Tuesday, August 29, 2006

A Quick Rant

Everyone who know me knows that I'm in love with this country. But that doesn't mean that I like EVERYTHING about it.

There are 3 particular things that rile me up:

SMOKING IN PUBLIC PLACES (trains, restaurants, etc.)

CHILDREN NOT PLACED IN CHILD SAFETY SEATS (I see this on a daily basis, it's ludicrous)


RUNNING RED LIGHTS -especially big trucks. This is the reason for the rant...

I live along a main road called Route 8. It's the alternative to the expressway (which you have to pay for) and so it's always packed with big trucks. There is a intersection with signal lights near my apartment which I have to go through on a daily basis. I'm not sure why it seems worse than others, but I see more trucks run red lights at this particular intersection than any other. 2 years ago there was a terrible accident and due to a vehicle running a red light, a truck smashed into the house that sits on one of the corners of the intersection. Yikes!!! And even though police cars sit at this intersection on a regular basis, it has not prevented people from running the red.

So, tonight I was coming home from studying and was approaching this particular light on the road perpendicular to Route 8. I was a few meters from the stop line and saw the light turn yellow for the people along Rt8. I saw a big truck drive through. I then watched the light turn red for the people along Rt8. I saw a big truck drive through. Of course the light then turned green for me. I saw a big truck drive through. ARGH!!! If I had actually proceeded when the light turned green for me I would have been squished like a bug!

The Rain Room at the Nizayama Forest Art Museum

There is an old hydro-electric station up towards the mountains about a 15 minute drive from where I live. There are three buildings on the compound that have been converted into a tea room, an exhibition hall and an art gallery. There is also a small tower you can climb to get a great view of Nyuzen as it spills out to the Japan sea.

The largest building is the gallery, where local artists use the huge warehouse space to display work that wouldn't fit a conventional sized display room. I found out about it through friends here in Nyuzen and first visited it when one of the students in my English converstation class had an show there.

When Mike was here we decided to check out the latest exhibition. I had seen an ad for it on TV and thought I'd show him that we're cultured out here in the boonies of Japan. I think he was impressed.

Check out the link:

遠藤利克展 Trieb-振動 (Rain Room)

It's called 遠藤利克展 Trieb-振動 (Rain Room) and you can actually walk through the rain! They have rubber boots and umbrellas for those who require them, but we were allowed to walk through in just our flip flops and play in the rain!

For me, the sound was what was most impressive. Water is my favorite sound. Trickling water, gushing water, the sound of bubbles, or that splooshing sound you get when you enter water -hand, head or whole body.

There was also a small tank set up in the loft of the warehouse. At first it just looks like a big ugly tank of water with a plastic pipe at the bottom pumping H20 into it. But then you notice something very strange...you can see the water flowing up to the top of the tank, making ripples at the surface...but there are no bubbles!! The illusion is that the top is open (you can't actually see into the top of the tank from a standing position), but actually there is a piece of glass on top which prevents the water from bubbling up, so instead it creates a rippling effect at the 'surface' which is directed inward. Very cool.

Check it out if you've got the time, then go for tea/coffee and cake in the tea room!

I would post photos, but we weren't allowed to take any while we were there, so you have to scroll down the linked page and take a look for yourself. There is also a map of how to get there and a photo gallery of past exhibits.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

A busy busy week.

It started on Monday. I picked up Adam, Dan and Paul in Uozu and we headed to Minami High School for a 3 day English camp in the mountains. It's not as outdoorsy as it sounds. English camps are held by schools to give their students opportunities to interact with native English speakers outside of the classroom. Some of the camps are only a day long, but Minami High School hosts 2 one and a half day camps. The first day and a half is for the first grade students (grade 10). The second half of the first day and the 3rd day is for the 2nd grade students (grade 11).
ALTs from other schools (that'd be me) are invited to participate and plan fun, interesting, unique lessons and/or activities to present to small groups of students over the course of the camp. This year we had a range of activites from juggling to dancing to a Clue game using the ALTs as the characters. I taught the students how to play cards in English, there was a scavenger hunt, commercial making and improv story telling. A great variety for the students.
In the evening the students got together with the ALTs and had a BBQ, then it was off to bed -well at least for the teachers...the students, like any other group of teenagers stayed up all night. So you can imagine how successful the first class in the morning was...
This is my fourth Minami Engish High School Camp! This particular high school has been designated a SEL (Super Engish Language) School. That means that most of the students want to study English and international studies at a higher level than what is offered at regular high schools. The students at MHS are very enthusiastic about English and the lessons are always fun to teach. A lot of the students return for a second year at the camp and I love seeing their progress over the 2 years. I hope to do it again next year!

This is Shunsuke, a second year student whom I taught last year.

Immediately after finishing the camp and dropping the boys off in Uozu I went straight to Kurobe station to pick up Mike who came to visit for the remainder of the week! We had a great visit and managed to cram shopping, an Okinawan concert, an art exhibit, a beach BBQ, a trip to Takayama and lots of good good food into just 3 days. He brought me chocolate and shoes, needless to say I was willing to take him anywhere and do anything while he was here!!!

click here for video