Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Taiko Festival

Last Tuesday Holiday Mayu, John and I went to a Taiko Festival in the Sapporo Art Park. One of my students was performing (she's the one in the middle front) - so we went to cheer her on!!!

The teams were from all over Hokkaido... and luckily my student's team won!!!! In March they will compete near Tokyo in the National Competition!

In the middle of the competition they had a workshop to teach the audience how to play. Mayu, John and I got on stage to have a go (but Mayu chickened out at the last minute and hid behind the curtains)... But I have to say those little kids next to us had way better rhythm!!!! I'm hopin for a miracle cause in 3 weeks I start my Taiko lessons and I don't know if I'll be able to find rhythm by then!!! yikes...

English Club

Monday after school I held an open English Club day for my base High School students. When I arrived here, the English Club was dying and had only 2 girls in it... So I tried to pump up the club by having a crazy fun filled hour with games, songs and a bit of learning...

The crazy thing about Japanese club activities is that they are SUPER SERIOUS!!!!! Once you join a club - you are chained to that club for life. They meet EVERY SINGLE DAY before AND after school. There is no such thing as changing clubs. There is no skipping out on a day... They practice day in and day out... Baseball, Judo, Kendo, Brass Band, Chorus, Art, Calligraphy, Volleyball, Archery, etc...

So the difficult thing about the English Club is that I want it to be just once a week on Mondays after school... but since the vast majority of students are already involved in a club - they can't opt out on Mondays to join us!!! So sad.

So after school on Monday I wandered the hall waving my American flag with my hat and star & striped beach ball wrangling in the few students who weren't already involved in a club... We put fun posters around advertising the day. In the past they said the max number of students they had was 4!!!!! So when 12 students showed up we were sooooooo excited!!!!!

I put out a bunch of American comics, toys, games, flags, maps, photo albums and more for the students to look at.

As students entered I also taped an animal to their backs and we played 20 questions in small groups to have them guess their animal... Then the 2 girls in the club and I had a crazy beach ball quiz game and taught them the corresponding sign language for the animals. They go ga-ga for sign language!!! We also did the hokey-pokey and a few other activities. I finished the club by showing a fun power-point presentation with loads of pictures of American High Schools. We talked about the similarities and differences between Japanese and American Schools. They were in shock!

Was a fun day!!! Now we are planning to throw a Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas party!!! I might try to do mini parties at lunch time so more students can participate. :)

Monday, September 29, 2008

Ham Fighters!!!

WHOOO HOOOOOOOO!!!! we won, we won!!!!!!!

Just got back from my first Nippon Ham Fighters Baseball Game!!!!!

Wow! What an experience!

I went to the game with my angel, Mayu, her husband and a few of their friends.

Good thing I went with some locals so they could teach me the crazy genki cheers! For each pitcher and batter they had a special cheer, song, and synchronized beat w/whiffle bats and props!!! The 40,000 people in the crowd had colored papers, florescent pink fingers, flags, etc... that they would magically pull out of thin air in perfect harmony to start each cheer. Everyone was extra genki and excited today cause it was the last game of the season! aaaand we had Darvish as our pitcher - everyone here swears he's the best in the world. :)

At the end there was a special ceremony with crazy shimmery streamer fireworks... and a few dances by BB - the mascot!!!

Maybe all that Ham Fighters rice I ate (right) brought em good luck.

Can't wait til next season!

After the game I went for tea at my angel's house before their dog drove me home. :)

Japanese Tacos, Karaoke and a Family DInner...

On Sunday afternoon I met up with some of my Language exchange friends whom I met at the Communication Plaza. We met for lunch at a Kindergarten School's International Day.

They had food booths from dozens of different countries. I bought a taco off this sweet Japanese girl. Was bizarre speaking in Japanese to a girl in a sombrero.

I was excited to meet a lady from Tanzania and be able to speak Swahili for the first time in months!!!!

But the highlight was all of the random people from around the world on stage singing: "We are the world!" hahaha....

Afterward I headed off to Nobborro (about 35 minutes outside of Sapporo) to one of my student's homes. The family picked me up from the station and dropped us off at karaoke!

We had a huge room to ourselves with a crazy electronic song selection gadget. The girls belted out some J-pop songs and then asked Jenn (the Canadian exchange student) and I to sing some American songs. They went crazy for our Xmas songs, Backstreet Boys belting and Barbie girl rendition. (I sang the raspy man voice: come on barbie - lets go party!!!)

They also had us doing all sorts of Disney duets and then picked out a few Japanese songs for us to try. Deary me - I won't put those videos online!!!

After our throats could take no more we walked to Jenn's home stay family's house where we cooked up sukiyaki and green melon cream soda. Mmmmmmmmm..... You can see from the photos sukiyaki is a big hot plate filled with sukiyaki sauce, beef, tofu, shitake, sprouts, green onions, other veggies, udon noodles, rice noodles....... Then each person cracks a raw egg into a small dish. When the food is cooked you dig in with your chopsticks, dip it in the raw egg and eat! It was sooooooo tasty!!!!

The food kept coming and coming and coming... After we could eat no more the mom brought out delicious japanese pears and a crazy orange tomato looking fruit....... and just when I thought we were done - she brought out more tea and this crazy jelly/bean dessert which you pour black sugar syrup on top.

The whole family piled in the car to drive me back to the station. They even walked me in and gave me a proper goodbye as if I was leaving back to the States. The family was soooooo nice... and invited me to return. It was great to have a home cooked Japanese meal with a family!!! Mmmm...

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Daisetsuzan Hike...

Here are some photos from the 3 day/2 night Tokachi Dake hike we did in Daisetsuzan National Park 2 weeks ago.

It was an absolutely stunnin' hike... The only thing was that the mountain was completely dried up so we had to carry all of our water for the 3 days. Another JET from NZ came on the hike with us and since it was her first real hike we carried her water also... so I had 8 liters on me!!!! Plus my pack, sleeping bag, food, jackets, waterproofs, utensils, etc... But the views were spectacular all the way thru the 3 days so I didn't even notice the weight!

These shots are from the 1st day... We took a slight 'happy detour' (some would like to call this a 'wrong turn' but I believe theres no such thing as a 'wrong turn' in the hiking world)... But this happy detour led us on top of the weirdest moss alien green bubbling volcanic sulphur moon rocks. One of the guys started gagging from the sulphur. It felt like we were gonna fall into this bog of eternal stench!!!!! (sadly - for those labryinth fans out there - no david bowie in spandex was there to sing us out)

Each day (or I should say few hours) the terrain changed drastically... We had crazy sulphur moonscape, alpine Xmas tree walks, scree running, rocky climbs, etc...

On the 2nd day after we set out in the morning a huge wind storm swept in and covered the mountain in a thick fog. We could barely see in front of us and the wind was so strong it knocked me over a few times!!!

But then out of nowhere the clouds would disappear and leave us with a gorgeous view!!! The pic on the left I took right as the views started to reappear! This was also the start of the amazing scree run we had!

We stayed at 2 different basic mountain huts along the way... so luckily we didn't need to carry tents. The right pic is of me and Yama - another hiker who stayed at the huts with us... He has hiked and biked all over Japan...

Also in the hut I met a High School teacher from Hakkodate. He also didn't speak a lick of English but luckily I had enough vocab to talk about the Squid Festival that I'm dying to go to next year!!!! I made him teach me the squid dance!!! Hahahahha.... It helped keep us warm at least. I gave him my business card - but I still haven't heard back from him. Maybe my squid dancing skills scared him off.

We scaled a few peaks: Kamifurano-dake, Tokachi-dake, Biei-dake and Biei Fuji before heading back down on the 3rd day. And on top of each of those peaks I had the group do the squid dance!!!!! I know someone took video so I'll have to post that later on. :)

The second night we were lucky to have a full moon! It was HUGE and lit up the entire mountain. I tried to drag Emma out of bed to see the moon but instead I got a cranky: "A MOONs A MOON CALLIE!!!!!!!! IM NOT GETTING UP OUT OF THIS SLEEPING BAG AND GOING OUT INTO THE COLD TO SEE A MOON! A MOONS A MOON!!!!!!" hahaha... whoops.

The last pic here is of the drive back to get our car at Tokachi-onsen. We could see all of the mountains we had just climbed!!!!!

We ended the 3 day hike with a long soak in Tokachi Onsen.... It seemed as though we were soaking in a huge tub of muddy miso ramen soup. Mmmmm... but the views of the mountain range we hiked from the onsen was gorgeous!!!

Awwww.... how I LOVE LOVE LOVE hiking. I can't get enough of it!!!! I'm so happy I was placed in Hokkaido - it really is a hikers playground! I'll try and get a few more hikes in before the snow comes. On our hike there was frost on the ground in the morning so I don't think it will be long now!

For loads more photos of the hike check out: http://callieinjapan.shutterfly.com/679

Saturday, September 27, 2008

is 28 the new 18???

im not getting old and moldy, am i??????

i mean... i WILLINGLY CHOSE to stay at home today and scrub my horrendously moldy bathroom door instead of going to a big JET Sapporo BBQ Welcome Party. The funny thing is that I actually really enjoyed locking myself in my house all day in my PJs while scrubbing mold, watching grey's anatomy in bed under my new comfy comforter, studying japanese, eating and eating and not answering my phone or text messages.

but this doesn't make me old and moldy does it???? i swear 28 IS the new 18, right???????

that's how I like to think... especially since my 10 year high school reunion is happening tonight! im bummed im missing it... i don't think many people would recognize me without my shaved head, baggy pants and skateboard. (i have my brother to thank for turning me into a girl)

age is a funny thing. here i am in JET as a moldy minority. most of the kids in JET are straight out of University... most of the time i don't notice the 7 year age gap... but once I remember a bunch of us walking around Sapporo when one of the JETs said: "oh man!!! I had no idea she was that old!!!! I thought she was young!!!!!" I turned and asked how old the girl was.... and he said: "28!!!!!!!!!" Let's just say I almost gave him a black eye! hahahaha...

I guess with my good looks (or maybe i should say immaturity) everyone here seems to think I'm 22. Even my brother Dane started getting angry when all of his friends and collegues thought I was his younger sister! hahahah...

Hard to believe I'll be turning 30 in Japan! Maybe by the time I turn 30 I'll have figured out what I want to be when I grow up! (nahhhhhh...)

Enkais and Cleopatra...

At school on Friday one of the teachers came up to me and asked if I was excited for the big party that night...... I looked at him with a bedazzled confused look. (I had, of course, heard nothing of a party)

Well.... I found out that the 1st, 2nd and 3rd year teachers were having end of semester enkais (parties!). I can't read the memos on my desk or on the teacher's board and I can't understand what they talk about in the teacher meetings - so I'm always out of the loop! But once the word got out that I had no idea about the parties, I think they felt terrible so each group of teachers started fighting over me to join their party!

I decided to go with the 2nd year teachers since I don't get to interact with them as much and they were the first to invite me.

We all met in Susukino at 6:30pm for a 2 hour all you can eat and drink fancy fancy formal Japanese dinner. It costed 5,000 yen ($50) but the food was delicous and well worth it!!!

I planned on riding my bike to Susukino - but out of nowhere it started to downpour - so I had to grab my umbrella and run like hell in the rain in order to make it to Susukino by 6:30sharp! (It's very important you're on time in Japan!)

When I got there - there were about 13 teachers sitting at the formal restaurant including the Vice Principal. None of the English teachers had arrived so I sat myself down and could hear the other teachers asking eachother in Japanese who was going to talk to me! hahaha... I responded in Japanese telling them that they could try out their Japanese on me with no worries- they laughed and breathed a sigh of relief! :)

The food started pouring in after our kampai (cheers!) with an assortment of beautiful sashimi (raw fish)... and a side dish of some weird mushrooms in booger looking (and tasting) jelly. Then they placed 5 clay cooking pots on the table's grills and started cooking up Nabe. In our Nabe they used raw beef, mushrooms, onions, poured liqour on top and then let it boil and steam... When it was done cooking you dug in with your chopsticks and dipped it in this delicous sauce before eating. We also chowed down on tempura, sushi, some kind of meat wrapped in fried tofu, soup, more sushi and sashimi.... and I can't even remember what else!!!

Then the teachers came one by one with their phones to get their picture taken with me! hahaha... They kept calling me the Cleopatra of our High School. Ummm.... a bit awkward, but I just rolled with it.

Then they had a conversation about blood types... When I told them I was AB they went bezerk and started cheering. (I still have no idea why...) Another teacher confessed in me about his "metobolic syndrome???" Ummm.... I think he was talking about having a low metabolism??????? Had a few other strange conversations thru the night which I won't post here. :)

After dinner finished we all headed out for the nijikai (2nd party) at another Japanese restaurant. This time they ordered even more liquor and MORE food... yaki soba, pickled cucumber with spicy mustard, edamame, etc... Geeeeez these teachers can eat and drink!!!!!

After more phone pictures I received a phone call from one of the 1st year teachers who was begging me to join their sanjikai (3rd party).... so I said my goodbyes to the 2nd year teachers and headed off to a garden bar near Sapporo Station.

It's funny how the teachers who claim to speak NO ENGLISH in school... all of a sudden after a few dozen drinks are blabbering to you in English!!!! Sooooo funny. I think my Japanese also improved. ;) While in a drunken state the teachers that I haven't had a chance to talk to much kept telling me they are too shy to talk to me at school - so I should make the first move and talk to them at their desks. Hahahah... We chatted and chatted about anything and everything under the sun. I think I even got paired up with the Gym teacher who wants me to do the sex education part of the class next semester!

I'm really glad I went out despite my cold and the rain!!! Looking forward to my welcome enkai which will be next month. :)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Runny nose breakdancing!

Today after school I biked straight home to take a 2 hour cold recovery nap so I could muster up the strength to go to my first breakdancing class!!!!!!!

Holy crapola... Little did I realize that this weekly class is going to perform on stage at some event after 3 months of practicing!!! Hahahah... Tonight, we learned the beginning beats of our routine. Yikes.... Wish me luck!!! (I'm gonna need it!)

At the end of tonight's class - all I got from the talk is that we need to bring a towel next week to start practicing our head spins!!!! crap a dap. What am I getting myself into!??!?!?! hahaha...

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Face Masks...

Well- don't I feel foolish??? Back in the States I noticed that a lot of Japanese and Chinese people wear face masks when out and about...

For all these years I thought it was to fend themselves from pollution or from us dirty Americans.

But since being in Japan I've come to realize that people here wear face masks when they are sick to protect OTHERS from also getting sick!!!!

Just another example of how damn nice people are here in Japan!!!

To wear or not to wear - that my question for today. I caught a bad cold (probably from the freezin weather, rain and NO SLEEP from the parties and camping over this past 4 day weekend)... The thought of having a stuffed runny nose and then wearing a mask on top of it to brood in my own sickness is not all appealing. Sadly, I don't think I'll ever be able to be as polite as the Japanese.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Proof I'm a blonde...

Soooo many people ask me if I dye my hair blonde... Now I have evidence my answer is NO!!!

Last night after posting my Hell Fest photos, (im not sure if this has any correlation) I went to brush my teeth as normal and when I threw my head down to spit - I went head first into that huge ass knife which was on my drying rack!!!!!!

It took me a while to stop the bleeding and to stop laughing at how ridiculous I was... but when the bleeding slowed down I took a picture for proof and then grabbed this "DO NOT EAT" ice pack type of thing from my freezer and placed it on my head. Well...... that wasn't the smartest of moves either since it stuck to my hair - and when I removed it - a huge chunk of hair came with it!!!

I'll tell ya somethin - there's never a dull day in my life!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Noboribetsu Hell Valley

Wow........ I don't even know where to begin!!! During the last weekend of August I took part in one of the most amazing festivals ever!!!! The Noboribetsu Hell Festival!

Noboribetsu town is actually quite awesome in itself ... It has permanent devil statues, devil signs, devil toilets, devil shaped food and more!!! I went with Olivia and Antonio (2 fellow JETs) and I dragged them along to spot all of the devils in town. We also hiked the neighboring HELL VALLEY!!! which really did look like a smoky sulphury hell cauldron. This set us in the mood for the Hell Festival!!!

Once a year the "lid of hell pot" opens and the King of Hell comes to this hot spring town with the red and blue ogre devils.

Luckily we got to Noboribetsu Town early and caught the opening ceremony.... It started with a crazy huge mechanical bearded man who talked in a raspy dark evil voice who then transformed himself into a devil... Behind him a marching band of children playing "When the saints come marching in!" Hahaha.... Amazing! I love Japanese children!!! They can fit themselves into any situation!!!

After the saints went marching in - Taiko drummers started drumming to rattle the devil ogres up from hell!!!

I made a few ogre boyfriends during the parade... ;)

As night fell even more blue and red devil ogres entered boisterously in the grand Hell parade..... The bearded man made a 2nd appearance and spoke evil words of advice to the huge crowd with his beady devil eyes and then adults and children carried huge heavy devil heads and bodies down the street!!!

Then almost the entire town came dressed in various crazy costumes to dance as a large group with the devils. The dance was a series of waving your arms in the air and then giving yourself devil horns. Brilliant! The best group line dance I've learned to date!!!

Even a huge line of Minnie Mouses, Drag Queen Geishas and zillions of children with devil horns joined in the dance!!!

There were also loads of old men in their onsen robes (we shuddered just thinking how only a thin robe separated us from their nakedness) They reaked of beer and wanted to chat to us all night! They made sure we danced the devil dance with every single person in Noboribetsu.

Everyone LOVED having their photo taken!!! Whenever I jumped in a shot - dozens of people gathered around to take my photo... We felt like such celebrities!!! I have a feeling we appeared in all the local newspapers and TV stations the next day!

I also ate what I felt was hell food - octopus legs and squid chunks mixed in yaki soba. mmmm....

But the devil shaped cakes were to DIE for!!! mmmm....

I can't wait for next year to do it all over again!!!!

For more photos of the Hell Festival see: http://callieinjapan.shutterfly.com/800
and for Hell Valley shots look at: http://callieinjapan.shutterfly.com/781