Thursday, April 28, 2005

Just thought I'd let everyone know what's happening this weekend. It's probably more AND less significant than Kathy and I realize.
We are going on a Christian retreat.
It turns out that there is a group of Christians on the JET programme and they are getting together this weekend in Minakami (not too far from us). So we are going. Not really sure what we will find. Let's just say that our understanding of our "faith" has changed very dramatically and very suttlely here this year. It has been almost that long since we've even really talked to other Christians (in English). I'm a little nervous, but excited. At the very least we will meet more people here - that's always good. Who knows....we'll let you know after the weekend.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

So I Was Thinking...

...that I better stop thinking and finally POST my thoughts!
Kathy here. I believe we've finally made a decision about our life here...
1) University postings - ya, of course I want one, but they generally start next April. Contracts are usually for a year, renewable a number of times. If we went that way, we both know that we would want to stay longer than a year. And it doesn't feel like now is the time for that.
2) Finding new/better positions for the next year - we could try, but chances are, if they weren't university positions, they probably wouldn't be better. And well, we love the apartment, the area, our (few) friends, and we keep meeting new people and making new friends. While we ARE adventurers, we DO like the comforts of our little city.
3) Keeping our present positions - so we won't get rich. Oh well. With the new year (April) came a lot of changes in staff. Many of these changes were really good. And the fact is, we love the kids. A lot. And we've become kind of attached.

So the decision is...............................

We're staying. Till the end of March (the end of the next school year). In August, we'll renew our contracts, and we've learned we have the option of renewing them just till the end of March. This works well for us. We can see another class graduate, and then leave with a bang.

That's right. We're not staying longer than that. Although I'll tell you right now, this country is not out of our systems. And neither is travel in general. It's just that at this time, we feel some definite "home-type" tugs. We'll let you figure out for yourselves what those tugs may be.

For now, any comments on the decision? As always, we'd love to hear from y'all.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

I've been trying to get a little more artistic with my pictures lately - much to Kathy's dismay. (It means that it now takes me five minutes to set up a picture while Kathy is waiting for me instead of the usual 3 minutes!) I keep thinking of Maria when any of the shots work out. Here are a couple that I salvaged from the last roll of film. (I actually really like this shot - the sun was already beyond the horizon so I could leave the shutter open a little longer. It gave the water a cool effect). Maria (or anyone else who's interested) - tell me what you think!
I think my creativity got the best of me here. I figure after looking at it, I should have put the tree trunk in focus too...
I got this picture printed (it's from our trip to Thailand) and I'm currently using it as a bookmark. I actually had intended to send it to you (Maria), but, well, I like it too much...
Maria - you think this could be a bookmark?
Wildflowers growing by a river bank taken as the sun was setting.
Last night Kevin and I got together. We didn't really know what to do, so we snuck into the kid's park near my place and took pictures. It was pretty much a full moon and here's one of the shots that actually worked out. This is at 11pm. After looking at the pictures, I realized that there is no need to go sneaking around at night taking pictures of things - cause it might just as well have been noon - the pictures look the same anyways!

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Another post about a weekend trip. It's Tuesday already, and I am not really enjoying my week. Teaching little kids that speak another language is pretty tough, not to mention quite exhausting! This weekend was really good though. Saturday Kevin and I went to Tokyo again. We had a great time - since both of us really like to take pictures of just about anything, and Tokyo is loaded with photo opportunities. This picture is one that Kevin took from a pedestrian overpass just south of the Shinjuku station - the really busy one. On Sunday Kathy and I took Emily and Sean hiking in the hills in Ashikaga. I've been there a few times now, and you've probably seen pictures of it already. (Check out the pictures here and here and here and a nice one here and another group here). Actually - like Kathy said to me, it was the first time in a while I haven't brought a camera along. It was probably a good thing. I got to enjoy the walk and the company.
We found THE Godzilla statue in Shinjuku (an area of Tokyo). I had wanted to see it for a while, but never had the time. Then, all of a sudden, we looked around the corner of a building and there was this MASSIVE statue of Japan's national monster!
Kevin and I thinking that we were actually funny. Simple things..... Yes, the statue is only about 3 feet tall. A "small" disappointment.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

B. If you're out there, write. Send me an email! Hope all is well!
This is a BILBERRY yogurt drink. I repeat, BILBERRY. What the...? Yoplait even! There is no excuse!
And I quote, "drink of sparkling squash lemon"... I drank some. It wasn't very good. It tasted like squashed lemons-sortof...

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Friday we drove up to Ikaho, an onsen (hotspring) town not too far from where we live. We stayed in a traditional onsen hotel and enjoyed a much more low-key weekend then the previous in Tokyo. This shot is from a vantage point in the town. The whole town is build half way up Haruna mountain on quite a ridiculous slope. At one point on the drive we all spontaniously began to yell encouragement to our little car. We thought it was going to stop and start rolling back!

Kathy's been to an onsen town before. Check out her post here.

A picture of a typical room here. Our room looked the same.

Kathy and I during our photoshoot.
The famous stairs in Ikaho. I'm not really sure why they're famous, but there sure are a lot of them!
Dustin on Friday afternoon walking around Ikaho.
Dave in his Sunday best.
Me Jeff. Me Samurai.
Dagmar in her finest kimono. We couldn't resist.
Another animal shot for Dagmar. Just like in Ueno park, a strange old Japanese man came up to her and just gave her an animal. What is it with her and animals?
Dinner time at the hotel. The bath robe things we're wearing are called yukatas. It is common for people to walk around the town dressed in these robes. The food was very traditional. Let's just say that after the "traditional" breakfast the next morning, we went out for coffee and toast with jam...
Saturday night was time for Ikkyu. You can probably tell by the size of the beer mugs, we had a good time.
Sunday afternoon we went down to the park in Oizumi for the (conclusion of the week-long) Cherry Blossom Festival.
The park was really full (as you can see). A casual observer would think its just a group exercise in public debauchery, (as most of the foreign english teachers confirm). But I think Dustin got it right - it is actually a really great community event - everyone is invited and everyone is involved. It is actually a great celebration of the arrival of Spring. We certainly enjoyed ourselves.
Yuka really wanted to play the balloon game. She won. (I think everyone wins!)
A little Canadiana
Dagmar, Dave and Kathy on our little walk around the park.
A walk the last evening down a tree lined street. A great way to end an awesome vacation. Thanks for coming guys!!

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

A little unorthodoxed, but what follows is a short picture show of the first week entertaining Dagmar, Dave, and Dustin. Enjoy!
On my way to Narita Airport Tuesday morning to pick up Dave, Dagmar, and Dustin.
Wednesday morning we all piled into our LITTLE car and saw the sites in Ota.
The fam at the Ota temple. They were impressed. Just wait till they see Nikko!
Wednesday for lunch the Vanravenswaays got their first taste of a sushi bar. By the size of the stack of plates I'd say they did alright.
Dustin on top of the world. Wednesday afternoon Dave, Dustin and I went for a hike in Ashikaga.
Taking a break looking out over the city.
Dave and Dustin at the top.
As the jetlag set in, we needed a massage in the $4000 display model massage chairs at the local mall.
Thursday we got back in the car and drove 2 hours to Nikko to check out the temples. This place is designated a Unesco World Heritage site. It's a well deserved designation and has to be seen to be believed.
After the temple tour we took a break at this little restaurant run by the lady in the picture. She made amazing food and really knew how to make the tourists feel comfortable. Dustin felt right at home! The walls (and ceiling) are covered in business cards, pictures, and notes from people who've come to the restaurant over the years.
Dustin knew I wanted a nice picture of this waterfall so while I was setting up my camera to capture the unspoilt beauty of nature, he climbed down into the middle of the falls - much to the horror of the Japanese tourists watching (and his mother).
There was still a lot of snow in Nikko. In fact someone had built a series of igloos near the waterfall viewing area. Being Canadian, we knew exactly what to do - get inside for a photoshoot.
By the early afternoon it had started to snow pretty good. We stayed just long enough for a quick picture.
After a long day in Nikko, Ayako joined us for a Yaki-niku feast at the apartment.
Friday morning, 9am. We took off from Ota to hit the big city for the weekend. Little did we know what was in store. That's our train coming in to the station as we pose like tourists.
Friday. Dustin in downtown Tokyo. He's the only one that would pose for the picture.
Saturday morning we went to the world famous Tsukiji Fish market (next three pictures). On the way we came across dozens of people cleaning the sidwalks of gum with little scrappers, wire brushes and white gloves. Did I mention how clean Tokyo is?
That is a small tuna. Everyone seems to think tuna is a small fish because it comes in a can.
Poor fishes!
That had to be the craziest/busiest place in the world. We got there as things were being cleaned up (except the fish heads) and it was still a life and death race across each aisle to avoid being killed by one of the crazy motorized wheelbarrel go-karts. (Check the right side of the picture - the blue industrial washing maching type thing). They must have a top speed of about 50km/hr!
Saturday we just walked around and got overwhelmed by the bright coloured signs and buildings. (That is a Yen shop - something very comparable to Dollarama).
By Saturday afternoon we got really good at riding the trains and discretely checking out funny looking Japanese people.
And Dustin got really good at killing time playing cell phone games.