Sunday, December 23, 2007

Happy Holidays!

Well here I am Christmas Eve with my little kitty enjoying a day off. I don't really have a tree or anything but that's alright and tomorrow I will ambitiously try to cook a roast chicken for the first time outside of the 4 classes I am teaching. Yes on christmas day :'(

But anyways, I almost forgot an interesting story from last week's blog. One fella at the party Friday night and I were talking and he kinda drops a reference to how I'm from Saskatchewan. I thought that was weird as I usually remember when I mention where I'm from. When I ask more he asks me are you from moose jaw or something? I told him he was close and he said he could tell because of my accent. I was like whaaaa? I was rather shocked, I really must be tone deaf. I guess he was from Edmonton and said he could tell Saskatchewan people because they sounds nasally or whatever, the sound from having a plugged nose. I wonder if that's because our winters are so cold half the year when we talk the nose IS plugged. At any rate I was weirded out.

Back to more recent stories I guess, had alot more "free" time this week, as in I experimented more with cooked suppers and what not. Wednesday I had something of a christmas party with my English club. Everyone brought a snack from the convenience store and I brought some of my now world famous rice crispy squares :) We had snacks and chatted, even though sometimes they talked in Japanese so it was a little awkward for me not knowing how to contribute. Later on I got out the computer and showed more pictures from christmas last year and roast chicken.

A number of classes last week were cross word puzzles and find-a-words that I made for students to work on. I would write out the vocabulary on the board and draw pictures beside them for everyone and later explained what they were, what they had to do with christmas and how they were related. For example I would make an arrow connecting "stocking" with "fireplace". It was enjoyable for everyone and they liked my artistic ability even though I felt it is lacking. It was also a good chance to teach them what I thought were the basics of Christmas that surprisingly the students and teachers haven't heard of before. Things like leaving milk and cookies for Santa, or that he lives at the north pole (not Finland like one student said)

Thursday and Friday were good days in that the later parts of the day I had free. I found a chicken and other hard to find ingredients so I'm going to boldly partake in some cooking excursions. Friday night was another all you can drink and eat night which is always alot of fun. Jake and I got there rather early but the tables filled up quickly and we met new lots of new people. Jake translated for me at one point "she is saying she wants to talk to you more but doesn't know enough English". I told her to drink more and that would give her confidence! Many people were driving though so they couldn't drink. I find it kind of strange they would go to these kinds of parties then considering they're not that cheap if you're only eating and not drinking.

As the night wore on my own advice was taking effect and I was talking up a storm! Atleast I felt it was a storm and thinking back on it now I was assisted by Jake alot too. I found it really cool that I was using words I had learnt literally a day or two earlier and people were understanding me. I'm pretty good with the charades too I suppose. Later on in the night we started playing games for some reason for prizes. I was nominated more than once for drawing a picture or two. We won 3rd place of the 4 teams thanks to my wonderful drawing of a popular anime character ;) Even later yet the whole room played Janken (rock-paper-scissors) for the large door prizes. I had no idea what was going on as the whole room was doing Janken but somehow I ended up winning the last of the two big door prizes as seen in the picture. I was so confused it really was a gong-show. Jake was beside me telling me "you're still ok, keep playing" and I kept making different Janken signs with my fist until I was the last person. Next thing I know there is that big bag in my hands. "speech! speech!" they start chanting. Oh boy, time to give this Japanese a try that I've been using all night while I'm monstrously confused over what just happened.

"zen zen wakanai. arigato" (I don't understand at all. Thank you)

The room burst out laughing and I got many congratulations later on what a good speech I made. Inside the bag was a super fuzzy and soft blanket. Jake and I had long missed the last train home and luckily got a ride home from some people we met that night. Junko would have drove again but she had things to go and do unfortunately. Other funny events that night included showing off my mini dictionary Patty gave me... and the page that tells you how to say "touch me here" (koko o sawatte kudasai) Oh and my dream that night was all in Japanese, it was really cool, I feel like I'm make more progress all the time and words are sticking easier all the time because the vocabulary is getting bigger so you can relate words more and relation is how memory works really.

Saturday I played video games for maybe 9 hours straight. It was glorious.

That night having felt rested and like I satisfied my passion for a while, I agreed to a ski trip the next day :) Jake and I went over to John's place in Shiojiri so that we could all carpool the next day at 7 in the morning. We got a big snowfall that night, biggest one I've see here this year yet anyways. We gathered together a convoy of 3 cars and got ready for a 2 hour drive straight north (1 turn the whole time) to the "Happo" resort, site of the Nagano winter olympics (or one of them anyways)

So we get out on the road and drove 2 maybe 3 blocks before getting a phone call. We "lost" one of the cars and needed to meet up at the upcoming starbucks so we could regroup and try again.

Oh boy, this was going to be a long trip.

When we got to starbucks the "lost" car had caught up with us already by then which just further annoyed everyone; the trouble car was then on in the middle of the convoy, tightly sandwiched between 2 now slower moving cars. At one point our car (at the back of the convoy) didn't make a light that just turned red. Sure enough our phone started ringing soon after asking if we would be ok and if we knew where we were going (again, straight road) before the conversation was over we had caught up to the other 2 cars already. Anyways, long story short "let's meet at starbucks and try again" became the inside joke of that road trip.

We got to the mountain and it was really beautiful and covered in fresh show that was starting to melt as it was a warm day; I was sweating. Seems I dress way too warm for these trips. Anyways I tried snowboarding for the first time! It was really cool learning something new and getting over old fears. It was really shaky at the start, but soon enough I was making weird flexes and poses as I slowly skid down the hill. It is important to learn to land on your elbows when you fall though as broken wrists seem way too common, I had a couple close calls where my wrists were pretty sore after, and one wipe out buggered up my knee too for a bit.

Anyways it was a long run, seeing how there were 4 beginners. We wanted to go back up but they started closing the ski lifts because it was "windy". We weren't happy, those lift tickets were pricey and the weather was beautiful. We hiked for a bit to a moving chair lift and soon found out what they were talking about. There was a slow moving storm coming. The chair lift started to swing and freak me out, I was never good with heights to begin with but now I was alone on a chairlift with no safety brace in front of me swinging back and forth and dealing with the wind grabbing the big sail of a snowboard on my feet and trying to pull me out.

We got to the top and tried to get to the gondola which would get us back to the cars and what not. Problem was there was a STEEP mogul course between us and the gondola. Better yet, that snow that was melting all day now froze over into a nice sheet of ice. Getting down that hill was one of the more frightening things I have been through. I tried walking at first but it was too windy and I wasn't getting much traction. Later I tried to slide from mogul to mogul but there was a couple times where I almost never stopped as my body weight gave too much momentum. So ya, it was scary and took a long time but somehow we made it through ok. Amanda lost her snowboard early on and we watching it go super fast for like 100 meters before finally flipping and getting stuck in a bank.

We all went to an Onsen (spa/public bath/hot tub) after to heal the bodies and it was great. My muscles are still pretty sore, wondering if I got whip lash the one time I fell. We went out for sushi after and it was so tasty. I love those sushi train places, it's fresh and very buffet style. Monday today was a day off which was great again for the sore body. A friend knew someone who was looking for a big foreigner to play santa for their family so that was all I really had planned for the day.

He was extremely generous and doctors are my new best friends now. Let's just say for 10 minutes work I could buy a proper oven for my house which I hope to use tomorrow. So ya anyways there I was in a Santa suit in his house giving presents to his three kids. There was no tree and I didn't sit down. Pictures with me were a little strange for what I was expecting, like I shook the one kid's hand while they took pictures. Luckily Santa has the cop-out "ho ho ho" to say whenever he is feeling awkward or confused. I sang jingle bells and the kids where very quiet so I didn't give my deer in the headlights look too much I don't think should they ask me something. I told them to study hard and the mother of the house that she had beautiful children.

Well ya that was a crazy experience, oh and man those taxis are expensive! Luckily the guy paid for them, but it was $140 for him to get us and drive us back (he had been drinking so he couldn't drive himself) Now I know why everyone says don't take those things.

Well this will be my last update for a while, on Friday I leave for Korea so I won't be able to update until Jan 8th or 9th at the earliest when I get back. It's going to be a busy week and I need to get some sleep. I hope to make some roast chicken tomorrow, this having an oven had opened many doors for me :)

"you have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you'll discover will be wonderful. What you'll discover is yourself." -Alan Alda

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone! Sorry I can't be there, maybe next year ;)

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