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Jeana and Kevin's Miharu Diary
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Q: Who are Jeana and Kevin?
A: Jeana Schieffer is originally from Rice Lake, Wisconsin. Daughter of Leonard and Phyllis Schieffer. Graduate of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire (1984. B.A. in Poli Sci) and George Washington Univ (1992. M.Ed. in Int'l Education and Human Development Across Cultures). Kevin is my son. He turned 6 in Sept of 2000. Jeana lived in Miharu-machi Japan for 3 years (1987-1990). Jeana (and Kevin) lived in Washington, DC, from 1990-2000. In July of 2000, Jeana and Kevin moved back to Miharu so that Kevin could learn Japanese and attend elementary school here.
 
Update - As of April 2004, Kevin will be in 4th Grade Elementary School.  It is amazing how much progress he has made in Japanese.  He didn't speak Japanese at all when he started first grade (other than basic numbers and colors, and a couple of children's songs), but he was understanding daily classroom Japanese in a month, and speaking in sentences in only a year.   Now he speaks and understands more Japanese than I do (and I've been studying it for 20 years).   We are still neck and neck on the writing of kanji though. 
Japanese public school is an interesting experience for both of us. 

Update - April 2005.  Kevin started 5th grade at Miharu Elementary School.  He has passed me by far in vocabulary, but I am still keeping up with him in reading and writing.  Although he reads much more fluently that I do, I still read more kanji than does.  He prefers to speak Japanese over English most days, but I have to ask him to translate his Japanese to English when I don't understand what he's saying, which happens with increasing frequency.  Well, thank goodness for Satellite Cartoon Network and Disney Channel, or I believe he would not speak English any longer at all.
 
By the way, I passed Level 2 of the Japanese Proficiency Test this past December.  Considering I only had one year of Japanese in college, I suppose it is not too bad, but if you consider that I've been here for 20 years..... Well, let's just say that I can't afford to rest on my laurels.  I will continue to study and hope to get pass the Level 1 when Kevin completes 6th grade. 
 
Kevin has decided he definitely wants to stay at least thru the 6th grade.  He will finish 6th grade in the spring of 2007.  So, looks like we are here for 2 more years.  He has suggested he wants to stay for Jr. High School, too, but that also depends on my employment situation.  Will keep you posted. 
 
Update Jan 2006 - Kevin will finish 5th grade, not at the top of his class, but not at the bottom.  Whenever I encourage him to do better in school, his reply is always "Mom, I'm not the worse kid in my class, and this isn't even my native language."  So, therefore, he doesn't have to do better, I guess.   Still, he is very excited on the occassion that he brings home a 100 percent paper, and brags that many kids in his class complain "how can he beat me? he's not even Japanese!".  And such occassions are becoming more frequent, I am proud to inform you.  His Japanese is amazing.  Honestly, he really doesn't doesn't that much, but he reads very well in Japanese (not so well in English, but that's another story) and can serve as my interpreter these days when we go out.  (My own Japanese is not that bad, but I tend to get lost when Japanese people start talking really politely.)  Kevin definitely has a better vocabulary than I do.  Still, I am keeping up with him in the reading (if not the writing).  He teaches me kanji each week (as a pretext to getting him to study his kanji, and it helps me with my kanji - a perfect deal).
 
2006 continued.  As of April 2005 the Board of Education agreed to lend us an unused kindergarten building for my ALL English Immersion Pre-school program.  We have two classes now (as of Oct 2005) with 20 core students in the pre-school, plus another 12 in the Readiness Program, and about 12 more in the Babies Program, and another 15 or so in the After School Elementary Program.  At the Xmas party in December we had over 100 kids and parents.  It was AMAZING!   My niece, Alaine Davis, has been teaching for us this year, and doing an AMAZING job.  She will be joined by a new teacher from Eau Claire in the summer.   My next project is to get the BOE to allow us to offer two hours of English in the Elementary School in the Afternoon so that our kids can continue to master English.   WISH ME LUCK!
 
March 2007 - Kevin graduated from Miharu Elementary - not at the top of the class, but not at the bottom either.  ;>   He is doing great.  Unfortunately, we will be leaving Miharu this month and heading to Miyagi Prefecture under less than wonderful conditions.    Nevertheless, we are looking forward to starting a new adventure.  Jeana will be starting an English preschool in a mid-sized town north of Sendai.   Will keep you posted.
 
August 2007 - Well, we are back in Miharu.  Things didn't pan out in Miyagi as we expected, so we returned to Miharu.  Jeana is working parttime and doing private lessons and Kevin is in Miharu Jr. High School and happy.  We rent a house nearby the town center.  My friend Debbie Hinman and her son Niko joined us in Miharu. Debbie is the new teacher at Miharu ABC Kids, which continues to struggle on. 

Q: What is the Rice Lake House?
A: The Rice Lake (International) House (abbreviated as RLH from here on) was built in 1993 by the Miharu-machi government as an international exchange center for the community. Miharu-machi and Rice Lake (my hometown in Wisconsin, remember?) became sister cities in 1988.

The RLH is an American-style, two story house designed to serve as a Bed & Breakfast with three guest rooms. RLH also serves as a coffee house from 10 am to 5 pm every day (except Mon). The people of Miharu (or anyone, actually) can stay overnight and experience a "home stay" with an American family, or just stop in for coffee. Entry fee for a tour of the house, plus coffee or tea is 300 yen (about $3.00) for Miharu citizens and 500 yen (about $5.00) for non-Miharu people.

In addition there is a meeting room which seats about 25 people and can be rented by groups for meetings and/or parties. This meeting room is used by the International Friendship Association throughout the year.

The house was paid for entirely by Miharu, but most of the interior design and furnishings were selected by a committee of people from Rice Lake and then exported to Japan. For more information about the RLH, please go to:

Q: Can we come visit you?
A: Friends and family members are welcome any time.  We love company. Tickets to Japan run about $1000 per person unless you get a really good deal. From Tokyo's Ueno Station, Miharu is about 1.5 hours on the Shinkansen (train stops at Koriyama) and another 15 minutes from Koriyama by car. The Shinkansen costs about $150 round trip from Tokyo. (From the Narita airport to Tokyo's Ueno Station, take the Keisei Skyliner - approx 50 minutes and $20 one way).
 
Good times to visit are October and March or May. June and September can be rainy, but are also beautiful.  July and August are miserably HOT. December to February can be quite cold, and most Japanese buildings do not have central heat, so....but if you are into skiing, it could be a fun visit. 

There are lots of cool things to see in and around Miharu. Please come to Miharu and see us and meet all our wonderful Japanese friends.

For more information about Miharu-machi, Japan, please click on:

http://www.town.miharu.fukushima.jp/english/welcomee.html