Thursday, June 26, 2008

Tips for a successful holiday

At the commencement of my Hawiian holiday, I'd like to offer some words of advice to friends, family, and fellow travelers.

Holiday Tip #1: Don't empty out your beach bag on your bed. Sand in your neither parts is a real pain...

Holiday Tip #2: Best to wrap your camera and phone before you put it in your beach bag. Sand + camera = no photos. A camera case, or less-inexpensive sock, will do just fine.

Holiday Tip #3: If you want to eat Twizzlers, don't come to Hawaii. Evidently Hawaiians don't like Twizzlers, as they can't be found anywhere. Much to my dismay.

Holiday Tip #4: Recipe for enjoyment: 1.) Find the men playing beach volleyball. 2.) Sit and enjoy.

Holiday Tip #5
: Do not eat donuts AND scrambled eggs for breakfast. Ever.

Holiday Tip #6: Sunburn sucks.

Holiday Tip #7: Be prepared to be slightly disappointed by all of the 'extras' your hotel offers such as Delicious Daily Complementary Breakfast*, Breakfast on the Beach**, Free Internet***, Evening Outdoor Movies on the Beach****, Working Elevators*****

*One breakfast choice per day, rotates every other day
** Where 'beach' means 'poolside'
*** Only in the lobby, with a weak signal, otherwise $9.99/day in your room
**** In season (where 'season' is 'not right now') only
***** Nope, they don't work either..

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

The good:
Well, everything in Hawaii is good! The people are nice, the scenery is to die for. The water is fresh and cooling, and the sky is always blue. I couldn't describe 'good' as anything but this right now.

The bad:
I still haven't gotten out of the habit of using Japanese when I see people who look Asian. And, since everyone in Hawaii looks Asian, I find myself in yet another country still speaking words that people don't understand.
(Japanese people, notoriously known for sleeping everywhere, don't disappoint, even in Hawaii - this man takes a nap in the middle of a sundown hula show...)

The ugly:
My hair after a day circumnavigating Oahu island in an open-roofed Jeep...

Tuesday, June 17, 2008



Friday, June 13, 2008

Our Field Trip

You know, field trips in Japan are much different than the ones in America.

They're a lot more low-key, and don't necessarily have to do anything with learning objectives as much as just getting out of school. They are not limited to number, but how much money is available (which allows most grades to take 2 or 3 a year).

This year our second and last field trip was to the Nagoya City Science Museum. A week later, as I am reflecting, I am still having a hard time deciding what was the best part?

Was it the students' enthusiasm to learn about Pterosaurs?

Was it the amount of inferential thinking I had to use since EVERY sign that talked about the exhibit was in Japanese?

Was it that for the first time in almost 6 months I found Diet Coke in the vending machine?

Was it the nap I got to take on the ride home?


Was it that my teaching assistant, Mrs. Adachi, had a backpack that said the word 'bitch' on it?

I mean, really, these are tough calls. I just can't decide...

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Peer reflection

Our last unit of writing this year was doing All About books (a fancy term for writing non-fiction). Students were asked to pick a topic in which they felt they were an expert in, and we spent the better half of a month working on creating pages for these books based on emulating the authors of non-fiction texts in our classroom. It was a great project, and the books turned out really well, with students' work ranging in topic from Soccer, Horses, Service Dogs, and Capacity.

During our author celebration, each student had an opportunity to read the work of 6 or 7 other students and write a short, positive note to tell the author what was good, what needed improvement, or something that they learned.

One of my students, whom I will call B, decided that her topic would be 'Church Schools'. Although she didn't have as much to write as other students, her book still turned out well. And it is her book that led to an afternoon of laughter between myself and my peers, for the following comments that were made in the back of her book (peer assessments by other students)...

6 degrees of separation

I met my new friend Oriana through the most ordinary of circumstances, although our finding each other was evidently destiny.

Please enjoy our story of a chance meeting within 4 degrees of separation (which makes us much cooler and much closer than Kevin Bacon), followed by the impossible-ness of it all.

1st degree:
In December, I went to Bali. After having the time of my life, I decided to keep up with my new friends through Facebook, an online site that I had been avoiding for years. Within a couple of months, and by finding friends of friends of friends, I had doubled and tripled the amount of friends from my Bali group to include college, high school, Kiwi, and Waukee friends.

Not so long after opening my Facebook account, I was approached by a random Nihon-jin (Japanese person) who was evidently destined to find me: a Nagoyan-born citizen studying his doctorate at the University of Iowa. The chances of that? Slim and none. So, I invited the nice man, called Sato, to join my group of Facebook friends.

2nd degree:
After talking to Sato for a few months, I fell into my usual drone of talking about the lack of people around here to talk to, and he offered to introduce me to his friend Kirsty, a Brit, whom he also randomly met through Facebook. Kirsty and I had a coffee one day in a small shopping district called Osukanon, and spent the afternoon gabbing and chatting and having a right good time.

3rd degree:
Kirsty has a roommate called Will, another Brit, who is gay and terribly cool. Will is an English language teacher at a middle school in Nagoya, a job which is both underpaid and under appreciated.

4th degree:
Will's friend Oriana is another ELT in his company. The two of them are the only young people in their company's group of 30, so they hit it off immediately. They spend a lot of time together sipping coffee, drinking beer, and picking up men. Exactly what friends should do.

Oriana is a Kiwi. Her nana, Tereza, works at an elementary school in Ponsonby, Auckland. The name of the school? Richmond Road, which sits at 150 Ponsonby Road. A place where (and hopefully the name sounds familiar to many of you), for 10 months, yours truly walked to, and taught in, almost every single day.


While sitting out at a bar last weekend, completely oblivious what we were about to find out, Oriana and I had the following conversation (which is not word-for-word, but instead taken best from my memory after having had a few beers):

W: So, Kirsty tells me your a Kiwi?
O: Yeah! And she told me that you lived there for a year as well?
W: Yes. I loved it.
O: Where did you stay?
W: In Auckland. What part of New Zealand are you from?
O: Auckland as well, but from the east side, about 40 minutes out. I came into the
city each day for school, though.
W: Do you know the bar S.P.Q.R. in Ponsonby? It was one of my favorite places.
O: Oh. I don't know it. So, what were you doing in New Zealand?
W: Teaching. I left America to try my hand at teaching abroad, and it seemed like a
good place to start.
O: Where did you teach?
W: Ponsonby, in Auckland.
O: (slowly) Uhhh... which school?
W: It's called Richmond Road Primary, on Ponsonby Road.
O: (looking shocked) My nana works there! Wait... wait... no... you're not 'the'
Wendy, are you.
W: Um, I'm not sure.
O: My nana is Teresa, and she told me that you would be coming to Japan and that I
should look for you!
W: Your nana is Teresa? Mother? We called her Mother!
O: Yes, that's my nana! No way. No WAY! I can't believe it...


Now, keep in mind, that 1.) That Oriana's nana Tereza had told her months earlier 'A girl from our school, Wendy, is moving to Japan. Well, maybe it's Korea, but it's either Japan or Korea. She's somewhere there, so look out for her.' and 2.) Japan is a country of more than 127 million people, very few of whom are foreigners, of whom even less live in Nagoya.

The chances? Slim and none. But, without sounding too cliche', it's a small, small world.