Ordinary flowers in a rice paddy

It’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to go out into the country and photograph the things I like to photograph. I knew that my time in Kumamoto was special, but I really miss being able to jump in the car, explore a windy country road, and without fail, stumble upon something interesting. Kyushu is, without a doubt, the most interesting place that I?ve ever explored.
Living one stop away from Umeda is convenient, and certainly less lonely than living in a small village, but I can feel myself getting mentally and spiritually fatigued by the crowds, the concrete, and from being away from nature. One symptom of this fatigue has been my dependence on my keitai camera (but this is also due to the wretched state of my Casio) to snap shots. I find myself no longer taking an afternoon to explore the unknown because it’s a chore to cram into a train. I have fallen into a routine that I don?t like, but now that I see it changes will be made.
It’s time to start looking for the gems hidden among the coal, and explore Kansai during my time here. I’m setting out on a quest to peel away the ordinary to expose the extraordinary, little by little. I hope I can squeeze a little more out of my camera before it gives up the ghost.
When living in the country, doing ordinary things like shopping or eating out was a task, but now that I have those things I almost prefer not having them. Almost, but when I think about the 30 minute drive to the closest convenience store and the 2 hour drive to the city, not quite.
I took these pictures while strolling along the rice paddies in Ikaruga. Everyday weeds and wildflowers seemed so interesting after living among the highly stylized, contrived, industrial, man-made environment. Urban noise seems to really enhance one?s appreciation of nature, and just being outside helps to regain focus and clarity. It feels good just looking at these pictures.

English through art

I used to devote many lessons to making giant diaramas with my preschool and kintergarden students, having them create their own little worlds. We made scrolling landscapes of the country, the world, the city, a farm, the ocean, and other environments. By making their own little animals and things to fill their worlds with, the kids easily remembered the English and retained it to a higher extent than methods using TPS or conventional repetitive memorization activities (which actually have a negative effect on the developing attitudes of the students towards learning English in general). They showed a surprisingly high level of sustained concentration and motivation, rare at such a young age, and took pride in their work.
I got this idea from studying the philosophy behind Reggio Emilia, and designed the infrastructure of my lesson plans to pursue the interests of the students in order to engage and challenge them in such a way to help them realize their maximum potential.
Yes, this picture is simple and easy, but the thought that went into its conception, development, and construction took time and ultimately the approach that I took paid off. It’s a delicate balance. If you challenge the students too much, they will develop a negative attitude towards education that may only be apparent after a few years. Yet, at such a young age allowing children to investigate their interests and enticing them to think independently can set these little ones on the right path and give them a head start.
Teaching such young children is a greater responsibility than I had ever imagined, and it was only after I taught for three years in Japan that I was able to fully appreciate the education that I received growing up. Good teachers are arguably the most under-appreciated members in society. This is true for both the U.S. and Japan (to a somewhat lesser extent, but the situation over here is getting worse with time).

Skull in the mud

The water in a reservoir on Awajishima, where Justin and I usually go fishing, dropped by about 20 feet. Giant clams lay with their guts exposed, frozen gasping in death. Among the detritus exposed on the mudflats was this bleached deer skull (more skull pics here). Fittingly, we caught no fish on this day.

Digging through the archives

This week I will be going through pictures that I have taken over the last two years and posting a few. These may be the last “real” pictures that I post until I get a new camera, because my well-used Casio has taken such abuse over the two years that I have owned it that it is almost completely broken. Unlike the Man in Black there will be no Inigo Montoya or Fezzik to resurrect it from the clutches of death.
A garden in Kyoto.

Ubuyama: The Saga Continues

My “grand-successor”, Ted Grudin, is keeping a blog in Ubuyama. I think that Ubuyama may be the best documented of any rural area in Kyushu, thanks to the progressive posts from this blog, Jane’s, and Ted’s. Cool. Keep up the posting, Ted…