Snoozer

Just some pictures of Ray from today. If you are tired of pictures of Ray, I really wish I had something more interesting for you, but you may want to continue on to the next blog.

We hung the fish up again this afternoon. We don’t leave them out all the time because they were expensive and would get trashed if they were out 24 hours a day. When I originally put them up I adhered to the direction and left about a foot between each fish. This was too close though, and they get tangled up and didn’t look all that nice. I doubled the gap between fish and am much happier now.

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We played in the garden for a bit, where Ray tried to eat these pretty purple flowers.

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And that was about the highlight of the weekend. It rained all day yesterday, and I spent the first half of today having heart palpitations while watching the Bruins’ double-overtime win. Come to think of it, maybe that’s why I’m suffering some heartburn tonight.

Four day week on tap and then Golden Week commences. A week off of work is always good. Happy Easter if you’re into that sort of thing. Good night.

Not Quite Hanami

The last week has been prime cherry blossom season in this part of Japan, but we were working so couldn’t take advantage of the beautiful spring weather and pretty trees until this past weekend. The tradition is have a hanami, which is basically a picnic under the trees with various amounts of booze involved. It really is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon or evening.

People in Japan have been ruminating on the beauty and symbolism of cherry trees forever, and the longer I’m here the more I look forward to their blossoming each year. But my appreciation is based by no means philosophical — for me, cherry trees mean spring is here and is picking up steam.

In town, most of the trees were in full bloom towards the end of the week and over the weekend, but we went to a park near our house that is a little more elevated and cooler, so the blossoms weren’t even close to full bloom. But it was a stunning day and the park was full of families and kids going berserk. It was a nice atmosphere, but we only stayed for an hour or so. (This is the same park I posted about back in the fall — the one with all the bears!!!)

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Ray really enjoyed being outside in such a vast expanse, and more than once invaded other people’s picnic spreads in an attempt to grab whatever cool toy they had.

He surveyed the land.

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Contemplated.

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And eventually declared sovereignty over all he could see.

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Until we packed him back into the car and took off to look at some cherry blossoms that were hopefully a little more blossomy. I have posted about this endless stretch of cherry trees before — it’s my go-to place around here for cherry blossom pictures, but really I prefer to take in this stretch on a bicycle because it’s so long.

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Walking was nice, but it wasn’t long before Ray was zonked out and Chieko had to pee, so back we went to the car, and that was the end of our cherry blossom for the day and mostly likely the year. We’re hoping to get back to the park later this week, but the torrential rain we are getting right now doesn’t bode well for perky petals. We shall see.

In the evening we finally got around to hanging the koi that Chieko’s parents bought for Ray last month. In May is boys’ day, and families with boys hang koi-looking wind socks outside the home to celebrate. Some of them are huge, 10 foot long affairs, but the largest one Ray has is 1.5 meters (about 4 feet). I followed the instructions to leave about a foot of space between each fish, but they are too close for my tastes. I will space them out a bit more next weekend.

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The koi are close to the ground so Ray can play with them in this picture, but usually we hoist them up towards the top of the house so they can blow around in the wind. I’ll take some more koi pictures at some point to show you what they look like flapping around in the wind.

So that was Sunday. Saturday was a washout weather wise and nothing much of interest happened.

In other realms of life, we’re both settling into a groove at work after a hectic first two weeks. It’s really nice to have students that give shit again. We have this week and four days next week before a week off for Golden Week (a succession of holidays, on of which is boys’ day).

During Golden Week I’m looking forward to getting the garden up and running. Since I have been lent the patch of land across the street, I decided that I will only plant a few things in the yard and the rest will be transformed into a badass BBQ zone. Stay tuned to see how I realize my vision. But right now I’m going to realize my bed, where I will read until I go cross-eyed. Good night.

Catching Up

We’re back on the crazy schedule that comes with actually having to work — waking up at obscene hours, yet still getting to work just in time to get our minds and materials in order to teach. I thought having a daycare at our school would somehow make our mornings less hectic, but so far that isn’t happening. Evenings are crazy regardless of where we ditch Ray during the day, and we are still getting back into our groove in terms of processing life when we get home. Lots of dinners at 8 p.m., bathing and otherwise tending to the boy, and hopefully by 10 things have calmed down. Needless to say, after having a month and half off of work, two day weekends are not nearly adequate for accomplishing all the things we want or need to do.

So here is a brief representation of the past week, starting last Sunday when I rode my bike out to the beach.

If you have ever been to Japan, you no doubt marveled at how clean the cities are here. The great irony is that all the man-made spaces are immaculate, while the natural ones are often polluted beyond belief. Here, the beaches are disgusting during the winter, littered with all manner of garbage and fishing equipment. The cliche is that Japanese blame their neighbors to the west for all of this unsightliness, but if you pay any attention you will see that the majority of the crap is from Japan. Come late spring they clean all the beaches and for a while they are as clean as the cities, at least for a little while.

I am always a bit morbidly curious to see what kind of interesting things have washed ashore during the winter storms. The beach is such a mangled tangle of driftwood, fishing equipment, plastic bottles, lots of shoes for some reason, and an assortment of other debris. In the summer, I find a lot of random produce washed up — far more preferable to what comes in during the winter.

During my short walk along the beach last weekend I saw the usual culprits.

Korea:

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China:

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But the biggest surprise was Russian bug spray.

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I always wonder where this stuff came from. Did it fall a boat somewhere? Or did someone toss it in the water from a beach in another country? Interesting to think about, but still pretty depressing considering how much junk must be floating around in the ocean.

On a happier not, we had a beautiful sky one evening this week, not sure which day it was at the moment.

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And of course, it’s cherry blossom season in Japan. If you read any Japan-related blogs in the next week, the vast majority of them will have pictures of cherry blossoms and hanami parties. I am no different.

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We haven’t had any time to enjoy them so far, and naturally it is supposed to rain tomorrow since it’s the weekend. Hopefully sunday will be  better and I can properly document the occasion. For now, Ray and I have had to settle for the row of trees that line the elementary school next to our neighborhood.

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I suppose that’ll do it for tonight. Way past my bedtime and I’d like to get up early tomorrow, seeing as we have a mere 48 hours to devote our lives solely to ourselves. Hoping to get another post up over the weekend if I can get out and take some good pictures. Until then, good night.

Wicked Normal Post

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I haven’t posted any pictures of Ray recently, so hopefully this satisfies those of you who come here solely to see his cute mug.

We started classes yesterday, and so far so good. I love teaching freshmen because they are always really motivated, polite, do what is asked of them (i.e., try speaking English in English class), and are   just all around pleasant. After the group of students I had last semester, this new batch is energizing. They remind me why I love teaching.

I mentioned earlier that two of the four teachers that were schedule to start this semester decided not to come to Japan, so all of our schedules are uncomfortably busy. I find solace in the fact that I only have to do this for four months before I get another long, paid vacation (another reason I love teaching).

With an eye towards future employment, I’m doing some things that I can hopefully turn into presentations/papers. If I want to get another good job teaching (which I’m not sure completely sure I do) I need to bolster my resume a lot. One of the things I am trying out for the first time is having students write blogs. I have no idea how it’s going to go, but so far it’s been pretty catastrophic! I have 220 students as well, and I’m still not sure how I’m going to evaluate their work. I should have plenty of data to talk about, at least.

Ray has completely adjusted to the new daycare, and it seems to be working out despite the lack of other children. No more crying in the morning, and he’s always fired up and happy when we pick him up. We also talked to the secretary in our office, whose son goes to Ray’s old daycare, and she said half the students are out with the flu right now. So in that regard I am glad we changed places; dealing the beginning of the semester and an flu-riddled Ray would have been a nightmare.

When we arrived home this evening one of our neighbors came over and offered me use of an old rice paddy for gardening. Unused rice paddies are often used for gardens here, and I guess they have a patch that is no being used. I jumped at the chance since due to the new house that was built behind ours, my garden now gets very little sunlight. I don’t know how big of a plot I can expect, and I will certainly feel pressure from the other gardeners there to good job. They are all old and spend all day hunched over doing garden stuff, so I’m at a natural disadvantage. He’s introducing me to the proprietor of the land tomorrow morning, and I’m looking forward seeing what kind of space I will have. You can expect a blog post detailing that, I’m sure.

I think that’s about all that’s going on here. At any rate, my eyes are slowly closing as I write this, so it’s off to bed for me. Hopefully the Red Sox can actually win a game this weekend, eh??? Good night.

Jumping the Gun

It seems as though people around here, myself most definitely included, are willing spring to get a move on. The old folks are all hard at work tilling and prepping their gardens, drive down any road in any neighborhood and someone will be out swapping off their snow tires, kids are playing baseball (not to mention the 0-2 Boston Red Sox of my last post), the list goes on. The only hang up is the fact that it’s really not that warm yet.

In my effort to embrace spring to whatever extent it is isn’t, I took what I intended to be an extended bicycle ride this afternoon. Last fall I posted about the Tedori River Canyon Road (check the November posts for that), a bike path that runs into the mountains near here, following (naturally) the Tedori River, and passing through small towns and rice paddies. It takes about 20 minutes to ride from here to the beginning of the path, and I still don’t know where it ends, though if I stopped to examine one of the numerous signs that have a map of the route I could get a better idea.

In November I didn’t get very far, but was excited to spend more time and ride further. I didn’t have a whole lot of time today, but I knew that if I rode hard and didn’t stop to take too many pictures I could get a lot further than I did last time. There was a very nice few of Hakusan.

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But I had a feeling this would happen.

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We got a lot of snow this winter, and they got a lot more a little ways from here. The path was obviously a no go from here on out, but I continued up the main road a little ways. There is so little traffic on these roads that they are quite comfortable to ride on, and if I had more time I would have gone further.

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I love the old towns and neighborhoods. They are very cozy, and the architecture is decaying but really cool. With so many pre-fab houses in Japan that use many/any natural materials, it’s too bad these older buildings are rotting away.

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Traditional in a different way.

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This one probably won’t be around much longer.

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The ride home was brutal, into the teeth of a 10-15 mile an hour wind, coupled with my forward momentum. It was slow going, I was shouting horrible things at the wind and Mother Nature in general, and by the time I got home my contact lenses were firmly adhered to my eyeballs.

I stopped along the way at the persimmon grove that I also took pictures of back in November. This would be a great place for a picnic.

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So I’m still looking to ride the Canyon Road to its terminus, but I’m going to wait a while. It will be nice once all the rice gets planted, the wind dies down, and the temperature goes up about 15 degrees.

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The rest of the weekend was uneventful. We went back to work on Friday, but classes don’t start until Thursday so things are pretty low-key. It’s always nice to go back to work and only have two days before the weekend, but once this semester starts it’s looking like things are going to be pretty intense. A lot of schools in Japan are stretched because people have fled/not come because of the earthquake/tsunami/radiation, and ours is no exception.

Ray is getting accustomed to his new daycare, the one that was opened at our school and were thinking long and hard about whether or not to join. There are only two kids there, including him, and 4 teachers. Still it a bit wary of the lack of socialization, but hopefully more kids will join. For the time being, it’s a beautiful facility and it’s certainly convenient.

I think that’s about all I have to say this evening, so have a good end to the weekend wherever you are.