Sunday, November 28, 2010
The real winner, though, were the fresh flour tortillas that I used to wrap the burgers. Not overly difficult to make but some mild effort involved. I made the batch of them right before I cooked the burgers and kept them warm in the oven. Thicker than store bought ones but soft and a little chewy. Lightly blistered on both sides. This was my first time making tortillas and the result was wonderful. If I have the time I will be making these again. The biggest problem is that I can make 8 of these and eat them all. It's hard to resist things I make in the kitchen.
I also bought some salsa on Saturday which accompanied the sliced cabbage, tortillas, and burgers quite well. Not sure how I feel about the soy beans yet. I think I need to mash them more because I had too many whole pieces left.
I feel like the tortillas were the best part of my day. Now if I can just get a proper oven things will really heat up.
Friday, November 26, 2010
For Thanksgiving I made mashed potatoes and ate them with ketchup and salt. I felt sick afterwards. Potatoes a little too green maybe? It’s a good thing potatoes are a part of the deadly nightshade family because that might explain my feeling. Some type of acid builds up in old potatoes that are exposed to light for too long. This makes for some serious spud sickness when eaten. I think I just ate too much in general so no worries mom.
I haven’t had a full day of English class for what seems like a long time. It must be a blast for the middle school students who are forced to learn English against their will. It’s not like their wills are bent much by the expectations of the Japanese school system though. I’m not sure what the consequences are for students who get bad grades or ignore class work. It is too bad we never see the worth of foreign language learning until later in life or never at all. If English wasn’t the lingua franca then I wonder what the situation would be like in America. Would we be learning more languages or would we still be following the path of blissful ignorance American English speakers have come to expect?
The second year students are always a welcome change in my daily routine. I never know what to expect from them on any given day. Okay I take that back because I can expect them to ask me questions or teach me words that fall towards the vulgar/useless spectrum. When I think of being a middle school student this type of vocabulary just wasn’t floating around in my mind compared to some students. However, we all probably knew a good deal of vulgar, moronic, and profane words learned from our less innocent peers. I just never cared much. The second year students, a few and definitely not most, have a desire to teach me such vocabulary in Japanese. On the one hand I don’t want to know but then again its useful for navigating Japanese life when you run into people that want to play mean tricks on you by exacerbating what little vulgar vocabulary you know. I would never do this in English so I kind of loathe these types of people even if they are just kids.
Before we started the second year English class one of the girls said to me, “社会の窓 (shakai no mado).” Based on my knowledge of Japanese this sounds like she literally said ‘society’s window’. Seemed harmless enough but it surely had some meaning impossible to infer from the literal meaning. The English teacher took an oath of silence and moved on with the lesson for the day without saying what it was. Upon returning to my desk I looked up what this ‘society window’ means. Can’t say I’m surprised to find out it meant the zipper or fly on a pair of pants. Supposedly a first year student told her to say it to me. Not sure I believe that but whatever. During the lunch break I was upstairs talking to some second year students again. It’s dangerous to be alone with some of them in particular because they will revert into that category of people I said that I loathe. A couple other words I learned today were おっぱい(oppai) and 贅肉(zeiniku). Oppai is just a more colloquial way to say breasts and zeiniku means excess flab. Due to the fact of my muscular chest, which I find no reason to brag about mind you, the students were just trying to be facetious. Guess it’s good to have learned these words. Who knows when they will come in handy for a good laugh or two when I have some intoxicated Japanese people in my midst.
Goals for this weekend: get panty hose and balloons.
Monday, November 22, 2010
This left me a good opportunity to spend some time reading and researching. I recently have fallen into a pretty boring and mediocre dinner rut. I can't say I really mind though. I decided to look into some new recipes, meat free of course. I'm for all intents and purposes a dinner vegetarian you could say. If I'm not buying from the grocery store or I'm receiving food somewhere besides my home then I allow myself to partake of meat or fish. In the course of my search I found a delicious looking recipe for falafel burgers. It consists of chickpeas (garbanzo), onions, and a mixture of spices. This is then ground with some flour to form the patties.
In order to make some new dinners I desperately needed to fill my larder. It had been well over two weeks since I did a major shopping run. I didn't have anything to eat for breakfast and I skipped lunch in the process of going to the grocery store. The grocery store made me feel so hungry. I feel a little awkward pushing my cart around heaped full of food because people stare at me like I have broken rule 439 of the Japanese social code for super market shopping. But I stay away from cup noodles, frozen foods, most snacks, and other things I don't need. My cart is usually full of healthy and nutritious food so at least I don't look like a glutton so to speak.
It was close to 6pm by the time I got back. I threw all my ingredients together and fired up my stove. Took about three minutes to fry each side of the burgers. I then toasted some bread and put slices of Chinese cabbage on top. On the top of the cabbage went the patties followed by some tomato sauce that I found in my cupboard. I wish I had some salsa because that would probably be wonderful as well. I'll find some later.
These were so tasty and it was nice to eat something a bit different for a change. I'm going to make some fresh pitas in the next week to substitute for the bread. I might try to use soy beans instead of the chickpeas depending on what I can get more of for cheaper. I think the flavor would still be great. That is probably the only new thing I'll get around to making this week but hopefully this will make me try new things more and more.
Friday, November 19, 2010
One of the elementary schools I visit played 'Tequila' which was probably my favorite of the day. It was even complete with the little kids screaming tequila at the appropriate times of the song. Ah the blissful innocence of not knowing you are screaming out the name of hard liquor. I assume nobody thought the better of it either. Same thing goes for the elementary girls and their short shorts and super miniskirts. Other than that the other most memorable part of the event is how uncomfortable it was sitting on a gym floor for several hours. I did forget the cacophonous bus ride back where some of the girls were singing songs. One of those girls just wouldn't give it up and her singing was painful enough to make your head feel like it had survived 20 consecutive inversions.
After we returned to school and had lunch, everyone was running around getting ready for the school festival this weekend. This left me with nothing to do but sit around and occupy myself. I asked if there was anything to do and the response was no. My day took a turn for the worse from this point on. I knew I was supposed to do a rehearsal with the students for the song I was playing guitar on. I thought for sure someone would tell me where to go and when or at least remind me. Well it goes past 4pm and I'm starting to wonder whether I missed something or it was just later. About a few minutes past the top of the hour the music teacher comes back from the gym which is across the main ground of the school. I don't even remember most of what she said but she told me how I had missed rehearsal. This didn't come across in a very positive or gracious tone because it wasn't. All I could say was that nobody had told me and I thought it was at 4pm. She countered with telling me that it was my job to remember to go and that I didn't do that so I wouldn't be performing with the students. I said sorry and that I understood. Not much else to say to something like this. This put me in a pretty sour mood because of how I was treated. On Monday I was told there was a rehearsal on Friday but I didn't interpret that it was my sole responsibility to know when and where to go. I thought someone would remind me. I saw the music teacher at the music convention and she didn't say anything. None of the students said anything to me. While she didn't erupt like a volcano or anything, her dissatisfaction was easily felt. I think she could have been a little more understanding so that is what bothered me the most.
I wrote an angry sloppy piece of prose about all my contempt and frustration which was actually the backside of the music I was supposed to play. Before I left school, however, the music teacher came back over and boldly told me she had thought for awhile. Well what was it that she thought of? She asked me if it would still be possible for me to play. I bet she regretted what she had said to me. I would have felt that way if I was her. So after flat out telling me that I couldn't play she came back to offer me another chance. I sat there for a few seconds fumbling over my thoughts like oil coated noodles. I said, "I don't know" to which she replied she was afraid if that was my feeling that I couldn't play. That ended that. I'm left to wonder if that was the best decision. Yes it's true that I probably was a tad spiteful but after already telling me I couldn't play I didn't feel welcome to do so. Part of it is just the principle of the fact. I'm not going to shamefully take the second chance in this instance. It's rife with complications. Ever since she asked me to play with the students and I then said yes, she has been weird. I felt flat out depressed and sad about the whole thing today. I don't like being treated like that. I could care less about playing the guitar. So it's over and done with now.
On to tomorrow and better things....
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Now that you have been bored to death about banking. I have a few other comments.
I received my shutter release cable for my camera today. I'm really looking forward to playing around with this. When I looked at my camera manual (yes I actually read it quite often) I thought such a device was silly to purchase. It now makes more sense why you might want one. We shall see how pictures turn out eventually.
A cassette adapter, for playing an audio device in the car, also came in the package. I crossed my fingers on this purchase hoping for something that wasn't the worst in Chinese consumer electronics quality. I ran out to the car to have a test run with it and the first thing I hear is this harsh sound of grinding plastic and clicking. I tried to talk myself down after almost flying into a fit of mental rage by rationalizing I can just play the music louder and not notice. NO, this terrible noise was not going to disappear so I decided to investigate the inside of the adapter. When I popped it open I was greeted with the most useless product design I have ever seen. I should have taken a picture of this before I put it back together because it is so ludicrous anyone would do such a thing. There was a set of about 3 or 4 plastic gears that served absolutely no purpose other than to make noise and probably convince you to try buying another adapter. One of the gears was so loose that it was just clanking and banging around the inside of the cassette. I thought cheap Chinese knock offs were supposed to use the most minimal amount of parts. I'm so disappointed. Anyway, after removing some parts the adapter was much more quiet and did it's job appropriately. I felt much better psychologically knowing I didn't waste my money.
Now I can finally listen to something other than same 2 CDs that have been in my car for 2 months. Yoko gave me a CD before she went back to Japan and I brought it with me when I moved here. I didn't like it the first time I listened but when I was forced to listen without any other options, I came to like almost every song on it. Funny how that works, right?
Can't say I will miss the scarcity. Good riddance.
Monday, November 15, 2010
I opted for a much smaller and compact model than I had originally planned. I wanted to be able to stick this tripod in my backpack so I wouldn't have to carry it in a separate bag. It is somewhere around 15 inches tall but it can extend to over 4 feet. The tripod is made of lightweight aluminum and plastic. This is perfect for going anywhere whether it is hiking or into the city. I love the fact I can stow it away without it being obvious I'm carrying it. The adjustable head even has a little bubble level on it. I figured it would be a little cheap feeling in some aspects but overall I'm very pleased. It was about time I upgraded from my sweatshirt and camera bag tripod combo I had been using.
To cap things off, here is a shot of the main road through 高知市. There is the two track tram line in the center flanked by multiple lanes of cars on either side. The tram runs all the way to Ino so if I wanted I could catch a ride from there into the city. However, it's probably cheaper to just drive into the city and park than ride any train. The city was especially oppressive and terrible looking against the soulless gray sky. That is why I didn't take much else than this. Japanese cities are some of the most lifeless and dull places around in terms of architecture. Sometimes there are older homes and shops off on side roads that have a bit more character. In fact there is this odd apartment in the city that is the antithesis to boring. It has multiple levels, stairs, housing units, and shops. I'll give you a tour when I get some pictures.
Time for bed.
Thanks for the advice mom. I don't know if it will make me buy anything though, haha.
Sunday, November 14, 2010
I had to prepare some activities for the first and second year students on Friday. The problem was that my teacher told the first year kids we were playing a game when in fact I did not make a game. They weren't the slightest bit happy about this development. I don't even know if the teacher was pleased. I created a dialogue with blanks they had to fill in with the intention of the students performing it after they finished. I used several words the students know so that didn't help my cause but I wanted to make a conversation that wasn't so bland and dry as the textbook. Whoever wrote that book probably drank a couple liters of cheap sake, ate some alphabet soup, threw it up on the sidewalk, and then scraped it up to create the book. In the end the students actually behaved fairly well and tried to complete the worksheet which was surprising given their track record. I was worried they wouldn't even touch it. I'm very curious to see them act their dialogues out. They will probably do this with more heart than the worksheets they love so much.
The teacher up north of me was gracious to invite me to go shopping in the city on Saturday. I almost declined because I wanted to go hiking. However, the weather looked to be unimpressive. It ended up being a cloudy and gloomy day which would have left me feeling depressed had I spent the day hiking. We picked up another teacher in the city and she came shopping with us. I wanted to get at least one other piece of warm clothing so that is the main reason I decided to go. I've been telling my coworkers how I only have one sweatshirt that is basically my entire winter wardrobe. Their responses are mostly of bewilderment and then they offer advice where I should purchase warm clothes. I bought a black hooded sweatshirt and called it at that. I couldn't bring myself to buy or spend any more money on clothes no matter how hard I tried. My wallet told me that I should see how far I can get with just this extra sweatshirt.
We spent the better half of the day wandering around looking at shops. My mind spent the better half of the day in a blender of foam and fluff. Shopping and I don't get along so well on a psychological level and this was confounded by the visual stimulation of bizarre Japanese fashion and human consumerism. I loathe watching masses of people buy things and shop. There are lots of interesting people to look at though. It seems that there is a current fashion trend where girls clip faux raccoon or fox tails on their purses. Really? Yes really. It might not be that widespread but I like to think it is. Young Japanese girls, elementary school age, sometimes wear rather inappropriate clothing. This is mostly in the vein of miniskirts that are too short. It is unsettling that parents allow this to happen. It is so untasteful. The last thing society needs to be doing is reinforcing the sexualization of young women from such an early age. I see nothing good coming out of that. There isn't much to mediate this problem but maybe nobody sees it as one. This is all the better for businesses who will prey upon girls as they grow up and exploit their need to look pretty and be better than everyone else. It is okay for a girl to be modest because her true beauty will shine through that if given the chance. Unfortunately everything in the world says the opposite. Nothing new.
My latest pizza creation made me aware of two things. I won't trust Japanese mozzarella cheese until I taste it and I'm going to have to cook my pizza for an hour in the ridiculous microwave convection oven I have. Pizza was decent but way undercooked in the crust. I better get things squared away before I have to make one for Yoko's family. I think they have an oven though so I'm good there. I'm going to start my pizza blog back up soon seeing as I've been making more pizzas lately. I like charting success and failure. It is enjoyable to see where I've come from. However, I don't even know if I've really come that far. It might just be the limitations I'm working with that don't give me the results I'm used to.
Today, Sunday, I worked at the local maple leaf festival. It takes place up in the hills at a local park. There is a wide open amphitheater type place with a stage. I told my supervisor a month ago I would work at the event because I was probably going to attend anyway. The benefit is that I can take a day off at another time in exchange for "working". I was assigned to help carry taiko drums for the ensemble that was performing. My job was a complete farce because there were so many people already around to help. I didn't touch the drums. Another ALT was supposed to be there but he was sick. I don't prefer working at these events because it is hard to talk to people. Nobody told me what i should be doing either. On the upside of things, I've been following a local blog a guy writes about the area I live in and places to visit. He found me today and introduced himself. Seems like a pretty solid guy. Not too much older than me which is a blessing in these parts. He works for the Ino town office making sightseeing maps and such. He said we should go hiking together sometime. He only lives about 5 or 6km down the road from me as well. I hope we can meet up sometime and hang out. I said I made pizza last night and he immediately said we should have a pizza party. Hah well my pizza isn't ready for that unfortunately. I like the offer though so I'll try to work towards that. I was so glad when the festival ended. I just wanted to go home and sleep. Funny thing is that no matter how tired I am or how much I think about sleeping, whenever I get home I never take a nap or sleep.
I think that my writing is getting too lifey lifey. Might have to tone that down a bit. But I write more for those of you who read than myself. Therefore, I like to convey what life is like from that perspective. I can always drift back into snow storms of prose.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
The sun was behind the hills for the most part and the valley was cast in shadows. This is a terrible situation for photos. The more I go out to take pictures the more I realize that getting good pictures is one part luck and one part having great light. I gave in last night and bought a small tripod I can fit inside my backpack but extends to about 4 feet. I also got a wired remote control so I can do some long night exposures. I didn't get the wireless one because I will more than likely be behind the camera and the sensor for the wireless is on the front. I plan to head up into the mountains some evening and maybe do a 30 minute or hour exposure of the sky. I'm hoping to get some great star streaks with the mountains in the foreground.
Here are two pictures from today and I might add a few others later if they look all right. The first is just a regular non hdr exposure and the second is hdr. Enjoy.
Monday, November 8, 2010
Because I felt so hollow
Years of searching
Only to feel my own scowl
A glimpse of your feet
Convinced we must meet
I knew not who you were
There was only a yearn
Riding crescendos of sorrow
To and from tomorrow
Did you fill my billows
Like the frowning willows
From complacent states
To passionate rage
Every ounce of emotion
Pressed with each rotation
Fleeting laughter no one got
My feeling cast to rot
Grasping at your smile
I adjourned my own trial
Always a few steps ahead
Any closer I couldn't tread
My attention still fixed
But nothing more than tricked
Why did you stop for me?
Was it just a reprieve?
Kept in close reach
In every nook
I found your look
Even in the most remote
My mind was rote
Into the depth of my soul
These paths continued to roll
Did you exist somewhere?
Were you ever there?
Up you ascended
Never a word did you say
Each of my thoughts laid away
You are just a dream
That I never did see
I had one English class at the junior high in the afternoon. I never know what to expect from the kids. They are out of their minds. Doped up on hormones everyday. I try to help regulate the class but everyone compounds the problems ten fold. It is near impossible to keep everyone calm. Oh well such is life.
The main reason for this posting is to give you direct links to my most recent photo collections.
- School field trip
- Rygado Cave
- Kanpuzan Hike
Or if you don't like this option just go to my page and then go through each photo one by one. As usual these are what I thought were some of the better pictures. After I take lots of pictures I upload them to the computer and then go through once and delete the worthless shorts. I go through a second time and pick out more sub-par photos. By the time I upload them to flickr the majority of them are half decent which equates to what you end up seeing. It serves no purpose to upload several hundred photos of poor to fair quality for everyone to see. You can go to facebook for that.
Okay time to go write a poem or something. I've got inspiration.
Sunday, November 7, 2010
If you looked at the picture I posted from the other week of the chicken (scroll down if you didn't or go to the next page if it has been too long) it was indeed alive. Since you asked Alli I'm responding specifically for you. The tails on the roosters are so beautiful and long that they sit up on a tiny shelf and eat all day long. There isn't anywhere for them to move except their heads. Kind of sad when you think about it but when is the last you thought about where that chicken breast on your plate came from? You don't want to know is all I can say.
I hiked a mountain on Saturday. I almost used the word climb but that implies using my hands and creates confusion. Kanpuzan which means cold wind is one of the taller mountains in the area. The foliage is about past its prime up in the higher mountain sections but is still relatively pretty in the lower valleys. It was a nice sunny day with light clouds scattered about the sky. By the way I have a terrible track record for leaving specific camera equipment at home. Sometimes I forget my memory card, sometimes its an adapter, and on Saturday it was polarizing filter. The one day I finally get out hiking and the sun is fraying the slopes with zealous radiation, I forget the one thing I wanted so badly to take. What a shame because I would have had some even better pictures. It was overall too hazy because of the glare from the sun to anything that nice. I think I've learned my lesson finally.
With that being said it was still a nice hike. The sign said it took 1 hour and 50 minutes to reach the top. This time they really weren't exaggerating. There is a rather steep initial path that switch backs for who knows how long. I love the nature of a mountain hike because your work ultimately pays off once you reach the top. I was sweating enough to be solid proof of this. Once above the major tree line there are well distinguished paths through the low lying bamboo grass. I love how it covers the tops like a blanket. From far away it looks like a lawn but the leaves do well to create this illusion.
The upper reaches of the trail have some small ladders and it is necessary to cross a saddle back of sorts. It's so great being up in the hills. At the top of the mountain I sat for awhile and eventually another group of hikers arrived. They sat down and proceeded to unfold sushi rolls, tea, oranges, and many delicious things. This did not bode well for me as I had meagerly dined on a piece of bread with BBQ sauce before leaving for the hike. But out of nowhere one of the hikers came over and handed me a big hand-made sushi roll. He was like take this we have so much. I hate receiving things because I feel so utterly disgustingly guilty. I took this as a slight invitation though to creep closer and strike up some conversation, which I'm prone to do with random strangers on mountain peaks. Well they were actually a group of Koreans which is important because of how we had to communicate. I was trying to leave out that they were a specific group of people because it's like one of my education teachers mentioned, "When I would talk to my friends I would tell them I knew a good masseuse. One of the nicest Mormon men I know. But why for any reason did I always have to say Mormon man and not just a nice man?" Listen to yourself sometime you probably do it all the time.
The oldest man has lived in Japan for over 10 years and works for a chemical company. His wife and two kids live on the northern side of Shikoku. Their other friends also are working in the same company I believe. They ended up giving me a bottle of tea, coffee, some apple, and an orange. He mentioned that people out in the mountains were generally nice. He also said it was Korean culture to treat others as friends. Now if only Japan, Korea, and China could get along. I don't know how long we spent talking but it was a welcomed conversation. I mostly talked to the man because his Japanese is fluent. I'm not sure about the others so much. They didn't seem like they really knew enough to talk to me. I didn't even bother with English. So after the unexpected lunch we parted ways and I headed on down ahead of them. I received his business card so I suppose I could email him sometime and invite myself over. I'm sure... well... it's a little pretentious to assume they would even want me over. I was thankful for the opportune meeting we had though.
I stopped for dinner at a little outpost along the main road back to my house. Their specialty is kiji ramen. Kiji is a type of Japanese pheasant. The ramen is served with two minced balls of kiji meat and other assorted things. It was pretty good but I don't know if it was worth the price. The other ramen shop south of my place seems to be better value and more tasty. Who cares though. Some people could say I've been living like a miser up in this valley so it's okay to loosen my wallet right?
Pictures will show up soon... I hope.
Monday, November 1, 2010
Anyway I hope you find it more accessible and I'll try to keep it as simple as possible. I'm a fan of minimal styles so I can't really add much else.
I've been staying up late these nights. For some reason I don't feel so tired and just keep reading or studying things. I don't feel so tired during the day though. I only have a harder time getting out of bed in the morning. So far I haven't made it to school late which is good. My biggest fear is falling back back to sleep and waking up at like 8:30, ten minutes after school has started. I won't let that happen.
Leave me some comments whenever you get the chance. I love reading them even if I don't respond.