Thursday, May 20, 2010

Bike to Work week!

I'm sure that bike to work week has long past back in Cowichan but we finally have the weather for it here. The snow is almost all gone now and the path, though still scattered with debris from the trees, is passable.
My goal is to not allow myself any excuses and to make myself ride my bike every day possible. The ride to school in the mornings is very quick - only about 8 minutes - because it is all down hill! Of course that means that on the way home I get to struggle all the way... I did it Tuesday and Wednesday - very slowly but biking all the way. Yesterday (Thursday) it rained so I had a good excuse to let my body rest for a day. Today I start at the office, then go to the kindergarten and then the Chugakko and I'm biking all the way! My legs haven't been too sore so far (hot baths at night help!)

These two photos show the view from the back of our house. This is actually about 10 metres over from our back door. I will be hiking up the mountain with Naomi when the snow is gone.

This one shows the little stream that runs down beside our backyard area. It's all very serene and a lovely place to sit outside and just "be".
On Monday I went to Tatsunan and then out to lunch with Mayu. I had a bit of time in between so I went and took a walk near the river where the cherry trees are in full bloom. There was a nice little circut to walk that involved two bridges and both sides of the river. As I was finishing the walk there was a group of seniors setting up for what looked like a picnic lunch down by the river. It was all very beautiful.

Monday night I picked up Naoko and took her with me to Date. Joisan went to dance and a group of us (Naoko, Mayu, Yasuko, Rianna and I) went to karaoke. It was fun! I was way less self concious this time and found a couple of songs I want to work on. While I was playing the tambourine along with someone else's song I burst a blood vessel in my thumb and it swelled up so I could barely move it. The swelling was down by Tuesday but my thumb and the area all around it has looked dirty all week from the huge bruise.
As you can gather from the fact that I have resorted to reporting on my bruise, nothing too exciting is happening here this week. Although spring is definately here and there are some things in bloom, the cherry trees in Otaki are still bare. I don't mind though - it means that when the ones in Date are done I'll still be able to enjoy these ones a bit longer.
This weekend is a farewell party for Rianna (the AET in Date) before she goes back to Montana. They have not hired anyone as yet to replace her so I've been advocating for them to have Ian do it - at least for 28 hours per week. They don't always operate in logical ways here so I'm not sure if it will happen or not.
Ian is still working on getting the paperwork in order to officially work but he did do one day of volunteering with a local farmer this week. They really hit it off and spent a lot of time talking and visiting as well as working. I think Ian will be volunteering with him as often as he can.
We're still looking forward to having some visitors... anyone?!?

Sunday, May 16, 2010


This is one of Joisan's class photos from this year... I had it on the computer so I thought I'd include it. (You can click on any of the photos to make them bigger.)

We had a fun week here... it was a little busy though. On Monday my plan was to go to Karaoke with Naoko and Mayu while Joisan danced but Naoko couldn't come and Mayu and I decided to postpone the Karaoke and just go for tea! Afterwards we went to the arcade and used one of these awesome photo booths they have here. For 400 yen you can take a whole bunch of poses, then pick the ones you want and decorate them! Here are the results of my photoshoot with Mayu!!

As I mentioned in the previous post, Joisan's class met the 2000 Olympic gold medal marathon winner on Tuesday... here is another photo...

On Friday night we were invited to join Ato san at his mothers restaurant to taste test the gyozas she is going to be making to sell. We were not sure if it was really dinner or just a tasting snack so we had some curry rice before we went and then of course it turned out to be a full meal. It was sooo very good though and we all stuffed ourselves! Joisan had been trying out the Otaki dance class but found that it is not really very challenging so we're not sure if she'll be going back to it or not. It's a shame really, because we don't have to drive 40 minutes each way to get there! Oh well. After we finished eating, Ato san and Misuzu came back to our place and we played a friendly game of poker.

All week I was busy planning and organizing things for Ian's birthday on Saturday. I had taken Joisan on a secret trip to Tomokomai on Mother's Day while Ian was otherwise occupied so that she could pick up this fabulous gift for her and Taran to present to their father on his special day!

Joisan had it all set up for him so when he got up in the morning to use the bathroom there it was! Ian has decided we need to have a family tournament now! So... another reason to plan a visit... the Fireball Invitational Potty Putter Golf Tournament... and you're all invited!!!

I arranged to buy Ian a guitar for his birthday since he's been looking and looking for one since we got back at Christmas time. Luckily for me he's been too afraid to buy one for himself without some guidance because it made for a perfect birthday gift. One of the teachers at the school has more than 50 guitars and he was quite happy to sell me one at a really good price. Here is Ian opening it...

In Tomokomai I also found some very strange toothpastes and bought a few for novelty gifts. Ian got curry flavor and pumpkin pudding! He also got a package of meat flavoured toffee. FYI - it's marginally better than the beer flavoured toffee! (that's not saying much!)

Somehow, even with all the time Ian spent with Ato san this week, everyone managed to keep the surprise birthday party under wraps! I used the "I'm going to cook you dinner" excuse to send Ian into Date for the ballet run on Saturday and Taran and I quickly cleaned and set up and decorated for the party. I had invited about 28 people but only about 20 showed up. Ian and Joisan unfortunately got caught up in some stuff that delayed them in Date but everyone waited very patiently and eventually they made it - about 1/2 an hour later than I had anticipated. Ian was completely surprised and thoroughly enjoyed himself. Here's a couple of photos from the party... the cake was all natural and egg and dairy free. It was made by my friend Natsumi who has a small baking business. It was wonderful!

There's a few things planned for next week - including Rianna's farewell party and possibly a Sakura Matsuri (cherry blossom festival). The cherry trees in Otaki are not blooming yet but the ones in Date are starting now. It's gorgeous! Photos next week - I promise!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day!

I know I'm a bit late in the sentiment but it was heartfelt!
On Friday night we had Joisan's teacher and Naoko over for dinner. Ian made a yummy dinner and Kayo san brought a Mother's Day cake...

On Saturday Ian and Joisan and I went to Muroran to check out the track and field meet. There was evidence of spring in Mororan - so I made Ian pose by it so we'd have lasting proof that spring really does come to Hokkaido!

The track and field meet was fun to watch. It was all very official and Joisan and I were particularly facinated with the hurdles. It's quite a feat to be able to run and jump those! We watched a couple of people fall - it looked painful. It was a good scoping trip to see how it's all going to go next month when Joisan participates.

On Sunday (Mother's Day)I was treated to stuffed French toast for breakfast - made by my daughter! Ian had agreed to help Takeshi for the day so I had to run him out to their place for 9am. He worked all day starting mushrooms and splitting wood. The kids and I came back in time for dinner when Takeshi made us fresh soba (buckwheat) noodles. It's quite a process and it was amazing to watch him make them.

We had an amazing meal and the company was fantastic.

We still have not heard from the hospital about Taran's MRI so I expect we'll have to call the hospital and find out what's up.

On Tuesday Joisan's class walked to a nearby farm where then began an eight week program of work experience. This farm has a sponsorship relationship with a Q Chan - the 2000 Olympic gold medalist in the marathon. She is quite the celebrity and it was quite the media circus. She had some serious paparazzi with her and she couldn't move without cameras in her face from all angles. The kids all worked hard and planted trays and trays of broccoli seeds.

I'm not sure if Q Chan will be there every time but I'm doubting it. I really can't see them having that media circus there every time.

That brings us up to today - I was so excited at the adult class tonight because I found out that one of my students is expecting a baby!! I'm doubtful that I'll get to be involved in any way but I'm still really excited about it!

I'm putting another photoshare up either tonight or tomorrow so look for it!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Golden Week Continued...

So, Monday and Tuesday we didn't do much of anything. We enjoyed the opportunity to Skype with those we could find online and Ian and I went for a looonnngg (15km) bike ride on Tuesday. We started by riding to the seniors centre where Ian does his volunteer class. I enjoyed meeting the people and getting to sing a few songs with them. Then we continued the ride all the way to Kitayuzawa before we turned around to head home. The first half of the ride was all downhill which of course meant that the second half would need to be all uphill. We took a few breaks on the way back - soft ice cream at Ato san's mother's restaurant, a few groceries at the Seiko-mart, but it was still quite difficult. My legs were in awful pain for the whole evening but after some self-medicating and a hot bath they got better.

Wednesday we had earmarked to go to the Ainu museum in Shiraoi. The Ainu are the indiginous people here and I had been told that the museum is great and there's a nice walk around a small lake nearby. We ended up getting an invitation to Natsumi's house for lunch and sweets-making so we bailed on Shiraoi. Natsumi is one of the lovely women from my Wednesday night class. She has three children - one of whom I have both at the Sho gakko and at the after school program. Her husband, Takashi, is also very nice and we felt very honoured to be included in their Children's Day celebration. Taran opted to stay home by himself but Joisan came with us. We had a very eclectic lunch with smoked scallops, inarizushi, a special salad and some makizushi. It was all fabulous and although Joisan was fairly bored, Ian and I enjoyed ourselves very much. Ian has volunteered to help Takashi with some chores around their farm on Sunday and we will be having Mother's Day dinner with them. Takashi has promised to make something wonderful!

The other big news is that Ian received a call from Naomi about someone she knows who is looking for some help. Ian hasn't had the final confirmation yet but it's looking like he might be doing some work on a local farm. Yay!

Taran had his MRI yesterday. He said it was REALLY loud and despite the earplugs they gave him he got a headache. We don't quite know the next step but if we don't hear from the hospital in the next few days Ian will call and investigate. In the meantime, Taran is in pain and finds it difficult to walk even to the bus stop.

It will be a busy weekend - Joisan's teacher is coming for dinner tonight and then there's a track meet in Muroran we need to check out tomorrow. Joisan was not quite ready to participate fully in the track and field so we agreed that she'd watch the first track meet and participate next time.

I'll work on having some photos for the next post :)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Spring? Is that you???

I don't want to get too far ahead of myself again but I think Spring might actually be here now... we've had many false starts and some serious flirtations but this might actually be IT! We have had a couple of days of warm (but heavy) rain followed by several beautiful days of sunshine! The snow is melting fast and there are green things poking their heads up... I walked outside the other day and it SMELLED like spring! Yay! (mind you, it's about time!! It's MAY!)

We are officially into Golden Week now. It consists of several days off in a row for different holidays including Showa Day (used to be celebrated as the Emperors Birthday), Constitution Memorial Day, Greenery Day and Childrens Day. It is the busiest travel time of the year here so we elected to lay low rather than go to Hakodate as was our original thought. It's kind of strange though - we had Thursday off and then had to go to school on Friday. Then we're off from Monday through Wednesday and have to go back to school on Thursday.

Anyway, we didn't do much on Thursday - just kind of laid low - it was one of the rainy rainy days so it seemed nicer to just stay home. Ian took Taran to the hospital for his follow up appointment on Friday. He asked about the possibility of Taran seeing a specialist to try and get to the bottom of the problem so Taran was given an MRI appointment for next Thursday! It's amazing to us that he could get in that quickly! I'm sure the only reason it was six days later is because there were four days of Golden Week! On Saturday Joisan and Naoko and I went to Tomokomai for the day. There is a big western-style shopping mall there that we wanted to check out. We left around 9:30 and we shopped till we dropped! We didn't actually buy much but we poked around almost every store. We had Takoyaki for lunch (octopus balls - you didn't know octopus had balls did you?!) Just before we headed home (as we were about to drop) we stopped for some Baskin Robbins ice cream. Yum!

Naoko stayed for dinner and we discussed a cell phone deal that we had seen while we were shopping. We had been considering getting a cell phone for those emergencies that might arrise and for the convenience of being able to communicate with each other while we're out and about. We decided to go for it since there was a great sale on so on Sunday we headed into Date to make the arrangements. What should have taken only an hour or an hour and a half wound up taking most of the day but we ended up with two skookum cell phones with cameras in them! One is pink and one is white but otherwise they are identical. If anyone wants to send us a text Phaedra's phone is: pink_cakeness at and Ian's phone is: ninja_kittens at

We're not sure what the rest of Golden Week looks like but we'll hope to catch some time on Skype with anyone who's there! I have photos to add but I'm on the wrong computer to do it right now so they'll have to come later... sorry!