Sunday, October 26, 2014

The First Week of Classes and Other Events

Hello Again!

Now the first week of classes of the second fall term has passed already.  In 7 weeks I will be back in Nebraska for over 3 weeks over the Christmas break before I move on to Korea for Spring 1 and probably Spring 2.  I have enjoyed and  am enjoying my teaching very much.  Students are motivated, in general, and our classes are lively from the beginning.  I suppose one reason for that is that there is no language barrier here.

I kept dropping topics into the blog post so I would remember them and now must choose a few topics and a few pictures to share otherwise, it won't get written at all!

The whole issue of driving here is multi-faceted.  First of all, one must somehow learn to drive on the left.  Since I'm never really certain where that is, I try to follow traffic, which has worked out rather well, unless I'm first in line and turning a corner.  I do know that it's never good to find myself going alone in one direction. Whether I'm right or not does not matter.  The panic that I'm on the wrong side is instant.  On the military bases, there is a certain amount of understanding with nods and smiles.  That wouldn't be so, off-base, where traffic moves fairly swiftly and motorcycles are unregulated, as far as I can tell. They weave in between the lanes which is entirely legal.  The rules of the road are fairly standard but a vehicle homicide would financially destroy you because you must make reparations to her/his family for whatever s/he would have earned over the course of her/his life! 

I did have a new experience during a time of base action (or something like that). Apparently, everyone must participate so the traffic folks get in on the action by creating roadblocks to check...whatever they want to check.  This time, the 2 military guys approached my car and asked me if I would submit to a breathalyzer test.  You can't really refuse so, of course, I said yes.  The problem is, I didn't have enough breath to allow them to get a reading.  As traffic backed up behind us, the young man at my window said, on the 6th try, "One more try ma'am, please."  His colleague had, by this time, run away, hiding his face. Actually, we were all starting to laugh.  I don't know if my final effort was any better than all the others but he did let me go. My students were highly amused.

Manners: In traditional shops as you give your card or cash, it is proper to do so with both hands and a slight bow.  It is also correct to receive your card or change in the same way with, "Areeghato gozymaaahs." (Okinawan accent).  I never realized how full my hands were and what a hurry I must be in, already holding car keys, etc., etc. Salon services here are so gentle and respectful.  There are tiny ear covers for hair coloring, warm eye masks for reclining back into the shampoo basin or eyebrows, and your head wrapped in a towel while you wait.  I never saw women waiting for their hair color process with uncovered heads.  The massage therapist I found has kept me upright and moving and always begins on her knees, in front of me, washing my feet in warm, blue bath salts.

My apartment is as lovely and comfortable as the pictures were that I posted last time and I've been very happy here.  Chopin plays in the lobby, ALL the time, the security is absolute, the apartments  so well-built that they are completely quiet with the balcony doors shut (and that included typhoon wind sounds), and the conveniences are very....uhmmm... convenient.  The one thing that might distress some folks is that there is not one English channel on the TVs.  This doesn't bother me since I have always gotten the bulk of my news from NPR and NET.  I also subscribe to multiple podcasts, have an endless supply of music on my iPod, and so really have not missed the lack of a TV. I didn't grow up with a television; Jamaica eventually had 1 channel that came on at 5 pm and went off at 10:30 pm and I never developed the habit of watching it. For whatever important news that is not on NET/NPR there is always Facebook to tell me what the Huskers are doing (or not doing) and what has been happening in the World Series.  (Weird name for it since other big baseball countries--Cuba, Japan--are not there, as I understand it.)

I will be moving mid-November because the university has decided (finally) that they need to provide furnished apartments that will be less expensive (and certainly less trouble for them).  I will save several hundred dollars in one month alone. 

A Break in Work: The week before last was a "break" but with grades to turn in and preparations for the next classes, I only took one day off for a tour to the north of the island.  I am going forego comments and just caption the pictures.

Nago City and The North

The stone walls are not stable and falling down the sheer drop on the other side  would be fatal

Flower+Butterfly :-)

Castle Walls, rebuilt
China Sea

The Glass Factory

I took pictures of a colleague who did the same things I did when we went. I too made a glass but have no great dream that it will arrive back in Grand Island intact.

Finished product

Orion Beer

I drank the tea.  It was OK.,
This beer is only made here though it is exported around the world.  Okinawans are proud of the fact that good beer can be made from their fresh-water springs here.

Back to Work
I really don't do much but work and, outside of class time, spend hours and days alone preparing and marking papers.  However, thanks to Skype, iMessages, email (So Old School! :-), and, of course all the Nebraska news I get on NET, I sometimes feel more connected there than here.  I am never bored though I sometimes wish there was someone physically present as almost everyone else's spouses have arrived by now. I have taught only writing and more writing as of now. Shouldn't they pay to have one of my family or friends come over since I don't have a spouse?  Yes, I think so.

I am looking forward to being with some of you soon!


Friday, October 10, 2014

Typhoon #19--Vong Fong

This one appears to be headed our way  It will hit us on Saturday-Sunday our time, Friday afternoon-Sunday morning CDT.  People here are fairly used to them and are doing all the normal things to get ready.  Of course the commissary (grocery shop) was crammed with people stocking up.  The problem is not the 2+ days of rain and wind but the aftermath of power/water loss. I have cloroxed the bathroom tub and filled it.  The shower/tub room can still be used without disturbing the water in the tub since the whole room is waterproof and meant for showering outside the tub.  I will draw filtered water for cooking (gas) and drinking, later on.  I have pulled the balcony furniture indoors since I am liable for any damage caused by flying items from my balcony.  I have closed the air vents and put the magnetic covers over the keyholes in the outside door, protecting them from saltwater.


 Those of you who have followed this blog for several years have seen the pictures of the power lines I have taken--especially the ones in the inner city of Tripoli, Lebanon that were all strung dangerously together, people grabbing power off the grid however they might, legally but usually illegally. It is not as bad here but all, I mean ALL, the power lines are above ground.  The chances of losing power are fairly high, I would think.

The military base has just issued a directive that all nonessential types (like I am) leave and go home. I'm already home and the "hatches have been battened down."  (Not sure what that means--sounds like a submarine term.) Speaking of which, the loss of the 3 upper-level airmen last weekend was altogether dumb and maddening. They were on the road, close to the ocean, taking pictures!  While the typhoon of last week did not come here, the sea was rough and the waves grabbed them and washed them away.

I have taken time out of my marathon marking to send this update as I may very well be offline until Sunday or later, your time.  I am confident that all will be well.  The wind is already howling, the water is choppy, and further out, the waves are getting higher.  However, Okinawa is in typhoon alley, right in the path of most of the typhoons (exactly like hurricanes but in the Asian Pacific), and their buildings are build of coral and cement--to weather this weather.  I have no doubt that it will be interesting to witness and completely safe.

I will update this when I can.

(Jamaican for "No worries!")

My current schedule: 1 week "break" and then Fall 2 Session starts.  Back in NE on Dec. 13th, evening, leaving on Jan 8th for Seoul, my next posting.