Monday, May 26, 2008

tying the knot

Couldn't resist the play on words.  
No, no, I'm not getting married or anything; 
I still haven't even been able to get a date recently...
but I'm accepting applications from interested & 
willing parties, if you know any!
Just thought I'd share this interesting clip from my Kyoto temple visit.  
Our guide, a monk at this temple, shows us how he ties his belt.  
Looks like a giant Turk's Head knot, doesn't it, Dad?

Friday, May 23, 2008

"Camp Birthday"

Camp Birthday

CLICK on the photo above to go to the photo album.  You can look at it in slideshow format, or scroll over the pics to see the captions.  You can also see where we were on the map!
Yeah, yeah, I know these are so late that it's almost time for my next birthday, but here are some photos from the 'camping' trip that we did the night before my birthday.  No tents involved, but it was a lovely cabin in the woods, and the guys did a great job on the yakiniku (grilled meat) bbq.  I've got to say this birthday was really hard, but fortunately some of my mates here made sure I wasn't all alone :)
Someday I will actually post those other photos I've promised.  Here's one of a shidarezakura (looks like a weeping willow) in the palace gardens in Kyoto.  It just kind of looked like how I feel right now...kind of droopy and needing to be propped up!  The medicine I'm on seems to be helping, but I still should probably avoid operating heavy machinery for a few days. 
I will say one fabulous thing about being in inaka (countryside) Japan is that I never have to wait for a doctor.  Since my school is within walking distance of many "hospitals" (that's what they seem to call doctor's offices), I'm always able to just walk over to one unannounced, and after filling in paperwork (always fun - since I can barely read kanji), I usually go right in.  Unbelievable.  But I'll take it for now :)

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

So, stating the obvious, here, sometimes things get lost in the translation.  Case in point: my being sick in Japan and my colleagues' reactions.  (I've had really strange sicknesses here, and the latest has been hanging around for the better part of a month now...yes, I finally went to the doctor...not to worry - got meds...I just won't be operating heavy machinery while I'm on these drugs) Anyway, today one of the English teachers asked me (knowing that I just started the medicine yesterday afternoon), "Are you better?"  Hmmm...let's see - well, LOOK at me - do I LOOK all better?  I'm frequently asked - within a really quick turn around time, if I've gotten better.  I mean I'm trying to get better as quickly as I can (seriously - I've been walking around feeling like I've just run a mile drunk), but not there yet.  Then I realized - they're not trying to be rude - it's just that the Japanese expression of concern,  as it's directly translated into English,  seems a little impatient.  When I asked my trusted Japanese friend about my theory - that when people ask "Are you better?"  they really mean "Are you feeling any better? (not 100% yet, but is there any improvement?)"  She said, smiling "So so  so" - meaning yeah yeah yeah!  Whew.  I need a nap.  

Friday, May 16, 2008

Every time I feel sick, depressed, lonely, 
I force myself to get out for a little walk about, 
and inevitably I find some smiling child's face.  
Nice how that works out :)

Thursday, May 15, 2008

ich, ni, san!

Right.  So my life isn't all black party dresses and men in uniform (none of them were even smart enough to get my phone number - sigh.).  ANYWAY, I was flipping through the images on my phone and found this one.  I just wanted to show that, for one night a year, it seems, my colleagues shake loose a little.  This is a shot from our end of the school year enkai (dinner party) back in March.  Apparently it is a tradition to toss the transferring teachers up in the air after they've been feasting for 2 hours.  Don't worry - there was a mound of pillows underneath.  I just thought this little tradition - following the group rendition of the school song and several individual cheers for the folks that were moving on - was...kind of...charming.  
And for the record - as I may have mentioned before - I really think the secret to such harmonious work relations may well have to do with enkai...We have several parties (at about $50 a pop) - several times a year.  We have them for the opening and closing of school years, the end and then again in the beginning of the calendar year, before the seniors take their entrance exams, after/before major school-wide and prefecture-wide sports events.  Many of these are basically in triplicate, since there are different parties for the whole staff, the grade level teachers (I'm with the teachers who teach first years), and then each of the subject areas, too.  Oh, wait - we had one at a fantastic tofu restaurant for all the women on staff, too (I can only imagine where the men's party was!). Whew.  It's expensive, and kind of annoying because it's 'all you can drink' - but that only means beer and sake (neither of which appeal to me).  It's also difficult because - well, it's a party, and who wants to try to speak English?  Well, the beer DOES make some folks much more apt to have a go at English, and I know I need to practice my Japanese, but it's sometimes a little exhausting. 
BUT, at the end of the day, I'm usually happy to attend.  What other school events provide fish so fresh it's still twitching?

Sunday, May 11, 2008

In the Navy...

So - here's a question - go teach at school, or have photo ops with naval officers in dress whites.  Hmmm...such a dilemma.  
Wait minute, is there really any question about what needs to be done when such a situation presents itself?  

My presence at school was not absolutely necessary the end of last week, so I took nenkyu and  went to a change of command ceremony at the Navy base up in Sasebo.  My friend was becoming the captain on the USS Guardian, and though I don't know him and his wife very well yet, Skii (wife) persuaded me to come to the change of command and their wedding (renewal of vows) anyway.   The promise of all those men in can imagine it was so difficult to convince me to go.  Unfortunately, in the drama of everything, my camera got misplaced, and so this is the only photo I have from my trip.  
However, maybe losing my camera was intended - instead of focusing on the photo documentary of the trip, I've been focusing on everything I felt... Since I've been Japan so long, it was strange to be on "American soil" on the base.  However, being there at the ceremony also reminded me of all the fond memories I have of visiting bases, attending air shows, etc. with my family.   At the ceremony the Guardian looked so festive, and the speeches about/by the captains really made made me (sorry for the cliche) swell with pride.   It takes true leaders to give all the credit back to the people that they are leading.  Since I was also privileged enough to spend a brief time with both of the captains and their famies, I saw firsthand what impressive leaders they were off the ship as well.   I found it endearing to witness how much they loved their families - and how much their families loved them.  The ceremony really made me proud to be an American.  I'm so thankful that we have men like that defending our nation.