Thursday, November 20, 2008

Tuesday, October 28, 2008--The Dome and the Rollercoaster

The seminar this morning were informative but I have to admit, it was difficult to listen 100% because I was still trying to process everything that had happened during the last week. We had a seminar on environmental education and it was interesting to hear Dr. Srinivas' perspective as he is from India living in Japan with a Japanese wife. He said if you want recycling compliance, marry a Japanese woman--it was a very funny joke at the time. He explained that one of the advantages to having such a homogeneous society was the pressure that could be exerted to go along with things. People begin their recycling by separating their trash into as many as 15 categories--different colored glass and/or plastic bottles, food waste, etc. He explained that it means that since trash is separated so well they can incinerate most of it. The ash is used to build roads. He said that at first business balked and that they faced fines if they didn't comply but now business are finding ways to make money from their "green" efforts. I felt like such a bad citizen because I don't even have the ability to recycle in my town. Our school is trying but so far we only separating out newspapers, magazines, office and school paper, catalogs, and mail.

Lunch was at an Italian place on my own. People watching in Tokyo is a perfect pastime for me.

The afternoon seminar was a wrap up of the educational system from Dr. Kato. There are some similar conversations/debates in Japan over testing, class size, bullying, teacher preparation, and academic achievement. It is interesting to realize that some of the long held assumptions I have about Japan simply aren't true--there aren't computers in every room, teachers don't have it easier just because the kids behave better, etc. In fact, I'm going to remind myself of their schedule every time I think I've got it rough. For all of the differences there are, it was transformational for me to really get that we are all humans.

We spent the afternoon practicing our presentation over our host city experience we give Wednesday.

Speaking of humanity, look at all the people in the subway!! I actually got to see a subway worker politely but firmly push people into the subway car. It happened on the other platform so a picture wasn't possible. I had heard about that and I'm so glad I got to see it!! But then I got to thinking about how it must feel day in and day out to ride touching like that but not connecting. On the flip side, I see now how MP3 players and headphones are almost necessary to establish your own personal space. What an interesting paradox.

During rush hours there are cars that are for women only. I can only imagine the problems that prompted the designation!

The Tokyo group now consisted of Lynne, Lisa, Randy, Paul, Joe, Kim, Tanya, and me. I followed them out this night and I'm so glad I did!! We went to the Tokyo Dome, home of the Yomiuri Giants. I love baseball and would have been thrilled to go and I was "this close" but I missed out on a game because I was in Minamisoma. Anyway, I rode the "Thunder Dolphin," the roller coaster by the dome. It goes up to 80 mph, threads through the Ferris wheel, and goes on top of one of the buildings. I screamed my head off!! The first hill was terrifying--but in a great way! I think it also enhanced the ride that I didn't have a harness pinning my shoulders. It made me feel freer and that made it even scarier. I loved it!!! It was a great surprise and I can now say I've ridden a roller coaster on two continents. After the ride we had beer and burgers at this small place near the dome. Then we ended up at a pub called The Mermaid near the hotel. It's pretty cool to be able to sit out on the sidewalk, drink a pint, and watch the people as they pass.

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