour to play on computer before bed time and that's never enough to write a substantial post 'cause there's Facebook to distract me. So luckily, the typhoon has extended my weekend and i don't have to go to bed early and so here I am, ready to upload some pics to share with you my last two weekends.

and a note on studying Japanese. it's a ridiculous uphill battle and i'm not made for it, but yet i try every once in a while to pretend that i can do it. i guess it is nice to be able to understand things and i'm encouraged at the times i grasp the meaning of things going on around me or listen to the village speaker announcements and know what they're talking about half the time. and it is quite pleasing to study a kanji and then to see it in context and feel a tenth of a thousandth percentage more literate. ha ha
but it is a fun language and i wish i was more self-motivated. hoping that signing up for the 3rd level of the JLPT will kick me into a higher gear, and i'll actually study a bit on the weekends as well.

and now on to the pics

Two weekends ago was the Shioya Ungami which is a festival that takes place in a few villages in the northern Okinawa dedicated to the gods/spirits that control the sea. Priestesses offer up prayers through special ceremonies like the one on the picture. The men sat in a circle while the women walked and chanted around them.

The religious portion of the festival used to be closed to the public and only certain individuals were allowed to accompany the priestesses to the sacred prayer spots. This year it was opened to the public and lots of photographers showed up. It seemed there were more people with a camera than the locals. A bit overwhelming but also nice. It means the community is receiving attention and people will learn more about the traditional Okinawan culture. But it was overbearing at times. The priestesses didn't seem to mind too much. Or maybe they're just too cool to betray their annoyance. It was nice to notice that no one put a show on for the photographers. The men sitting in a circle drank their offering of awamori from plastic cups and not anything fancy that i'm sure could have been brought. Made realize and appreciate the fact that I am indeed observing an active tradition and not a reenactment of one. A bit daunting, that.

This is the portion that's always been opened to the public. The hari race of the 6 little villages that are a part of Shioya, which is itself a part of Ogimi-son. Quite a few of Ogimi's villages have their own, unique festival around this time of the year to offer prayers and to celebrate sea and field gods. Shioya's is well known because of the beautiful landscape that is the backdrop to the hari racing across the Shioya bay and the dancing women in the water who chant and cheer on the men of their villages to row faster.

The smiling girl is one of my students and she's surrounded by other women of her village, Shioya. The race just finished and the women are celebrating and are continuing to dance. Actually, i think due to their persistent dancing and singing, the hari raced again but this time purely for entertainment.

the girls and women leaving the bay with the men behind them still in the water near their hari boats.

the priestesses performing one of the last rituals after the hari race and before the sumo wrestling matches.

two years ago, i watched the ungami festivities a month or so after arriving. i had no idea really what was going on and watched truly as a tourist. this year, however, it was a different experience all together. i knew some of the men racing the hari, i knew the women cheering them in the water, and i knew almost all the kids who stepped up to participate in the sumo match. i only knew the elementary kids by face, but the junior high schoolers, like the ones in the picture i know personally and it made the experience that much more special and enjoyable.

the ungami fest is a two day event. first day is the hari and the sumo. the second day is dancing. it rained heavily during some of the dances and the women still performed, by the end of the dance, completely soaked. Here is a junior high school student dressed in the outfit of a farmer with women in the background in the more splendid outfits of the ryukyu royal court.

i really like this pic
The following weekend was a similar festival in another of Ogimi's villages, Nerume. The hari race only involved three small boats. Cliff and i came to watch but quickly Cliff was asked to participate. I think he enjoyed it.

After the hari race we hung out with some darling elementary school kids before the womens' eisa and sumo wrestling. Here i am with three of those cuties.

oh no! the pic is on its side. well. you get the picture. :)

The women of Nerume dance a very traditional eisa dance.

The view of the Nerume village set up before the start of the sumo wrestling taken from the 2nd floor of the community center where we watched surrounded by junior high school and elementary kids of that village. Only 6 or 7 of my students live in Nerume and they were all involved in one way or another in the day's activities. The sense of community is extremely strong here; maybe why i enjoy staying in the village so much for the various activities that take place almost weekly, especially during the summer months.

Well. The typhoon is not as strong as i thought it would be, but the balcony door won't stay open anyways--the winds are strong enough to shut it with force anytime i try to peek at what's happening outside.
So fingers crossed for a successful undoukai. I'll try not to be as delinquent with future posts. They end up being way too long.


Thursday, August 30, 2007

long time in the making this post might be long. or it might be a collection of photos. haven't quite decided what to do at the moment as i start typing it up.
you might notice i've changed the template color and updated some links as well as the header description. i am counting months. i have eleven of them left here in this place that i now call "home," and so it's really time to re-evaluate, set and achieve goals, outline some future plans, and enjoy! Because what i really, truly want to do this year is enjoy it. Fully and without regrets about things not accomplished, not finished, not tried, not visited, not seen, not felt. Friends leaving made me consider how i want to approach this time on the island--what i want to do to prepare so that leaving is done with least amount of hassle or at least the hassle i have control over. i've set a few goals and have some itinerary of travels floating around in my head as well as things to do when people come visit, as i hope a few do. Am most looking forward to the visit of my sisters sometime this coming spring.
so this year, like this blog is being refreshed from outside in--let's see what happens. :)

the events of the last month have all left a mark. it's been a hectic time but if you asked what i did exactly, i'd have to pause and think a while.

the main event of last week has been my visit to a family dinner for the last night of Obon. Obon is an Okinawan Buddhist cultural landmark in the lunar calendar. Okinawa Obon is very different from mainland one, which took place a week earlier this year. Since i don't live on mainland and never studied that culture or participated in it, as i do with Okinawa culture, i can't do an intense comparison. let's just say they're different and mostly, i think, because the Okinawa ancestor worship base which underlines all the traditions on the island overwhelms the Buddhist rituals it incorporates. So the Okinawa obon is a three day event. On the first day, unkei, the spirits of ancestors descend back into the family home and are welcomed with special prayer ceremony at the family butsudan (altar) inside the home of the eldest son into whose house the altar is passed through generations (although there are exceptions). The family gathers to celebrate the arrival of the ancestors, has dinner and offers special foods and items to the visiting spirits. The middle day is simply named, nakabi and is a time for family to relax together. The final day is called uukui and on the evening of that day the family thanks the ancestors for visiting and bids them farewell. During the time of obon, actually throughout August, Okinawans don't go into the sea because it's believed to be full of spirits going from their own world into the world of the living for Obon visit.

My supervisor invited myself and Cliff (the new Ogimi ALT) to his wife's family home in Nago for the third night of Obon. The head of the family, my supervisor's mother-in-law, was in charge of dinner but serving us were her granddaughters. The two lovely girls brought out dishes for us to try--it was my first time to eat nakamijiru, a pig intestine soup, quite delicious actually. We were the first to arrive, excluding the eldest son whose daughters were our servers that evening. As we ate, more family members began to arrive and settle themselves around a small table and in front of a giant TV. We chatted and watched the IAAF broadcast live from Osaka. The male hammer throw competition was on, as one of Japan's medal hopefuls competed. I learned that his mother is Russian but father Japanese. He did not medal, but it was fun watching the competition.

I loved being with a family for a dinner, like that, sitting around a TV, chatting casually. Some of them hadn't seen each other in a while it seemed and lots of news were being exchanged. It's been a while for me to be in a midst of a family, and it made me miss mine but also really appreciate the time i was spending with them. A little after 9pm, the family gathered in a guest room where the family butsudan took up a primary spot in the wall. Tablets with ancestors' names as well as decorative urns representing the main ancestors being welcomed took center place. The urns had lots of incense burning inside. Lots of fruit, flowers, incense and personal items, such as cigarettes were placed all around the altar. The matriarch sat seza in front of a low table placed under the altar with three boxes of specially prepared foods placed in front of her. She also had a small round tray on which she had grains of rice and a small bottle of awamori. The grownups made a sitting circle behind and around her, Cliff and i were welcomed into it and i felt really privileged. The younger family members stood or sat on outskirts of the room or in the hallway. Everyone prayed, then the matriarch offered rice and awamori and pieces of food to each of the ancestors and after offering them with a simple upward motion of the chopsticks towards the altar she placed each item in a small, round grill situated to the left of the table. After the food was offered, the sons took down all the fruits, flowers and special items from the altar onto the table and she tossed in a bit from each pile into the burner. She even tossed in a couple of cigarettes from a pack. The sons chatted and even laughed as they cleared the altar, the other members of the family were quiet but not too somber. Everything inside the burner was sat on fire and as a last gesture, special pieces of paper called uchikabi which represent money to be used in heaven were also burned. Actually so many of them were being burned that my supervisor joked there will be inflation in heaven this year. Soon the room filled up with smoke and people were fanning themselves to keep from breathing it in. Once the burner was well lit, the sons took down the urns with incense and all three, along with the burner were carried outside to a corner near the house.

In an amusing turn of events, when i set out to follow everyone outside, i discovered that my shoes were missing, after a few moments of looking for them it was decided that someone put them on by mistake, i was given shoes to trade for mine once outside, but because of the search for them, i missed out on what happened once the urns and burner were brought outside. I'm assuming the family once again prayed and the ashes were dumped out and ancestors bid farewell. We said our goodbyes to the family at that point as well, because our kind supervisor drove us to and from Nago so that we could fully enjoy our experience and drink with the family and we had to leave right away so he'd get home to his new born child at a not so late hour. It was sad leaving the family; for a moment i felt really comfortable and at home with them--i hope i get to experience that sort of a feeling again while here.

for more information about Okinawan rituals, religion and Obon, please check out these two links from Wiki:
Ryukyan festivals and observances and Ryukyuan religion

I'll post some pics at the bottom of the post and also on my Fotki site--which I do update btw, and will even attempt to label all the new photos there tomorrow from school. Also at the bottom of the post is a very short video from the eisa routine performed by the Ogimi seinenkai during the 10,000 men eisa event in Naha. You might spot me in it. It's really short, sorry, but thanks to Kelly for shooting it and sending it to me!

The moon has been absolutely gorgeous the last few nights--full and splendid--it has been brightly overwhelming the sky. Two nights ago there was an eclipse and thanks to Cliff, I got to see the last bit of it. It was raining all that night, so I wasn't even aware of an eclipse happening, but the weather cleared just in time to watch its departure.

School. Well. School is just a plethora of activity. There's the sports day to prepare for, the track and field event in October. Students just came back from summer vacation and already took tests to prove that they did absolutely no studying during the summer break. It's been rather depressing grading the tests. Oh well. They've been busy with extracurricular stuff this summer to do much about relaxing or studying. I also have one student to prepare for the speech contest at the end of September. This will be my third and last English speech contest. Mixed feelings.

This weekend will be a very special day in the Ogimi event calendar--the unjami festival. I shall write about it when i have the photos to back it up.

And to finish off this impossibly long blog, here are a few photos from the last month.

the three fourths of the Fearsome Foursome! Miss ya, guys!

Early in the morning after tens of cocktails and hours of karaoke...Goodbye!

the goat won by the Ogimi seinenkai (youth group) during the Ogimi festival's rope tug of war .
I do no know the goat's fate. Perhaps the members enjoyed a goat soup a few days after the fest. The eisa during the fest was by far the best we've performed and my goal of participating in eisa during Ogimi festival was accomlished. It was a fantastic feeling being a part of something that took my breath away during the first few weeks on the island two years ago.

from a viewing spot near cape Hedo where Chikara took us the other day.
mostly new JETs taking in the beauty of northern Okinawa
the family butsudan after it's been cleared of fruit, flowers, and other objects. the three blue, ornate urns are for the three ancestors being honored during Obon.

Monday, August 06, 2007

i owe an update. but give me a week or two. things are happening every day and half the time i don't know what day it is and when was the last time i slept for more than 5 hours. naps is the way to go apparently.

i went to Izena and learned all about its spiders and hermit crabs thanx to Mr. Izena, Craig.

been playing eisa around Ogimi and Sunday went to Naha with the youth group to participate in the 10,000 men eisa parade down Kokusai dori (International street). It was a fantastic experience and i was happiest during it when i saw my friends waving at me from the crowd.

lots of karaoke.

goodbyes, tears, sun= my last week and a half.

am tired. i'll do a better job of posting and recaping in a few days.

sorry, Craig ;)

Sunday, July 22, 2007

i have a new camera!!
i've been considering getting a new one for a few months now. i love my trusty Minolta but it's 3 years old now and pales in comparison to what is out there on the market. i of course can't afford anything super fancy, nor do i want 'cause i wouldn't know what to do with it. photography has never been my strong point. Unlike my sister, Sofya who in my eyes is an expert, i just point and snap. Sometimes i get lucky and the compositions turn out to be worthy of printing and displaying. i've taken some great shots with the minolta, and i hope i can continue with my new Canon PowerShot A710IS.
It's a bit heavy but seems sturdy. i don't know what all it can do, have to search for manual on-line as i only got the japanese one. but i can change the language to english or russian if i want to, which is cool.

so here are a couple of shots i took today driving back home. they're not great, and the second one has been edited, but am sure more good ones are to come.

also this weekend Block1 hosted a successful goodbye party for the northern JETs and their friends. it was wonderful to have everyone in one place. the weather was fantastic and the bbq went off splenditly. in the late hours of the night we enjoyed watching african dancing and drumming and some fire twirling on a beach. good times.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

the end of school term is in the air. we are done. we are finished. we have one more day! arrrrgh.
to be fair, i don't have one more day. i am done today. i'm not coming to school tomorrow because i'm going to the airport to bid farewell to Gabrielle. She's leaving the island after five years on JET, and i am sad to see her go. really sad. but such is JET experience--friendships are made quickly and then one has to say "goodbye" until next meeting. because i don't believe i won't see Gabrielle or any of my other close friends again. i'll visit them or we'll meet up elsewhere in the world.

Saying all this doesn't make the prospect of separation that much easier to face.

i have a new keitai. it's a Motorolla Razr. i heard that in the States it's considered pretty cool, or maybe that was a year ago. I got it 'cause it was the 2nd cheapest option for me at the shop. The cheapest phone would have been nearly free but didn't have a camera but did have a radio. i declined.

the typhoon was actually a big hit. It canceled school on Friday and we ended up with a 4 day weekend, the first part of which was spent mostly indoors.
Before typhoon hit us, I picked Ben up Thursday night and it was already apparent then that his coast would get hit harder than mine. Whereas on my side the sea was still peaceful, on his side it was already throwing sand and debris onto the road across barriers.
Saturday, Ben and i went to check out the damage on his, eastern, coast.
The damage was minimal compared to other places on the island but there was lots of sand and roads were blocked off for clean-up. The kids had a blast, though, playing around on large sand piles pushed off the road by bulldozers. The houses along the road in Kawatta collected sand inside and out and we saw people spraying them down with water and sweeping sand off tatami. The kids told us that 4 cars that were in a parking lot across the road got pushed into each other by the waves and the wind, and one was even lifted up and crushed down onto a nearby tree. When we went to look, the cars were already gone, but we did see the broken tree.

Across the island people lost power. I was lucky that and Ben, Gabrielle and I only went without aircon for 5 minutes. We watched movies, and Tv shows, and cooked delicious food, drank chu-his and played boardgames. For being the first truly typhoon party, it was a success!!

i download the free NPR shuffle podcast and it's great. i love the variety and the unexpected turn the collection sometimes takes. i also like NPR's fresh air, although sometimes Terry Gross' questions strike me as overly simplistic, she feeds the answer to her quests through her questions. but not all the time.
anyways. i recently listened to a Fresh Air podcast about Victor Bout, the infamous arms dealer. His story is amazing--it's bewildering to think how many conflicts, genocides, revolutions, rebellions, etc.. he has helped supply with firearms. He has no identifiable ideology and the most fantastic of all is that his planes have flown arms and essential supplies for the UN and United States, most recently into and out of Iraq. The two men Terry spoke with, Douglas Farah and Stephen Braun, have written a book about him called Merchant of Death: Money, Guns, Planes, and the Man Who Makes War Possible. They spoke casually about their subject and every once in a while even laughed about the ways he has built his far-reaching business. At first, i was appalled by their seeming lighthearted approach towards the topic, but then i started laughing with them. This is the age we live in--and it's amusing to say the least. Here's one man who has found a niche and in the best example of capitalistic entrepreneurship has built himself an empire by selling weapons. But not only has he not be caught and stopped, his planes have been used by various "anti-terrorist" governments, most prominently the United States, to advance their ends in conflicts around the world. And that's how the world spins round. Ya gotta laugh.

and i'm awaiting the delivery of the new Harry Potter book. Should be coming to my door Saturday or Monday. Yipee!


an ode to keitai

to my trusty friend
who's always been
the one to ring
when times are dim

whose music tones
were cool and new
whose swishing sound
made all want you

with clear alarm
you woke me up
with blinking light
you've kept me up

without you life won't be same
you've been replaced, your numbers saved
but as my first keitai you stand
forever flipping in my hand.

well... i guess you can deduce from the poorly written lines that my cell phone has been damaged beyond repair and replaced by a brand new shiny model.
what happened? well. if you must know.
a dog ate it.
nah. actually it was a pair of wild geckos.
nope. also not true.
David put it in his mouth and it stopped working.
yep. that sounds plausible enough. but also not exactly correct.
i'm a bit of a klutz and i let it fall out of my bag next to my car and drove over it? do you believe that? you do? well. good for you, 'cause that's the sad truth. and only a month shy of a 2 year anniversary. *sigh*

in other news. a typhoon Man-Yi is on his way to Okinawa mainland. Don't be alarmed, it's only projected to be a trocal storm strength, but there's a possibility of Category 1 winds. Which means school might be canceled, but i won't hold my breath, since in two years here a typhoon hasn't yet managed to affect school schedule.

i've put the link to Tropical Storm Risk website back up, so you're welcome to track typhoon's progress yourselves. Enjoy!


1. My students did not place in the story contest. They did a good job. One of them was the best out of the 10 students that performed before her. I am very proud of them and the work they've put in. It was a fun contest, though. In the second half the competition picked up and the best stories were performed. Ben's student and Rodger's student both placed, getting first and second respectively. Rodger's kid's performance made me laugh so hard, I cried. It's odd however, being in an audience of 40 but being one of a handful who actually understands what is being said at the podium.

2. my car's airconditioner has been fixed! yipee. it didn't cost me a grand, but half of that, which is still no small amount, but the pleasure of driving and not sweating should not be underestimated. next step, do something about the CD player thing.

3. it is so so so hot now that it's harder to think in the classroom. seriously. i get all sort of ideas while sitting in the air conditioned teacher office but in the classroom the response time is slowed down to a mere crawl. ha ha
kidding. but it is hot and i do wish we had aircons in every classroom because the last 3 weeks before summer vacation are torture here. がんばりましょう、ね!

4. 4th of July has no bearing whatsover on our life in Japan. Except that a bunch of US ALTs got invited to a celebration of the 231st anniversary of American independence tonight at the consulate office in Naha. I was gonna go, but now am thinking not. Still might change my mind. have 4 hours.

5. My sister is the coolest for hanging out at the same bar in New York as Drew Barrymore and Zach Braff. No. Not at the same time. ;)


Thursday, June 28, 2007

my day.
actually it would be more correct to say that i hit the snooze way too many times thinking that i'm somehow owed an hour of extra sleep for staying after school for 2 extra hours.
show up to work 30 minutes late. Empty school. Nearly. 1st graders are the only students in attendance. 2nd and 3rd graders are at work sites, 2nd graders have been at them since Monday, 3rd graders only today and Friday. Have a meeting with JTE for 2nd period class with 1st graders. We're entering dangerous territory--3rd person singular "s" addition to the verbs. It is the most common mistake and the more frustrating for the fact that if students don't have this down by 3rd grade, what chance do they have with past perfect construction?

So. Plan to actively pursue education of fresh minds. Recently I realized that when i took foreign language in high school the classes were every day and in the German classroom. Therefore everyday we got to see the posters with common rules on the walls. The more you see those rules, the better they sink in, i think. Since in Japanese classrooms it is the teachers that move and not the students, having permanent subject posters like that is impossible. So I asked if we could have students glue inside their files a cut out with the explanation of how the "s" gets added on to the 3rd person singular verbs. He went for it! Yipee. The inside of their file covers are going to be filled by end of school year!
Class over, I stay around and chat with a couple of the kids. Back in the teachers' office, I savor the coolness of the aircon--the only one in the school. Few minutes of kanji study are followed by a completion of a Sudoku puzzle--I've renewed my interest in these puzzles after finding a book of them under others while cleaning the shelves behind my desk.
Next, time on the internet, chat with my sister and bring Facebook up to date. Then i realize i should be going to the BOE to talk with my supervisor about my wanting to get the AC in my car looked at. I call, he's on holiday today, they say the superintendant will be back in 15 minutes. I leave school in 20, get to BOE and am told the superintendent went to lunch already. It's 11:30am. I mention that I want to go to a repair shop in Kunigami to have AC fixed. While one BOE lady looks up the phone number the other remembers that this shop will not do AC work and I have to go elsewhere. Men in the accounting division are asked and there are now 3 people trying to figure out where to send me. They map out a place near Nago, and I think i know what they mean (the subject of how maps are drawn here should be fully explored at a later date). The new concern is whether I will be able to get a loaner car from the shop. The phone call is made and it is found out that no loaners are available at that shop or another one like it in Nago. What to do? The discussions that follow are mostly beyond my comprehension. I just politely stand off to the side as the issue is hashed out. I am next told that there is a place in Tsuha (the northern most village of Ogimi-son) that I should go to. Another map is drawn, and this time I know exactly where I'm going as the car place appears to be right next to a new soba shop I've eaten at several times already. I thank everyone profusely and go back to school for lunch.
Lunch time. One of the dishes is tiny salted fish mixed in with caramelized peanuts. But we also got a watermelon today! Hurray! And it's delicious! I eat three pieces as there are extra. Yum.

After lunch, drive to the car place but warn two people at school prior to my going that the shop might be calling them if I don't understand something important. Drive to shop, thinking that I'd pay 500$ to fix the AC as opposed to the previously self-imposed limit of 300$. Limit upgrade due to the intensity of the heat during drive over. Get to the shop. One of the workers immediately points me towards Nago as soon as I say, "koolah" but I insist that I was meant to come here and he goes to ask. A minute later I step outside the comfortably air conditioned tiny office to find another man pulling up in a small white car. When he steps out he attempts to explain to me the details of the situation. I gather that I'm getting a loaner from them, but they will actually take my car to Nago to get it looked at. It dawns on me that the man back at the office arranged this with the owner of this shop who is possibly a friend if not a relation. Sooo. I have no idea when I'll see my car again, how much it'll cost me or anything else for that matter. But I do get to drive a tiny air conditioned car for a couple of days, and that's all right with me.
A year ago I would find this to be extremely frustrating and nerve wracking. I am much calmer about these situations now. Am not exactly sure why that is. Perhaps it's due to the fact that nothing really has gone wrong for me here yet. This will be the first thing, eh? Watch me shell out a grand for AC repairs next week! But if I do, it better work like new.

At school I do more sudoku, study more kanji, read a grossly entertaining book called, "Stiff" about human cadavers and their adventures in the land of research.
I can't leave.
I am waiting for the story contest students and so have to stay at school past my contract time. One of them shows up a little after 5:30pm. We have a quick practice; she is nearly ready. I call a couple of teachers and some 1st grade basketball girls to listen to her tell the story. She does it beautifully and in well under 5 minutes. I'm relieved and we both go home.

Quick, improvised dinner of stir-fried wild rice, tuna, green onion, and leafy frozen veggies. At around 7:30pm I'm at eisa practice. Tonight we get to put in orders for pants and shoes. I try on the L size baseball pants and they fit. I sometimes wish i was back in a country where I was Medium size. We go through the songs three times and at the end of the 2nd round i enthusiastically hit my thumb instead of the drum. AGAA!

After eisa practice, i watch some women from the village practice a hari boat dance inside the gym and feel a part of a community. Sort of. Still sometimes just an outsider looking in.

Have an exciting weekend coming up, starting with a carefree Friday. No students will be at the school at all, and I'm staying at home in the morning 'cause only 4 people will actually be at work. I will have to go in around 4pm to wait around for the story contest students again. But thankfully tomorrow is the last day, and Saturday we get to show off our students and stories. Goodluck to all! :)
I'll let ya all know how it goes.


5:45am. near Ogimi, looking north.