Thursday, December 27, 2007

Writing to you from Ayuthaya, the ancient capitol of Thailand or Siam as it was once known. We spent one night here after two in Kanchanaburi and one in Nakhon Pathom before that. Today we will make our way back to Bangkok and then almost immediately will be on a train down to Trang to start the "island" part of our journey. We're all very excited for the overnight train trip because we had to purchase 1st class tickets and will now have two compartments to ourselves. we purchased first class because all other s were sold out but i'm glad. I think it will be a fun train journey. The island adventure will start off in Ko Lanta and from there plans are yet uncertain. But we didn't have specific plans for the first part of the trip and things worked out just fine.
It's still very hot, though nice and cool in the early mornings and evenings. Wonder what the south will be like.

Most things on the trip have been fantastic so far. The food, the people, the places we're staying have all so far been exceptional, surprising, and enjoyable. Highlights so far include the visit to the Tiger Temple, the thai massage, the ruins in Ayuthaya and near Kanchanaburi, and in Bangkok our stay at Suk 11, a fantastic place!
Thanx again, Kelly and Craig for planning parts of our journey for us. :) We loved Chakumvit market Bangkok.
More later, i'm sure!


Friday, December 21, 2007

am in Thailand! Having a really good time so far. Shelley and Thomas surprised me by showing up a day earlier than they told me they would and that was definitely a good surprise to get!
Today we did a lot of walking and booked our tickets for a train south next week. Tomorrow we&ll go check out the market scene and do more walking around until of course we decide not to and just collapse somewhere in front of a Wat and stare at the sky.
The weather's a balmy 30degrees Celsius and certainly quite a change from my Okinawa weather of late and Shelley and Thomas' weather from Colorado. We're enjoying, though being sweaty and stinky again is not all that pleasant.
Going to be in Bangkok until 23rd at which time we'll venture a bit north, then a bit east and then finally way down south.

hope everyone are having great holidays!
Happy New Year!

Monday, December 17, 2007

this weekend seems to have been all about food. And delicious food at that. I think i've gained several pounds just from eating the last three days. That's definitely not a good thing, but the food has been fantastic, as has the company!
Friday night, I went to the Board of Education's Year End Party 忘年会. The party was held at a giant beer hall in Nago and we had a separate room. Four tables were set up and on top of which were two heaters, one with a metallic pan for sukiyaki and one with a clay pot for nabe and it was my first time for both. I guess that's a bit surprising since i've been here nearly 2 and a half years, but both dishes are commonly eaten only in fall and winter months and also they are a mainland staple rather than an Okinawan one. Both are fantastic dishes and you must try if ever presented with the opportunity. Sukiyaki is eaten by dipping into raw egg and it was actually quite tasty. And our nabe that evening was seafood.
And here's a nice little Wiki article about nabemono in Japan. The end of the year party was quite fun, actually. Everyone made a speech, even Cliff and I. I wrote mine in advance, as last year and had it double checked at school, but in the rush to leave the house on time left it at home. I remembered most of it and did a decent job, I think. After speeches, the head of the office came in dancing to Jingle Bells dressed as Santa with a sack full of presents. Everyone got something fun and useful and two lucky ladies got underwear. But actually because they were the ones who randomly received giant, white underwear they received a beautiful and somewhat expensive piece of jewelry each. Lucky!
After 忘年会 it was off to karaoke which was quite hillarious with office chief dancing like a maniac and doing pretend striptese to me singing "Dancing Queen" ha ha

The next day, I took it easy and during the day went to see how normal people live by enjoying the zooming speed of wireless on my Mac at an internet cafe. It was a very nice and relaxing 3 hours spent downloading podcasts at (to me) unbelievable speeds, watching re-runs of the "Daily Show" (it's all new to me), and some KBH on YouTube. Plus the internet cafe has an open drinks bar that includes juices, teas, coffees and ice cream. All drinks are of course machine-made, but decent enough.
That evening Brett and i talked about having our second Russian lesson and he invited me over to his place for some.... nabe! Brilliant! Him and his lovely gf cooked up a nabe fit for sumo wrestlers and i brought cake. We threw Russian words around the dinner table and then learned some more alphabet and later watched a Christmas movie that I had rented for my English Elective kids. The movie was "Surviving Christmas" with Ben Afflec and James Gandolfini and was actually quite funny! If you're looking for a light Christmas movie without Tim Allen in it, I'd recommend that one.
Sunday was cleaning and cooking day. I made a russian salad, oliv'e, for the potluck dinner at my Sunday night adult class. More food! All beautiful, home-made, healthy, delicious food! Even pizza! It was a fantastic, relaxing evening of good conversation and yummy food. My salad went over well, even though i had to subsitute corn for sweet peas, 'cause apparently Japan hasn't heard of "sweet" peas yet.
So that's my full stomach weekend. Today i'm dieting! Which is gonna prove impossible once i get home because i was given quite a few leftovers last night plus a slice of home-made cheesecake that i didn't get to try last night due to being overly stuffed already. *sigh*
Tough life, eh?


Friday, December 07, 2007

the last few weeks have been busy and uneventful all the same time. how's that possible? not sure, really, but seems to be.
most of november i concentrated on studying for the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) level 3. Last year i passed 4 th level and thought i'd take it again this year. 3rd level was definitely a challenge since i hadn't done any serious studying for it until late September; i'd only been studying kanji. So the last couple of months have been semi-intense japanese study and the i think i did all right on the test this past sunday, the 2nd. At least it's over and i do think i've learned quite a bit, hopefully i can retain it and keep up at least half the studying pace. The listening portion was the toughest by far during the test, which proves that a) i should listen to more Japanese by watching TV and talking to people and b) that standard spoken Japanese is entirely different and much faster than the Okinawan dialect i've come to know and appreciate. Though of course it is only possible to understand middle aged women on Okinawa, who speak slowly and clearly. The men speak a language i can't even begin to understand, and it's not as if they're speaking hogen, i know they're not, but sometimes it's like i've never studied any japanese and have just stepped of the plane and been thrown into the midst of an unknown, inarticulate, hurried, and full of jargon language. it's tiring but amusing.

this week has been slow at school. 2nd graders (8th grade equivalent) have been preparing for standardized tests in japanese, math, and english, which has meant practice of past year's tests and no need for me in the classroom for last 2 weeks. They finally took the test on thursday and i fear probably didn't do so good. Undoubtedly there are a handful of students in the class that aced the test, but a large majority is average or lower. which is sad.
3rd graders were on a school trip this week. It's a traditional trip that happens annually for 3rd graders, and from Okinawa all 3rd graders seem to go only to Kyushu on a pretty standard itinerary of Fukuoka, Dazaifu, Nagasaki, Mitsui Greenland (an amusement park), Mt. Aso, etc. They get back today around 6pm to the school and will be greeted by steaming hot soba and onigiri. Every day of their trip we have received faxes of their experiences. Students have made out sheets where they would write little comments from the day's experience, mention how cold it was (and they lucked out, it was cold and even snowed!), there was even a sheet mentioning all the december birthdays they celebrated while away. The librarian has been coloring the faxes and posting them up on bulletin boards for 1st and 2nd graders to read. Fun.

This week i also managed to catch, fight and win over a cold. It wasn't anything bad, but i was afraid i'd turn into the dreaded influenza that we get scared with every once in a while. I seem to be over it and feel good enough to go to karate tonight.

After the JLPT on Sunday i had the pleasure of meeting a russian speaking woman that lives in Naha. After 2+ years, i finally meet a genuine Russian! Very exciting! She's been living here for five years, has an Okinawan husband and an adorable son. We met for a quick meal and had a pleasant chat. She says there are a few other Russian speakers on the island that she knows of, so maybe i'll get to meet some of them through her as well. That'd be fun.
And on the Russian note, i started teaching Russian to a friend here. So far we've had one lesson, but it went well. Think we'll have one more before winter trips and then pick up after that. It's strange thinking of ways to teach the language i didn't have to think much to learn myself. I don't remember much from school, only a few simple spelling rules but the grammar will be tougher. There are quite a few good sources on the internet, i've discovered, so with their help we're gonna attempt these teaching sessions.

The rest of the time the last week has been occupied by planning for trip to Thailand. Going there with the lovely Shelley and and we're gonna have a fantastic time, as we usually do when traveling together. Nothing's set in stone yet, which somewhat worries me, but i have accommodation for the first time in Bangkok and the next day Shelley and her bf fly in, so we'll take it from there together.

Started watching the 2nd season of "Heroes" and 4th season of Bravo's "Project Runway". "Heroes" is not as good as last year, but still entertaining enough and i am really enjoying Project Runway--haven't watched it in two years and i think it's even better than 1st season.

well. think that's enough blabbering for now. hopefully will have more to write before i leave for Thailand.