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Summer in Tsukahara

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gkimbal's Spring in Tsukahara album on Photobucket

Monday, October 29, 2012

Great Idea!


The Japanese have this really great idea about reusing plastic bottles that contain cleaning products, cosmetics, sauces, shampoos, etc. Rather than sell you another plastic bottle, they sell an easy-to-use refill pouch. The pouch contains exactly enough product to refill the original plastic bottle. The pouches are clearly marked so that you don’t accidently put the wrong product into the original bottle. In the U.S., I hated to throw away a perfectly good spray bottle. I would save the sprayer, but how many sprayers does a person need? The pouches are easy to recycle and easy on the environment. It’s a win win situation.   George

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Early Fall


PhotoBucket has been updated. The temperature is dropping and the wood stove is operational. 
The fall colors are visible on Yufu-dake, but it's not as noticeable as the other areas in Japan. If the sun is positioned at a certain angle, the volcano turns red.
 
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Susuki dominates most of the open areas in Tsukahara. Sunset is a dramatic time. The deer are bugling, the susuki are casting a silver glow, and the volcano turns a tinge of red. The thunderstorms are gone. The fall weather is perfect for engaging in outdoor activities.
 
Paragliders enjoy the nearby hill. According to rumor, they pay 10,000 yen per person per day to fly off that hill. I was very interested in paragliding until I heard the cost.
 
 
Lucky and Kiley are entertained by these strange looking birds (paragliders).
 
If you look closely, the air is full of tiny insects. This photo was taken in the old part of Tsukahara. I'm glad we don't have this problem in the highlands.


 
The autumn flowers are in abundance all over Tsukahara. It is an absolutely beautiful time of year.   George

Monday, October 22, 2012

Candy Trains


We are preparing our first annual Christmas party for Y.E.S. Around 40 people are expected, but we’ll know more as soon as we determine a date and a venue. We purchased many of the Christmas decorations before we left the U.S. After Christmas sales are a wonderful thing. Quite a few of the decorations were purchased at bargain basement prices.

A very special surprise will be at the party. I can’t disclose anymore than that. One thing that I can show you are our candy trains. We wanted something that would represent “Station” as in our business name, “Your English Station.” The trains are edible and are a lot of fun to make. The hardest part of making them is not being able to eat any of the inventory. I love chocolate and the smell of chocolate candy is driving me nuts. The trains consist of peppermint candies, Lifesavers, Rolos, Wrigley’s Doublemint Gum, Starbursts, Hershey Miniatures, and Hershey Kisses. They were assembled with a hot glue gun. I’ve made 18 trains with 22 more to go.    George


 

 

Friday, October 12, 2012

"English is too hard"


A sixth grade student commented in class, “Why doesn’t Mr. Kimball have to learn Japanese?” “English is too hard to learn. Japanese is easy.” Sensei quickly responded, “You have it backwards. Japanese is a very difficult language to learn. English is relatively easy.” I pointed to the world map and explained (with the help of sensei) that if you compared the Japanese language to the languages spoken around the world, English is easy to learn. The U.S. State Department allows its students three times longer to learn Japanese than any of the easier languages. According to this website “You can’t learn to speak the language (Japanese) by learning to read it, and vice versa.”

This makes me wonder…if Japanese is so difficult to learn, then shouldn’t English be easy for the Japanese to master? I think it would be if the students were able to use English on a daily basis. Japan does not have a diversified culture. I can go months without seeing a foreigner. Some of my students have never seen a foreigner in person. It’s this isolation that prevents students from using and learning a foreign language. My students are exposed to English for 45 minutes each week. The students don’t have a chance to use what they have learned, so naturally they forget. This follows the adage, “Use it or lose it.”

I can see why the students think English is difficult to learn. They aren’t exposed to the language on a daily basis like other, more diversified countries are. Here is a personal example. I don’t have to struggle with the native language in Japan. Erika does everything for me. Neither of us likes to watch TV and my private life is in English. At school, only a few teachers that can speak English approach me. I make conversation with those teachers in English. I try to understand the students and they try to understand me by using gestures, simple Japanese and English. Why do I need to learn a foreign language if it’s not required or necessary? Sure, I sometimes feel isolated, but even the foreigners that can speak Japanese fluently feel isolated.

Is there a solution? The problem of isolation can’t easily be solved. The Japanese are fiercely proud of their nation and culture. I don’t see the Japanese envy western civilization. I more or less see the Japanese look upon “Westerners” as being gaijin (foreigners). If a foreigner follows the rules and respects the culture, then they are tolerated. Sometimes I wonder if learning English is “tolerated” only because the Ministry of Education makes it so. Japan gives the impression that they are promoting internationalism, but their governmental policies prove otherwise. If you don’t believe it, just try to get a visa as a foreigner.   George

 

 

 




Friday, October 5, 2012

Wow! It’s been a year?


Erika often says, “Time sure flies” as she is busily preparing lesson plans for the week. Time does seem to be passing quickly since we moved to Japan. Why is that? I know that time passes quickly when I’m busy. Perhaps this new lifestyle keeps me busy? I was busy in Seattle, but time passed like I was waiting to have all my teeth pulled. I noticed when I become involved with something I enjoy and it’s fun, time seems to move at warp speed. So, I must be enjoying what I’m doing, having fun, and staying busy. Yes, I think that would summarize our year in Japan.

A few days ago, Erika came home from teaching and she was in a cheerful mood. She explained that she had the best experience teaching that day. She realized that she was making a difference in a person’s life. She could influence a student in such a way as to make a positive change in that person. I think it finally dawned on her that she has the gift of being a teacher…an exceptionally talented teacher. When I grow up, I want to be like Erika.

After living in Japanfor a year, do I have any regrets? Yes. We should have done this sooner.

Do I have any advice for someone thinking of making a change? Yes. Take charge of your life, stop thinking and start doing!

Do you think you will move back to the U.S.? Sure. As soon as we become independently wealthy and we can afford a vacation home in California or Arizona. Erika loves the U.S. and I can’t deny her that luxury.

Our life in Japan has been an uphill struggle. It was also that way in Seattle. The main difference is that we have chosen to make it a struggle in Japan. It’s all about attitude. Feeling in control of our destiny is enlightening, but it’s also terrifying. I don’t think anyone is ever in control of their destiny, but ignorance is bliss. I think we are on the right path to having a successful business and a fulfilling life. Patience is proving to be the key. It’s kind of like fishing.

Well, cheers to keeping our line in the water.    George



 

 

 

 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Open Your Eyes

 A dear friend of ours, Klaudia, was kind enough to share this video with us. We just wanted to pass it along so others can see it too. This inspirational video really struck a chord with me. I'm fortunate that I can live in the beautiful countryside of Japan. The video reminded me that beauty can be experienced any where and at any time. You just have to open your eyes and heart to see and appreciate it.   George