Saturday, June 12, 2010

FINAL Day in Okinawa!!!

FINAL DAY IN OKINAWA!!
It felt weird to wake up this morning and look around my room, knowing I have less than 24 hours remaining here. I borrowed my coworkers vacuum and finished packing last night. I borrowed Jessica's scale and finalized the weighing of my luggage. My large suitcase weights 49 pounds and my medium one weighs 35 pounds. If by chance the scale is off a little, then I can move some items around at the airport but don't think that will be needed.
After breakfast and cleaning my room, Jessica and I headed to our work bbq. We stopped at Jessica's friends house on the way to pick up some bug spray. I am so thankful we did that because there were lots of bugs out and I didn't get bit once! Luckily, the rain stopped and it was a beautiful day out. The sun was shining and a nice warm breeze was blowing. I enjoyed lunch talking with various coworkers. I filled up on fruit and some good Filipino food.
My coworkers mingling after lunch.
The food area.
The kindergarten aide and the fourth grade teacher. I never got to hang out with them outside of work but I really like them and hope to keep in touch.
Mr. Elofson gave presents to the teachers that will not be coming back next year. Lori's husband got stationed in South Dakota and they will be leaving in July, after living in Okinawa and working at New Life for four years. Mr. Mc Gee, a high school teacher (and unofficial vice principal) is not coming back next year because his daughter graduated 12th grade from our school (plus he's been at the school 13 years). Rocky got laid off because school enrollment is very low for the upcoming school year. Usually, there are around 130 students enrolled and at this time, there are only 80 students enrolled for next school year. Rocky is going to look for a job on base for next year and hopes to teach at the school my students mom owns the following year. Rocky has worked at the school for 5 years. I was the person leaving who has been here the shortest amount of time.

Mr. Elofson gave each of us Ryukyuan lacquerware pencil holders. Okinawan lacquerware is unique because of the climate conditions in Okinawa. Ryukyuan Lacquerware dries at a temperature of 80% humidity and 20 degrees centigrade. Here's some interesting information about Okinawan lacquerware that Mr. Elofson gave us with our gift: "Okinawa has ideal natural conditions for lacquer production. The distinctive features of Ryukyuan lacquer are said to be its vermilion color as well as the tsuikin applique and raden inlay techniques, but all of these qualities are intimately related to the climatic conditions in Okinawa. The strong ultraviolet rays of the sun bring out the vividness of the vermilion red pigments. Since the late 19th century pig's blood has at times been used as primer and was said to be the reason for the deep vermilion color achieved, but it is now believed the primer base has very little to do with the vivid colors of the finished lacquer."
Very interesting! I haven't opened the package yet but I'm sure it's beautiful. Mr. Elofson knows that as teachers, we will get good use out of pencil holders! He asked for us to pray for New Life when we look at the pencil holder and to let it remind us of our time here.
Here is the staff and their families at the bbq.
I enjoyed visiting with coworkers and said my goodbyes to everyone. My coworkers said they would keep in touch by email and will let me know how things are going. Mr. Elofson wrote me a nice letter of recommendation, I got my end of the year paycheck and turned in my health card and apartment key.
I'm happy to have met each person at New Life academy and know that God put them each in my life this year for a reason. My time here was an invaluable experience that I wouldn't trade for anything. This wasn't an easy experience but it was worth it. The things I've learned about myself, the teaching experience I've gained and the life lessons are irreplaceable. I am happy I took advantage of this opportunity and my memories in Okinawa will always hold a special place in my heart.
Thank you for the encouragement and support during my time in Okinawa. I couldn't have gotten through it without your prayers. I'm looking forward to arriving home and pressing the play button on my life again. I'm excited about the opportunities in my future and have faith that God will guide me in the tasks that lay ahead. Nothing in the world beats being surrounded by those you love and those that love you =)
Here is one of my favorite quotes this past year:

"Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever." - Lance Armstrong

16 hours until take off!
XOXO
Kristen

Friday, June 11, 2010

Graduation

Today was the promotion ceremony for grades 1st-12th. Before our ceremony, kindergarten and pre-school had a ceremony. I had to take some pictures of them because they were too cute to not take pictures to share with you!
The whole dress shirt paired with shorts is popular in Okinawa!
Here is Yuto, the first grader in my class.
My students all looked adorable and were very excited about the ceremony.
Mr. Mc Gee (the unofficial vice principal), Mr. Elofson and the translator Ms. Yu (a high school teacher at our school).
The speciality teachers sitting on stage; Jessica (music), Junko (Japanese), high school teacher (not sure why he was sitting there), Rocky (Japanese) and Nathan (P.E./Art).
The first graders on stage ready for their names to be called by Sarah.
Second grade on stage ready for me to call their names.
I was very proud to call out each one of my students names, to recognize them moving onto 3rd grade.
The following pictures is of each one of my students being called to receive their promotion award.
The students gave me gifts and we took pictures after the ceremony. It was much more fun than I expected.
The second grade girls and I.
The student in the kimono even had on the wooden shoes to complete her outfit! Her mom came wearing the same thing.
The ceremony went by fast but was very nice. I got a little sad saying goodbye to my students but they are so shy that they weren't saying much. I gave them my email address, in a letter I wrote to them, hopefully they will stay in touch. It would be neat to hear from some of them as they get older. All I can hope for now is that I've had a positive impact on their lives and have taught them things that will help them become better people. I will miss them but know that God has different plans for me now and I must move forward.

Staff bbq tomorrow, my LAST day in Okinawa. I will update you again then =)

XOXO
Kristen

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Last Day of School

The last day of school has come and gone! Yesterday, my students enjoyed a fun day of movies, popcorn and popsicles. Almost all of them said they were sad that school was ending, but about 75% of them are going to summer school, so they won't miss it for long.
Here is the last day of school class picture. They look so serious!
Movie time.
Can you tell they love pictures?
One of my 1st grade reading groups. Their reading skills improved drastically over the year. I didn't think there was much hope for them at first but they really impressed me. I am so grateful to have witnessed the success that comes along with daily reading. I let them know how proud I was of them and reminded them to continue reading each day this summer.
This video is of one of my first grade reading students, reading "The Fire Cat" during our reading center time. He is the youngest in the class (just turned 6). Everyone loves listening to him read, even the other students in my class tell him he is "so cute." I had to get this video of him reading on the last day of school.
video
Throughout the year, a few of my students talked about being in a hip hop dance group. They would always tell me that they would show me their dances during recess but when it came time to perform, they would get too shy. On the last day of school, I told them it was their last chance to dance for me. After a few minutes of me saying "1, 2, 3, GO" they finally danced for about half a minute. They said it was ok to share with you =)
video
My 2nd graders wrote me good-bye letters, most of which said "Do not forgot me, I will not forget you. Please come visit Okinawa again." I thought this letter was especially neat because of the last sentence.
She LIKED the work I gave, that makes me smile!
I tried to say goodbye at the end of the day but the students kept saying "I'll see you Friday for the promotion ceremony, so this is not goodbye." I guess I can put off goodbye for good, for one more day!
Today is Thursday and teacher cleaning day. Sarah and I have worked on our room all week, so we didn't have much to do today. I turned in my report cards and had the room done by 10 am. With only 1 hour left in the school day, I will check out with Mr. Elofson in a few minutes and then my time at this school will be completed. Lori signed all the teachers on base today so we could all eat lunch together. That was nice but now I'm feeling way too full and yucky after Subway and Baskin Robbins.
Mr. Elofson is letting me borrow the school van today, so I can return the mattress to the family that I borrowed it from in October. I'm also borrowing the school vacuum today, so I can finish packing my vacuum bags. I'm only using two out of six vacuum bags to bring my stuff home in! One jumbo bag for all my clothes and one for my bedding. A lot less than I used when coming here. I will weigh my luggage tonight to make sure I'm under the 50 pound weight limit.
Tomorrow is the promotion ceremony and the last time I will see my students. I will post pictures from that and the staff bbq on Saturday, so you are all up to date before I come home.
3 days until departure!

XOXO
Kristen

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Memorial Day-Cape Hedo

On Memorial Day, Rocky organized a trip to Cape Hedo, the northern most tip of the island. I have always heard great things about Cape Hedo, so I was looking forward to the trip. Rocky picked me up at 9 am and we met Lori's family, the school secretary, her daughter and friend and the kindergarten aide to caravan up north. It was another rainy, humid day but since it was our last day off before the school year ends, we decided to follow through with our day as planned.
Before arriving to Cape Hedo, we stopped at Hedo point. There was a nice ocean view.
Luckily, it stopped raining. It was humid and there were lots of mosquitos out but we had a beautiful view.
We took a group photo, then ate lunch at the lookout point.
From left to right; Junko (school secretary), Carolyn (Lori's daughter who is in my class), Junko's daughter's friend, Junko's daugther, me, kindergarten aide, Lori, Lori's daughter, Lori's husband and a third grad boy from our school that Lori babysits. Rocky took the picture.
After eating, I ended up waiting in the car for a few minutes before we left because I was getting bit by bugs, ugh!!
After lunch, we drove as far north as we could go to arrive at Cape Hedo.
Not sure what the sign on this rock said but it looked pretty against the ocean background.
Rocky and the others enjoying the beautiful view.
Luckily, the rain held off for the most part.
The view of the ocean was absolutely gorgeous, the best view I have seen on the entire island!
I am so glad I made the trip to Cape Hedo before leaving the island!
I thought that this sign against the background was so neat.
Snuck a picture of Rocky in.
The scenery was so gorgeous, I had to take lots of pictures.
The best part about living in Okinawa and the one thing I will miss (besides my students) is the breathtaking skies above the shining ocean.
After spending some time at Cape Hedo, we stopped by a small pineapple shop. They had samples of pineapple but the owner told us the pineapple was not ripe, so the pineapple was very sour. We didn't buy anything and headed to Pizza in the Sky. Again I had their delicious vegetable filled salad. There were mosquitos inside and no air conditioning. I got bit a few more times which was annoying. We took the express way the rest of the drive home and it still took us 1 hour and 45 minutes to get back. I was still able to get in bed around 9 pm but it was a long, tiring day. Seeing Cape Hedo made it worth the bug bites =)

This past weekend was my last full weekend in Okinawa. I feel content with all I've done and seen here so I decided to stay in and rest. The weather was rainy and humid (nothing new) so that gave me even more reason to be lazy. I did some laundry, went to the gym and put together pictures for a class slideshow. I packed my large suitcase and will return my extra mattress and pack my bedding on Thursday. I have so much less than I came here with (thank goodness for visitors) so I'm hoping it will be a lighter trip home.
Today is Monday and we are down to two school days! I tore down everything in my classroom and my report cards are almost complete (just waiting on grades from the speciality teachers). At this time next week, I will be home! It still doesn't seem real, I don't know when it will hit me. I printed my itinerary today, picked up my last paycheck and am getting a letter of recommendation from my principal by the end of the week. Things are winding down!
I will update you with pictures from the last day of school and give you the link to my slideshow when it's completed.
Hope your all having a good week, see you in 6 days!

XOXO
Kristen

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Conclusion of Wendy's Visit

Sorry it's taken me a few days longer than expected, but here are the last pictures and details from Wendy's visit.
Wendy's husband Ryan lived in Okinawa for a few years when he was eight years old. His dad was in the air force and their family was stationed here 20 years ago. Last Tuesday, we met up with one of Ryan's friends who is a contracted physical therapist on Kadena air force base. Ryan met him in college and didn't remember that his friend was living here until now. We got signed on base so Wendy could look around, then went shopping at the comisarry. We had dinner at Chilli's and then went to the gym to work off our unhealthy food!
Thursday evening, I took Wendy to American Village to try soba noodles. It didn't look appealing and I told her that I threw up the last time I ate the noodles, but she wanted to try some authentic Okinawan food. We ordered and paid for our food in this vending machine (the same place I first tried soba when I got here in August).
I ordered vegetable soba and Wendy ordered pork soba. Mine was okay but Wendy hated hers. She hardly ate any of it but was glad she gave it a try.
Here we are waiting for our noodles.
Wendy also wanted to try sushi, so on another day we had sushi at the sushi go-round in the American Village area. I only had the cooked sushi this time but Wendy tried a variety of sushi and LOVED it! I guess that made up for the soba noodles.
Thursday and Friday, Sarah was not at work so Wendy helped me with the 1st grade class. She was a huge help! I was still very tired after both days but it would have been way worse without her help. She loved helping which I am so thankful for.
Random but here is a picture of the road I take to get to school each morning.
My students being silly.They have to do the peace sign in every picture, I vowed to never do that while I was here and I've accomplished that goal =)
My students performed a skit and sang a song during our last chapel.
Singing and dancing on our last chapel day.
Friday night, Wendy and I got pedicures at the famous salon everyone talks about here, "Cocok's" which is about 50 yards from my apartment. They gave us great leg massages, lemon iced tea and great pedicures. It took 2 hours just for the pedicures but was so relaxing. It was a rainy evening, so after pedicures we made a chicken salad and baked potatoes for dinner. It was the perfect ending to a tiring week.

Saturday night, we drove up north (not too far north this time). It was another rainy evening but we wanted to try a buffet dinner show at Manza Beach Hotel. Rocky told me they have a great dinner and authentic Okinawan dance show. Since I hadn't done something like that here and Wendy wanted to experience as much as the culture as possible, we decided to give it a try. We stopped at the glass factory first (which was down the street from the hotel) to pick up our finished glass from the week before. We were both happy with the way our pieces turned out.
We got to the hotel with enough time to walk around the lobby and take some pictures. It was a gorgeous, modern hotel.
An Okinawan man playing instruments in the hotel lobby.
Open view of the ocean from inside the lobby (you can tell it's rainy season here).
Bakery in the lobby. We didn't try any of the sweets but they looked tempting!
In front of the buffet, ready to try some Okinawan food and see a good show!
We were given the option of steak, chicken or lobster as a main course (we both chose lobster) and all the side dishes were served buffet style. The lobster was covered in a mango sauce that was a bit too overwhelming. It was decent though.
We enjoyed side dishes of noodles, fruit, taco rice, mochi, shrimp tempura, sushi and delicious Okinawan cookies. The side dishes weren't that great but I filled up on fruit which was good enough for me.
The 30 minute show began with a shisa dog dancing on stage.
Drummers also performed.
Playing the sanshin, a traditional Okinawan instrument similar to a banjo.
These ladies taught the audience how to clap to their dance and use some of their instruments.
Pictures with the shisa dog after the show.
We stopped for a picture with the performers on the way out.
It was a fun cultural experience and we are both glad we went. We made it home in time for a good nights sleep before taking Wendy to the airport Sunday morning. She had a great time and I was so thankful that she didn't mind resting in between all the fun activities.
I am so grateful to have been able to share this experience with so many people that I love. I have an amazing set of family and friends and being so far from those that I love makes me appreciate you all even more.
Today is Friday evening, 3 school days to go! I still can't grasp the concept that I only have one week left in Okinawa. I torn down my classroom this week and started on report cards. It will be a bittersweet goodbye to my students come graduation day next Friday.
I will be posting my tour day with Rocky and a few of the other teachers from Memorial day soon. Tomorrow (Saturday) I will start packing my suitcases to see how much room I have for any extra souvenirs. Not too much planned this weekend except for sleeping in and packing. If you want any last minute items from Okinawa, let me know asap!
See you in one week =)

XOXO
Kristen