Monday, June 27, 2005

Can You Guess Today's Theme??

Hahahahaha. This is getting fun. I had already decided to blog about my experience today before I got home and read Jeff's entry...
So today I only had to teach 1st and 6th period. Sixth period, however, was on the 4th floor (Karen, doesn't that always remind you of Cheng Luo?). The steamy fourth floor. Students were already listlessly fanning themselves when Kamei sensei and I entered the classroom. About 5 minutes into class, the students closed all the windows. I looked at them and said, "WHY did you close the windows??" This popped out in English, but it was very clear that they understood. They mumbled something in Japanese that I didn't. So I looked at Kamei sensei..."WHY did they close the windows????" He explained that the trees were being sprayed with insecticide. As a result, we had to close the windows so that we wouldn't inhale the evil insecticide that would lead to our most certain deaths. (as opposed to, oh, say, heat exhaustion?)

I nodded. I understood. We proceeded. Slowly, painfully, with constant mutterings of "atsui, atsui" filling the air. (yes, that means HOT.) I actually started to chuckle to myself, as the sweat dripped down my back, down my front... from places sweat had never originated from before. Kamei sensei shook his head and said, "we must be at about 80 or 90% humidity now. And somehow, the next 40 minutes passed. I was actually worried there would be wet spots on my BUM, that's how bad it was!

The one bonus? Beer has never tasted so good before...
It's HOT. I know Kathy already mentioned that. In fact her longest post so far has been about the weather. But it's hot. It sucks...Hmm, what else can I say. It's really HOT! Today, in my English club classroom last period of the day i found a thermometer. I shouldn't have looked. It was 31 degrees Celsius! (plus that humidity Kathy talked about). IN THE CLASSROOM! 31 degrees! (That's 88 degrees F for those using that messed up system). I should be blogging about our weekend, but we did absolutely nothing all weekend because it was too hot. Honest. We did nothing. The only time it was okay to go out was after midnight (I went out and took some pictures with Kevin at about 11 pm and it was still a little warm! Okay. enough. You get it. Do me a big favour. Write a comment about the hottest place you've been or the hottest day you remember. And post anonymously if you want, but at least tell us where you are from so we get a sense of your heat tolerance.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Planting rice! Grade six students planting rice "the old fashioned way". Every year the grade 4, 5, and 6 students from my Monday school head down about a block from the school to a small field (all the fields are small really) to plant rice. Yes - I got in too, and yes - I got dirty. One boy lost his balance and ended up siting down in the mud! The best part of the morning though, was a grade 4 girl who was planting beside me who got an ichy butt. Hands caked in mud, she looked at me, thought about it, and gave herself a good scratch - pink shorts and all! I laughed and she looked at me, shrugged her shoulders and said "shoganai" (Loosely translated - "Well, not much I can do about it!"). I'm sure her mom was really pleased when she got home that day. After planting they washed up and the grade six students got to go swimming. Not a bad morning!
Here's another view - you can see all the teachers and farmers sitting on the edge (that's the road right there), ready to throw bunches of rice plants to the students for the next row.
There I am, in all my administrative/managerial glory.
Now this is the way to plant rice! This tractor thingy (which is facing the wrong way because it's being loaded), just drives along a straight line and drops in a few shoots of rice every couple inches. We have a new photosite album with pictures of rice and stuff here.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Is the Sarcasm Dripping, or is it Simply Melting?

So, it's rainy season in Japan. Which means that it doesn't actually rain, in the sense of drops of water coming out of the sky. No no... water simply hangs in the air. In the grey, grey air. You hang your laundry out to dry, but it never gets past the stage of damp. You lie down on your futon at night, and it is damp. You shower in the morning, and your towel is still damp from the day before.

Are you catching the drift? Yes, it's damp.

Now, some of you may be tempted at this point to employ the use of the word "moist". I want you to understand that this word simply does not apply in this case. Chocolate brownies are moist, clothing is not. Icing can be moist, futons cannot. Perhaps after a long day at school, my armpits are moist, but I'm sure you do not appreciate the mental picture.

Sorry folks.

However, there are other words that apply. For instance, glisten. See, Jeff and I are lucky enough to work in the public schools of Japan. The same fine institutions that do not believe in the use of heat until December, and the use of air conditioning until July. You see, in Japan, TEMPERATURE is not significant. No, no... it's all about the SEASON, my friends (oh dear, Jo, it's catching.) It's not short-sleeve season until June, and it is certainly not air conditioning season until July. Now, admittedly, the actual temperature is not that high. Day to day, it floats around 28 degrees. However, the humidity is another story. I often tell teachers that my biggest fear in Japan has become my certain demise into the state of puddle. That's right, PUDDLE. Very soon, I fear that I will no longer be a solid mass of Kathy anymore. The humidity will actually penetrate my (oh yes, very solid) mass and turn it into liquid form. In short, I will melt.

But alas, I have digressed....

Back to the word glisten. So I sit in the teacher's room, amidst other teachers listlessly fanning themselves, amongst too many students, computers... too much dead dead air, and I glisten. I don't actually sweat. That's what you do when it's hot. But it's not hot. No, it's humid. So I glisten. And every time I look in the mirror, I see that glistening face staring back at me, and I am reminded that I have begun my descent into the state of puddle.

Other than the humidity, life is fine. Well, ignoring the fact that the air is so thick that we never really see true evidence of the sun rising or setting anymore... and the fact that the mountains have all but disappeared from view. People laugh when they hear that we didn't know we were surrounded by mountains until October. But it's true!!! And it's frightening to think that it will take that long for us to see them again... for this dead air to break.

Sigh...

Japan has not been displaying her finest colours lately. At this point, August 5th is just too far away.

Love you all, and miss you much.
Kath

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

After we came home from Matsushima (see below), Kathy slept and I went out for the afternoon taking pictures (it was my birthday - I can do what I want). I really like the colours of the hydrangeas around here so I took some pictures. I set up for this one and there was this little guy just hanging out getting some sun. One of my favourite pics from my birthday ... for your enjoyment. For more pictures of these flowers check our photosite here.

The happy couple! We went to Matsushima this weekend. It's far. In fact - it's really far. Matsushima is 380km from by car by main roads. For Canada that's a fair trip, but very do-able. The problem with Japan though, is that main roads are pretty much the same as driving through the middle of a poorly planned city (like St. Catharines). If you think that stretch on Fourth Ave is bad, try 380km of it. We left at about 4:30am Saturday. With one stop on the way for lunch, we arrived at 3:00pm. That's right, 10 hours of traffic lights. Matsushima is supposed to be one of Japans "three must sees". Two things - it's rainy season so it was pretty blah, and as unique as the islands and stone is for Japan it was like Tobermory on a really small scale. Kathy would say it sucked. I got to take some pictures so for me it wasn't so bad. We had planned to stay over night, so to save money, we slept in the back of our car. I actually slept fine, but again - Kathy would say it sucked. The sun came up at 4am, so we got up. Kathy ended up sitting in the car for an hour or two as I took pictures. She would have said it sucked, but it was my birthday so she said she didn't mind. On the way home we bit the bullet and paid the 5,500 yen toll for the expressway. The road is a bit straighter - only 340km and no lights - only 4 hours to get home. Happy birthday to me!
On one of the three little islands this was carved out of the rock. There were tunnels, buddhas and all sorts of stuff just cut right into the side of the rock. It was pretty cool - and pretty old too.
One of two very interesting things this weekend. This truck was just parked on the side of the road. Prices as marked, this is a mobile grocery store! The other interesting thing was our experience with a traditional rural onsen. We found this place half way down some backroad run by the nicest two (old) Japanese ladies. It took a bit to communicate that we wanted a bath. This place didn't provide towels or soap (like most do), but the ladies finally told us we could borrow some. After the hottest bath I ever thought I could handle (my skin was tingling), I brought the soap and towel back. Next thing I know these two ladies (who did not speak a word of English) had invited me into their place and were serving me tea and pickled beans. One of them went down to get Kathy (much to Kathy's confusion - since she couldn't figure out where I was). So the four of us sat drinking tea, eating beans, and laughing about who knows what! What a great experience!

Friday, June 17, 2005

A Special Sunday

Hey Everyone!!!
Guess what day Sunday is??

JEFF'S 31st BIRTHDAY!!!
YAY!!!

Please help us celebrate this fun day by leaving a comment on our blog.
It's really easy. If you don't have a blogger account, it's okay. Just click on 'anonymous', type your comment, and then click on 'sign in and publish'. Oh, but if you don't mind, type your name within your comment. It's nice to know who the well-wishers are.
Thanks!

Monday, June 13, 2005

Another Saturday in Tokyo

Yes, we did it again. We went to Tokyo, this time just for the day...something I don't really recommend doing from Ota. Jeff, Kevin, and Christian went exploring and photog-ing; Ayako and I met up with Joanne for lunch at a Thai restaurant and some pretty serious shopping.

At night we went to a Canadian bar in Shibuya, which is a pretty hip and happening part of Tokyo. It was amazing. So many Canadians, so much English! And the menu had wings, fries, burgers, blts, poutine...even veggie sticks! But alas, no Moosehead. So we drank Coronas instead.

Unfortunately, we had a little train trouble getting home. Which meant our heads didn't finally hit our pillows till almost 2am. So most of Sunday was spent sleeping. But at least we came home! Christian said good-bye to us in Shibuya as he planned to spend the night. The last we heard of him, Kevin got a text message from him at 1:30, saying he was in a college dorm partying with students! We're not sure how he does it, but he's always got loads of crazy stories and great pics.
Ayako and Joanne and "Betnahhmu" coffee...what the rest of the world would call Vietnamese coffee. It is served with its own filter, and is killer killer strong...you watch it brew and then you pour in sweetened condensed milk...oh, wow. My mouth waters just thinking of it. It was my second trip back there with Joanne, and I dragged Ayako with me this time. She liked it so much that we ran around Tokyo finding the exact cup, filter, and coffee so that we can re-make this treat on our Thursday girls' nights!
There's Jeff and Christian in the The Maple Leaf, the Canadian bar we went to. Look: there are real chicken wings and fries on the table!! And check out the hockey jerseys! Wow, it was really like we stepped back into Canada...even the fact that our English-speaking waitress was from Israel...gotta love multiculturalism...
So much for the innocent baby elephant pictures. Yes, ladies and gentlemen (that's for you, Jo) this is the first, and probably last cigar I ever smoked. And mom, I promise I only took 3 puffs...Jeff and I actually shared it! And I think he gave it back to Kevin after awhile. Oh cool, look! You can still see the chicken wing grime around my thumb and under my nails. I haven't had spicy wings for a very very very long time!
Haha. You only get this excited about smoking pictures when you're not actually a smoker...we're so lame!

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Hey Mom! It's Your Baby Elephant

Well, here it is. Nothing to say but, "isn't she cute!" Kathy has a problem with the stuffed animals in this country, especially the elephants. She just keeps buying them!

Thursday, June 09, 2005

A Man and His Dog

And they say dogs start to look like their owners? Owners start to look like their dogs?
So I thought now would be a good time to tell this sad story, to go along with the beautiful doggie photo that is tonight's feature...

Jeff and I have both noticed the unusually large size of dogs' ... bumholes in this country. This particular phenomenon (?) is most commonly observed among larger breeds, especially golden retrievers. Driving the rural roads of Japan, we have often felt a certain amount of shock and awe about this strange ... trend.

So along the same lines...Jeff told me the other day about the following incident which he was unfortunate enough to witness: An owner was walking her golden retriever by our apartment. He started to drag behind a bit, and Jeff realized he was readying himself for a large dump...to accompany his large...y'know. Well, the owner finally stopped, and the dog did his thing. After disposing of the pile, as all good dog owners do, the owner proceeded to pull out a roll of toilet paper, and, I kid you not, WIPE the dog's ARSE!!!

At this point in the story, Jeff went on to exclaim about how he couldn't believe his eyes, as anyone knows that dogs are able to pinch off a load quite nicely, and even if they can't manage that, well that's what their tongues are for, ... but I will spare you those silly little details.....

You never know WHAT you'll come across on this blog, EH?
-K

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

On a Different Note...

I had the most amazing raspberry and chocolate cake I've had since we left Canada. It was chocolatey and sweet and rich and amazing. I've been craving something like that for months, but you just can't find it here. AMAZING. I almost drooled. I know I was too loud and too enthusiastic, but I didn't care. I just wanted you to know.

***

Ok, so Jeff was excited about the cake. My excitement tonight came from the toilets. I hate it when people put down the lid. I walked into the bathroom, and -damn- both lids were down! But hey, I had to go, so I sighed and walked into a stall. Lo and behold, as I entered the stall, the lid lifted! Quietly, gently! After doing my business, I carefully exited the stall, suspiciously eyeing the toilet. What goes up must come down. I washed my hands, never letting the toilet out of my sight. And I was rewarded. After a few minutes, the beast let out three quiet beeps, and the lid dropped, graciously, without a sound.

Man, it just doesn't get better than this.
-K
You heard already about the rain on Saturday... on Sunday we decided to try again, a little closer to home. We drove through Ashikaga and into the hills. I forgot the map, but we ended up in a beautiful spot, hiking around. As you can see from the pictures, not only were the trees beautiful and very tall, but Kathy and Joanne felt the need to wear the same colours. (they didn't think being three gaijin made us stand out enough, they had to both wear red). It was really incredible (-the hiking, not the red!). I've put a couple pictures from the hike up on the photosite - check them out.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Jeff finally has his own picture site!

I've got a photoblog (flickr site)..finally... Kathy was wise enough to point out that I had sometimes used our photosite and blog as a showcase for my pictures - the ones I take that have nothing to do with us here in Japan - and everything to do with me learning to take better pictures. So I signed up for a flickr account. You are all welcome to check it out. It is strictly for me to show off my pictures. You will see a fair number of duplicates from the photosite, but as time goes on there will be less and less overlap. Enjoy. (oh, and you can't make comments unless you have a flickr account - sorry). www.flickr.com/photos/eppstein/

Sunday, June 05, 2005

All Rained Out

On Saturday we drove to Mount Akagi. Jeff and I passed through there last weekend, but Joanne hadn't seen it yet, and to be perfectly honest, I slept through most of the beautiful drive last time anyhow.

Rain was in the air. The trees were a vibrant green. Brilliantly coloured azaleas were flowering everywhere. The smell was amazing. We wound tightly up the hairpin turns, Joanne constantly sticking her head out the window to sniff the air..."Kathy, are you smelling this???" Then, we got to the top and the amazing lookout. Jeff got his camera equipment all set up while Joanne and I admired the sights, sounds, smells. We kept saying we felt like we were listening to the sound track of a nature show. There were bird songs I had never heard before. And then, about 5 minutes later, it started to rain. And then pour. And it didn't look like it would let up anytime soon. So after driving around a bit, we went home.

At night, Joanne introduced me to my new music love. Fans of John Mayer and cheesy acoustic guitar crooning, you must meet Teitur. Go to his site, click on the guitar, and listen to the clips. And if you can, watch the video for "I was just thinking". The song has been in my head since then. I can't wait to get the album!

-K
You can see the rain clouds ominously rolling in in this picture. When the first crack of thunder was heard, we shared some funny "OOOOOHHHH"s with some Japanese hikers. I guess "OH!" is international...
... and even more ominous...
Joanne posing with the poorly painted "Akagi Mountain" Doraemon. Jo, you are CHO KAWAII!!!