Family Journal: June 30, 2017

 

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Waiting to board our Cathay Pacific flight at KIX 

 

I am writing this in the Hong Kong International Airport. It is an interesting time to be traveling through Hong Kong as this is the 20th anniversary of the turnover of the island from Britain to China. In 30 more years, it will officially become part of China. There is no reason Hong Kong should be part of the UK and reflecting on the history of the British in China, lots of damaging things occurred. It is right that this colonial legacy is ending. However, it is sad that Hong Kong is slowly losing its different character from the rest of the country.

We are on our way to the USA for summer holidays. It is always hectic and emotional to end the academic year at an international school. I am continuing work on my doctoral studies at Lehigh University which start next week. Outside of school, I did find some time to make some observations.

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I wish my Dad was alive to see a Japanese lawn crew. They were using “weed wackers” at Osaka University when I was biking through the campus earlier this week. The Japanese pay attention to the details and it was great to see these guys holding screens to protect pedestrians from twigs and rocks that shoot up from the machine. Notice too that they are perfectly dressed and taking such care in their job. No matter how menial the job may seem, they take such great care to do it right. This is a prime example. A very professional job!

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My latest addiction is cycling and I can’t get enough of it. I want to bike every day in the Minoh Quasi National Park which is near our house. The views are splendid and going up and down the hills is relaxing, despite being exhausting. I can’t wait for a full year of cycling when I return in August. Japan is up there with Netherlands and Germany for cycling and it is my favorite aspect of living in Osaka.

 

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Oliver Grade 5 Promotion

Oliver completed his elementary career this week. On Monday, the school held a promotion party to mark the occasion. All of the grade 5 students made a short speech and we also heard from the principal and grade 5 teacher, Mr. Jones. Oliver’s speech is above and it was very cute. He has a bit of charisma and charm, which will probably get him a long way in life.

After the party, the parents provided a potluck dinner and the kids danced and played with balloons. It was a really enjoyable evening. It was fun the night before riding our bikes to the mall to buy Ollie a pair of dress pants and belt. He looked pretty good in his tie as well. The school gives many opportunities for the students to speak publicly which really helps their self-confidence and presentation skills. That too will serve him well in the future.

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Congratulations Oliver, you made it to middle school. All of us love you very much and look forward to your middle school years. We are very proud of you!!!!

 

 

Family Journal: June 24, 2017

We are nearing the end of our school year, which runs longer than most international schools. It is a busy time for teachers and admin as we close the academic year for summer. I am trying to find time for doing family stuff as I realize the kids are growing quickly and it is important to find a balance among the competing demands on my time in my life. School, jobs around the home, exercise and my health, my relationship with my wife, helping the kids with homework, reading, etc.

I had almost the perfect Father’s Day last Sunday. I got up early as I do most days and got some work done with a cup of coffee. Writing relaxes me and starting my day with some time reflecting and thinking is good for my psyche. Unfortunately, it is the peak performance time for my brain and so it is all downhill the rest of the day. Owen’s father’s day gift to me was a ride up into the hills of the Minoh Quasi-National Park. I am doing more and more cycling lately and really want to get a good road cycle. The forests and hills of the park which is about 10 minutes from our home are such a refuge from the megapolis (Osaka-Kyoto-Kobe) of 20 million people. As you can see in the video above, the calming green and dramatic slopes make it an ideal place for cycling.

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Oliver doing drills with the International Soccer School of Senri (ISSS)

Waking up from an afternoon nap, Nadia prepared a delicious dinner in my honor. The highlight was a glass of “noble rot” (a late harvest botrytis grape) dessert wine from South Africa, accompanied by a raspberry pie. After dinner, the kids and I played a game of baseball in the park. They love baseball and I am so pleased we can enjoy the Kralovec family tradition of Sunday afternoon batting practice/baseball game. My coaching of Ocean in an elementary baseball club really helped her appreciate the sport. We are hoping to catch an MLB game while in the US this summer.

Oliver’s team won the intramural soccer league this week. The final game went to penalty kicks and Oliver’s shot in the top part of the goal, was the first goal during penalties. He enjoys soccer immensely. I am looking forward to coaching him this winter on the middle school basketball team.

Nadia was so happy with the professional cleaning done on our house yesterday. Inside, the kitchen and shower room were cleaned and outside, the walls of the house. The change is amazing, as the stove looks new. The support wall looks great after years of mold and algae were taken off the rocks.

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Finally, I am posting a video of Ocean singing with her friends. Elementary music teacher, Daniel Ligon gave the kids a performance day in the class on Thursday. My daughter Ocean is in an informal after school singing club with her friends. She loves performing and a special thanks to Daniel.

 

Ocean's performance

Oliver & Ocean in Swim Carnival

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A third place finish in the father-son relay!

Our school held its annual swim carnival yesterday. We are fortunate to have an indoor swimming pool at the school. The architect did a good job by having a natural light come into the pool, despite it being below ground level. The elementary school students competed in over 60 races in the afternoon. Parents and students alike were entertained by the races. I was the starter for many of the races and so you can hear my voice in the videos below.

The first video is Oliver’s 25-meter freestyle race. There are a couple of regular swimmers in the school, so Oliver held his own and earned a ribbon. There is no need to point him out in the video as he is in the lane nearest to me.

Ocean is competing in the next video in the 25-meter fin race. The students wear fins and start in the water. She has nice form and I think finishes second or third in the race.

The highlight for me was the father-son relay race. The fathers started on the blocks and at the half-way point, picked up the sons and dragged them holding onto those foam worms. There was a bit of confusion at the start and we all started at slightly different times. It was very funny and Nadia got a good laugh at us trying to swim.Oliver and I went to dinner last night to celebrate. It was good to spend time with him alone.

 
Both Ocean and Oliver earned ribbons in the relays and solo races. It is nice that they learned to swim and feel comfortable in the water. They also have good attitudes towards competition, trying their best and being positive about athletic competition.

Oliver Finishes Elementary School

The International Baccalaureate curriculum requires students to demonstrate their learning at the end of their elementary school with an exhibition. The students dive deep into a topic, and this year, Oliver’s grade 5 class looked at the push and pull factors causing migration around the world. It is a very relevant topic in today’s world. The video above is the opening speech. Oliver was a bit nervous but did a good job.

Besides introducing their topics, the students sang a couple of songs and showed the video of the process of the exhibition. They then went to their booths where parents and students could ask them questions about their topic.

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Oliver focused on Libya and the perilous journey of refugees crossing the Mediterranean into Italy. His research led him to look at dictators around the world and how oppressive governments push people to migrate.

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Oliver is growing up and like his grandfather, Popa and his mother who are both quite social. He loves spending time with his friends. I snapped this picture of him riding around the neighborhood with one of his classmates. Our house is one story above ground level with a garage underneath, hence the view from above.

Congratulations Oliver! We love you!

WJAA Volleyball Champions

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(I am catching up on blogging this weekend.

Owen’s middle school “B” team won the Western Japan Athletic Association volleyball championship on May 20. This was his first year out for the sport and he really enjoyed it. The “A” team also won their division. Both teams are pictured above.

He was the captain of the “B” team although he could have been a substitute for the “A” team. It was his first year and he wanted to play more and when the coach gave him the choice, Owen chose to start and lead the team. It was a good experience for him.

Owen loves sports and played baseball, basketball, soccer and volleyball this year. I am glad we are at a small international school where he can play different sports, not specialize like many students have to in the USA to even make the team, and he can make the teams. His team won first in the WJAA in all sports except basketball, where they finished third. I would like to thank athletic director Pete Heimer, and coaches Mike McGill, Rodney Ray, Michael Routh and Nakamura sensei for their work with Owen this year!

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Family Journal: June 10, 2017

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I have been super busy with school as we are approaching the end of the year, so I have not been posting as much as usual. Yesterday, Oliver, Ocean, Nadia, Kenta and I biked to Expo ’70 park. We spent the morning walking around the park while Nadia and Ocean shopped in the mall. The park is a huge green space near our house in the north of Osaka. It was the site of the Exhibition 1970, similar to the world fairs they used to hold in the 19th and 20th centuries. The park today is a multi-use area with fields for playing sport, playgrounds, a couple of museums, some nature areas, etc. Behind the boys is a massive work of art built for the expo, called “Tower of the Sun”. 47 years later, I wonder what they were thinking, although it is quite distinctive. We met up for lunch at the food court in the mall and then biked home. A really nice time!

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Ocean right before the conference

Thursday we went to Oliver and Ocean’s student-led conferences. You can see the videos of Ocean going through her learning on our family YouTube channel.

It is so funny that the kids get really nervous and excited for showing us what they have been doing in school. Oliver will be heading to middle school next year and I think it will be a good change for him. Being with the same teacher all day must be hard for him and the teacher. The moving around and different teaching styles will help him. However, the challenge of staying organized will be tough for him.

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My new favorite drink in Japan

The convenience stores always a huge variety of cold drinks they come out seasonally. I discovered the “Relax Orange – Orange + Jasmine”. It was the perfect refreshment on a bike ride on Thursday night. It is not very sweet and the jasmine gives it a nice aroma and after taste. It will be replacing the “Litchi + Salt”, which is a spring drink.

Finally, the weather in May and early June has been perfect! It feels like that Mediterranean sunshine, with bright blue skies. The nights and mornings are cool, however, the humidity feels like it is lurking. The summer in Osaka is oppressively hot and wet. I often go to the university for meetings and I snapped the picture below. The Spanish-style buildings and Chinese fan palms give it a California feel.

 

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Academic building off the main lawn at Kwansei Gakuin University