Thursday, August 20, 2009

Adventures in teaching, learning, and adventuring! ;)

I love Okinawa
I've just completed my first official task as a high school teacher: editing. geh. Usually, editing should come after a couple of lessons, assignments, whatnot, but it is summer vacation and so I haven't actually taught a class yet. I just did the editing as a favor for one of the teachers I will be teaching with. It was fun. :) I feel totally unprepared to stand in front of a class of fifteen year olds and impart any kind of knowledge about grammar or syntax or what-have-you, but editing... editing I can do.
This is the view from the cafe where I did a lot of that editing over lunch break.

These worksheets were pretty basic. They asked a couple of questions about what students want to be/to do when they grow up and then gave room for a short paragraph regarding the same topic. I've included some of my favorite answers below:

"I hope to Takushi's wife. Because I like he. Takushi is a professional basketball player. So, I hope to Takushi's wife! When i dream comes true, I hope to have a peaceful family. <3" -future trophy wife

"I would like to be superman.... But, I won't to be superman. Because i haven't pour and haven't courage."
-future Clark Kent 

"I hope to be independently woman. So I want to spent live a full life. I hope compatible both work and my personal life."
-future feminist of Japan

"I would like to promote an agricultural revolution. The reason is that I like apple."
-future apple activist

And my favorite:

"I would like to be a farmhouse."
-future... barn?

Now please don't mistake my intent. I have a lot of respect for these students. There is no way I could communicate on their level in Japanese, and I am certain my mistakes would be much more ghastly and humorous than these, but these answers make me smile nonetheless. It is endearing and encouraging because now I know that I might actually be able to teach these students something. :P

Speaking of learning Japanese... I will start my private lessons soon. I contacted a tutor last week about meeting once a week for an hour lesson, and she suggested a Japanese textbook which I picked up yesterday. It is called “げんき” or “Genki” which means happy or joyful (roughly).
I found a bookstore... there goes my paycheck! lol
I can’t wait to start the lessons! An hour a week definitely won’t be enough, but I am hoping it will keep me on task and motivated, especially since I am paying her pretty well. :P She seems sweet, too, and I hear she is very patient. She’s gonna need that patience with me! My brain is acquiring Japanese at a such a pace that I might be able to order a teriyaki burger at the McDonalds drive through after a year or two. ^_^ (Japanese emoticon)]

Despite the language barrier, I am getting around pretty well. :) I love owning a car because it opens up so many possibilities, and I am not limited by lack of a ride or a really awful bus schedule. Sometimes I just drive around to get a feel for the area and see what I can find.

A few days ago (Friday, I think), I got off work and started to drive home, with no plans and little prospects for the evening outside of watching movies on my laptop or cleaning, yet again. So instead of turning right into my neighborhood, I turned left into the sugar cane fields and just kept driving. I was hoping to find another beach closer to my home, but found instead a huge resort golf course with stunning views of the coast. If I were a golfer this would be a very exciting discovery for me, but since I would rather hit myself with a golf club than walk around the green hitting a ball for hours, I kept driving.
(Nita, if you and Harmon were to visit, I would appreciate the golf club a lot more. ;))

My next discovery were these giant windmills.

I’ve spotted them several times from various locations, but always at a distance. Something about them fascinates me so I drove right up under them and took some photos. Silly tourist.

Just a little ways beyond the windmills there is another interesting building which I have spotted from the beaches in Yaese. It looks a bit like a lighthouse but has sort of a forked top.

Intrigued, I meandered over in that direction and found a massive parking lot in front of a widespread and lovely garden with lots of monuments and a long impressive museum. I had no idea what any of this was, but I parked and walked up to a sign, hoping to blur my eyes until the Japanese made sense. No luck. However, a little past the first sign I found a bilingual sign which told me I had discovered the Okinawa Peace Memorial Museum. Excellent. I walked slowly, soaking in the silent beauty of the stones and gardens, thankful I picked a time when most people were too busy eating soba to flood the grounds.

At the very far edge of the park, the perfectly manicured grasses gave way to staggering views of sharp cliffs and rocky beaches.

I only explored about a quarter of the grounds before my stomach alerted me that soba was not such a bad idea at this time of day, so I reluctantly trudged back to the car. On my way I noticed the sun starting to sink to the west and remembered my goal of seeing it set over the ocean. You see, all of Yaese town’s beaches face the wrong direction, so although the sunset lends the clouds and the waters a lovely color, we are deprived the splendor of watching the sun dip into those turquoise waters. Deciding that my stomach would just have to wait, I turned my little car south and hit the gas.

After probably an hour of fruitless beach-searching (the details of which I will spare you), I finally turned into one of a million sugar cane fields and navigated the narrow roads to the coast. There, I parked next to a fisherman’s hut and sprinted toward the sand. The sun had already dipped behind far-off islands, but the brilliant shades of color lingered in the cloud-spotted sky and touched gently on the sand. Unfortunately, my toes could not do the same because they were barricaded from those sands by a concrete wall and ten feet of tall grass (which were mostly likely inhabited by the dreaded Habu snake—a creature I was unwilling to meet with in the approaching gloom). So I settled myself onto the wall, pulled out my small pocket camera (the SLR forgotten at home and my cell phone laying uncharged in the car), and did what I could to capture a little sliver of that beauty.
On Sunday, my coworker and I bought an all day monorail pass for our next adventure exploring the capital city of Naha for the afternoon. We started by searching fruitless for an A & W--where is comfort food when you need it??--and then settling for the local Mos Burger (hamburgers with a Japanese twist).

Shrimp burger on rice bun. yum!

Then we walked along a popular street for tourists called Kokusai Dori where we discovered the book shop with a WHOLE English aisle, delicious food, and various street performers.

Finally, we took the metro to the last stop to visit Shuri Castle. Shuri Castle, a remnant of the Ryukyu kingdom's dynasty, was destroyed during the Battle of Okinawa, but was reconstructed in 1992 based on photographs of the original.
Entrance gate leading to Shuri Castle

The grounds surrounding the castle are quite lovely and extensive, so Max and I decided to save the entrance fee for a later date (and a later paycheck), and just explore the free area. We weren't at all disappointed, especially when we found this lovely overlook with a splending view of Naha and the ocean beyond.
poor photo from my cell phone. I want to return at sunset with my SLR.

All of these adventures emptied my gas tank pretty quickly so I think I will have to space them out a bit more in the future. Or at least cut back on coffee or something to balance the expense. ;)

So that is my little update for you! Sorry these are spaced out quite a bit. I would love to post more but can't from the internet on my cell phone or at work. I should have internet at home within the month (I am at a friend's house now). I also apologize for the poor quality of the photos... until I get the sensor cleaned on my real camera, I am mostly just toting around the point and shoot or my cell phone. However, I am going to take the Nikon out with me on an island camping trip this weekend and just take the time to edit out all the sensor spots.

Hope you enjoy!


  1. Yay for adventures! :D I'm glad you're enjoying your time in Japan so much. Thanks for including pics--even the crappy cell phone ones. ;)

  2. Loved the tour! Love the photos! Love what you are doing! Love you!

  3. so I know I'm supposed to read the whole thing to get an update on your life, but all I ever do when you post stuff is look at the pretty pictures. keep taking pictures and posting them, they're pretty.

  4. Maybe you've figured this out already, but there's an A&W in the food court (second floor) at the Jusco in Haebaru. I think there's one in Itoman, too, and several a little further north, but strangely enough, I can't think of any in Naha. (Doesn't mean there isn't one hidden away somewhere, though.)

    I really got a kick out of reading those sentences, too.:) Once, in a composition I was correcting, a student had written "We went to the island by sheep," which I think is still my favorite cute/funny mistake.

    Hope you're having a great time!