Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Finding Zen in Nyuzen

Last Sunday Chikako and I climbed one of the mountains in our back yard.

Chikako is not only my friend but also my tea ceremony sensei. Being oh-so-wise, she packed her portable tea set and we enjoyed a little zen on a beautiful, clear, crisp Autumn day.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Catch up time

The last 3 weeks have flown by. Work has been busy and so has my free time.

Two weeks ago I drove to Saitama prefecture for a VW event. I left on a Saturday afternoon took the local roads (to avoid expressway fees). It was just over 300km to Kawagoe City. It took me 9 hours to get there...

Around 10:00 p.m. I finally hopped on the expressway, a.) because I only knew how to get to the event from the expressway interchange, and b.) because the expressway has excellent rest stops with huge parking lots so I knew I could park for the night, get a hot meal, 24 hour restroom service and an undisturbed sleep. I found a spot as far away as possible from the lights and buildings, covered up my windows, pulled out my sleeping bag and went to sleep. It's been a long time since I've slept in a VW. I must say, the beetle is not as comfortable nor as roomy as the thing. But it is less drafty.

I got up around 8:00 a.m. and headed into the city. I pulled in to the parking lot and there were already quite a few other Dubs rolling in. I spotted my friend's car and parked near him and then headed in to the event -and into the rain. It poured all day!

I had a great time despite the cold wet weather. It was nice to hang out with VW people again!

At 2:30 I said my goodbyes and started out for home. Knowing that I had work the next day, I opted for the expressway and managed to cut the time down to just under 5 hours -stopping twice for cool downs and pee breaks. I think the total cost for the tolls was about $100.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

And now for the rest of the Story...

Monday was supposed to be our scuba day, but Mike wasn't feeling so hot, so we just went over to Shikine Island and wandered around dipping ourselves in the outdoor hot springs instead. It was a mildly rainy day, but warm, and we were wet anyway! We had to take a small charter boat from Niijima to Shikine and back -it doesn't take too long - 20 minutes or less, but it is enough to make me seasick, surprise, surprise.

Monday night we did up some home made pizza and salad for din-din and lazed around watching a bazillion episodes of downloaded TV shows that I'd never seen before.

Tuesday we headed back over to Shikine Island - Mike had to work and I went as a guest teacher for a half a day! In the afternoon I went to the beach by myself. Read, swam, read, swam. Then I met Mike at the boat and we headed back to Niijima again.

Wednesday I went to school again. This time Niijima Junior High School. I taught lessons with Mike and the English teacher, and even had lunch with the students! We threw together a Greek masterpiece for dinner, complete with falafel and tsaziki and then on full, garlic-laden stomachs we went to badminton in the evening.

Thursday I had the day to myself. I wandered around the island, watched some surfing, went to the onsen, read my book, watched sumo...a very relaxing day. In the evening Mike took me to his Judo class and I tried Judo for the first time! It was really fun! I was petrified at first, but the senseis were so friendly, it was hard not to enjoy myself!

Friday was my last full day on the island. I went to the little museum up on the hill -of which the second floor is dedicated to surfing! After school we headed to the sand onsen and in the evening Mike and I went out to a local yakitori place with some of the teacher's that I'd met. We met a couple there who were visiting the island for the weekend. He was from Scotland and she was Japanese. They were very pregnant and very excited about the upcoming arrival of their first baby. A very nice couple!

Saturday it was back on the boat to Tokyo. This time we took the Jet Foil and it was a much shorter trip. We hung out in T-town for the afternoon, then went out for Mike's b-day in the evening. About 10 of Mike's friends came out. We rented a party room at a local 'sports bar'. It was called Billi-Bow and the main feature was billiards bowling!! Fun. Lots of fun, games and of course Karaoke! We then wandered over to a bar that's run by one of Mike's Aussie friends! We continued to imbibe for a while before finally taking a taxi back to our beds. It was a great time. On Sunday, Mike and I parted ways and I spent the day fighting Tokyo crowds. I had a quiet night, and wandered back to my hotel, ready to return home the next day.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Niijima - escaping one part of inaka Japan for another.

Last week I finally took up my friend Mike's invitation to visit him on the island of Niijima. Mike is a private English teacher who works on two separate islands which are part of the Izu Island chain. We met before I came to Japan at a JET orientation event. We've been good friends ever since!!

I took the train to Tokyo on Saturday morning and hung out with my friend Kazz for the day. We went to Tokyo Tower and wandered around Shibuya for a while before heading to an English pub for a Strongbow (or two) before my ship departed at 11:00 p.m. We met some interesting characters at the bar. Entertaining and flirtatious!

Unfortunately I had to leave before the fun really got started (meaning karaoke). I said goodbye to Kazz and made my way to the ferry port.
I found my floor space, rented 2 blankets and made my 'bed' before heading up to the deck to watch the ferry leave Tokyo Bay. Rainbow Bridge was all lit up, the harbour was buzzing with party boats and a warm breeze carried us out to sea.

Back inside, a group of fishermen had taken over the floor space right at the bottom of the staircase and had finished a flat of beer before I had even brushed my teeth! People buzzed around emptying the vending machines and getting ready for the night long ride to the islands. I returned to my floor space, put my earplugs in, then curled up and slept until the morning announcement of our arrival at the first island stop.

Mike was there at 8:00 a.m. to greet me as I came off the boat. The day was already HOT and the sun was making an impressive show of the crystal clear ocean water. We hitched a ride to his apartment with a local and it wasn't long before the fun began! We took a bike ride around the island, stopped along the way to watch some surfing, drink some beer, soak our feet in one of the outdoor onsens, and do some glass blowing!! In the evening we went out to a local restaurant with one of Mike's friends and got the rumor mill going over 'the new girl with Mike-sensei'! A full day and it was only the first day of my vacation!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Sports Day

part of the cheer competition

one of my elementary students who came to watch
his brother

chicken fights!!

obstacle race

girls lined up for the relay

girls fighting over tires -they have to drag as many as
the tires back to their own lines as possible

3?? legged race

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Back to School

The second semester is just starting up here in Japan. The kids have been out of class since the end of July -that doesn't mean they haven't come to school, it just means there have been no classes. They come to school to use the pool and the baseball/soccer fields. They have been preparing for sports day which will be coming up on the 15th. And they have been cleaning the schools in preparation for the new semester.
I will be starting this semester at two new schools. Both are near my new apartment. The elementary school is a 3min walk from door to door. It's brand new with an open school concept - a very beautiful building. Unfortunately I only go there once a week. The junior high school is a 30 min walk (or 10 on my bike) and I'll be there one and a half days a week.
I have one other elementary school that I will continue teaching at -Taie. It's a tiny school, but is the 'model' school for the new English program the city has created.
Lessons start tomorrow. I thought I'd be more excited, but my summer just seemed to be picking up! Oh well. I'm giving myself a holiday starting on the 15th. Can't wait!

Monday, September 03, 2007

Okinawa comes to Toyama

I like having friends!
I like having friends who have friends.
I like having friends who have friends that like it when their friends invite other friends to their parties!
Such is the case with my friend Shigako.
We have been friends for 5 years now and she belongs to a group that plays
sanshin -a traditional instrument from Okinawa. Every year they have a BBQ on the beach near Toyama city. Once again I was invited to join. As is the norm for Japanese BBQs, we ate our way through most of the afternoon. Stopping once in a while to play/listen to music, jump in the sea, smash watermelons...
The day started out with a light drizzle, but by midday it was sunny and hot. Perfect!

But the day was just getting started. After a quick bath at a sento we headed to Champuru, an Okinawan restaurant -which is run by some of the members of Shigako's sanshin group- for some live Okinawan music. The artist was Misako Ooshiro, who is quite famous for both her music and her movie career. I had honestly never heard of her before, but quickly became a fan -she has a glamorous presence with a mischievous smile and a voice that is amazing. We sat right up front -as usual- and had a great evening filled with music, food and lively friends!
Thanks again Shigako for a great day!