Summer 2016

Summer 2016
Summer in Tsukahara

Spring in Tsukahara

gkimbal's Spring in Tsukahara album on Photobucket

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Six Month Anniversary



To celebrate our sixth month in business, we decided to purchase a new banner, bumper sticker, and advertising sign. What do you think? Erika designed everything. Considering how busy she has been, I think she did a sensational job. We purchased the copyrights to the owl and Erika took care of the rest. Our flyers, business cards, and website have the same insignia. The business continues to gradually grow. Stay tuned for more updates…       George

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Neighborhood





I added Photobucket to the blog. I’ll try to update these photos as the seasons change. These are some photos I recently took while walking the dogs around the neighborhood. Tsukahara is divided into two neighborhoods. The original neighborhood is where all of the old-timers live. I don’t know how long Tsukahara has been around. Judging from the shrines and temples, I would guess a long time.
The newer area of Tsukahara is designated, “Tsukahara Highlands.” It hasn’t been around very long. I’m guessing 20 years or so. The highlands are a compilation of people who left the cities to find peace and quiet. Many of these people have homes that are also small businesses. It’s a difficult way to make a living because Tsukahara has relatively few visitors compared to nearby Beppu and Yufuin.

I read a recent article mentioning that Tsukahara is the 7th most desirable place to live in Japan. I think the air and water quality have a lot to do with it. The population of Tsukahara is around 365. A stranger would have difficulty finding 365 people, as they seem to be well hidden.   George

 




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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Friday, September 14, 2012

Tsukahara Hot Springs Part 2



Here's a few photos that I forgot to include in the last post.












Beppu Bay
          
George

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Tsukahara Hot Springs

On Sunday, Erika and I decided that all work and no play make a teacher tired and boring. The cure for that was simple...let's go somewhere! We heard from a neighbor that Tsukahara Hot Springs had a trail that we could take dogs on. After 15 minutes of casual driving, we reached our destination. The YouTube video should give you a better idea of how close the hot springs are to our home.

It was about 80 degrees, but a thunderstorm was rapidly forming. The hike up Mt. Garan took about 45 minutes. The video shows Mt.Tsurumi, Mt. Yufu, and Monkey Mountain. Unfortunately, the cloud cover only allowed a peek at Beppu Bay, Oita City, and Beppu. We'll climb this trail again in the near future. I'll try to get a better video of the spectacular view. The coolest thing about the entire trip was that we left at 8am and returned home before 10am. We felt completely rejuvenated and ready to enjoy the rest of a glorious weekend.     George

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Erika’s Update

I’m sure you have been wondering what Erika has been doing. It doesn’t seem like me to be quiet for such a long time. I’m happily alive!!! I’ve been extremely busy, but I have still some capacity to accept you as a guest if you stay with us in Tsukahara. To prepare for a visit, you need to learn how to use a hammer and split wood. According to George, there are only two things that I’m better at than he is; cooking and stacking wood. Although we’ve been busy, we try to take a moment to sit outside, enjoy the view, and eat our meal. We feel like we are on vacation. We don’t have to get in a car, take a cruise, or go to the airport to have a vacation. The best thing about living here is the freedom to take a vacation at a moment’s notice. I guess George has trained me well enough so that I feel our best vacation is on our own property. The temperature, wind, and air quality are so different compared to where our school is located. Actually, Yufuin which is only 15 minutes away has weather that is dramatically different from ours. Even if it’s late, after teaching at Y.E.S., I try to go back to Tsukahara. All of us, including the doggies, can sleep better there.
George laughed at my garden, but I harvested some tomatoes. I was very successful using bamboo poles to keep the deer from my tomatoes. Unfortunately, the rabbits and crows ate some of my prized produce. I planted two packages of lettuce seeds hoping to capitalize on my success. The bugs ate all of them. What did I learn from that experience? We live with nature so I have to be a little bit more modest.
I split and stacked all the wood for next winter by myself. My hands are hurting, but I enjoy being cheap. George has cooperated, but it’s hard for him to be as cheap as me. I find that I have problems with him peeking and wandering through the fridge while keeping the fridge door open. He also likes to keep the window open while taking a shower, allowing the warm air to escape. We have rarely argued since we moved here. Rarely do we have time to spend quietly together. Most of the time, we are busy working or making lesson plans and activities. If we do have a moment together, we usually spend it discussing our business plans or the dogs. We’ll sit on the deck and enjoy the peace and quiet. When George was encouraging me to move to Japan, he told me that making lots of money was not as important as choosing where to live. Maybe I gradually understand……but, I miss having all the material comforts of life!!!  Sometimes…                 Erika

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

近況報告


YESを始めてから、とにかく精神的に忙しい。それ以前から、この広い土地付き古いログハウスの田舎生活を始めて以来、休む暇なし。薪を欠いた去年の冬は泣かされたので、今年は薪集め。数人の、本当に本当に親切な友達から薪の情報をもらい、お陰様で今年の冬は暖かく過ごせそう。その為の薪割り。一時は卵も持てないほどの痛みで、ご近所の整体師さんにお世話になってしまった。年のせいにはしたくないが、完治しないのはやはり年齢を侮れないものだと、しっかり認知する必要はある気がする。頭の中だけか、いつまでも若い気でいるのは。。。

「お月謝が支払われ、親御さんが文句を言わないなら続けなさい」と、他の生徒の親御さんや保育園関係者の方々にも言われたが、良心の呵責を感じながら続けるのはどうも性に合わないので、やっぱり辞めてしまった一クラス。小2、4、中1、2を同時に教えるというのは誰かにシワ寄せがいき、毎回それを見るのが本当に心苦しかった。4月から1ヶ月の橋渡しの役が、ズルズルと5ヶ月も過ぎてしまった。一線を引くことの難しさを学んだ。その点、アメリカは楽だった。。。何度も簡単に一線を引くことが多かったから。

日本に越して来て、後1ヶ月で1年を迎える。この1年を振り返って、予想以上に外れていたものは何か、という質問が出た。ジョージは、「エリカからもっといろんな文句が出るだろうなあと覚悟していた」ということ。うーん、色んなところで暮らしてきたから順応性はあるだろうし、基本的には日本人だから。。。いろんな面で妥協はあるが、それなりに穏やかな、というより、そんなことを感じる余裕がない日々の生活を送っているというのが正直なところ。まだまだ少ないけど、友達や生徒、生徒の親御さんたちとの人間関係には恵まれたとつくづく感じている。子供たち一人ひとりが本当に個性的で、いろんな発見が出来るのもまた楽しい。大人のクラスも、年齢ではなく、何事もやる気で上達するのだなあと、教える側でありながら感心させられる。そういう点では、YESが、ゆっくりであるが、確実に良い環境に広がりつつあることを嬉しく思う。

犬たちは相変わらず元気。想像していた以上に山の天気が変わり易く、突然の雷雨や稲妻でカイリーの健康状態がすごく心配だったが、これも少しずつ落ち着いてきたように思われる。カイリーのような犬用に作られたピアノ曲とサンダージャケットが効いているのかな。。。どんな服さえも嫌がって着ようとしなかったのに、このサンダージャケットだけは着ると安心感を覚えるのか、ジッとして着てくれる。ピアノ曲で息の荒さも少し和らぎ、しばらくすると眠りを誘うようだ。このピアノ曲、少なくとも私たちには効果テキメン!
 
本当に小幅の一歩いっぽ、でも確実に日本での生活が定着しつつあるような気がする。これもYさんが特別に作ってくれたエンジェルのお陰かな???大病の子供たちだけにしか作らないというエンジェルを、アメリカのご近所さんのYさんが作ってくれた。こういうものはあまり信じない私たちだけど、このエンジェルだけはベッドの上に置いて大切にしてる。「やっぱり日本に帰って来てよかった」と言える日が来ますように。。。
 
長くなったけど近況報告

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

New Semester


A new semester has begun. In Japan, the month of September is filled with sporting activities for the students. I was told to expect to have many English classes cancelled. I guess it’s no surprise to hear that sports have precedent over English. This brings up a topic I discussed with a veteran A.L.T. over the summer holiday. He has been in the Yufuin area for the past 5 years. Usually an A.L.T. will teach for a year or two, and then move back to their home country. Anyway, when he was hired, it was assumed that his job would be obsolete after 2 to 3 years. At that time, it was assumed that the main teachers would have a firm grasp of the English language. Thus, the main teachers would not require the assistance of an A.L.T. The assumption has been proven wrong. It has been 6 years since the plan was first implemented. The main teachers are still light years away from being left alone in front of an English class.

I asked the veteran A.L.T., “Why are the teachers having so much difficulty with English?” His reply had to do with senior teachers being unable to cope with change. He also mentioned that their hearts were not in it. He used a personal example. “When I first came to Japan, I was unable to speak the language. I had to get around, pay bills, and live my everyday life. This forced me to learn the language.”

“I see what you mean,” I replied. “I have a similar situation in that I have Erika to hold my hand whenever I face a difficult conversational situation. It’s much easier to rely on her than to take the initiative to learn the language. The main teachers have the A.L.T.’s to hold their hands. So what’s the solution?”

“The solution will take time. The older teachers will have to retire. The newer teachers are required to have an English license. The entire education system will require a change in attitude. They need to have a real reason for teaching/ learning English. Right now, the reason is because Japan wants to be international. If you asked someone from the Department of Education what that means to be international, the answer is vague. Until the teacher has a firm idea and purpose for teaching English, their hearts will not be in it and the program will not succeed.”

“Well, that’s good for us, but that’s bad for the students,” I replied. “Japan is very good at copying ideas, but they fail miserably when it comes to being creative. It would take a creative mind to challenge and persuade the educators to change. I don’t see that happening anytime, soon.” The veteran A.L.T nodded his head in agreement.    George