Saturday, June 28, 2008

Party at Maehama Beach

Oh what a day today--Saturday. No alarm to wake me up for school, slept until I felt refreshed. I blame myself for staying up so late on school days (ahem 12 or 1 AM).

Mom says we're going for a drive around Miyakojima (Miyako Island) and visit Kurimajima (Kurima Island) on the way at around 1 PM after lunch. On the way, she'll drop me off at Maehama beach for a class party that was decided on my first day of school upon my coming to Miyako. Along with that party is also for Ruriko-sensei (るり子先生), who came to Miyako from Osaka way up in Honshu. She's undergoing training to become teacher right now.

1 PM passes and we're on our way around Miyako. My family said they were going to show me the sunflower fields and along the way, I hear an upbeat song (seems rather fairly new) called "Life" by キマグレン (Kimaguren) on the radio--this was about the 5th time I heard this since I came to Miyakojima.

Drinking (jasmine?) tea and listening to the radio in a pleasant car cooled by air conditioning, we finally arrive at the fields on the outskirts of the city urban areas. (The whole island's the city haha)
We exit our car with almost a "shockwave" of heat that just hits us when we open the car door.

I could sit on top of these and perhaps even lay down for an afternoon nap. Oh wait it's hot and there's no shade.

Long road! (Sunflower field is right, outside of the picture)

After doing nothing but staring in awe, we went back into the car and go back on the highway to Kurimajima. The roads outside the urban areas in Miyakojima are blanketed by trees or crops so much that you feel like you're in the middle of the island but turns out you're right next to the shore, it's just the plants that are covering the beaches. I found a better picture of what I mean when we arrived on Kurima Island, take a look for yourself.


But a little zooming out...

See the road on the bottom?

Nonetheless, I take pictures of the ocean and the bridge connecting Miyakojima and Kurimajima.

Now my dad wants to take me to Maehama beach for the class party. Only except, it's a little too early. We wait in the car with lovely J-Pop music and it rains HARD and sudden. :O

But as sudden as it came, it disappeared in a flash. We wait and it's 3 PM (the time where the party is supposed to start) only to see other people with moterbikes dangerously riding around in the parking lot until my mom spots a girl and asks me if I knew her. But with my bad eyes (Aside: those of you in my AP Biology class, this was why I was squinting at the powerpoints. I am NOT confused, angry, or anything. I just can't see), I couldn't see well and I thought it'd be safe to say "No I don't. Probably." Then all of the sudden I see Ongawa-sensei. Yawning to get tears in my eyes so that I can see better, it's actually him. He's dressed EXTREMELY casual, after getting used to seeing him with a formal shirt, black pants and a tie at school.

"あっ、先生だ!" / Ah! Sensei da! (Hey, it's sensei!)

I dash out of my car, say "Itte kimasu!" (I'm going!) to my parents and run over to sensei unloading some stuff out of his car. Helping him was Kaho, a student in 3-1 class that I sit next to in English Oral class. I greet them and sensei tells me the party's on top of the hill. I go up to see more students.

The same day and hour. Look how fast the clouds cleared. I meet Yuka and Mako sitting on a blanket chatting and invite myself in. You can see the boys already meeting up at the pier. The girls, Yuka and Mako, ask if I'm swimming, I told them of course and went into the men's room to change. Upon entry I see where the class has placed their bags of clothes, next to it lie large bags of fireworks (WOW)--the ones that would be illegal over back in the States. I change and quickly ask Yuka for some lotion (shame on me) and she without hesitation offers me it. I finish applying lotion and head down to the pier where the boys were doing flips into the water.

There were about 7-10 boys all at the pier. On the ledge, ready to jump stands Naoya with a scared face, with his back facing the water. His friends dare him to jump, he tells them "Chotto matte" (wait a sec) and after waiting for so long, his friends make gestures as if they were going to push him over. He at lasts finally jumps but in a split second changes his mind--too late. He falls and instead of doing a flip does almost what seems a weird dance and lands in the water. He comes up and laughs and everyone joins. Some couple guys do flips and spends the hour jumping. I recall doing only a few forward sumersaults and a few dives along with the boys.

Tired of jumping they decide to swim and do hand stands or jump of another's back in the ocean, while others decide to climb on an unknown owner's jetski (I joined along). Within minutes came the owner telling us to get off (apparently, angry) and they jumped off.

I then played in the sand, and Taiki sits with me for a minute before joining the boys again.

I'm bored at this point. So instead, I join the girls--Haruna, Tomomi, Misaki and Haruka--who were playing soccer after being invited in. Fun times, of course I didn't kick hard, but they were better than I thought and I'd say got me really good in the game.

I go back into the sand after a tiring game and wanting to do something in which it'll be a good display, I drew--no, sculted--a sand portrait of Ongawa-sensei. Finding a perfect spot to do so wasn't easy. Too close to the ocean meant it being swept away by the tide, while too far away had sand too dry to work with. I instead took some measures to avoid my 'going-to-be' sculpture from being washed away by making dams and a big sand wall.

As I was making the wall, I happened to see Keichi being buried by some girls, apparently giving him some woman body parts made out of sand.

Mako, Yuuki and Yuka burying Keichi (I can't identify who's behind Mako)

Finally I had a place to work with. Flattening the sand, scultuping in detail with a stick and after about a good 2 or 3 hours, I came up with this result.

I see Haruna walking with Haruka up on the hill where the barbeque was taking place. I shout to them to ask for sensei to come down and see, for I cannot trust the tide or any children around me. They asked sensei and sensei told him that he was busy with the food and cannot come down. So instead, I'm left with the only option to run up to the hill, find my camera in the men's room and run back down to take a picture to forever preserve it. I dash like hell up and down and finally took the picture, shown above.

After the pictures, I head back up to the hill to show Ruriko and Ongawa-sensei the pictures and they have a good laugh. We eat chips and fried noodles while drinking milk tea under with the sunset changing the colors of the sky.

Miyako Sunset

A 3-nen-sei student (3rd year student) called me over for a talk and the next thing you know I'm in a group. Ruriko sensei even joins :D

Kurimajima Bridge at night

After sundown, fireworks time! (Remember those bags lying in the men's room?)

Sparkler. I recorded too late. :P (8 sec video)

Here was a rocket. You can hear the girls shouting "Kowai" meaning "scary". (Not 'Kawaii', 'kowai')

Mai playing with two sparklers

Posing (taken with longer shutter speed)

Taiki, Haruka, Haruna (Fukuzato) and Mai (read from left to right) with sparklers.

These things lighted up the beach.

The color gives almost a joyful mood every time I look back at these pictures.

Last picture, with everyone in the 3-1 class. I look like some guy in the 80's with my hair blown back, or perhaps some dude on Baywatch.

On the trip home, my mom told me it lasted a little too long and Bunta (little brother) needed to use the toilet, so she took him to the lady's room up the hill. He cried it was too dark but my mom said "Ganbare!" ('Try your best!' LOL).

Something else funny I found was I also happened to see a sign in Japanese that I asked my mom about it. She told me it was about watching your speed (especially on these dark roads with crops around with the high risk of an accident at an intersection). I asked her if she was sure and she replied "あたし、日本人だよ." ("I'm a Japanese person, you know"). A snicker starts out and turns into a bakushou! (loud laugh)

I shower all the sand off and I'm dead tired by the end of the day. My legs were still sore from that Miyako Rock Festival (a few days back, remember?) after dancing and jumping too hard.

Friday, June 27, 2008

I love to draw. Make that doodling.

No taking notes today for most classes. Same with Math. The students are preparing for their finals before Summer Break starts.
Seems like our teacher, Ongawa-sensei, posted this up in the class bulletin. :) This was taken all the way from my seat to the front with my camera's digital zoon (so sorry for the quality):

If you really want to see it, I found the online version:

I drew Naoya on the board after Asaho-sensei's English class (2nd period). If I recall correctly he wasn't present on this day so we had a worksheet to work on.

We run off to the Taikan (Gym) for P.E. and went right to Chemistry class after that.
On one of the worksheets handed out by our Chemistry teacher, it was on used paper. On the other side of the worksheet was apparently an unused English assignment. I dedicate this to my parents since they believe GPA is the ONLY thing that matters for college admissions.

Remember this picture? I add some more details to it. He loves sleeping so I thought some effects might match him well. I also drew Ongawa-sensei (on the front main chalkboard). Class loved it and sensei called it "Jyozu" (Skillful).

Here's a side shot comparison. Naoya's on the right (despite Shouta [left] who looks like Naoya). Doesn't he look sleepy?? :D

I decided to draw Sensei :) Seems a little too serious so....


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Homework and Fooling Around

Let's start with the fun stuff. That's why you're probably reading this right?

I believe this picture was during my Japanese Composition class. Students who were finished with their classwork (or who didn't want to do anything) were chatting around a bit. I, like always, have no mandatory homework (since I don't understand) so joined in with the fun. Okay, I lied. I really finished my work and had fun afterwards.

While Ongawa-sensei was talking with some students, I wrote this behind him and the intention was simply to see if he would notice it at all.

マスター先生 / Master Sensei

Yeah he noticed it. :)

2 periods later in Home Economics, we were still having student teachers that were taking the teacher's place because they were training to become certified teachers. Man that lesson was crazy! All the kanji (Chinese characters in the Japanese writing system) really got on my nerves. I had trouble seeing the board and had to squint like George Bush when he does his outside speeches. Despite the hardships, I managed to take notes--with some ugly kanji characters.

But it was readable, says the others. :| The left page is the notes I've taken in my Japanese Composition Class last 2 periods ago.

I might as well show you my notes from the 24th.

See my English homework on top? I didn't do it at home so I did it before he got to checking my homework while he was checking everyone else's. I finished and he said, "Hayai!" (damn fast!--little slang I added in there).

Apology for Blog Subscribers


(Even though this post is posted as June 26th, 2008, it is really August 18th at the time of this post. I label my blogs with the date according to the date I've taken my pictures so that their dates can easily be determined)

I sincerely apologize for those who have been to my blog eagerly wanting to know what's life like in Japan for me. I have stopped posting after my birthday because time was taking too much time out with me and my family, and this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me. It takes about 2 hours average to make a single post, and that was too much for me.

Now that I have some free time (as my exchange program is done at the time of this post), I will continue to provide you with my experience based on pictures. I really forgot most of what happened and I regret not keeping a log of at least the things that I enjoyed, but at least I have a story to tell with my pictures that I've taken. Thus, the quality of the posts after this point will not as be as detailed as the posts before this--they'll be more like 'highlights'.

Sorry for the inconvenience!

(I have had 1,000 hits a week, now it's like 80 a week.)

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

My Birthday ("Sweet" 16)!

Blog update: 5 posts will appear in one page from now on. If you wish to view older posts, you may do so by clicking "Older Posts".

If you cannot play the videos,
click on the blog title (in orange, "My Birthday...." above this message).

Tuesday, June 25, 2008 (2008年6月25日[
School today was awesome. My best friends and some of my teachers remembered my birthday and said "Happy Birthday" to me (including お誕生日おめでとう Otanjyobi Omedetou--Happy B-day in Japanese).

People walking to school, picture taken from the 2nd balcony

I had quite some fun with Microsoft Powerpoint in 'Information C' class (about computers).

Chemistry! -- In Japanese (this was an assignment)

They love my English assignments. :)

Messing with Haruna's hair. Notice my Spongebob-like laugh at the end.

The girls continue to write stuff about Haruna on her desk. (Title: Haruna's Song) You can ask me personally for a translation if you like.

Keichi doesn't know I'm recording him until I move in. He tells me to stop :)
(Aside: He's calling for Naoya)

At the end of the day, I return home from school today and enter the house accompanied with some small exploding bangs. Confetti falls on my head and I brush it off, Kana sits at the stairs and snaps a picture of me while I'm standing in the 玄関 Genkan (the place where the Japanese take off their shoes and put them). I'm sweating, hot from the walk home and though suprised, I'm not as excited as they think I was despite the ありがとう Arigatou (Thank you) I said for the surprise. I head straight to the shower (lol). Upon finishing, I help out a bit with the arranging and wait for guests to arrive--friends of Yuki-san from Tokyo.

6 (PM) o'clock and they finally come while I'm watching a hilarious Japanese TV show. You have GOT to see this amazing bear (sorry it's 3 parts):

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

After, they showed the longest ramen name. See that black text? That's the NAME of the ramen. In the restaurant, since it's so long, they post the name on the ceiling, and the name goes from one wall to the wall on the other side. (I was supposed to record but the camera instead took a picture)

Another skit. It's still funny though.

They talk and we don't begin to celebrate until 7:15pm, where I blew out the flames on the melting candles on the chocolate cake. (Aside: Yuki-san said she didn't know what I liked so she chose her favorite). They give me a present, something wrapped in wrapping paper (duh.) and I put it aside. They ask me why won't I open it now, and I reply that isn't it rude to do so? They seem baffled at who told me this, and I *ahem* said YFU USA said so. They said it's not rude, and explain to me that opening only presents with money inside is considered rude. I open it and it's something I wished for a long time--a Yukata (= summer kimono) :) We feast and talk until 1 AM in the morning. Man I loved Karitomo's laugh--it's high pitched and is extremely contagious. Yuki-san gets drunk (I tell her not to and make jokes at her) from the beer and I'm craving to get to bed and close my eyes.

Blowing the candles

Picture with host family

With everyone else--Yukichi's taking the picture

My cake :) (おたんじょうびおめでとう = Happy Birthday)

My tray of food. The best meal ever. (Notice the Vietnamese spring rolls)

All the food. Chicken's included too!

My Yukata :)

This was my 3rd party for my 16th birthday (1 in America with my real family before I left for Japan, 1 in my homeroom class with my classmates near the end of the school day). I'll be having a 4th one (for my oncoming to Japan) at Maehama beach on Saturday.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Days Before My Birthday

I do apologize for the long wait in my posts on how it's going in Japan. I've been studying Japanese (including memorizing kanji), doing my AP Calculus work I brought over, confused on when the due date of my report regarding about my homestay to YFU Japan and the Japanese Embassy, and lots of minor stuff. Therefore, this post will be made from pure memory from the pictures taken.

Sunday, June 22, 2008 (2008年6月22日)
Waking up early in the morning (not really), my host mom took me over to Yukichi's (my host father's) mother and father. They both seem really lovely, especially my (host) grandpa--despite his old age-- still jokes like a young adult, he's extremely lively. My grandma was more of the caring type, always trying doing things that would make me comfortable. We sit down at the dinner table and they offer me some Niigata-ken (Niigata Prefecture) style spicy snack (it was some seeds). Tasty. We talk about Japan (geography included haha) and how my homestay is and in the end, watch some videos on the Okinawan Odori (dance) where Natsuko performed on stage.

We went outside and grandpa (1st left) catches bugs on trees--the really noisy ones--as his hobbies. Some neighborhood kids we don't know come along and join.

After, it's off to Mos Burger (モスバーガー), the well known burger shop in Downtown Miyako, to eat our afternoon meal. On the way, we stop by a Ginko (bank) so I can exchange my 100 US dollars into 106 Japanese Yen. During the transaction, the clerk whispers to Yuki-san (host mom) while pointing at me, asking if I was the "American" from reading the newspapers. She nods with a smile and we continue to Mos Burger.

Downtown Miyakojima - There seems to have been a festival earlier

The sliding doors open automatically and I'm hushed by a gust of cool, conditioned air from the building. Wait, who's that? It's Haruka, one of my classmates, and her friends eating and talking at a table in the store. I smile and they giggle (I noticed almost every girl does this) and stare for a bit--like still not believing I'm an American. My host mom asks me what I want, and I ask for Teriyaki burger and melon soda for my drink. We wait about 15 minutes at our table in the back, with the girls occasionally glancing over, slapping those annoying mosquitoes that we see. The food comes, and we eat. WOW, TASTY. Nothing compared to In-n-Out, Burger King and McDonalds, MUCH better. This was not an American burger, but a Japanese one, served with Holland-style french fries. We eat with delight for 20 minutes and joke around and leave. Haruka is still chatting with her friends.

We get back in our car that's in a high-tech parking garage that stores your car underground. You park your car in a spot, and a machine puts it somewhere to save space.

Picking up Kana

Next, Yuki-san and Kana (from the Miyako Rock Fest.) decide to take me to a spot in Miyako--I never asked for the name. You can see the whole island from the top, extremely beautiful. We played around with Bunta and Natsuko for about 1 or 2 hours on the swings and a huge lion where you can climb on top/inside and slide down a slide.

The ocean in view

I move my camera a little to the right, and here's the city view (that tower reminds me of Tokyo)

Look! I'm flying 50 feet off the ground!

Following we head to Maehama beach, where my party a few days later from my homeroom class will be held, to see the beach. It's my first time seeing a beach in Miyako, and it's comparable to Hawaii.

Road to Maehama beach



Kana and Natsuko play around

I write "Atsui" in the sand, meaning 'HOT'.

In the end, we return home and I finally see the first Japanese flag flying over the island. It's flying half-mast because today was an Okinawan holiday--Irei no Hi (慰霊の日), the Day of Comforting the Spirits.

Monday, June 24, 2008 (2008年6月24日 [月])
It's school again. Here are some interesting things that happened today:

Takuma practices reading his English :) Well done! (Pachi pachi!)

While waiting for a checkup from the nurse's office, the boys play around with some toilet paper during the waiting in line.

Look at the board.

In Chemistry class today. I decided to put a reply (don't worry--it's erased now)

Naoya dances (taken from a famous comedy show on [Japan] TV) -- part one

Part two