Monday, September 25, 2006

the weekend update in full

So why was the weekend unexpected and surprisingly awesome?
First of all it was beautiful weather all weekend.

Friday was uneventful.
Saturday afternoon we (Andy and I) went to the weather towers. There are these 3 towers in a row up on this hill/mountain area in Sendai. We took the subway and got off at the Atago-bashi stop. We started wandering in the direction of the weather towers – we weren’t sure how to get up there. We stopped at a Lawsons (convenience store) and this old lady helped us with directions. We walked up a narrow, winding road, and then around the bend, right in front of us was the first tower! Below is a photo of the first tower we saw.

Maybe to some people it might not seem interesting, but it was perfect fall weather and the area surrounding the towers was just really nice and quiet. There was a park and an area to walk around. We walked to the next tower and then to the third tower. There was also a good view of the city. There weren’t many people up there, and it was peaceful, except for the crowing of the many crows!
One of the towers changes colors, and the colors are supposed to represent the weather forecast. We’ve been asking around trying to find out which color means what, but haven’t figured it out yet. We think orange means sunny and green means rain.
You can see these towers throughout Sendai. The lantern picture (see first post below) has a tower in the background, and this is one of the towers.

second tower:

third tower:

all 3 towers:

view from top:

Sunday afternoon was the tabla and sitar show. Mike, Minna, Andy, and I went and Japanese friends. The show took place in this house made of straw in a valley in the Akiu area. Apparently over the last few years this area has become a growing artist community. It was an Indian tabla player Arunangshu Chadhury from Delhi and a Japanese sitar player Alaya Vijana from near Tokyo (click here if you don’t know tabla, and here if you don’t know sitar). The show was really good. The tabla player was pretty good, but not amazing like Zakir (click here if you don’t know who Zakir is). I feel he lacked some originality/creativity in his playing style. The sitar player though was amazing. It’s hard to believe a Japanese person playing the Indian sitar so well. Below is a photo from the show. Click here to see more.

Aside from the actual show, the whole day was just a good day. We got to the show early because we got a ride with one of the people who helped organize/run the show. About a 1 hour drive. We could have taken a bus, but then it’s a 40 minute walk from the bus stop. With arriving early we got to help set up the place and everything for the show. It was good to help out and felt like a part of the community. The Japanese people I met there were so warm and friendly. Specifically Andy’s djembe teacher and his wife and son. Below is a picture of Ioori and her son, the "straw house" that the show took place in, and also some photos of the area. Click here to see more.

The elderly lady who runs the straw house gave us lots of food. Fresh edamame, tea, clementines, snacks, etc. The tabla player asked for coffee, so she had us grind up fresh coffee beans the old fashioned way and later on she served us delicious cake (which I believe was homemade from some of the leftover coffee beans or something...but maybe i'm wrong because i don't know how the cake could have been ready so soon...).
There are some Japanese I meet who are nice, but quite fake and no depth to their personality. Japanese like being part of the group and do not encourage leadership or individuality as much. I always really enjoy meeting people I can relate with and talk to about more then just mundane things. These people were obviously a bit more cultured and open-minded to worldly things.
As we were talking about this last night, even though part of my job is to teach English, I feel my job is more about internationalization – to open up the students’ minds to the world and what’s outside of their immediate area, to expand their horizons and let them know about other countries and cultures, etc. This is something I’m highly interested in and will be going to grad school for.

After we left the “straw house” we went to dinner – Yuko (shop owner), her daughter Midori, and the tabla and sitar player. I hadn’t really talked to the sitar player yet, and I found out some interesting things. He had started out playing guitar and had an interest in Indian classical music, and went to India and started learning the sitar. He’s been to India several times and is going again in March. He also has another type of band where he creates his own style and music, and apparently he played with Sonic Youth when they came to Japan!!! I flipped out about this, I love Sonic Youth and thought it was amazing that he has played with them (if you don’t know who Sonic Youth is, click here). Also, the place where we went to dinner was excellent. It was an Izakaya which is a type of restaurant in Japan where you can order many different types of food (while many restaurants in Japan are specific types of restaurants – for example a sushi shop, or a ramen shop, or a soba shop). Izakayas are also places where people go late at night and drink and have cheap food. Some Izakayas are bad the food is awful, so I tend not to like many of them, but this one was definitely an exception.
And that wraps up the events of this weekend.

So on a lighter note... my washing machine finally came! Right before I was leaving for work today, someone rang the door bell, and there they were with the washer! I had no warning that it was coming today, and luckily I was home. (For those who don’t know, I had been waiting for the new washer I ordered for probably about a month – there was a lot of confusion on why it was taking so long.)

I didn’t intend for this to be such a long entry, but alas, it seems I always have a lot to say.

Monday, September 18, 2006

another busy weekend

(click on the photos to view the images at a larger size!!)

Okay so since my last post... Friday night was my Welcome Party from my base school Natori Kita High School. About 25 people were there. It was pretty fun. The food wasn't that great. Japanese love to drink. It was a great chance to talk to my co-workers outside of the work setting and to get to know them better. So it was my welcome party and also the farewell party for a substitute teacher who was teaching English. And the welcome party for the teacher she was substituting for, Tanaka Sensei. Tanaka had only worked at the school for a few days before she went on maternity leave. In Japan you can take maternity leave for about 3 years! So she has been gone for 3 years (i don't think all of that is paid leave). Tanaka and I clicked right away. She has 4 daughters from 4 to 12 years old. Her English is better then any other teacher in the school in my opinion. She studied in Sydney and Chicago. All of the staff at the school have been nice but it's great to finally meet someone beyond the standard niceness. I've heard stories from my other friends who have met people like that at their schools. Tanaka already invited me to her house for tea! Technically I don't have any classes that I'm supposed to teach with her, but I'm going to help her with classes anyway. The most surprising thing about her was that she studied Urdu !! i was so surprised i had to ask her a few times. it's quite rare i think to meet a japanese who has studied urdu. She said there are only 2 universitied in japan where you can study urdu, so she studied at Osaka University. And her husband teachers Japanese. She's never been to Pakistan or India, but she visited Singapore and went to Little India in Singapore and bought saris and wore a sari in her wedding.

In the picture above from left to right, Chiba (the substitute who is leaving), me, another english teacher, Tanaka, and in front the guy is Shimanuki Sensei, my supervisor. most people give the peace sign in pictures, but of course in this picture i'm the only one doing it!

The picture below...Ikue, she is the chemistry lab assistant. I didn't even talk to her and as everyone was saying goodbye she was like lets take a picture! of course on the cell phone. so yeah that's a picture from a cell phone...pretty good eh? very japanese.

saturday we were going to go to mount zao and do a small hike and see the crater lake Okama, but the weather was pretty cloudy and wasn't a good day to do that. so instead we went to Yamadera, famous for a temple up in the mountains. about a hour train ride away.
here's a view from the top:

above, from left to right: andy, me, laura

oh and here's me eating DELICIOUS soba and tempura before we did the climb:

yesterday, sunday, we celebrated laura's birthday by going to the indian restaurant Namaskar and had cake afterwards. most apartments don't have ovens here, so chris and andy made the cake in a rice cooker. it was awesome! i'll have to get the pictures from laura and post them.

in my first post i mentioned the dance class that i go to, below is a picture that steve took (he drums for the dance group). okay that's it for now!