Friday, April 18, 2008

this week on tuesday a dog followed some students to the school. Where the dog came from, no one knew. He had a collar on and seemed a very friendly little puppy. He was entirely white except for a few pink spots on his curious little nose, and was immediately dubbed yagi (goat). He was tied up to a water hose that morning to prevent him from walking into the school and that's how i met him when i walked towards the main entrance. He spent the morning tied up with the water hose, which must not have been all that comfortable and wined whenever no one was around him. At lunch we chatted about little goat and how he was probably abandoned by someone from the south. Apparently it's a common thing for people in the south to bring their unwanted dogs and cats to the jungles of the north and leave them here to fend for themselves. During Golden Week when people have time off in the beginning of May this happens quite often. This explains the large number of strays that mingle all around the northern area and make convenience stores their homes.
I asked what was going to happen to the little goat and was told that school will call the village office to take care of it. I asked why people just dumped the animals--isn't there a proper facility to leave them at? A shelter? Turns out there's one in Nago near us but sometimes when it's full people get turned away when they bring their pets in. I then asked if it was usual for people to get their pets from a shelter, and most teachers sort of shrugged unknowingly but the librarian told me that she actually adopted a dog from a shelter years ago. I wonder if there's much awareness about animals in shelters here. The little goat was taken away, but not by the village office. He spent the night at the school and the next morning followed the school's bus driver into the hills. I guess we proved not to care as much for the poor bastard as the people that dumped him. I brought him milk during the day when he was tied up to a different spot--didn't seem to have been fed all day. I wish I could have taken him, but his second morning at school it was decided that he would definitely not remain at the school by the office lady. The vice principal seemed open to the possibility but she rejected the idea right out. I don't blame her. In the end, the responsibility of taking care of it would fall to her, and a dog is not like fish or a little bird that we already have at the school.
So i hope the little goat has been picked up by someone who thought a white, friendly puppy would add happiness to their lives.

In other news, I walked into a glass door at the Nago library because it was cleaned too well and i thought there was no door. Also it is entirely my fault for not paying attention and not looking where i was going. Classic. The best part was, though, when i walked away dazed from the impact and then came back to the same glass door to properly walk through it, i noticed a half face imprint on the glass.
It's like the movies but real and every time i visualize what it must have looked like--me, distracted by something on the left, walking straight into a clean glass door with the right side of my face, i laugh. A lot. Surprised it didn't leave too noticeable of a bruise.
Don't you wish you saw it?
ha ha


Thursday, April 10, 2008

the best medicine for waking one up and raising one's spirits are a room full of fresh faced, eager, and slightly scared 7th graders who like English! or at least they like it enough to jump into lessons with positive attitude and energy.
today i met all 38 of them in two separate classes. 19 kids in a room is a wonderful thing; I am really gonna get to like the small number in the classroom. Originally all 38 of them were supposed to be in one class. According to Japan's rules, if the number of new students entering is 41 or under they are all to be put in one classroom and the teaching staff is to be hired/dismissed accordingly. Because of this rule we have one less staff this year, but because our teachers are not afraid of a little extra work and because our classrooms were not made for more than 35 kids at the most and because having all 38 kids in one class when we have two empty classrooms available is sheer insanity, they decided to split them up. Whoo hoo!
Today, I introduced myself, my 4th and last time of self-introduction using the same laminated photo cards i made when i first arrived. The best part was, however, when they introduced themselves because most of them were able to do it without skipping a beat and because thanx to Cliff! i found out that some of them like "fishing" and "listening to music" and "cooking" and "running" along with the usual fare of watermelons, strawberries, basketball, and baseball.
Way to go, Cliff! Thanx to him also the kids surprised me by asking me on their first day in school, "What's up, Elina teacher?" and when i ask them the same question in return some of them know to say, "Nothing much!"
That just made me laugh out loud. Awesome!
So a good start with the 1st graders. Seeing them also made me feel like i know the community a little bit through them--or at least the children's community because about half of them have older siblings who are either still at the school or whom i've taught in the previous three school years. And that's a wonderful thing--recognizing kids based on the siblings I've already met and seeing how they're different and what traits they share. One of them in particular looks so much so like his brother did when he was a 1st grader 3 years ago, i almost called him by his brother's name.

the rest of the blog i'll do in pictures.

Three 3rd graders were asked to screw in grade plaques at the top of each classroom entrance. This is the point at which they gave up because they chose the wrong screws and couldn't undo what they'd done. I tried helping but it was finally obvious that they needed another adult but all the teachers were in a meeting. This was during Monday's afternoon when all other students went home after the morning's ceremonies.

2nd and 3rd grade students hold a flower arch way for incoming 1st graders to walk through on the way to the front of the gym. This was the last ceremony on Monday. The first ceremony was to welcome and introduce four new staff members and tell students who their homeroom teachers will be in the new year. The second ceremony was the official openning of the new school term. And after an hour and a half break, parents and village officials joined for the final ceremony of the day--the welcoming of new students.

Last Sunday I went for a drive on the eastern side of the island looking for random roads and things. Here's a picture i took near Arume village (Higashi-son).

The previous picture i took while driving along to find a wild boar place in the hills of Arume and here it is! At the gate it said that entrance was 200Yen for adults, so i drove just a little ways in to see what it was all about and noticed the boars behind a fence to the right of the car. I got out and snapped some pictures and reversed out of the driveway. Feel a little bad for not going all the way in and paying to see these loudly snorting and easily scared animals. Maybe I'll come back.

This is Bunsei Shimabukuro, an accomplished potter in Ogimi whom we visited while Anna and Brad were on Okinawa. He lives in the jungle hills with his wife where they built a home and he has built two kilns and is working on a third. He was incredibly kind to us in showing us around his place and I think really impressed Anna and Brad. I particularly liked his wife's cooking. :)

Anna and Brad were introduced to Okinawa's instruments while at K-san's house during their visit. Brad really took to sanshin, the three stringed instrument. That night we had a wonderful time at K-san's house who is one of my adult conversation students and she and her family have become great friends to me.

I sent a photo of this giant kiln in Yomitan village to Anna two years ago, and seeing it up close, I think, has been a goal of theirs in coming to Okinawa. Here they are very happy in having accomplished it. The Yomitan visit was a learning experience in many respects for me because through Anna and Brad I discovered quite a bit about Okinawan pottery traditions and I was looking at the same pottery I saw so many times through the new knowledge which made it so much more enjoyable and interesting.

Here is Anna behind a wall of a man made waterfall at the Fukushuen Park in the middle of urban Naha. It's a Chinese style garden park that was built 10 years ago to commemorate a 20 year anniversary of a sister-city relationship established between Naha and Fukushu, China. The garden is free to visit and is a wonderful, mid-city spot to relax amid nature and beautifully arranged Chinese-style buildings, bridges, and pavilions.

This is the first picture I snapped of Anna and Brad on Okinawa. We were walking along Kokusai street and an awamori shop caught their eyes, so we walked in. First they were amazed to discover snakes in the giant glass sake jars, but next their attention was drawn by beautifully fired ceramic awamori vessels. They were struck by everything from form to color to size and style, and I knew they were gonna love Okinawa because this was our first stop and pottery is all over this island. :)

So that's the end of the photo journey of the last two weeks. I'll try not to take such long breaks between blogs--but i believe it's a promise i've been making for last two years and 8 months and am still not able to keep.
Less than 4 months to go.