September 28, 2008

My first bonsai lesson!

Well, after visiting the place over a month ago, I finally had a weekend to go back and have my first bonsai lesson.

It was great. Nothing big, but a lot of fun. There's a nice couple, Yoichi and Kana, who are running the family business. I saw Yoichi's father today, so he's still working around the shop. And then there are the other staff, including a Frenchman, Xavier. He's actually the only other person I've met who works there. I think more people work out in the bonsai fields.

So anyway, I showed up and they weren't expecting me because they hadn't understood my text message and it was so late (sent this morning). But anyway, we started off working with a white pine, goyoumatsu (specifically ginyattsufusa). Yoichi ran through the basic yearly care cycle for the white pine. How often to water, when to change the pot, when to prune the dead leaves, and when to wire it. October is when you usually prune it, so that's what he showed me how to do.

It looked simple enough. You look for the older needles, generally lower than the newer ones and a little yellowed, and snip them off with some scissors. At first, I said, "This is nervewracking." But mainly because he was pretty quick with the demonstration pruning and I was slow and Yoichi and Kana were right there watching my every snip. But after several snips, I started getting the hang of it, and they felt satisfied enough to walk away and before long I spontaneously said, "This is relaxing." It took a second for me to realize how opposite that was from my first statement.

It really was nice. I got into a nice snipping mood. And that was all I did for about 2 hours. I didn't finish the tree, so I will follow up next time. I wish I had taken a picture so you could see. But next time.

They have a website. And before you freak out, click the English link. And they also have a blog. They posted a picture of when I went last time with the other Matt. (Matt from Kanonji who has already returned to the States in preparation for his new job in Singapore, I think.) By the way, I'm マット2. (That means Matt 2.)

September 17, 2008

What a trip!

Back already from the Okinawa adventure. I'm at work. We got in this morning to Kagawa and went our separate ways in Takamatsu. I managed to check my emails and do a load of laundry this morning before work. I'll have to sort through the mess of baggage that I brought home with me. Of course, that will be after 3 classes (more if I decide to help with Sports Day stuff) and speech contest practice. I've got to check on what elementaries I have coming up so I know if I have any planning to do. I've got to figure out who gets what omiyage (souvenirs) because at the end I remembered lots of people, but it was too late to run back and get stuff in the airport stores. Luckily I think I got enough small stuff to last for lots of people and can rearrange other things that I got for me. And I remembered all the big gifts for people I had wanted to get. So no worries.

It's already back into the old routine. (Get to school barely on time, remind the teachers I have class with them, find out what we're doing while we walk to class, etc.) It feels as if I haven't even been gone. But during the trip it felt like time was stopped. In a good way of course. It was one of those trips where our days were just so long and filled that we thought two had passed in one.

Anyway, I'll update again with pictures when I get a chance to breathe.


September 13, 2008


Woohoo for being on vacation. Boo for it raining on vacation.

Already got caught in a downpour. Bought cheesy souvenirs. Ate goya champuru. Drank shiquasa or shiquasur.

Still need to get out and see some sights and eat some other well-known foods and drink some awamori, the lethal okinawan sake.

No ferries out to the island we wanted to get to due to the typhoon. So we're playing it by ear on the main island. Wish us luck!

September 8, 2008

School's Back in for the Year

Thanks friends for keeping on me. I've been neglectful once again. But I've been having a pretty great time and been pretty active. And now that I [don't really] have the time, I'll take a quick moment to update on a few things.

Not even sure where I last left off. Well, August was 夏休み (summer vacation) but, as you know, that just means kids had no class. Everyone was still at school doing stuff. I had grand plans to study Japanese everyday, organize my desk, do some lesson planning for the new semester, get back into working out, go to some club activities, take a couple trips, etc. Not very much of that happened. I took a couple trips. But a lot of my time (and mostly my energy) went into saying goodbye to my friends who were heading home and then very quickly after, saying hello to all the new friends that were coming. Dinners, parties, nights out, short train rides here and there, out til all hours. I just never had the energy to do much when I was "at work". I studied 漢字 (kanji) each day, but that was about all the studying I did.

On to the trips. I went to Osaka for a week to hang out with Alana and our friend Erin (my friend through Alana who had moved from Atlanta to New York and was visiting for a couple weeks). I was there for the last 5 days of her trip in Japan. It was great fun hanging out together and exploring Osaka. Erin and I took a trip to Arashiyama and the monkey mountain when Alana had work one day. We ate Mexican and Indian and Mexican and American and Combini. We went to a city pool. We laid in a park and read books and drank a beer. We rode a red ferris wheel on top of a building. Alana and I had grand plans for a trip to Hokkaido after Erin left, but due to our utter lack of real planning and an unforeseen lack of energy due to Alana's crazy schedule leading up to that point, we opted for hanging in Osaka. Had a couple lazy days watching movies and hanging out. Took a trip to a beach which was a lot of fun. Then I headed home.

Actually, it went like this. Night out on Friday in Osaka which went until after midnight (not quite sure of the time... probably later). Up before 7 maybe for my 4.5 hour bus/train rides + 10 minute walk home. Showered and had maybe 3 hours to myself and then took an hour ride with the music teacher down to Awaikeda in the neighboring prefecture for a festival. They dance the Awaodori there. The same dance as in the big city, but just a small town festival. We were meeting some of my friends (and friends of friends) before the festival to get ready. The teacher had brought traditional festival clothes for me to wear. She helped me and my friends get out our clothes. She pretty much took over that part of the evening. When I get a sec, I'll post the picture. I had on a yukata (what we would call a kimono probably) and geta, the raised wooden sandals. I carried my traditional bag and a fan. I was styling. I even got a "かっこいい" (cool) from this restaurant owner.

Let's see. After that we went home. The teacher said she would maybe sew me a yukata. (At this point, she's already bought the fabric and will probably have started on it. She said it might take a whole year though.) She's a handful. I need to talk to her. It's been a while.

The next weekend, I went to basically the same city, just one town over, for a friend's house party. That was quite a night. I was up til maybe 5 or 5 30. Got up at 9 the next day and (barely) made the train (are you surprised). I literally broke into a sprint for the last 3 minutes. The train wasn't taking me home, but to the other side of Kagawa where there was a festival. It was on the beach, so some of us met early to enjoy the beach and swimming and a lot of others joined later throughout the afternoon and evening. Eventually we had probably more than 30 people in our group. It was a crazy night. I couldn't quite enjoy all of it since I was soooo tired. I ended up crashing at a friends around 1. Then made my way home the next morning. (By the way, I had found out at the party Friday night that my friend Sandra's goodbye dinner with the teacher would be that Sunday around 5.) So anyway, I was up in the morning early enough to get the train that would arrive at 12. Guess who called me right at 12. Yes, my friend, the music teacher. She wanted me to come over then to help make a cake. I absolutely couldn't. I had to get home and decompress for a moment, maybe take a nap. Definitely a shower. I managed to be ready to go over at 3 to help prepare. The cake couldn't happen since I wasn't able to help because she had everything else to prepare. :( But it was a great night. It lasted forever and of course ended in tears when the teacher gave Sandra a handmade apron with Japanese fabrics. It was really beautiful.

Since then...
Sandra had her hands-down-best-party-ever goodbye party. We went to an izakaya followed by karaoke. We had 20 people? more? Insane. Insane. And tearful at the end. She was really gone the next day. :(
School has started up again (last Monday) with my list above of things I wanted to do still looking about the same.
Planned a trip to Okinawa which leaves in 4 days.
Registered for the fall ALT tournament for the following weekend.
Spending my afternoons helping students for the speech contest.
Restarted my Japanese tutoring.

Today I got home and did a lot of cleaning and work and still only got through half my to-do list. Trying to get ready for my trip. Leaving Thursday night in preparation to get to the airport for the flight on Friday. I have elementary classes every afternoon starting tomorrow through Thursday. Speech contest practice every afternoon after elementary (which means biking hurriedly back to the junior high). Tutoring tomorrow for 2 hours. Wednesday packing/preparing plants for my absence. Maybe racing for a train on Thursday.

Anyway, that brings us up today. And I even got a picture up (despite my computer trying to foil me by not producing any text in my file browsing windows whenever I really want to use them).

I hope all is well with everyone. Mwah! Miss you all!