Saturday, January 28, 2006

4 and a half feet under

Sorry to all I haven't updated in a while. Although it seems I just returned from my winter vacation in Hiratsuka, I am now in the midst of finishing the fall semester of school. I will be joyous in early February to have completed 3 reports, 2 speeches, and 3 finals! Actually, I will be the happiest girl in all Sapporo because the day after I finish everything, my wonderful, beautiful, crazy through and through mom will be here!

Sapporo has about 4 feet of snow on the ground right now and it continues to accumulate by snow showers off and on everyday. Often I wake up in the morning to a beautiful blue sky, go to the kitchen to get tea water, and by the time I come back it is a raging blizzard outside.

Here, plowing the roads is a 3 big truck lineup. The first truck pushes the snow to the side, the 2nd truck sucks up the snow and shoots it into the back of the 3rd truck, who hauls it away to the snow dumping ground.

I love the snow!

I am teaching English right now 4 times a week. My 2 of my students are ladies in their 30's who have been abroad and want to keep their conversation skills sharp. The other 2 are a husband and wife who are dentists. Although teaching is a lot of fun and good experience for my future, I am continually frustrated at my lack of ability to explain the English language. I look forward to going back to PSU so I can learn how to teach this crazy language correctly.

I haven't taken too many pictures lately, so here a few oldies...
I look this picture on the 2nd try!

the sign behind me says "Hamburger is my life." This is Moss burger's (a hamburger chain in Japan) slogan.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

tindy time

This summer, I worked at Portland State University with short term International programs. For the whole month of August, I got to meet and guide about 40 students from Tokyo University of Science. We had a lot of really great times together in Portland and around Oregon state including rafting on the Dechutes, camping in Teepees, going to a Mariners game, and helping them improve their English.

Last week, I got to hang out with these wonderful people again! A dear friend Morishun planned a ski trip for all of us to Niigata, about 1.5 hours from Tokyo by bullet train. About 20 people total could go, so we met at Tokyo station on a Wednesday morning. We went skiing all day and with epic snow conditions (a bit cold, though!) and trekked to our hotel around 6pm. After going in the ofuro (Japanese bath), we ate a wonderful and huge traditional Japanese dinner. And then, they suprised me and Hiroaki with a birthday celebration. I didn't even know anyone knew it was my birthday! It was so unexpected and delightful!

We went skiiing again the next day and then back to Tokyo that night. I spent the night at my friends house with 2 other girls. The following day, 5 of us toured around went to China town and an aquarium in Yokohama.

It was so great to see them all again so soon. I am blessed to have such cool friends!


Tuesday, January 03, 2006

日本のお正月... Japanese New Year

I have had the opportunity of spending New Years with my dear Japanese family who live in Hiratsuka, Japan (about 1 hour from Tokyo). New Years is the biggest holiday in Japan, so (kind of) comparable to Christmas in America. They do lots of different things to celebrate...all of which I got to experience and learn for the first time.

On the night of the 31st, we ate soba noodles (pasta made from buckwheat flour) with tempura and salad and lots of other wonderful food. Soba are always eaten on this night because they signify the long and healthy life everyone hopes to have for the coming year. Did I mention Yoshiko, my Japanese mom, is the best cook EVER!

After we ate this dinner and watched the NHK (the most viewed public television channel) New Years Ball, Hajime, Eiko and I left to begin our evening. First, we went to Eiko's uncle's temple. We talked for a while with everyone there, ate pork soup, and rung the bell. At Buddhist temples on near years, a big bell is rang 108 times, each gong symbolizes one of the sins humankind commit. Thank Jesus...He's covered each one of these sins!

Next, we went to Kamakura, a famous historical town near Yokohama (and where we live). There, 1000's of people visit the shrine through all hours of the night and into the morning. We walked around the shrine and town until 4 am and returned home at a bit past 5!

That's just the beginning of New Years. It's a 4 day holiday here. From the 1st to the 3rd, we eat mochi soup and lots of special food every morning for breakfast. Today, the 2nd, we went to Tokyo to the Imperial Palace. There are only 2 days of the year people ordinary can enter the palace...January 2nd and the Emperor's birthday (Dec. 23). So, we and about 20,000 other people throughout the day braved the rain to see the emperor give his new years speech.

I am so blessed to have the Inomata and Ishida family!