Sunday, August 31, 2008

More festivals and sightseeing...

On Saturday night, the crew (my new name for Rachel, Alison, and I) went to a festival near the American Village. We had, and still have, no idea what it was called, but we paid 500 yen to get in to this stadium type place and sit on the grass with a ton of other people and watch different groups perform in a variety of ways. I have posted here two videos so you can get a glimpse. The second one was kinda strange, it was like a play with lots of animal noises!

EVERYONE had these blow up pink panthers!! After church today, the crew (hehe i'm so funny) went to church and then, utilizing a great Okinawa tour book from Laura, decided to go visit a Lighthouse up the island a bit. On the way we saw signs for some castle ruins so we took a detour (the tour book literally said make a right at the gas station so that is the reason for the picture below). It was quite fascinating and beautiful! The ruins that is, not the gas station. hehe

"The Crew"

We have taken to making up our own meaning for what certain signs say...For example, this sign on the gate...We decided it said "Be careful" instead of "Do not enter" LOL

I want you all to feel included, so humor me for a moment...These little signs are everywhere and when I first glanced over I said, "Not ice??" What does that mean? Then after taking a few more steps I realized what it really said. Yeah, we laughed at my stupidity for quite some time! I still claim the I is too far from the T!! :) After the ruins we continued on our way to the lighthouse at Cape Zampa. We paid 200 yen to get into the lighthouse and climb to the top. It was quite exhausting and I was starting to have Bunker Hill flashbacks. We made it though! We stood up there for the longest time in awe of the view and the fisherman below on the rocks. Yes, this is what I had to crawl through to get out of the stairwell and onto the lookout deck of the lighthouse!

Here is the view from the top
This is the view looking down

Nearing sunset...

Friday, August 29, 2008

Day 2...

Today was SO much better than yesterday! Thank you for your prayers. They were way more clued in to whats going on and as a class behaved 5 times better. I have a few struggling kids in 2 different categories. Group 1: Behavior issues, immaturity, and serious "ants in the pants" syndrome. Group 2: Severe language difficulties, as in knows NO English, doesn't respond to any prompting, and cannot identify more than 5 letters (according to school expectations they should be able to identify 99% of them). The class is currently learning all their colors, the alphabet, numbers, Community helper: Teacher, things that go, and how much God loves us! Not too shabby :) I attached some pictures below of my kids around the classroom today. Enjoy my kiddos!

Looking forward to a 3 day weekend...

Thursday, August 28, 2008

First day of school...

Well, this morning began with some good chats with friends wishing well on my first day of school. Let me tell you, it is so strange not being at San Gabriel with Grandma and Ruth. So sad...Anyways, Alison and I took our first day of school picture in the apartment before heading to school for devotions. We arrived at school and the first thing you see is all these children wearing grey shorts (boys) or blue plaid skirts (girls) with navy blue polos. They have SERIOUS uniforms! hehe My day started off a bit stressful because the kids are all hanging out outside my classroom and are walking in, playing with toys, using the bathroom, etc. I had to be "teacher" about 20 minutes before I needed to. Turns out though that my room is no longer being used as the daycare room, which I was not made aware of. Needless to say I will be keeping my door locked from now on! At 8:00 the bus leaves to take the older kids to their campus, leaving only Preschool, Pre Kindergarten, and Kindergarten, a much better number for the sign of the outside area! 8:15 rolls around and it's time for me to pick up my kids. They are all running wild, with the exception of one of my boys who is clinging to his mother for dear life and crying. I was thankful he wasn't at screaming volume. I peeled him off his mother and had him in my arms (lucky for me he is only 4 lol) where he buried his head in my neck and continued to cry. While I have this child in my arms I try to gather my kids to make two lines and have some order. The first day of school is supposed to be a time for beginning routines and practicing procedures so I was not about to just let them all come in the classroom on their own accord. We get into the classroom and I get them started on an activity while I try to calm this child down. To make a long story short, he literally cried himself to sleep and woke up at 10 for recess and was fine the rest of the day...whew! Now, on to the rest of the class. I think all I need to say is that this group of kids went through 3 teachers last year, did not finish their curriculum (they played instead), and I found out today that they walked all over every teacher they did have last year! YAY! I am basically starting 10 steps behind where they should be in normal circumstances. There are definitely some behavioral issues (many of you will know what I mean when I say that one child already has a tape box!) So...It was a tough day. It all escalates being so far from home and not having the comfort of my school buddies who understand what I'm going through. Alison and I are real swell tonight...she also had a FRUSTRATING day! But at the end of the day I know this is where God has me and I will persevere with his strength, cuz I know I sure can't do it on my own! The learning experience continues...Tomorrow is a brand new day!

This is a song I've heard since being here in Japan and I really enjoy listening to it when I'm having a tough time. I tried to add it my playlist, but it wasn't on file so I just listed the lyrics.

"Quiet My Heart" Lyrics
by Brooke Barrettsmith

My mind wanders away
Dreaming of where I could be on another day
I'm always so far ahead
I seem to miss the one that I'm in
And I regret the time I lost
Slow me down before it's gone

Right here in the moment I'm given
I'll treasure the breath that I breathe in
And I'll rest in You
You quiet my heart
Somehow every second that's passing
Is filled so much meaning
As I wait here with You
Quiet my heart

I get stuck in between
Yesterday and all that tomorrow brings
When all that You want from me
Is that I come and sit at your feet
And know that You are God
And with You no time is lost

Don't let me run away
Show me why I should stay
Open my eyes to take in Your beauty
Keep me here in this place
Take me in Your embrace
There's no place I'd rather be than right now

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming...

On Sunday, the crew and I went to visit Neighborhood Church (Assemblies of God). We liked it much more than the Calvary Chapel we'd visited the two weeks prior. It reminded me a lot of church growing up with old school Covina (my family will understand this). It was quite refreshing. Monday and Tuesday were filled with finishing details in my classroom. I have started to feel quite exhausted mentally over these last few days. Laura had the crew over last night for dinner on base. Checking in at the "Control Center" is quite the experience. They had to check in our vehicle and look over our driver's licenses and passports...this happens every time a non military person enters the base! WOW! Anyways, she met us at the gate and we followed her in to her house. I must admit from the outside they all look like prison, but the inside is quite large and very cute. She has this MASSIVE dog, Barkley, who is not nearly as scary as he looks, though he appears to resemble a bear! Laura had a job to do last night after we left her place. She had to deliver a Happy Birthday sign to a fellow military wife's yard. Their husbands squadron "mascot" is a bat, so the wives are called bat babes. lol Check out the picture!

Today I had my parent meeting. It went very well. The parents are very sweet and the kids are too cute! It was so awkward talking with a translator. It kind of messes with your head! I had the parents draw a picture of their child to leave for them on the first day of school. It is real comical to watch adults color and they turned out adorable! I might have to hang them for a while! :) I made myself a goal to be ready for the first day of school before my parent meeting so I could leave and have half a day of relaxing, and that is what I'm doing now. Just before coming home Alison and I went to lunch with Laura and Mekeio.

Now, exhausted as I am, I'm ready to start school tomorrow! Here are a few more pictures of my classroom all ready for kiddy's!

Love you all and miss you....I'm loving the comments and emails! :)

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Cutie pies...

These cute girls belong to the Kindergarten teacher.
The little one is Izzie and she will be in my Pre-Kindergarten class and the older girl is Carolyn who will be in first grade. Izzie is holding Lucky, our class duck, who will be traveling to each home throughout the year! Izzie was especially fond of Lucky! :)

Futenma Flightline Fair...

Alright, our big weekend plans...the Camp Futenma (Marine) Flightline Fair. Yes, intense, I know! :) We heard about this event from one of the teachers at school. It is a community event that is held in appreciation of the Japanese and American cultures on Camp Futenma, the whole island is welcome. We decided we would go and enjoy some food, contests (arm wrestling, hog dog eating, and bench press), and planes! We made it over to the base without getting real lost, we just passed it once. I was quite intrigued by how much open space there is on the base. Everything else is Japan is packed in and on top of each other, and the base was wide open air. hmm There were A LOT of people, a mix of Americans and Japanese. In order to get in we had our bags checked, not like the kind of checking they do at baseball games and Disneyland, no the man literally went through my bag! We proceeded to get searched with a metal detector wand (with my arms straight out from my sides)It was quite the process! From there we stood in line to get on a Marine plane and up to the flight deck. Way cool! The official name of the plane was "Sumo" lol

After exiting the plane we stopped by at the bench press competition. Never in my life have I seen so many men with arms that are so disproportionate to their bodies! It was quite interesting to watch them interact and lift. There were judges and everything! As we kept walking we ran into Laura, one of the teachers at school, whose husband is a pilot in the Air Force. He was there with one of Air Force planes.

Now to tell this next story I need to take you back to last night...Rachel, Alison, and I had gone to the American Village to walk around and get some dessert. We were in line at the A&W and an English speaking man behind us asked if we knew where he could find an ATM machine. We told him we weren't sure and that was that. So today as we were walking around the fair this guy says, "I found an ATM machine." I turned around to see if this person was talking to us and sure enough he was! I said, "Do we stand out that much?" He said the three of us together were easy to remember. lol it was quite comical! Believe it or not, we get stared at A LOT. Still trying to figure out why exactly! :)
We spent some time walking around looking at more planes, the very large military man bouncer, ate some dinner (cost a fortune), listened to a singer sing some pathetically written songs, and headed home.
Weather report for the day: The weather today was much nicer than the last few days, not so humid, and there was a steady wind all day!

This is how tall I was in one of the planes!!

Someone was doing this motorized parasailing type activity...We couldn't figure this one out. It appeared at one point he was going to land in the crowd.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Come get em while they're hot...

Here is what you have been waiting for...not so patiently :)
This is the door to my classroom. It actually has a gate that closes down on it every night...I have a VERY hard time getting it up in the may want to note that all before and after school day care is held IN my room! yeah, real fun!
This is what you see when you enter my room....I've just done some more rearranging so it may look different in a few weeks! hehe That little girl in the picture is the Kindergarten teacher's daughter who will be in my class.
This is also what you see when you walk in my room along the back wall...yes, apparently with pre-kindergarten comes toys!
This is going to be my community helpers board which I will add to each month. My plan is to put up the place where the community helper works. For example, my first helper is "Teacher" so I will put a picture of a school on the board, along with a picture and description of Teacher.
That back corner is where my "space" will be.
This is the opposite corner of my space where we will have all our circle time and instruction. In order to give you a more complete picture you'll have to envision the months of the year and days of the week posted above the empty cubbies (they are still a work in progress) Oh how I miss walking into Lakeshore and buying any poster I could ever dream of!

Though definitely modified, this is my infamous bee hive, located at the back of the room.

I realized I didn't take any pictures of the desks, probably because there were people gathered around. I'll take a few more when we're all set up for school!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

I should be...

...sleeping! It's 11:20pm and tomorrow comes early, but I just can't seem to fall asleep. So here I am reflecting on the day. Time is precious, but when you're alone other things seem to just take the lead, like friendships. With so many things still left to do before next week, you'd think I'd spend every chance I get in my room, not today...there was something more important...getting to know new friends and taking time out to fellowship and talk about life. That was huge today! Rachel, Alison, and I went out to a very extended lunch with Laura and Mekeio. Laura is the 4th grade teacher and Mekeio teaches English for all students in 6-12 grades. They are both military wives and just as grateful as we are to have the other. We went to this yummy place called the Transit Cafe overlooking the water. I learned a lot about what this next year will be like and at the same time laughed ridiculously. We decided they are just about as normal as we are! hehe It was so great to talk and have some fabulous English conversation! On another high note, Alison and I got internet in our apartment today. Then it broke, so the guy came back again to fix we're all good! lol It feels so much more like home to be able to sit on my bed and you all of course!
I will leave you with this verse, my prayer... Colossians 1:10-12..."We pray this is order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father..."
Goodnight! (or good morning I suppose)

Monday, August 18, 2008

Report day...

Today was our first official day as staff at New Life Academy. All staff reported this morning for an in service on the 6+1 writing traits given by another teacher at the school. It was quite interesting as I had never heard the details or used it before. I also met my aide today and we were quite excited to discover we are the same age. She is a very sweet girl and I look forward to getting to work with her! Her name is Azusa and she is from Okinawa. It's a blessing that she will be able to act as my translator as well. I had the chance to work some more in my classroom this afternoon. I'm almost ready to post some pictures of it so hang tight! It's really quite strange the range of emotions that I can feel in one day. There are times when I am excited to be doing this and then there are moments when I think I must be crazy! I've also been feeling overwhelmed with the thought of teaching my kids English on top of all the other things we have to cover this year. I'm sure I will be the ultimate resource efficient girl at the end of this year. Today I even traced and cut out my own letters for my bulletin board and walls! It is a completely different world and environment than I'm used to, but I know this adventure is going to be awesome. I will have three staff kids in my class this year and I had the opportunity to meet them today. They are some of the most adorable children ever! After meeting one of the boys I asked him if he remembered my name and he said Miss Puppy...hehe One of the girls called me They like following me around and just giggling. So, for day 1, it was quite successful!
I would appreciate your prayers as I prepare to meet with the parents of my students next Wednesday and welcome the kids on Thursday, in addition to feeling a great need for family and friends.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

American Village...

Today Alison, Rachel, and I went to the beach today to soak in some hot hot hot sun and explore a bit. We walked quite a ways, well it seemed like much longer as we were DRIPPING in sweat! Below is one of the 10 pictures we took. None of them were real great since Alison's hair took over the entire screen! Apparently her hair does not like the weather in Japan!

After washing away the sweat the three of us headed to the American Village where everything is in Japanese, ironic. After eating a decent Mexican dinner we stopped to watch this band "perform." I would say sing but they had so many other fun things going for them. Please watch the video I posted, it was only a taste of what we encountered tonight! Excuse any bouncing as I was trying to control my laughter. :)

From there we people watched in front of Starbucks...Oh, Alison and I also bought travel mugs at Starbucks since we have decided we won't be able to afford going more than once every other week (the talls are more expensive than our ventis) and the coffee addiction is becoming more prominent in our apartment! After awhile we noticed some commotion going on across the street so we marched ourselves through the intersection (diagonal fun!) and found a juggler. He was quite entertaining with music, dance moves, flames, and apparently was funny and we couldn't even understand what he was saying! Here's the funny part...While we were standing there I noticed this short, young, white guy walk up next to Alison. He looked at her and I knew what was coming next, though she was oblivious. hehe He eventually made small talk and we were all introduced to him and his friend. This was followed by them asking us to get a drink and go bowling with them, though we all knew this guy just wanted to go out with Alison. I learned Alison is not very good at saying no, so I had to reject the poor guy for her! lol We laughed REAL hard about it when we got back home!!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Festival Fun...

Yesterday was another somewhat productive day in my classroom. I'm working with what I have and am realizing, once again, how different everything is here. I met the Kindergarten teacher, Lori, whose husband is in the military. They live on Kadena (Air Force Base), a few minutes from school. She was very nice and let us know we could use her address for cheaper shipping, but she also has some education store contacts in the states that have arranged to discount prices and will ship to Japan. So exciting!
Last night, Alison and I needed a pick me up so we went down to the American Village and had some baskin robbins ice cream. I had quite possibly the strangest flavors ever...Cream soda (with these weird little balls in them) and Popping Shower (mint ice cream with pop rocks). We walked around a bit then sat and listened to a group playing live music. Of course it was all in Japanese though one of the songs said "from Japanese to America." yeah, haven't quite figured that one out yet. hehe Between songs one of the guys was talking to the crowd in this gentle yet passionate voice. I decided he was either dedicating a balled or witnessing! The weather is so nice at night! I felt like I was on vacation, walking in the downtown area with lots of people, listening to music. Strange to think we can do this whenever we want for the next year!
When we arrived back at the apartment we heard some drums. It seems this is the time for the Eisa (drums, dancing, and chanting) groups to call for the ancestors and next weekend is a festival with food and drum competition. We had heard the drums the night before so last night we decided to follow the sound down the back alley of our apartment (not a ghetto alley :) ) We walked past these men with glow sticks marking the way and around the corner where we found the Eisa group. We stood with several others watching. We were the only white folk, taking pictures no less! lol When they started heading our way we took off back to the apartment laughing about how random this was.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

School update...

So, I've decided my Pre-Kindergarten curriculum covers at least what our Kindergarten in the states covers. Kinda crazy. I've spent several hours over the last few days trying to figure out what is in the classroom, what I need, and what I want. Things are so much different here. For example, I have 1 bulletin board in my classroom and unlike Alison, who has a chalkboard, I have a portable white board. I've realized how stinkin spoiled I was at San Gabriel! It really is a whole different world! However, it is definitely forcing me to be more creative with what I have, which is a good thing! Monday is our official report day meaning free time is coming to a close and a set schedule is about to kick in. In a way I am looking forward to having a routine, it means I won't have too much time to sit around and think about who and what I have left in the States.

We picked up Rachel from the airport yesterday. I gave her a hearty welcome :) while Mr. Elofson and Rocky (another teacher) pretended they didn't know me. lol Good times! Rocky actually told Alison and I that we should become comedians! hehe We ARE pretty funny! Last night the three of us girls had every intention on going to church for dinner and the midweek service (with hopes of meeting some people), however, we seemed to have forgotton part of the way there and ended up going to buy more towels and duvet covers instead. It ended up being good bonding time nonetheless!

Monday, August 11, 2008

One week down...

Time is moving along, I have been in Japan for almost a week now and am finally starting to recognize my surroundings a bit. Alison and I have successfully driven to both school campuses, the beach, the 100 yen store (a few different ones), a few grocery stores, and we're even able to decipher between the many camps and bases in the area. For example, we remember Camp Lester (Marine bases are called "camp") is the one with a hospital by developing a story about a boy named Lester who has some serious accident issues and is always injured. I also told Alison that she should never let anything "fester like Lester!" haha we've had a bit of time on our hands! Oooo, today we got our washer (all clothes are hung to dry), a tv with connection to a dvd player, and a phone in our apartment. Boy we sure are livin it up! lol I feel quite accomplished with today as Alison and I were both able to get into our classrooms and organize furniture. My room is looking alright, but I have a lot more beautifying to do. (Karyn and Ruth are probably laughing out of fun memories with that one!) All in all, it's looking good minus the ants and HUGE dead bugs! Sorry, you won't get to see any classroom pics until I've finished working on it!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

First Sunday...

Woke up this morning to pouring rain with an alarm set to get ready for an early morning (8:30) church service. :) Alison and I went to Calvary Chapel Okinawa with Mr. Elofson and Chikako. This church is one of a few we would like to visit. The church is located amist banana trees and sugar cane. The sanctuary part of the church was located on the 3rd floor of the building in a long narrow room. Met the pastor of the church on the way up the stairs. He seems to be a nice guy, from California. There were about 100 or so people in our service, mostly military. It's interesting...military cars all have a Y on the license plate like a mark on the forehead saying they're military. Anyways, we're entering the parking lot and 99% of the cars all have the Y. The church has headsets available for Japanese people who would like the sermon to be translated. Kinda cool. The church is currently finishing up a study on 1 Corinthians. There was one verse that really stood out to me today in the midst of all this uncertainty with teaching pre-kindergarten and being in a strange place. It was 1 Corinthians 15:58 "Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain." This was very encouraging for me today. I know that regardless of the situation I find myself, God's presence is always near and any work done for his glory is not in vein, even if it's teaching pre-kindergarten. :)
Here are some pics for your enjoyment...
The beach on the East China Sea side at sunset

Ferris wheel at the American Village

Festive dancers

Can you find something on these signs that just doesn't fit?

Vending machines are everywhere!

Our feet in Japan! hehe

Friday, August 8, 2008

Diving in...

Today was a great day! It was filled with fun times and laughter. My day began with an early rise at 5:45 with NO alarm. My body doesn't seem to care for this time zone! I thought I'd make good use of my time by beginning to glance through my curriculum. After some time I saw that my japanmate was also awake so we began to browse our curriculum together. I've started to get quite excited by some of the fun activities I will get to do this year with my Pre-kindergarteners. Really though the curriculum is much like Kindergarten. We finally decided to get ready and head to school where we were meeting a group of the other teachers and staff to go to Shakey's for lunch. So Japanese huh? lol I don't know about you, but when I think of Shakey's I think of pepperoni pizza and mojo potatoes. Here, a bit different, with curry, a pasta with what tasted like seaweed, pizza toppings like squid, wasabi, and pineapple with chocolate. Luckily, there were some more normal things as well. :)

Next, we went back to school and discovered a large storage room filled with curriculum, supplementals, and manipulatives that had to be about 10 years old. Alison and I were thrilled as we walked around and found so many fun things that are crucial to our teaching. They looked at us like we were a bit crazy, but excited that someone actually wanted the stuff! It really made my day, as I had started to think I wouldn't have access to many of those things. We managed to make it out of the room with just one bump on Alison's head. Walls tend to jump out at you in Japan! hehe Following our treasure hunting we were called upstairs to sit at this conference type table to discuss the apartment selection for a fellow teacher coming from the States. I felt so important in this large gathering of people! :) Upon making a decision it was time to discuss the class supply list. WOW, I get to use FAT pencils this year. I had a whole discussion with Mr. Elofson, the principal, about how these pencils simply would not work with my handy dandy pencil grips I packed in my ridiculously expensive boxes! He said if I stay another year I could teach first grade and use big kid pencils. I guess I'm not allowed to come to a new country and completely change the entire way the school works! Keep in mind this entire conversation was filled with more laughter than one could handle! :) At this point, I was close to shutting down since it was now getting to be 6 in the evening and once again we were the last ones on campus, some things never change! So we called it a day and went grocery shopping again with Mr. Elofson and Chikako, his wife. She is the master shopper, so while we shopped Mr. Elofson sat a read about how to build a webpage, which supposedly I am to help with! haha that should be interesting! After we finished shopping we went for dinner at a place that serves taco rice. The meal was followed by a dish of zenzai, which is sweet beans (basically cold pinto beans in a brown sugar/maple sauce) an shaved ice, with mochi balls at the bottom. Now we promised to at least taste this and enjoy the experience, which is all that was done, as I decided beans and ice do not go together. The mochi balls were discovered toward the end so we had to taste these too. If you've seen I Survived A Japanese Gameshow you know what it looks like to eat these things. It was hard and tasted like rubber play doh! NOT okay! But REALLY funny nonetheless! lol I laugh just thinking about it. And now, here I am stealing Internet from our neighbors and dreaming of my bed! All in all, a classic day of new people, new discoveries, and good times....oh and how could I forget the rain! It most definitely poured for about an hour or two today!