Sunday, August 29, 2010

Kompasu is on the way!

I figured I'd blog a bit before work.  Mark and I are normalized for sure in Okinawa.  Mark has gone back to school and will get is Associates in Applied Science after he takes his last 2 classes!  We won't stop there.  Mark and I both will continue on with school.  I just may need to decide on what I want to do since I can not get a degree here on Early Childhood Development.  Sorry for all typo's, I am in a rush, sort of.

Most already know we have an Air Force ball coming up that I can not wait for.  I get to dress up and I am sooo ready.  The only bad thing is, American sizes in Okinawa are very hard to find.  I found one store though and I will be going back Wednesday I hope, after Typhoon Kompasu has blown through.

Typhoon Kompasu, who just recently was upgraded with it's typhoon status and given a name, is heading our way.  Kompasu will hit sometime tonight in the early morning hours and the forecast for tomorrow is TYPHOON.  Really, that was the weather forecast given on the Kadena forecast.  Not rain and wind, typhoon.  I was hoping for a day off, but our little island could be a super model it's so skinny that Kompasu will pass by quickly.  While it's here it will be picking up speed for a Cat 1 to a Cat 2 and heading on it's way to China.

In other weather related news.  Last week on the 18th or 19th of August I happened to be looking out while Mark was at the ATM and I saw a strange cloud.  I was watching it as it seemed to grow, get longer, this cloud was growing a tail.  Then it finally hit me that this funny little cloud could possibly be a tornado.  As I recalled the fact that we never had tornadoes in Hawai'i, I asked Mark to look at this cloud and then quickly decided I was in fact seeing things.  We went on about our day and had dinner with some of Mark's classmates at the Garlic House.  Where you can buy fried garlic cloves, I didn't though.  Yesterday, as we were discussing what was at the time, tropical storm 8, Mark had found out, and confirmed that I did in fact see the beginnings of a water spout that did touch down on the water that day I saw the mini funnel in action.  Very interesting watching a tornado form.  Like I always say, why go looking for crazy stuff to happen and get a story to tell, if you are blessed enough to live long on God's earth, your stories will happen.  I sure was not looking for the water spout.  So, for those of you that don't know, tornadoes are uncommon on islands, they rarely touch down on land, they are more common on the ocean where the water connects with the funnel cloud creating a water spout. 

Now, I better get to work before I'm late!

Sayonara from the Scott's!

Friday, August 20, 2010

4:28 AM on a Saurday morning and I am thinking of work...BLEH

For those of you who don't know, I have started my new job at Sunshine Montessori School as the Montessori Teacher in one of the primary classes.  It will probably be two classes by the time this year is said and done.  Chances are I will be assisting with Kindergarten as well.

I have received enough questions about my line of work, more so the fact that I work off base, that I have decided to dedicate this blog to my civilian base, and owned by an American. 

1st, Kadena AB (Air Base) can only house so many American soldiers and their families, i.e., why Mark and I live off base.  As a matter of fact, our next door neighbor is a young woman that is Mark's coworker and her husband.  (He makes a mean pot of chili and I beat them and Mark in Monopoly ha ha)  The same is said for military funded businesses such as, the BX, the "shops" our soldier's work in, and the CDC (military funded, but NOT free, childcare).  The military can try, but simply can not accommodate all of the people they employ here in Japan and elsewhere.

2nd, There is money to be made in childcare in cities, towns, and islands who are occupied by military bases, where sometimes both parents MUST work, like the many children whose parents are "dual military" (both parents working for Uncle Sam) or people want their children in actual PREschool and not in the CDC with is basically daycare.  Yes, people, my job, is not to be Mommy or Daddy, my school is not a daycare, I am not a babysitter, I do not cater to their every whim, I am a teacher, that teaches.  Yes, I comfort, and guide them to adjust, but in my school, we don't wipe noses, the child does.  I do not change diapers.  I prepare lessons for a young group of children and provide them with the know how to carry on tasks needed for every human being to function while also preparing them for academics in the years beyond the time they are there with me....okay, I am off my soap box.

Some people, both nationals (in this case the Japanese citizens) and Americans have decided to market on the fact that people love to make extensions of themselves, multiple times, in the form of your little bundles of joy. And of course (I know, I started with AND and I'm a teacher, get over it, it's my blog!) every parent wants nothing but the best for their mini mes.  Of course, like our churches, people love different teaching styles.  That is where my Montessori school comes in to play because we are not your traditional school and we are not for everybody.  For every 10 people I meet that coo over Montessori like I do, there is 1 that does not, and that is I am rambling, I said all that to say this.  Not all military children can or do their parents want their child to go to on base child care, the CDC.  There may be no room, parents may be ready for their children to be exposed to something other than being on base.  So, in my school, it is primarily American children.  As a matter of fact, out of my 18 kids, 3 are Japanese, with only 1 being "full" Japanese.  My coworkers are Japanese and Filipinas that have lived on Oki for a long time or were born in Oki.  My boss, though born in Korea, is American.  I am the only American teacher, as my boss has moved and she is out of the classroom.  American children are, how do I put this nicely, acclimated to different customs than Japanese children, there for, I was brought in to help my little fellow Americans understand that you need to listen to all of your elders. :)  I have also been trained in the Montessori philosophy for 2 years while my coworkers have not.  I am there for those reason, and I love the little keiki, of course!  You HAVE to love our job to work with kids, or at least understand them very well.  They are not little adults, they are children, they need to be able to have the freedom to be just that, cause goodness knows, it doesn't last forever.

Okay, now for the part you've all been waiting for, let's talk about the Japanese.
  1st off let me say, that in the defense of the Japanese, (if you perceive this story to be one in bad taste.) the people I am about to refer to were called Chinese by my coworker, Glenda, and she knows better than I do, but I heard the words, "Kawaii!!", which means cute for those who don't know, in Japanese.
 Now for the story of the week:  These women, who appeared to me to be Japanese, saw our little troop and of course, a group a kids playing on a play ground at a botanical garden outing is beyond cute, it's ULTRA CUTE!  So what do the young women want more than the shave ice and beer they were carrying around?  Pictures of and WITH the kids of course!  Now, understand this, many of you know they love to take pictures, and come on, we do too, they just have the....whatever you want to call ask if they can take pictures.  Now another thing that you shouldn't be surprised about if this ever happens to you, they like taking pictures WITH you at times.  So of course a child loving culture would want to take pictures with the cutest bunch of sweaty kiddos you ever did see.  So they ask to take pictures of and with the kids, and children, especially American children, being natural hams, (Not all are.)  after receiving their teacher's go ahead, and some even before, quickly comply with the request of the nice, young ladies.  Yeah I know, right, GO FIGURE!  They got the peace signs up and the kids got the peace signs up and the group of about 6 of them pass around cameras and the kids are cheesing and the ladies are cheesing and there are, "KAWAII's!!" everywhere.  I just watched with my American eyes and observed with my American mind and took it all in.  This is normal for the Japanese culture, and I was okay with it, and it made me smile.  It's nice because though we may be different we obviously have one thing in common, we can see the simple and complex beauty that is found when children are allowed to just be children.  My only problem, you may have just started drinking, but please keep the beer away from the children.  It's Japan, you can buy beer many of different places, but beer in hand with picture of kid....I am not comfortable with.  Though, she may have passed off the cup, I could not see as I was supervising another group.

PICTURE TIME! This is the Southeast Botanical Gardens close to Kadena's Gate 3
You would have thought there was a Chick Fil A near by.

Sayonara from the Scott's!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

I'm afraid of Americans. Japanese kindness. The confusion which is my skin.

Let's talk about driving in Japan first.  It's not new news to anyone forced up on my new posts on facebook, that I have recently obtained my Japanese driver's license.  I have a bad feeling that this has put a target on the Scott family's back for the USAF, but anyone who knows us knows we don't do anything, NICE and eeeasy,  (Okay I will refrain from inserting Tina Turner lyrics) and in order to work off base, I need this little white piece of paper.  Am I getting used to driving on the left side of the road? Yes, I am doing pretty well.  Some friends and family have asked, "How is it, do you like it?" To this I answer not at all for several reasons:
  •  I am now grabbing for everything on my left side, which is weird to me.
  • I literally feel like a brand new driver, never having done this before.
  • My fellow Americans can't drive and cut me off and pull in front of me, so I am very afraid of being in an accident.
  • Accidents are bad here because multiple drivers can be found at fault and even if my fellow American pulls out in front of me and I hit him, I could be at fault as well for not letting them out.  Accidents can get expensive fast!  Insurance and chances are the person you hit or hits you will file a claim against you.
  • The roads are made by mixing in coral from the ocean, this makes things very slick when it rains, which it does ALL the time, and though I and the Japanese slow down, my fellow Americans do what they do at home when it rains and snows....go faster.
I will have to get used to all these things, and I feel that I am, slowly, very slowly.  I start work on Monday, so that will be my 1st day driving solo without Mark to guide me and whistle like the the person in front of us can hear him if they cut me off.  If I have learned anything so far on the Okinawan roads it's drive it like you stole it and be patient and polite to the nationals, because that is what they are used to.

Speaking of being polite.  The Golden Rule really means something in Japan.  Oh if we could all turn Japanese.  Wait a minute, don't get all jumpy.  The Japanese are so polite and have everything down to an art.  I wish more of our customs were like theirs.  Though we might be gaijins (non Japanese, American trash), they smile a lot, make you feel welcome,  and take their time with all they do, it shows.  The service and the end product trump the speed of getting something done.  They do things the efficient way, whether you like it or not and I am okay with that.  For example, having a meal at a restaurant run by the Japanese:
      You come in and they seat you or you seat yourself and you are always greeted by more than one person that works at the restaurant. You are brought  little glasses of water, a pitcher to refill your glasses when you need to and there is no waiting for water, and menus.  The more the place is used to having English speaking customers, the better the chance is that they will read our minds and give us English menus without even having to ask for them.  You look over everything and when you are ready to order your food, you slip up your hand, and believe me they are waiting for it, and say, "Sumimasen".  Most of the time if you are not Japanese, you don't even have to do that.  They come over, take your order and review it with you.  It is normal to say the quantity after you order something.  Then they walk off or punch it in at the table and you just sit back and relax.  You are brought things to munch on depending where you are and when they bring you your food you also receive your ticket.  What if you want to order something else?  Put your hand up and they will just add it to your ticket most of the time by stapling another ticket on.  When you are finished, you go up front and pay for your meal, then leave.  You are never waiting for your waitress or waiter to bring you your ticket so you can leave.  Efficient!  Not just with food, with everything.  Machines or you don't do the work that a person could do for you because again, service and presentation are paramount...guess what, they still have full service gas stations!

I have finally given up on caring if people care or are just curious about the color of my skin and my heritage.  I have finally learned to lighten up.  *applause*  Now it still grinds my gears when I hear a person with a southern draw ask, "ARE YOU MIIIIXED?"  Cause you know it takes us 5 years to say our words.  I have realized, some people are just curious and are going to be.  It's not just Tennessee, the Okinawans sometimes care too.  I have had a couple of Japanese ladies I have had the honor of meeting ask me if I was from or part Okinawan, as well as some AF gentlemen.  I have realized that my kind of beige is the type that wherever I go, people think I am from that place.  American, we know you are not just white or black, Hawai'i, some kind of Asian or pacific islander, Okinawa, Okinawan and something else.  So whatever, as long as people aren't jerks about it, I will talk about it.  That is what helps us learn about one another, right?

Things I have learned in Japan:
The Japanese are polite, and it's beyond wonderful.
You better NOT wreck and goodness forbid you hit a national.
Everywhere you go you get the little hand towels before your meal.
There are many ways to say, "thank you."
There are seasonal dishes at restaurants that you may only see a certain time of year.
On a walk, some Japanese will greet you just as we would back home, so you better have your konichiwa or konbanwa ready!
The Japanese may coo over your child, saying hello, little tickles, even the men, this is normal.

Sayonara from the Scott's!

Festivals, Bathrooms, and Taco's not Mexican at all.

It's been over a week so I suppose I need to fill everyone in a bit more this time.  Don't worry, I will attempt to make it easy to skim over.  Even with the story I will be posting, I will leave something out and I will make sure to post on facebook if I do.

1.Tug O War
2.The John, The Loo, The Throne..
3. Taco Rice, bring your Tums
4. The sky is falling, the sky is falling

Tug of War, Japanese style.

Every 12 years in Chatan they have what is called the Sankamura, which is the 3 town tug of war.  Chatan, our town, hosts it and they do a big festival/ceremony  for the rope and those who are going to pull it.  Of course they had to scare the bad spirits away...for 2 hours...before actually pulling the rope, but hey, I was along for the ride on that hot day, so all was great and I really liked being able to experience this.  There is much I am afraid of leaving out, but let me say this 1st.  After one round and rope burn, I was ready to tap out and did.  One local national proceeded to tell us in Japanese that we were not done yet when we left early, but I didn't agree with that..I think we were.  This rope if you can kind of see it in my picture, was so thick, it stood up from the ground all the way to my knee.  The big rope had side ropes that people branched off of to pull.  We were pulling for the wrong team, so I am glad we didn't win, Chatan did win!  That is our city.  Which ever of the 3 cities wins the tug of war wins bragging rights as well as the spirits smiling on their crops, which are sure to be plenty..must have been before the city was covered with concrete!  The cities competing for glory were Chatan, Dendo, and Tamayose.  After the couple of festivals I have been to I have learned the Okinawans and Japanese don't do anything half way, except for the little guys and girls, and everything is larger than life.

Bidets and more.
Some may not like my next topic, it's about the toilet.  I will try to keep it as classy as one can when talking about the bathroom and some may just choose to skip this section.  It may be a known fact that Japanese toilets are weird, but add glorious to that list too!  I will be adding pictures to this blog or fb hopefully of one toilet that has scared me, but in time of emergency, I will not turn down.  The buried urinal.  It looks like something that belongs in a boys restroom in an elementary school except it's lying on the ground, and buried. I am not completely sure which way is which but since it works out in the end, so be it.  The scary part is I am wondering if it is for *cough cough* BOTH functions.  Some places you go, there are unisex bathrooms.  I was mortified when I found this out myself, first hand.  I begged Mark to go with me so I would not be alone,  the 2nd time I had to go back, but I don't think he got how completely uncomfortable and American I was at the moment.  I thought at first, maybe I just didn't lock the door right and the other person didn't realized it was occupied, but after talking with Steph Pak I found out my suspicions were very real and the same thing happened to her at a KFC near Kokusai Street and the guy that was in the bathroom explained to her, it was normal, and apologized.  THE BIDET!  I was just going to  leave that one alone, and open the offer that if anyone wants to discuss it further, come talk with me, I'd be happy to, but today I ran in to bidet ultra, IT HAD HEATED SEATS!  Mark simply said, you'll like the bathroom at lunch today and I knew exactly what that meant.  Mark hears about bidets all the time from me now, I sing their praises and love it when I find a place that has them, I remember all the places I have been to that have them....I will say that I am amazed by them more than I should be and I will leave it at that. *wink*

Taco, Taco.
Taco Rice..ole..Believe it or not this is an Okinawan original, born and raised in Okinawa and some places have even went as far as being Taco Rice fusion restaurants.  Which we went to one today. My opinion on Taco Rice:  Not going to go out of my way to eat it.  I would take it over pizza, but then again, I hate pizza and would take anything over pizza.  Honestly it's not that bad but you better not fill up on it and/or take your medicine for acid reflux or heartburn because unfortunately it doesn't settle well.  Mark loves the stuff, so do his coworkers, but I, Talya, am officially, not a fan.  What is Taco Rice?  Picture steamed sticky rice, that you would get with your Japanese meal, now put seasoned meat on top, finished off by cheese, lettuce, a bit of tomato, and always, salsa, home made might I add, on the side.  There are various ways to make this dish from simple to elaborate (which we had today).  You are given a spoon and you may choose to do what Mark and I among others do: dip your spoon in the salsa and then proceed to get a spoon full of your Taco Rice goodness. 

Big Ol' Jet Airliners.
Can we pretend that air force jets flying in the afternoon do not exist, I could really use a nap right now, nap right now, nap right now. (Me trying to be clever, changing B.O.B. and Haley's song Airplanes).  WHEN I came to join Mark at our lovely apartment I was so thrilled, I still am, I love our space, it's just enough for us and Hercules in February.  Some told Mark, "Ooooo, the jets are SO loud in that area!  Don't rent there!"  There is a sign right before you pull on to our street that says, "No more Sunabe Air Base."  I thought it was just some protest sign put there by someone that didn't like our all American apartments. Well, I found out soon during my 1st full week here what are the commotion is about.  The flight line is right by our beach and our house which can be pretty cool except when they are flying jets that surly can break the sound barrier very loooow above our house...and beach...and road...and town.  It is the loudest thing I have EVER heard, EVER.  Let me just say, the Jackson tornado of 1999 went down my street...above my apartment...I lived on the road with the bus garage, remember what happened to it?  Yeah....jets trump tornadoes.  I woke up from my nap today thinking there was an air raid and that Kim Jong Il finally pushed the button!  I still love our place, we are the 1st renters in the apartment, evah!  So that is amazing but those jets...oooo those jets...God Bless the

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Beni-imo, goya, and ray fin, oh my!

Okay, anyone who knows Talya, knows I like to eat!  Experiencing the culture is only half way done unless you are eating or trying the local food.  I am glad God gave me the good sense of humor to try ALMOST anything, once.  Here are some of the foods I have tasted.  I can't say the same for Mark.

Goya:  This Japanese gourd has another name but in Okinawa they grow it and use it a lot more than the mainlanders I am thinking.  There is even a dish that is considered "Okinawan Soul Food" called Chanpuru that is cooked through out Okinawa and is a true Okinawan dish.  Have I tried Chanpuru? No.  Will I ever? NO!  The reason why?  This adventurous soul has already done my Okinawan right of passage by trying goya.  Now, for those of you like me, that aren't going to take anyone's word for it but your own, try it, and hey, YOU may like it.  There are still things I would try after someone gave me a bad review.  For those of you who take my word as good, save your taste buds for something else.  Goya is bitter!  I tried it fried, and even dipping this gourd in batter and soaking it in oil, a southern girl's dream, was not enough to save me from the bitter taste.  It's soft.  Almost reminds be of a slightly tougher avocado, but unlike an avocado the taste is not mild and I quickly found something to wash my palate with.  Want to read more about the harmless looking but not so tasting goya?  I found this website:

Sting Ray Fin:  This dish was grilled when I tried it and I don't have many words for it other than I was glad to have tried it.  Could I eat a full plate of it? No, but if offered to me again, I would take a piece.  I tasted this at the local izakaya so in that setting you wouldn't eat the whole plate anyways. (Don't know what an izakaya is? Read my 1st blog ;-) ) The ray fin reminded me of jerky in consistency.  It was chewy, crispy around the grilled edges.  It also didn't have a heavy fish taste to it which made it more pleasant than dried cuttlefish.  (Tried that yucky dish in Hawai'i)  They actually used a charcoal grill and I am finding out that with many foods in Japan, this makes all the difference in the world!

Beni-imo:  Beni-imo shall be nicknamed by me here forth, TROUBLE.  Sweet Potato Ice Cream...YUM YUM!  Blue seal, which is a popular chain  of ice cream shops on Okinawa, exclusive to Oki might I add.  You can by all kinds of flavors, think Baskin Robins.  Since the sweet potato is a staple here in Oki, I went out on a limb and tried it, and I am so glad I did.  I am now going to have trouble trying the mango or pineapple ice because I have fallen in love with beni-imo.  Go ahead, tell Mark, he knows me and I am sure he already knows.  I see a Blue Seal and I am instantly begging to go for ice cream.  Come out and visit, try the beni-imo, you will be glad you did.  It's sweet, no after taste, and very refreshing on a hot day, which we have many off!  Here is a link if you care to snoop around.

Yakitori (best grilled on an open flame!) to Yakiniku.  Sushi, sashimi, and seaweed. Beni-imo and my continuing quest for butter fish, Mark and I are chopsticks deep in many Japanese, Korean, and most of all Okinawan dishes and I have only been here a week! We are exploring Oki and loving every minute of it.  I hope to have many pictures very soon from our Hiji Otaki hike, our Okuma Beach trip, and Kokusai Street, 10,000 Eisa Dancer fest!

Sayonara from the Scott's!