Latest Reading and Watching: Macbeth & Bohemian Rhapsody

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On the long flights to and from Germany, I read Jo Nesbo’s Macbeth. It is the latest book of the Hogarth Project, which publishes Shakespeare’s works as interpreted by best selling and acclaimed novelists of the today. Nesbo is a Norweigan thriller writer and so his Macbeth is set a dreary city in Scotland in probably the 1980s. It is still a story of how ambition for power can corrupt and lead to madness and death. Instead of Macbeth as a king of Inverness, he is going for the chief police commissioner and the office of mayor. There is a lot of murder, action, drugs and eventually insanity. I have not read any of Nesbo’s detective novels.

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=17&v=uh5zUIKnmI8

The book was definitely a page-turner, although some of the plot points were really far-fetched for me. I would recommend the book as it made me reflect on what the drive for power can do to people. I often gain some vocabulary words or ideas from books and they are below:

  • Tithonos – This is a character from Greek mythology. He was the human lover of the goddess of the dawn, Eos. She asks Zeus to grant him immortality, which he does. However, she forgets to ask for eternal youth as well and poor Tithonos ends up a bag of bones as an old man in bed, but he cannot die.
  • blond plaits – an older term for braids
  • pillion rider – a British term for a seat on the back of a motorcycle
  • quay – pronounced like “key”, a stone or metal platform projecting into a body of water and used for the loading and unloading of ships
  • a ruddy, porcine face – pronounced “poor sign” and means resembling a pig
  • bollard – post on a ship or quay where a boat can be secured; also posts to block motorized transport
  • casino croupier – another word for dealer
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Actor Rami Malek plays Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody

The British rock band Queen has always been pretty high on the Kralovec family playlist. We were excited to see the new movie, Bohemian Rhapsody last night. We went to the IMAX theatre and were not disappointed. A very entertaining movie with the best part being, of course, the music! My takeaway was a simple one, Queen used the idea of audience participation to gain popularity. A simple, but brilliant idea. Audiences need something to do during a concert, more than marveling at the technical skill of the musicians and Queen were masters of getting people to participate in the music. The culmination of this idea and of the movie was Queen’s set during Live Aid back in 1985. I remember the day, a hot July summer afternoon before I went off to college. I rode my bicycle back from cutting lawns with my dad for our 30+ clients that summer and watched the concert on television. I highly recommend going to see the movie in a theatre with great sound!

 

Owen Makes it to Homeroom On Time

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One of the nice aspects of working at a school that your children attend is the opportunity to see them occasionally throughout the day. I caught Owen on video this week, hurrying to make it to homeroom on time in the morning. He is in full growth mode and struggles with his sleep patterns, staying up late and fighting to get out of bed in the mornings.

Cycling with Oliver

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Attempting a selfie as we ride through Japan countryside

I’ve been trying to get out into nature every Sunday to recharge my batteries. Two weekends ago, I rode with Oliver on a loop outside of the town of Kameoka in the Kyoto prefecture. We drove 30 minutes to the town of Toyono and did a 25-kilometer loop along forested rolling hills and rice paddies. An absolutely heavenly afternoon for me, and despite his complaints through much of the ride, in the end, Oliver enjoyed it too!

There are so many great cycling routes in Japan. Drivers are very safe and much of the countryside is depopulating rapidly which makes for really good cycling. I love riding and hope to do as much as I can over the next 8 months I am here.

Oliver and I found a really nice spot for lunch. In between rice fields, a small shinto shrine was nestled between hills. The large sugi trees which are a characteristic of any temple or shrine provided shade and a quiet place to eat and talk.

There were some decent slopes and Oliver complained going up them, but towards the end of the loop back to our car, we had a very long descent through the forest that he loved. We saw many downed trees from the recent typhoon that came through here last month. Oliver doesn’t like cycling too much, but he was nice to humor me and come along.

A perfect afternoon that I wish could have lasted forever!

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Halloween 2018

Halloween is widely celebrated in Japan. One sees all sorts of Halloween-related products for sale and people dress up. The modern customs of trick-or-treating and costumes are one of the gifts America has given to the world. Everyone enjoys dressing up, focusing on being scared and walking around collecting candy.

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Oliver was a big hit in the neighborhood

Our neighborhood, Onohara, annually organizes a Halloween festival. There are booths run by high school students at the school and families volunteer to open their homes to trick-or-treating, which is not regularly practiced here. Japanese culture is super organized and so families had to sign up their children in August. Participants are given tickets and a map to where the homes are located. It costs money to join and the neighborhood association gives candy to the homes. We supplemented our candy supply with American candy from Costco. We decorated the steps and entryway to our house and played Halloween-themed music. Many of the neighborhood children did not know trick-or-treating etiquette and had limited English so we did our best to explain to them how it works. The international school students, especially the elementary students loved seeing “Ms. Nadia” passing out candy. So many of the children were very cute and it was pleasurable to see their excitement.

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Elina, Ocean, Alona and Mako pose as a smack of jellyfish (the technical term for a group of jellyfish)

Oliver dressed up as a dinosaur. We bought a blow-up costume that was hilarious and a hit with everyone. We didn’t manage to save any of the photos, however, due to storage issues on our phones. I hope to get one.

Ocean and three of her friends used umbrellas, lights and colored streamers to dress as jellyfish, which is very appropriate for seafood-loving Japan. They were massively popular with other trick-or-treaters and posed for many photos.

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Ocean is trying to get out of our front gate

We finished the night with a dinner party at a friend’s house. The weather was perfect and it was a delightful evening.

The Kralovec Family is Moving

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I would like to let all of our family and friends know that we will be leaving Japan in July 2019 for Uzbekistan. I will be taking over as director of the Tashkent International School. We are sad to be leaving Osaka but excited for our next adventure. Many of you may have never heard of Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Nadia and I traveled there last month and found it similar to Sofia, Bulgaria, a mix between Eastern Europe and Central Asia. It is an excellent IB World School and the city is safe and seems to be a pleasant and fascinating place to live. Below are some articles about the country and a photo gallery from our visit.

“Uzbekistan: The most fascinating country you’ve never been to” The Telegraph

“8 Reasons to Go to Uzbekistan” The Independent

Rough Guide to Uzbekistan

 

 

 

Autumn Cycling with Owen

 

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Harvesting Rice

Sunday afternoon Owen and I went for a bike ride up in the forested hills north of our suburb of Minoh. I just love cycling and going with my son combined with the scenery, it made for such a pleasurable afternoon. Many of the farmers we passed were harvesting rice, one of the many signs of autumn. Most of the rice fields near us our small and farmers use a harvester that looks like a riding lawnmower. You can smell the rice grains as you are riding by the fields.

 

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Owen rides through the sugi forest

We drove 30 minutes up to the village of Ooiwa and parked at a temple parking lot. We rode 10 kilometers north and turned around. There was a good mix of forests, fields, deep valleys and rolling hills. I want to ride all the way to Kameoka, a city just outside of Kyoto, which is about 40 kilometers away.

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Ripe persimmons (kaki) 

 

Sports Day is a National Holiday in Japan

(Oliver runs a leg in the relay race at our school.)

I love sports and being active so thoroughly enjoy the unique Japanese national holiday, Sports Day (undoo kai – field day). The government started field day in 1966 being inspired by hosting the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. They wanted to promote an active lifestyle and chose mid-October when the weather is mostly sunny and cool. It is traditional on this day for schools to host relay races, tug-of-war, and other sports. Students and parents eagerly await the day and it is the biggest crowd of parents we get at any school event, except for perhaps the International Fair.

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Oliver uses his mass to excel in the tug-of-war

The Japanese students take this very seriously and have extensive practices for the day. Our school does a range of events including ultimate frisbee, dodgeball and even a dance performance. The different grade levels for teams and winning the overall competition is big deal.

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Owen’s team came second in ultimate frisbee! (Owen is with his friend Josh)

The elementary school students also participate but in non-competitive games. Ocean liked the swimming portion of the day but was not so excited about the field events.

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It was an absolutely gorgeous day with bright blue sunny skies, although it got a little hot in the afternoon. It was our last Sports Day in Japan and I tried to get the most of the day.

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Sunset over Minoh – view from the top of Oasis parking garage