Friday, September 30, 2011

Happy Birthday, KCS!

Today Kansai Christian School celebrates 41 years!  

The staff, students and parents will be celebrating by eating lunch together and enjoying some cupcakes for dessert.  At the last PTA meeting various parents and teachers volunteered to bring cupcakes. 
I was one of the volunteers.  

I decided to use the occasion to try a new recipe using some ingredients
 that many of my students have never tasted in a cupcake. 
 Pumpkin and butterscotch chips.
I found the recipe on the back of the Nestle chips bag, you can find it here. 
I wasn't sure if the flavor combination would go over well with the Japanese students
 but it met with rave reviews. 

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Children say the cutest things

Tomorrow Is KCS's 41st Birthday! Woot woot!
I asked my kids if they had any special prayers for school.
(I anticipated prayers of thankfulness.)
But my students suggested we pray that KCS doesn't "break down". 
Me: Why?  (We're in our 3rd year in a newly remodeled building).
An 8 year old: Because after you turn 41 years old you breakdown easy

Bible Class Quote: 
Studying Adam and Eve and Sin. Students were going through a list and needed to determine if it is a sin trap or not.
Me: Number 1. 'Being selfish'. Is that a sin trap or not?
Student A: Yes. That is bad.
Student B (who happens to LOVE fish): What! Whats wrong with being shell fish?

Math quote of the day:
 While students were learning about US money -the half dollar and dollar and the presidents on them (John F. Kennedy and George Washington), a 2nd grade girl said, "The man on the half dollar looks very handsome and the man on the dollar looks like Mozart."

Last week's Quote: 
While I was on playground duty, I told the high school boys to come inside from recess since it was starting to rain.
A second grader who watched this happen asked, "Ms. Harms, are you older than those boys?"
Me:  "What do you think?" 
Student: "Umm, yes????"
Someday I'll tell him we don't measure people's age by how tall they are. Someday.

Student leadership?
Students are assigned different leadership roles each week. Last week a 2nd grader was in charge of morning meeting and she was not happy with the way some students were sitting on the carpet.  We have a saying, "Criss-cross Apple Sauce, spoons in your bowl." Which means sit with your legs criss-cross and put your hands in your lap. All the students in class know this is a reminder for how to sit.  
Student Leader with hands on her hips calls out Student A:" Criss-cross Apple . . .
Student A with frustration: "I AM APPLE-SAUCING!!"

Creative Thinking
Student: Oh, so P in PTA is Parent, T is teacher, what is A for?
Me: What do you think?
Student: Another?
Me: Try again.
Student 1: Animals?
Student 2: Yeah, then Brownie, Monkey, and Froggy could go! (Classroom stuffed animals.)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

What's it like to grow up overseas?

I recently read an article called,

My Familiy's Experiment in Extreme Schooling in the NYtimes. (Video on the link too!)

It talks about an expat family (from New York) living in Moscow and the experience their children had being immersed in a Russian speaking school.  It gives an interesting picture of what school is like for students learning in their 2nd or 3rd language.  Some lessons in the article are applicable to missionary kids, cross-cultural kids, as well as second language learners in the states.  The challenges of adapting, learning the unspoken rules, and finding ways to feel you can survive and even thrive.  One paragraph that stood out to me was . . .

In those first months, our kids found themselves bewildered and isolated. Danya was a typical oldest child, a coper who rarely lost control. At night, though, she had insomnia. In class, she braced herself for that moment when she was asked for homework. She sometimes did not know whether it had been assigned. During Russian grammar, the words on the blackboard looked like hieroglyphics. She tried to soothe herself by repeating a mantra: “It’s O.K. to feel like an idiot. This is going to take time.” But she felt betrayed. We had assured her that children grasp language effortlessly, and there she was, the dumb foreigner.

The school where I teach has students from MANY different cultures and heart languages. But the language of education is English.  Japanese is taught 2 hours a week starting in first grade. My class of native Japanese speakers become chatterboxes when their Japanese teacher enters the classroom to start Japanese class.  Sometimes I stay in the classroom to listen and learn more about my own students who are so quiet during English instruction.

As my students are all Japanese children - living in Japan, they are not true third culture kids - seeing as though they live in their passport culture.  However, because of the international environment in which they attend school they definitely fit the cross-cultural kids category. Their parents have taken a bold step in enlisting their children in "Extreme Schooling" in English in their own country.

 When I think about  the fact that my students do/or at some point did look at the white board and not understand the meaning of the English I've written up there -  I also reminding myself - that even though this student is not answering me, "It's O.K. this is going to take time."

 But good things come to those who press on toward the goal.  I find myself cheering with the students as they decode the sounds of letters and create a word. I'm rejoicing when I realize they can now ask, "May I go to the bathroom please?" in a complete sentence rather than just look at me with panic in their faces and say "Toilet?"

Today the rejoicing came when the Bells, former KCS teachers from Australia, came to visit and all 7 students greeted the guests with a smile and handshake saying in English, "My name is  ---------.  Nice to meet you."

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

What's the drive like?

^ This is what my drive from school to home looked like on Monday(last week).

^This a little further down the road on Tuesday (last week).  
Believe it or not this is a two way street. 
At about 3:20 pm the white vehicle had tried to pass
 a child who was walking on the side of the street. 
The driver moved too far over and found his tire in the gutter/ditch.

At about 5pm  the yellow JAF truck was working to get the white vehicle out of the ditch. 
The JAF worker, in the blue jump suit in front of the white car,
 is standing in the ditch - it looks about 2 feet deep.

Ditches, gutters, moats or small rivers - whatever you want to call them - 
they are a major area for caution when driving in Japan.
This one above is near my house and about 3 feet deep. 
The concrete slabs crossing the ditch are the sidewalk entrances to the houses or driveways.

^Here is the ditch near Kansai Christian School. 
 (Mum flowers in the field)
I'm guessing this ditch to be about 6 feet deep.  

^This is by the rice paddy in front of the school. 
 Last year I saw 2 cars turn this corner too sharp and end up with a tire hanging over the ditch.
JAF came to the rescue then too.
 Not all roads look like this -
 some ditches (usually newly developed areas and in town) are actually covered.

If you look again at the top photo in this series on the left side of the photo near the rice field is a metal grate covering the gutter, but if your car goes to the left of the metal grate you'll find your car slipping about 2 feet into a rice field.

And for those of you who are now worried about me driving in Japan - I try to use the caution I learned on very narrow streets in Tokyo, and I carry my cell phone and JAF card with me in case there is a need to call for help.
Having grown up in Minnesota, I must say- It could be worse!
- - the narrow streets could be covered with ice and snow of a Minnesota winter!

Monday, September 26, 2011

What's the name of your church?

Here is a sign that says the name of the Ikoma church.
This spring we merged 2 separate churches into one.
Saidaji Baptist church  + Ikoma Baptist Christ Church = ?
Right now its called: Ikoma - Saidaiji Baptist Church
or 生駒〜西大寺バプテスト教会

Saidaiji is the name of a town and Ikoma is a name of a town/region. 
So it is a little misleading to have 2 cities in the name of your church.  
People ask, "Are you in Saidaiji or Ikoma?" 

The website here still has the Ikoma name
 - but the map here  might be helpful if you are in the area and want to come visit. 
 牧師の証 日本語だけです
 Pastor Arakawa's testimony is also on the website - in Japanese only. 
There are about 20 to 30 people in attendance each week 
with about 6 children, 3 junior high/high school students. 

Right now we are renting rooms on the second floor of a building in Ikoma. 
(Can you see the sign in the window?)

The first floor contains a post office, hair salon and other businesses - most are closed on a Sunday.
Third floor are apartments.

Today the pastor and lay leaders of the church met with a building company to talk about purchasing land and building a new church.  We have been gathering money to pay for a new building but have yet to find a good location that is affordable and accessible (near a train station, bus stop and with parking for those with cars).  I'm curious to hear how the talks went today - the location seems good, the accessibility seems great, this time I think affordability is the main concern. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

What's there to do on a holiday?

Today we celebrated the Autumnal Equinox. 
We had a day off of school.

So what does one do on a Japanese holiday? 
Well often there is a festival scheduled around holidays. 

Today I went to the 
Meisei School Festival, in Osaka. 

I joined my friends, the Ibaraki family,
 to go to Ibaraki sensei's school to experience a school festival. 
It's a private catholic high school for boys.
We started the day listening to a band concert in the hall. 
Then we explored the other events around the school.

Clubs and classes had various events and booths set up on campus for visitors to enjoy.
There was a "rock, paper, scissors" game room,

a ring toss,

and a shooting game.

For lunch we ate hot dogs and yakisoba (fried noodles) 
cooked by high school boys in flowery aprons. 

Here we're waiting in line for dessert.
Megu (in pink), Jun (in blue) and Sachiko (Mom). 
 Yo (Dad) was busy helping his class with activities. 

Enjoying some yummy crepes. 

^The basket ball shooting game. 

Jun gets a little help from his dad.

Sachiko made 6 out of 8 shots! Nice job!

The school's "train club" sets up some tracks each year for the visitors to test drive.

It's hard to imagine a "train club" at an American high school.

The chemistry club's slime making project was a big hit with Jun. 
Check out the mischief in that face!

Playing with balloons.

Saying good-bye to the fish before we left. 

We took the train home.
Jun loves sitting in the first train car whenever possible
 so that he can get a view of the train driver 
and look out the front window to see all the passing trains. 
He knows most of them by name.  

Thursday, September 22, 2011

What's bugging you?

After the typhoon on Wednesday I went out to inspect the yard. 
Finding a few more bugs that I anticipated. 
^on the tomato plant

eating the Calla lily

Hanging out by the dogwood tree 

Dead in the "rock garden".

^Eating up the blueberry plant. v

I touched this one before I saw it - OUCH! 
 Felt like a thousand needles in my finger.

Slithering between two dead potted plants was a snake.

^ With all the hungry bugs and a snake in the neighborhood 
no wonder this little fella was hiding.
He's about the size of my finger nail, half the size of most of the bugs. 
I found him on top of the front gate. 
v  Can you see him in the photo below? - look toward the right

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

What's the weather like?

Typhoon 15 also known as Typhoon Roke has arrived.

Today's Forecast: Hurricane conditions possible.
 Showery rains containing strong gusty winds and heavy downpours at times. 
High 76F. NE winds shifting to NW at 40 to 60 mph. 
Rainfall expected to exceed 2 inches. 

There were storm advisories out for today 
so school was canceled for almost all of my prefecture. 
At many Japanese schools the students stay home but the teachers are required to go to school.
 I was able to stay home.

Heavy rains, flooding and possible landslides have caused the government to evacuate people in other areas of Japan
The Tohoku area, near the 3/11 earthquake/tsunami, is also in danger of flooding.

This afternoon as the storm moved on from Nara and the rains let up,
 I went for a walk to the post office/bank.
I'm looking forward to Friday's forcast of "Plenty of sun" and Saturday's "Abundant sunshine".  

^Here is the rice paddy in front of my house with some wind/water causing a little damage.  
The metallic ribbon around the field is to scare the birds away.

^Here is the view from the backyard looking at another rice paddy.


Monday, September 19, 2011

What's for breakfast?

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

I got this recipe in 1997, not sure where, but it is my "go to" muffin recipe. I will put over ripe bananas in the freezer in preparation for a day I have enough time (and energy) to do some baking.

I typically double the batch and put at least half of the muffins in the freezer.  It may sound weird but I like to eat them partially frozen.  I wake up make some coffee (hot or iced) and eat a partially frozen BCC muffin (or 2 or 3).  It's great for days I'm pressed for time and need breakfast "to go" my coffee tumbler and muffins can be enjoyed while sitting in the car at a red light or railroad crossing.

I've just gotten some colorful silicon cupcake/muffin holders which can go in the oven. It makes for easy clean up - no need to search stores for paper liners which are sold in groups of 10. (Although IKEA is a fun place to get those!) Since products like "Pam" or anti-stick cooking spray is not readily available here I like skipping the grease-the-muffin-tins step!

If you're going to freeze the muffins I recommend going without paper liners - as they are hard to peal off when frozen. Frozen muffins can be stored for up to 3 months (although mine are long gone before then.)  Unwrapped frozen muffins can also be placed on a paper towel in the in the microwave and heated on HIGH for about 30 seconds.

I've talked about these muffins before but don't think I've shared the recipe on the website so here it is:

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins
2 eggs
1/2 cup margarine or butter
1 cup sugar
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup mashed bananas
1/4 cup sour milk (can be made by adding a little vinegar or lemon juice to milk and letting sit for 15 minutes)
6 oz. mini chocolate chips (I often substitute chopped milk chocolate candy bars)

1. Mix together eggs, margarine, and sugar
2. In a second bowl mix flour, baking soda, salt.
3. Alternate adding part of the dry ingredients and part of the mashed bananas and the sour milk to the egg mixture until all has been added.
4. Stir in chocolate chips.
5. Fill greased or lined muffin tins a little over 1/2 full.

Bake at 350F/180 C for 15-20 minutes.
Let muffins cool in pans for a minutes before moving them to a cooling rack.
If you've resisted temptation this long - give in -  pour yourself a glass of milk and enjoy the muffins!

What's your favorite muffin recipe?

What's in bloom?

Higanbana or the Red Spider Lily or Flower of Autumn Equinox 

I spotted the first Spider lily bloom of the season on Saturday.
This flower typically blooms around Sept. 23.  
There are many around rice paddies because according to one site I read

"the bulbs are well known to be distinctly poisonous (and can lead to death), they were planted around the edges of paddies and house walls to keep down pests such as mice."
I like seeing them because it means fall is just around the corner 
and with it comes cooler temperatures.  

These photos were taken of the flowers bordering the rice paddy out my front door. It's not an easy flower to photograph - its a challenge because its in a clump of flowers and the thin petals make focusing hard - especially when you're trying to swat annoying mosquitoes at the same time!  

I blogged about this flower in 2008 here.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

What's for a snack?

This summer my friend Mihwa, introduced me to this cool snack 
in the freezer section of the grocery store.  

^ It's a Papico icy -flavor? "chococohi"  Which is Chocolate Coffee.
Basically its a frozen Mocha! 
It's like a mocha frappuccino in a tube. 
Made by Glico! (Also maker of Pocky sticks and Pretz)

^Two servings in one package. 80ml x2 
costs about 100 to 120 yen 

^Instructions show how to separate them and then open by pulling the ring. 

^ A cool treat on a hot and humid day. (31C/ 87F with 74% humidity.)

(Note: they do sell other flavors but I'm stuck on this one!)

Saturday, September 17, 2011

What's wrong with this picture?

Sept. 17, 2011

This is the Ume (Japanese plum) tree in my backyard.  
So what's wrong?
It's September 17!
There should be leaves on the branches,
 - but some VERY hungry caterpillars
 decided the leaves were the answer to  
"What's for dinner?"

As I was hanging laundry out on the 2nd floor balcony last week, 
I noticed the tree only had leaves in the middle. 
When I looked closer I saw fuzzy worms feasting on the top most leaves. 
I couldn't reach them so I didn't take action. 
 When I looked today there were no leaves and no caterpillars.

The good news is 
1.) I won't have to rake up the fall leaves from the ume tree. 

2.) I'll have an unobstructed view of the rice harvest 
when the farmers take to the fields early October. 

3.) These herbivores must not like the taste of maple
 because I saw no evidence that they had moved to the neighboring maple tree. 
June 25, 2011 ^ Ume tree with leaves on left. Maple tree center. 

July 9, 2011, Looking from the road toward the back of the house.
 Ume tree is almost in the center by the white shed. 

Here's photo of the ume tree when its starting to bloom.
Feb. 19, 2011