Trip Start Mar 15, 2004
13Trip End Apr 16, 2005
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First things first. The weather here has been fantastic. It's December 3rd (Kyle's birthday) and I'm sitting outside without a jacket waiting for the Shinkansen (I'm being sent to a school 180 km away so I get to ride the bullet train). Apparently this fall has been unusually warm - what a treat for us! Well deserved I might say, given the excruciating summer we endured. Though I can't say I'm surprised, I didn't realize how much Japanese appreciate deciduous trees in the fall season. To quote a student, Japanese "celebrate autumn colours quietly and cherry blossoms cheerfully". Well put. Every weekend people flock to temples and shrines to admire the colours, reflect on the beauty of things, and consider the year gone by
So I'm starting to recover from the shock of Bush's re-election. I was in denial every time we logged on to check the polls, and completely disgusted when it was official. Japanese news made it seem like a really great outcome - they kept showing segments that were nothing more than 20 sound bites spliced together, of Bush professing how friendly he and PM Koizumi are. It was appalling. From my experience most Japanese think Bush is a dumb-ass.
School has been pretty good. I have many adult students who I see every week and now feel like I know quite well. Kids are always a riot - the other day one little boy became very confused as we sang Old Macdonald had a Farm. When we reached the cow-part and sang "here a moo, there a moo, everywhere a moo moo" poor little Hiromu looked very distraught ...
Enough shop talk. Since the last post we've been to Osaka, Okinawa, and Nara. I posted a bunch of pictures, so if you have the time, they might be more interesting than this text. I'll try to keep things brief.
In mid-October we headed to Osaka to visit with Drew, his mother, his girlfriend Yuri, and her family
MORE CANUCKS COME TO TOWN
The next weekend Kyle's mom and her friend Cindy came for a visit! Witnessing their first encounter with this crazy culture was pretty refreshing for Kyle and I, who have become almost totally desensitized to it (for example, the chocolate label "The deep, rich flavor of milky cacao comes on strong ..
On work days Patti and Cindy headed out on their own, around Nagoya, to Kyoto (where they stalked some Geisha), and Nara. At night we received mullet, she-man, he-woman, and funny English updates. It was great. After dinner, exhausted, Patti and Cindy would hit the sack to continue their work sawing logs for the cottage they were building in the room. During this time, Kyle discovered that paper towel bits are not effective ear plugs. (Sorry again Patti!)
On Halloween the four of us headed down to Okinawa for a few days
Kyle and I spent day one in Okinawa touring around with Jill (our GPS navigator). We went to see Zajimi Castle ruins, up a light house, and to a cultural amusement park where we enjoyed traditional Okinawa music, dance, art, and clothes. This is where we met Okinawa's character - Goya Man (goya is a bitter melon that looks like a spiky cucumber). Like Kitty, Doraemon, and Anpanman, he appears on all kinds of souvenir items, And, of course, the merchandising comes full circle, with Goya Man dressing up like other characters and vice versa.
Each night Patti and Cindy took turns treating us to a wonderful buffet dinner - we would descend on the cheese tray like vultures (good cheese is really hard to find here)
The next day we visited Shuri Castle, the Japanese Underground Navy Headquarters (where 4,000 Japanese committed suicide when all was lost during WWII), a glass blowing place, and then headed home. Okinawa is a beautiful, relaxing, peaceful, wonderful place to visit, and I would definitely go back. In fact, we need to go back, because we never did find Mr. Miyagi to ask him to show us the correct way to perform the crane maneuver
A few days after we returned from Okinawa we parted ways with Patti and Cindy. They came, they saw, they packed their bags and left (once the leaves were raked on their lawns back home). Kyle and I really enjoyed having them around. They might just be the only foreigners to have visited Japan and not tried the sushi. How is that possible?!
A few weeks ago we headed to Nara (Japan's first capital city) with a bunch of friends to see Todaiji temple (home of the world's biggest Buddha). He is quite impressive. Being the special character of Nara, about 1,200 deer roam the property around the temple. Rather than satisfy my desire to get to know these beautiful, graceful animals, that kind of domesticated abundance destroyed the mystery for me. Vendors sell packs of deer cookies, and the deer just lounge around and wait to be fed. Every now and then one would get ticked off and charge a little kid, ultimately ending with a head butt, a stunned little kid and giggling Joanne (not to worry, all the males have their antlers sawed off). We walked around the temple, trying to give the fall colours the respect they deserve, then had some dinner and headed home.
Well, that's it! If you made it this far - thanks! I appreciate your interest. As a token of my gratitude, you may read the latest round of Tanka poems that a student and I wrote:
See at gloomy night
See over a long distance
See in a deep hat
These are three true means with which
You can observe a beauty
Beautiful changing seasons
Time for fresh ideas
Leaves are dying with beauty
Reflect on a year gone by
Other than coming dangerously close to receiving a mullet haircut at my first visit to the hairdresser, everything else is just fine on our end. We have been madly Christmas shopping to try and get things sent home in time, but it's tough. Since I won't send another update before Christmas and New Years, I want to wish everyone a Happy Merry Christmas and a Cheerful New Year. Cock-a-doodle-do - 2005 will be the year of the chicken!
Love you guys ...
Joanne and Kyle