Wednesday, October 14, 2009

update on my surgery- notes from my hospital bed

I am A-OK after surgery. apparently the cholesteatoma was very small, think like a pearl- then a bit smaller. and it didnt destroy any ossicles, so they didnt have to repair any of the hearing bones. Which is really good because none of the drs seemed very positive about me regaining hearing if they did.
This morning was funny because I never saw my doc, just the one who didn't want to operate on me. He told me not to worry but I hadn't, until I saw him. He is a queer fellow. Anyhow we were all relieved when we found out my fever had gone down because last night I was running a 37.7 Celcius temp and the nurse said that disqualifed me from surgery.
Today, when I was in surgery, the hospital called jon because they wanted him to sign a form saying they could use this other type ofbond made from blood. I guess it was really scary for him because he had 2 missed calls from people from my board of education.What else... oh, so they moved me into another room today while I was in surgery. Not sure why. But now I have one of the beds by the window instead of by the door and the hall. my curtain didnt close all the way last night so it was hard to sleep with the hall light peering in.
I look absolutely ridiculous in this bandage. hopefully u can see a picture so u can laugh. some of my hair is below the bandage, and above. I feel a bit like a tranny or Bret Michaels or Axle rose with a bandana on. Ew I just had to leave my room because the woman next to me just puked all over and it smelled pretty bad.
Oh yeah so at 3, the time they said I could walk at (even though I was out for longer than expected) I looked for my shoes only not to find them anywhere- not in the locker, the cupboard, or under the bed. Very strange Jon and I thought, so we asked the nurses, who checked the same places we did, and my old room. Still nothing. We started to think we would never see my flip flops again.But finally, from who knows where (and who knows how to ask where) the nurse returned with my shoes and slippers.
Anyhow, I am on an IV til tomorrow and the doc said as long as I dont have pain I can leave Friday. Yay! I want nothing more than to get out! Everyone stares at me here. I was served a dinner of rice soup (think Elmers glue), mystery soup (but slightly edible) and what tasted like Ensure. Oh I almost forgot the Yakult (yogurt drink). That had a funny flavor but Im not sure if my tastebuds are screwy yet. Maybe when Jon comes back with some french fries I will know.
The nurses scratched my tongue and mouth either putting in or taking out the oxygen tube so that is a little annoying. but oh well. So far the worst part was the catheter and the first IV, which the nurse put in my left hand. Such a pain.

please email me at if you want to talk to me. Id love to here from anyone. The time in here goes slowly.

I'm sure I will write more later too but for now I'm going to try to get some sleep.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

I'll be home for Christmas (and not just in my dreams)!

Ok, we got our tickets to come home for the holidays! We'll be home from December 19th to January 8th. We wanted to go to Hong Kong on the way, but the travel agency employee told us it would be very expensive and that we couldn't do that without coming back to Okinawa. So, we're just coming home, but that's ok. Maybe we'll get to take a trip while we're in California, at least to Big Bear or something. And I'm pretty sure we're going to Disneyland for my birthday, so that'll be fun! Anyhow, Friends and Family, mark your calendars!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

It's been fun lately, nanoni I must see another doctor.

"nanoni" means 'in spite of' or 'although'

*I'm learning a bit more Japanese. I hope this will continue as my last year here speeds by.

This weekend was lotsa fun! Friday night we took Dan, our new adopted bachelor (Ollie got a girlfriend), to Sam's Anchor Inn, a teppanyaki place in Ginowan and had a super delicious meal with the best steak I've had on the island. Then we walked around KokusaiDori- the international street in Naha, went to Rehab- the international bar, Starbucks- it was late, and saw a a sweet ride- a pearl white scooter named Jasmine with blue running lights and a sick paintjob (this description is one its owner would give, could he speak English). Saturday night we went to a birthday barbecue for our new friend ReBekha in Mibaru Beach. We brought "found" (we'll say) wood for a bonfire and made s'mores! We had lots of fun, ended the night with a trip to Mac, and got home at 4am. Then today we went to the zoo with Ollie and his girlfriend, Mariko. I thought I was going to die because of the crazy was Okinawans drive, but I only got a bit carsick, and only once. We saw lots of animals at the zoo though, which was great, even though it was really hot and rained when we first got there (but gave us a chance to eat some lunch at Wendy's- the only one on the island). For some reason, all the turtles were fornicating... Then we went to dinner with Dan at the Southern Hill Izakaya for some California style sushi and other tasty treats.

Having mentioned all the fun we had, I must now say that the weekend started with my return to the doctor I saw last week for a follow up only to find that he wasn't sure what was going on in my ear anymore and decided that I need a second opinion from the specialist at the best hospital on the island- University of the Ryukyus. So I will go Thursday (not sure why they will see me on an Okinawan holiday) to see what the next step(s) will be. I can't wait to regain hearing in my right ear!!!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

My First Day

Today I had my first day at Sashiki Chugakko, the junior high school I will be going to just one day a week for this term and next. At first I was very bothered by the fact that just yesterday my supervisor told me to go to the school alone and find Mr. Hateruma, and this teacher wasn’t here. This was after I couldn’t find the school because it wasn’t quite where I was told it was. One of the office ladies directed me to “Reanna sensei’s desk” and told me to “sit here” and wait for another teacher who would speak with me. When I sat down, I found a letter Reanna had written so I observed it and the documents she left underneath it. It told me some, but not all of what I needed to know. It also said that I could help with the other classes that take place Tuesday, but I think I need to get the hang of working at this school and with its staff before taking on any extra work. I found out that I will be teaching 1 class of 8th graders and one class of 9th graders. This pleases me because I don’t have to teach 7th graders.
While I was waiting, the principal came in and started talking about “influenza” (they don’t say “the flu” like we do). Then he started asking teachers questions about their each grade- One of the teachers replied nana nin (seven people). I hope this doesn’t mean that seven students in the third grade are out with the flu… But it’s probably just a matter of time before we all get and become resistant to swine flu.
Finally the teacher who I was waiting for talked to me and told me he wanted to meet with me after lunch to discuss lessons. I sat and decoded the letter and papers Reanna had left up until just before lunch when I needed to use the restroom pretty badly, and finally just asked a random teacher where it was. She walked me there (probably for lack English to give me directions). I left to meet up with Jon and Ollie for lunch at MosBurger. On my way out, some students saw me so they said hello. The teacher sitting next to them told me to introduce myself, so I did. Turns out the middle of the three was a student of mine at ESL camp from last summer when I first arrived. I remembered her because she was very genki, but she looked very different. I amazed the students and the teacher when I recalled that she played basketball.
Reanna called me just after I’d left because she was there to show me around (wish she woulda warned me), but I’ll have to come back tomorrow after lunch to meet with her. It’ll be good to have us both here at the same time, in case there is anything anyone wants me to know that they can’t tell me in English! However, I assume teachers will be very busy since it’s the first day of school.
After lunch I was given a place to put my shoes a page to “sign in” on, and told where teachers eat lunch. Mr. Ishikawa’s English is very good so I am glad that I will be basically just working with him. He asked me to make an interesting way to introduce myself so I spruced up my power point presentation I used last year, made a quiz to go with it, and will give the students candy or stickers after the presentation for correct answers. Now I just hope they can read it! I’m going to read the questions to them, and probably the answers too, so hopefully they can recognize the things that were written down in my presentation (gotta get them used to the written alphabet and language sometime, right?). Mr. Ishikawa said he wants them to hear as much English as I can speak to them on the first day. I’m not 100% sure what that means, but I will do my best… So much for being a tad bit shy… Anyhow, I also learned how to use the Riso machine today, which nobody has really taught me anywhere else I’ve worked. I really hope that all of this thoroughness today means that this guy knows how to “train” a new member of his school. Then again, that could be why he has the seat next to the vice principal (he helps out with many things in the office/school).
I also found today out that the classes Mr. Ishikawa teaches don’t follow the book. I look forward to teaching them because the book isn’t great! However, it will be a new challenge because I haven’t really done activities completely on my own before. I assume a lot of it will be the teacher telling me what kind of an activity he needs and me coming up with it on my own, or finding one on the internet if there are any available. I really liked the website I was using when I worked at Chinen Chu- not all the lessons were great, but we used many of them and they worked pretty well. I really hope this school likes me and that I like this school! Then again, I most likely won’t work here after March, but I’d like to have at least 1 day a week where my day is manageable and I feel welcome and happy at work.
School starts here tomorrow so my first class will be on my next day here, September 1st… Wish me luck!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Tokashiki Island Trip

Well, I’d like to say that this year’s trip to Tokashiki island was as fun as last years. Unfortunately I can’t say so! Jon and I prepared for this trip by purchasing a tent so we could have some privacy- the other option is to sleep outside on mats surrounded by people on all sides. I knew I couldn’t really snorkel because of my ear (the doc said I can’t submerge my head under water). The group of 30 or so JETs went on the morning ferry, but I had the wedding to go to so Jon and I caught the 4:30 marine liner (the fast ferry) to Tokashiki, Saturday afternoon. We met Ollie at the port and were on our way. When we arrived, we wanted to set up our tents, get a bit of food and start drinking (because that seems to be the best way to pass time on that little island). We accomplished our tasks and met up with Dave and Vaughn along the way. Those two quit drinking after our trip to the market (2 beers in) and Jon and I should have too. Everyone ate at the yakiniku restaurant that night, but I was sitting between two grills so I didn’t get a whole lot to eat. I did however have another 2 or 3 beers. The rest of the evening is blurry. I do remember being in the ocean, floating around in the surf (the heat and humidity were high so that was the best place to be) when my wedding and engagement rings slipped off. I stopped moving and started looking for them instantly. Rise (pronounced ree-say) went back to get a light. It was a miracle that I was able to find one ring, my engagement ring and the bigger of the two in the coral and shell pieces- the beaches there aren’t sand in the surf, it’s all former homes of animals or corals. I did not find the smaller, wedding ring. We looked for what seemed like an hour without any luck. I was sad, but realized there wasn’t much I could do.
The next day I felt awful. I spent the morning getting all the alcohol out of my system… Jon was no better. He couldn’t even keep water down. At first we thought it was a hangover, but when 1pm rolled around and he couldn’t keep any food or water down, we realized it must be something else. I suggested getting him to the hospital (Jon’s school was closed last week due to not one but two of his students having swine flu) but the hospital was closed. Some sweet little islanders helped him by giving him ice, water, sugar, salt, a fan, and be checking on him in the shade. He ended up in the shade by a hotel because he was walking after we and Ollie had some shaved ice when Jon started hurling on the side of the path. We also met an Italian vacationer who was a rehabilitation doctor. We must have been there for 2 hours before Jon threw up everything that he had been given while there. After that I suggested we go back to the campground, because I needed to take the tent down before our bus came. Ollie got on his bus at 3 and ours left at 4:30. We got back to camp and packed up everything, but Jon was still not well. His patch had come off in the ocean the night before, so he couldn’t get insulin either. Slowly but surely we made it to the ferry and back to Okinawa. But before Jon could get off the ferry, he hurled again. Thank goodness for those little sick bags! After that he felt ok, but not great, so we got the car and Vaughn on the way because he had been double charged for his return ticket and now didn’t have enough money to ride the bus back up to Nago. We gave him some money, dropped him off at the bus terminal, and went home. On the way, we saw Dan, picked him up and took him to Geos so he could return some movies. After a long day of craziness we got home, and Jon had a bit of water, slept for a couple hours before waking up (obviously starving at this point) and thinking he might be able to eat. Finally he was able to eat and keep food down. We’re pretty sure that it was food poisoning that was the culprit of his woes! I guess if we had to choose between swine flu and food poisoning, we choose food poisoning!

And a recent update, a JET who was on the trip did come down with swine flu... Glad it wasn't Jon, and I feel bad for that kiddo!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Wedding of Jin sensei and Kyoko san

I went to my first Okinawan wedding on Saturday, August 22nd. It was Jin sensei, a 4th grade teacher at Chinen Shogakko, who was to be married (to another teacher from Kanegusuku Chu). He is a very genki and fun teacher who moved here from Kyushu about 2 years ago. He is one of the more personable teachers at Chinen Sho. I will add here that he’s worn a wedding ring since I met him in April, even though his actual wedding hadn’t taken place yet. He did mention one day the paperwork was done and that he wore the ring to ward off single girls.

My experience at his wedding was not one I will soon forget! Here is everything I remember:

The invitation said that guests could arrive at 12:30 and that the wedding started at 1. I arrived at 12:45. Okinawan weddings cost 1man yen to attend (approximately 100 dollars) and there is a certain way you have to present this money. I asked another JET how to do it and she gave me the very specific details which involved where to sign your name, making sure the money was face up in the envelope, how the knot ends on the envelope must face and which kind of card/envelope to buy (since it was in hiragana and kanji). The night before, I had found the right envelope and I brought it and the money to the wedding hoping to see one of my teachers so I could ask how the money could go face up in an envelope that opened at one of the long ends, but since there were no teachers outside, I walked up to the nicest looking sign-in table person standing there- a youngish girl. She helped me sign in (the guestbooks were all being written in in kanji as well), and helped me put the money in the envelope and sign the paper that came out at the bottom of the ribbons tied in front. After this first task was finished, another teacher spotted me and we walked into the grand hall together. She spoke briefly to the attendants at the door and then we walked over to the tables to find our seats. We looked on the table most Chinen teachers were at, my name wasn’t there. We looked at the table where some other Chinen teachers were sitting, also not there. The teachers (in a slight panic but remaining perfectly Japanese) told me to wait a moment while they found my name. Finally, at the 4th table they checked, the found my name so I took my seat next to a man I’d never seen before. I really hoped somebody I knew would sit next to me. Takaiyo sensei was not there yet, so at least she could be sitting next to me. It didn’t take long for me to look around and realize I was the only foreigner there…. The dress I had on was appropriate, something I’d worried about while shopping for it, but I could have worn a shawl to cover my shoulders/upper arms. I saw that only I, another teacher from Chinen, and a young woman had bare shoulders among the 200 guests. The other teachers from Chinen arrived at the table- the two special ed aides and the special ed teacher. There was beer, tea, and juice set out on the tables. There were also programs and cards giving directions and the time for the after party as well. The man sitting next to me offered me some juice, probably because I was coughing a lot. Just before 1:00, Takaiyo arrived (in a long evening gown covered in lace overlays and sequins and fake press on nails) and took the seat next to me. She was likely overdressed for this event, but I was glad to have her there to translate some things.

Just after 1, the event started with a speech by Jin’s father and a performance of traditional Okinawan dancing. I started thinking that Ollie was right, he had mentioned that Okinawan weddings were very long and involved performances and several outfit changes. After this performance, an announcement was made and the bride and the groom entered the room in traditional wedding Japanese dress. Kyoko san was wearing a Kimono and Jin was wearing a robe. They walked around the room and smiled at their guests. Then they went up on a platform on the other side of the room and stood while something was said. After a few moments, they bride and groom made their exit to change into outfit number 2- the typical wedding attire we westerners are accustomed to. After they left, the videos some teachers at Chinen made were played. Jin sensei’s students congratulated him by saying “Omedetou Gozaimasu” and doing little songs and dances. His students are some of my favorite in the school, so watching the videos was fun for me too. After the students did their bit, there were two more videos. One video was a series of photos and short clips of video over a song that said “Jin” a lot in it. I was featured in the video twice so that was cool, but you can’t see my face because I have a rabbit mask and ears on. There was some really funny parts in the video like Tatsuya sensei dressed up in a pink full body suit with a tutu. The last video played from our school was one a couple of teachers made to go with a slow song. They wore a Jin sensei mask (also in the other video) and a Jin sensei mask they added long hair and rosy cheeks to for Kyoko san, and acted out the courtship of the couple. Apparently he proposed to her in the mall parking lot. It was cute. After our videos were played, videos Kyoko san’s students made were played. The weird part about these videos is that neither the bride nor the groom were watching these videos, since they were changing. After the videos ended, Kyoko’s school staff performed a dance (meant to be funny) on stage. After the dancing, it was announced that Jin sensei and Kyoko were going to enter again, this time on the stage. Everyone looked up toward the stage while the house lights were off, disco lights twirled, and music played. . . The curtain finally went up and Jin and his bride were standing on stage. She had a bouquet, and he did too. In the center of his bouquet was a long torch-like candle. Immediately, I thought this was weird, but realized quickly that there were candles on each table and where this was going. Sure enough he walked around the room, bride on his arm, lighting everyone’s candles. When they got to the three tables Chinen sho teachers were sitting at, we stood, yelled “Omedetou Gozaimasu!” and popped poppers at them. I’m not sure if it was the safest thing to be combining flame and flying paper streamers, but nobody got burned so it was ok. A drunk Takeshima sensei was also blowing bubbles at them when they were near his table. After all the tables had their candles lit, Jin used his torch to light the big heart candelabra at the other end of the room. Just after this the couple cut their cake. The cake had been sitting at the side of the room opposite the stage since the beginning and was pretty impressive. There were 3 tiers, the top two were situated on long arms that swept out from the middle so each layer hovered above the next. I remember them cutting, but not eating the cake, which leads me to believe the top two impressive layers were not real cake at all. We had cakes served at our table, but the cake they cut was never served. After the cakes were served, they received presents from their guests who made short speeches to the bride and groom. Then both the kocho senseis from each of their schools gave speeches. After these speeches, the bride and groom left to change into their third outfits, and as soon as they left some family members performed a dance to a popular television show. The highlight of this number were the three tiny children in the front. They were ages 2-5 and were so perfectly adorable. The funny thing was that the adults were following the lead of these youngsters in performing the dance. I excused myself for the restroom, but missed a number performed by three girls(?) in silver sequin dresses with wigs and silver sequin gloves on. I think this song was another from a television show, but I’m not sure. After this, the bride and groom came back, but only she was wearing a new dress, a blue frilly thing, while Jin had the same cream tux on. They took their seats on the side opposite the stage and then a troupe performed Eisa on the stage. After this performance Kenichi sensei ran up onstage with a monkey mask on (one he wore in the video) and started dancing. The bride and groom went up on stage to dance and everyone was invited on stage to dance kachashi (another Okinawan dance where you just move your hands above you, much like the dance people were doing at our friend Hamid’s wedding- he’s from Afghanistan). I went too. This only lasted for one song, but it was enough time for Tatsuya sensei to put a napkin in his pants inappropriately placed and dance around small children. Very interesting. The group threw Jin up in the air several times during this song. Then everyone returned to their seats for the final act. The last time the curtain went up, the newlyweds were standing there holding teddy bears. Weird, right? They walked past all the tables to the other side of the room. I thought perhaps they were going to give them to the youngsters that performed earlier, but instead, their parents were sitting across the room and the two approached with the bears. I assume that each the bride and groom presented the bears with gratitude for raising them and all that stuff. As the bride was making her speech to her mother (not sure what happened to her father) Takaiyo sensei said to me, “That bear has the same weight as Kyoko’s bones.” ----What? I’m still not sure what that meant. This was probably the strangest part of the whole ceremony/reception. It was both combined into one 2 hour extravaganza. During the whole event food was served in courses. Some plated individually and some set family style on the table. It was interesting. The event was so staged, every time the bride and groom entered or left, the lights would go down, a spotlight would shine on them and music and lights would go. When the curtain went up and they were on stage, bubbles would drop, fog would roll out, and the same lights and music would go. The weddings was somewhere between a real wedding, a disco, and a variety show. Having said that, I enjoyed my time there and am glad Jin sensei had the courage to invite me to his wedding!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Let’s Play Doctor

Or shall I say, “’Let’s play,’ Doctor.”? Because that’s what it feels like the doctors around her have been doing with me lately. Here’s the story:
Soon after I got back to Okinawa I went to the hospital because my ear hurt, I couldn’t hear out of it, I had a cough, and my knee hurt. The doctor at Adventist Medical Center said to go to a specialist if my ear didn’t improve after a few days of allergy and antibiotics that he prescribed. It didn’t, so I had Julie come with me to an ears, nose, and throat specialist at a ji bi ka (meaning ears, nose, center). The doctor there looked at me for just a few seconds, before prescribing me four new medicines: Something for my cough, something for the inflammation in the ear, and two others I can’t remember now. I took all the medicine and waited another five days before deciding I needed to go back because I still wasn’t better, that is, my ear still hurt occasionally and I couldn’t hear from it. Last Thursday I went to yet a third doctor. This time Dan came with Jon and I. We went to the same ji bi ka that I went to the previous Monday, but they were closed (all day Thursday) so we called another JET to get info on another clinic. After parking and being lost on foot, we finally arrived. They took my temperature, which was elevated, due to the running around in the heat that we had just done (I think). I filled out their questionnaire (allergies, illnesses, etc) and saw the doctor about 10 minutes later. This visit started the same as it did at the last place, but it didn’t end so abruptly. The doctor took pictures inside my ear canal, pulled some wax from my ear, and gave me two kinds of hearing tests. These were different than any other test I’d done for hearing. One test tested my ear canal/drum hearing, while the other tested hearing at the back of the ear (bypassing the ear drum). One time they tested how much I could hear from one ear while “ignoring” interference noises being piped into the other ear. After waiting a bit longer in the waiting room, his assistants called me for another test, this one to see how much my ear drums moved when they shot a low vibrating sound/pulse into the ear. I waited some more. Then the doc called me back and said that basically my ear drum wasn’t moving in my right ear. He gave me all the pictures he took, all the test results, and explained everything to me. He showed me how the tests differed when I tried to hear using the eardrum on the right, and how evenly matched it was with the left when they bypassed the eardrum. He said that the pressure on the plane created a vacuum in my inner ear so the 3 tiny bones couldn’t vibrate in the ear. He prescribed me 3 kinds of medicine, one that should help dry up the fluid that might be aiding the vacuum, and told me to return in a week. He said he expected it to clear up in anywhere from 4 to 6 weeks and that I couldn’t do anything that might upset the pressure in the ear- no swimming, no flying, nothing. However I did ask if I could fly to Tokyo in September (about a month from when I was in his office) and he said that was fine. But no SCUBA. Bummer. We were planning on going in Tokashiki! Oh well, I want my hearing back.
This doctor was so much more thorough and patient with me. He had so many patients in his office, but I never felt rushed or overlooked- Not like at the other place. I sure hope he was right and that I can hear again soon!

Litterbugs and Bad Drivers

This island is filled with both. And it's absurd. Yesterday I witnessed both, one on my way to work, and one on my way back.

Yesterday around 1 I was driving on the road behind our apartment, my typical route to work, when I saw an old man sitting in his car. This guy tends the garden/farm at the top of the hill. He isn't very friendly, but I smile and nod/bow at him when I see him anyway, just to be polite. Today he glared at me as I drove by. As I was driving by, I noticed a white plastic bag to my left. It's not uncommon to see trash up there, so I didn't think much of it. But then, after I went by, my eye caught something in the rearview mirror. It was a can flying through the air. He tossed it over the road and into the plants on the side of the hill. I couldn't believe my eyes. Here he is, eating at the top of a hill with a view, assumedly for the view, and here he is tossing trash on out like he was eating in a landfill. I started to think of the other times I'd seen him on the hill and how often there was trash near him. Once there was a bad of trash right outside his own car, like he couldn't be bothered with throwing it anywhere. I can't even imagine throwing trash everywhere like that. First of all, it's disrespectful, and second of all, this place is beautiful, so why would I want to deface it like that? I never littered at home either, in state whose beauty doesn't parallel this island's. It's just rude. I remember seeing people litter, one in particular, who would litter right on his own front lawn. I just didn't understand it. It hardly takes any thought or effort to get that trash to its proper place. Once here I was outside a convenience store and this guy was walking by with MacDonald's food in a bag. He was eating a burger or something in a wrapper, too. When he finished his burger, he just let the wrapper fly. I wanted so badly to say, "Hey you moron, where do you think that will go? Do you think that it is just going to disappear once it leaves your hand? Do you really not care, or are you just that lazy?" I mean, he could have wadded up the wrapper and tossed it back in the bag he was carrying, to be thrown out at his next stop. I realize trashcans are hard to come by in Japan, due to the meticulous sorting that must be done before trash can be put out for the collector, but any convenience store (and there are tons) has a trashcan outside for combustibles. It's just frustrating. When Jon and I went to the Hari boat races in Chinen, we filled up a couple grocery sized bags each of trash. People looked at us like we were nuts. When I told one of my teachers that I wanted to organize a beach clean up (not for any service hours, just because it needed to be done), she was like, "Kristin, you are very good person. I don't like to do things like that if I don't have to."

On my way home from work, I was following a rental car. I know it was a rental car because it had the "wa" kana on it. All "wa" cars are rental cars. These two young guys were inside, the passenger kept waving his arms outside and just being stupid, but whatever, they were having a good time and they weren't hurting anyone. Eventually a car pulled out in front of them when it shouldn't have. But that's what people do here. They drive around without seatbelts and their children playing around in the car, often standing up, and they pull out when it is unsafe to do so. So now this stupid driver was in front of the vacationing guys in the rental, driving very slow and braking at weird times. I don't know if the driver got annoyed that the rental car was on his butt or what, but it was annoying to watch from my car, one car behind the rental car. But, this was my route home, so I just had to wait it out. The idiot driver would speed up, slow down, and was swerving all over the lane. I started to wonder if there was a child or a drunk person driving the car, but I could see a child standing up in the back. By the time we got to the big hill I love to drive down, I'd had it. I was on the rental's butt, who was on the idiot's butt… But their driving did not improve. They took each turn under 20kmh, which is what they teach you in school, but nobody actually does it…. And they would break going into the curve, in the curve, and coming out of the curve…. Ugh! I swear sometimes I wondered if they were going to just stop completely… That's how slow they were going. And they didn't have a new driver sticker or an old person sticker on their car, so I don't know what was up! Anyhow, we got to the "T" in the road and they were turning left (the way I go). So I begrudgingly followed them. The rental car went straight, so then I was directly behind them, with a cab on my butt. He was annoyed too because he was part of the long line of cars that had built up since this whole endeavor started about 10 minutes before. So we were going along slowly (maybe 30kmh) and the cab sped up and got in the lane for opposite traffic. I sped up so there was no room to get in front of me and the idiot car, annoyed because I've been dealing with this longer than the cab. At the next chance I got, I passed the idiot driver, and watched the cab do the same thing after me. Frustrated about what had happened, but relieved to finally be out of it, I sped away without looking back.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Tokyo Trip Plans

One fun thing I've done since I got back has been planning a trip to Tokyo. One of the new JETs, Daniel, 26 from New Zealand, mentioned it at the welcome party, and Jon and I jumped at the opportunity to go up to Tokyo with someone who had lived near there for a year. Daniel did his last year of high school in Japan and even though he was just there for orientation, was eager to go back. His host family from his original trip also has a lot of hook ups so we are getting discounts at our hotel. The three of us are very excited to go! So far we've planned to go to a baseball game (Giants vs. Dragons), see a Prodigy Concert, do 2 days at Tokyo Disney (1 at Disneyland and one at Disney Sea), see a Kabuki play, and explore the areas of Harujuku, Roppongi, and Yoyogi Park. I am so excited to take the new camera up there and get some great shots!

Daniel has never been to Kyoto, Osaka, or Hiroshima before either, so we are tentatively planning a trip up that way during cherry blossom season (early April). I hope I can get enough days off for all of this fun!

It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye

It's So Hard to Say Goodbye



I haven't posted any blogs in a while, partly because I was busy and partly because I was very depressed before my trip back to California. Then there was all the hubbub with Ashley, Kristen, and Martin with the internet "drug". There wasn't much good to write, so I just didn't. Since I have been back, I've been pretty depressed and I've also been sick. I lost hearing in my right ear, possibly on the plane ride back, and haven't been able to hear from it since I arrived back in Okinawa. I've been hot, sick, and miserable, except for the block 5 events I've planned that went well. I've had some fun since I've been back on the island, but work has been pretty bad. I guess these are my dark times here. I found out this week that I am going to be team teaching in the very important demonstration class that every teacher and official for our district watches. It's not that I mind the attention, but it's a lot of work, preparation, and meetings, which I'm sure will have me staying past the hours I'm supposed to work, and all of this with no reward or feeling of accomplishment. It would be different if I was getting some sort of satisfaction from it, but since I'm not, I just get annoyed. The teacher is already working on the lesson for it, which means I will likely just be told where to stand and when to say whatever they want me to say. Which is just depressing. This lesson is taking place at Chinen, which makes it worse because there is a huge language barrier here. At least at Hyakuna, they listen to my ideas, and I get a bit of satisfaction when something goes well. Anyhow, here is something I started a while ago and never posted because I was so busy the week before I left trying to get a schedule I could find satisfaction in:

I'm always sad to leave something that has failed to blossom due to lack of time. I felt this way when I left Kudaka, just a few months ago (April) and I feel this way again today as I spend my last day at Chinen Chugakko (July 7). I was so excited when I first came here and felt new life breathed into me when I was told I could teach my own classes of students who were far more advanced than my younger students. It's not that I don't love my elementary students, but it was nice to have just 1 day a week that I could actually connect with my students and have conversations, though often brief, with them. Elementary students are great, genki, and hilarious. But our interactions are superficial- they think I'm hilarious and I make their class time fun. However, the junior high students have heart. They, especially the 2nd graders (13-14yr olds), were very sincere and kind to me. They complemented me right from the start and weren't shy, and it made me want to get to know them on a personal level, which made me feel like my time here was worthwhile. I was learning about these kids' hopes and dreams- in English… In April, I thought perhaps it was just Kudaka's small, familial school I was sad to leave behind, but apparently I was mistaken; I feel my heartstrings being tugged upon again because I'm having to leave another group of 30 or so students that I've come to like spending time with. I'm trying to be Japanese about it, trying to be strong and unwavering in front of teachers, but it's really hard. Sure, I'll meet other students, wherever I teach next (that has yet to be decided), but then I will be starting all over again, building new relationships with students who will think I'm the greatest thing since sliced bread. Don't get me wrong, being the greatest thing since sliced bread is wonderful; I love the attention. However, the downside to that is that because these students fail to get to know me, they fail to actually learn about me, and I fail to learn about them. Unfortunately, all this failing at my level, means my position as a JET fails as well. This program is about the exchange of cultures- this goal is even more important than the point of the program being about teaching English. And I am starting to feel that if I keep getting shifted around breaking ties with my students and meeting new ones, the whole program is being cheated. Sure there are JETs who have it worse off than me. There are some who travel around the whole district (south Okinawa) for 6 weeks at a time at each school. But it's hard for me to see others at my Board of Education stay at the same schools while I am cheated out of a more meaningful experience. I hate to say it, but it just makes me want to go home. There is no way I can consider staying another year here. I'm not sure how I can manage the year I've committed to already. I am so exhausted with running around, teaching 20, often different classes a week at three locations that sometimes I drive to the wrong school. I have made a sheet that tells me what class, topic, and activity I'm doing each day, but I haven't settled in to a system of seeing my whole week in advance so I can feel prepared for it. I often don't have the time to meet with teachers ahead of time due to everyone's busy schedules, and there is nothing worse than two people trying to "team teach" when neither of them has a full grasp of what's going on in the lesson. I am always planning my classes based on available materials because I often don't have the time I need to prepare materials because I spend so much time in the classroom, teaching. Teaching itself, can be exhausting. Imagine being responsible for entertaining 60-150 students a day, somewhat supported by their home room teacher (now imagine working with up to 5 different teachers a day, each with their own style of classroom management, and teaching) up to 5 different topics, and preparing and executing 5 different fun activities so that your students want to come to English and behave in your classroom. This is my job. I like it most of the time, but once again, when I compare it to me peers, who spend merely 1 day doing this schedule, and 4 of the schedule I enjoy so much (a schedule of up to 4 classes a day, usually not more than 3 teachers a week, and no more than 12 topics/activities a week), it saddens me greatly. My life would be so much simpler and easier to manage if I could teach junior high more often. But, I won't. Instead, I will be thrown into some crazy schedule that I will do my best to thrive at. This is my life here.

I can't wait to get off the island in a few days. Maybe my trip home will refresh me and I will come back eager to tackle the challenges of my job here. I can only hope.


Continued August 2nd - It is always hard to say goodbye. I hate goodbyes. I always have. I hate missing people, and I hate leaving. I hate down time when I get to a new place. I think I spent a couple days in California feeling out of place, and now that I'm back in Japan, once again I feel out of place. I long for the ease of living in California. However, I know that neither Jon or I have cars, phones, jobs, or an apartment there, so these facts just add to my frustration and misplaced-ness.


Continued August 3rd- There's no place like home. It's funny to say that after being so annoyed by all the nuances and idiosyncrasies of our American life when we were there, but coming back to Japan this time was a lot harder this time around than it was at Christmas. Just 24 hours ago I was starting an exciting blog about all the fun things I did while "on vacation" at home. Now any free moment my mind has to wander, tears come to my eyes and I just want to be home. Even more funny is the fact that after Jon and I went home for Christmas, we felt out of place and were happy to come back to our "home" here. But I guess the island was still young to us then. We wanted to prove to ourselves that we could accomplish living here. And we have. We both are employed, have friends, side jobs, and can do all the necessary things like shopping, paying bills, drive, and anything else life here throws at us. This time around I didn't miss my teachers, and I didn't miss my students. I had a lot of fun catching up with many friends and just "being" in California. I thought about bailing on my contract while I was gone, before the date my new contract started. What's different now? Well, I am not satisfied with my job here now, for one. I am tired of some of the people I work with, for two. And, unfortunately, without having been back to work or seen my students yet, the fact that I am not completely satisfied here is looming over my head like the dark clouds over the ocean this morning.


Continued August 16th- However, after settling back into our Okinawan life, I am a bit happier. I'm not sure if this is because 'home' is "out of sight, out of mind" or if I was just homesick because I hate goodbyes. The fact that I have all these new JETs to help out makes me feel like my life her is more worthwhile, so I am excited for the new year to unfurl and to see how many different fun events we will have socially. Unfortunately, I just don't think I am going to get any satisfaction from my job, which really is unfortunate, considering it's such a big part of my life here.



Continued on August 18th- Well my trip home didn't leave me ready to tackle my job here, instead it made me really hate this place and really want to leave. My Board has told me that while I have a crappy schedule now, I will be given the school of my choice in April. And, I have since found out that every teacher at my schools is going to have to teach a demonstration class in English before the end of the school year (March). I have exhausted every possible solution to the problem and have only been slammed into brick walls. I still don't know my schedule the for the next 2 terms, only that I will be teaching 4 days a week at 2 elementary schools. That's 15 classes a week with students who I can't relate to or get to know. Why don't I just learn Japanese so I can communicate with them you ask? Because I'm so exhausted at the end of the day, I don't want to stick my nose in a book for an hour every night to learn a language that won't benefit me as a teacher in Southern California. I just can't bring myself to do that. I want to get started with the rest of my life now. Since I got back from California I have been using my position as blockhead (think social chair) to get myself out of the house and meet all the new JETs. It has brought me some satisfaction, but I haven't found any satisfaction at work. I go to my schools, struggle to communicate with the few teachers who show up during summer (while myself only showing up for maybe 6 hours a day). Oh, and I've been battling an awful cough and the concern that I might not get hearing back in my right ear (which I haven't had since I got off the plane here on the first of August).