Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween and more....

I swear I don't prompt her to work for the camera. Cute though, eh? Striking a pose in front of the last of the fall color. Most of it went out in a blaze of glory and wind last week. Fall is a tragically short season. I wished I had taken more photos but there's always next year.
I can never take too many father/daughter shots of these two twinsies. Shawn still eggs me on every day into telling him she's his spitting image.
She may have his looks but the girl's got my style! Nova on her first "official" day of school.... FINALLY! Track suits are haute couture here. Shawn says teachers sport them on both formal and informal occasions. When Nova found this pink number she proudly proclaimed, "Now I am Japanese!" My favorite part is the back of her jacket which says "Have a juicy and spicy time with Kitty and friends." The yellow bundle is her "obento" or lunch box. Remember the Incredible Hulk and Rainbow Bright lunchboxes of the 80's? Here the character of choice is Anpan-man a cartoon hero with a giant hamburger-like bun for a head....'pan' being Japanese for bread.
A very traditional Japanese scene at the shrine just across the way from our home. I don't have any info on this great statue but I like that there is a bike in so many shots about town. Young and old pedal to get from point a to point b in Nisio and elsewhere. Just stay off the country roads which are very 'abunai ' or dangerous.
Nishiokoppe Elementary school's lunch room doubles as Shawn's English teaching room. Lunch time is a very organized and pleasant affair. Children help serve and clean-up afterward. I sampled the curry and rice on this day. Now I know why Shawn prefers to stay at school for lunch rather than come home. That's our favorite little guy Rruya flashing the peace sign.
This was the extent of our dressing up this year. There's no trick or treating in the village though we joked about what would happen if we knocked on people's doors in costume singing, "Trick or treat!". No doubt by the end of the night we'd have had our fill of shrimp flavored snacks.
Shawn did a great job with the Nishiokoppe Elementary Halloween party. The kids were very focused with their pumkin carving. You could have heard a pin drop. The man at the end of the table is the Kyoto-sensei, or vice principal. I liked that the older kids were so into helping the younger ones. Masataka (left) and his buddy giggle over their pumpkin.
All together now, "Watashi wa kumo ga kowai". One of my best articulated Japanese phrases.... "I am afraid of spiders".
Mummy-making game at the Kamiokoppe Elementary Halloween party.
Shawn helps ease Kentaro's hand into the pumpkin brains, (a slimy mess of spaghetti, olive oil, and food coloring) to fish for candy.
All 5 of Kamiokoppe's students and one conspicuous blonde guest pluck candy out of the witch's hat.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Good Times In Japan

You know how when you go to a new place sometimes there are things you just can't get enough of? For me, it's been man-hole covers. Shawn doesn't understand my passion for these little gems but that's ok. I find it really charming that different towns stamp a decorative emblem, like this one, on the covers. I think it's a nice reflection of the attention to detail and aesthetic the Japanese have with everyday items. I'm hoping to find someone to publish my coffee table book entitled "Decorative Man-Hole Covers of Japan". Any takers? :)
I hope I don't offend anyone with my "potty talk" but this won't be the last you hear from me on the bathrooms here. It's just one of those things that is so different that it begs to be discussed even if it is a little off color for some. This is the bathroom in Nova's school. You can see the "toilet" slippers stationed at the front. Both sexes use one bathroom, a practice not only reserved for 2-6 year olds. Dual gender bathrooms can be found throughout Japan though I haven't had the pleasure of sharing one yet.

You may have heard about Japanese vending machines. They are everywhere and contain everything. These are located on mainstreet Nishio. The one on the left is exclusively cigarettes.... have I mentioned smoking is allowed even in the middle school? The one on the right offers soda, water, tea and coffee. Nova is mildly addicted to the cold coffees in these machines. She sneaks the remnants out of Shawn's cans.... hence her new nickname, "Little Kohee".
Shawn and Kurata-sensei at the English speech competition in Asahikawa. In Japan, when you have a cold, you wear these masks. It still freaks me out a little. They even make children's versions with cartoon characters on them. Very civilized I think.
I felt a little ashamed to be seen taking a picture of this Mickey D's in Asahikawa. This city of 300,000 is 2 1/2 hours away. I was approached by an Australian couple after I took this shot. It was my first contact with another non-Japanese person (gaijin) since I've been here. They were headed for the Tully's coffee shop across the street. Seeing other "westerners" in public places is startling and for some reason a little embarrassing. Shawn thinks it's because we see ourselves in them and how out of place we are. You are wise in the ways of the gaijin Shawn-sensei.
Participants in the English speech competition. Shawn's students are the two in the back on the far right Minato and Akane. They did very well but the win went to a girl from another part of Hokkaido. I concur with Shawn that, "we were robbed" ! One of the judges was an American. See if you can you find her in this picture. Functions like these are very stoic. No smiles from the winner or her sensei during the award ceremony. On a whole, emotions are kept pretty private.
Jr High teachers vs students..... Shawn-sensei hits it out of the park. Kurata-sensei, his wife Maki and super cute son at the game. Many thanks to Kurata-sensei for enduring my endless questions about Japanese language and culture to and from Asahikawa. You rock!
So I wasn't exaggerating about the spiders. They're HUGE! But then you all know I have issues with spiders. The word for spider is Kumo which is also the word for cloud. We have three of these bad-boys stationed outside our home. I've made a deal with them.... I protect their webs if they stay out of my house. I hope they're listening. Shawn walked through a giant spider web when we first got here and got one down his shirt.... I am both shuttering and gagging as I type. Luckily these are not poisonous.
Shawn and Nova at some falls near Nishiokoppe. The weather has been unseasonably warm. Locals say summer temps were higher than in Okinawa this year. As a result, it hasn't felt chilly until the past couple days.... but the trees are turning slowly and it is quite beautiful.
Nova takes advantage of a heavy but warm rain storm. We got quite a few looks as we raced through town, Nova in her bikini and me in my rain gear. It was such a novelty for us to be in rain this warm in September. In Juneau, we are conditioned to expect rain all day when it starts. We've been pleasantly surprised to enjoy a sunny day after an hour or so of the wet stuff.