Alaska elementary English Saroma



Chicken Dance at Wakasa







Alaska elementary English Saroma

Chicken Dance at Wakasa

This article appeared on Page 26 of the Hokkaido Newspaper today, July 18th.

Chicken Dance at Wakasa

Saroma Town:

On the 16th, three students visiting from Saroma’s sister city, Palmer, Alaska, USA, deepened cultural understanding with the children at Wakasa Elementary.

The link between the town and the City of Palmer began in 1980.  Every year, junior and senior high school students undertake reciprocal visits.  Those visiting currently are Rebecca Farley (13), Dena Christiansen (14), and Erin Vincent (14).  From the 14th to the 27th, while experiencing homestays, they will be attending Saroma Junior High School and sightseeing around Hokkaido.

On their visit to Wakasa Elementary, they accompanied the town AET (Assistant English Teacher) Sean Holland (25).  They shared popular American dances such as the “Chicken Dance” with the students, and experienced cultural exchange through mutual self-introductions in English.

bike festivals Japan Saroma travel

Okhotsk Cycling 2009

Okhotsk Cycling

Make that the International Okhotsk Cycling 2009.  Including myself, there were three non-Japanese among the 982 participants.  Good thing we participated, or they would have had to change all of the signage.

Over the weekend, I rode 212km (132mi for those in the dark ages) over 2-days with 981 other people, by bicycle, along the Sea of Okhotsk from Oumu to Shari.  It was good.  Kind of weird, but good.

There are some definite advantages to riding with such a large group.  When you ride alone, you usually don’t have a cheering crowd and different refreshments in each town you pass through, nor brass bands and cheerleaders performing for you when you depart.

When you’re alone, though, you can go as fast as you want.  You can stop whenever you want.  You don’t have to listen to Mr. Sato from Sapporo’s misaligned derailleur grind along for kilometer after kilometer.  You don’t have to wake up at 4 AM if you don’t want to.

The race entry fee and the fee for the town cycling club trip to the race and back was 24,000 yen ($260).  For that, I got:

A ride and bike transport to Oumu, luggage transport from the start to the finish, a place to stay for two nights, two breakfasts, two lunches, two dinners, and quite a few cans of beer.  Fresh milk, cheese, and sports drink jelly in Okoppe, more sports drinks and snacks in Mombetsu, ice cream in Kamiyubetsu, hard candy and dried scallops and barley tea in Yubetsu, bananas and juice in Saroma, bread, tea and juice in Abashiri, and potatoes and butter in Koshimizu.  I even won a gift box of various kinds of sugars in the drawing at the end of the race.

Overall, not bad.  A good way to meet other cyclists, drink beer, experience the different towns along the coast, and generally have a good time with other people.  I also got to show off my weird bike and all my cycling gear, including the cool Alaska “gold rush” license plate jersey my parents got me.  Check out this picture: (don’t I look cool?!)

Me and bike

Alaska America English Japan Japanese Saroma


Culture is such a weird thing.  It defines nearly everything we do.  The time we wake up in the morning.  The side of the road we drive on.  The size of cups at McDonalds.  Whether of not we have to capitalize mCdonalds.  The types of cellphones we own.  The size of our car tires.  The width of our roads.  The varieties of beer at the store.  The taxes we pay.  The way we cook meat.  The designs of our kitchens.  The prevalence of dryers.  Where we take our shoes off.  How we bathe.  What we eat with.  Partially, our language.

We all live our lives, yet we never really think about it.

Unless we leave it, and experience another.

What the hell is culture determined by?

Geography (latitude, longitude, continentality, elevation, precipitation, population, population density, access to the outside world, access to resources, electrification, wildlife), media access, art, politics, climate, history, (including dumb, random, sad, stupid, and unfortunate history), and of course (with the extent of which debatable) language.

Yet, culture itself can determine half of those things.  What boggles me about culture is that no one can really define it well.  Karl van Wolferen, in The Enigma of Japanese Power, quotes it as “the totality of man’s products.”

But what is that?  It’s essentially a copout explanation of the confusing crap I’ve already written above.

Your thoughts?