Archive for August 2010

Ceremony and ST Colony

August 26, 2010

kurionekamakura Date: May 22, 2007:

We spent one week with the people of Gammallapudu. During that week, Emily fractured her left wrist frolicking with children with one mistep while hopscotching on some stepping stones. After a visit to the Kaikalur hospital, Em spent the last 6 days of our trip with a plaster cast on her lower left arm. It was soon covered with English, Gaelic, Japanese, and Telugu. Besides Em’s unfortunate mishap, some volunteers suffered mild heat stroke, and we all had some gastrointestinal issues at some point. But all in all, we came through in good shape. After six days working, we spent Friday on a roadtrip to Machilipatnam and Manginapudi Beach. The highlight of the day was bodysurfing in the Bay of Bengal. After swimming, we visited the ARV headquarters in Machilipatnam. Then we made the extremely bumpy ride back to Kaikalur to get ready for the final blowout in Gammallapudu that evening.

All the girls were decked out in saris to match their henna that they got the previous day. The men were given some ceremonious Indian duds as well. We headed out on our usual commute to the village at 5pm. Our tuk-tuks stopped at the edge of the village. We were met by everyone for flowerings and a drum led parade through the village with smiling children as our escorts. After the parade, we made our way to the village square for the closing ceremony. The masses gathered as the drums pounded. The children were seated in orderly fashion. Words were said about the importance of education. We handed out pencils and cards from Japanese students. More words were said in Telugu and English. Thanks were given from all sides as darkness fell. Then the dancing began. We were expecting some sort of traditional Indian dancing, but were instead given some Indian pop dance breakdowns. Then the volunteers danced an Irish jig orchestrated by Maeve. I snapped photos and video. This was followed by free form mixed dancing and final good byes before being piled into the tuk-tuks amidst a chaotic scene reminiscent of a Beatles escape in a Hard Day’s Night. It truly was a wild and wooly scene as we sped off in the tuk-tuks. We were wiping away tears as we sped off from our new friends. Several women were even trying to give us babies to take back to the promised land of Japan, Canada, USA, etc…a truly sad testament to how hopeless some of these Dalit people feel. But overall I think our time there brought a lot of hope to these people in letting them know that people do care.

On Saturday, we went to ST Colony to play with the children, bathe them, give out new clothes, and feed the village. ST Colony is a Dalit outpost in the midst of Kaikalur. It is a much poorer place than Gammallapudu. The people of ST Colony live amidst squalor and are shunned by most of Kaikalur and relegated to the basest of jobs. Many of the people go days without food. This really showed while we served them during the community meal. It seemed a lot of these people were without hope or happiness. There was a different vibe here then in Gammallapudu. Comparitively, Gammallpudu was much better off. They own their land, have electricity, nicer houses, a church, a school building, and hope. ST Colony has none of these. Gammallapudu was a village. ST Colony was a shanty town in the midst of a small city. The biggest problem is that ST Colony does not own the land it is on and as Kaikalur grows even this undesirable land becomes desirable. There is a danger that the people might be kicked off the land. Until they own the land, ARV does not want to build permanent houses, schools, etc…While we were there, word supposedly came through saying that the government was going to deed the land to them (a show of a caring government for foreign eyes that had been attracting media attention?). Hopefully, that is the case. Although, Ravi seemed skeptical of the veracity of the call. Hopefully, a future Building Communities project can focus on helping the people of ST Colony in a more permanent way.

After our day at ST Colony, we had a couple hours rest before jumping the 8 hour night train back to Hyderabad. We said our fond farewells to Rambob, Job, Ravi (No. 2), Wamsi, Siva, and Swathi at the train station. Ravi (No. 1) was riding the rails back to Hyderabad with us. We rolled into Secunderbad Station at 6 am. We met Ravi’s family and breakfasted at Ravi`s apartment before heading to the airport. We flew to Delhi and spent 8 interesting hours there before our long flight back to Japan. Yutaka, Kier, and I checked out Qutb Minar, while the others shopped. We arrived back home in Sapporo at 5pm Monday night. I was asleep not long after that dreaming and trying to absorb all that I had just experienced. Two weeks later I am still trying.



August 26, 2010

kurionekamakura Date: May 16, 2007:

For most of our trip to India, we stayed in a hotel in the town of Kaikalur (approximately 25,000 people). Each day we commuted to the village of Gammallapudu where we were helping to build the houses for the widows. Our usual routine was was to eat breakfast at the community center in Kaikalur and then head out to the village. The first part of our daily journey to Gammallapudu was by bus, with Rambob at the wheel. A little over half way, we had to get off the bus, and walk across a wooden bridge spanning a river. It was to weak to support a bus or car, only motorcycles, bicycles, pedestrians, and sheep. Then we piled into or on the back of tuk-tuks on the other side of the bridge and rode them into the village. We reversed the journey at the end of each day.

However, the day of our grand arrival in Gammallapudu, we arrived in an equally grand fashion. After our long journey from Japan in planes, trains, tuk-tuks, buses, etc…we finally arrived in the village of Gammallapudu on the morning of Saturday April 28th by boat. The twenty minute boat journey was a wonderful and relaxing treat after two days of travel. We arrived on the banks near the village and were greeted by many smiling and excited children who escorted us around the fish ponds through the village and to the community center for the welcome ceremony. The welcome was amazing. Gammallapudu opened their hearts wide in welcoming us and big open smiles and shaking hands surrounded us immediately in all directions.

After the opening ceremony, we went to work building houses and mingling with the people. Hospitality, generosity, and eager, cheerful children came at us from every direction. This region of Andhra Pradesh does not see many foreigners. Besides in the media, it was the first time most of these people had layed eyes on a foreigner, let alone a smorgasborg of fourteen of them at once. The village was excited and amazed to see us sweating in the sun working to build houses. Ravi’s, the ARV (Association of Relief Volunteers) mastermind and coordinator, mission is to change the way Indians think about the age old cultural baggage of the caste system and widows. In this Dalit community, it was amazing to think that these volunteers traveled all the way here to help them out, and especially to help Dalit widows. A lot of Dalits in Andhra Pradesh are now Christian. Almost everyone in Gammallapudu was Christian. They converted in an attempt to get out from under the Hindu based caste system, yet it follows them across religious divides as do a lot of their own baggage and attitude towards widows.

The idea of the Building Communities project is not only literally building houses, but also to bring communities together and change their thinking towards each other. Despite the historical work of civil rights leaders, such as Gandhi and B.R. Ambedkar, whose statue looms in the village square and that of most Dalit communities, the legacy and attitudes of the caste system and treatment of widows continues into the 21st century. The main focus of this project was to change thinking and attitudes towards widows in Gammallapudu and project this outwards through Andhra Pradesh. The fact that people from all around the world were there to help the widows made a powerful impression on the people in the village and hopefully elsewhere in Andhra Pradesh. To be continued…

Imminent Departure

August 26, 2010

kurionekamakura Date: April 25, 2007: Tomorrow morning we embark on our journey to India. We are going with a group of 15 volunteers as part of the Buildings Communities Project of the Association of Relief Volunteers. We leave Sapporo on April 26 and will return on May 7. We are going to help out in two Dalit (Untouchable) communities in rural Andhra Pradesh. We will be staying in a hotel in the town of Kaikalur, and commuting each day to the villages of Gammallapudu and ST Colony to work. In Gammallapudu, we will be assisting in building 10 houses for widows in the community, as well as interacting and sharing international love with the villagers. It should be an amazing experience. Thanks again to all of you who contributed to our fundraising site! We will report back firsthand on the good work your money is going towards when we get back to Sapporo. Wandanamuru! (“Thank You” in Telugu)!

Trip Itinerary
April 26: Fly out of Shin Chitose to Tokyo Haneda. Take bus to Tokyo Narita. Fly from Tokyo Narita to Delhi. Fly from Delhi to Hyderabad. Arrive at midnight. Meet and greet and head to our hotel in Hyderabad.
April 27: Sleep a bit. Eat Breakfast. We will be in Hyderabad until 10:15pm. Get in a little sighseeing before boarding the overnight train to Kaikalur.
April 28: Arrive in Kaikalur at 6:30am. Breakfast, travel to villages, and begin work.
April 29-May 3: Help build the widow’s houses in Gammallapudu.
May 4: Beach visit. (45km from Kaikalur). Visit ARV office in Machilapatnam.
May 5: Visit ST Colony. Board the train back to Hyderabad at 8pm in Kaikalur
May 6: Arrive in Hyderabad. Fly from Hyderabad to Delhi. Have 9 hours in Delhi for a little sightseeing. Leave Delhi at 9:20pm for flight back to Tokyo Narita.
May 7: Arrive at Narita at 9:10 am. Bus to Haneda. Flight back to Shin Chitose and Sapporo home.

Say Hello to my little friend

August 26, 2010

kurionekamakura Date: April 23, 2007: Oasa High is the biggest public high school in Hokkaido, with 1,200 students. Each grade has 400 students and 10 homerooms. This year (and last year), my main team teaching duties are with the ichinensei classes. In the quest to keep the team teaching experience even across the grade, I end up team teaching the same lesson 10 times. Last week we began our first round of team teaching lessons in the ichinensei classes. The fact that I teach it with four different JTE’s keeps it interesting. By the end of the tenth class, the lesson is definitely a well oiled machine. This year in ichinensei, I am scheduled to do 12 Oral Communication Team Teaching lessons over the course of the year. All of them will be heavily focused on developing listening and speaking skills, that otherwise get the short shrift here at grammar and college entrance examination driven Oasa. When I am not in class, grammar is the name of the game. Each ichinensei class will see me an average of once a month. I will also be doing some lessons in the ninensei writing classes and the sannensei elective Oral Communication 2 classes. Between this, and all of my Doken duties, I am going to make sure that each ichinensei team teaching lesson is chock full of listening to and speaking a whole lot of English.

Luckily, I am given a lot of freedom in planning the lessons for ichinensei. This year I am using the Oral Communication textbook as a general guide for planning lessons, but really don’t plan on using it in class. First, I create the lessons using a topic from the textbook. After creating the lessons, I distribute copies and talk to the JTE’s, getting their ideas and feedback. If necessary, changes are made, and then we put the lessons into action, adapting and evolving them along the way. The first lesson was planned around the Self- Introduction. I start off with a fifteen minute Self- Introduction, using lots of visual aids. Then, we break the students into pairs. First, using two different worksheets, partners ask each other multiple-choice questions about my Self-Introduction. They have different worksheets with 4 different questions on each. Partners have to listen very carefully to each other to answer the questions. When they are finished, we give the correct answers while they check their sheets. Finally, the students interview each other, guided by a worksheet of ten questions.

Example Interview Questions:
4) What is your hobby?
5) What is your favorite movie?
6) Who is your favorite actor or actress?
8) Who is your favorite singer?
10) Which foreign country do you want to visit? Why?

They record their partners answers on their worksheet. Both the Self-Introduction worksheet and Interview worksheet are collected at the end of the class. I am learning alot about Japanese movies and J-pop. My biggest score so far was getting turned onto the movie Death Note, which many students noted as their favorite This movie is based on a manga, which in turn was based on a novel. After the movie, an anime series was created for the story. The anime is amazingly cool! I highly recommend checking it out. The movie is pretty good. The anime is awesome. So far the first team teaching lessons of the school year have been a resounding success for all. Hopefully, this trend will continue throughout the year.

Within Sapporo Kokusai

August 26, 2010

kurionekamakura Date: April 19, 2007:

Ski Date: April 14, 2007: Last Friday was a busy one. After a full day at Oasa, I rushed out of ESS a little early, rode my bike home, threw my ski gear together, and hopped on the 5:03pm bus to Kikusui. I had the all Doken welcome enkai that evening at 6:30pm. Before the enkai I had to drop my ski gear at Roy’s house, where we would be staying that night. Luckily the enkai was being held at the Hotel Lifort on the edge of Nakajima Koen very close to Roy’s house. Em and I were heading up to ski at Sapporo Kokusai early Saturday morning. I successfully dropped off my stuff and went to the enkai. I also attended the nijikai at a Susukino izakaya. The nijikai ended promptly at 11pm. From there I headed to Tanuki Koji to meet up with Emily, Roy, and a score of others for an all night international electronic music DJ dance shindig at the Mole. Not normally my scene, but it was fun. Lots of interesting people watching to be had in the dark disco lit cave of the Mole. I escaped at about 2:45am and walked back to Roy’s in the rain. I prayed that this meant snow up at Sapporo Kokusai. Emily and a few others followed home in a cab an hour later.

I slept a fitful few hours in Roy’s backroom and was up at 6:45am rustling Emily from sleep. The rain had turned to some very wet accumulating snow in Sapporo. This boded very well for the day at Kokusai. We were out the door by 7:00am and soon on the subway to Sapporo Station. We grabbed a coffee at the station and boarded the 7:40am bus to Sapporo Kokusai. We comfortably napped in full reclining position the whole way there on the sparsely populated bus. The snow was flying at Kokusai when we arrived. We geared up and hit the gondola.

A great day of skiing was had. There was a good four inches of fresh stuff in the trees on top of a very firm base. I explored a lot of terrain under the gondolas and skier’s right of the far right run of the resort. This provided some incredibly nice glade skiing that I look forward to skiing many times in the future. We had a full day on the lifts and jumped the 5:00pm bus back from gloriously white Kokusai to soggy Sapporo city where the snow had once again turned back into rain. Elevation is a fickle mistress when it comes to precipitation.


August 26, 2010

kurionekamakura Date: April 17, 2007: Last week, the first week of the new school year, was indoctrination week at Oasa High for the new ichinensei students. Monday was the entrance ceremony. I missed it because I was at Doken. Tuesday, during 4th period, was the ichinensei meets the rest of the school assembly. Tuesday 5th and 6th period was the assembly to introduce the ichinensei students to all the 37 clubs at Oasa. Each club got 3 minutes on the stage of the big gym to make their impression on the fresh high school minds of the ichinensei. They were gaping open mouthed directly in front of the stage. Some of the biggest gaping occurred after the short ESS club video, starring me and other members of ESS club. The video was followed by the houselights coming on, and me running up on the stage and giving a short 30 second invitation to join ESS. It was the first time most of the ichinensei had layed eyes on Oasa’s resident bearded gaikokujin. I think most of them had no idea that such an entity even existed at Oasa. I was looking out at some very amazed faces, with many jaws dropped to the floor. We had a few interested students visit ESS on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons. They will make their official club choices next week. Hopefully, we will get several new ESS members. We officially had our second boy (three if you count me) join up last week. One of Gaku’s ninensei friends, Nobutaka, is now officially an ESS member. It is good to have another boy in the ranks. He is a really nice kid and a welcome addition to ESS. We hope for at least one ichinensei boy to join up next week.

The ichinensei indoctrination week ended with a three day retreat to Hokkaido’s most famous dying city, Yubari. The Kill Bill character, Gogo Yubari, is a namesake for the town of Yubari. Apparently Quentin Tarantino has a warm spot in his heart for Yubari, after winning an award for Reservoir Dogs there in 1993 at the now defunct Yubari Film Festival. The ichinensei teachers and 400 students holed up in rural Yubari for three days. They left on Friday and came back Sunday. As I understand it, the mission of the yearly trip is to indocrinate the new recruits into the ways of Oasa with all its rules and strict idiosyncrasies. They learn the school song, motto, how to act, how to study, etc…Lots of talking at the students by the teachers. The senpai students tell that me the trip is not very fun. Sounds like a sort of brainwashing exercise in the eternal quest to mold the perfect Oasa students. At least they get make up holidays for spending their Saturday and Sunday in such a manner. The ichinensei teachers and students had off yesterday (Monday) and today (Tuesday) to recover from their weekend ordeal. Gambatte new recruits! Your three year jig has just begun.

Above Sapporo Kokusai

August 26, 2010

kurionekamakura Date: April 10, 2007:

Ski Date: April 7, 2007: On Friday night, Gregory drove down to Sapporo from Shihoro for a weekend of telemark skiing. We spent Saturday in the backcountry above Sapporo Kokusai. Sunday was spent on the lifts of Teine Highland, the resort’s last day of the season. On Saturday morning, we were up early and on the road to Sapporo Kokusai by 7am. We arrived at Sapporo Kokusai a little after eight, giving us plenty of time to gear up before the gondola opened at 9am. We bought a single ride ticket for the Sky Cabin 8 gondola (1200yen) that took us to the top of the resort. From there we donned our skins and climbed up Asari Dake (1281 meters). Most people were heading up Yoichi Dake from there, including quite a few highmarking snowmobiles. We made a left turn and headed for Shirai Dake. We made our way to the edge of the plateau-like Asari Dake, took off our skins, and dropped down a couple hundred feet to the saddle between Asari Dake and Shirai Dake. We reskinned and headed up along the ridge to the top of Shirai Dake (1302 meters).

The weather turned from a beautiful sunny day into a foggy and moist one, oscillating between misting freezing rain and extremely wet snow. We topped out on Shirai Dake and took a nice long lunch break before heading down along the ridge. At the saddle, we took our skis off and boot tracked it back up to the top of Asari Dake. On Asari Dake, pea soup fog had settled in, making navigating or seeing more than ten feet in front of us extremely difficult. We made our way towards the Kokusai side of the ridge. It was very easy to get confused and discombobulated, but with the help of old tracks and eventually the sound of the gondola we found our way. I led us a bit too far to the right. We ended up below the top of the gondola and to the right of the ski resort. But with the help of the gondola’s rumbling, we climbed back up a bit and landed on the runs of Kokusai. We got back to the car around 5pm and headed on home for some of Emily’s delicious hamburgers. Sunday was spent on the lifts at Teine.