Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Getting there...

So there we were... Ian recovering from his visit with Imai-san and me still feeling a few of the after effects of the gallbladder attack... Luckily it was a quiet week. By the weekend we were all recovered and ready for some fun though. On Saturday morning Joisan went to a party for the track and field club and I went for a swim at the Meisuite. One of the things that the Dr. did say when he was examining me was that I need to lose some weight so I figured the best way to get started on that was to get some more exercise. The Meisuite has a shallow (1m) 25 metre pool and I swam for about 25 minutes the first time. I was well and truely worn out by the time I finished! Afterward, I went to the onsen all by myself! It's the first time I've gone without Hiro or one of the other teachers with me and it was a bit strange but very peaceful.
Joisan's ballet was early on Saturday - she's working on a piece for a performance in November. She's doing a duet on pointe! After dance we went to a jinja festival in Date. It was very reminiscent of the festival we went to in Sapporo last spring. We didn't stay long but we were able to see some performances and eat festival food!

On Sunday Ian and I got up early and attended a family wedding (congratulations Margaret and Ian!!!) via Skype. I think my brother has a photo of me (on the computer) sitting in a chair in the front row! It was really cool to be able to attend and be part of it - I LOVE SKYPE!!!! If you haven't got it yet (and you know who you are!!!) this is your friendly reminder to SIGN UP NOW!!! I was even able to take a few photos from the webcam! It was almost like I was really there... if only I'd been able to enjoy the delicious dinner along with everyone else that was there.
Sunday evening we had the Hayashi family for dinner. As is the norm here, they brought way too much stuff with them - particularly considering all that we had prepared! We made burritos (thanks to a trip to Costco!) and salad and Joisan made cookies for dessert. The Hayashi's are the family who took us to Otaru in July. We really enjoy hanging out with them. After dinner we taught them to play spoons!
Monday was a national holiday (respect for the Aged day) and we had a lazy lazy day. We stayed home and watched tv and slept. We thought about going out... but we let that thought pass and had a great time perfecting our remote clicking abilities!
I'll keep this update short as the next one is more complicated... the school festival week was very busy!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Gallbladders and Festivals...

So, the other thing I forgot to mention that happened in the first week was that Ian and I had a routine health check. It happens every year here and you can opt in or out of certain tests based on your age and when you last had them done. We both got screenings for lung and stomach cancer as well as a blood workup and had to give a stool sample. It was all okay except we had to drink barium for the stomach x-rays and that was yucky! I didn't feel well for days after that.
On Monday and Tuesday I started back to Date Chu. It was fun but draining. I think the jet lag was still bringing me down. I met with my travel agent on Monday night to start the ball rolling for a trip to one of the southern Japanese islands in January. My Mum is coming from Canada and we're all looking forward to a warm getaway!
Wednesday I was supposed to start at the Warashibe but I was feeling really gross so I ended up going home halfway through the day. It is only in retrospect that I know that it was my gallbladder again. It's been a year and a half since my last attack and it didn't even cross my mind when it was happening. I ended up missing a day and a half of work and I felt like I'd been hit by a truck for about a week. I did finally go to see a doctor a week after the attack started but for all the impressive tests and attention I had, it was clearly far too late to diagnose anything. I was again very impressed by the medical system here though - I presented at the clinic at 1:30 and by 4:30 we were on our way home, having had a CT, an ultrasound, some bloodwork and a thorough examination. Our insurance cards had not yet come so I had to pay for everything and then submit receipts for reimbursement. So... without insurance the whole visit, complete with all test was about $200. I'll get back all but 20% of that because of the insurance I have. This is an interesting medical system and I'm particularly impressed by how quickly I had all the tests I needed!
There is a constant stream of festivals in September - and from what I recall of last year they will go right into September! They are all very similar - some entertainment, a bingo game, some festival food and lots of fun.
There was one in Yutoku where I won a pottery plate in the bingo, and one in Honcho where I won a box of shitake mushrooms and Taran won a stuffy and a garbage can. Ian helped with the Honcho festival by cooking yakisoba. The kids wound up wearing a headband with a light up bow on it all through the festival. I bought one too - even Ato-san got into the bow thing!

There was also the Jinja part of the festval where Taran and Joisan wore happy coats and marched around Honcho with a small shrine. There were pamphlets passed out and many people came out of their homes and put coin offerings into a collection box.

Afterwards we gathered by the Jinja where there was a raffle for rice and other prizes. Ian and Joisan both won rice and Taran and I won a can of pop. Taran and Joisan and Ian participated in the Sumo wrestling and won some instant noodles for their efforts! That afternoon Ian was requested by Imai-san to join him and a few others in the traditional drinking part of the celebration. The end result being... you guessed it! A very inebriated Ian!
Whew! That only leaves two more weeks to catch up on... as long as I keep this momentum going you should be caught up by the end of this week!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Slowly catching up...

We know where all my good intentions are going to lead me but I really did intend to be updating this in a much more timely fashion. Japan is definately not hell though so for now I will try and get my act together and just start posting. In order to avoid the inevitable novel I will try and divide up our experiences into manageable chunks and post them all seperately. Keep checking back... hopefully I`m on a roll!!!
So our flights back to Japan were with JAL this time and there were some ups and downs to that... We missed the familiarity of Air Canada and it's great entertainment system. The food was quite good though and we enjoyed the take-off and landing cam! They have a camera mounted below the aircraft and show a live feed of what's happening down there. It's pretty cool to get to see the potholes you're hitting as you're bumping along! Air Canada has a similar "bird's eye view" that you can watch but they don't allow you to watch the actual take off and landing.
Our travel day went quite smoothly and we made it back with all our bags and bits. That last hour of travel - the drive home from the airport was almost more than I could take though and I (along with Joisan) napped. Thankfully we were picked up by my boss so we didn't have to drive ourselves.
We all did our best to sleep in the next day and having the weekend to get organized was great! Ian and I took a short bike ride to the farm market and the small convenience store to get some groceries and the kids got themselves organized to start school on the Monday. I was also going into the school to help coach the Otaki students for the upcoming speech contest and prepare with Naoko for a demo lesson we had on the Wednesday.
It was both comforting and overwhelming to be back to school so soon. I was happy to see everyone and excited about getting started on all these "last" experiences we're going to have this year.
The first week went by in a bit of a jet-lagged blur... I coached the two Otaki students for the speech contest, Naoko and I did our demo lesson quite successfully, Joisan started back to ballet and I was one of the judges for the speech contest in Date. (Just a little conflict of interest... I had either taught or coached - or both! - more than two thirds of the contestants at one time or another!) It turned out that two of the girls I helped placed first and second - unfortunately they were both from Date Chu - I really had hoped one of the Otaki girls would place.
On the Friday night there was a grade 3 event involving dodgeball, dinner and a movie and sleepover. The game and dinner included families too so we all went. Afterward we had to drive Taran to the sleepover place and we hung around for a bit because they were showing Pirates of the Carribean in English! Taran, being Taran, stayed up most of the night and influenced a couple of the other grade 3 boys to join him. I'm sure their families were as thrilled as I was!
Saturday, after Joisan's dance, there was a festval in Kitayuzawa. They had a band and some other entertainment and then bingo! We didn't win anything in the bingo game but we had fun at the festival. It was a good chance to re-connect with some of the people who we don't get to see at school. Ian has a great group of friends now and he was warmly welcomed back with many glasses of sake and beer!
That brings us to Sunday - which we were all delighted to use for extra sleep! I'll finish this first entry there and start a new one for the next week. Eventually I'll get caught up and back on a weekly schedule - I promise!!!