Friday, January 30, 2009

A Magic Show!

Two days ago the 幼稚園 (kindergarten) teachers at Zamami asked me to do a magic show today for the celebration of January birthdays. So.. uh, how do I do magic? Google, of course.

["this is your card, right?"]

My first trick was to pour some water into a mug, cover it with the magic handkerchief, then turn the mug over and have two ice cubes fall out. Second and third were card tricks, one with a stacked deck and the other with a sleight of hand that made me really nervous (but I pulled it off). Fourth I rolled up a one and two-dollar bill that were overlapping and when I unrolled them, they'd switched places. And lastly, I coordinated with one of the teachers to guess which of the seven objects on the table the student had chosen while I was out of the room. It all worked perfectly and now I want to do a little more magic trick investigation for further shows.

[the 3/4-year-olds in the first row, then 5-year-olds, then 6-year-olds with the birthday students wearing crowns]

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Gym Lights

Do you ever wonder how burned out lights in gymnasiums are replaced? (Of course you do...) I always thought it was with lifts, but I found out otherwise yesterday.

The fixtures have motors that lower the lights to the floor with small-diameter cables. It's so ingenious! What happens when the motors don't work?

[the bulbs are $75/apiece]

Sunday, January 25, 2009

What I Already Knew

I took two weeks off from running and then did 5k, 5k, 11k, and 5k Tues-Fri this past week. My knee (and now left ankle) has still been bothering me a bit. So I got the go-ahead from the Zamami clinic doctor to go to Naha for further examination.

The Naha sports clinic was open Saturday morning and I had to plan well as that was my only window. I got bad directions from 3 of 5 people and it took me 40 minutes to go the mere one block distance from my friend's apartment. I had an x-ray at 10:30am and things seemed on track, until I went in to see the doctor. He was reported to not speak English, but to understand it written. But I guess I got the wrong doctor because neither did he understand the page I'd typed about my problem nor did he understand anything I said. I fumed internally as I realized the appointment was a waste of my time. All I got out of it was that he said my joints were mechanically sound, I should stretch, and I should stop running. His further advice was to see an English-speaking doctor up north.

I got ahold of my Japanese friend, who I'd planned to spend the afternoon with, and she agreed to go with me to the other clinic. I got x-rays again because the morning clinic wouldn't give them to me. This doctor also talked a lot, but Eri was able to tell me what he said. Which wasn't very helpful. He said my joints were sound and I needed to stretch more.

So after a trip to Naha I'm pretty much in the same position I was before, except now some people with Harvard medical degrees told me to stretch more.

Eri claimed her rain check this morning and we went to the Okinawa Peace Memorial Park, then out to lunch at an awesome Thai restaurant with a great view.

[There are tons of granite panels in an amphitheater formation, all with names of people who died in Okinawa during the war. There were a lot of names...]

[me and curry]

[Eri told me not to put a picture of her on the blog, but I thought this was a nice one]

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Monday, January 19, 2009

Kerama Islands Basketball Tournament

After heavy recruitment for this year’s basketball tournament I decided to play with Geruma because they asked me first and, in my mind, had the best chance of knocking off Zamami 青年会 (young men’s association), who wins everything.

We crushed Zamami’s old men’s team in the first game, then miraculously beat Zamami 青年会 in the second game by six points, and beat Aka 青年会 in the third game by just three points. I scored 30 points in the first game and in the last singlehandedly opened the game with an 11-2 run for my team in the first three minutes.

[Geruma's women's team en route to their championship. Ayano, the English teacher, is preparing to throw up a long air ball]

Since we’d reached the top of the bracket I thought we’d just won the championship, but it turned out we had only earned our place in the game against the winner of the loser’s bracket. This was a dumb system, as we’d already beaten everybody.

We had to play Zamami 青年会 again and before it started, I’d mostly written the game off. Zamami 青年会, while lacking the height of our team, has much greater depth and thus no useless players on the floor (all other teams offer this disadvantage). Plus they practice together for weeks and have plays.

But our team gelled well and opened the game up 16-2 and never looked back. Zamami got desperate and began fouling to send us to the free-throw line every time. One guy also crushed me on a layup and got a technical foul for it (I was later told if that hit had happened to a Japanese guy there surely would've been a fight.. so thankfully I am peaceful). I missed both the free throws because I was in a daze. They also began heavy full-court press, but since I’ve been practicing on Zamami the last two weeks, I prepared the Geruma team for this and we scored more points by having a press-breaking strategy. We were nearly flawless in winning by about 14 points.

[Geruma swept both the men's and women's championships. The woman to my left and I are holding our MVP trophies. A pretty amazing feat for an island of just 69 people!]

An interesting strategy that developed out of having three tall rebounders was to give the ball to our useless guy, who would throw up (and badly miss) a three-pointer. We would rebound and then make the easy short basket.

During the last game there was a play where I had to dive into the crowd to save the ball. I landed on a lady and sprained her wrist. Afterwards I was really apologetic, but she was still pretty angry so I just stayed away. Today I brought her a loaf of cinnamon bread as reconciliation. I told the English teacher, Ayano, that it was for the woman I hurt during the fall. She said, “Which woman, the one with the sprained wrist or the one with the hurt nose?” So I had to cut the loaf in half.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Lessons in Baking

Baking has become a centerpiece of my English teaching. It comes highly requested and this week is the fifth lesson (pizza is scheduled next week and cinnamon bread the following week). I'm not very good at actually incorporating English learning, but I'm good at the baking part. This week we tried a twist (that is a brilliant pun, by the way) on my cinnamon bread recipe with all three grades of Aka junior high. It was a good idea, until we got to the third class (8th graders) and their only job was to watch the finished product rise and then put it in the oven. Oh well, they still got to eat.

[Spreading the cinnamon sugar is a great opportunity for micromanagement, especially when your mother is overseeing. We had five different parents come to watch]

[Ready for the oven]

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Don't Fret, They'll Figure It Out

Sometime last year I stopped trying to get the 5/6th grade boys and girls to integrate during class. I realized, finally, that this a phase and there's no need for me to try to overcome it. In a few years, they'll like each other. It'll happen.

Same for elementary grammar and spelling. The kids are all happily exclaiming to me this weekend that they are cole (cold, they mean, because it's about 57F). I don't bother interrupting their willingness to speak English by correcting them. They've got the concept, they'll figure out the details later.

Here's something else I noticed in the window panes of the 3rd grade classroom:

[it's the year of the ox/cow]

Since there is little spacing in Japanese text (a nightmare for somebody trying to learn how to read it), the kids naturally leave out the spacing when writing with roman characters. Also, words can continue from one line to the next without a hyphen in Japanese. So why not English, too?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Monday, January 5, 2009

Expanding My 'What I Can Make' Repertoire

Tonight I made [healthy-ish] doughnuts! From a Japanese recipe! Though I had to get a little help on the method of cooking. I translated the kanji and came up with hot, fox, and color. Turns out I was right - I was to cook them until their color turned to that of a fox. A Japanese fox, not an arctic one (my sassy retort to the ridiculousness of using a fox as a color marker).

Running Log 12/29 - 1/4/2009

12/29 off (unscheduled but taken due to knee pain)
12/30 14k 1:14.20 (scheduled 16k)
12/31 off (unscheduled)
1/1 6k 28.58
1/2 off
1/3 13k 1:06.19 (scheduled 16k)
1/4 4k 22.47 (scheduled 32k)

This was a dark week. The knee pain I experienced at the end of last week returned with a vengeance and for the first time ever I had to walk home part-way through my run (twice).

I did some research and it appears I have the aptly named "runner's knee." Pain behind the kneecap, especially on downhills and when resting with the knee bent. Caused by irritation to the cartilage on one side of the kneecap. Maybe from overpronating, who knows. Solution is lots of rest. I will take this week off, though I can't afford to. I don't know what this means for my winter races, but it's probably not good.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Eggs, Milk, and Flour

I went to the store this morning to pick up a few things to make a recipe my mom sent: apple stuffed pancakes. I thought I'd point out the sizes and prices of these basic ingredients.

The eggs always come in groups of ten and are packed in plastic. They cost 250 yen (for large), or about $2.75. They're closer to 200 yen in Naha. The milk comes in a one liter box. In the picture is nonfat milk costing 260 yen, or about $2.90. In Naha it's about 220 yen. The flour is all-purpose and comes in a one kilogram (2.2 pounds) bag. At the Zamami store it costs 263 yen, or about $2.90. Bread flour is 326 yen here. In Naha the prices run about 200 yen and 270 yen, respectively.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

My 2008 Year of Pictures

This is a good time of year to review 2008 through photos. I recommend msnbc's The Year in Pictures, the New York Times's 2008 - The Year in Pictures, or Time's Top Ten Photos of 2008.

Here are some of my favorite photos of 2008: