Friday, May 28, 2010

New Wheels

With the help of Vaughn, I bought this bike from a military couple.  This $75 bike is a big step up from my two free bikes, both of which have non-functioning brakes, no ability to change gears, and wheels that are rusted to the frame (so in the case of a flat tire where the tube must be replaced, the bike is done).  As soon as I got this bike in my hands, I said "I should have done this two years ago."

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Dam at 100% Capacity

You might remember this picture of our dam from last September, when our water capacity was hovering around 7-8% (20 days of water).

We've received a TON of rain in the last couple months and as recently as last weekend we were sitting at 100% capacity.  I celebrated by letting the water run while doing the dishes.

[the grass is underwater!]

Saturday, May 22, 2010

School Diving

We a field trip this week.  All the elementary students went snorkeling while the junior high students went diving.  Being the only teacher who is certified, I was able to go along.  The school has an Olympus shock/waterproof camera so they sent it along with me for pictures.

We have a coral reef research center on Aka and they've reserved a small section of the ocean nearby for their research.  We went there to show the students what was going on underwater.  It also had the advantage of being just 10m deep.

[one of the research projects - I don't really know what was going on with it except that it was a closed system powered by solar energy under water!]

[knowing the students' excitement for learning under water was low, many of the dive guides resorted to blowing air rings]

[Watch the white fish.  I thought he was bluffing.  He actually bit my right index finger - fortunately he didn't have any teeth]

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

My Dehumidifier

It has been raining so much lately that this week the air has been extra heavy with humidity.  After some 70 straight hours of rain from Friday to Sunday night, I went to two school gyms on Monday and both floors were coated with moisture - enough to make you slip.

Here's a picture of my leather zorries.  Usually the footbeds are a color just slightly darker than the straps, but they're really soaking up the humidity right now:

Sunday, May 16, 2010

ツツジ (Rhododendron)

I always thought this was a lily, but Wikipedia Japan says it's a rhododendron.  They are plentiful (and wild!) around Okinawa in April and May.

Friday, May 14, 2010

A Slice of My Legacy

Last night at volleyball I congratulated a woman on her two daughters' completion of my English Passport program.  She said 'thank you' and warmly noted that she'd already seen the certificates I'd presented to her daughters earlier that morning.  She seemed quite pleased and even explained the program (as summarized by her daughters) to another mother.

One of my more selfish hopes when I leave here is that most people in the community will have been directly touched by me at some point.  I have solid friendships with many of the young people and even quite a few parents, but there are still many who only know me in a passing sense.  Everybody knows I'm the English teacher but I'm not sure what that means to them.

An accidental result of the English Passport program is that students who pass get nice certificates to take home.  Then their parents ask questions and hopefully the students say what was required to pass their level.  I envision the parents thinking 'ahh, yeah, the English program.. good, my student is learning something!'  And 'Wow, my six-year-old can count to 30 and say the days of the week in English?!!'  (and 'That teacher should get a raise!')

It's really fun to show the relevance of my being here by asking kids English questions in front of their parents, but in reality this is a rare occurrence.  The chances I have to reach the parents through the English Passport program are much greater.  Not to mention all the kids I'm reaching..

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Morning Flowers

Waking up early is the best.  Since the marathon injury, which I'm considering testing soon, I've been sleeping in.  This bugs me because the 'before 6:30am' hours are my favorites.  I took an early walk last week and grabbed this shot:

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Don't Use Pakula Hooks

Yesterday was my third marlin trip of the year.  We took off early (7am) and started fishing at 8am.  We picked up a mahi-mahi and wahoo on a double hook-up around 9am, then had a marlin hit at 11:10am.  It was my turn so I got on the rod.  There was a problem with the drag (resistance) setting on the hook-up and the fish took out almost all the line before we resolved it.  This meant I had a ton of line to reel back in, which I did in 30 minutes.

I got the fish within 10m of the boat, but he was still very alive and wasn't ready to be speared.  I loosened the drag a little to accommodate his strength and avoid a break if he decided to go crazy.  For ten minutes we went back-and-forth, me reeling him within 7m, then him running 20m, until finally the hook just popped out of his mouth and he swam away.

It doesn't take me to tell you that this was a terrible turn of events.  Much worse than losing a fish on the initial hook-up.  We had this one close to the boat, all the spears were prepared, we knew how big he was, and we had 40 minutes invested.  Take a look at the reason the hook came out:

[overlayed on the same size 'unbent' hook]

These hooks are Pakula hooks, purchased by me last year.  Pakula is a big name marlin lure company and we all trusted that their hooks would hold up.  :(

We picked up another big mahi at 1pm, but then had no hits for the last four hours.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Home Improvement

Since I'm going to be here another 1.5 years - maybe another 2.5 - I've decided to make some inexpensive upgrades to my daily life.  Living in an apartment not owned by me in a life where I realistically will pass along most of the apartment's possessions to my successor for free, there isn't incentive to invest in furnishings.  Not to mention I don't really want any furnishings.  But here's a list of recent improvements that haven't cost a lot to bring me a lot more happiness:

* I traded many loaves of homemade bread and an enlarged whale photo to a fellow JET in Naha for her memory foam futon which she wasn't using anymore.

*I snatched up a bunch of nice curtains for $15 from a girl who had to leave Japan suddenly.

[see-through curtains are awesome because they cut the view from outside but still let natural light through - and the big perk is they replaced my dreadful green curtains]

*I scored an awesome, comfortable office chair for $15 with the help of Mariko who picked it up for me from someone on base (thank you online classifieds!).

[Mariko complained that it was big.  She was right]

And this one doesn't fall into the "good deal" category, but it does fall into "happiness bringer".  Last weekend Vaughn and I made a little tour through Tsuboya, Naha's pottery district.  It was fun and it felt nice to finally buy something there for myself, and I didn't mind paying a little 'handmade premium' for it.  Now I just need some sashimi..

Thursday, May 6, 2010

遠足 (Field Trip)

I was fortunate enough to be on Geruma the week they had a field trip to the beach.  The weather wasn't so great and there weren't many fish to be caught, but this was the epitome of "a bad day fishing is better than a good day teaching."  I wasn't especially photographically inspired so I'll use the drab colors to further experiment with black and white:

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

More Wedding Pictures

Here are some of my Zamami friends who were also in attendance at the wedding:

[Miho and Ayumi]

[Megumi in eisa attire]

[Yukibo, the marlin boat captain]

[Miki, who caught a 177kg marlin last year (and hence has an open marriage proposal from me)]

[Okinawan touches]