Monday, August 30, 2010

Those Something the Other Something Something Gyoza!!!!!!

Toward the end of my work day I was thinking about dumplings. I can easily buy a package of 12 dumplings (gyoza) at the store for under 200 yen. But I like do it yourself type stuff so I did some sleuthing on the internet for a recipe to make the wrappings and the filling. I came across what looked to be some pretty top notch cooking so I jotted down the particulars and left the office thinking of how great things were going to be.

I can tell you that my optimism was going to be met much like a orca meets a sea lion. Volatile and unmerciful.

I picked some ingredients up from the store which included some ground meat, dark sesame oil, and green onions. The other things I needed could be found in my kitchen. I started preparing things as soon as I got home which was about 5:30pm or so. I began mixing the flour and water for the dumpling wrappers and everything was going according to plan. I cut up some vegetables while I let the dough sit for a bit and remarked that things should turn out great tonight with a little bit of work.

Rolling out dumpling wrappers is not the easiest thing in the world I found. To make matters worse I doubled the recipe so I would have some left over in case I wanted to refrigerate them for another day. Mistake number one. I would have to make all the dough. It was a painfully slow process of rolling out pieces of dough into nice circles. I never really managed to find a good method so next time I'll just use something to cut circles out instead. Another problem that came up but not until I was almost done was the hydration of the dough. I noticed that it was a bit sticky and wet when I mixed it initially. I thought it would be fine.

I get to about 20 or so pieces of dough left to roll which means I had made about 60 wrappers to this point. I look at my nice stack of dumpling wrappers, reveling in my pride. I look over at the stack and realize that maybe I should pull some apart so the stack isn't so heavy. Now if you can guess what happens next after I briefly alluded to it you get a prize. A verbal congratulations. To my horror the wrappers are sticking TOGETHER. I had been putting flour on them but it soaked in while they were sitting there. I lost almost if not more than 35 wrappers I had made because they had fused together. Many were thin so they wouldn't come apart. I felt like I wanted to die because I had been working several HOURS to this point and hadn't even mixed up the filling yet and my dumpling wrappers were mostly ruined. How depressing it was. I knew I should have made it less wet. I wanted to scream and throw things out the window. All my hard work was completely futile.

I was able to salvage some of the wrappers but many came out terrible because I had to mess with them too much. In the end I did actually make some dumplings several hours after I started. In fact I have about 26 in my freezer now that I didn't eat. They aren't the prettiest but they are my DUMPLINGS. The dumplings I ate were pretty good too. They just didn't have the pleats like gyoza should. I will fix that another time as well as the hydration value of the dough.

It was literally one of the most depressing moments of the past month. But I wouldn't do these things if I didn't want to learn and fail sometimes. Most wouldn't take the time to make gyoza completely from scratch. After I make some really nice looking gyoza I'll show a picture to the teachers at school. But I swear it's not to boost my ego. Why would I want to do something like that?


Saturday, August 28, 2010

Commit To It and Just Keep Walking

After talking to my mom today I gathered up myself and decided to brave the weather for a bike ride. When it rains once up here you can almost expect to rain again or an infinite number of times. That was pretty much a spot on expectation for today. I really had it in my head that riding the road north would be easier after my two days of endurance building. Well that was a terrible expectation to have but it did trick myself into believing I could work harder. By the time the first gradual incline came up and I pushed through it, I was already feeling the burn and pain because of my 'mama chari'. As you know my bike is gear-less so its all brawn. Don't I get man points for using a gear-less bike though? I did manage to make it farther today without stopping. I got all the way to the elementary school that I will visit once a month. I passed through this small hamlet or village and it looked rather interesting. Handful of small food stores and other shops probably tucked in some corners. People had fish tanks in front of their homes with gold fish. The purpose? No chance I know. It's Japan after all and many things don't have explanations for the way they are.

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It was about 5km up to where I stopped riding. Right around 3 miles. Normally this wouldn't be that far but remember no gears and the grade on this road isn't friendly. I shouldn't have to reiterate that from now on. However, my day didn't end there. The past two days I rode up this away I just turned around and coasted back. I figured I should waste more time instead of sit around at home and be bored. So I started walking the bike farther north. My day was just getting started.

If you have been following along you saw the post about the park I went to a few weeks ago. This park is close to where I live, if you have a car. It's also up in the mountains. But I decided I would at least walk to the entrance (there is a long road after this though) with my bike in tow and then see how I felt. I thought to myself, "You came this far. You had better keep going and see what happens today." So I coasted on down another hill leading closer to the park. I stopped at a dam where the road heads up into the mountains. I was really exhausted and didn't bring any water. That's not surprising because not bringing water places is something we have excelled at in the past. I wish I could link to a blog story about that but oh well. There was a bathroom nearby and like anyone would naturally think, there is probably a sink with running water. I was right about that. But the sink had a placard chained to the faucet that said 飲料水不適. If you have managed to complete a year or two of Japanese you might notice that some of the characters stand for drinking and water. You would probably feel so cool you knew some kanji and could understand the Japanese. Wait a minute and think about this, why would they need to chain a tag to the faucet telling you it's okay? Actually I have a good answer to that. Around these parts there are water spigots people can get fresh mountain water from. This stuff is safe supposedly. Naturally there is just lots of water flowing down through the mountains. So it is good to tell people when the water being used has been treated, is spring water, or just plain old water collected off the mountain. If you didn't the know the remaining characters on the placard you would learn them quickly after getting sick from sketchy water. 不 generally means something not good or in this situation not suitable. I'm glad I didn't drink the water despite how tempted I was. Good for me and my bowels.

I walked farther up the road from here and contemplated how far I would really go. I vaguely remembered how far it was to the main park building and the clouds were looking a tad ominous but I kept pushing the bike along the road. It is amazing how much more steep things become when you are walking up them. The road really climbs. Before I knew it the rain was coming down. It wasn't much of an issue because I was soaked from my over zealous sweat glands anyway. This was the point of commitment. It was either come this far and take the easy way out or keep pressing on upward. I chose the latter and it seemed like an eternity until I made it to the park office. I was half tempted to try hitch hiking but I wanted the satisfaction and exercise of doing it myself. In short, I did end up getting there after who knows how long. The only thing that kept me going was thinking of the way back which was all downhill. You can see just how much ground I covered. I essentially walked 5km up hill and at one time it was a 14% grade. Not to mention I had to push the bike with me.

View Larger Map

I wish the weather had been nicer so I could have taken pictures along the way. There were some nice views on foot that you wouldn't notice when driving.

I parked by bike and sat down on a bench to recover. Last time I came to the park I saw a guy running around doing random things. He was there again today. He stopped to say hello and I asked him where I could get some water. I told him where I had come from and he was a bit surprised. But who wouldn't be? If I tell other Japanese people about what I did they would think I'm crazy. That goes without saying what happened in the evening too. The guy pointed me to behind the main building where I proceeded to inhale handfuls of water. I came back around and sat down in the front. The guy stuck his head out, walked over to me, said "puresento," and gave me really cold sports drink for free. Several minutes later he came back and sat down to talk to me. In the midst of our conversation I learned that he worked seven days a week and only had one day off per month. Yet, he said it was his dream job to work in such a place because he loved the mountains. He goes by the nickname Hasoyan but I can't remember his actual name. At one point in our conversation he started asking me about chili peppers and then yelled very loudly, "COME ON!!" I was a bit dumbfounded and had to ask for clarification. What he meant was that he wanted the band the Red Hot Chili Peppers to come play at the outdoor stage they have in another part of the park. Supposedly it has a 10,000 person capacity. I don't blame him, it's an awesome idea and venue for bands to play in. I would like to play a show there myself. I don't know how long we talked but it was a lot of fun. I feel like I kind of have a contact there at the park with him. This will probably prove useful for something in the future. Before I left he told me about a matsuri (festival) going on close to my town in the evening and pointed it out on a map. Sure it sounded like a good idea at the time but walking there would be the only option.

The ride back to my town was so nice. Courtesy of gravity of course. I had dried off mostly by the time I returned. I got back around 3:30pm and contemplated going to the festival. I figured that I had nothing better to do and could walk there. I tried to find it on Google maps but no luck. The only bit of information I could dig up was that it was a few minutes from my town by car. I'm not sure how that translates into walking. I believe it was 3.5km or more to the festival based on signs I saw along the way. Yet again it was up hill with the exception of it not being as steep. It rained most of the way there and I thought about turning back several times. I was encouraged even more so by the fact I would have to walk to back if I didn't find a ride or something. In the end I committed to walking there despite the lame weather. Half the time I was reminding myself how I could be relaxing at home where it was dry and cool. No, the whole time. There was a shuttle bus close to the festival grounds that took us up to the actual location because it was higher up in the hills. In all I don't have much to say about the festival other that there were torches along rice paddies and a band of middle aged Japanese men.


I'm not sure if it was good or bad. Maybe it was good just to be there. The weather once again prevented pictures. These convey the event just fine I think.


I didn't stay too long because I had to walk all the way back to my town and I was dreading it. It was getting pretty dark by the time I started walking. The walk back was quicker than going but the whole time I kept wondering why I had even walked to the festival in the first place.

I think the most redeeming part about the festival, though, was the following. Maybe it isn't what it looks like but...


Beer? Check. Kerosene? Check. Let's matsuri!

Friday, August 27, 2010

3 Parts for Digestion

You should skip to the last entry for Friday because I have put into three parts for easier reading. If you are like Travis who somehow jumped the gun and read my first post while I was writing the second, then you obviously won't read the first one. Such logic is astounding sometimes. But please jump down to the last post from today and work your way up.

I had the day off yesterday because I'm helping with a marathon next month on a Sunday. Therefore, they give me another day off in exchange. I'm not sure why they didn't give me Friday off. I guess they didn't want me to enjoy a three day weekend. Shame on them.

I spent the morning exploring the HTML code of my blog and tweaking things. I don't feel good using a template that everyone else uses so I have taken the liberty to modify this template so it has more of my own taste. I'm still messing with it so it will probably change but generally I like a very minimal look. Clean and uncluttered.

I went to the gasoline stand (gas station) and asked them to fill my bike tires with air because I accidentally let all the air out the other week when I was trying to pump them up. Little did I know that I had a broken pump that was worthless. Big thanks to the attendant who filled my tires. You deserve a reward like a handshake. My choco pies are for myself. Not you. Sorry. Even though I got air put in my tires they are still a little poochy and soft. Combined with the fact it has no gears, this makes for an intense and difficult bike ride if you intend to go up hills. The other day I had the bright idea to ride my bike up to the waterfall I know about. When I rode in a car up this direction I didn't notice the incline so much. It's all up hill, albeit slightly. It's still enough to make riding without gears an absolute nightmare. By the time I rode about 1km I was panting and sweating like an ox pulling a wagon of pioneers. My legs burned with every push and I wanted to quit every inch.

I came to the realization that this will be my new workout. I will have to build endurance and strength just to make it 5km up this road. I'm down for the challenge though. I have no other choice with this bike. I told some guy from the town office how far I rode with the bike yesterday (about 2.5km) and he was like, "With that thing!?" I haven't been very active so it feels good to ride up the road. I should probably wait till tomorrow and give my legs a rest but I just want to tame that road.

In other news for today. I get new tatami this afternoon in my room. I can't wait. Clean fresh tatami all for myself. So good so good.

Preschool Points

On Wednesday I went to the G-Hoikuen which is a preschool. As with most preschools, kindergartens, and elementary schools in Japan, there are not really any teachers who know English well. Thus, you are expected somehow to teach little kids English. I had been looking forward to visiting the kids though because it's something other to do than sit at the BOE. I was totally ready for those preschoolers.

The main teacher came out and greeted me and opened the first gate of containment for the kids. This is the actually the last line of defense from the highway and the kids if they were to escape outside of the building. But from my perspective it was the first barrier to cross. She informed me that she didn't know any English and apologized but usually Japanese people know plenty of Katakana English words. This makes for some very interesting conversations. Example, the principal at the middle school called the the katsuo tataki, fuureshuu fishu steaksu. It's impossible to replicate the tone and volume of that in text but it was funny.

Several of the teachers gathered the kids in the main room and I sat down to teach the little ones some English that they will never remember. I started out with good morning and how are you. It was useful to have some Japanese knowledge so they actually knew what I meant. They were pretty good at pronouncing what I said. They were so cute that it was hard to really teach them anything. I told them I was from America and showed them a map of Illinois. This was great because they found lots of animals on the map so we spent most of the time talking about the names of animals in English. I asked the kids what animals they liked and surprisingly (with a little persuasion from the teachers) the kids answered. I made good use of a girl that said she liked penguins. I had the students get up and walk like penguins around the room. They really loved that as did the teachers. It was fun. After the animals I did some fruits and talked about which ones they liked. I think that lasted around a half hour or more.

Best part of the day was swim time. After my lesson all the students got naked in the same room to change into their swimming suits. The other ALT had told me about this so I wasn't unprepared but it's still interesting. I wonder at what age they change separately from each other. I suppose kids are so unaware at that age that it probably doesn't matter so much. I felt a little shy around the other female teachers but I was like whatever, I'm going to swim with some awesome little kids.

The little kids loved swimming with me. I lifted some of them into the air and let them ride on my back like a big fish. A few of the girls especially liked this and at one point they were fighting over who got to go next. It was cute. They could not care less who I was or where I was from but that I was having fun with them. That is all that mattered. I love such joyful innocence, laughter, and fun. I hope I can spend some more time with those kids. At one point, one of the teachers asked me my age while I was playing with the kids. I replied and she was like "Ooohhh you are the same age as this other girl here." There is no doubt about the implication of that question. Good thing I didn't really 'meet' the other teachers. One of my favorite things was when they were asking if I was going back home soon in soft quiet hard to decipher voices. I think they wanted me to stay and have lunch with them but I was only scheduled to be there till 11am. They were all so cute and nice. When I left they all came to the door to see me off. Their faces could melt the coldest soul.

Kids are what make this job fun. You can't ever forget that unless you have repressed city kids who are terrors.

Let's Learn Mission (a.k.a. stick shift)

This past week the mechanic my supervisor knows brought the vehicle I was thinking about buying to the BOE. I still wasn't sure if I would buy it but the main reason he came was so that I could learn to drive stick shift. Stick shift reminds me of some very long ago times when AJ, my cousin, was still in high school and would drive me back from the swimming pool in his Ford ranger pick up truck. He would always make me shift for him or else we wouldn't go anywhere. But what young boy wouldn't want to do stick shift? We definitely never had any problems going. That is about the extent of my stick shift knowledge unless you count the one time Nate let me drive his luxury Infiniti around the Carbondale airport parking lot. I didn't learn that much because some smarmy safety police told us to leave. As if I really wanted to damage something or Nate's car. Totally lame.

If you haven't gotten used to my flashbacks you better because this won't be the end of them. But as I was saying about learning stick shift, this mechanic dude is fairly old. Probably in his late 50s if not more. Speaks machine gun Japanese through his grimy worn down teeth. His pants stained with grease and dirt from working in the shop all day. He drives us over to a parking lot behind the BOE and then has me step into the driver seat. This is one of those situations where your Japanese truck that was carrying onions gets hit by a Japanese freight train at 60mph. The onions get pulverized over everything in the vicinity and you get shaken a bit but somehow you come out alright in the end. He asked me if I knew about the clutch and explained you don't usually drive with the left foot. After that, though, I lost my comprehension and just drove. I did fairly well cruising down the parking lot shifting or shall I say trying to shift fluidly.

The man stopped me and started laughing. He was like, "You NEED to relax! Stop holding on so tight, you have to be cooler about shifting. It isn't cool if you shift like you are scared. You have to do it lightly with one finger. I've been doing it so long I'm a pro but you need to learn to drive with style." Just imagine this all in Japanese with him laughing at the same time and you get a good approximation. I thought it was pretty funny myself. The point he was making is that I needed to let the stick fall into neutral and then move it to the next gear instead of holding onto it for dear life. This made a lot of sense and made things much easier.

He then had me drive out onto a road that goes up into the hills. I failed to push the clutch down far enough while going up hill and shifting so I killed the vehicle on a slope. He had me practice starting from being on a hill. At first I didn't understand how to feel out the clutch but it soon made sense that if you release it to a certain point the car won't roll backwards. I noticed this car was pretty slow to make it up the hill after I got going again. I had the accelerator floored. I'm not sure if this was normal or a bad sign. We went up fairly high on the road and he had me turn around. He then had me practice backing up hill which was pretty easy. He was praising me for accomplishing this much so far and was actually confident I would be fine with more practice. We rolled back down the hill and to the parking lot to practice shifting into first gear while being on a slope. At first I didn't quite understand but I nailed how to do that in no time. The old man all the more laughing and telling me how good I was becoming. We finished shortly after and he congratulated me on my efforts and told me I would be fine in no time. Even though we had a hard time communicating, I somehow learned how to drive manual with a crazy old mechanic.

I asked him to bring the price of the car down so I could buy it but he wouldn't lower it. He said he would keep looking for me though so I just have to wait a bit longer. Part of me kind of wants a manual car but then again my lazy side asks, "Do you really want that?"

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Makin' and Bakin' Katsuo Tataki

When I say making I can't help but feel like I have to say baking after it. More appropriate is the abbreviated versions of these two words.

On Saturday I readjusted to being gone from home for two days. I wanted to ride my bike around but I can't see to get the front tire inflated properly. It doesn't help that the bike pump I found in my apartment is a piece of junk and it's probably broken. I gave up after some toil under the demeaning sun and covering the steps with my glistening sweat droplets. I just went walking instead. Much to the out cry of my mom for not posting enough pictures, I specifically went out to take pictures of my surroundings. In the end I wasn't too pleased with what I took so they probably won't show up anytime soon. On the other hand, I stopped in at a rest area that is close to my village. I took a survey in Japanese I didn't understand and got a coupon for 100 yen off in the adjacent store. Actually, they wanted to know my opinions about the produce store but most of the questions failed to register or fire any of my Japanese receptors. I did my best and then I scored some potatoes and green peppers for a great price. Nothing too special happened after that unless you want to hear of how I played the same guitar chords a thousand times. Reminds me of my freshman college days when I was learning some chords with Samir's guitar. Nate was not the slightest inclined to listen to my strumming over and over again. I don't blame him one bit.

My lovely kids. I don't know many of their names but we will soon become acquainted well.



This is the main Junior High school I will be at during this year. In the foreground is the wonderful 'ground' as they say in Japanese. It's really just a dirty mess of rock and sand that they play baseball and other sports on. As long as it doesn't have to be cut or watered it's probably not such a bad idea maintenance wise. I'm sure it's fun to fall down on it because you would get awesome wounds.


This is one of the fishermen that came to help do the katsuo tataki demonstration. I don't actually know if is a fisherman but it is a good guess. He was pretty nice and the kids seemed to enjoy him. They setup outside next to the 'grounds'. Thankfully they did the cutting part in the shade because we were all pretty toasty.


Many kids were able to help cut the fish. For as much as Japanese people like fish it's funny that so many were turned off by cutting the fish. They thought it was gross and smelled bad. I guess that is the opinion of most kids if not adults so I'm not so surprised. One of the retired teachers was running around trying to tie an apron on the boys. They were mostly a bunch of wimps. Man up and grab some fish. Get blood on your hands. Live the masculine stereotypes!


After cutting the katsuo, you place it on this. Then you stoke the fire with straw for fast hot flames. The katsuo goes over this for a very brief time. The goal is to just sear the outside uniformly. This requires a flip of the fish. In all it only takes a couple of minutes to lightly cook the outside.


I didn't take any close up pictures of the finished product because I was dragging my head along the floor at this point from the heat. You can see some of the cooked fish there on the table. Gray brown color on the outside with a nice reddish tint in the middle. You eat this with green onions, garlic, and soy sauce. If you like sushi, you will definitely enjoy this oceanic delight.

And last but not least my favorite picture from the day. What more can you ask for? Bloody fish head and body, cute little Japanese girl, and a big grin. Unrefined joy.


Orienting in the Orient

To make up for my promises of a new post you will get an abbreviated version of the past several days. So in reality that is not really making up for anything. Just sit tight and you will be happy I'm sure.

Thursday afternoon I drove down to Ino and met up with Hyemi at the BOE there. I was there for awhile and had a measly lunch from the grocery store. Lately I've been on a very frugal budget. When I say frugal I mean it. Last night, for example, I ate potatoes and cabbage boiled in a pot. Nothing too fancy. The real reason is that I wasn't able to get money yesterday so I couldn't really buy anything.

Anyway back to what I was saying. Some Ino BOE guy took us over to Kochi City which is about 15 minutes away by car. He dropped us off at our orientation venue and said good bye. Orientation was good because all of the new people were together. They covered things like this huge earth quake that is supposed to happen sometime soon. Well the chances aren't as good right now BUT it could happen so we have to be ready just in case. This may sound morbid but I kind of would like for the earth quake to happen. Just like the the quake in Southern Illinois we could make t-shirts and celebrate our lives (if we have them at that point). I shouldn't really wish for such a thing because my home could be wiped out by giant falling boulders and landslides. I should keep that all in perspective.

Orientation is orientation. I can't really remember what else they told me on Thursday that was too pertinent. I think they went over life in middle schools and elementary schools. Yet, that will all vary most likely. I was glad though when the evening rolled around because I was ready to relax. Maybe relax isn't the right word though.

We marched off to our hotel and put our stuff down and then marched on some more to a hotel where they have a beer garden and buffet up at the top. If it hadn't been hot enough all day, it was still hot up there at night. The only consolation was probably the food and company. Some might say the beer and alcohol but I'm not so into that anyway. I met a lot of nice people, some characters for sure, and enjoyed talking to all the other JETs. They have pretty nifty beer pouring dispensers that automatically tilt the glass and top the head off. Cool. No pictures because I wasn't going to lug my camera around for that event. Imagine please. Drinking is fine and all but sometimes I wonder if that is all the JET people care about. My liver has already thanked me about 7 years of my life and it would like to continue that trend. After the dinner people strolled over to Hirome which is just a huge food stall and beer place with lots of tables for socializing. It is a pretty lively place and there seems to be a lot of interesting things there. I had myself some ice cream and then called it a night. Many went on to soothe their drunkenness with more alcohol at karaoke. The next morning there were some people like they had gone to the brink of death, if not surpassed it, and then came back again. Others who had probably forgotten the previous night somehow managed to look like nothing had happened.

On Friday everyone was trudging around in a haze of disillusionment and bleary eyes. I was kind of smug knowing I had persevered through the vile temptation of Japanese karaoke. I like karaoke, I just didn't want to spend more money on alcohol or anything silly like that in one night. So we had a scavenger hunt at 1pm around Kochi City. Not too many were happy about this. First, its the hottest time of the day. Second, people are going to complain when you send them off to walk around the city on a blazing hot day. I just went with the flow and enjoyed the scavenger hunt for the most part. Our team somehow by diving intervention or the likes won. I think it was mostly for the extra points we secured with a bribe to one of the prefectural assistants helping with the hunt. We got awesome (I'll never use in public) cat towels. After that orientation ended and Hyemi and I walked back to the train station to catch a ride to Ino.

The train line here is on the honor system. You could not buy a ticket and still ride it. But I won't be one of THOSE foreigners.

On the way back to my home there was a pretty gnarly accident that slowed traffic down for quite some time. A good reminder while driving in Japan to be extra careful. I almost hit a monkey as it skipped across the road. Monkeys are all over the forests but are so secretive its hard to catch a glimpse. If I had hit that monkey it would have been a grave tragedy that none would have ever forgiven me for. But a monkey road kill? Is that good for eating?

Later... katsuo tataki making.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Friday Night Fun

Tomorrow I'll cover the past two days more in depth. Our orientation in Kochi went well.

I'm glad to be back home tonight.

Learning the words for solar system and subsidiary company in Japanese is my kind of night...

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Power Down Today

Quick update before I head to bed tonight.

I wasn't feeling well last night. I'm wondering if it was something I ate at the cooking class or something after. I guess I didn't feel so hot when I came back to the BOE in the afternoon but I did eat a bowl of raw eggplant and mushrooms for dinner. That may have done me in. The problem is that now I have this sickening feeling in my stomach when I think of mushrooms. I don't know how long that will last. I wasn't feeling so well today either. By now, though, I feel more normal.

I stopped in at the middle school today. I walked over there with the secretary who had come by the BOE to drop some stuff off. She asked if I thought the teacher I work with was young. I said I guess so and come to find out she is MAYBE 48 years old. Ok well I was thinking more in the 30s range so it is quite surprising. This is just tentative hearsay from the secretary though. She wasn't really sure herself.

My teacher is doing well and interesting as ever. Her whole life really revolves around her cats but that is to be assumed. She told me I had to bring a hat to wear when we make katsuo tataki this Sunday at the school. I asked, "What will you do if I don't bring a hat? Will you punish me?" She replied, "My cats and I will bite you." Now I can understand the cats biting me but why on earth did she say herself? She is a bit quirky but I definitely like that fact.

In other news, my supervisor had the head guy come over from the city office to look at the tatami mats in my room. I had told her they were old and kind of dirty. I didn't expect they would come survey the situation. Anyway it is all for the best. The guy came over and looked at them for a bit. I told him I didn't know what qualified as good or okay tatami. He concluded that mine were bad and I should get new ones. Best part is that because my housing is owned by the town office they are going to pay for them. Fresh tatami for the room I sleep in, great. Initially when I took the dirty carpets off the top of the tatami in my room the tatami smelled a little funky in the hot afternoons. But with some time and the windows open it has leveled off. It is still wonderful that I'm getting new tatami. Score.

I've also finally dedicated myself to learning some guitar. I happen to have a struggling guitar that was left many moons ago by some other ALT. It works just fine for learning. I have for too long talked and wished I had learned to play. I'm tired of living that non fulfilling destiny. Welcome to painful finger tips.

The next two days is Kochi orientation for the new JETs. I believe we have a party tomorrow evening. I can only imagine the destruction and carnage that will lie in the wake of the JETs who touch the sacred secretions of asexual organisms.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Shio Saba

Last night I made macaroni and cheese because I have a cooking club I have to go to tomorrow. I have to teach the kids there how to make it. Well to make sure I knew what I was doing I gave it a go and whipped some mac n' cheese up. It turned out great and I think people will like it tomorrow.

Tonight I was going to make soba again but decided to try cooking with some fish. I have been holding off because I wasn't sure how I wanted to cook it. I have a little grill I could fire up with some charcoal but I'll save that for the weekend when I have more time. I came across a recipe that looked easy and good so I bought some salty mackerel, egg plant, mushrooms, and garlic. I peppered and salted the fish but I could do without the salt next time probably.

I melted some butter and olive oil in a frying pan. I made it really hot and then dropped the fish (skin side) in the pan. As soon as I did this I dropped fresh crushed garlic into the oil around the fish.


After several minutes I flipped the fish and threw in the vegetables. I had red peppers, egg plant, onion, and a variety of mushroom I don't know. I let these steam up and get hot while the fish was finishing cooking on the other side. I probably should use less egg plant but I enjoy eating it. It just doesn't cook so well with so many other veggies in there.


Essentially the finished product. This is a pretty easy meal to prepare and I saved one of the cuts of fish with some vegetables for tomorrow's lunch. If I had some rice it would make a great bento. Unfortunately I haven't made it into the city to buy a bag of rice because I don't want to do it at the local market.

Hopefully the macaroni comes out well tomorrow. I will be making soba tomorrow night for dinner. A very mushroomy soba methinks. Thinking or finding things to cook is an interesting challenge. At least I'm not eating instant noodles for every meal which could be very easy to do. That's only for when I'm really lazy.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

So Cold You Love It

Seven people, including myself, headed up to Green Park which has camping and cabin rentals. We spent the night in one of the cabins on Saturday night(actually two because they slept 4 people each). It's a short drive up the road from my town. The main goal of the trip was to swim in waterfalls and hang out. I can testify that the waterfalls were not a let down in the least bit.

On Saturday morning Lachlan, another friend, and I made it there first and hiked down to the waterfall. I wore my flippies but a pair of shoes would have been a better idea. It's steep and narrow. There is a rope that someone has strung along the path down to help climbing down and back up. If this had not been there it would have not been much fun to get down there.


This is a great waterfall and swim spot. The picture is a bit over exposed and I should edit some of the pics I want to share before I make them public. Oh well. Anyway it is a great deal cooler up in the hills but still was a warm enough day. A bit cloudy though. The water was very refreshing and cold. It is so clear because there isn't much dirt in or around the river. It goes down deep in the middle and that makes it good for jumping in. A little while later the other six people showed up and joined us. We had a good time messing around.

This fall is a good height but Lachlan had never jumped off it for as many times as he has been up to it. So he waged a path through the bush and was the first to jump off. I have a video of that and will upload it after I resize it. I was half tempted myself to jump off but I didn't have shoes to wear to get up there and for the impact. Two of the other guys did. I will do it when I come back another day if I feel like my testosterone is at a peak level. There is another smaller rock to jump off of which is fun as well. But really the biggest jump only needs to be done once and then you can relish that you come out unscathed another day.

After the waterfall we went and checked in and got our cabins.


It was only like 18 bucks per person and they have wide bunk beds inside. They are nice but I didn't get a picture of that. Then we drove to another part of the park up some winding roads. There is an old go kart track way up in the hills. Close to this area is an old four wheel track. According to Lachlan someone got their hand cut off and they closed it all down. The machines are still sitting in an unlocked trailer. You could probably get them to start somehow (I really shouldn't consider this). Close to the area is a big playground, big open hill, and stage. They have a fall festival once a year at this location but other than that it is pretty forlorn.


We on the stage listening to Mia play her guitar and playing sword battles with cardboard tubes. I really enjoy places like this that feel so unused. They cut the grass and the playground is nice but I can't help feeling a sense of neglect. Later on in the day we drove back down to my town for the little festival they were holding. It was at the middle school grounds which is just the gravel/sand area where they do baseball and sports. A bunch of food stalls setup with grilled meats, Japanese foods, and sweets. Lots of people drinking beer and gorging themselves. It is fun if you can get away from the fact everyone looks at you. These festivals really bring out the locals. I never imagined so many people were in the area. I'm sure people drove in from surrounding communities. There was a drinking contest that I didn't participate in because I don't chug well when it comes to liquids. One of the guys we were with won the first round but got beat by a Japanese woman in the next round. After the drinking contest they threw out tons of plastic balls with numbers on them and then pulled numbers out of box ala raffle style. I was fortunate to win a box of yuzu drink. Yuzu is a local citrus fruit and the drink is delicious. The festival ended with fireworks and some dancing by the little ones. I may have seen Japanese people dressed in black face but you should just see if you can spot that in my pictures. The fireworks were pretty good for such a small town/village. The question is where they get the money for these...


In the morning on Sunday we got all our stuff together to hike out to one more waterfall location. This drive took us high up into the mountains with some nice views along the way. I'm not sure how others feel but the mountains make me smile inside. It feels great to be out in nature. These forests are so lush and green. I love it. But I hear they can look pretty depressing in winter but that won't be here for quite some time.


This waterfall is a bit different because you can't really swim at the bottom of it. It just looks nice more than anything. You can walk down to the fall and look out. That is where the next picture is from. There are great views of the mountains up here. There is an actual trail down to the fall so anyone could get there.


We swam a little up from here in a smaller pool of water. Not as deep or big as the previous day but equally relaxing and nice. I think it was even a bit colder. You can get a nice massage under the little falls here. Left my back feeling like it was itching. I love swimming in natural pools. For the longest time I have dreamed of swimming in creeks or rivers. Makes my mind beam when I get to experience these places. Best yet is that there are more places to see and experience. Even if life is slow here during the week. The beauty makes up for a lot of that. I'm just glad I wasn't put in flat rice paddy area. I would have stayed in Illinois if that was the case.

swimming hole 2 hdr

This week should be interesting because I have to go to a cooking club at a local middle school and teach how to make something. I believe I have settled on making macaroni and cheese (more on this in another post). We also have orientation for Kochi Jets this Thursday and Friday. That should be interesting and fun. I could write volumes every time I sit down here but it probably doesn't matter to include so many details. I'll save those for my own memory and when you talk to me personally.

Until tomorrow or whenever...

Friday, August 13, 2010

Okonomiyaki Get

I feel like I might scare people away if I write posts that are too long. With that in mind I decided to split things up a bit. I might just separate food/cooking posts into their own realm because that would give you more digestible chunks (nice pun, right?).

My plan was to make okonomiyaki. Okonomiyaki is kind of a pancake and also kind of an omelet. That's only for description purposes though. It really just holds its own as okonomiyaki. In a short moment I'll tell you just want goes into making this rather tasty meal.

Yesterday at work and the evening before that I spent time looking for recipes. I ever asked the English teacher how she made okonomiyaki. None of the pages or recipes I came across seemed quite right. The Japanese website cookpad had a plethora of recipes that I thought might be good but they weren't to my liking either. I came across a nice page, in English, that has many Japanese recipes. The Japanese author learned all of the recipes from her Japanese mother so they are pretty authentic by all means. While cooking is pretty interpretive, I still like to start with an original structure before adapting a recipe. The recipe was simple and authentic enough to meet my taste.

The main ingredient in okonomiyaki is chopped cabbage followed by an assortment of other smaller ingredients. Depending on the person and tastes, one can put anything in it. I put pickled red ginger and green onion in for some added flavor. Next time I'll probably throw in bean sprouts because those are so gooood. Before the vegetables are added you make a simple batter with some flour, eggs, and nagaimo. Nagaimo is an interesting vegetable to say the least. When you grate it against something it turns into a spit like liquid. It is used to bind things together in Japanese cooking.


Not only does it look like spit but... well you can use your imagination for other insights. It is quite therapeutic to grind the nagaimo because it is so much softer than it appears. After mixing the flour, eggs, and this together you add some soup stock. Then you heat some oil in a pan and dribble a small amount of batter into it to make some deep fried batter pieces that will be put back into the mix later on. Here is what the mixture looks like. I need to chop the cabbage finer next time but this worked well.


After you mix all the ingredients together you plop them down in a circle in a hot pan or on a griddle. Then lay some thinly cut pork strips on top and cover with a lid. If this was cooked at a high temperature the batter would probably burn so I kept it pretty low like the recipe instructed. After 5 minutes or so you just flip it over and let it cook for another 4 minutes uncovered. Then flip it one more time and put the toppings on your okonomiyaki. The typical is okonomiyaki sauce which I hear is a blend of soy sauce, worcestershire sauce, and other things. Nobody makes such sauces on their own unless you are a master or something. Japanese mayonnaise (similar to Miracle Whip if you know that its different than mayo) goes on along with finely shredded seaweed and fish flakes. The fish flakes almost looke like they are dancing from the heat.


The final outcome was quite delicious. The recipe and ingredients could be totally modified to whatever tastes you like or do not like. I happen to enjoy all of them. I should make a little less next time because I had extra. I will definitely make this again as I now have the ingredients and basic know how. If anything its a great conversation topic with Japanese people.

Next up, Gyudon (beef bowl with rice).

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Rice Field of Peace

So the meeting with the teacher I work with finally happened today. I've been waiting to spend some more time talking with her. I'm not sure what the deal was yesterday with my supervisor telling me to go over there but like I mentioned it was all for the better.

The English teacher is an interesting lady to say the least. Some of the things I heard today made me laugh so hard because of their sheer absurdity. At the same time I felt like she was putting me to sleep half the time. That's only because it's summer vacation and everyone feels a bit sluggish. Or it might just be her cat power. Lachlan pointed out in the note she left for me that she was always covered in cat hair. Well this did not prove to be wrong. She was really covered in a heavy coating of cat hair. Her pants were also scratch up and had little holes everywhere. If that wasn't to top everything off, her arms are covered in scratches. Anyway, she told me off the bat she liked cats and had several. If you call 16 cats several than I'm not sure what you call a lot.

Her English was obviously pretty rusty because she probably hasn't had to speak to anyone for a few weeks now. It's nothing to brag about but we can communicate just fine. She can probably read English ten times better than speaking for all I know. She made sure to look up the Japanese word for puberty and told me that the boys and girls were very interested in each other. She also told me to watch for strange questions and the students trying to touch me. From what I understand, though, even if kids do such things there isn't much of a punishment, if any. Most likely the latter.

We spent the next hour, or I should say I spent the next hour, answering questions about America out of a quiz book. We are talking pretty random topics ranging from state size to who was the most famous oil baron. The best part is that I could answer almost all of the questions correctly either from prior knowledge or guessing (there were some multiple choice questions). Needless to say my teacher was so impressed that I knew so many random things about America. I'll take that serving of pride for the day.

The rest of the time we talked about anything and everything. We ate cup noodles together at lunch time and after that sat in the teacher room exploring the facets of our lives. It wasn't that the conversation was mind numbing, it was the speed at which she talked. A, She is either just so relaxed and removed from reality, or B, is slamming some pretty hard tranquilizers that she probably stole from the animal hospital when she had an appointment for one her cats. I'll just leave it a mystery to make it all the more interesting. Speaking of those cats again, out of nowhere she told me and the secretary that she is MARRIED to her cats. I'm just glad she loves her cats so much. She would probably make a good mother but maybe that isn't going to happen. Before I left for the day I asked her what she was doing this weekend. She replied, "Staying at home. I like home." I give her a lot of credit for wearing the cat lady badge on her arm. Well more like a painted sandwich board sign on her. Honestly this a healthy dose of endearment for her. I'm going to enjoy working with her. How can you not love a lady who says, "Oooomoooshiroooi" as if there wasn't a care in the world.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


I think I can pretty much expect rain every day for who knows how long. There were showers in the morning on the way to the BOE. I was supposed to have a meeting with the English teacher at the middle school today. At least that is what my supervisor had told me. I was walking in a little before 9AM and the math teacher says hello to me. Before I can explain what I was doing coming over he asks me about going to an enkai in Kochi City on the 29th. An enkai is a dinner of sorts with colleagues to celebrate certain things such as the beginning of the year and other special events. A nomikai I guess is very similar but it implies more of a drinking party. Yet, both involve drinking. Anyway I couldn't understand the problem that resulted from me being able to go on the 29th. It seems that they aren't sure how I would get back home that night if people have been drinking. My question is how they are planning on getting back to their homes, haha.

Soon after I mentioned that I was coming over to meet the English teacher. I was in for a surprise when he told me that she had taken the day off. I think my supervisor just assumed she would be there today and didn't check. After all I'm not really complaining because I got to leave the BOE office which is a good thing. So basically the rest of my day (Wednesday are half days for me) I stayed at the middle school talking to people. The principal is a pretty great guy. The secretary is also really nice to me. I spent a lot of time talking to them. The principal showed me around the school, even though Lachlan already did, and it was good fun. The principal knows a ton of English words and over emphasizes his pronunciation. This results in him laughing at himself and me with him. The principal made several students introduce themselves to me. I bet they think he is out of his mind. Well he kind of is I think and this will probably make our relationship perfect.

I think my favorite part of the day is the students who were working on murals for the school sports day. They weren't really working on the murals though. They were just running around harassing each other up on the second floor. I made sure to keep my eye on the boys because I didn't want to take a hit in my cash and prizes or my butt. I could tell one boy almost tried to do it but I backed up on him and foiled his plans. I think he was surprised to see I knew what was coming. Some of the girls asked me what 'ochinko' was in English or at least that is my best guess for what they were asking. There was even another teacher around who I think was embarrassed to death by what they were asking. Funny thing is that she tried to explain with a grimace on her face. If that's what they were really asking, they were asking me to tell them penis in English. But I wouldn't give into them so easily. I just played dumb and made them writhe in agony over trying to explain to me what it was they wanted to know. In the end they couldn't. As if that wasn't all that happened, one other thing of interest happened. One of the boys came up to me and everyone told him to say his name. In broken English he said, "My name izu Unko." Now the joke would be on me if I didn't know the word and I would be the dumb foreigner being had by the small middle school child. Fortunately, I know that word means poop in Japanese. So I told all the kids around us his name and then said he was strange to have that name. He looked a tad ashamed and confused that I knew his little joke. That's like a Japanese smash right there.

The middle school will be a lot of fun. It's just the BOE that makes these days pretty lame. But they are very welcoming at the school so I will probably sneak over there more in these impending days of boredom at the good ole BOE...

Monday, August 9, 2010

Life In the Fast Lane (that title makes me cringe it's so cliche)

The morning was not very interesting except for the guy who was trying to change/fix the blinds in the office. I thought for sure he was going to fall off the ladder the way he was standing on it. It was making me laugh just because it was silly what he was trying to do. He was still working on the blinds by the time I came back three hours later. But let me get to the better parts of the day.

Today I picked up my foreign resident card (aka. gaijin card) or more properly 登録証明書(torokushomeisho). With this thing you can open bank accounts, get cellphones, and other important things in japan. It also means you don't have to carry your passport around with you. I went to the Ino town office the first day I got here to apply for it and then you wait a couple weeks to get the actual card. Despite the paper saying it wouldn't be ready till next week, it was somehow magically ready. I'm not sure how my supervisor even knew it was ready. Things just happen.

If you read yesterday I mentioned that I thought I was driving by myself. Come to find out I followed the office manager down behind his car in what they call the 'sprinter' (small Toyota station wagon) but the main reason was so I could come back on my own after I had finished my tasks for the day which were get foreigner card and open a bank account. I went to lunch with the ALT supervisor in Ino and Hyemi. The supervisor is pretty young and a ball of spunk. She is pretty fun to be around. We had a really Japanese lunch which she paid for. It's almost impossible to convince a Japanese person otherwise. I felt kind of guilty but she is still living at home so perhaps the yen she is raking in at the Ino BOE is burning massive holes in her pockets.

After lunch an English teacher joined us just in case we needed help. She does leather work as a hobby. Yeah you heard me right. Leather work. She made this purse that I swear was trying to be steam punk or something. I have to remember to get a picture of it.

So the four of us headed off to the Ino town office to obtain my foreigner card. This was painless and done without much trouble. The best part is when the ALT supervisor noticed the forms for divorce and marriage. She looked at them and laughed. Then she proceeded to recommend I find a Japanese girlfriend. I was like what and just started laughing. Her sense of humor is pretty great. This is like the third time, though, since being here that a Japanese lady has told me such a thing. I'm not sure if Japanese women are really interested in foreigners or if they have a preoccupation for extreme difficulties in cross cultural relationships. Moreover, what does this type of comment say about the woman saying it? Is she implying that she is interested in foreigners? They probably don't mean anything by it but I can at least imagine. Better yet is the fact that they have subliminally said YES, please tease me about finding a boyfriend and getting married.

After this we went to the bank to make an account. Now with filling out Japanese documents if you make a mistake you usually have to redo it or you stamp your inkan/hanko (name stamp) over the mistake. The Ino ALT supervisor who doesn't really speak English was helping me which didn't make much sense when the English teacher was sitting with the other ALT having a chat. I guess none of us really cared that much. I sure didn't despite our lack of logic. This bank account was getting made one way or another. After some confusion, writing things, and making a phone call for some other numbers on the application, the bank account was securely made.

I enjoyed the drive back by myself. Before I know it driving on the left side of the road won't be anything. Just life.

Ok so I promise I'm getting around to wrapping this up. Tonight for dinner I decided to reattempt to make curry. I put too much water in it last week and it was like a curry soup. Not really that great. Even worse was the fact I didn't put any other foods in it. I should have just ate the rice plain. Well I corrected my follies and made a better curry. I used chicken, onion, carrots, and potatoes. I also used a mixture of water, red cooking wine, and milk to cook all the ingredients. Then I added the remaining curry mix I had. The outcome was worth it. Take a look below.


Best yet is that I won't only be eating rice for lunch tomorrow...

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Taikos, Too much Talk, Tatami, and Thrills

Friday was boring at the BOE but I have come to expect that. In the afternoon I was asked to help a co-worker move some taiko drums for the weekend. I think every JET and their mother joins a taiko club at some point. I wonder if I'll become a statistic myself but I've been thinking no I won't. Anyway, I had no idea what they were asking me to help with until someone said the word for carry. Then it all made sense. But boy oh boy the guy I was helping is very deficient in character and personality. The cigarettes he smokes and the writhing sighs and grunts of pain are about the only distinguishing characteristics. I thought he died at his desk during lunch time. Anyway, we had to move six drums. The first one we carried together but I noticed they were pretty light so I proceeded to man handle the rest of the lot while he carried the little carts they were sitting on. Basically I did all the work to give him a break from the hard office work I see everyone doing every day.... I'm pretty sure the BOE office manager guy thought I was crazy for doing it by myself but he speaks intelligible Japanese at warp speed so I won't even consider what he said. He doesn't really pay attention to me in the office either. He will probably forget my name by the time I'm done here. The only redeeming factor is his witch cackle laugh. It's something.

The one other good thing about the BOE is the twice daily ice coffee they make. It's probably instant coffee but what I don't know, doesn't hurt me so much. Man that ice coffee gets me through.

Saturday was a pretty good day. Christian, the ALT from Hongawa up north, drove down and picked me up. We were originally going to go back north to a super market and do some shopping but plans changed. Christian decided to drive down and meet up with the other new ALT and take us into Kochi. Christian picked me up and then we grabbed Hyemi in Ino. Christian's favorite place to eat had closed so we ended up at the mall in Kochi to eat something for lunch. The three of us walked around the mall with nothing really in mind to do. We did look at ovens with Hyemi and Christian bought groceries. I should have bought somethings myself but I forgot. Kochi City is pretty mundane but I suppose not in a bad way. It's just a smaller Japanese city. I doubt I will spend much time there unless something special is happening. To be honest, I like being away from there.

Christian took us to the coast on the south side of the city. It looks nice. I look forward to when I have a car and I can drive the coast some more. The beach there is pebbles and not sand. But I assume there are some beaches with sand somewhere. The coast is splendid with the small mountains and the ocean together. It was good just to be with some people for the day and hang out. It helps keep us all sane.

/end kind of boring update but the next part might not be any better

So today I watched 'The OC' for most of the morning, trying to avoid the house work I have slated for myself. I don't know what to do with most of the stuff around here. What makes it even more difficult is the garbage sorting system so I can't just throw out everything. I am going to have to wait for the bigger stuff like carpets and things I want gone.

Two of the rooms here have carpet squares down in them but they are pretty nasty and old. Stains of different kinds which makes me wonder just what was going on... How do you get carpet SO DIRTY? That answer is easy. You dump stuff on it. I can't even guess the age on these pieces of carpet. I was hesitant to take them out because there are straw tatami mats underneath. In the room I sleep in they are kind of old and have paint and other marks on them. In the other room the mats are relatively new and I thought I could just move them over to the sleeping room. Too bad I didn't realize the newer ones were smaller sections and wouldn't fit. The good thing is that the nasty carpet isn't in those rooms anymore. Bad thing is that they are now out in my stairwell because I have nowhere else to put them. Pickup for big items is in December so it looks like I'm waiting for awhile.

Because it has been humid and kind of gross in general around here the carpets haven't bothered me much. Yet, I figure to make this place more like home I need to get things cleaned up and not just live in the tattered remains of previous souls. I think just having tatami in my sleeping room will be good. I may even buy new tatami mats after I make some money but the price might be too much. That would make the room feel really good. Unfortunately in the living room I still have another old piece of carpet. I plan to toss this as well and buy a new rug or piece of carpet to put down.

The kitchen area still needs work as well. Just cleaning out shelves and throwing things away. I might rearrange it but I haven't figured out where the shelves and everything should go. I don't want to put pots and pans underneath the sink. That cabinet smells stale and is dirty. However, space is limited so I'm going to have to get creative. I might lay some bamboo slats in there. That might smell better and keep things off the dirty old wood.

At this point I'm sure you are oh so thrilled to have read about my house keeping adventures. You probably fell asleep before you even got here.

I really need to go to the store and buy food. My provisions are running thin. I'm not surprised I have let this happen. It's part of my survival mindset. I like to see what I can get by with rather than trying to live with excess. This is even more true now that I'm on my own here. Now before you freak out and think I'm out of my mind. I'm still EATING and not starving, haha. I made an omelet for dinner with green onion and regular onion. Threw some cooked bacon in and had a nice meal.

The board of education this week is probably going to be another test of mental survival. On Monday I should be getting a bank account setup after I get my foreign resident card. That also means a cellphone soon. Can't say I have too many numbers for a cellphone though. From the confusing explanation my supervisor gave me, I think I'm driving back from Ino by myself or something. That will be fun. Yeah just hand those keys over to me and let me drive the BOE van. I'll tear up the 194 all the way home at the break neck speed of 50kmph. They did a good job of scaring me about getting a speeding ticket in the BOE van because people can so easily recognize what it is associated with. But it would be bad to get caught speeding even in your own car because the ticket goes to your workplace. So everyone finds out about it and then you have to apologize. Talk about brutal right? Lachlan told me the police here are like kittens so if you are polite you can usually talk your way out of things. I should really think about a crimi... I mean a respectable line of work.

And with that, I believe the Sakamoto Ryoma drama is coming on. I can't earn Kochi-cred if I don't know Ryoma. Word.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Sucking up Bugs #2

My supervisor had me come early yesterday (around 7:40am) so we could go to Ino for a meeting with the new ALT and other random things. For instance, we were paraded into a teachers meeting and we did self introductions. It was fun but maybe I was a little too whimsical about it with a bunch of teachers listening. Oh well they probably forgot my name five seconds after we went out the door anyway.

The other new ALT is quite the character. I highly approve but it isn't like anyone was asking me. I look forward to interesting conversations and fun times. We only met yesterday but seems game for adventure. Correct me if I'm wrong though.

The rest of the time in Ino was aimlessly wandering through hot Japanese schools that I will more than likely never come back to unless there is something special going on. It's a lie to say aimlessly as we were guided.

*This section edited* Ask if you want the full story here. I don't want to make myself sound anymore strange than SOME people apparently perceive me to be. YOU know who you are.

I did laundry and cleaned the house last night. Swept cobwebs up. Reminded me of you mom cleaning the house and getting the webs in the corners.

Best part... I found a Britney Spears VHS circa 1998. Aren't you envious?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Soba'n It Up

Today seems to have gone by rather fast. Most of the morning was spent trying to translate a point card for the grocery store. From what I read if I get 100 marks or stamps on the card it is equal to 500 yen. I can get a stamp for every 100 yen a spend. But I'm way too lazy to do that simple math to find out how much I spend to get that free 500 yen.

Tomorrow we have some meeting in Ino for the two new people in this area. One being myself and the other some girl from Virginia. It will be a good way to kill sometime during the day. I wonder what they will tell us though. Scare us about Japanese laws and stuff like that. At JET orientation in Tokyo they reminded us MANY MANY times that you can't have drink a single drop of alcohol and drive in Japan. I wouldn't be surprised if this happens again. I do look forward to this as it helps break up the monotonous days at the BOE. But I've been reviewing Japanese grammar so I could waste the whole day there. What I should be doing is working on my intro lesson that I will do when school starts. School doesn't start till September 1st or something so procrastinating is just way too easy right now.

For the past two nights at dinner I made cabbage salads. I used fresh tomatoes (big ones and cherry) and small green peppers. I found a dressing in the fridge that Lachlan left behind. Smelled good so I used it. Come to find out after the fact it was anchovies and garlic flavor. Hmm well it was pretty tasty. I chopped all the veggies and threw them together in a big bowl and munched away. Cabbage forever reminds me of my breakfasts in Neyagawa where I was served giant pieces of uncut cabbage underneath a fried egg. Some mornings giant leaves of cabbage were too much to stomach. I really do like cabbage, just not in the way those crazy old folks gave it to me.

Tonight I figured since I had been sitting around most of the afternoon due to my half day Wednesdays that I would make something new. Natsumi recommended a website for recipes and I did some browsing for an easy dish to make. I settled on soba because frankly I'm still motivating myself to get creative in the kitchen. I have had soba (Japanese wheat noodles) several times but the recipe I selected was different from what I have seen before. The recipe called for a lot of mushrooms. I only got one type because I'm cheap but it was more than enough. I also threw in some green onion and wakame (seaweed). Basically you cook the soba and then separate it and dip it in a separate sauce. Anyway what I'm explaining isn't making much sense to me so you should just look at the picture.


It was good by my standards but I'm sure the Japanese people lurking about would call it strange...

The biggest question is when I will have instant noodles for the first time. I'm taking bets. Oh and just maybe this weekend I'll get those pictures of my home that everyone is probably dying to see. Don't you just hate me? ;D

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

We Drive on the RIGHT Side

So today we took a few more trips to some of the elementary schools I will be teaching at. Basically nobody is around so I only met a handful of people. However, after we visited the last school in the morning my supervisor let me drive the van back to the board of education.

First time driving on what Japanese people would call the right, correct side of the road. Which really means the left side of the road. But most people are right handed in the world so countries who think the left is correct must have had some left handed bureaucrats in power that just wanted to be idiots to the rest of us. Thanks to them.

Driving was just fine on the opposite side. I mean it's a tad strange but mostly nothing different. What gets complicated is the 3 way intersection in my town that has no stop signs and many white lines. I have to be careful I make the right decision there or else bad things might happen. Nobody wants to hit an obachan except maybe a disgruntled in law.

In other riveting news I met some random parents at the Ino City town office. I rode with one of the BOE workers to drop some papers off and then she was going to let me drive back for some practice. Parents were dropping their young kids off for a computer class or something. We exchanged some words and then they told me to make a Japanese girlfriend. So much for Japanese people being indirect...

I was watching tv last night and found out Kochi consumes the 3rd most alcohol in Japan. Thats probably what makes the women so liberated here. But it might just be the humidity messing with their hair and heads.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

First sweating, Then melting

On Thursday and Friday I had my first two days of work technically speaking. Yet, there really isn't anything I'm supposed to be doing. So I go over to the board of education (BOE) around 8:30am and proceed to keep myself busy for most of the day with a healthy dose of boredom. On Friday I took the time to write out what had been going on since I arrived in Japan. I'm sure more of the same will follow this week. I think I could go over to the middle school if I really wanted. I will ask this week and see what is going on because my supervisor is going to take me to the elementary schools I will be doing lessons at. At least that is what I thought she told me in Japanese...

I have never really lived entirely alone or on my own before. I suppose I was trained how to clean up and take care of myself though in the process though (Thanks mom). I've been eating lots of rice and other random things. Tonight I had eel on top of rice and finished off the yakisoba that I made on Thursday. Until I get more appropriate recipes I will just be putting whatever together and seeing if it comes out okay. I mean I could look up Japanese recipes on the internet but I've had enough food to make other things. Tomorrow I will take some time to find some recipes to try. One of the most perplexing things that I still haven't figured out entirely is the garbage sorting. I have a big colorful chart with instructions and cartoon pictures of what to throw away and recycle. I might as well just show you one of these so you know what I'm dealing with.


This was not much of a surprise because I know about garbage sorting in Japan but actually understanding what I am supposed to do with every specific piece of trash is perplexing to say the least. For example, I am supposed to take the cap and plastic wrapping on a pop bottle off. But I don't know if these plastic things are then included in the plastic bottle recycle or if they are just thrown in the burnable trash. I'll just hide my trash in other things until I find out. Old Japanese ladies like to snoop around garbage collection points and find who isn't sorting garbage correctly and then publicly ostracize the poor soul.

Picked this out of the vending machine (自動販売機) after dinner tonight.


It's what you expect cola and orange flavor to taste like. Cola and orange. I debated over just getting coke but I can drink coke whenever I want. After consuming this I thought why didn't I just buy Coke and orange Fanta and mix themself?

Yesterday, on Saturday, I took my first walk around parts of my town and the surrounding locales. This picture is right outside my front door. On the right is the board of education. Over on the top left where there are buildings is the middle school. I will be working at several different schools which are scattered along the road.


Lachlan told me about a road that started behind the BOE that went up into the hills and wound around.


The forests here are full of lush plants and trees. I don't think anyone had used this little road for quite some time because I kept hitting spider webs. Here is a picture from the early part of the road that looks out towards the town.


On the left of the picture is a building with 8 windows (4x2). I live directly behind there in the other white building. You can see part of my balcony. Pretty awesome right? I wouldn't have minded being up in Hongawa which is even more rural but this location is just perfect. At least we have a Co-op where we can get food. Its just a mini grocery but Hongawa doesn't even have that. So us folk are surely blessed. Sometime soon I'll probably hit up the dentist who runs his office right next to my house. I only pay 30% of cost with Japanese health care so who says socialized medicine is so terrible?

My walk continued up the hill/mountain until I came to a more proper road. The only reason a good road was built is because there is some type of cell tower or other equipment at the top. So access is necessary. I was really surprised when I heard a truck coming from behind me. A little truck with an old Japanese man and woman looked at me. He slowed down and I was like "Awesome, am I going to get a ride down the mountain?" But the old lady looked scared and they sped off. I spent the rest of the walk down the mountain thinking how great a ride in the back of their truck would have been.


I've resigned to the fact that sweat will be a part of every day life until autumn comes. In fact, the only time I use the A/C is in the evening when I'm in my little bedroom. Otherwise I just sweat it out. It can't be helped. The best thing about this situation is that you can always talk about the hot weather with Japanese people and complain how hot it is.

Ended the day with more yakisoba and watching the O.C. in my cozy room on my futon.