Monday, July 23, 2007

The farewells end...

On Friday night, our English department gathered at the Seibu Orion Hotel in downtown Naha to wish our 3 superstar ALTs, Aaron, Beth and Chad (the ABC's of ALT's) farewell. Dinner was awesome, and it was great to see them get recognition for the hard work they put in to bettering English education at Okisho. You guys will be missed dearly! (Aaron and Chad will be working in Tokyo in the fall, while Beth is moving to California.)

Friday, July 20, 2007

The farewells continue...

As mentioned in a previous post, my buddy and colleague Aaron will be leaving Okisho this month. In fact, today is his final work day. The kids absolutely love him and have been showering him with attention and gifts as he prepares to move on to his next job, in Tokyo. It is no wonder, though, that he is so popular - he's such a dynamic guy who brings positive energy to each class. I have been blessed to team-teach with him over the course of my first 3.5 months at Okisho. Here is a picture of the "Humanities Department" English staff... at least the ones who work together the most. From left to right: Aaron, Trevor, Yukiko and Kenney. Together we form a unique blend of personalities, teaching styles, and senses of humour. Last night was a fun way to cap off a successful start to the year. Tonight, we will be holding another farewell party for Aaron, as well as two other departing American teachers, Chad and Beth.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Hallelujah, the great storm is over!

Last weekend we got hit by a super-typhoon. It was one of the biggest I have felt since coming to Japan back in '98. Fortunately, everything in my area was safe. There was a lot of damage to various buildings and streets, and even a few of my friends had large objects fall on their cars. But over all, Okinawa does great with typhoons. Despite there being 100,000 homes without power, and many trees uprooted, only 7 people got injured, and no one died. Praise the Lord for keeping us all safe!

The end of the Road (to Koshien)

Due to the super-typhoon that hit Okinawa this past weekend, the baseball tournament was delayed by a day. So Sunday afternoon, Okisho faced Urasho in one of the semi-final brackets. The game was exciting from start to finish! Urasho opened up a 2-0 lead in the first 6 innings, but Okisho stormed back to tie things up in the bottom of the 6th inning. Then in the bottom of the 7th, our star pitcher (Naoya Higashihama) injured himself while running out a sacrifice bunt. The result: Urasho scored two more runs in the top of the 8th. When all hope was lost, and people even started leaving the stadium, Okisho put up a lead-off homerun, pulling to within one run. Then after two outs, they really had their backs against the wall. The next guy walked, and it still looked a little hopeless. But the very next batter smacked a game-tying triple down the line, and the game went into extra innings. After a great chance in the 10th inning, Okisho took the field to start the 11th. Sadly, they gave up a run. But never ready to give up, they put a man on 2nd base with just one out. And that's when Urasho's pitcher showed them who's boss. The game ended in a 5-4 loss, but not without both teams giving a full effort. It was probably the best baseball game I have seen since coming to Japan, and that includes the professional game I went to see back in spring! Good work Okisho! We'll get 'em next time!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The farewells begin...

Okisho has been fortunate to have an awesome Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) from Minnesota for the past two years. Aaron has learned a lot of Japanese, and seems to have the perfect sense of humour to entertain the students in class. But more than just an entertainer, Aaron has shown great ability to teach English, encourage communication, and has been an awesome guy to hang out with during lunch times and spare periods. We got to teach team 6 hours per week, and even when the students weren't "with us", we managed to have a good time. Here's a picture of him with one of our favourite classes, "3文E2", all pointing at the infamous "Aaron gap". Aaron will still be with us for another 9 days, but the farewells and tears are already beginning. We'll miss him dearly.

Typhoon on the way?

According to the Naval Typhoon Warning Center, a typhoon may hit Okinawa sometime on Friday morning. It will be interesting to see if this actually happens as predicted, as we have had many threats but few "hits" in recent years. But word is this one will likely hit us. Here's what the weather map looks like. Pray for safety for all the people of Okinawa, as there are usually a few injuries and/or deaths, especially in the elderly community.

Monday, July 9, 2007

The Road to Koshien, Rounds 3 & 4

The quest for glory continues for the kids at Okisho. This weekend we faced two tech schools, Urasoe Kogyo and Okinawa Kogyo. Neither team put up much of a fight, and Okisho is now in the semi-finals. I was unable to attend the Saturday match, because of work, but did take in the quarter-final match against Okiko (as they're called for short). The game was over almost before it began, though, as Okisho posted 4 runs in the top of the first. From there, a solid pitching outing (complete game shutout) and a raucous crowd (see picture below) carried the team through 9 hot innings. More than one fan (myself included) got sun-burned, although many also brought "higasa" (sun umbrellas) and protected themselves from the sun. As for me, I'd rather be sunburned than be seen carrying an umbrella on a hot, clear day. Next up: Urasoe Commercial High School, this Saturday at 12:30 in Chatan! Stay tuned for updates!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

God Bless America

Yep, those words actually escape my mouth. Or my keyboard, at least. Last night our church celebrated the 4th of July at Tropical Beach, instead of at the Koinonia Cafe. Pastor Tim led worship with Natsuki, Rob, and Hannah. The rest of us sat on the steps and raised our voices up. It was beautiful to be able to watch the sun set and the blue sea melding with the blue sky as we sang to our Creator. Then Tim gave his testimony, and Tom shared a special message. Oh and did I mention that there was food? Do I even have to mention it? We are, after all, Calorie Chapel! So the updated score is: USA - 231 years, 0 days. Canada - 140 years, 3 days. We'll always be the younger brother!

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

The Road to Koshien, Round 2

On Sunday, Okisho had its second game of the tournament to determine who will represent Okinawa in the big Koshien tournament in August. The enemy: Futenma High School. Our team got off to a slow start. Futenma put two points on the board before we even recorded an out! Okisho put runners in scoring position every inning, and hopes were high, but each inning ended with the score the same: 2-0 for the bad guys. Until the fateful 7th inning! Okisho put 4 exciting runs up, and held on for a 4-2 victory! Round 3 takes place this Saturday at 9am (I will be working, but might leave work early to take it in) against Urasoe Kogyo. I have heard that we should be able to beat them, thereby advancing to a quarterfinals matchup on Sunday the 8th! Anyways, hopefully the boys will make it all the way to Koshien!

Another sweet reunion, part 2?

So last night I took another trip down memory lane. As you can tell from my most recent, oh, 15 or so posts, this is the season of arrivals and departures in Okinawa. We saw Bible college students leave, OCSI students graduating and leaving, but also old teachers and students coming back for visits. This included two legends in the history of OCSI: Kathleen Rice (center), who taught at the school for 17 years, but put in more hours than teachers who worked 30 years. She is one of those teachers that students will talk about long into their adult lives as the one who turned them around, who never gave up on them, and who loved them with an iron fist! And then there's Amy Johnson (right), who has lived in 8 of the 15 apartment suites that comprise the school's teacher housing complex. She taught on-and-off at the school from 1997-2004, taking on more roles than I have fingers on my hands! It was awesome to sit and have a meal with them, catching up on each other's lives, reminiscing on old times, and laughing as we struggled to get a good picture of us with either of our cameras. By the way, we ate at an OCSI teachers classic hangout: Royal.

What? Where is it?

David Copperfield would have done a better job than these guys, but it's amazing how quickly and suddenly they took down the notorious "elephant cages" that were so near good ol' OCSI (26°24'2.08"N / 127°43'47.67"E on Google Earth). I'm not sure what they're doing with the land, but my guess is it will belong to the Okinawans again very soon. The upper left picture is of the actual elephant cages before, to the right is the "after" picture, and below is a picture of the scrap heaps that I took at night.

Koinonia Worship

This is a brief one, I just wanted to show everyone (who doesn't attend Calvary Ginowan) what our li'l cafe looks like from one of the seats. The guys (and sometimes girls) lead worship and we sit around in comfy chairs, singing with our voices and hearts to the living God. It's sweet!