Monday, June 26, 2006

Tick tick tick tick tick...

HOLY CRAP! Do I seriously have less than a month until life as I know it comes to an end? Our last church service with everyone here is going to be July 16th, that's just a little over two weeks away!
Next weekend we're going sea kayaking,
the following weekend is the Tokushima JET Sayonara Party,
the weekend after that is the last church service with everyone here,
and then four days after that Phil gets here and all hell breaks loose! (read: we travel around Japan)
And then when we get back there's only four days left before I've got to be out of my apartment!
So basically I only have three weekends left where my life holds any semblance to what it has, and then it's all change, change, change. The leaves say, "Change, change, change."
"Winter spring and summer fall/ the seasons never cared at all/ that I'm still changing"

Meanwhile, this past weekend has been good.
On friday night I went down to wish Melissa a happy quarter of a century, and then at the party just hung out with close friends (uncharacteristic of me? perhaps), and at the end got to watch the Ukraine game on the big projector screen. Sweet! I rushed home from half-time to see if I could make it back in time to catch the end of the game, but to my sorrow found that I don't get the channel! So I had to watch the Spain game instead and wait with bated breath for the highlights. And the results were good! But as of writing this I have yet to see or hear the results from their ensuing game... [more trepidation].

On Saturday we had school. PTA day. There is just no way to love school on a Saturday, I'm sorry. Nobody's really happy to be there, despite getting Monday off in return. But it goes okay, and in the last period we all got to try our hands at making soba noodles. Mine turned out pretty good I think. The people who saw my noodles were impressed at how thin an professionally I had cut them. It's all that training with box knives and poster board, I tell you! Keep me off the airplanes, I'm dangerous!
Ahem. Anyhow, when I got home all that school on a Saturday had tired me out so much that I needed to take a nap. And slept for a very long time, making myself late for the Awa Odori practice that night. Oops. Ah well, I'm good enough that I don't need the practice, right? Heh, but the endurance needs to be earned. Ouch, my arms and shoulders.

Somewhere in there I also managed to make my apartment nice and clean, so that when Colin and Jenny, Brian and Christine, Julie, and Eiko came up to Kamikatsu for our Bible study/ Kamikatsu day, I was not ashamed to have them see my cave. Erm, apartment. But we did see caves, too! After a lunch at the necessary Ikkyu-chaya we all hopped into Colin and Jenny's van and went uphill to check out the local caves.

But the local caves are connected with and managed by a Buddhist temple. Which was kinda odd in two ways. In one way it was kinda good, because all of us being Christians could all just opt out of all the prayer and Buddhist stuff and just crawl and scrabble through the caves. In another way, it was odd to be doing what had effectively become a little Buddhist pilgrimage on Bible study night. But it made for good discussion afterwards.

If you recall, these were the same caves that really creeped my sister and I out about a year ago. They weren't so bad the second time, but consensus was that the guide was too slow and we could have made it through ourselves much faster just trying to figure it out on our own. As it was she could only give directions to the front three people, and the ones at the end pretty much just figured it out for themselves anyways. But it was nice to know that, "Facing left here is the easier way through, and you can turn around after 10 more feet." So it's still better to go with the guide for peace of mind. Not that they let you go without.

After that was Bible study, which was on the book of James, but talking about stuff in James led to discussion about the experience in the afternoon, and we ended up focusing on 1 Corinthians 8 and 10 a bunch.

And then we went to dinner at the onsen, and finished up with a dip in the onsen before everyone went home. For a change, I had a very short drive home and everyone else had a long drive home. Home was VERY quiet when I got back.

Yesterday (Monday, technically today, because at the time of writing this I have yet to sleep), I spent most of the day laying out Colin's book, Common Plants and Animals of Tokushima. I did give myself the leisure of sleeping in until nine, though. Book book book in the morning, another lunch at Ikkyu teahouse, book book book in the afternoon, a dinner of honey garlic beef, potato croquettes, and frozen mixed veggies, and more book book book until the first draft of the layout was complete at about seven thirty. Then I rewarded myself with a long phone call.
And then in the middle of my obligatory Japanese homework, I ended up doing just a little bit more on the book, and then this, and oh look it's way past my bedtime. I'll just save this puppy, get a photo of the layout a bit, drop it all on the flash memory and have it ready to blog in the morning. Lets hope I don't oversleep now. Over and outie.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Completed, Packed, and Mailed!

the box, originally uploaded by irodoramatic burnorama.

For those of you who have heard me going on and on and on about making a big box for my snowboard, it is finally done! I finished the box and packed it on Friday. And with the help of the school principal Mr Yoshioka, I took it to the post office yesterday, and mailed it.

In other news, UKRAINE WON! Shevchenko is in and making it happen! Ukraine redeemed themselves from their 0-4 loss to Spain with a 4-0 victory over Saudi Arabia! The Math teacher at school said, "You didn't have much to do in net last night, eh?"
All hope is not lost!
I hear that offiicial World Cup Ukraine jerseys are sold out in Winnipeg.

And sadly, if Japan wants even the slightest chance to move on to the next round, they need to defeat Brazil, scoring bare minimum TWO points in the process. And that only works for them if Oz loses their next match. If Oz ties, then Japan needs to have scored three points against Brazil. And if the Aussies pull off a victory, then it would be all for naught anyways. Tough break. If they had scored just one goal on Sunday it would have made a world of difference.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

I'm In the 'La La Stage'

Everthing is getting pushed aside. Packing, working on the book for Colin, cleaning my apartment for when everyone comes over in a week and a half, and so forth and so on. All of the things that should be pressuring me have yet to bring their true pressure to bear. It's one of the consequences of spending so much time looking waaaaay down the road months in advance. I feel like I've already been over all the stuff that's going on, spent time thinking about it, and now all that's left is to follow through, if I can be bothered. So though these next five or six weeks until June 20th promise to be really busy and full of things that need doing, they don't seem all that sad or killer intense. Just the daily business. Perhaps its all the things I need to do each day that take my eyes off of the passage of time and the approaching end. Perhaps its all the things on my dayplanner and calendar that promise there is lots to come before it's all over.
The fact that Phil is coming makes the end of my time in Japan exciting, one last trip to a bunch of places, and then one last Awa Odori.
The fact that I am going to England on the way home makes the return easier. It's not the sudden transition from interesting life abroad to sudden sameness of the life I grew up with, but instead and adventure in a Western culture I have never seen in person before.
And then beyond that, it's looking for a job, trying to save money to go to India, trying to save money for a road trip East in Canada at some point, which I've never done before. Having stuff on the horizon, having goals and plans makes everything so much more bearable for me.

I have been writing a lot lately, but it's all been just for myself, never to be seen on a blog. I haven't really worked on the Kyushu story lately, have I? I should really get that done in the next couple weeks or else it will never happen...

For the record, in the past couple weeks (since I havent been posting), I have:
- eaten at the trendy Casablanca restaurant which has that amazing urinal where you try to hit the targets
- eaten at that Korean restaurant in Komatsushima (!!!)
- seen the hotaru (fireflies) in Katsuura town
- been to the church in Hiwasa (great folks)
- seen the doctor for the annual check-up, and despite pain after jujutsu, no fractured ribs! Still waiting for my knee to feel better though.
- gotten back into the habit of spending forever talking when dropping someone off at night

Ukraine, What the Hell?!

So there I was, all set to cheer on Ukraine, to see their road to victory. Last night was their first game, and it was against Spain. Now, I recognise that Spain is by all rights the superior team, and that in reality Ukraines hopes in general are few. But what's with all the falling down when there is nobody near them at all? What's with the general lack of trying to get the ball when it goes right past in front of you? Like really, what's the problem, Ukraine? I'm not sure if they were just diving like weiners, trying to get play stopped, or if they were cowering in fear. Yes they were slower and less agile than Spain. But that's no reason to fall over every time you touch the ball! SHEEESH!

Oh, and did anyone else think that the keeper looked like my long lost twin brother?

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Titanium Flash!

So I got my brand new usb memory stick in the mail today, which once again enables me to move stuff to and from the school computer, yay! No more borrowing floppy drives to use floppy disks! I can now move a ton of photos all at once! Hooray!

I don't know why I feel like mentioning it, but all I have been listening to for the last few weeks is Jimmy Eat World (Bleed American and Futures), Seiji Honda's piano rendition of FF7 songs, and Kevin Prosch's Kiss the Son. If you know any of those, it will tell you something of the mood I have been in for the last two or three weeks.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Kyushu Trip Part 2

Well if this isn't long overdue, I don't know what is. But I've been more busy than you can imagine, so busy that I surely ought to look as worn out as Brian did on the morning of Day two:

And speaking of Brian, here are his and Chrisine's tales of our trip:
Intro and Day One, Day Two, Day Three, Day Four, Day Five, Day Six, Day Seven, and Days Eight and Nine: the Conclusion
And Lorraine's summary of the trip.
And my previous entry about the trip.

The second day of their trip found them waking with the sun on a crisp mountaintop morning. The tents were wet with the morning dew and the sun was only just peeking over the top of the hills do help them dry. Bundling up in additional sweaters they breakfasted on Brian's homemade banana bread. When the tents had dried enough to be packed, they collected everything back into the trunk of the car and remembered they had yet to pay for use of the site. Finding nobody at the main building, Matthew entrusted the ´2500 ($25) to the gas station attendant at the associated gas station, with no doubts that the money would safely find its way into the correct coffers.
Brian had wanted a better look at Kurokawa in the daylight, and nobody was much opposed, so their first event of the day was a seven o'clock stroll through a little tourist town.

Still needing a proper bath, they continued along to Aso, a town built in the caldera of a volcano, fully 26 kilometers wide. A second breakfast and a couple hours later they found a nice-ish onsen in which to properly clean, though the outdoor bath was unpleasantly rich in sulfur.
Now clean, the five compatriots planned their angle of attack for getting to the active mountain in Aso, the caldera within the caldera: Naka-dake. It turned out that for the meager charge of 500 yen they were able to drive right to the top, practically to the rim. There was a green smoking liquid in the volcano, and none of their chemistry chemistry knowledge was keen enough to offer an educated guess. Thus Matthew was nominated to ask a Japanese person who looked in the know. When he later looked up the word in his dictionary, three people had told him that, "It's because of the lava." Matthew made a vow to remember the word for lava the next time he had a question about volcanos in Japan. Then maybe he could get a better answer.

They even made it down the mountain without scraping the undercarriage of their over-laden car. And then it was on to Takachiho, the famous river gorge, with a brief stop for some healthy soba noodles and seasonal mountain vegetable tempura.
Takachiho greeted them with gobsmacking beauty and no parking. The crowds were thick, and the sun hot enough to warrant everyone's changing into shorts and lotioning up.Lorraine commented, "I feel like I'm in Lord of the Rings." For indeed it was awesome and wondrous in the immensity of its unusually patterned cliffs and the pretty patterning of ivies and other plants across the faces of the cliffs. The river ran a crystal blue and looked perfect for a boat ride. Much to everyone's dismay, the line-up for the rental boats was over sixty people in length, meaning at least a full hour's wait in line. So they walked the length of the gorge again, pausing to look again at the waterfall and doing their best to avoid noticing the abominable concrete paths and bridges laced through the canyon.

They were beside themselves when they realised just how much they had done and seen, and how far they had gone already. And the daylight promised to hold out for a good while longer. So they started on the next day's itinerary; they drove the three hours to Miyazaki city. There they parked at Miyazaki Station and just made it to the tourist desk in time to grab some restaurant guides. Miyazaki is famous for two very different ways of preparing chicken. One, called jitori yaki is roasted over charcoal, and the other, chikin namban is a sweet deep fried chicken served with a kind of tartar sauce. Walking into the restaurant and entertainment district, they asked a man who was handing out maps to the restaurant he obviously worked at where they could try these dishes.

"Well, we sell them both at my restaurant," he said in Japanese.
"Does your restaurant cook them in the typical or traditional way? The real Miyazaki style?" Matthew rudely inquired.
" 'Maruban' over there is the most famous place in Miyazaki for jitori, but if you're still peckish afterwards, or want chicken namban, please come to my restaurant," he replied quietly.
"Thank you very much," Matthew said in his best Japanese.
"No, don't say thank you," the man replied unhappily.

So they went to Maruban, which was as dingy as every other locally popular yakitori restaurant any of them had ever been in. In fact, it probably was the dingiest. And what everyone in the place was eating off of silver platters looked fatty and revolting. But they sat down anyways. Matthew wondered if he'd been tricked somehow. The waiter came up and asked if five to start off with would be alright. Like a deer in headlights, Matthew froze, but somehow managed to get the opinion of the group, and they just ordered one, along with a beer each for Lorraine, Christine, and Matthew. While they waited, they looked around doubtfully at the food being eaten by everyone. Matthew tried his best to be positive, because he felt to blame for their being there. The chicken, if you can still call it that, came and was fatty and still bloody in places. In fact, there seemed to be more fat than acutal meat. Brian couldn't eat more than one bite, saying he felt like he was eating charcoal. Because it tasted very strongly of the coals it had been cooked over.

Matthew didn't find it as inedible as everyone else did, and so it fell to him to eat it. Brian noted that all the Japanese people around them were raving about the same food that they could barely swallow. Matthew still felt like he had been tricked somehow. And he continued to chew his smoky fat. The beer helped to wash it down. He asked for everyone to please help him finish. And the bill was outrageous; fully double what they had expected.

Then they moved on to the other place, and when the man saw that they had come back after all, he was more delighted than Matthew expected. Maybe it hadn't been a trick. They ordered some rice and two plates of the chicken namban, and at the man's reassurance that the way they prepared it was lean and less smoky, another plate of jitori. Much to their surprise, they recieved two plates of jitori, the second one in gratitude for their coming back. And it was better. But the chicken namban was far superior.

Feeling contented in both the realms of strange food experiences and of good meals, they walked back down fragrant tree-lined streets somehow reminiscent of lilacs and home, and drove south to a campground near the beach, for one of their warmest nights camping. Miyazaki has some of the warmest water in Japan, due to the way the warm Pacific currents flow.

After showering at the facilities, they packed up and started doubling back to Miyazaki city. On their way they paused at Aoshima, a small island with broad unusual sandstone beaches that appear and disappear with the sinking and rising tides. It was a very pleasant walk with which to start the day, circling the little island to the sound of breaking waves.

Back off the island, they also came across stores with massive grapefruits.

Hopping onto the expressway, they made their first stop the Ebino Plateau, which was to be the first and only major disappointment of the trip. The plateau was so thick with mist and fog that they could barely see the hill in front of them, let alone the vast expanse they were meant to look out upon. So it was that when they took a bathroom break on the hillside, even the girls went out into the mist and hid behind rocks. And then back in the car and two hundred meters down the road there was a cluster of hotels and restaurants and myriads of tourists. Fog is funny that way.

Driving down through Kagoshima city, they hoped to catch a glimpse of the famous volcano-island, Sakurajima. Having no luck they continued on their way to the southernmost point and the town of Ibusuki. There they had the pleasure of not only seeing beaches with volcanic sand so hot that the water was evaporating off of it in places, they also got to be buried in it! As it's a form of onsen, they wore nothing but the thin provided yukata (like a cotton bathrobe) when engulfed in the hot sand. It is possible to be scalded by the sand, so the staff kindly ask that you mind the clocks they place everywhere and not exceed ten or so minutes. And the ten or so minutes was indeed long enough to be sweating excessively everywhere and feel on the verge of burning in the places on arms and calves where the yukata didn't reach.
But it was also very relaxing. After that they adjourned back into the onsen itself to wash off all the sand and sweat.

Now, there are few camps in that southern part of Kagoshima prefecture, and it turned out that the one or two which would have been convenient for these five travelers were completely booked. But there was a campsite in the navigator machine and an oldish map book which had been given to Brian and Christine. And it was conveniently close. Upon making the 40 minute drive, they came to a beautiful campsite with great access, the sound or the waves breaking on the shore nearby, palm trees at the entrance, flat flat grassy ground ideal for tenting, and a sign which said in Japanese, "Camping Prohibited." They decided to get dinner and come back after dark to set up camp. Dinner was found at another soba restaurant, and a variety of foods were partaken.
Because the forecast was for rain, they picked up some tarps to put over their tents. Four of the members were delighted to be camping for free, but Christine maintained that the necessary purchase of the tarps meant that it was not actually free. Also, Julie told Matthew that since he was the only one who could actually read the sign, "If the cops come, you hide, and let us do the talking." Everyone else was much better at faking a total lack of understanding any Japanese.

On their return, they found that they were not the only ones who were willing to deke around the law a little and stay for the night. A man in his Nissan Cube had also parked in a way which suggested he would be staying the night. Setting up their tents and tarps, turtle and caterpillar, the sky stopped showing any likelihood of falling on them. So it was that they sat out under the starless sky, encircling their butane torch and munching on snacks.

When they'd had enough of feasting and chatting, and felt the night had grown long, though it was surely no later than ten at night, they got ready for bed. Julie and Christine were less than at ease about the mysterious man in his Nissan Cube at the other end of the lot. Matthew reassured them that between Brian's muscle and his own jujustsu/judo skills they would surely be more than a match for one man, should he try anything. Nonetheless, Julie moved to the center of the tent from the edge, Christine having said that it would feel safer there. Matthew smiled ironically to himself and said nothing about the center being closest to the door.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Factors Contributing to the Mounting Insanity

1. Speech contest speeches are in, and I am in the process of fixing their English- this will consume most of my at-school free time until who knows when.
2. My apartment looks like a warzone; I'm in process trying to pack and build boxes and sort out how to mail my snowboard home. Messy room, messy mind.
3. Colin just handed me the copy for the book I am supposed to put together for him. Three weeks to a month of work and I need to sort out how I'm going to do it in two weeks or less, on software I've practically never used before. (This would be the biggest factor).
4. Something which is unfairly consuming my mental space. (But life's not fair, is it?)
5. Planning the summer vacation stuff (which now is thankfully mostly over).

Friday, June 02, 2006

The random bits of life and thoughts

In the past week or so I have
-Gone out with my friends Hideki and Sasakion for okonomiyaki, and caught The Da Vinci Code with Hideki after. I'll not waste your time by posting my thoughts here, but at least I was able to de-bunk the fiction for Hideki.

-Went to a barbeque on the riverside with "the justsystem crew" and Julie, Joanna, Joe, and Mel. Pretty fun. Uklele and shamisen were played, stones were skipped, boats were rowed, the river swum in, and volumes of tasty meat and vegetables were consumed by all. The lamb was especially good. A fun and chill time it was, despite some occasional spitting rain.

-This week my flight plan has probably finally been finalised.
It looks like I'll bus into Osaka on the 17th, and fly out on the 18th, arriving in Beijing at noon that friday. Then I have all day Saturday to explore, and on Sunday August 20th I fly on to London. There I'll hang out with Dan and Natalie Moore for like three weeks, surely doing London, Nottingham, Sunderland, and probably Edinburgh, and maybe if I'm lucky I'll get to see Oxford, too. Then I fly out on September 14th, and the 12 or so hour flight direct to Winnipeg will take technically three hours.

-Today, as you have maybe noticed is Saturday, and I'm at school blogging and mailing. We take what chances we have, eh. So far this weekend has given me nothing to put on the blog, but there's a song that pretty much encapsulates what I've been feeling and thinking lately, especially the second verse. So here are the lyrics for ya:

A Praise Chorus
by Jimmy Eat World

Are you gonna live your life wonderin'
standing in the back lookin' around?
Are you gonna waste your time thinkin'
how you've grown up
or how you missed out?

Things are never gonna be the way you want.
Where's it gonna get you acting serious?
Things are never gonna be quite what you want.
Or even at 25, you gotta start sometime.

I'm on my feet, I'm on the floor, I'm good to go.
Now all I need is just to hear a song I know.
I wanna always feel like part of this was mine.
I wanna fall in love tonight.

Are you gonna live your life
standing in the back looking around?
Are you gonna waste your time?
Gotta make a move or you'll miss out.

Someone's gonna ask you what it's all about.
Stick around nostalgia won't let you down.
Someone's gonna ask you what it's all about.
Whatcha gonna have to say for yourself?

I'm on my feet, I'm on the floor, I'm good to go.
Now all I need is just to hear a song I know.
I wanna always feel like part of this was mine.
I wanna fall in love tonight.

Crimson and clover, over and over.
Crimson and clover, over and over.

Our house in the middle of the street,
why did we ever meet?
Started my rock 'n roll fantasy.
Don't don't, don't let's start, why did we ever part?
Kick start my rock 'n rollen heart.

I'm on my feet, I'm on the floor, I'm good to go.
So come on Davey, sing me somethin' that I know.
I wanna always feel like part of this was mine.
I wanna fall in love tonight.
Here tonight.
I wanna always feel like part of this was mine
I wanna fall in love tonight.