Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Frisbee Camp and Drinking With the Dragon King

Well it’s been a while since I’ve last written (gomen, I’m sorry). I’ve been surprisingly busy, and for a time I was without internet due to lightning strikes. Thankfully I’m now reconnected. My apartment continues to feel more and more like a home. I love the process of nesting in a new space. Converting someone else’s clutter into your organization and the slow but steady patch work filling of once empty wall space is more rewarding that expected.

Two weekends ago I went to a very flat farming area of Kochi (that was rather unremarkable as Japan standards go) to attend the Ultimate Frisbee Training Camp. There were perhaps 25 other JETs and Japanese Ultimate players from our team there. Knowing quite a bit about the game (thank you Robert Olson, David Wigger, and the Wooster Ultimate team) from my time in college I was asked to help train up the new comers in the ways of frisbee force. So forehand throws were attempted, field positioning was explained, and in total 7 games were played in the span of two days. It was fantastic! The frisbee team has a lot of really great folks on it. The newbies really picked up the game quickly, and everyone seemed to have a great time, although it was very sweaty unrelenting weather both days.

My classes continue to go well, even though most of my students are still quite shy. The typical response to a question from me is to remain still as though I was the T-Rex in Jurassic Park and they are doctor Allen Grant. “If you stay still he can’t see us! Don’t move Ian, DON’T MOVE!” Luckily there are a handful of outgoing “crazy kids” (this is their description of themselves not my words) who laugh, speak frequently, and also are a great help in class. Some even go so far as to translate difficult directions for the other students. I have a small amount of frustration with the class sizes. I have one class of 7 and one of 3 or 4, and then four classes of 30 plus. The small classes go fantastically. They all remain engaged the entire 50 minutes of class. The 30 plus classes are difficult, and it’s a bit like herding cats to get 100% participation. Hopefully that will come soon. My JTE’s remain fantastic resources and are quickly becoming good friends. Sakamoto Sensei is my main JTE and she and I have developed a very light-hearted and humorous relationship that is quite refreshing to see in a Japanese friend. There are some issues with her and I both being new teachers. Many of the students are used to her predecessors team teaching methods of translating most of what Rachel or the other older JETs in Susaki said. We have been trying to force the students to depend less on translation and practice English listening more, however . . . it remains to be seen if that is working. There is a frustrating habit for most Japanese students of saying they understand when they really don’t. I typically explain a lesson then ask if they understand, and am met by smiles and affirmative nods . . . only to find out later that the students are running to other teachers saying they don’t understand me. Will be working on that.

Last weekend I hiked Kajigamori near Kochi City. It was beyond gorgeous! The hike begins with a waterfall whose name translates to “Waterfall of the Dragon King”. It’s customary to drink from the various streams and waterfalls for good luck as you climb the mountains. The water was sweet, the air cool, and the cedar forests were verdant. The climb begins with a steep scramble straight up over loose stones covered in moss. After a good bit, the mountain opens up and the views begin. Once atop (though slightly hazy when we climb) the view is astonishing. I know not why Buddha’s always seem to find homes atop the mountains of Japan, but they inherently add a level of reverence and respect for the effort you just put into scaling the summit (no matter the size). Unfortunately, the American Army decided to place some large antenna arrays atop Kajigamori. In a sense they are equally impressive and simultaneously offensive. The angular, cold, and obtrusive steel of man made towers surrounded by red and white signs and barbed wire dropped atop the rolling green everything sprawled before you. Makes you think at least.

We descended via the 1000 step course. This was fast in comparison to the vertical climb up, and ran us past many waterfalls. All in all it was a fantastic weekend. I must apologize for the time it has taken to finally get this post edited and up. I’m quite behind on my blogings, but hopefully this will satiate those of you frustrated by my relative Internet silence. More to come as always.

Hope everyone at home is doing well. ALSO, should any of you have any burning questions about daily life in Japan, questions on Japan in general, or interests you think I should pursue please post them as comments! I will do my best to answer, or do any of your questions and suggestions.

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