Monday, June 21, 2010

Roller coaster mania!

It's now Tuesday and I'm sitting at Date Chu not doing anything... thankfully the English teacher I sit next to has said that I can borrow his computer while he's teaching. I'm here this week - although not really being used. Yesterday I did actually go to three of the grade one classes and do a self introduction but they're all madly reviewing and studying for some big exams that are coming up so most of them don't need (or want) me in the classroom. This is going to be an interesting experience. I've been meeting individually with the four English teachers to make plans for how we will team teach and I can see already that there will be varying levels of involvement on my part. One of them has told me that he will give me 15 minutes at the beginning of each class to play a game or do some conversation practice but then he will use the rest of the time to teach on his own. He said he's not good at team teaching... hmmm. It will be interesting!!
I'm still a bit tired from the weekend activities. On Saturday I got up early to go to the Shogakko Sports Day. Man oh man! They don't do things halfway here! Even when they have a small school... this was a BIG deal! The whole school is divided into two teams - red and white. They compete throughout the day getting points from each event. I made a ton of notes because they had some really cool events that I would love to try in Cowichan! This is one of the games where they are trying to toss soft balls into baskets. Some seniors from the care home up the street were included too! The whole school was in the marching band that made one circut of the field and then came up the middle and played two or three songs. The little ones had some serious moves with the pom poms - they'd obviously been practicing for a long time! Joisan made like a monkey and scaled this climber. At one point she was joined by a 4 year old and a grandpa! This is my friend Natsumi's baby girl - she's lots of fun to play with!
This was the closing ceremonies... as I said... they don't do things by halves here! I have a short video of the marching band that I will post when I have access to the right computer.

On Sunday we went to the amusement park at Rusutsu. Although our group dwindled from eight to five we still had an amazing time! My friend Mayu who works at Date City Hall, and her friend Mokori came but Naoko was not feeling well and Joisan's friend Yuka wasn't available. Ian opted to stay home and have some quality alone time.
There are eight roller coasters at Rusutsu, all in a variety of formats. There was a stand up one, a backwards looping one, a wild twister one and a hanging one (my favourite). Taran would always rather ride roller coasters with Aurora and Dave but he tried them all and had a great time! We rode all eight - one of them twice. A couple of them did me in though - I wound up feeling like my brain had been shaken just a little too much. I sat out the last few rides.
One of the rides had this "NO SMORKING" sign on it... We weren't exactly sure what "smorking" is but Mayu, Joisan and Mokori took a guess... Taran figures it's smoking through your nose!!
The kids favourite ride was called Top Gun and the first time we went on it my head wasn't hurting yet so I really enjoyed it too. I had to opt out later though so I took some video...
We were all quite tired at the end and Taran got a bit frustrated with the fact that there was shopping on the way out... but he survived. The shopping area was set up to look like an old world village and it has the most amazing carousel in the middle of it! Joisan and I have made a plan to go back again when we can have a better look around the shops.
By the time we got home I was cooked. I could have fallen happily right into bed - particularly given that I had to be in Date by 8am on Monday - but it was still a bit too early. I managed to help a bit with dinner and get through the dishes before I collapsed! Thankfully the shaken head syndrome did not last through a good nights sleep and I felt much better by morning. Clearly I'm getting too old for some things and I'm going to have to be more careful about the number of roller coasters I ride in one day!!
I saw on Facebook today that one of my friends now owns her house free and clear!! I'm so happy for you Kim!!! Congratulations!!! I am feeling like we've kind of stuck ourselves in a rut with coming here - nothing is getting paid off... in fact - just the opposite! UGH! I keep telling myself that you can't put a price on the experiences we're having... hmmm it's not helping right now... maybe later :-)

Friday, June 18, 2010

Check out my mad skills!!

Well... they're not really my skills - it's all blogger! They put up new layout and background options and I got into it! What do you think?!?
So... it has been a busy couple of weeks and there's lots of cool things coming up in the next few weeks too!

I forgot to mention last time that I did my presentation to the local English teachers. It got seriously watered down and I just wound up doing an elaborate self introduction and playing a few games with them before we moved on to talking about team teaching. I don't know if there was much value there for any of us but it was still an interesting experience.

I have had an easy month as far as work in concerned because both the Shogakko and the Kindergarten are practicing for their sports festivals so they have put ekaiwa on hold. I have done my last classes at Tatsunan now though and I'm starting on Monday at Date Chu. I'm looking forward to something new but I'm also a little intimidated... it's the largest school in the area (though still not large by Canadian standards) at 550 students. I suspect that I'm going to be run off my feet on Mondays and Tuesdays as they have four English teachers. It will be a nice change from Ootaki where there are only 26 students altogether!

The weather has been absolutly increadible for a couple of weeks now and last Saturday we decided to go for a swim in the river. We had been told that the water level would get low enough that it would be safe to swim by the falls (the ones from the photos last time) and so we went to check it out. There was still a bit too much water for it to be safe right near the main part of the falls but the kids and Ian played around a bit lower down and then we all swam and played in a deep spot we found later on.
Ian and the kids even climbed the falls and went for a walk up top!!

The water was cold but it was so warm out that we all really enoyed it. Joisan and I went back on Monday evening for a swim but the sun had already passed by and the bugs were brutal so we learned our lesson!

Speaking of Joisan, we've had her back to the hospital to have her leg checked out because she's been having chronic pain since mid May. It's been particularly bothersome when she's doing track and field but now and then she was bothered by it at dance too. It turns out that she has ruptured something around the "junction box" area where the achilles tendon meets the muscle. She's been ordered to rest it completely and take some prescribed anti-inflamatories for two weeks. I'm suspecting that she's figuring on jumping back into things with both toe shoes but I'm doubting that it will be all healed that quickly. Particularly since she continues to "forget" to rest it.

Last Sunday Ian and I had the unfortunate pleasure of attending a buddhist funeral service. Kabo-san is a friend of ours (and the father of Josian's friend Akari)and his father passed away last week. He had just been diagnosed with cancer in April so it felt a little quick. I had recently been remarking to Ian that I wanted a chance to check out the inside of the temple and then suddenly there we were! It was an interesting service. There were many rituals involving drums and bells and chanting and incense. The place was packed - they ran out of chairs and there were at least 20 people sitting on cushions on the floor. Between the heat, the number of people, the chanting and the incense I had quite a headache by the time we left.

On Tuesday we took the kids and went to Sapporo to deal with some paperwork issues and to check out the JR Tower (huge shopping centre) and the big festival that's on there right now. We parked in this really cool place where you drive onto a lift and the car goes up on an elevator thing. Then, when you want it back you back it onto a turntable and it turns the car around for you!! Very cool!

We didn't have very much time at the JR Tower this time but we did manage to get some cool photos while Joisan and I went shopping and the boys checked out the BIG bookstore across the street.

On our way to the festival we saw this really cool building... It was just there in the middle of Sapporo... we have no idea what it is or anything about it!

The festival occupies the majority of a huge park in the middle of the city. Joisan was excited to go because she heard that there were gaming booths where you can win a turtle. Taran wasn't too thrilled with trecking around the park - he'd rather have gone back home (party pooper!) Anyway, Ian had heard from Ato-san that the booths are all run by the Japanese mafia. It was pretty interesting... I think there were probably about 20 or 30 different booths (food or games) but they were repeated again and again. Only now and then did we see something new.
In the centre of the park you could rent a rowboat and go out on the pretty little lake, and there was also a sort of a midway with several haunted houses and a motorcycle riding show as well as some shooting games. The kids each played a couple of games and Joisan did manage to win her turtle - with a little help from the guy running the booth!

We had some yummies - including some bbq'd ika(squid) on a stick. The whole festival was supposed to have something to do with the big Shinto shrine but we never did manage to find it! We don't actually know anyone in this photo but I just liked the scene and it was so cool to see so many people walking around in kimonos!

The weather turned a bit on Wednesday and it rained for two days. It's just now starting to clear up and I'm looking forward to a weekend of outdoor fun! Tomorrow is the sports festival at the Shogakko and on Sunday we are going to Rusutsu which is the local resort area. In the winter time the kids went snowboarding there and in the summer time they have quite an extensive amusement park. We've gathered a little group to go with us and we're looking forward to it! I'll be sure to post an update and photos asap.

Our other big news is that we are booked to come back to BC for a few weeks in August. We are all excited to spend as much time as we can with family and friends. We'll be there from August 2nd to the 26th and we're looking forward to some good visiting!!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Oy! It's been a while!

We've been having a busy and very emotional time here. It's not really an excuse but I'm hoping with all the new photos I've added that you'll all be distracted enough to forgive the long silence. Joisan and I have had a bad bout of homesickness. The Steps Ahead Dance show at the end of May made us both feel at loose ends. This is the first time in many years that we have not been part of the show and it was really tough.
In May we said goodbye to Rianna, the Date AET, and they have not replaced her yet. We went to raid the bookshelf in her appartment before she left and while we were there we went for a lovely walk along the river in Date. Joisan and Taran decided they'd rather impersonate fruit so they hung around in a tree while Ian and I walked.
Joisan's ballet teacher had her birthday at the end of the month. She has an interesting story because she was actually born on May 28th but her father did not file the paperwork until June 1st so that is her official birthday! I understand that there are now proceedures for dealing with this type of situation but she's probably 55 or 60 and at the time that's just the way it was. Joisan decided to make her some cookies for her birthday.

On our way home from Date after ballet one day we caught the volcano with the sun setting behind it... very pretty!

There is a lovely walk near the Chugakko that leads to "Ootaki Niagara". Clearly the falls don't have the height that you'd expect but they are very wide and when the river is full they are very impressive!

One of our friends, Natsumi, regularly has volunteers come to stay and help at her organic farm through a program called "woofer". The most recent two helpers, Kira from Germany, and Mai from Taiwan, were able to take a day off to do some touring. We went to nearby Lake Toya and ventured out onto the lake in a swan boat. We also took a bit of a walk along the lake before we went to check out the Information Centre.

It was cool to see the real swans right out there with the swan boats! We got mighty close to them too!

The information centre was quite spectacular. It had a lot of displays about the formation and various incarnations of the lake (due to volcanic activity) as well as information about local wildlife. From the second floor you can see that the first floor is actually a map of the area... There was also a volcanic museum that I think we'll pay to check out another time.

Joisan's class has been helping on the farm again. It was actually a different farm this time - owned by the same company. They planted Kabocha (pumpkin) and Jagaimo (potato). It's quite a beautiful place - and amazingly big!!! I don't think we have anything like this kind of spread on Vancouver Island. And all of it was growing yummy food! I can easily eat a 100 mile diet here!
Somewhere in the last few weeks I grew older. Ian and the kids treated me royally - right down to a delicious ice creme cake from Baskin Robbins!
Last weekend Joisan had a track and field meet in Muroran. She competed in the 200m and was happy with her results for her first meet. The stadium is quite impressive and fully equipped - complete with a water pit for the steeplechase! She's got another meet in a few weeks and she's hoping to try to add long jump for that.

After the track meet and ballet, Joisan and Ian and I went to a 130th anniversary celebration for one of the oldest temples in the area. We saw yosakoi dancing and a Dixieland Jazz band!

Well, that pretty much catches us up... we're enjoying the sunshine and some nice warm weather. It seems to have warmed up pretty fast! None of the public buildings are air conditioned so it's pretty uncomfortable when it gets hot! I have made a new photo share - May and June photos - enjoy!