Thursday, December 16, 2010

Yaki-imo Kit-Kat

Today, I tried what might be the weirdest kit-kat flavor ever. Well, maybe not, wasabe was very strange.

(Baked Sweet Potato)

Oddly enough, it tasted just like a baked sweet potato here. Which was quite strange in a kit-kat.
Posted by Picasa

Friday, December 10, 2010

New Page!

Today I was talking on the phone with a friend who found a Potato Kit-kat. I talked her into getting one for me. During that conversation, I realized I should start a list of Kit-Kats I've tried in Japan.

So, my new page, added today is of Kit-Kats I've tried in Japan (see the Kit-Kat link at the top).

Monday, December 6, 2010

I did it!

Yesterday, despite being sure I was going to fail because I didn't know the grammar and all the listening practice tests were too hard. I took the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test).

Despite the assurance of failing before hand, I understood most of it! I may or may not have passed, but even that I wasn't expecting. This level of Japanese, that would have been gibberish to me at this time last year, I listened to, read and understood!

And now I hope to get a certificate looking something like this: (These are NOT my results, but an image found online)

Image found here.

Friday, November 12, 2010

iPhone antics

Today, I headed in to see what the "Qualification Acquisition club" (such a difficult name!) was up to. There were two students and they were both drawing. I started to talking to them about what they were up to this weekend, their favorite kanji, etc.

When we got to  a word I didn't know, I whipped out the trusty iPhone to look it up. I did and then my student wanted to see it, since she's a high school student and not with a group of crazy students, I decided to let her.

She kept trying to use her finger nail to do things (as did I when I first got it). I explained that you had to use your finger.

Her next question was if it could read finger prints. I told her no, it moved by heat. And when I hadn't wanted to stop what I was doing I had once used my toe to pause/quiet it. Another time, when it was cold and I didn't want to take off my glove, I used my nose.

Next, she wanted to know if a cheek or a chin would work, I told her probably the chin would, but the cheek might be too big. Then she asked about an elbow. I said I didn't know, so we tried it. We rolled up our sleeves and found out that you can control an iPhone with an elbow (in case you wanted to know).

One of the most hilarious moments I've had in that club. My student was laughing so hard and so was I. Great end to a tough day.

I'm on a boat! (In the classroom . . . kind of)

Today my students learned transportation words. Bus, train, subway, bike, car, airplane and ship.

After learning the words. I had to announce that I was on a ____. If the kids had a ticket, they were supposed to give it to me and get in the "boat" with me (two jump ropes tied together). It was quite fun. When we were an airplane, we stuck our arms out; when we were a subway, we got down really low; when we were a bike, we pretended to pedal; and when we were a train, we went really fast.

The best moment, though was when we got to ship. I wanted to announce "I'm on a boat," but realized that wouldn't stick with the vocab that we had been learning, so I announced that I was on a ship, but secretly giggled inside.

Just in case you haven't seen the video that has been giggled at many times by various friends and I, here it is:

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Don't forget!

I want to participate in Operation Christmas Child this year, but being in Japan, I can't get a box in before the due date.

BUT, I can remind all of you kind folk in the US not to forget that packaged shoe boxes are due next Monday. You've got about a week to go.

Bless a child with a Christmas gift!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Stay or go?

The other day, I read a friend’s Facebook status about being homesick and really being stuck about whether to re-contract or not (most of us have received the papers by now). I remember being in that same spot, last year. Struggling with my job and the little bit of teaching I actually did at the time. Struggling with the tiny amount of Japanese I could speak and the fact that so many of the English speakers in Hokkaido are so far away. Struggling with the fact that I had left all my amazing friends at home and hadn’t made any friends that were near so good. Being in strong debate as to whether I could do another year here.

About this time last year, I came out of the super home-sick feeling. What changed? I took on some challenges, a friend and I posted a blog everyday. I started really pushing hard to study Japanese (what I was studying at the time was over my head and I eventually stopped, but it gave me a goal). I realized that I needed to do things I love and keep my house the way I want it (rather than being lazy and letting living alone be an excuse not to clean).

Last winter, all of us ALTs went to Mid –year conference. Vicki (the old PA – Prefectural Advisor) had the previous PA come and talk about re-contracting. I remember that she had us list the three  things we liked most about our job and the three things that we hated the most. Not being in the presence of my co-workers, I could be completely open about it. I hated the distance between me and friends (by this point, I had become pretty good friends with a few ALTs here – so both them and friends at home), I hated a couple of other things (I don’t remember now). The things, the “stranger” (another ALT I hadn’t met before) and I talked about were all things that with some energy and time, could be remedied.

Here, I sit, on the other end of that decision, knowing that I made the right decision. It was just before my first year was up that things really started to improve. I got to know the JET community as a whole, I got over my fear of getting stuck in a situation and not knowing what to say and started jumping in and trying, people started talking to me more.

I’m really glad I stayed, I don’t love being a human tape recorder, but more and more I am convincing my JTEs to let me have a small part in the classes. Not always huge change, but sometimes small things. Because I now have a relationship with them and some rapport, I can make suggestions and ask questions.

More and more I just feel included instead of excluded. This weekend, my supervisor invited me to go to her son’s school festival. I went and it being the largest school in town, lots and lots of my students were there (any kid that was there was either my student, my future student or my predecessor’s student). It was fun being surrounded by people I knew, rather than being in a crowd feeling lost. I got introduced to the kids who were sitting behind me, yochien kids (preschoolers) and was told that one of them would be in the first grade next year and I’d get to teach him. I had a fun time between performances tickling their toes and playing silly games.

In the end, recontracting is a hard decision, if you hate your job now, it may or may not improve in the next year, but on the other hand, having relationships around you just might make the difference. I don’t love everything about my job now, but I’ve built relationships with the students and teachers around me and really am loving living in Japan, now. 

Not yet sure what I'll do next year, but at this point, I'm leaning toward staying. 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Some lunch time fun.

At one of my schools, the students have started playing janken (rock, paper, scissors) at the end of lunch. If a student loses, they have to take something from the other student's tray during clean up.

Today I was invited to play by one of my first graders whose birthday it was today. Usually I'm not included in this madness, but today I was and anytime my students include me in things like this, I gladly join.

The first round, he played rock, I played paper. I gave him the stack of bowls I had been taking from other kids (when you stick one in the stack, you might as well stick 5, it's no more work).

Second round, he played rock, I played paper, again. And, again, I won. He got my milk carton.

Third round, I thought he'd catch on and realize I was playing paper. He played rock, I played scissors . . . and lost. I not only got my own milk carton back, but the other three that he had on his tray.

Then the bell rang.

Luckily I don't mind rinsing milk cartons and tearing them down.

My winnings from the day

Monday, November 1, 2010


Next month on December 5, I'm taking the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test). I have a bit over a month to go and SOOO much studying to do.

I don't know if I'll pass it, but I have to try!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

An elementary visit

Today I went to one of my tiny schools. There are only 8 kids and this morning I was super excited to go. Last year, I went once a week, but this year they changed it and I only go once or twice a month (sad!).

I arrived and looked over the plans for the day. The teacher called me last night and we discussed the lesson (mostly in Japanese!). She decided we should do a Halloween lesson instead of vegetables (good since I realized this morning, I didn't end up planning anything for the veggie ahead of time).

The kids made masks and then they trick-or-treated from the principal, who gave them a couple of treats. It was fun and they had a blast wearing masks and dressing up. It was also a more relaxed English class than usual.

The best part of the day, though was at lunch. I got seated between on of my third graders, N,  and one of my second graders, K.

N and I had finished eating and were waiting for S (a third-grader) to finish eating. We did the usual game, where I steal their chopsticks and pretend I don't know where they are, but that only lasted for a couple of minutes before a new game began.

I decided to try to touch her nose with my chopsticks (they were back in their case). I got a good giggle, so I decided to try it again. She started using her chopsticks (in the case) to block me from doing it. I was able to get her a few times, but she blocked me more times. We eventually had to stop because we were laughing so hard.

Kids have the best laughs.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A strange day

Yesterday, my students and I celebrated Halloween. We played a game with skeletons and put on masks. A little different from Halloween at home, but still tons of fun.

The room we were in had nice, big windows. As I looked outside (this one is not actually from that window), it looked like Christmas.

Such a strange mix of weather and holidays we had yesterday.
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Japanese Learning - an update

Last year I posted here about my difficulties with Japanese Language learning. I was taking a course that was too hard and was really struggling. After failing the first test, I quit the course. I realized I was in over my head and was done trying to work at that level and went back to work that was at my real level (Genki Japanese textbooks).

Anyways, I decided that I wasn't going to let the books conquer me that I had to finish what I started and re-enrolled in the class again this year. Well, it turns out by the time one is beginning the 17th chapter of the Genki textbook, they will have a lot less trouble with the JET course.

This year, if I tried to use the five finger rule, which I teach elementary students at home. Anyways, enrolling in this course again this year, even if it's not an amazing course (more about that another time) is great because it shows me how much I've grown.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

My first yuki mushi

Last year, about this time, I heard a lot about "Yuki Musih" (snow bugs). I heard we would see them and shortly after we would see our first snow fall. I didn't see them last year, but I definitely saw the snow.

Today, I was riding my bike home and I kept running into these things that looked kind of like the white cotton-y stuff that falls around during the summer. I didn't think much of it until, I thought it kind of looks like snow, but I was fairly certain that it wasn't quite cold enough to snow outside yet.

Then I realized it was a bug that kept running into my face as I biked home. I realized that today, I saw my first yuki mushi!

In kanji, that's 雪虫 (snow bug!).

On another note, it's gotten cold. I had to turn on my heater this evening. By tomorrow morning, this giant beast should be actually heating my house.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Blog Action Day 2010: Water

Water. As I sit here and begin to try to write about it, I'm not sure what to write, there are so many different issues surrounding water. There are people in the world who have no access, there are some very wasteful ways that we use it, the list goes on.

Others are affected again and again by our water use. Are we using it wisely or throwing it down the drain like waste?

I'm having a difficult time deciding what to write in regards to water, because there are so many issues. There are issues of access to water and how much time it takes people to get it. Are those same people and others getting clean water? There's the environment, how are we choosing to use water? Are we making choices that make life worse for others.

In developed countries we have access to clean water all the time and yet we regularly buy water bottles, which don't always get recycled and end up creating more waste.

There are so many issues around water, but what if we each chose to tackle one? What kind of impact could we have if each person chose to do something to make this issue just a little bit smaller?

The Blog Action Day topic of water was to get people thinking and talking about something on a day to see what kinds of changes we could make. The website contains some good information about the issues of water around the world. I know that for me, it has made a bit of a difference in education, which I hope will result in action. How can I help? What can I do that might make this problem less, even if it's only slightly less?

Ghandi said "we need to be the change we wish to see in the world." What kind of a change do we want to see? How should it affect the lives we are living?

A very inspiring video:

Blog Action Day 2010: Water from Blog Action Day on Vimeo.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Last year's first photo-worthy snow

I was going through some pictures and spotted my first snow photo from last year. Apparently our first snow worth photographing was on November 2. Just a couple more weeks and it will start to come down! I'm both excited and dreading it. Yay for snowboarding, not so yay for driving in the snow, short days and no more bike riding. But look at that hill just waiting for me to board and ski down it!

Update: Wow! I posted this right as an earthquake hit. Apparently a 5.4 and not too far from my town
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Obon Fireworks

Working on going through my photos and found this.
My town decided to have a strange falling fireworks show during Obon.
Here are a few of my students :)
Posted by Picasa

Monday, October 11, 2010

The top!

The photo taken at the top of Mt. Panke in Nakagawa.
We made it to the top!
Posted by Picasa

Dave Barry Does Japan

Dave Barry Does Japan
Dave Barry Does Japan by Dave Barry

This book is Dave Barry's hilarious account of his trip to Japan. He runs into so many cultural things that any foreigner runs into. He repeatedly accounts that he doesn't really know anything about Japanese culture/language, but he shares his experiences - from sqatty potties (according to Dave, "a hole in the ground where they forgot to put the toilet) to food to places.

Having lived in Japan for just over a year now I found the book hilarious. I did listen to it in the car on audio book. I really appreciated the audio author, but found his miss pronunciation of major Japanese words (including cities, Kyoto and Hiroshima) really annoying. Don't study pronunciation of Japanese city names from the audio book and you'll be alright.

Regardless, Dave had me in tears a few times because I was laughing so hard as I, too, had experienced exactly what he was talking about. The book is quite ethnocentric to the US and is likely a bit out of date about American relations to Japan and some unknowns about Japan. Regardless, it's one I'd love to own so I could share it with friends and family.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Ashibetsu view

A photo I shot while in Ashibetsu at the kid's camp. I love this scene because it's what I see when I'm not too far from home (a little over an hour). It's even more gorgeous on a clear day when the sky is blue and the statue and the bridge are stark white.
Posted by Picasa

Teach the ALT to print double sided . . .

. . . and suddenly she'll be using half as much paper as before.

Last week I learned to print things double sided from our printer. Today I've already used this amazing feature three times.

. . . what else can I print? :)

Saturday, October 2, 2010


In one month people across the nation will set out to do the unthinkable: sit down & write 50,000 words in one month. Others, will simply post a blog once a day this November. We on the other hand will set out to post a status update once a day (: We are calling it: NaStatWriMo (National Status Writing Month). Join our craziness, invite others, & update your status everyday in November!

(I intend to update my twitter as well)

Thursday, September 30, 2010


Hello everyone!

I have moved my blog to this new site. Why, you ask? Well, it seems that blogger will allow me to do more of the things I wanted to do from the beginning, including use my own photo for the entire background, not just the header.

I hope you enjoy my blog's new home!

PS. For those of you who would prefer this in your email (as opposed to seeing my pretty blog), check out the link on the side to use feedburner to subscribe.

For all you bloggers

I think that getting everyone in the world clean water is a very difficult goal, but a very worthwhile one.

UNICEF and some other organizations are having a "Blog Action Day" on October 15. Join myself and lots of other bloggers in blogging about it and helping raise awareness about the cause.

Petitions by|Start a Petition »

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Where'd the Oregonian go?

This morning I woke up and it was grey outside. We’ve had a lot of grey days recently, so I assume it will warm up. At my junior high (where I was today), they are doing construction and rarely open the windows. I choose light clothes, to keep from overheating, while sitting in the stuffy staffroom. Once ready, I grab my bag, slip on my flip-flops and take off for school on my bike.

I have one class over the course of the day, so I spend my day trying to book a flight home, studying Japanese and chatting with friends.

As I walk to the second year room for lunch, I realize it’s pouring and decide my best course of action is to hope it will let up before 4:30, when I get to head home.

Slowly the minutes tick by. I am working on an email when 4:30 rolls around. I say goodbye to the friends I’m chatting with and the teachers who are actually in the staffroom at that time (many are out doing things with the students).

When I get to the genkan, where we change our shoes as we come in or out, I stand there for a minute, just stare at the rain, and laugh. I’m an Oregonian, I should have known better, right? Why did I think the rain would hold off as the weather forecast said? (Probably because it didn’t come at all this weekend).

As I’m standing there, Kanayama-san, our janitor walks up and asks if I have an umbrella. I shake my head no and mention that I have no jacket either, thinking still about how I should have known better. He smiles and hands me an umbrella. I ask if it’s ok and he says it is.

As I reach my hand into the box labeled with レベッカ (Rebecca), I remember that I wore flip-flops that morning. I slowly switch my shoes, thinking of how wet I’m about to get and head outside to realize this is going to be my first-ever umbrella bike ride.

By the time I get to the bike shelter across the parking lot, I’ve avoided a few puddles and watched a few students go running to or from the building in rain suits. “They were prepared,” I think.

The bike shelter surprises me, when I arrive, because it has a good inch of water or so on the ground that I have to wade through to get to my bike. Getting a bike out with one hand on an umbrella is much more complicated than I expect, but I get the bike out with minimal water on the seat and only slightly wet toes.

As I ride across the parking lot, I realize that it’s not as hard as I thought it would have been (especially considering I was trying to text and bike ride the other day). Holding the umbrella out in the wind, so that I can still see is the most difficult part.

Very quickly, I realize that hurrying home on my bike with the wind in my face and an umbrella in hand is a bad idea and will likely cause a gaijin-bicycle scramble (gaijin = foreigner). Thinking about how crazy this is and that I’d never have attempted it at home, I spend the whole ride home laughing. I begin laughing even harder when I realize that the umbrella helped me avoid a shower that included my head, but very much didn’t prevent the rest of my body from being soaked.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Weather forecast

Tomorrow it looks like we'll have 80 (27c) weather, with snow. How is that going to work, google?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


"A Christian in many American circles, for example, means 'right-wing, gun-toting fanatic who hates Democrats.' As such, a pacifist Democrat who called himself a Christian in those circles, would be lying, albeit unwittingly. To most of this world, America is Christian, just as to most Americans being an Arab means being a Muslim. Both labels have only limited usefulness.

I have been called a Christian writer, but I'm not a right-wing, gun-toting fanatic who hates Democrats, not by a long shot. So am I a Christian? Yes and no - it depends on what Christian means to you. . . But labels are almost impossible to shed." (Ted Dekker, Tea with Hezbollah).

Two things stick out to me in this part of the book (which I'm reading online through the library).

1. How do you define Christian? What does it mean? Maybe I'm not a Christian if you follow the definition that Dekker gives above. If not, what am I? I believe in Christ and aim to understand and follow his word. What does that make me?

2. "Labels are almost impossible to shed." What labels have I given people? Am I aiming to see beyond people's labels or am I reinforcing them?

One year

As I write this, I have now completed a full year in Japan. I can't believe it has been one year today since I arrived in Japan.

Ros, Heather and I celebrated by taking the day off and exploring the town where Ros (pronounced Roz) lives. We slept in (still catching up from HEC camp), went out for lunch, tried lots of omiyage (sweets to return with and share with those who didn't go on a trip with you), had cake at an amazing bakery in Ros' town. It was great.

What has happened over the last year?

  • My Japanese has improved. I'm now studying for the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) New 4. I can keep up with simple conversation and can read most simple things.

  • Made some amazing friends who have come from all over the world to teach in Japan.

  • Still working on making good friends in town and am slowly making more and more friends.

  • Gotten to use my teaching skills to teach a few times and have had the chance to be a human tape recorder even more. Also, have been frustrated lots of times by the state of English teaching in Japan.

  • I'm learning more and more ways to cook with the ingredients I can actually find here.

  • Lots of chances to see Hokkaido and parts of Japan.

  • Started a master's class, which I should be able to use to renew my Oregon teaching license.

  • Successfully lived on my own for a year. Boy do I miss my family and roommates.

  • Took the test twice and got my Japanese drivers license.

  • Taught an English class for grown-ups

  • Learned to snowboard

  • Tried skiing

  • Drove on snow for the first time

  • Joined a choir

  • Ate Natto

  • Paid off my small student loan

I've done lots of other things not included in this list. Keep reading my blog to see what other things happen in my time in Japan :)

Friday, July 16, 2010

A BOE day

I always hear about ALTs who have to go and sit at their BOE and don't have anything to do, they spend their days looking for random things to fill their time (I do this often enough at my high school). Next week my school has holidays that I don't get (I'm not going to the school festival this weekend), my supervisor has said come to the BOE (Board of Education) on Tuesday and Wednesday, when you're not visiting schools (elementary visits in the middle of the day.

Like a little kid who has never experienced homework, but sees their older siblings doing it, I'm a bit excited to spend a day in my BOE (I will have class visits) and see what happens inside of the BOE. Maybe I'll make some new friends there.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

A trip to Furano

This weekend I have two awesome friends coming to visit, since neither one has a car and they both have decently long journeys, I decided I wanted to be able to provide towels for the two of them. Owning two towels already, I needed another.

After school, I set out for Furano to hit up their Homac and grab a towel and a few other things I wanted to have on hand before I have friends visit.

On the way to Furano, I have to pass through two tiny towns, not big enough to have memorable names, but big enough to slow down for, as well as Yamabe, which is big enough to have two combinis (hear the jealousy in my voice?).

Just before I reached Yamabe (I was about 3/4 of the way there), I reached into my purse for something (probably a music player of some sort) and realized I hadn't brought my wallet.

Living in Japan that not only means I didn't have money to buy the items I wanted, but I was driving illegally (no license), was illegally just being (we're supposed to carry our gaijin/foreigner card EVERYWHERE), and I didn't have my insurance card. All big no-no's.

So half an hour into my drive, I turned around to do it again. I got home, grabbed my wallet from my backpack (when did it escape from my purse to my backpack?) and turned around to go back to Furano.

It all turned out ok in the end. I even decided on the second trip in to stop and try and capture the beauty of the sky. While that picture wasn't so interesting, this one was:

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Aloe Yogurt Kit-Kat

That's right. You read correctly. I just finished eating a Aloe Yogurt Kit-Kat.

How was it? A little strange. But aren't most of Japan's Kit-kat flavors strange?

It's my personal goal to try every strange flavored kit-kat I've run into. So far, my favorite is Sakura-Green Tea. Soo good! Also, Maple was yummy.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

What will happen next year?

Interestingly enough, with all the cutbacks being made world-wide, JET is rumored to now on the chopping block as well. The only real article about it is here, and it doesn't even to have any real, solid facts.

Regardless, it makes me wonder what will happen if they just up and drop JET. I'll have some notice, because they wouldn't be able to do it until the end of a contract year (a year from August, at the soonest).

In my town, it would mean they don't have to "deal" with having someone who can't speak the language around. At the same time, they'd miss out on realizing that not everyone speaks Japanese, that my culture has me thinking about things entirely different sometimes.

In general, it would mean there would be less of us causing a ruckus whenever we end up in a giant group (which isn't too often). There will be way less foreigners to practice English with on the trains, sneakily snap photos of and be generally confused by.

Less foreigners would be able to come over knowing that they have this amazing support system that JET provides for us.

For me, it would mean I'll be thrown into a crazy dash to find jobs in Japan (should I want to stay) or the insanity of teaching jobs being cut at home.

I know that God will lead and provide wherever he leads, but it has me very curious to see what the future looks like for both Japan (including these people I care about), my JET friends and myself.

Monday, June 28, 2010

A general update

Sorry for the very long space between updates. Life has been busy in a lot of ways. What has been happening?

I became the HAJET (Hokkaido JET) Librarian. Which means, about 1000 books arrived at my house and I've been working on getting them organized in such a way that when other members email me because they'd like to check out books, I can easily find them. Right now, there are about 600 books organized in my tiny apartment. This weekend I received more shelves to be able to organize more of what's still in my closet and waiting to be organized.

Being a part of the HAJET PC (Prefectural Council) means that I attended the retreat in early June, at this meeting we figured out a lot of the plans for the up coming year. We will be the running council until February of next year, when some old members will leave and new members will be voted in. If I don't decide to go home next year, I'll likely try to stay on as librarian for a second year. For the retreat, we stayed at Simon's house. Simon is the HAJET President and he lives in Engaru. It was an amazing weekend. Simon is also a first year JET, but he and his family are from New Zeland. Simon and his wife, Sara, and their amazing four kids hosted us. My favorite part of the weekend was probably talking to and playing with the adorable kids. They speak both English and are learning Japanese at school (their Japanese is amazing!). Their two year old answers "how old are you" with "ni-sai" (two years old in Japanese) and they all have amazing accents, which makes them fun to talk to.

Beyond talking to the kids, we spent that weekend figuring out lots of questions about being the new PC (most of us are newbies and don't know how everything works). I hadn't actually met everyone on the PC so it was good to get to connect with them. At our long Saturday meeting, we also discussed many things including how to get the rest of the shelves to the library, our plans for Sapporo Orientation (when we will get to meet all the newbies) and many other upcoming events. Simon was also a chef in his days in New Zeland, so he cooked us an amazing dinner of things that are harder to find in Japan (very tasty!). Sunday brought a trip to the free store (a store where people drop things off and everything is free!), a visit to a rock that overlooks all of Engaru and the long trip home.

The next weekend, I bought my car. Ironically, due to train issues, that trip took 5 hours. Luckily, it should never take me that long again (now that I have a car) as long as I don't make long stops on the way. But, it ended up being really good. I got to have dinner with a couple of good friends (one who lives super far away and we chat often, but don't often see one another).

That week was my 25th birthday. It was strange to celebrate so far from my family and friends. I got to eat lunch with one of my favorite elementary classes and had a few students say happy birthday. The evening was quiet. I went out to the lake and had a nice walk before coming back into town and going to the pizza place. It was a good dinner, but lacking in friends and family. I came home to open the package mom had sent me. It included some fun things, including an Oregon tee shirt.

Two weekends ago, I headed to Iwamizawa for their International festival. The countries that had booths included America (obviously), Australia, Canada (their booth was next to us), Britain, Mexico, Russia and many more. The kids made pinyatas, had their faces painted, there was dancing lessons and food being sold (including tacos and real chocolate chip cookies!). The weather was beautiful and warm. Afterward, we had an enkai at an Indian restaurant in Iwamizawa. The food was delicious, but as usual, the best part was the friends. For the first time in a few months I actually got to hang out with Heather (my friend from Britain who I did a lot with when I first arrived). I also met many other JETs who I hadn't met before.

This weekend we headed to Shinshinotsu for a HAJET meeting. We went camping. On Friday night Ros and I arrived late. Everyone stayed up pretty late chatting and hanging out. On Sunday, most of us were up around 6 because our tents were in the bright sunlight and very hot. (The sun rises here at about 3am this time of year, so 6am is like 8am heat at home, where the sun rises at about 5 in the summer). We got up and headed out for the meeting. First was the PC meeting where we discussed more of what we were going to do for orientation and the other events coming up. After that, we had the general meeting and had several members come. Saturday afternoon, we had workshops. I lead an ideas exchange workshop and both got and received some good ideas to hopefully use in the few classes I teach.

That afternoon, we had a BBQ and lots and lots of good food. Including hamburgers, tortilla chips, chips like you'd get at home and time with good friends (the best part!). At the end of the evening, we did a cake auction for HEC (Hokkaido English Challenge) to support the English camp we'll do at the end of next month. A couple of amazing a friends (one of whom has adopted me and decided she was my big sister, in the fall) bought a cheesecake for my birthday. It was pretty sweet (and very DELICIOUS!).

Sunday, we had a sale of stuff as old JETs wanted to get rid of stuff and some of us wanted to get it. Before that, I got the remaining HAJET Library bookshelves. I also bought a small set of drawers, a snowboard, and a few books for studying for the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test). When it was time to leave, my car was PACKED full of stuff. But I now own my very own snowboard (for about $30). I'll need to get some other gear, but that's one thing paid for now!

Also, I've been slowly getting better and better at Japanese. I can communicate so much more than I could when I arrive and I can understand a lot more, too. I finished the first Genki (Elementary Japanese) textbook and have started work on the second. In December, I'll be taking the JLPT N4 - there are 5 levels and N5 (new 5) is the easiest and N1 is the hardest. I probably was at a level N5 this last December and I think it will be possible to study and pass the N4 in December.

Friday, June 11, 2010

I think it's been a while since I posted

Currently I feel a bit like this:

Why you ask?

Well, the other day my "." key was sticking. So I popped it off to clean under it (previously I had a bit of dust under another key and it didn't work quite right.

I cleaned under the key and attempted to pop it back on. Apparently, with this computer if you pop a key off wrong, you can't get it back on. Subsequently, I've put the key back on to no avail. Still the key comes back off. Today, I think I hit the end of getting it back on, when I broke another bit of a prong that was holding it down (in trying to put it on again).

Boo! Now my keyboard looks something like this:

(Hopefully I'll have a real update soon).

UPDATE: I ordered and received a new keyboard key. My keyboard is now fixed and I no longer feel like my pencil is broken.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Three Cups of Tea

I just finished reading Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson.

Greg is a climber who failed at climbing the second tallest mountain in the world, K2 in Pakistan, and on the way back down he discovered a town where the children go to school outside in a courtyard, most of the time with no teacher because they have to share her with another town.

He pledges to get them a school. And he does. Then he brings more schools to Pakistan and then to Afghanistan. At one point he attends something that teaches him that the best way to improve life in a community is to educate the girls, because they will usually reinvest their education in their world.

After finishing the book (maybe an hour ago), I went on the site to find out what has been happening since the book was written. It appears that work has continued and there are now several schools in Afghanistan as well. But what caught my eye the most was the link that brought me to this video:

Friday, May 14, 2010

A new word

I was driving to work today and I spotted the following kanji on a flag: 山火事注意

I knew all the kanji, but not what they meant together. The last two (注意 - Chuui) mean caution and are currently my favorite kanji because I can read them and find them everywhere*. The three before them mean: mountain (山), fire (火), and thing (事). So be cautious of mountain fire things?

While I liked that translation, I was quite sure it was wrong and very much wanted to know what they had paired with my favorite kanji.

Giving it my own translation seemed to work well because when I made it to the office and sat down at a computer, I was able to look it up. I typed in the readings for all of those things to get each kanji within the word (it's like a compound word in English - textbook, crossroad, backpack, etc).

What did it say? According to, it means brushfire. So be cautious of brushfires. Makes sense.

Today I learned a new word and all because I gave it some crazy translation to remember it long enough to get to a dictionary to find it. Both definitions are now stuck in my head.

Guess what happened on the way home from work this time? That's right, I found it on several more signs, but I previously hadn't known what it was.

I like learning new words.

*Everywhere in this case includes (but is not limited to): my shower door handle, my toilet seat, my microwave, my stove, train doors, road signs and warning labels. It's fun because I see these two hard kanji that I'd probably make a mess of if I tried to write them and I can read them!

Monday, April 19, 2010

EPIC GOMI (garbage) FAIL

Friday, I forget to take out my nama gomi (raw garbage/compost). No big deal, right? I’ll just take it out on Monday morning and all will be fine.

Tonight, I return from church with my JTE and because of a particularly long meeting, dinner out and then grocery shopping, we arrive home at 10pm. Not too bad. Having had caffeine a little on the late side and knowing that Sunday is the best time to chop up my veggies, I head into the kitchen to put food away and throw other food away.

At the 100 yen store this afternoon, I bought a couple of new bags for the onions and potatoes that have been in my fridge quite a long time and have been doing just fine. So I start there. I dig through the potatoes and find that the majority of them need to go. There’s a handful that can go in my new fancy bag – probably good that I bought the bags, because I had to go through the bad produce. Then I begin doing the same thing on the onions. The first few are still good. Then I get lower in the bag and they are soft – according to the website I found, this means they have to go. I get lower in the bag and find mushy, fuzzy onions. At this point, I decide that I’m glad I bought tongs at the 100 yen shop as well because I don’t have to touch the nasty onions – yay!

After I’ve gone through the onions and potatoes, I glance through the rest of my produce drawer. I didn’t go through peppers as fast as I thought I would last week and I now have two very soft peppers on my hands. I decide to toss these as well and the grapes that are mostly over ripe at this point in the week.

This is all well and good, but having not chopped any produce yet, my gomi bag is FULL. Nothing else is going in that bag if I want to be able to tie it shut. So I decide to take it out. I don’t even want to chance forgetting to take it out this week.

I begin to pull the bag out and notice some gomi juice in the gomi bucket. I don’t want to drip this the whole way to the gomi cage, so I carry the bucket out. In the entryway, I find my plastic garbage that I had forgotten to take out the last two Wednesdays (the good thing about that is it never smells). Since people in my apartment complex are terrible at being Japanese, there’s always gomi out early (apparently in most of Japan this is against the rules and the gomi police will return it). I decide I’m going to take the plastics out too.

I grab my fleece and my rain boots and head out. I walk down to the gomi cage and stick both gomi bags into one hand so that I can open the cage. The plastic being the easiest, I toss in first.

Once that’s in the cage, I grab my nama gomi and stand back so it won’t leak on me. Then I yank it out by the handle of the bag (think shopping bag with the handles tied together).

I get it to just in front of the gomi cage when BOOM. My gomi bag explodes all over the ground IN FRONT of the gomi cage.

I am utterly shocked standing with an empty bag in my hand. How is it that the gomi bag I have in my hand is now empty? One minute the gomi was in my hand, the next it was all over the ground.

Then, I do what I always do in a random moment like this. I start laughing. My gomi had rejected the gomi cage. What other JET has had that experience?

After I get over the insanity of my situation (I’m still standing there), I decide I need to do something. As much as I would rather pretend it wasn’t me, I can’t leave this for someone else. I head back into the house to grab a new gomi bag and try to figure out how I’m going to get all the gomi picked up.

As I enter the house it occurs to me, I’ll use the freshly cleaned tongs I bought today so I don’t have to touch the nasty food all over the ground. I head back out. It’s 11:45 and I’m headed out in my blue rain boots, armed with a gomi bucket and tongs. I’m sure if anyone had been looking outside at that moment, I would have been a hilarious sight.

With my weapons, I manage to take out the mess bit by bit, apple cores, potatoes, onion, peppers, carrot ends, and parts of veggies all get tossed into the new bag. I managed to get all the whole things picked up. I find something slimy and wonder what it is I ate last week that would go bad this fast.

I get to the bottom and remember, as I find them, that last week I had not been able to use 4 eggs before the expiration date. They’ve cracked over the small bits of gomi that are left along with the dirt. I get most of that picked up. But, lacking a hose or any water source to rinse the area. It’s going to be gross in a couple of days. I’m very much hoping for rain this evening to wash the whole mess away. But looking at the weather forecast, rain’s not likely until tomorrow night.

I returned to my kitchen after that to chop up the veggies before I lost steam and didn’t have the energy to do it. As I now head to bed, I have a container of celery, one of carrots and two of peppers in my fridge and ready for healthy snacking this week.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The future, it’s a scary thing

Today, in thinking about teaching and having random thoughts floating around in my head, I realized that I had been out of school for a year and a half before coming to Japan. No big deal. Until I put that next to my future hope of teaching and the way Oregon teaching licenses work currently. They are good for 3 years, then you have to renew.

Simple, right? Well, I’m currently working on a master’s course so I’ll be able to renew my license and not lose it while I’m in Japan. My thinking with this was I would arrive home, have another year on the license I’m working toward and then have to renew again. But that didn’t account for the fact that I worked before I came to Japan.

Oops. That’s an easy solution though, if I stay here and the only requirement is that I have done more masters work, then I do that and easily renew my teaching license. All well and good. Except, I only get to renew three times before I am required to get my masters (with the possibility of renewing one more time for 1 year to finish).

So where does that leave my future thoughts? Well, if I do end up staying here for 5 years (though who knows what God’s plans are), maybe I’ll spend my first year back in a master’s course or taking classes to go towards it while subbing. Hmm, that means I should probably be thinking about what options there are for getting a masters and decide what type of master’s degree I’d like to work toward. Wow. That means when I thought I finally got to escape from school, I need to be thinking about it again.

Monday, April 5, 2010

A funny moment

This post was made by a good friend of mine, and I found it hilarious. Please enjoy her humor and a small bit of a Japanese food experience. Though I've never gone to quite the same extreme, I have had similarly funny food experiences.

Crunch! by Elizabeth

Thursday, April 1, 2010

A series of Green

A friend and I are doing a photo challenge where each month we take 8 photos of a particular topic.

Green was the topic for March. Here are my photos:

1. Green Tea

2. Green Frog

3. Candle Holder

4. Pencil

5. Leaves

6. Cactus

7. Things that come in the mail the day after we start the photo challenge

8. Kiwi

And there you have it. We'll see what happens next month this photo challenge (see last month's challenge on my flickr page).

Friday, March 26, 2010


Kids are gone. Today’s the first day of vacation. And I’m stuck in at my desk at the High School. What do I do?

  • List books on the new HAJET goodreads account (I’m the new Librarian)

  • Have a snack

  • Look at my schedule

  • Discuss my Golden Week plans with a teacher

  • Clean my desk a tad

  • Talk to Ros

  • Eat lunch

  • Read a couple of online magazine articles

  • Chat with Ros more

  • Plan a few lessons for the next semester

  • Search englipedia and several books for lesson ideas

  • Ask Ros for ideas about my lessons

  • Help Ros plan lessons

  • Make tea

  • Suggest that rather than teaching Ros’ kids like as in “I like cats” teach them valley girl style use of like

  • Proceed to have an entire conversation using like

  • Study my Japanese flashcards – very much avoiding the textbook that would take some real work to study with

  • Flickr

In the midst of all of this, go to the bathroom quite a few times as an excuse to be out of my desk.

. . .

And then this evening I’m listening to the radio and hear these lyrics:
“Yeah... gotta start

lookin at the hand of the time we've been given here

this is all we got and we gotta start pickin it

every second counts on a clock that's tickin'

gotta live like we're dying

We only got

86 400 seconds in a day to

turn it all around or throw it all away

we gotta tell 'em that we love 'em

while we got the chance to say

gotta live like we're dying”

~Live Like We’re Dying by Kris Allen (lyrics)

And this song, Blink by Revive, which has a similar call to love. (lyrics)

What am I doing with my time? Am I making it count or am I just wasting it? I don’t want to be someone who just wastes her life.

What actually counts in life? Love.

1 Corinthians 13:1 says “If I speak in the tongues of men and angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging symbol.”

How do I get from passing my time at work to making it worthwhile? This is the hard question. Why? Because when I answer it, I have to take action. Action is where God meets me and provides, action is where scary things are.

What if I leap and God doesn’t catch me? That’s always the question, but he has shown himself faithful again and again in his word. And his word also says that he’s the same yesterday, today and forever. Why would he suddenly quit being faithful? I guess I need to move, trusting God to hold me up when I fail.

What action is God calling me to? Love those around me. So easy to say, so much harder to actually live.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

More English learning laughs!

My first year high school students are currently working on skits. Today, they were working on them during class. I was helping a group of four girls. We were chatting a bit (with very limited Japanese/English). All of a sudden one of the girls reaches into her pocket (she’s wearing a skirt). I tell them I’ve never had a skirt with pockets (might be a bit of an exaggeration, but it’s been a VERY long time if I have). This is one of the reasons I hate dressing up, is the lack of pockets. The girls were amazed and one asked the others (in Japanese, so this is my understanding of the conversation – mostly from gestures) where you carry your handkerchief. She considers the pocket in their jacket, but can see that I’m obviously not wearing a jacket (and rarely do). Then they think of the bathrooms that have automatic hand dryers (not at school). They continue with this line of thinking to decide I must blow on my hands to dry them. When I showed them that I just dry my hands on my pants, they were utterly confused.

After school, I was invited to practice with the badminton club. When I arrived, they were stretching. One of the girls started pushing on her friend (apparently to help him stretch). He started screaming, “Ahhhh! Ahhhh! Ahhhh! Scream! Ahhhh! Ahhhh! Ahhhh!” I’m sure they thought I was the worst ALT ever, laughing while a kid is screaming, but I could tell he was not seriously hurting. He then wanted to know if he had used the wrong word and I had to explain that we don’t usually stop screaming to say “Scream.”

Friday, March 5, 2010

Wednesday's crazy language encounters

The day started with my JTE getting some coffee. Her coffee cup has writing on one side and Mickey Mouse on the other. Having not seen the other I was surprised when one of the lines of text said “I can be anything even a hot dog vendor.” Who has ever said they want to be a hot dog vendor? We had a bit of a laugh at that, and then one of the teachers said to her (in Japanese) that his tee shirt had funny English. It contained the phrase “cool as a cucumber.” I had to explain that we really do use that phrase in English and that it means someone who is not fazed by anything, though I said it in better terms for someone who’s not fluent in Japanese. Usually it’s me telling Japanese people that the English wording on things is funny. This time they thought it was and it really wasn’t. It was a strange turn of events.

At lunch time, it was taking FOREVER to get started setting out lunch, so I decided I’d start setting out trays and plates and things like that. I asked my vice principal how many people are eating lunch. He stopped looked up and said “Perfect! Good Japanese.” And then went back to work. I asked a simple question and got NO ANSWER! What good is figuring out a new language if my questions get replies like that, which don’t answer the question? I had a bit of a giggle and moved on.

Other exciting Japanese experiences included talking with the Combini lady in Japanese, a chat with my JTE and vice principal in both Japanese and English and a random encounter with three of my high school students near the Combini with some rather funny English (If I could remember exactly what was said in that encounter, it would be landing here as well).

Thursday, February 18, 2010


Yet again, Saturday brought another snow-filled adventure to our “If you can’t beat the snow join it” month. This time it was snowboarding.

We arrived at the Annupuri ski slopes of Niseko mid morning on Saturday, after spending a night in the hostel nearby. By the time we had all our gear checked out and fitted, we had missed the first lesson. That was ok, because Nick and Perry showed us what to do before the afternoon lesson.

We spent the better part of the morning getting ourselves up and falling on the way down to the place to buy lift tickets. I think I was the first of the newbies to get up, but I fell the most. Heather had snowboarded before so she didn’t count.

It was difficult to stay up and I hadn’t had any luck staying up for any amount of time, when it was time to head up to the top of the slope and try coming down. We purchased lift tickets and boarded the lift. Having skied before, I had a small idea of what to expect. It was (as usual, with my small fear of heights) a bit scary. When we arrived at the top, I crashed and burned coming off the lift.

When we reached the top, the guys showed us a bit more of what to do and began to follow us down. Heather took off because she knew what she was doing. And Lindsay went to the left by accident (the harder slope) so Nick went after her. Perry stuck with Ros and I as we went down the first part.

Perry commented that I was making myself fall out of fear. He was right, I would get up, freak myself out by going too fast and not really know how to slow down so I’d fall. He encouraged me to try to stay up anyways. I was doing better for a few minutes and Perry said he’d meet me at the bottom of the hill and went to see how Ros was doing.

At that point, I had more than half of the hill to finish. I was able to get myself going several times, but there was a drop on the left side and I kept drifting to that side and making myself fall because I hadn’t figured out how to steer back to the right. I spent most of that leg of the slope falling to keep from going off to the left.

During this mess of up, fall, up pattern, I caught the words of a song that was playing on the speakers, it said something like, “I can do anything.” It reminded me of Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.” I started reminding myself of this every time I fell. The falling continued and despite the fact that I wanted to quit several times and walk down the hill, I reminded myself of this, and after probably another half hour of falling (this time to avoid falling off the course on the right), I made it to the end.

When I arrived, I found that we were now a few minutes late for our lessons. I knew my blood sugar was low (I had a headache) and ran to the shop to grab something to eat, to tide me over through the lesson. I ended up with a snickers bar.

After that, we met our instructor and went back out. There was a large part of me, which never wanted to be near a snowboard ever again.

Our instructor led us out and had us stretch (a very good thing at that point) and practice a bit with only one foot on our boards. She kept reminding us to look up, probably about the second time she said this, it reminded me of my ski instructor saying “Look where you want to go.” And it clicked. All of a sudden, I wasn’t falling as much, I was staying up and I was able to steer a bit. It was an exciting discovery.

Our instructor wanted us to stay behind her and stick together, this was hard because it uses a lot more muscles to move slowly, than it does to move faster. After I felt that I had gotten it, I wanted to move faster.

When we finally made it back down the hill, she gave us a bit more instruction and then our lesson was over.

Heather and I headed in to return our things and take a break. Ros and Lindsay both decided to go one more time. My body hurt so much that all I wanted to do was stop and get out of the cold. In that time, I drank hot cocoa and 4 glasses of water after drinking nothing all day.

That evening, we hung out at the hostel. Dinner was amazing after being on the slopes all day. After dinner we headed to the Onsen for a nice relaxing soak in the baths there. On the way, in a bit of a giggle about Japan’s funny usage of “Let’s enjoy . . . together,” Heather announced to Perry (about the onsen), “Let’s enjoy naked together.” Luckily, despite only knowing Perry for a about a day she got a good laugh out of him.

Upon our arrival back at the Hostel, the hostel owner played his accordion for us. Nick had found out before when he stayed, that the hostel owner plays and convinced him before our arrival to play for us. He was amazing. Our new friend Andy the Australian (who was also staying at the hostel), and I spent part of the time wondering how you learn to play an instrument with so many buttons and how you would go about writing music for one. We all took a ton of photos and were quite amazed by the hostel owner.

Sunday, I woke up and my whole body was sore. It hurt to move everything. I wasn’t feeling sure about putting my body through it all again. Everyone was going again, and I decided to as well. I’m really glad I did.

The first time down the easy slope, I did well. I only fell a handful of times and most of those were due to the fact that my legs were TIRED. I felt so proud of myself.

The second time down we took the gondolas up. The gondola ride was amazing because Nick, Heather and I ended up in a gondola with a couple of much more experienced boarders who had good tips for keeping my gloves dry on the inside, which had been a problem to this point. Turns out, I had not realized I needed to do up the thing on the end of my jacket around them.

When we got to the top, we discovered that the hill was way, way steeper than the one we had been going down. Ros was able to get up first and Lindsay next. Heather and I struggled quite a bit. Heather finally got up and off she went. Nick had to coach me a lot to help me get up on the steeper hill. I couldn’t use the same way I had been on the less steep hills.  I finally figured out the better way to get up (after Nick showed me a dozen times) and made it down with lots of falls. I have to say I was very proud of myself when I made it down from there.

Both of those times, I fell in almost the exact same place near the bottom of the hill and did a face plant. Both times I was very thankful for the rented goggles and helmet.

The last time down, I made it with very few falls. At that last point when I fell, I freaked out and fell before I got to the face-plant spot, so when I ended up there, I was going much slower and managed to only fall on my knees.

When it was time to head home, I was glad to have joined in again. Though I wasn’t ready to leave my friends, I was ready to be done with snowboarding for the day. It wasn’t until Monday, when I was at my sorest, that I realized I really loved it and can’t wait for this weekend in Furano when I’ll have another chance to get out and do it again.

Friday, February 12, 2010


Saturday was our snowshoeing adventure. I wasn’t super sure about the idea, but I knew a few good friends (Heather and Liz) were both going and decided to join in as it’s a winter sport I’ve never had the chance to experience at home.

We met in Sapporo station at eight that morning. Everyone introduced themselves (I got to meet a few JETs I hadn’t met before). Leon (our guide) asked about our gear – to make sure we had everything. He wasn’t entirely sure about my shoes, but decided they were ok (they’re uggs style shoes). He also informed us that he wanted us to tell him if we got cold so he could take care of it before it was a problem.

We left Sapporo for a place a bit south of Otaru. It was a beautiful day and we were wondering if we were going to be too hot with all of our layers. Leon gave us a quick how to for snowshoes and we began the hike.

A short amount of time into the hike we hit our first steep hill. It was a bit difficult, but mostly because I was afraid of going sliding backwards like I almost did a couple of times on my skis. At one point, Leon reminded me that I needed to be on my toes to dig my feet in and all was ok. I realized I needed to use my feet as I would going up stairs (staying more on my toes than any other part of my feet). As I got the hang of it, it wasn’t bad.

The fantastic view we found at the top of the first hill

The beginning had our steepest hill. Not long after we finished it we found a beautiful flat space, which looked untouched by people. The snow was completely smooth and across this field was an incredibly beautiful bright orange temple; it was beautiful in contrast to all the white snow and sky around us.

When we got closer to the temple, we stopped because there was a snow-covered road and one of our group decided he didn’t have the right gear to continue. At this point, while we were stopped, I realized I was hungry. I inquired about lunch and it sounded like it was going to be a while longer, so it was time for snacks. I discovered that granola bars are not good frozen weather foods because they get really, hard when they’re kept cold for a long time.

The orange temple

As we began to climb again, the weather began to turn. We hit near white out conditions. The majority of this time, we had been able to see the sea. When we hit the white-out snow, I couldn’t see much farther than the front of the group. They passed, right as we hit another temple, at this temple we were able to hide under the eaves and be out of the snow a bit. The wind slowed and the day became cloudy, though not terrible hiking conditions. Ken, our new friend from Gunma Prefecture, commented on the weather and we told him that was a bad idea.

The last bit of the hike before lunch started out with those same conditions and then got more and more windy the higher we got. At this point, my water bottle froze shut, so I got stuck drinking the crazy protein water that I was given at some random event in my town. It was a sweet candy-like flavor, but it was still a bit weird (but not frozen!).

We finally made it to the towers where we were going to eat lunch around two that afternoon and we were starving. Luckily, Leon was making us Nabe and hot cocoa for lunch. To make our lunch area, we had to step on the snow lots with our snowshoes (to compact it) then dig out a circle (leaving the inside). This left us with a table (the inside) and a bench to sit on. The nabe and hot cocoa were delicious and it was nice to eat warm food. The only problem, I discovered is that we weren’t moving, so my hands got really cold as I tried to eat – I discovered that I had to wear gloves while eating, which is difficult with chopsticks.

As we started to pack up from lunch, Leon shared that it shouldn’t be much farther till we returned. I was exited about that, because I was feeling cold, sore and tired. When we left, I discovered that my feet were pretty cold, but figured that maybe moving more would help them warm up.

The next bit of hike included us walking fairly close to the ocean. There were not enough trees between the ocean and us to block the wind. It didn’t help that there was snow mixed into the wind and it did not feel good as it pelted our faces.

It was as we were getting pelted with snow that I realized my feet were pretty cold. I didn’t want to be the whiner who couldn’t deal with the cold and made everyone stop for nothing, but I didn’t want to not say anything if there was a real problem either. So, I asked the Lord for wisdom. He gave it. I realized that if my toes weren’t warming up, it was a problem. So I paid close attention to them for the next few minutes. They weren’t getting any warmer, I said something to Liz who passed the message up.

Leon decided the best thing to do, would be to wait to do anything until we were out of the strong wind. We hiked down the next bit and realized we had gone the wrong way, but got far enough down that we could take care of my feet.

When Leon took my snowshoes off, he saw that my boots were completely crusted with ice around the outside. He was able to scrap the ice off of them, and then he, with the help of Heather and Nick, quickly pulled my boots and socks off of one foot, replaced them with new dry ones, stuck a warmer into my shoe, and massaged my toes for a minute to get the circulation going, then put my foot back in. He then repeated the process for my other foot. My toes and a bit of my foot were bright red, which apparently means I still had circulation there and was a good sign. Nick then helped me get my better gloves on properly as well, so my hands would be warm enough.

When that had been taken care of, we hiked back up the hill and found the markers again to follow and get back where we wanted to be. As we hiked, my feet got warmer and warmer. I was glad I had said something because they weren’t getting warmer before. We probably hiked another hour before we hit a snow-covered road and it began to get dark. The hike was fairly short and easy from there.

When we got back to town, I’m not sure I’ve ever felt so happy to see a city in my life. I was exhausted from the hike. I enjoyed getting to spend the time with these amazing friends, but I was ready to crash and get warmer dry clothes on.

A view from somewhere in the midst of the hike, before the snow made me hide my camera in my jacket.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Setsubun - A Japanese Throwing Holiday

In my family Easter and Christmas are throwing holidays. Easter eggs and balled up wrapping paper. No, the throwing has nothing to do with Jesus, which is a bit sad considering what the holidays both stand for (his birth and death), but they are a very silly part of my family’s traditions.

[caption id="attachment_162" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="My students and their teacher dresse as the "Oni""]The Oni[/caption]

Yesterday, for the first time I experienced a real throwing holiday. In Japan, the third day of February is Setsubun. Setsubun is a holiday where people throw beans (or peanuts in the shell the class I was in) at the “Oni” (devil or bad spirit) to rid them from their houses and welcome in health and happiness.

In the classroom, teacher and two students put on Oni masks and tried to sneak into the room. The rest of the class and I threw peanuts at them to rid the classroom of them. It was hilarious. The best part is when I realized Setsubun is a real throwing holiday. I started laughing at the whole thing and that my family didn’t originate the throwing holidays. Japan did.