Tuesday, August 31, 2010


I can't remember half of the Christmases from the last twelve years, but I can remember nearly all of my birthdays.  There's been some pretty interesting stories mixed in there and today should hopefully stick in my memory as well. I went to work this morning amid all sorts of typhoon warnings and canceled boats. At 9:30am, even though there was no wind to speak of, they told me to go home.  It took until tonight for the real typhoon to get here and it hasn't been that bad for me (compared to my friends Cliff and Vaughn, who were both under the eye of the storm and are both currently without power).  I'm a little bit west of the lower portion of Okinawa in this graphic:

It's becoming a habit of mine to list some facts in my birthday posts, so here goes:

Birthday height, 2010: 181cm
Birthday weight, 2010: 83kg (183lbs)
Net worth, 2010: loaded
Taxes paid to any government in 2010: 0
Years until I can retire: I'm just working because I like it

I've just wrapped up my third year and will be entering my fourth school year tomorrow.  The magic of arriving at a new place and exploring the location, the language, and the culture wore off awhile ago.  I'm still enamored with a couple of those, but the novelty is gone.  It's my life to send and receive Japanese emails with locals and to eat my lunch with chopsticks every day.  I like the sashimi and the festivities, but I have no interest in miso soup or community meetings.

In the last year my accomplishments are less a list, more abstract.  Yes, I caught my two marlin, and a few other smaller fish from a kayak.  I ran a PR at Tokyo (and disciplined myself into a two-month injury in the process).  But I also had a relationship with a girl, which added an 'adult' element to my life that I haven't had in awhile.  I also deepened my friendships with a couple of people in my Okinawa English teacher group.  I love the transient life that I had before Japan, but relationships and stronger friendships are a nice benefit of staying in one place for awhile.

My Japanese speaking ability is as terrible as ever, but this year I decided to give up on actively pursuing it.  It's a dark cloud that hangs over my head and studying only brings me further down.  So I've decided to invest that study/worry time into something more productive for my future: learning software.  I've done some tutorials for Adobe Illustrator and Dreamweaver (and made a website!).   Photoshop is next en route to getting a stronger grasp on my photography post-processing.  Hopefully by next year the pictures I post to the blog will have gone from 'straight-out-of-the-camera' to 'wow!'

Friday, August 27, 2010

Zamami English Guide [dot com]

I get paid to do something nobody else on this island can do.  But it's still pretty easy for me.  It's a fun job and I do my job, but I have a fair bit of excess time and sometimes feel guilty about being paid so well to do something that is so easy for me.

So in an effort to do something for the wider community utilizing my scarce resource, I hatched a plan to build an English website to help foreigners plan their trips here.  I've spent much of this summer break going through my photo archives, then making trips around the islands to gather the pictures I didn't yet have.  I've typed up descriptions of everything and gathered pricing for all the restaurants and most of the hotels with English-speaking staff.  The project was more work than I'd anticipated, but not frustratingly so.  With the help of my friend Wren, I was able to get it online last week.

Along the way I've learned to build a website, albeit through a software program.  You'll see that my layout is simple (on purpose) and in some places boring (because I don't know how to make it exciting yet). But that and the few remaining missing pictures are my only caveats.  Please go take a look and get back to me on how I can make it better!  (If you have better layout ideas for the "Places To Stay" and "Restaurants" pages, please tell me.)


Monday, August 23, 2010

Mariko and Isako

I had my first big gathering of JETs and friends on Zamami this weekend.  The usual summer trip to a neighboring island was canceled, so I jumped on the opportunity to invite everybody out to see Zamami Matsuri (festival) on Saturday night.  The weather was nice, everybody seemed to have fun, and the local economy was thankful for their visit.  In all I think there were 33 people associated with me who came out for the weekend.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Exchange Students and Jesus

Our sister city students - from Tsumagoi, Gunma prefecture - came for just 24 hours yesterday, their trip limited by earlier boat cancellations due to a passing tropical storm.  We took them on a kayak trip yesterday afternoon.

I was planning to paddle along in my ongoing 'sit-in' kayak experiment, but there was one poor extra girl who didn't fit into a student pair.  She ended up being awesome and handled the "uh-oh, I have to paddle out to that island with a foreign English teacher!?" experience well, even treating me to super polite Japanese.

The small island we paddled to has a sandy incline where people often spell out love messages or sign their names with flat, black rocks.  I was dismayed to see that some proselytizing Christians had gotten ahold of the rocks.  I think it had probably taken them a long time to put this message and huge cross together:

But it only took me four minutes to dismantle it:

Friday, August 6, 2010

On Base!

We all want to get on a military base for access to cheap American products.  It took me three years, but I finally made it this week.  I didn't have permission to get into the commissary, but the awesome lady I was with asked the pass-checker-lady for a reprieve and I got through!  Unfortunately I didn't have a big backpack along on the trip, so I had to be conscious of weight (which is why there aren't ten jars of natural peanut butter there). 

Thursday, August 5, 2010

How Long Are Pregnancies?

At the marlin party the other night, our server was pregnant.  We all know her, as she originally moved to Zamami to work for the marlin captain, then met her future husband on Zamami.

I asked when she was due and she said was six months into the pregnancy, so she had four to go.  I said, "Wait!  Six plus four is ten!  But babies only take nine months!"  The seven people there all jumped in and told me, in an 'everybody knows this' tone, that babies take ten months and ten days.

This is clearly not something I'm an expert on, but I really thought that babies took nine months.  I realize that some months have fewer days, but that doesn't account for the 40 day difference. I didn't really know what to say so I ended it jokingly saying that American babies only take nine months.

I know I could Google this, but I thought it'd be more fun to throw it on the blog.  How long do babies take?

Edit: Thanks to Julie in the comments for pointing out this very timely other blog post on the issue.  It appears that Japanese count their pregnancy months based on the lunar calendar, which makes each month a 4-week month.  Pregnancies are 40 weeks, so divide that by 4-week months and you get ten months!  (The problem, of course, is that last night when the girl was calculating her due date she was using calendar months.  Also, I wonder where the extra 10 days are coming from?  Anyway, thanks Julie!)

Monday, August 2, 2010

Two Days, Four Marlin

I had a going-away party in Naha to attend on Sunday night and planned to renew my visa on Monday. But as with any plans, they will be broken in case of a marlin fishing opportunity.  As will my rescheduled plans to go to Naha on Monday morning when the captain decides to go two days in a row. I'm getting dangerously close to losing my visa (I think it expires Wednesday) and going to jail, but the new plan is to go in tomorrow.

Yesterday we have five hits and landed two fish.  This video shows a rare - and especially awesome, considering the time gap between the two events - double hit.  Unfortunately one marlin got off, as usually happens.  It would've been fun if he hadn't, though, since I was the only spare body on board (so I'd have to handline the fish in and spear him).  The fish were running in different directions, too, so the chances of landing them both would have been good.

[note how busy I am]

This video is of bringing the fish into the boat:

[the colors on my camera are still whacked out - still don't know why]

This first fish was 37kg.  I caught one later on (30 minutes fight time) that was 60kg (132lbs.).

[mine is on the left - my fourth marlin, 60kg]

Today we went out with the captain, me, and two girls.  We were 2/3 of the way through the first fish when Yukibo (captain) was teaching the other girl how to drive the boat.  He showed her how to put the engines in gear and go quickly forward.  This tightened the line and freaked the marlin out.  He started jumping and threw the hook.  Miki, who was fighting the fish, was none too happy about wasting all the effort she'd put in.

But she got the next fish, which took her an hour (and completely wore her out) and weighed in at 98kg (216lbs.).  For the first time I got the job of handlining the fish in for the last 5m.  It's dangerous, but also exhilirating, just you versus the marlin with no mechanical advantage during the most dangerous part of the fight.  I have to bring the marlin up and turn him on his side so the spearer can spear him through the gills.

[mine is in front - my fifth marlin, 45kg]

I got the last fish - 45kg (99lbs.) (about 20 minute fight).  It was notable because Miki and I traded places at the end so I could take the more manly duties of handlining or spearing.  As soon as Miki got in the fighting chair the fish took off and started jumping.  At one point he got mixed up and swam towards the boat, jumping en route.  He missed jumping into the boat by just 10 feet!  And I got it all on video, but the videos are really long so I need to learn to cut them down..

Time to go get my visa renewed..