Wednesday, December 26, 2012


Here's the plane that I arrived home just in time for Christmas in!

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve will be nearly a 48 hour day by the time I go to bed tonight!

It started in Japan, included 2 of the nicest flight attendants I've ever met and will end at my parents house, ready for winter vacation. Right now I'm somewhere in the middle!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Mom & Em visit Kamakura 2

On our second day in Kamakura, we rented bikes and road around Kamakura. It was one of Em’s favorite things on the whole visit.

Our first stop was Hasedera Temple, just a few blocks up from the beach.

I found this little pond interesting. It had the swastika shape, but Japan doesn't use it like the rest of the world, it’s one of the markers for temples or shrines on maps. The lake had that shape.

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You can kind-of see it’s interesting shape here.

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I’m not sure what these guys are for, but I find the lines and lines of them fascinating.

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I loved how green Kamakura was.

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Ajisai (Hydrangea)! It was one of my new words while we were in Kamakura.

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I’m not sure why the ones in Japan have this different shape, but I think it makes them more photogenic than the American ones that end up being a big ball.

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The statues at the temples and shrines have a very interesting texture after sitting out in the weather year-round.

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The view, which would have been much better if it hadn't been so cloudy.

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At this temple, we found a very cool shrine that went into the mountain. It was a tunnel shrine.

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Here it is from inside.

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After walking all around that temple, we were hungry so we went for Okonomiyaki and Yakisoba.
The fun of this type of shop is you get to make your own, right on the table.

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After lunch we found the beach and played in true Oregonian style, in the rain.

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Mom and Em needed combini pics. Mom’s got Ume (plumb) soda.

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And Em found an “American Dog.” This growing kid was so-so on
many Japanese foods, but we couldn't ever seem to feed her too much.

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After some more bike riding, we made it to Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine.

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Some shots of the temple as we walked up to it.

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We managed to find ourselves at the temple on Tanabata, so the trees were decorated for the holiday.

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I love all the intricate folding that goes into Origami.

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A few more shots of the area around the temple.

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This was Em’s favorite part of every temple we visited – it was hot and getting a bit wet always felt really good.

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The many faces of Em.

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But I knew if I waited long enough, I’d get that cute smile.

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The fortunes always make interesting photos.

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The streamers are hung for Tanabata.

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The area near the station had also been decorated for Tanabata.

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Friday, December 21, 2012

Christmas Dessert

Today is the last day of school before winter vacation. Often this day is actually Christmas, but for some reason or another this year school ends today.

As a fun thing for Christmas, many school lunches serve "Christmas Dessert." This is what my students and I got for lunch today.

In other exciting news, only 3 days till I leave for America! 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

12/12/12 at 12:12

Today is 12/12! I joined a photography challenge for 12/12/12 at 12:12, so here's my submission.

I hope all of you in America, just staring your day, have a wonderful 12/12!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Return from MYC

Last Thursday/Friday was the Hokkaido Mid-Year Conference (MYC). Technically it’s been re-named to Skills Development Conference, but that sounds like we’re all in special ed, so I refuse to use the new name.

It was a fun even with some very useful talks (as opposed to past years that have had some very boring and un-useful ones). It also included some fun with friends.

The conference ended with an announcement that the big snow storms had been causing problems for JR (Japan Rail) and many trains were cancelled or delayed.

We made our way home on Saturday night, myself and some of my far-north friends taking the very last trains for our destinations.

We ran through the gate to line up so we would be able to find seats and then discovered that our train was not on any of the reader boards. In fact, none of the express trains were even on the reader boards at that time.

We went back to the JR desk near the gates and had a chat. Is the train cancelled? No, the one before it hasn’t even left yet (was supposed to be leaving as we stood there).

Will I be able to make my connection? We had to wait about 5 minutes for an answer to that one. Turns out yes, I should be able to make it.

I got on with two friends who both lived near stops before mine. We arranged the seats so we could chat and then settled in for the trip to our towns.

By the time we made it to the town where my connection was, we were merely 10 minutes late (compare that to my friends headed way north who were over an hour late and hit 3 deer on the way home).

I got there, hurried to my train and settled in. I was supposed to have 20 minutes for the stopover and still did by the time we left 10 minutes late.

The whole time I’m thinking about how terribly covered in snow my car is going to be and how I’m going to get into it with my luggage hanging on me.

When we finally arrived at the stop before mine, there were about 10 people on the train – a few post-high school girls (they must be early twenties, because I’ve never had them as students), a high school student and a couple of other people.

After we had been stopped for a few minutes (the train often stops here for a few minutes so it can arrive at my station on time), there was an announcement. I listened carefully, but understood nothing.

I saw the group of girls pull out their phones and knew something was up. Unfortunately, it’s one of the many places where Softbank doesn’t have service. I couldn’t call out even if I had wanted to.

So I waited. I hoped that I was going to be able to get home that night.

A while later, 3 cars show up. Again, I can’t call anyone, am I going to be able to get home tonight if these people are picking up their kids?

Thankfully, when the ladies that came out to rescue their kids got on the train, they rescued not only their own kids, but the other random people riding the train – a sweet woman in a long parka motioned for me to come into her car.

They drove on main streets that had more snow on them than I’d ever seen on any of our main streets. Apparently that afternoon and evening about 50cm (almost 2 feet) of snow had fallen. I was glad I didn’t have to drive home and glad I didn’t have to dig my car out that evening.

I finally made it home at about 11:30 pm, almost an hour after my train was supposed to have arrived at my station.

The next day, when I went to dig my car out of the mess, this is what I found.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Winter in Hokkaido

The following photos were taken yesterday on the train and today from a window.

Unfortunately, we had rain today and the roads and sidewalks are now like driving or walking through a slurpee - yuck! Hopefully lots will melt before it re-freezes into ice!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Pre-JLPT place to stay

My dear friend Laura decided I should come stay with her and her husband before the JLPT (JLPT = Japanese test of doom). Above the bed I'm sleeping in the next two nights, I found this awesome poster of encouragement.

Thursday, November 29, 2012


Signs of stress in my life:

1. The only food I can think about is chocolate. I’m hungry . . . where’s the chocolate?

2. When 10 pm hits and all my “stuff” is done, I think what fun thing can I do for a few minutes before bed? Then suddenly it’s midnight and I haven’t gone to bed (waaaay too late for my 6:00 am alarm). Which usually leads to . . .

3. Getting out of bed with the bare minimum amount of time to get ready and get to work, causing morning stress.

4. Letting the fun and creative things I love to do fall to the side while I'm busy.

This week some of the craziness at work finished and the JLPT will be over on Sunday. Just a few more days . . .

* * * 

In other news, I decided to quit for the evening tonight and read for fun. I've now passed my goal of 80 books for the year, with one more month, what should I change my goal to?

2012 Reading Challenge

2012 Reading Challenge
Becky has completed her goal of reading 80 books in 2012!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Japanese fail

In fifth grade English classes recently, we have been working on "What's this?" and answering "It's a ~." I use this question all the time, so they understand it, but they always forget the "It's a" part and just answer "pen." 

Anyways, today we played a Mystery Box game where the class would ask and one student would reach in the box through the hole and have to tell what it is. Then we played a game where they had to figure out what a picture was when they could only see part of it. 

The kids had a whole lot of fun and one student asked me what the name of the game was when she was trying to write her reflection (this class does this at the end of every English class). I wanted to tell her (in Japanese), "you can call it whatever you like," but my answer came out in a big jumble of words. She nodded that she understood and we both giggled a little. 

It took me a minute to sort out the correct way to say what I was trying to say (or at least a sensible one): 「何の名前使ってもいい。」 (Nan no namae tsukatte mo ii). 

After I thought of it, I went back and confirmed it and she gave me an ok. 

When I make silly mistakes, my students see that trying is more important than getting it right all the time. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Mom & Em visit Kamakura 1

We flew into Narita and then road Em’s first-ever train.

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We stayed the night in Tokyo and then headed to Kamakura the next afternoon.

I wasn’t certain if it was culturally taboo, so we went and found a bench on the grounds of a shrine to eat our lunch at.

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The hydrangeas were in bloom.

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We were passed by an adorable group of school children.

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The Kamakura Guesthouse. This is where we stayed and I want to visit Kamakura again so I can stay there again.

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Mom and Em enjoyed washing their hands at all the temples, especially since it was so warm in the area.

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The great Buddha of Kamakura. Apparently you can go inside for 20 yen, but we realized it at 4:32 and he closed at 4:30.

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We held the great Buddha.

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You can see the windows in his back.

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His sign.

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These guys were running all over the Tokyo area. I don’t envy their job, but it seemed like a cool way to see parts of the city.

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We happened to be there for the Guesthouse’s 2 year anniversary, so they made a big dinner for everyone who was interested.

This is Nikku-Jugga. It’s a beef and potato dish.

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After dinner instruments were broken out and a mini-concert started.

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The common area the next morning.

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The super-cool lockers.
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