Saturday, August 05, 2006

Spotty internet... sorry

During our Okinawa orientation yesterday, we were told to be able to convert our height into centimeters because we would be asked how tall we are. One hour later we were being picked up by our supervisors. I not only had my supervisor, but also two other teachers with her. Kei, the youngest of the teachers at the school says, “Rachel-san, how tall are you?” We had only walked one minute out of the building. For the record, thanks to my computer, I know that I am about 168 cm.

Okinawa. Tourist destination for the Japanese. We received a map of attractions on the various islands. I honestly don’t know where to start! There’s the world’s second largest aquarium that has the world’s largest freestanding tank and looks fantastic. There are beaches littering the shore, about 9 World Heritage Sites, shopping, a Pineapple Park, Okinawa World, and the numerous pristine islands where you can find white sand, tropical fish, and be completely alone. (Okinawans hate the beach. They think we are crazy. “Beach? So dangerous. Sharks. Jellyfish.” It is something to look at.) The sun is blazing hot and it has been sunny everyday thus far. We apparently have three seasons – hot, rainy, and typhoon. All windows are prepared for typhoons and every building is made of concrete so there isn’t too much of a need for evacuation. Nothing can really get hurt and usually school is still on during a typhoon.

I have finally arrived at my final destination. I was so exhausted from carrying my overweight luggage everywhere. As much as I brought, it is hardly enough to fill an apartment. My teachers brough me blankets to cover the windows, sheets, pillows, some dishes, an airmattress, towels to help me get settled a bit. I will post pictures of my new place soon, but the two best parts are 1) A urinal in the bright blue tiled bathroom, 2) From my balcony, I can see the entire coast and the ocean, plus Chatan’s famous ferris wheel that is lit at night. You can hear the ocean. Amazing! All of the buildings are built onto the hills that line the coast. I can walk to school from here and it’s all up and downhill. Did I mention how hot it is here? It is perfectly normal to carry a sweat towel to mop yourself down. Everyone has one. It’s on my list of things to buy today.

I was brought to my school yesterday and was greeted by very smiley excited teachers sitting at their desks even though it’s summer break and classes are not in session. The students themselves were tripping over themselves to see the new teacher. “Ms. Rachel! Sashida show me your picture!” It was all sports clubs at school and I talked baseball with the team. They wanted to throw curveballs with me. “Tadahito Iguchi? You know? Chicago White Sox?” “Ahhhh… yes! Whi Sox. Yes.” The basketball girls were acting like lunatics. Apparently the students are not very hard-working in class, but are very “genki” (happy).

The teachers of the English Department could possibly be the nicest people I’ve ever met in my life. Two male teachers, Sashida and Kei, met me yesterday at the airport and came again yesterday. My female supervisor, Takako, is very sweet and very funny. I also met two more female teachers, Miyako and Taiko. Sashida, Kei, and Takako took me all over town yesterday… Shopping at the 100 yen store to get some things for my apartment, getting some groceries, and eating at a famous sushi bar. And today, I have a feeling all three will want to go to the city hall, bank, etc. with me. Their English is amazing and I actually understand them better than some native speakers!

I also hope to set up my keitai (cell phone) today. I am almost desperate to talk to Ken. We haven’t really had any way to get in contact for the last two days. Once I have a phone, we can talk endlessly through a special plan and through emailing which is beyond popular here. You can do everything with your phone --- email, text message, send and take photos, shop on the internet, google things. They are fantastic, plus if you get the old model from three months ago, apparently you can buy one for only about $10. I am also anxious to get the internet at my apartment. And everyone needs to buy a camera for their computer so we can chat! Oh, and if you have an Instant Messenger name, email it to me.

Today’s Friday and this weekend is an important one in Japan. It is the Obon celebration, which is held every year to remember those who have passed before. Apparently there will be fireworks in the evening on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday and Eisa drums will be played all night long for the dead who come back to visit for the three days. Most teachers apparently take Monday and Tuesday off, but I will still go to school. I hope to get in contact somehow with some other JETs and explore the island. When I sit still, I have to be honest… I get very homesick and especially miss Ken. It’s like my right arm is missing. But enough depressing stuff – maybe I’ll find a beach and visit Mihama Village (American Village of Chatan), complete with a Chi Chis, Tony Romas, a few Starbucks, and great shopping and movies. I hear “Pirates of the Caribbean” is there. The other teachers love Johnny Depp and started listing movies. Willy Wonka! Scissorhands! They also love some American shows – “24,” “ER,” “X-Files,” “Friends.” And music! The male teachers were very curious about music and what every region of the United States listens to. Try explaining Honky Tonk to some Japanese friends! But they like Coldplay and know Franz Ferdinand, which is great!

That about wraps up my days in Oki so far. I still wake up at 6 am thanks to jet (JET?) lag. My “block” has a snorkeling day planned for next weekend, I believe. All the JETs of Oki will be taking a ferry out to Tokashiki Island two weeks from now to spend a day on the beach together and share stories so far.

Wow, this is long. Miss you all and everyone should think about vacationing here in the next year!

UPDATE: love Chatan. borrowing internet and can't write or email all of you back right now. everyone should come. keep emailing. it makes my day to read them on my phone. i will email everyone back when i have my own internet. promise. ken and i finally talked. :o)

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