Wednesday, October 25, 2006

I want to make a difference

I want to make a difference in this world. I love being in Japan and what I am doing here. But - am I really making a difference? Sometimes - this job is not rewarding at all. I mean - it's rewarding for my personal life. But - as far as this world. Am I really making the world a better place? I want to help others. I want to make someone's life better that has it worse than me.

U2 - this morning, driving to work, made me think these things. Listening to Bad by U2 - while driving to the teaching job made me realize - my life is good - but others aren't. I really want to do something to help others. Time to reconsider where I wanted to go with my life - yet again..

If I could, you know I would
If I could, I would
Let it go...

This desperation
In temptation
Let it go

And so fade away
To let it go
And so fade away
To let it go
And so to fade away

I'm wide awake
I'm wide awake
Wide awake
I'm not sleeping
Oh, no, no, no

I have been doing a lot of thinking lately, ne?

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

almost 23

im almost 23. i remember when i was a kid I thought kids in high school had all the answers. im 23 and think when will i know the answers? I feel like even though I've entered the real world - I really havent. but i have. I mean I'm in japan - I have my own health insurance, car insurance, car, house, monthly bills and expenses, I clean (or rather, don't clean) my own house, I do as I please. I am an adult. but, I still feel like I'not on my own two feet. everywhere I turn, I am constantly reaching out to others for help here.

I'm almost 23. recently, that feeling that I dont want to grow old by myself is creeping up on me. goodness, I'm ONLY 23. why are these thoughts in my head? before Japan, I had found love - a love I never actually believed existed. but that opportunity has left since I'm here and he's there. but my awesome uncle once said to me that this world is a large place and meant to be traveled and if possible - it'd be awesome to share the world with another person.

I'almost 23. I'm not going to accept a person in my life that is only mediocre. but I want to share this travel bug i have with someone else. tonight I was talking to my awesome mom - and already telling her of my after japan plans. I surely am not ready to leave Japan because as much as ive experienced - i havent experienced it enough. i do think i'll be here for three years. but, already i am thinking of how I will do the peacecorp or maybe teachforamerica or maybe work on a cruise ship when i am done here. i want to see it all, i want to do it all, but want to do it fullheartedly. i dont want to just go to england for 3 days - if im goin to England I want to live there. thats how I am and thats how I work.

im almost 23. i cant wait for halloween. i find so much that when im teaching i wish i was sitting in the seat someone telling me what to do and what to think. sometimes i dont want to think for myself. sometimes i wish i didnt have to teach myself this language that i had a structured class like these kids. when the kids are acting like jerks i think to myself how lucky you are that i am teaching you. i would give anything to be in a structred class to leran your language.

im almost 23 and im proud of myself. i have these horrible classes as ive mentioned. im taking control. my co-teacher has let me get up there and do what I need to do. im up there and lmost shocked at how natural it has become for me to be in control. i dindt go to college for teaching but man i think i am doing a good job. i am up there wishing my friends and family from home could see me in action. i think theyd be shocked at how i control the class.

im almost 23 and i feel like no one knows me. my friends from home dont know the sara in japan and my friends in japan dont know the pre japan sara. i can only talk about what i was like and i can only tlell people from home about my experiences. i cant wait until my friends in japan know the sara that has become sara here and that my past experiences arent as prevalent in my life as they are now.

im almost 23 and im in japan. i cant complain.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Mount Kurikoma part 2 & a 10km race

go Sabres - 8-0 - I hope this is going to be their year - even though it will be hard to be as excited from way over in Japan as opposed to sitting in the bars in Plattsburgh watching since the cable in the dorms don't carry the channel that plays the games. Go Sabres.

I had yet another wonderful weekend. This weekend was so enjoyable thanks to some of the wonderful folks in my English Conversation Class. I tell you - I am so grateful to experience actually living in Japan as opposed to traveling Japan. Thanks to living here - I get to see and do things that you wouldn't ever know about if only traveling. I did so many wonderful things on Saturday that you would never read about to do in a Lonely Planet nor really have the time to on a rushed schedule traveling the country.

A few weeks ago - the English Conversation Class coordinator - Sakurai - San asked Brian san and I to go to onsen(see link back where I explain onsen in earlier post). Of course - we said yes - but I had not anticipated how much more of Japan I would experience on Saturday! Sakurai - san also brought her husband, mother - in law and another woman from our class - all great people.

The onsen destination was Mount Kurikoma - where I went to last weekend. This mountain is a large range and covers three prefectures(states). We headed up a different way from last week. We were going through Akita - ken* - and I stayed in only Miyagi -ken last weekend. On the way there - we stopped at a place called Nuruyu Gobansho. It was a historic ruins museum basically. The building was 400 years old - and had many antiques inside. Our guides explained all the different items inside the building. I thought the inside was cool because of the structure. We were inside a 400 year old house with 400 year old kitchen Gods, ceramics, kitchen items, living room, etc. We got to go upstairs as well and see 400 year old looms and thread spinners. Outside of this building was a 400 year old Cherry Blossom Tree!
I didn't bring my camera because I didn't realize we were going in. Gomen.

As we neared closer and closer to the mountain, we went through so many beautiful areas of Japan. Goodness, this country is just so beautiful. The natural beauty of it all - is breathtaking. So many cedars, so many mountains, valleys, unique nooks & cranny's of the landscape. I can't begin to put it into words.

As we started gaining elevation - the scenery just became more orange, red, and yellow from the autumnal color change that I was trying to see last week. I was taking it in the best I could - sometimes I think I could just get lost in an area like that - and not want to find my way back.
We stopped at a rest stop to take some photos. Please see below!

On Saturday, I also got to experience some of Akita prefecture's famous ice cream. It really isn't ice cream, per se - but more of like a sherbet. It tasted great - it also reminded me of something that I may have had in my past but I couldn't put my finger on it. It's a yellow and red color and quite sweet and soft.

We made one more stop before getting to the onsen - this time to view the onsen we would be going to from a distance and to see a nice lake. The temperate had dropped drastically and it was so cold now! The picture farthest down - if you look hard enough you can see the onsen we were about to head to.

And then we reached the onsen! This onsen experience was more intimidating than the others one I had been to prior to this. The first two onsen I had experienced - well - it was basically my western friends & me - and then maybe one or two other women. At this particular onsen - there were much more women and I was the only foreigner. But when in Rome...
The onsen really are relaxing and when everyone is naked - who cares? I think it's just such a different concept from most people from Western cultures. There is really nothing back home where you would walk around completely naked in front of complete strangers. Meghann and I discussed it today though - we think there should be. It' s such a healthy way for people to feel more comfortable with their body image. You become much more comfortable with the idea of your body - when you are walking around naked in front of others. Body image is such a huge deal with most women in America - and we think onsen could improve that. It's all environmental - and I hope that if you come visit me - you'd be all about going to an onsen and experiencing it.

Many Japanese people believe it is very good for your health and skin as well. This onsen was beautifully located - situated in the mountains. Sulfuric smelling again -reminding me of New Zealand. We chatted in the outdoor onsen where we got to intake the views of Kurikoma Quasi - National Park. Including the second highest mountain in Northern Japan. I explained to them about "pruny hands" which was funny. They said they had "pruny faces." Haha. Of course - they don't. People in Japan generally have wonderful skin. Women in America look much older and have many more wrinkles than their same aged counterparts in Japan. Maybe - onsen really are wonderful for your skin =)

Feeling wonderfully relaxed we met back up with Brian san and Mr. Sakurai San and we all went to get some lunch downstairs. Lunch was delicious - I had some pasta and it had very tasty sauce.

Following lunch we headed only a few minutes up the street where we entered Iwate Ken.

See the picture to the right. The sign letting us know we are entering the prefecture. The picures on the sign are great - mountains and onsen! We stopped here so they could show us some more outdoor onsen and some of the beauty of this area.

Above: Just a shot from the area we stopped at.

To the left - these people are stopping to dip their feet into the onsen. Very cool. These are the types of stops we made - that you would never know to do from a Lonely Planet book! Then below is where the cool air meets the hot onsen creating a lot of steam!

Following that little pitstop - we kept driving and driving through more of the beautiful mountain range until we reached a gorge. This gorge is called the Geinbikei Gorge. It was a fun stop - got to see the gorge but also this really cool restaurant. This area is famous the for the Dango. According to Wikipedia, a Dango is...Dango (団子?) is a Japanese dumpling made from mochiko (rice flour), related to mochi. It is sticky and filling. Then they put like a sauce like substance over it. Well up and over the gorge there is this one restaurant that is famous for selling them and they have a most unique way of doing that! Basically - the restaurant sends down a basket to this little picnic area where people can order and get drunks from then. After finishing - they place the dirty items back into the basket - to be brought back up to the restaurant. It was really cool and a unique way to do business - kudos from me - the Marketing major. See the picture below of the basket experience and of the beautiful gorge!

To the left is our English Conversation class members!
Well - we had originally wanted to do the basket dango experience - but the restaurant was hanging a red flag which means they are sold out. Since - it was sold out we went to another restaurant to have some. I have tried the Dango once or twice in the past. I have in the past tried the GOMA or Sesame flavor sauce. I liked it but I want to try as many things as possible here. I tried the wal-nut kind on Saturday and I loved it! I also tried Brian's soy sauce flavored one - but I didn't really care for his.

After the dango/gorge place in Iwate - we started heading back. I loved every minute of it - from ancient ruins, to spending time with the women from my class, to ineffable scenery, to steamy onsens, inside and out, a delicious lunch, dangos and gorges. Certainly a day I won't forget.

I got home and headed to bed quite early since I had my 10km race today. Today was such a blast! Meghann and I have been anticipating this day but I don't think either of us expected to have as much fun as we did. In Japan, there is this saying "Gombatte". It literally means "try your best". But - it's a phrase that we hear nearly daily in all and everything we do. It's just a part of the culture - but we find it funny that we just hear it so much. We parked our car at the ALT apartment building in Ishinomaki and were walking to the race to register our numbers.

I am going to try to explain this as best as possible - but I think it's one of those things that a reader can't really understand unless they have themselves lived in Japan and experienced the incessant use of "gombatte, ne". Meghann was expressing to me how she believes we will just hear that phrase over and over - and how funny it will be. Of course - we were giggling about it, when sure enough a man in the street stopped us - and asked if we were going to run. We told him yes and the next thing he says to us is "Gombatte, ne!" Where we agreed with him and then turned around and just started cracking up. It was certainly just the most perfect timing for him to say that. We were still laughing about it a few minutes later, when he drove by us and yelled it out his window again. It was such a wonderful start of our day.

We registered ourselves and then headed back to the car because we still had nearly two hours before it was our time to run and it was freeeezing this morning. We sat in the car and looked at our goody bag - a free sports drink, towel, food ticket, and the race program. We really didn't know what we were doing - I mean we didn't know where the race started, ended, etc. After spending some time in the car - we headed back to the race start area where we watched the opening ceremony. I was on the look out for the man who told me about the race from conversation class named Mitsuhiro san. Finally - he spotted me and I spotted him. I love this man - I really do. He is so happy and full of energy and friendly. He is just such a lovely person. He doesn't speak much English but I fully enjoy his company. I introduced him to Meghann and he brought us over to introduce us to his friends. We met them all and chatted small talk. Mitsuhiro explained the route to me a bit more and I was fully aware of it. Then it was getting a bit closer to the race so we went our own way to warm up. We warmed up - figured out the signs for where the ten kilometer women over age 18 went to . And thank goodness because shortly after we were being led to the beginning of the start. I was standing between Mitsuhiro and Meghann.

We saw some of the people who work at our top Board of Education who we rarely see. They were all very friendly and happy to see us partaking in the Ishinomaki Seaside Marathon - 20th anniversary. They were all very suprised to find out we were running in the 10km as well.

I was really nervous to run this 10km because when training - my feet go numb and it's been a big problem. I was really scared I was going to have to stop half way through and walk a bit until I got feeling back in my feet. I have tried all sorts of things that people have suggested to me - none of which worked. So - I went out there kind of laughing.

It was quite funny because Meghann and I just felt so unprepared to run - these people were hardcore runners - matching track suits, seriously short shorts and running get up. I was running in my old soccer shorts from like 12th grade, and this old tye dye that I have no idea where I even bought with long underwear underneath. Meghann - really in the same idea of clothes. The gun goes, and we start. We were in the front of the pack, but within seconds we were in the back of the pack. We laughed - we were seriously going to be dead last .

It was such a lovely run with Meghann. It was also great - there were surpisingly a lot of people on the sidelines - gombatte, neing us the whole way. We chatted probably for the first 30 minutes. We were really a team - just out there - being in the community - getting in some good exercise along the water. The route was a lovely run, right next to the pacific ocean. Got to see some parts of Ishinomaki that I had not seen yet. Of course - my feet had hurt - but I said screw you feet! I am finishing this!

Basically - what happens is my left foot goes numb - it starts tingling and eventually loses all feeling. It basically feels like what your arm or hand feels like if it falls asleep. You know that tingly feeling? Well - I guess I just need to run it out because after some time - it started feeling a little bit better. It kind of left my left foot and balances out to be uncomfortable in my right foot as well. Either way - it was uncomfortable but I pushed myself. Really - towards the end of the race, all those gombatte's being screamed to us were really helpful. It wasn't until the end where Meghann and I separated. I was feeling really awesome - and just had to go - and I didn't think she would mind so much (cause Meg - you're awesome). Well, I turned the corner and I thought that was the last leg - so I gave it all I could. I was running, sprinting, doing my best. I turned the corner and damn it - I wasn't on the last leg. So, I gave my oomph too early - ha! No worries - I still finished!!!!

We didn't know what our times were or anything. Mitsuhiro came over to congratulate us. He himself had placed third! He's a great runner, apparently! He did it in around 42 minutes I think he said! Awesome! We went over to get some water and stretch - when our big top, head Superintendent man came over to talk to us, named Abe. Abe asked us how we did and we said we weren't sure because there was no clock. He took us over to this one tent where we got our times. I ran it in 55 minutes and 56 seconds and Meg finished less than twenty seconds less than me.

It turns out I placed in sixth place. Abe explained to me that I was getting an award! It was actually quite funny - because I figured it would take me an hour and a half to finish the race and that I'd be in dead last place. Here I am standing there - with an awesome time (in my opinion, not that I know if that is good or not), and placed 6th. Then, we ran into our Supervisor - Yamada Sensei where he congratulated us. (Talk about good public relations for the JET programme, ne?). Mitsuhiro came over as well and gave both Meghann and I gifts. I tell you - Japanese people are the most giving people in this world. He was just so happy for us and so proud of us. Then, while in this circle - Abe comes back and says the newspaper wants to interview Meghann and I.

Apparently, Meg and I are the first ALT's ever to run in the Ishinomaki SeaSide Race. The man comes over, and asks us the same questions and we answer. He asked why I ran and I explained that Mitsuhiro told me about the race and since this is something I like to do at home - I wanted to do it in Japan as well and be a part of the community. He asked what i liked most about the race - and I told him I loved running alongside the ocean and how the community was cheering me on the whole way. I don't remember what else he asked but I think there was one more question. Miss feminist Meghann got in her words about more women need to run in both Japan and America. Haha. I love you, Meg =). He took a "candid" shot of us and took our countries and where we are living now. So - I'll probably be in the paper tomorrow - I hope I get a copy of it. I love it. I absolutely love this country.

The free food for runners was miso soup - which seems silly to us because it is so salty and hot for after a race. It was really delicious though. Mitsuhiro shared with us his onigiri and some fruit and drinks. We had lunch together and then it was the awards ceremony. I got to go stand up since I placed 6th. I won a bunch of sashimi or raw fish. Actually quite funny but sensible since I'm in Japan and running a seaside marathon. I plan on bringing it to school tomorrow to give to my school as a gift for helping me with so much. Good public relations, yet again. I

After the race, Meg and I were just so pumped and in such a great mood. We plan on signing up for another mini marathon that is held the first week of December. It's not 1okm but we had so much fun with this one - we are just avid on doing more. Mitsuhiro I am sure will continue to inform me of more races. He took pictures for me - so hopefully he'll send them to me so I can post them up here.

On the walk back to the car - a man started speaking English to us which was quite interesting. Turns out he lives right near me here in Monou. But - I think he got kind of freaked out when we started asking him his age, if he has kids and things like that. Typical questions in America for a meet and greet but in Japan - some questions aren't totally okay to ask - your first time meeting someone. We then met Katie and Akira for lunch.

What a lovely day! I came home and did some more cleaning. My house is always a mess - if it's clean - it's because I have too much time on my hands =) Just like my dorm room haha.

That was my weekend. As always to see more pictures from my trip - click on the link to the right and look this week for photos named Kurikoma Part two. And I just got the pics from the race in - look for them under Ishinomaki SeaSide Marathon.

Splendid weekend.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Witches, Mount Kurikoma and Haiku's

Here's my weekly blog of my weekend. I try to live life to the fullest and never waste a day on sitting around and doing nothing - unless it is with the company of those I enjoy around me. Well - before we get to my weekend - I suppose I'll tell you a bit about my day at work on Friday.

I was at Sue' Elementary School - where I taught about Halloween yet again. I have one story about my day at school that I think you might find funny. For my Halloween lessons - I really just try to teach how to Trick & Treat, I dress the kids up in silly things I bought at a dollar store, I teach them key words and then do some sort of craft or activity for reinforcement of the words.

I try to teach English with picture/word association. I do not write the name of the thing I am showing in neither English nor Japanese. Most kids in Elementary school can't read English anyways - and then if you write in Japanese - they really aren't learning English - just reading the Japanese.

I was in my first grade class - doing the picture/word association with things like skeleton, ghost, pumpkin, black cat, bat, frankenstein, etc. I come to my picture of a witch. I say "What's this?" They all scream SENSEI!!!!! Now - they weren't referring to me - but rather their classroom teacher. I giggled a bit and tried to tell them, no it's a witch. I try again and again and again. Every single time, "What's this?" SENSEIIIIIIIIII!!!!!!! I couldn't stop laughing - and thankfully, the teacher had a good sense of humor and was laughing as well. The reinforcement of words for first grade is coloring pictures of the words I taught that day. While they are coloring - I go around the room asking what is this? while point at the picture on their paper to check their understanding. Every single student that had a picture of a witch on their paper, refused to say witch, but only put on the biggest smile on their face and said to me "sensei". Kids are kids no matter what country you are in.

After work, I was driving into Ishinomaki to meet the Brock man for dinner. I got lost a bit because I had never gone to Ishinomaki from this school. It should be really easy - but I got lost going to school so I wasn't really sure how I even got there in the first place. I stopped and asked a man for directions. I do this nearly every other day. I always can usually get myself halfway to where I want to be and then plan on just stopping to ask for directions once I get there. This means I am a master at asking "Where am I?" while pointing to my map book. Not once, has someone not been able to understand my Japanese. I stop and ask a man - who gave me such a hard time . It was so frustrating because I know he could understand me and he wouldn't help me. Finally, his wife came over, and I asked her once -where am I - and she understood me the very first time. My first encounter of Japanese not wanting to help foreigner.

I made it into the Ish and did some small grocery shopping where I got delicious things like pomegranate, flavored tea, cereal and campbells soup. Afterwards, Brock suggested this one place to eat so we went. It was seriously a hole in the wall but amazing. We go in and more than half the restaurant was just covered with clutter. The menu was pictures of dishes the restaurant owner man had made and he seriously like took a picture of these dishes and then pasted them to some cardboard. It was great. I ordered some sort of fettucine like dish. All these dishes are homemade. Yummmyyy.... Great place.

Afterwards, we headed back to my house. We got here and mapped out the route to the mountain we were going to hike on Saturday. This goes back to never wanting to waste a day. I didn't realize I had a completely open Saturday. I saw a picture of this mountain in the newspaper and how beautiful the colors from fall approaching were. I asked the Brock if he'd want to hike it once I realized my Saturday was open. The only thing was - I wasn't entirely sure how to get there. So - mapped out the route in my mapbook, and comparing things to a bigger map of Miyagi and also a map on the internet - and found the route. We headed to bed early. Woke up - had some breakfast, made lunch and headed out. 2.5 hours later - we had reached the mountain parking lot. I struggled quite a bit going uphill in my manual car in the mountainous terrain - simply I wasn't so sure which gear I should be in and it was my first time driving up anything soooo steep. But we made it! Went into this small building, found some maps of the area - and planned out a hiking route and had our lunch. We started out hike!

This was actually taken after hiking but it is a shot of the parking lot sign, and altitude of the mountain.

This mountain is called Mount Kurikoma. The trail was pretty easy since it was well kept - probably well travelled. It felt so good to be outside again. Finally, no rain!

Unfortunately, it was a hazy day and we only got to see these colors for a few minutes of a clearing. And with it being so cloudy - the colors aren't really apparent in my shot.

My co-pilot, the Brock man (with a name like Brock, you need to add THE MAN to it as well)
The higher we climbed, the colder, windier and cloudier it got. To the right is our summit picture. As you can see, we couldn't see much of anything. It was almost kind of creepy not having any visibility.

Below: This was on the summit as well - a shrine of some sort. I took it so you could see the poor visibility.

Headed back down from the summit. Originally we were going to try to summit a second mountain nearby - but with no inkling o f hope and really crappy weather - we just headed back to the trailhead. Below: Here are some colors from the trailhead.

Granted, I didn't really get to see the colors like I had hoped, but it most certainly did not ruin my day. It was such a rewarding feeling to want to do something - and do to it - without the help of anyone really. I have to get credit to the Brock man of course. But - I wasn't relying on anyone that has been here longer than me, or speaks Japanese or anything. We made it there entirely on our own. So - really - it was more rewarding than anything. I feel like maybe I can do this afterall. On our way home, we stopped to take some shots of the nature around us.
Can you sort of see the colors?

My hot rod
So, on the way home - I got pulled over. I have a tail light that has been out for a few weeks now. I decided to play the stupid foreigner. They came to window and started talking rapid Japanese to me. Of course, I couldn't understand them - I mean, if you talk to me like a 5 year old I can usually pick up a few key words to get the gist of what is being said to me. I just say to them in Japanese that I came to Japan in August, I am studying Japanese right now and I can only understand very little. They have me get out of my car and show me my broken tail light. I just looked shocked like I didn't know that it was out. Then, they started speaking rapid Japanese to me again. At this point, I show them my NY state drivers license, my international drivers license and my alien registration card. I started telling them that I am an English teacher, that I live in Monou and that I am from the USA and that I went to Mount Kurikoma and am now going back to Ishinomaki. They kind of just started laughing and didn't really know what to do or say. They wrote down my information and told me to drive safe. I didn't get a ticket but maybe I'll get one in the mail? I dont really know how that works. I sure hope I don't get one.

We got back to Ishinomaki just fine, had some dinner with the Brockman and then went back to Monou.

On Sunday, I went into Ishinomaki with one of my co-teachers named Yuko from Kanan Higashi. She was taking me to some International Association's English Haiku writing. We went in Ishinomaki to a park called Hiyoriyama. We went into a shrine. It was really nice - the association was mainly made up of college professor's and high school teachers and other pretty smart folks. We first discussed about Matsuo Basho - a famous Haiku poet. The one man - a college professor - when he was twenty actually followed by foot the trail that Basho went to write Haiku's. That distance is probably over 400 miles - and all mountainous terrain. It's insane to think he did that!

I really enjoyed reading the historical part of Basho and haiku's. I do love history after all. After explaining about Basho and a bit more about Haiku's - it was our turn to go get inspired and write Haiku. I went out and wrote my two. After that - Yuko showed me how to pray to a shinto shrine. I was very grateful because I've been to many shrines but never really understood why people did certain things or the symbolism of it all.

First thing you do is cross under the Torii - which indicates holy ground from normal ground. I always knew Torii led to a shrine - but I didn' t know that was the symbolism behind it. Then there is a thing of water and some pots in it. You fill the pot with water and dump it over your hands to cleanse them, then you refill it and put the water in your mouth, swish and spit on to the ground to cleanse your mouth. Then, you go up to the altar, put some monetary offering into this box thing. Bow twice, clap your hands twice, ring a bell, clap, pray, bow again. That's how you do it. Now - there are always two animals - this one were lions - I'm not sure if they are all lions or not - but these were. They are there to protect the shrine. The one has it's mouth open and the other has it's mouth closed. The lion with it's mouth open - had a baby under it. Also - there is always this wooden board where people hang up prayers. On the opposite side of the prayer there is always a picture. I had always wondered what the picture meant - but they explained to me that - it is the picture of whichever Chinese year it is. So right now - 2006 - is the year of the inu or dog. So - the pictures will all be of dogs if written in 2006. There are also different pictures for students praying to enter a particular college or high school. If there is a picture of anything besides a dog - it means it is from a different year. There are 12 different animals it can be. Now, I understand!

After everyone wrote their Haiku's, those that were written in Japanese had to translate into English and I had to translate mine into Japanese. Man, what a process. Apparently mine were too difficult to translate into Japanese and it was a huge ordeal. These are mine in English:

Autumn color change
Brings brief pleasure to the soul
Winter bestows us

Lingering sunshine
Escaping earth earlier
Early evenings

I don't particularly love mine. I guess my first one was bad because you aren't supposed to use two season words in one Haiku. However, I've never heard that before. And in my second one - I don't particulary like how I used early twice - but it sounded better than any other substitute words to replace them. Anyways - my translations into Japanese for those poems were diffcult for people to do.

I really enjoyed this day though - being in an informal classroom like setting again and learning new things with instruction. Obviously - I learn things all day long - but in such an informal setting that I never know why things are the way they are. Some people here call it Japanthropology.

I finished reading Memoirs of a Geisha last night. I highly recommend it.

That's it for me for now. To see all the pictures of my trip - click on the pictures link to the right and go to Mount Kurikoma. Hope you have an enjoyable week!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Some thoughts

I wrote this on paper on Thursday while at work. I'm starting to become addicted to writing because it's a really great way for me to reflect on my life.

Lately, I've been listening to certain music - it's a pretty clear reflection of how I'm feeling internally. If you could check out the most played songs on my ipod - you'd find a steady common theme of sad love songs or songs of nostalgia. Even my most favorite songs that are just the least bit with an upbeat tempo -usually get skipped.

This morning while driving to Junior High School - an upbeat song came onto my ipod, that typically I would skip. But, I felt great about today. I work out yesterday, I got to bed by 11:00 and slept for eight hours. I have plans to work out after today. The sun is actually shining and I feel great.

I reached school and the first thing a teacher asked me - is if I watch the news here. I informed her that I have been reading it on the internet since I can't understand the TV. I thought the direction we were headed was about North Korea and the fact we all might be nuked. She asked me if I read about the plane hitting the buiding in New York City. My initial reaction was what? today? I mean I had just read the news an hour ago. I'm sure that would have been front page news. I asked her - today? "Yes, today". Then, my stomache dropped and I did felt a combination of panic, sadness, loneliness, confusion all at once. Then, she informed me that it was a Yankees plane - that all had died and it wasn't a terrorist attack. I was under the impression all Yankees were aboard and then imagined the reaction of the US people. I quickly logged onto a computer to read that it wasn't a huge deal. I mean it is - but not 9.11 deal which is how it originally was presented to me.

In reflection to that, I am shocked at all the emotions I felt when I thought another 9.11 was happening at home with the constant threat of nuclear testing here.

A man that often approaches me with the most interesting topics came to me today. We had a conversation regarding Condoleeza Rice. He thinks she will be the next President during election 2012. He also thinks Hilary would make a bad president for the American public. He said he likes Bush even though most Japanese people would disagree with him. He likes "strong" people and although Bush may not be leading us in the right direction - he is a "clear -cut" man and not wishy washy.

In addition to this, he said they teach Japanese students about five presidents - George Washington, Abe Lincoln, both Roosevelts and Woodrow Wilson. This man shocked me with his English. I love that he always attempts conversation with me. I have always cut it short because I didn't think he had such great capabilities. In fact, his English is great - sentence structure & everything. He's one of the "in - the - closet" speakers. He can talk and understand but he's shy about it. I just thought these viewpoints were interesting which is why I am writing about it on my blog.

Today, I'm again taken back college. All the supervisors of the district came in to spectate our classes. Of course, my co-teacher prepared extensive lesson plans - nothing like we ever do. O arrive to school in my everday business casual clothing. Everyone is in suits and ties & suits as well for the women. I guess with everything all my business professor's taught me - I should have assumed to wear more than my gap pants and a Loft blouse. It's so strange because generally all teachers only wear clothes that you would wear around the house - usually I am overdressed in what I am wearing.

Anyways - the supervisors being here caused for an atmosphere of semi chaos. Everyone is very uptight about making sure everything is just perfect. The atmosphere surely put a bit of nervousness into my blood as well. I think it is more nerve whacking for my co-workers since these people are their supervisors and not mine. Howeve,r it was almost fun for me. I did get a bit nervous - but really all the emotions just reminded me of Plattsburgh. It reminded me of all the presentations I had to do. It reminded me of working in a team. The fact that this is it - I'm being evaluated and I either know it or I don't. That if something doesn't go as planned - keep forging ahead - no looking back. Both the teachers I teach with expressed their nervousness to me. I was clearly more relaxed over it. At that moment, as much as I complained about college - it prepared me well. Thank you to all my awesome professors - Dr. Csipak, Dr. Church, Dr. Gaber. You can clearly see I'm not the best impromptu speaker (from my video) but! that was in the beginning. I'm getting there.

Life is one big classroom. Take from the people around you and the experiences from your past. Utilize all you've learned in your life for your current situation.

I feel totally enlightened and grateful for the education I received at Plattsburgh. Even if it was business and not education.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

A Hon (a book)

CONGRATULATIONS Ricki and Ed on your new baby =)
Happy Birthday to my lovely cousin, Dr. Julie.

Warning Label: This is going to be a long post.

Where to start? Well, let's see I had been fighting a cold all last week which caught up to me just in time for my three day weekend.

Chapter One - Typhoons & Naruko

I had awesome intentions for this past weekend - which went semi as planned but not totally. Friday I had elementary school for the third time this week. Elementary school requires a lot of energy - with a cold; I did not have that energy. The day went pretty poorly on top of that. After school - I wanted to go to the gym and then head to Katie's for the evening. I experienced my first typhoon like conditions. We've received alot of rain in the past as after effects of Typhoons - but this one must have been much closer or stronger. Either way - I got out of work and the wind was so strong and gusty and the rain was horrible. The visibility was really dangerous. I decided against the gym and attemping to find Katie's place for the first time in a Typhoon. Smart move. I got home and really felt like my roof might blow off so I headed to my base school to hang out for a few hours because I was really nervous.

I had some wine by myself and went to bed that night. I woke up Saturday really early. We had plans to get to Katie's whenever as long as it was before noon. We had wanted to go to Naruko - a beautiful, natural place about 1.5 hours away. I headed out at 10:15. Typically, it should only take 40 minutes to get to Katie's. It took me well over an hour. I mapped out the best and easiest way to get to her place. I headed that way, drove 15-20 minutes in still shitty conditions. I get to this spot and the road was flooded. There were cars stuck, and cars going through. I decided, not in my best interest to take that chance with the history of my car. I turned around and went for plan b of my maps. I made it into her town okay, but then got lost finding her place once I was in the town. I stopped at a 711 and asked for directions and then again at another combini (convenient store) to make sure I was headed the right way. In fact, I was! I did it all good. I arrived and soon, we pack up Meghann's car full of our camping gear and we head out. It was Katie, Akira, Meghann & I.

Destination: Naruko.
Plans: Be one with nature.
Actuality: Rain, more rain, and more rain - not much opportunity to see the sights.

We arrived into Naruko at about 3:00 - checked in and went to our cabin. We had original plans to go tent camping - but alas, ame' -ame' - ame' --- obviously if roads were flooding, tent camping wasn't going to be a fun idea. We wented a cabin for $25.00 - split the cost between the 4 of us. It was basically a wooden box with one light bulb. It gave us what we needed though - shelter. See pictures below:

After getting situated in our cabin, we wanted to hit the onsens. If you don't remember what an onsen is - it's the hot springs that are kind of like a natural hot tub that you get completely naked in. Well - Naruko is mega famous for the onsens. We reach the town of Naruko which was such a pleasant place.

According to my Lonely Planet,

"Naruko is a hot-spring spa resort in the northwestern corner of Miyagi with good hiking and bathing options. It's famous for its distinctive style of lacquerware and kokeshi (wooden dolls with brightly painted floral designs). Like all onsen, its waters are said to possess distinct healing qualities. Naruko has a high sulphur count, as well as sodium chloride and sodium bicabonate, thought to be a relief for the symptoms of high blood pressure and hardened arteries."

In fact, while walking the pleasant streets of Naruko ; we stopped and watched a man in the window of his shop creating the kokeshi dolls by hand. It was pretty cool to watch. There is this wood piece that goes in circles really fast - then the dollmaker carves it with all sorts of different tools. I think the doll starts and stops spinning via a foot pedal or something. The man was very precise with his work.

Naruko smells very sulphuric as a result of all the hot spring onsens. It reminded me of when I was in Rotorua in New Zealand. That part of NZ had hot muddy pits. I think it is very similar to that. It is a small town tucked in amongst many mountains. According to the brochure we received while asking for some directions - Naruko has 374 natural hot springs. If you saw the size of this small town - you wonder where they all could possibly be. After walking the town a bit, we got back into our car and headed to an onsen.

We went into the onsen and relaxed for a while. This one was much more cooler than the one I went to in Yamagata Ken a month or two ago. This one was outdoors. Straight in front of us were mountains. Onsens are soooo relaxing - the water makes your skin sooo soft. Following the onsen, we went back to our cabin to start dinner. Our neighbors witnesses us struggling in trying to make dinner with a flash light and offered for us to use their supplies. Next thing you know - we have this huge electric lamp and their grill in front of our cabin. That's the Japanese way - always giving. While making dinner - those very same neighbors invited us over to hang out with them when we were finished eating. We accepted the invite and went into their more expensive cabin. It was really nice because they had a heater in there and more electricity and running water.

We spent the evening in the company of two married couples and their children. All the while being served more and more and more and more food. The Japanese just keep giving. By the end of the night I was quite drunk and really exhausted. We went back to our cabin to crash. Unfortunately, I only slept for maybe an hour or two. This is the night my cold really kicked in. Probably from all the beer, and temperature changes. The cabin was mega dry as well. It was a painful night.

Sunday morning - we had to get up early because Meghann and I were invited to go to this traditional Japanese play called Bunraku. On the way out - we saw a beautiful rainbow. It was so full and thick with the colors and it was a whole arch as well.

The drive back went quickly and smoothly which was good for us since it gave Meg and I time to shower before Bunraku.

Chapter Two -Banraku

Bunraku is a Japanese Performing arts with puppets. It was created during the Meiji era of 1868 - 1912. These puppets are rather large and are controlled by three people. - they are about 1/2 to 2/3 life size. The main puppeteer(omo-zukai) wears clogs called butai-geta. These butai - geta are really large and used for stamping for sound effects of when the doll is supposedly walking or running. Then, there are two other puppeteers that are wear all black including face masks. It's kind of creepy to look at - in the western culture - these masked men look like executioners. They do this so that they are symbolically invisible. However, the main puppeteer is considered a celebrity in the world of Bunraku which is why he does not wear a mask. Sometimes, they even wear more outstandish clothes like a bright white kimono. The omo zukai controls the head and right hand, the secondary puppeteer or hidarizukai controls the left hand and the third person or ashizukai crouches and controls the dolls feet. Since this requires so much work from people - it is said to be one of the most highly developed puppet theatre art in the world.

The Butai
or the stage as we would call it in English is specially constructed. It is a series of flat paintings that show different scenes and hide the lower bodies of the pupeteers. The puppets or ningyou are made of carved wooden heads, hands and feet, a bamboo and clothe framework for the trunk of the body, and a costume that covers the framework. There are 70 types of puppet heads with names that usually come from the name of the character or type of character.

The stage also has a part to the right where the storytellers and shamisen players are. There is usually one to two story tellers and shamisen players. A shamisen is like a three stringed banjo. These story tellers do all the talking for the puppets in song while the shamisen plays along with the singing. The storyteller has to change from men voices to those for women and children.

That's Bunraku. In Japan - they would ask me "What was your impression of Bunraku?" I would answer - it was interesting. In between the two plays we watched - they called random people up to try things out. So, some people had to try to be the storytellers, others tried playing the shamisen and others tried controlling the puppets. Clearly, it takes alot of skill to do any of those three things. I found the storyteller to be most intriguing. It was cool how he changed his voice to go with the character he was acting out at the time. His facial expressions and everything went right along with his singing. Next, I found it very interesting how the main puppeteer acted while controlling the puppet. His face was so serious and never showed any expression. On top of that, it's almost like he made his body move to the way the puppet would be moving. Lastly, the shamisen. I've never seen or heard one in real life before - only have read about it in Memoirs of a Geisha. Very nice. I think I would have appreciated the whole ordeal better if I wasn't so tired.

We watched parts of two plays - I would not have understood any of it, if we weren't given an explanation in English about what the story would be on. It was all in Japanese - obviously. The first story was called Datemusume Koinohikanoko. They only showed one act. Basically it was a love story. There was a girl who needed to get into a village to see her forbidden lover. Forbidden lover had already killed himself. She took a risk of getting into the village by ringing a bell that would have her executed if she was caught doing it without a real fire. She did it anyways only to find out her lover had died.

The coolest part of that play was when she was climbing the bell tower. They had her climbing it and it must have been really difficult to do that.

The second play we watched was also a love play. A man was blind and a woman went to pray for him everynight to try to get his vision back. He thought she was having an affair and committed suicide. She found out and did the same thing. Then, the Goddess of Mercy answered their prayers, she brought both of them back to life and granted the man eyesight.

Pretty morbid storylines, ne? This play was cool - my favorite part was at the end when they were dancing or something because they were alive and he could see. The main puppeteers were stamping their feet in unison and it made a really cool beat. The scenes of committing suicide were pretty intense as well - but I like the happy part better. =)

I ran into two of the people from the party I was at last week. I saw Zahir from Syria and Daniel from Mexico again. It was nice to be able to talk to them. Other than that - it was a good experience - always good to do something completely Japanese (ha).

Chapter three - taking things for granted.

I invited all the Ishinomaki English teachers to my house for a party. I gave two of them a ride to my place after Bunraku - since they were there as well. They live in the city and really haven't been out of it since we have been here. They were just absolutely awed at how beautiful my daily drive is and at my town. I guess I really take things for granted as much as I thought I don't. But - I think the grass is always greener on the other side. I am just as awed when I actually get into the city. It's just so wierd to think that they haven't even seen anything outside of the city yet. And yes - I know my area is beautiful - I am just really lonely - which blinds me from the beauty around me. I took them into my 711 where these girls were just gawking at them. They are both cute guys and Jeremy is like 6'4" or taller. It was quite funny. I do get stared at - but these girls were clearly all about cute guys - it was different from anything I get.

Afterwards, we went to my place and chatted until everyone arrived. We had a gaijinfest at my local Ujie (grocery store). We bought stuff for dinner. My party was basically my same group of friends + some. So - that is - Meg, Katie, Akira, Brian, + Jeremy & Dom. We made a huge crapload of food. It took a while to cook everything - but my kitchen and house was so alive - I loved it. We had a delicious dinner, again, over silly arguments like self expression and uniforms at school, some political talk and whatnot. Jeremy & Dom headed back to the city - where the rest of us just drank and swapped music for the rest of the night until we crashed scattered around my house. It was a wonderful night.

The next morning - I was feeling even more worse than the day before. I braved it up and we all headed into Ishinomaki to do some second hand shop shopping. I didn't purchase anything. Afterwards, I went to Brian's apartment and we just chilled, talked and watched some Harry Potter. Our supervisor picked us up and took us out to dinner. His wife is having a baby on November 20th - she came, too. It was nice - even though by this point I felt like absolute garbage. I didn't have it in me to try to speak Japanese or even have the energy to concentrate hard enough to understand much. I felt bad about it but I was just so tired. It's amazing how much concentration it does take to speak Japanese - when I get too drunk, too tired or apparently too sick - it's just too hard. On the way home - I asked my supervisor some questions. Turns out - he never went to college. He met his wife at work and after 3 months of dating - married her. That's Japan for you. No one dates long - they're always rushing out to get married. He's a really cool guy - I think he's actually quite attractive. Not too many 6' tall Japanese men in these parts with good teeth.

Chapter Four - Back to School

Back to school on Tuesday. My first two classes sucked - they were with the horrible kids. Honestly, it sucks because my one school I really love the kids but the teachers rarely acknowledge me - but then at the school where the teacher's are really friendly - the kids are horrible. I made it through the two classes - thinking, will I really want to do a second year with these horrible kids? My last two classes were great. I taught nineth grade and a slow student class. When I say I taught nineth grade - I really did. At Junior High School - I generally team teach and don't get much say in the lesson plan. But my co-teacher was absent. We have a 21 year old student teacher at the moment - she told me to just do the same lesson that I did with this other nineth grade class -so that I did. I loved every minute of having my own class. I can't believe just how well it went. The kids listened, did as I asked, and I was even able to joke around a bit with them. The student teacher is awesome - she helped out when I asked her to and translated when I asked her to. I couldn't have run it without her - but maybe so. After such horrible first two classes - to run that class so effectively - made me so happy. I was just sooooo kind to them in every way.

I implemented an Outstanding English Card system where if kids come talk to me in English outside of the class I give them a sticker. They need to fill in 26 (A ~Z) and 5 longer conversations and I will give them a prize. The prize is going to be a CD of PoP music from America. I had some girls come and chat with me - it was alot of fun and rewarding. My favorite punk kid came down and just sat with me. He's always tired and acts Emo. I asked him why he is always tired. I asked him if he intends to go to college - he said no that he wants to be a hair dresser. I thought that was very interesting. I have started to ask kids questions like that - I'm really curious to see what kids in rural Japan really have for their future.

Chapter 5 - Kyo -aka Today

Today - was another typical day. I thought I'd tell a story about the Nalgene bottle. Nalgene's are very popular in America - nearly every college student has one. I brought my Nalgene to my base school a few weeks ago where my co-teacher commented on how every English Teacher has one. Her, along with many other co-workers don't understand why we carry a bottle so big full of water. I explained that the Nalgene never will break and that we like to drink a lot of water. I couldn't really answer her why - usually I use mine when I'm camping or hiking and stuff - or just sitting around my house. I really bring it to school because I would just be constantly getting up to get more and more water all day long. Also - Japanese people don't just drink water. They think it's wierd when I just want to have water and not something else. It's just a cultural difference.

Today - my co-worker at my other Junior High School asked me why I have such a big bottle of water. I told her I'm sick and want to drink lots of fluids to get well. Which brought another teacher to ask if it was special water. I didn't understand the question. After some lost in translation time - i realized they were asking why I would just put tap water into my bottle and bring it to school if I could just get it out of the sink while at school. Again - I couldnt' really answer their question. It's hard to explain the cultural difference of water to them. In America, I drink a lot of water because it is healthy, it is best for my diet, it is the natural thing to do. Japanese diets don't really consider health and weight as a factor for many things. It's wierd to notice a cultural difference over water.

Today - was a good day. This is the school where the students are good and the teacher's don't really talk to me much. While these students are good - they are very shy of me. But today was a promising day. I'm starting to get to know the students at this school better. I can recognize the students that are really good at English. I had two boys ask me to eat lunch with their classroom. I was so happy - I told my co-teacher how happy I was because the students seem so shy of me and that I am happy they asked me to eat. I went in and I practiced my Japanese. It's funny because when they see me struggle with Japanese - they really just want to communicate with me. Shortly after - they are breaking out their dictionaries and text books. It was great. I had a lot of fun eating lunch with them.

I watched the nineth graders sing this song they have been practicing for weeks now. I think they are practicing it for some certain festival they will be having. Anyways - they were listening to it during lunch so I was able to get through that the song is a song about "earth". Whatever that means. I like the song. It's amazing how in Japan - they still have their students collectively singing songs together as whole. I'm pretty sure we stop that in 5th grade. No complaints here =)

At work today - a lot of the teachers chatted with me too - a step forward for me as well. I made this really awesome Halloween poster for my kids on Friday. They all loved it - my co-teacher wants me to make another one to hang at my Junior High School - that thing took me like 3 hours to make. I don't know about that. Tomorrow - their Supervisor comes which means we have this extra difficult lesson plan for both classes. On a positive note - I think I am out of there after half a day. That excites me.

After work - I went to the gym where I ran for 35 minutes and did my arms and abs. I love the gym - I wish it wasn't so far away. It really leaves me with little time to go. Especially because it is closed on weekends and on Mondays. Bummer.

That's it for me. If you pray - pray that North Korea doesn't decide to test any more nuclear bombs and especially not anywhere near Japan. I talked to one teacher about it today as best as I could and he said it makes him angry. I think I'll probe out all the English speaking Japanese people here. I'm curious to see their "impressions" of what is going on there. It's scary but probably just as scary as being in America. According to the news, it seems that N. Korea is more pissed at the USA but Japan is closer to their test site. Craziness.

Love you all. Hope you got through this. I'll post up more pictures once Katie sends them to me.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Wabutchi Elementary School

I've been sick the past few days. I'll update when I'm feeling a bit better.

If you've been reading my blog from the start - you'll recall that I'm always suddenly put on the spot to give a's some wonderful pictures and video footage of how I have no idea what to say or do. It's posted on one of the elementary school''s webpages. Look at me make a fool of myself. Under the 4 pictures - there is a link that has a telephone near it - click on it and download. You can watch that way. As embarrasing as this link is - it gives you a great idea of how I just have no idea what to do in those first situations. Enjoy.

Merry Christmas Jon.

By the way - the one picture with the girl in front of me is her welcoming me to the school in English. The third picture is of the dance the 5th & 6th graders did for me.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Did you know...?

Did you know...

Today October 5th is World Teachers' Day. According to the UN -

World Teachers' Day provides the opportunity to draw public attention to the
important role of teachers within society. This year's celebration is
particularly significant as it marks the 40th anniversary of the adoption of
the UNESCO/ILO Recommendation on the Status of Teachers.

It is an opportunity to recognize the importance of striving for quality
education across the globe. It is a time for the world to tell its teachers
"We appreciate you!" (1)

basically just want to toot my horn as my first year as a teacher =)

Did you know...

Beware of heard, a dreadful word,
That looks like beard and sounds like bird,
And dead: it's said like bed, not bead,
For Goodness' sake, don't call it deed!
Watch out for meat and great and threat,
They rhyme with suite and straight and debt.

Why are so many English words pronounced differently from they way the are spelt?

English spelling is unpredictable at the best of times, and occasionally totally chaotic - an opinion no doubt shared by British schoolchildren and those studying English around the world alike. However, studies of the language claim that there are only 400 words in English whose spelly is wholly irregular. Unfortunately, many of them are among the most frequently used in the language.

The problems with the English spelling system came about as the language developed over a period of 1,000 years. Some complications arose early on, when the Romans tried to write down old English using the 23 letter Latin alphabet. Old English contained nearly 40 vowels and consonants.

The influence of French after the Norman Conquest also made an impact on English spelling. French scribes introduced "qu" where Old English had use "cw" e.g. queen, and "gh" instead of "h" e.g. night, amongst other changes.

The introduction of the printing press in 1476 meant that a standard spelling system began to emerge. The system reflected the speech of the London area. The pronunciation of vowels underwent further changes during the 15th century, but because of the advent of the printing press, spelling never caught up.

Previously, scribes would have simply written down a new spelling to reflect the new pronunciation. Thus modern spelling in many ways reflects outmoded pronunciation of words dating back to the Middle Ages.

Despite many attempts to reform the English spelling system, so far no changes have been made since the 16th century - mainly because nobody can agree on what the best alternative may be!

...and I thought learning Japanese was hard.

How many people speak English?

English is one of the most widely used languages in the world. Recent estimates suggest that around 375 million people speak English as their first language, with possibly another 375 million speaking it as a second language. The United States has the largest number of English speakers - over 226 million speak the language as a mother tongue. English is the favored language of the world's major airlines and international commerce. Over 80% of the world's electronically stored information is in English and 2/3 of the world's scientists read in English. Of the estimated 40 million users of the Internet, some 80% currently communicate in English. English is an official language, or has a special status, in over 75 of the world's territories.

If the rest of the world isn't talking English, they're borrowing English words to add to their own language; the Japanese go on a pikunikku (picnic), Italians program their computer with "il software", Germans talk about "ein Image Problem" and Czechs say "ahoy!" for "hello" - a greeting traditionally used by English sailors, which is interesting as the Czech Republic has no coast!
(2) you can understand why I have a job here in Japan teaching English...

Want some funny business?

My 8th graders had to talk about their dream. Here are some examples - what is in parentheses are my edits to help you understand:

"I want to be a clothe shop (fashion designer). I want to make clothe(s). So (I) practice make (ing) clothe(s)."

"I want to be a tennis player. I want to be like Hingisu (a Japanese tennis player - maybe?). I want to play in Winburudon (Wimbledon). So I play tennis."

"I want to be a bird. I want to fly in (the) sky. I want to be like Taka (a hawk)."

" I want to be a carpenter. I want to build nice houses everyone (will) love. I want to study math and science."

"I want to be a(n) anpanman. I want to (be a ) HERO. So I watch anpanman at six every Sunday." (I think Anpanman is a cartoon superhero).

AND MY ALL TIME FAVORITES - both written by the same boy"

"I want to be a Maoi. I want to looking (up in the) sky. I want to give my name on (in) the world historying (history)." (3)

"I want to an umeboshi. I want to be a very very very very very very very delicious umeboshi." (4)

Other things Japanese 8th graders want to be if they could:
  • hypnotist
  • pirahna
  • beautiful bride
  • rich man like the Arabian King
In my 7th graders class - we play a game called Whisper. I take the kids outside of the classroom tell them one sentence and it has to be whispered up to the kid in front of them all the way up to the kid sitting in the first seat. That kid then goes to the board and tries to write the sentence. Of course, this is just like the game telephone - so it gets easily confused.
Here is my sentence and two of my favorite "answers".

I sing songs with Emi.

I king of Emi
I think Song Emi

I love this game!

Alright then that's it for now . Hope you enjoyed this different blog! English convo class with adults time. I prepared to play 2 lies and 1 truth and finish the evening with tongue twisters! Should be hilarious. Ja ne.

to read more see the UNESCO website:
(2) both questions researched and written by Alex Praill, and printed and published by the foreign & commonwealth office in London, UK. It states on the book - "Although it is copyrighted, the text may be freely reproduced outside Britain, with or without acknowledgment"
(3) according to -
Moai are statues carved from compressed volcanic ash on Rapa Nui (Easter Island). The statues are all monolithic, that is, carved in one piece. The largest moai erected, "Paro", was almost 10 metres (33 feet) high and weighed 75 tonnes (74 Imperial tons, 83 American tons).[1] One unfinished sculpture has been found that would have been 21 metres (69 ft) tall and would have weighed about 270 tons. We teach about it in one of our english lessons. Where he got the vocab from.
(4) An umeboshi is a very salty, sour pickled plum. I eat them all the time. According to wikipedia,
a single umeboshi is often placed in the centre of the rice, resulting in what looks like the flag of Japan. It is also a common ingredient in onigiri, rice balls wrapped in nori. I eat onigiri every single day for lunch.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Naruse Oku Matsushima

I spent hours today trying to figure out HTML coding so that my blog could have a cool, new look. I don't get it. If you are reading this and understand HTML - teach me so I can make a cool new template.

Today, I've spoken no English except for singing to my music. I've had no interaction. I hate days like today. Yesterday was a wonderful day. A woman in my Eikaiwa class (English Conversation Class) asked me to go on this boat, cruise thing. Her name is Teruko. I wasn't really sure what it was but I said yes. She picked me up at 12:30 - and took me back to her house for the time being. She has a dog named Grace. It is a golden retriever - I really, really want a pet! I think I'd be less lonely if I had one!

So after some hassles - we went to Naruse Oku Matsushima. We went onto this little tiny boat and went around these beautiful pine islands for maybe 30 minutes. Absolutely gorgeous! See video & pictures! I include pictures as well because the quality of the video is awesome on my computer but as soon as I publish it onto the internet - the quality just sucks.

After the cruise - we hiked up this small hill that was about a kilometer to walk. We got to the top to indulge ourselves in stunning views of this area. About this time, I realized that we were a part of some group - but I had no idea how I was involved. I started talking to a boy named Shou. He's 25 from China and attends a University in Sendai - working on his PHd of Mechanical Engineering. It was fun using Japanese as the "universal" language with him. Although, he speaks great English for only studying it and never being to an English speaking country. He was really friendly and I enjoyed talking with him.

After hiking down - we went to a small museum which was really nice. We didn't get a long time to check it out but it was fine - I can't read much anyways. Then, I am ushered upstairs to be put into my Yukatta (the kimono like thing I'm wearing in these pictures). At this point, I'm just mega confused as to what is going on. I talked to another girl - she was also 25, studying Mechanical Engineering PHd and attending the same University as Shou - she was from Singapore. I am one of the first to be dressed so I head back into this main room without Teruko. I walk in and sit down next to some men. I tried having a conversation with them - but it was very limited. The next thing I know - I'm surrounded by all these men in business suits. I am soooo confused. What the heck is going on? Someone starts giving a speech - and all these business men start standing up and everyone is applauding them. Of course - I'm sitting right in the middle of them. Some more speeches and all the people around my age - that were from all over the world , as i've mentioned China and Singapore, but then there was also Mexico, Brazil, Syria, and a girl from Vancouver, Canada were asked to come stand up. I'm standing up there with all them - we're all dressed in kimonos or robes. I don't know what is being said but everyone is applauding us. Then, time to eat!

Teruko and I
Me in my Yukata (I dont know if that is spelled right)

After dinner, they start calling people up to give speeches in Japanese - and by people - I mean all of us foreigners. I thought I'll wing it. I was the last to be called. I got up there and just froze. After all these speeches I've given at the schools - I was just so confused about everything that I froze. I made an idiot of myself. What else is new. I didn't know what I was supposed to be talking about. I can't understand what others were saying!

So yes, the experience of a Yukata being put on. As my mom asked - do you wear anything underneath? No - just my undies. Then, that pink sash thing is covering about 10 other strings and a cardboard piece to make your hips widers and stomache smaller. Basically - it's very tight around you. It took about 10 minutes for a woman to arrange me properly. I was standing there being pulled and prodded at to have it on just right. The back has a huge bow - that only limited amount of women can actually tie correctly. Then, you wear these shoes. Check out my picture. They are very hard to walk in because they are up on platforms like stilts - except for the front. So you are constantly having to shuffle your feet. If you've read Memoirs of a Geisha - Sayuri discusses the difficulty in wearing these sandals. Hers - I believe have even more of height on them. I was constantly shuffling, tripping over my own two feet and falling forward! It was a great experience!

I finally had the opportunity to talk to the Canadian girl who is also an English teacher like me. She explained this whole ordeal to me. It's actually a really cool concept. All these other young people from all over the world apply to this "home stay" program. If they get accepted, they go stay with a Japanese family in different parts of my prefecture on certain weekends. Then, that town that is hosting, arranges for things for these people to do. While, I wasn't a homestay person - I was invited by Teruko because i was international. I was so glad to finally learn what was going on. It's an awesome concept and I wish I had known about it soon - I most certainly would have applied to do it. She thinks it's too late but she will forward me the information.

Then - some older women did a dance for us. I don't know the name of it - but it was nice to watch. Afterwards, we all gave it a go and tried dancing with them. I'm going to be a professional dancer by the time I get home.

Speaking of dancing. When I was introducing myself to all these people. I basically told them I was the English teacher in Monou town. Now - as soon as I said that - their faces lit up and they started saying over and over "Haneko Odori". That is the dance I did - where hundreds upon hundreds were watching me. They realized when I said I was the English teacher in Monou that it was none other than ME they saw dancing. I think at least 10 people realized it when I said who I was. I mean it took no more than 5 seconds for it to register in their minds. I told you I am famous. Anyways - they asked me to do it again. I was given two plates to use as fans and asked to dance. I did the dance but I didn't use the fans. I tell you - I'm Britney Spears of Japan. I did that dance nearly a month ago and people are still remembering me doing it. How embarrassing.

After that - it was just social time really. I talked with the other international students. I'm finally understanding the concept of English as an "international" language. I think everyone of us spoke a different language - except for the two North Americans (the Canadian & I) - however, everyone spoke broken Japanese/English to eachother. It was a lot of fun. I even met a man there that lived in Western USA for 30 years! He started talking to me and I asked him where he had studied English because he barely had an accent! He explained to me about living in the USA and coming back to Japan and stuff. It's always so weird to talk with someone who speaks English unexpectedly. The guy from Syria is here studying to be a dentist.

Other than - I had a really enjoyable experience. I realized that while loneliness and language barrier is a huge factor in my transition here. I think the reason that I am really lonely is because I never really interact with people my age - only other westerners. However, all the Japanese people that I interact with are the same age as my mom. I miss being around my age. While there was definitely a language barrier between me and the PHd students - they were close enough to my age that I was having fun with them. I also really miss the college atmosphere. Some of you are aware that I've considered becoming a study abroad coordinator in my future after doing some more traveling. I really see myself doing that more and more because I really enjoy the college setting. What is more fulfilling than getting someone started with travel bug? Afterwards - everyone said goodbye.

Teruko took me back to her house where we had some coffee and she had me try this juice like stuff she made. It was really good. We chatted a bit and then she took me home. That was the hilite of my weekend. It was a beautiful Saturday. I'm really glad I said Yes and endured all the confusion because it was a wonderful experience. Thank you Teruko =)

By the way - to see all the pictures from my trip - click on the pictures link to the right. Go to the Naruse album. I will also be adding more pictures as Teruko took many of me. She'll probably give them to me on Thursday at Eikaiwa.

Also - I hope that both C Funk & Julie had great birthdays and wish I was there to celebrate with you. Miss you both =)