Wednesday, April 30, 2008


These are a few fasions I spotted on the way home from school. And, for the record these are all in the exact colors that I saw them, it's all just as it is.

Those esmerelda green tights where completely opaque, they seem to also be popular in lemon yellow and ultra marine blue.

The girl in the middle was wearing control top panty-hose with her rolled jean shorts so you could tell the difference in fabric weave of her panty hose at about mid thigh. I thought it was kinda funny. (BTW: rolled jean shorts with black panty hose are very very popular, shorts are 90% always worn with hose.

I'm finding out a few secrets:
How do the school kids keep their socks up? They have sock glue. It looks like a glue stick they rub on their leg, then they pull their socks up over that.
How do they stay so white? They actually have skin whitening cremes here in the cometic department.
How do they squat so low to the ground an under control without popping an ankle out of joint? When they squat they turn their feet out ward and roll their ankles in so that it folds easier.

Just a few random observances.

Monday, April 28, 2008



just doodlin' I guess.

and it's extra ghetto because I took a picture of it since I have no scanner.

Friday, April 25, 2008


Of course there's always a story.
This week some of my English students showed me pictures from the Bunsui festival last weekend that I missed. I was kinda thinkin it would be little, plus I missed the train. Then, after I saw pictures I was really really kicking myself. Then to make the matters worse (not really worse just thought it was) on Friday I found out that I had missed the Gosen-Tulip vestival too. That was supposedly held last weekend as well. Dang! So for the rest of the week I kept an eagle eye on the Tulips in the area. By Friday night I decided I would go to Gosen even though the festivals where over and probably the tulips where gone. Friday night I packed a lunch (save on money) so I packed some seaweed tuna rolls, peach jello, yogurt and my nalgene of course (I never go anywhere without it). I left this morning not expecting to see alot but I thought I would give it a try. After all, I had packed a delicious lunch and my bubbles to entertain myself if it didn't go so well. The train ride worked like clockwork. (I'm getting a little better at this.) When I got to the Gosen station I asked the station ticket salesman how to get to the tulip fields. He laughed and told me that I had missed the festival. (I began to doubt if I should have come or not.) Then he told me you have to get there by taxi! NO WAY, I thought, I don't care if it takes me 4 hours of walking. I'm donna see some tulips! So politley I asked him how to get there by foot. Again he laughed as said it's too far. How far I asked. He said over an hour. Oh, well that's cake, one hour isn't bad. So I got directions and headed on my way. (Even though he advised against it, he thought it was too far to walk). I'll admit I figured he knew more about Gosen than me so I was a little nervous but the morning was fresh and I had alot of energy and I was ready to see some tulips!

I followed his directions.

It took me 23 minutes. ^____^

The walk was gorgeous! The Japanese country side is so green. This week I've noticed more birds, bees, bats, bugs and everything about Spring it out and amazing!!!! Oh and there will be more to come on the rice fields. Yes, it's the time of year to flood the rice fields. I'm really excited. All the little streams and water holage on the sides of the road are now getting lower.

Anyway, here are a few flowers. This is what I first saw as I walked over the bridge!

Oh, and while I was stopped at Niitsu there was a cool, super old, really big, coal engine!

Although I missed the actual scheduled tulip festival, I'm glad I went today because they took down all the ropes that keep people away from the flowers and we where allowed to walk in between the rows and out into the middle of the fields! (Don't worry it really was ok, the field workers where all out there popping the heads off the tulips) Soooooo since I was there and decided I'd make most of the day of it I sat right down in the middle of the field (in a furrow of course) and ate my lunch! It smelled sooooooooo good! I enjoyed my lunch so well. It had been really windy the whole day but slowed down for lunch and long enough for me to blow a few bubbles while sitting in the field. It was incredible!

Thursday, April 24, 2008


IF: Primitive

I always feel really old and primitive with my big dictionary and flashcards to study while I'm on the train to school. The highschool students are on their phones texting, studying (they have the internet on their phones of course and download their books so they can do everything from talking to others, researching and studying for school and homework. A lot of them have those Japanese to English electronic dictionary helper things. ( I have no idea what they are called) But every time I come into class all the kids pull them out.)
It's always kinda funny. I guess I feel dated.

Sunday, April 20, 2008


Oops! Sorry I missed the train to take me to the festival. Better luck next week in Gosen. ^_____^

Saturday, April 19, 2008

School is Cool!!

WOOOOWWWWW!! I can't believe two weeks has already passed since I started school! I'm so very pleased and blessed to report that school is going awesome. In my opinion anyway. I'm having a great time! The kids are really shy and look at me oddly most of the time but some classes are breaking out of that and it's great to see their progress. It's not easy to gain self-confidence in another language or find your voice in another language so they are doing great. I'm having a class on Tuesday choose items from a bag and make up skits. I'm excited to see how that goes in the future. I have great schools! I received such a warm welcome from all of the schools it was really nice. Plus, despite the shyness of the students they are all pretty good about saying hi to me in the hall. I have a hard time walking and getting around the school sometimes because of it...hee hee. They are fabulous and I'm really looking forward to more classes with them to see how they come out of their shells.
I'm loving the staff. We have awesome people here teaching! They are sooo nice and funny. There are a few teachers that I really enjoy speaking with and they are such a hoot! I really enjoy team teaching with them. I have a little handful of favorites to team teach with though. To be honest we have a blast and during the class we like to make jokes and tease the kids. Honestly I can't complain they are great.
This is about all I have to report on. Classes are going great and I might join up with the missionaries in their English classes to help out there. We had a class today that I helped out with and it was pretty cool, plus I get to see Sister Tanabes. Sister Tanabes is this fabulous lady in our ward, she's sooooo funny! She speaks English pretty well and we have a good time together. I actually went with her and her friend down to Niigata City to see Conference. She's a blast. Yeah all is good and there's a festival this weekend too so I hope to catch a little of it. We'll see what comes up.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

"Hanami" (Cherry-blossom viewing) at Takada

I couldn't let the Cherry-blossom moment to pass me by! (Seriously how often will I be in Japan in April!?) Still, I find it difficult sometimes to get around, especially if it's new and requires other maps than that ones I already have that my IC translated for me (applies only to school areas). I've been seeing advirtisments since I got to Japan to go to Joetsu City, Niigata for the Hanami, but didn't know where it was (even the google maps for Japan are in Japanese). I had asked around but some of the answers where vague. I tried a few places online and found one that is particularly popular this time of year with the Hanami and decided I would ask around and find out how to get to Takada.
I didn't need to look that far when just Thursday I found a map both in English and Japanese of the majority of the stops in the Prefecture stuck to the ciling of the train I ride to school. I scanned the names of all the stops and located Takada, and quickly changed my previous weekend plans of cleaning the apartment to spending the day surrounded by Sakura at an amazing Hanami! (good choice huh?)
At the start of the day I imagined it would be as low key as any of my other visits in the area in which I live. I'd go easily and come back the same, I'd be alone but at least would see the blossoms. As the day unfolded however, it proved to be not only a day to awe and wonder at the creation of the cherry-blossom but also of good hearted people! It seems regardless of culture, language and country we all like to have a good time, eat and enjoy the company of others and Japan would be the kind of country to welcome who ever to gather and enjoy life a little. (In a way sometimes when I travel the world seems smaller).

So the journey began! I knew it would take at least 2-3 hours to get there by train so I left pretty early, around 7 I believe. The ride to Takada was beautiful. I got the Yahiko Line which moves west of Tsubame toward the coast. I changed and got on the Echigo line with carves around the west coast and became mezmorised at the view: The morning was fresh, the waves crashed up on the rocks, there where fishermen out on boats and on docks bringing in fresh seafood and other ocean tresures, long beaches with run-off and little pools, the flowers, the trees, the ride over was worth the ride already!
Finally I made it to Takada! The station was totally decorated in Cherry-blossoms! I got out of the station and asked a man in uniform how to get to Takada Koen (park). He explained so politely and well in English that I could take the bus for 100 yen and it would drop me off at the park entrance. Then he gave me a map of all the other things to see and do in the city while I was visiting. He was so nice!
Here are a few pictures of the hanami, then I will continue the story.

The cherry blossom viewing is also kind of like a carnival/fair in that there are a loads of fun stuff for kids to do, there are games and prizes, bounce castles and jungle-gyms, there was even a haunted house! (I got a kick out of watching the reaction of the people walking out of the house)There was also a big pavilion set up for Kareoke and such. The festival is very set up for alot of fun and familyness. It's tradition that as a family you pack a big family meal and all the alcohol you can carry (not just drink) and put down a tarp ad blankets and everyone eats together under the sakura trees. This is done for obvious reasons, for family but also done traditionaly for good luck and for good family luck. Photographers also love to gather here, and families will pay them to take family pictures under the sakura. This is very popular!

And of course where there's people, there's food!

At a sakura festival you can also buy sakura products! They make everything from tea to icecream. The sakura flavor can be tastey but it depends on the product. The cherry "blossom" flavor tends to be salty with a burnt cinnamon taste. However the flavor that apparently comes from the petals is different. *shrugs* I don't know really well, all I know is that some sakura flavored products are really good and some are kimoi (nasty).The sakura icecream is to dye-for and is now close in the top slot to my favorite among the mint choc chip. Here at the festival chestnuts are also popular you can buy them roasted here like in the picture they also have chestnut icecream. It was soooooooooo good and nutty but so destinctly chestnut, I was really amazed! Yes, I ate two icecreams! I couldn't decided, so I got them both.
Everyone spends the day walking around, eating, taking pictures, doing fair activities or shopping in the city, but the most fun I saw were the families. I walked past, all of them gathered and having a great time together. I'll admit it made me sad, I wondered what I would be like to have all my family there and how much Aubrey would love the really cool rope jungle-gym and Abram would want to see everything and try a treat or two. It was a lovely moment to think for awhile. Then I said a little prayer I wouldn't feel so lonely.
Meanwhile the families and other groups are having a great time together they are waiting till the sky gets dark. When the sun goes down the lights come on, this is about the time that the lights against the cherry-blossoms look like a fire work show! It is beautiful and when I saw the pictures I took, I realised how little they hold a candle to the real thing. What an amazing sight!!!

Just a short while after telling myself I shouldn't feel alone I spotted a familiar face from the corner of my eye. It was DAVE! My buddy from training (we were team teachers together) So he had been dropped of my a JET friend that he made and was hanging out with a bunch of other JETS. We had a great time talking and catching up on all the news of the areas, schools and our first week. It was soooo fun! Plus these other groups of people (Japanese) heard us speaking English and came over to say hi and introduce themselves. Between their bad English and out bad Japanese we actually communicated quite well and had a good time hanging out the rest of the night with a bunch of random people. It was really good!
Knowing that the trains in my small area cut out earlier than the bigger stations I started out toward the journey of home. I finished taking pictures and set out back north. While at a major intersection of the tracks everyone got off. OH-NOOOOO, this was the train that was supposed to be going north however as it turns out it does not run north past 9:20, it was now 9:40! I desperatly made an attempt to the train conductor that I needed to get to X station. While all the passengers where walking past some one heard me say that I was trying to get to Tsubame. He stopped and told me where I needed to go. He and his friends had been at the festival as well and where headed home too but in a slightly different direction. One of them happened to be a train conductor and the rest of them where excellent English speakers! WOW! They even looked up online using their phones and wrote down for me what time I would be comming in on and when the departures and platform numbers where to get on to get back to at least Higashi Sanjo (only two stations away from opposed to 2-3 hours away from home by train)WOW!Then one of them even looked up cab fares to see how much I would need to pay a taxi to get home from Higashi Sanjo, it turned out to be around 2100 yen. He told me I should just take a cab home from HS. I thought about how much I really had...oh about 500 yen. To be honest the original cost to get down there was double than what I thought so I didn't have as much "emergency money" and I should have. I though maybe I would walk even though that would mean I would probably be walking in Sanjo at 3 in the morning or possibly 4. Well, it was done, I thought that I'd figure it out when I get there. I thanked them a ton for their help and still had 50 minutes to wait till my train came. So I walked up to the bathroom. There was quite a line, which was fine I had a ton of time to wait. While in line, three funny girls caught my eye. I noticed quickly they wheren't speaking Japanese and figured they had come to see the festival as well. Although I don't know Chinese of course there was alot I could understand just between their gestures to one another, I could tell they where really good friends. The train came and I got on and waited, I wondered for a moment what to do about money. I thought I better take a moment and dig and see what I could come up with...I dug up about 720 yen which would get me maybe just outside of Sanjo. I prepared myself for walking. I put my bag away and put the 720 in my pocket. I felt like I should check my bag again although I just had. I hestitated, I was just in my bag. I figured it couldn't hurt. I dug around some more and pulled out 2 fresh 1000 yen bills. I don't know where they came from or what it was doing there. WOW. (I said a quick little prayer of gratitude for a Heavenly Father who has always got my back. I thought wow, someone must be praying for me, alot. Just as the doors where soon to be closing the three girls got on. One of them recognised me from the bathroom and waved with a big smile. Then they giggled to one another for a moment or two and decided to come and sit next to me. In all of my time in Japan this is the first time anyone has ever sat next to me. (Usually on a train I have this radius around me of space, people are more likely to stand in the middle of an ile than to take a seat next to me or even 2-3 seats away from me.)I think they asked me something in Japanese and when they noticed my hesitation they spoke in English. I found out they are from Taiwan and are studying Japanese in college in Kamo (Kamo University isn't too far from one of my schools) We spoke for while in English until I got off at my stop! It was sooooo fun to have someone to sit with and chat while on the bus. What a lovely evening! It didn't stop there, either! I got off at HS and got into a cab, I told the driver where I was going and how much I had. He told me he didn't know exactly how much it would be to get there but that he would guess that I had enough to get home. He started driving, I cautiously watched the meter of yen build as we got closer to home. I stared to try to tell him to stop when the meter got to the amount that I could pay him. He stopped at a red light, and cashed me out with the amount that I had. I started to get out of the car but he chortled and motioned for me to get back in. I'll take you home he said and he turned off the meter and drove me the rest of the way home for free.
Not only was the day a reminder of the beauty and creation in the festivities of the Cherry-blossom but also of people! Just good people in the world, and how something little can go a long way.

Saturday, April 5, 2008


I forgot to mention that today was the first time I had ever used the 'squatty-pottie' (Japanese style toilets). It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I thought I would fall in or pee all over myself. But it's not bad at all. Don't be afraid of the squatty-pottie!

I heart Maki and Kamo!

This morning I went to explore Maki a bit and to my surprise found a wonder of treasures! Maki is very close to the coast, it's country side and beautiful. Just over the mountains is the ocean.

All the kids are off the school!

I found a fun farmer's market place that was selling beautiful homegrown food! One of the little old ladys literally had fallen asleep with her head in her hands. The little old women like her remind me of the old Bolivian woman.

I met what I figured was a girl scout troop type group of the sort. I made a little donation to their boxes and they let me take a picture with them. Also this cute little man makes these filled pancake treats. You can buy them with creme in them (vanilla pudding) or with sweet bean paste in them.

I had to take a few shots of the flowers and a few cherry blossoms that are out a tad early.

Kamo is farther inland but beautiful countryside as well. Kamo has a beautiful park not too far from the station which is were most of these where taken.

Here's the school.

Kamoyama Park

I had a beautiful and quite an eventful day. I'm glad I was prepared! Kamoyama Park is a BIG park! You can easily take a couple full days to look around and go hiking. I did a little (as you can see). I'm excited to go back and explore more!

This weekend should be pretty lo-key. I have to stay in town to do immigration paperwork and such. But the following Sat. I'm shooting for Shibata! Yay! I love public transportaion!