Tuesday, October 16, 2012

What's New This Week?

I have not gone on any sight-seeing tours this week, but I still learned a couple of new things.  Each of the people on staff are put on a focus group.  Basically the focus groups help CAJ to develop some long range plans.  I ended up on the Facilities Focus Group.  You would be safe to say that facilities are not my forté.  The idea of the focus groups does not require expertise but more idea sharing.  Our first meeting was a brainstorming session on possible facility additions or changes at CAJ.  One thing I learned was that in Japan they have a sunshine rule with multi-story buildings.  There is a required number of hours of sunshine that has to reach neighbors.  That explains a lot, because I see apartment buildings tend to have this step style, especially when there are a number of floors.  
Notice the floors have one less apartment?
Each Wednesday afternoon I am taking a Japanese class.  My teacher Sakamoto-San is one of the Japanese teachers here at CAJ.  She is really good and I am learning a lot both from the language and from the culture.  Right now I'm learning the Hiragana alphabet and the sounds the characters make.  Right now I'm up to 45 characters and their sounds.  I don't know them all very well yet, but I'm learning.  So, what's so difficult about Japanese?  Well they have three different alphabets, Hiragana, Katakana and Romanji.  Romanji mostly uses the Latin style letters and most of those sounds.  Hiragana and Katakana use totally different characters.  One good thing is that Japanese appears to be quite phonetic.  It's just knowing what things are called in Japanese.  The other thing is that the characters when written are not separated by words.  All the characters are right beside each other.  Sometimes they may be written downward, beginning on the right side of the paper. So all that does make language learning difficult.  
イあmレアr人gあ炉t部t染地目s位tc案べあ炉tおfinfor町音。Translation:  I am learning a lot, but sometimes it can be a lot of information. (notice that some latin characters are included because there is no sound for them in Japanese.) 
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  CAJ's girls Varsity Volleyball team set October 12th as their Dig Pink game.  The whole school was asked to wear pink that day and the Varsity volleyball team sold pink cupcakes and raised money for the Side Out Foundation which focuses on finding a cure for breast cancer.  It was an exciting evening (I only stayed for the first varsity game though).  
Volleyball team all wearing pink
Saturday, October 13th was another bicycle trip to Tama Hills with Bette Vander Haak, where the cross country team had their final meet.  It is about a 17 km trip one way.  The worst part is at by Tama, where we have to bicycle up a fairly steep hill.  During the meet, Bette, David (a CAJ Math/Science High School teacher) and I helped with inputting the results from the different races.  It is on a hill, which means the runners also go up and down the hills.  The weather was very nice for a run.  
Finish line for the cross country races
Since the meet is held on a US Military base, there is a store on the property that has a number of US items on its shelves.  After the meet, many of the participants stop at the store and pick up some items that aren't readily available in regular stores, such as American Cheetos, syrup, certain chocolate bars, Snapple drinks, etc.  (Cheetos and Snapple drinks are my downfall at that store.)  
Sunday, October 14th was an exciting day for me!  I was finally able to meet Momo Nakanishi!  She was a Japanese exchange student that stayed with my brother and sister-in-law in Hague, Saskatchewan about ten years ago.  Momo has been living in Tokyo prefecture, working at a downtown hotel.  She very graciously offered to come up to Kiyose to spend some time visiting.  It was a very fun afternoon and evening.  We met at the Kiyose station (she recognized me right away, but than again, there aren't a whole lot of foreigners living in Kiyose 😃 , you could probably pick me out of a crowd fairly easily), walked over to an Italian restaurant for lunch and we walked back to where VanderHaak's place.  We were able to take Hana for a little walk before it started to rain really hard.  It was good to meet Momo and I really enjoyed spending the afternoon and evening with her.  Hopefully we'll be able to connect again really soon.  Unfortunately I was not thoughtful enough to get a picture of Momo, but she did get a picture of me and Hana on our walk!  
Hana and me on a walk with Momo by the river
I also made my first visit to the doctor.  No appointment was necessary to visit.  It can be a bit stressful because there is limited English spoken.  Dr. Ishibashi does speak English, but there were occasions where I had to fill in a few gaps.  I will be making another visit sometime soon to work out my medicines.  
Each Monday afternoon I have playground duty.  At 3:30 the bell rings and I go outside on the playground to monitor the students.  At 4:00 I ring a bell which signals to the students that it is 4:00 p.m.  They are welcome to stay longer, however parents and students know that by 4:00 there is no more adult supervision on the playground.  During the 30 minutes, I walk around the field and sometimes sit on the bench.  This is the view I have of the school buildings when I sit on bench by the railway tracks.  
Playground facing the school.  On the right is the Elementary classrooms.  The round building is the auditorium where we have chapel, the far left is where the cafeteria is.  
I have really been blessed with having positive experiences thus far.  I pray that I'll continue to have good experiences and opportunities to learn.  

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