Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Go Japan!

It was the loudest and most spirited I've ever seen Japanese people be. The place was packed--standing room only--with most people wearing soccer jerseys.

I wouldn't consider myself a huge soccer fan, and I'm definitely not hardcore enough be up in the middle of the night to watch World Cup games. But the 8 p.m. Japan vs. Holland game on Saturday night was a lot of fun to watch.

Or, more accurately, the fans of the game were a lot of fun to watch.

They would hoot and holler every single time a Japanese player got possession of the ball. If the ball got anywhere close to the goal, everyone went crazy. I can't imagine how berserk they would have been if Japan had scored!

Despite Japan losing to Holland 0-1, it was a good weekend in Morioka, starting with a cookout Saturday afternoon with other ALTs.

It DUMPED rain, bringing an abrupt end to the gathering, until we all met up again in the evening for dinner and the game.

And now, I'd like to share some pictures I took a few days ago of some really pretty flowers I passed by on my way back from a meeting at Kuji Elementary School...

Me being a stalker in the bushes to get these shots of a high school couple holding hands! (It's very rare to see people holding hands in public here.)

I love these unique purple flowers!

Hello, little あり ("ari"= ant).

Well, the long journey home for Derek's wedding begins tomorrow night, and I am SO EXCITED!! (about being home & the wedding, not so much the long trip.) Can't wait to hug my family!!! Ahhh! :)

Friday, June 18, 2010

It's the birthday that keeps going...

...and I'm not complaining! :)

My birthday(s) started on Wednesday--the day before my actual date of birth
--when I was sung to at Yamane Jr. High and given a beautiful handmade card from each student...

Never before have I received a b-day card with a big pop-up cucumber on it...

Ha! I've been teased about cucumbers ever since I was caught picking them out of my salad during school lunch a few weeks ago.

That night, I celebrated my birthday with my English conversation class by going out for dinner (no cucumbers, haha) and karaoke! I received a gorgeous bouquet of flowers and a beautiful orange scarf (that even matched the flowers)...

The scarf is so much fun because it can be worn so many different ways--as I was shown. :)

What a great group of people! I love meeting with them for an hour every Wednesday.

At the end of dinner, they sang & gave me a super cute cake...

Well, it was cute until I watched Keiko take a knife to my face! AH! Love the strawberry guys chilling out on the side. :)

The glorious day of June 17th had absolutely perfect weather, and I enjoyed the drive along the ocean to Misaki Jr. High School, listening to music with my windows down and stopping to take a few photos, as I love to do on sunny days...

Oh, happy day!

One happy b-day girl, wearing her b-day scarf. :)

At Misaki, Nakano Sensei told the students that it was a special day, and we would NOT be using the English textbook! (That announcement was received with much cheering.) Instead, we played English games in each class, and I also played guitar and sang a couple of Japanese songs I've been learning.

After work, Nate bought a "German Feasto" pizza for us to share, which we ate in a nearby park. He's been going on for months about the deliciousness of this potato-covered pizza, and it was about time I tried it.

Quite a historic moment: I finally have my hands on a "German Feasto!" Sure enough, it was really good, as are all of the unique pizzas I've had in Kuji. (Shrimp + corn pizza is one of my favorites.)

Afterwards, I practiced my guitar by the ocean (lovely!), had a guitar lesson, and ended the day with chats on Skype.

It was definitely a great birthday! Both days of it. :) And the celebration continues as I keep getting birthday greetings
on Facebook today from the other side of the world (because of the time difference) AND I have a BBQ with friends tomorrow.

Thanks to everyone for the b-day love!! I have an amazing family & friends, and I feel so blessed!

Monday, June 14, 2010


That's "good evening" in Japanese. (It's evening here, anyway.)

There isn't much to report from my weekend since--apart from volunteering at preschool and having an English conversation class yesterday--it just consisted of rest & relaxation. :)

So instead, I'll take give you a teaching update...

Last Monday, I taught every grade at Taiyama Elementary School, and it was a real treat to teach first grade because I usually teach only the older grades. I went around the classroom shaking the hand of each first grade student, grinning from ear to ear the entire time because they're just so cute!

When I walked into the fourth grade classroom, I was greeted by lots of smiling kids, some clapping, and some artwork for me on the blackboard...

The artists sitting in front of their work. It says, "Hello Dana Sensei" at the top. :)

Aww, they made me look so cute!!

On the other hand, here is a drawing of "Dana Sensei" that I was given by my sixth grade students at Yamane Elementary School...

That looks just like my scarf. :)

At Yamane Junior High School, the English teacher had me give a presentation about America and American sports, food and school life. She asked me to draw some posters to go along with my talks...

That "basketball" = yikes! haha. I try.

I also made a poster listing some other responses to "How are you?" besides the standard, "I'm fine (thank you, and you?)"

Something new that I've been doing at Yamane J.H.S. is creating English newsletters about my weekends for the teachers and students. Here are the three that I've done so far...

We read it together in class, and the English teacher helps them understand the meaning.

In other news...
Nine days from right now I'll be starting the journey home for Derek & Brittney's wedding, and I am excited!!
That's all.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

"I'm walking on sunshine..."

We've had some beautiful weather so far this month, and you'd better believe I've taken advantage of it! (The rainy season is due here soon, but I don't want to talk about that.)

So anyway, yeah...
Nice days make for nice photos. :) Here are a couple of shots I took of the Kuji coast, on my way to Misaki Jr. High...

I've gotten really use to the beautiful ocean (and non-ocean) views here, but I try not to take them for granted.

Does anyone else see a face side profile in this rock? See the nose sticking out? Makes me think of the famous stone heads of Easter Island.

I've been spending as much time as possible outside -- reading in the park, going for walks and riding my bike.

I took this photo of my bike to show off the lovely bluuuuue sky!

In other, non-weather news...
  • I attended a shamisen concert for the first time on Saturday evening. A shamisen is a traditional, stringed Japanese instrument. Check it out...

  • Yesterday, my friend Liz left Japan. I miss my neighbor, co-worker and fellow Franklin ALT. We had a goodbye party for her on Friday night with the Board of Education, and a party for her on Monday night with friends. Liz is now home in Chicago, but at the end of the month she is going to Uganda to volunteer. I'm so excited for her!

  • I'm also excited for my friend and fellow ALT, Alana, who recently opened her own online store! She's selling all different kinds of Hello Kitty & other super cute cat merchandise. Click here to check out her store, Cats Say Nyan. I also recommend her blog: http://www.alanagreen.blogspot.com.
That's all for now. I'm getting off the computer to go outside! :)

Monday, June 7, 2010

"Take me out to the ballgame..."

I felt very American yesterday because I played in a baseball tournament and ate a McDonald's cheeseburger.

Maybe you're thinking that playing in a baseball tournament doesn't really sound like a Dana thing to do. And you'd be right.
(I don't usually eat McDonald's cheeseburgers, either.)

But when the weather is absolutely perfect, there's upbeat music playing the whole time, and cute little kids are running about
, baseball is quite fun! And a cheeseburger seems like the right thing to eat for lunch.

Adorable Erika dancing to the music! All together now...Awwww. :)

Smiling with the cutiepie and her dad, who was the one to invite the ALTs to form a team for the tournament.

I keep referring to it as baseball, but yesterday's games were played with special kind of homemade not-quite-baseballs -- like people in Kuji used to play with during WWII, when they couldn't afford baseballs and had to use what they had around to make them. I was given these two as presents:

Even though they're made from cloth, they're really not as soft as you'd think.

Our team only won one out of three games, so we didn't get to play in the championship round. (To be honest, three games was enough for me.) I'm happy to report that while I didn't score any points for our team, I at least made contact with the ball each time I was up to bat!

Afterwards, we had a party with some of the other participants.

I've never seen fish cooked in flames like this before. (Yikes...it kind of looks like the guy in the back has his hand in the fire!)

The after party was a ton of fun, and I made several new friends -- like this guy who wanted to wear my sunglasses and do a "cool pose" for my camera, haha...

Well, peace out for now!

Friday, June 4, 2010


Back in October, the ALTs had a hoedown -- complete with cowboy hats, bandanas and decorations -- which have been stored in my apartment ever since.

I thought I should make use of these things before I take them back to the US of A with me. (I'm going back for a few days later this month for my brother's wedding, whipeeee! And then leaving my Kuji home & returning home home at the beginning of August, only two months away. Whew, time is really flying!)

Sooo anyway...after talking to the super nice English teacher at Yamane Jr. High School, she agreed to give me free reign (as in horses, hehe) to have a cowboy-themed English lesson. Lesson planning isn't a usual part of my job as an ALT, and I really enjoyed getting into the theme and thinking up some fun games & activities.

First, I gave each student a bandana and a cowboy hat, which had some words inside. They had to put the words together to form sentences.

Then, we had a showdown with water guns, minus the water.

The English teacher said a word or sentence in Japanese, and the first cowboy or cowgirl to say, "Bang bang! The word or sentence in English inserted here!" got a point.

In the first of the two classes, Jason (his English name for English class) beat his classmates, Alex and Lauren. So he got to wear the Sheriff badge for the rest of the time.

Next, I had a fill-in-the-blank story about a trail ride that the students helped me complete by giving me a name, food, place, emotion, etc. in English. Together, we plugged their responses into the story, and this is what we got: (the bolded words were blanks)

Yesterday, I rode my favorite horse, Jason. (S)he's pink and loves to eat steak . After (s)he was saddled up, we decided to go to Russia. As we were trotting through the woods, I noticed it was beginning to get dark. While I was looking up at the sky, Alex jumped out from behind a car and scared me! I was so happy that I fell off the horse and hit my finger. Fortunately, Lauren came along and helped me up. We decided to go back to my house to play a Pokemon video game instead of going to the classroom.

The students got a kick out of the story when the teacher helped them understand the meaning in Japanese.

Alex filling in the blanks of the story while snacking on trail mix. :)

The lesson/party/"cowboy festival" as the principal called it, ended with me teaching some country line dancing! And in the second class, it ended with taking this group photo...

From left to right: Ashley (a.k.a. Haruka), Mike (Daichi) and Emily (Satomi)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

"So let's just keep on dancin'..."

Last year, I went down to Morioka with members of my dance team to watch a big, annual dance event. (Click here for the post I wrote about it.)

But this year, I went down to Morioka with members of my dance team to actually dance in the big annual dance event! (And here is a post about it...)

Before I share a couple of pictures and a video of our dance, first is a picture I took of the magnificent Mt. Iwate on the way...

So happy it was (finally) a nice, sunny day!

And now, on to the dance pictures...

Getting ready to dance -- final touches.

Ayaka and I are ready to go!

First time out of six that we performed this special dance, which we learned especially for this event.

Coming together for the end.

Just like last year, there were many, many different teams from all over the prefecture and lots of different dances that were fun to watch.
But it was even more fun to participate. :)

Finally, here's the video Ayaka's sister took of our performance. Enjoy...