Monday, March 30, 2009

march (k)

The pictures from our trip are on flickr, so pop over there. What follows is a (fairly) brief account of the journey.

DAY 1: So, as I mentioned, we had to wait for the noon ferry due to the weather. Unfortunately, though it was no longer storming, the ferry ride was really rough. If you dared to look out the window, you would see the white caps of the waves for a moment then it would shift to the cloudy sky for a moment. Up and down, up and down. I am actually getting a bit seasick thinking of it so let's move on, shall we?
It took five hours to get to Nagasaki this time instead of the typical three and a half hours. So when we arrived, we immediately found our streetcar and went to the hostel. Leaving our stuff, we went out seeking dinner then came back and went to sleep. Bedtime while traveling was essentially the same, if not better, than usual. Bathtime then pajamas and storytime. The room was so snug that it made it really easy to take care of everything, making me wish we lived in an apartment again.

DAY 2: Woke up and headed to Nagasaki station where we caught a bus bound for the Biopark. The bus ride is a little over an hour but the scenery was captivating enough to keep Sebastian happy while Nico took a nap. Nico's automatic response to public transportation seems to be "it's time to sleep" as every time he would board a subway, bus, or eventually a plane, he would take off his shoes and infamous hat and settle down for a little doze.
The Biopark is a terrific place and the weather that day was beautiful. We like the Biopark because it is not like typical Japanese zoos. And because you get to touch capybaras and monkeys. It gives the animals more space and thus gives the kids a better understanding of their lives. Most Japanese zoos are throwbacks to the 1970s with one example of an animal trapped in a tiny concrete floored cage. But we'll come back to that on Day 5. Anyway, after much exploration, touching, and handwashing, we caught the bus back to the city.
There we went to the giant CocoWalk mall where we played at the Dick Bruna and Borne stores and ate a mochi that had been pressed into a waffle. Afterwards, dinner and bedtime.

DAY 3: Another bus ride but this time we went to the Nagasaki Penguin Aquarium. We were really surprised by how nice this place was. Not only penguins, it also showcased the marine life around Nagasaki. We went to a near-by park for a nice hanami (flower viewing) picnic under the cherry blossoms. The kids played for a while there then eventually we headed back to Nagasaki proper.

DAY 4: Woke up and headed to the train station to catch a limited express train to Hakata/Fukuoka. I love riding on limited express trains. The land between Nagasaki and Hakata was coastal and dotted with thatched roofs and mountains wrapped in pink from all the cherry trees. Left our stuff in a locker once we arrived and went exploring. Fukuoka is a big (huge by our standards) city, very clean and populated. So many people everywhere. Walking, driving, riding bikes and buses, eating in restaurants and drinking in cafes. Very different from Gotou. Eventually we headed to our guesthouse, which was behind a udon restaurant as in you have to go through the restaurant to get to the guesthouse. Nice little room that met our needs for the two nights we slept there. We went out for a walk and found Canal City, a mall complete with a Pokemon Center and helpful robots.

DAY 5: Headed to the American Consulate for Sebastian's passport renewal (both parents have to be present for minors to get their passports). Heavily secured building and lots of little annoying details but eventually we escaped and fled to the huge park across the way. A gorgeous place that made me envy those who got to use it on a regular basis. Leaving there, we headed to the zoo. It took a while to get there because my navigation skills were marred by riding on the subways (yeah, that means I got us lost, quite a bit). So the zoo. The zoo. Very crowded due to spring break. Many happy families climbing the steep slopes to check out tigers and tapirs. The animals? Well, not so happy. I think every single one of them was mentally ill due to being isolated and trapped in such poor conditions. Supposedly they are working to renovate the place, which I hope is true. Afterwards, the mall again. Sebastian scored a pokemon onigiri bento (riceball lunch box) and a pokemon picnic sheet for school trips. I had more coffee from my old green aproned employers and Sebastian was entertained by a very genki Australian juggler and the fountain show, performed with the music from Mamma Mia.

DAY 6: We woke early and took all of our (by this time) heavy junk out to the airport and stashed it away in a locker. Then back to the mall for some Muji shopping and some omiyage for school. We tried for another hanami picnic but the park I had spied before was now taken over by elderly people playing croquet and on the other side, some people who were using benches as beds and newspapers as blankets. So on we went until we found a vacant bench along the river that they happened to be dredging so we could eat while the boys watched. Eventually, we headed to the airport and waited for our little plane back to our little island. Then a taxi ride home and sleep.

Friday, March 27, 2009

march (j)

and we're back.

i'll pop in tomorrow with a full day-by-day detailed story of our adventures but now we are exhausted. sebastian is zoning out playing and nico has been asleep since the plane. jason went out looking for some food, which is obviously proving difficult as he's been gone over an hour and it's only a little after 8. ah, small town life...
anyway, i hope you had a wonderful week as well. take care.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

march (i)

off we go.
we are actually delayed by the weather right now. according to the agenda, we should be on a ferry at this moment. there was a terrible storm (again) akin to what we call tropical storms last night. crazy wind, rain, and lightning. this morning it is still grey and soggy but not too terrible. we missed our ferry mainly because it is hard to convince two sleepy boys that ferries don't wait for latecomers. instead of getting frustrated, we simply said, let's wait for the next one. it is our vacation after all. we know from experience that patience and acceptance of our limits are necessary.
anyway, so farewell for now. we'll check back in here next week. hope your first week of spring is glorious and warm. take care.

Friday, March 20, 2009

march (h)

Well, Sebastian is now a kindergartener. His new class is Matsu (Pine). He was a Chrysanthemum (kiku) before. If we were in the States, he would be finishing up his year of kindergarten now yet I think this works out well. His birthday is in late June so this means here he is not too old and not too young. He's just right.
So now on to Spring vacation. And Spring.
You know it is Spring when you find yourself walking around after dark, eating ice cream sandwiches, and checking out the cherry blossom buds. Yesterday when I visited the second school which is at the foot of the mountains (where all those country-side pictures come from), I noticed little clouds of pink dotting the mountain-side. Today, we'll attempt our first hanami (flower viewing) picnic in our usual mountain spot near our house. It is expected to be crowded since there are so many cherry blossoms there and today is a holiday. But on this island, it is always interesting to see crowds.
Sunday we will board the ferry and go to Nagasaki. Three nights there and then on to Fukuoka for two more nights. The main purpose in going there is to visit the consulate which I am oddly looking forward to since I think there might be Americans there. Also, I've been reading this Fukuoka magazine and am intrigued by the city. Especially by all the different restaurants. I hope we can find Mana Burgers, at least. We suspect we are going to like Fukuoka as it seems like a really bustling but progressive city. There is also an added attraction for Sebastian and Nico, another zoo. So that will make three animal parks in six days. Of course, to be perfect, Sebastian would prefer it was six parks in six days.
It will be our first time traveling further than Nagasaki since we've been here. It involves a long train ride and perhaps a plane back to the island. A very different change of pace but isn't that what vacations are about? After we return, we'll get another week off full of possibilities. I will be looking for this book and this book. You know it must be spring when dresses are again a possibility.
Like Jason said as we took our evening stroll, "Who can be discontent during Spring in Japan?". Not us.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

march (g)

The plum blossoms
never lie about the
approaching Spring

I am giving you this photo despite the lack of plum blossoms on the branches these days. They are giving way to the mighty sakura (cherry blossoms), which should be in full force in time for Spring break next week.
Ah, Spring break. This week I have my break from my graduate classes so tonight is my first homework free night in months. Thankfully. I am exhausted from them and very much need this time. I want to be productive, to study Japanese and sew and write but I think tonight I will celebrate by going to bed at a regular time. Like before 2 a.m..
Friday starts Sebastian's spring holidays and mine as well. I don't have to go back to work until April 5th. Lucky, lucky. On the agenda: the biopark, the penguin aquarium, and probably a trip to the u.s. consulate. Jason and Sebastian have to get their passports renewed and it has to be in person with both parents. Fun. I am trying to convince Jason that we should live large and go to the consulate in Osaka instead of Fukuoka but the jury is still out. If we could go to Osaka, then I think we would have to see a whale shark but we'd probably pass on the local zoos there as they smack of the 1970s with their tiny cages lined completely in concrete.
Sebastian brought home his school supplies and all the work he has done. I feature in many of his drawings as you can see from this example (it is of my English lesson with his class):

That's me: the brown one with curly hair. I am sometimes in pictures where I don't make sense but his explanation "oh, that is because I love you so much". My sweet one.

Anyway, I must run, Nico is making a ruckus in the next room. Hope you are all well. Take care.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

march (f)

pretty, ne?
too bad this week hasn't been as nice.
we all caught the 24 hour bug (except for sebastian it was more like the 12 minute bug, lucky him) and i missed my first day of work. it was graduation week so i made it in for the past two days but jason succumbed to the bug and was down for the count while i was gone. this means the boys have had lots of snacks, ramen, and pbs kids to fill their time.
and today, much healthier but the weather? not so good. more wind, more rain, and it is cold again. urg, march. i used to like you. it doesn't help that i have been going through iphoto on my computer trying to lighten the load so i have to look at all these nice florida pictures.
on the agenda for this weekend: homework (as usual), movie watching, finishing a novel, train track construction and deconstruction, dinosaur battles, and other things that help us to get through these grey days so that we'll be ready for the sunny ones ahead.

Monday, March 09, 2009

march (e)

"when i was little..." such a common utterance from sebastian's mouth these days.
"when i was little, i always picked up my toys."
"when i was little, i saw a turkey at the zoo and i said it scared me."
"when i was little, i never ate strawberries."
funny how he is sentimental while he creates myths about himself.

(if you notice, jason, sebastian, and i are all in the picture so that must mean the photographer was...)

Sunday, March 08, 2009

march (d)

good morning. here i am with my first cup of green tea for the day and the boys behind me watching their favorite program of recently, Super Why.

i've been having some interesting flashes of perspective lately. the first occurred last week when i went for a lunch-break walk and found a temple in the neighborhood. on the grounds there was a city of the deceased, the dead tucked gently away under towers of mossy stone and shiny marble. it was so quiet there you could almost hear the magnolia trees blooming. i felt very alive at that moment, as if i could feel all of my cells pulsate with life.
the second came yesterday when i read about a young woman battling a chronic infection that causes her to be in severe pain daily. her doctors weren't able to figure out what exactly was wrong or how to fix it. the solution that she was facing was surgery, major surgery to fix a pain mysterious in origin and uncertain of cure. after i read that, i laid down to sleep with my family and felt how extremely lucky i was. all this panic over choices takes away from seeing my life as it really is. so last night, laying in bed sandwiched between two boys whose breathing overlapped like waves, i came to a decision about all this future business.

i have decided that i will finish this semester and that i will take the summer semester off. during the summer, i will participate in a writing workshop. if i am ready, then i will return to the program in the fall and try to still graduate by next spring. as much as i don't like the degree, i think eventually it will be what i do with it not how it is currently constructed.
i also take the pressure off of myself to get professionally developed. i don't need to attend every teacher's conference and write research papers. i don't have to become this perfect stereotype of a teacher, a persona that would be false for me.

that being decided for the short-time, i also figured out that teaching will always be a part of my life as i really enjoy humans, simple as that sounds. yet it should be based on what i am passionate about. teaching grammar is not my passion as the only use i have for grammar is understanding how i can apply the rules to my writing. which made me realize that i am passionate about writing so... that is what i want to teach. i am not sure my current degree program is appropriate for this ambition so that is what i will be figuring out over the summer.

it may seem that writing is not a viable alternative for someone who has a family to support and is already in a field that has a certain amount of job security. yet, writing is similar to any other job in that you must invest a lot of time and energy into it. if i am willing to take such great measures for a career that started off as my "day job" out of university, then i should be willing to undergo even more for a dream that has lived in my heart since i was a small child.

so, that is settled. i just thought i would share that with you since you have had to read about my uncertainty and discontent.

now, time to go and have another cup of tea and get ready for sunday. a paper on noun phrases plus some pants' knees to patch and some origami creatures are all on today's agenda.

hope you are all well. take care and thanks for reading as i processed my hopes and fears here.

Friday, March 06, 2009

march (c)

well, the good thing is it stopped raining but the wild winds have returned.

i was talking to one of my adult students (who has a four year-old son who loves beetles) and she told me that the eggs that they had collected at the end of last summer had become grubs. so i guess it is time to take to the mountains this weekend and dig for some fat, white beetle larva. i'm also scouting about for tadpoles to bring home for a while. i almost forgot spring was coming. time to sprout some seeds and help them grow.

i think we might brave the winds today for the joy of sunshine and blue skies. and maybe some roller slide action...

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

march (b)

i am very inspired by my dear friend rhett's recent accomplishment and have decided that i should take more active measures to create and write. part of my frustration lies within the fact that i don't have any time and that we are always having to move (or think about moving). yet, who else is going to grant me the opportunity to write besides for myself? so i have a few ideas up my sleeve that don't involve dropping out of grad school. (though there are a few up the other sleeve that include that idea. luckily it is my left sleeve so it has less sway.) actually, part of the reason i decided to pursue my matesol was because i thought that i could eventually teach creative writing in kyoto. i really like the work of 826 National and want to somehow merge that with english as a foreign language. so, i have to remember that original goal and not be swept up in how much i despise my grammar class. part of keeping my writer self alive within my teacher self has been my induction into the role of a proofreader. it is really interesting to learn how publications work and to be involved with the only monthly academic tesol journal in the world. i actually really enjoy reading it regardless of my occasional negative feeling about the field.
another idea i am thinking of is making tuesdays poetry tuesdays here. i used to participate in the now disbanded poetry thursdays and produced more poems than i have since it was cancelled. tuesday is a better day for me though since jason teaches a class on these nights and because it is the first day of the school week for my grad classes. tuesday is also daini day, which just means that i go to the second preschool every tuesday. i am afforded a longer lunch period there than i usually have (which is not saying much since i have no lunch break as i have to eat with the students) and use this time to walk around the rice fields and hear my own thoughts.
another writing opportunity that is coming up is my spring holiday. i get fifteen days off before the next school year starts so maybe i should try to set some sort of deadline for myself. not 50,000 words but perhaps complete a short story every other day. that would be a rather neck-breaking speed for anyone but particularly me as i never finish my stories so i am now at the rate of one story in two years.
jason is setting up his own flickr account and there is talk of a possible blog as well. don't expect it to be anything like this one, which is meant to be a compliment. he is more careful about what he writes and shares so it will be well-curated.
anyway, that is all for now. hope you are all well. take care.

Monday, March 02, 2009

march (a)

so here i am, up late to finish two papers on the exciting topics of the lexical approach and listening skills. i am pressing on despite a bit of anxiety and discouragement that you witnessed in my last post. i am continuing on because despite language education being one of my many secondary interests, i must see it through. patience and will power are key now.
i do think we need to change something around here though. until i figure out how to do that, we will just go on enjoying family life and the natural beauty that surrounds us.
thanks for listening to my usual malcontent. take care.