Thursday, January 31, 2008

January's Leftovers

So, here are the pictures of Disneyland. As you can see, winter rains couldn't stop us! (Though they did make us stop to eat/warm up more than Yuri would have liked.)
Here is the Japan-only Christmas Haunted Mansion ride. Japan loves the Nightmare Before Christmas.
And here is something amazing that I saw that I had to show the world. Japan is the land of vending machines. This much you know. Now you may have heard of vending machines that sell everything from canned soup to used women's underwear (the later no longer exists, by the way). But this is the most amazing vending machine I have ever seen because it is not only bizarre by American standards, but also a really good idea who's time is past.
This vending machine sells fresh eggs. It is located next to a chicken farm in Gunma-machi. As you walk by, you can pay an insanely low price (I think it was something like 10 yen for an egg) and buy individual eggs. The eggs don't drop out, it works like a newspaper dispenser. And the eggs are fresh, having been laid that very day. This vending machine, however, seems to be one of the last of its kind. The problem with vending machine eggs is that eggs are really hard to transport without something to put them in. You can't just put them in your pocket. Still, the idea of fresh eggs from a farmer you know stirs the nutritional romantic in me.

So on to other stuff. What have I been up to? Well, aside from teaching, I have been trying to learn how to make multilingual websites, edit photos with the GIMP, write programs in PHP, design websites with CSS, etc. Basically, I am using the cold winter weather as an excuse to stay inside and work on some of my nerd skills.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Maybe my best day of teaching

So, last weekend Yuri and I went to Disneyland. No pictures. No story really. But I'll never forget it. By the way, if you decide to go to Tokyo Disneyland, go during the winter, during a rain storm. You only have to wait in line for 45 minutes for the best rides.

It's been a long time since I have written about work. I mostly don't talk about work because of privacy issues, but also the majority of the time work is almost the same everyday. With a substantial number of quirks of course.

But the thing about working in grammar school is that it is never the same, and when it is good it is amazing. Today was one of the amazing days.

This week has been rough. I have been exhausted all week due to my late nights, long hours and cold weather. Wednesday was like a fight to stay awake. On Thursday I had people asking me all day if I was sick. So I got alot of sleep and went to school on Friday with a simple goal: get through my 5 classes (the rare maximum number) and go home. I got the school, prepared my classes, found my happy place and went to class. I think I did OK during my four back to back hours of teaching. During that time I sang the ABC song no less than 18 times (not an exaggeration), asked "How are you?" maybe 120 times (roughly) and said "Hello" even more times than that (since I say "hello" to every student I pass). Finally, it was lunch time. I ate silently at my desk in the teachers room and helped myself to a second helping of pumpkin soup. I cleaned up my tray and went to the hand wash area outside to brush my teeth.

As I brushed, I heard what sounded like a stampede headed my direction. I turned around to see a tide of about 20 Third Grade students swarming around me. I stood there stunned, my toothbrush hanging out of my mouth. The students stood there smiling then asked if they could sing Edelweiss for me, at which point they began to sing Edelweiss in English. Cornered, I did the only thing I could do. I spit, washed my toothbrush, and used it as a conductor's baton. To my surprise, the kids actually followed my baton! 15 more kids showed up and began to sing in the back. The first set finished and the kids asked me to conduct again. This time I warmed them up and really got into it. Keeping time with my brush, I used my hands and face to encourage the kids to express more emotion, or quiet down. Behind all the kids, a second grade teacher had shown and was grabbing passing kids and bringing them into the hand wash area to add to the crowd. After singing the song as a big group, all the Third graders broke into small groups and I went through and practiced with them in small groups. I passed the entire remainder of the lunch break conducting kids singing Edelweiss with my toothbrush. Then the bell rang and the kids dispersed. At that point I almost cried. What I saw was beautiful. Maybe my best moment as a teacher.

But I have to say maybe. There was that time I dressed as Santa and went around giving everyone cards, then ran to eat lunch with a class, who, as it turned out, had skipped lunch so that they could write thank you cards to me in return. Or that Fourth grade girl who had developed a phobia of school and refused to go to normal class, but wasn't afraid to go to my class. Or the special needs boy who loves my ABC flashcards so much that he comes to me at lunch every Tuesday and goes over the ABCs with me. Or the two pre-school girls who feud over me. Or the seriously ill girl who thanked me for trying to cheer her up by reading her a picture book (it turned out she had gone blind temporarily).

No, it is true. While my life may be headed in a direction that is not teaching, there very little doubt in my mind that I will become a grammar school teacher in the end. There is simply no job I could ever do that would be more important.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Yuri's Trip to Hawaii

A lot has changed recently. What follows is one of the smaller changes. This month's post will not be about me. This post is about Yuri's trip to Hawaii. I just happen to be the one behind the camera in most of the pictures. However, before we switch over to her, I have an amazing story about me.

So I flew into the Big Island, had dinner with Grandma Mary and Grandpa Clay (who I was very glad to see), got up early the next morning at 5:00am and drove to the airport to catch a plane to Oahu, where I was meeting Yuri at about 7:30am. I checked to make sure I had my wallet several times. I knew for a fact that it was on the passenger seat next to me. Yet somehow, when I got to the airport, my wallet was gone! I searched everywhere, to no avail. Finally, with only 45 minutes before my plane took off, and with no way to contact Yuri (who honestly, would have had a great time even if I had never shown up), I panicked and called Grandma Mary with instructions to bring my passport and whatever cash she had to the airport as fast as possible. She got there just in time, I ran through security, got to the gate and relaxed. About one minute later, security showed up at the gate and announced over the loudspeaker that they were looking for me. They had found my wallet. It was lying in the middle of the road. Not even in the parking lot, but the middle of the street. To this day I have no idea how it got there.

On to Yuri. Yuri arrived in Honolulu, we rented a car...
And went to the USS Bowfin museum at Pearl Harbor. Here I am with an ICBM. Observe the hand sign.
And Yuri on the deck of the USS Bowfin.
It was very interesting going to Pearl Harbor with Yuri. She really wanted me to take a picture of her with this suicide submarine because her grandfather had been in the Japanese navy during the war and when she got home he would want to see the photos. It kind of moves me to think that, when grandparents were our age they were enemies, but 65 years later we are touring Pearl Harbor together. Time changes everything.
Saw a Zero...
And the Mighty Mo.
Yuri really liked the Battleship. Maybe because she has a lot in common with it.
This is the place where Japan surrendered to the United States.
After Pearl Harbor, we went to visit the Hitachi Tree in Moanalua Gardens.
And take a rest.
That afternoon, after another nap, we strolled down Waikiki and saw the sunset.
The next day we went to Nu'uanu Pali...
Ate Spam Musubi...
And got lost in the maze at the Dole Pineapple plantation.
So, that evening we flew into Kona, and met the family for dinner. Then went to the house and met Portia.

The next day we saw three whales just off the shore
Here we are going for a run at HPA.
The next day we went snorkeling and saw this three finned turtle.
I also took this picture, which is the last photo my camera ever took. Even though I did everything right, my waterproof camera stopped being waterproof and was destroyed. Luckily (thanks to Yuri's expert advice) I have a full warranty, bought the camera with a credit card that had insurance and was able to save the memory card. Hopefully I will be getting a new one.
So I borrowed cameras for the rest of the pictures on this post. Shaved ice at Anuenue Shaved Ice in Kawaihae...
The Pertoglyph Park in the Puako forest...
And a shot to show how beautiful Hawaii can be in the winter.
Here is Yuri, having completed decorating the Christmas tree.
So then Kira, Ryan, Yuri and I decided to take a trip around the island. I was feeling much more adventurous this time than usual, so I made some random stops that turned out to be very good choices. This is a free coffee tasting bar in Kona that I stopped at on an impulse.
Pu'u Honua 'O Ho'onaunau.
Impulse stop number two: a pretty good fruit stand.
And then we went to South Point to jump off the cliffs.
Me, midair. Too bad it is all washed out.
Me and Yuri in the water. She jumped too!
Some other Japanese tourists were there watching and were very impressed by Yuri's courage.
Here is that scary, scary ladder.
The bakery.
Kilauea. (These are all places in previous posts, if you want to know more about them try doing a search of my blog.)
Steam vents.
In front of Halemaumau.
So, with the four of us we actually had the courage to go to the very back of the Thurston Lava Tube at night. Yuri was small enough to actually crawl and touch the end of the cave.
So, I had planned on camping, but since we didn't have a tent I decided we didn't need one. Unfortunately, I forgot to tell Kira that we didn't have a tent, just a tarp. Then it started raining. She was, understandably, a little irritated with me. The end result was that Kira and Ryan slept in the car, and Yuri and I slept outside. It was raining. The wind was blowing. But it was warm, sort of dry, and you could see the stars as you fell asleep. I honestly have never slept better in my whole life. Well, the 3 hours that I was actually asleep for, that is.
So the next day we began to drive home. Kira and Ryan had us stop at this natural pool that they knew about. We hiked down to it, and concluded that the water was flowing just a bit to fast for a swim to be a good idea. Kira said she was going to go the the bathroom, so I started back to the car. Then Kira and Ryan went swimming anyway.
So I took pictures.
We found this cool Banyan Tree...
Near Akakakakaka falls.
The next day we flew Ryan to Honolulu.
It was Yuri's first time in a small plane.
On the way back we went to Molokai...
And Yuri got to try flying the plane!
Here we are the next day with Cina and Chenzo at the Hilton.
Saw the dolphins.
Rode the Rhinos.
Debated with the Nene.
Here is Yuri throwing away garbage at the Puako Transfer Station. How many Japanese tourist get to do that!
Here is Christmas morning.
All the stuff.
Grandpa Clay.
Grandma Mary.
Kira in a Pikachiu costume.
Portia with a Santa Hat. Man did she hate this part.
Two days later we met the Bleechers up in Waimea for a hike. First we hiked to the back of Waipio (which was clear for the first time I can remember).
Then the next day we drove up Mana Road and went to the Douglas Memorial and the Hakalau Bird Sanctuary.
Saw some rare native Hawaiian birds.
Saw some nice forests, and had a scare about the car.
Two days later, we went to Kona and went to Scandanavian Shaved Ice.
I ordered the most expensive thing on the menu: the large with everything on it.
I was as big as my head, proven by the fact that I could put my hat on it. That was a lot of shaved ice. I will never order that much shaved ice again, but I am so glad I did it!
Me at a party, wearing Grandpa's bowtie.
Mom dancing.
McManus and Bleecher families at Paniolo for breakfast.
Yup. And that is a photographic version of Yuri's trip to Hawaii.

I think I do have to talk a little bit more about myself, unfortunately. There have been some major developments in my life recently. One of them is that I have developed a serious, serious intrest in web design. I just built my first website using nothing but notepad++. So you may see a format change on the 6 Billionth Voice sometime soon, since I will finally know how to edit the HTML and not just input text.

And once again, thanks for reading!