Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Had another cooking lesson, this time with the 5th graders. We made pancakes! The kids all worked together to mix the ingredients and then we practiced proper pancake flipping technique. I was using extra batter to make pancakes for the teachers and all my kids were all quite impressed with my pancake flipping skills. Once it looked like I was going to flip one, all the kids would stop what they were doing and stare and me. Then once I flipped the pancake, they would break out into applause. Made me feel like the star of my own cooking show!

Once the pancakes were finished, in true American fashion, all the kids got some butter and syrup. Some of them got pretty creative with it. There were quite a few faces, some hearts, and even a bird!

I really love doing cooking lessons, however, this will probably be the last one. All the cooking lessons were taken out of next years schedule due to cost.

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posted by am at 8:15 PM | Permalink | 0 comments
Friday, January 25, 2008
Looks like my train station is getting a makeover! There is quite a bit of construction happening. Wonder what it will look like when everything is said and done?

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posted by am at 5:42 AM | Permalink | 0 comments
Sunday, January 20, 2008
First Snow
Today was the first day of snow here in Yamanashi. Nothing too big, just enought to cover the ground with a light dusting. These are some pictures I took around my apparetment building and a few of the kids playing in the snow at school the next day!

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posted by am at 5:28 PM | Permalink | 0 comments
Ski Trip
Yeti, the AJET organization in my prefecture, put together a lovely 2 day 2 night discount ski trip package for us. Seeing as how I haven't been skiing in a very long time, I decided I should definitely attend. I also decided I would try my hand at snowboarding for the first time too!

Maybe 47 was the ski resort we hit up and is in Nagano, which is the prefecture directly to the north of Yamanashi. Before even heading up, I scheduled a snowboarding lesson so that I would at least have some semblance of a clue as to what I was doing. Only problem was that I had to schedule it as a private lessen. Very expensive, but I really wanted so time of lesson, so I sucked it up and agreed to the fees.

Our group stayed at this crazy looking ryokan called the Saint Mary and William, or something like that. Went up Friday night in a van and pretty much went straight to bed so I could get an early start the next morning at meet up with my snowboard instructor and about 8:30am.

I picked up my complimentary breakfast and ski pass the next morning and then went to check out my gear. One of the greatest things about snowboarding is the boots. Ski boots hurt like none other after a while, but the snowboard boots were incredibly comfortable all day long. I walked about 5 minutes and reached the base of the mountain and had to call to figure out where I should be meeting my instructor. This actually turned out to be more of a pain than I originally thought. I was told the day I reserved my lesson that I could meet the instructor near the base of the slope, but when I called, they kept saying I had to go to their main office to pay and would need to take a cab. Needless to say, I was a bit pissed. But after much complaining, I realized that I was already at the place they wanted me to take a cab to get to! Not sure why they didn't understand where I was when I said at the ski lift of Hakuba 47, which is directly across from the building that houses their office, but whatever. Anyway, I make it to their little booth in the building and, guess what, no one was there. My instructor finally shows up few minutes past when the lesson itself should be starting, at 9:00, and then we take care of all the paperwork and payment stuff. During this time, I run across Clint, another ALT, who seems to be looking for boarding lessons as well. Someone told him he about a place you could take lessons for about $30. The place ended up being the little booth next to mine, but he was disappointed when he found out the lessons were all in Japanese. I spoke with him and offered him a change to join in on my lesson and thus my private lesson became semi-private, but also a bit cheaper too.

Once we were both ready to go, we ran into another snag. The bindings on our snowboards were way off. So our instructor switched them up for us. Then, after learning a few basics, we headed to the lift where I ran into anther snag. Apparently, the paper lift ticket I had gotten earlier that morning, was not the actual lift ticket, so I had to go exchange it for the actually ticket. During this time, Clint and the instructor when up and did a run and when they got back down, we all went up.

By the end of my time with the instructor, I discovered a few things. Thing number one is that snowboarding is just not my thing. I did get the hang of getting down the mountain toe side, but could not for the life of me even stand heel side without falling over. Mid day I broke for lunch and had some subway and then headed out with a few people to take a gondola and then another lift to the very top of the mountain. The view was really nice at the top. Most of the group was planning on going all the way down the mountain, but by the time we made it to the top, I was starting to feel the ache and decided to just board back down to the gondola and take that back to the base instead. Glad I did to, because I never would have made it to the bottom! It apparently took them like 2 or 3 hours to do.

That night and the ryokan, Yeti threw a part in this bunker/basement like part of the building. I was planning on going, but ended up just staying in my room and reading. Mostly cause I was really into the book, but also cause I was feeling pretty sore and wasn't up for a night of drinking. Especially with another day of boarding ahead of me.

I got a much later start the next day. Everyone kept swearing that I'd do much better the second day, so I gave it my best shot, but it just wasn't happening. I think I might have even gotten worse the second day! Anyway, after a bit of boarding, I decided to call it quits and grabbed a bowl of spicy ramen to warn me up. I also picked up a few souvenirs to bring back home with me.

The, it was time to head back home. We took the rental vans back to the Toyota place in Kofu and then everyone headed over to this Thai place for some dinner. Was pretty good except for the fact that they forgot to bring me the rice that I ordered and was really, really sore at that point. Anyway, while we were eating, it started snowing! The first snow in Yamanashi.

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posted by am at 5:26 PM | Permalink | 0 comments
Saturday, January 19, 2008
Scooter Down!

My poor littler scooter was in the shop for a few days. It's apparently a 2 cycle engine which means it mixes the oil and gas. It also means that I should have been refilling my oil, but wasn't, which is why it ended up in the shop. The mechanic actually helped two other ALTs in my town, one with buying a bike, and another with buying a new scooter, and came highly recommended. Janet came with me when I first dropped off my scooter to help me communicates with him and during our conversations, we discovered that I taught his grandson. Said grandson ended up coming back home from his soccer practice while I was still there and looked a bit freaked out that his English teacher was standing there having a chat with his family member. Anyway, my scooter is already back home, and it even cost less that what I was expecting to fix!

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posted by am at 5:30 PM | Permalink | 0 comments
Friday, January 18, 2008
The Great Flood
Every now and then I would see the 6th graders at my Friday school putting together these strange looking wooden contraptions. And on 1/6 I finally got to find out why. Apparently, about 100 years ago, the Fuefuki river flooded and a bunch of people got together to build these strange contraptions to help change the direction and flow of the flood waters. A bunch of people died trying to do it and now the 6th graders basically do a demonstration of how to put the wood contraptions together in remembrance. It was actually pretty interesting to watch. And a bunch of firefighters and parents also came to the demonstration as well. It even got a mention on the city web page!

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posted by am at 5:27 PM | Permalink | 0 comments
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Korea Vacation: Day Five
First thing of note about day five is that it was COLD. Like, -13 degrees cold. But, we didn't let that stop us!Whereas we all stuck together as a group the first few days, day 5 was our chance to explore on our own. Well, sort of. Me and Janet ended up doing our thing and Karen and Louis went of and did their thing but we ended up together by the boat ride. I also forgot to take notes on what I did this day, so hopefully I'm remembering everything correctly.

Day started with a quick trip to a Starbucks famous for being the only Starbucks in the world with a non-English sign. And after that is was off to another palace tour. Looked pretty much like a smaller version of the first palace we saw, but we also managed to make it to a 'changing of the guards' show as this one, so it was worth braving the cold!

After the palace we hit up a day time shopping market that was pretty similar to all the other shopping markets we'd been to. Then we met up with Karen and Louis and took a nice, relaxing boat ride along the Hun river.

After that we took a break at a local spa type place and met up with Haily and another one of Janet's friends, Min. The spa doesn't look like much from the outside, but it was awesome! Inside is 7 stories of random fitness and spa related things such as an onsen, gym, various types of saunas, restaurants, waxing, massages, and much more. I was about $7 to get in and while some things had an extra charge, the 15 some saunas were free use. And each sauna had a special theme/purposed. The different rooms included, a salt room, oxygen room, ice room, jade room, charcoal room, and this one really, really hot room. It was great! I tried every room at least once! We also hit up the onsen as well and all the girls got salt body scrubs for an extra $10. Something like that would have cost at least $60 at the spa I used to work for back in the States!

After the spa we headed over to Korea's famous night market. Janet wasn't feeling well, so she and Louis headed back to the hotel early while Karen and I kept shopping till about 4am. There is a reason it's called a night market! I picked up a nice hoodie and cute Burberry knockoff bag while Karen got some jewelry and cute sweaters. It was straight to bed when we got back to the hotel. Lets just say it was hard waking up for the flight home a few hours later.

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posted by am at 5:25 PM | Permalink | 0 comments
Monday, January 14, 2008
Korea Vacation: Day Four
Day four started sometime mid afternoon due to the previous night’s activities. First stop was the Seoul Tower, which was your typical touristy high rise type place. Though, we did get to take a nifty cable car to get to it. The weather that day didn't provide for the best viewing conditions, but we were greatly entertained by the various places and distances that were printed on the towers glass. Of course it had the info for Tokyo, but I was surprised to find Denver up there as well seeing as how not even Hawaii got a mention! I also had this really cute Korean girl who was probably about the same age as my second graders, come up to me and hold my hand. Freaked me out at first as I wasn't expecting it, but when I looked down and she was staring up at me all excited and smiley like, I couldn't help but smile back. A few seconds after it happened, her parents realized what she did and snatched her away while apologizing. It was a nice memory to take away from my trip to the tower.

After the tower, we went to the Doctor Fish Cafe. Karen had heard about it and wanted to go. It's basically a cafe where they have these fish that eat dry skin off your feet. You go in, order, then head over to the foot bath to have your fee attended to by the fish, and then go eat and drink once you're ready. The fish felt pretty weird. Overall an interesting experience. The rose tea I got wasn't half bad either and came in a really nice tea set.

After that it was time for some food sampling. We had some Korean sushi, Krispy Kreme (well, I actually passed on this), and then some songyuesa which is lettuce wrapped grilled meat. Was really good and came with the best spicy miso ever!

After eating, we went a purika place. These are basically big fancy photo booths that let you decorate the photos and play around with the backgrounds. They're really popular in Japan as well. It was my first time and it was fun, it's just there were so many of us in the booth that I kept getting left out of the picture!

After picture taking we did some karaoke at this really fancy karaoke place and then called it a night. The floors at the karaoke place where quite festive!

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posted by am at 5:25 PM | Permalink | 0 comments
Sunday, January 13, 2008
Korea Vacation: Day Three
The third day started out with a trip to the Gyeongbokgung Palace where we took an English tour. Gyeongbokgung Palace was the main and largest palace of the Joseon Dynasty and is the largest palace you can visit in Seoul. The tour was quite fun and the palace was gorgeous! A nice change up from all the Japanese temples.

After the palace we met up with one of Karen's friends and ate lunch at a famous spicy BBQ and tofu place. Then we went shopping in this famous shopping district and I managed to find a Korea spoon for my grandmother and picked up a few other odds and ends.

Then we headed back to the hotel for a little rest and to get ready for a night out on the town. Once rested、 we headed out for a bite to eat at a restaurant call the Nutrition Center. Sounds appetizing, huh? It was actually pretty good. It's a restaurant specializing in chicken ginseng soups which are supposed to be good for your health.

After that, we met up with Hailey, Janet's friend from the night before, and went to Kanganam, which is on the other side of Seoul from where we were staying. After a nice long (but still cheap) taxi ride, we found Hailey and went to a bar to meet up with a bunch of other people. Bar was pretty fun. Our group had a table all to ourselves and everyone was really chill. The bar itself was huge and packed to the brim! The food and drinks were superb as well. Plus, while we were there, some kind of crazy Korean Death Note parody skit was playing on the TVs for a bit. It was hilarious!

After the bar, we headed out to do some clubbing. I, having never really been clubbing before, didn't really know what to expect. Originally the plan was the hit up a few clubs as that night was 'club night' and for one cover price you could hop between several clubs in the area. But, we ended up at one club in particular, Noise Basement, all night. Probably because we were such a large group and kept consistently losing each other in the crowd. Even so, it was still and pretty crazy and fun night. Not something I'd normally do on a vacation, but an experience worth having! Now I'll have to try out a club in Tokyo sometime.

Got back home about 4 or 5 am and then hit the sack.

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posted by am at 5:23 PM | Permalink | 0 comments