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.

6 comments:

Kimi said...

Sounds like some crazy times! That first picture you posted looks exactly like my cousin! Are you sure you weren't in CA? :-P

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Carly said...

I think you should go into photo journalism.

Carly said...

And maybe change the settings on your blog so you have to confirm the letters in the picture to post. Maybe annoying anonymous people might be detered from offering you a way to make extra money.

Rachel said...

Yes, I should do that... the changing the settings bit. Those are my first though. I'll give it a day!

As far as photojournalism goes, I think it all just depends on whether your camera is decent... I wish I had a talent!!! :)