Thursday, August 16, 2007

Aomori Orientation: Day 2 - Chronicles of Okonomiyaki

We had no idea what to order! All okonomiyaki looks pretty much the same when it's cooked, so we couldn't just point at a picture and order. ^^;;

It was pretty embarrassing, actually, because I asked the waitress what one of the pictures was, and she said "okonomiyaki imagi" i.e. of okonomiyaki. But I didn't process "imagi" as "image" (darn katakana-ized English!) so I thought she was saying a type of okonomiyaki. So I was like, oh, okay, I'll order this. And the waitress was like, which one (in Japanese, of course)? ^^;;

So then I finally figured it out, and we managed to order. C got bacon and cheese, and I got plain old pork.

Then when the food came, we didn't know how the heck we were supposed to cook it! The waitress saw our confusion, though (well, she likely figured it out when we had such a hard time ordering!) and asked me (still in Japanese) if we knew how to cook okonomiyaki, and I admitted with some embarrassment that I didn't know how (shiranai). So she told us that someone would cook it for us! (Thank goodness!)

How to cook okonomiyaki:

1. Pour the oil (in the can on the grill) onto the grill and use a spatula to spread it evenly across the cooking surface.

2. Mix up everything in the bowl well. (This step may differ depending on what type of okonomiyaki place you're at. Some places/people layer their okonomiyaki: batter, toppings, batter, egg, etc.)

3. Pour the okonomiyaki batter onto the grill, making a nice, circular shape (like a pancake).

4. Let cook for 5-10 minutes before flipping. (This is the trickiest step, apparently, because a lot of people try to flip too early and it makes things messy. I don't know how to tell when you're supposed to flip it, but I've heard that when the top starts bubbling, it should be ready for flipping.)

5. Cook for 5-10 more minutes. Again, patience is important here to make sure that it's actually fully cooked. Once it's done, top with sauce, bonito flakes, seaweed flakes, and/or mayonnaise, to taste.

Step 6. Enjoy!!

Aomori Orientation: Day 2

Thursday morning a group of us got a little lost on our way back to the Board of Education Building, so we were a little late. (So much for my resolution to be on time for everything, after my Tokyo Orientation gaffe!) Then it was a loooong morning of information sessions. I was pretty sleepy for most of it, but K presented TESL (teaching English as a second language) tips, so I made an effort to stay alert through that.

During our lunch break, we tried MOS Burger, the domestic McDonald’s competitor. (MOS stands for Mountain, Ocean, Sky.) It was okay, but when I ordered, I didn’t realize that the sauce had a heck load of ONIONS! xP I don’t know if I’ll be eating a MOS (beef) burger again anytime soon. (A bit of a moot point, anyway, though, since there isn’t one in Towada.)

After lunch it was back for more info sessions, and finally we broke off for excursions. I was in K and R’s group, with AH, C and G. Some people needed to wait a bit to get their paperwork and documents ready for the multiple-entry visa, so we went back to the Auga for a little bit. When we came back to the hotel to pick up them (the people who were finishing off their applications), our keitei were waiting for us! Once everyone had their keitei documentation and Docomo freebies put away, we went off to visit a local shrine before going to get our multiple-entry visas.
The shrine was pretty nice. Plus it was cool that one of the monks actually explained to us about the rituals and the shrine (with some of the guys more fluent in Japanese translating).

Oh, and one funny story about our shrine visit was that AH accidentally dropped her hotel room key into the koi pond while she was trying to take pictures! One of the monks had to get a net and fish out!

The multiple-entry visa application process wasn’t as long or complicated as I thought it’d be, but there were still some interesting things. We had to go up to the fifth floor to pay our fees. Once we paid, they gave us stamps which we had to stick on our forms as proof that we’d paid. Then the room where they actually processed the applications, they would only accept five people in the room at a time—everyone else had to wait in the hall!
When that was all done, R and K took us to a foreign food store. I didn’t really feel a need/craving for anything from home, so I just used the opportunity to pick up some omiyage (souvenirs) for the office. Apparently it’s not necessary for a business trip, but I figured it was better to over-omiyage than to under-omiyage.
The guys, G and D, were planning on going to a beer garden, but C and I were kind of tired so we went off for okonomiyaki on our own.

It was good, but I forgot that in some places you’re supposed to make your own! Thankfully the waitress figured out pretty quickly that we were clueless foreigners, so she asked us if we knew how to cook it and offered to have someone cook it for us when I shamefacedly admitted that I didn’t know (shiranai).
On our way back to the hotel from the okonomiyaki place, we passed the weird snack bar lady and she asked us if we were going home, if we were still at the conference the next day, &etc.! I answered as best I could, and then we hurried away. =P
When we got back to the hotel, G, D and TI (a Taiwanese girl from New Zealand) were just hanging out in the hotel lobby, so C and I decided to join them. There were other people hanging around waiting to go to karaoke, and some of them decided to come with us. When we got to the place, though, we saw that it closed at 9pm! We weren’t 100% sure if we were reading the sign correctly though—I mean, why would a beer garden close so early?—so we went up to check it out. They were just cleaning and closing up as we got there. Some middle-aged/elderly Japanese ladies came up right after us, and we held the elevator doors for them to come down with us, but they didn’t want to get in the elevator with us scary foreigners. =P
Since the beer garden was a bust, we decided to go back to Pago Pago. On the way, we met some more JETs going back to the hotel to meet for karaoke, and once again picked up some of them. It was quite a sizeable group that came into Pago Pago, and it was a small bar, so we nearly filled the place!
Once again the guys had beers, and C had Guinness. G ordered me a lemon sour, which tasted fine, but I drank WAY too fast. Usually I take a long time sipping beer, and have a lot of water in between sips. I still drank a lot of water, but I drank the lemon sour a lot faster than I should have, because I couldn’t taste the alcohol. I was okay for most of the time, but after a time, I started feeling it, especially when G, TI and D all started smoking. C was great and noticed that I wasn’t feeling well, and offered to go back with me. I stood up to pay, and all of a sudden, it hit me.
Luckily the bathroom was empty at the time. I ran in, headed straight to the toilet and threw up. It was pretty gross. Thank goodness I had gum in my bag!

I felt a lot better after that, but it was still good to leave and get some fresh air.
On the walk back, we stopped by a konbini (convenience store) so C could go to the washroom. G bought another beer (this after 4 beers at the bar, plus a tequila shot), and I bought a kiwi-flavoured Kit Kat. (I ate it the next day, and it was really tasty!)
Further along on our walk, we saw a bunch of people breakdancing on the sidewalk. It was pretty cool, so we stood around and watched for a bit.
Then it was back to the hotel for a good sleep!