Saturday, October 15, 2011

A Morning at Naha Nishi High School

During our stay in Okinawa, my husband and I had the special opportunity to visit a high school in Naha. The program, "Learning about Uchinanchu Around the World," was part of the 5th Worldwide Uchinanchu Festival, a quinquennial event that brings together Okinawans and their descendants.

A month before arriving in Naha, I communicated with Masaki Takara, an English teacher at Naha Nishi High School. He arranged our visit, planning an assembly with the school's one thousand students and observations in several classes.

English teacher Masaki Takara

Takara Sensei made this crazy poster of me for a late-September festival at the school.

Students with my poster

And the poster was still there on the day we visited.

Poster and e-mails

Naha Nishi High School

After meeting Takara Sensei and Assistant Principal Miyagi, my husband and I attended an assembly in our honor. Students performed a cool hip-hop/traditional eisa dance for us and presented us with gifts. Then Takara Sensei took us to several classes.

"Playing" the sanshin

The first stop was at a music class, where a student laughed at my inability to play the sanshin, a three-stringed, banjo-like instrument native to Okinawa. Can you blame me for being bad? Just look at the notes:

Sanshin notes

We moved on to calligraphy, another activity at which I'm completely unskilled.

Attempting to control the brush

Learning calligraphy

We both gave it a try, and we had a great time talking to these young students. They were engaging and asked us questions about our lives: What our jobs are, how we met, if we have children.

Yucking it up in calligraphy class

Most of the students in this calligraphy class are athletes, so they thought my job of typing graphics for televised sporting events was kakkouii, or cool.

Our  calligraphy

I prepared a slide show for the English class, discussing that although I live in New York, my mother is from northern Okinawa, which is why I was participating in the Worldwide Uchinanchu Festival. We fielded questions from the students, although most were hesitant to talk at first.

Yoshihira Sensei's English class

But since these students are going to Australia for a home stay next month, it was important for us to communicate in English so they could practice.

In the following Social Studies class, Ken Saito prepared a worksheet for his students, asking them questions about the Worldwide Uchinanchu Festival and about New York. That class, which had some of the same students from the previous English class, was lively, as we discussed what makes New York City famous. You can read about what Okinawan high school students think of New York here.

Saito Sensei's Social Studies class

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