Saturday, October 25, 2008

Tour book adventures...

Friday night Alison and I had yummy mac and cheese which always seems to make the day end so much nicer. Upon my declaration that we needed to do something I searched in the tour book for something to do at night, nearby. I figured we could go see the US Forces WWII Landing Monument. Cool right? Yeah, so we drove up the road a bit where it told us to find a park that had a beach beyond it. The monument would be there...no picture of what we're looking for or anything...We make our way to the park and see the beach so we start our walk. At the end of the beach there is this huge stingray looking animal. We'd hoped this was not the monument but figured it would be the start of a very interesting journey so of course a picture was taken! We walked back towards the park and found this huge stone with something written on it. Okay, so maybe this was the monument...THEN we walked up a few stairs and saw the real monument which we only found out when we looked it up after getting back home. Needless to say the directions in our tour book are real sketchy...which takes us to Saturday. The plan was to go see a waterfall where we would have lunch (an awesome chicken sandwich from one of our new favorite bakeries and of course CC Lemon), a really old tree, an old traditional Okinawan house, a temple, a glass factory, and finally the Pineapple Park. We were off at 10am, picked up our sandwiches and headed out to the waterfall. The drive was BEAUTIFUL though the directions a bit scary... the book said we should turn right on the given street and that we would find a small sign pointing to the direction of the waterfall. Let's just say there was no sign, at least not one that pointed anywhere, instead there was a sign that showed a fish in water being strangled by trash. Hmmm, okay, let's follow that one! lol we eventually came to a dead end and saw a couple walking back to their car. Alison walked up and pointed to the tour book and after a series of hand motions we followed their same route and found the waterfall! Alison forced me to climb the rocks, past the rope that was in place, and there we sat and enjoyed the wonderful noise of the water falling along with this awful buzzing noise that is either made by certain animals or in order to prevent animals from coming near, not sure which one. We made our way back to our car and headed to the ancient tree. The directions here were even better! Go south from the Nago intersection...Can i just say that Nago is the capital of our island, not a small place. Go south from the Nago intersection? Which one? Driving stressed me out, but believe it or not we did find it, though I was so excited at this point I took a picture of the tree from the side mirror. :) And so we continued to our next destination. This time we were on our way to a typical Okinawan house and the temple. These directions were a bit better. We parked and walked several blocks to these two places. Our surroundings were very "local" and we were definitely the only Americans around. After a stop at the glass factory, which proved to be disappointing (I've seen better on the island) we went to the Pineapple Park. So cool! Definitely the highlight of the day. It all began with a ride on a self operated, non-track, golf cart with a pineapple on top. The lady programmed our tour to be in English and off we went viewing all different types of palm trees and pineapples. It let us off at the top to walk through the pineapple wine factory and tasting centers for everything pineapple you can think of...cakes, candies, cookies, juices, wines, and fresh fruit...they also had perfume and face wash (I bought some to try out for this face of mine that doesn't seem to like Okinawa weather). We browsed through some more shopping areas and headed home. All in all a good day with new adventures.




No...not this one

Hmmm...don't think it's this one either

AHA! I knew it had to be around here somewhere!


"Okinawa Hollywood" is what the sign says on the side of the hill

Walking to the waterfall...

Okinawan house with the typical stone wall at the entrance

Prayer Temple

Itty bitty pineapples...

Alison and I cruisin in our pineapple cart!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Fire Station and "stuff"...

I took my pre-kindergarten class to the fire station today since our community helper of the month is firefighter. We walked about 15 minutes to the station along the side of the street. There are not sidewalks down the back streets which basically meant we trekked down the side/middle of the street...something that would be unheard of in the states! The kids got to ride in the fire truck, hold the hose as they squirted water out, and also walk through an ambulance. It was a very cool experience! The firefighters were all very nice though I must say it's strange that the kids could understand them and I could not. From the fire station we walked to a nearby park. It had an awesome slide that the kids couldn't use because the base of it was soaked from the rain yesterday. We will walk to this park some other time so trust me there will be pictures later! :) I may even have to slide down too. Apparently the thing to do is use cardboard since it is made out of smoothed cement and ruins anything that rubs on it. It is one of the steepest slide I've seen! Anyways, there were lots of fun things for the kids to play with and climb. After some play time we ate lunch and packed up for home. Remember in my last blog when I said 7 of my kids fell asleep? Well today every single child took a nap, some for over and hour and the rest for at least 30 minutes! SO EXCITING! I just wish I could've crashed too!

Supposedly this means "do not bother anyone." SERIOUSLY??!!??!!

On another note...this morning I walked into my classroom and found some "drops" of something brown on my covered cabinets near the entrance to my classroom. After much staring the conclusion is that it may be left by a large roach or a shrew. I was given a roach house and a mouse trap so we will see what treasure I get in the morning! To the left is the paper that used to cover my cabinets and to the right is the newly covered cabinets. Just wanted you all to share in my joy! haha

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Starbucks Day...

Tuesday nights are the designated Starbucks nights provided by our food envelope, since we put out almost $10 for us both to get tall drinks! Alison and I decided Tuesdays are the hardest to get through; Monday is Monday, Wednesday is church, Thursday is just before Friday, and well, then there's Friday. Therefore, we've taken to making Starbucks runs on Tuesday night to sit, listen to music, read (if you're Alison, though I must say that I just finished my first book in Japan! woohoo! lol), and watch a gecko run around on the ceiling. We've gone 3 weeks in a row now and each time we have seen a gecko on the ceiling! Tonight we saw a guy who had just gotten a new tattoo covering most of his arm. It was wet, shiny, red, and his one sleeve was up.

My class has had a bit of a rough week. They just don't seem to listen to or do anything I ask them to. But today there was a bright spot. During rest time I usually give them about 20 minutes to lay their heads on their desks and I have never had more than 2 fall asleep on the same day...Today, however, 7 of my kids zonked out! I am convinced they wore themselves out driving me crazy! I went ahead and let them sleep for almost an hour! :)

As I write this Alison is getting frustrated with me cuz I'm not paying much attention to her while she's reading our tour book deciding what will be on the agenda for this weekend! Gonna go and be a good Japanmate. :)

Friday, October 17, 2008

Fall Fun Part 2...

RRRROOOOAAAARRR! The sound my kids made after making our lion masks this week...lol It was a pain in my rear to make but they sure looked cute when they were done! Yay for the letter L. I have to stay excited about this otherwise it will be impossible to make it through!


Today was the Fall Festival. This was my little set up for the Sucker Pull. It went pretty well. One of the dads stood behind my table while I was refilling the cones and told his son and friend which ones were prize winners! Such gems! :) It provided a good laugh anyhow.
Here is Carolyn at the Stoning Wall. A few kids tried to throw wet sponges at her. She thought it was great!
Here is one of my students with Lucky. This weekend was her turn to take Lucky home and she decided to bring him with her to the fair! Too cute!

The kids enjoyed themselves while playing games, getting candy, jumping in the bouncer, and eating hamburgers, hot dogs, curry, yakotori (my favorite japanese food...lol chicken on a stick), and shaved ice. We got home a little bit ago and are now chillin, literally, before we head out later on to go with Lori to a pottery fair on base. The weekend continues...

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Fall Fun Part 1...

Today I had student #15 join my class. I started the year with 12 and we are slowly rising in numbers. I hope I lose the bet Amy and I have that I will have 17 kids by Christmas. Yikes! I'm not quite sure where I would put two more kids! hmmm...something to think about. Today was beautiful...it was cool enough that I could open my classroom windows and let the air flow through...with NO artificial air. It felt wonderful except for the awful noise of the blinds hitting the windows and the bars attached to the windows. No, we aren't in the ghetto, we're just prepared for a typhoon! :) Trust me, you'll know when/if one comes! Speaking of bars on windows, I am convinced we very well might be living in one of the safest places in the world. There is just this sense of safety here. I mean seriously, I have slept with my window open and a screen that can slide right on open. For anyone who knows me you know that I am not okay with sleeping this way. I'm sure someone would crawl right in with me...BUT Okinawa just doesn't feel that way! Instead you see little kids walking around by themselves.
Then there's the wind....the breeze here feels so wonderful. It's like I am always surrounded by God through the wind...a steady reminder that he is with me regardless of what is going on all around!

Yesterday we joined the Kindergarten to listen to the Parable of the Pumpkin story and take turns digging out the seeds in the pumpkin. It was so fun to watch the kids dig in there! "Fall Fun" will continue after our school's Fall Festival on Saturday!


Sunday, October 12, 2008

A satisfying day...

As Rachel, Alison, and I drove back from Naha where we experienced the annual tug of war/parade we were discussing how we felt about the day. It was by far the most intense day as of yet in Okinawa or my life for that matter! Alison said, "Well that was fun!" lol I sat there for a moment until I responded with, "What exactly does fun mean?" Cuz in my opinion what I am about to explain isn't necessarily fun, though interesting, fascinating, intense, and comical. To be honest, I do not have the words to adequately describe to you what we witnessed and experience today but I will try as I take you through just a few of the pictures and videos from the day.


From the beginning...We found a great parking spot, though we were not sure of the cost, in a lot right where the tug of war was to be held, knowing that when it was all said and done we probably wouldn't be able to get out right away. Those things are so small compared to the chaos of driving in an unknown area at the time of a huge event in the city! Let me backtrack for a second...We knew we were in the right place by the GIGANTIC, MASSIVE rope down the middle of the street. So we took off walking down 58 (main road through our part of the island and the location of the tug of war) following the large groups of people since we had no idea where we were going though we knew there was a parade going on somewhere. After walking a few blocks we found the action. Basically this whole event is a meeting of the east and west communities, 14 total. Each group had their own flag and little entourage. The parade lasted a few hours and the following pictures and video are of this part of the day (definitely the least stressful :) ).
Each group has their own guy setting off little firecrackers that sounded as if someone was setting off a machine gun. I decided this probably wasn't a comforting thing for many of the military at this event! I think it would have made me duck for cover!
This huge thing is one of the flags being carried by a group of men (one at a time) You'll see what I mean in a second.
Here you go...They would hoist this pole into their belt and then bounce up and down with the drums then pass it on to another man in the group. There were also men standing around ready to help if it got out of control, and it did at times! Whenever they would wobble and the pole would start to come down everyone in the crowd would gasp as if they were scared for their lives...yet no one moved out of the way...doesn't make sense to me!
Some of the groups has different martial arts acts...
Picking up the flag as a group...

This video is what it was like to stand on the sidelines at this parade with all the firecrackers and oos and aws of the crowd.
video
Chanting and helping the flag stay up, by staring at it! lol
Drumming...
There were also little boys carrying miniature flags, practicing for the future!
Many of the groups had girls and boys following with flags and drums...
I caught him in the air!

At the conclusion of the parade we walked down the street to get our spot for the tug of war...LOLOL it makes me laugh now looking back...get our spot?? um no! Not exactly!
At the start of the ceremony... As time went on...









People kept moving up and the men kept asking everyone to move back making it more and more jam packed...Well at least we thought he was asking us to move back, couldn't exactly understand what he was saying. There were some pretty stinkin hilarious Americans there today wondering how in the world there were more pushy people than Americans...but boy did we find them today! I have NEVER been pushed and shoved like I was today. We stood and man after man spoke and group after group performed in the crowd like I just showed above! It must have gone on for about an hour then they started the real stuff!
Here is the rope in the middle of the road...There was another piece on the other side of the intersection. Are you wondering how they connected them together for the tug of war? Yes, I was too. Well, everyone flocked from the sidewalks to the middle of the street (traffic was stopped of course) to grab a piece of the rope. The answer is the crowd...the crowd was going to pull the gigantic rope ends to meet in the middle. Great idea right? ummm, maybe not...There were hundreds of people gathering to grab this rope and pull. But as we pulled it got a bit out of hand as the robe was moving faster than the people could move. There was a major pile up behind us as a woman and her baby got knocked to the ground and others fell on top. We were just about pushed to the ground as well as we stumbled backwards to quickly. Luckily they stopped the pulling just in time. Though the baby was screaming and the mother was seriously in shock as they carried her out of the street. Whew! Crazy! Oh and this is all after the three of us were yelled at by this old Japanese man who has obviously been drinking too much! He kept yelling things at us as we were standing there with the rope. Thankfully things moved on after a few minutes and we never saw that mean old man again!
Here is the rope after the commotion died down and the ends began to meet...
The man in the middle was judging to see when the ends were in just the right spot...
Then they pushed the top part over the other end...
The two leaders from each side meet in the middle and shake hands...
Finally, they looped the ropes through each other and secured them with the large piece of wood...We're ready to start...
NOT...first these men that were all dressed up were carried in on a board over the rope from each side...They had a staring contest and were carried away...
Just before beginning the pulling the large gold ball they had hanging over the center of the intersection was opened with balloons and streamer flying everywhere! Very cool!
This video shows some of the chaos during the tug of war...
video
These men were standing on the rope during the tug of war blowing whistles so each side would know when to pull...
Our side lost! :(
At the end everyone rushed to the rope and began cutting off pieces, apparently that was normal! What didn't seem normal is that they all busted out their knives to do so! Only in Japan can people do this and no one die! Here we are standing in front of the giant rope that you can't see!
I managed to squeeze my way through and force a smile on my face in the midst of the millions of people (k not quite millions)

A nice man gave each of us a piece of the rope and we found this guy just chillin as we were leaving so we just had to grab a photo of this memorable experience...one I will NEVER forget but don't EVER want to do again!
The day ended with some dinner down the street, we couldn't get out of the parking lot, at Charlie's Tacos...good food to end a satisfying but not fun day! :)