Monday, August 31, 2009

"Just dance, gonna be okay..."

I never really know what to expect when my dance teammates tell me about an upcoming performance. (They tell me in Japanese, which is pretty much why I never know what's going on!)

For some reason, I assumed that the dancing on Saturday would be similar to what we did a couple of weeks ago for the festival in Kuji -- dancing in the street with some people casually observing from the sides. Cool, no problem.

This was not the case. Instead, it turned out to be a competition! With judges. And prize money. And a rather large audience. Oh.

But the surprises didn't end there. The sign on our dressing room door totally threw me off guard...


Ayaka explained that I was the team captain (when did that happen!?!?), and AGT stood for Amber Girls Team. We have a team name!? And oh, since I was the team captain (have mercy), I'd be dancing front and center. Oh dear. Well, I'm glad I practiced a lot. And would I please also introduce our team in English, followed by Ayaka doing a Japanese introduction? Uh, ok.

Our (my??) team. :) I did actually know ahead of time that we'd be dressed in camo and would be dancing to "Funk Soran."

Ayaka's brother took this video of our dance, so now you can act like you're in the audience and watch us groove...

After we danced, Ayaka (bless her heart) gave me a great big hug and said to me in English, "Dana, you were maaahvelous!!" Haha! I just love that goofy gal!

After all nine dance teams performed, the judges announced that "Dana with AGT" won third place and $200!! Woohoo!!!!

Holding up our certificate and posing with a couple of students who I was surprised to see. The student on the left with the towel is Eiki, probably the biggest class clown at Misaki Jr. High. This is the kid who came up to me in the teachers' room one day, followed by his homies, and said in English, "Dana Sensei. (Pause for effect.) I love you." *gigglegigglegiggle* And then ran away. What a goofball. :)

Anyway, I went back to Noda again last night to walk around the festival and see the fireworks. [Sidenote: I know it seems like all I do these days is go to festivals! I guess it's just that time of year. Not that I'm complaining!]

I'm really proud of this photo:

Ooooh. Ahhh. :)

In front of me were the fireworks, but behind me was the cutest little girl EVER! (And yeah, I'm aware that I say that about every Japanese kid I see.)
But seriously...

I just wanted to take her home with me! I settled on taking a picture instead. :)

Well, peace out for now!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

"We'll keep on fighting to the end..."

The word for "good luck" in Japanese is "gannbatte!"

Or instead of "gannbatte," I'll hear people say in English, "Fight! Fight!," which I guess to them, is the same as "good luck" or "do your best!" Makes sense, I suppose.

Anyway, I've heard both "ganbatte" and "fight" a lot recently since it's been a week full of competitions.

The week started not with a competition, but with a welcome party for Nate. For some reason, the vice mayor did a cheer/chant for Nate after dinner. Unfortunately, I got only the last part of it on video, but here it is anyway:

They're saying, "Nate, fight, fight!"

After dinner, I ended up in a taxi with the mayor (!!), and a couple of other guys, headed to karaoke. We spent two crazy hours of singing our hearts out, and I did a duet with the mayor, as well as sang some Beatles songs with my Beatles Buddy --the vice mayor who did the cheer for Nate.

Karaoke with the mayor and Mauchi-san, Liz's judo coach who works at the office with us.

On Tuesday, there was big track and field competition among all of the junior high schools in Kuji. Liz and I went to a couple of hours of it, and Liz took this video of her students cheering:

Fast forwarding to today (Saturday), there was even more cheering and competing. Today was Kuji Jr. High School's undokai. If you remember from back in May, an undokai is a sports day/ festival. All of my schools had their sports days a few months ago, but bigger schools (like Kuji Jr. High, which is massive) have theirs later. Here's a video of that to give you an idea of what it's like:

I felt kind of like the paparazzi sneaking photos of Kengo and Masaru, two of the students who went to Franklin back in January...

I just adore these two guys! A few weeks ago, I went to their track practice just to hang out with them. :) Here's a picture so you can see what they look like...

"Fight!" :) Both Kengo and Masaru are excellent runners, by the way.

Back to today's undokai...
I got a great shot of one of the events: group jump roping.

This group--the yellow team--was actually the team Tomoki was on.

That's Tomoki sitting in the left corner of this picture.

Both Kengo and Tomoki competed in the Kuji English Speech Contest on Thursday. I was so happy that Kengo won second place!

Kengo bowed to the Superintendent when he received his plaque. Standing behind the Superintendent is Yamadate's wife, who is an English teacher at Natsui Jr. High, where Liz teaches.

While Kengo won second, you'll never guess who received first place at the contest...

Yep. Tomoki! I felt like a proud mama. (I even had the urge to make him tuck the back of his shirt in before he went on stage, haha.) The three students in the background are my students from Misaki Jr. High who participated in the contest.

While I was so proud of Tomoki, I must say that I was not at all surprised that he won. He's a natural. :) When he started speaking, I saw jaws literally drop in the audience! That's my boy.

However -- this is not really related to anything -- but I was surprised a few days ago, when I walked into the 100 yen ($1) store, and found a whole display of Halloween decorations! #1 It's August! and #2 They don't even really celebrate Halloween here.

I don't think I've even seen so many kinds of Halloween tinsel in America!

Well, I'm off for now. In about 15 minutes, I'm leaving for Noda to go dance with my team.
It's not a competition, but I will fight! (as in do my best) :)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Say what!?

Last time I shared some t-shirts with words of "wisdom." This time, I want to share some t-shirts with words. Period.

I don't mean to make fun, but just have a little fun. :) Bless their hearts, these precious children have no idea what they're even wearing. In fact, I'm one of the few people in Kuji who understands that sometimes the clothing they wear is non-understandable. So I just have to share these with other people (you!) who will appreciate the nonsense.

Don't even look for meaning in these first two...

"Cool Melody. Nice Idol. Dream Step. Charm Smile." (I can't read the small print at the bottom.) How many combinations of two somewhat random English words can we put on one shirt?

"Defend my belief. Eternal Progress. Sitting down and really thinking out an attitude of yours that you are not sure. The Sublime." I have no words. Actually, as an English teacher, I have two: Job security.

"Drug Stores: Symbol of Good Luck." Forget rabbit's feet, horseshoes, clovers, the number 7, etc. Drug stores and apparently pig faces are lucky. Who knew?

"Girls are Angel. Lovely." Put an "s" at the end of "Angel" and it will be even more lovely!

"I love KISS." As in the band?? ;)

"Be. Se. Beauty & Sexy. I am beautiful and will become a sexy world's best woman." Dear cute 8-year-old child, I know that just because the word "sexy" is on your shirt, it doesn't necessarily mean that it's in your vocabulary. Please hold on to your innocence as long as possible. Thanks. :)

Question: "Sweet candy do you eat?" Answer: Sweet candy, yes I eat.

Go now, I must. Peace out!

Monday, August 24, 2009

"Speaking words of wisdom, let it be..."

If you want some advice, you can look at the t-shirts of my elementary school students. And Beatles' song lyrics, too. :)

I can't promise that it will actually make sense, but the words (of wisdom?) found on clothing can definitely provide some amusement.

Here's a statement that's both t-shirt and Beatles' song...

"Romantic. All you need is love." Gotta love it.

Speaking...err, singing....err, writing of's some love advice...

"Love someone down. At first you succeed, Dust yourself and try it again." But what if at first you don't succeed?

"Enjoy together love and peace. Your future will be bright. Feel so good. Turn on the charm." Turn on the charm, huh? By wearing a charming shirt like this one?

"Find favor. Be favorite with everybody." Niiiice. By the way, this is the precious child who (gently, I'll give her that much) poked my stomach a while back and proclaimed there to be extra meat! Needless to say, she did not find favor with me.

"Take you courage in both hands...All happiness is in your mind." Thank your so much for you encouragement!

I love this one: "Swim with the current...but take good care of your personal contacts." Yep. Just smile and nod.

I just love this one, too...

"Crack it!" What you're supposed to crack, I'm not sure. Take this advice with some caution!

"You don't have To see the whole Staircase." If you see half Of the Staircase, it's apparently sufficient.

"Deeds Are Better Than Words. Do, don't talk. Easier said than done." Afterall, actions speak louder than words, right?

"Each day provides its own gifts. Learn from yesterday. Live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning." I agree! Well said. I also agree that you shouldn't stop questioning...

Especially the advice given on clothing! :)

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Saturday, August 22, 2009

What's going on around here...

It's time for an update post! So here's the scoop about what's happening in Kuji these days:
  • Ice cream hanging from the ceiling!? -- The Kuji City Board of Education Decoration Committee has been at it again...

  • No more crepes -- In other (not-so) sweet news, Crepe House Sweets--the dessert cafe I'd visit almost on a weekly basis--has closed! The sweet "crepe lady," Miwako, got married and moved to Fudai, which is about an hour away, where she now works at a cake shop with her husband. So I'll just have to go visit her there sometime! In the meantime, I hope someone comes to re-open one of my favorite places in all of Kuji, although no one could replace Miwako.

    Good times at Crepe House Sweets...

  • Scoops of ice cream decorated to look like us!

    Delicious crepes with Sachi and Yuka from the office.

  • Back to school -- Summer vacation was nice, but I missed my students. So it's good to be back in the swing of things again. :)

They're so cute! The boy in this picture saw me from a distance yesterday at school and shouted with tons of excitement, "Dana Teacher, Dana Teacher!!!!" Awww.

  • My bulletin board is up -- I have my own bulletin board at Misaki Jr. High now that I can change every so often with a different theme. Mr. Nakano wanted the first one to be about myself. Lauren and Jennifer helped me with this project back in June. Thanks again, gals! Here's the poster before we posted it to the board:

The day it was posted, I saw a bunch of my students gathered around, checking it out. :)

  • School lunch has changed -- As far I know, the menu is the same, but the trays, bowls, plates, etc. are all different now for some reason. Earth-shattering news, I know, haha. Anyway, here was Friday's school lunch:

I felt like I was on a diet with this meal, minus the huge bowl of white rice!

  • It's obviously election time here -- There are posters all over the place, as well as vans that drive around Kuji, making announcements that I don't understand, but apparently they're about why you should vote for a particular candidate.

    The guys I see plastered all over town:

    Mr. Intimidating...

...and Mr. Not-So-Intimidating!

  • Contests coming up -- I've been working with my students (including Tomoki) who are participating in the English speech contest in Kuji next Thursday. Then on Friday, I'll be one of the judges at a contest in a nearby town. Looking forward to both!

  • A concert coming up as well -- My friend Hideto and I will be performing five songs for a small concert at the Dofukan (community building) tomorrow. I'll be playing my flute and singing, and Hideto will play the guitar. I'll ask Liz or someone to take some video to share with you. Meanwhile, my guitar lessons have started out well, and hopefully soon I'll be able to start practicing some simple songs.

  • Happy peach season! -- Exciting news: It's that glorious time of year when I eat a fresh, ripe, juicy peach daily! So needless to say, I'm just peachy these days. :)

"You. Me. Airily Peachy." So I don't know what "airily peachy" means, but I do appreciate that she's wearing a peachy shirt. I have plenty more photos of cute kids wearing interesting t-shirts that I promise to share at some point in the near-future.

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

"Another summer day has come and gone away..."

For the last couple of months, I've been asked by Japanese friends if I'd be going home in mid-August.

That's because many people return to their hometown for the Obon period, August 13th through 16th.

Obon is an annual event for honoring one's ancestors. Buddhists believe that their ancestors' spirits return to earth in order to visit their relatives during the Obon period.

According to an on-line article about the holiday, "Lanterns are hung in front of houses to guide the ancestors' spirits, Obon dances (bon odori) are performed, graves are visited and food offerings are made at house altars and temples."

Although there's no mention of spectacular firework shows, that's what happened in Kuji on Sunday night -- concluding Obon with a bang!

Earlier that day I had been thinking and writing about the State Fair, and then that night was a fair-like festival in Kuji, with food booths, lots of people and a fireworks display! Nice timing. :)

It kind of felt like Independence Day, a month and a half late. Here are a few photos I took...

This photo is fun because the three girls on the left are taking pictures on their cell phones (a VERY common sight!), AND the gals in front of them are wearing summer kimonos called yukattas. So very Japanese.

I was sitting toward the front of the crowd. It seemed like the whole entire city was out by the river to watch the firework display.

I didn't capture a good picture of it, but there were a few fireworks shaped like animals! I've never seen anything like it.

I was definitely impressed by the fireworks...and by the number of people who were out watching them!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

"Our state fair is the best state fair..."

Oh, how I love the Indiana State Fair!! I just adore the energy and family atmosphere, and how there's so much to do and see...and eat...

And oh, how I'm bummed that this is the first year in my entire life that I have to miss it. :(

Although I can't go the state fair this year, there's a big festival coming up next month that has a fair-like feel to it, so that's exciting! And over the weekend, I went to a petting zoo, which kind of felt like being in the animal barns at the fair.

Here's looking at you, kid. ;)

It's not every day that you see an ostrich sticking its head out the window!

These are actually racing pigs! You can't see it in the picture, but there's a nearby track that they use, haha.

The petting zoo is located at the base of a mountain that is a popular ski area in the winter. We took the ski lift up to the top to overlook a beautiful view. A few pictures...

The gals -- Yukiko (Kenji's daughter) and me.

The guys -- Julian and Oliver. These are the fellas I'm going to Thailand with in November. (with Liz, too!)

Group shot, taken by Kenji. I had a nice time hanging out with them yesterday. :)

I hope you have a nice time hanging out at the state fair if you haven't gone yet! By the way, I checked out the fair's Web site the other day just for fun, and I learned that one of the new foods this year is chocolate-covered bacon!?!

Please try it for me and let me know what you think, ok? I'm curious to know. Thanks!

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