i wanted to do a photo blog, so forgive me for not doing what i wanted to do even though you had no idea i wanted to do it.
i thought it'd be the easiest way to share with you about what's been happening lately. mostly about the Golden week weekends, so perhaps i'll add them in a few days.
the first weekend i was meant to participate in an adventure to an uninhabited island off Izena island with several wacky and determined friends. i backed out and spent the weekend in the north. it was a good decision, although i do regret not exploring the village that has been abandoned on that island for 50 years or so. heard it was creepy but very interesting as most of the buildings were quite old.
saturday it rained all day and i wasn't quite up for anything more than going for a walk in the neighborhood. The lovely turk stayed with me friday night and it was wonderful to catch up with her and hear all about her trip home during spring break. She brought me a great gift--an actual turkish "chevz", a russian name for a turkish coffee cooker. Sunday the weather was lovely, sunny and bright, and i went to the Shioya village to watch the trim runs. My students were helping out and all the village officials were there and i walked around Shioya after and took some pics from spots i haven't been to before. On saturday, boys and girls basketball teams played in a tournament between northern junior high schools. The girls, unfortunately, didn't get through the firs two rounds, but the boys team did. Sunday afternoon, i drove to a junior high school in Nago and watched the Ogimi boys' team play for the 1st place. They were fantastic and won easily. That was very exciting. The teachers who left Ogimi in March were there to cheer them on, which was great to see. And the cheering squads of both schools were unstoppable. The entire baseball team of the opposing school was up in the rafters doing cheers along side their girls' basketball team. So even though our team beat theirs, i think their cheering squad easily overtook ours.
Later that day Kelly came up with her visiting friend. First we went to see a movie at Schwab, called Number 23 with Jim Carrey. Kelly once again went to a movie with me without knowing much about it and i couldn't remember anything about this one to tell her, except that i wanted to see it based on the previews and it seemed intense. It was that and also slightly convoluted and a bit predictable, but film noirish (is that a word?) in parts and creepy. I enjoyed it. Kelly didn't. She will never go to movies with me again, i fear. After the movie we hung out at mine, drinking wine and playing games and mentioning the Number 23 every once in a while to bring back fond memories of the film.
On Monday I spent time with Gabrielle and later on David and Andy came up after their "lost" adventure and we walked around my village and they told me all the stories from their trip. quite hilarious. During our walk, we stumbled upon a tiny place that at first looked like a shop, but turned out to be a small museum with a collection of items and photos from Kijoka's history and culture. The owner collects items that have to do with the local folklore, specifically the tree sprite creature, bunagaya. This red headed tiny being is more commonly known as kijimuna on Okinawa and can be sited in their home, the gajumaru tree.
Here's a link to a more detailed explanation of kijimuna Kijimuna inkblot art
The next weekend David, Ben, Juhi and i ventured to Kume island. This island has been on Juhi's "most wanted" list for a long time, nearly as long as she's been on Okinawa. The 4 hour ferry ride brought us to the beautiful and quite big Kume jima. We rented a car and camped near the beach. It was a wonderful weekend and i have photos up on Fotki and facebook.
There's a spot on Kume island that is known as the ghost road. Juhi had some "google translated pages" about certain places on Kume and they were mostly gibberish that made for funny reading. The ghost road was essentially described as a place where the ghost spirits can create optical illusions to confuse people. On this road, in a certain spot, if one were to put the car in neutral the car would move forward even though it appeared to be climbing up. It took us a while to find the road in the first place because of the rain and the dusk and the fact that Kume government has seemingly decided to let their tourists strain their eyesight at tiny, nearly rubbed off signs posted right at the corner of the turn off for an attraction. Having found the road, i put the car in neutral in several spots without any success of involving the ghosts in our faiths. We gave up but when the road took a dip, i decided to put it in neutral and let it roll down the hill. I took my foot off the pedals and the car rolled downhill and then, as it came to a slight incline, it kept rolling. I excitedly pointed out the fact that the car was still in neutral and my foot was still nowhere near the pedals. We decided, that because i first went down a hill and then up, i might have had enough momentum to continue upwards. So i reversed the car to a spot about halfway on the decline, stopped, put the car in neutral and took off my foot. The car slowly rolled down and then up the incline. For a moment, we thought it wouldn't roll much further but it kept going reaching the top. Spooky! But mostly an optical illusion. Ben claims that he figured it out. Ask him about it. :)
So am back in school and it's nearly lunch time. Wanted to quickly rant about the lack of a coffee shop concept in Japan. or maybe it's just Okinawa, though i doubt it. A giant, three story building was being renovated for the last two months in the middle of Nago. The signage proclaimed the coming of an internet cafe, billiards, and darts. I was excitedly anticipating its opening because from the road it looked like that along the side of the regular cubical reading spots, there would be comfy couches and chairs set up by the large windows. Finally! i thought, A place where i can sit and read with a cup of tea or coffee in Nago. I have been very much missing a coffee shop atmosphere that i've grown fond of in Milwaukee. The place opened on the 27th and i went on the 28th. As i parked, i saw through the windows a couple of people reading on the cream colored, comfy looking couches. I grabbed my book and headed in. A guy approached me with a shiny, explanation pamphlet. I said i wanted to read, he asked if i wanted a cubicle or to sit by the window. I motioned to the windows. He took me to the counter and i asked about getting a coffee. He pointed to a menu list, except it didn't list the types of coffees the place had, instead it listed durations of time, locations and the price. So to sit on the couches for half an hour costs 200Yen (roughly 1.5$) and a drink from a coffeematic machine is free. I think my look of disbelief must have confused the guy further and he kept pointing at the price list, which by this point, i had perfectly understood--NO COFFEE SHOP FOR ELINA!
today is Goya day. Because it's the 5th month, May, which is called Gogatsu in Japanese. and the 8th day of that month, which can be read as "ya" sometimes. So 5/8 is "goya" day. Clever. We're having goya tempura for lunch along with fishy smelling spaghetti and baked potatoes topped with bacon and a small side of a an egg salad with some green looking things. nope. not the healthiest of lunches. and no dessert! :(
Yesterday i was at the local shop in Kijoka and over heard a couple of old ladies chatting inside. By overheard, i don't mean, i understood them because there was no way i could. They were speaking the Okinawan language, Uchinaguchi. I've heard people refer to it as a dialect of Japanese but have also read somewhere that people outside of Japan and Okinawa consider it a distinctly separate language. Since i haven't done much research into the area, i can't confirm either way. But i can tell you that the language the ladies were speaking was NOT japanese. It didn't even really sound like it. It actually resembled Chinese to me. Uchinaguchi or the Ryukyu language is also referred to as hogen and i have learned a few words, but not very many. Some of my friends who interact more with the locals know quite a few words and older Okinawans appreciate people learning their language. Sadly, though, the language may die out in a couple of generations as young people don't speak it and their parents don't speak it well or frequently. Hogen varies from village to village as we discovered while trying to compare our knowledge of it. Andy knew words that David didn't but they also knew differently sounding words for the same things. Ben told me that even villages located relatively close to each other, like the 3 villages of Higashi-son, will have hogen words unique to them. Interesting. Maybe one of these days i'll look a bit more into it.
and in other news.
am going home next week for my sister's graduation from the Marquette School of Dentistry. It is definitely an unexpected visit and will be a short one, but i felt that it had to happen and so am going. The next few days will be slightly more strained for me because i'm just really wanting to see my family already!