Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who is the Sweatiest of Them All?

So I am seriously overdue for a blog post! Pure and simple, I love this island! I live on Ojika, an island off of Nagasaki prefecture in southwestern Japan. The island only has about 3,000 people on it and it covers about 35 square km. So, fairly small. The people are amazingly friendly and kind. An English teacher from the school met me at the Nagasaki airport and took me back by bus and ferry to Ojika. Traveling by airplane, bus and ferry in one day was a new one for me. I was a zombie when I stepped off the ferry but to my surprise, school staff and some students were standing on the dock with a sign that said Welcome to Ojika for me. One student even read a welcome message. It was a great way to start life on the island. After dropping my stuff off at my apartment and a quick shower, I headed over to my welcome party at a local restaurant with the other teachers. I had a great time even though I didn’t know half of what I was eating.

My co-workers are awesome. My Japanese is limited so there have been more than a few times where they have whipped out their electronic translators to help me figure something out. I am trying to set aside time to study Japanese every day and then practice it on people when I’m at school or in the shops. I have to be patient with Japanese though. Portuguese was easier because it is so similar to Spanish. Japanese is a whole other ball game.

My neighbors in my apartment building are all single female teachers. The building is owned by the prefecture so my landlord is the school. It will be nice because they will deduct my rent and utilities directly from my pay. But my neighbors are wonderful! They have been so friendly and took me to a bbq and the beach this past weekend. I want to have them over for dinner some time when I can figure out something I am good at cooking. Too bad there is no such thing as a frozen pizza on the island.

My school is quite large. There are four levels to the building, a gym, an athletic field, tennis courts and the junior high down the road has the swimming pool. I will be at all three schools on the island during the week but I am based at the high school and all three schools are next to each other on the same road. Also, I will be going to another smaller island once or twice a month to give a lesson. It will be an adventure for sure. In the high school, I will be working with 1st year students’ oral communication and 2nd and 3rd year students with their writing. I have already begun working with a student on her English skills and she has impressive English comprehension. She wants to go to university for English and I really hope that happens for her. I gave her a random topic to write about, like “What are two problems facing Japanese youth today? Why are they problems and how can they be solved?” And she understood the question and formed eight near-perfect complete sentences in response! I was impressed. Now obviously not all the students are going to be like that and she’s apparently at the top of her class in English, but seeing her paying attention and responding to me really made me excited to start teaching again. I have already made up a bulletin board in the student entry way. My notebook is full of ideas for activities and games.

I was walking but now I ride a bike to school today. The phrase “it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity” must have been coined on Ojika island. A lot of things just feel damp because of the sea. I have to air things out once in a while to keep everything fresh. But with the heat and the humidity of summer, I show up everywhere I go completely and irreversibly drenched. I bring a bandana with me to mop up the sweat but to no avail. A bandana is no match for the amount of sweat I can produce. I am riding a rusty old bike with questionable brakes (just don’t ride too fast down hills and I walk up them), which has cut down on my time out in the heat. I hope to buy a new bike to explore the island more in the future but this bike will do for now until I have saved some money. If the teacher’s room at school didn’t have air conditioning, I’m fairly certain I would just wear a swimming suit to school. But thankfully they keep the room fairly icy all day. On my bike ride home from work today, I saw the sea, the landscape and smelled the sea. It was one of those moments where I stopped and thought how lucky I am to be in such a beautiful place.

Hmmm, my apartment. My apartment is small but cozy. I have a large room that serves as both a living room and a bedroom. Off the living room are sliding doors with space for storage and other sliding doors that lead to a small balcony where I can hang my laundry. I also have a good size kitchen with a microwave, gas burners, a fridge and a rice cooker. Running water! Then I have a small shower and/or bath (so many options!), a room with the washer and the sink and another room for the toilet. It’s all a perfect size. I am pretty smitten with it but I have yet to figure out how to decorate it. And there is something that I’m mildly allergic to but hopefully that will change soon. Dust, maybe. I have an entry-way where I take off my shoes and I have a stoop! My very own stoop! And once a day I can find some large bug or cockroach lingering nearby, like it wants to come in. There are crazy big bugs that make loud noises here. Thankfully, they have all been outside of my apartment so far.

Okay, time to go make dinner! I have so much to talk about that it’s hard to focus on one thing. I WILL update this at least once a week! I have the technology this time and I’m not afraid to use it.

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