Saturday, April 24, 2010

Laugh My @ss Off

I walked into my colleague's classroom to spot this.
Needless to say, I sprinted to my bag (with tears of laughter streaming down my face) to catch it on camera.
I didn't stop laughing for five minutes.

Turns out B1 and Doggy wanted him to play!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Oh Buddha!

This is by far my favourite photo taken so far here in Japan. I was in Kamakura to see the Buddha on Saturday and the sun was beginning to set. At 13.5 metres tall, he's a big one but he's magnificent.

Friday, April 16, 2010

My New Love - Gertie

I'm in love. Her name is Gertie.
I was given a bike when I moved to Japan. It's a hand-me-down that goes from teacher to teacher and was purchased by my real-life friend H when she taught in Shizuoka years ago. As you can see from the picture above, she is terribly cute. It's totally the basket...the equivalent of putting a ribbon on a baby's single tuffet of hair. Unnecessary but helps round out the look.

I couldn't use her at first. Goodness knows I tried. The bike lock wouldn't snap open and I tried muscles I didn't know I had. Many people tried...and failed.

My new colleague speaks Japanese fluently. She was provided with the alternative hand-me-down bike that is bright pink and has a functional lock. Seeing her ride to school when I walk drove me crazy with jealousy. Especially as we live in the same building and she could leave later for work than I did. I also got rained on longer. It's not pleasant. However, this new colleague decided to take the bike to the bike shop and get my lock replaced. For eighteen bucks, I am now able to ride to I did when I was in year 8. It's been THAT long. Half my lifetime ago.

Here's the tweet that graced my first ride on Gertie - I am what I like to consider 'spatially challenged'. I can fall over nothing. I fall over often. I once believed that I may have a vision problem and while I do have glasses now, the diagnosis has no link to my struggle to keep upright. And that fall I speak of in the tweet? It was in front of witnesses, many witnesses. I am officially that 'crazy foreigner' that every town seems to have.

Since having Gertie for the past few days I have fallen back in love with bike riding...despite the constant abrasions I seem to be earning. I was grinning like a loon the first few times, enjoying the wind in my hair and the slippery whirring sound of the tyres running over bitumen. It is such a simple pleasure and I am so glad I have re-discovered it.

However...despite the layering I have on my hide, the seat hurts. You'd think there would be a benefit of being not skinny but no, I apparently still have a bony arse. Sigh. Or perhaps the seat is too high or something? Being the paranoid type, I am also terrified that I will get hit. There are many blind corners in the side streets of Shizuoka and I am worried driving, let alone riding a bike. And they don't wear helmets here. So I don't either. That in itself is a weird sensation as it's the law in Australia.

Regardless, I shall cherish my Gertie while I can. Just don't ask where I got that name from. I have no idea but it suits her, doesn't it?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Three Months...some things to ponder

Today I celebrate my third month here in Japan. That means I am 25% through my stay here and four months away from my two week stay in New York. It also means that I am nine months away from seeing my family and friends in the flesh instead of via skype, facebook or emails. It has gone by so fast that my head could be spinning like a top.

I am not homesick. I don't really get homesick. Perhaps it is due to the largely independant nature of my family. We love each other to bits but we are very comfortable doing our own thing without being in each other's pockets. I am glad or this could be really hard.

That doesn't mean to say that I don't miss them. About two weeks into my stay I found myself writing a very long post about my siblings. It got an amazing response from Persnickety Snark readers. But even now, only a short time later, the information on that post is old. What my sister and brother have done to change the course of their lives in that time is HUGE. And I haven't been there for that. That...really sucks.

I spent my first Easter out of contact with my family. In Australia, Easter falls squarely into the school holidays so no matter how far away I lived, I would see my family for Easter. This year I didn't even know it was Easter, that's how out of it I was. I am used to seeing Easter eggs and Hot Cross Buns in stores for weeks leading up to the Easter weekend but this passed me by. Easter, understandably, isn't a big deal in Japan.

This thinking about Easter (and the realisation that it was April) made me realise something else swiftly approaching. My birthday. Something else that it sure to pass by with a whimper (if I am lucky). I have to admit that most of my birthdays limp past. I haven't ever had a blow out party, usually sticking to small gatherings in restaurants or avoiding it altogether. This isn't because I am ashamed of my age. It is because I hate advertising my birthday to remind people. I feel like I am whoring myself. Weird, but that's how I feel.

Moving on.

List of achievements:
  • I have been to Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and Hiroshima.
  • I have made friends with people from Korea, the USA, Ireland, Mexico and the UK.
  • I have traveled solo in a foreign country where I haven't got a clue about the language.
  • I think I understand the subway now.
  • I went naked in an onsen...twice.
  • I saw cherry blossoms bloom
  • I have saved up enough of my paltry salary to purchase a return flight to US.
  • I am considering dropping by the UK before I get home.
  • I picked up an American family and toured Kyoto for the day. I got out just as they were preparing to fix me up with their son.
  • I ate eel.
  • I ate okonomiyaki.
  • I have been inside Zen, Buddhist and Shinto temples.
  • I successfully dyed my hair without being able to read the instructions.
  • My review blog got mentioned on Go Fug Yourself.
  • I spent my entire first phone card on one conversation with my sister. I don't regret it.
This approaching weekend I am doing something else new. I am going to Tokyo to meet people I have never met before. One is the mother of a podcasting friend (of whom I have never left). I might also be meeting up with a fellow blogger and an Australian teacher. It kinda blows the mind.

I am breaking free and becoming brave. I never thought this would happen but it's all due to Japan. I am a lucky gal.

To close out here's what I miss:
  • my family
  • my friends
  • peanut butter
  • Australian Diet Coke
  • clothes shopping
  • Australian accents
I think I am doing okay :)

Friday, April 9, 2010

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Even More Kyoto

The Philosopher's Walk
The Kyoto Station, while it is pretty it is also pretty darned chilly.
My Shinkansen arriving to whisk me home to Shizuoka.
The most beautiful tree (have you seen one with more character?) at the Imperial Park.
The entrance of Nijo Castle.
The outer wall and moat of Nijo Castle.
Inside Kenninjo Temple.
The outside of Kenninjo Temple which is of the Zen persuasion. It is also my favourite temple of all the ones I saw over the week. I wanted to move into the monk's quarters.

Monday, April 5, 2010

More Kyoto -

Some more happy snaps from my Kyoto trip...which coincidentally coincided with cherry blossom blooming time.
The famous Ryoanji Temple...and it's Zen rock garden.
The Golden Pavilion in all it's sparkly magnificence.
The Maruyama Park cherry blossom tree - which I would love to marry.
People eating under the cherry blossoms and lights at Maruyama Park.
Wouldn't you like to take a stroll down this lane in Gion (aka Geisha-ville).
Two gentlemen that won my heart.
Beautiful blossoms.

More to come....

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Kyoto - Cherry Blossoms and Wrongly Named Pavilions

As some of you know, I spent the last week traveling to Osaka and Kyoto for my one week break. I saw some amazing sights while there and wanted to show them to you.

Here are some of the Kyoto highlights:
To the right you will see the Silver Pavilion which isn't in fact silver. It was never fully completed but it is still amazing regardless. It's also much smaller than I anticipated. The rock gardens were purely something amazing.
Bad self portrait (perils of traveling solo) with Silver Pavilion in top left corner.
Me and the famous Maruyama Park cherry blossom tree at night. One of the most photographed cherry blossoms in all of Japan...and for good reason.
At the conclusion of a path called The Philosopher's Walk we came to the Silver Pavilion and a stand that served Potatorndaoes. It was thoroughly unremarkable but visually amazing.
Me and Toji Temple....all 187 feet of the thing. Worth getting rained on as it's big, dark and ornate.
The Golden Pavilion from the walking path. Incredibly shiny and gold. Also surrounded by a beautiful garden featuring a wonderful lake.
And more cherry blossom trees at night.

Come back for some more in a couple of days!