About Me

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California born by a Cuban mother, married to a Japanese man, and have lived in Japan since 2004, minus one year living in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. I have friends and family in many places in the world. I dreamed of traveling to many distant lands, creating music and dancing to it, meeting interesting people, and discovering treasures in the most unlikely of places.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

This was our first present from Shinpei's coworker's family! We were very surprised and happy.

Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Students' writings

My students, Yoshiki Tsuchimochi and Taichirio Hidaka wrote some pieces for a journal which comes out once a year. The journal is of writings of students all over Miyazaki Prefecture. I would like to write a translation of each one for my readers.

Taichiro wrote about his father, who loves fishing in the river and sea. He is, by the way, the teacher who sits three seats from me at the Junior High. His mother is in charge of the English lessons at the elementary. She is the fifth grade teacher. Mr. Hidaka is a very good father. He loves his three sons very much, and spends a great deal of time with his family. Here is an excerpt from "My father, A Man of the River":
"When the float goes under, quickly reel in," was my father's advice. Even with my father's advice, I couldn't easily do a very good job.
I went carrying the net with my father, down to the river. "Its my first time, so I'm nervous. I wonder if there are snakes swimming in there..." I thought to myself. Many fish were swimming that evening at the river.
"Wow," said my father.
"Yeah," I responded.

Yoshiki is another fourth grader. He wrote about the ritual dances, called the "Kagura", 神楽, which are passed down through generations here in Nishimera. The dances call the gods and goddesses to a center in the dead of winter. They bring the energy of the other world into this world, and move it into position to prepare for a new year. The dances are like fertility dances, and dances for luck. I myself had the opportunity to practice with my Junior High Schoolers and it is an amazing feeling to do the dances. The music is very rhythmic and trance like. It reminds me of the Pow Wow drums of the Miwuk Tribe in Tuolumne, California. The instruments used are very ancient. The Japanese Taiko drum, The Bamboo Flute, and a stick of bells called a "Suzu" is used during the dance. Seated musicians make drum and flute music, and the dancers use the bells and sometimes a fan while dancing. The setup reminds me of when I studied belly dance, with the seated drummers and musicians, and the dancer using the zills(a small, two faced bell) to add to the music. I have only had the opportunity to see the dance a few times, but I hope to see more of it next winter.
The Kagura lasts from 7PM until 7AM, and is danced at many different holy places in the area during the month of December, to call on the gods. During the dance, the audience often becomes very quiet. They fall into a kind of trance, I think. That's the way I feel, anyway, for the music is very trance like and the dance seems repetitive (But don't be fooled! This dance is VERY difficult to do!)The audience has some opportunities to interact with the dancers as well. If audience members wrap coins in tissue paper, they can try to toss the coins into a crown on the head of the dancer, or into the dancer's kimono sleeve, whichever gives very good luck. My husband, Shinpei, was the first to toss a coin right into the crown of the dancer at the last Kagura. Everyone cheered, and it was very fun. People were very kind as well, and shared food and drink to make friends. This last time, Shipei and I watched the Kagura for about three hours with Yoshiki, and his big brother Yohei.
Yoshiki's excerpt is about his Kagura experience last year, when he became of age to perform in it. He trained for a month and a half, about 2 hours every day.
The winter performance day came. My performance begins. At first, I was nervous, but little by little, my nervousness ebbed away. As I performed, I noticed all the audience members who had come to watch. I noticed my grandfather's smiling face watching over me. Beside him, sat relatives who had come to watch.
I match the movement of the fan, the suzu, and my body to the rhythm of the Taiko drum. Although its winter, I am sweating. The sound of the taiko and the movement of my body ended. Afterwards, my father said, "Your father also began to do the Kagura when he was in third grade" "But I didn't do as well as you," he praised. This time I think that I did a good job at the Kagura. The sweat upon me cooled.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Upie, our pet axolotle

Upie is a Mexican Axolotle. Shinpei won him in August out of a machine at an amusement center (He's really good at those games...) Upie was small when we first got him, he was about 5cm long, but now he is about 20 cm long and he is pretty wide. He is really cute, and his earlike gills go down when he swims. He looks clumsy when he swims, but he can be very fast. Axolotle is Oopaloopa in Japanese.

Winter Holidays

Mmmmm...The weather is getting colder. In the states, we all look forward to Thanksgiving and Christmas with family, and then a nice New Year's party to blast in a New Year, but in Japan, there is no Thanksgiving of course, and then Christmas and New Years are celebrated in reverse, spending time with your bf or gf on Christmas, and then spending time with family on New Years.
Christmas is decorated with lights and some families buy a tree, but I've been giving lessons on the winter holidays, and no one knew about mistletoe or gingerbread houses, which everyone got very excited about. I am looking forward to baking one soon. Maybe I will take it to school as a display. I have decorated the townhouse in lights and made a display of fall leaves made of recycled paper for the front. People really seem to get a kick out of it. Its pretty cute; when I turn on the lights, whole families will smile brightly and point, or slow their cars down to look. It makes me happy that I am brightening their day.
Today is Shinpei's birthday. I bought him a jacket which he looks very good in. Next week is Christmas, but I still haven't gotten him anything. He has gotten me two things, one of which he is being very secretive about. Tehehehe.
We started working on our New Year's postcards, which I will probably be sending instead of Christmas cards this year to the States and Mexico, too. We were handed down a printer, so we will print out a design for the year of the Tiger.
The day after Christmas we will head over to Nagasaki to see his family. That day for lunch, we will eat at a renound steakhouse. The next day I believe we are going to go to a themepark copy of a Dutch village called Haustenbos with his brother and his brother's girlfriend. At some point, we will go to a new Aquarium exhibit in Sasebo with his dad. Finally, New Years will come and we will spend three days eating with family, visting family, and staying in or driving around, because all the shops are closed. I miss the holiday decorations abroad, but the same feeling of people getting together with family is there. There is one decoration that is pretty common, and that is the combination of Pine, Baboo and Plum into an arrangement, and placed outside the front door.
The mountains have been lovely, bathed in mist and fog, brightening into sunny days.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Thanksgiving with students

Last weekend I had a very nice Thanksgiving. The 5th and 6th graders came to my house. We made pumpkin pie. It reminded me of my Grandma's delicious pumpkin pie. When I ate it with the kids, it was not nearly as delicious; the spices were too strong and the filling was too fluffy. But after chilling it, it tasted much better. Still, I have afeeling that it is too strong of a flavor for the Japanese palate. I guess I'll try gingerbread next...
That night, I put up Christmas lights and made a lovely display of paper fall leaves for the sliding glass door.
I planted some spinach last week, and noticed that my plants are beginning to flourish and adjust to their home. It is beginning to feel more like home here.