Project Yuge Island: ROUND TWO!

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September 30th 2007
Published: October 2nd 2007
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While I was still in the pit of jetlag, I couldn't help but wake up every morning around 4am. So, I had the rare opportunity to ride my bike down to Matsubara beach to watch the sunrise. Very nice.
Well, year two of project Yuge Island has officially begun! The opening ceremonies have been held, the undoukai has come and gone, and I am now in the midst of the chaos that is fall semester at Japanese schools. It was a bit rough readjusting to my life here again. I had to go to school the next day after my flight back from the U.S. I was extremely jetlagged, and I had caught a cold on top of that. It took me a few days to be able to think clearly again. The heat didn’t help either. It was swelteringly hot everyday. It was around 37 degrees (upper 90s Fahrenheit) on average with unbearable humidity. I remembered this from last year, but for some reason I had thought my memories must have been exaggerated. But considering the news I read while I was visiting the U.S. that said people were dying in Japan from the heat this summer, my memories were no exaggeration.

After about a week, I finally got over my jetlag, cold, homesickness, and initial irritation of the heat, and started to remember why I like living and working here so much. There are always things reminding

five-legged race at the undoukai
me that I’m glad I re-contracted for a second year with this job. Teaching at the schools here is extremely rewarding if I put enough effort into my lessons. The more time I spend with my students, the less intimidated they become of “the foreigner” and the more they begin to communicate with me like any other human. The more I participate in community activities and events the more the community accepts me as a member rather than “the foreigner.” There are also still so many things I want to do here. I have started going to my shamisen lessons again, and am really enjoying them. I have to take a ferry to another island every week for the lessons, but it’s worth it. My teacher is the sweetest lady in her 80’s and lives in a house older than her. I am also still playing with my local mandolin group, and often attending the local chorus group practices too.

As for school, the fall semester always starts out with the annual undoukai, a sort of competitive field day to display the students’ motor skills (for those of you who didn’t read my blog from this time last year).

mukade race at the undoukai
The students practice for this day through their summer vacation, and have complicated team dances and cheers prepared for when the fall semester begins. Some of the activities included in an average undoukai are relay races, variations of three-legged races, tug-of-war, choreographed dances, trivia quizzes, obstacle courses, human pyramids, and my favorite, the mukade (Translates to a kind of bug that is sort of like a centipede, but bigger. This is a race where teams must race on two wooden beams to which all of their feet are tied.).

This year’s undoukai seemed like a dejavu of last year’s because of the weather. The beginning of the fall semester is always the worst part of the typhoon season, so I have no idea why this is when the undoukai is always scheduled. So just like last year a typhoon came on the Sunday the undoukai was scheduled. There was supposed to be an announcement at 6:30am over the island speakers to let everyone know if the event would be canceled or not. I waited in bed until 6:30 hoping that they would say it was cancelled so I could just go back to sleep. Yet, at 6:30 sharp they

the preschool dance at the undoukai
announced that the event would be held as scheduled. So I dragged myself out of bed and to school. As soon as I got there it started pouring, and everyone just waited around inside the school for an hour trying to figure out what to do. Finally, after everyone had already come, the undoukai was cancelled and rescheduled for the following day. Still, all of the teachers and students were at school, so they decided to have classes instead of the undoukai. So I had to teach on a Sunday! Madness!

So, we had the undoukai the next day, and the students and teachers had to spend the morning shoveling and using rags to sop up the muddy sports field so the audience would have a dry place to sit. Thankfully the sun soon came out and dried everything up pretty quickly. The undoukai was a complete success!

I remember last year being so busy at this time of year that I barely had time to breath. I figured it was just because I had just gotten here and was getting used to a new job, new home, new everything. So, I was looking forward to this semester

a race where the tiniest kid had to run across the backs of his teammates
since I thought it would be a piece of cake compared to last year. Wrong! Sure, I don’t have to get used to all new things and teaching in public schools for the first time ever, but the fall semester is incredibly hectic anyway! On top of the semester opening up with the undoukai, students who have chosen to participate in the English speech contests start practicing with me EVERYDAY after school. Last year I had one student, Emiko, at my junior high school that participated in the regional English speech contest (and went on to the national!), but this year I have two at the junior high school and three at the high school!!! AND one night Emiko called me up, and although she is no longer my student because she goes to a high school on the mainland, she is entering the English speech contest again this year and wanted to come over to my apartment every night to practice with me. Of course, I said yes. So, now I have six students to help!

Then there is the culture festival that every school has around November, but starts preparing for as soon as the undoukai is

a competition where three people hold up one person who tries to catch little parachutes falling from the sky
over with. This year we have decided to perform an English play for it with my third-year junior high school students. We are doing Cinderella. I desperately searched on the internet for a script I could use, but since there are so many limitations with my class (it can’t be longer than 15 minutes, it has to have 12 characters, it has to be very simple English), I ended up having to write the script myself. I have never written a script or directed a play before in my life, so I was a bit stressed out about the whole thing. But then, once I started writing the script and directing my students, I realized how fun it actually is!

I also must mention a certain game I made that I am really proud of. It’s like the “Guess Who” board game, but slightly altered to include the nationality of the person and what their hobby is. This way, my students get a chance to practice the grammar of questions like “Do you have….?” “Are you from…”and “Do you play…?” It’s really fun and took me FOREVER to make. I drew each individual face on the game board! I’m

This was a race simulating the process of a student getting ready for school in the morning. They had to put on the elementary school girl's uniform and run with their "parent" to the finish line. This is a picture of the junior high school principal with the uniform on.
keeping a copy just for myself to play!

The other day was painting day at my junior high school, and all day we went to different places around the island to draw and paint pictures. Later, there will be a contest to see who drew the best picture. I went with a class that drew pictures at the Shinto shrine at my favorite beach. It was pretty nice getting to hang out at the beach all day instead of the office, but it was so hot! I drew all day not thinking about the sun, and by the end of the day everyone was gasping and shouting “makka!” when they saw me (translates to something like “You are beat red!”). Oops.

So, because this is my second year teaching on Yuge, I will be doing a lot of the same things I did last year, and attending a lot of the same events as last year. Therefore, my stories and pictures might be a lot of repeats from last year. So, I think I won’t be posting blogs as often as I did last year. I don’t want to bore everyone with the same stories and pictures again.

The 1st graders dancing at the undoukai
I’ll probably post about once a month rather than once a week, or whenever anything interesting happens and I have good pictures to post. So, please don’t fret if you don’t get updates from me as often. I’m still alive, and I’ll still be keeping the blog throughout this next year. I hope you continue to enjoy it too!

P.S. Don't miss the videos I posted at the top of this blog. There are two from the undoukai, and one of Emiko's English speech.

Additional photos below
Photos: 17, Displayed: 17



beautiful ending pose of a dance at the undoukai

the junior high school's white team dance

at Takahama shrine for the junior high school's painting day

students painting in the shade of the pine at Takahama shrine

one student decided to paint the sea and the nearby islands

students working hard, or hardly working on their paintings

from the kitchen of chef Jennie: brown rice with stuffed eggplants

I attempted to make an okinawan specialty called goyachampu. It is made from the bitter vegetable, goya, tofu, eggs, miso, and rice.

Emiko's mom gave me what I am sure was very expensive grapes (fruit is an esteemed gift in Japan, often ranging from 10-30 US dollars for one piece of fruit) as a present for helping her daughter with the English speech. Look how huge they are! Golf-ball size.

2nd October 2007

that is the cutest picture ever! you're a muppet! : )
17th October 2007

GOYA!!!!!!!!!!!!! i'm proud of you for eating it!

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