Scott's Japan Trip Diary
Saturday, March 30
Notes from dictation:
Wednesday early a.m.: Raining Cats and Dogs
I have finished with my presentaton (yesterday) and I'm up early in the morning, around 5:20, late for me, at least lately. The whole issue of time is so, well, so relative these days. Let's see: I left off with a posting from Darrick's lab on Monday morning. Leaving the lab, we walked back to his house, where I repacked, showered, dressed, and then we jumped into the car for a lunch run. He drove me to "City Center," several blocks away from his house and parked on the street. We then walked a couple blockes to...guess where?, McDonald's. Mickie D's is a very familiar place in Japan and also a very different one. The menu reflects the Japanese culinary predelection for spiciness, and I'm not sure my kids would be happy campers with a happy meal from a Japanese McD's. I liked it, though. I had a bacon-lettuce burger, pretty much what it sounds like, only with a "mayonaissey sauce" that had a decidedly spicy bent. There is also a "Teryaki burger" on the menu, and Darrick says it's very popular. One recurring element on a McD sandwich here is potato salad, sort of a mashed potato concoction with cucumber, used as garnish! I'm not even sure that mustard or ketchup is available. I asked if I could buy lunch and was summarily dismissed. I can only hope that my friend will one day visit Nashville to let me make an effort to repay his graciousness. I would love to be on the "Your money is no good in my town" side of things someday. At any rate, there I was without my camera, in a very visually interesting place, all the signs in Kanji and most of the people Japanese.
We ran the food home, keeping ours in the car, and said our goodbyes, but not before the family presented me with a set of presents for my own family: A lovely kimono outer shirt for my wife, a batch of Digimon things for Colin, an audio CD soundtrack from a new popular animated movie for Miranda, and a doorway curtain, a noren (a traditional door curtain, split vertically down the middle) for me. What a wonderful set of earthings, I think. Like children everywhere (and probably like myself as a child) these two lovely kids have no idea how lucky they are. Their parents are capable, devoted, and smart; and it's obvious that they would walk over hot coals to see their children grow to be those things, too: They are well on their way...and so were we.
Our drive through the mountains to HUTE was fairly uneventful, winding through trafficky roads and small roadside shop areas. I took some photos of a strip of what Darrick called "love hotels." When we stopped for gas, he finally did let me pay for some gas, which I was glad to charge. Darrick also stopped at an ATM on the way out of Kobe, but it refused to take my credit card for more spending cash. I shrugged and figured that I would deal with that later (little did I know how that all would play out). We pulled into HUTE for our 2 p.m. appointment at 2:05--pretty respectable timing, I'd say.
I expected to walk into the building looking for someone to help me, but as we parked, there came striding around a new Honda Fit (a sort of mini-minivan, I was later to learn) Jimmy Suzuki, host extraordinaire. After quick introductions, Jimmy led us (he invited D to stay for a brief tour of the campus) to the business office, where two dozen betied accountants were toiling busily. It looked like something out of a movie about a bustling newspaper office. Jimmy later explained, as I had suspected, that the end of March is the end of the fiscal year in Japan, so there was a scramble to both spend awarded funding and put together the paperwork to close the year: I noted very busy street crews later, yet another manifestation of the "use it or lose it" status of government funded projects and grants. Ah, thinks me, hence the short notice to Prof. Hogge at Peabody desperately looking for a speaker. As I say, I had honestly suspected as much. Perhaps the motivation for my invitation to speak was not as flattering as I may have liked, but as it turns out, I think, everyone won.
It was good to have D along to coach me in the very first of my Japanese experiences, which may be described as "sudden immersion." Finished with the initial paperwork to set the stage for reimbursement of my air flight expense, we walked across the '70's style (concrete rectangular prisms full of classrooms and public buildings) campus to a cafeteria about the size of Peabody's student center. Inside was controled pandemonium: Male students in suits and ties, female in traditional kimono (according to J, one of the few times in most of their lives when they'll actually don one) or elegant gowns: A graduation party was well underway. Tables were filed with bottles of beer and not a square centimeter failed to offer beautiful food. A faculty member handed me a jelly-glass sized beer glass and filled it with Sapporo. I started to take a sip but D touched my arm and gestured to the crowd of revellers around the main table, all patiently holding their glasses, awaiting the traditional toast before drinking. It came soon enough, "Kempai!" shouted the assembled, and drink they did.
I stood about chatting with Jimmy and D, then he ushered me toward an elderly gentleman in a tailed tuxedo. I was introduced to the university's president. J translated that he was without his business cards, but he graciously accepted my own. There. I had presented my first meishi. That wasn't so bad.
We escaped from the madhouse to the outside air again, touring other buildings and ascending the elevator to view a nice panorama of the surrounding countryside form a 7th floor balcony.
Then D followed us to the "attached school." J showed us around there, and I was especially impressed with the layout of the Kindergarten buildings, each with its own little garden and sharing a communal animal shed, full of rabbits and chickens. Tending plants and livestock is an integral part of early childhood instruction here, and it strikes me as wise pedagogy.
Jimmy took us over to the Middle School, where I traded meishi with its principal and assistant principal. I did not acquit myself quite so well there, failing to give quite the proper degree of attentiveness to the two meishi presented to me by the principal. I could sense that he was, though polite, somewhat nonplussed. I realized that almost immediately and drew the cards back out of my pocket, examining them in detail, which seemed to placate the man in some small measure. Ah well--another life lesson. Perhaps I needed that little faux pas to set the importance of the meishi etiquette firmly in my mind.
We then saw the labs, where it was assumed I would give my lecture. One Mac, one Windows lab. I chose the latter, naturally, and we made arrangements to be back at 10 the next day. That, it would turn out, would be just enough time.
Off to the hotel, but first we made a stop at the public spa. Jimmy said that he was unable to bathe at the hotel, as that spa was limited to guests only. He thought that some instruction was in order, so we went to the public spa for my first Japanese bathing experience.
Kneeling at the washing station I followed J's lead and splashed hot water on myself, privates and pits. This is where the washing is done, and the rinsing, before one goes for the hot bath. And it is hot. After a good soaking in the inside spa, its glass wall overlooking surrounding mountains, we walked out into the brisk air to the outside pool. I told J it reminded me of sauna bathing in Alaska, where we'd work up a huge sweat then go out and roll in the snow, then return to the sauna for another sweat. Outside, he gestured to the 8 foot stone wall that lined the pool, laughing that the women's pool was on the other side. We decided it would not be a good idea to try to climb it.
After leaving the spa, it was only a few miles to the hotel. a beautiful chalet like building on the edge of a lake flanked by rental cabins, something on the order of a really nice Tennessee State Park. He saw me in, I got settled, and it was time to work a while on formatting photos and getting text up to date for the blog. The room was small but comfortable, with two twin beds and without dresser (one was not expected to unpack, per se, I suppose), and contained a sink, but only one faucet, cold and a soap dispenser. Robes hanging in the closet. The bath was almost directly across the hall, and the toilet facilities were next to that. As always, the Japanese toilets lay down on the floor, not "seats," like we are used to. Not too late, around 11, I fell asleep in the very firm bed, my tired head resting on the very firm pillow (filled, I think, with cedar shavings).
the next morning I was up early even for me: Someone had a percussion-fest on a door down the hall, obviously locked out. I kept thinking it would stop, then it would start up again. Finally, it did stop, and I tried to fall back asleep. No luck.
In any event, I had the sneaking suspicion that I needed to rewrite my presentation, and there wasn't much time to do it. Up I was, cutting words and adding pictures from the PowerPoint, running through the thing and sequencing what I had to say with what would be a good illustration to show while I said it. I had done a number of Web page screen grabs, which, though they looked good enough on a computer, might (as Dr. Hogge suggested--Thank You!!!) just be confusing when presented to a limited-English audience on a large screen. As it would play out, the time was well spent. Finally I considered it "finished enough," and lay back down for a half hour. I would have gladly gone back to sleep, but I was unable to. Instead I meditated, thought about my family, and prayed a little, mostly prayers of thanks, heartfelt and honest. I got up, took a short private (only because I appeared to be the only one up, and because it is the Japanese custom to bathe in the evening) bath in the community bath down the hall, and decided to go for a walk.
Walk I did: Out the lakeside door, up through the empty cabins, then up into a trail that ran along the lake then steeply up into the woods. I had planned to make it up to a little hut at the top of the near mountain (hill?), but the turn I took near the top took me to another hill. Still, the view was lovely and I got some good pics. Again, the similarity to a hiking trail in a TN state park was striking. I took some pictures, sat and breathed the clear country air for a while, soaking up the view, settling my mind. I later discovered that if I had continued down the other side of the hill I would have shortly come upon a campground. I guess my hosts could have put me up in a tent if they had wanted to: I was pleased to have my comfortable room.
Returning down to it, I dressed in slacks, a shirt and tie, and my one coat jacket, made sure I was packed and ready to go, and went down to the restaurant for a Western style breakfast (plain egg omelette, very soft, with the (typically) undercooked (to the Western pallatte) bacon. High vaulted chalet style ceilings in the restaurant, glass walled exterior with a gorgeous view of the lake and countryside. Jimmy picked me up promptly at 9, as advertised, and I was off to my "colloquium." We drove to the elementary school, spending a couple hours in the Windows lab, Jimmy and the school tech staff powering through some problems getting the demo PC to hit the Internet, and finally we decided to get the laptop I had brought set up do to that and to load it with the requisite software to use the giant (maybe 8 foot diagonally) Hitachi "DigiBoard," a very clear television-set-like display. I created floppy disks for the attendees. I tested NetMeeting toward connecting with my friend and mentor, Dr. Susan Kuner (Director of Vanderbilt Virtual School), whom I'd emailed to see if she could "drop in" virtually on our session. Jimmy took me out around noon to a very cool place called the "Pink House," a coffee shop/restaurant/bar near the school that featured a pink baby grand piano with antique dolls, both Japanese and from other countries, on its top, in the center of the room. Also atop the piano was a pretty antique Gibson Hummingbird acoustic guitar (which though I admired closely, the restaurant's owner did not invite me to play). Jimmy had octopus pasta with a cream sauce, which looked quite good, but I only had a tuna salad--plain canned tuna over iceberg lettuce--very bland, but just what I needed.
We returned to the school lab, and I prepared to work. As I was setting up NetMeeting on a second machine--"Plan B," in case the CA connection did not come through for us--several teachers began to filter in, sitting on chairs we'd placed in the middle of the large lab room, always bowing before entering. Three women were first, and they did precisely what all people new to seeing themselves on a monitor screen did (I had my pencam set up at the laptop and NetMeeting up on the one lab PC so they saw themselves): They waved, smiled, and giggled, pointing out the screen to one another. This was a behavior I noted, to humorous effect, in the opening moments of my talk. I tried Susan's IP number and there was my friend and colleague Jan Zanetis! We chatted a moment as people continued to join the assembled group--which eventually numbered about 10 hearty souls--and solved some sound issues, then when I judged that I should begin, I asked Jan if I could call her back after my little talk, then hung up. I began.
The talk itself went marvelously, I think. One condition I credit for that is the fact that this was my first presentation ever delivered in socked feet. We had all donned slippers upon entering the school, and since the lab was carpetted those came off at the little linoleum entranceway. I think it is a technique I may have to adopt as a rule. I later mentioned this to Sharon Blankenship, USN 3rd grade teacher; and Sharon said she's always said that she "can't think with her shoes on." Makes sense to me.
I talked a bit about my unique working relationship with Vanderbilt and USN and forwarded this model as one that might be pursued between schools and colleges and even with corporations. This bit of the talk took about 25 minutes, since I was required to deliver a couple sentences at a time and pause while Jimmy Suzuki interpreted. The attendees were not only polite, but animated in their responses. I then illustrated my work with VU and SCOPE by sharing several brief movie clips I have created for just that purpose. The VideoTeleConferencing is such a visual experience that just verbally describing it doesn't do it justice. I emphasized its implementation in the service of, not in addition to, existing curricula. I talked about using it to build a greater sense of "other awareness," in effect supporting the social curriculum by helping to "decenter" young people--making them aware of other schools and cultures and that there is much more going on in the world than the daily drama playing out in their own schools and classrooms. And I emphasized the connections between professions and classrooms. One of the new and exciting resources SCOPE is beginning to plumb is the rich base of retired educators. Utilizing retired experts has so many "coattail-riding" benefits I hesitate to start listing them.
Happily, I remembered to call Jan back, and Susan answered (did you go off to bed, Jan?). We chatted for a few moments and said sayonara. It was really good to successfully do this, and one of the benefits was being able to compare the very clear, short delay video and audio the attendees had seen on the movies with the IP performance of NetMeeting. While it's better than it was two years ago, its quality is not anywhere near the performance of a Polycom unit over ISDN.
Finally, there were questions and answers. Quite a few questions, which to my mind was a good sign. The most challenging were the ones that enumerated several procedural obstacles, including scheduling, hardware compatibility, and pertinence to ongoing curriculum, as well as means of assessment. These I think I answered to my attendees' satisfaction. At the end, I was gratified that though I carefully stated that it was very acceptable to me for people to explore the links I provided them on their own time, since I knew they had already worked a full day, every single one stayed and explored for at least a half an hour in the lab. Most spoke to me, expressing thanks, and I reciprocated. I received a list of names and email addresses at my request, to send follow up resources, and Jimmy assured me that he would snail mail me a copy of the videotape of the lecture. The work was done. Tomorrow to Himeji Castle, then to Kyoto!
Watchcam pics, comin' your way, ya'll.
These pics were taken on my little Casio WristCamera, a gadget I bought last year, uncharacteristically "early-adopting" a new piece of hardware. It takes little 120x120 pixel 16 tone grayscale photos, which sometimes can have interesting (though never clear!) results when enlarged. I present them here in their raw form, for what they're worth: It was good to have the little thing on my wrist whilst in Kyoto, since I had no access to upload any pics from my Aiptek cam. Hooie.
Had to take this little series: Water conserving technology--flush the toilet and the same water that flushes runs through a little attached sink...clever! In Vandle, the mega-department store, one of those little crane-grab-a-toy machines Himeji Castle pics, including Beatrice and Rei: In transit to Kyoto: Sushi bar! Prof. Kogawa well-fed: Kyoto hotel mirror: An elderly fellow at the bus stop Our high school "giggly girls" and the Golden Pavillion: Walk to the rock garden, and the rock garden itself: Bus ride to market: Sushi "fast food!!!": Market: The gardens: Our final temple, with posing geisha" Jimmy's back-up car cam: