Tuesday, December 18, 2007

On the Way Out...

Wow, crap, it's been awhile since I posted! Errh, in my own defense however, I have been busy with other matters. Look, I finally finished another video! It's called Episode 3, but really, it's more of a mini-episode. Catch it here.

It's footage I shot of a hike that a bunch of us did back in August. Yeah, August. My current editing speed is about a minute a month, which is beyond pitiful, and into the realm of not even trying. But I have been filming quite a bit, and I promise that, come January, and the students being on break, I WILL get a little more done.

Well, with the self guilt out of the way, why don't I update everyone on what's been going on? Basically, since my last post, and with the exception of last week, I've been doing a ton of traveling.

The first weekend in December, I headed to Sapporo on Saturday, the 1st, for the Sapporo Mid-Year Conference. This once-a-year business trip is paid for by the Board of Education, and while the seminars range from moronic to useful, it's simply a great way to catch up with friends who don't live close to me. The parties were off the wall, (including the trippy karaoke bar pictured) and by the time I returned on Tuesday, I was exhausted. The best part of the trip however, was that both my Junior High Japanese Teachers of English, and the Elementary teachers came as well. 8 in all came with me, which was very unusual, as there were only about 40 Japanese teachers from all of Hokkaido invited, the vast majority from Sapporo. I was really proud to see my teachers really going at it, trying their hardest to understand all the English around them! And of course, it was a lot of fun going out in the big city with them.

The weekend after was another Musical rehearsal weekend, this time in the Southwestern town of Toyako. Toyako is quite famous for it's hot springs, as well as it's volcanoes. One mountain near the town is called "Showshinzan" because it erupted out of a farmer's field fifty years ago. We went to it, and smoke was boiling from the top. (Video coming soon.) Progress on the musical has been slow, and our lack of a pianist to play the parts is really REALLY frustrating, but I think we are still making progress. Actually, one of my Junior High School teachers has said he may be able to play the parts for a recording, and may even be able to come to the rehearsals, which has really lifted my spirits a lot.

School has been normal and routine, if occasionally frustrating, which is pretty much par for the course. Most of my classes are working on long term projects right now, and are not learning new grammar etc. so I have very little to do inside or outside of classes. This has been perfect, because I've spent most of the time preparing for my trip to Thailand, and getting Christmas stuff in order. I left a bunch of stuff, (like my transportation in Thailand) to the very last minute, so I was relieved today when it all finally came together. From Bangkok, I take an all-night bus, then a high speed ferry for 6 hours, then a jeep through the jungle for an hour, or a Thai long-boat around the coast of the island for 1 hr, so it should be quite the adventure. I'm really looking forward to it, and have already kind of checked out from my work responsibilities, but that's also partly because I just have so much other stuff going on right now! I'm really trying to prep a lot of the musical stuff for when I get back in January, I'm thinking about running for the Hokkaido JET President's Council, I've still got Squash going on, Gregory wants me to take up Kyuudo, or Japanese Archery, I really REALLY need to buy a snowboard and hit the slopes, and my Adult Conversation classes start at the end of next month! Busy times in Japan...but I wouldn't want it any other way.

Anyways, last weekend was supposed to offer a bit of rest and relaxation, as I wasn't travelling, but it ended being just as busy as any other. On Friday I was finally able to convince the elementary school JTE's to go out for a night. (Several of them are pictured in the top picture, which was taken at our party in Sapporo.) We were supposed to go to Torisei, the local fried chicken, sushi, beer etc. izakaya in town, but it was packed with companies having their "Bonenkai" or "Year-Forgetting-Party." The schools are having them too, but unfortunately I will miss them while I am in Thailand. On Saturday I went for one of my very rare shopping trips to Obihiro, in order to pick up Christmas presents for my family. I failed my saving throw vs. shiny! however and was literally FORCED to pick up a new digital camera. It's a Canon IXY 10, and is quite purty, quite good, and very very small (It's about the size of a pack of playing cards.) It's 7.1Megapixels, and I bought two 2gig SD cards for it, ($15 each, each one hold 700 pictures) and the whole package cost me less than $280....It's at a very nearly commodity price point, and it's a really awesome and small camera, far, far better than my measly 2 megapixel cell phone camera. So all the pictures after this point were taken on it.

Saturday night was especially busy, as I had two different parties in different towns to attend. First up was my Squash Bonenkai, at the Western (All-you-can-eat-barbeque-with-candy-and-sushi-and-ice-cream-and-all-you-can-drink-beer) in Otofuke. Don't believe for a second that Japan is a land of rice, and fish and healthy diets all the time. :D It was quite delicious, but wrapped up around 9 pm, when Chris picked me up to drive back to Shikaoi, for another "Pure-Malt" party.

These, put on the by the Pure Malt center in town, are designed to bring the 20-something girls who stay at the center together with the farmers of Shikaoi. It sounds weird I know, but what ends up coming out of all this is a great, nowhere-else-in-japan party, with live DJ's and Bands, an incredibly cheap all-night all-you-can-drink/eat (less than $10), and more young people then I knew even existed in Shikaoi. I rolled out of there around 2AM, and stumbled home early, because I had to wake up at 8AM the next morning.

Sunday, I had a special squash day. I originally thought it was a tournament, but it turned out to be an open-house for the club, so we had a lot of first-timers there. (Video Soon!) I didn't get to play as much as I had hoped too, but overall it was still a fun time. I got to play the club-founder (an ex-army officer with great English) in a match twice, beating him twice, and so winning the bet of "two beer."

And of course, Sunday night, I went to the Onsen with Chris which has become a bit of a weekly thing. Sunday is actually perfect, because nothing is going on, and I can sit in the hot water, rest, and get ready for the next week. I made great plans to clean my house, etc, none of which I've followed through on. Meh, that's what January is for!

Have a Good New Years!

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