Monday, September 13, 2010

Review Number Two!

My second review for Okinawa Hai came out today. It was originally supposed to be the first review, so I've been waiting anxiously for this one for awhile. It is happiness. :)

I showed the cafe owners and they were happy, too. Happiness for everyone!


Friday, September 10, 2010

Future Dream Job?

I love teaching high school.
 I love my students. I love their level of intelligence, their ability to grasp complex subjects, and their (occasional) ability to carry on (semi)full conversations in a foreign language.   I am right where I should be, right where I want to be. 

Even so...

In my heart, I am, undeniably, a kindergarten teacher. I would so rather teach "A, B, C; apple, ball, cat" than "Opinion, Reason, Refutation." My demeanor is so much better suited for story time and crafts than essay time and tests. 

So, when I stumbled across an ad for an ESL elementary teacher in Nakhon Sawan, Thailand (the province I visited in 2005 which sparked my passion to live abroad), my heart raced and my mind scrambled.
 I nearly whipped out my resume and responded on the spot. 

Then, I came back to earth. I don't want to leave this job, not this year and not next. I don't doubt that I am an incredibly lucky lady to be placed where I am. Not only do I get to tackle interesting subjects with my students, but I get to build relationships with them in a way that is impossible with lower level students. At the same time, I volunteer with kids at a local church on Saturday mornings and embrace any other opportunities to spend time with the little ones.
My little ladybug.

So, for now, I recognize the HUGE benefits that I reap being here at this fantastic high school with dedicated and interested students, but
I can dimly picture a future where my clothes are daily revamped by finger paint and my hair a mess of duck-duck-goose glory. I can't wait. ;) 

Thursday, September 2, 2010

My Birthday Celebration Abroad

Last year, my birthday arrived only shortly after I did. I'd made few aquaintances and even fewer friendships, so I was incredibly nervous about what the day would hold. However, the JET community pulled together for me and made it a truly memorable event. 

This year, my birthday rolled around pretty unexpectedly. The month of August was thoroughly chaotic. Between departing JET parties, arriving JET parties, and just-because parties, I didn't really think my birthday would or should get that much attention. However, the JET community (and friends) donned it's red cape of party-excellence and was there for me yet again. 

Photo by Sarra
I feel pretty guilty even admitting this, but even though I didn't think much would happen, for the past two years, I've had, not one, but TWO birthday parties. 
Last year, I had a yakiniku dinner on the day of my birthday and a beach BBQ party that friday. Both events were well attended by JETs I had met, had befriended, or who became my friends that night.  I felt so special and so loved, even though I was new to the island. 

This year, I had a cafe dinner on the day of my birthday and a salsa dance party the following weekend. These birthday  parties were attended by many JETs who I've grown close to over the year, some who had just arrived on the island, and a handful of local people who have become close friends, as well. 
Photos by Kate

I know that sounds completely selfish, but.... well, actually, it kind of is.  I LOVE birthdays.
 I love mine, and I love other people's. 
I would celebrate all week long if I thought I could get away with it. :) 
During this, my 23rd birthday, I learned that there is something to be said for being consistent.
When I lived in Kirkland, I wanted to go to a different restaurant or a new coffee shop every time. That didn't always happen, but it was my goal. I thrived on novelty.  But now, everything is novel. All the time. The language, the culture, the people, the locations. So, when I find a place that I love, I go there again, and again, and again. I've become a "regular regular," and, boy, do I see the benefit of that now!
Photo by Kazuno

Photo also by Kazuno, but from Kate's camera. :)

For the night of my birthday, I asked the owners of my favorite cafe, which I have talked about so many times it's ridiculous, if I could host a party there.  Kazuno-san and I have chatted many times since I started coming to her cafe once a week, so she said she would save me a table, stay open past closing, and even bake a cake! 

That night, nine people came when I had only expected five! I was so blessed and happy, but a little worried about what I had told Kazuno-san. She, however, was fine with the last minute change and gracefully made space for all of us. It turns out that she hadn't just saved me a table, but had reserved the whole cafe for us! Furthermore, she baked not just any cake but an incredibly delicious chocolatey cake of joy! Yes, JOY!
On top of all of that, she gave me a gift: 
this gorgeous mug made by a local artist. 
Photo by Kate

I am so grateful to Kazuno and her mom for creating such a lovely, relaxing, joyful evening for my celebration. Also, for all of my friends who came at the last minute. From my Okinawan neighbor, Taeko-san, to Kate, Yang, and Max, to my coworkers and my driving buddy, to Jules, who spent her last evening in Okinawa  buying me a present and driving to my party. That girl is a saint.

(more than are pictured here) Photo by Sarra

If I am not at Cafe KUGAFU, you can probably find me at the location for my second birthday party: Bomba Latina. I first stumbled into this salsa venue/mexican restaurant on a quiet Sunday night. There were few patrons, but the owner and server danced with me and my friend until the wee hours of the night. After that, I was hooked. I'd been to a few other salsa clubs in the city, but this one had a totally different atmosphere and I knew it was a place I could come back to week after week. So, I have. The owner, Teddy, is an entertaining guy and a great dancer. He is always friendly and knows me by name. 

When I approached Teddy about having a big bash at his bar, he said, "YES!" and even agreed to host a short lesson for free.  So I sent out the requisite F
acebook invite and, once again, was shocked at the turn out. There were definitely more than twenty people there! 

Not only did Teddy hook me up with a venue and a free lesson, he also bought me a cake! 
And Sarra cooked one as well!!
That's a total of THREE birthday cakes, people. That's unprecedented! 

This is was the night of dancing I could only dream of, usually. Everyone was enthusiastic and willing to dance with me, even if they didn't know how and had never danced salsa before in their lives! I didn't sit out a single song that I didn't want to, and laughed and grinned more than I had in months (and that's saying something). As the night went on, the numbers dwindled down, but I didn't leave until my coworker dragged me out, kicking, at 4 a.m. I could have danced all night. 

From America, a ton of people blessed me with their well-wishes, too. I got more emails and posts than I can possibly reply to in one sitting. I am especially glad I got to talk to my dear family on skype. I love you guys. :) 

So, this year, I know that I'm blessed I have met so many people to celebrate with. I look forward to each of their birthdays, so that I can return the favor. :) 
Long live birthdays!