Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas time is here by golly...

So, here we are, December 24th already! Santa Claus comes tonight! We've had a busy week and
obviously it just got busier as I am returning to this post having left it there for four days! Appologies to everyone - I wanted to wish you all a Merry Christmas at the right time but I got distracted. In my defense there really was a lot going on!
I enjoyed the lack of planning I was able to get away with for the month of December... I love teaching on a theme! They're totally into anything Christmas so it was an easy few weeks of Eikaiwa! I even started singing with the adult classes.
I was at a loss as to what to do for gifts this year, since we were here over Christmas. We talked a bit about it and decided that making some Christmas goodies was our best bet so I spent the better part of a week making and baking. We wound up with ten different cookies and treats and I found some good boxes and containers to pack them in so that they displayed nicely. Even packing them up was an ordeal though and it took the better part of one evening to get it all done. We have since found that people here have difficulty receiving gifts. We gave the baking away and within a day or two we got something back from many of the people we were giving to. We felt a little distressed about it since our trying to be nice seemed to put pressure on people to reciprocate - not what we were after at all!
Last week there was a ballet Christmas party at the Royal Hotel in Date. It was quite the big deal! It was a bit expensive (about $40 each) and the food was only so-so but there were games and entertainment and a gift exchange. The owner of the ballet school had a present for each of the dancers and there was a gift from her mother too! Joisan was asked to present flowers to one of the teachers which she did with grace (despite the teacher not being someone Joisan particularly likes!)
This week we had the Chugakko Christmas party which I managed to avoid having to help plan and organize! Naoko really got into it and had it all figured out so that I just had to show up and help decorate a bit. The kids used little pound cakes to make houses and they stuck the cookies and candies on with melted white chocolate. It worked really well.
Ian was lucky enough to get to play Santa for the preschool and kindergarten on Wednesday morning. There are some great photos that prove that despite his differing opinion he is actually a little skinny to pull it off properly. He had lots of fun and enjoyed answering all the questions they asked him.
Wednesday evening was the teachers Christmas party. We went to a new restaurant in Date and ate and drank our faces off! I took some photos of the food but in the interest of getting this actually posted today I will have to add them later. After we finished at the restaurant we went to the same bar as last time where we were privilaged to be treated very specially. The VP and I have made a promise that next time we'll go to karaoke afterwards. I think we were all just too exhausted this time!
Thursday was a national holiday - a day off for the Emperor's birthday. We cleaned and organized because it was the potluck Christmas dinner for the adult eikaiwa classes. We had a good turnout and some lovely food! It seems like there were a lot of things to do last week though and every time we got through one of them and I could check it off the list I felt a little weight lift from my shoulders. I gave out boxes of Christmas baking to everyone as they left the party - they seemed to really like it.
I had to work on Friday but the kids didn't have to go to school because of having gone to school last Saturday for the Warashibe festival. Ian took Joisan to Noboribetsu to the chiropractor and they did some last minute errands on the way home. I spent the afternoon making pies for Christmas dinner. We're getting better at making due with the ingredients we can get! We wrapped and organized all evening and somehow wound up staying up far too late as usual! Thankfully we have teenagers now and neither one of them was interested in getting up at the crack of dawn to dive into presents. It was a bit of a weird Christmas morning for us. I was first up and puttered around for a bit before the others started to wake up. Eventually we were functional enough to deal with breakfast before moving on to stockings and presents.
It was all fairly low-key and definately joy of giving was the highlight for all of us. Santa made sure that we had coffee (which we don't usually have here) and some Bailey's to go with it for that Christmas-morning feeling! Thank you Santa!
We lazed and played a bit before we had to get cracking on the preparations for dinner. We had invited about 20 people for a traditional Canadian Christmas dinner. Due to circumstances, only about 14 could be there but it was still a lot of pressure to get everything ready and able to be served hot.
I have never before dealt with a whole Christmas dinner by myself. At home it's usually more of a potluck thing where we all take a dish to be in charge of. This was a bit of a balancing act but with all of us contributing we managed to produce a wonderful dinner. Ian was really focused on making the hall a more intimate and welcoming space and his efforts really paid off! It was so pretty and the company was great. I'm not convinced that they were in love with the food but everyone stayed later than we thought they would, so clearly it was a success!
Sorry to be so long in getting this actually posted - hope you all had a marvellous holiday!

Monday, December 13, 2010


Whew! It took many days of internet searching, much reading and conferring but we are finally booked and our travel dreams will come true!! My Mum arrives on December 30th and we'll have a few days of relaxing and showing her around here before we head to the Hawaii of Japan... Miyakojima. We have a full week there to explore and there won't be any snow!! I'm so excited! On January 11th we will fly to Tokyo and meet my sister. We have two nights in Tokyo and plans to watch a live Sumo Wrestling match while we're there. We found some cheap flights to get us around instead of the train so on the 13th we will fly to Kobe where we'll pick up a rental car and drive to Hiroshima. The only thing that I absolutly don't want to miss is the Peace Museum in Hiroshima so we're doing that right off. Then we'll drive back to Kyoto and turn in the car and stay there for four nights. Kyoto is the heart of cutural Japan and the main place to see original buildings that were not destroyed during the war. We found some inexpensive train/bus tickets so we'll be able to get around fairly well I think. On January 18th we will all fly back to Sapporo where we'll show Aurora and Mum around a bit more before sending them back to Canada on January 21st. I'm SO excited! We'll have lots of news and pictures to post in Januay for sure!
For now though, I'm still reaching to find anything to write about. Life just keeps on keeping on. Not much new or interesting. Last week was the AET Conference in Sapporo. It was in the same place as last year so I felt very much at home. Katherine (the JET AET from Date) came up on Wednesday evening and I drove us to Sapporo. Joisan ditched school for the two days and came with us as she wanted to explore and do some Christmas shopping. I did have to really think about it before I would agree to my 13 year old exploring downtown Sapporo by herself but in the end I realized that not only is it a very safe city (crime is very low here) but I was able to navigate the subways and find my way around last year when I had even less Japanese than I do now!
We had a great time - Joisan took herself to the JR tower and to another shopping centre where she was able to find a Subway for her lunch! I skipped the JET socializing and took the subway to meet her at the JR tower for dinner and some shopping. The next day I missed some of the afternoon session - which was really not applicable to me anyway - and met her for some more shopping. We did really well and finished up most of our Christmas shopping. There are some photos somewhere - I'll add them soon.
On the way back from Sapporo we stopped at Costco where I managed to spend almost $400. Wow! It goes fast! We are planning a Canadian Christmas dinner for the 25th and we'll probably have around 20 people for that. I was very surprised to find a turkey at Costco - last year we couldn't find one anywhere!
I've been going to Yosakoi (Japanese Folk Dancing) for about a month and a half now. Unfortunately, it seems that my back is suffering - despite much warming up and cooling down. There are many low, bending moves and lots of jumping. I've been careful about my knees - particularly since they dance on a concrete floor covered in carpet. There have been "twinges" over the last few days though that tell me that my dancing career is at an end! Too bad :(
I am completely wracked by guilt most of the time due to my lousy blogging lately. The computer situation at school has deteriorated again - I no longer have access to the internet on a regular or reliable basis. However, it is my New Years resolution to be posting at least once a week after we get back from our travels. I'll have lots of cool photos and stories to share then I'm sure.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


So, as the title indicates, there have been a few hassles of late - not the least of which was Joisan bugging me about not updating the blog regularly!! But as I told Joisan, there really hasn't been much of note happening.
We went to see Harry Potter two weekends ago. Anyone who has seen it should please skype with us soon - we are anxious to talk about it!

Until last weekend the weather was warm and balmy during the day and a bit chilly at night. On the weekend there was a bit of a wind storm and it blew in some serious arctic air! We had about ten centimetres of dry snow over two days, along with some serious cold. The roads were a bit treacherous for my drive to Date Chugakko on Tuesday but I made it safely. Thankfully, we are back to balmy sunshine during the day and the snow is retreating quickly!

Ian has been busy over the last couple of weeks, helping his friend Takaaki-san. He has been harvesting Nagaimo - a long potato-type vegetable and also helping with a structure Takaaki is building. They are working on the foundation for a pizza oven that Takaaki will build outside his back door. It's a bit weird and the poor planning and execution is driving Ian crazy but he still goes to help.

Last weekend, with the help of Takaaki-san we were able to order some discount lift tickets for the local ski-resort. We have been looking at the 2nd hand stores for ski and snowboard stuff so that we wouldn't have to rent them this year and we were able to find a great deal for some skis and boots for Joisan. Taran, with his skookum sized feet have been more of a challenge to fit in the land of tiny people. Today though, I think I may have found something!!! In desperation I went to the Hokkaido JET forums in case anyone had posted any equipment for sale and there it was!!! A posting only 3 days old!!! A snowboard with step-in bindings for sale - complete with size 30 (cm) boots!!! (Picture the following in slow motion...) I ran to the conference room where Taran was working and yanked the shoe off his foot... I frantically (in slow motion) searched for the size of said shoe... (suspenseful music here) a 30!!!! (Switch to hyper-speed) I raced back to the computer and frantically registered for the HAJET forum so that I could post a response saying that I would buy the set (for the equivalent of about $40 mind you!!) I haven't heard back about it yet but I'm feeling like it was meant to be!!! It's a good thing - I need something to go right just now.

We found out this week that the cheap train passes that we had been counting on for our January holiday with my mum and my sister are not available when we need them. (Never trust the internet - lesson learned!) Mum and I have been frantically working on alternatives to make all our travel dreams come true... details to be posted as they are determined.

Sorry for the lack of photos to break up the monotony of my ramblings. There hasn't been much to take photos of... I'll work on it for next time!