Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Taxi Cab Confessions

I love talking to Sapporo taxi drivers.

Perhaps it's the anonymity of it all, or the fact that I usually take a taxi because I've missed the last train after having an awesome night out with friends and I'm in a talkative mood.  Either way, when I step into that taxi, all inhibitions about my terrible Japanese fly out the window and I just start talking.

It's never incredibly deep conversations.  They ask me where I'm from and how long I've been here, and I ask them how long they've been a taxi driver.  We talk about family and Sapporo.  My most favorite conversations are when I ask them what they did before they were taxi drivers.  I've had construction workers, jieitai (Japan self-defense force), and - my most favorite of all - enka singer.

I guess being a taxi driver can be kind of a lonely life - always driving around people you don't know and meeting hundreds of people a night for just a brief moment.  When the 20-minute ride from Susukino to Sumikawa is over, and we pull up in front of my apartment, they always tell me that they enjoyed talking with me.  We shared a brief destination together, and then they drive off into the night.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Nathan ran 110 K, and we went to prison

How's that for a title?

Earlier in the year, Nathan signed up for his very first ultra-marathon, or trail running marathon, or ultra trail running super marathon.

I don't know really know what it's called, but it was two days, 110 K, and he ran over  several mountains.

Oh, there's the name.

Our friend Kazunari was kind enough to borrow his friends' camper, and we made the 3 hour trip to the Taisetsu Mountain range and National Park, the largest National Park in Japan.

Nathan's race started at 4am on Sunday morning, and we braved the mosquitos to wish him good luck.

Yes, this is Japan at 4am.  The sun comes up ridiculously early here.
While Nathan was running/hiking his little heart out, we decided to drive 2 hours east to Abashiri.  There, we went to the Abashiri Prison Museum, where 100 or so years ago, prisoners were used to build a highway connecting Abashiri with Asahikawa.  Using the down-trodden to tame the frontier - sounds like another country I know (cough cough, America, cough cough)

Afterwards, we went to the sight of where Nathan was going to finish, and while waiting, I made him a daisy chain.  He was thrilled, obviously.

On Sunday night, we stayed at a hotel in Sounkyou, which Ethan and I have decided to rename Rivendell.  Seriously beautiful place.

Nathan started at 6am the next morning, and we decided to take a Ropeway up Mount Kuro, because we are not trail runners and we didn't bring hiking shoes.

While we were coming down, I got a call from Nathan - he'd finished the race two hours earlier than we had anticipated!  That guy, I'm tellin' ya, is Super Man!  I was a little bummed we didn't get to see him cross the finish line, but I was just so glad he was feeling ok.

And that was that.  Traveling in the Hokkaido countryside was amazing, and definitely something I'd like to do more of.  And Nathan's already planning his next run!  You just can't stop this guy!!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Keihoku School Festival

School Festival:  Two school days of singing, dancing, and fun before summer vacation starts.  It's brilliant, actually - this is the time of year when no one wants to be in the classroom.  So for a couple days, everything stops and we just go a little crazy.  I love it.

This year, the teachers had to dance in front of the students.  I did yosakoi dancing with a group of teachers.   Good times.

Another really cool thing about School Festival is the class t-shirts.  There were some particularly good ones this year, I think.

LOVE that Bart Simpson one!!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Strawberry Fields Forever

We woke up bright and early on Saturday to go strawberry picking with one of Nathan's former Vice-Principals.   Fruit is particularly expensive in Japan, so I was excited to pick my weight in strawberries.

However, when we arrived, we were given a cleaned-out milk carton and told we could eat as many strawberries from the field as we wanted.  That's right - eat.  I've since been told that this is something quite common here in Japan - you pay a certain price, then they let you loose in the fields to eat as much of the fruit as you can handle.  It was like a strawberry buffet.  Each line was a different kind of strawberry, and each one really had it own distinct taste.  It was fun looking for that perfect, ripe, red strawberry.

But after about 30 minutes, our bellies were stuffed and we couldn't eat any more.  We drove back to the city, with happy tummies and red-stained fingers.

It was a good Saturday :)

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Tea for Two

After I left Hokuyo Junior High School two years ago (has it really been that long?), I started meeting one of the teachers with whom I was really close.  She was the teacher in charge of me, and I worked with her the most out of all the teachers.  She's probably about my mom's age, but we really hit it off right from the start, and we've been meeting almost monthly ever since.

We drink tea and I tell her about what's going on at Keihoku and what Ethan and Nathan are up to.  She would tell me the latest Hokuyo gossip and how my favorite teachers and students were doing.  The last time we'd met had been in March, when there was still snow on the ground and a chill in the air, and it felt strange to have not seen her in such a long time.

So we finally got together last Saturday at the Grand Hotel for some afternoon tea.  Meeting and talking with her is like talking with family.  It's funny how people you've only known for two (almost three) years can become that way.  My little extended family in Japan.

Monday, July 1, 2013

This blogging business

Man, am I a terrible blogger.  What am I saying, I'm not really a blogger.  If anything, I do this for my friends and family back home.  As exotic as it might be that we're Americans living in Japan, my life has not really been all that exciting - or at least interesting enough to write about.  But I love my life here, and what I do.  Here's some of the highlights from the past week.

  • Regular classes at Keihoku were cancelled on Friday so that the entire student body could go see the baseball team play.  We unfortunately didn't win, but it was fun to cheer along with the kids on a beautiful afternoon.
  • After a wonderfully crazy Friday night with friends, I welcomed a slow and lazy weekend.  I caught up on reading magazines, while Ethan played guitar.
  • Speaking of Ethan, in an attempt to get him out of the house during his summer vacation, I got him in Japanese calligraphy class with our Japanese language teacher.  She was sweet enough to buy him a calligraphy kit, and this was his first assignment.  It says, "climb the clouds, walk on the moon."  
I promise (for anyone interested) that I'll be better about updating this thing.  I have a few more entry ideas in the works, so stayed tuned!!