Tuesday, January 29, 2008

six months. i have six months left here, and i'm starting to feel bad for asking all those people who left before me about their plans when they were in the same position as i am now. it must be one of the most difficult questions to answer, especially once you've answered it two to three times. but i understand how it's the first question one thinks to ask, 'cause the leaving marks an end to one moment in life and and a beginning of a new, yet unknown one. it's like everyone asking a fresh college graduate his future plans. remember how annoying getting those were?
i have answers, though. i shrug and i say, "i'll teach, i guess"

but anyways. this post is not about that.
last weekend i took the next belt test in karate. I'm going from orange to yellow belt, which actually means going from 7-dan to 5-dan. i think i've improved. don't know if i've improved to justify the yellow belt but i feel more in control of my body now than i did two years ago when i started. everything was difficult then; now the most difficult part is trying to understand what sensei is saying at all times and staying in "shikodachi" (sp?) for prolonged periods of time.

it's raining. it's been raining. it's gonna continue raining. but just as i'm typing this a few struggling rays of sun have graced us with their presence. it'll be brief, though. i want this weather to pass but that also means time passing and i don't want the time to pass too quickly, so I'm gonna pretend to be enjoying this so that it doesn't fly and so that i notice everything.

time is zooming past, though. in a month's time 3rd graders will be graduating and a month after that a new school year will start and in between, my sister Anna will visit here with Brad. I look forward to that very much, but i'm not looking forward to saying goodbye to the 3rd graders. I met them as 1st graders when I came here, and I've gotten used to seeing their faces every day and now that they're grown up and are becoming interesting individuals, it's even harder to let go. Funny, how we're able to form relationships in spite of language barriers. Granted, of course, that if my Japanese was at a higher level when I arrived, my relationship with these kids would be much different, but I like that they have to work to explain themselves to me and I to them. It's never stressful with students; only with adults.

I've watched the entire first season of "Bones" in two weeks time. I must say I enjoyed it, although the writing in a couple of episodes seemed overly forced and unnatural, overall I like the show. I do think that the character of Dr. Brennen seems overly sheltered sometimes. In one episode she doesn't seem to know who Grinch is which really makes me wonder about her childhood. She didn't lose her parents until she was a teenager and so it's easy to believe that once she started her studies and retracted fully into the world of academia she has lost touch with the popular culture, but did she not watch cartoons and movies as a child?

Two weeks ago I noticed a petition looking sheet in the teachers' lounge and asked about it. I was told that it was a sheet provided by the Japanese government that is considering putting fluoride into schools' tap water system in all of Japan. The petition is for students to have their say whether they approve of the idea or not. At first, I thought, how silly. Of course they should want fluoride to be in their water. We've been told that there's no fluoride in the water, no fluoride in the toothpaste and that leads to Japanese notoriously bad teeth. But before making hasty judgements and because the school nurse is against the fluoride in the water, I decided to google it. And guess what? Turns out fluoride is not all that good for yah. Turns out it can be damaging to children when ingested in certain amounts. The FDA is actually starting to rethink the levels of fluoride it has previously approved to be in US' tap water system. And some researchers suggested that one doesn't need to have fluoride in their water as long as they use toothpaste with fluoride or any other treatments, like sprays and such, that contain it.
I don't have the links right now; I googled this last week and so I know what I'm saying is very general, so if you're curious, the information is definitely out there and the Japanese, it turns out, are not kooky for going against the national injection of fluoride into their tap water.

I have a suspicion that there was something else I wanted to write about, but it's time for lunch and I always help set up, so 'til next time!


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Thailand post is all in my head. Ask me about it sometime. Putting it down on paper, am sure will help me digest it better, but it is apparently not that time yet.

Instead. Let's get back to Okinawa.

Last Friday, for a brief instant, in the middle of Okinawa I experienced an alternate reality experience. I would recommend it, but it's certainly not for the faint of heart. This experience took place in Chatan, a place in itself a bit surreal, where Okinawan and American cultures merge and create a unique spot, a place where for the last few years the Okinawa JET book club has met to discuss books and life.
I arrived with a friend at 6:45pm, a full 15min early, which in itself is a bit trippy, considering that I have never even arrived exactly on time. So after parking at a pretty good spot near a burger joint on the beach, we leisurely made our way to the cafe, chatting about this and that along the way, not paying attention to our surroundings because once you know where you're going and you have gone there nearly every month for the last 2 years, you don't expect to look for it, it'll just arrive at your feet and you'll walk up the stairs, across the rickety wooden bridge and into the open space of one of the coolest cafes on the island. As we walked, an uncomfortable nagging feeling started creeping under my skin. Something was amiss. We stopped at an area of long wooden tables. Where's the stairs? The bridge? The cafe? None of those things were in front of us. Instead the long tables stretched out towards the park behind them and a tiny little bar blared its music at us from the far right corner. Ahead of us along the street, the bright pink sign of a "relaxing house" seemed a bit too close and we turned back. The cafe should have been behind us, before the stretch of wooden tables. But where was it? We walked back. And there it was. Set in between the two apartment buildings, the walkway and all underlying, shack-like structures gone, the stairs now an open space with no sign of them ever existing, and the cafe! Its front ripped open, it stood exposed, its innards open for all to see, if there was anything left to see that is. All that remained were crisscrossing wooden boards and one panel that separated what used to be a cozy, warm room filled with low coaches and uncomfortable bar stools, and an open area that offered beautiful sunset views over the sea. Friend and I stood in disbelief. Welcome to an alternate reality! Hope you enjoy your stay!

Yep. Sad, but true. Celluiloid Cafe is no longer. That night we went to the burger place by the seaside. Its burgers are tasty and it has plenty of room for us, but it's lacking the atmosphere conducive to book discussions and so we are now out hunting for a new location. Hopefully, one will be deemed suitable by all so that we don't have to move for the rest of the year. I suppose, before we settle in, we should ask whether they plan on selling their property anytime soon. I don't think I could handle another heartbreak of losing a favorite coffee shop in the near future.