Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Misumi Hospitality

The danger has passed and I'm back in Okinawa. I would say I'm back home, but I have a feeling Chatan will never really be "home." My flight went off without a hitch this time and the extra two days were a fantastic bonus. It made the ticket price worth it and of course gave me a longer vacation!

Ken and I spent three days (Thurs, Fri, and Tues) teaching his middle school students. There is no comparison to my high school. It was a fantastically lovely school/time. His students --- for the most part --- are attentive and eager the building is spotless and gorgeous and very Zen. Everyone is very excitable and I even loved their school lunches. Ken and I actually did some team teaching for the kids for about 10 classes. Our favorite script -and one that will haunt us forever -

Ken: What's your favorite subject, Judy?
Me: Math. It's very interesting.
Ken: I like Japanese.
Me: Me too. It's not easy, but I study hard.

We did three lessons on those four lines. And you have to overpronounce everything and act a bit so kids don't fall asleep. We did our best and I think we had a good time brainstorming for future classes. It was really rough going back to my building today, that's for sure.

The other highlights? Obviously, Ken had a big bash for his 30th and had quite a few friends over. Enough friends to get the neighbor flicking her lights as a warning that we were being too loud. Hopefully it fulfilled his expectations and did a great job of ushering in another decade.

On Saturday, we went with two of his friends to an onsen. My first onsen experience. If you don't know what one is -- essentially it's a hot tub with natural hot spring water. The area we were in is famous for its softening effect on the skin. Grab your suit and go, right? Well, not exactly. The baths are segregated by gender ... because you have to get totally jaybird naked. So, here I am in this dressing (undressing) room wondering what in the world I'm supposed to do first. There are two little old Japanese ladies toweling off and they start asking me questions in Japanese (thankfully I'm still dressed). I managed to convey that I was there to see my boyfriend and I was teaching in Okinawa. One of them started playing with my scarf/belt and both were just watching me. It was a bit intense and undressing was unnerving. So they leave and I walk into the sauna/hot tub room. It's all old naked Japanese women, but I know there are a ton of taboos to be broken at these things. I'm sure I broke about 20 unwritten rules. Actually, once it cleared out a bit, it was quite lovely and relaxing --- although really really HOT. In the winter, it would be perfect! And they had delicious coffee milk out of glass containers outside.

We also ended up visiting the famous Shimane aquarium, which, for being in a rural area, was really impressive! They had quite the selection of fish and strange creatures of the sea. We went to the aquarium on Sunday and the wind was starting to blow quite hard and rain was definitely on its way. I was supposed to fly out Monday morning at 8 am from Hiroshima which is about a 2 hour drive, plus about $70 in tolls. I kid you not. So, after hearing things being thrown around all night outside from the howling wind, I checked the internet at 4:30 am and saw that my flight had indeed been cancelled. Not postponed. Not delayed. So, there's only one flight to Okinawa a day and when I got ahold of a real person at 6:30 am, they booked me for the Wednesday flight. Thank you, ShanShan!!!

On Monday, Ken and I headed to the coast to see the waves that we had heard so much about. I've never seen such huge waves. As Ken's friend said when we approached them, "It's a bit choppy." It was impressive and beautiful. We relaxed on Monday and then on Tuesday I surprised everyone at school when I showed up with Ken again. Thankfully, no one had a heart attack. The Japanese like to have ample warning about everything in order to fill out paperwork and hem-n-haw over it. We took off immediately from school and drove to Hiroshima to make it to the Carp vs. Tigers baseball game that just happened to be taking place the night that I needed to stay over in the city. We found my hotel and watched the surreal baseball game. The drums and cheering never stop. People are constantly sitting down and standing up in beat with trumpets (yes, trumpet players) that kept spitting out some fight songs. At one point, there were hundreds of balloons released during the seventh inning stretch. The Giants did it during their inning and then the Carp got their turn. We also got to at least walk by the A-Bomb Dome that was left standing during the atomic bomb explosion. It was lit up and was a haunting reminder of the city's history. Mind you, you could still hear the pandemonium from inside the baseball stadium as you tried to reflect. I spent the night in Hiroshima and Ken went home. I managed to take numerous forms of public transportation today to make it home alive and in one piece.

Hey, Ken, thanks for having me.

Some pictures:

Ken got gifts! Spoiled as always.

Jellyfish at the Shimane Aquarium

Some wave shots from the coast of Japan

Carp vs. Tigers game...

Videos of waves and game to be posted soon on either this website or Ken's....

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