Tuesday, September 16, 2008

tazawa and rowing

This weekend was an annual Akita JET camping trip to Lake Tazawa, that I had a hand in organizing as a Room to Read fundraiser. Fun times!

The new Honjo girls - Jez and Abby, and me!

The blue blue waters of Lake Tazawa

One of the few places on the lake I had never visited before

Walking the riverside sakura path in Kakunodate

Yesterday was the annual regatta in Honjo, the same one I competed in last year, this year we had more professional uniforms and even a few nihonjin on the team. We rowed for a team put together by the city sports department, called aburakouji for the neighborhood where the building where they work is. We got to practice way more times this year, which I was thankful for, and it showed in our results! We got first by a long way in our first heat, and first in our semi-final heat. So we made it to the finals, against 3 other teams I believe were all finalists last year. The finals were a very close race. We came in fourth but second and third barely gained a boat length on us the entire race. If we had won, we would have gone to Nagano for national competitions!

Amelie had the great idea for our uniform shirts to have riflery sugichi (the tree mascot of the Akita games national sports competition last year)! Can't believe they actually made them for us!

Our fans! Matthew Abby and Jez

The guys' team: Takafumi, Owen, Jon, David and Brett

The guys rowed very well, although they didn't advance past the first heat, they also rowed well in their consolation races!

The sports dept. men's team who also made it to the finals!

Guys team. I was a proud coach!

Us pulling ahead in our first race!

Look at that extension!

Happy rowing back to the dock

Me, Amelie, Sachiko, Satomi and Ayako, citing our #1 finish

Our semifinal victory

Aburakouji team photo

Our team, now referencing our 4th place standing...

...and paying homage to riflery sugichi

jinego festival and some traditional sports

Last weekend I went to a summer festival in the tiny village of Jinego where Doug lives. It was small and cute, and probably my last summer festival of the season. A little gaijin girl was running around the festival quite strangely, she's in one of the videos.

I love this pic!

Doug helped with the carrying (or haphhazard hurling, rather) of small wooden structures towards the shrine

Lady serving sake to the men participants

I also stumbled upon Brett's kyudo practice during Doug's karate tournament. So I tried out kyudo and liked it. After both we checked out some waterfalls.

Brett demonstrating his superior kyudo skills

Jez trying it out

At the karate tournament

Matthew and Doug pose like junior high school boys

Bears are dangerous and so is garbage!

Last Friday was the annual regional English speech competition that my students had been practicing for quite hard, with me as their coach! (Another traditional Japanese sport - speech giving!) They both did extremely well. One of them, who recited a tragic Hiroshima story, won a second place prize!

Kenta (looking less than thrilled with his "good" certificate), Masaki with his prize, me and one of my fellow English teachers

Monday, September 1, 2008

Please excuse the low quality pics, just wanted to share some students' stuff. The first is "What did you do during your summer vacation?" short essays - the 2 most popular answers.

"I went to my grandfather's house in August. I visited grave. I looked ghost. I had a good time."

"I study homework in August, then reading a book. It was very tired."

The kiddies have a cumulative test in every subject the day they get back from each vacation. So, they have to spend a significant part of each vacation (summer vacation was about a month) studying. The average for the 2nd grade english test was around a 46 - and it's pretty usual that test score averages are less than 50 (yes, out of 100). I can't work out the benefit of this, but perhaps there is one? Obon is also during summer vacation, when families visit relatives' graves.

In addition to the tests, the 3rd graders were also greeted back at school with the manual labor task of harvesting the special rice that had been planted in a "WE CAN!!" pattern into the field outside the school. It looked like fun! Here you can maybe make out the "AN".