Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Free Glitter Graphics, Cartoon Dolls, Animated Icons, Friendster Graphics, Piczo Graphics, MySpace Graphics, MySpace Codes, MySpace layouts, Doll Codes from http://www.freeglitters.com

Hope everyone has a very HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Enjoy some candy corn for me!

And drag your feet in the crunchy leaves for good measure.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Bobbing for apples

Most days as I sit here at my desk, I wonder what in the world I am getting paid to do. Today, for instance, I do not have a single class to teach. Actually, I only have eight classes this whole week and four of them were Wednesday. And to say that I "teach" on other days is a gross exaggeration. I generally show up and speak some words in English that they will never be tested on or expected to ever know again. The students do not have homework and are not held accountable in any way except a midterm and final. And I somehow doubt that these tests really examine their speaking or comprehension skills. But enough of that! Not being a real teacher does have its advantagesĂ‚… like when you get to teach holidays.

These pictures summarize my month of October. I bought some simple costume pieces at the 100 yen store and loaded up on candy. Students were challenged to memorize the ever-popular rhyme, "Trick or treat! Smell my feet! blah blah.. Show you my underwear!" I've mentioned they will do anything for candy and what better way to incorporate candy into a lesson than with some trick-or-treating. With my lower level classes, I taught them 20 popular costume names on cards with photos. And then with my fun classes, we played a quick game of charades. One class was particularly enthusiastic, even though they generally refuse to do any other activity, they were all about running around a room pretending to be witches. Anyways, it was really hilarious because one of the largest Japanese kids in the whole nation belongs to this class and he was MOVING down the aisle to hit/pound/SLAM the desk first and yell "GHOST-O!" Also, yesterday during one my lame/quiet classes, I woke them up by riding a mop around and cackling like a witch. I also sunk my teeth into the neck of the poor kid in the front row. If they won't act, I will!

It doesn't feel like Halloween though. The weather forecast for the last week and the next one includes temperatures in the low 80s and sunshine. It's fantastic, but I would trade it all for some falling leaves and sweaters. I missed autumn last year too, but at least last year I found a place with some delicious (oishii) pumpkin soup. I better start hunting. Although this year, I do get to go to a party and celebrate in a proper costume.

My Thanksgiving lessons that I have already planned aren't as promising for fun and excitement, but Christmas is going to be out of this world.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Maybe I'll just be a pumpkin

Your Halloween Costume Should Be

A Flying Monkey

Halloween party in four days. This costume freaks me out. I wouldn't be able to look in the mirror all night. Emei Shan... Nepal shrines... Wizard of Oz... Scaaaaaary.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Where's George?

It's been a rough week.

And to make matters worse, I was at the sports center on Thursday night feeling ready to conquer a small hill on the treadmill when all of a sudden I was struck with one of my famous allergic reactions. Here I am--- no ID, no phrase book, and sicker than a dog--- surrounded by about 20 fellow gym-goers trying to make sure I don't die on their watch. I had blankets thrown on me, my blood pressure was taken, suddenly everyone spoke English and doctors came out of the woodwork, and before I knew it, I was on my way to the hospital in an ambulance. And with me, this lovely man from the gym, clutching my gym bag and looking absolutely petrified.

We got to the hospital and I'm already feeling a bit better by this point and had communicated what I shots I needed to receive to the EMTs. The doctor appeared quickly, unlike in the US, and I swear that I had this kid in class during my 6th hour class. He was unbelievably young, but spoke excellent English and made sure I got my prescribed medicines. And then two of my teachers that had been called showed up, looking worried, and ready to be put to use running errands. I was put in a sort of "recovery" room off of the actual emergency room and as my extrastrength antihistamine took effect and I began to feel drowsy, I watched two doctors totally flirting. I began forming dialogues in my head for the Okinawan version of "Grey's Anatomy." McDreamy... Mah-coo-Duh-ree-ah-me.

It's a long story, but I actually had to spend the night at the hospital. Thanks to national health insurance, it wasn't going to cost me too much to be observed for the night. So, for the first time in my life, I slept in a hospital bed in that same "recovery" room area with tons of other patients. Thankfully, my iPod had plenty of power to shut out some of the sounds of people in agony and crying babies. They woke me up every hour to check my blood pressure and such, but actually I got a decent night's sleep. I was back at school on Friday, much to the horror of my fellow teachers. I thought I was completely recovered, but then last night my body decided to have one last go with the allergens or else I had the straight-up stomach flu and spent another miserable night in my apartment. Thankfully, today I was able to recover with some Campbells Alphabet Soup (English alphabet too!), Sprite, and Saltines. Just what George would have ordered.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Steve-o meets Japan

This is a video that kids made for the talent show. This is only a clip. You should have seen the other stunts, including... using wax strips all over the body, falling on railings between the legs, being pulled by cars on bikes and crashing, polevaulting into bushes, and the crazy bug thing in this clip ended up on the kids nose. The mastermind? 1/2 American.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Dancing with the stars...

A recap of Stage Festival ... 2006!

Day One: There was singing, dancing, acting, video productions, and general backstage pandemonium. I was impressed at times, shocked at moments, and my bum always hurt from sitting on the gym floor for hours at a time. But it was lovely.

Our act of "Urashima Taro" was quite the success. I would honestly have to say that it was the most elaborate. Students painted a beautiful backdrop to portray the ocean. All of them were dressed up in costumes. Some girls had cardboard fish around them, others were dressed as seaweed. We had a turtle with his underwear showing and some Power Ranger types with animal hats on. My part was short but memorable. I ran out with another teacher, Kei, and we kicked and punched Seiichiro the Turtle. I think I yelled "Son of a Testudine!" at the beginning, although it's all a bit of a blur. And then I started yelling "Peace and love! Peace and love!" because that's what they put on my T-shirt that I had to wear. Another kid, the hero of the story, tried to interrupt us and we took out our aggression on him. I thought the best part of our play was this one boy who dressed up as the underwater princess in a pink kimono-type outfit, makeup, and a wig. There was some real chemistry between our two stars on the stage. I thought it was going to be lame, I'll admit, when I saw the rehearsals... but those kids did an amazing job and had everyone laughing throughout.

Cross dressing, like our sea princess, was used in every single act. Boys dressing like girls apparently is universally the height of humor. I must say, some of them looked pretty good in their girl uniforms. At one point, a boy with a wig and a speedo on walked out during the fashion show and started pulling confetti out of his briefs. And threw it on people. Very disturbing.

I would have to say that the male sector is much more fun to watch... as seen on the videos. They really get into it and are highly entertaining. Some 2nd year boys made a video production which, although I couldn't really understand what they were saying, I found to be absolutely hilarious and creative. They even had outtakes. I don't think I've had them in class, but when they get to be 3rd years in March, I will. Can't wait!

Day Two:

Not quite as entertaining in the morning. I found it hard to pick a favorite group. I was a bit tired of the "dancing" and cross dressing by this point. In the afternoon, they announced the winners.... And my favorite boy group in the suits won. My homeroom got second though! Yessss!!! And the vice-principal makes kicking motions at me now thanks to my performance.

The afternoon also brought the talent show. We had some amazing mimes/dancers... I was seriously impressed. There were bands that gave me a headache and I had to ask another teacher if they were good or not since I don't know any of the music. There was a fashion show that spotlighted more skankiness although there was once again, an amazing display of creativity. The fashion show was actually controversial this year. Because of previous years clothing choices, there was originally a dress code, but the students appealed to the teachers and the dress code was made less strict. Maybe they should bring back the code... I'm not sure I should be seeing such sights at school.

After cleaning up, I was surprised to find out we were having a "moon viewing party" on the roof of the school. It had been cancelled earlier in the month. Since there isn't a full moon any more, the math teachers rigged up a spotlight to give ambiance. It wasn't bad to look at Mihama all lit up with the ferris wheel going around. We ate some yummy finger foods and grilled meat and then I started to hear my name during one of the speeches. "Rachel...speech." I thought they were kidding. They weren't. Thankfully, this time, I had a translator and each time she translated, I could think of more witty things to say. I had them rolling. Overall, the stage festival was memorable, if a bit long. And I'm glad to have Monday off.

Postscript: I found out that in the video of my favorite group with the suits, the guy in white is the homeroom teacher! Hilarious!

Some members of one class did a dance routine while the rest of the class did some graffiti. At the end they turned it around and showed the results. Not bad for 10 minutes...

School Festival

These guys were amazingly synchronized... One of my favorites! I've only had them in class one time so far, but they were hilarious and creative. I call them my "cool glasses" group because they all have very trendy specs.

School Festival

These guys were amazingly synchronized... One of my favorites! I've only had them in class one time so far, but they were hilarious and creative. I call them my "cool glasses" group because they all have very trendy specs.

School Festival

Boys working it at the school festival!

School Festival

Boys working it at the school festival!

A little taste of the magic at the school festival...

One day down. I never saw these kids practice.... and I was always on the lookout. Somehow, they got it all together.

You aren't supposed to have favorites, are you? Too late!

Oh, and I've been meaning to show the view from school. I give it 8/10. It would be 10/10 if it wasn't for the fact that I when I see the view, it means I'm walking to class. I'd rather be at the beach.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Could you say that again?

I found out yesterday that my homeroom class that I'm performing with has decided that I should be swearing in English while I am kicking the poor kid around the stage. And the teacher started giving me some words I could use. Where am I?

Rehearsals today...

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Roping in the good times...

Thanks to National Health and Sports Day, we were blessed with yet another three day weekend. I could get used to this. Oh, wait. I already have.

The Okinawa JET community made good use of the time, with many ALTs meeting up in Naha for the annual Matsuri Festival. It's not just any festival. This one has bragging rights for the World's Largest Tug-of-War (Guinness Book of World Records largest). When we arrived in Naha, the famous street, Kokusai Dori was hopping with a parade full of kids doing karate moves, huge poles being balanced and maneuvered around electrical wires, and the chant of "Goya! Goya!" Or at least that's what it sounded like to us.

We headed down with the mob to the site of the tug-of-war. All I wanted to do was to take some pictures and maybe a video or two. And then suddenly I found myself in the mix of things, trying not to lose everyone I came with, and being shoved in with 15,000 people. The rope weighs 44 tons and is 656 feet in length. But you can't even see it because the crowds are so large. After about two hours of pomp and circumstance, the two sides of the rope were joined together and that's when things got ugly. I was losing my flip flops, holding on to people for dear life to keep from falling and being trampled by the mob, getting rope burns on my back as I kept getting shoved against one branches of the rope, and was generally realizing that this was a very bad idea. The actual tugging hadn't even begun and I heard that it takes about 15 minutes for a side to win. Terrifying. Thankfully, some guy was also deciding to get out of the crowd and although I didn't know him, I clung on and allowed him to shove people out of the way. Found out later, he is in Okinawa to teach lifesaving courses. How true, how true. Anyways, the rope pulling commenced shortly after and I'm happy to report that my side won. And keeping with tradition, managed to snag part of the rope for good luck for the next year. Hope it works!

After the festival excitement, it was time to work off all of that adrenaline at some good old fashioned karaoke. It was great to see some islanders who came in for the event and meet new people. There were some amazing musical feats and everyone was all smiles. And happy that there wasn't school on Monday. The evening closed at another bar on the main road and we were ready to officially close yet another festival weekend.

This week at school is one of the most important. It seems that everyone else has already had their festival at school, but Chatan is finally throwing out all the punches and hosting their stage festival on Friday and Saturday. From what I understand, and I don't understand much, there will be skits, dances, a fashion show, etc. I have volunteered to help, but apparently I don't fit the criteria. Namely, I don't speak Japanese. Although there was some talk of me learning a dance of some sort. I have a feeling it will be thrown on me about two hours before showtime.

My time at the gym is continuing to go well. I didn't have to go to tea with my new friend thanks to some quick thinking English teachers at the high school and have realized that numerous women want to get together to speak English and teach me Japanese. If I could get a group going to meet once a week, I actually think it could be quite beneficial. Maybe I should teach it from the sauna room, which I am growing to love. There's nothing like sweating to make you relax.

Postscript: Just found out my role in the play for my homeroom. I get to lynch a student who is playing a turtle. I am going to embrace this role with my whole heart.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Sweatin' with the oldies

Despite trying to subsist on granola, yogurt, and raisins, I have unfortunately still managed to gain those lovely few pounds that living in a foreign country always brings. Thus I found myself on a rainy Tuesday night, pledging a kidney, my firstborn, and some free language lessons to the smiley receptionists at Chatan Sports Center. I can't believe my 6 am workouts weren't enough.

With gestures and dictionaries being used at every turn, somehow I ended up getting paperwork filled out and soon found myself upstairs in the actual fitness area. After figuring out the locker room successfully, I was quickly attached to machines to measure my blood pressure, weight, all that jazz. You could see the excitement on their faces. "Oooh, what does an American weigh? What is her BMI? Oh, sugoi." It was quite the frenzy of dictionaries being pulled out, mine and theirs. And everyone was all smiles.

After the initial lab rat period, I was taken to the weight/exercise room where I was tested on all of the various machines and all of my repetitions were placed neatly on a chart so I can keep track of my progress. I actually love that part. The lady helping me was hilarious at trying to explain what kCal means. Ummm.."Calories?" "Hai!" So, after showing my prowess on the weights and examining the magazine selection (actual People magazines! Did you know that Christopher Reeve died????), I was ready for my first aerobics class in Japan. I tried standing around casually waiting for it to begin but was pounced on by one eager little lady with gray hair and pigtails. She doesn't speak much English and we all know how great my Japanese is, but somehow we established the crucial information needed to become friends. And then all of a sudden crazy mixed music comes on (unfortunately, I can't remember exact titles) and we're throwing our arms around, pouncing and parading, gliding, and jumping. And, thanks to my training at Bodyworks Fitness Center (which I MISS), I was "mamba-ing" with the best of them. The cute instructor kept making sure that I could see her properly and she was really energetic and fun. Before I knew it, I had completed one hour of aerobics conducted entirely in Japanese. Give me a sticker.

By this time, it's 8:00 and I haven't had dinner yet, so I say "onaka ga suita" (I'm hungry), but am quickly cornered by the pigtail lady. Somehow, and I'm still trying to piece it together in my mind, I ended up agreeing to tea on Friday at 6 with her driving me somewhere? I am pretty sure that I am being used for English lessons. In fact, I'm positive her thought was, "YES! My sweet little perky pigtail routine finally worked! I've snagged me an American!" and then went to recruit the rest of her family for lessons.

All in all it was great fun and a couple of the girls who work there have already told me that I will help their English and they'll help my Japanese. And there are always random people who speak quite good English. One of them told me I was a great dancer. Mind you, in this country I could have been standing in the corner hopping on one foot and picking my nose and would have been given an ovation.

Tonight --- Fatburning Class.

Sunday, October 01, 2006